Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Former Librarian #1

Welcome to the blog to Liz who is our first Former Librarian.  Liz moved from a library career into first library related and then health related academia.

Current role: Lecturer in medical education at a university in the north of the UK

Former role: Academic library trainee at a university library in the north of the UK, social inclusion librarian in a public library service in the Midlands.

What led you to move on from libraries? I fell out of working in libraries the same way I fell in – without really thinking about it. I fell into library work after I had a job as a shelver, which led to a graduate traineeship and then completed my masters in librarianship. I then took my first professional post, working in public libraries for a short while. That job was a mistake – I was brought in to shake up and provide change in an organisation full of people that didn’t want to change. I found it really hard and quit pretty quickly. After some non-library temping in admin, I was incredibly lucky to get a PhD studentship in a library and information department. I always thought I’d carry on working in library-related academia or academic libraries after my PhD, but there were no jobs available close to where I lived. I ended up side-stepping into health- related academic jobs because that’s what was available. Once there, I realised that actually, I could use my skills to make a bigger difference to a greater number of people. In the nicest possible way, people don’t always listen to librarians in the same way they listen to health professionals, even if they’re saying exactly the same thing. I wanted my work to be listened to.

What do you do in your current role? I teach critical skills, sociology and the principles and practice of person-centred care to medical students. I also work on diverse research projects, analyse data, write journal articles and reports.

What library skills do you use in your current role? Working in research takes a lot of organisational skill. In the NHS, you need to have a very precise paper trail attached to your work so everyone knows you have followed ethical procedures. It takes an attention to detail I’d associate with being a librarian. I need to be able to communicate clearly – in writing and in person – and explaining complex e-resources on the reference desk or in guides must have helped me to be able to do that now. Being a librarian also gave me experience of teaching and presenting – demonstrating referencing software and introducing events – which I have taken forward into my teaching. My expertise in searching databases, my understanding of copyright, reference managers and other research-relevant software have always helped me to stay ahead of the curve. I can do things in half the time of some academics, more thoroughly and with more confidence. I also understand what the academic library offers and what librarians really can do – so I make the most of what is available, and am always ready to ask a librarian for their expertise!

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? My career path is definitely non-standard. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without working in libraries, gaining skills, experience and confidence.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I know that a lot of library staff have a Higher Education teaching qualification (in fact, when I got mine there was a lovely librarian on the course!) and so perhaps I would have had to get that qualification anyway. I guess I’ve had to learn a lot of subject-based knowledge, but really it feels more like a continuation than a rift. But then I might have gained a lot of tacit knowledge that I don’t really think about.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I was a member of CILIP for years, but I fell out with their stance (or lack of) on public library cuts. I should be a member of the British Sociological Association, but I’m currently not.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I don’t think I’ve given up on the idea of changing the world for the better yet. I want to keep publishing research that is relevant for healthcare practice and keep teaching medical students to have that balance of good clinical skills and good people skills. Everyone wants their doctor to have both.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? Sometimes I still tidy up the library shelves if someone has left them in a mess. Mainly so I can find what I want, but still.

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