Rhiannon and Evie (Old Bodleian trainees) recently attended the CILIP New Professionals Day, held at CILIP headquarters in central London. The day was a worthwhile introduction to CILIP as a network of Library and Information professionals, and a great way to find out more about potential career paths and job sectors – and of course there were some freebies in there!
It was really useful and
reassuring to meet other new professionals who were all at very different stages in terms of their roles, their interests, and their educa-
tion. From a historian who is completing his masters while working as a Roving Support Assistant at Coventry University, to a former zoologist who is now Local Studies Librarian at Cheshire County Archives, there were so many different backgrounds and career paths amongst the attendees. It was very helpful to chat to people who have recently completed a library qualification, and to get their opinions on different universities, the Postgraduate Diploma versus the full Masters, and which modules they most enjoyed.
The talks were generally very interesting
and gave plenty of insight into the vast scope of the Library and Information field, covering sectors and employers ranging from corporate banks to humanitarian organisations, with employees and former employers of the NHS, Civil Service, and Microsoft represented.
One of the most exciting talks was about the role of the prison librarian, which debunked many misconceptions surrounding the job, and gave an honest and fair assessment of the challenges and rewards of working in a prison library. We were also surprised and gladdened to hear about the many charities and organisations providing support and funding for prisoners who want to further their literacy and education. It was gratifying to learn what an incredible difference prison libraries can make to children whose parents are in prison, by encouraging parents and children to engage with books and learn more together.
Evie also enjoyed the talk about Library and Information professionals working in the Civil Service, finding it inspiring to learn about the pivotal role of LIS professionals in researching, organising, and collecting data for important governmental reports and projects, such as the report into the Grenfell Tower fire. Again, the talk worked to counter pre-existing assumptions about working in the Civil Service as an LIS professional, and offered an intriguing introduction to the sector as a potential avenue for our future careers. The speaker was clearly a passionate individual with a love for the Library Services and this was particularly inspiring.
One of the most important things we took from the talks was the understanding that a career does not have to be a linear trajectory ‘up the ranks’ in one sector or organisation – it is always possible to transfer skills as an LIS professional from one sector to another, always branching out to new opportunities in different environments, or to build on your experience in one area and specialise further. The event also gave me a better understanding of what sectors might not appeal to me, as well – business and corporate sector information work, as an example. It was helpful to learn more about CILIP and their role as a supportive network for people in the field, and to find out about the events and qualifications available to CILIP members as they progress in their careers, such as their Chartership programme.
After the New Professionals Day, both of us feel much better equipped to articulate our own priorities and desires for the LIS careers we would like to build, and more informed about the realities of some key sectors within the field. We are excited to share this with our fellow trainees who weren’t able to attend!
Advertisements were placed, interviews held, and now we look forward to the start of a new intake of trainees this coming September.
As the Archives Assistant at the Oxford University Archives I will have the rare pleasure of still being in post to greet and assist my successor in settling in to their new position. In light of this, I have given a good deal of thought to what it might be useful to tell them beyond what they will need to know to do the job. The advice I received from my predecessor was invaluable and, to pass that on, I have compiled a list of tips for aspiring archivists.
The first thing that I would suggest is to subscribe to the JISC mailing list, JISC ARCHIVES-NRA. You can subscribe from their website. I recommend opting for the digest, otherwise you will get a lot of emails in your inbox that might not be relevant! The daily digest email gives you the top discussions going on via JiscMail. Sometimes these include job vacancies and requests for volunteers, as well as news about what is going on at other archives, interesting articles and discussions and advice.
It is also worth asking to be put on the mailing list for the ARA New Professionals Trainees Section. You will get news about meetings and talks designed to support trainees in the Archives sector. Heads of archives postgraduate courses often give talks at these meetings and it is a great opportunity to meet other trainees and visit different archives. The next meet up is on 20th June 2016 and will be visiting the M&S Archive and ITV. Use the contact details on the New Professionals Trainees webpage to ask to be added to the list and enquire about spaces at the next meeting.
You might also consider following the ARA New Professionals blog, Off the Record, where you can read posts by current professionals who discuss how they got started in Archives and they also include write ups of the trainee meetings which can be very useful if you were not able to attend.
Archives and Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library also have a blog, I would particularly advise following this if you are coming to the Bodleian as a trainee but it is also interesting in its own right and other trainees and volunteers might find it interesting.
Archive Trainees UK, part of the ARA New Professionals Trainees section, is a Facebook group that is worth joining if you are on Facebook. Another Facebook group that I highly recommend is the ICA New Professionals (International Council on Archives) group. They put out a lot of thoughtful content and invite debate and discussion.
I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has advice for sources of information for trainees and volunteers who are pre-course but looking to become professional Archivists.
This has been a very wordy post, and I’m afraid I have not had the time to source any relevant pictures to accompany the advice, so here is an archives selfie!
Our highlights from the open day, 15th April, at CILIP HQ, London – continued!
BBC (Media Management)
Laura Williams, a Media Manager in the BBC Archives, spoke about ‘embedded
librarianship’. Embedded librarianship “moves librarians out of libraries”, so that they pop up in unexpected (and exciting) places, such as TV companies, zoos and hospitals. Laura is
embedded within Entertainment Production North and BBC Learning, although she is
formally part of BBC Archives. The centralised Archives services perform more traditional
“library” processes like cataloguing and digitisation, while media managers are based around the country working within production teams. Media managers are responsible for a diverse range of core tasks including records management, photo archive work, selecting material for the archives, and navigating the BBC’s holdings on behalf of researchers.
The range of duties involved in such a multifaceted role means Laura has to be very
flexible. As her team might not necessarily realise how an information professional can support their work, she has to be proactive about promoting these services; whether that means scheduling official meetings to discuss record-keeping, or simply using a catch-up over coffee to chat about how library services could assist new projects. As a qualified
librarian, working for an archive service, with the job title of ‘media manager’, Laura uses the identifiers interchangeably, depending on which term has the most meaning or value to her audience: an adaptability that I found really striking given the traditional divide
between library/archives as vocations.
Community and network is especially important in an embedded role: if you are going to work as an embedded librarian, it is important to be an integrated member of the team. That said, you may well be working solo, which can be lonely, so it’s important to reach out to librarian networks too… such as the SLA! – Hannah
British Library of Political and Economic Science, LSE
Maria Bell gave an instructive talk about her work as Learning Support Services Manager for LSE’s library. Founded in 1896, the library moved to its current well-known location in the 70s, and recently became home to the Women’s Library. It provides a research base for LSE’s students, researchers, academics and visitors, covering subjects as diverse as gender, law, accounting and sociology. Having a background in law librarianship, Maria gave
guidance on the particular skills needed to work with an academic law collection; these
include knowledge of legal terminology and academic standards for legal citation and
research; managing and developing a relevant and sustainable collection that reflects
readers’ needs; and, in HE, teaching legal research skills to your users.
Developing a relationship with readers is of key importance for creating an accessible learning environment that underpins research; and Maria suggested that in future, it will become increasingly important for librarians to demonstrate how their skills are relevant for supporting researchers. That might be worth thinking about when putting your CV
together. To those starting out on library careers, Maria strongly recommended signing up for relevant training sessions, and taking opportunities to network; as she put it, “Building relationships takes time and must be maintained,” so it’s never too early to start making connections. – Micha, Andi
Karen Tulett and Susan Ryan, from the Corporate Information Management Team
of major multinational investment bank, Morgan Stanley, shared their experiences of
something you wouldn’t immediately expect when thinking about careers in libraries and
information. They are both involved in making sure that bankers within the organisation have the documents and research they need in order to do their jobs. This involves
working on a global scale to provide a 24/7 information service to the different offices that need it. Both also emphasised the skills important for a librarian in the banking sector:
creativity in the way you do your research, and keeping up to date with banking news in
order to work out what information might be needed before you are asked for it.
Research Manager Karen started her career as a Trainee in the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, before her Masters, and has since worked for several different banks in
Information Manager roles, including involvement in overseeing an outsourcing project. Susan, in contrast, has spent most of her career with Morgan Stanley, working her way up
through various different information and research posts to become Vendor Manager. She mentioned an ongoing movement in many banks to make some aspects of research off-shore, creating a team in another country. She spent several months in India setting up a new office and training new research staff who she now works closely with. – Becca
Mishcon de Reya (Law)
The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL), co-organiser of the open day, represents information managers in the legal sector, be that in the Inns of Court, law firms or academic libraries. Sandra Smythe, from private, international law firm Mishcon de Reya, talked about her role as Knowledge Manager. The KM is in charge of supporting the sharing of knowledge in an organisation; for example, through collaboration tools on the intranet, to promote information-sharing amongst colleagues. Key skills needed in this role are openness, communication, and the ability to work in a team.
Formerly, Sandra was Mishcon’s Senior Information Officer. Amongst other duties, this
intensive, varied job involves legal research, and remaining informed both of legal
developments, and of the organisations and individuals with whom Mishcon works.
Sandra has found her career in law librarianship fast-paced, confidence-building and
rewarding; and she assured aspiring law librarians that new entrants to the field are not
expected to arrive with legal research skills fully-formed, but will be trained. In her
previous role with a firm handling maritime law, she was sometimes called upon to aid with the interception of ships; which just goes to show that law librarianship is
full of variety! – Andi
Looking back, this was an informative day broken up with engaging tours. It was
interesting to hear about the different, sometimes surprising, forms librarianship and
career paths can take. We also learned that, for aspiring librarians, networking, passion
and curiosity are essential, along with an ability to recognize our transferable skills, such
as communication, collaboration and current awareness. Some of us got a clearer idea of where to take our careers next; others discovered interests in previously-unconsidered
sectors; overall, attending this event was greatly valuable for our personal development.
We’d like to thank the SLA, BIALL and CLSIG for organising this impressive open day.
— Primary editor, Andi Glover
For another perspective on the open day, see Sue Hill Recruitment’s blog post
Kat Steiner here again, one of the graduate trainees at the Bodleian Law Library. On Wednesday, Frankie Marsden and I headed down to London for the BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day, a day of presentations and tours based at the CILIP headquarters near Russell Square. We thought we’d give you a few of our thoughts on the day, especially on what we individually will take away from it.
A few acronym explanations before we start. BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CLSIG is a special interest group within CILIP standing for Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group, and SLA Europe is the European and UK division of the Special Libraries Association. Still with me? Just the names alone were a lot to take in!
Over the day, we heard 9 speakers, whose places of work included London law firms, the Law library of City University, the Wellcome Library, the British Medical Association, the Inner Temple, Linex (a company offering current awareness tools and aggregation for subscribers), and the British Library. It was fascinating to hear the stories of how they had reached their current jobs (often by a combination of luck, enthusiasm and perseverance), and their varied positions. It particularly stood out to me how many people mentioned TFPL, a recruitment agency, as being invaluable in helping them find jobs. I hadn’t heard of them, but I will definitely be looking into them now!
There was also the opportunity to go on a tour of either the Wiener Library, a collection for the study of the holocaust & genocide, the library of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, or the library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. As Law Bod trainees, Frankie and I both chose the IALS, and enjoyed a detailed tour and talk by David Gee, the Deputy Librarian. As the library takes three graduate trainees every year, he had a lot of insight and suggestions for what to do afterwards if you are thinking of going into law librarianship.
Several speakers were also from law firm libraries, or law librarians in other institutions, and it was very interesting to hear about their jobs in detail. I hadn’t personally thought much about specialising, or moving away from academic librarianship (I’m hoping to stay at the Bodleian while I do my library school masters), but there definitely seemed to be a lot to recommend ‘special libraries’. The chance to do real legal research was very attractive to me as an academic challenge (at the Law Bod, students are expected to do their own research, although there are lots of classes to help them learn how to do it). However, I’m not sure I could cope with the increased pressure, longer hours and difficult deadlines that come along with it. The rather better pay might sweeten the pill, though.
The talk that really stood out for me was from Simon Barron, a Project Analyst at the British Library. He focused on the concept of ‘digital librarians’, and the way that technology is transforming the information profession and will continue to do so. In the days of ‘big data‘ (a current buzzword that I’m still not hugely clear on – in my understanding, it can mean data sets so large that they allow statistical programs to crunch through them and draw remarkably accurate conclusions without any attempt at explaining how the causation between the conclusions and the data works), librarians who can code, use technology, and be willing to learn new technological skills will be more and more in demand. He described his current project with the British Library and the Qatar Foundation to create a digital National Library of Qatar. This is an ambitious project, involving huge numbers of documents to be digitised, including 14th- and 15th-century Arabic manuscripts. Simon’s job seemed to involve a lot of technological problem-solving, for example ‘how do we get this data out of this piece of software and into this other piece of software without losing it, or having to do it by hand’. He explained that his coding knowledge was entirely self-taught through Codecademy and that, although he didn’t consider it his crowning achievement, his colleagues were still very impressed when he made a spreadsheet where the boxes change colour depending on the data you enter.
Simon’s talk made a big impression on me, and really confirmed my feeling that the MSc in Information Science is for me. I have some basic experience with coding good practice (a 10-week internship at a software company, writing code in Perl), and the main thing I took away is that it’s really not that hard or scary, it just requires logic, perseverance (read: stubbornness even when it doesn’t work), and the willingness to have a go even if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I believe anyone who really wants to can learn to use technology, but they may not see the point. Simon emphasised the use of technology to automate what would be fairly simple human processes. This is a great point – if you can automate a simple action on a computer (for example, removing formatting from a text file, or averaging each row in a spreadsheet), you not only save time, you make the process scaleable to much larger sets of data, which would take humans far too long to deal with, and you reduce the possibility of human error, as long as your code actually works!
Anyway, you can see that this made quite an impression. Another thing I will take away is how many things are worth joining to get more involved in the information profession. You can join CILIP for £38 a year if you’re a student or graduate trainee, definitely worth doing! You can join SLA (of which SLA Europe is a chapter) for $40 a year if you’re a student (even part-time, but I’m not sure about graduate trainees). You can join BIALL for £17 a year if you are a full-time student. You might want to consider registering with TFPL. SLA Europe offers an Early Career Conference Award, which three of the speakers had won, allowing them to go to amazing conferences in San Diego, Chicago and Philadelphia. BIALL also offers an award for the best library school dissertation on a legal topic. And, finally, Information Architect is a job title it might be worth looking out for.
That’s pretty much all I have to say for this post (I’ve waffled for more than long enough). Frankie will be talking about the aspects of the day that she really liked, and I’m sure they will be very different! I just want to thank everyone who helped organise the conference – it gave me loads to think about, allowed me to meet plenty of other graduate trainees, and generally have a great time. For anyone who wants a more general idea of the day – the slides from the presentations that everyone gave can be found on the CLSIG website.