Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Former Librarian #25

We have finally made it to 25 Former Librarians, just in time for the end of the year!  If you were planning to help us out - there is still time, please contact us now!  Tara is in the process of making a career as a Freelance Researcher having been a subject librarian for some years.

Name: Tara

Current role: Freelance Researcher

Former role: Researcher/Subject Librarian

What led you to move on from libraries? I’d been working in academic libraries for some time in subject librarian roles and whilst I enjoyed the teaching and collection management side of the roles I was aware of a tension between what I felt students needed to equip them in HE study and the emphasis university senior leadership was putting on the “student experience” in the light of fees. I really felt that the subject librarian’s role was being devalued because core/traditional skills were not view as important by the student body. I felt, and do feel that many students know what they want but not what they need, and university leadership feels compelled to pander to these ’wants’ because of the high financial commitments students are bound to. After academia, I briefly worked in a corporate information and research service as a researcher but found the environment very risk-averse and my workload very uneven. It was also becoming apparent to me that I no longer wanted to work full-time in Central London for large organisations as it was having a detrimental effect on my health. I have always enjoyed the desk research aspects of my roles so I decided to see if there was a way I could combine my expertise in that area, with my wish to work in a less pressurised environment.

What do you do in your current role? I provide a bespoke internet research service for individuals and businesses. I’m still finding my feet and working out the best way to take the business forward, but I’ve has some interesting projects so far. My first project (which came about through Twitter!) was with David Quantick, the screenwriter and journalist, who needed some research on a specific industry and its processes to inform the novel he is working on. For this I needed to do extensive internet research as well as contacting and interviewing industry experts. I’ve undertaken legal research looking at drone regulations across the world, as well trying to identify a foreign language film that was broadcast on ITV Yorkshire in 1997 - it’s amazing what people will pay you to do! The freelancing website People Per Hour has been useful on occasion, although the quality of jobs really varies – lots of students wanting essays written! 

What library skills do you use in your current role? Search skills are paramount to what I do, as is being able to critically evaluate sources for credibility. Maintaining professional awareness is also key, as a freelancer it’s easy to lose touch as you don’t have colleagues to bounce ideas off and learn from, so it’s really important to keep up to speed with technical and professional news. In many ways working in libraries gives you a really good skill set for working for yourself; as librarians, we have to market our services, negotiate with suppliers, manage budgets, provide and obtain value for money, all of which you must do as a freelancer.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? As I’ve only been doing this for a few months, I’m still figuring out where I need to develop skills, but getting better as self-promoting is definitely one of them! I also need to learn more about SEO and other online marketing tools. There are also technical skills in data science and statistics I’d like to develop so I can increase my offering to include data mining and analysis.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I don’t at the moment, although I am considering re-joining CILIP after a 10-year hiatus. I’m also looking into eligibility for the Social Research Association.

 Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I would like to build a regular client base rather than doing one-off, adhoc projects - I think this is the dream for all freelancers! My plan for 2017 is to develop relationships with professional service firms in my area (Herts/Bedfordshire).

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? Leaving the world of “proper” employment is scary and challenging – I had to move out of London to reduce my living costs in order to be able to do it – but getting great feedback from a client on something you have done completely by yourself, using your own particular skill set is hugely exciting and rewarding! @TLP_Research Facebook/TLPResearch

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Former Librarian #24

This week we welcome Carrie as the 24th Former Librarian to the blog.  I'm particularly excited about this interview as her role as a Funeral Director is not one of the more obvious routes out of librarianship!

Name: Carrie Weekes

Current role: Independent undertaker at A Natural Undertaking

Former roles: I started at Birmingham University library, moved to Further Education and ended up at Birmingham Central Reference Library as a Business Information Specialist. Before taking up my current role, I was working in the voluntary sector as a communications and information specialist, helping businesses and organisations.

What led you to move on from libraries? I worked for a local council and felt there was no opportunity for movement. I wanted to develop new services around IT and the Internet, and this proved impossible. It was impossible to get decisions made. There was a lack of imagination and they did not take advantage of the brilliant resources known as librarians. Librarianship is a creative job at heart, although no one thinks it is. I thought, “I can take these skills and put them to work in a different way”.

What do you do in your current role? I’m an undertaker, so I look after the dead and help the living arrange funerals which are personal and meaningful. I set up my own business with a friend two years ago, because the funeral business itself had become formulaic, dominated by big, inflexible companies that were often not giving people the funerals they deserved. People are more interesting than the funerals they’re allowed to buy, and we wanted to offer more choices. But underpinning it all is good quality information – giving the consumer good quality information.

What library skills do you use in your current role? If someone says, “Can I do this?” I find out for them. I find that people say, “Is this a stupid idea?” – but it’s the same thing as the old library adage that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. I go all out to find the answer, as I did as a reference librarian. I know where to find out whether something is legal, or good practice. I know where to find good quality suppliers. I know which networks and professional organisations will give me the information I need. People skills learned in libraries are also important. There’s no question anyone can ask me that I’m scared of, because I’ve worked in a public library!

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? I had helped people to do business plans (in my last library position and in my interstitial position before I set up on my own), but you still rely there on knowing what the best quality documents are for the task. Even on the Internet, I look for their provenance and background. My business partner, Fran, had also run her own business before. In general terms, although we overlap, too, I’m a reader and researcher and she’s task-orientated. I also don’t rely just on social networks: I still have subscriptions to trade journals and academic, peer-reviewed journals, and know how to search and refer to government regulations. In our strategic planning, it’s important to read and keep up to date, giving ourselves continuous professional development. We are a member of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, which included a rigorous application process, and we have access to their materials. We had to provide full policies and procedures for that. If my policies are up to date and I remain aware and understand the sources and what’s recommended, then I can be creative within that framework.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I trained with a funeral director to acquire the specific skills to do the work. I had to brush up my driving skills for negotiating tricky situations like attending the local coroner’s office, involving reversing in a straight line. I have developed my abilities in community development (these grew out of my work outside libraries, but I also did study community librarianship at Library School) and have set up Brumyodo (Brum You Only Die Once), a voluntary collective forming a loose network run by a committee which is all about helping people in Birmingham talk about death and dying. I’ve learned how to run pop-up shops, death discos, and we’ve made a film which we’re piloting into GP surgeries, all done to help people be aware of the choices they have.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I’m no longer a member of any library associations. I’m a member of the Society for Allied and Independent Funeral Directors and the Good Funeral Guild, as well as being a member of several networks.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? We’re looking at moving into premises, which will require lots of good research and gathering information. I also look forward to continuing my public education work, teaming up with the Birmingham Museums and Art Galleries for some exciting new projects.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? I’ve recently done a panel talk at the Cheltenham Literary Festival with Barbra Chalmers called It’s Your Funeral. We also recently won the Modern Funeral Director of the Year 2016 award.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Former Librarians #23

This week's Former Librarian is a Continuous Improvement Advisor who works on projects to improve processes alongside writing guidance documentation.  She feels that she uses many of the skills that she acquired as a librarian and mentions some advice given to her from another former librarian which certainly rings true with me: ‘Your library skills are valued outside of the libraries more than they are within libraries right now’

Name: Anon

Current role: Continuous Improvement Advisor

Former role: Information Officer in a specialist library. I was responsible for managing small-scale digitisation projects. I’ve had a range of roles in libraries, starting off as a library assistant in a public library, moving to academic, medical and specialist libraries.

What led you to move on from libraries: Ten years ago, the library I worked in had 30 FTE dedicated library and information staff. When I left, it was just 1FTE. The service had gradually been cut, merged, moved around and changed names so often that it were no longer recognised as a library service. All previous progression routes ceased to exist or moved outside of the library. I got to the point where I accepted that I’d gone as far as I could in my current role. I wanted to continue working for the same organisation, so started looking around for opportunities to move sideways in to a role that would still make use of my skills.

What do you do in your current role? I work in a Continuous Improvement team. We support the organisation to get better at what it does. The role is quite broad, so as well as managing projects to improve processes, I also support colleagues to plan, write and publish accessible guidance documentation.

What library skills do you use in your current role? My working knowledge of records management, knowledge management and information management have all helped. I’m currently supporting a project to create new ways of managing and sharing organisational knowledge. An understanding of metadata, taxonomies, information architecture and user experience have all proved to be valuable. I design and lead workshops to teach people how to write accessible documentation and usually manage to sneak some knowledge of metadata in there as well (No point writing a document if no one can find it afterwards). Working on Continuous Improvement projects needs an understanding of research, information gathering, data analysis, data visualisation and facilitation skills. Mostly it’s about bringing people together to share knowledge and using data to work out how to make things better.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Yes, but I don’t think they are necessarily acknowledged as ‘library skills’. I spent most of the job interview talking about metadata. That technical knowledge, combined with my experience in designing and leading practical workshops were what secured the position, along with case studies of how I’d used data to adapt or improve the library service. You only need to scan through the list of knowledge, skills and experience I use in my current role to see how aligned it is with library and information work: enquiry skills, resource description, customer service, data analysis, stakeholder engagement and influencing.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Not so much skills as knowledge. I’ve had to learn about Quality Management, ISO 9001 and a few other related British Standards. I’ve also started the journey to become a Lean Six Sigma ‘Green Belt’ practioner.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? Yes. I’m still a member of Cilip. I’m looking forward to getting involved in their new ‘Knowledge Management’ group - I see links between Quality Management and Knowledge Management. My organisation recognises and pays for CQI membership, and I chose to maintain Cilip membership myself. Cilip have really evolved since Nick Poole became CEO and I’m happy to continue to support them as they advocate for libraries and librarians.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I’d like to return to libraries at some point. I miss that sense of doing something that felt like it made a difference. There’s one thing missing from my current role that was central to every role I’ve had in libraries: ethics. Right now, returning to libraries isn’t possible. I live in an area that used to be ripe for library and information positions, but local opportunities are diminishing, especially in the public library sector where it looks like the remaining service is about to be handed over to volunteers. Moving isn’t an option, so I’m remembering advice I heard from another former librarian: ‘Your library skills are valued outside of the libraries more than they are within libraries right now’. There are plenty of jobs available in this organisation, so I’m not going to limit myself to just one role.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Former Librarian #22

Apologies again for the hiatus in posts and welcome to Former Librarian #22, Rachel Smith, this week.  Rachel took on a communications and marketing role in libraries and then moved into project management and communications for a project between Seven Stories and Newcastle University.  Do have a look at the Seven Stories website as it's great!  I'm interested to hear that Rachel is still keen to raise awareness of and encourage people to use collections.

Name: Rachel Smith

Current role:  My current job has the somewhat mysterious title of Vital North Partnership Manager. I like being thought of as ‘Vital’ though! The Vital North Partnership is a strategic partnership between Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books and Newcastle University, which is funded by Arts Council England from 2015 – 2018.

Former role: My first full time job after I graduated was as a Library Assistant in the Academic Support team at Durham University. This was a pretty traditional Library Assistant post; I supported information skills sessions, processed reading lists and did customer service work. The Communications Librarian was also based within the Academic Support team at that time, and I also supported communications and marketing work.

Next, I was promoted to the position of Communications and Marketing Officer for Durham University’s Library and Heritage Collections. In this role, I managed marketing and communications across Durham University’s four contemporary libraries, archives and special collections, Palace Green Library’s exhibition galleries, the two University museums, the Durham Castle tours and other areas of the department’s work. Phew!

What led you to move on from libraries? There were a lot of different factors that led me to leave my last post and I wouldn’t pin it on any one particular reason. But, more than anything, the Vital North Partnership Manager job was an amazing opportunity! In a lot of ways I wouldn’t say I have moved on from libraries in my current role – I’m managing a partnership which centres around children’s literature, and I work closely with colleagues in Newcastle University Library and the Collections Team at Seven Stories.

What do you do in your current role? I provide project management, development, co-ordination and communication functions to facilitate the Vital North Partnership’s work. This includes collaborative research and teaching activities, student employability initiatives, collections and exhibitions projects, public events and engagement – if it’s a joint project, I have a hand in it somewhere!

What library skills do you use in your current role? Thinking about the work I did in libraries and the work I’m doing now, I think most of the skills I’m still using are transferable ones (rather than library-specific): planning and project management, budgeting, strategy, communications, IT, leadership. I’m still very interested in raising awareness of and encouraging people to use collections in my current job.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Yes. I think having an understanding of libraries and collections helps me to work effectively with key stakeholders in both Newcastle University and Seven Stories. Perhaps more important though in terms of getting this post was my experience within both the Higher Education sector and in museums. I think that the work I did in my last job with university colleagues outside my department and external partners was also a significant factor.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I’ve only been working in my new role since January, so the last few months have been a huge learning curve! I feel that I’m particularly gaining experience of student employability, teaching and learning and research support within a higher education context. I’m also gaining experience of working for an independent museum, and arts fundraising.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I’m a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), and an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (ACIM). Even though I’m not working directly in either libraries or marketing at the moment, I’m planning to maintain these memberships during my current job. I’m currently working towards Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. I also recently considered joining the Museums Association to work towards Associate status, but the two year programme was just a little bit tight to fit in with my current contract – maybe in my next post, if that’s museum-based.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? As the Vital North Partnership is a funded project, I’m on a fixed-term contract until July 2018 and I’ll be considering my options as that deadline approaches. What’s clear so far is that I’m really enjoying working with both organisations and I’d love to continue to do so! A research masters in children’s literature is also tempting, but I’d be concerned about taking a career break.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? If you’d like to connect with me you can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn or via my staff profile.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Former Librarian #21

This week we welcome Former Librarian Fran to the blog.  Fran and I have followed each other on twitter for a number of years so it was interesting when within a couple of months of my move out of libraries, she did the same, moving into a role as a UX Researcher for UCAS.  Fran has included the advertisement that attracted her to the position which I think is interesting from a point of view of looking at transferable skills.

Name: Francesca Redman (Fran)

Current role: UX Researcher at UCAS

Former role: Information Specialist

What led you to move on from libraries? I hadn’t been enjoying my job for a while, as it had changed from being an engagement role to one that involved a lot of project working, and the projects were not being run well. It was incredibly frustrating, as I’ve worked really hard to develop my presenting and networking skills throughout my early career. Had the projects been well managed, I would have probably enjoyed working on them, but despite me raising concerns to my managers throughout the early stages, they carried on with no change, so I felt that I needed to find something different. I couldn’t find any library jobs nearby at all, and didn’t feel like moving elsewhere for a job that wasn’t “the perfect job” I found the UX role advertised and thought that the job description looked like it would fit my skills nicely, and give me a chance to work in a different kind of project based environment.

What do you do in your current role?

My current role is quite varied, and enables me to use things from my first degree (psychology) and my library and information skills.
  • I spend time talking to our users, either face-to- face or on the phone.
  • I develop research based personas which we use to validate and inform designs.
  • I design studies and surveys, put them out to our users and then analyse and feedback the results to the team to help them make decisions about design direction.
  • I engage with groups of users and maintain relationships with them so that we have people available that we know are more likely to take part in testing.
  • I do some design myself, using a program called axure to create wireframes to communicate concepts to users and internal stakeholders.
  • I research different things and feedback to the relevant people in the team so that they know the background before designing, e.g. I recently researched criminal convictions to feed in to the design of a question we ask on the application.

What library skills do you use in your current role? Quite a lot actually - User engagement and presentation skills; Research skills; Information management (I organise the team’s information assets); The “research interview” to uncover the users’ needs rather than their wants;  Displaying information in an engaging way (I have a room that I use wants the walls of as a place to display feedback to the team).

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? I know they did, my boss said that the analytical, organised research skills that I have were what made them want to interview me in the first place. It probably helps that he’d worked in a library environment so was familiar with our skill set. My experience of working with lots of different types of people also marked me out as someone that would be good in this role.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I’ve done some fast learning around how to use our software: prototyping, survey and observation tools. I’m also learning about how to develop research personas. I’m doing lots of on the job learning, but hopefully will be doing something more academic to underpin that too.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? No, CILIP membership is so expensive that I can’t afford to maintain it as it’s not directly of use to me. I use twitter to keep myself in the loop, as I’d like to re-enter the profession in a few years, if the right job becomes available. UX doesn’t have a professional body, which is something I really miss about being a librarian.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I’m not sure really, I enjoy what I’m doing, but I’m not quite sure what I’d like to do next. There are things I miss about being part of the profession; as I said, I wouldn’t count out going back. I have a sort of plan to spend a couple of years figuring out how to be a UX researcher, and then going freelance and doing it on a consultancy basis, but I don’t have firm plans around this yet. I have quite a laid back approach to my career anyway, preferring to work in roles that feel right to me rather than having a plan to follow.

The ad I saw: Embark on a tour of mastery in UCAS to develop and sharpen your skills – be it problem solving, advancing your information architecture skills, or facilitating workshops. Joining the ranks of our close-knit UX troupe, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with cross-disciplinary teams, and can expect personal development supported by training, mentoring and industry conferences. As a User Experience Designer, your mission will be to help craft a better experience for our users by identifying needs and barriers in their journey, as well as maximising their emotional engagement through our services. You will relish the challenge posed by meeting the needs of a broad range of users – from the future generations of students finding their next steps in life, to the teachers supporting their students using UCAS and other online tools. With user research and an inquisitive nature at the heart of our design process, you will need a good grasp of research methodologies, and the ability to adapt and develop testing strategies for a range of situations. A natural curiosity and empathy with others will impel you to reach out to our users, using discoveries and insight to inform our designs and services. The right attitude, as well as heaps of compassion, will put you ahead of the game – even if you’re not the most experienced on paper. If you feel you’re up to the test, and fancy the chance to grow and thrive in a challenging but rewarding environment, get in touch to let us know why you’d make the best new addition to our UX family.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Former Librarian #20

This week we welcome Former Librarian #20, a University equality professional, to the blog.  There's plenty of food for thought here, but I especially like her concluding remarks that:

In retrospect I could have investigated earlier opportunities to move out of libraries into other administrative/professional roles in my university. At the time I didn’t realise how transferable my skills were. It is definitely something that I would encourage other librarians to explore.

That is something that I, as a newbie former librarian, would have liked to have heard much earlier!

Name: Anonymous

Current role: University equality professional

Former role: Cataloguer at a university library

What led you to move on from libraries? Although I could do my previous role adequately, I felt that I wasn’t using all my skills. I’d become more involved in a group of colleagues involved in looking at the needs of disabled library users, and also got involved with a regional network of librarians interested in disability issues (I later became chair). Through the librarians in the network I learned about different ways of providing services to disabled students, and I pressed for the development of assistive technology facilities within the library. When these were introduced my work on assistive technology brought me into closer contact with the dyslexia advisers who supported students, and contributed to my increased understanding of dyslexia.

My university was awarded some money through HEFCE for innovative 3 year fixed term contracts for Equal Opportunity and Diversity Co-ordinators across the institution. This seemed a good opportunity to build on my interest in disability and other diversity areas. Initially I was offered the role of EODC to three of the support services directorates (including Library Services) as secondment, doing 0.5 fte of the new role, and retaining one day a week of my cataloguing role. I remained physically based in the library, but doing this non- traditional role.

It was a steep learning curve, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to develop new skills and to work closely with colleagues from across the university who were passionate about equality issues. I ended up contributing heavily to the development of my university’s first disability equality scheme. As part of that work we asked disabled staff what they would find useful, and they all said that they would welcome a single point of advice and information. I was offered this role, initially as an additional one day a week. In my new role I worked with individuals, helping to find ways to support them at work. I found this immensely rewarding and developed my own role from scratch. I am grateful to the library’s director, who allowed me to remain seconded from my substantive role for a very long time, while I took my equality roles continued through a succession of fixed-term contracts.

Initially I felt quite tentative about my abilities, but my confidence was built up by finding that I could make a difference to people. During a maternity cover role as a Disabled Student Adviser, I found that the skills and knowledge I had developed in my role were readily transferable to a student-facing role, and that I also brought a broader knowledge of the whole institution. When my current role was advertised at a nearby university, it seemed my ideal job, and I was happy to be appointed.

In retrospect I was stuck in a part-time cataloguing role for too long, but this had been a good option for combining with having children. Before working for a university library, I worked for a government department library, but this involved commuting to London, which was not viable after I’d had children. I didn’t work while my children were small.

I am still annoyed at the outcome of the introduction of the HERA job evaluation scheme at my previous organisation, which in my view failed to recognise and adequately reward the skills of librarians. The scheme awards credit for managing people or money, and little credit for specialist professional skills – something which disadvantages librarians and others in specialist roles.

What do you do in your current role? I work with disabled staff and their managers at a large research-intensive university, ensuring that they get the support they need at work. I am also working more broadly on policy development in equality areas, and on changing the whole organisation’s culture. I liaise with members of staff across the whole university. I am based in the university’s equality office, where I am the disability expert for staff issues (student support is based elsewhere). I have also been asked to lead on developing policy and guidance to support transgender staff and students at the university.

I’ve set up a network for disabled staff, and an advisory group on disability. During the Research Excellent Framework 2014, which assessed the quality of research across the country, I was heavily involved in my university’s confidential process for managing disclosures of complex personal circumstances affecting research capacity.

I’ve been awarded some funding for a research project to investigate good practice in supporting disabled staff at my institution, so I am now working with academic researchers on the project.

I am the first person to hold my role, (and few universities have such a role). I’ve been in post for four years and am continuing to develop the role. I work in a large, complex university where change often happens very slowly. I hope I am becoming more influential as I develop my contacts and knowledge of the organisation, and try to raise awareness of good practice. The challenges are huge, but it is very rewarding to be able to make a small difference to people’s lives … and it is wonderful to see people flourishing after very bad times.

What library skills do you use in your current role? The essential skills is listening carefully to people, and probing to find what they want – that bit is similar to traditional enquiry desk work. However what happens next isn’t simply a matter of pointing someone to existing resources, and may be about helping someone think about their current situation, or their behaviours, or what they really want. I sometimes feel like a mix of coach, careers expert, counsellor and parenting adviser!

I need really good interpersonal skills – more advanced than I needed as a librarian. I’m communicating with people at all levels of my organisation, and need to be able to establish rapport and trust.

I need very good writing skills – both for policy writing and for very carefully nuanced emails. I think that comes more from my English degree than my librarian background.

I developed some technical skills in using assistive technology when I was a librarian, which means that I can give informed advice about this area, although I am no longer doing individual training.

I need to be able to investigate unfamiliar topics, and find relevant literature, so the research skills I developed as a librarian continue to be used.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Not directly, but it was a cumulative process.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I needed to develop some of the skilled used by counsellors, including listening skills; coaching skills; ability to explain legislative concepts in plain English; investigatory skills; understanding internal politics; change management; policy writing; ability to discuss sensitive subjects with people who may be very distressed, or who may be very unwell (including mental ill-health); being able to hear distressing information and still being able to work effectively. Often there are no easy answers, so I need to be able to exercise my judgement, and be able to justify my advice.

I need to be able to influence people and bring about cultural change. I did an NVQ level 4 in Management and Leadership: I don’t manage anyone directly (although I did in my second job as a librarian, 18 months after qualifying) but I advise managers on how to manage disabled members of staff.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I no longer maintain professional librarian memberships, and there aren’t any comparable professional organisations for equality professionals, who are far fewer in number. Many universities only have one or two equality practitioners.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? My current role will continue to develop and change. There is more than enough to keep me going for the foreseeable future.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? In retrospect I could have investigated earlier opportunities to move out of libraries into other administrative/professional roles in my university. At the time I didn’t realise how transferable my skills were. It is definitely something that I would encourage other librarians to explore.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Former Librarian #19

This week we welcome an anonymous Former Librarian to the blog who sadly left her Assistant Librarian position due to the work situation she found herself in.  General transferable skills have been important here to enable her success in her new position.

Name: Anonymous

Current role: Administrator in a HE institution

Former role: Assistant Librarian in a University library

What led you to move on from libraries?  The library service merged with computing services and the management team from computing services was put in charge. They had no interest in libraries and, in my opinion, didn’t like libraries, didn’t like females (especially the clever ones), and were misogynists. I was also badly over-worked and by the end was doing the work of three people. It was soul-destroying to work so hard to try to deliver a good service to staff and students and be so unappreciated by your managers and to have your ideas for service improvement rejected (although some were implemented after I left)! To believe that you are discriminated against in the 21 st century because you are a clever female is a dreadful feeling. However my other library jobs were fantastic!

What do you do in your current role? Administration, report writing, minute taking, event management

What library skills do you use in your current role? Nothing library specific just general transferable skills like written and oral communication, accuracy, customer services. However I am heading up a project to digitise our paperwork as a result of skills I learnt in the library profession.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? not really

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Not so much skills, more knowledge of the wider HE sector

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? Still a member of CILIP

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? to enjoy life and to do the things I didn’t do before because I was exhausted and on the brink of a breakdown!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Former Librarian #18

The good news is that we are back!  I have several more respondents now lined up to contribute to the blog so for the next few weeks at least, posts will be going live on Tuesdays.  If you fit the category of "former librarian" and haven't yet been in touch - please do!

This week we welcome Karen to the blog who set up a social enterprise project when she left libraries.

Name: Karen Cannard

Current role: Co-founder of The Rubbish Diet, the UK’s slimming club for bins.
Blogger and Researcher. The Rubbish Diet started out as personal blog charting my challenge
to reduce my household waste in 2008. It is now a social enterprise project that helps others
break through confusion over recycling as well as save money by reducing food waste at

Former role: I’ve held a range of library and information management roles. My interest started during the final year of my degree course in Nottingham in the 1980s when I volunteered for Nottinghamshire libraries. My first paid job was a pre-library school placement as a school librarian at what was then the brand new Djanogly Technology College. I then joined a library management system supplier before doing my Masters degree at Loughborough University and spent the next few years in information research management roles in the music industry before becoming a librarian consultant for Sirsi-Dynix in 2002.

What led you to move on from libraries?
I left my last role due to a relocation for my husband’s new job and following the move we also had our second child. My focus switched from work to supporting a growing family, so I actively chose to take a career break.

What do you do in your current role?
I am a volunteer figurehead for The Rubbish Diet, a social enterprise project, which is an easy-to- follow process that helps and motivates people to reduce their household waste. I monitor trends in the recycling sector and waste reduction communications and we ensure we signpost our members (‘dieters’) to the most interesting and relevant resources. I also seek out more interesting off-beat stories to provide further inspiration and motivation, e.g. my recent behind-the- scenes visit to Coronation Street.

What library skills do you use in your current role?
Information dissemination skills are key to sign-posting quality resources that are of interest to our community. Waste reduction is such a huge topic as is the subject of behaviour change. So the ability to break things down to specialist subject areas is important as well as the awareness of how to balance information overload especially in the digital age where there are increasing information-sharing platforms and content. The training skills that I learnt throughout my profession have also helped when speaking at conferences and running workshops.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position?
As it’s a role that has been self-created, perhaps the question for me is more whether library skills have helped to sustain the position over the last eight years. I believe that yes they have, but what’s been just as relevant has been the inherent desire to continue to share relevant information that can help people achieve their goals. It has also helped to have a fascination with this particular sector and an ability to select key resources that are the most relevant from the massive amounts of information on the Internet.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order
to enable you to carry out your work?
The last eight years have also placed me as a figurehead for The Rubbish Diet and a commentator on wider waste-related topics, which has meant lots of speaking engagements and working with the media. This has taken me to conferences as far afield as San Francisco and working with mainstream TV projects including ITV Tonight and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s BBC series, Hugh’s War on Waste. I have also led on a key 8 week broadcasting campaign with my local BBC radio station. Coming from a library and information career where I spent fourteen years in a supportive capacity – as a resource provider, metadata geek, trainer and a behind-the- scenes trouble-shooter – stepping into the limelight has pushed me out of my comfort zone and a need for me to focus more on communication skills as well as developing my confidence in representing a very important issue that is still overlooked by many – that of protecting resources and using them sustainably.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more

Anything else that you’d like to tell us?
There are many synergies between the worlds of resource management from an information profession perspective and resource management in the waste sector, whether you’re a custodian of information or a custodian of materials. Each depend on good collation, efficiency of circulation and reuse opportunities as well as driving and sustaining demand. While my long-term plans are committed to The Rubbish Diet in a continued long-term capacity, one day, when the time is right, I hope to step back into my librarianship shoes once more.

And the interesting footnote is that Karen has recently accepted a position working back in a library.  Former librarians who have eventually returned to libraries is not a category that I had thought of, but she is not the only one that I have come across.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Former Librarians Break

Regular readers will have noticed an interruption to service in the last few weeks.  The reason for this is twofold.  Firstly, Verity has been very busy in her no-longer-a-librarian-role.  But secondly, and more importantly, we're now lacking in participants.  I am very keen to get at least 50 accounts of people who were once qualified librarians, but now do something different, but we've a long way to go.  So if you fit the bill, then please get in touch (  to help out.  Participation just involves answering the questions that you'll see other people have answered (supplied in an easy word document) and gives you the chance to contribute to a research project that aims to find out more about this group of individuals.

And in the meantime, I spotted this list of "Surprising Former Librarians" on the internet a little while ago.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Former Librarian #17

This week we welcome another international participant to the blog, although her work as a librarian was based in the UK.  She inhabits a hinterland between being a librarian and a former librarian as although her work is clearly not that of a librarian but involves supporting information professionals by working as a Content Analysis at a company which specialises in information provision and software solutions.

Name: “anonymous”

Current role: Content Analyst at an information provision/ software solutions company

 Former role: Librarian at a UK university library

What led you to move on from libraries? Even though I studied librarianship, I always knew that I didn’t really want to work in a ‘traditional’ library role. My first few jobs post-graduation were in television and news libraries, which suited me well, but was very niche. I took a job at a university library to get some more ‘traditional’ experience for my resume, but really didn’t enjoy the pace and the general environment of academic libraries. I felt that there was a lot of emphasis on trying to justify our existence and I also got discouraged by the slowness of change and lack of progress. In 2006 I emigrated to the US with my husband and started looking for work here. I discovered that to work in most libraries, State Certification was required, which called for a Masters-level degree. So my options in the library world were a little limited. But I found the company that I presently work for, who were at the time still a start-up, and who were hiring extensively. That company provided software solutions for libraries and almost all of its personnel were qualified librarians. My first role with the company was in customer support, and from there I moved into Content Operations, where I have worked for 8 years in various roles. Even though I am not actually working in a library any more, I am still working with and for libraries.

What do you do in your current role? I work for a library resource discovery product which is used mainly, although by no means exclusively, in the academic sector. Our product is a unified index, which allows librarians and library-users to search in one place for all resources available to them - their library catalog, institutional repositories, subscription databases, Open Access journals and so on - and connect them to the source of the full text of those items. My current role involves working with content publishers/aggregators/providers to ingest and maintain their content in our index. I establish delivery protocols, I review metadata for completeness and for usability, I figure out how we can make sure that clients get search results that mirror their library’s subscriptions, I ensure that we have a way to take the user out of our product and to the full text of any items they are interested in from their search results. I assess platform migrations for their impact on data feeds to us, I troubleshoot metadata issues and I am a general point of contact for many of our partner organizations.

What library skills do you use in your current role? The kinds of library skills I use now are mainly around different metadata formats and standards - I work with XML in a multitude of standards, but also with text files, MARC records, HTML, and standards such as dublin core, particularly relating to metadata acquired via OAI-PMH. I also need to know how librarians and library patrons work, what they need from our products, as well as knowing the market in which they select and purchase resources. I spend a lot of time advocating for librarians, either for the content that will be most useful for them and their users, or for enhancements that I know will make their jobs easier.

 Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, when I was first hired almost everyone in the company, from developers to sales to customer support, came from a library background. It’s considered essential that we understand who our customers are, and how we can best serve them.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Most of the skills I have acquired have still been related to the library profession, because we are so closely aligned with that profession. So I have learned more about the library software market, the way librarians use products like ours, and definitely a lot more about the ever-growing world of electronic resources for which librarians have to budget, and the tools that allow them to make those choices. I’ve also learned a lot about the information providers who supply content to libraries and that general market (in fact, the software company I worked for originally is now owned by a large company that provides research products). I’ve also gained a lot of technical experience, from harvesting content to creating robots to acquire content and create metadata, and from understanding various metadata formats and standards. I’ve also learned some coding skills, writing XQuery to transform and normalize incoming metadata into a product-specific format and schema.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? Currently I do not.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? There’s still a lot that I can learn from the organization I am with, and plenty of room for change and growth. If I were to consider a change outside this organization, I would definitely be interested in working for a publisher or content provider, which I think would fit nicely with the skills I have acquired here. Unfortunately, those kinds of opportunities aren’t viable for me geographically at present. Locally, there are many tech companies who have opportunities for taxonomists or people with data and content experience, so those might be fun to investigate at some stage too.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? I don’t think so!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Former Librarian #16

This week, Former Librarian #16 is now a bookshop manager in the charity sector.  Although she needed to acquire skills in retail experience, she finds that the library skills gained are invaluable: "It is not just a question of sticking any old book on a shelf and hoping someone will buy it."

Name: “anonymous”

Current role: Bookshop Manager, Charity sector

Former role: Deputy Librarian, private library

What led you to move on from libraries? Previously I had spent 30 years in libraries firstly in the private sector and then in a learned society and a private charitable library in London. I gave this up mainly as a result of needing to support my teenaged son, who has learning difficulties, by keeping him in school through his final GCSE year. I gave up full-time library work - I was commuting for 2 hours each way a day - and instead did some paid gardening work and was a participant in a university funded medical research project on depression and mindfulness (I was in the control group that had not suffered from depression). I accidentally stumbled across an advert for my current job when I was in a local charity shop.

What do you do in your current role? I manage a charity bookshop. I am the only paid member of staff, but manage 50 volunteers who all contribute to the success of the shop. My volunteers range from 15 – 85 years of age and include former university professors, nurses, teachers, an artist, a librarian, an accountant and several students. Our aim is to make as much money as possible in support of the charity’s work to alleviate poverty. Most of the material we sell – books and music - is donated to us, with a small amount of ‘new product’ e.g. greetings cards.

What library skills do you use in your current role? There is a huge emphasis on customer service, creating a friendly, welcoming and helpful environment. I use a lot of the skills I learned in reader/information services – getting to know my customers, understanding their needs, learning about the stock – which changes daily, but you can see patterns in what comes in. Grouping books by subject, categorising them for generating data on what sells. We have regular donors and customers that we get to know. It has also been interesting to see how many people use a charity bookshop to buy material, read it and donate it back again – a number of customers have said they regard the shop like a library. We also take requests and keep a look out for material. We also sell online around the world, so need to select and list material, which uses cataloguing skills. The knowledge gained from working in the library world helps in being able to spot interesting or unusual books, 1st editions, signed copies, interesting/niche publishers. It helps you spot an academic publisher where someone will pay £25 for a book, rather than the £2.50 for a popular novel. We recently sold a 1st edition Arthur C Clarke to a customer in Australia for £160.

 Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Yes. As part of the interview I was given a pile of books donated to another shop and selected at random to comment on. I was surprised to be offered the job as I had no retail experience, but was told I would learn that but they wanted the knowledge I already that they couldn’t teach me. One of the books I had commented on was subsequently priced at £70 because I recognised the illustrator as being important.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Knowledge of the retail sector, its processes, language, how to display material to maximum effect. It has also been interesting learning how to interpret management information derived from stock and sales systems that show you which areas of your stock generate the best returns.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I’ve just resigned from CILIP.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now, I’ve learned new skills and on a personal level I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of making a tiny contribution to making life better for others. It’s been interesting to move from an environment where so many meetings were about lack of funding, cutbacks and lots of negativity to one where you start with nothing and you and your volunteers with the support of the local community have to build from there and make it happen. At the end of each financial year we get told what our shop’s net contribution to the charity has been and what this equates to e.g. how many wells, medical centres, school equipment. Some days it’s just not like going to work.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? My job has made me realise how transferable library skills are and also how much is involved in running a charity bookshop. It is not just a question of sticking any old book on a shelf and hoping someone will buy it.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Former Librarian #15

Former Librarian #15 is a little different as she is currently working as a volunteer in 2 different capacities and a tutor. I thought that although this emphasis on volunteer work does not directly relate to finding employment beyond libraries, it is worth including as she is very clear that the skills gained in her library work directly contribute to the success in her current roles.

Current role: Volunteer (Project Manager of a Trussell Trust Foodbank; Tutor (Piano, Music Theory, Math & English); Volunteer Family Learning Centre Coordinator (for a Baptist Church); Recording Secretary and activist for a local Neighbourhood Forum.

Former role: Community Librarian (working for the Birmingham City Council) managing 2 libraries in the east of the city (3 by the time I left). My role was to promote reading and learning activities to all ages using a range of programmes and inventiveness to encourage library usage and book borrowing.

What led you to move on from libraries? I left Libraries because the role and job was gradually being undermined, as a profession and as an essential area of influence in the leisure, learning & community cohesion sector.

What do you do in your current role? With 3 roles on the go, my first is to inspire young people to learn – so I teach piano & music theory skills from an early age and currently help with 11+ preparations (including reading skills). I do this alongside developing a church site as a place of learning & leisure through community engagement; As a volunteer Project Manager for a Trussell Trust Franchise, I researched foodbank business for a group of churches and set one up from ‘scratch’ and now two years in, turning over 25+ tonnes of donated food and feeding over 2000 local people while supporting other feeding charities. As in Library work where developing a trained team through 1-2-1 coaching, group sessions or external provision, is now part and parcel of the role of equipping the 50+ volunteers to provide support for foodbank volunteers and in the case of the learning centre coordinator, the same in safeguarding & health & safety.

What library skills do you use in your current role? The Skills I used to function as a library manager include – Operations management (H & S); Building management; Trainer; Public speaking; Bid writing, People Management; Negotiating; PR; Customer care; Team/Community work; IT skills (own admin; ppt presentations; database; leaflet designs and production); Event planning & management; liaising with councillors and other elected members, and a host of professionals (from children’s centres, schools, community groups etc)….various skills for the 3 roles.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? As a volunteer, the skills I practiced running 3 libraries are still valuable and well used in what I do now, especially in my role as a project manager, learning centre coordinator and community activist.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I have to troubleshoot my own IT problems; recently learnt more about website management and social media know-how (PR for the foodbank and neighbourhood forum).

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I chose not to cancel my ‘Library Association’ membership. I am still a paid up full associate member of CILIP (as if I was still employed). Currently renewing my Institute of Customer Services Membership.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Former Librarian #14

This week, Jo McCausland is our 14th Former Librarian.  She tells us that she had "an amazing library career" but that she is astounded to "have found a new area of work that gives me great satisfaction even beyond what my library career gave me" working in the NHS.  I was also interested to hear about the similarities that she has identified between the NHS and the library sector, as well as the heavy use of library skills in her current role.

Name: Jo McCausland

Current role: Improvement Project Manager, Strategy and Transformation, Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Former role: Prior to working for my current Trust, I worked in a similar role for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and prior to that I was a Project Manager working for Sheffield City Council Business Strategy and as part of that role was working with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group on health and social care integration. Before that I was unemployed for 9 months and applying mostly for public library management jobs. Before that I worked for several years on a range of library development projects on temporary contracts. Before that I was a mainstream public library manager.

What led you to move on from libraries? Accepted that after many months of job hunting while unemployed that I wasn’t going to be appointed to a role in mainstream public library management. I also came to the realisation that the emerging public library landscape was not going to play to my strengths in developing and improving services.

What do you do in your current role? I have a lead responsibility for improvement projects related to clinical pathways, business units and in-patient services in Sheffield Children’s Hospital which is one of the 4 specialist children’s hospitals in the country alongside Alder Hey Birmingham Children’s and Great Ormond Street Hospitals.

What library skills do you use in your current role? Research; enquiry skills; information gathering, organisation and dissemination; data analysis; benchmarking; performance analysis and management; stakeholder engagement and management; project management; change management; planning; influencing and negotiation; political awareness; leadership and management.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? No. That said, I have spoken with numerous NHS colleagues about the surprising similarities between the two sectors in terms of organisational development, change management and service transformation. I’ve found existing skills equally applicable within a culture and ethos that puts patients (i.e. customers!) at the heart of our services.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? More knowledge than skills I would say e.g. infrastructure, funding mechanisms and tariffs, terminology and acronyms, national and local targets and penalties for non-compliance etc.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? No

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I plan to see out my working days contributing to making things better in my local NHS. Having now turned 50, it astounds me that I have found a new area of work that gives me great satisfaction even beyond what my library career gave me. I know that my presence makes a difference and even if I was to ever doubt it, all I have to do is walk down a hospital corridor, nip into a ward or visit a clinic and I’m reminded of why I’m here!

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? I had an amazing library career and worked with some fantastic and committed people who went far above and beyond despite circumstances. I always thought library people were special people but I find the same attitude and behaviour with my NHS colleagues so feel quite ‘at home’.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Former Librarian #13

This week we welcome an anonymous Learning and Teaching Technologies Manager to the blog.  He moved into this role from public libraries.

Name: Just Anon is OK!

Current role: Learning & Teaching Technologies Manager in a faculty at a well-known UK- based distance learning HEI

Former role: Reference Librarian in a town centre public library.

What led you to move on from libraries? I wasn’t interested in the work and I didn’t enjoy contact with the public.

What do you do in your current role? I have responsibility for policy and practice in relation to use of the internet for presenting university-level learning materials to students.

What library skills do you use in your current role? I think there’s a crossover between taxonomy and organisation of thoughts and ideas, which I have to do a lot of.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? No.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Internet and pedagogy-related skills that have only come into existence since the time I left the profession (the internet was hardly a thing in 1993).

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I was a member of the Library Association during the time I was working in libraries but once I left I knew there was no way I would return to public libraries, so it was not worth keeping up with my membership.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I’d like to progress in my current institution, doing the sort of work I’m currently doing.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Former Librarian #12

We're starting to scrape the barrel a little bit for Former Librarians - lots of interest, but that hasn't necessarily translated into completed questionnaires - so if you are reading this and can help out then please do get in touch!  

Former Librarian #12 spent 10 years working in libraries and has now switched to the field of clinical research.  The new skill required in this role (aside from learning about clinical research governance) has been making cups of tea!

Current role: Research Coordinator on a clinical project.

Former role: Reader Services Team Leader in a University Library.

What led you to move on from libraries?  My career change wasn't entirely planned although it has been an excellent move.  During 2014/15 mental health problems had affected my life in a big way.  One of the things that I thought would help me would be to work part-time, but my former organisation could not support that long-term.  In order to find something where I would be able to work part-time, and to maintain the grade/salary that I was on, I needed to be very open in considering what I might move into.  Given that I had been in the same role for nearly 6 years and not managed to progress career-wise (although I had really continued to develop my skills over this time period), it was becoming obvious that libraries might not be an option, given that I was tied to a specific area.  I wanted to stay working for the same university (or very possibly the other one in town) as it is an environment that I feel comfortable in, so I concentrated my search on their job advertisements and tried to work out where my skills best fit.  Administrative roles within departments and administrative roles in clinical research seemed to be the most likely candidates.

What do you do in your current role? Rather like my former role, I do a lot of things and success in the role seems to be dependent on being able to do lots of different things and keep several balls in the air at once.  I look after the day to day coordination of a clinical research project (that involves IT and databases rather than a more obvious clinical trial) under a Programme Manager who has responsibility for the overall oversight of a number of projects.  This involves organising things and people!  I make sure that we are running on track, organise meetings, take notes, liaise with members of the project team, make sure expenses are paid and that our finances are tracked, make cups of tea (!), ethics applications, and research governance agreements.  As I am still so new in post and new to the field, quite a lot of it is done with guidance from the Programme Manager but there are definitely days when I leave work feeling like I have done some good research coordination!  I have to say that it is very refreshing doing something new and it's nice to feel totally enthused about work. 

What library skills do you use in your current role? I suspect that my organisational skills are perhaps the most useful on a day to day basis.  However, I would like to think that my customer service skills give me a day-to-day willingness to help and sort out problems and maintain a cheerful expression even when we are rewriting an ethics application yet again. Attention to detail is good for checking through reports and publications and I seem to be quite good at spotting inconsistences (as well as improving English - there's definite benefits to the team in having a humanities graduate to hand!).  One of the mandatory pieces of training for me was "Information Governance" but the concepts felt very familiar to me coming from a library/information background.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? I almost feel the opposite.  I spent a lot of 2015 applying for different roles and I did not get any interviews until the one for this position.  I did start to wonder if I was being pigeon-holed by the fact that I was working as a librarian, even though I could clearly demonstrate that I had skills relevant to the essential selection criteria.  I described myself on my CV as an information professional and I used a skills-based CV but it didn't seem to work!  My current manager is very accepting of a non traditional background for this role (in fact she also came from a non traditional background) and so was perhaps more open to shortlisting me.  Subsequent discussions have led us to agree that my skills are very relevant and useful to this sort of role, but perhaps recruiting managers may sometimes believe that experience of clinical research is essential.  It hasn't been.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I've had to learn an awful lot of things!  Coming to clinical research from a humanities background, there are many differences, in terms of jargon, and the way that people seem to work.  "Good clinical practice" knowledge is an essential induction requirement for anyone working in clinical research and I had to do 5 online training modules in this.  I've had to learn a lot about the research ethics process.  I'm in the middle of learning about patient engagement and involvement and how best to go about these activities.  I've learnt how to use Microsoft Project and to produce Gantt charts.  I've also learnt how to choose and negotiate over meeting venues, what sort of sandwich selection is appropriate for a post-meeting lunch (I agonised over this for several days) and how to set up a teleconference!

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate?  I have maintained CILIP membership for now but that is more to do with the fact that I am still mentoring three chartership candidates.  I am not sure if I will renew again at the end of this year.  I do not think that there are any other more appropriate professional organisations.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations?
I'm very aware that my current role is a fixed term contract, and to be honest, almost all roles in this area will be.  Although I have been reassured already that I should not find it difficult to get another role based on current performance (and with all of this lovely experience under my belt), I am thinking about ways in which to make myself more marketable at the end of my contract.  I am weighing up the benefits of a couple of different Postgraduate Certificates (one in health research, one in systematic reviews).  Otherwise, it is taking advantage of all of the training on offer (and there has been a lot!).

Anything else that you’d like to tell us?  One of the best bits about my role after working in a library for so long is the ability to eat and drink at my desk whenever I like (well, perhaps not on a teleconference...).

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Former Librarian #11

This week, Former Librarian 12 has done two very different things since leaving libraries. The first was a manager with responsibility for disability in student support services; the second and current occupation is as a full-time Mum!

Name: Anonymous

Current role: Full time stay at home mum, but my last paid job was as a manager in student support services (specifically disability) within a University setting

Former role: Disability Librarian in a University

What led you to move on from libraries? I was promoted from an assistant librarian's post in a small library within a large University into the newly formed disability librarian because I wanted a challenge, and also the pay was better. After a few years of setting up a new service, and working with a lot of assistive technology and supporting disabled students in libraries, I wanted to move on from where I was and back into a more traditional librarian's post. I found, however, because of the disability in my title, and what I had been doing with assistive technology and access, myself a bit pigeon holed and struggled to get back into traditional reader services. As I wanted to leave the institution I was in, I applied for several jobs in disability support and found myself as a support manager in a large academic insitution, as it involved helping to set up a new service, which is what I had done previously. I gave up the job at the start of my maternity leave for my second child because I found it very hard to do a stressful job and also be a mum. I wasn't happy in the role at all, and I found the stress of knowing I was going to back to work again at the end of the maternity leave was too much. It had been hard going back after my first child was born and I didn't want the same situation again.

Current role: Full time Mum, but before that Disability Team Manager

What do you do in your current role? In my role as Full time Mum I manage two small children and all that entails. It is definitely 24 hours a day and you don't get paid! I get children up, sort them out for school, pick them up from school, do the majority of the household chores and organise the food for the week, day trips at the weekend, buying all they need, organising children's parties. It is full on and extremely rewarding.
When I was in my previous paid job in disability support, it involved managing 6 people in their roles working and supporting disabled students. I had to: organise making sure they all worked efficiently, and get involved in disciplinary issues; manage service rotas; plan for new services, and improve the ones we had; liaise with a lot of staff in different faculties and advise on whether what they were doing regarding access and support for students was legal and correct. It was more of a managerial post than supporting disabled students.

What library skills do you use in your current role? I certainly use my library skills in my role as a mum. It involves major organisation on a daily basis! Timing is everything, and I have to schedule in tasks for every day - food shopping, cleaning, washing etc. I'm also constantly tidying up - it's like a never ending reshelving task. As we've been having a lot of work done on our house, I've had to liaise a lot with different workmen and having set up a service in a library, I know all that involves. I also had a bit of budgetary responsibility and that comes in very handy with monthly budgeting.
As Disability Team Manager, I definitely found my skills from librarianship were hugely helpful. All of the organisation; working towards deadlines; dealing with people from all areas of the University and at all levels; budgeting.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Certainly for my last paid role all my experience in libraries helped me get it. For my role as a Mum, given my husband is also a librarian, that's a definite yes :-)

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I definitely think I didn't have as many skills in general management as I needed, particularly when working with difficult people. I was lucky in that the situations I came across in librarianship were not as severe as those I walked into. I've definitely improved on those since my last paid job, and they have improved tenfold since becoming a mum - I've learnt to say No a great deal now, and give reasons why, and deal with subsequent tantrums - something you think you never would have to do with adults in the work place, but in higher level management, you do.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? None.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? Not at the moment, until my second is at school and I have a little more time to myself.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Former Librarian #10

This week, we welcome Former Librarian Lisa onto the blog who has some very interesting and extensive answers to the usual questions.  Lisa's career is interesting as circumstances meant that she did not take up a library role after gaining her library qualification, instead taking on employment with an education company.  Over the last few years she has diversified into a portfolio career that involves editing work (as did Former Librarian #8) and career coaching.  Despite not having followed a more obvious library path, Lisa feels that her "inner librarian" is of great use to her work.

Name Lisa Russell

Current role: Self-employed Editorial Project Manager at Careershifters, and career change coach.

Former role: Editorial Project Manager at a vocational training company (2008-16)
And previously: Digidocs Project Assistant at the History Faculty Library, Oxford, 2006-7 Graduate Trainee Library Assistant, Nuffield College, Oxford, 2005-6

What led you to move on from libraries? I was all set to move into permanent library work after completing my master’s degree in Library and Information Science. I had a role lined up and had gone through an extensive recruitment process to get it. However, the position involved relocating to a completely new area. After I moved I realised I was deeply unhappy living in the new area, so far from family and friends. Although the job was phenomenal, I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice everything to stay in it. So I decided, reluctantly, that I needed to move back home. Living in the Home Counties, the best chances for finding library work are in Oxford or London. I ruled out London as I didn’t want a repeat of the previous situation, and instead scoured the Oxford library listings for potential opportunities. I had a good interview for a post but wasn’t successful. With financial pressures mounting, I looked for work closer to home, in Berkshire, while temping with a start-up training company run by an old schoolfriend’s parents. I had another interview lined up in a public library for outreach work, but my friend’s parents were so impressed with my skills (mostly librarianship-related: to do with managing their data and conducting research) that they offered me a permanent role, at a much higher salary than the public library post could offer. I felt that I could carve out a role at the company using my information skills, and decided to try this route, hoping to become an advocate for the information profession within the company’s immediate network, and to help my employers to see the benefits that information professionals could offer. However, this did mark the end of my seeking work in a traditional library environment. My wishes for the post certainly played out, initally. I even contributed to a CILIP event on the art of ‘negotiating’ one’s own role. However, as the company grew, my role shifted from information and data, to developing the learning programme and working with actual learning materials. This felt natural for me as it used both my librarianship skills and a host of editorial skills that I had also developed over the years. I remember feeling that the new role was a perfect blend for me, although I doubted that the ‘true’ library profession would consider that I was still a librarian at all! Over the years I became deeply disillusioned with the way the company was being run and decided to take my career back into my own hands. I became self-employed and started an editorial services business. Although this didn’t initially generate much work I learnt a lot about how to set up a business. Alongside this, seeking a fresh start, a new income stream and a different challenge, I decided to train as a personal coach. I set up my coaching practice in 2013 and have been working with clients ever since. Alongside this, my editorial work led to a contract for subediting work, and later editorial project management with the major career change organisation, Careershifters. I have since started to niche my coaching practice into the arena of career change coaching. I am now a true portfolio careerist, using a mixture of editorial, librarianship and coaching skills with a little entrepreneurship to create a career mix that works for me.

What do you do in your current role? For Careershifters, I maintain a busy editorial schedule, planning content, sourcing it and liaising with authors to ensure that it is delivered on time. I also maintain various content logs, chase progress and deadlines (also known as cat herding), and ensure article comments are responded to by the team in a timely manner. I run the team’s editorial meetings, and ensure that appropriate progress is being made towards quarterly and annual team goals. I write social media posts about the various pieces of content we publish, and help prepare weekly newsletters that showcase the best of our output for a growing mailing list (currently around 70,000 subscribers). I also subedit all content that is published by the team and am developing processes with our founder to ensure that the quality of archived material is frequently reviewed and improved in line with high editorial standards. The work is flexible and team members all work remotely; therefore, it fits well around my family commitments.

What library skills do you use in your current role?
* Categorising information and noticing patterns and themes within it
* Digitising information
* Team-knowledge capture and systems / process documentation - something the team is particularly keen to ensure
* Understanding information search behaviours
* Understanding user experience online
* Various organisational and project management skills learnt through running library projects in the past.
* A certain way of thinking – a systematic and detail-orientated approach that supports and provides structure to the more creative work of others in the team – that is common, I think, to many librarians

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Yes, but perhaps in a subtle way. I am more organised and methodical as a result of my library experiences. I can see both fine detail and the big picture. The team needed an editor that could employ this approach to best support its work. And this makes me an ideal person to maintain the organisation’s content archive. The founder really responded well to this aspect of my experience during our recruitment conversations.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I gained a formal proofreading qualification from the Publishing Training Centre. I also undertook my coaching qualification and subsequent specialist career change coach training.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I have let my CILIP membership lapse as it’s simply not required in my role. I was a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders for some time. Now I am a member of the International Coach Federation.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? So many! I want to add another business element to my portfolio career, perhaps making and selling something rather than offering a service. I have a few ideas, but they are all still in development at the moment. I also want to gain my ACC credential with the ICF and continue to niche my coaching practice into career change work. I want to continue developing my role with Careershifters, becoming a contributor for the team.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? I used to worry about the fact that I wasn’t overtly making use of my library skills in the traditional sense; I even worried that I was wasting all those years of training and study. I even used to feel I had to justify myself when people asked why the library ‘thing’ hadn’t worked out for me. But, actually, I look back now and consider that those skills are a hugely important aspect of my career. The Careershifters team LOVE my ‘inner librarian’ and how I am able to bring those skills to bear on my work. Blending those skills with my editorial talents, and now my career change coaching (and content) work, has allowed me to develop a unique portfolio career that feels more thoroughly ‘me’ than anything I have done before. I couldn’t have got to this point without my work in libraries.