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Friday, 31 October 2014

5 - Helen Blockwell, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Our latest blog is from Helen Blockwell, Sport Librarian and Library Website guru (!) at Cardiff Metropolitan University in Cardiff.

I loved reading as a kid.  I read anything and everything - books, cereal packets, road signs, Bunty. Saying that, I never considered librarianship as a profession until I was violently thrust, post-graduation (BA Hons English, Swansea Uni, but that’s not important) into the cruel world of temping in London.  Following a lengthy assignment washing bottles at the blacking factory (or was that someone else…) I needed to make a decision regarding my future employment.  During two very different temping assignments – one in a skyscraper with a team of extremely rude lawyers, the other with the lovely Quakers at Friends House – I met two very different librarians and thought “I could do that”.


After brief spells at the Financial Services Authority and University of Wales, Newport, I joined Cardiff Metropolitan University (formerly known as UWIC) and I’ve been based in the library at the Cyncoed Campus for the last 11 years, during which time I gained my MSc in Library and Information Studies from Aberystwyth.

My job title is Information Advisor - I’m not entirely sure what it means but the ambiguity of it has meant that I’ve been able to do different things within my role. It doesn’t make it easy to explain what I do at dinner parties but that’s ok because I don’t go to dinner parties (my daughter is 3…the closest I get to dinner parties is when she feeds me plastic fruit).

I am the subject librarian for the prestigious Cardiff School of Sport, a role that I share with my colleague Lynette.  I do sport, she does dance - that’s areas of responsibility, not what we do for fun.  I liaise with academics (a terrible phrase that makes me sound like a hanger-on at parties) and I look after the budget to try and meet the needs of a burgeoning cohort of resource-hungry students. A substantial part of the budget is spent on electronic material with ebook usage being particularly high amongst sport students.  So where once we just had to work out the amount of print copies needed to meet demand (I still do this where there’s no ebook available, c’mon publishers, stop making it so hard!) now it’s become vitally important that any reading list material that is available as an ebook is purchased in that format.  Our recent NSS results show that sport students rate the library service highly so we’re doing something right.


When I’m not being a subject librarian I am the library representative on our Library & Information Services Web Group. We're responsible for our website.  My work involves development of the site and overseeing the content - ensuring accuracy, currency etc and any other queries or requests for things that come up. The library division have supported my role in this by paying for me to do a web design course where I learnt to use CSS, HTML, Photoshop, and basic principles of web design.  I’ve also had web writing training and SharePoint Designer (we use SharePoint as our web content management system).  We've a lot of work coming up in the next few months – we’re recreating the site on the new version of SharePoint and then we’re going public access (it’s currently only available to Cardiff Met staff and students).  It’s very exciting but it’s going to be a busy time – I’ve drawn up a site map to help us get a grip on the navigation and content that currently exists and now I’m working on publishing guidelines for the new site.  I think it’s great that we have a merged service (Library and IT) at Cardiff Met because I can learn from people who are not librarians and it gives you a wider perspective on things.

I like my job because it’s varied and I’m not micro-managed. I’m allowed to manage my own time and workload and so if I chose to spend a morning editing a web page and then the afternoon on collection management (a.k.a chucking stuff out) then that’s what I’ll do   Sometimes I feel like I’m juggling my time and I know the next few months will be particularly mad and demanding (as the Autumn term always is) but I’d hate it if I didn’t have enough to do.  I love working in Cyncoed – I can see plenty of green out of the windows (although the ventilation in said windows is pretty suspect and it’ll be freezing soon) and the people I work with are a genuinely nice bunch, which always helps!


So what would I say to someone considering a career as librarianship? Well (and this is just my opinion so feel free to ignore me if it seems controversial) forget any ideas of lurking in the shelves with your head buried in a dusty book.  The best librarians I know are practical, business-like and outspoken and have varied talents that they bring to the role.  And, importantly, at the end of the day they go home and stop being a librarian because it’s a job, plain and simple, not a personality trait.

I cringe when I read things about librarians being so much better than Google because Google is motivated by money.   Let’s be honest - I wouldn’t come to work if they weren’t paying me and I use Google all the time.  Admittedly I also know how to use a selection of databases depending on what my query is but that doesn’t make me a magician.  I like helping people, tinkering with things and spending money and I get to do some of that every day and that’s good enough for me.

1 comment:

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