Jess Haigh, Subject Librarian, University of Huddersfield

Jess Haigh headshotHow did you first get into the information and library profession? Completely by chance. I was out of work following a rather miserable period in my life, and applying for pretty much anything and everything. In the same week I got an interview for a part-time library assistant job, and a job working in a museum. I got the library assistant job, working for Leeds College of Technology. It could have all been so different…

I absolutely loved working in the library, it was the perfect job for me. I love helping people and within FE (Further Education) staff genuinely change the lives of so many of the students. I’ve always been a big library user myself, mostly as a teenager finding my local public library’s Reference Room a wonderful quiet place to work, and was very lucky to find work that was so fulfilling.

What qualifications did you take? With the support of my manager I signed up to completing the qualification, finally completing my MSc. in Library and Information Management through distance learning with the University of Northumbria, who were excellent. Distance learning really worked for me as it meant I could work full time, as by this point I had the job of Subject Librarian at Leeds City College. I also found being able to complete assignments at my own pace really liberating, and my tutors were really supportive, as were my wonderful colleagues.

I’m now in the process of completing my Chartership, which is a whole new level of thinking about my career, and how varied and complex the world of LIS (Library and Information Science) is.

What is your current job title? I was Subject Librarian for FE for five years and recently I moved to HE (Higher Education). I’m now a Subject Librarian at the University of Huddersfield.

What does your job involve? Within FE my job could involve any part of library work you care to mention; inductions throughout the year, enquiries, collection development, managing resources, customer services, administration, career advice, information literacy, etc. FE has such a wide range of stakeholders what you do varies massively from day to day.

To be honest, it is the same in HE. At the moment it’s the end of the academic year so most of what I’m doing is planning for sessions over the summer with International Students, reviewing the current collection and organising a day for our Consortium Colleges to visit us and get to know our services. I’m quite new to the job too, so a lot of what I’m doing is learning about the various new resources I’m using. We also do a lot of student and staff enquiry work.

Huddersfield also does a lot of innovative practice such as active teaching sessions, library games, Roving Librarians, and sessions that aim to provide a relaxing environment for the students to come and discuss any worries whilst maybe being creative or even petting some puppies!

Can you describe a typical day? There really is no such thing. Today I spent the morning reviewing part of the collection and sorting out some of the shelves. I did some classifying of some new stock, and caught up on what was going on at #LILAC15, where half my office currently is! This afternoon I was on the enquiry desk, and that could bring up anything you care to mention! I also spoke to some colleagues and arranged a couple of meetings about a conference myself and some other librarians are proposing to have focusing on presenting postgrad LIS dissertations. Then I’ve been reading up on different active learning methods used to get some ideas for my summer sessions.

Ask me again in September and I’ll no doubt have a very different day! Inductions galore!

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? Being able to motivate yourself out of a rut. Being open to new ideas, ways of thinking, ways of researching what your stakeholders/customers want, need, or like about your service and then being pushy about actioning any changes. Being able to spin lots of plates, keep abreast of what is going on in the wider profession, keeping informed whilst also being approachable and friendly.

 The LIS world is so broad; for you it could be about a specialism too. I think that you’ve got to be very good at being reflective about yourself , and where your strengths lie.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Prepare to be very, very busy! Throw yourself into it, get involved with the networking STRAIGHTAWAY as you will find it invaluable. Figure out what it is you want to do, and have some sort of plan to do it. Prepare to say yes to a lot of things, and have a really,really good diary system set up. Get on mailing lists – some of the best opportunities I’ve found have been through mailing lists.

Also, make sure that you have got some sort of a link to life outside of libraries , as it can get very insular if you let it! But do join us – honestly it is one of the best professions in the world.


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