Here’s the notes I made on the next 3 speakers at the Open Day. A very big thank you to all of the speakers, who were incredibly insightful and interesting to listen to 🙂
Sandra Smythe – Mishcon de Reya (law firm)
Sandra outlined for us what it is that legal librarians actually do – the work includes legal research, company and people research, classification, acquisitions, training, knowledge management. She said that working for law firms had the following attributes, many of which could be taken positively or negatively depending on your working style: professional/corporate work environment, demanding, time sensitive, well-resourced, interesting, well-paid, can be: hierarchical/open, large/small, the attitude from the lawyers that the librarians are ‘only support staff’.
Sandra told us that, rather unusually, she has an undergraduate degree in Information Management, because it’s what she’s always wanted to do. She then had information officer jobs at a couple of different law firms, and now has a KM systems role at her current firm (which she said was listed in the top 100 employers to work for in the UK). Her role includes document automation, intranet administration, enterprise search management, and line management. She didn’t have any legal knowledge beforehand so has learnt it all on the job, through BIALL courses etc, and hasn’t actually met a law librarian with a law degree!
It was very interesting to hear from Sandra about her work as a legal librarian, as I knew very little (nothing!) about the field before the day, so the general outline she gave us was useful and certainly provided some food for thought regarding the future.
Danny Rees – Wellcome Library
Danny was a very charismatic and charming man, who offered a change from the very law-focused day that we’d had so far and gave a different perspective from his own experiences. Unlike those who found librarianship through an academic path, Danny started at a low level – collecting books, manning desks (he called himself a ‘book monkey’!), but has worked his way up the ladder to now be the library’s Engagement Officer, which he absolutely loves. Whilst manning the desks, he told us about how he often found chances to explore the collection and really get to know the stock, so he felt he was very in touch with the collection, which is part of the Wellcome Trust – a medical charity that generates a lot of money and gives out grants to research etc. – which funds the library. The library is open access, and forms part of the Wellcome Collection – a collection so broad that it is on both a global and a local level. Whilst the Wellcome Trust is a medical charity, the collection isn’t limited to medical books, and also has other items, such as a large oil painting collection.
Danny had lots of stories to tell about weird tours and events that he has attended and helped to run, and also told us about the number of odd pictures to be found in the library – there are a lot of books about the body, skin, diseases etc., so a lot of the pictures would really put you off your lunch! Two of Danny’s more random encounters have included body painting on members of the public – painting over the skin what the body would look like under the skin – and he also found himself palm reading at a stall – he started by talking about a palmistry book and ended up actually palm reading (despite not really being a palm reader!).
Danny’s main piece of advice for us was this: wherever you are, grab opportunities as they come along. Get out of your comfort zone and put yourself somewhere you haven’t been before.
Marie Cannon – law librarian at Trowers & Hamlins (law firm)
- Twitter is fantastic for current awareness and as a support network. Tweeter vs observer – don’t feel you have to tweet all the time, but follow and retweet. Get involved in #uklibchat, which is on the first Tuesday of every month from 6.30-8.30pm. Twitter is an extension of your digital brand – you should market yourself with your online presence, through twitter, blogging and other platforms.
- CPD23 – (http://cpd23.blogspot.co.uk/) this is a free, online and flexible personal development course for people in the information field. It introduces you to online tools, resources and reflective writing, and shows commitment to your own professional development.
- Start a blog – this acts as more of your digital brand and helps you to practice reflective writing (Marie’s blog can be found at: http://email@example.com)
- Use your tutors as they are experts in the field, so you should make the most of them while you can. If unsure about a piece of work, go and check. Get to know your personal tutor – it shows that you’re serious about doing well.
- Take the option modules that interest you as you will get the best mark you can. Employers rarely examine the individual modules you have taken as they care more about the overall mark. The MA is a demonstration of your commitment and hard work – financial commitment etc.
- Don’t panic – keep calm and ask a librarian!
- Get LinkedIn – an online CV that is fuller than the 2 sides of A4 that your paper one is likely to be – Marie found a job within a week of joining the site. It appears high up in Google rankings. Be consistent across all media platforms (make sure you use the same name – Marie added her middle initial to distinguish herself from others with the same name).
- Show off your commitment to the profession – blogging and CPD23. Become a member of a professional association – CILIP, SLA, BIALL. Volunteer and learn new skills – events, membership, communication.
- Apply for awards and bursaries – she won the SLA early career conference award, which got her a free trip to the States and looks great on her CV. Look out in the CILIP update, on Twitter, subscribe to association blogs, someone has to win them!