Sunday, 5 September 2010

Library Routes and Roots

I've been aware of the Library Routes project since its inception but have put off participating until now.  First I had no blog, then I was only working a few hours a week so it didn't seem to be the best time to do it.  Now, with the #aberils dissertation school next week and a new job around the corner, it seems like a good time to add myself to the wiki.

My background is in music (NUI Maynooth) and education (Trinity College, Dublin).  Fortunately / unfortunately there weren't many full-time jobs for music teachers at the time, so I found myself teaching part-time and working part-time as a library assistant at the Contemporary Music Centre (CMC).  This first library job involved lots of photocopying and binding of musical scores, with a few general library duties thrown in.

A year later there were still very few music teaching jobs coming up, so when the position of Music Information Officer opened up at CMC I applied and I got the job!  This was a fantastic place to start with libraries, because there were two of us working full-time in the library and I got to do a bit of everything - acquisitions, cataloguing, creating content for the web / other publications and lots of user support.  I attended one of the IAML study weekends, realised that I actually preferred library work to teaching and applied for the MSc Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth.

My next position was as Senior Library Assistant on the Changing Libraries team at An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The Library Council).  This position gave me more line management and training experience and I was involved in projects such as the redesign of the Ask About Ireland website and a book digitisation project, among others.  I took a career break from this position earlier this year and moved to the UK.
Ask About Ireland website

Since March, I've been working a few hours a week as a library invigilator at the medical library in Cambridge and working on my librarianship qualification.  I've been making the most of the time available and opportunities that came up, attending CILIP events, doing the 23 Things programmes and helping to organise the first (lib)TeachMeet (limited places still available, sign up here!)

I'm now at a bit of a turning point in my career.  Next week I'm off to Aberystwyth for my third and final study school, and the week after that I'll be starting as Assistant Librarian at the English Faculty Library, Cambridge. I'm very excited about this job - I have an interest in the educational role of librarians and think a faculty library is probably the best place to be for this side of things.  I've met most of the team and am really looking forward to working with them, and from what I've read and heard, this library always has lots going on.

I have to say, I feel really lucky to have had the broader early experiences from CMC and the Library Council while I was studying.  By working while studying, I've managed to avoid the Experience Catch-22 that Bronagh talked about at the New Professionals Conference, and I've been able to draw on this work experience in completing assignments throughout my course.  It's been a long slog, but I don't regret taking the distance learning route to qualification.  Roll on the dissertation, chartership and future opportunities!


  1. Before I'd come to the paragraph where you mention my presentation and the Experience Catch-22, I'd just been thinking to myself what an impressive amount of experience you'd accumulated in a relatively short time. You've done some really interesting things. Good luck with the new job - sounds brilliant!

  2. Great post Niamh, really interesting to see the whole journey up to this point. Good luck with your study school, I must ask you about your dissertation topic, and good luck with the new job. Exciting times!