Library leadership

In this recent post by Jenica Rogers, she identifies some problems in library leadership and some of the consequences:

  • We suck our hard workers dry, and can’t understand why they turn into dust in the wind.
  • We undervalue what we have in-house, and respond badly to open expressions of ambition.
  • We compensate for our perceived failings in strange and valueless ways.
  • We forget that our really remarkable new librarians are still new librarians

This term, I’ve been focussing on the development and career progression of my team members, and ways of measuring our success as a team, building on it and celebrating our accomplishments.

New leadership is coming to my organisation this season: a new Bursar next month and a new Principal in September.  I am looking forward to working with them to help to continue to develop my team and the service we provide.  The changes and potential ahead are exciting!

Applying for jobs and volunteering to get experience

This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.

Thing 21 is all about promoting yourself in job applications and at interview. Although I have quite a lot of experience of these processes, I found that I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of publishing these details on the web (as laid out in the Thing 21 instructions).

Recently, I had a similar experience with my Chartership portfolio.  When you submit your portfolio for assessement, you are asked if you are willing to make your document available for others to see.  I opted out of that because I felt that some parts of my portfolio, especially my personal SWOT analysis, were things I wanted to keep private (or at least limit the audience to just my assessors!).

However, I promise that I am doing things like constantly revising my CV and I hope this will satisfy the requirements for this Thing!

Thing 22 encourages us to consider the value of volunteering to get experience.  At this stage of my career, I think this has evolved from volunteering to do library work without pay to offering to take on further professional duties such as serving on committees and working groups.

I am currently involved in committees such as the Oxford Libraries’ Web 2.0 Working Party, an Aleph working party which is involved in fine-tuning some circulation settings on our new ILS following its launch in July, the Committee of College Librarians and the University of Oxford LGBT Steering Group.

I like being involved in groups and activities that broaden my professional awareness beyond the horizons of my own workplace. I think this is especially important in a federal organisation such as the University of Oxford.

Library careers: routes in and what does this type of work actually involve?

This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.

I participated in the Library Routes project in 2009:

Library Routes – How I became a librarian

I have taken part in the Library “Day in the Life” project twice.  Many people blog, tweet or otherwise record their day in terms of how long they spent answering emails etc, but I wanted to take a difference approach in which I blogged about a specific aspect of my job each day.

Round 5, July 2010

Welcome to Laura’s Dark Archive! – in which I launched this blog, described my current role and explained my route into working in libraries

In print or on screen? Investigating the reading habits of undergraduates using photo-interviews – the summary of a presentation I had attended

Library Day in the Life round 5, day 1 – on the theme of  “what else do librarians do all day?”

Visit from another college librarian – explaining the context of the library I work in and the importance of professional networking with colleagues from other libraries

Collection management – outlining the balance between acquisitions coming into the library and the need to weed the collections

Project Management – describing the various projects I had on the go in the library that summer and how their timescales fitted together

“Chips and Mash” Mashed Libraries event, Huddersfield, 30th July 2010 – summarising an event I had attended

Round 6 – January 2011

Gather ye data while ye may – to highlight the importance of data gathering and monitoring

Library Committee – explaining the formal meetings I have each term in which library policies and procedures are ratified or changed

One-to-one meetings – to highlight the importance of my role as a manager within my job

Knowledge capture – explaining the importance of shared information in any team

Philip Pullman adds his voice to the campaign to defend public libraries – libraries in the news

Top tips for getting things done – some advice for how to work efficiently


I don’t think my path into librarianship was unusual: there is quite a lot of cross-pollination between careers in libraries and education – but I find that I am unusual in having a background in science.

If you’re considering a career in libraries, try to offer as wide a range of skills as you can.  Customer service is important, as are numeracy and skills in strategy, analysis and planning.  Being a manager of other people is a part of most jobs above a certain grade level, and it’s a great opportunity for your own development too.  I would like to see more people coming into the profession with a positive attitude to one day being a manager.

Librarianship as a career

This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.

This week’s cpd23 Thing 10 and Thing 11 are about routes to becoming a qualified librarian and mentoring within the profession.

My career path since school:

1996-1999 B.Sc. (Hons) Physiological Sciences (Newcastle University)

1999-200o PGCE Secondary Science (Biology) (Northumbria University)

2000-2005 Teaching in high school and secondary schools in north-east England

Career crisis!  Do I want to carry on marking, report-writing, doing parents’ evenings, chasing homework, preparing lessons most evenings and at least one day every weekend, not being able to choose when I go on holiday…?

Er, no.  Much as I loved teaching and enjoyed wrangling teenagers, I longed for a more 9-5 job that would allow me to fit in some living around my work.  My mum is a librarian, and my maternal grandmother also worked in libraries, so my genetic profile naturally led me to:

2005-2006 MA Information and Library Management (Northumbria University)

I studied full-time for a year, which I really enjoyed as I could experience being a student again and appreciate the luxury of having so much time to commit to learning.  I also worked part-time in a university library throughout that year.

Librarianship proved an irresistible combination of orderliness, record-keeping, technology, data, interaction with people both as customers and within a library team and cardigans.  Many of the skills involved are directly transferable from teaching.  And I can go home most days without taking any work with me!

Since my library degree, I have had the following jobs:

I’m working towards Chartership and hope to submit my portfolio in the next couple of months.  I have a mentor who helps me through the Chartership process and we meet by phone every few months.  I don’t have a local mentor as such – any offers?

Recruiting the next generation of librarians

Yesterday I took part in a school careers evening and talked to many students about what a career in information means nowadays.

Many thanks to Ned Potter for allowing me to modify his original If you want to work in libraries presentation.

Although most of the young people I spoke to told me that they wanted to be a doctor, architect or primary school teacher, I hope I managed to dispel some myths and maybe in years to come they might remember this interaction and give librarianship a second look.

How I became a librarian and found job satisfaction

As part of today’s Bodleian Libraries’ Personal Development and Career Planning Day, Kerry Webb [Deputy Librarian at the English Faculty Library] and I co-presented a session entitled “How I became a librarian and found job satisfaction”.  This is a summary of my section of the presentation.

I began with a brief outline of my career path so far:

September 1996 – June 1999 B. Sc. (Hons) Physiological Sciences, Newcastle University; September 1999 – June 2000 PGCE Secondary Science (Biology), Northumbria University; September 2000 – August 2005 Teaching; September 2005 – August 2006 MA Information & Library Management, Northumbria University; September 2005 – August 2006 Information Officer, Northumbria University Library; August 2006 – November 2007 Assistant Librarian, St Clare’s (Oxford); November 2007 – May 2009 Electronic Resources Senior Assistant, OULS*; May 2009 – March 2010 Deputy Manager of Staff Development, OULS; March 2010 - present Librarian, St Hugh’s College (Oxford)

*OULS = Oxford University Library Services, now Bodleian Libraries

Job satisfaction in my current role

  • Getting things well-organised
  • Being creative in use of space, ideas for new collections
  • Using technology to make things better: RFID, combined copier/scanner/printer with card swipe
  • Project management: combining short, medium and long-term projects so that essentials get done and non-urgent tasks are still progressing, and crises are avoided
  • Learning to be a good manager
  • Classification geek

Making the most of your current role

  • Do your job well!  Add value to the tasks you already do
  • Especially if you are aiming for a grade increase at your next job, expect to work above your current job description
  • Volunteer to take part in committees and special projects (for example, I organised 23 Things Oxford and the All Libraries Pub Quiz outside of work)

Think about future jobs

  • What are you interested in?  What are you good at?  NB: these may not be the same!
  • Keep an eye out for job adverts and see how your skills match up.  Identify any areas you need to improve on
  • Approach skills gaps in a variety of ways – use experience from your personal life (sports captain, choir treasurer, managing a family, secretary for a CILIP group.  Use the appraisal system to ask for training (some may benefit you in your existing job, such as IT skills)
  • Be open-minded about jobs you would consider.  Not all jobs are sexy, but you can learn a lot from any job you do

Some all-round good ideas

  • Be prepared to move around to develop your career.  There’s a big world outside beyond Oxford
  • Consider Chartership – not much recognised at Oxford, may well be an advantage elsewhere
  • Take responsibility for your own professional development: reading, meeting people, reflecting on your current role.  Tools I use include RSS feeds and Twitter.  Meeting people outside your department/sector is invaluable

And a final thought (attributed to Thomas Edison)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”

New collections

The library lobby has been refurbished over the summer, and it looks really good now!

New lobby seating area

The friendly, informal space which has been created will now host our collection of print journals, general reference works and a few new collections:

  • New items – showing items recently purchased by the library.  A good place to stop and see what’s new
  • Written by Fellows of St Hugh’s College – home-grown works of scholarship which I hope will increase students’ awareness of what academics do when they are not teaching, and help promote their research interests in the college community
  • Broader Reading – a collection of books on a variety of subjects to give students a place to start when they want to learn about something outside their subject specialism.  This section includes many of OUP’s Very Short Introductions series
  • Learning & Study Skills – books about how to learn and study more effectively; covering areas such as referencing, revising and note-taking
  • Fiction – for students who want a break from their academic reading, this collection of prize-shortlisted books will offer them some light relief!

Welcome to Laura’s Dark Archive!

Library “Day in the Life” starts again tomorrow, so I am preparing to record what I do at work this week in the hope that it will be useful and interesting to other people who work in libraries, and help anyone considering librarianship as a career to see how varied the job can be.

My current job involves running a library which serves the following community:

  • 400 undergraduate students, across a wide variety of subjects
  • 200 postgraduate students, some on taught courses and some on research courses
  • over 100 university Fellows, tutors and lecturers who teach the students mentioned above as well as pursuing their own research interests
  • a small number of visiting readers who wish to consult a specific book, or use the college archives
  • plus anyone else from the college’s non-academic staff

I have two full-time assistant librarians in my team and two part-time shelving assistants.  Our library is open 24/7, almost all year except a break at Christmas.

My previous jobs have been:

  • Deputy Manager of Staff Development, Bodleian Libraries [blog]
  • Electronic Resources Senior Assistant, Bodleian Libraries [blog]
  • Assistant Librarian, St Clare’s, Oxford
  • Information Assistant, Northumbria University Library

… and before all of that, I was a secondary school science teacher.  My skills in teaching have been enormously helpful in all my jobs in libraries.

I enjoy the range of tasks I encounter in my job as a librarian, and the opportunities to help people find information are often found away from the enquiry desk or library office.  I look forward to recording what I do at work this week and hope that you will find it as interesting as I do!