15 Aug 2022

Integrating into the library community of Ireland: my journey to IFLA WLIC 2022

Image courtesy of Nadina Yedid

Guest post by Nadina YedidNadina works as Assistant Librarian at the Heritage Centre of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. She has a Master's Degree in Libraries and Digital Information Services from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain) and a bachelor's degree in Library Science from the Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina). She is the editor of the SLA-Europe newsletter and is part of the LAI-CDG and LAI-ASL groups.

Last month, like many other librarians, I had the most amazing one week professional journey as a volunteer at the IFLA WLIC 2022. But my journey had begun much before that. On the 21st of June 2021, I took a flight from Buenos Aires (Argentina) to Dublin, looking for a better future for me and my family. I knew nothing about Irish libraries, but I had been working in libraries for 13 years and I was certain I wanted to continue my professional development in this vibrant city. My case might be a bit extreme, but if you are looking to start a career in the Irish libraries you might as well stay and read some of my tips to integrate into the library community of Ireland.

Getting started

Library worlds tend to be small worlds. I found out that that statement was true both for Buenos Aires and for Dublin. I changed from being in a place where I knew everybody and everybody knew me, to not knowing anyone at all. I had so many questions to ask but, where could I start? Who could I contact? I decided to start with the people I had close to me, and believe it or not, it worked! Not long after arriving in Dublin, a former colleague of mine wrote me an email saying she knew an Argentinian librarian who was working in The Hague, had worked for several years at IFLA and had a lot of international connections. The email also said she had already contacted her, and she was waiting for my call. And here comes my first tip: TIP 1 - Tell it to everyone. If you are looking for a change in your career or you want to start a career in libraries, just tell to everybody (if you can). You never know whom the help might come from. Embrace any help you can get, even if it looks like a long shot. After all, it’s worth trying, don’t you think?

The Argentinian librarian living in The Hague didn’t know much about Irish libraries, but she handed me the tip of a cord to pull. She said her first advice for me would be to join an association. She of course didn’t know any Irish associations, but she knew a member of the European charter of the SLA (Special Libraries Association), a librarian from the British Library, whom she could put me in contact with. At the time I didn’t fully understand the implications of joining an international association, but I do now, and I would like to replicate her advice. So, this is my second tip for you: TIP 2 - Join an international association. Joining an association will allow you not only to avail of the benefits for the members, like attending webinars and other kinds of events but also to obtain a different perspective of the library field. If you can, explore the possibilities of joining a committee. The options to work within an association are vast, and they are always a very good way of acquiring experience and skills much requested for open vacancies. Plus, it will look great on your CV! 

The wheels in motion

The librarian from the British Library was, of course, delighted to have another person on board and she offered me to join one of their committees. She said she even knew some librarians here in Dublin she could introduce me to. And that was when all the magic began.

She took the time to write a personal email to each of these librarians, telling them my story and asking if they could help me in any way. Not long after, I got answers from all of them. With some of them I met for coffee, with others I had a video call, and with others I exchanged emails. But all of them offered me a great deal of help.

I want to be clear about this: I got help from four different Irish librarians, who didn’t know me at all, who at the time were introduced to me by a British librarian, who didn’t know me either, and who I had met thanks to the contact of an Argentinian librarian living abroad who, again, didn’t know me from before. All this chain of beautiful people, they helped me just because. They didn’t need to do it nor had any reason to do it, but the will of doing something nice for someone else. And with this comes my third tip: TIP 3 - Don’t be afraid to reach out. The librarians’ community is probably one of the most cooperative and solidary communities you might find. If you have a teacher, a colleague or an acquaintance to whom you would like to ask something, don’t be scared to do it. I’m sure they will be happy to help you in any way they can.

First steps

Chatting with these librarians meant a pivot point for me. They gave me tips on what kind of positions I should aim for, what kind of libraries, how to put together my CV, and they stressed two pieces of advice I followed, and now I would like to share with you too. So these are my fourth and fifth tips. 

TIP 4 - Get a Twitter account. There is a huge library twitter community, and a lot of what’s happening in the library world is reflected there. Vacancies in libraries, webinars, workshops, in-person events, and what other libraries/librarians are doing, most of those things get published on Twitter. If you don’t know who to follow, start with the easiest one: follow @LAIonline. The LAI (Library Association of Ireland) posts much interesting news for the library world. They also retweet interesting posts from other libraries/librarians. So once you are following them, you can start following the other people they are retweeting, and so on and so forth. The Twitter algorithm will take care of the rest. It will show you other users to follow based on your interests until you get your own personal connections in the library world. It’s not hard, give it a try!

TIP 5 - Join the LAI, and if you can join one of their many committees, so much the better! You don’t need to be already working in a library to join the LAI. Joining is very easy and it’s not expensive at all! They have around 16 groups you can join according to your interests and you can join as many as you want (or your time allows you). This is an excellent way to get involved with the library community. It will give you the opportunity of networking with other librarians, and to participate in the planning of many professional-related activities. At the time I joined the LAI-CDG group I wasn’t working in a library and I was sceptic about how I could help the group in any way. But I found out there are lots of different ways in which one can help, and for sure you will find your way to be helpful to the group. Taking part in a group will not take much of your time and you can have a lot of fun too! 


In February 2022 I saw in a LAI newsletter (and again, on Twitter) that a call for volunteers for the IFLA WLIC 2022 was taking place. By that time I was already working in a library but I thought that it could be the best opportunity for me to attend and collaborate with a conference I had never even dreamed about going to. The last time an IFLA conference took place in Latin America was in 2004, and I hadn’t even finished my undergraduate studies back then! But now, a conference was taking place in the city where I was living, and I didn’t want to lose my chance to be a part of it. I talked to my manager who immediately agreed to it, and on Sunday 24th of July, I joined a group of approximately 200 volunteers from around the world. That’s when I got a true sense of what IFLA WLIC was.

The congress is as thrilling as it is exhausting. The days start very early in the morning and end very late in the evening. Volunteering implies that you have to do some “work” during the conference, but you also get some free time to enjoy the sessions. There are plenty of different tasks you might be given, like collaborating with the social media coverage, taking care of the VIP delegates, help out with the registration or badge control, among many others. In my case, my assignments involved assisting in one of the rooms where the sessions were taking place, so even when “on duty” I was able to attend some talks! The duties of a Room Assistant are quite simple: check that there are clean glasses and bottles of water for the speakers before every session; play a loop-presentation on the screens in between sessions; keep the room tidy; and eventually help the speakers to start their presentation (if they need it). Not a lot to ask, right?

During my time as a Room Assistant I got to listen to very interesting talks. I learned, for instance, about programs to identify Open Access journals; I became aware of innovative ideas taking place in health and academic libraries; I got to know IREL, the Irish e-Resources Consortium, and the fascinating work they are doing; and I listen about publishing in Irish academic libraries, among many other interesting topics. Needless to say, I also got the best out of my free time at the conference, learning about digital skills, conservation, marketing for libraries, and so much more.

But for me, the most invaluable asset I got out of the IFLA WLIC was the personal connection with other librarians. The Irish caucus, the cultural evening, the breaks, the lunches, all of them opportunities to get to know new people, and to finally meet face to face with those colleagues I had been interacting with over Zoom, Twitter or email. Putting a face to that Twitter account that always has interesting information, knowing how tall a person you had only seen sitting on the other side of a camera actually is, or how the voice of someone you’d only “talked” over email sounds. Humans are social animals, and all of our institutions and organisations are constructed on the grounds of the people who are part of it. The same happens with all the activities we do, for pleasure or work (or for both, if you are lucky enough). It all comes down to the people walking the path with us.

And with this comes my sixth and seven tips. TIP 6 - Get involved. If you see an opportunity to volunteer at any event, or if you can take part in it in any way, don’t lose your chance! Get involved, participate, join the community. Many events are taking place now, some of them in person and some of them online, but all of them equally worthy. Many of these events are for free, but for many others there are ways to join even if you can’t afford the admission fee, like applying for a bursary or, as I did, volunteering to help.

I’ve left my seventh tip almost for the very end of this post, but I think all the tips I’ve given you so far are in a way related to it. And if I had to choose only one tip to give you, it would be this one: TIP 7- Network. For any person that wants to make a start in any professional field, this would be my first advice. Knowing people already working in the industry probably won’t get you a position, but it will help you understand how the industry works. They can give you advice, they can help you understand what a position involves, and they can even shout out when they see a vacancy that might be good for you. I’m sure you already know many people you can talk to, but the biggest the circle, the better.

Moving forward

Last but not least, I wouldn’t like to finish this post without mentioning two extra tips for the time you are already enjoying your beloved library position. Here they are: 

TIP 8 - Be grateful. Getting your longed-for position is probably a combination of different factors. You were probably born in a home where you were supported to study, you had choices, you put lots of effort and perhaps, there was a bit of luck involved as well. Be grateful for that. And above all, if along the way you met people who helped you reach the place you wanted to be, thank them. You might not be able to repay them, but let them know that their actions had a positive impact on your life. So if you allow me, I would like to follow my own advice, and take this opportunity to thank the four Irish librarians who first introduced me to the Library world in Ireland: Marie O’Neill, Fiona Lacey, Ann O’Sullivan and Lara Musto; to Martin O’Connor and Helen Fallon for their support and inspiration to write this blog post; and very especially to the person who believed in me and offer me my first Assistant Librarian position in Ireland, Harriet Wheelock. To all of you, THANK YOU!

TIP 9 - Keep the chain. If someone helped you along the way, as I’m sure someone has, keep the chain of kindness. Help someone else to achieve their goals, as you have achieved yours. And again, as I like to follow my own advice, I’m writing this blog post hoping that someone might find it useful to start their own journey to integrate into the library community of Ireland. And if I can, from my humble place, help you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. Look me up on Twitter @nadinayedid, or send me an email to nadyed@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading!


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