How did you first get into the information and library profession? I had done some work in public libraries when my children were young but after working for BT for 10 years in customer service, I decided that I really wanted to work in a library again. I applied for a Senior Information Assistant post at Northumbria University and was surprised, and delighted, to get the job as I hadn’t any library related qualifications, although I did have customer service qualifications and experience. Since then I have worked in both customer services and liaison roles starting in the North East, working at the Institute of Education and Royal Holloway University in London for 6 years, and finally moving back to the North in January 2014 when I started working at Newcastle University. So a bit of a North/South tour of academic libraries really – but I had a great experience and met some wonderful people!
What qualifications did you take? I started my undergraduate degree (in library and information science) the year after I began my new job. I knew pretty much straight away that I wanted to be a qualified librarian. Soon after I got my degree I did my chartership with CILIP. I then did a MA in Education and am now doing more postgraduate study focusing on the role of technology in education.
What is your current job title? My job title is Assistant Liaison Librarian. I work in the Robinson library at Newcastle University and am currently supporting the school of Education, Communication and Language Studies, and the Science, Agricultural and Engineering faculties.
What does your job involve? I work with a team of faculty librarians and liaison assistants. My role is very varied and includes the delivery of information (or digital) literacy teaching to undergraduate and postgraduate students. I also deliver EndNote (reference management software) workshops to students from all departments across the university. I work on the information desk regularly and am also involved in outreach work with local schools and the local community who come into the library for a range of different sessions including history, special collections and science activities.
Part of the liaison team role is also to have one to one meetings with students who are preparing for their dissertations. We get to find out all about what they are studying, which can be very interesting. There are also many different projects and groups to get involved in, so I’m currently part of the web development and the social media group in the library.
Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? A typical day usually starts with trying to get through some emails. Then there are usually meetings of some sort with colleagues or maybe students. At the moment, we are just about to start the new academic year, so it’s all a bit frantic at the moment trying to plan and prepare library inductions as well as more in depth sessions about research skills and referencing. I’m also part of the welcome committee so we are trying to organise some unique activities for the new cohort of students to take part in when they visit us in the first few weeks. This year we are having a tombola stall and ‘library caching’ – a type of treasure hunt!
What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? I would say that communication and customer service skills are very important, not just for work with students but also as part of working with the library team. Everything gets done with teamwork in academic libraries so you have to be a team player. Also, the role of technology is now key in any type of information work so good IT skills are vital. Finally, a sense of humour is a must!
What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Get as much experience as you can working with people on the ‘front line’. Being able to work with lots of different types of people is really important. The days when you can expect to sit at your desk in the library and be left in peace are long gone. There are so many different roles in the field of information management if you have a good grounding you can continue to develop yourself with more education and training.