Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Former Librarian #21

This week we welcome Former Librarian Fran to the blog.  Fran and I have followed each other on twitter for a number of years so it was interesting when within a couple of months of my move out of libraries, she did the same, moving into a role as a UX Researcher for UCAS.  Fran has included the advertisement that attracted her to the position which I think is interesting from a point of view of looking at transferable skills.

Name: Francesca Redman (Fran)

Current role: UX Researcher at UCAS

Former role: Information Specialist

What led you to move on from libraries? I hadn’t been enjoying my job for a while, as it had changed from being an engagement role to one that involved a lot of project working, and the projects were not being run well. It was incredibly frustrating, as I’ve worked really hard to develop my presenting and networking skills throughout my early career. Had the projects been well managed, I would have probably enjoyed working on them, but despite me raising concerns to my managers throughout the early stages, they carried on with no change, so I felt that I needed to find something different. I couldn’t find any library jobs nearby at all, and didn’t feel like moving elsewhere for a job that wasn’t “the perfect job” I found the UX role advertised and thought that the job description looked like it would fit my skills nicely, and give me a chance to work in a different kind of project based environment.

What do you do in your current role?

My current role is quite varied, and enables me to use things from my first degree (psychology) and my library and information skills.
  • I spend time talking to our users, either face-to- face or on the phone.
  • I develop research based personas which we use to validate and inform designs.
  • I design studies and surveys, put them out to our users and then analyse and feedback the results to the team to help them make decisions about design direction.
  • I engage with groups of users and maintain relationships with them so that we have people available that we know are more likely to take part in testing.
  • I do some design myself, using a program called axure to create wireframes to communicate concepts to users and internal stakeholders.
  • I research different things and feedback to the relevant people in the team so that they know the background before designing, e.g. I recently researched criminal convictions to feed in to the design of a question we ask on the application.

What library skills do you use in your current role? Quite a lot actually - User engagement and presentation skills; Research skills; Information management (I organise the team’s information assets); The “research interview” to uncover the users’ needs rather than their wants;  Displaying information in an engaging way (I have a room that I use wants the walls of as a place to display feedback to the team).

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? I know they did, my boss said that the analytical, organised research skills that I have were what made them want to interview me in the first place. It probably helps that he’d worked in a library environment so was familiar with our skill set. My experience of working with lots of different types of people also marked me out as someone that would be good in this role.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I’ve done some fast learning around how to use our software: prototyping, survey and observation tools. I’m also learning about how to develop research personas. I’m doing lots of on the job learning, but hopefully will be doing something more academic to underpin that too.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? No, CILIP membership is so expensive that I can’t afford to maintain it as it’s not directly of use to me. I use twitter to keep myself in the loop, as I’d like to re-enter the profession in a few years, if the right job becomes available. UX doesn’t have a professional body, which is something I really miss about being a librarian.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I’m not sure really, I enjoy what I’m doing, but I’m not quite sure what I’d like to do next. There are things I miss about being part of the profession; as I said, I wouldn’t count out going back. I have a sort of plan to spend a couple of years figuring out how to be a UX researcher, and then going freelance and doing it on a consultancy basis, but I don’t have firm plans around this yet. I have quite a laid back approach to my career anyway, preferring to work in roles that feel right to me rather than having a plan to follow.

The ad I saw: Embark on a tour of mastery in UCAS to develop and sharpen your skills – be it problem solving, advancing your information architecture skills, or facilitating workshops. Joining the ranks of our close-knit UX troupe, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with cross-disciplinary teams, and can expect personal development supported by training, mentoring and industry conferences. As a User Experience Designer, your mission will be to help craft a better experience for our users by identifying needs and barriers in their journey, as well as maximising their emotional engagement through our services. You will relish the challenge posed by meeting the needs of a broad range of users – from the future generations of students finding their next steps in life, to the teachers supporting their students using UCAS and other online tools. With user research and an inquisitive nature at the heart of our design process, you will need a good grasp of research methodologies, and the ability to adapt and develop testing strategies for a range of situations. A natural curiosity and empathy with others will impel you to reach out to our users, using discoveries and insight to inform our designs and services. The right attitude, as well as heaps of compassion, will put you ahead of the game – even if you’re not the most experienced on paper. If you feel you’re up to the test, and fancy the chance to grow and thrive in a challenging but rewarding environment, get in touch to let us know why you’d make the best new addition to our UX family.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Former Librarian #20

This week we welcome Former Librarian #20, a University equality professional, to the blog.  There's plenty of food for thought here, but I especially like her concluding remarks that:

In retrospect I could have investigated earlier opportunities to move out of libraries into other administrative/professional roles in my university. At the time I didn’t realise how transferable my skills were. It is definitely something that I would encourage other librarians to explore.

That is something that I, as a newbie former librarian, would have liked to have heard much earlier!

Name: Anonymous

Current role: University equality professional

Former role: Cataloguer at a university library

What led you to move on from libraries? Although I could do my previous role adequately, I felt that I wasn’t using all my skills. I’d become more involved in a group of colleagues involved in looking at the needs of disabled library users, and also got involved with a regional network of librarians interested in disability issues (I later became chair). Through the librarians in the network I learned about different ways of providing services to disabled students, and I pressed for the development of assistive technology facilities within the library. When these were introduced my work on assistive technology brought me into closer contact with the dyslexia advisers who supported students, and contributed to my increased understanding of dyslexia.

My university was awarded some money through HEFCE for innovative 3 year fixed term contracts for Equal Opportunity and Diversity Co-ordinators across the institution. This seemed a good opportunity to build on my interest in disability and other diversity areas. Initially I was offered the role of EODC to three of the support services directorates (including Library Services) as secondment, doing 0.5 fte of the new role, and retaining one day a week of my cataloguing role. I remained physically based in the library, but doing this non- traditional role.

It was a steep learning curve, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to develop new skills and to work closely with colleagues from across the university who were passionate about equality issues. I ended up contributing heavily to the development of my university’s first disability equality scheme. As part of that work we asked disabled staff what they would find useful, and they all said that they would welcome a single point of advice and information. I was offered this role, initially as an additional one day a week. In my new role I worked with individuals, helping to find ways to support them at work. I found this immensely rewarding and developed my own role from scratch. I am grateful to the library’s director, who allowed me to remain seconded from my substantive role for a very long time, while I took my equality roles continued through a succession of fixed-term contracts.

Initially I felt quite tentative about my abilities, but my confidence was built up by finding that I could make a difference to people. During a maternity cover role as a Disabled Student Adviser, I found that the skills and knowledge I had developed in my role were readily transferable to a student-facing role, and that I also brought a broader knowledge of the whole institution. When my current role was advertised at a nearby university, it seemed my ideal job, and I was happy to be appointed.

In retrospect I was stuck in a part-time cataloguing role for too long, but this had been a good option for combining with having children. Before working for a university library, I worked for a government department library, but this involved commuting to London, which was not viable after I’d had children. I didn’t work while my children were small.

I am still annoyed at the outcome of the introduction of the HERA job evaluation scheme at my previous organisation, which in my view failed to recognise and adequately reward the skills of librarians. The scheme awards credit for managing people or money, and little credit for specialist professional skills – something which disadvantages librarians and others in specialist roles.

What do you do in your current role? I work with disabled staff and their managers at a large research-intensive university, ensuring that they get the support they need at work. I am also working more broadly on policy development in equality areas, and on changing the whole organisation’s culture. I liaise with members of staff across the whole university. I am based in the university’s equality office, where I am the disability expert for staff issues (student support is based elsewhere). I have also been asked to lead on developing policy and guidance to support transgender staff and students at the university.

I’ve set up a network for disabled staff, and an advisory group on disability. During the Research Excellent Framework 2014, which assessed the quality of research across the country, I was heavily involved in my university’s confidential process for managing disclosures of complex personal circumstances affecting research capacity.

I’ve been awarded some funding for a research project to investigate good practice in supporting disabled staff at my institution, so I am now working with academic researchers on the project.

I am the first person to hold my role, (and few universities have such a role). I’ve been in post for four years and am continuing to develop the role. I work in a large, complex university where change often happens very slowly. I hope I am becoming more influential as I develop my contacts and knowledge of the organisation, and try to raise awareness of good practice. The challenges are huge, but it is very rewarding to be able to make a small difference to people’s lives … and it is wonderful to see people flourishing after very bad times.

What library skills do you use in your current role? The essential skills is listening carefully to people, and probing to find what they want – that bit is similar to traditional enquiry desk work. However what happens next isn’t simply a matter of pointing someone to existing resources, and may be about helping someone think about their current situation, or their behaviours, or what they really want. I sometimes feel like a mix of coach, careers expert, counsellor and parenting adviser!

I need really good interpersonal skills – more advanced than I needed as a librarian. I’m communicating with people at all levels of my organisation, and need to be able to establish rapport and trust.

I need very good writing skills – both for policy writing and for very carefully nuanced emails. I think that comes more from my English degree than my librarian background.

I developed some technical skills in using assistive technology when I was a librarian, which means that I can give informed advice about this area, although I am no longer doing individual training.

I need to be able to investigate unfamiliar topics, and find relevant literature, so the research skills I developed as a librarian continue to be used.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Not directly, but it was a cumulative process.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I needed to develop some of the skilled used by counsellors, including listening skills; coaching skills; ability to explain legislative concepts in plain English; investigatory skills; understanding internal politics; change management; policy writing; ability to discuss sensitive subjects with people who may be very distressed, or who may be very unwell (including mental ill-health); being able to hear distressing information and still being able to work effectively. Often there are no easy answers, so I need to be able to exercise my judgement, and be able to justify my advice.

I need to be able to influence people and bring about cultural change. I did an NVQ level 4 in Management and Leadership: I don’t manage anyone directly (although I did in my second job as a librarian, 18 months after qualifying) but I advise managers on how to manage disabled members of staff.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I no longer maintain professional librarian memberships, and there aren’t any comparable professional organisations for equality professionals, who are far fewer in number. Many universities only have one or two equality practitioners.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? My current role will continue to develop and change. There is more than enough to keep me going for the foreseeable future.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? In retrospect I could have investigated earlier opportunities to move out of libraries into other administrative/professional roles in my university. At the time I didn’t realise how transferable my skills were. It is definitely something that I would encourage other librarians to explore.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Former Librarian #19

This week we welcome an anonymous Former Librarian to the blog who sadly left her Assistant Librarian position due to the work situation she found herself in.  General transferable skills have been important here to enable her success in her new position.

Name: Anonymous

Current role: Administrator in a HE institution

Former role: Assistant Librarian in a University library

What led you to move on from libraries?  The library service merged with computing services and the management team from computing services was put in charge. They had no interest in libraries and, in my opinion, didn’t like libraries, didn’t like females (especially the clever ones), and were misogynists. I was also badly over-worked and by the end was doing the work of three people. It was soul-destroying to work so hard to try to deliver a good service to staff and students and be so unappreciated by your managers and to have your ideas for service improvement rejected (although some were implemented after I left)! To believe that you are discriminated against in the 21 st century because you are a clever female is a dreadful feeling. However my other library jobs were fantastic!

What do you do in your current role? Administration, report writing, minute taking, event management

What library skills do you use in your current role? Nothing library specific just general transferable skills like written and oral communication, accuracy, customer services. However I am heading up a project to digitise our paperwork as a result of skills I learnt in the library profession.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? not really

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Not so much skills, more knowledge of the wider HE sector

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? Still a member of CILIP

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? to enjoy life and to do the things I didn’t do before because I was exhausted and on the brink of a breakdown!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Former Librarian #18

The good news is that we are back!  I have several more respondents now lined up to contribute to the blog so for the next few weeks at least, posts will be going live on Tuesdays.  If you fit the category of "former librarian" and haven't yet been in touch - please do!

This week we welcome Karen to the blog who set up a social enterprise project when she left libraries.

Name: Karen Cannard

Current role: Co-founder of The Rubbish Diet, the UK’s slimming club for bins.
Blogger and Researcher. The Rubbish Diet started out as personal blog charting my challenge
to reduce my household waste in 2008. It is now a social enterprise project that helps others
break through confusion over recycling as well as save money by reducing food waste at

Former role: I’ve held a range of library and information management roles. My interest started during the final year of my degree course in Nottingham in the 1980s when I volunteered for Nottinghamshire libraries. My first paid job was a pre-library school placement as a school librarian at what was then the brand new Djanogly Technology College. I then joined a library management system supplier before doing my Masters degree at Loughborough University and spent the next few years in information research management roles in the music industry before becoming a librarian consultant for Sirsi-Dynix in 2002.

What led you to move on from libraries?
I left my last role due to a relocation for my husband’s new job and following the move we also had our second child. My focus switched from work to supporting a growing family, so I actively chose to take a career break.

What do you do in your current role?
I am a volunteer figurehead for The Rubbish Diet, a social enterprise project, which is an easy-to- follow process that helps and motivates people to reduce their household waste. I monitor trends in the recycling sector and waste reduction communications and we ensure we signpost our members (‘dieters’) to the most interesting and relevant resources. I also seek out more interesting off-beat stories to provide further inspiration and motivation, e.g. my recent behind-the- scenes visit to Coronation Street.

What library skills do you use in your current role?
Information dissemination skills are key to sign-posting quality resources that are of interest to our community. Waste reduction is such a huge topic as is the subject of behaviour change. So the ability to break things down to specialist subject areas is important as well as the awareness of how to balance information overload especially in the digital age where there are increasing information-sharing platforms and content. The training skills that I learnt throughout my profession have also helped when speaking at conferences and running workshops.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position?
As it’s a role that has been self-created, perhaps the question for me is more whether library skills have helped to sustain the position over the last eight years. I believe that yes they have, but what’s been just as relevant has been the inherent desire to continue to share relevant information that can help people achieve their goals. It has also helped to have a fascination with this particular sector and an ability to select key resources that are the most relevant from the massive amounts of information on the Internet.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order
to enable you to carry out your work?
The last eight years have also placed me as a figurehead for The Rubbish Diet and a commentator on wider waste-related topics, which has meant lots of speaking engagements and working with the media. This has taken me to conferences as far afield as San Francisco and working with mainstream TV projects including ITV Tonight and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s BBC series, Hugh’s War on Waste. I have also led on a key 8 week broadcasting campaign with my local BBC radio station. Coming from a library and information career where I spent fourteen years in a supportive capacity – as a resource provider, metadata geek, trainer and a behind-the- scenes trouble-shooter – stepping into the limelight has pushed me out of my comfort zone and a need for me to focus more on communication skills as well as developing my confidence in representing a very important issue that is still overlooked by many – that of protecting resources and using them sustainably.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more

Anything else that you’d like to tell us?
There are many synergies between the worlds of resource management from an information profession perspective and resource management in the waste sector, whether you’re a custodian of information or a custodian of materials. Each depend on good collation, efficiency of circulation and reuse opportunities as well as driving and sustaining demand. While my long-term plans are committed to The Rubbish Diet in a continued long-term capacity, one day, when the time is right, I hope to step back into my librarianship shoes once more.

And the interesting footnote is that Karen has recently accepted a position working back in a library.  Former librarians who have eventually returned to libraries is not a category that I had thought of, but she is not the only one that I have come across.