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...).


  1. Hi V, I've just come across this blog and am enjoying reading through it, so thank you for doing it. I too have moved to a role where I'm not librarianing as such, although it's still in a library and IT department...and I completely agree with the joy of being able to eat and drink at my desk. What a revelation!

    1. Thanks for the comment! What is it that you do? You might be eligible to participate if you would like!