2/13. Paul – Government Librarian

Paul Gray works in Edinburgh as a Librarian for the Scottish Government.

Paul Gray

Paul Gray

I can tell you exactly when my career in Librarianship started. It was at 9.30 on the 31st March 1993 after I successfully applied for a Library Assistant post at NHS Health Scotland (formerly the Health Education Board for Scotland – HEBS).

OK, so initially I photocopied articles and performed various admin duties. But I soon became more interested in undertaking a wider range of tasks. By now, I knew librarianship was for me. I enjoyed a lot of support from our Library Services Manager, who allowed me to take on more para-professional tasks. I enquired if I could take the BSc (Hons) Library and Information Studies by Distance Learning at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. I started the course in 1997, completing in 2001 whilst continuing to work full-time.

Armed with my degree and 9 years experience, I felt ready to leave HEBS and so I started as solo librarian at ASH Scotland in August 2002. Being a solo librarian brought its own challenges I hadn’t anticipated. Mainly, being incredibly busy single-handedly running a small library whilst developing new services. Such developments included negotiating access to The Knowledge Network (formerly the NHSScotland eLibrary) and launching daily and weekly current awareness bulletins on new tobacco control. I also ran a user education programme for staff. This included training sessions on database searching and the production of a range of guides to those databases and the library collection. A library assistant was appointed about a year after I started which helped share the workload.

After 2 years I decided I needed a change. A move to a bigger organisation. So in September 2004 I moved out of the health sector and joined the Library at Lauder College (now Carnegie College) as an Assistant Librarian. By now user education had become a far bigger part of my job. This included giving library tours, delivering lots of 1-2-1 student training on relevant resources and library services and being involved in curriculum group meetings.

However, development opportunities were limited so I decided to move on, and in June 2005 I joined the Library at the Scottish Executive (now the Scottish Government). It was great to return to a bigger library, and initially I was with our acquisitions team. With its emphasis on managing the library’s document supply service and helping to manage contracts I felt this was valuable experience, but I did miss being on the front-end. In April 2006 I moved to the enquiry team joining the enquiry desk rota and conducting literature searches to support policy work.

I joined our training team at the same time, and was glad of all that user education experience as information literacy has now become very much a central part of my job – delivering our training materials with my training team colleagues.

I started contributing to updating our training materials in 2007. By 2009 this became a major part of my job when I also started developing a range of online services, making these available on our Library’s blog which we launched in March 2010.

In June 2013 I left our enquiries team enabling me to manage our Library’s training materials and online services full-time. That really helped take a lot of pressure off my time. In that time our Library has seen lots of changes, not least a reduction in staffing and consequent restructuring. Today I’m part of a 10 strong unified library team including 6 qualified librarians.

Take a few minutes to visit our Library blog to see the work I currently produce and manage. You’ll find lots there, ranging from training materials to alerting services. I would like to expand on just one of these a bit more – 10 Things.

Based on the 23 Things CPD programme, 10 Things is a rolling 10 week online self-directed course, developed by myself and our Head Librarian and designed to enable participants to spend a little time each week developing their social media and information searching skills. As part of our Library’s commitment to improving information and digital literacies, 10 Things is available to anyone in the Scottish government, public, education or voluntary sectors. With limited resources we’ve had to be creative and manage this with no extra resource. Running 10 Things between 3 librarians has helped balance the workload – which has involved some unexpected troubleshooting.

What’s my typical day like? Let’s take a snapshot of last week. I wrote a training module on OneDrive to add to the other 33 modules which form the core of all our training materials. I made updates to a number of these modules and associated presentations – keeping this up-to-date is a continual task. I also co-delivered our Social Media for Government course.

Our training is delivered in a 6 month programme open to all Scottish Government staff. I collated feedback from every course we delivered in the past 6 months and chaired a meeting with the training team to look at the feedback, share our thoughts and agree improvements to our courses. One of these was replacing our ‘Discover Social Media’ presentation with a choice of shorter ‘social media bites’ – and writing a brand new ‘bite’ to make this happen. We then planned, arranged and published our latest training programme.

I also completed the first draft of an eLearning package we’re developing with Learning Nexus called ‘Beyond Google’. We’re hoping it’ll really help Scottish Government staff discover where they can find the information that Google can’t. eLearning will be an increasing aspect of my job, and will enable me to present a blended learning approach to all our training materials.

I’ve found the skills I’ve learned on my journey through librarianship have been very transferable, especially my focus on information and digital literacies over the past few years. This is proving to be increasing valuable as the Scottish Government strives to be an exemplar of a digitally literate organisation and we position the Library at the very centre of that work.

Interesting to read of different variants of the 23 Things concept! Thanks Paul. If you have any comments or questions, please use the reply box below. Paul is also on Twitter @paulkgray.

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