Paul Cannon is an Academic Subject Librarian with the University of the West of Scotland. He works across both Hamilton and Paisley campuses.
The journey to my current post has been interesting and varied, largely due to a lot of contract work.
My undergraduate degree is in Industrial Design and Technology with Education (I originally planned to be a CDT teacher), but the only part of the degree that interested me was product and patent searching. My post-university job search took me to a recruitment agent who suggested an Information Assistant vacancy at Castrol/BP where I would be able to put my search skills into practice. Thankfully I was interviewed successfully, because what followed was the start of a thoroughly enjoyable library career.
As part of a two-person library, I had the chance to try my hand at all parts of running a library and not just the duties on the job description. I couldn’t have asked for a better manager: she encouraged me to network and take every opportunity that presented itself to me which allowed me to add some great projects and skills to my CV. This approach is something that I continue to this day and it has readily allowed me to gain promotions and to progress to different sectors and job roles – an approach I would encourage any new professional to take.
After a year and a half, I decided to move to pastures new and relocated to Scotland where I have since had 9 library/information jobs for 6 employers in 3 different sectors over 9 years! However, of those only two have been permanent jobs, and one employer accounted for three different promotions over five years (what did I say about taking every opportunity?). Somewhere in that time I undertook an MSc in Information and Library Studies at RGU over the three-year distance learning route.
After this I find myself (in a permanent role!) at the University of the West of Scotland as a Subject Librarian for the Media, Culture and Society School. As I write, it is the quieter summer holiday season, a chance to catch up on all those things that I said I would do and develop during the busy teaching year and to get reading materials ready for the September start.
My focus so far this summer has been the challenge of collating up-to-date reading lists from lecturers for the forthcoming academic year, running reports from the library management system to gauge book usage across the campuses, and looking out for new texts to develop the existing collection. This is always a time-consuming task, but one that is made slightly more difficult as the School I support has a presence on all four university campuses, and book usage and student numbers are not even across the four. I have one budget to divide as equitably as I can across 1,600 students in 7 undergraduate and 4 postgraduate programmes, including distance learners, and our research students and staff.
The Library has recently been focussing on its research support activities and I have found myself on a task group working to benchmark against other institutions and source resources and OERs (Open Education Resources) that we can use to enhance our offering to staff and research students. Supporting research is an area I really enjoy as it gives me an opportunity to use skills I have developed throughout my career, for example, systematic literature searching at a health board and at BP, and helping with knowledge translation and getting research into policy through my experiences at the Scottish Parliament and in a different health board. Ultimately it is this ability to provide new information and ways of working to people who are otherwise experts in their fields which gives me fulfilment.
Lastly, there is the preparation for teaching information and digital literacy skills to the students next year: trying to unearth evidence of effective teaching methods to use in my classes, provide new approaches to induction activities rather than the ‘lecture’ approach so often used to little effect, and developing online tutorials and learning objects for students to assist with developing their subject knowledge and research skills.
Not one to stand still, and wanting to give something back to the library community, I have recently joined the CILIPS West Branch committee helping with twitter duties (@cilipswest) and helping to organise a visit to the UWS Ayr campus and library, whilst also applying for a professional doctorate on the theme of digital literacy.
My career path certainly hasn’t been straightforward. Contracting brings a lot of stress when posts are due to finish, especially at a time when jobs are hard to come by, but equally, I have never been out of work and each and every post I’ve had has brought me a whole raft of new and different skills as well as networks of friends and colleagues. This networking and sharing of information and skills is something that we librarians do so well, and this is why I love being a librarian.
Many thanks to Paul for being the first librarian on 23 Librarians for a while.You can contact him by replying below or on Twitter @pcann_librarian.
Would you like to take part in 23 Librarians? Once again, please reply below if so. Paul is number 48 – it would be lovely if we could at least hit 50, so over to you!