Friday, 27 March 2015

23a - Rachael Whitfield, WHELF

This week we hear from Rachael Whitfield the Development Officer for WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum).

WHELF is a grouping of the Chief Librarians and Directors of Information Services drawn from all the higher education institutions in Wales along with the National Library of Wales and the Open University. WHELF’s mission is to promote library and information services co-operation, to encourage the exchange of ideas, provide a forum for mutual support and to help facilitate new initiatives in library and information service provision. My role as the Development Officer is to support WHELF in this work. I took over this role in October 2013 and I work part-time; a day and half from home and one day at Swansea University. I organize the WHELF quarterly meetings; we meet twice by videoconference and the other two occasions are residential meetings taking place over two days.

There is always a very full agenda and discussion to work through at the meetings. The speed of change and simultaneous development within HE libraries seems to me to be more rapid than ever and librarianship is challenging in these economic times, so collaboration and support is more important than ever. I have joined WHELF at an exciting time of course, as many years of hard work have culminated in the procurement of a shared LMS for the consortium of HE libraries, the NLW and the NHS Libraries in Wales and the first institutions have started the implementation process to go live later in the year.

Like many of the librarians who have blogged here as part of 23 Llyfrgellydd my job has a great deal of variety and I don’t really have a typical day, which is part of what makes the job so enjoyable. Naturally, there are always core tasks to deal with;  plenty of email to work through and respond to and the WHELF website and Twitter feed to keep up to date. I help support WHELF in fulfilling the aims of the annual Action Plan, follow up on action points from the WHELF meetings and any tasks delegated to me. I also promote the work of WHELF via the blog, email lists, Twitter and the annual report and have the opportunity to attend WHELF events, and related meetings. I also keep a watching brief for information on developments in the library and information sector, other library consortium and the Welsh government in order to keep WHELF up to date and to look for opportunities where WHELF can respond to consultations or opportunities for funding.

When I tell people that I work from home for part of the week, I often get asked whether I just stay in my pyjamas for the day. No, I don’t. You have to be very self-disciplined to work from home and it’s important to have a designated space that is your “office”. I find working from home very productive but it can be lonely, so I do appreciate my day a week that I work at Swansea University when I can take a coffee break with colleagues and be in a professional environment.

What lead me into librarianship? I left school when I was 16 but after working for a number of years in what felt like routine jobs with no prospect I decided that I wanted to return to education so I enrolled in college to study for my A-levels and then studied for an English Literature degree at the University of Reading. On finishing my degree I got a job working on a retrospective cataloguing project in the University of Reading library. I really liked the precision and thoughtfulness of cataloguing, although on my first day when my line manager told me that a colleague was now going to show me how to weed the card catalogue I wasn’t sure if I was being sent on a “fool’s errand”. Once I had started working in the library sector, I knew it was the career for me and so I studied part-time for an MA in Information Services Management at the University of North London, whilst I continued working in the cataloguing department at the University of Reading. On completing my MA, I had the opportunity to return to Wales when I secured a job at the South Wales Miners’ Library working on an RSLP project to catalogue the pamphlets and other materials of this collection.

When the project concluded I worked for eight years as a subject librarian at Swansea University. A move to West Wales in 2008 gave me the opportunity to work as a secondary school librarian and I then spent a couple of years working freelance as an indexer and cataloguer mostly for Proquest until here I am today working for WHELF. Jobs in academic librarianship are rather limited in Pembrokeshire! so I feel very fortunate to be able to work in a sector that I really enjoy and be able to live in a lovely part of the world.

Outside of work, I aspire to be a keen runner but I remain an amateur runner who is never very keen to leave the house and go running in all weathers. I always feel that there are so many other things I need to be getting on with, or if I have spare time I'd rather be reading a good book. It is worth the effort and sometimes pain though as I always feel better after I've been for a run. I am training for a half marathon in June so I'd better start getting on with it. I’m going to need a good audio book to keep me company on the lonely miles......

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