Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Former Librarian #25

We have finally made it to 25 Former Librarians, just in time for the end of the year!  If you were planning to help us out - there is still time, please contact us now!  Tara is in the process of making a career as a Freelance Researcher having been a subject librarian for some years.


Name: Tara

Current role: Freelance Researcher

Former role: Researcher/Subject Librarian

What led you to move on from libraries? I’d been working in academic libraries for some time in subject librarian roles and whilst I enjoyed the teaching and collection management side of the roles I was aware of a tension between what I felt students needed to equip them in HE study and the emphasis university senior leadership was putting on the “student experience” in the light of fees. I really felt that the subject librarian’s role was being devalued because core/traditional skills were not view as important by the student body. I felt, and do feel that many students know what they want but not what they need, and university leadership feels compelled to pander to these ’wants’ because of the high financial commitments students are bound to. After academia, I briefly worked in a corporate information and research service as a researcher but found the environment very risk-averse and my workload very uneven. It was also becoming apparent to me that I no longer wanted to work full-time in Central London for large organisations as it was having a detrimental effect on my health. I have always enjoyed the desk research aspects of my roles so I decided to see if there was a way I could combine my expertise in that area, with my wish to work in a less pressurised environment.

What do you do in your current role? I provide a bespoke internet research service for individuals and businesses. I’m still finding my feet and working out the best way to take the business forward, but I’ve has some interesting projects so far. My first project (which came about through Twitter!) was with David Quantick, the screenwriter and journalist, who needed some research on a specific industry and its processes to inform the novel he is working on. For this I needed to do extensive internet research as well as contacting and interviewing industry experts. I’ve undertaken legal research looking at drone regulations across the world, as well trying to identify a foreign language film that was broadcast on ITV Yorkshire in 1997 - it’s amazing what people will pay you to do! The freelancing website People Per Hour has been useful on occasion, although the quality of jobs really varies – lots of students wanting essays written! 

What library skills do you use in your current role? Search skills are paramount to what I do, as is being able to critically evaluate sources for credibility. Maintaining professional awareness is also key, as a freelancer it’s easy to lose touch as you don’t have colleagues to bounce ideas off and learn from, so it’s really important to keep up to speed with technical and professional news. In many ways working in libraries gives you a really good skill set for working for yourself; as librarians, we have to market our services, negotiate with suppliers, manage budgets, provide and obtain value for money, all of which you must do as a freelancer.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? As I’ve only been doing this for a few months, I’m still figuring out where I need to develop skills, but getting better as self-promoting is definitely one of them! I also need to learn more about SEO and other online marketing tools. There are also technical skills in data science and statistics I’d like to develop so I can increase my offering to include data mining and analysis.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I don’t at the moment, although I am considering re-joining CILIP after a 10-year hiatus. I’m also looking into eligibility for the Social Research Association.

 Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I would like to build a regular client base rather than doing one-off, adhoc projects - I think this is the dream for all freelancers! My plan for 2017 is to develop relationships with professional service firms in my area (Herts/Bedfordshire).

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? Leaving the world of “proper” employment is scary and challenging – I had to move out of London to reduce my living costs in order to be able to do it – but getting great feedback from a client on something you have done completely by yourself, using your own particular skill set is hugely exciting and rewarding! http://www.tlpresearch.com @TLP_Research Facebook/TLPResearch

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