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

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?

New Professionals Day 2014

On Saturday the 1st of March I attended the New Professionals Day 2014 event in the John Paul II Library in NUI Maynooth. The day was broken into workshops and then ended with a very informative tour of the beautiful Russell Library. Many remarked at how serious we must be about cataloguing to give up our Saturday and I have to say it was most certainly worth the time and the journey to Maynooth.

In my current role I am involved in cataloguing older books, from as far back as the 1500’s, up to more recent books in our reference collection. When I began as a librarian I didn’t realise I would enjoy cataloguing as much as I do. There is something very cathartic in having such an ordered and logical approach, as is required when cataloguing, in order to maintain attention to detail. I wanted to attend the workshops to learn a bit more about other forms of cataloguing and I wasn’t disappointed because presentations by Grace Toland in the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Brid Dooley from RTE Archives were very enlightening in terms of cataloguing items that are not books. The presentations are well worth a look and are available on the NPD site here

I think people get the impression that cataloguing, be it books or other items, can be a boring and monotonous task but in fact there is a lot more to cataloguing than meets the eye. I have found that while cataloguing you have to be able to take on and manage various different things:

  • Language (Google translate can be a godsend when cataloguing books in Latin, German, Italian etc. etc. all in one day)
  • Data protection V Freedom of Information – This was highlighted very nicely by Captain Claire Mortimer’s workshop. More of an issue in archives than in libraries but I think it is good that she made the attendees aware of this. I have come across this in my current role where we deal with patient information and it is something that is of huge importance.
  • Preservation while allowing public access – This is especially important for older materials. The more information that you can give about an item in a catalogue record the more likely it is that members of the public can identify whether or not it is the item they need and this prevents the materials from being handled and moved if it is not necessary.
  • Time management – This leads on well from the previous point because you have to make as detailed a record as possible but be aware that there are constraints on your time, you have to find balance.
  • Indexing – At the end of the day it is about the user being able to find the information that they need to you need to use something that is relevant and understandable for the user.

There is a lot to think about and I’m sure others could add to this list.

I really enjoyed the final workshop of the day which dealt with rare books because I feel like it filled a gap in my knowledge. I still think that UCD should bring back a rare books module and possibly deal with the issues of digitisation and rare materials, but if groups like NPD continue to hold fantastic events and enlist such knowledgeable speakers then this becomes less of an issue, which is extremely helpful. Barbara McCormack, who led this workshop, then brought us on a tour of the Russell Library which gave us a great opportunity to see the items she had spoken about. For many people learning is a very practical and visual thing so incorporating this was a great approach.

Russell Library

Russell Library

Another notable part of the day was a tour around the new library in Maynooth. The building is a brilliant example of a library responding to the wishes of its users. The ground floor is open and collaborative with the addition of the bean-bag room where groups can work and discuss projects and ideas without the fear of the dreaded ‘shushing’. As you go upstairs the library becomes quieter with silent study areas on the top floor. This is a fantastic way of catering for all students and the different styles of learning.

The students wanted more power but less waste and the library has delivered by utilising green initiatives in an attempt to create a sense of balance.

There are full windows and planting that bring the outdoors into the students and this creates a great atmosphere in the building. My only gripe being that I haven’t had the opportunity to study there. Many thanks to Hugh Murphy for the tour.

A big thank you to all the presenters, Jane Burns (the wonderful MC) and all the organisers and helpers for what was a really informative day.

Unfortunately, my Twitter wasn’t working with me during the event but a fellow Class of 2012/2013 MLISer Shona has also written a great blog and added her Storify of the events.

Finding a balance

elephant-balanceThis is my first post in quite a long time and the reason for my lack of blogging is really that I haven’t been able to find a balance in my life. When I was doing the MLIS I threw myself in the deep-end and was happy not to resurface into my normal life until I was finished. I figured it was one year out of my life to concentrate really hard on one particular thing and that I’d get back to normal once the Capstone was handed in. I’m happy that I took this approach because I’ll be graduating with great grades but the thing is, once the Capstone was handed in there was a hundred and one things waiting that I had pushed to the back of my mind, and I had so many people to visit and hang out with before I was completely disowned.

I had so many plans to continue with my learning and to get involved in library organisations etc. but I became totally consumed by the parts of my life that I had abandoned while studying in the last couple of months. Plus, I had spent the summer volunteering and once I finished that I started straight into my internship. I was tired, too tired to build up the energy to make an effort. I think I let myself burn-out a little.

Now, I have realised how much I regret not sitting myself down and finding a balance sooner. There were things I wanted to do that I let pass me by and being tired really isn’t an excuse. Looking back at the MLIS I was so productive, whereas right now I feel extremely lazy and I think I allowed myself to make excuses for the past few weeks. There have been really interesting blogs and stories from the library world I have wanted to write about and my Twitter favourites list hasn’t been looked at in far too long.

So now I think I have to set myself some goals:

I want to write at least one blog-post every two weeks.

I want to set time aside for reading each week

I want to attend events and get more involved if I can so I am really looking forward to the CDG AGM.

I would also love to do a short course or MOOC (suggestions appreciated!).

The thing is though, I don’t want to dive in like I did last year. I want to have time for friends and family, time to read books (ones that don’t have libraries as the subject), and time to relax. I think this balance will be good for me and will make sure I don’t burn out early in my career and become a ‘zombie librarian’. That would be a disaster!

I love that I’m a librarian and that part of my job is to continue to learn, and to make sure I am engaging with other information professionals and what other organisations are doing. I want to continue to love my job and find my career exciting. And I think while doing this I need to have a life outside of libraries. I think balance really is the key.

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.

Competencies, Ethics and Values

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.