How did you first get into the information and library profession? As is often the way I came into it completely by accident – I started a temp job at the Central Library in Birmingham and liked it so much I stayed for a further two years. Whilst there I went to a presentation about becoming a professional librarian, thought ‘hmmm, I could do that’ and a few months later enrolled on an MSc in Information and Library Management at what used to be the University of Central England. I carried on working at the library whilst doing the course full-time – in hindsight I’m not sure I would recommend this for everyone as I was absolutely shattered for most of the time, but I passed my Masters with distinction in 2001. Since then I’ve worked in a variety of sectors – including a three week stint in India helping to set up a library for volunteers, five years at an FE college and several memorable months as a school librarian (as a result I do a mean display and enjoy laminating things on a regular basis) I joined the University of Birmingham in 2010 – working at the Main Library initially and then moving to the Health Services Management Library in the Summer of 2012.
What qualifications did you take? A Masters (see above) followed by Chartership a few years ago.
What is your current job title? I am currently a librarian at a Health Management Library which is self-financed but based at the University. We are a small team but we do a lot!
What does your job involve? I provide support to staff, students and contract users in the field of Health Services Management and Leadership– this includes literature searching for our contract users, obtaining articles, books and providing support and guidance on referencing and copyright. I provide training in accessing resources, navigating databases, plagiarism and information literacy (amongst other things!) I am partly responsible for our social media presence and manage the HSMC Library Twitter account. I also produce a range of current awareness bulletins and a daily digest (which aims to produce a snapshot of health and social policy in the popular press), create user education guides, provide induction, look after our book collection and last but not least manage the displays in the centre.
Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? Varied as you’d expect – I usually start with the Daily Digest and schedule Tweets for the rest of the day (using a mixture of sources and trying to mix items – sometimes with the odd Vine video thrown in) and then move on to my emails. Once that’s done I will write a ‘to do’ list and try and prioritise what needs to be actioned – what happens next depends very much on the time of year and what projects/courses are running. Generally it will involve some kind of literature search or searches – subjects vary with recent searches covering everything from body piercing to dementia care to the cost of car parking at hospitals, usually it will entail getting back to our students with help or guidance and it may also involve a large chunk of book ordering and cataloguing. We are lucky to work closely with academic staff here so invariably I will attend one or two meetings a week to discuss any teaching, induction or training we can provide – at the moment we are working with JISC to provide our academic staff with tablets and to see how these might be used to enhance the teaching and learning process.
What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? Flexibility springs to mind – compared to other professions I would say that there aren’t as many jobs out there so I think you need to look at the transferable skills you might have picked up and how this can relate to jobs/the job market. I was told when I first started my Masters (by a colleague) that it was nigh on impossible to move between the sectors – so if you started in a public library you’d always work in a public library – this is not the case. It’s worth trying working in a few sectors if you can/want to, to find out what you like and what you’re good at. I think it also helps if you are naturally inquisitive – keen to find out about all kinds of subjects and try different ways of working.
What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? To try not to get too cross with people when they make shushing noises, ask if you like reading or say “…ooh I didn’t know you could do a degree in being a librarian”?! Also, that whilst you probably won’t become a millionaire – if you are interested in people, like finding out stuff, want to be involved in a profession that is always evolving and love a spot of laminating then it’s a really fulfilling job to do.