Summary of Graduate Library Trainee Training (so far)

As Graduate Library Trainee, I have had – since September – quite a lot of training. I’ve become very familiar with Osney Mead industrial estate, which is where a lot of Bodleian staff training takes place, as well as some of the more specialist cataloguing, the Bodleian Digital Systems and Services, and a few other departments. The mud spatters on my bike every time that I go down the tow path can testify to my journeys there, but the weekly trips with my fellow trainees are a chance to learn a bit more about the world of libraries and can often offer knowledge or perspectives that are very welcome to me as a newcomer to the library world. This post will hopefully give you an insight into what kind of training we have as Oxford Library Trainees, every Wednesday afternoon.

Michaelmas term was orientation, an intensive few weeks of the systems that we use here. There was Circulation for Desk Staff, Customer Care, Resource Discovery, Working Safely, Supporting Disabled readers and discovering the mysterious workings of Aleph, our library software, all completed in September, allowing me to get up and running with the systems. October saw the start of graduate training proper, with sessions designed introduce us to the Bodleian as a whole and libraries more generally. There were visits to other parts of the Bodleian to help us to get a handle on the diversity of things that go on here and how they all hang together – from the dignified turrets of the Old Bodleian to the Weston’s shiny new spaces, including Special Collections and Conservation, and also a trip to the leviathan behind it all, the BSF, where books go to be ‘ingested’. They are also circulated from there around all the libraries, the speed and efficiency of which was impressive. My fellow trainee David wrote a blog post on it, here. There was a session on e-developments at the Bodleian, too, which was particularly interesting. We were introduced to such things as open access, the Bodleian Digital Library, ORA as a digital repository for Oxford’s research, and some of the issues around e-Legal Deposit. (For those not in the know, Legal Deposit is an arrangement whereby five libraries in the UK are entitled to a copy of everything published here; e-Legal Deposit is the same principle for electronic works, but I am not really qualified to talk about all the complications of either system. However, there is a brief overview by a former trainee that you can read here.)

Duke Humphrey’s Library in the Old Bodleian. Credit David Iliff (Creative Commons licence).
The shiny Weston Library’s entrance hall. Credit Paul Hayday (Creative Commons licence)

Then there was training focussed more on our future as library professionals, such as the session on Professional Qualifications, which included some talks by former trainees who had completed or were undergoing their degrees. We got the low-down on what types of degree there are, where they are offered, and what to consider when applying. This term we’ve had a sort of follow up in the session on Career Opportunities and Skills Workshop, where there were some tips on CVs, networking and interviews, and some very good talks by former Law Library trainees, which were particularly interesting to me as the current Law Library trainee.

I’ve also been lucky compared to other trainees, because my supervisor lets me to do plenty of training in my role that not all of the trainees get. I’ve had training on serials and acquisitions, and these things tied into my role here, since I’m able to assist both teams: that is, I can process new journals which arrive periodically, and can help in the process of buying new things for the library. There was also a session that I attended more recently with two of my colleagues, entitled Preservation Advice for Library Staff, where we learnt about how to set up and maintain a library space that is safest for your books, plus some detail on the dangers ranged against them (the seven agents of decay, which sounds to me a bit like a fantasy book series waiting to happen). The seven agents of decay include physical forces – such as handling by readers – fire, water, pests, pollutants, light, incorrect temperature, and incorrect relative humidity. Oxford is an especially damp place (as I can testify to – I’ve already had an outbreak of mould in my wardrobe since moving here), so the everyday monitoring of collections is particularly relevant.

Humidity control is important. Photo credit to Alex Walker, Acting Head of Preventative Conservation.

This term’s training started off with a visit to Oxford Brookes Library, which was a fancy new building at their main Headington campus. We had a tour, learning about their use of space, which is divided into various zones of noise so that both quiet study and group work are encouraged, and a bit about their collections and processes. There was also a look at their Special Collections, which was quite eclectic (an artificial arm, a golden wok). Last week we had a session on effective training techniques, very useful for any kind of induction, training and indeed presentation that I may do in the future. There was also Libraries and Social Media yesterday afternoon, at which we learnt about the key principles of social media for libraries, and thought through a few of the possibilities and issues with social media in general and certain platforms for certain libraries in particular. From that session I’ve taken away a healthy appreciation of animated gifs when it comes to medical textbooks, and a newfound love of Orkney Library. (See the Wellcome Unit Library’s feed, here, and Orkney Library’s feed, here, respectively.)

Next up will be Talks on the Book Trade; Collection and Resource Description; and some visits to other Oxford libraries, including All Souls’ Codrington Library, the Alexander Library of Ornithology, the Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy and the Radcliffe Science Library. I’m also booked on to a minute-taking session, since taking the minutes at our staff meeting is one of my duties, and a session on Academic searching with Google and alternatives.

My favourite training sessions are definitely those that touch on librarianship as a whole, since what I learn every day here is about how this library works. Bernadette O’Reilly’s OLIS training course was particularly good in that respect, as was the E-Developments session by Michael Popham and Sally Rumsey. All of these looked outwards a bit, explaining, for example, how the publishing habits of publishers like Elsevier impact on the libraries’ and university’s open access policies. The tours can also contribute to this broader perspective, especially when we can find out a bit about the history of a library or, equally important, a particular librarian’s career. So training is definitely a very important and useful part of my role here, and something that is particularly special about the job of Graduate Library Trainee. I hope this gives a sense of the myriad of things that we get up to, and how it benefits us and our libraries.

Open Day for New Professionals with SLA Europe, BIALL and CLSIG – Part 2

Written and edited by: Micha Cook, Codrington Library; Andi Glover, Bodleian Law
Library; Hannah Hickman, History Faculty Library; and Becca Wray, Social Science Library

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.

Enticingly retro-looking tapes in the BBC Archive. Photo by Andy Armstrong
Enticingly retro-looking tapes in the BBC Archive. Photo by Andy Armstrong

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.

The impressive spiral staircase in the LSE Library. Photo by ZhaoSiyun_HeavenBlue on Flickr
The impressive spiral staircase in the LSE Library. Photo by ZhaoSiyun_HeavenBlue on Flickr

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

Morgan Stanley

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

Photo by indicpeace on Flickr
Photo by indicpeace on Flickr

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

Photo by Mariusz Kluzniak
Photo by Mariusz Kluzniak

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

Follow the links to find out more about SLA Europe, BIALL and
CLSIG, a special interest group of CILIP

For another perspective on the open day, see Sue Hill Recruitment’s blog post

Open Day for New Professionals with SLA Europe, BIALL and CLSIG – Part 1

Written and edited by: Micha Cook, Codrington Library; Andi Glover, Bodleian Law
Library; Hannah Hickman, History Faculty Library; Becca Wray, Social Science Library

In April, seven of the Bodleian trainees headed off to CILIP HQ in London for the
SLA Europe, BIALL & CLSIG New Professionals’ Open Day: a chance to hear presentations
by information professionals from several well-known “special libraries”, and to network with the speakers, other trainees and Master’s students. Here, we report back on our
experiences of the day: what we learned, and why the next Open Day might be useful to others considering careers in library and information science.

Photo by WordShore on Flickr
Photo by WordShore on Flickr

NERA Economic Consulting

In the first talk, Hanna Shearring spoke about her role as Associate Information Resources Consultant (IRC) at NERA (@NERA_Economics), which undertakes research on behalf of mostly corporate clients. Her job is similar to a subject librarian’s role with academic
researchers; she works closely with clients and uses specialist knowledge to ascertain
exactly which information they need, and which sources and institutions could provide it. This may entail persisting with enquiries involving several institutions and individuals, such as tenders taken on for the EU: more negotiation than is usually necessary in an HE
library. IRCs are less desk-based than many Graduate Trainees, and, interestingly, work with fewer book-based sources than most of our readers.

For Hanna, her post offers a chance for continual learning, for gaining new skills and knowledge; she also said that socialising with colleagues after work helped to build her network and professional identity. For trainees, chatting with fellow librarians can be a good way of finding opportunities, such as chances to volunteer; and indeed, Hanna left us with the advice to follow our natural curiosity, asking established professionals about their careers and pursuing any intriguing leads. – Micha, Andi

Wellcome Library

Danny Rees’ talk on the Wellcome Library and his role as an outreach librarian touched on and accentuated the diversity of the library’s collections and the active involvement of the Wellcome Trust with the dialogue on access, outreach, and hot topics like the digitisation of manuscripts. Getting excited about cataloguing makes me a rare beast in our group of trainees and it was Danny Rees’ answer to my question about the structure of the
cataloguing department at the Wellcome Library, including specialist librarian and
archivist cataloguers working on specific parts of the collection, which sticks with me.

Photos by Hannah Hickman
Photos by Hannah Hickman

His talk was complemented by the fact that it was followed directly by a fascinating tour. The latter took us to the library and the newly incarnated reading room filled with a bizarre collection of singularly remarkable objects. We were told during the tour that every staff member at the Wellcome library had come to the job with different academic backgrounds and interests and so brought something unique to the greater team. From the fondness with which this reading room/ gallery/social space was described, I like to imagine that the displays included exciting discoveries made by the staff!

The wonderfully unique reading room, with its enlightening medical history exhibits and cosy staircase seating
The wonderfully unique reading room, with its enlightening medical history exhibits and cosy staircase seating

Looked at in unison, the library and this hybrid space confirmed that the Wellcome is not only a multi-faceted institution, but the outcome of a concerted effort to incorporate the pursuit of knowledge, with the preservation and promotion of culturally and historically significant objects relating to the medical sciences. The library, open to anyone who wished to join, felt exactly like an academic research library made more by the beautiful paintings from the Wellcome collection which were unaffectedly exhibited throughout. Small things like the colour-coded finding aids on the shelf-ends, both considered and
decorative, hinted at a careful guardianship and respect for the space and collections on
behalf of both readers and staff.

The leaflet for the library boasts the heading “the free library for the incurably curious” and adorns my wall as a reminder that I have yet to walk up to the reception desk, identity proof in hand, to officially join the ranks of the inquisitive. That said, I expect it’ll stay there; it gave me great delight to see what I hope was an intentional medical pun—the readers are incurable, not terminal, you see! – Micha

Andi, Micha and Duncan with the virtual autopsy table, the popular exhibit revealing layers of the human body
Andi, Micha and Duncan with the virtual autopsy table, the popular exhibit revealing layers of the human body

Extract Information (Intellectual Property)

As trainees, many of us are most familiar with academic librarianship, and perhaps with working in public libraries; so Jane List surprised us with her talk about
Extract Information, the patent research company she founded in 2013. Jane works
primarily as a consultant involved in research to solve her clients’ IP-related problems.
She set up her business after a career in research and development librarianship, and
database-testing for scientific research bodies. She has built up a wealth of experience of
information roles in intellectual property, with one of her areas of expertise being Asian patent information; an area that is fast growing with the advance of technology in the Far East, particularly in Korea. She told us that this has created a demand amongst businesses and legal organisations for translators of Asian languages; so Korean-speaking information
managers could find they have an unexpected skill to offer in the field of IP. – Andi

Photo by Michael Neubert
Photo by Michael Neubert

Careers tips from Suzanne Wheatley and Victoria Sculfor, Recruitment Specialists

Suzanne and Victoria from Sue Hill Recruitment (@SueHillRec) and TFPL (@tfpl_Ltd)
gave some extremely useful advice on careers planning and writing a CV for
recruitment agencies. Highlights included:

• Make the personal profile on your CV reflect what you’re doing at the moment: recruiters want to build up a picture of you to help them find the most suitable opportunities

• Also on your CV, list your achievements, technical experience such as the software you regularly use at work, and professional activity (training, forums, open days you’ve been to)

• Recruiters are very willing to work to your timescale: let them know when you’re looking to start work, and they’ll bear this in mind when finding opportunities for you

• Creating a profile on a site like LinkedIn makes you more accessible to potential
employers

• Find a job you love: you will be more productive at work, and much happier

– Andi

This is the first of a 2-part series of blog posts on this excellent open day. The next
instalment features the BBC Archive, Mishcon de Reya, Morgan Stanley and the LSE Library!
Primary editor: Andi Glover

Reflecting on the ARLIS career workshop

Photo taken from the Rivington Place website
Photo taken from the Rivington Place website

This year, Taking the Plunge: art librarianship as a career option was held on the 20th of April in the Stuart Hall Library at Iniva. The day garnered interest from delegates at different stages of their careers and from a variety of institutions, and brought them together with an equally interesting range of speakers who spoke informally about the ways in which they had progressed into art librarianship and the nature of their work at present. The interludes, led by Darlene Maxwell, gave continuity to the day, drawing similarities from each presentation to address the role of the art librarian in general. The intimate setting encouraged a conversational tone and truly made the event a “workshop”, encouraging an easy dialogue between delegates and speakers.

Without apparent coordination, the speakers echoed each other in their view of art librarianship. They painted a picture of a multifaceted profession that drew from a wide skillset. The speakers spoke of the “art library” as a broad term as well, describing institutions in a wide range of physical spaces, with collections that covered more than one subject-area or interest group. Consequently, their advice often revealed the value of thinking laterally; the career histories of each of the speakers made clear that art librarians can exist in different incarnations and use their skills in roles that do not overtly declaim them as “librarians” or “information professionals”.

Andrew Gray and Nicola Saliss stressed that the “art library” must be different for the users of visual resources have a visual approach to learning in general. Gray explained the fundamental need to evaluate the concept of “data” in an arts context specifically, thinking broadly about the forms these can take and questioning the semantics of the word “data” for the user of the arts repository. Unexpectedly, he also stressed that the digital interface of the art repository had to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional to prevent resistance from art practitioners in making use of the provision. From her experience working as the Information Specialist for Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University, Salliss, spoke about working in an arts library integrated in a larger academic institution. She drew out the notion that artists and tutors present an entirely different audience to those in a typical academic setting by addressing the joys, and challenges, of working with (and for) a diverse user-group with a range of interests, unpredictable research skills, and often alternative approach to learning.

On the subject of getting into the field, the need for internal and external advocacy and professional awareness through all levels was made paramount. In each of their talks, Helen Williamson, Evelyn Jamieson, and Ayesha Khan (in their range of experience) emphasised how a thoughtful positive and proactive approach to work could directly lead to career progression or a betterment of the workplace and your role within it. Williamson’s account of the Library Closure Project and her efforts, and success, in saving the Horniman’s Museum Library were particularly astonishing and inspiring. Interesting, she stressed the importance of knowing when to be dispassionate and when to ask for help. Her insight into the life of a sole librarian corroborated the advice of the other speakers on the advantages of networking and how this could be done successfully using social media.

The more practical aspects of each of the talks, in providing helpful hints for applying for work in the sector were well-balanced and coordinated. It was refreshing to hear from Sue-Hill representative Donald Lickley, a recruiter with personal working experience in the library sector. Jamieson and Khan, that had both recently sought, and acquired, a new job in the sector, presented an illuminating parallel. Jamieson, still early in her career, was very relatable and counterbalanced Khan’s voice of experience. She spoke about the various opportunities for training offered by ARLIS, CILIP and other professional organisations and exemplified, with personal anecdotes, that they were not as out-of-reach as they might seem. She also offered advice on how to maximise the output of training, explaining that by writing reports and sending feedback she was able to ensure a continued allowance for professional development after she became employed. Khan’s talk brought valuable insights into how a librarian with greater experience markets herself for interview. She stressed the importance of being involved and mindfulness within a larger organisation and team; it was her view that “soft skills” become more important as you progress through your career and the public person becomes more visible and as such shouldn’t be ignored from the start.

The day ended with a short history of the Stuart Hall Library by Nicholas Brown and a walk through of the libraries collections through time. The depth of knowledge about how the collections were built through relationships with art movements and individual artists over time was impressive; one to aspire to should we ever end up in charge of a library of that kind.

I am sure I speak for all attendees in saying the day was incredibly helpful and has certainly met all expectations in providing helpful insight into art librarianship. Thank you to all the speakers, the staff of INIVA, and ARLIS for organising the workshop.

Michelle Cook, Trainee at the Codrington Library, All Souls College, Oxford.

This piece will also appear in the ARLIS newsletter. Thank you to the committee for letting me publish it here.

Calling all prospective trainees…

December is an exciting time of the year: dark nights, mulled wine, pervasive Christmas cheer… and (of course) the announcement of next year’s traineeships!

Nine traineeships are available for 2015/2016. It’s a great way to prepare for a library career, learn on the job, and meet lots of lovely people! You can find out more and apply here. The deadline is 2nd February.

Other traineeships can be found on CILIP’s website here.

Visit to the National Art Library

Although I am undertaking my traineeship at the Law Bod and am hugely enjoying it, my background is actually in Art History and, at the end of last term, I was lucky enough to be able to visit the National Art Library for a private tour and a chance to learn more about the profession of art librarianship.

The library is housed in the wonderful Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington and, having arrived in London a little early on a particularly chilly December morning, I wasted no time in scurrying into this magical place for a quick look around. Established in the 19th century, the collection – which spans over two thousand years and four different continents – is a treasure trove of inspiration and creativity: from fashion and textiles to glass and metalwork; prints, paintings, and photography to sculpture, ceramics, and furniture.

The V&A’s John Madjeski Garden – image courtesy of Edward Hill Photography, via the Victoria & Albert Museum website.

It’s an easy place in which to lose both yourself and your bearings – and I must admit that, in my search for the library entrance, I did spend quite a while wandering around the ironwork galleries in circles and puzzling over floorplans before realising that I was looking for stairs that didn’t actually exist. But I got there in the end, to be greeted by Assistant Librarian Sally Williams and a truly beautiful reading room.

Sally explained that the NAL is a public library that anyone can register to use by applying for a reader’s ticket. This is a straightforward process without the need for formal letters of recommendation or academic credentials (although certain items are restricted), meaning that the library has a reputation for being more friendly and approachable than others of its kind. The library’s welcoming attitude also attracts a wide variety of readers – from curators and academics, to arts professionals and collectors, to students and interested members of the general public.

Like the Law Library here at Oxford, the NAL is reference only – meaning that no books are permitted to leave the reading rooms. Most of the material is stored in closed stacks rather than on open display, and readers are required to order items for consultation either in advance of their visit using the online library catalogue, or on the day by filling out a paper request slip. With the exceptions of the Linder Bequest, Linder Archive and Linder Collection (three groups of material by and relating to Beatrix Potter), the Renier Collection of Children’s Literature, and a large number of other children’s books (all of which are kept in the Victoria & Albert Museum Archives at Blythe House in West London), everything is stored within the library itself and the staff carry out book collections every hour to retrieve requested items. Sally stressed that it can take up to 40 minutes to locate and deliver an item to a reader, so I think she felt a bit better when I told her it can take an entire day here!

The library’s holdings, which consist of over 1 million items, are split into two categories: the General Collection and Special Collections. The first of these spans a variety of formats – such as books, journals, magazines and electronic resources – and includes all key artistic areas covered by the V&A, as well as a broader range of Humanities-based material such as literary and historical works. Two particularly useful features for researchers are the large collections of auction and exhibition catalogues, which can help to provide vital background information regarding the provenance and historical context of specific items. Because the library’s acquisitions remit is so broad, it also holds a number of surprising things: for example, hundreds of back-editions of Vogue (useful for fashion students) and a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio.  The Special Collections continue this broad coverage, and mostly contain items that require extra care for conservation reasons – such as manuscripts or elaborately bound books. For more information about the library’s collections, click here.

The National Art Library's main reading room - image courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum website.
The National Art Library’s main reading room – image courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum website.

Making up one aspect of the V&A’s Word and Image Department (the largest section in the museum), the NAL also functions as the curatorial division for the art of the book. As such, its staff structure – made up of around 40 people – is split into two areas: Collections and Information Services. While the Collections team are concerned primarily with the display and conservation of the physical items themselves, the Information Services team are focused more on front-of-house matters such as reader enquiries and the library’s online presence.

Sally is based in the Information Services department, and a large part of her role includes giving tours and inductions like the one she was kind enough to give me. As part of my session Sally introduced me to Librarian Bernadette Archer, who is also part of the Information Services team and is responsible for tasks including the maintenance of the library’s website and intranet, alongside more specialised projects such as the digitisation of artists’ books. Talking to both Sally and Bernadette was extremely interesting, as my conversations with them highlighted two different views on the best route into art librarianship:

Sally originally trained in textile practice, before going on to work in a museum and obtaining an NVQ in curating. In exactly the same way I’ve done, she then decided to move from the museum sector to the library profession, which is how she came to her position at the NAL and is now being sponsored through an NVQ in Information Studies. Although Sally was quick to admit that hers has been a rather unconventional journey, she was very encouraging of the idea that it’s possible to get into art librarianship at a junior level before undertaking a postgraduate qualification.

Bernadette, however, took the more traditional route of gaining a Masters in librarianship prior to employment in the field and advised that, in her experience, art libraries value a postgraduate qualification from an accredited library school more highly than a background in the arts. I was hugely surprised to learn that, as far as Bernadette knew, none of the staff members at the NAL are trained in Art History!

So, all in all, I came away with a lot of positive guidance to consider. I have since joined the UK branch of the Art Libraries Society (ARLIS UK) in order to further my knowledge and current awareness of the field, as well as to receive information on job vacancies and events. I have also been researching City University’s MA in Information Studies in the Cultural Sector, which looks incredibly interesting and is definitely something I would like to consider in the future.*

Many thanks to Emma Sullivan and Tamsyn Prior from the Bodleian Staff Development team for helping me to arrange this visit, and to Sally Williams and Bernadette Archer at the NAL for sparing the time to tell me a bit about what they do.

*Edit 01/04/2014: Since writing this post I have been informed by City University that, unfortunately, the MA in Information Studies in the Cultural Sector is being discontinued.

BIALL, CLSIG and SLA Europe Open Day 2013 part 2

Hello, Francesca here, Academic Services trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. Following on from Kat’s post, here’s a little of what I took away from the BIALL, CLSIG, and SLA Europe Open Day (acronyms helpfully explained by Kat below!) which we were lucky enough to attend at the CILIP head offices in London on Wednesday.

After a nice rush hour battle with the tube, I soon settled in to the talk by the first of the day’s nine speakers, each of whom gave a fascinating insight into their career paths to date. What I learnt immediately from Jacky Berry’s presentation was that there are a lot more sectors into which a professional qualification in Librarianship and Information can lead that I had imagined! Jacky’s experiences and suggestions for sectors to look in included Building and Architecture, MI5 and charities. The number of different job titles associated with the information profession is also never-ending, and it was interesting to learn of Jacky’s management of the recent redevelopment of the British Medical Association Library. It was an excellent eye-opener to the types of roles to look out for.

IALS Library
IALS Library. Image from Twitter.

I had however, gone into the day hoping to learn more about the Legal sector, whether as a law librarian in an academic institutiton, or as a researcher for a law firm. Working for the Bodleian Law Library has certainly inspired me to consider specialising withing the legal sector when I finish my traineeship, and gain my professional qualification.  Six of the day’s nine speakers either work or have worked as a law librarian or for a law firm, and we were given an insightful tour of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount of information given. (A little overwhelmed maybe, but now is the time to go away and process it!)

Two of the speakers were recent graduates, both recipients of the SLA Early Career Conference Award. Both now work as Information Officers for London law firms. It was interesting to hear from people not long ago in my position on how they got to where they are, and allowed me to see that it is something realistic for me to pursue, given my experience in the Bodleian Law Library, and my enrollment on the MScEcon Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University. Their talks gave extremely useful tips on how to make yourself stand out. Indeed, I am a little behind the times, and yet to open a Twitter account or a LinkedIn account. Marie Cannon’s talk reminded and persuaded me of the importance of these tools (when used sensibly!) in keeping up to date with developments in the sector, keeping in touch and making new connections with professionals, and in job hunting in all areas of librarianship. I shall be going home to create these this weekend! Sam Wiggins highlighted the usefulness of joining professional bodies, particularly for those in corporate sectors such as law, and trying your luck at applying for awards and bursaries such as the ECCA . ‘If you don’t ask (apply), you don’t get’!

There were also two talks from established Librarians, one from Emily Allbon, Law Librarian at City University Library, and one from Sandra Smythe, Senior Information Officer at a London law firm. It was extremely interesting (and again a little overwhelming!) to learn of the huge variety of tasks that Emily undertakes as City’s Law Librarian, from teaching and managing budgets to her work on creating Lawbore, a fanatastic directory for students of links to law resources on the web. I am still very much drawn towards attempting to stay working in an academic environment, as I thoroughly enjoy the interaction with students. However, like Kat, the idea of undertaking legal research is an inviting (if daunting!) challenge. Sandra discussed her past and current roles working for London law firms. The process of research has always been something I thoroughly enjoy, and whilst in an academic situation the students research for themselves, a role at a law firm would be a great opportunity to continue researching myself (albeit under quite demanding and time-pressured circumstances!)

As you can see, then, the open day has given me a lot of food for thought! I too would like to thank everyone involved, particularly those who spoke – the talks were thought-provoking and extremely useful at this point in my deciding what opportunities to seek, whether they end up being in the legal sector, or somewhere else. I also learnt that planning a path in the Information sector doesn’t always work, so we shall see! As mentioned by Kat, the presentations can be found on the CLSIG event pages.

BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day 2013 part 1

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!

Copyright Wellcome Library
The Wellcome Library

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 TempleLinex (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.

Copyright Inner Temple Library
The Inner Temple Library

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.

CILIP Career Development Group New Professionals Conference 2011

On Monday, June 20th, I attended the CILIP Career Development Group’s New Professionals Conference at the University of Manchester, along with Kirsty Braithwaite, Anna Smith and Sonja Kujansuu from the Bodleian Law Library. I initially found out about this conference through Twitter (#npc2011), in addition to the CILIP CDG website, and thought that it might be very useful to attend, given that the conference theme was “Activism and Professionalism at a Time of Downturn”, and, as graduate trainees soon about to embark on our journey towards becoming information professionals, this topic is extremely relevant.

The conference consisted of a two series of presentations with two workshops.

The morning programme opened with three presentations:

Helen Murphy presented the CPD23, 23 Things for Continuing Professional Development. Her presentation and links to the CPD23 programme can be found here.  Given that training budgets are often reduced, information professionals must continue to develop their skills and take charge of their own career development. The CPD23 programme is available for anyone to join, allowing work at one’s own pace. It is inclusive, informal and cost-free. Like the 23 Things programme, the CPD23 programme explores emerging technology which impact on the information profession, but differs from the 23 Things programme in that it examines and focuses on devlopment of professional skills (such as social networking for career development, personal branding and on-line presence). The CPD23 programme enables information professionals to share expertise and learn from others, thereby forming strong networks, and also encourages one to grow in confidence as goals are achieved.

The next presentation, given by Rachel Bickley, discussed how new professionals can establish a dialogue with experienced professionals for career development. Again, this presentation stressed the importance of establishing networks. New professionals can benefit from the expertise of experienced professionals, but are often perceived as lacking in skills and “cliquey” with their on-line communities. New professionals must be ready to think outside the box and take advantage of transferrable skills whilst demonstrating a willingness to learn and forge strong networks.

Sam Wiggins and Laura Williams then presented “What makes an Information ‘Professional‘”. This talk was very well-researched, and I was impressed with the depth and scope of the work. I found this talk particularly relevant given the debate over obtaining professional qualifications (postgraduate degrees and chartership) versus on-the-job experience, particularly as the definition of an “information professional” is evolving and changing.

I was fortunate to attend a workshop facilitated by Simon Barron and Alice Halsley on activism for new professionals. Simon and Alice are members of a library activism group, Voices for the Library, which has been very active in campaigning against library closures and funding cuts to public library services. I found this workshop inspring and engaging. Activism is not only marching in demonstrations, but can also take the form of everyday actions such as telling friends and family to visit their local public libraries. Activism can be used to boost your professional profile, as it can add to your toolkit of professional skills, thereby filling gaps in your CV. Finally, activism for libraries is in itself a worthwhile pursuit, as new professionals should be advocates of their profession, contributing to both short-term and long-term change for the better.

Following a light lunch, I attended the second workshop facilitated by Sue Hornby and Bob Glass: “Raising your Professional Profile”. This workshop enabled the participants to explore and become aware of potentially overlooked professional skills and transferrable skills such as communication, networking and time and resource management.

The afternoon session also consisted of three presentations:

Ka-Ming Pang and Joseph Norwood gave a beautifully-illustrated talk on LIS student activism and why it is important for LIS students to become engaged and involved with their profession.

Megan Wiley then presented on the need to develop professionalism in a careers information team.

Finally, the award-winning presentation of the day was given by Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert,  special collections librarians at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Their presentation examined outreach as a means of raising the public profile both of the library and its collections and librarianship as a profession. Their projects focussed on specific items within the library’s collections, in this case, the archives of the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, and  a 15th Century text on magic tricks, Hocus Pocus Junior (1638). The Hoyle project involved making your own astrolabe. You can even give it a go yourself!

In all, the CILIP New Professionals Conference was an engaging and inspiring look at what the profession will mean to new information professionals, and a practical examination at what we can do to further our own career development, thereby affecting the future of the profession as a whole.