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included advocating for the renewal of our inter-library loan arrangement with a bigger library, updating the outdated MA in Dispute Resolution reading list and the inclusion of some reference self-study materials for the English language students.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

Helen Kielt

Helen KieltI joined the library and information profession in 2011 as part of the Health in Mind team in Libraries NI. Health in Mind is a Big Lottery Funded partnership project between Libraries NI and a number of mental health charities across Northern Ireland. Over the last 3 years I’ve been working with public libraries and communities to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. This involves planning various events, workshops and training opportunities, as well as promoting a wide range of library resources and encouraging active library membership.

It was important to me to gain a professional library qualification and this year I completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Library and Information Management at the University of Ulster. This opened up a lot of new opportunities for me, as I learned about different sectors, gained awareness of the breadth of the information world and the transferrable skills involved in library work. I am currently pursuing Chartership to further develop my skills and experience. It’s a great way to continue learning and building on knowledge gained through my studies and daily work.

My current job title is Outreach and Information Officer. It is a varied role with lots of opportunities for partnership working. Enabling access to information on mental health and support is an important part of my role.

On a typical day I could be delivering bespoke events, online information classes or services such as shared reading activities or bibliotherapy- each for specific user groups. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work has been working with different agencies and sectors and offering various wellbeing opportunities in communities through the local public library. This, along with the fact that Health in Mind has become an award winning project which has raised the profile of libraries among health and support providers.

I think some of the most important skills for today’s information professional are flexibility, ingenuity and cooperation. The scale of challenges being faced by the information professions as a whole requires a lot of understanding and working together. A healthy attitude of solution finding is always useful.

Advice I would give to anyone considering a career in Information Management would be to talk to people and get involved as much as you can. I’ve learned a lot from people working in different sectors to me, and will continue to do so. The special interest groups I am a member of within CILIP are International Library and Information, Career Development and Health Libraries. I am an active member of the CILIP Ireland committee and also enjoy being involved in CILIP activities and conferences within the UK. I think this is what fuels my keen interest in collaborative working, professional community building and cross-sector learning. This year I was lucky to have the chance to attend the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, an opportunity I took to meet and share information with library professionals from all over the world. However you don’t have to travel far to keep up with trends in the global information environment. There is a huge community of information professionals online and on social media who will enthusiastically support each other- you just have to be willing to engage.