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.

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