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!

Welcome to 23 Librarians Ireland and Beyond…

River of books
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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…)