11 May 2022

How libraries can become more ASD-inclusive

Guest post by Aodhán Keegan, DCU Library

This article is a summary of the key points from my Capstone Project I conducted during my Masters in Library and Information Studies in UCD from 2020 to 2021. My research topic concerned the role of public and academic libraries as inclusive spaces for the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) community. In this article, I will focus on how both public and academic librarians may appreciate ASD as an opportunity for professional growth instead of an obstacle, and how the library can function as an ASD-inclusive establishment.

Throughout my research, I consulted various articles that were oriented around how well librarians understood ASD, and how they could incorporate their knowledge into their professional practice. In one of these articles, a group of public librarians in Australia participated in an online autism awareness training session in 2020. Afterwards, they developed the confidence to support library users with ASD, as they were better informed about autism and the signs to look out for in an affected user (Paynter, Simpson, O’Leary et al, 2020).

Other articles suggested that public librarians should concentrate on their forms of communication with library users with ASD. Akin and MacKinney (2004) suggest scaffolding communication when interacting with children with ASD. This entails the librarian beginning by asking the user yes or no questions before proceeding to more nuanced questions regarding their information search. This method ensures that the child is not overwhelmed during their information search. It must also be acknowledged that the user(s) with ASD may act as aloof or disinterested in the library, but this should not be regarded as antisocial behaviour. It is merely their adaptation to the sensory stimuli of this environment.

The approach that academic librarians may adopt is vastly different to their public counterparts. This evolves around the consent of the student with ASD to be forthcoming about their information needs and their desired study space. In the articles I consulted, most academic librarians regarded these students to be ‘intellectually capable of pursuing higher level education’ as well as having the confidence to ask for help (Shea & Derry, 2019, p. 327). Hence, it is the imperative of the academic librarian to give the student with ASD the prerogative to navigate their options of using the library to suit their additional needs.

However, that is not to say the academic librarian adopts a passive role to the needs of students with ASD. Whenever a lecturer refers a student to them for support, they must regard them as individuals presenting with their own challenges. They must recognise that no two students on the spectrum have the same needs, thus an unbiased and non-judgmental manner must be adopted to support them. As stated previously, the student with ASD knows what they are seeking, and they are self-assured enough to realise and address this.

There is a general assumption that libraries are naturally safe havens for people with autism spectrum disorder due to their traditionally quiet environments. However, in a survey conducted by Lou-Ellen Kiely (2018, p. 42) on library attendance amongst people with ASD and their guardians in Ireland, forty-four percent never availed of their local library services, with eighteen percent complaining that their local library was unaccommodating to their sensory needs. To tackle this problematic gap, efforts have been made in America to promote public libraries as ASD-inclusive. Librarians have put up visual displays of ‘autism-friendly’ logos on the front doors of their workplace and have collaborated with other libraries to host weekly sensory programming for families.

For ASD students to experience a positive relationship with their academic library, school librarians may support secondary school students with ASD to develop their information seeking skills in advance of attending third-level education. In their research, Ennis-Cole and Smith (2011) surveyed school librarians who were teaching students with ASD to develop their assistive technology skills. To quote a surveyed librarian, ‘we can assist autistic students in the same ways we assist other students. We recommend materials. We teach selection. We model reading. We mentor’ (Ennis-Cole & Smith, 2011, p. 93).

As this article asserts, to support the ASD community, the public librarian must be astute to how they may respond to the sensory stimuli of the library environment. As many students with ASD are generally well developed both socially and intellectually, the academic librarian must cultivate a professional rapport with these students when supporting them in navigating the library. For both the public and academic sectors, advocacy for the ASD community in the public library environment and preparing prospective third-level students with ASD to develop their information seeking skills are two examples of solutions to combat the additional challenges people with ASD typically experience when accessing library services.

Akin, L. & MacKinney, D. (2004). Autism, Literacy, and Libraries: The 3 Rs = Routine, Repetition, and Redundancy. Children and Libraries, 2(2), 35–43. ISSN: 1542-9806

Ennis-Cole, D. & Smith, D., (2011). Assistive technology and autism: Expanding the technology leadership role of the school librarian. School Libraries Worldwide, 17(2), 86-98. ISSN: 1023-9391

Kiely, L. (2018). ‘The role of Irish Public Libraries in Assisting Users with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Benefits, Challenges and other Considerations’ (Masters Dissertation, Dublin Business School, Dublin). ISSN: 10788/3489

Paynter, J., Simpson, K., Wicks, R., Westerveld, M., O’Leary, K. & Hurley, A. (2020). Development of an Online Training Program for Public Library Staff to Deliver Autism Friendly Story Time Sessions. Journal Of The Australian Library And Information Association 2020, 69(4), 496–522. DOI: 10.1080/24750158.2020.1836949

Shea, G. & Derry, S. (2019). Academic Libraries and Autism Spectrum Disorder: What Do We Know? The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(1), 326–331. DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2019.04.007

Making it work: doing a Virtual Work Placement during Covid-19

© True Media

Guest Post by Sinead Delaney Sinéad is a student of Library and Information Management. She has recently completed a work experience placement at the Glucksman Library.'

I am a Master’s student in Information and Library Management at Ulster University. The course is part-time and entirely remote. One of the conditions of the course is that I must work in a library setting as I study. This blog post and the poster I present at the CONUL Conference in May 2022 recount my experience of conducting a virtual work placement at UL. While the latter stages of my placement were in-person, I worked entirely remotely for the autumn semester of 2021 as the Covid-19 restrictions in place in September 2021 meant that only University staff and students were permitted in UL Library. 

When I enrolled on my course at Ulster University, I was working full-time, first at a HSE Covid-19 Vaccination Centre in Laois, then at the library supply department in O’Mahony’s Booksellers in Limerick city. I began my work experience in UL in September 2021, which meant my placement began during the pandemic. The Glucksman Library allowed me to conduct my placement virtually, and my academic supervisor also supported this. While doing my virtual work placement at the Glucksman Library I worked on projects for my supervisor, Michelle Breen and for Louise O’Shea, Librarian Administration. Below are some of the projects I worked on for UL Library.

Digital Skills Workshops

I attended UL’s 21 Digital Skills for Students workshops (online) and prepared a report on how I perceived them, being a postgraduate student myself. I reported my observations under the following headings so that the LevUL Up project team at UL could get qualitative feedback on the following:

  • Applicability, 
  • Volume of content, 
  • Pace,
  • Level of interaction, 
  • Level of understanding as measured by questions asked.

I also did a landscape check for Michelle, finding out the different types of classes that libraries in Ireland, the UK and the US offer to their students. Michelle will mention this in her talk at the CONUL Conference on ‘Taking a Lead in Digital Literacy’ 

Research Skills

When doing desk-based research for Michelle, and also for Louise O’Shea I was able to carry out research projects from start to finish and present my findings through a Powerpoint deck; a simulation of the type of assignment I might face in my course, and a taste of what it could be like to work at an academic library. For Louise, I looked at the Universities that have Makerspaces to see how common it was that these were managed by the University library. I also audited the University libraries to see what technology they loaned to students and reported my findings back to the librarians. This meant I learnt about what these sorts of spaces looked like and understood the types of equipment that were useful for libraries to lend. 

New skills for students

Michelle encouraged me to think like a student when attending the digital skils workshops but challenged me to think like a teaching librarian too when I presented my findings about the types of workshops presented in other libraries. I identified that there was nowhere really teaching reading skills so I prepared a PowerPoint presentation on critical reading skills aimed at postgraduates. I was able to apply principles I had come across in my studies, for example, ‘fitting-in’ reading and ‘analytical reading. I hope that UL will be able to make some use out of my work on this in the future in their workshops for students. 

Collection Development 

During my virtual work placement, I submitted a list of recommended new titles for the popular fiction section in UL’s Glucksman Library. To do this, I consulted best seller lists, compared what UL had already in stock and also used social media sites to come up with my list of books. 

SWOT Analysis 

I completed a SWOT analysis of the library as part of a college assignment and Michelle’s feedback to me on that was that it matched what an academic library would identify among its strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities in the current climate

Reflections on my virtual work placement

I am an alumnus of the University of Limerick and immediately felt a connection to the library when I began my work placement. Since January 2022 I have been able to actually come in to the library and that has highlighted for me the importance of being face-to-face with colleagues. The remote working part of my placement, while not ideal, meant that I was in a safe working environment and I didn’t really feel disconnected from the library team.

I had weekly virtual meetings with my supervisor, Michelle Breen, Head of Information Services during my placement. Often these were taken during my work break but I made it work.

Overall, my placement was a success. I received a great insight into library work and was able to make real contributions to the library. I had to manage my time carefully with a full-time job, a part-time internship, and a part-time Master’s. 

Where to next? 

My background before September 2021 was not in library science. I completed an undergraduate degree in Food Science and Health at the University of Limerick before completing the professional exams with Chartered Accountants Ireland. I found the skillset I had already developed applicable to the library sector. A methodical approach to tasks was invaluable, and being good at Microsoft Office, especially Excel, is very important. Being digitally literate is an essential part of working in a library and I was glad to be able to use Excel, Powerpoint and Canva during my placement. My course will take another 2 years and I look forward then, or before I complete it, to working in a library.  

I am grateful to the staff at the Glucksman Library in UL for welcoming me in to their team and especially grateful to Michelle Breen and the other managers in UL for being so flexible in their approach and accommodating me getting started through this work placement. 

Come and see my poster with Michelle at the CONUL Conference in Limerick.

4 May 2022

Reflections on LAI CDG 202

Guest Post by Lisa O Leary, Library Assistant at UCC Library

On the 30th of March 2022 I attended the LAI CDG ‘Ace the Interview: All Things Applications and Interviews for Librarians!’ event on Zoom. 

The Library Association of Ireland’s (LAI) Career Development Group (CDG) “represents both existing library and information professionals and new graduates looking for job opportunities” (ABOUT CDG, 2022). This was my first CDG event and I found the topics covered both interesting and informative for future applications and interviews. 

Below is a summary of the event and the key points that stood out for me. 

After an introduction by Laura Ryan (@LaurNiR) of UCD Library, Marie O'Neill (@marie_librarian) of CCT College Dublin, began her presentation ‘Job Seeking and Interview Tips for Librarians’ and shared her tips on CVs, Cover Letters and Interviews. 

  • Roles that suit MLIS graduates might not be found in a library or may have very different names, but they still utilise the same skills. As the saying goes ‘A rose by any other name...’ And the same is true for MLIS graduates! So, think about non-library organisations that need information management specialists, these can be anything from data protection officers to taxonomists. 
  • Work experience is always worth it. Whether it’s giving you valuable experience to add to your CV or providing a steppingstone into a new job, the skills you gain from work experience will only benefit you. 
  • Marie highlighted how important it is to ask for help and advice, particularly from those already in the role or area you’re applying for. They know the area and what to look out for, and they may be able to review your CV and/or cover letter for you. 
  • Never underestimate the importance of mock interviews and putting in plenty of interview prep work. Not only will it give you confidence, but it will also help iron out any issues or stumbling blocks. 
  • Marie gave us a classic STAR format but with a new twist – STARSS (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Library Strategic Plans, Institutional Strategic Plan). It’s important to, where you can, link your examples with the Strategic Plans of the library and/or the institution, demonstrating how you can contribute to these goals. 
  • Always reference any MOOCS or Digital Badges that you’ve completed or are doing. They show personal and professional development and can really help you stand out from the crowd. 
  • One of the biggest surprises and takeaways for me was to do with the final interview question - “Do you have any questions for us?” Despite what interview, and internet, lore tells you it's not necessary to ask a question at the end. If you feel that everything has been covered satisfactorily in the interview, then there’s no need to ask a question for the sake of asking one. 

The next presentation was by Emma Doran (@tumbling_tomes) of Kildare County Council Library, called ‘Through the Looking Glass: Demystifying Public Library Interviews’ with a focus on public libraries. 

  • Emma went over the Public Library Grading system clarifying each grade and how they relate to one another. This was very helpful for anyone (like me!) outside of public libraries to gain a better understanding of how things work. 
  • Emma also went through the steps of the Selection Process, breaking them down into an easy-to-follow roadmap. 
  • It is critical to tailor your application to the job description, that way you highlight how you are the best candidate for the job. 
  • There were some very useful STAR examples, providing a perfect springboard to get people thinking about their own experiences and what their answers could be. 
  • When in an interview and using the STAR format remember ‘I.’ While it’s important to highlight good team working, it’s your interview and you need to shine and to sell yourself to get the job. So remember ‘I.’ 
  • When applying for a position in a public library it’s important to do your homework and read up on Local Government plans and projects. For example, ‘Our Public Libraries 2022: Inspiring, Connecting and Empowering Communities’; and the Council’s current Library Development Plan. 
  • It’s important to stay positive both in and outside of the interview. Don’t worry about your position on a Panel, you may be called sooner than you think. Particularly for Councils they could be hiring for multiple different branches and make their way down the panel list very quickly. 

Once the two keynote speakers had finished their presentations the floor was opened to both speakers and the panellists — Johanna Duffy (@Johanna_speaks) of AIT Library, Linda Fennessy (@lindafennessy) of the National Library of Ireland, and Martin O'Connor (@martinoconnor3) of UCC Library — to answer the Padlet questions sent in by attendees. 

  • Part of the discussion was on transferable skills, and not forgetting about them. Even if you don’t have much or any library experience there are plenty of skills that you find in retail, customer services, and sales that match library roles. These can range from digital skills to customer services skills to teamworking skills. 
  • Don’t stress about keeping your CV to two pages. If something is relevant and shows how you meet the job criteria, then put it in; and if your CV goes to three pages don’t worry. 
  • One of the Padlet questions sparked a very important discussion on diversity and inclusion. If you’re neurodivergent and have been called for interview don’t be afraid to reach out to the HR department and discuss how to make the interview as comfortable as possible. Don’t feel that your differences will hold you back in an interview; you have unique insights and ideas and libraries, both public and academic, are calling out for this. 

Thank you to the LAI CDG committee for organising the event and to all speakers and panellists for sharing their knowledge and experience. 

References: LAI CDG. 2022. ABOUT CDG. [online] Available at: https://laicdg.wordpress.com/about/ 

[Accessed 4 April 2022]. 

Posted on Wednesday, May 04, 2022 | Categories:

29 Apr 2022

Preparing a Portfolio for Associateship of Library Association of Ireland (ALAI)

Guest post by Ruth O’Hara, Catherine Ahearne, Saoirse DePaor and Edel King.

This blog post covers preparing a CV, a reflective statement, a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) portfolio and detailing membership of the LAI and cognate bodies.

Ruth O'Hara

Tailoring your CV to your ALAI application by Ruth O’Hara

When applying for any accreditation or job, it is important to know what exactly is being looked for. The Library Association of Ireland (LAI) application form sets out clearly what needs to be included as part of your portfolio for the award of Associateship.

Under the CV section of the application process, it states that CVs will be used to review professional experience. As a result, I tailored my CV to focus primarily on my work in the library.

In addition, the application form also asks applicants to provide a list of professional development activities and a record of involvement in the LAI separate to the CV, so this again helped me decide what information to include in my CV to ensure it was concise and that what was being asked for was covered.

To make sure it was relevant and only included the necessary information, I chose a reverse chronological CV. I detailed my most recent and pertinent academic and professional experience first.

I kept my education section brief. I included my library qualification first, as this was my most recent educational achievement, followed by my other third level qualifications.

The focus of my CV was on my professional experience to-date. I was conscious of not just giving a list of every role I have held in the library. As a result, I provided details on the roles that showcased both my experience and skills as well as my progression in my career. I did not give the same level of detail to jobs outside of my library experience, for example lecturing or tutoring.

It took a few drafts to ensure my CV was clear and logical. I have been lucky to work in several different sections within Maynooth University Library often at the same time. It was important, therefore, to set out clearly which department I worked in, the relevant dates and my respective roles in each section. To do this, I included a qualifying sentence to make evident that during term time, for example, I worked as a member of the front desk team but in the summer, I worked on various projects in other library sections.

I also included two referees, one person that I work with at present and a second from outside the institution, who had experience working with me in a library context.


Your CV might be the first thing that is read by your assessor, so it is important that it is well organised, logical and gives a clear oversight of your experience and skill.

In addition to ensuring it is relevant, it should also look well and so maintaining the same style throughout is important. It might sound obvious, but make sure your spelling is correct, the dates used are accurate and cite papers or departmental names properly. Also spell things out fully. One thing I discovered going through this process was just how many acronyms we use in the library world. I had to check more than once that I spelled things out fully, such as GC&F (General Collections and Finance). It might make sense to us in Maynooth University but not to your anonymous reviewers.


The main tips I have if you are considering applying for the Associateship of the LAI are:

  • Do your CV first. It helped me collate information that was of relevance to the other parts of the application process, including the reflective statement, and so saved me time overall. Doing it first also let me get practical things out of the way without stress, such as contacting my referees. It also allowed me to identify gaps in my CV that I could refer to elsewhere. In the reflective essay I referred to a career break I took, and how this impacted my career development.
  • Know what is being asked of you by this application process. That is, giving the best overview of your professional experience in the library so far. Read the guidelines on the LAI website so that you fully understand what you need  to include in the portfolio and understand the role of the LAI.
  • Finally, have someone else read over your work. No matter how often you check it, you will always miss something. This can be hard, but I certainly benefited from having others review my CV and other documentation and their suggestions made it and my portfolio much stronger overall.

Catherine Ahearne

Continual Professional Development (CPD) record and LAI and cognate bodies involvement by Catherine Ahearne.

There is some overlap in terms of content and preparation, so I am discussing them together.
A CPD record is a list of professional development activities undertaken, not only with external organisations or bodies, but also includes internal events, training, and work-related activities. CPD endeavours should be core professional activities that align with professional development. With librarianship, there is no defined CPD pathway, as with other professions, but the LAI endorses and recognises the need for lifelong learning and the awards can act as a type of pathway giving time to look back on CPD and identify gaps.

When recording CPD activities, list under headings such as publications, awards, presentations, events attended etc. It can be helpful to list chronologically with the most recent items first. It can be useful also to distinguish between internal & external CPD. Taking on a new project at work would constitute internal CPD, as would presenting to your colleagues in the Library at a briefing etc.

Your record of engagement with the LAI and other cognate bodies can include:

  • Workshops
  • Seminar
  • Conferences
  • Publications
  • Following @LAIonline
  • Professional reading including “An Leabharlann”

The record should present the major things first such as, presentations, awards, or articles. Please remember when citing these to do so correctly using an established citation style.
After that list events attended giving the title of the event, the date and location and the body that hosted it.

Something I find helpful is keeping certificates from events, where issued, to refer to for the details of events. You may also be required to complete an application form to attend an external event, and your Library is likely to keep records of this. Certificates can be added to your portfolio under “additional documentation” on the online application.

Becoming actively involved in the LAI is not as difficult as you might think. For example, I try to take detailed notes of the event that I attend while fresh in my mind. After attending an LAI event, I wrote up a report for work and this became the basis of a conference review for the journal “An Leabharlann.”

Takeaways from the experience:

  • Actively track involvement with the LAI and CPD activities. Portfolio documents can become living documents, you proactively update as you do something in terms of training and development.
  • Increase involvement with the LAI. It is not as daunting as you may think. Confidence in your abilities will grow through engagement with the LAI and other groups.
  • I discovered what professional growth means to me. It is an active process and involves self-reflection. As someone who had lived by the phrase “self-praise is no praise,” looking back at my career and truly examining it was difficult but rewarding in the end.
  • Advice for anyone doing this would be to track all training and talks that you attend, and do not be afraid to put yourself out there in terms of gaining experience and learning.


Saoirse De Paor

The Reflective Statement by Saoirse De Paor

The purpose of the reflective statement is to demonstrate your learning from professional activities, experiences and events that have contributed to your professional development. The most important part of this piece is to show how learning occurred from both the activities themselves and from the process of reflection on the activities. When reflecting on past events, we often develop a different perspective that allows us to see the bigger picture and gain a broader understanding of our experiences and of ourselves.

The process of reflection can be broken down into a series of steps;

Firstly, the context and background of your chosen experience or activity is needed, in brief – What was the purpose of it? What did it involve? What was your role?

Secondly, it’s important that you try and capture those initial thoughts, feelings and emotions before, or at the time of the activity or event, in order to truly demonstrate the development process and how your initial expectations differed from your reflections afterwards.

Your learning and understanding of the experience follows: this will encapsulate how you felt afterwards and the key takeaways. These reflections capture the immediate learning that occurred, as well as your overall realisations, awareness and recognition.

Lastly, the learning outcomes of each experience may lead to direct actions that further enhance your professional development and identify. Make reference to the positive outcomes, actions and insights that occurred after reflecting on these experiences and activities.  

 Identifying the activities, experiences and events to reflect on:

One of the more challenging parts of the process can be identifying the type of professional activities and experiences you want to reflect on and write about. Therefore, I have come up with four prompts to help you identify and recognise these experiences:

Challenging experiences - An experience that really challenged you or pushed you out of your comfort zone. A time when you felt "imposter syndrome", anxious, or uncomfortable at the beginning of an experience, which later resulted in a learning opportunity.

Transformative experiences – An experience or moment when you felt you crossed a professional threshold that enhanced your professional identify. This may have been through acquiring a new skillset, knowledge or practice, that you have since adopted as part of your role or has influenced your career or professional development.

Professional achievements - Professional accomplishments big & small. These could include being awarded a bursary, publishing a blog post or article, winning best poster at a conference, or presenting at a conference for the first time. Meaningful moments of accomplishment.   

Collaborative opportunities - A time when you collaborated with the LAI or a similar professional group e.g. CONUL, on a committee, as part of a group project or with colleagues and gained a new perspective and key insights from working with others. How did this collaborative experience inform you, about you, professionally?

While you might end up with a long list of events, experiences and activities to reflect on, I recommend choosing two to three that have significantly helped shape and influence your professional identity so far. When looking back on your career, recall the moments that made you feel empowered, changed, transformed and confident. Moments that have influenced and enhanced who you are and where you are going, in all professional capacities.


Edel King

Creating Your Reflective Statement by Edel King

I learned some things through creating my reflective statement that I would like to share with you here.

It’s reflecting not recounting. When I started writing my reflective statement, I thought I was reflecting. But I had just recounted experiences and not focused on my learnings. In order to fully reflect, I had to think: did this experience impact me in a way that had an effect on the way I approach my work going forward?

Be succinct. It’s only 500 words. You don’t want to rush from one topic to the next, not giving the reader any time to digest what you have said. Planning ahead helps. I wrote down ideas; some experiences that have shaped my career and that I felt there were learnings from. Looking at the list, themes started to emerge. I grouped the experiences and started writing.

Just start writing. I put off the reflective statement for a long time in the application process as I was unsure about it. But starting to write is really the best thing. Getting it all down helps the ideas to come. You can edit it once it’s there on the page.

Rely on your network for feedback. There is nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to help you see how it reads. Or to help you with editing if you are struggling with the word count.

Be honest. Don’t say what you think people want to hear. Make your application stand out by talking about your struggles and doubts; things you have experienced that others may have no knowledge of. Don’t be afraid to talk about negative experiences or aspects of your career that you think you need to work on.

It’s not a linear process. I would recommend working on the reflective statement and then leaving it for a while. At the end of the application process, return to it. You have done all of the other pieces, everything is fresh in your mind. You never know what will occur to you that you will want to include. 

The reflective statement is a very helpful. It gives you a chance to think about your career and where you want to go to next. 


We, the four authors, hope this blog post will inspire you to consider applying for an ALAI award.




Posted on Friday, April 29, 2022 | Categories: , ,

26 Apr 2022

Applying for an Award of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI)


Guest post by Helen Fallon and Jane Burns Jane and Helen have both served on the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Committee. Both have experience of assessing applications for LAI awards and have been very active in promoting the awards, since they were both awarded FLAI in 2010.

This blog posts contains tips/suggestions based on their experience as applicants, mentors and assessors, and the detailed guidelines provides on the LAI website.

If you are reading this blog post you may have already started investigating the various awards of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI). Here we reflect on the process and make some suggestions.  We both really enjoyed the process overall; at times it was challenging but the result was a significant achievement that we want to help our colleagues attain. We published a detailed article of our experience of applying for the FLAI in “An Leabharlann”, and also presented a poster at an LAI conference. Please note that the option of doing the FLAI by thesis, mentioned on the poster, no longer exists.

If you are an early career library professional now is the time to start thinking about the LAI awards. It does take time to have the experience to apply but from today you can start focusing on the process. If you have been working in a library for some time but have never considered applying for a LAI award, the application process is an excellent way to review where you are at, and plan forward.

We are fortunate in our field that no two days are the same, we work in varied and dynamic environments. We interact with so many different people that there are always opportunities to learn, get ideas, and to see areas where we can develop new knowledge or skills.

Talk to and observe colleagues within our profession, talk to colleagues outside of the library in your organisations to identify what are trends and changes in the workplace. Seriously consider what kind of CPD you want to do. Most of the CPD will be related to your current role but CPD can be targeted at future roles or topics you are interested in.

CPD doesn’t just meant degrees, certificates, etc. it can include writing, professional reading, participating in the LAI Job Swap scheme, taking on new projects at work, volunteer work or committee/event involvement for example.  Be targeted in how you spend your time and resources.  It is important to note not all CPD is funded by your employer so you may have to consider funding CPD yourself for own personal development and future goals. If your CPD option is future focused it may not be relevant to your current position and with limited funding this is a consideration your employer needs to take.

Also keep track of the CPD you engage in. Reading blogs, books attending conferences, etc. are things that people often forget to recognize as CPD. If you set up spread sheet and just keep track of dates, the topic and time involved this will help you keep track of things and also see patterns and most importantly how you used what you experience to contribute to your own CPD but also to our profession. Another annotation you might record is who you met and what their interests, specialties are. This information helps you network and reconnect with colleagues for future collaborations or advice.

 Our Experience

Firstly, we both had, at different times, applied for an achieved the Associateship of the Library Association of Ireland (ALAI) but our pursuit of the Fellowship of the Library Association of Ireland (FLAI) coincided, and that was very beneficial to both of us. We have both worked in libraries for a few decades, in different areas and different environments. We share common professional interests particularly in all aspects of writing: everything from creative writing, blogs, policies & procedures to academic publishing. It that really helps when you have a colleague with a shared interest in an aspect of the broad spectrum of library experience. As a profession we are very lucky to have so many talented members who have interests and experiences in different areas of librarianship. This diversity helps us pool these skills to help each other recognize the different areas of librarianship that we are contributing to and developing.

The reflections and suggestions here can be applied to the ALAI, SALAI and FLAI journey.

Some really helpful things we did in the preparation of our FLAI applications were the following;

Review the list of holders of FLAI to see what areas they work in, present on and volunteer in.  If you know them or would like to know them reach out and ask for advice.

Think about why you want to apply for the FLAI. Some reasons are to show commitment to our profession and to gain recognition for the contribution you are making. Another is to consider that the LAI awards are actually a peer reviewed process so having your application reviewed by librarians who understand the field and the relevance of your application can be very affirming.

Try to work with a colleague or group of colleagues. It is easy to get distracted or even frustrated in the process but having someone to support and who supports you is ideal.

Really reflect and celebrate your achievements that you included in your reflective statement. This isn’t being arrogant- it is a chance to reflect on what you have done, how you have achieved it but most importantly how you have impacted on colleagues and our profession.

If you haven’t already done so set up an excel sheet or a work file and keep a record of every piece of CPD you do.  Remember CPD isn’t just courses and diplomas or committee work. It can be attending events, writing a blog or projects you have been involved in.

Be sure to read all of the information on the LAI website, if you have questions ask for clarification and assistance.


Read the guidelines on applying for any of the three awards on  the LAI website. This is very important. The submission requirements and the assessment process - double blind peer review - are clearly articulated, as is the timeline you need to allow for assessment (six to eight months).

The Awards
When you have read the guidelines, consider which award to apply for.  There are three: Associateship, Senior Associateship and Fellowship.

The first, Associateship, is for people with a minimum of two-years post qualification experience.
You must be a member of the LAI for at least one year before applying for this award.

The second level of award is Senior Associateship – SALAI. This is a mid-career award for librarians with a minimum of ten years post qualification experience, who hold the ALAI for five years, and have been engaged with the Association for at least five years. However, applicants without the ALAI, who hold over 10 years professional experience can apply for the SALAI for 2022 only, if they apply before 31st October 2022.

The third award is Fellowship – FLAI. This is a senior-level award, for librarians with more than 15 years professional experience, who hold the SALAI for a minimum of five years. However, in the case of librarians who held the ALAI on or before 2016, there is not a requirement to achieve the SALAI, before applying for FLAI.

Applications are made online. For each award you need to complete the relevant application form, and submit the required portfolio and the appropriate fee.  As of March 2021, this is:
Associateship   €50
Senior Associateship €125
Fellowship €150

There are five parts to your application regardless of which award you apply for.
These are: the online application form; your CV; the list of professional development activities you have undertaken; a reflective statement; a record of involvement in the Library Association of Ireland and other cognate bodies. There is also an option to include any other documents you feel are relevant.  For the ALAI you must include a scanned copy of your library qualification

Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Most librarians will have a CV.  Ideally you should update this every year, regardless of whether you are applying for a post. When doing your CV for an award, try to demonstrate the breadth of your library experience and engagement. If, for example, you were applying for a post in Special Collections, the focus of your CV would be on your experience/knowledge in that area. Use broader brush strokes here that demonstrate the totality of your experience.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

The LAI website lists the following as examples of forms of CPD: workshops, seminars, conference, publications, academic qualifications, Internet-based learning, training from industry suppliers, on the job learning, shadowing and job exchanges, professional reading, committee membership, informal networking.
In the case of events attended, include details such as date, location and hosting body.
Many libraries will keep records of staff attendance at events, but you should endeavour to keep an up to date listing yourself.

Record of engagement with the Library Association of Ireland and other cognate bodies
Your membership denotes a level of involvement.  However, it is good if you can illustrate a deeper level of engagement. Perhaps you have you attended the LAI/CILIP conference? Do you follow @LAIonline on twitter? Do you read the open access journal An Leabharlann?   All of these are valid forms of engagement. Of course, you may have done more, such as serve on a committee, written a book or conference review for An Leabharlann or presented a paper or poster. You should also give details of engagement with similar bodies to the LAI, such as CONUL, in the case of the University sector.

Reflective Statement
Each award requires a reflective statement. As stated in the guidelines, this such demonstrate your learning from your CPD and other activities and how this helped you change/develop as a professional. Guidelines on putting together a reflective statement are available on the LAI website and as noted there “a key aspect of reflective practice is that experience along does not necessarily lead to learning but that learning follows from deliberate reflection on such experience.”

In the case of the ALAI, the reflective statement required is 500 words; while the statement for the SALAI is between 500 and 750 words and the statement for FLAI is between 750 and 1,000 words.

Other documentation
It is up to yourself to decide if you wish to include additional documentation. You should have certainly noted awards, publications etc. in the CPD document, but you could choose to scan copies of these, however this is not essential.

Final comments
We found the process challenging, interesting and a learning experience. It gave us time to reflect on our careers to date and to identify @gaps or areas for future learning. It also helped us connect further with our profession and our professional body, which we are both deeply committed to.

Contact details

Helen Fallon  Helen.B.Fallon@mu.ie  / @helenfallon

Jane Burns jane.burns@tus.ie  /@JMBurns99