As part of my PLN I’ll be taking part in Hack Library School’s “Library Student Day in the Life.” Basically, I’ll be talking about my week (4th – 8th March) as a library student and my work as a Research Assistant and I’ll be reflecting on the events I am attending this weekend. Follow the #HLSDITL and read the blog posts entitled Day in the Life under the PLN heading on my blog. Learn more about it on the Hack Library School WordPress blog or @hacklibschool


We would like to invite all library students to participate in a new project organized by Hack Library School called Library Student Day in the Life.

We hope this project, which will revolve around a community of students sharing each day’s experiences for a week, will help prospective students learn what library school is actually like and connect current LIS/IT students with those in other programs. This is a great way to discuss what you’re learning, where you’re working, and all the details that make up your unique library school experience.

For some of you, this name and concept may sound strikingly familiar, and there’s a good reason! We’ve taken inspiration from the Library Day in the Life project begun by Bobbi Newman, which ran from 2008-2012. This January, she wrote a post about her decision to stop organizing the project. After hearing this news, those of us at Hack…

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Career Choices

Last week we were lucky enough to have two guest speakers in SILS. Both had jobs that didn’t include “librarian” in the title but basically the similarities ended there. Bernard Barrett was our first guest of the day and I was lucky enough to meet with him before his talk with the class and chat to him about his experiences. He is a trained library graduate and has worked in many library roles but his current job description is “Information Scientist.” Bernard still sees himself as a librarian but he feels that it is up to us as librarians to make sure that we give the right impression of the job. We need to see ourselves as highly trained and skilled individuals capable of sitting down with any other professional, with whom we may be working, on an equal basis and working collaboratively. I found him quite inspiring and I agreed with a great deal of what he was saying. He is clearly a man that is passionate about libraries and librarianship but instead of just singing the praises of libraries he is focused on the role of the librarian. Without the librarian, the library is just a room full of books, a computer filled with too much information.

He encouraged us to question. Question why you want to be a librarian, why things are the way they are, what can we do? What is going to be effective? I have spoken previously about how the user is king; however, Bernard is correct in saying the librarian is there as a specialist in their field and we are not there to do just administrative work. There is a point when you can say, “No, that is below my job description.” Obviously, he was not telling us to be arrogant, he was ensuring that we are aware that we will be stepping out into the world with a Masters, one which we have worked extremely hard for, and we need to see ourselves as such. He also spoke about having the ability to teach, he felt that this was very important in the role at the moment and encouraged us to embrace teaching others. He spoke about advocacy as something which needs to be logical, well thought out and forward thinking in its approach. I hope that in my career I can continue to progress and learn, teach, question and advocate effectively.

In the evening SILS invited Dr. Laura Toogood to speak to us. Laura has taken a very different career path and it was kind of surreal to hear both talks within an hour or so of each other. Laura got her PhD in SILS in 2010. She worked as a journalist during her time in UCD and feels that the skills we are learning in the course work well in a journalism role. After finishing her work here she moved back to the UK and noticed that there was a gap in the market for someone to help companies with their social media strategy. She mainly used social media on a personal basis but felt that her degree would add weight to her personal experience. She also developed an online luxury lifestyle magazine “The Sloaney” which she enjoys many benefits from, including lots of shampoo and free hotel stays, in exchange for reviews in the magazine. She then moved from social media into online reputation management. In this role she is working with celebrities and other private clients to work on their Google search results, either manipulating information further up, to page one or two or hiding information on page 40. It seems like a very interesting and high-flying career. If you are business minded it is good to know that there are these kinds of options for you to take. She is clearly a very determined woman who has taken her time here in SILS and transferred her skills to the career path and lifestyle she wanted for herself. I hope I can show that kind of determination in my career, although I have to admit that I don’t think the world of online reputation management would be for me!

Going Digital….

Let’s face it, we are living in a digital world. We have so much technology (smart-phones, tablets, cameras) all with the ability to create born-digital items and we all want to be able to access things remotely via digital repositories and libraries. I find it fascinating that I can see the letters that eventually resulted in “The Wind in the Willows” from my computer when the originals lie in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Digitization is making the world a far smaller and more accessible place. However, is looking at an image online really the same as visiting the Bodleian and seeing the old, slightly yellowing paper and the beautifully scripted handwriting of Kenneth Grahame in the flesh? As it is put in Document! (a discussion of a seminar held in NIVAL about the Document! exhibition), “the texture of the paper, that wonderful dusty old-book smell and the hastily scribbled notes in the margins of our shared history would all be lost as would the spontaneous, accidental find that leads researchers to intriguing and often rather odd discoveries,” if we were to go purely digital. And whatever about literature, this is an especially interesting question when you consider art or craft work. Is an image of a painting the same? Does it capture the textures? The subtleties of colour? There is need for both the preservation of and access to the original as well as the production of the digital for those who cannot visit the houses of these treasures.

Where I think these artistic items need to be preserved both physically and digitally and that there should be access to both (where it is not detrimental to the object), I believe that born digital material needs to remain digital and be preserved as such. I believe this because reading about the Tate’s e-ephemera and from doing my own digital library image collection I have learnt about the administrative metadata that would be lost if the image or document (e.g. email) was printed. This is something which is going to become more of an issue in future years. Where will we store this digital information and how will it be preserved? In fact, this is going to be a very important question. Check out this article about storage in DNA. Although storage is getting less expensive the more you transfer digital items the more metadata will be attached. We are creating digital materials at a huge rate and this is only going to continue. As we can see from the article concerning the Tate we have already collected e-ephemera that is sitting in email inboxs and has not been catalogued or correctly stored. There is a huge backlog and who can say what it is reasonable to weed out. This is especially interesting in relation to government communications etc. and the information we may need to access in the future. See CILIP report on Ephemera for more information on this area. Or take the huge undertaking by the Library of Congress to archive Tweets. Many of us would ask where does it stop? I think that a question that is almost as important is where do we begin? There is just so much data out there. I won’t even go into how to make this information accessible. Surely this will be a future career for some of us information professionals.

Realistically, digitization IS going to force us to change the way we think about libraries and we can see already from the James Joyce Library that there will be changes to library space. In the James Joyce the area that used to house reference books is now the Hub where students can sit in comfortable surroundings and study or collaborate with groups in a less formal setting than the study areas above. I don’t believe that this is a negative impact of digitization. In fact I think it is great that the library had the foresight to create this area and create a space that allows the library to remain important to the student experience. I have seen this is the HSE’s library in Dr. Steeven’s hospital where they have created a meeting space for doctors as they no longer need large amounts of physical space for journals as they are mostly available online. This meeting place actually goes some-way towards increasing the visibility of the library service which is a very positive outcome.

There are positives and negatives associated with the increase in digital technologies. The only definites seem to be that there will be more and more digital creations and there will be change to libraries. It will be up to us what these changes are. It will be up to us as to whether the digital items we are creating will last as long as the scrolls from ancient Egypt or even the Book of Kells. Digital content will require management, storage and preservation but who is going to take the responsibility?? And who is going to pay for it?


Lately I have been thinking about the future and what I would like to do once I finish in Library school and enter the ‘real’ world. Although I love technology and would like to get some experience of working in a more ‘techy’ role, I think my passion really lies in the research and user-focused side of the profession. I am currently employed in the role of Research Assistant and I love everything about it. I love reading the literature and trying to understand the emerging themes and how they work together. I love that I’m constantly learning and broadening my knowledge base and I love when I go searching through the internet and find that one article that I was looking for or that one article that makes everything else fit together.

I think a good fit for me would be as a liaison librarian in an academic setting or perhaps a health librarian. The research I am doing now is health-focused and I really enjoy it. I have already completed a Management Project with a group of fellow students about the HSE’s Open Access Repository, Lenus, which you can read here. I found this project fascinating and I became really interested in the issues surrounding open access, evidence-based practice and information retrieval and use by doctors and nurses. In fact I was so interested in the area that a fellow student and I proposed a Capstone Project based on these issues and I am currently working on that with my Capstone group.

I think if I was to proceed as a liaison librarian I would be a good fit in the Arts. I have a Master’s in English and a BA in English and Psychology and I studied both French and Philosophy in my first year of college. I understand what it is like to be an Arts student and I am interested in a wide variety of subjects. I would always seek to improve my knowledge in any area that would improve my performance. Working with Maria Souden has afforded me a fantastic opportunity to improve to my communication and analytical skills in relation to working with academics. I think it is a role I would really enjoy and be passionate about and I think I would strive to be visible and accessible to both students and staff if I was in a Subject Liaison role.

These are just my thoughts for the moment and I could change my mind before I leave this course but I think it is good to have some focus in relation to career choices. However, in saying that, I also think it is great that the skill-set we are acquiring lends itself well to a great number of roles.

Vocation and Advocacy

Disclaimer: I speak about librarians but I think a lot of this could relate to any information professional. I chose the term librarian for the sake of simplicity.

Personally, I think that becoming a librarian is a vocation. It is a career particularly suited to those that want to provide people with access to information and are willing to acquire the skills necessary to ensure that they can provide this access, to the absolute best of their ability. The reason I am in this MLIS course is because I was inspired by the librarians in the Boole library in UCC. They were teaching an embedded research and library skills module for my English Masters course and they taught me how to access the information I needed. Effectively, they were teaching me how to learn for myself, how to gain knowledge outside of the classroom and evaluate it. I realised that providing others with information or how to access information was what I wanted to do with my life. I also wanted to be able to learn for the rest of my life and being a librarian means you can learn not only through the content of the library but also you need to continually develop your skill-set in line with new technologies.

Unfortunately, the profession seems more than slightly misunderstood. In fact, it is hugely frustrating when people ask me why I need a Masters to become a librarian, especially as I am working such long hours studying, learning and researching in order to do my best. There is so much involved in becoming a librarian and some people have absolutely no idea what we are capable of doing. This is especially relevant to this week’s class and my own interests, health libraries. I find it amazing that libraries and librarians are not being utilised to their full capacity by medical staff when evidence-based practice is of such importance. I do think that Bernard Barrett is correct to establish himself as a “fellow” professional. We are highly qualified and well trained individuals. We are of no less importance than other professions and in fact if employed correctly we could enable people to be better at their jobs by providing them with the information they need to succeed and excel. Although many librarians make huge efforts to ensure they are visible within their organisations, there is still a very wide gap between the perception people have of librarians and the reality of what we are capable of doing.

I have to admit I don’t agree with Barrett’s views on the vocabulary surrounding the role of the librarian. User, service…these words are not an issue for me and in fact there are problems related to the words library or librarian; however, I think dwelling on vocabulary is problematic as we will never re-write the dictionary. I think advocacy is the answer and I was very interested to read his thoughts on advocacy because I think they are very relevant. Barrett outlines advocacy as being Personal, a Positive and Planned Process, Co-ordinated and involving Clear, Logical and Analytic Thinking. I think this is very helpful because I think advocacy could be a hugely successful venture if it was forward-thinking and logical in approach. Although it is unfortunate that we should have to fight for libraries, it is essential. I believe we, as current and future librarians, need to be passionate about our profession but also be logical and sensible in our approach to advocacy. Being passionate is not enough! We have to articulate the importance and potential of libraries and librarians in a way that makes sense to those that could be the possible users and also to those that provide the budgets.

We know that we are capable of so many things. We know that libraries are of huge importance and far more than people perceive them to be and it is up to us to ensure that the perceptions begin to change.

Library according to the dictionary.

This is linked to my post “What does it mean to be a librarian?”

As librarians we love a good reference tool and what better than the dictionary. A guide to the meaning of words!

I was really interested in people’s responses to my questions about libraries and librarians and the interest students in my class have in the library as a service. However, there is this perception among us that people may not fully grasp the reality of the 21st century library. (Yes, Terry Deary, you are one of these people!) So I thought to myself why is there this gap between what we as librarians think of as the functions of our roles and the libraries we work in, and what the public and media perception of libraries and librarians might be. This post is focused on libraries and I’m hoping to get some feedback and write some more about librarians in the future.

So, I decided to look up the word “library” in the dictionary to get the definition.

First, my old friend, The Oxford English.  Have a look for yourself and you will see that it is almost exclusively focused on books.

Then does go as far as to say it refers to the public body organising and maintaining such an establishment.

In fact the Urban Dictionary gave the best definitions as far as I’m concerned.

“An awesome place that is underrated in this society” by Adel7

“A building that enables people to have access to computers, books, magazines, videos, dvds, etc. Where Librarians and Library Support Workers help people find the information they need.” By ldchills

These are just two of the good ones; there are a few pretty dodgy interpretations in there as well but it’s just a little bit upsetting to me that the Urban Dictionary may be more relevant than the OED on this one.

When will the perceptions change? When will the word “library” encompass all that a library truly is in the 21st century?

What does it mean to be a librarian?

Last week I wrote about changes to public libraries as a result of changing technology and the changing needs of patrons. The same can be said for all types of libraries; there have been vast changes in the last decade alone. This week I am wondering what these changes mean for the 21st century librarian. What does it mean to be a librarian in 2013 and into the future? Certainly not the same thing that it meant 20 or 30 years ago? What are the competencies and ethical considerations required of the modern day librarian?

ALA Core Competencies: (2009)

  1. Foundations of the profession
  2. Information Resources
  3. Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information
  4. Technical Knowledge and Skills
  5. Reference and user services
  6. Research
  7. Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning
  8. Administration and Management

Ethical Principals of the ALA: (2008)

  1. Provide the highest levels of service
  2. Uphold principles of intellectual freedom
  3. Protect the user’s right to privacy
  4. Recognise and respect intellectual property rights
  5. Treat colleagues with respect and advocate for good employment conditions
  6. Do not advance private interests over those of the user
  7. Distinguish between personal convictions and professional duties
  8. Strive for excellence in the profession by encouraging professional development, in ourselves and our co-workers.

Clearly some of these issues would not have been the same 20 years ago. For example, information resources would have been a much easier competency to understand and develop before the information explosion that is the internet and the world wide web, databases, access to broadband, google, e-books and the list goes on…………

I agree that we now need technological skills as well as traditional; however, there are some competencies that stand out to me as being vitally important. Personally, I believe that these items are the absolute essentials:

Foundations of the profession: To understand what a librarian is and does. To me, this is about making information available to users. It is balancing freedom of information with the principles of intellectual property. It is about appreciation of all the ethical considerations outlined above while ensuring that people get the information they require, to the best of your ability. It is being respectful and non-judgmental in relation to people’s information needs. It is about understanding libraries (various types) and their patrons, and their patron’s needs. And finally, something which I feel very strongly about, is that we have the understanding that libraries need advocates and who better to advocate for the library than the librarian.

User Services: At the end of the day, the user is king. The library will not function without the user and long gone are the days that a library could be considered a room of books. A library is a service and the librarian must ensure the service is user-orientated.

Continuing Education and Lifelong learning: As far as I am concerned this is now one of the fundamental issues in librarianship. Of course, we must all know the basics that we learn in library school but who knows when what we are learning now will become obsolete. Technology is changing our field; every day there are new bits of information on the web, new ways to get information and new electronic devices to see information. We must be willing to keep up, and I would argue, more than willing but actually interested and engaged and actively seeking information. We must be hungry for information because information is our profession. We must also be willing to teach others about information and help them to develop in this ever-changing world.

These are my thoughts but I would love to know if there is anything I have missed or what other people think about the profession. Please leave a comment as to your understanding of what it means to be a librarian because I would love to learn more about the profession and people’s understanding of it.