Early Career Conference Awards – Interview with Ruth MacMullen

This is the second in a series of interviews with each of our Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) winners for 2017. In these blog posts our winners will tell us more about why they applied for the award, and what they are looking forward to at the conference. The ECCA winners are sponsored by SLA Europe and SLA Divisions, and will be attending the 2017 SLA Conference & INFO-EXPO in Phoenix this June.

Ruth MacMullen, 2017 ECCA winner, co-sponsored by the Legal Division

Our second interview is with Ruth MacMullen. Ruth is the Copyright & Licences Officer at York St John University. Her award is co-sponsored by the Legal Division.

Why did you pursue a LIS career?

It’s a total cliché but I’ve always loved books. My parents were extremely supportive of me reading but I did occasionally get gently chided for having my nose glued to a book all the time! My school tutor decided to send me to a children’s library for work experience when I was 15 and the rest, as they say, is history. I absolutely loved the combination of helping readers and keeping things ticking away behind the scenes. It felt like being a secret book ninja! I applied for more voluntary experience in my university library; from there, I got a part-time job after I graduated. I completed the library masters qualification and have worked in various roles in university libraries ever since. So, from loving books, it’s become about helping people and linking them up with the information that they want and need.

Can you tell us about your career so far?

I specialise in copyright: compliance, advice, training. From speaking to many other librarian/copyright adviser hybrids, many ended up with the responsibility by accident, but for me it was very much by design. My first permanent library role was in the wonderful world of serials and e-resources, and I loved doing all the cataloguing and technical stuff, and dealing with subscriptions. From there I went to work for a new team that was set up to deal with scanning and digitisation. This was a very exciting time, and I enjoyed the copyright aspect so much that I decided to seek out a role that dealt primarily with copyright. I’m currently working as Copyright & Licences Officer, and in just over a month I shall start a new role as Scholarly Communications Licensing Manager. For me, copyright is fundamentally about access and knowing your rights. I tell all our users that it’s a two-way process: look after your own, and respect others’. It can involve some tricky negotiating, and lots of curious queries, but I love – nearly – every moment of it.

Why did you decide to apply for an ECCA with the Legal Division?

Being a librarian in a legal advisory/compliance role can be a bit strange at times. The work is a curious hybrid of theoretical creativity, training, and spending hours reading complex legal documents: statutes, policies, contracts. I have also just completed my first semester of an LLM in Intellectual Property Law – I receive quite a lot of queries and training requests relating to other IPRs, and there is overlap between, for example, copyright and design right. Although I work in a university library, I feel that my field of expertise is legal information management – although perhaps not in the ‘traditional’ sense. I am incredibly honoured to be the Legal Division candidate this year, and feel I have new and unusual perspective to bring as well as lots to learn from the other LD members.

What are you most looking forward to about SLA 2017?

The Legal Division events, such as the Bloomberg Law Breakfast, and to meeting law librarians from different backgrounds and professional fields. The SLA Europe events and the International Reception. Most of all, I’m looking forward to networking with and building contacts in a truly global environment, to discovering areas of common interest along with different approaches and a fresh way of looking at shared issues. My mentors, Marie Cannon in the UK and Jessica King in the US, have been amazingly helpful and I am looking forward to meeting them, too.


Which sessions/speakers on the programme are excited most about?

I’ve signed up for some sessions of scholarly communications and leadership, which I’m excited about as I think they will be super useful in my new role. I’m also attending some sessions on data management, bibliometrics, and impact: very hot topics for us here in the UK with the REF review and growth of Research Data Management. The keynote speakers, Lulu Miller and Moriba Jah, look fascinating and they show just how versatile the role of the information professional can be.