New job, new focus

It has long been a goal of mine to move back to the north east¹, and for quite some time I have been keeping an eye out for jobs that would make this possible. The longer the job search went on the more I came to realise that if I wanted to make the move I would need to look for opportunities beyond libraries. At first this was a daunting thought – what else was there that I could apply for, and realistically be in with a chance of getting? As time went on through it became quite liberating to think about what aspects of my previous roles in libraries I have really enjoyed and am good at, and then to try to identify alternative careers that would allow me to focus on these.

In the end, finding a job outside of libraries became my second goal. To achieve this I did a lot of work first identifying what transferable skills I have and then tailoring my applications to link my experience in libraries to the person specifications. This whole process really made me rethink how I put together applications. I think I’ve come up with a good CV and covering letter combo that is easy to adapt, and that was ultimately successful.

What I hadn’t considered was how my professional identity would change as I moved away from libraries. In a new city and new job I am meeting a lot of new people and I’m still not sure how to answer the staple small-talk question: what do you do? It was easy to tell people I was a librarian, despite the concern that many librarians have with people not knowing what that really means. Looking from the outside now, I think this concern is true of just about every job. If I wanted to explain to anyone what any member of my family did, I would need to provide more context than just their job title or a broad category, like lawyer or teacher. For example, my sister is an academic. That’s not really enough to go on is it? And who really knows what academics actually do? Does it help if I tell you she’s in the psychology department? Not really? That her research focuses on cognitive development in school-age children? You get the point.

So, what am I doing now and how am I going to describe to people what I do? Earlier this month I started a new job as Learning Resources Designer in the Centre for Global Learning and Executive Education at Durham Business School. In this role I will be:

  • coordinating the production of learning resources for modules on the centre’s online and blended programmes
  • recording and editing audio visual resources
  • ensuring design consistency and high standards of production are maintained between modules and authors
  • researching and advising on new developments and good practice in elearning

As I touched on above, you need to describe to people what you do, rather than just give them your job title or a broad category. However in some cases, your Twitter bio for example, you don’t get that luxury. In these cases I have settled, for now, on calling myself a learning technologist; but what does that really mean? Well, I’m still in the process of working that out myself! Here’s the definition from the Association of Learning Technology (ALT):

Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment. Learning Technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.

And if you want to find out a little more, my starting point was David Hopkins’ great series of blogs posts on the theme.

I don’t want to say goodbye to libraries completely, and so I will still be doing some additional activities to keep my hand in. I am attending, and delivering a nano presentation at next month’s Toon LibTeachMeet. And will be participating in the New Librarianship MOOC.

The impact all of these changes will have on this blog I would expect to be minimal. My professional interests are still broadly the same. This blog has always been used for reflection on things I’m doing, reading and contemplating. And that’s not going to change. Perhaps it will just be a change of context, of examples, or applications. We’ll see.


¹ I lived in Newcastle for four years as a student

Saving Libraries and Escaping the Echo Chamber

This week I have been doing my bit for the #savelibraries campaign. I’ve been watching it from afar for some time without getting involved but this week I have finally been able to add my contribution.

First up was an article for the Guardian Careers – Beyond books: what it means to be a 21st century librarian. I have been working on this with Katie Birkwood for the past 6 months. The idea to write an article about what it really means to be a librarian came from the comments on my Library Day in the Life Round 5 blog post. We wrote a pitch and sent it to Radio 4 and Guardian Careers. Then we waited. And waited. Finally I was contacted by the co-ordinator of the Behind the Job Title series and the rest as they say is history. At the current count this article has been shared 156 times on Twitter and 458 on Facebook. I call that a success and everyone’s favourite wikiman and father of #echolib calls it “a proper bonafide Echo Chamber escape

Next was an article for the Open Rights Group Zine – Everybody loves surfing. For this, I was approached (via a comment on this blog) by the zine’s editor Iman Qureshi. The idea was for an article on how and why technology is valuable to libraries and library users. I refined this and started to think about how technology is changing the role of libraries. Given that the article was to be part a book themed week on the zine in support of the Bookseller’s Fight for Libraries campaign I used public libraries as my focus.

If you want to get involved and help to save our libraries a good place to start would be to attend a read-in at your local library this Saturday, 5th February. For more information about campaigns in your area visit the Voices for the Library website.

Library Day in the Life – Friday

The following post is written as part of round 5 of the Library Day in the Life project.

To do list 30/07/2010

Morning soundtrack: This American Life

First thing this morning I had a meeting with the student from earlier in the week who is researching the relationship between optometrists and the NHS. We looked at search strategies, identified useful journals and databases and talked about applying for funding.

After this I spent a little time tidying the papers strewn across my desk. I always like to leave at the end of the week with a tidy desk, I find it makes Monday morning much more bearable.

Something I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks is writing a set of reading list guidelines for our procurement team. Previously the subject team had processed all reading lists and put in all book orders to procurement individually. This year this has been centralised through a newly created reading lists team. The idea is that they will process all the lists and follow guidelines set by the subject librarians for purchasing copies of core and additional readings. I submitted my guidelines today.

Straight after lunch I headed down to the basement with the library’s iPad to work through the last two shelves of business donations. It feels good to have finally cleared the backlog.

Over coffee I settled down to read CILIP’s Defining Our Professional Future Report.

I finished the day, and the week, with an interesting enquiry about oil companies and crisis management.

Evening soundtrack:Test Match Special, England vs Pakistan