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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 2008 Volume 6(4)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

Guest Endpiece...Job seeking

The waiting game

Neil Paterson can sympathise with anyone waiting to take up their first professional LIS post, but he’s doing all he can in the meantime.

I can identify completely with Ross and Fallis’ article in the previous edition of Information Scotland. On reaching the age of 32, and the career ‘glass ceiling’ that the absence of a university qualification was imposing, I realised that a change of career and an acquisition of qualifications were required.

The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen provided a distance learning (DL) alternative to returning to university on a full-time basis. Year One: Undergraduate Certificate in Management Studies to permit access to the post graduate syllabus. Years Two and Three: Postgraduate Diploma in Information and Library Studies. Despite initially not intending to go beyond that stage, Year Four turned into the MSc in Information and Library Studies and a research project into what has become my signature area, customer services.

From where I viewed the programme of study back in 2002 this would have seemed an almost insurmountable mountain to scale. Looking back now I realise that was the easy part. Whether you pass or fail is largely up to your own tenacity, perseverance and will to succeed. The difficult part is now finding a professional post to match the qualifications I have gained. No matter how hard you want to you can’t create a professional post tailor-made for yourself. You have to wait and watch for the right opportunities and in the meantime build the skills where you are.

There are several points to note. As Fallis has previously observed, “the LIS profession today is extremely competitive”. Small wonder. My university cohort consisted of over 60 students in the diploma stage, the largest there had ever been at RGU, and that was just the DL class. This is perhaps proof of the growing popularity of this mode of study with library employers who seek to develop individuals while retaining valuable staff expertise.

From the profession’s point of view surely the large numbers of new graduates can only be a good thing – a surge of new talent with drive, vibrant enthusiasm and new ideas entering the sector. This is at a time of much change and discussion regarding the direction that libraries in the near future should take.

However, from the individual, self-funding graduate’s point of view, where are the professional posts for us keen and eager new librarians? As one of my university cohort, who was lucky enough to be already employed in a university post, had earlier quipped: “They only leave here when they get wheeled out in a box.”

At the end of my Diploma I asked around my informal networks for advice as to whether to continue to an MSc for the employability benefits. Lorraine Robertson, Librarian at MLURI in Aberdeen, strongly advised that I continue, citing the vast number of LIS diploma-wielding applicants she received the last time she advertised for an assistant librarian. Another realisation, supported by my MSc supervisor, Dr. Peter Reid, is that each graduate should research and develop their own signature area of expertise and interest. With 14 years of experience from the retail sector it was almost inevitable that mine was to become customer services.

I should say that I have landed lucky. I’ve been at Elmwood College now for over three years, being fortunate enough to secure a learning resource centre assistant post in 2005. While not a professional post I enjoy being supported by a line manager, Christine Barclay, who is more than happy to delegate professional duties and to assist with professional development. I work for an employer that actively encourages and allows staff time for CPD. I also get to attend network opportunities with organisations such as SFEU, TAFLIN and SALG to further my training. These events offer opportunities to “get my face known” and talk with librarians from other sectors. I was invited to make a customer service presentation at the SFEU Community in Practice event in October 2007. Dr Reid also volunteered me to present a further workshop on customer services at this year’s Grampian Information Conference in Aberdeen and regularly reminds me that my PhD beckons.

With a CV of gold dust material my Chartership portfolio is now also underway. So when that longed for professional post finally materialises, I’ll have ticked as many of those essential criteria on the person spec as I can. In the meantime, it’s the waiting game. I’ll keep adding to my CV and hunting for that elusive post.

Tony and Richard, you’re not the only ones looking.

Neil Paterson is Learning Resource Centre Assistant, Elmwood College, Cupar, Fife.


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Information Scotland Vol. 6(4) August 2008

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Last updated: 29-Aug-2008