Welcome back to 23 Librarians! Ruth Gould, Information Librarian with Aberdeen City Libraries, is the blog’s 50th participant.
I’ll level with you: I never intended to become a librarian. The plan was always to become a primary school teacher after I completed my degree in History. However like “the best laid plans of mice and men” this went awry, and I have ended up following a happy career in libraries after a few brief forays into museums and events.
My sister-in-law suggested looking at libraries and information management. Being at a crossroads, I looked into it and realised how my interests in teaching, helping others and organising and finding information fitted librarianship like a glove. Surprising to some, a love of books and reading never even entered my mind.
I currently work for Aberdeen City Libraries as the Information Librarian and have been working in libraries for around 7 to 8 years. It was a long but rewarding slog to this, my first permanent role.
I studied full-time at Robert Gordon University to gain my MSc, which I really enjoyed. At a time of job shortages I was one of the lucky few to land a job immediately, covering maternity leave as an information assistant at the University of Aberdeen. Following this I moved to the University of Glasgow and worked in interlibrary loans and serials, processing requests and resources. Professional posts weren’t forthcoming until I landed the Children’s Team Librarian post (again temporary) at Aberdeen City Libraries where I have been ever since in a variety of roles. The skills and knowledge I gained as a library assistant guide my work today.
My previous experience working in primary schools and museums helped me in my Children’s Library post. The two things I enjoyed most in the post were sneaking information literacy learning into all my school visits with all ages and developing collections including the bi-lingual collections. The temporary nature meant that I never fully connected with the post though. This is can be a problem with temporary posts. After Children’s I took on the Europe Direct Coordinator for a few months before interviewing and landing my current job as a “modern reference librarian”.
My role is wide and varied and requires the time management skills of a ninja. Don’t let anyone tell you that librarianship is easy. It is not unusual for me to be working on 10 tasks and projects at any one time. Delegating is a skill you learn quickly out of necessity. As I am writing this blog in January the easiest way to show the range of this is to highlight some of the work I got up to last year.
I manage the Europe Direct service. We are co-funded by the European Commission and have an action plan of activities which we devise and carry out each year. Our main purpose is to be a first point of contact for local citizens enquiring about the EU. As you can get questions about anything from chemicals in fertilisers to air passenger rights I need to know a little about everything and support my team with directing customers to the right information and services. It can be quite a challenge.
EDIC Aberdeen is part of a network of over 500 centres across Europe. I often interact and collaborate with foreign colleagues. A highlight last year was participating in a video call with our colleagues in France to speak to exchange students about Scotland and what they could expect on their visit here. I enlisted a partner who is a native speaker for the call as my higher French is not up to much these days. In addition, as a service we run various events and produce publications on topics such as the refugee crisis.
A major area of my work is managing and developing the health and wellbeing offer. After a year of development including consulting with customers, other library services and heath care professionals we launched our healthy reading collections in January 2016 to real success. In addition to the collections we have dedicated webpages which I update, and we run various talks with local academics and speakers on topics such as healthy eating for your heart, mindfulness and the myths of weight loss and obesity. I represent the library service on a number of health groups and networks providing insight into where the library service can assist with community initiatives and research.
I really enjoy developing and delivering talks and training sessions to both staff and customers. Driven by feedback and demand I deliver classes in person and also via online content such as video. I am genuinely looking forward to running my latest class in February “When Google Fails”. It has been designed to enable our customers to understand search engines and improve their search skills.
As with all jobs there are things I would rather not have to do, such as bringing our large reference reserve stock under control. It is both a treasure trove and a dumping ground. I frequently wonder if it will ever get to where I want it to be – fully rationalised, dusted and catalogued. I don’t like getting covered in dust and dirt so tend to put the humungous task aside, but I’ll need to tackle it this coming year.
These are a few select snapshots into my work. I haven’t even covered stock selection, cataloguing, researching new projects, writing evaluative reports on everything while at the same time creating promotional content for webpages and social media. It is a busy world in public libraries but it is rarely boring.
I really enjoy my job. It is not without stress but it is worth it when you believe you can make a difference. If I were to offer two parting pieces of advice in these times of austerity they would be:
- Grasp every opportunity you get however big or small.
- Think creatively and be flexible. Don’t get boxed into a view of what a librarian/ library is or isn’t.
Key to collage, left to right in all cases:
Top row – 1. Shelfie: Health and Wellbeing books 2. Example of Social Media event advert 3. Ruth with the Unwind at Lunchtime with Aberdeen City Libraries pop up stall
Middle row – 1. Healthy Reading Leaflet 2. Aberdeen Central Library, courtesy of Aberdeen City Libraries Local Studies 3. Refugee Crisis poster
Bottom row – 1. Ruth with The Lord Provost of Aberdeen at the European Commission’s Family Meal – what brings us together? exhibition 2. Europe Direct Booklet on Gender Equality 3. Selection of Europe Direct Aberdeen resources at an event
Many thanks to Ruth for an interesting post and for getting the blog to a golden 50. If anyone else would like to participate, please email anabelmarsh[at]googlemail.com
Ruth is happy to answer questions or arrange a visit to her service. To make contact, leave a comment below or tweet her @ruth_m_gould