2012 has been an important year for my burgeoning library career, because this year I have achieved the two key milestones of passing my MA degree and finding my first professional post. I think that I’ve been quite lucky to have moved so quickly and seamlessly from my graduate traineeship to becoming qualified and beginning work as a professional librarian, because it seems that this traditional route into librarianship is becoming more difficult each year for new people entering the profession. The number of graduate traineeships is shrinking, and the fees for postgraduate library courses are steadily being increased while funding opportunities are simultaneously being reduced.
I think that if I were beginning my career as a new trainee now, I’d have some serious doubts about whether taking the MA was a real possibility given the cost and the lack of funding; I certainly would have ruled out full-time study and would probably have plumped for a pay-as-you-go distance learning course instead so that I could work and study at the same time. I know some people who have taken this route into the profession and it’s hard work, although the chance to gain some extra library-related work experience while studying is definitely valuable. However, I know that if I had taken that route, it would have taken me much longer to reach the career stage where I am now, and so I feel grateful for the opportunities that have allowed me to arrive at this stage so soon.
At the moment I am continuing to settle into my new role and to make plans for the forthcoming new year. The college’s new Blackboard VLE is about to be launched and the Learning Resources Centre will have its own area within this, which means that I will soon be assisting in the design of online content such as subject guides and library tutorials. We have a new intake of students in February, which means that there is lots to do to prepare for our library inductions, and after Christmas I also hope to make a start on developing a social media presence for the LRC in order to communicate with our users and to promote our resources and services.
In addition to making plans for the new year, I have also been getting to grips with some of the more challenging aspects of my role. One of the key challenges is the fact that the college is split across two main campuses which are on opposite sides of London, which means that I can’t have the daily face-to-face contact with my library colleagues at the other campus that I would like. This is a potential issue when it comes to ensuring that we can deliver a joined-up, streamlined library service across both campuses. However, the issue has been mitigated somewhat by the fact that some library staff have been given days away from their main campus in order to visit staff at the other campus and to see what is being done with the library service there. These cross-campus visits have also enabled us to have meetings where we can discuss at length how we want to take new initiatives forward, such as our subject support services. These planning and catch-up meetings have been really valuable and have definitely improved communication between the two campuses, and the plan is to continue with them in the new year.
Another key challenge for me so far has been the management aspect of my role. It has been a big change to go from only managing my own workload to managing the workload of others as well, but although supervising a small team is a pretty steep learning curve for me, I feel that I’m gaining new insights every day into how to be a more effective manager. I’ve been trying out a number of different approaches when it comes to organising our time and prioritising our tasks as a team, and my colleagues have been really helpful in terms of offering me feedback on what they feel works well and what doesn’t. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying the process and the experience that I’m getting is really invaluable.
As this will probably be my last blog post of 2012, I’ve made some new year’s library resolutions for 2013 which I hope will help me to progress in my new role:
The college where I work specialises in business and management, a subject area in which I currently have very little knowledge or expertise. As such, my first resolution is to completely familiarise myself with our print collection and e-resources so that I can develop my subject knowledge and offer a more efficient service to our users. I will do this by spending more time exploring our databases and by learning our classification system, which is the London Classification of Business Studies.
My second resolution is to spend more time getting to know the students and academics at the college so that I can develop a better understanding of their information needs and how the LRC can meet those needs. I’d like to start gathering feedback on our services and resources at some point in the near future so that we can use this to inform our plans about further developing the library service.
My final resolution is to continue to build effective working relationships with my colleagues at both campuses in order to enable us to collaborate productively and to share good practice. This should hopefully enable us to develop a streamlined approach to running the library service.
In conclusion, for me this year has been one of transition from library school student into professional librarian, which is a big change but an exciting one. I still have a huge amount to learn but I’m looking forward to the experiences and challenges that the new year will bring and also to improving and developing my knowledge and skills within my new professional role.