Finding the best place for you

When I first started applying for jobs when I had completed my undergrad, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and was thus applying for anything that sounded ok. And so, when applying, it was just about getting the interview and trying my best to sound right for the job so that they would like me.

But as I have found the career I want to pursue, I started putting more thought into where I was applying to, who I would be working with and particularly, the role I would be taking on and what it would entail.

There are many jobs that have the same job title, but the roles themselves can have slight differences. This will be because of the size of the team and the kind of organisation it is (e.g. a university, law firm or business), which thus changes what tasks and duties you’d have.

I’ve had 4 different library assistant roles in 4 different places and each one has been different. In one, I solely dealt with enquiries and in another I just shelved. In one I dealt with enquiries on different floors but the range was quite broad (from finding a book to helping format documents). In the last, I dealt with enquiries so broad, some really had nothing to do with what normal libraries deal with. However, in only one of these was I allowed to be truly creative in developing ideas and resources for library users.

Having been in these positions, I realised how much I value certain things in a role. I love variety, I love dealing with quirky people and I love small teams. Also, my ideal job would allow me to be creative in developing ideas and allow me to have a say in any changes or developments that would be happening in the service.

My lastest role has proved to me that I can no longer be just a library assistant because I have so much to give. There’s so many things I want to do and so many many things I want to try. Within a library assistant role, there is no room for me to thrive and showcase my abilities.

That is why after looking at the job description and deciding ‘ok, this looks interesting’ and applying,  the interview is very important.

Interviews are a great and interesting way for you as an individual to get to know the organisation and for the interviewer to get to know you. The real you. You don’t want to be faking it from the get go, because if you get the job and you’re someone different, I’m sure you will encounter a lot of difficulties in the future that could definitely have been avoided. 

The interviewer(s) can give away so much about the role and the organisation if you’re really interested in paying attention. I found this out recently, which made me realise how much I was actually interested in the role and the people who I would be helping. 

Thus, the interview itself wasn’t boring and I found myself taking a way a lot more than I thought I would. In addition, I thought that even if I didn’t get that job, there was so much I learned from the engagement I had with the people of that organisation that I could take away with me. 

The best advice I ever received about attending interviews was don’t spend an excessive amount of time researching the company/organisation because the interviewer won’t be quizzing you on every aspect of the organisation. But do some research on yourself – who you are, what you can bring to the organisation and what you want to gain out of being there. In this way, you can find the perfect role and place for you specifically. Somewhere where you can really enjoy your work and the people you work with. Better now when you’re young but also so important when you’re not so young.

Are we really doing it for them, or for us?

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Having been in my current post for a while and looking back at my previous positions, I have been wondering whether the things that my colleagues and I do to promote the resources and the way we go about doing it, is it for us or is it for our patrons? One particular area of concern is:

‘Are we fully understanding what it is the patrons want from us?’

I think that a lot of librarians and information professionals tend to assume that they know what is best for their patrons. But I don’t think that’s always case. For example, some patrons couldn’t care less about what each month represents, about using the various options (such as limiters, sharing and saving to folders) that are available (as most don’t even know that they’re there or how to use them), what the the discovery service is called or even what it is.  Most patrons just want the ability to find the information they need as quickly as possible and if the library is promoting something it has to be relevant to them and what they are studying/interested in.

In addition, is the way in which we promote information useful for our patrons? Do certain things need to be put in A4 guides, or could they be condensed to a sentence and a diagram? Are we utilising our online presence enough or are we using it too much by putting everything on there?

It has been proven that our attention span is a lot shorter and long paragraphs and essays don’t work. In order to grab a person’s attention, the information needs to be presented in a way that is eye-catching  and memorable.

I recently had to persuade my manager to make harvardguidehis guide more colourful instead of the normal black writing, white background with maybe a little grey for colour. It was good that I spoke up because the guide looks absolutely amazing (I hope they don’t mind that I’ve put it up :S).

Whether this is more helpful or not was shown by the amount of people who have picked up the guide. More copies have had to be produced, suggesting that the simplicity of this guide makes it easier to understand and does the job it is meant to do.

I have no right or wrong answer about how we should produce information, what format it should be in and where we put it as it should be considered on a case by case basis. The above example is good as a leaflet guide as it can just be handed out. But it could also do well if put onto one of the library pages as it could be easily accessed and copied and thus downloaded. But the reason it did well was because it was available to the patrons where they frequent everyday – the library.

Thus, I guess what I’m trying to say is that as long as the information is relevant, easy to understand and put in a place where patrons are most likely to take note of it, they will acknowledge it and use it.Having excessive amount of limiters, promoting a topic that is not relevant to the daily interests of the patrons and having information online that is hard to find (even if anyone knew it was there), amongst a whole host of other things, is not helpful or useful. Just because we understand, know how to use and/or find it, doesn’t mean that our patrons will.

Within this transition period where we as information professionals are taking more note of what our patrons want and how the online world can be extremely useful in sharing information (especially those libraries that are not traditional libraries which house print materials), we need to think more about how we do things and whether what we do is really for our own benefit or for them.

Thoughts at the beginning

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Starting a new job always brings excitement and anxiety for me. Excitement because it’s a new start, a new role and a new environment. Anxiety because I’m always wondering whether I’ll actually enjoy the role, if I will like the people, will this be the start of a new life for me or will I be going back to the drawing board.

Nevertheless, the experience that can be gained from any new role and/environment has proved priceless in the past. I’ve always found that even if there is something that I am displeased with (big or small) there is always something good to be taken away. Whether it is do with certain aspects of the role or making new friends.

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When I was working in retail, I really hated it. Customers were rude and there were all these annoying rules and regulations that kept changing. But I have met some of the greatest people from working there and I am still in touch with them now.

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In addition, the first few weeks of a job can hardly be used to determine its worth either. In particular, I had one job where I just didn’t understand why I was there and what I could do. But as the weeks went by and I became used to the role and the environment, I found my place within the organisation.

Even with all of these experiences in mind, I still find myself a little agitated when I have very little do. I begin to question everything about myself and what I can offer in a job when the things I can do are limited by time, experience and job role.It also doesn’t help that I still have no idea where I want to be in place or career. So finding an area to excel in becomes difficult when everything seems mundane or out of reach.

Patience is definitely a virtue and I’m working hard to embody the concept.I’m always being told not to rush and that things will come with time. It’s definitely true, as long as you work at it, but the journey can definitely be tedious at times.

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Resolution

I recently went through a period where I was unsure of whether I wanted to stay in libraries, of whether I had the skills to be an information professional or of whether I had the drive to really make it as an information professional. I started assessing my character and the things I was doing in my current role. This was especially as I frequently took note of what my colleagues were doing to help promote the service and the materials.

As I began sorting out different sections of the library, I realised there were a lot of things I wanted to do and achieve but found myself lacking in getting it done. Reasons included the fact that this was a temporary role and that I didn’t know if I had the skills or imagination to make it work. In addition, I was unsure of whether I had enough information about the materials and the target audience in order to effectively promote the library and its resources.

As I was thinking about these things, I came to realise how hesitant I am about doing things if I’m not sure I’m allowed to do them. Librarianship is new to me as a  concept and as a career. I have very little knowledge of the hierarchy and how much experience and knowledge it takes to move to a higher position. I am uncertain on how to develop my skills in a specific area and what that area should be.

However, I want to able to actively do things without hesitating and worrying about my position. I want to use the knowledge I have to provide the service I want to give, whether I am in a temporary or permanent role.

This is a resolution I hope to achieve this year, as this year is definitely the year where I hope to be setting myself up for the future.

Was I born to be a librarian, or not?

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Ever since I began pursuing a career in librarianship, I started to notice that there were certain habits I had acquired that make being an information professional a job that completely fits my personality.

For example, I use Microsoft Access to record the different shows I’ve watched as well the number of episodes, dates I finished watching them and some other details. I even have different databases detailing what type of show is in which database. (Now thinking about it, I kind of want to indicate what genre each show is from).

I primarily use social media to keep track of useful information. For example, Google + has been like a miracle in technology to me as I get to create different collections. This means that if I’m looking for a certain piece of information I found months ago, I know exactly where I saved it.

However, although these things come naturally to me and kind of indicates that I like cataloguing and classifying things, I have sometimes wondered whether being a librarian is really what I want to be.

Looking at a lot of the job descriptions and having attended a few interviews, I have often thought: ‘This job seems boring.’ ‘Would I really enjoy working here?’ ‘Is this all that’s out there?’

I know that I like helping people find the materials they need, format their documents, use the internet and familiarise themselves with their technological devices. But the closet job I could think of was either being an ICT teacher or being a digital librarian.

A digital librarian requires you to have in-depth knowledge on how to use technology and the practical skills to go with it. This includes coding and familiarity with information systems that allows you to manipulate it so you can make it do what you want. In addition, it most likely requires more time working on the computer then helping people.

I don’t want to be a teacher, so being an ICT teacher is immediately a big fat no.

So what do I do?

For now, I’ve decided to just get as much experience as I can in libraries, taking an interest in the different facets of librarianship. I don’t have an answer as to whether I will stay in librarianship or if I will someday pursue some other career path. I just hope that one day soon, I will have an answer.

2016 EDS Conference

As a new information professional, I feel that it’s really important that I get as much information about the changes and developments that are happening in the information profession. So I signed myself up to attend the 2016 EDS conference at Regent’s University.

I didn’t really know what EDS was or does, so I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about the software that is being used in libraries. In addition, it was free, which meant it was easily accessible to someone like me who is new to conferences.

I don’t think I knew what discovery systems were either. I understood that there were systems that allowed people to search a range of databases, simultaneously. However, maybe due to my lack of awareness, I didn’t know that were actually called discovery services.

I think this is partly due to the library I currently work in. Everything is separate – the OPAC and the different subscription databases have to be searched individually. In addition, I was unaware that I was using a discovery service when searching for information on my university’s library catalogue. So I went to this conference with a very open and ignorant mind. I didn’t know what to expect and I was happy to take anything on-board.

What I found was that a lot of universities are using EDS to make their resources more discoverable. And most importantly, many universities are actively evaluating how useful EDS has actually been in helping to discover information and what they can do, as librarians, to improve it using the features built into EDS.

Thus, one of the presentations that really got my attention was the ‘Did DISCOVER democratise journal usage?’. The presentation took us through a librarian’s journey of assessing whether EDS had actually made resources more discoverable and whether it was a good thing or not.

For example, the presenter remarked that not all journals are equal. Thus, whilst the service allows more articles to be discovered from lesser known journals and publishers, it could also mean that articles from the big journals/publishers may be put at the bottom of the pile.

Another aspect that I was pleased to learn about was the research that had gone into how students search for information – students’ information behaviour. I think that a lot of librarians believe that if they get the right package that makes searching super easy and looks and works similar to search engines like Google, students should love it and adopt it immediately. However, as the studies conducted by EDS and some librarians show, discovery services are not being fully utilised by students.

One reason is that students may not know how to use or want to use certain features. For example, the use of ‘limiters’ may cause students to think that they may over use this feature and miss out on important articles. Also, students aren’t utilising the save an article/book feature and are instead using tabs as a way of saving information they’ll want to look at later.

However, EDS are continuously trying to develop software that will be used by students to search for information.

For example, EDS pitched a new mobile/tablet application where a student could quickly search for information, send some relevant articles to their email and have a look at them later. The world in which we live now, numerous scenarios come up when thinking about how useful this application could be, some of which were recognised by the developer.

For example, if they were in a queue lining up for coffee, in a lecture or just out and about and wanted to look something up. It is a very simple application that caters for a certain kind of situation.

People don’t use phone and tablets the same way they use laptops and computers. Having a site that is used for in-depth research reduced down for a smaller screen wouldn’t be helpful to the user. EDS recognised this and thus developed this idea.

However, one librarian seemed to want EDS to further develop the mobile site of their existing platform, to help users find information using their mobile devices. It seemed like they didn’t understand the purpose of the application to acknowledge that one size does not fit all.

As a student and having worked in a library, I feel as though I understand both perspectives. An application like the one described above, seems simple and easy to use if I wanted to quickly find information. I don’t want to have to filter the results or look at what journal it’s from. I just want information. But as a librarian, you want to provide options and all the information that comes with the resource.

It is hard to create a balance between the two objectives and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. This includes developing the technology and the features as well as making sure that we as librarians understand the needs of the students and utilise that knowledge to create systems meant for them.

Employing discovery services is just one way in which librarians are trying to make information more accessible. And the EDS conference revealed a side of librarianship that was virtually unknown to me. The thought that goes into developing these systems is astounding and the work that librarians put in to making it work, by adapting it to fit their users, is amazing.

What especially interested me was that research into user experience, information behaviour and information literacy, amongst other things, are being utilised to develop these systems. As a student, I did wonder how this type of research was being used in the real world.

All in all I gained a lot from attending the conference. I was able to expand my knowledge base as well as learn about what librarians are doing for their students. It was also great to learn that librarians are conducting their own research on their own students and systems, which makes entering the profession even more exciting.

Being an information professional

When I first begun my journey as an information professional (IP), I too thought that it would be all about the books. I thought that any role I pursued would be about finding materials, using materials, checking in materials and not much else, apart from creating guides and having some online support available. However, from studying Library Science and working as a graduate trainee and library assistant, I have found that being an IP is not just about having access to the materials. It’s about what you can do as an IP to help your clients/patrons/students/customers, acquire the information they need, which is not limited to books and journals.

When working in a company, people may need information on how to better communicate with their peers or their clients or advice on how to run their business. In a university students need information on how to write their essays, applying for jobs or further education possibilities.There are so many roles attached to being an IP that don’t just involve showing people where to find information. We are the information. We are the materials.

I have often been told that we are a brand and that we need to promote ourselves. Thus we must actively be involved with the things that are important to our clients/patrons/students/customers. This includes being online using social media, offering services that will enable them to continue with their studies or businesses and thinking about how our own unique interests and talents can be used to showcase that information.

Becoming an IP seems fun and exciting, because I have the opportunity to get to really know the people I am there to help, in terms of what they would need from me and how they would prefer to have that information. In addition, I get to increase my knowledge base and build on my creative skills.