Thing 2 – Blogging

I haven’t always wanted to be a librarian. Strangely, I did want to be a librarian when I was very young. At that stage the library was one of my favourite places and I thought that librarians got to sit around and read books all day. To be young and naive! Honestly, I suppose I never really knew enough about my options at 16/17 to really see it as a viable career choice. I could have done more research but I think that when it came to making the dreading CAO decisions I was stuck between two fairly ‘safe’ choices – law and teaching. I ruled out law because I felt it would limit my opportunity to travel. And so, ended up in Arts.

While I was studying for my degree I realised that I didn’t really want to be a secondary school teacher and so I started looking at my other options. It’s not that I didn’t like the idea of teaching but felt that maybe I would be better suited to a different type of teaching. I considered trying to go down the road of academia and so entered into an English Masters course. It was during this course that I really re-discovered and re-evaluated my love for the library and in doing a reference module I finally became aware of the interesting and diverse career I could have as a librarian. I thought it would fulfill my ambition to have a job in which I could continue to learn, it would allow me to travel if I wanted and it would also give me an opportunity to teach, or do research, if that was what I wanted.

It took me awhile after my English degree to actually get into librarianship. I researched the career extensively in that time and was fully sure it was what I wanted and so I worked hard doing various jobs to save enough money to return to college. I mainly worked in fashion retail and while it wasn’t my dream job I did learn a lot about working with people, both in terms of customer service and management of people which at the end of the day will stand to me in any job I undertake in the future.

Making the choice to go into librarianship is certainly not an easy one, especially with the way the job market has been over the past few years. The fact is you will probably have to work for free to build experience and send countless applications before your first big break. You have to want it!

I’ve been very lucky in the different range of experience I have gotten since finishing college. I feel that as I am early in my career why not try and get varied experience and make the most of it. While all my experience has been in the medical rather than academic or public etc. arena, I have worked on cataloguing projects, in research which involved project management and literature searching, and now I have a very exciting role where I not only get to work in a library but also in an archive and museum. I am learning so much!

It is obviously very difficult to know if the choices I am making are the right ones and whether they will lead to something more secure and long term in the future. However, for right now I am really happy. I feel like I’m still a student, learning all the time and asking questions. Really and truly this is all I’ve ever wanted from a career.

I hope that in the next few years I continue to learn and not be scared to take on new challenges and learn from new opportunities. There are plenty of aspects of librarianship I would love to get more experience in such as teaching, reference desk, more digital and systems work – variety is the spice of life! I hope that I continue to have the courage to go for what I want and that I don’t get jaded if it’s a difficult road. I love librarianship – that much I’m sure of. And that helps me believe that I will work as hard as I can to ensure that whatever I’m doing it involves using my librarian skills and telling the world just how awesome librarians are.

Being a librarian without a library

I’ve been neglecting my blog lately and although there are a few reasons for that (laziness being one), I think on reflection one of the major reasons was because I didn’t know how to write for a librarian’s blog when I’m not technically a librarian at the moment. Since finishing my library internship I was employed in the research department of my organisation with the title Research Administrator/Assistant. I really enjoy this role but I suppose I felt slightly disengaged from the librarian side of myself what with the lack of librarian/library/information in my title and the lack of an actual library to call my own.

However, in the past few weeks I have been thinking more and more about my new role and about how much I use the skills I developed in the MLIS and my other library experiences on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it is because of my MLIS experience that I now have this role. When I began the MLIS I couldn’t really understand why we were required to complete not one but two research modules. Now, I wish we had had even more research experience. On a daily basis I use the knowledge gained in those modules – I am involved in literature search, retrieval and review, I use SPSS (which I very surprisingly love considering the stress I felt when I first encountered it during MLIS) for statistical analysis of data and the fact is that I have a very strong understanding of the various things that people are doing in my department which makes me good at my job.

Plus, ORGANISATION – this is what we do! I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to my current project being less time consuming because there is so much organisation to be done. Files and folders need to be named appropriately and managed in such a way that things are easier to find and things need to be weeded out. Processes and procedures need to written up so that the knowledge I had gained with relation to administration for a large national survey with multiple waves isn’t lost. I cannot express how much data I deal with – piles and piles of spreadsheets from multiple projects – without organisation, without processes, this could get very messy very quickly.

On top of that I like to call myself a bit of a stealth librarian – while I wasn’t hired to be a librarian I get involved with things that I know I can help with – I help people with reference management systems, I train people how to use different platforms, I help people with their literature searching and search strategies, and I have conversations about how we should think about an open access policy etc. I keep myself visible and make sure I get involved in things that interest the librarian within. I am still in fairly regular contact with the Heritage Centre and I get updates on the projects that I have worked on and make sure that I continue to talk to other staff members about the library and the new research room. I’ve even brought my current colleagues over for a tour of the library and archive very recently.

I really like my job and I’m grateful to be working. I think I would happily stay working in research as long as I get to keep doing all of these things; however, when people ask me what I do, what do I say? I almost automatically reply ‘I’m a librarian.’ Should I say I’m an information professional or I work in research? Does it really matter what I call myself as long as I am working in a job I like and I am using my skills?

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!