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.

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