On Thursday last, 24th January, I attended the LAI’s Networking event in the Royal Irish Academy. Although the thought of going to an event hosted and attended by working librarians by myself was a very daunting concept, I am delighted that I forced myself out of my comfort zone to attend. I was intrigued to hear the talk by Eibhlin Roche, the archivist in the Guinness Storehouse and I hoped to meet people that had completed the Masters course I am currently undertaking and see if they had any advice about finding work and the types of work available for current graduates. I was also interested in hearing about how the job is changing in line with the new technologies that are being developed daily.
For the first few minutes I found myself slightly overwhelmed by the experience, it seems that the library network is a small and familiar one as most of the people there seemed to fit comfortably and there were plenty of little groups conversing around the room. One of the organizers was kind enough to come over and speak to me and having explained to her that I was interested in health libraries she pointed out the health librarians in the room and moved to introduce me. In a happy coincidence the first health librarian she introduced me to was Niamh O’Sullivan, the librarian in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service who I had met previously when she had given a very interesting and insightful talk during a Management module I was taking. Niamh is an excellent example of someone who works very hard to show what a librarian can offer an organisation and she is very enthusiastic about making sure the library has a place and that people realise the service is available and essential. I really enjoyed speaking with her again and look forward to hearing her talk at the LAI’s Annual Seminar in March.
Another student, Ryan, also attended on the night and shortly after speaking to Niamh we were ushered into the room set up for the talk. The first thing that struck me was the the RIA building is beautiful and the room in which we were seated was stunning, walls of books, it was the perfect setting. Eibhlin was a very interesting speaker and she explained the different facets of her job very clearly. I think the amount of work that they do is outstanding. (12,000 queries a year) I couldn’t believe the amount of information and objects they store and I thought the way they were associated with the museum and the advertising sections of the business was fantastic. This means they are associated with the bottom line and in that way they can make sure that the archives are kept as an essential part of the business and that they are given the staff and budget to keep going (although maybe not as much as we would like to see. :)) At the end of the day I see more and more as time goes on that an essential part of the job is to market yourself and what you do and make sure the organisation you work for, whether public or private, knows that what you do is worthwhile. It is just unfortunate that for many “worthwhile” may be associated with monetary gain.
I think the genealogical aspects of the archives are something I hadn’t even thought of and it is amazing that these kinds of records of employees still exist for the families and they allow people make an appointment to research their history. It is good to know that a company so entrenched in our culture such as Guinness is actually aware of their importance to Ireland and feel the responsibility of this and make sure that these important things are being kept and looked after. It is also fantastic that they are digitizing and using technology to keep the archives functional and in the case of images etc., using them for advertising and the museum so that they are not just kept enclosed and hidden away. I feel that this is also a really important part of what the archivists are doing.
It is clear from the talk that Eibhlin is doing a very different job now to what she thought she would be doing when she started in her position 10 years or so ago. I find this exciting. Eibhlin is part archivist, part librarian, part curator and many many more parts. I chose this Masters because I felt that it would lead me to a career that would allow for life-long learning and listening to this talk and hearing the consensus in the room leads me to think that I was correct in my assumptions. It appears that the job is ever changing and librarians and archivists may have to take on numerous roles and job descriptions as they go through their careers.
After the talk we went back to the main room for a few more glasses of wine and nibbles. I spoke to two women from the libraries in TV3. One of the women had graduated from the MLIS in 2010. She said although it may be difficult to find jobs, perseverance and determination will get you a long way. She highly recommended attending these events (as do I) and she spoke about taking opportunities to get experience.
All in all it was a fantastic night and I am really looking forward to the next event I am attending on Saturday which is all about alternative career opportunities.