Non-traditional or non-relevant?

Over this past year I was completely wrapped up in my enthusiasm for the Masters in Library and Information Systems, about the potential of being an information professional, and was excited to discover that librarians could fill a diverse range of jobs. It is amazing that librarians can be found in the most unusual of places, not just in Google but Cadbury’s too! And it is great that we can master a whole raft of technical skills. I really enjoyed expanding my knowledge of digital platforms, and surprised myself with how readily I took up coding with HTML and CSS. My bizarre love of cataloguing is not so much of a shock, I love things to be organised so constructing codes to create access to information  has obvious appeal.

Recently however, I have been able to take a step back and think about why I decided to pursue a career in librarianship. I wanted to find something that combined my education and experiences in life so far and could offer the challenges of working with young people; the satisfaction of contributing to social issues; the ability to meet people across sections of a community; and to put my natural interpersonal abilities to best use. Ultimately, finding a way to parcel together very different interests in an effective way.

Yes, the possibilities of digitisation and digital humanities are amazing, and knowledge management and information literacy in large corporations is necessary, but is the non-traditional information role for me?

Even at interview stage for my current position, I told the panel that I would be proud to tell friends and family that I had a non-traditional role as a result of my much scoffed at Masters in librarianship. And it’s true that there is a great deal to take from this role to help me with all manner of future Info Pro positions. Despite having trained staff and acted as supervisor in restaurants and shops, it will be good to demonstrate this experience in what some might consider a more “professional” environment. I am gaining experience of the workflows and processes of managing and executing large scale digitisation projects that you could never learn within a lecture hall. I am also learning the corporate lingo and management structure – an SME in this environment is not a Small or Medium Enterprise, but a Subject Matter Expert; I love a good abbreviation but that’s just confusing!

Ultimately though, I miss the opportunities to interact with a diverse range of people or feel that I am contributing to something special. I have to ask myself the question: Do I want to be an advocate and example of what an Information Professional can be, or do I want to be what I want to be?

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2 comments on “Non-traditional or non-relevant?
  1. Mark McGuire says:

    Why was your Masters in librarianship “much scoffed at”? I would have thought it would have been a good choice for someone with your interests. Is it about (poor?) job prospects? Perhaps you’ve mentioned the nature of your new job elsewhere in your blog (or maybe you prefer to keep your professional position out of your public blog), but I was wondering how you’ve managed to combine your interest in working with youth with your librarianship studies.

    BTW, I came across your blog via #la101x. I searched for the hashtag after registering for the MOOC this afternoon. At least one other person from the University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand, where I work) has also registered (@SarahLibrarina).

  2. shinyshona says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for your comment.
    I think in Ireland, or at least within my circle of family, friends and other acquaintances, the professional aspect of librarianship is hugely overlooked. So I have experienced a lot of disbelief that I did a masters in stamping books and shushing. I still find it hard to explain the value of the MLIS without people’s eyes glazing over.

    At the time of this post I was working at an insurance company on a digitisation and data retention project, so this went a long way towards proving the technical elements of the MLIS. However it didn’t combine my primary interest of working with young people. I have now moved on to a KM role with an international aid organisation, and whilst I certainly feel more comfortable working in this environment, I still don’t have as much interaction with people, and especially youth, as I would like.

    There are major restrictions on hiring within the public sector in Ireland at the moment, and so traditional roles where I might have worked as a school librarian or in a public library catering to young adults are difficult to come by. In the the meantime I am making the most of experiencing various aspects of the information profession, and contributing my skills to youth projects by volunteering.

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