13. Heather – Academic Liaison

Heather Marshall

Heather Marshall

This week’s contributor is Heather Marshall, Senior Librarian at Glasgow Caledonian University.

I was an enthusiastic reader as a child: my Dad likes to say that sending me to my room was never an effective punishment as he would have to come looking for me four hours later still happily in Avonlea or Pern.  We visited Penrith library every week to feed my habit and my family would often joke that I was destined for Librarianship.  Fast forward to flicking though the UCAS book (no websites then kids) when I discovered that a Library degree existed and I was off to Leeds Metropolitan University.

I have worked in varied libraries – Research, Science, Legal and University.  I have shelved, worked on the counter, catalogued, done in-depth company and legal research, provided a current awareness service, managed staff and budgets, managed projects, and so much more.  I loved the corporate law firm I worked for in London and the job was endlessly interesting but the hours were long and the commute also started to feel endless.  Samuel Johnson never had to go through Holborn tube station at rush hour.

I am originally from Scotland and I wanted to be closer to my family and so now work at Glasgow Caledonian University.  GCU is a post 1992 university but has strong roots in Glasgow going back to the 1870s.  I was the first in my family to go to University and studied a vocational degree – both true of many GCU students today.

We as a University are committed to the Common Weal – the common good: we have a widening participation agenda to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we all play a part in making them feel university is achievable.   Often our university library is the first library our students have used.

I manage our Academic Liaison (AL) Librarian team and work closely with our Archivist.  We teach students and staff to use our many resources effectively.  I first see students at orientation to introduce the library as a service not just a building!  We then see them through their time here in various levels of library skills and information literacy classes.

We teach students how to assess the quality of resources and how to be selective in their searching.  They are often overwhelmed by the amount of information available to them and don’t know where to start.  We have one to one contact with the students, researchers and staff through drop in sessions and appointments.  We work closely with academic staff to develop reading lists and ensure our provision is in line with their teaching and research.  I sit on committees and boards throughout the University and take part in institution wide projects.

Saltire Centre, silent area

Saltire Centre, silent area

It is an exciting time to be an Academic Librarian – while there will always be challenges, we are teaching valuable digital and information literacy skills.  We are seeing the use of hardcopy going down and use of e-resources increase.  The number of enquiries my team completed also rose 15% in the last academic year.

My priorities for the year are to enable our users to easily get the help they need – to get to our service in as few steps as possible and be able to identify our service as a source of friendly, expert help.  With limited budgets we also need to continually evidence our contribution with feedback and statistics.

Librarianship has given me a sense of purpose and a rewarding, interesting and varied career.  I believe you need a willingness to help and a commitment to providing the best service you can.  I think my career path shows that the transferable skills of librarianship can take you across sectors and lead to a variety of roles.

Thanks to Heather for this clear and inspiring picture of life in a university library. As a former academic librarian myself, I can identify with so much of her post (and I can still get lost for hours in Avonlea).

Please leave any comments or questions for Heather in the reply box below – she’s happy to follow them up by email or telephone, or in person.


One response to “13. Heather – Academic Liaison

  1. I agree on the fact that it is a great time to be an academic librarian. While I am a school librarian (having formerly worked in academic settings), I work with my students trying to lay the foundations of good research skills that they can carry on into university and beyond. I find it so very exciting and it is an inspiring challenge. Lovely post.


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