LAI’s HSLG and A&SL Networking Event

Guinness Storehouse Archives Talk

On Thursday last, 24th January, I attended the LAI’s Networking event in the Royal Irish Academy. Although the thought of going to an event hosted and attended by working librarians by myself was a very daunting concept, I am delighted that I forced myself out of my comfort zone to attend. I was intrigued to hear the talk by Eibhlin Roche, the archivist in the Guinness Storehouse and I hoped to meet people that had completed the Masters course I am currently undertaking and see if they had any advice about finding work and the types of work available for current graduates. I was also interested in hearing about how the job is changing in line with the new technologies that are being developed daily.

For the first few minutes I found myself slightly overwhelmed by the experience, it seems that the library network is a small and familiar one as most of the people there seemed to fit comfortably and there were plenty of little groups conversing around the room. One of the organizers was kind enough to come over and speak to me and having explained to her that I was interested in health libraries she pointed out the health librarians in the room and moved to introduce me. In a happy coincidence the first health librarian she introduced me to was Niamh O’Sullivan, the librarian in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service who I had met previously when she had given a very interesting and insightful talk during a Management module I was taking. Niamh is an excellent example of someone who works very hard to show what a librarian can offer an organisation and she is very enthusiastic about making sure the library has a place and that people realise the service is available and essential. I really enjoyed speaking with her again and look forward to hearing her talk at the LAI’s Annual Seminar in March.

Another student, Ryan, also attended on the night and shortly after speaking to Niamh we were ushered into the room set up for the talk. The first thing that struck me was the the RIA building is beautiful and the room in which we were seated was stunning, walls of books, it was the perfect setting. Eibhlin was a very interesting speaker and she explained the different facets of her job very clearly. I think the amount of work that they do is outstanding. (12,000 queries a year) I couldn’t believe the amount of information and objects they store and I thought the way they were associated with the museum and the advertising sections of the business was fantastic. This means they are associated with the bottom line and in that way they can make sure that the archives are kept as an essential part of the business and that they are given the staff and budget to keep going (although maybe not as much as we would like to see. :)) At the end of the day I see more and more as time goes on that an essential part of the job is to market yourself and what you do and make sure the organisation you work for, whether public or private, knows that what you do is worthwhile. It is just unfortunate that for many “worthwhile” may be associated with monetary gain.

Guinness Archives Webpage

I think the genealogical aspects of the archives are something I hadn’t even thought of and it is amazing that these kinds of records of employees still exist for the families and they allow people make an appointment to research their history. It is good to know that a company so entrenched in our culture such as Guinness is actually aware of their importance to Ireland and feel the responsibility of this and make sure that these important things are being kept and looked after. It is also fantastic that they are digitizing and using technology to keep the archives functional and in the case of images etc., using them for advertising and the museum so that they are not just kept enclosed and hidden away. I feel that this is also a really important part of what the archivists are doing.

It is clear from the talk that Eibhlin is doing a very different job now to what she thought she would be doing when she started in her position 10 years or so ago. I find this exciting. Eibhlin is part archivist, part librarian, part curator and many many more parts. I chose this Masters because I felt that it would lead me to a career that would allow for life-long learning and listening to this talk and hearing the consensus in the room leads me to think that I was correct in my assumptions. It appears that the job is ever changing and librarians and archivists may have to take on numerous roles and job descriptions as they go through their careers.

After the talk we went back to the main room for a few more glasses of wine and nibbles. I spoke to two women from the libraries in TV3. One of the women had graduated from the MLIS in 2010. She said although it may be difficult to find jobs, perseverance and determination will get you a long way. She highly recommended attending these events (as do I) and she spoke about taking opportunities to get experience.

All in all it was a fantastic night and I am really looking forward to the next event I am attending on Saturday which is all about alternative career opportunities.

LAI CDG Open Day


Marketing and Communication

This week we have been learning about marketing and communication skills in relation to working in IS and libraries. I think that these skills are hugely important for graduates entering the job market. Employers are becoming increasingly aware that these soft skills are necessary for people to achieve success in their careers. Although people may be highly skilled and exceptional when it comes to the technical aspects of their positions, they will find their work may be overlooked or forgotten about if they cannot communicate adequately. More and more in this course we are realising that librarians have to justify their positions in regard to budget cuts etc. and it is an unfortunate trait in the profession that historically librarians have not been very good at marketing themselves, their skills or their part in their organisations. I believe that this is something that has to change drastically in the future. We have seen in the literature and in the comments by guest speaker’s that this is the case.

My background is in fashion retail and although I was not working in this area for very long and I had no intention of pursuing a career in the area I believe I have benefited greatly from the communication aspect of the job. Retail is about selling; selling the brand and selling yourself as a brand ambassador and I believe that is what we need to achieve as future librarians. We have to be able to promote our skills and services and make people aware of just how necessary we are in the age of information overload. As part of my previous employment I was nominated as a representative of the staff for all levels under management in Ireland and had to meet with head office management on a regular basis, I was also involved with hiring and training new staff; experience such as this has become invaluable because I have learned to communicate with different levels on management and staff as well as with customers. When I first started this course I was worried that my experience would not stand to me in this field but I now believe that working in retail has strengthened these skills.  I believe that in a course like the MLIS it is very important to cover this topic and outline the importance of communication to people studying for a career in this area.

I think that the group work aspect of the course and the way in which we are given the opportunity to write these reflections gives us a chance to improve on our communication skills and allows us to gain confidence in presenting ourselves and our thoughts to others. We need to be able to see that we have these skills and present ourselves as such when we enter the job market. We need to advertise who we are and what we do and help others to see our skills.