A wide range of speakers provided us with valuable insight into what a career in the LIS field requires, what the dos and don’ts are when applying to Library School, going for an interview, and how libraries and information provision are changing.
The conference was kicked off by Julie Holmes, the Director of Libraries at London Metropolitan University. Her presentation focused on the changing nature of academic libraries. She stressed the importance of fundraising and marketing skills in a time when the political and economic climate is less than favourable towards libraries and academic institutions. It was very encouraging to hear her stress the reasons why professional librarians are, and will always be, indispensable in university libraries. Hearing her take on what the most important skills and attributes are for an aspiring librarian was particularly interesting. Diplomacy and negotiation skills are perhaps not the first skills that come to mind when one thinks of a librarian, but they are becoming increasingly important in a climate in which libraries have to defend their reason for existence.
Holmes’ presentation was primarily concerned with outlining the difficulties and challenges academic libraries are facing, whereas the presentation of the next speaker, Vanda Broughton, Programme Director for the MA in Library Studies at UCL, focused entirely on the conference’s actual topic: applying to study Library and Information Science. I believe that for most of us her presentation was the most useful part of the day. She talked us through all the stages of applying for a place on a course, from writing a letter and a CV to going for an interview and applying for funding. The latter was very useful, as it shed a light on the complex labyrinth of rules and regulations that is the AHRC website. Her advice on tailoring our CV to the application and on what to write in the personal statement have been of great help to me when completing my applications, and I am sure that her advice on what (not) to say at library school interviews will prove to be helpful as well.
The last speaker of the morning, Sarah Ison, Assistant Information Adviser at the University of Brighton, talked about CILIP and their Career Development Group of which she is part. It was interesting to hear more about CILIP groups and the benefits of joining CILIP. The following lunch break gave me the chance to meet several other trainees, all from institutions in and around London. Being the only trainee at Surrey, it was nice to listen to other trainees’ stories of exasperating readers, stubborn members of staff and the endless search of missing books.
The afternoon was dedicated to presentations of and Q and A sessions with recent LIS graduates. Although I have a clear idea of what types of careers I am interested in, it was very interesting to hear more about careers within the LIS field that I did not know about before. Chris Brown, for instance, works as a Research Reserve Coordinator at Imperial College, and Sian Blake coordinates the Customer Services at Kingston. Both stressed the fact that many skills gathered from previous roles and careers will come in useful at a LIS job, and they also talked about what they had learnt from working in the LIS field..
Other recent graduates joined them for the Q and A session. Although this was a good idea, I did not find most of the questions particularly useful, as they mainly focused on the various library courses. The answers to most of these questions can easily be found on the universities’ websites. Perhaps it would have been better if we had been given some time to think over what questions we wanted to ask first. However, overall I would say that this conference was very well-organised, and it provided aspiring librarians with a clear overview of what the current issues in the field are, of what is required of a modern librarian and of what library schools expect of their applicants. Now all we need to do is get into the library school of our choice, gain a qualification and start our careers…
University of Surrey