Sean McNamara is the Policy and Digital Officer at CILIP in Scotland.
I originally became involved in the library world due to the fact I was interested in information and had a background in media, plus I had always enjoyed reading. I had taken a few years to decide on a career when the postgraduate degree at Strathclyde was brought to my attention and it just sounded right. I enrolled in that whilst also working part time at Glasgow Libraries as a sessional member of staff, and this combination of study and actual practice was the perfect combination.
After graduating I managed to get a job at Inverclyde Libraries as the Learning Services Manager, managing all parts of the adult learning provision as well as being part of a small senior staff team. This was a fantastic 5 year experience as I was able to get involved in all areas of library work and gain management experience. Inverclyde could be a challenging place to work due to the levels of literacy and employment both being low, but this gave me great public library grounding and I worked with some great people.
At the same time, I was also involved in the CILIPS Council as a member. This gave me some awareness of how the organisation worked, and when my current job was advertised in February 2013 I didn’t hesitate to apply. I started work in April 2013.
My daily schedule can vary greatly but I will give you a flavour of what I do. My office is in Glasgow and I work alongside the CILIPS Director, Catherine Kearney. Our remit can be varied but, if anyone doesn’t know, we are the professional members’ body for library and information workers in Scotland, meaning anyone who joins us receives support via events, guidance, CPD and much more. We are the Scottish arm of the main CILIP who offer chartership etc (or professional registration as it is now called). We are a charity and are managed by a board of trustees.
A lot of my day can be taken up by event planning. We have both our Autumn Gathering and Annual Conference and a lot of work goes into planning the programme, organising the logistics and promoting the event. This is great fun but obviously has loads of potential variables and things that can go wrong, so you always have to be on your toes. When the event finally comes together it is a great feeling!
Advocacy is another topic that regularly features in my day. This is a real challenge as so much has changed in our wider profession due to cuts. We are constantly trying to write to councils or organisations with facts and figures to help fight the case for libraries or just support different groups who are fighting against cuts. This is not always possible and a lot of my current work involves creating resources that can help anyone that visits our website and give them quick advocacy support.
Another part of my day is regular meetings. This can be with people who have ideas for work we could help with (such as Anabel Marsh who pulls the 23 Librarians blog together), new conference ideas or partners like SLIC. However, meetings are often with our regional branches. Our branches, and also special interest groups across Scotland, are vital as they carry out networking and CPD on our behalf in a localised or specific way. This means we can focus on bigger events, but we like to support as best we can so organise regular meetings and support their events as much as possible. The activity of the different branches and groups depends on how much time their committee can volunteer so maintaining consistency can be a challenge, particularly as time is tight. However, the branch network in Scotland is fantastic and their support is so important to us.
When not in meetings, I will work on our communication channels. I am always developing our website so it includes loads of details about our events, branches, groups, advocacy and just general library news. This also feeds into our social media channel. I still wouldn’t say I am an expert web developer by any means, and technology moves so fast, but I am always trying to learn and I do my best to keep in regular contact with members through our digital output. This is one of my favourite bits of the job and requires constant attention!
As I mentioned previously, we have a trustee board that meets 5 or 6 times a year. We create all the papers for this and I work with Cathy to develop these and send them out. Governance has the potential to be quite a dry topic at times, but it is absolutely necessary for the running of a charity so is hugely important. We are always reviewing our governance so that it is a place where matters such as CILIPS finance and regulations can be discussed, but also so that it is a place where representatives of the library community can make their views heard about the running of CILIPS.
What I like about my job is that every day is different and I can get involved with many areas of library and information work whilst doing tasks that I love such as event planning, web development and social media. I love working in Glasgow and our small team works well together, along with the vital support of the wider library community and our members.
Thanks Sean. Anyone who has seen Sean and Cathy in action at a CILIPS conference will testify as to how hard they work on our behalf. You can reply to Sean below and he will get back to you, or tweet him at @SeanieMac24.