Friday, 28 November 2014

9 - Andrea Griffiths, Vale of Glamorgan

This week's post from Andrea Griffiths, Community Outreach Officer at Vale of Glamorgan Libraries feels very timely. I'm sure many of us will be able to identify with the difficulties of trying to continue to provide services we can be proud of in the face of so many cuts.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to work in a library. As a child, all my bookshelves were strict-ordered and subject categorised. Some children played Doctors and Nurses – I played Libraries, and even charged my younger sister for returning books late.

At 19, after a false start at Art College, I started work as a Library Assistant at Cardiff Central Library, transferring 18 months later to Barry Library, where I am still based. Over the following twenty or so years I had a number of promotions and secondments, spending so many years in the Reference and Local Studies section that I was helping children with school projects whose parents had also come to me for help!

I loved this job. I was given a lot of scope to make the Local Studies information more accessible and built up a good relationship with schools and organisations such as the Glamorgan Family History Society and the local Volunteer Bureau, with whom I compiled the Community Directory.

If the library was invited to have a presence at Careers Fairs, Youth Information Days, Lifelong Learning events, etc. I was the one who “took the library out” – I still am! I have always believed that the Library Service has to be pro-active in maintaining a high profile within the County Council and with the wider public, so I still make sure I sit on various committees in order to keep abreast of community developments.

What I didn’t like so much about the job was the loneliness. I was in a department of one for many years and it was only when we had a new librarian that I had regular staff to assist and train.

When the library was moved wholesale to the Leisure Centre during refurbishment, I found the environment very uncomfortable and started applying for other jobs. In 2004 my perfect job came along – to catalogue the Vale’s complete Local Studies collection! We were still in the process of computerising our stock, and Local Studies was the last section to be attempted. It was a big job, but having done lots of cataloguing in the past I was up to it and a spent a very pleasurable year’s secondment, under Helen McNabb, the Vale’s brilliant Bibliographic Services Officer.

I then saw advertised the new post of Community Outreach Officer and discussed whether it was worth applying for, as I didn’t have any professional qualifications, other than an Open University degree, completed some four years earlier. I was advised to “go for it” and got my application in on the very last day. Thank goodness I did! I was successful in the interview and offered funding to follow the MSc Econ distance learning course at Aberystwyth. I was so grateful – at last I would qualify, after nearly thirty years working in libraries!

The Outreach Officer’s post included line management responsibilities for four village libraries and two Mobile Libraries, almost all single-staffed by experienced Senior Assistants I had known and worked alongside for many years. I was in a very happy place – I had staff I liked and respected, an approachable line manager in Christopher Edwards (now the Vale’s Chief Librarian), admin staff I could depend on and colleagues that were a joy to work with. No two days are the same and it’s impossible to be bored in such a varied job.

However, the Council found a way to burst my bubble. Cuts, cunningly disguised as “savings”. The Mobile Libraries are taken off the road. The schools’ visits were the first to go, all the little village schools out in the Vale, too far from any of our libraries for regular visits – I had arranged it so that all the schools were getting a visit once a fortnight, now there are children in those schools who may never see the inside of a public library. Six months later the public visits stopped – the Care Homes and playgroups we visited, the tiny villages, farms and Home Borrowers. It was devastating. I had already set up a Home Library Service using volunteers, so when the Mobiles went we were at least able to continue a service to the Home Borrowers, but as for the rest …

Unfortunately, in the last year, the “V” word has become a contentious issue in the Vale of Glamorgan. A staff and public consultation was carried out in order to identify savings that could be made. The first recommendations that came out of it were for three of the villages to have their libraries turned over to the community. The latest version of this is for all four villages and one of our full-time branches to be volunteer-run. Coupled with this, various posts look set to be discontinued, including my own, though we have to go through a second round of consultations first.

This has understandably led to very low staff morale across the board. At 57, I’m not ready to retire. I know I have been very lucky in my working life; I’ve often been in the right place at the right time for advancement and have always made the best of things, keeping myself busy, taking on a variety of new projects in order to keep my job interesting.

I’m not sure I’d recommend public librarianship as a career to anyone these days, though, and certainly not by the circuitous route I took! The money’s not that good, your status within Local Government is continually being eroded and while we are supposed to be responsive to the needs of the public, we increasingly have to devise ways of making money – service to the community seemingly taking second place to profit. That’s not my sort of library service.

Friday, 21 November 2014

8 - Gemma Southgate, Cardiff University

This week we hear from Gemma, senior library and IT assistant at Cardiff University.

I started my career in the library and information sector five years ago. I worked as a supply library assistant for Caerphilly County Borough Council, filling in for staff sickness, training and holidays on a part time basis for over two years. I loved working in all 19 branch libraries across the county, working with a different team and in a different community each day. I did a two week work placement at the Nursing and Healthcare Studies library at Cardiff University in 2010 which helped me get a permanent position as a library assistant at the University. I worked a variety of shift patterns including an evening and weekend library supervisor post before settling into my current full time role.

My current role as a senior library assistant and IT support assistant is pretty varied. My typical day is as follows:

10am-1pm - Provide IT support in the morning, help people access the Wi-Fi, scan documents, change passwords and anything else that comes up. Tweet from our library account and reply to any questions on there and answer queries on our virtual librarian chat service. Work on any marketing campaign we might have or create displays to promote our stock and services.

2pm-6pm - Work on the issue counter, returning and issuing books and dealing with queries. Send books to other libraries as part of the inter library loans service. Attend meetings of the working groups I'm part of such as the Marketing Group and Staff Development and Engagement group. Handover to evening staff at 5pm, filling them in on what needs to be done and any information that is important.

I particularly enjoy the marketing aspects of my job especially connecting with our users on Twitter, helping to organise events such as our upcoming ‘Shakespeare @ 450’ week with a full programme of events and displays across campus. I’m also a part-time blogger and like to use skills I’ve picked up through this in my day job, I have presented at CLIC events and internally about how to use blogging to promote your library service. I am going to be holding a workshop at the University of South Wales to help English students explore the idea of digital literacy and show them how they can use blogging as part of their creative writing module. I was also part of the organising team for the first Library Camp Wales (we had such a lively and varied day) and spoke about this event and how to plan an ‘un-conference’ with the other organisers at the CILIP Cymru Wales conference this year.

I’m currently in the process of finding a Chartership mentor and considering a postgraduate distance learning course like the Diploma in Information and Library Studies. I hope that my future lies in library management rather than professional librarianship because I enjoy training new staff and helping to resolve problems as a frontline member of library staff.

Friday, 14 November 2014

7 - Bethan Lee, Neath Port Talbot

Our latest post is from Bethan, who works for Neath Port Talbot public libraries as Systems ICT and Development Officer.

I don’t remember ever saying as a child, “I want to be a librarian when I grow up!” I don’t think I had a clear view of what I wanted for my future, even after finishing my degree in History. I came back home to Wales, after spending 3 years living just outside London, and spent the best part of a year, trying to work out what I wanted to do with my future professional life. After spending nine months working behind the bar of my local pub, and having several interviews for pub management companies, a conversation with a family friend led me to start thinking about a completely different career path – librarianship.

My friend had completed her MSc Econ in Information and Library Studies from University of Wales, Aberystwyth and had gotten, what seemed to me, a dream job working in a public school in Barnes, London. She absolutely loved her job and sold to me all the positives about becoming a librarian and the merits of the course in Aberystwyth. In the August of 2000, she asked me to accompany her to visit her old tutors at the campus in Llanbardarn Fawr to have a chat and before I knew it, I had applied and been accepted on to the course for September. From pub management to librarianship in one year!

Throughout the course, I realised my heart seemed to lie in public libraries, particularly working with children, and it was within that field that I decided to apply for jobs when I completed my course – this was at a time when the job adverts in the Library Association Record filled about 20 pages! By this time, I had decided to stay in Wales (mainly because I had met my husband-to-be), so when I saw an advert for a community librarian working in Caerphilly County Borough Council, I knew that I had to apply for it and thankfully, got one of three posts.

I started my first professional post in October 2001 and it was a steep learning curve for me. Although university is great at theory, you don’t learn properly about the profession until you start work. I learnt quickly to listen to my older and wiser colleagues, who taught me everything from stock editing to storytelling. As a community librarian, I was professionally responsible for 4 libraries, and it was my role to select stock (on a rota with 3 others) for 8 libraries, stock edit my libraries, and go out into schools and the community to promote the library service. My time in Caerphilly also saw the roll out of The People’s Network in to libraries, which quickly became an area that I was interested in and led me to my next and current position in Neath Port Talbot Libraries.

I started my current position in NPT Libraries in October 2005 and I have been here for nearly 9 years. When I first started my role, my duties were mainly around being the system administrator for our library management system and PC booking system, liaising between libraries and the IT department as far as the purchase and maintenance of IT equipment in libraries was concerned and  maintaining the libraries’ web presence. Over the years, although I am still responsible for those things, my job has changed and evolved, due to retirements and the deleting of senior posts within our library service. My job title has changed from Cultural Services Officer – Support Services (what did that even mean?) to Systems ICT and Development Officer - the development bit means that I can get involved in nearly everything and anything!

I am currently working on several projects for the library service and during a typical working day, I could be dealing with any one of them. To give a flavour of some of things I am involved in, here is what I have been and will be working on this week.

  • Work with IT department and surveyors to draw up an electrical and data plan for the refurbishment of one of our libraries 
  • Arrange for the installation of RFID into the above library. 
  • Prepare for and lead two Technoclubs in primary schools and libraries. (Technoclubs is a project where library staff lead afterschool clubs teaching children elements of computer science, using programmes like Scratch, Hopscotch and equipment such as Lego Mindstorm robots) 
  • Work with corporate communications team to redesign the layout and content of libraries’ website 
  • Continue with set-up of stock selection management tool for adult fiction selection 
  • Select large print and spoken word stock at showroom event 
  • Run and present statistics for the Ebooks for Wales and E-zines for Wales services, which will be sent to all library authorities in Wales 
  • Set up meeting with regional managers of Job Centre Plus to discuss the on-going projects in Neath and Port Talbot Libraries, with the view to expanding into other libraries 
  • Attend libraries’ senior management meeting 
  • Work out and enter new stock rotation patterns into our library management system for large print stock. 
  • Solve the on-going problem with mobile libraries’ data downloads with Information Security. 
  • Deal with queries from volunteers from our community libraries. 

There are some duties that I try and do every day without fail, such as checking and updating our libraries’ Twitter feed and Facebook pages. I also love to get involved with promoting the library service, whether it is at a job fair or at a fairy tale children’s event (hence the green fairy photo!).

I do enjoy my job on most days (we all have bad days occasionally) - what I do is different every day and for the most part, never boring. Best bit of working for public libraries though – enough books to satisfy even my appetite for reading!

Friday, 7 November 2014

6 - Karen Morrisroe, Wrexham Library

This weeks post is from Karen Morrisroe, Businessline Librarian at Wrexham Library, for the English language version please scroll down.

Felly dwi’n llyfrgellydd. Doeddwn i erioed wedi meddwl bod yn llyfrgellydd. Wnes i waith achlysurol mewn llyfrgell gyhoeddus pan oeddwn i’n fyfyrwraig a doedd hynny ddim hyd yn oed yn cynnwys stampio llyfrau! Roeddwn i’n gweithio ar stondin wybodaeth adnoddau addysg oedolion yn rheolaidd.  Ar ôl gorffen fy ngradd rheolaeth fusnes daeth swydd dros dro i fyny yn y llyfrgell fusnes fel cymhorthydd llyfrgell yn llenwi mewn i rywun oedd ar secondiad. Gan ei bod yn llyfrgell arbenigol yn fy maes diddordeb a gwybodaeth, wnes i ymgeisio am y swydd ac fe gefais y swydd. Ar ôl bron i ddwy flynedd daeth y swydd i ben a symudais ymlaen. Fodd bynnag, daeth y swydd yn wag ac yn barhaol felly wnes i ymgeisio a chefais y swydd. Dyma pryd wnes i benderfynu astudio gradd ôl-raddedig mewn Astudiaethau Llyfrgell a Gwybodaeth. Wnes i astudio o bell trwy Brifysgol Aberystwyth. Roedd yn her tra’n gweithio’n llawn amser ond roedd yn cynnig llawer o foddhad yn y diwedd. Fe arweiniodd y cymhwyster hwnnw at gael swydd fy mhennaeth pan wnaeth hi adael a dyma fy swydd nawr – Llyfrgellydd Llinell Fusnes.

Mae fy swydd wedi datblygu ac ehangu dros y blynyddoedd er bod teitl y swydd yr un fath. Dwi’n rheoli’r llyfrgell fusnes (Llinell Fusnes), y gwasanaeth gwybodaeth Ewropeaidd (Europe Direct) a hefyd â rhywfaint o gyfrifoldeb am y llyfrgell cyfeirnod. Mae pob diwrnod yn wahanol.  Cymerwch heddiw er enghraifft. Bore heddiw dwi di ateb ambell ymholiad busnes gan bobl oedd angen gwybodaeth i sefydlu busnes, dwi di siarad gyda phobl yn holi am swydd wag yma, wedi rhoi ambell beth ar y cyfrwng cymdeithasol a’r pnawn yma dwi’n mynd i ddigwyddiad yn y gymuned i weithio ar stondin wybodaeth i ddosbarthu gwybodaeth am Ewrop. Fory byddaf yn gwneud y cyfrifon, yn paratoi adroddiadau ar weithgareddau’r gwasanaethau dwi’n eu rheoli, yn ogystal â gwasanaethu aelodau’r cyhoedd sydd ag ymholiadau sylfaenol a rhai cymhleth iawn. Fel y gwelwch mae’n swydd amrywiol iawn. Nid yn unig mae angen sgiliau mewn gwaith gwybodaeth i allu dod o hyd i wybodaeth, penderfynu ar ansawdd a storio gwybodaeth ond hefyd mae angen sgiliau eraill o fewn cyllid, cyllideb, llunio adroddiadau, marchnata a rheoli staff, er nad yw pob swydd angen y rhain ac rydych yn dysgu llawer tra’n gwneud y gwaith.

Yr hyn dwi’n ei fwynhau am y swydd yw’r amrywiaeth. Rydych yn cyfarfod cymaint o bobl ac yn aml ddim yn sylweddoli faint rydych wedi helpu rhywun  gyda’r hyn sydd i chi yn ymateb cyflym a hawdd ond i’r cwsmer mae’n llawer mwy. Llawer gwaith dwi wedi rhoi gwybodaeth i fusnes sydd wedi’u helpu i ennill contractau ac felly’n darparu refeniw i’r busnes. Mae gweld pobl yn dechrau mewn busnes o beidio gwybod lle i fynd am help i ddechrau a datblygu eu busnes yn hwb gwirioneddol. Dwi’n mwynhau’r gwaith yn y dirgel hefyd – cynllunio, adrodd ac ia, hyd yn oed cyllidebu. (dwi’n hoffi ystadegau a rhifau!)

Ar hyn o bryd, dwi’n gweithio tuag at fy Siarteriaeth. Wnes i ei ohirio am amser maith, ond bellach dwi di dechrau mae’n gwneud i mi sylweddoli bod yna lawer mwy y tu hwnt i fy swydd a fy sefydliad. Mae bron fel astudio eto, rydych yn ymwybodol o bopeth arall sy’n mynd ymlaen yn y sector y gallwch ddysgu ohono a’i ddatblygu o fewn eich sefydliad eich hun.

I unrhyw un sy’n ystyried gyrfa o fewn y sector llyfrgell a gwybodaeth mae’n syniad da cael profiad gwaith yn y maes efallai fel cymhorthydd llyfrgell. Gall hyn fod fel gwirfoddolwr, swydd achlysurol neu unrhyw beth arall. Fyddwch chi ddim yn cael teimlad o bopeth ond bydd yn agor eich llygaid ychydig a gallwch siarad gyda staff eraill i weld beth maen nhw’n ei wneud. Byddwn yn awgrymu bod myfyriwr da yn llyfrgellydd da gan fod myfyrwyr wedi arfer ymchwilio a threfnu felly dylai’r rhan honno o swydd llyfrgellydd fod yn ail natur. Er ei bod yn ddefnyddiol cael sgiliau eraill.  Mae llawer o lyfrgellwyr rwyf wedi eu cyfarfod yn debyg i mi, wnaethon nhw ddim gwneud cwrs llyfrgellydd i ddechrau, wnaethon nhw rywbeth arall fel hanes neu Saesneg ac yna symud i lyfrgelloedd. Os ydych yn mynd i swydd lle mae yna arbenigedd fel llyfrgell cwmni’r gyfraith mae gwybodaeth am y gyfraith yn ddefnyddiol. Os ydych yn mynd i lyfrgelloedd cyhoeddus gall rhywun ofyn unrhyw beth i chi felly mae staff o wahanol gefndiroedd yn ddefnyddiol. Mae llawer o bobl hefyd yn meddwl am weithio mewn llyfrgell fel gweithio mewn llyfrgell gyhoeddus neu lyfrgell mewn prifysgol ond ond mae yna lawer mwy ac nid sefydliadau llyfrgell draddodiadol yn unig chwaith. Felly i unrhyw un â diddordeb edrychwch yn lle gall sgiliau llyfrgellwyr gael eu defnyddio, cewch eich synnu.  

Dwi’n meddwl ein bod i gyd angen cofio yn yr oes ddigidol bod yna le yn dal i fod i staff gwybodaeth cymwys. Gall unrhyw un ddefnyddio Google, ond mae sut maent yn ei ddefnyddio a pha un a ydynt yn dadansoddi’r tudalennau yn fater arall. Mae hyd yn oed sôn am Google fel petai’r unig ffordd i ddod o hyd i rywbeth ar lein yn rhywbeth yr ydym yn ei wneud trwy’r amser ond mae yna declynnau eraill sy’n fwy addas ar gyfer gwybodaeth benodol. Eto mae llyfrgellydd hyfforddedig yn gwybod am y pethau hyn, neu â mynediad i gronfa ddata sy’n ddrud iawn. Maent hefyd yn gwybod lle i fynd i gael gwybodaeth am destunau arbennig boed hynny ar lein neu mewn llyfr (ia dyna ddywedais i....llyfr!) Credwch neu beidio mae yna rai pethau nad ydynt ar lein eto, yn dibynnu ar beth rydych yn chwilio amdano weithiau dim ond llyfr fydd yn gwneud, hynny ydy, nes bydd pob llyfr a gynhyrchwyd yn mynd yn ddigidol!

So I’m a librarian. I never set out to be a librarian. I did some casual work at a public library when I was a student and that didn’t even involve stamping books! I regularly manned an information stand about adult education resources. After I finished my business management degree a temporary job came up in the business library as a library assistant covering for someone on secondment. As it was a specialist library in my field of interest and knowledge I applied for the job and got it. After nearly two years the job ended and I moved on. However the job became vacant and permanent so I applied and got it. It was at this point I decided to do a postgraduate degree in Information and Library Studies. I did it via distance learning through Aberystwyth University. It was challenging to do whilst working full time but it was very rewarding in the end.  That qualification then led me to get my boss’ job when she left and it is the job I hold now – Businessline Librarian.

My job developed and expanded over the years even though my job title hasn’t. I manage the business library (Businessline) the European information service (Europe Direct) and also have some responsibility for the reference library. No two days are the same. Take today for instance. This morning I have answered a few business enquiries from people needing information to set up their business, I’ve talked to people enquiring about a job vacancy I have here, posted a few things on social media and this afternoon I am going to a community event to man an information stand giving out information about Europe. Tomorrow I will be doing my accounts, preparing reports on the activities of the services I manage, as well as serving members of the public who have both basic enquiries and very complex ones. As you can see it is a very varied job. Not only do you need skills in information work to be able to find information, determine its quality and to store information but you also need other skills in terms of finance, budgeting, producing reports, marketing and managing staff, though not all jobs require these and you learn a lot whilst doing the job.

What I love about the job is it’s variety. You meet so many people and often you don’t realise just how much you have helped someone with what to you is a quick and easy reply but to the customer it is so much more. Many times I have provided information to a business which has helped them win contracts thereby providing revenue for the business. Seeing people start in business from not knowing where to go for help to then starting and growing their business is a real boost. I also really like the behind the scenes parts of the job – planning, reporting and, yes, even budgeting. (I like stats and numbers!)

At the moment I am working towards my Chartership. I put it off for a long time but now I have started it makes me realise that there is so much more beyond my role and my organisation. It’s almost like studying again, you become aware of everything else that is going on in the sector which you can learn from and put into place in your own organisation.

For anyone considering a career in the library and information sector it’s a good idea to get experience of working in the field perhaps as a library assistant. This could be as a volunteer, a casual job or anything else. You won’t get a feel for everything involved but it will open your eyes a bit and you can talk to other staff to see what they are doing.  I would suggest that a good student is a good librarian as students are used to researching and organising so that part of a librarian’s job should be second nature. Though it is useful to have other skills and knowledge. Many librarians I have met are like me in that they didn’t do a library course first, they did something else such as history or English and then got into libraries. If you are going into a role where there is a specialism such as a law firm’s library then a knowledge of law is useful. If you go into public libraries you can get asked anything so varied backgrounds of staff are useful. Many people also just think of working in a library as working in a public library or a Uni library but there is so much more and not just traditional library settings either. So to anyone interested have a look at where librarians skills can be used, you may be surprised.

I think we all need to remember though that in the digital age there is still a place for qualified information staff. Anyone can use Google, but how they use it and whether they analyse the pages they get is another matter. Even just mentioning Google as if it is the only way to find anything online is something we all do but there are other tools which are better suited for particular information. Again a trained librarian knows about these things, or has access to databases which cost a lot of money. They also know where to go for information on particular topics be that online or in a book (yes I said it.. a book!). Believe it or not some things aren’t online yet, depending on what you’re looking for sometimes only a book will do, that is, until every book ever produced is digitised!