By Caitlin McCulloch (@scaredycait)
Last month, I attended a CILIPTV event which included a talk from Lucy Sinclair. Lucy works for Surrey and Sussex Healthcare (SASH) NHS Trust as an Assistant Librarian; she’s on a two-year contract specifically aimed at new professionals. In addition to this, she’s now CILIPTV’s New Professional Support Officer. As a fellow new professional on a similar training scheme at the University of Reading, I was interested to hear what Lucy’s experience was like.
I particularly enjoyed hearing about Lucy’s decision to move into the healthcare sector. Before starting her qualification at Sheffield, she was sure she wanted to work in rare books and special collections – but doing her dissertation about a military medical library changed her mind. As she said, in healthcare “you can see yourself making a difference”. Lucy pointed out that taking on the library qualification is no small task. For better or for worse, you need to be financially prepared for the costs of the course – and the likelihood of moving away for your first professional post after your studies. However, she really valued the experience.
Her day-to-day role at SASH covers everything from teaching, supporting management and library assistants and working with communities and practitioners – all across several sites! Lucy also carries out evidence searches to get people the best information they need to do their jobs. It’s a great example of how varied a library role can be.
Lucy’s number one tip for new professionals was communication. Whether that’s talking to your peers or chatting to your supervisor about how things are going, it’s really important to build up a network. This is where her role as the New Professional Support Officer comes in – despite the title, she can also help trainees and students. I can say from experience that finding other people who are in the same boat as you is so helpful – it’s really nice to share experiences and get that extra support.
It can often feel like there’s a bridge between ‘new’ and ‘experienced’ library staff, and Lucy gave some great tips on how managers can support new professionals (and anyone they’re looking after, in fact). This might seem obvious, but talk to the employee about what they want to learn – you can then give them projects that fit in with their interests. Shadowing is another useful way of gaining experience. Finally, if you’re going to conferences, it’s great for a manager to introduce their trainee to attendees – this helps you get started with networking.
Lucy also stressed the importance of volunteering throughout her talk. She’s shadowed a member of staff at the Frances Crick Institute in London, attended lots of different events in different sectors, and done a variety of internships. I just want to highlight that you don’t have to do everything – there’s often a lot of pressure on new professionals to step up and volunteer for everything, both at and outside of work. This isn’t a good idea long-term and leads to stress and burnout; it also disadvantages those who can’t volunteer. It’s something that’s just starting to be discussed in the library world, and I hope this conversation continues.
Overall, I found this a very useful comparison point for my own experiences at Reading. If you can apply for a trainee librarian role, I’d thoroughly recommend it – they often give you experience of a bit of everything, which in turn can help you find what areas you’re most interested in. Thanks very much to CILIPTV and Lucy for arranging and delivering this talk! You can find Lucy on Twitter at @LuceSinclair1.
Useful links for new professionals:
NLPN (New Library Professionals’ Network) – an excellent site with library resources. They have a list of library staff who are happy to be shadowed. They also run events in the north of England.
LISNPN (Library and Information Sector New Professionals’ Network – a site with library resources and an online message board for discussion.
DILON (Diversity in Libraries of the North) – Advocating for diversity in libraries (case in point: CILIP’s Workforce Mapping found that the profession is overwhelmingly white). Currently based in the north of England, but this is a topic everyone needs to engage with.
#uklibchat – a monthly Twitter chat on various library topics. Twitter can be a great way of getting started with networking.
#ukmedlibs – a monthly Twitter chat specifically about medical library topics.