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
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.