Thing 13 – Professional Organisations

I became a student member of the Library Association of Ireland when I was completing my MLIS. It was invaluable to me because it was through Library Association of Ireland group events that I became acquainted with so many of the amazing librarians I now know. There is a huge support network available if you can just put yourself out there enough to attend a conference or networking event and say hello. And, the fact is that it is easier to stay in the loop when you are a member. I intend to remain a part of the LAI as an overseas member.

Since moving to the UK I have really missed being a part of all the LAI conferences and events. However, I have joined the Historic Libraries Forum and very recently CILIP. So far I’ve already had the opportunity to write a piece for the Historic Libraries Forum Newsletter and have attended a fascinating workshop on historic bookbinding. As regards CILIP I’m hoping not only will it be good for my CPD but it also looks good on my CV. I am also hoping to continue on to become a chartered member in the near future. If you have tips please know that you are more than welcome to get in touch!

I would like to attend some more events over here and get to know some more librarians. London is a big city and I do feel a little bit isolated sometimes, though I am lucky to be working with a lovely team and have something like Rudai23 to keep me networked.

While in Dublin I was very lucky to become a part of the Career Development Group (@LAICDG) and my only regret is that I couldn’t remain a member for as long as I would have liked. I took on the role of Secretary and really enjoyed every minute of organising events and thinking up new ways of engaging with people in the profession. I’m very proud my name was attached to the group even if it was only for a short time as they are doing such stellar work and their next event looks absolutely brilliant. I would highly recommend getting involved if you have the time; it is extremely rewarding.

For new professionals the NPDIreland group are brilliant and their events are great to get started as you know that almost everyone there will be in the same boat.

I do think we could also do more in our professional organisations, but the important thing is to try to make the most of your membership. Like I said if anyone has any hints and tips as regards chartership and/or tips about other organisations I should be joining or events I should be trying to attend here in London I would be delighted to hear from you.

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Thing 3 – My Professional Brand

While I enjoy social media in a personal/social capacity I am slightly less comfortable with professionally ‘branding’ myself. I guess this is because as I am early in my career I’m still not really sure what my brand is. I guess for something like LinkedIn I’m happy to showcase my work both in college and as a information professional since graduating but I always find the Summary section a bit more difficult. How do I summarize myself in a short and concise paragraph?

I think I could make a lot more use of my LinkedIn profile and use it more effectively by sharing posts I write or articles and links I find interesting. Perhaps this would give people that I am connected with a bit more insight into who I am as a person and as a professional. Right now I think my LinkedIn is the CV without the cover letter – a list of my education and practical experience and very little else – it lacks any personality.

I hadn’t really thought much about this until I had to really think about why I even have a LinkedIn page for this course. I think when it comes to online presence it is a really good idea to think about why you have certain profiles and what the benefits are. For me Facebook and Instagram are for friends and family, Twitter is mainly for networking with other information professionals and LinkedIn was an extra I rarely checked or thought about. I also had an About.me page at one point but felt that it wasn’t necessary and so deleted it. I have also deleted other social networking profiles – I want to make sure that profiles I do have are useful and used so that my online presence is manageable and is a true reflection of who I am and what I’m about.

As far as who I am professionally – I hope I come across as a friendly and nice person as well as an enthusiastic and engaged early career professional who has good experience in various aspects of librarianship. I am aware that I don’t know it all but my attitude is all about learning more and putting what I have been learning into practice. social media

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

Changing Environments/Changing Practices – A View of Public Libraries

This week we have been reading about the changes in public libraries due to the changes in technology and user requirements. One of our readings, 21st Century Libraries: Changing Forms and Changing Futures, asked the question, “What is a Library?” There is huge confusion about this question and about how important libraries are to communities. In the UK, for example, we see that libraries are being closed at an alarming rate with the Guardian stating that the UK lost over 200 libraries in 2012. (Click here for article) However, we are also seeing that there has been a huge outcry about the closure of libraries and people are far more willing to stand up and fight for their library than the English government may have thought. Last Saturday was National Libraries Day in the UK and there was a huge outpouring of love for libraries with #NLD2013 and #LoveLibraries trending on Twitter during the day. The resounding message seems to be that libraries are important. So what is it about libraries that is causing people

to get up and fight for them when they could so easily start an Amazon account and download e-books for a fraction of the price of physical books? Do libraries have a future?

Libraries are a place of community. Reading an article about library closures in Newcastle, I have found myself a little heartbroken. The quotes by the library users in this piece show how much they need and utilize the library as a meeting space. For some lonely, possibly older members of the community it is a reason to get up in the morning because they can go and see their friends and chat in a comfortable, warm space that isn’t going to ask them to leave after an hour if they can’t afford more than a cup of tea or coffee.

Libraries provide access to technology. As you can see from the infographic from Open-Site, in these times of recession they are closing libraries when in fact libraries are more important than ever for access to technology. Although this is US based there is no reason to think the same effects of the recession are not happening here or in the UK. People simply may not be able to afford computers and broadband access at home and yet increasingly you need access to the internet to look for and apply for jobs as well as for access to information which could be anything from educational needs to information about benefits etc.

Libraries provide traditional servicesA recent Pew study showed that along with people that wanted to see more technological advances in libraries there are those that like the library for its more traditional aspects. There are still people that enjoy borrowing and reading books and that use the library as a quiet space for study or reflection. These people also enjoy getting to know the librarians and using their services.

Libraries provide learning. Most public libraries these days offer people the opportunity to learn new things. Access to books and online information is one way of achieving this but libraries may also offer courses, guest lectures and most importantly help and assistance from dedicated librarians. Librarians have had to take on the role of teacher. People are using their local libraries to research family history, to learn how to use to computers, to bring their child to reading clubs. Libraries offer so many events and opportunities.

So if libraries are offering all these things, why are they being shut? What needs to happen in the future?

Basically, I believe libraries need to look at all the things that they are doing right and look at trends of the future to make sure they remain open and viable. They need to get the community behind them, people that are willing to fight for their local library.

For the people that want the traditional quiet space and books, these things need to be provided. For those that want a sense of community then there should be comfortable areas where it is OK to sit and chat. It is about utilizing library space in the best possible ways. There is also a need for the library to build on their offerings and to market them so people realise that they exist. Art shows, guest lectures and courses will only be successful if people know that they are available to them. Librarians need to continue to give the public fantastic service and be available to help patrons in any way that they can. I believe above all a library is a service and to be a good librarian you must be passionate about your library and its possibilities!

In a really interesting article, Helping People to Manage and Share Their Digital Information: A Role for Public Libraries, the authors speak about the library as a space where you can learn about preservation of digital items and the possibility of creating community repositories for important cultural information. I think this is a fantastic use of the library and the librarian’s skills. At the moment I am in the process of creating a digital library for a course and I have chosen to use old family photographs. The process of digitizing and storing these precious family objects is one which I think is hugely important as they include pictures of my grandfather’s grandfather. Ensuring that these images are carefully stored and accessible in an online environment for future generations of the family is a project I would love to take on. It is a project many of my family members would love to take on and I believe if help in this area was offered by the public library then it would most definitely be utilized.

I think that a public library has so much potential to be a real hub of the community and to reach this potential then it is a case of discovering what the current and prospective users want from the library and providing it as much as is possible. Technology is changing our libraries but maybe not as much as we might think and this is also something that must be taken into consideration.

I think public libraries are not going to find the road ahead a particularly easy one but I do believe that there are enough people that are passionate about libraries that the hard road will be worthwhile and rewarding in the end.

What do public librarians need to do?

I think the most important competencies for future public librarians will be ability to communicate effectively with patrons and ascertain what they want. I think they will need to be able to market and use free resources such as social media to keep costs down but awareness high. I think they will need to be passionate individuals that are willing to fight for their library and be pro-active in ensuring the library is an essential hub for the community, encouraging current users to remain and enticing new users. Above all I think there is a need to establish life-long learning as a major mission statement of the public library, not only in relation to patrons, but in relation to library staff. Learning and growing in the new technology age is the way forward and it will be up to the librarians to strike the balance between traditional and new. Going into the future is stepping into the unknown in many ways in relation to the survival of libraries in the technological age but personally, I believe libraries will always have a place if they listen to the community and provide a service by skilled and passionate librarians for that community.