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.