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Job Shadowing: Katie and Frank

Katie and Frank (Head of Library and Information Services at the Francis Crick Institute), share their experience of job shadowing after Katie found Frank’s details on our job shadowing list.


I decided to pursue a career in librarianship during my time at university, after seeing the value library services bring to academic institutions. Whilst I was very keen on the idea of being a librarian, I have only ever been a library user, and I wanted to get an idea of what the day-to-day life of a librarian involved before I committed myself to a master’s degree. When I discovered NLPN, I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the sector. Their list of librarians willing to invite shadowers, in particular, appealed to me. I therefore reached out, and Frank, Head of Library and Information Services at the Francis Crick Institute, offered me the chance to shadow him for the day, I saw it as an excellent chance to see a librarians work in one of the most innovative research institutions in the country.

The day certainly lived up to my expectations. Firstly, Frank introduced me to the institution, providing a presentation on what it is the Crick aims to achieve, and offering a detailed tour of the building. This first hour was enough to convince me that a research environment is the right place for me; the building is not only beautiful, but also reflects the collaborative nature of the institution’s principles with its spacious and open interior.

Frank and his team also talked me through some of the aspects of their jobs which I might not have taken into consideration, such as open access issues with publishers. We also discussed current events in information services, such as the ongoing negotiations between UK universities and Elsevier. It was incredibly insightful to hear about these issues from the point of view of someone who’s daily work life is affected by these issues. The librarians were also kind enough to spend a portion of their day explaining to me about how their roles differ, prompting me to reflect what sort of role would suit me best.

We also discussed my career plans, and the library team were kind enough to give me and advice from their own personal experience. For instance, I was unsure whether I would only be able to work in libraries which were relevant to my undergraduate field of study. However, we talked about career development and how they had come to be librarians, and I learnt that your academic background does not necessarily have to match the type of library you end up working in. This allowed me to consider a larger range of options, and learn about the wide variety of ways the librarians had progressed in their careers.

I was also very interested in how the Francis Crick Institute had been affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns. I was aware that, at least in the humanities department, my university’s library largely restricted the physical resources it offered to postal loans, meaning that students mostly relied upon digital library services. I was surprised to learn how much of a librarian’s job can be carried out at home, which simultaneously opened my eyes to the diversity of responsibilities in their jobs. For instance, one librarian met with us through zoom, and talked me through her day-to-day role in the Francis Crick Institute.

Attempting to gain experience of library work during the COVID-19 lockdowns has been difficult, with many libraries closing or halting shadowing opportunities, so I am incredibly grateful to Frank and the rest of the Library Services Team for taking so much time out of their day to help me gain a unique insight into the everyday work life of a librarian At the end of the day, I had a much wider scope of options to consider in terms of my future career, and I had a better understanding of the role a librarian plays in a research environment.

Frank Norman:

It’s always a pleasure to talk with aspiring librarians about the work that we do to support science. I enjoy the challenge of summarising what we do and describing our key activities – particularly as priorities change over the years. It’s helpful to reflect on the shifting shape of our service offering, and the underlying motivations that reflect the needs of the institute. While some aspects of the Crick are quite specific (the layout of the building and the lack of any physical library) our work to support researchers has much in common with the approach taken in University libraries. I hope Katie got a flavour of research support work in libraries more broadly and is inspired to pursue a career in research library and information work.

If you’re interested in job shadowing or being shadowed, please visit our job shadowing page.

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This entry was posted on March 8, 2022 by in Job shadowing and tagged , , .


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