Interest in Continuing Professional Development and Lifelong Learning

As the MLIS classes draw to a close I am becoming more and more interested in how I will continue my education. I believe an interest in CPD and lifelong learning is something which is essential for an information professional. I am very enthusiastic about my personal career development and my Issues in Professional Practice module has highlighted the importance of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) and this is something I will continue as I travel down my career path.

There are several things that I have done this year that highlight my interest in continuing to develop my skills and understanding of the profession.

1. Networking – I have been very pro-active in the development of my PLN, I have been to as many conferences as I could, I have joined the Library Association of Ireland to stay updated and informed, I partake in discussions on Twitter, both organised (e.g. #irelibchat) and spontaneous.

2. Researching options for courses I could take in the future. For example, I have an interest in Rare Books and would love to take the Short Course available from Aberystwyth. See here for more details. I would also like to take a course in Web Publishing at some point in the future, though it has to be said I am very happy with the skills I’ve gained in relation to using open source systems like WordPress or Omeka.

3. I think my blog highlights my interest in the profession and the ways in which it is changing. I am very aware that that I could be doing very different things over the course of my career and I believe my willingness to accept this and my willingness to adapt are very important. CPD is not something I view as optional, to me it is necessary to ensure I am able to do the best I can in whatever role I might find myself.

4. I think my enthusiasm for CPD is more than just something that can be seen as something within my own professional development. I have taken a Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator module in order to ensure that I have the teaching skills necessary to help others on their journey through CPD.

I believe these points highlight my determination not to stop learning just because I finish college. Lifelong learning has always been a career necessity for me and I truly believe I have found the perfect career path to achieve satisfaction in relation to this.

Advocacy for Libraries and Interest in the Profession

I am very passionate about the importance of libraries and I think it is necessary to advocate for them. I think I demonstrate this passion and enthusiasm for libraries in my writing on this site as a whole, but in particular I think the Musings really highlights my personal feelings towards libraries and their role in the future.

Please browse through the site or pick specific tags from the tag cloud on the right-hand column to find topics of interest to you.

Ability to Adapt

Sarah Kennedy IA Report

To illustrate that I have the ability to adapt to something new I have chosen to show a report I had to write for my Information Architecture class. This report was to outline the new Virtual Research Environment for Information Architecture Researchers that I was required to develop. The reason I have chosen this is because it is something completely different to anything I’ve had to write before, either in an academic or work capacity. The assignment was to complete the report as though the audience would be colleagues on the web development team working on the VRE project with me. I found this to be a very interesting if somewhat daunting task. There was many aspects of this assignment that I had never experienced before. Due to the fact my background is in retail and in academic writing I have never had to write a business style report. The fact that this was so different to an essay was something I found difficult to get my head around. Our aim in this project was to provide as much information as possible with the least amount of writing. We were to write as though we would be presenting this to busy business people who did not have time to read a lengthy report.

We were required to complete Wireframes and Blueprints as part of this assignment and these were also very new to me. I found after completing this report I could look at websites in a completely different way. I think that before this course I hadn’t realised the amount of work that needs to go into developing an easy to use and accessible website. This task also allowed us to use our creativity as we were creating and building this project from scratch and this report was in someway our instructions for building the website. We had to develop the site name, page labels, navigation etc. I think the biggest thing I took away from this project is that it is important to understand what is being asked of you and deliver what is required of you. If I had written an essay for this assignment I would have failed the class. I think this is a great lesson for the future. Our lecturer explained that the business world is very different to the academic world and that we will need to understand what is being asked of us.

I think that even if I don’t continue on to a role that requires me to use the technical skills I have learned in this class, I can take with me the knowledge that I can write as instructed and develop my skills to suit the tasks I am undertaking even if they are new to me. I also enjoyed the organisation that this task required, the forethought and the fact that this assignment was a step in a process of assignments, all of which worked together.

Community Repositories

This week a group from our class will be speaking to us about community repositories.

In a previous post about Digital Humanities I alluded to some of the opportunities for libraries to engage with the community. I would encourage people interested in this area to view Simon Tanner’s presentation that I have linked to on that page. It gives some excellent examples of how the library can work to create with the community. Some other excellent examples are our own National Library of Ireland which has a Flickr account where people can tag images and comment with observations, opinions or stories and which utilises social media to encourage conversation.

Recently I have just completed my own Digital Library project on Omeka which focuses on my family and our history. Members of my family have been really supportive and interested in it and I see this as something that could be expanded to a whole community. In seems that in recent years there has been a major increase in interest into genealogy and local history. This increase is probably helped by the fact a lot more information is available in an online format. There is a huge opportunity for public libraries especially to get involved in this area. Building and maintaining a local history archive could be a very useful and relevant project for an interested librarian. It would have benefits both for the library and the people it serves. We can see from some successful projects like the Hemel At War  that people are very willing to get involved and share their images and their stories. Allowing people to submit and tag items means that the library is building a collaborative community. The librarian is still essential as they are aware of the necessity for good metadata, accurate tagging and the importance of controlled vocabularies and thesauri in order to make sure the items are find-able.

From personal experience I can say that there are a lot of open source and very inexpensive ways to create and manage online content. Omeka, which I have mentioned and even WordPress can be used for these types of projects. Flickr is also very useful, Pinterest and other social media all have the ability to help engage the community. Let’s be honest people are very interested in stories and stories that involve them in some way, be it that it involves their family or the place they live or grew up, are going to draw them in. It is very likely that by getting involved in a local community project (a history project being a great example) the library will increase its membership or at the very least re-engage some of its users to be more active. I love the idea that the Hemel At War project had to get school kids involved. Many librarians will be very aware that the teenage years are were there seems to be a huge drop-off in interest in the library and a project like this would really encourage kids to come back to the library.

Of course we must be realistic, while the content management system might not be expensive, there will be expense in regard to time and staffing but with help from the community it might be possible.

Simon Tanner ask, “if you build it, will they come and help? I think the answer is a resounding “Yes!” and I think you will build the profile of the library in the process.

Building Community

The Cost of Information

For an assignment in this module ‘Contemporary Issues in Professional Practice’ myself and three of my classmates were required to prepare and present an entire class. For our topic we decided to discuss the cost of information. Unfortunately, budgeting and finances are not a subject we cover in the MLIS course but we may be required to work with budgets in our future careers. Although we definitely aren’t qualified to give advice or teach about the ins and outs of budgets and accounts, we felt that we should touch on some issues that libraries are dealing with in relation to funds and at least open some discussion about the decisions libraries are having to make and initiatives that it may be useful for people in our field to support, such as Open Access.

We decided to focus on academic libraries because there is a lot to say in this area and we wanted to keep our presentation focused. I was aware that scholarly publishing is related to exorbitant fees but I didn’t realise that the statistics show 65% of library budgets can be spent on journals alone. With the cuts in budgets this means that something has to give and unfortunately its most likely to be staff or services because the journals are seen as being necessary for student’s education and staff research.

There are all kinds of ways that you can cost save and change things around in a library. My classmate listed some options like staff cuts, or changes to staffing (e.g. re-deployments). Think about technology needs, now that a great deal more people have their own personal devices. Possibly make more use of Special Collections and see if you can find a way to make them work for the institution, for example, Trinity College have an app with the Book of Kells.

One of the most effective things that libraries could do however is to support open access. If open access became the norm, whether the gold or green model, then the process of taxpayers paying twice for journal articles (in the sense that universities use tax payer’s money to pay the researcher’s to do the research and then to also to buy the subscriptions from the publishers) would not be an issue. Many universities already have institutional repositories and they could really build on the foundations that they have in place. I am very aware that there would be costs involved in open access but I honestly believe that the money being spent on journals could be reduced by a huge amount and even to reduce the number from 65% to 50% would be helpful and would mean that there would be an extra 15% available for staff or services. SCONUL has printed that the average library budget is 4.6 million, so that 15% could be as much as 690,000. According to the University Times, Trinity’s College Library’s budget was to be cut by €792,000 in 2012/2013.

I think it is important for us as future librarians to bear in mind that we may rise through the ranks of the profession and these may be concerns for us and it is worth keeping an eye on what is happening in this area.

Team-Work and Writing to a Brief

Creative management in a challenging times: the development of Lenus, on open access health repository.

I have chosen to add this report which was created for my Management for Information Professionals module because it is one of the assignments I am most proud of this year. I am proud of it for many reasons; one of the main ones being that it has resulted in what I believe will be a very interesting and fruitful Capstone project.

I entitled this post Team-Work and Writing to a Brief because from my point of view these were the two of the biggest learning outcomes of this assignment. There was some aspect of team-work in most of my modules this year but this assignment had an extra level of collaboration in that we had the opportunity to work with an organisation. My group was very lucky to be offered the opportunity to work in the health libraries sector with Aoife Lawton and the team behind Lenus the Open-Access repository. Aoife and her team are HSE librarians working in the Regional Library in Dr. Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to work with passionate librarians who are building such a useful resource for medical professionals. There was a group of four of us working on the project and we collaborated very well together; we met at designated times and divided the work evenly in order to create a comprehensive report about the challenges facing the Lenus team and we were even able to make some recommendations about the future of the project. I think one of the biggest things I learnt on this project was that the work could be divided out evenly but that it was a good idea to let people take responsibility for areas of the project that played to each person’s strengths; for example, I took charge of the layout and design of the final report while another member took responsibility for editing. I also found that it was good to have set meetings to ensure we were communicating effectively and that every member of the group could have their voice heard in relation to the overall finished product.

In the assignment details we were instructed to take case study approach to investigate forces at work in an information organization. We were asked to conduct an environmental scan and incorporate an analysis of key internal and external influences. While I have experience with literature reviews and academic essay writing, report writing was completely new to me. I am very proud of the way we were able to stick to our brief and write in a very different way to the style to which we had grown accustomed.

I think this report proves that I can adapt to different situations and learn how to adjust my writing style to the requirements of the assignment. It also shows that I can work with different types of people and collaborate effectively to ensure a project is finished to a high standard. The project link is found in the LIS section of the Lenus website and I have received very good feedback from professional librarians which has been very important for my confidence and has helped me to find the courage to get involved in the library community.

Alternative Careers for Information Professionals

Directions

This week we were asked to look at alternative career choices for information professionals. Interestingly, one student found a list of 61 non-librarian roles for LIS students on a blog by Mia Breitkopf, it also links to some great resources like INALJ (I need a library job). Although, it is my ambition to go down the ‘library’ route (which in itself has plenty of choice), this assignment really got me thinking about the transferable skills that librarians have. I know I could go out into the world after this course and be very capable of doing a variety of things.

1. Obviously the ‘traditional’ library skills, cataloging and organisation of information, are useful in many roles. These organisational skills are also transferable to organisation of people and with the amount of group-work we undertake it is very likely you will have some experience with organizing both people and projects. So think:

  • File Management
  • Event Planning
  • Project Management

2. Most of us have gained a huge amount of social media knowledge while in this course. We know that libraries need to make use of ‘free’ marketing and a lot of us have started to navigate the sea of social media quite effectively. I have seen students become influential on Twitter, use Facebook effectively and student blogs have been really successful this year. Think:

  • Blogging for a living
  • Social media companies
  • Marketing

3. Group-work has been difficult at times but breathe a sigh of relief, team-work is a skill that is transferable for a LOT of careers.

4. Those of us that have taken subjects like Information Architecture and Web Publishing can move into the world of IT. There is also the area of usability and conducting studies and research in this area. Think:

  • User Tester
  • Web Publisher

5. We might have held our head in our hands in despair with the thought of Research Methods modules but now we are almost finished and it really wasn’t that bad at all. We have developed skills in interview techniques, transcription and coding as well as using SPSS for all our statistical needs. Think:

  • Research Assistant

This isn’t even nearly an extensive list so while I am happy to take all my new skills to the library world it is good to know that there are other options and that our skill-set lends itself to many different types of careers.

Happy job-hunting LISers!