How did you first get into the information and library profession? I decided that I wanted to work in a library from about the age of 8. I have really fond memories of using public libraries in Leeds with my mum from a young age. As a teenager I had a Leeds Card from the local council which enabled me to take out up to around 6 CDs a week free of charge. It was amazing! I practically worked my way through the entire cd section of Leeds Music Library. This was before I had access to the internet and I think it’s the principal reason why I got really into music at quite a young age.
It was my Grandma who initially encouraged me to apply for my first Library Assistant position which was in a Leeds public library. I consider myself very lucky as I managed to persuade the people interviewing me that my recent experience at that time in a video rental store contained applicable transferable skills such as joining new members, arranging displays, collection management, customer service and storing and locating items based on a numerical Index. I thought that it was a long shot but to my amazement it worked! The staff I worked with were fantastic and incredibly knowledgeable and I learned a great deal there and I’ve never looked back.
What qualifications did you take? I was studying for my undergraduate degree in Sociology at the University of Leeds when I first started working in public libraries (which was extremely useful for ordering books for my course!). I realised immediately that I wanted to pursue a career in libraries and applied as soon as possible to undertake a full time Master’s degree in Information Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University. I chose Leeds to ensure that I combine work with studying. It was useful to go straight into doing my Master’s degree upon completion of my undergraduate degree without a gap as I was still in the routine of doing academic work and juggling work. However, I found the shift from writing essays to writing reports very challenging in the first instance as it was so different from the style in which I was used to writing for my Undergraduate degree. I am currently undertaking my CILIP Chartership which I am really enjoying as it has enabled me to develop further knowledge of the sector as whole.
What is your current job title? My current job title is Information Specialist within the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the NICE Collaborating Centre for Social Care (NCCSC). SCIE works in partnership with a number of other research organisations to host the NCCSC which produces social care Guidelines for the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE).
I have been in the post since September 2013. Prior to this role I have worked in a number of Information Specialist positions in health care settings upon the completion of my Master’s degree. My career thus far has enabled me to develop a keen interest in evidence-based practice and knowledge transfer. Social care has a vast and quite often enduring impact on people’s lives and I was very interested in the application of evidence-based methods for social care research products and services.
What does your job involve? My job involves developing, running and managing the results of systematic search strategies; responding to research and information enquiries and document supply requests for Social Care Guidelines for the NCCSC, SCIE products and bespoke consultancy work.
Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? I usually cycle into work in central London from South East London and I like to start work quite early which is usually between 7:30-8:00. The first thing I do is check my emails and read the daily internal bulletin of social care new stories which gets circulated each morning by the SCIE Press team which is a really useful way of keeping up to date with developments within the sector and the organisation. I also have a RSS aggregator app on my phone which collates selected library and information and health and social care articles which I usually check at lunchtime. It’s a really valuable means of keeping up to date with information on the go that is of interest to me on personal and professional basis.
My work often involves attending a number of meetings so I usually check my Outlook calendar to see what meetings I have across the week. I am the Lead Information Specialist on five NCCSC Social Care Guidelines that are in development so I very often attend project team meetings, Guideline Development Group meetings, Information Group meetings with Information colleagues from other NICE Collaborating Centres or internal and external training sessions.
I am currently working on developing the search strategies for a Guideline that is in development and I have been writing up the searching methods and strategies for a Guideline that is close to completion. I really enjoying developing search strategies as I see it as a means of conceptually breaking down research questions and piecing relevant elements together. I strive to achieve a pragmatic and systematic approach for and it’s very satisfying when you see that you have retrieved relevant information particularly for multi-disciplinary and complex topic areas.
SCIE is a co-productive and collaborative organisation which means that all of our work is produced with people who use services and carers. The co-productive nature of SCIE’s work has helped me to understand more fully service users lived experiences and needs and the impact of services and policies.
What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? I personally think that the skills that are most important to today’s library and information professional are communication and customer service skills. It is important to be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with library users, colleagues and stakeholders, even if you are not working in a traditional library environment. Team work is also very important skill and a satisfying means of improving personal working practice. Good IT skills are very important and flexibility and adaptability to change. Attention to detail and accuracy is very important for developing policies, generating reports, cataloguing and indexing and developing systematic search strategies.
What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? I would say that Information Management can be an incredibly interesting and varied career. I would advise that anyone considering pursuing information management to research the vast array of different positions and specialisms available. I initially used to grapple with explaining to friends and family what I did as I have not worked in a traditional library environment since completing my Master’s degree. Nowadays it’s hard to get me to shut up when people ask what I do for a living as I consider myself to be in an incredibly privileged position as my job involves being involved in research and processes that I am genuinely interested in and it is incredibly satisfying knowing that the work I do will inform products which will assist providers of health and social care services which will make a difference to service users lives.