14 Nov 2023

“Brewing up a storm” – Outreach to develop your professional profile

This blog post by Catherine Ahearne from Maynooth University was highly commended in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023.

What professional growth means to me is, it is an active process and that involves more self reflection that I had realised. As someone who had lived by the phrase “self-praise is no praise,”  looking back at my career and truly examining it, is difficult. Aware of the library experience gap  in my C.V., my career path has not been a linear nor smooth one. I have worked in Law, Public,  Tax and Academic libraries, but have also done several years in an administrative role for one  the big 4 four accountancy firms. I worried that this would put me at a disadvantage when  compared with my library peers. But when I looked closely, I could see the transferable skills  that I bring to my library role. This also allowed for me to notice and focus on my weaker areas,  treating the process as a needs assessment if you will.  

I have spent the most recent part of my career looking at my professional development so that I  can progress and succeed in my position to the best of my ability. I have obtained the Associate  of the Library Association (ALAI), participated in conferences as a poster presenter even  speaker. But what I have had to acknowledge is that I qualified more than a decade ago and  through my various roles I have seen how much the profession has changed in that time. A  professional profile for librarians is now a crucial element of professional development. But  how do we create this? Networking is one way of building relationships with others in our field  allow us to share ideas and experiences. Outreach is a tool that not only benefits your  institution but also you on a professional level.  

Picture of the Russell Library taken by Catherine Ahearne  

The outreach experience that I am going to share is writing for RTÉ Brainstorm. An email was  sent to the Special Collections & Archive team based on our MU Library Treasures blog  exposure, that the editor of RTÉ Brainstorm Jim Carroll was available to talk to any of the team  who might interested in writing for RTE Brainstorm and can help define a story with them. 10- minute one-to-one feedback sessions were organised. The feedback sessions enabled staff to share an area of work with the editor. And receive suggestions on generating an angle for the story.  

Map taken from John Hall’s, Tour through Ireland: particularly the interior & least known parts (London,  1813)  

I went to the pitch a little unsure if I would be able to provide something that would be of  interest to Brainstorm. My pitch was about the opinion and attitudes of the Irish as expressed  through the travel guides of the 18th and 19th century. The Pitch was successful, and I was given  a word count and deadline. I began to write; I had some trusted colleagues review some of my  early drafts. Up to this point anything that I had written had been for a specific audience, “the  library world,” so before submission I asked the communications officer to review, and she  made some extremely helpful suggestions that would allow the blog to have an appeal to a  wider audience than just those interested in Special Collections. The 15th of March saw my blog  go live, People drinking whiskey, porter and punch” Travellers to Ireland and their thoughts on  the Irish”.   



Illustration “An outside jaunting car in storm” by Daniel Maclise is from John Barrow, A Tour round  Ireland through the sea-coast counties in the autumn of 1835 (London, 1836). The title page is from the  same publication.  

This exercise in outreach not only highlighted my profile within my own institution, but also  gave me positive feedback, and an opportunity to engage with academics about the blogs  success. Another benefit of completing the blog was that it allowed me an opportunity to  promote my colleagues that also write for our own blog “The Maynooth Library Treasures and  the celebrate the rich collections of the Russell Library. In recent weeks, the article has been  promoted again by MU Spotlight on research. My advice for anyone interested in developing  their professional profile is to take the opportunities you are offered; you need to be seen to be  heard. You can use these to gain experience, increase your confidence and as a form of  continuing professional development. 


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