Introducing… The World of Libraries

It is approaching that time of year when a fresh set of graduate trainees are starting to enter the library world, so if you are a ‘library-trainee-to-be’, or thinking of things to tell your replacement, I’ve outlined a few things that might be of use to you. You don’t need to do all of them, but hopefully a little awareness will go a long way.

Library Current Awareness

  • Sign up to some mailing lists – these are great for keeping an eye on opportunities for students and grad trainees (ie. conference bursaries), library meet ups that may be taking place in your area, and general library happenings. The JISC mailing lists (free!) are great, with a strong array of specialised lists, as well as general ones such as LIS-LINK.  Have a browse to see which ones take your fancy; the majority of library related ones begin with “LIS-“. A word of caution though, if you sign up for too many, your inbox WILL become full VERY QUICKLY! I un-subscribed from several due to being inundated by emails that were not relevant for me. Being on two lists is about as much as I can manage, but every now and again, a gem of an email comes through and makes it all worth while.
Mounting Bills by elwillo (flickr cc)

Be sure to sort through your inbox often to avoid this situation.

Get Involved Online

  • Join Twitter so that you can ignore it and call it a waste of time before realising the error of your ways and coming back to embrace it before the year is out. For some good beginners’ tips regarding Twitter have a look at Ned Potter’s guide.
  • Start a blog to keep a record of what you get up to. I wish I had! At the time I probably wouldn’t have seen the point, but looking back, having something to compare my experiences to would have been fantastic. It will make writing your applications for postgrad courses and jobs easier too by providing you with a record of all that you have achieved and contemplated across the year.
  • Keep an eye on the LISNPN forums for interesting discussions, and read through the anonymous reviews of library courses, very informative!
  • Scout out a few library related blogs to read. You don’t need to add hundreds to your Google reader or RSS feed, but having a look at one or two every so often on your lunch break will give you a taste of the kind of issues libraries face and problems that you can tackle in the future. Great for getting a sense of how awesome and exciting the profession is and helping to understand the big library picture!

And Offline!

  • Online activities give a great sense of what the library world is like, but the best way to understand it is to meet people! Keep an eye out for LISNPN meet ups in your area.
  • Apply for things! When you see a bursary opportunity pop up in your inbox, apply! What is the worst that can happen? Maybe you’ll be sent to locations such as Newcastle, Dublin, or America!
  • Question the people you work with! There is a mine of information sat around you, so why not question them relentlessly about every aspect of the LIS profession you can think of? If they don’t have time at work, then suggest some after work activity where you can sit them all down and grill them. You are there to learn after all, why else would they have a trainee role?
Cruelty of Flesh by pasukaru76 (flickr cc)

The grilling of colleagues is metaphorical. Remember that.

Join Some Professional Bodies

Student membership can help you to make an informed decision of what a body can offer before having to shell out big bucks later on… Most importantly though, don’t be afraid to go along to events. As I’ve said before with regard to networking, if you are enthusiastic and have ideas, people will be pleased to talk to you, no matter what job level you work at. You just need to put yourself out there!

  • CILIP student membership is currently about £38. For me, the main benefit was access to some academic library journals, providing a taste of the kind of material I would be studying during my MA. I would also recommend the Career Development Group for getting involved- keep an eye out for their New Professionals Conference! You also receive Update and Gazette, useful for academic and public library news.
  • Special Library Association (SLA) student membership is currently about $40, roughly £25 depending on the exchange rate. You’ll receive their magazine, Information Outlook, but also access to a division (specialist) and chapter’s (regional) information. For instance, I have joined the European chapter and the Legal division, though you are free to join more, and do not have to practice in an area to join that division. Also of note, is that it isn’t just for specialist libraries – for instance, there is a large academic division. For me, the real benefit has been the networking opportunities SLA has provided, it contains an amazingly diverse set of librarians and information workers, opening my eyes to roles that I never knew existed.
  • Other specialist bodies such as the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL), the City Legal Information Group (CLIG) and the School Library Association (a different SLA) can provide networking opportunities and information more specifically related to interests you may have. Ask those who you work with what they would recommend!

Anything Else?

Let me know if you wish you had known anything else while you were in your traineeship or first library post!

5 responses to this post.

  1. This is such a great post!

    The other thing I wish I’d known is that you don’t have to wait for anyone else to make something happen, you can just do it for yourself. (Especially given all the free collaborative tools available online.)

    So if you have some kind of big idea, don’t hesitate! Just find a way to make it happen. I know that sounds completely Oprah but it’s really true – seniority is no longer a pre-requisite for making an impact in librarianship.:)


  2. Posted by Ian on July 28, 2011 at 10:23 am

    As a co-founder of Voices for the Library, I would also recommend getting involved in local library campaigns and advocacy in general. Find out if there are campaigns near you and get involved! Build links with the local media (or even national media!) and put yourself out there to speak up about the benefits libraries bring to communities. It’s not as difficult as it sounds! In the age of Twitter, it is very easy to track down your local journalist and engage with them about libraries. And if you are really ambitious, engage with national journalists too! All of us at VftL have found that the media really love libraries – this is something that we should certainly take advantage of! I’ve been fortunate enough to be in discussion with a number of people from the national media about libraries, from the BBC to Channel Four and everything in between – all achieved simply through the use of Twitter (and through guessing a journalist’s email address! Not as dodgy as it sounds!).

    I’d also echo Ned’s words about doing stuff. I’ll often come up with crazy ideas (particularly in terms of VftL) – sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. When they pay off, they pay off big. If they don’t, well you’ve learn from what went wrong and you tweak it a little – and no-one need ever know! The important thing is that you take a risk and try something out. If I hadn’t taken some of the risks that I have taken, I would never have been involved in VftL – something that would have been a continual source of regret.

    But first things first, get in touch with Voices for the Library and send us an article demonstrating why libraries and librarians are so important. Go on, you know you want to!

    Apologies for the plethora of exclamation marks, I was very excited:)


  3. All great advice – definitely stuff I wish I’d known when I was a graduate trainee! Quick note on mailing lists – they will fill up your inbox very quickly, as you say, but it’s easy to get around that by setting up a rule/filter (very easy to do in Outlook and Gmail, and I’d imagine similarly easy in other email clients, but those are the only two I know!) so that all your mailing lists go into a folder that you can check when you have time. I subscribe to about a dozen mailing lists, and they’re very easy to keep on top of in this was – many of the posts are irrelevant to me, so I just check my “mailing lists” folder a couple of times a day to see if anything good has come in.


  4. I’d add:
    You’ll go to a lot of meetings that don’t seem relevant to you and you may not understand. Go anyway, listen, and you’ll be surprised by the knowledge you’ll accumulate over the year!

    If you don’t want other people to read your thoughts about the traineeship on an open blog, you can set your blog to private. Or (as I do) keep a spreadsheet of the activities you want to do (library visits, training courses, etc) and tick them off over the course of the year. I also keep what I call a learning log where I write up what I’ve done on a regular basis. It’s just a Word document but I’m yet to think of a better way of doing it!

    The interviews for my replacement are coming up in the next couple of weeks. I have to show people around the library and chat to them before the formal part of their interview but have no idea what to say! What do you wish people had said to you before your interview?


  5. […] possibly leading to grads feeling treated like children, other others feel ancient. As I have said before, mix them together, and hope that new ideas can mix with realistic understanding of how to […]


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