Student Perspectives is our series of guest posts written by current #citylis students.
This post is by current #citylis student, Rachel Giles.
My first taste of library work came through an internal vacancy at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) where I worked in the shop selling bouncy eggs to school children. I had left Plymouth University with a degree in Fine Art and Art History with the idea of pursuing a career as one of those academic sorts because, well, that’s all I knew!
I enjoyed research, especially helping others to get hold of that one gem of information they needed to prove their theory, and librarianship seemed to encompass just that. Working at the IWM as a Collections Assistant was hugely varied: I catalogued Second World War ephemera; I led on the First World War trench journal digitisation project with ProQuest; I cared for a rare and beautiful collection, all the while helping researchers trace their family history or find information for their new book.
Roll on two and a half years and I was ready for the next step in my career. I wanted to try my hand working in a lending library and was fortunate to be offered a job at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) as a Customer Services Information Assistant.
The RCN library and archive services is quite unique in some aspects – you could categorise it as an academic library as we have a large student membership and members continuing studies to postgraduate and doctoral level; but we also have a wonderful historical special collection used by researchers from an array of disciplines.
It was this role that cemented the idea of pursuing a professional career in library and information services and, after 6 months, I applied for 50% funding from the organisation to begin a part-time Masters in Information Science at City University London. I knew, like many others do, that to advance in the profession, I would need the qualification and at this point – I was ready to go back to University and learn.
I had spoken to other librarians who had a professional qualification and was often met with comments about it ‘only being a piece of paper’ but I was determined to get more out of the course and learn about the future for Library and Information Science. #citylis has been (and still is – I’ve only just handed in my dissertation proposal) one of the greatest experiences and decisions I have made. It sounds quite a romantic statement to make but it is truly one of (I’d like to think my personality helped a little…) the reasons I have been successful in gaining my first professional library role.
I was able to confidently talk about institutional repositories, open access publishing, maintaining a thesaurus and information-seeking behaviour during my presentation and interview- all of which I was taught about during lectures and wrote about in my assignments. It’s safe to say that if it were not for #citylis, I wouldn’t have been successful in my application.
I started my new job, still at the RCN, as Collection Development Specialist a month ago and what a month it has been! Two weeks into the role the collections team launched a trial Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) platform and the experience has been a steep learning curve. It’s my responsibility to monitor expenditure and usage statistics, advise on changes to system preferences, and work with the team at ProQuest to help shape a collection suitable for our members.
PDA has been incredibly successful and we have found that our membership are purchasing material that perhaps we would not have purchased on their behalf. It is a great way of making a huge range of resources available to our 430,000 members across the UK and, in some instances, the World.
I am also responsible for managing a budget for electronic resources including journals and databases which also includes maintaining our A-Z journals list. Soon, I’ll be travelling to Edinburgh where our archive is based to assess our collection of historical journals.
We, as many libraries find, need more space and it will be my job to recommend to our collections operational group which items to consider for off-site storage and which of those are to return to London. This will involve meeting with external companies to box, label and physically move items to our chosen location and put workflows in place to ensure the project’s smooth-running.
Hand in hand with this goes my work on our core journals list. Along with a collections assistant we are working on a list of journal titles that will form our permanent collection so that we may have an authoritative print archive of important nursing journals for generations to come. I thoroughly enjoy working with our members and my role also includes working in the library space to help users find, evaluate and use information as well as visiting conferences to promote the library and its collections.
I hope that this has given you an insight into the role of a collections librarian and the path that led me to #citylis. If you’re thinking of a masters in information or library science, go along to an open day, meet some the tutors and past students but above all, go for it.
You will certainly not look back (especially if you chose City, but, I am biased there…)
Thanks to #citylis for getting me where I am. Now, on to the dissertation!