Tag Archives: librarians

LIS Qualifications – the up side

1 Feb

After a twitter exchange about @millieshoes about her blog post  on Library qualifications, I agreed I would try to blog about my own experience, and why I found the MSc at the University of Strathclyde invaluable for working as an Information Professional. Is there really such a variation across the UK? I think it is quite right that there should be practical elements. But I would not want to get rid of the theoretical content. How can you learn how to do the job well without understanding the theories behind *why* we do *what* we do?

I did this course back in 2006/7, so please don’t take for granted these subjects are still part of the course as it is now – ask these folks instead for that!

Also, I have not looked back at my notes from the course at all so this is a very subjective ‘what I recall and remember being particularly useful in the workplace’ account of my studies! Some were whole modules, others are tasks from one module or other that sticks out in my memory particularly.

Digital Archiving and Preservation – the cohort split into groups and each got a set of primary archive resources to digitally archive and catalogue. We also created a webpage, including content about the archived items from our research. Application of skills: technologies, metadata conventions, research (and of course referencing properly!)

Bibliographies – everyone got a different topic and had to produce a bibliography of some set number of items, as far as I remember anyway, along with a description of the search process. This was early on in the course, so introduced search techniques, resources like databases and catalogues, and then referencing.

Web design – definitely did some HTML, databases, excel, there was probably more – Pretty essential for all LIS professionals to have some basic knowledge about these.

Ethics – I do love a bit of library ethics, as you may know. Found this useful every day at work. I find it scary that there are practitioners out there without some understanding of the ethics of librarianship.

Classification and cataloguing – there was an exam for this section which is a straightforward and fair way to test how good you are at classifying! The only thing was that we learned how to use Web Dewey, and in the ‘real world’ I had to use the book versions and that switch took some getting used to!

Placement – there was so much to learn about on placement – I went to a University Library, and got to see a little bit of serials, subject services, special collections, the institutional repository, even stores, and to see RFID in action (still to this day my only experience of this technology!). There was a European Documentation Centre too and a day at the archives. A busy month!

Other skills would be things like giving presentations, working in a team. And there were a million other things too which I will have omitted! All-in-all, I would say the course I did was pretty good.

I don’t know if a) I had a particularly good experience b) I was just in the right frame of mind for that course at that time c) I really found my niche with this subject (which is why I’m now doing a PhD!). Hopefully this post might be useful anyway to give a flavour of what you *can* get out of a LIS qualification.

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Can you become…un-disillusioned?!

2 Nov Shows librarian getting increasingly frazzled as job takes over more and more of life until it is larger than life

Noisy Librarians“You have to do your librarianing within your overall resource, which is yourself!”

So, I was a school librarian for the last 4 years or so, and now I am a PhD student. I’m still working to improve libraries for teenagers – in a roundabout way, that’s what my research is about. I’m still a librarian – that’s my profession, and my background. I’ve realised very lately that after a period of disengagement and cynicism, I need to get re-engaged and updated.

About 18 months ago something really horrible happened that I can’t really blog about, just trust me, it was awful. The words “We’ve got to keep it together for the kids” were uttered and I tried, I really tried. Unsurprisingly, after a while I couldn’t keep doing that and had to take some time off to put “me” back together.

Prior to this, I guess I had been burning the candle at both ends, without realising it. I had various book groups going, library inductions, information literacy classes, visits, visitors, some clubs, a handful of ‘working groups’ or committees, in and out of school, trained/mentored people…..and probably another dozen things I’ve forgotten, as well as all the ‘usual’ stuff like, y’know, budget management, collection management, class visits, enquiries….it was all good stuff. I was described as “enthusiastic”. But it was too much and when something really bad happened I was way overstretched and couldn’t really cope emotionally.

After some much needed rest, I had to rethink my priorities and working practices, and changed things so I could work again and try to avoid another meltdown in future. A lot of this is stuff about me personally and I won’t go into that here (Reader: phew!). Some of it was maybe useful to pass on, things I would suggest to other solo librarians in whatever sector, such as have regular meetings with your manager, whether they’re a librarian or not, set aside proper time and space (i.e. somewhere you can shut a door!) minute them, talk about what you have been doing, what you are planning on doing, short and long-term, and you can periodically review how your various projects are going. If they don’t have a clue at the start, they’ll learn a lot about what you do just by having time to talk. The meetings don’t have to be formal – how can two people sitting in a cupboard office chatting over a packet of biscuits be that formal anyway? But you can formalise its existence; managers are busy, get that diary time, send an agenda, write minutes. Also, take your breaks, get a proper lunch and if you’re ill, don’t go to work!

Gradually, things were getting back to normal, it was slow and I felt wary of taking on new things. It wasn’t an ideal time, although of course there is no such thing. It wasn’t great to have work ‘restructuring’ all around while I was getting to grips with this stuff. I’m pretty sure there are still things to figure out. But I had at least learned about the Librarian / Person model:

Shows librarian getting increasingly frazzled as job takes over more and more of life until it is larger than life

I always wanted to invent a model for something...

As you can see…the principal is that you can have enough IDEAS to keep 10 people busy, but YOU CANNOT DO THE WORK OF 10 PEOPLE! In addition, The Librarian can only exist if YOU do too! If you are not well, library service closes – that’s the deal with solo librarians. If your employer really wanted a service that never closed for lunch, holidays, sickness, training, heck even toilet breaks, they would employ more librarians and they have chosen not to. This is hard to say to individual patrons who might be lovely and/or needy (please see This Blog for an excellent discussion of this in more detail!). But (shock!) you are a person too, and this does not make you a Bad Librarian. You have to do your librarianing within your overall resource, which is yourself!

“you can have enough IDEAS to keep 10 people busy, but YOU CANNOT DO THE WORK OF 10 PEOPLE!”

If you’re a solo librarian, and you’re not 100% because you’re stressed or depressed or grieving or whatever, you kinda need to reduce how much librarianing you do. Well, I was far from 100%, probably more like…11%, and that doesn’t come back right away, its really gradual. And I know I’m not alone – its been scientifically shown that librarians are stressed!

This post is partly to say there is life after stress! I’ve been given a great opportunity to do research which builds on the experience I already have, and I think that appealed to me because I didn’t stop having those ideas (the ones that’d be enough to keep 10 people busy) I just had to limit what I did. So this way, perhaps I can contribute to the profession best by sharing those ideas, doing research.

But partly it is to ask for input on how to re-engage professionally. I’ve found Twitter great recently for linking up with professionals in far-flung places such as Doncaster and even Hull! 😉 Seriously though, if for some reason you’re into blogs but not into twitter, give it a go! Interacting with other professionals has highlighted to me how much stuff is going on and I feel out of date! Even worse, I was telling some students only a few days ago that it is up to them to keep up to date with their professional association after they graduate and if they aren’t happy with their professional association, to get involved in it to make your voice heard – time I took my own medicine! These are some of the things I have done, or have looked into doing in future, to try to get back properly engaged with our profession, and I am looking for any other ideas too please 🙂

  • Reading newsletters again…properly…there was a point where I really felt like CILIP was positively useless for school libraries, maybe even damaging to us (I’m still a school librarian at heart, I think, so, ‘us’) and it just made me so angry I couldn’t face reading Update…sorry CILIP…however, I am back…
  • I’m not really sure how but I want to see if I can get involved with one of the regional or special interest groups.
  • Someone showed me Lanyrd which is a neat tool for finding about all these extremely cool sounding unconferences….sign me up!
  • CILIP website Communities section – initially got quite excited about this but it is still very quiet. It was too long since I’d had a proper look at the CILIP website though, and there is certainly potential there.
  • I don’t know if I still count as a ‘new professional’ but the ‘new professional network’ thing is something I mean to look in to.
  • I know I’m late to the party, but I think I will do the CPD23 thing
  • I even checked out what Revalidation is about, I’m not really sure but I’m interested and will bear it in mind.
  • There’s probably millions more ideas than this, do you have any suggestions??? Please comment!

Welcome to Noisy Librarians

1 Sep

I was hoping to start this blog of with something Grand, some sort of Mission Statement or rallying cry. In the end it was a small feature on the Today programme one morning which got me thinking. The radio news feature was about the decline in usage of public libraries (I only realised afterwards it was only about England, of course, as many ‘national’ news features are! I live in Scotland, please do not get me started about geographical bias in the media…). Obviously, neither of the interviewees were librarians, that would be a ridiculous idea! The participants were pro-libraries but I felt that the case made for libraries was weak. They focused on The Book being key to libraries, on reading being good for us as a nation, on a notion that reading makes for a more ‘reflective’ nation. Oh and crucially, that public libraries should ‘have a nice café’! I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Libraries need allies like authors and publishers. I love Library cafés, don’t get me wrong. But I would like to suggest there are more profound reasons why libraries are important for everyone.

For me, libraries are a part of human achievement that truly should be celebrated. Here are some of the reasons why…

A library is a place where anyone, of any background, income, age etc, can access any information for free. The Today feature crucially omitted this point. Libraries do not discriminate and they are for everyone. Through our public libraries everyone has free access to the media (newspapers, magazines, internet). This means that anyone in this country can make themselves an informed citizen. Perhaps we do not value this enough in the UK, there are parts of the world where this freedom is truly revolutionary. Free unfettered access to public information is essential to make democracy meaningful. If we value our freedom, our democracy, we should value our libraries.

Libraries are a great social equaliser. They have long been referred to as the ‘street corner universities’ and this role is more important than ever. Through public libraries, a person can educate themselves, access any human knowledge that has been published (remember inter-library loans! Not free but still cheap). Of course this is only useful if people have the skills to access that material, that is, that they are literate. And promoting literacy for all has long been something libraries have worked on in partnership with education professionals. In the last 2 decades ICT skills have become almost as vital as literacy, and library services also recognise this. In public libraries there are often free classes where you can gain ICT skills, so anyone in this country can empower themselves to use computers and the internet. They also provide free internet access. To get the internet in your home is not free. Internet connection costs money, computers cost money, electricity costs money. Many people are still not able to afford the internet in their home – but we have a great thing in this country, that is a public library network. Libraries are not all about The Book. I doubt they have ever been just about The Book. Its about connecting people to information, and empowering them with the skills they need to access that information.

Many of the most frequent users of public libraries are those groups who are least likely to be heard in the media. Children, older people, unemployed people, the housebound and remote communities are all examples of groups which benefit from a free library service. To illustrate this point, let us take the example of children. One of the Today interviewees mentioned the great way library loans allow you to experiment, to try new thing, new authors, new genres (did I mention, by the way, these loans are free?). This is true, but it is more than this. Parents can start taking their child to the library from any age, there are bounce and rhyme sessions, story time, bookstart. Parents and children themselves can then borrow and read any childrens’ books. Any child in this country has access to just as many childrens’ books as any other child in this country, regardless of how much their parents earn! How radical is that?! You can’t even buy a premium version, we are all equal in public libraries.

The real work is to make sure everyone knows about what we do. Whether people are ‘reflective’ or not is their own business, as libraries what we really want to do is provide everyone, without discrimination, with the information they want, to become informed citizens, to be able to educate themselves, to be able to engage in furthering human knowledge and understanding, to be able to read freely, to be able to share reading and books with their family, to access the media (online or otherwise) freely. This is radical. This is extraordinary. This is something we should truly be proud of.

What I am saying is this is about a bit more than putting a ‘nice cafe’ in there. Libraries are there already, certainly most of the librarians I come across are on board and are looking forward to the future. We want libraries that are welcoming modern spaces, that are open when people want to use them, that provide what people need with a friendly and helpful service.

The Today feature certainly started me thinking, and sure, the participants weren’t quite as well-informed about libraries as I would have liked, and I think a better defence of public libraries can and should be made. Who I really want to appeal to are my fellow professionals. We don’t hear enough in the media about what librarians are doing all around the country. Free unfettered access to information is a radical thing, but it has always been done quite quietly. Public libraries have had a presence, but have they had a voice? Library users come in all shapes and sizes, all incomes, all backgrounds, but those with the most need are also the least likely to be heard in society. In a time of budget cuts in almost every public service, there is an atmosphere of fear in the sector. I feel it in my own job, with service ‘restructuring’, I hear from friends and colleagues about job insecurity, job cuts causing greater strain on those of us who remain, graduates from library courses unable to get jobs. There is a great temptation to cower away, afraid that if attention is drawn to what we do that it will only make us a target for cuts. Maybe (people say) in a few years time, funding will come back for X project or Y job. I hope it does, but I don’t feel like waiting quietly to find out. Its too important. We need to tell people about what we do and why Libraries are essential. Libraries are really important and great work is being done out there but we don’t make enough noise about it.

I think we should start.

I was hoping to start this blog of with something Grand, some sort of Mission Statement or rallying cry. In the end it was a small feature on the Today programme one morning which got me thinking. The radio news feature was about the decline in usage of public libraries (I only realised afterwards it was only about England, of course, as many ‘national’ news features are! I live in Scotland, please do not get me started about geographical bias in the media…). Obviously, neither of the interviewees were librarians, that would be a ridiculous idea! The participants were pro-libraries but I felt that the case made for libraries was weak. They focused on The Book being key to libraries, on reading being good for us as a nation, on a notion that reading makes for a more ‘reflective’ nation. Oh and crucially, that public libraries should ‘have a nice café’! I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Libraries need allies like authors and publishers. I love Library cafés, don’t get me wrong. But I would like to suggest there are more profound reasons why libraries are important for everyone.

For me, libraries are a part of human achievement that truly should be celebrated. Here are some of the reasons why…

A library is a place where anyone, of any background, income, age etc, can access any information for free. The Today feature crucially omitted this point. Libraries do not discriminate and they are for everyone. Through our public libraries everyone has free access to the media (newspapers, magazines, internet). This means that anyone in this country can make themselves an informed citizen. Perhaps we do not value this enough in the UK, there are parts of the world where this freedom is truly revolutionary. Free unfettered access to public information is essential to make democracy meaningful. If we value our freedom, our democracy, we should value our libraries.

Libraries are a great social equaliser. They have long been referred to as the ‘street corner universities’ and this role is more important than ever. Through public libraries, a person can educate themselves, access any human knowledge that has been published (remember inter-library loans! Not free but still cheap). Of course this is only useful if people have the skills to access that material, that is, that they are literate. And promoting literacy for all has long been something libraries have worked on in partnership with education professionals. In the last 2 decades ICT skills have become almost as vital as literacy, and library services also recognise this. In public libraries there are often free classes where you can gain ICT skills, so anyone in this country can empower themselves to use computers and the internet. They also provide free internet access. To get the internet in your home is not free. Internet connection costs money, computers cost money, electricity costs money. Many people are still not able to afford the internet in their home – but we have a great thing in this country, that is a public library network. Libraries are not all about The Book. I doubt they have ever been just about The Book. Its about connecting people to information, and empowering them with the skills they need to access that information.

Many of the most frequent users of public libraries are those groups who are least likely to be heard in the media. Children, older people, unemployed people, the housebound and remote communities are all examples of groups which benefit from a free library service. To illustrate this point, let us take the example of children. One of the Today interviewees mentioned the great way library loans allow you to experiment, to try new thing, new authors, new genres (did I mention, by the way, these loans are free?). This is true, but it is more than this. Parents can start taking their child to the library from any age, there are bounce and rhyme sessions, story time, bookstart. Parents and children themselves can then borrow and read any childrens’ books. Any child in this country has access to just as many childrens’ books as any other child in this country, regardless of how much their parents earn! How radical is that?! You can’t even buy a premium version, we are all equal in public libraries.

The real work is to make sure everyone knows about what we do. Whether people are ‘reflective’ or not is their own business, as libraries what we really want to do is provide everyone, without discrimination, with the information they want, to become informed citizens, to be able to educate themselves, to be able to engage in furthering human knowledge and understanding, to be able to read freely, to be able to share reading and books with their family, to access the media (online or otherwise) freely. This is radical. This is extraordinary. This is something we should truly be proud of.

What I am saying is this is about a bit more than putting a ‘nice cafe’ in there. Libraries are there already, certainly most of the librarians I come across are on board and are looking forward to the future. We want libraries that are welcoming modern spaces, that are open when people want to use them, that provide what people need with a friendly and helpful service.

The Today feature certainly started me thinking, and sure, the participants weren’t quite as well-informed about libraries as I would have liked, and I think a better defence of public libraries can and should be made. Who I really want to appeal to are my fellow professionals. We don’t hear enough in the media about what librarians are doing all around the country. Free unfettered access to information is a radical thing, but it has always been done quite quietly. Public libraries have had a presence, but have they had a voice? Library users come in all shapes and sizes, all incomes, all backgrounds, but those with the most need are also the least likely to be heard in society. In a time of budget cuts in almost every public service, there is an atmosphere of fear in the sector. I feel it in my own job, with service ‘restructuring’, I hear from friends and colleagues about job insecurity, job cuts causing greater strain on those of us who remain, graduates from library courses unable to get jobs. There is a great temptation to cower away, afraid that if attention is drawn to what we do that it will only make us a target for cuts. Maybe (people say) in a few years time, funding will come back for X project or Y job. I hope it does, but I don’t feel like waiting quietly to find out. Its too important. We need to tell people about what we do and why Libraries are essential. Libraries are really important and great work is being done out there but we don’t make enough noise about it.

I think we should start.