This is a guest post by Kristopher Meen, MLIS, Volunteer at NUIG Libraries.
The information field’s newest members had the opportunity to share their skills and experience with fellow professionals at NPD Ireland’s annual autumn event, held in Dublin on 11 October 2014. Billed as ‘SHINE: SHowcase your INformation Expertise’, the programme highlighted the variety of exciting work in which today’s new information professionals are engaged. As a recent transplant to Ireland from Canada (with a 2010 MLIS from Western University), I found this an ideal venue for learning more about what’s happening both nationally and locally in Irish libraries, for meeting other new professionals, and for sharing details about a volunteer project that I’ve been working on at the James Hardiman Library in NUI Galway.
Participants had two opportunities to get involved with SHINE: either by delivering a 10-15 minute oral presentation or by preparing a poster. Registered attendees were then able to vote for what they felt was the single strongest presentation and poster, with prizes awarded in each category courtesy of the LAI A&SL section, UCD SILS, and Jane Burns & Associates.
Three of the event’s four oral presentations focused on the presenter’s use of a particular project or tool and discussed the skills developed by the presenter as a result. Caroline Rowan provided a holistic look—‘from both sides of the interview desk’--at Competency-Based Interviews (CBIs), which are becoming increasingly common in our field. A key advantage of CBIs is that they encourage interviewees to draw on personal examples, using their accounts of past experiences to make determinations about how well a candidate has mastered a particular skill. As Caroline provided a number of tips for interviewees, her talk was a goldmine for job-seekers who may well need to navigate this style of interview in the near future.
Penelope Dunn, who contributed both an oral and a poster presentation, came bearing an antidote for the tedious slog of job applications: the continuing professional development diary (CPD). A method of continually keeping track of skills gained on the job, the CPD can be an enormous help when you’re trying to write what is often the most difficult part of a job application, the supporting statement. Keeping a CPD allows applicants to more easily align their skills with those listed in a job description, while simultaneously ensuring that no previous accomplishment is lost to memory.
My own presentation was an account of a project I’ve been working on as a volunteer in the special collections of NUI Galway’s Hardiman Library, an online exhibition of an archival object called the Memorial Atlas of Ireland (1901) that I’ve put together using the open-source software Exhibit. I gave a quick demo of the exhibition’s features, including how it integrates a view from Google maps. I also discussed how learning to use this software has meant updating and improving my skills in html and css web design.
The winning presentation was delivered by Jenny O’Neill and Catherine Ryan, both of the Digital Repository of Ireland. Jenny and Catherine gave us a fascinating glimpse into some of the projects on which they have worked—projects that have utilised such cutting-edge methods and tools as social media archiving and linked data—as well as into the skills that information professionals need to succeed in such an environment. Jenny and Catherine drew attention to the importance of communication skills, including writing skills, in the information field, as well as the value of collaboration. Technical skills are a must, of course, for today’s new information professional; however, as Jenny nicely emphasised, keeping up with what might seem like a dizzying array of ever-changing technologies is really about the core skills of being willing to learn and flexible enough to do so quickly on the job.
Joining Penelope Dunn’s poster on CPD were two further entrants. Sarah Kennedy and Kate McCarthy’s poster summarised their ambitious MLIS Capstone project about the information-seeking behaviour of healthcare professionals in Ireland. After interviewing 222 GPs, they found that 65% had not used a library service in the previous year and that the vast majority were not using open access resources available to them, either. The poster concluded with a series of recommendations on how librarians might offer better outreach to health professionals.
The winning poster by Mick O’Dwyer and Tom Maher focused on The Forgotten Zine Archive. This growing archive of zines (creator-managed, non-professional, small-circulation magazines) has grown to 2000 items since its inception in 2004. O’Dwyer and Maher’s poster detailed how they have gone about preserving, classifying and cataloguing this unusual collection. Their poster made a cogent case for why librarians ought to concern themselves with these kinds of archives—and why zines and other documents from the margins remain significant in the digital information age.
Overall, SHINE was a convincing reminder of the important and innovative work taking place in the information field today, as well as a salient example of how this field continues to attract ambitious entrants seeking a challenging and stimulating career path.