Naila Dracup – Information Specialist, Social Care Institute for Excellence (Scie) and the NICE Collaborating Centre for Social Care (NCCSC)

Naila Dracup

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.




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Sandra Smythe, Knowledge Manager, Mishcon de Reya and BIALL Committee Member

Sandra.SmytheHow did you first get into the information and library profession? I used to volunteer to help my school librarian at high school during breaks and lunchtimes, something I don’t think I’ve admitted to since leaving school until now. I have always loved books though and been surrounded by them at home so it was a place I naturally gravitated towards and my school librarian was wonderfully inspiring and engaging. However, it didn’t really cross my mind as a career as I was determined I was heading down a science path but as it got closer to the time needed to start thinking about my UCAS application I found myself a bit lost. It was actually my parents who suggested the idea to me and it then seemed blindingly obvious so I started looking into the qualifications I would need and the courses available (and the rest as they say is history).

What qualifications did you take? I took a BA (Hons) in Information Management at Queen Margaret’s University College, as it was then, making me one of those, seemingly, very rare creatures – a librarian who did their qualification as their first degree. I was determined when I started that I would be looking for a career in public libraries but I did a 3 month work experience placement in my 3rd year in a service that provided information to people interested in starting new businesses and found I loved working with corporate type information.

What is your current job title? Knowledge Manager

What does your job involve? I work in a law firm library, and indeed have always worked in law firms for my whole career. For most of my career I worked as a typical librarian in this type of organisation, which involves researching legal and corporate/people information, current awareness and training. However, a few years ago my role at my current firm changed and I now look after our KM Systems, mostly our Intranet and our document automation process as well as being the person who generally tries to fix IT issues with our suppliers and in-house team. I also work closely with the head of my department, the Director of Knowledge Services, on managing our enterprise search engine. And, by no means lastly, I manage the training offered by Knowledge Services and the day to day administration of the department.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? I’m sure almost everyone working in law librarianship says there is no such thing as a typical day but I can do my best!

8.40am – My working hours are 9.30am to 5.30pm, as is common in most law firms, but I usually head in early to start working my way through my daily current awareness searches. We offer a very bespoke CA service, which is much loved by the fee earners, and everyone in the team is expected to help with the many daily searches and weekly briefings and alerts we run. I also check my emails and respond as needed – I use my inbox as one of my to do lists so I like to keep it as empty as possible!

9.45am – Add and classify items sent by the Litigation Professional Support Lawyer to our knowhow database.

10.15am – Content management type work on the Intranet – this often involves adding content for the PSLs I support or troubleshooting problems for content managers.

11am – Research databases induction for a new joiner. The firm I work for has grown incredibly in the 7 years I have worked here and we always have new joiners to train.

11.30am – Create new Intranet pages for a content manager and sort out the menu links.

11.45am – We are currently running a library audit so go through a spreadsheet listing details for our collection put together and give instructions where needed for the project person. We never seem to have time for this type of work so it has been a long time since our last audit (ahem) so this can take some time!

12.30pm – Prep for upcoming training sessions, we run a variety of courses aimed both at fee earners and support staff so try to have a varied programme organised a few months in advance.

1pm – Lunchtime! I often attend one of the lunchtime training sessions organised by the litigation department, as I’m their KS liaison, or generally for the wider firm or I try to force myself out to swim at the nearby outdoor pool.

2pm – Work on marking up a precedent for automation – this is time consuming, detailed work but involves working closely with the relevant PSL and has been one of our big success stories over the last few years. The automated precedents allow for more efficient working and also help with risk management.

3pm – By this time I will probably realise that whilst happily getting coffee and tea made for me by my colleagues I haven’t yet done my turn at the tea run so I’ll take a quick break from the document automation mark up to do this.

4.00pm – Meeting with Intranet upgrade project team.

5pm – Troubleshooting emails with supplier over issues we’ve been having with a database and testing of solutions.

5.30pm – Home time! I’d say I might stay a few mins late doing general admin etc but I have 3 dogs eagerly waiting for me to come home and walk them with my husband so I’m off out the door.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? I think we all need to be flexible and willing to take on new tasks and skills. I think there are a number of different opportunities for information professionals and the path their career can take at present but we have to not only have the skills to fulfil these roles but also to accept them as information roles. We obviously then need the technical skills as well but I have found that the more I get involved with “systems” work the more the very traditional skills around classification, taxonomies and organising information are called upon as well as noticing and caring about small, fiddly details.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? There are a lot of opportunities to find out more about the different types of careers in Information Management so I would say go along to the career days etc and if there is an area you are interested in ask a librarian involved in that area to speak to you. I think one of the great things about this profession is that everyone is generally really friendly and willing to help. Of course, it is easier to find the right people you need to speak to if you are involved in relevant groups and if you do decide to pursue a career in Information Management I would definitely recommend joining a professional group. Although, in the interests of full disclosure I should say that I’m a member of the British & Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) Council and Chair of the City Legal Information Group so I would say that! But being involved in both these organisations has given me opportunities to grow my skills and my knowledge as well as introducing me to a number of wonderful colleagues I otherwise wouldn’t have met.

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Karen Dolman, Information Advisor, Health & Wellbeing Faculty, Sheffield Hallam University

Karen Dolman - Sheffield HallamHow did you first get into the information and library profession? I began working in Libraries as a part-time Library Assistant with Wolverhampton MBC (as it was). I had been training in Accountancy and Finance with WMBC but fell pregnant I couldn’t go part-time in this job so I got a part-time job in the library service.(Can you imagine not being allowed to go part-time for childcare reasons now?!). It was going to be temporary until my son started full time school. That was 24 years ago!

After a few years I moved to Walsall MBC to take up the same post but on a higher scale. I stayed there for 13 years, moving around different areas of the library service, including Acquisitions, before I decided I really wanted to become a qualified librarian. This was quite ironic as I had told my manager in 1997, when he offered me the opportunity to do the BA day-release at Birmingham, that I didn’t want to be a librarian! Since then my career has been varied; working Local Studies and Heritage library roles, college and schools roles and finally moving into academic librarianship.

What qualifications did you take? I got my Masters in Librarianship from the University of Sheffield in 2007. I uprooted my Black Country family to the wilds of the Peak District to get my qualification! Prior to this I took a career break and did a PGCE to enhance my career prospects. Even back then I could see that teaching was becoming a big part of my job. I am currently pursuing my Chartership, as well as an FHEA (Fellow of the Higher Education Academy  qualification. I don’t believe in letting the grass grow!

What is your current job title? I’m an IA, Information Adviser (Subject Librarian!) for the Health and Wellbeing Faculty at Sheffield Hallam University. I am responsible for Radiotherapy and Oncology and also for our Nursing courses, which I share with two other colleagues as the cohort is huge! It’s my dream job and I still can’t quite believe I got it!

What does your job involve? I work with students and staff in the University, teaching information literacy showing users how to get the best from searching databases/library catalogue/etc, and providing resources. I do a lot of promotion work, liaison and PR for the library service, to staff and students as they are often unaware of the value we add to their studies. I don’t work on the frontline any more, but I do see both staff and students for class and individual sessions to either build on teaching I’ve done on their course, or to support them using some of our resources, such as our reading list technology.

I manage the physical and online collection for my area, making sure we have all and enough of the necessary resources to support the courses we provide. I make sure we have enough copies of texts for the amount of students we have and, where possible, I buy e-books, as we have a lot of distance and at-distance learners. So I do some acquisition work in buying in resources for the subject areas I cover (books and journal subs). I also support staff by advising when new resources and new copies of resources become available.

While we don’t work on frontline any more, we still have to provide back-up support for the helpdesk staff. This role is called ‘Duty Adviser’ and is basically ‘Ask A Librarian’! Any helpdesk enquiries that the helpdesk staff feel they should pass on will come to me. I will either deal with them if I can, or I will pass the enquirer on to the relevant person; ie if it is a specific subject enquiry I will log the query and this will then go to the IA for that subject. I will also check to see if there are any enquiries for me, such as students in my subject area requiring subject support.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? Ha! I don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘typical’ day in library and information work, although mine tends to involve quite a bit of tea-drinking! Due to the nature of HE our work tends to be cyclical. Some times of the year (September and March) we are much busier than usual, due to the amount of teaching we have to do. At certain times of the year we are concentrating on purchasing and spending our budgets to enhance our collections – mad March!

Currently then, my day involves answering a lot of emails, generally first thing in the morning. Then I will drink some tea and get to grips with the day. Today I have a teaching planning session with a colleague with whom I team-teach. Then I have two sessions with academic staff; one to do some teaching planning for her MSc students, then to help another colleague to put together a list of resources for a module which will then go into our reading list management system (RLO). I will help her do this too.

After lunch I will return to emails, check there is nothing I need to follow up, and then I am Duty Adviser for the rest of the afternoon. So I go into the ‘dungeon’ and wait for contact from the outside world…during this time I will check the queries system and allocate any outstanding enquiries! I may have to stay to deal with enquiries, as you would on a helpdesk, but if there aren’t any I will have some more tea and go home.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? You have to be flexible in this job. The nature of library work is such that it is always seen as a soft target whenever budgets get cut, and if you are flexible, you make yourself indispensable by being prepared to try anything.

A certain ‘gung-ho’ attitude is also invaluable, in all areas of library work. I thought when I moved into academic librarianship I wouldn’t be asked to be everything to everybody, as is the case in public libraries, but I soon found out I was being naïve! One evening shift included a student coming to the helpdesk with a tin can stuck on his finger. He asked me for some scissors to cut it off, but I got security to come and sort him out, after which I commented to him that my five year old son had once done the same…so, be prepared to deal with anything and everything. It’s not just about books!

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? For new professionals I would say be prepared to do jobs you might not have envisioned doing when you decided to qualify. I had a really limited CV when I went to do my qualification so I decided to take on roles that were outside my experience and comfort zone. Working in the school and college library was certainly character-building! I took on short term roles as well, a strategy I know a number of friends have also adopted post-qualification. It worked for me, but you have to be prepared to have a certain amount of uncertainty, and gumption, to make it work.

Network! Get to know your colleagues and also other people working in libraries in your area. A good way of doing this is joining CILIP as you can participate in your local group. Also, get to as many training courses as you can; this is good for your CPD as well as networking opportunities. I wouldn’t have the job I now have if I hadn’t followed this advice!

Also, be prepared to be exhausted and frustrated some of the time, as you will sometimes find yourself in situations that you may find challenging! BUT…it’s rewarding and gratifying work and I would never in a million years consider going back into Accountancy, even though it pays much better! I wouldn’t change my career decision for all the tea in China (or all the wine in Chile!)…


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Josephine Lagoun, Part-Time University Librarian and Consultant, Infochandise Consultancy Ltd.

Josephine LaogunHow did you first get into the information and library profession?  I got into the information and library profession in 1991 because my dad insisted the profession is a very good one because he had a librarian friend who became the Director-General of CBAAC (Centre for Black African Arts and Civilization) CBAAC was established to host the 2nd World Black & African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ‘77) in 1977.

I started my career in 1994 at the Obafemi Awolowo University library, Nigeria and have worked since then at University Libraries.

What qualifications did you take?  I have a Masters degree in Library, Archival and Information Studies (MLS) in 1993. Previous to this, I have a B.A.Ed. degree in English. I am currently a PhD student of Information Management at the Loughborough University and I am in my second year. I am also trained as a Business Analyst and I am a certified Scrum Master. Note from Editor – I didn’t know what a Scrum Master was either – this link might help!

What is your current job title? I am a part-time Learning & Teaching Librarian and working the rest of the time in Consultancy and Project Management. I have a consultancy outfit ‘Infochandise Consultancy Ltd’ . I organise training and advocate change management in libraries with a special focus on Africa to bridge the existing gaps in information literacy and soft skills.

What does your job involve? My main job involves answering helpdesk queries via chats, emails and telephone, training students in information literacy skills and writing/maintaining some pages on the library website. I also support Module teams in embedding the Library and Information Literacy activities in Module webpages.

My consultancy role includes communicating with offshore library management to arrange bespoke trainings for their staff members. I am also working to get contract jobs in Business Analysis especially in the domain of education as I intend to migrate fully into Business Analysis role for Higher Education.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? I do not have a typical day. I work different hours as a Part time L & T librarian and one day is different from another. This keeps me on my toes all the time. In my consultancy role, I do various tasks to establish my outfit which is still at teething stage.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? Research and networking skills are vital for any information professional. An Information and Library professional should keep updated and keep abreast of information and knowledge and changes. Technology and concepts change daily. The traditional role of information professionals evolve constantly. We are no longer keepers, we generate and re-format information. We participate in information architecture. We enhance the user experience and create a memorable ambience for them while accessing the information.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Be ready to be proactive, take charge of your learning and development. Things move so fast in this world you’ll be outdated as soon as you start if you are stagnant.

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Catherine Jacob, Information Specialist for NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)

Catherine_JacobHow did you first get into the information and library profession? I have fond memories of my dad taking my brother and me to our local library in Leeds, and it stuck with me. When I was at university I visited a careers advisor and asked about Librarianship but it wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to go for it. I was lucky enough to get on the graduate trainee scheme at (what was) Archway Healthcare Library in North London. At the time I’d only had a few hours experience in libraries so the scheme seemed the perfect opportunity for me. I had a fantastic year and have never looked back.

What qualifications did you take? My undergraduate degree is in Sociology but after I completed my graduate trainee year I did my MA in Information Services Management. Since then I have chartered with CILIP and completed a PTLLS qualification (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector).

What is your current job title?  I work as an Information Specialist for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

What does your job involve? I work as part of the Evidence Services team and my job is really varied. Part of my job involves searching for and tagging new evidence for NICE Evidence Search – an open access search engine aimed at health and social care professionals. I’m also responsible for producing a monthly public health awareness bulletin which provides links to, and a short summary of, a selection of recent publications of interest to the public health community. NICE also produces Evidence Updates, which are publications highlighting new evidence relating to published NICE guidance. My job involves writing the project brief which details all inclusion and exclusion criteria, creating a suitable search strategy and proposing relevant databases to search. Once the scope has been agreed, I’ll carry out all the searches and sift through the retrieved references to find the articles that match the agreed scope. I also critically appraise articles.

Can you describe a “typical day”? I start work quite early at 8am. We hot desk in the office and if I’m lucky I’ll get one overlooking Piccadilly Gardens, a good spot to start the day which I do by checking my emails.

After this I check our internal database for a list of sources that I need to search and I’ll add relevant content to NICE Evidence Search. Among others, I search the World Health Organization, Sport England and Alcohol Research UK. Primarily I’m responsible for public health content – but anything that’s published by one of my sources is my responsibility so I’ll often add evidence that is more clinical or social care related. I search each site as systematically as possible and assess all new content for eligibility. I ensure I catalogue each document carefully so our users can easily find them.

Today is our monthly meeting where myself and my colleagues discuss the work we do checking our sources and cataloging the evidence we find. Today we’re looking at a number of papers to talk about which publication types we think they fall under and what tags we can assign to the record. This is all to ensure that users of NICE Evidence Search can easily find the content we add and to maintain an element of consistency between us.

Before lunch I’ll do some work on preparing the public health bulletin. I’m looking for the most recent, relevant and varied evidence which I think will interest the public health professionals reading it. I compile a list and include a short summary of each.

After a short lunch I’ll move to one of the new standing desks which have been installed in the office. I’m currently working on an Evidence Update for promoting physical activity in children and young people. We’ve had to sift through over 13,000 references looking for the ones that meet the agreed inclusion and exclusion criteria for this particular topic. We’re nearing the end of the sifting so myself and my colleague are busy quality assuring each other’s work. We each check a selection of articles the other has worked on to see if our decisions match. Before I leave for the day I’ll go through my ‘to do’ list and plan my next days’ work. At 4pm I head home to feed our cat and likely watch a crime drama!

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professionals? To some extent this really depends on what area of the information profession you work in. If you’re working with students then things like empathy and friendliness are so vital. If you work in cataloging, then maybe skills like attention to detail are more important.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Try and get a few different role experiences if possible. The library and information sector is really varied and you might find you are more suited to a particular job. I’ve worked on helpdesks, I’ve delivered training sessions, I’ve worked in cataloguing and acquisitions and now I work at NICE in an environment very different to the traditional library I had been used to. Getting a range of experiences will hopefully help you decide which aspects of the profession are right for you.

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Emma Green, Librarian, Health Management Library, University of Birmingham

emmagreenHow 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.

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Beth Cutler, Librarian, Dudley College (Further Education)

Beth Cutler - IMG_1528How did you first get into the information and library profession? I’m a complete cliché! My love of books and helping people led me to libraries. I left university with a degree in English but no clue as to what to do with my life. I took a temporary job with the DVLA in Birmingham and eventually decided that I enjoyed meeting new people and helping them with their enquiries. Several people had suggested I try library work and my experience at the DVLA, together with my love of books and reading, convinced me to give it a go. I applied for several graduate traineeships and was offered a post at Somerset College. My year there confirmed that libraries were the way forward for me and the next step was a postgraduate course at Aberystwyth. I’ve never looked back!

What qualifications did you take? MSc (Econ) in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth. I also undertook NVQ and City & Guilds qualifications in Library Services whilst at Somerset College.

What is your current job title? Librarian

What does your job involve? With two colleagues, I run Dudley College Library on a day-to-day basis. I am responsible for several subject areas within the library and also manage the Audio-Visual collection. I look after the library’s Twitter feed (@DCTLibrary) as well as produce all library materials, such as guides and newsletters. I deliver sessions on Harvard Referencing and library resources.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? My day starts with housekeeping duties such as running the overdues, reminders and data imports as well as sorting out desk rotas for the day. I will also have a look at Twitter to see what’s of interest for our followers.

Much of my time is spent on the Enquiry Desk where I help students find the information they need for assignments, be it in books, journals or on the internet. As a college librarian, I deal with queries on a wide range of subjects but all at varying levels and it’s important to establish which information will be most suitable for individual students. In between enquiries, I concentrate on the basics: cataloguing and classifying.

When not on the desk, I could be working on background jobs such as ordering DVDs or writing new library guides. This is also when I would deliver sessions on Harvard Referencing or how to use our resources. These sessions give me the chance to build links with the students and teaching staff and hopefully provide a better service as a result!

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? The ability to listen and elicit exactly what people are actually looking for – they don’t always know themselves until you ask a few pertinent questions!

An eye for detail – this is vital for many of the small jobs I do to keep the service ticking over, such as fixing catalogue entries. Every little helps when it comes to providing the best service!

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Don’t expect a quiet life in a library! It can be very rewarding and always interesting, but never quiet.


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Anneli Sarkanen, Senior Information Officer (Law) , Field Fisher Waterhouse, London

anneli_sarkanenHow did you first get into the information and library profession? Like many others, I did a degree in another subject before being drawn into the library profession. After graduating with a biology degree, I struggled to know what career path to take. I had enjoyed the literature research aspect of my dissertation but didn’t think there would be a job doing that sort of research every day. I also knew a career working in a lab would not be for me and I could not see how I could get a job related to my degree.

After a short stop-gap doing admin in my local solicitors, I went back to my careers advice centre at university and looked at my options using Prospects planner. Of the job titles it suggested would be suited to me, “information scientist” jumped out at me – it had the research aspect I had enjoyed and also the “science” aspect appealed to the biologist in me.

After doing some background reading and getting in touch with CILIP, I found myself moving down to London to start a year as a graduate trainee in a law firm. It was the best introduction to the career I could have had and assured me it was the right choice to then study for a qualification.

What qualifications did you take? I did a MA in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield; it was the same university I had done my undergraduate degree and was highly rated so it felt like a natural choice to return to the city.

What is your current job title? My current job title is Senior Information Officer and I work in a law firm in London.

What does your job involve? ; Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? In a brief sentence, my job involves supporting the lawyers and the firm with the provision of business and legal research. But it is really a lot more than that… The information team are embedded with the practice groups we support – our ‘main library’ was disbanded a number of years ago – so whilst the team all have a similar job role, the activities we get involved in can vary a lot, depending on the department. Although there is no typical day, some of the more standard tasks I do are:

  • Producing current awareness for the departments and teams I support – this is both for the larger practice groups (litigation and employment) and for the discrete teams within those groups, be that retail or fraud, for example. It means reading updates from a quite a number of sources (I like Feedly for my RSS; Lexis Publisher for newspaper content) to distil them down to what is relevant for the team to know. What I really enjoy is meeting fortnightly with one of the teams to discuss the latest from my bulletin – it meets their need to have a chance to discuss the key topics in the news and work out what actions need to be taken as a result, based on a recent case or news story on a legal development.
  • Conducting business research on a potential client. Our team produce intelligence reports on companies and competitors as and when needed by the lawyers or business development teams. I find this quite interesting as you get to look at both well-known large multi-national companies and also those you had not known existed but have a very niche or important product. These reports are well received by the lawyers and were highly praised when our team won the Halsbury’s award for Best Legal Information Service (commercial sector) London in 2012.
  • Assisting with legal research for the fee earners – be it searching for cases, commentary on legislation, finding EU directives or regulations.
  • Answering any other queries which may come my way – they can range from looking at a company’s ownership to finding title registers for properties; from compiling press articles to cover the development of a particular news story to tracking down Parliamentary debates on a topic or piece of legislation.
  • Conducting training sessions on our databases. Our team runs regular training sessions on our databases and also how to get the best out of Google – these sessions are CPD accredited and give fee earners tips on getting the best from the commercial databases we subscribe to and also the advanced search techniques they can use on Google. We also meet the new intake of trainee solicitors when they join the firm and run a session on legal research skills for them before they reach their departments. As well as these planned training sessions, any day could also involve giving a quick refresher at someone’s desk on using the databases.
  • Intranet and know-how management. We all take a role in keeping the information services pages of our intranet up to date and also keeping our own internal know-how current. We have an internal wiki for the library team which contains a lot of useful information on tips on tracking down certain legislation or company information from other jurisdictions as well as information on the coverage of the databases we subscribe to.
  • (and finally…) Administration. There is a certain amount of admin that I do as part of my role – this can be book cataloguing, checking in of looseleaf updates, processing invoices, locating missing books and maintaining the collections relevant to my practice areas, and contributing towards preparing the annual library budget.

Some of my day (usually lunch or after work) is also devoted to SLA Europe (the European chapter of the Special Libraries Association) and the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL). For SLA Europe I volunteer on their Digital Communications committee, looking after their LinkedIn presence and contributing to our digital strategy. The committee are currently redesigning the website and it is exciting to contribute to that. Within BIALL, I have been involved in their PR & Promotions Committee for a number of years, first as a standard member, then as vice-chair before taking the role of chair this year. I helped develop a wiki for law librarians of common or unusual questions, and this year we are looking at new ways to showcase the work of law librarians and of BIALL.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? I think today’s information professionals need to be adaptable. I won’t be the first person to comment on how much the profession has changed over the years, and that change will continue. To be adaptable and to be able to apply your knowledge to new situations, be that new technology or a new workplace, will be vital.

I also think communication skills are key. The work we do, both for our employers or for our profession, needs to be communicated out in the most appropriate way. So being able to write articles, summarise research, put together a Powerpoint presentation, use social media are all important abilities for information professionals.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? I would advise those entering the profession to look widely at the sectors and workplaces in which your skills can be applied. Visit the graduate open day run by CILIP, as well as that organised jointly by BIALL, CLSIG and SLA Europe, to get a feel for the diversity of roles information professionals fulfil.

I would also advise getting involved in a professional organisation; be that volunteering for a committee or simply attending their networking events or seminars. They are vital for maintaining your CPD and also meeting your peers. Do not underestimate the power of your network!

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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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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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