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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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August 2007 Volume 5(4)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

Aiming Higher

A journey that should never end

Library schools provide the theory but we continue learning our professional skills through experience and sharing with colleagues, says Jill Evans.

The presentations at CILIPS Branch and Groups Day on 13 June provoked thoughtful and incisive discussion and, on occasion, deeply held opinions were voiced from the audience. A debate on “Library Schools” emerged as one of the sessions. ‘W(h)ither Library Schools” presented an informative panel of Alan Poulter of the University of Strathclyde, Sheila Cannell of Edinburgh University Library and Ian Snowley of CILIP. The crux of the debate was the skills, range of subjects and learning delivered in the time available by Robert Gordon University and Strathclyde University, both of which offer an Information and Library Studies Postgraduate Diploma/MSc course, and the skills required to deliver a wide range of services in our libraries. The time available to deliver the information to our prospective colleagues is constrained as lecturers devising and compiling the academic studies programme are also required to follow financial and best value guidance from their university directors.

It was conceded that we work in a climate of threat to our library schools as other opportunities and organisations offer training courses which, on occasion, complement the postgraduate course content. Current conversations seem to revolve around the inclusion of cataloguing in the programme of study, and yet, ask a prospective employer about the skills they are seeking in employees and their response will focus on management issues.

A suggestion was made to consider mid-career development opportunities perhaps through e-learning thus enabling library schools to offer a top-up course developed specifically for this category of experienced staff.
I would suggest that assimilating the portfolio of skills which a librarian requires is a continual learning curve and that mentoring in each post should be mandatory. Mentoring should occur at every stage of one’s career – find a role model in your library and observe their expertise, skills and confidence acknowledging that they too, were once a new start.

The SCURL presentation was an invitation to follow the journey through the National Library of Scotland’s Customer Service programme led by Louise McCarron and Olive Geddes. The presentation gave a brief history of the library, the implications of the addition of 5,800 items added to the stock every week, and the challenges posed to the library staff to be able to deliver on demand to a reader an item shortly after its receipt. The journey focused on Service, Excellence, Learning and Commitment. That the Customer Service Objectives were contained within the staffs’ Forward Job Plan reinforced the importance the library places on high quality customer service provision from each member of staff. It was noted that the library was fortunate to have a budget allocated for training and development and, in response to an Invitation to Tender, a consultant has been selected to work with the library, providing customer care workshops and training sessions. Mystery shoppers have been visiting the library to test staff members’ depth of knowledge and expertise (without any negative connotations). The presentation concluded with a lively discussion with the audience who were obviously intrigued.

The Scotland Northern Ireland Periodical Supply (SNIPES) Group, a SCURL Affiliated Group, held its recent meeting in Queen’s University Belfast to discuss the text of a prospective tender. The current contract will expire in 2008 and an Invitation to Tender for the supply and delivery of library periodicals will be published in the Official Journal in October. The breadth of experience demonstrated by the members of this group was impressive and, with the customary resourcefulness of librarians, each of us knew someone who would know the answer to the question or the challenge.

The strength of this particular SCURL group is the consortial approach it takes to working with new guidelines under the terms of the recent McClelland Report and new EU regulations. The Group is fortunate to have on its membership the Assistant Director of Procurement of a SCURL university who advises us on best practice and legal issues. Again the skills, knowledge and familiarity of developing a tender document, plus the assertiveness, business acumen and negotiation skills required to deal with publishers and suppliers on behalf of the consortium is gained through practical experience and by learning from our colleagues.

Library schools provide us with the intellectual knowledge of librarianship but it is through our employment in libraries that we are given the opportunity to build on and develop the theoretical knowledge to use it, adapt it and increase our range of skills. We should then guide and share these skills with our newer colleagues in the same processes.


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Information Scotland Vol. 5(4) August 2007

© Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Last updated: 03-Oct-2007