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.