My first entry into the library and information profession was through an MSc in Library and Information Studies in the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Following my time in RGU I worked first as a library assistant in the community libraries in Aberdeen and then in Aberdeen Central Library. I was delighted when I got my first professional post as Team Librarian Local Studies, particularly as I was always interested in local and family history. Collection management, community outreach and research enquiries were just some aspects of an interesting and varied role. Following restructure my duties evolved and my job title changed to Local Studies Librarian. I gained more responsibility with our digital photographic collection, and in partnership working with organisations such as Aberdeen City Archives.
While working in Local Studies I undertook my Chartership with CILIP. While it was time-consuming I found it hugely beneficial to my development as a professional. It allowed me to see more clearly the positive aspects of my work and identify areas that needed improvement, and this led to a more proactive and confidant approach to my job. One such area was my lack of involvement with the wider profession and so I joined CILIPS North East Branch. I was later elected Secretary and through the group I met, learned from, and organised events with information professionals from such varying sectors as the academic, oil and gas, and public.
Currently I am working as a Development Officer for CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Ireland. My head office is in London but my remit is Northern Ireland. My role involves the management of the CILIP Ireland Committee and the organisation of events with the assistance of the committee. This year some of my activities included the organisation and facilitation of two Professional Registration events and the annual CILIP Ireland Open Day. I also assisted in the administration of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI)/ CILIP Ireland Joint Conference in Waterford. My main focus currently is membership development and so I have tried to make CILIP Ireland more visible through its website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and through speaking about the benefits of CILIP membership to various groups.
One of my achievements was the development of professional promotional materials to give us an instantly recognisable image. We are currently creating a new constitution for the committee as well as more specific role descriptions. Attendance at some conferences including those run by CILIP Scotland and CILIP in Wales is something I enjoy. It is an opportunity to hear presentations on current library and information trends, projects and policies as well as to meet other people working in the profession. It is also my responsibility to promote campaigns supported by CILIP, such as the EBLIDA E-reading Campaign. Things I enjoy about my current role include opportunity to develop many varying skills and the degree of independence I have.
It is essential to have excellent IT skills in the information profession today and the ability and desire to be flexible in your approach to work. Information technologies are constantly changing as is the role of libraries in general so it vital to be forward thinking if you are to remain relevant as a professional, and we are to remain relevant as a profession. Being a good communicator and creative and innovative in the use and promotion of resources is also essential. Modern library and information professionals are often called upon to be trainers or facilitators, whether to co-workers, students or the general public. It is very important to be an advocate for libraries as they are under pressure, particularly in the public sector.
In terms of advice to those coming into the profession, I would say consider what area of librarianship and what sector you would like to go into from the beginning as it can be difficult to move from one sector to the other. Be aware of the variety of roles that are available and research the course that you would like to do to ensure it contains the right elements for you and is CILIP accredited. Undertaking some voluntary work in an information environment is a good idea as being a librarian differs vastly from the romantic notion that many people have. It can be a difficult area to find employment in in recent years so don’t limit yourself to traditional librarian roles and be prepared to relocate for a job.
While it is not an easy time for the library and information profession it is an exciting time as the spectrum of roles and options is evolving. If you find your niche then it is definitely a worthwhile and rewarding career.