19 Dec 2014

The Library Association of Ireland - Why bother with Membership?

Guest post by Jane Burns, Research Officer, Royal College of Surgeons, and Occasional Lecturer, SILS, UCD.

The Library Association of Ireland  - Why bother with Membership?

For me the holiday season is always a mad time of year, trying to be organised for Christmas, wrap things up at work and then try to put some time away to reflect on the past year to plan for the one quickly approaching. From a professional perspective, this is when I think about what I have learned, what have I achieved and what do I want to achieve. My membership of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) is always the scaffold that I use to construct my plans.

However, the decision on membership of the LAI is one that we should all question. Why should we bother? What is the benefit to us individually and collectively? If you are not a member what negative impact does it have it on your career and your personal development? Is the cost of membership either paid by yourself or your organisation worth what you get in return? These are questions we all need to ponder. My personal opinion is examined in this blog post.

Throughout most of my librarian career I have primarily worked as a solo librarian within an organisation or in non-traditional librarian roles, such as Research, Taxation and Digital Imagery. So for me being involved with the Irish Professional Body of Librarians has been a way to stay involved in my chosen profession, to network with colleagues and to be active in its development.

If you think about it there are two ways to develop your career in librarianship, these are within your organisation and within your professional body. For many librarians there was a career trajectory within their organisations, starting at one level, developing skills and then being able to move up the ladder so to speak as opportunities arose. Now with the changing roles available for librarians and the challenging economic environment these opportunities are few and far between. However, the ability to develop your career within our profession still remains strong. This is available through the Associateship (ALAI) and Fellowship (FLAI) levels of membership

Some of the many benefits are the opportunities for CPD development. Many of the groups and sections offer discount prices for attending events to LAI members. The range of CPD topics developed by colleagues is targeted, relevant and fantastic value. When you attend these events you know that you are not going to have some generic or non-industry based information delivered but rather information that is within the scope of our range of our requirements. The issuing of CPD certificates adds to your professional development and to your portfolio for applications to become Associates (ALAI) and Fellows (FLAI) of the LAI. The development of the Mentoring scheme for these membership schemes is currently underway which will provide more opportunities for development.

The degree courses that we participate in, The School of Information Studies, UCD and Dublin Business School are both accredited by the LAI. So for many of us even from our first point of entry to the profession we are directly involved with the LAI.

My membership of the Academic & Special Libraries section in particular has really instilled in me such a positive perspective about the benefits of LAI membership. I was very fortunate to be a committee member for a number of years and the skills I learned working in that environment certainly helped me develop my confidence, my networking and my event planning skills. It also gave me a forum to meet with, collaborate with, so many different types of librarians that I would have otherwise not have had contact with. My current role on the Executive Council  has further enhanced these skills and opportunities.

Membership of LAI demonstrates to your colleagues and employers that you are serious about your profession and your CPD. Involvement means that you personally have opportunities to contribute to the development of the profession, to the development of professional standards and be involved in the development of a national base of knowledge and experience.

There are in place reciprocal recognitions with other Library Associations such as the American Library Association (ALA) which can be beneficial if you want to work abroad. Membership of the LAI also provides access to the international library and information community through links with the European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation (EBLIDA) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).

All members are entitled to a Countdown Card which I have found to be great for a range of discounts, ranging from dry cleaning to travel vouchers.

An Leabharlann is the peer reviewed journal of the LAI.  This is a fantastic benefit of membership of the LAI. The journal has Irish focused articles about research, practices, seminars/conferences and book reviews. In November of this year An Leabharlann became Open Access (OA), members however, have the privilege of access to the most recent issue, while access via OA is not available until the next issue is published.

One of the key messages I teach my students in SILS at UCD  is that the one of the best things to do in developing as a professional is to network. Membership of the LAI is a fantastic way to develop and engage in a professional network. This is done via committee work, seminars and conferences and informally. Librarians in Ireland are fantastic at networking. I think this stems from our altruistic nature, our desire to collaborate and be supportive and accepting that being a librarian means continuing to learn new skills for the rest of your life, and we learn best from other people and shared experiences.

Membership and renewal of membership takes place in January and is for one calendar year. There is information on the LAI Website (for Renewal of membership - click on the renew button, and if you are joining for the first time see here) .

So if you are interested then do give yourself a New Year’s Present and be a part of the LAI. The LAI is an organisation fully staffed and developed by volunteers, all LIS professionals with many demands on their personal and professional lives. All members are welcome to participate to help develop our professional body and to develop themselves in the process.

So in answer to my initial question- Why bother joining? I would say Why not? As LIS professionals we need to demonstrate that we value our Professional Body, that we value our Profession and most importantly that we value ourselves working in a field that is changing and evolving very quickly, because after all if we don’t demonstrate that we appreciate the value how can we expect anyone else to?

All good wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2014 | Categories:

17 Dec 2014

Launching a digital marketing strategy to increase user engagement in an academic library

Guest post by Colin O Keeffe, Information Skills Librarian

Colin recently put together a generic digital-marketing-strategy proposal for the academic library context and kindly agreed to share his work (see below).

Effective digital marketing strategies empower library staff in their efforts to engage with, and maintain, an increasingly virtual library-user constituency.

IATUL recently covered the same issue at its June conference under the heading “Coming Out: Making the Virtual Library visible in today’s world”

This is the age of the virtual customer. A silent virtual revolution has led to tumultuous and disruptive changes in environmental, financial, educational, and information environments. As the Library becomes increasingly virtual, it is becoming virtually invisible -- as are library customers. Libraries are redefining their roles, managing their migration from the print past to an online future in a time of spiralling costs and declining incomes, redefining their products and services and refocusing on their customers, many of whom they rarely if ever see. How do we position the Library in the marketplace? What is the message to be conveyed to a new generation of customers? What are the information needs to be met? What are the Library's products and services? What is the story to be told? How are the Library's products and services most effectively marketed? What communication strategies should be used to bridge the virtual and the real worlds? The paper explores ways in which the Library and its message can be "flipped". The promotion of goods and services that simplify client experiences is one direction. Less can be more. Ways of rebuilding relationships and establishing rapport with clients are presented. Possible approaches to the development of meaningful engaging content for particular audiences are outlined. Strategies in use by leading edge libraries are identified. Uses of social media in marketing and improving website content are obvious strategies. Designing product and promotional means for mobile devices is an essential component. Collaborating with others and using "influencers" and recommender services will enhance capacity. Ways of making the virtual library visible and telling the story effectively in a largely invisible domain are outlined and transformative strategies explored.

Saw, G. g., & Schmidt, J. j. (2014). COMING OUT: MAKING THE VIRTUAL LIBRARY VISIBLE IN TODAY'S WORLD. IATUL Annual Conference Proceedings, (35), 1-9.

15 Dec 2014

Semesterisation - observations from the Library

Last week the national press  reported on sit in protests at UCC Library. This protest was organised by UCC Student Union over what students saw as the less than adequate opening hours of the main Library building in the wake of the recent semesterisation of the academic year at UCC.

Though these protests attracted the attention of students and media they are, for me as a librarian, the least interesting and least surprising aspect of the switch to a semester based model.

UCC Library has always been very much used as a study space by students. Particularly at peak times of the academic year.  Our students flock to the library when they have deadlines. The more deadlines they have the more flocking they do. With semesterisation students have more deadlines and the time between deadlines is reduced. Ergo, more flocking. Therefore no surprise.

But there are other aspects of this change that could be of more interest to other librarians whose institutions might be moving over to a semester based model. A number of these are probably obvious but as the sit in protests show - not all of us think of the obvious things all of the time.

The number of information / reference queries being handled from undergraduates has significantly increased this year.
Students are under more pressure. Both time and resource pressure. As there are more students doing more assignments at the same time there is greater demand on our hard copy resources. Core texts are being checked out quicker, earlier and more often. There are also more holds / requests being placed on these checked out items.
This has provided an opportunity for us library staff.
Students are needing, and actually seeking assistance, from frontline library staff at an earlier stage of the year. They need to find material as their recommended reading material is more often not available. This puts us in a position of influence - they need us to show them how to maximise their use of our resources to find equally relevant material. It allows us to introduce them earlier to our e-resources. This has the added value of increasing the use of our e-resources.
A happy side product, hopefully, is that we instill good research practice in undergrads from the very start of their academic career.

The amount of items being shelved has increased. The increase in students using the library as an information resource, as opposed to a study space, has led to increased usage of our hard copy resources. 
In recent years we had found that the number of items needing to be shelved had reduced significantly, year on year, This slide has been halted. And gone swiftly the opposite direction. The number of items being circulated and requiring re shelving has shot back up. Obviously this means that Library Staff and Student Help are all busier as regards shelving.
Shelving is taking up more library man hours.

We are requesting more items from the store.
Every summer we relegate items to the store. This relegation is based on usage. When an item has not been checked out for a number of years we tend to relegate. This year we find that more of these relegated books are being requested as students seek alternatives to the items on their reading lists.

There is more browsing of the shelves by students. 
As students cannot find the actual book they are looking for they browse the Dewey area more. Thus leading to different materials being borrowed. I imagine that lecturers will be marking papers with plenty of 'unusual' / different items / material being referenced.

Many books with historically low circulation stats are now being circulated.

Undergraduate student help are finding it harder to stick to rosters due to assignments.
We in UCC Library hire a number of student assistants every year. They work twelve hours a week and most of them spend their shifts helping with stock management. To put it more plainly - they shelve books and tidy the shelves.
This year we find that undergraduate students are finding it difficult to commit to rostered times due to the amount of assignments they are working on at any one time. This means that it requires a flexibility on our side to work around their schedule. We have had to work on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis to ensure that the student help can work on their assignments and work their required hours. A number of students have had to give up their hours or pull back on their hours due to their study commitments

In conclusion, as  I see it, Semesterisation has been a good thing for UCC library.
The physical building is much busier.  Students are using the library more and earlier in the year.
Our information sources - both physical and virtual are being utilised more.

4 Dec 2014

Raising your professional profile – through your professional Library Association

Guest post by Aoife Lawton, Laura Connaughton and Grace Toland

Overview of awards – Aoife Lawton, Systems Librarian, Health Service Executive Dublin.

Laura, Grace and I bring you reflections on the process, benefits and experience of the Library Association of Ireland awards based on our joint presentation at the recent “Developing as a Professional: Attaining a Library Association of Ireland (LAI) Award” organised by the LAI CPD Committee on 20th November this year. For those of you who attended, it was a certified event. The cert will count towards achieving Associateship.

Most Library Associations around the world offer their members the opportunity to raise their profile and demonstrate professionalism by applying for various awards or levels of registration which they offer. In the UK, CILIP has a range of awards including Certification, Chartership and Fellowship. Branches and specialities within librarianship offer additional certification, such as the MLA’s Academy of Health Information Professionals and ALIA’s Certified Professional (Health).

The information industry is growing and we are all working in a competitive space. There is competition for quality and reliability of information provision. Librarians have long occupied the information world but our world is increasingly being rattled by big and bold (and better?) competitors. For example, no OPAC or discovery tool can compete with Amazon. Some libraries have done away with the former. (Kortekaas & Kramer 2014). Google Scholar (GS) is the search engine of choice for many students and professionals alike. Students prefer the usability of GS over library databases (Chen, Shih-chuan, 2014). After 10 years of existence the precision of GS is increasing (Gehanno et. al, 2013). Is this bad news for librarians? No. Why? Because these competitors exclude the human element and the tacit and explicit knowledge of the human. This is where the thinking librarian has a key role. But if nobody knows that you exist or that you are qualified then readers will turn to online resources which are free and easy to use as the alternative. The challenge is for librarians to stand up and be counted. Make sure that people see you and value you as a professional. One small way to do this is through your professional library association.

Awards from the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) include Associateship and Fellowship. According to the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the LAI aims to promote “high standards of library services and the profession of librarianship”. The LAI has a responsibility to establish and monitor professional standards in the profession of librarianship and one way it achieves this is through these awards. These awards have been available to members since 1989.

The Process

To apply for Associateship there are 3 criteria to be filled:

1. Membership – you need to be an LAI member for at least 1 year and at the time of application

2. Qualification – you need to hold a qualification that is recognised and approved by the LAI

3. Practical experience – you need to have a minimum of 2 years post-qualification experience of working in the library and information sector. The LAI will take part-time and temporary work into account.

In addition to this, there is a once-off €100 application fee. An application form available from the LAI website requires the following:

· A professional development report (500 words)

· Your CV with 2 recent references

· Evidence to demonstrate your continuing professional development.

Compiling the professional development report & evidence is really a piece of CPD in action. The process gives you the opportunity to give your CV an overhaul.

The Benefits:

What’s in it for you?

On a practical level, you get to put ALAI after your name. Presumably nobody outside of the LIS sector will have a clue what this refers to, but there will be an acknowledgement that it is something professional. A certificate is presented to you by the President of the LAI and at least in my case, there was a ceremonious, celebratory feel to the presentation, with complimentary tweets received from peers. On a personal level, this gave me a welcomed boost. I’ve added ALAI to my email signature and LinkedIn profile. I had plans to frame the certificate and put it next to my desk in the library, but these have not reached fruition yet.

What’s in it for your employer?

The fact that the librarian has gone through the process of applying for Associateship or Fellowship demonstrates a personal commitment to the professional of librarianship and shows that they are dedicated and have a professional approach. In many cases, the fee is paid for by the employee which equally shows a certain level of belief and respect for librarianship.

What’s in it for the profession?

I believe that Associateship and Fellowship is a type of lifelong learning and commitment to the profession as a whole. Those of us who are privileged to work as library and information professionals have the opportunity to advance our professional status through these awards. As I mentioned in my presentation we should flaunt it. If you walk into any GP practice, Vet or Dentist in the country you will see an array of framed qualifications and awards on the wall. As a client, this instils a sense of trust in the provider. Even restaurants display awards and ratings from TripAdvisor and others as an indicator of quality. Are you more likely to go into that restaurant? Librarians should do the same. Frame qualifications and awards and display them in your library or office. It will give readers a sense of being in a place of quality where people are invested in and believe in their profession.

Insights on my experience of the ALAI process, by Laura Connaughton, Assistant Librarian Library Information Services & Subject Librarian for English, Celtic Studies and Media Studies, Maynooth University.

One of the main requirements of the application for ALAI is the Personal Statement. I found this incredible challenging as it cannot be more than 500 words. I have had four years library experience, which is relatively short, however I still found it a challenge to put my personal experiences into 500 words. I did find the personal statement an excellent way to reflect on my career to date and made me think about how I’ve contributed to the library profession. I included information on any conferences I’ve presented at, seminars I’ve attended, committee membership and my professional memberships. It also afforded me the opportunity to talk about the development of my personal, management and leadership skills. The personal statement is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate my passion and enjoyment of my chosen profession.

Another main requirement for the application is a record of your CPD activity. I would suggest, if you haven’t already, keep a record of every CPD activity you do such as all training, courses, seminars attended, any blog posts, articles, speaking at conferences, committee membership activities etc. I use a Word document on my desktop and keep it up to date. LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is a super tool to keep a record of CPD activity also. LinkedIn manages your professional identity and also allows you to build and engage with your professional network. Your Continuing Professional Development enhances your CV and strengthens your application.

I enjoyed compiling my application for Associateship of the Library Association of Ireland – it allowed me to reflect on my career to date as well as looking towards the future and the direction that I am headed in my career.

Perspectives from Grace Toland, Librarian Irish Traditional Music Archive

Personally, applying for the ALAI created an artificial reflection point in my career, where I listed positions, skills, training, and experience in a methodical way. It pointed out strengths and weaknesses, and a career pattern which I would not have recognised without taking this bird’s-eye view. It also made me reflect on all the advantages I have gained in being involved with LAI Committees, both professionally and personally, and how this opened doors to unforeseen opportunities.

Across many professions, the awarding of Associate or Fellowship status is a recognised mechanism to endorse professionalism. The LAI offers a process for those of us working within Irish librarianship to demonstrate the value and contribution we make as information professionals. These awards can have significance and be advantageous if we seriously engage with the process, and if a critical mass of recipients are awarded or indeed rejected by the process.

As I await my ALAI fate, I urge anyone to begin the process. Start the list, find a mentor, and take the time to value your own career and the place you play in Irish librarianship.

What are you waiting for? Apply today!

Posted on Thursday, December 04, 2014 | Categories: