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.





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