Welcome to 23 Librarians Ireland and Beyond…

River of books
(Picture s
ource: http://bookshelfporn.com/)

Hello and welcome to the blog “23 Librarians Ireland/NI and Beyond”. My name is Elaine Mulholland and I am the University Librarian at St. Mary’s University College in Belfast.

In association with my colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales, I am pleased to be the co-ordinator of the Ireland/NI and Beyond contribution of the exciting 23 Librarians project initiated by Anabel Marsh in Scotland, continued by Kristine Chapman for Wales 23 Llyfrgellydd and Virginia Power 23 Librarians England. Contributions are welcome from all Library sectors from all over the world!

As information and library specialists, we are at the heart of many organisations and the extent of our skills is vast. The idea of the 23 Librarians project is to celebrate those skills and to highlight the sheer diversity of activity that we are engaged in. Joining our blog can help demonstrate the value that we provide in education, in business and in the wider communities in which we live and work. Why not contribute YOUR story? Contact one of us to add your voice to help continue the international community of conversation.

Elaine Mulholland (Ireland/NI and beyond…)


Steven Galbraith

Steven Galbraith

  • How did you first get into the information and library profession?

My first library position was in 1982 when I served as a library helper to our school librarian Ms. Bickford. I was 10 years old and in fourth grade (I still have my certificate of achievement somewhere in my office). I’d love to say that this experience made an impression on me, but all I really recall was Ms. Bickford telling me she was a witch and showing me an amulet.

I think what really led me to study library science and take my MLS was the experience of regularly going to the public library as a kid (often with my father, who still reads constantly) and an undergraduate circulation position at Lockwood Library at the University of Buffalo (USA).

  • What qualifications did you take?

I have an MLS from the University of Buffalo and a PhD in English Literature from The Ohio State University (USA). My PhD focus was on the literature of the English renaissance (Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney—all the S’s), but my approach was the history of the book. This eventually led me to become more of a printing historian than a literary scholar.

  • What is your current job title?

My current job is Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, USA. The Cary Collection, for short, is one of the country’s premier libraries on graphic communication history and practice. Our greatest research strength is the history of printing. Our library features a pressroom with a working collection of historical printing presses, including the famous Kelmscott/Goudy press.

  • What does your job involve? What do you particularly enjoy about your job?

When I ask my young daughters what they think I do all day, they either say “put books on shelves” or “fix books.” Both sound lovely, but I hardly do either. It varies of course, but among my responsibilities are: building the collection with new acquisitions and donations, fundraising, planning and preparing exhibitions, and supervising student workers. I also teach quite a bit.  We have a large number of classes that come through, and I also teach an annual class called “Tablet to Tablet: A History of the Book.” I still try to be an active scholar in the history of the book and in my field of rare book librarianship, so in my spare time I keep up with my research and writing.

  • What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional?

The skills vary to some degree depending on what area of librarianship you are in. I think the most important quality of a librarian is curiosity. A librarian should also be comfortable with learning new skills and adapting to change, while finding wisdom and inspiration from the past.

  • What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management?

I would advise someone considering going into the field to visit a number of libraries and speak with librarians about their work.  Once in library school they should earn as much practical experience as they can in the types of settings they hope to work in. Mentorships are also a very helpful way of being introduced to the profession and receiving guidance from successful.

Photo by Julie Ainsworth

Alice Walsh

Alice Walsh

My first foray into the library world was a volunteering stint in my local library in Tramore, Co. Waterford. I really enjoyed working there – it was a place I had always loved going to as a child. I remember the sense of quiet as I leafed through the picture books in the children’s library. There was something magical about the way the librarians stamped the books and wrote the date of return. I wondered about all the people the books had lived with temporarily. I’ve always enjoyed the peaceful, reverent atmosphere you often find in libraries (though that’s not always the case!). So I suppose I entered the profession with some flowery romantic notions.

After my initial placement I was offered a contract as a library assistant so I stayed working there until I started the course in UCD. The thing that struck me the most about working in a public library was that it really fostered a strong sense of community. During my time there I gained a deep appreciation for the importance of customer service and the concept that a library (whatever its format) exists to serve its customers. There was always something fun going on – book clubs, writing groups, children’s story time, little festivals – it was a wonderful first taste of libraries.

I did the postgraduate diploma in Library and Information Studies in UCD – I decided to opt out of doing the Masters because the economy at that time was not very healthy and I was keen to get back into the workplace. Straight out of college I got a traineeship contract working as a library assistant with Bord Bia – the Irish Food Board. It was a busy role in a small information department so I was given a lot of responsibility. I learned a lot about cataloguing, customer service and information management in a corporate environment – I also learned a lot about food! Following on from that I worked as a Search Editor for Getty Images. It was a very busy role with a wide variety of tasks the main aim was to use metadata in lots of clever ways to improve search results for our customers – in the e-commerce world improved search results often translate into improved sales. After Getty, I worked in Trinity College Library for a while cataloguing for the university’s Digital Collections website. The Long Room in Trinity’s Old Library is the most beautiful library I’ve ever been to, it’s like a church of books and definitely has the peaceful reverent atmosphere that first lured me into libraries.

My current job title is Taxonomist. Most people look at me blankly when I say that and wonder if I stuff dead animals for a living. I’m back working in an e-commerce environment which I really enjoy.  I’m working on a specific project to develop a company’s taxonomy and ensure that all products are categorised correctly. It’s a big task but I’m really enjoying the work. Part of my job involves exploring different ways to develop the taxonomy structure and investigating what new categories would be best to create from a business perspective. I spend a lot of time writing automation rules to direct documents to particular categories and product types, it’s very similar to some of the work I did at Getty Images. One of the things I’m passionate about is trying to find ways to improve the work that we do – both to make the process more efficient and to improve the customer’s experience.

I think it’s important for today’s information and library professionals to be flexible and have a solid understanding of all things digital. If you are open to embracing different experiences there is such a wide variety of career paths a library and information studies graduate can wander down. When I started out I was certain I would work in public libraries but over the past 7 or 8 years I’ve worked as a librarian/information professional in academic, public, corporate, semi-state and e-commerce settings. It’s good to get an idea of the variety that is out there. Strong communication skills and a willingness to learn and grow are also important for any job.

My advice to any newcomers to this gig would be to be open and don’t rule anything out. I know a lot of librarians from my time studying at UCD and from my various jobs – the library scene in Ireland is small and full of friendly, interesting people – keep in touch with your class mates and colleagues – it’s important to build relationships with people in the field. And ask for help – in my experience librarians are by nature an altruistic bunch who love to help out others when they can!

Siobhán Dunne

Siobhan Dunne

How did you first get into the library and information profession?

I fell into it by accident really, although my mother claims I was always destined to be a librarian as I used to wheel around a mobile library when I was seven!  I saw an advertisement for a six month FÁS (an employment scheme, it no longer exists), cataloguing a private archive. I was at a crossroads at the time, unsure about what path to take after my primary degree. I decided to give it a go and it turned out to be a great move. Towards the end of that placement, I was offered a job as a library assistant job in Dublin City University.

What qualifications did you take?

I had already completed a Bachelor of Arts in University College Dublin. After a few years working in the academic, health and corporate libraries in Ireland and Australia, I decided it was the career for me. I returned to UCD to complete a Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies.

Are you currently pursuing a professional qualification (i.e. distance learning, certification, chartership etc.)?

Two years ago, I completed ‘Teaching Online’ and Assessment and Feedback in an Online Environment’ – two modules offered to DCU staff by the Teaching Enhancement Unit. I’m currently nearing the end of an MSc in Education and Training Leadership in DCU. As part of that, I got the chance to participate in an Erasmus programme in the University of Peloponnese, which was a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in the education sector from seven countries.

What is your current job title?

Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Dublin City University.

What does your job involve?

I’m a liaison librarian for the faculty of humanities and social sciences. Essentially that involves collaborating with colleagues to design and deliver information skills programmes for students and staff and also developing collections. I’m a member of the library’s management team which involves making decisions about operational and strategic policies. I’m also involved in a number of cross departmental projects including branding and changing spaces initiatives. Outside of the Library I’m a member of the Faculty’s Research Committee and the University’s Civic Engagement Forum. The fora provide invaluable opportunities to promote the library’s role. At the moment I’m co-convenor of an international conference taking place in DCU and planning for that takes up a lot of time.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day?

There isn’t one! During semester one, a lot of my time is taken up with delivering information skills sessions and setting and marking assignments. That eases off in semester two; however that’s when project work takes over. A typical day right now could involve a training session, a meeting with colleagues about LETS (our online tutorial for students, we are currently developing it to include new content), answering email queries typically about resources students or staff are trying to track down, a consultation with a PhD student and in late afternoon, there might be a conference planning meeting.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional?

An ability to see the bigger picture, ensuring that the library is integral to and supportive of the larger organisation. Attention to detail; communication, advocacy and marketing skills are vital. Emotional intelligence: without that you can’t work effectively with library colleagues or the users of your library. Adaptability and a willingness to try new things are crucial.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in information management?

Go for it! Information management is a really interesting and rewarding career. There’s lots going on in the area and it is changing rapidly so there’s no time to get bored.

Are you involved in any professional activities (ie. committees, special interest groups)?

I’m chair of the CONUL (Consortium of National & Universities) Teaching and Learning Group which works to promote the role of and measure the value of libraries in teaching and learning within Higher Education. I’m a member of the LIR Libraries Group which provides a forum for cooperation between, and training for, member libraries in accessing online resources. I’m also a member of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians which provides an invaluable support network to of librarians working in the law library sector.

Twitter: @dunnesiobhan
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/siobh%C3%A1n-dunne/1b/947/2b1

Anne-Marie Murphy

AM Murphy

Before my library job I worked in Hodges Figgis bookshop in Dublin. I worked in the Corporate and Library Sales Department. Through this work I met a lot of librarians who came into the shop for stock buys. Books that we did not have in stock I ordered for them, I also looked after their accounts. I remember librarians from the prison libraries coming in and buying up half the True Crime section on the floor! From there I went to work in the James Joyce Library in University College Dublin. University College Dublin is Ireland’s largest university with over 30,000 students from over 100 countries. It has five libraries, the James Joyce Library is the main library. The other libraries are for Architecture, Business, Health Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.

I currently work as a library assistant in the Collection Services Unit. As part of a team I work in the inter library loans area. If UCD staff or students need books or journal articles which we do not hold in our collection, we request them on loan from other libraries. We source most of our books through the British Library and most of our journal articles through an online document delivery service called Subito. We use Copac and Worldcat to search for the requested titles.

The other side of inter library loans is supplying our books and journal articles to other libraries all over the world. Essentially, I think it is like having a library within a library. This is a very popular service. With recent budget cuts it means we can still get material for our staff and students even if we cannot purchase it directly for the library they can still consult it for their research. The service tends to be busy all year but especially in the summer when students are writing up their theses and staff are doing research. A typical day involves requesting books and journal articles from other libraries on behalf of our staff and students, making sure the books go back in time to the lending libraries or requesting renewals, posting out UCD books and journal articles to other libraries in Ireland, the UK and beyond and answering e-mail and phone queries. Inter Library Loans is a great example of collaboration and co-operation between libraries worldwide.

I am also involved in more library wide work. The library has an orientation programme and a temporary new student desk every September to help new students find their way around. I enjoy working on this desk as I get to meet the library users face to face and answer any questions they have about the service.

I completed my MScEcon Information and Library Studies via distance learning with Aberystwyth University in 2012. I did this part time over a few years so that I could continue to work full time. The topic for my dissertation was “Understanding the role between the Librarian and the Academic” which I went on to re-write as a journal article which was then published in The New Review of Academic Librarianship. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13614533.2013.864986#.VS4Z1k10wdV

Skills that I think are important for information and library professionals are communication, team work and customer service skills. I think you also need to be enthusiastic, flexible and willing to learn all the time on the job as library roles are constantly evolving with new technology and new ways of doing things. If someone is considering a role in Information Management I would advise them to speak to other professionals about their roles and speak to new graduates about the qualification. If possible try to attend a conference or talks to get a taste of what is involved. The work is so diverse so maybe try to get some work experience.

I am a member of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) and of the Academic and Special Libraries section. I have attended some of their networking evenings which the committee run a few times a year. Last summer I enjoyed a talk by Grace Toland who works as the librarian for the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin. I’m always interested to hear what work other people are doing in the field and it’s a great way to meet other library people! I also attended the LAI conference last year where I exhibited a poster. https://libraryassociation.ie/groups-sections/academic-and-special-libraries-section-asl/past-events-asl-section-%E2%80%93-2014

I really enjoy attending conferences and talks as it is an excellent way to keep up to date with developments in the information world.


Niamh Ennis

Niamh Ennis

I first discovered library work while out of work and struggling after my original career idea fell through. The local library was the only place in my hometown that allowed me to do work experience. I simply loved my six weeks there and when told about the qualification I decided to do everything in my power to apply for the course at University College Dublin. I took the graduate diploma in Library and Information Studies as the Masters was too expensive at the time. From there I did a year’s more experience in a small private college library doing one evening a week. This was the clincher in securing my first real job as a part-time library assistant in a college library. I was in this job for around 9 months when my superior left and offered me the Librarian position. My job involves looking after patrons’ circulation and printing needs at the main desk while dealing with invoices, journal subscriptions, Moodle, OpenAthens and general administration. For one hour a day, I can retreat into my office to finish up administration stuff. My favourite part of the job would have to be helping students find what they are looking for particularly when they are stressed about their course.

It was quite a shift from library assistant to librarian and it has been non-stop since I started a month ago. Some of the projects I have undertaken included advocating for the renewal of our inter-library loan arrangement with a bigger library, updating the outdated MA in Dispute Resolution reading list and the inclusion of some reference self-study materials for the English language students. With the role of the librarian changing rapidly it is important to keep on our toes about our skills and knowledge of trends. Above all willingness to be flexible is incredibly important. Staff at our college often require help with something I may not have encountered before so being good at sourcing information is also relevant in that respect. Therefore I am involved in many groups on LinkedIn, a member of the Library Association of Ireland and am undertaking any related MOOC I can find. I am currently involved in a MOOC on advocacy and it teaches the importance of staying in tune with your patrons needs and adapting to these needs. This is a very important part of being an information professional. This is something I feel strongly about and along with my belief in the power of teaching digital literacy skills to students, is my primary advice for those entering the sector. Other advice for those thinking of the career would be to get as much experience in different sectors as you can before you decide to specialise and as I have said, stay updated on the trends in libraries today and involved in your chosen community whether online or elsewhere. The particular trends I like to follow while still advocating for print and the traditional roles of the librarian, is areas such as Open Access, Digital Literacy, conquering the digital divide and makerspace rooms.

Niamh Ennis Library

Gretchen Gfeller

Gretchen UMaine USA

I want to begin by thanking Elaine Mulholland, one of the blog co-ordinators, for inviting me to contribute. Elaine and I worked together during her time at the University of Maine (USA). I am delighted to have the opportunity to share my experience with the group.

What is your current job?

And so, to begin… I am the Public Relations Manager at Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine, USA.  I was attracted to the opportunity to work with students in a university setting.  My current position offers opportunities to collaborate with faculty and staff as well as with our students.

I have a B.A. and a Master of Arts in Romance Languages. I am one of a growing number of professionals in the US who bring very specific skills to a library environment.

What does your job involve?

As Public Relations Manager, I am responsible for planning, developing,  and implementing PR strategies, liaising with and answering enquiries from media, individuals and organizations, writing and editing press releases and publications, organizing events , engaging with users on social media (Twitter and Facebook, for example), and developing community outreach initiatives.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day or projects you have been involved in?

Every day is different. Some days are spent in my office working on newsletters, posters, and other publications. Some days are spent teaching a workshop series that introduces users to the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator). These workshops are open to the university community and the general public and are one of a growing number of services to our users. I have to say that my favorite projects are those involving our students. One example is our therapy dog visits, which I organized in response to student requests. Certified therapy dogs visit the library during fall and spring term Final Exams and during the early part of September, which can be a stressful time for our new students. We set aside a corner of our first floor reading room for the visits and the students love it. Just watching them interact with the dogs always brings a smile. Another favorite project was our library band, “The Renewals,” which included both staff and students. We wrote, choreographed, and performed songs about the library, which were shared via YouTube. Our “hits” included, “My Library” and the ever-popular, “Inside Fogler Library.”

What skills do I think are most important for today’s information and library professional?

This is an exciting time as libraries strive to re-define themselves to meet users’ needs. We need to learn to take risks and to accept failure as a beginning.

What advice would I give to anyone considering a career in Information Management?

Remember that information is well-managed only when it is easily found and understood by users.  In addition, we must continue to value and develop the library building’s role as a place within our communities.

Eva Hornung

Eva Hornung Curriculum Development Unit-Trinity College

How did you first get into the information and library profession?

Well, I was a library kid :). Having read my way through the children book collection at my local public library it was probably inevitable I’d end up working there. The head librarian took part in a career fair at my school when I was in my final year, and we started chatting. She suggested joining the team for a few days to see if I liked it. That was it. After I had qualified I became the Children’s Librarian there, so it all came full circle.

What qualifications did you take?

I was very lucky in that we lived not far from the Library School in Stuttgart, Germany. So I applied for a place there and did the three-year degree in Library and Information Studies. A number of years later I got into the Master’s programme in UCD. And in 2011 I was awarded a PhD in Information Studies from the University of Sheffield, which had been a part-time degree (remote location). It was brilliant to be able to compare what is happening in different countries and meeting new people.

Are you currently pursuing a professional qualification? (i.e. distance learning, certification, chartership etc.)

A couple of years ago I became a Fellow of CILIP and am revalidating that qualification on an annual basis. Also, in December, I was elected a Fellow with the Library Association of Ireland (LAI). Looking forward to receiving the certificate at the AGM in March!

I am always looking for new opportunities to learn, so this will be an ongoing feature of my professional and personal life. My PhD research was about continuing professional development (CPD) for librarians, so that’s a topic close to my heart.

What is your current job title?

What does your job involve? What do you particularly enjoy about your job?

Currently I am a so-called “one-person librarian” (OPL), which means I’m the only information professional in the organisation. So I’m responsible for every aspect in the library, from strategic planning to finances to cataloguing and research support. What I like about it is the autonomy – you can try out new things and services without having to get permission from three different people.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day or projects you have been involved in (refurbishment, experience of a merger etc.)

As an OPL no two days are the same. I might help someone with a printer that doesn’t work, and try and locate some document on the Internet the next minute. One of those “oh, I think it was published in the 70s by someone in the UK, possibly an NGO, but I can’t remember the title”… we also moved twice since I started in 2001, so that means packing up the library and, last time around, trying to squeeze everything into a smaller place.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional?

Flexibility; being curious; being able to think on your feet; resilience; being able to work as part of a team as well as on your own; being a people person; having a sense of humour – pretty much what you would need in any profession.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management?

Go out and meet information professionals. You’d be surprised to learn how diverse the profession is. Make connections. If you have no experience, see if you can get into an internship – even though you might not get paid, it’s crucial if you want to find out if this is what you want to do with your life. And no, you won’t have time to read the latest novels!

Are you involved in any professional activities? (i.e. committees, special interest groups)

Yes, I’m the current chairperson of the Academic & Special Libraries Section of the LAI and have been on that committee since 2005. We’re the biggest section of the LAI, and our members come from big university libraries, specialist one-person operations, libraries in commercial entities, and non-for-profit organisations. We organise an annual conference, many networking evenings and, occasionally, a workshop. We meet once a month in the evening. And I’m on the CPD committee of the LAI. We accredit training courses and other events and promote the Associateship and Fellowship programmes.

I’m also the country co-ordinator for Ireland with the International Librarians Network, which helps librarians establish international connections. It’s free to all, including students, so please sign up and start sharing your stories.

For the last number of years I’ve been a mentor with CILIP for librarians undertaking Certification, Chartership and Fellowship. It’s great to be able to be a link between CILIP and the LAI.

All of these activities are crucial to my own professional development as it is really tricky to get to events during working hours. Study leave and funding are not available. Desktop-based CPD activities are the most important way for me to keep up-to-date.