Event review by Evelyn Webster: CLSIG, BIALL & SLA Europe Graduate Open Day 2016

Our thanks to Evelyn Webster, who kindly accepted to offer a review of the Graduate Open Day that took place earlier this month in London. Evelyn is in her first professional post as a library officer for Pinsent Masons LLP, based in their Leeds office. She completed her MA in library and information management at MMU in 2013. She is also a committee member for the CILIP Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Member Network, and organises tours to show off the libraries in the region.

The BIALL, CLSIG and SLA Europe Graduate Open Day is a fantastic taster session to introduce new and aspiring professionals to less well-known types of libraries. It is a chance to find out about organisations that you did not even realise employed librarians, or cannot quite picture the work they would do.

I decided to blog about the day by explaining my top three learning outcomes, because I felt that all the speakers contributed to them.

1) Your career path can be as straight or as winding as you like

It is inspiring to hear about the career paths of people like Catherine Johnson, who have tried almost every kind of library-related role out there. In librarianship, you don not have to stick to one sector; our skills are very transferable. As Natasha Chowdory said, the main thing you need is customer service skills, because all libraries exist for their users, and our perpetual challenge is delivering what users want.

A varied career affords myriad learning opportunities, and you never know when an idea from another context might be the spark you need to solve your problem. But you do not have to bounce around; working your way up within one sector, or even the same organisation, as Julee Carroll has done, allows you to develop a detailed understanding of what your users require. This allows you to easily spot ideas that will improve the service.

2) Don’t be fooled by the job title

Curtis Moise explained that companies are realising they need to get their information and knowledge in order, so there are plenty of roles that require librarian-type skills. However, the gradual trend is to embed these roles, rather than have a separate knowledge team, and Vicky Sculfor has already noticed that job titles are less likely to contain a ‘library’ keyword. For example, Susan Bates‘ and Grayce Shomade‘s jobs are all about finding and examining information, but their title is ‘patent analyst’, and if you didn’t check the job description (or hear their presentation!), you might not realise what the role entails.

3) Take on something extra

Natasha explained that taking the initiative and providing an extra service that your organisation wants, but has not thought to ask for, is how you get people to notice your value. And as Tracey Dennis pointed out, libraries do not make money, so even in organisations as wealthy as the Inns of Court, or the Wellcome Trust, you need to seize every opportunity to assert your value.

Wellcome Library tour - cushions for lounging on the stairs

Extra services can engage a wider range of users, and Ruth Jenkins found that once you grab them, people start to realise how they could benefit from the other services you have been providing all along. From a personal point of view, by showing you can do more than what you are paid for, you prove that you are efficient (or innovative) enough to streamline your day-to-day duties, astute enough to identify unmet needs, and dedicated enough to meet them. Who would not hire someone like that?

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