This week's post comes from Lisa Marie Jones, Librarian in the North Wales NHS Library Service.
Often when I tell people that I’m a Librarian, I’m met with an indifferent response “Oh yes that makes sense” or even “You do seem like a Librarian”. I don’t wear pencil skirts, horn-rimmed glasses or have my finger permanently placed on my lips; but I do like a good cardigan. I think this attribution has more to do with my disposition than my dress sense. I’ve always been an introvert, solitary and reflective yet quietly curious. My library card was one of my favourite toys as a child, the original smartphone, all the information you could ever need behind one rectangular piece of plastic.
Librarianship wasn’t always my dream. As a teenager, I didn’t really aspire towards any career. My high school ‘record of achievement’ folder would tell you that my aspiration was to be ‘a psychiatrist or a journalist’. Given the stark variance in those two careers, I think it’s safe to say that they were spur of the moment decisions. All I knew was that I was going to go to university and I was going to study literature. My first job after graduating was as a Library Assistant at Bangor University’s Main Arts library. I couldn’t believe that it was possible to wake up in the morning looking forward to work let alone actually enjoy myself whilst I was there! The buzz of a busy academic library provided a wonderful working environment; not only did I get to kid myself that I was still a carefree 18 year old student all day long but I was able to facilitate others with their information retrieval and help them with their educational progression, which is such a rewarding feat. Despite the fast paced nature of working behind a library desk, I still had the chance to be alone and reflect by taking myself away, plugging in my ipod and shelving trolleys of returned books in the beautiful Shankland reading room. I decided a career in libraries would definitely suffice as the aspiration I’d been missing. I’m not sure my BA would quite qualify me for a future in Psychiatry anyway.
I checked myself out of North Wales and moved to Manchester in 2012 to begin my MA in Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. I specialised in marketing for my thesis with a focus on QR codes and their viability as a promotional tool. The course itself gave me a wide variety of knowledge, with modules in Media Law, Search & Retrieval, and Management. I completed a Business Plan, researched into the laws surrounding internet trolling and developed a usability test for a television on-demand service. Far more than just books and shelves!
Last year I was offered my first professional post as a Librarian for the North Wales NHS Library Service. I’d previously worked in various academic and public libraries but this was my first experience in an NHS health library. I’ve had a few people ask me the question “Why would a hospital need a library?” I think people initially assume that the library provides fiction books, perhaps for hospital visitors or patients. Rather, the library is an information hub for staff and students at the hospital to facilitate their evidence-based practice and patient care. A typical day for a health librarian involves completing literature searches for doctors or medical students. So far I’ve completed searches varying from ‘The role of Physiotherapy in Obesity’ to “Hoarding behaviour in adults”. I’ve helped students with their referencing for essays and helped a consultant prepare for a debate on microbiological testing. I’m a natural sceptic with an admiration for science, and so searching for evidence for medical care is something I am very glad to be a part of. It can be very daunting to know that my information retrieval may play a part in the care of a patient and so it is important that I am meticulous and thorough with my searches, and to have clear communication with the customer who requests my assistance.
I have a wide variety of day to day duties, I process the ordering and receipting of our book stock and catalogue the new books on their arrival. I am the student liaison librarian and it is my responsibility to perform library inductions for medical students who have their placement in Glan Clwyd Hospital. I am also the Athens Administrator for the hospital and deal with any queries and issues that staff members have with regards to the access of electronic resources via Athens authentication. We offer one-to-one searching skills sessions as well as group training sessions on medical databases. As well as being a provider of professional knowledge, the library also holds a selection of fiction books as light relief in a sea of medical textbooks. It’s also a place for the medical staff to come for some peace and quiet away from the busy hospital wards. This job has been an excellent platform for my career and has enabled me to undertake many courses as part of my continued professional development, such as those on copyright, critical appraisal and cataloguing. As a CILIP member, I recently enrolled as a candidate for the MCLIP qualification and I hope to become chartered within the next year.
Being a health librarian means I am able to learn about many interesting topics. I previously had limited medical knowledge but in the past eight months I’ve had to quickly adapt to medical terminology and medical career structures. I’ve also had to eliminate any squeamish or health anxious behaviour, as medical textbooks can be graphic and grim to say the least!
I’m excited for my future as a Librarian. Librarianship is a field with endless opportunities. I hope to become an active member of CILIP, engage in as many networking opportunities as possible and visit other libraries to appreciate the wider context of libraries outside of my current sector. Although my introverted nature may seem like the perfect pathway towards a career in libraries, people may be surprised at the energy and pace of modern day libraries. One could also be fooled into believing that electronic books will see the end of the Librarian, but with the ever evolving world of information and the increasing immediacy in which it is delivered, it is even more essential that we have library and information professionals to decipher the fact from the fiction.