Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Strengths, Interests and Volunteering (Things 21 and 22)

Strengths and Interests

As part of my chartership I have been looking at my strengths and interests to make sure that my CPD is going in the right direction. I conducted a SWOT analysis whilst writing my PPDP and asked my line manager to contribute as well... very open to constructive criticism.

Since studying at Sheffield and writing my dissertation I have taken a keen interest in reader development but this seems to be the part of librarianship that is slowly dying. If you look at organisational charts of ten years ago you would see a full time post of reader development librarian but these roles have now been watered down and folded in to librarian positions. I spent a day shadowing Wiltshire Council’s library operations manager who as part of his role is responsible for reader development from everything to reading lists to the running of the six book challenge, author events and more. I have written about this before and so will not go into too much detail here (Reflections on Shadowing). I have been very lucky that since this shadowing experience an expressing an interest in reader development, colleagues higher in the library service have given me opportunities to work in this field; creating reading lists, helping with stock selection and working  on the national reading well campaign collection (part of the four core services set out by the SCL).

Interests outside of librarianship have helped to influence displays and events including dramatic readings of favourite poets and read the film displays. Looking at your strength and interests and updating your CV whilst in a positive mood can be very beneficial. In terms of interview tips the best I can say is be yourself, prepare well and don’t act your way through an interview. Remember it’s as much about making sure it’s a good fit for you as much as the company you’re interviewing for.  

Volunteering Experience

In the blog post for thing 22, Bronagh McCrudden spoke about the idea of experience catch22 and she could not be more right. Especially in this job market young people are finding it harder and harder to get breaks into employment and not everyone can afford to volunteer for free.

A lot of the experience I have in the library sector has come from volunteering opportunities. When I went to library school I had no specific library experience and felt that I was going in behind everyone else. I have volunteered in a local studies library and a public library whilst studying and job hunting and it was not until I had these experiences that some of the theory I learnt made sense.

After a talk given by David Smith of the Hull Local Studies Library as part of my degree studies I approached him about work experience at the library. This was at a time when the library was moving into its new facility and so a lot of my time was spent cataloguing stock. At this time the library wasn’t open to customers which was a shame but I learnt a lot about the different stock the library held and anecdotes about research undertaken on behalf of customers. I spent a day a week at the library for six months before having to focus on my dissertation.

I strongly believe that the six months I volunteered at Catford Public Library helped me to get the job I have today. By experiencing the day to day running of a library I had a database of knowledge at my disposal for interview scenarios. Again this was a day a week in which I got to shadow library staff, take part in baby rhyme times and activities, learnt weeding policy and helped with school assemblies. This was invaluable experience that helped me talk more openly during interviews and gave me the confidence to go after jobs that I thought I was ill qualified for previously.

I am a strong believer in volunteering as work experience and giving people the opportunity to learn more about a profession that they are passionate about. As staffing gets tighter and budgets are cut it gets harder to find the time to devote to younger professionals who are the future of librarianship but it is one of the easiest ways to promote the profession to a younger generation.

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