Friday, 30 January 2015

15 - Mandy Powell, CILIP Cymru Wales

When Mandy wrote this post back in September, she was the CILIP Policy Officer for CILIP Cymru Wales, she has since been named as Head of CILIP Cymru Wales. Congratulations Mandy!

I’m the CILIP member of staff for Wales and I work with a great group of people who make up the CILIP Cymru Wales Committee. I’ve always been interested in learning and development and the power of continual professional development or CPD. I applied for my first library role just after leaving school at 18 but didn’t get the job. I was heartbroken at the time, but decided to get some experience of working with the public by working in an independent bookshop. I actually asked the owners if they would train me and in exchange I would work for free, but after the first day they started paying me, so I rather cheekily talked my way into a job that wasn’t there.

I used this opportunity to learn more about customer care and develop my knowledge of books and information sources and applied for another part time library assistant post and this time I got it. I worked part time in the bookshop and part time in a library and information centre in Monmouthshire while studying via distance learning with the Open University for my first degree in English Literature.

As soon as I finished my first degree I enrolled on a Masters Degree course in Information and Library Studies with Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, again via distance learning and during that time I got a full time assistant post in a bigger library. I looked for opportunities to develop at work and applied for a temporary promotion working on a library strategy for engaging with children and their families. I learned a lot from this and the combination of working for a library and information service in the day and studying in the evening and weekends, although full on, was a great way to combine theory and practice.

I got my first professional role working for Newport as their Reader Development Librarian and this is where I put together my Chartership portfolio and developed skills in training, recruitment and event origination.

I started work for CILIP in autumn 2007 and to be honest I still pinch myself that I got the role; I had wanted to work for the organisation since starting the Chartership process, wanting to use my knowledge and skills to help and support library and information staff.

My role is varied and covers many areas, and I’ve found it a great way to learn new skills. CILIP Cymru Wales supports members of CILIP based in Wales and advocates on behalf of the profession. I am based at home but spend a lot of my time meeting staff across the country. I’m very proud to work in and represent Wales, we have a good history of cross sector working and sharing best practice; with library and information staff in public libraries, HE and FE, health, schools, law and business all sharing knowledge and learning from each other.

L-R, Lori Havard, Carol Edwards (CILIP Cymru Wales Committee), John Griffiths AM, Mandy Powell, Barbara Band, CILIP President at the CILIP Cymru Wales conference May 2014

I organise the annual CILIP Cymru Wales conference, which is a major piece of project management and has given me opportunities to develop various business skills such as negotiating contracts with hotels and organising trade exhibitions.

In recent months I have compiled evidence for CILIP Cymru Wales to submit to the Public Library Inquiry and I gave evidence in person at the Senedd. I was very proud to represent the profession to the panel of politicians and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it was a golden opportunity to make sure decision makers continue to be aware of the importance of library and information services and the power they have to support and transform lives.

L-R, Mandy Powell, Carol Edwards, Chair, CILIP Cymru Wales, Jane Sellwood, Society of Chief Librarians, Wales giving evidence at the Senedd in February 2014

The most enjoyable part of my job is meeting wonderful library and information staff across Wales and the UK; I am continually impressed by their skills and passion for supporting others. Those who volunteer to work on the CILIP Cymru Wales Committee bring so much knowledge and enthusiasm to their roles; it is a constant reminder that for most of us, being a librarian is so much more than just a job.


  1. My first library job sounds like your bookshop one - while at college I wrote to my local public libraries offering to work for free. One said I could, but another offered to pay me! So I began working in the latter (Urmston Public Library), and was there for many years. Even when I went to university I got a train back to Manchester many weekends to work there on a Saturday. It gives you so much confidence when a library (or bookshop) gives you a chance at that age, I'll always be grateful.

  2. Hi Karl, thanks for the comment and great to hear your experience.I'm really grateful to the blog because it wasn't until I wrote this item that I realised how plucky I had been, at the time I lacked confidence but the urge to work in the library and info profession was strong. Mr and Mrs Toombs of Chepstow Bookshop gave me such a boost and helped me get on the right path.