Early Career Conference Awards – Interview with Bethany Sherwood

This is the first in a series of interviews with each of our Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) winners for 2018. 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 2018 SLA Conference & INFO-EXPO in Baltimore this June.

Our first interview is with Bethany Sherwood. Bethany is currently studying part-time for the Information Science MSc at City, University of London, and works as a Library Assistant at the English Faculty Library, University of Cambridge. Her award is co-sponsored by the Academic Division.


Why did you pursue a LIS career?

I read English at undergrad and found that the most interesting questions I came across were asking why we were reading the books we were reading and who was deciding what qualified as literature. When I realised that libraries weren’t neutral spaces I knew I wanted to pursue a career in them. It’s been the enthusiasm of other library and information professionals that has further convinced me of the value and joy of working in a space where everything is questioned and contested. I love the passion and seriousness that underlies the profession; that open discussion and a commitment to professional development are standard rather than extras.


Can you tell us about your career so far?

I’ve been working at the Cambridge English Faculty Library for two and a half years, so I still feel fairly new. After graduating I applied for a few graduate traineeships but didn’t get any interviews as I lacked work experience. I was lucky to find some librarians (the brilliant Libby Tilley and Helen Murphy at the EFL) who have taught me a lot about good librarianship and have pushed lots of useful experience my way. I like that working in an academic library is so varied, I can start cataloguing a pamphlet about Anglo Saxon coins and two hours later, I’ve helped someone track down an online article, given advice about referencing, made an infographic, and fixed a printer.

I started the MSc in Information Science at City, University of London, in September 2017. I’ve really enjoyed getting to think more deeply and sustainedly about the theory behind LIS practice, and being part of the CityLIS community.


Why did you decide to apply for an ECCA with the Academic division?

I applied for an ECCA with the Academic division because I’m passionate about communicating the value of libraries within academic institutions. Academic libraries are so much more than books and working spaces, and I like the challenge of getting others to see this too. In my current role, I’m responsible for promoting the library’s services to its users, which presents the challenge of learning what our users need, what they want, and how we can match that with what we offer. Academic libraries are the lifeblood of research, and at a time when the library portfolio is broadening to encompass scholarly communications, digital humanities, and the increasing needs of research data management, they’re a really exciting place to be working.


What are you most looking forward to about SLA 2018?

I’m really excited to have my professional horizons broadened so significantly!  I’ve learnt so much already over the past few years through meeting people at conferences, drawing from their experiences and professional practice in contexts and cultures unlike my own. I really appreciate that if I have a question all I need to do is log onto Twitter and there is a ready network of hundreds of interested and invested people willing to share their wisdom. I’m looking forward to meeting more people, and especially seeing how librarianship is different in the U.S.


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

I’m most looking forward to the sessions focusing on library marketing as I’m hoping to get some fresh ideas to bring back to my role at the EFL. I’m also a big fan of Carla Hayden, so I’m really excited to hear her deliver the keynote address.

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