Abimbola Alayo, Assistant Librarian, Barts Health NHS Trust

AbiHow did you first get into the information and library profession? A chance encounter with a damaged novel when I was a teenager saw me on my way to becoming a Librarian. Little did I know that Librarians do not sit and read novels all day. I toyed with the idea of accountancy for a while and although the skills I developed prove useful in my day to day life, I knew immediately it wasn’t the profession for me. I have never regretted my decision as Librarianship seems to have one of the strongest networks of any profession I have ever seen. Being a bit of a recluse, this serves me very well. After obtaining my first degree, I visited the UK in 2005 because I felt the profession was bit behind in Nigeria and it would be useful to see how the profession has progressed in other parts of the world. I got a part-time job as a Library Assistant at UCL Eastman Dental Institute and I have lived in the UK ever since.

What qualifications did you take? I have a first degree in Library, Archival and Information Studies which I obtained from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. I also obtained my MSc. in Library and Information Studies from Robert Gordon University via distance learning whilst working full-time at The London Library. Studying and working was very challenging but I found it invaluable as I was able to apply theories from study in the workplace and gain the experience I needed. I chartered in 2013 and I am currently pursuing my revalidation for 2015.

What is your current job title? I am currently Assistant Librarian at Barts Health NHS Trust. This is my first professional role and I’ve been at it for 3 years now.

What does your job involve? I am tasked with marketing the Library service so I often represent the Knowledge and Library Service (KLS) at Trust inductions. I develop promotional library materials and tailor training materials/sessions to meet changing needs across the Trust. I also undertake in depth research to answer health information queries and assist users with literature searches. We have two physical libraries but serve multiple sites so I find myself in various places dependent on the demand. I am also responsible for the cataloguing and classification of library materials and resources.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? Depending on where I am and when I resume my duties, I may be the one to open up the Library and set up for the day. This is followed by catching up on my messages. I usually have one or two things in the works so I find most of my messages are time sensitive. I prepare materials for any training sessions or inductions I may have that week. This may be interrupted by a quick training session for a user who has dropped in. Depending on staffing levels, I may be covering the desk and responding to user enquiries and requests.

I deal with literature search requests pending and log my findings. I might be attending a meeting within the KLS. My role is currently expanding to the Clinical Librarian area so I might find myself shadowing the Clinical Librarian on a ward round or attending a department meeting based around an audit presentation from a member of the medical team.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional?  We need to constantly strive to gain in experience and knowledge in order to better meet the needs of our users. Learning and development is an important part of this profession. Everything changes yet the stereotype remains the same. This isn’t a profession where you gain your qualifications and relax. You need to continue improving on yourself and keeping abreast of what is going on in the wider professional network or you will find it difficult to perform the duties of your job. At the end of the day people seek you out because they need assistance and that isn’t always an easy thing to admit. We need to be approachable. The information professional of today seems to be constantly evolving and we are thus always busy but we should never seem too busy to be approached by our users.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in information management? This is not for the faint hearted but if you can stick with it, you will reap its rewards. There’s nothing like knowing you have literally been an answer to someone’s prayer by meeting their information need. However, I find I am always bracing myself. You never truly know which way things are going to swing next in this profession. You do not have to face the changes alone. There are very strong support systems. Join a group or establish a network with fellow librarians.

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