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Archive for April, 2013

Hello, Francesca here, Academic Services trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. Following on from Kat’s post, here’s a little of what I took away from the BIALL, CLSIG, and SLA Europe Open Day (acronyms helpfully explained by Kat below!) which we were lucky enough to attend at the CILIP head offices in London on Wednesday.

After a nice rush hour battle with the tube, I soon settled in to the talk by the first of the day’s nine speakers, each of whom gave a fascinating insight into their career paths to date. What I learnt immediately from Jacky Berry’s presentation was that there are a lot more sectors into which a professional qualification in Librarianship and Information can lead that I had imagined! Jacky’s experiences and suggestions for sectors to look in included Building and Architecture, MI5 and charities. The number of different job titles associated with the information profession is also never-ending, and it was interesting to learn of Jacky’s management of the recent redevelopment of the British Medical Association Library. It was an excellent eye-opener to the types of roles to look out for.

IALS Library

IALS Library. Image from Twitter.

I had however, gone into the day hoping to learn more about the Legal sector, whether as a law librarian in an academic institutiton, or as a researcher for a law firm. Working for the Bodleian Law Library has certainly inspired me to consider specialising withing the legal sector when I finish my traineeship, and gain my professional qualification.  Six of the day’s nine speakers either work or have worked as a law librarian or for a law firm, and we were given an insightful tour of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount of information given. (A little overwhelmed maybe, but now is the time to go away and process it!)

Two of the speakers were recent graduates, both recipients of the SLA Early Career Conference Award. Both now work as Information Officers for London law firms. It was interesting to hear from people not long ago in my position on how they got to where they are, and allowed me to see that it is something realistic for me to pursue, given my experience in the Bodleian Law Library, and my enrollment on the MScEcon Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University. Their talks gave extremely useful tips on how to make yourself stand out. Indeed, I am a little behind the times, and yet to open a Twitter account or a LinkedIn account. Marie Cannon’s talk reminded and persuaded me of the importance of these tools (when used sensibly!) in keeping up to date with developments in the sector, keeping in touch and making new connections with professionals, and in job hunting in all areas of librarianship. I shall be going home to create these this weekend! Sam Wiggins highlighted the usefulness of joining professional bodies, particularly for those in corporate sectors such as law, and trying your luck at applying for awards and bursaries such as the ECCA . ‘If you don’t ask (apply), you don’t get’!

There were also two talks from established Librarians, one from Emily Allbon, Law Librarian at City University Library, and one from Sandra Smythe, Senior Information Officer at a London law firm. It was extremely interesting (and again a little overwhelming!) to learn of the huge variety of tasks that Emily undertakes as City’s Law Librarian, from teaching and managing budgets to her work on creating Lawbore, a fanatastic directory for students of links to law resources on the web. I am still very much drawn towards attempting to stay working in an academic environment, as I thoroughly enjoy the interaction with students. However, like Kat, the idea of undertaking legal research is an inviting (if daunting!) challenge. Sandra discussed her past and current roles working for London law firms. The process of research has always been something I thoroughly enjoy, and whilst in an academic situation the students research for themselves, a role at a law firm would be a great opportunity to continue researching myself (albeit under quite demanding and time-pressured circumstances!)

As you can see, then, the open day has given me a lot of food for thought! I too would like to thank everyone involved, particularly those who spoke – the talks were thought-provoking and extremely useful at this point in my deciding what opportunities to seek, whether they end up being in the legal sector, or somewhere else. I also learnt that planning a path in the Information sector doesn’t always work, so we shall see! As mentioned by Kat, the presentations can be found on the CLSIG event pages.

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Kat Steiner here again, one of the graduate trainees at the Bodleian Law Library. On Wednesday, Frankie Marsden and I headed down to London for the BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day, a day of presentations and tours based at the CILIP headquarters near Russell Square. We thought we’d give you a few of our thoughts on the day, especially on what we individually will take away from it.

A few acronym explanations before we start. BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CLSIG is a special interest group within CILIP standing for Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group, and SLA Europe is the European and UK division of the Special Libraries Association. Still with me? Just the names alone were a lot to take in!

Copyright Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library

Over the day, we heard 9 speakers, whose places of work included London law firms, the Law library of City University, the Wellcome Library, the British Medical Association, the Inner TempleLinex (a company offering current awareness tools and aggregation for subscribers), and the British Library. It was fascinating to hear the stories of how they had reached their current jobs (often by a combination of luck, enthusiasm and perseverance), and their varied positions. It particularly stood out to me how many people mentioned TFPL, a recruitment agency, as being invaluable in helping them find jobs. I hadn’t heard of them, but I will definitely be looking into them now!

There was also the opportunity to go on a tour of either the Wiener Library, a collection for the study of the holocaust & genocide, the library of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, or the library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. As Law Bod trainees, Frankie and I both chose the IALS, and enjoyed a detailed tour and talk by David Gee, the Deputy Librarian. As the library takes three graduate trainees every year, he had a lot of insight and suggestions for what to do afterwards if you are thinking of going into law librarianship.

Several speakers were also from law firm libraries, or law librarians in other institutions, and it was very interesting to hear about their jobs in detail. I hadn’t personally thought much about specialising, or moving away from academic librarianship (I’m hoping to stay at the Bodleian while I do my library school masters), but there definitely seemed to be a lot to recommend ‘special libraries’. The chance to do real legal research was very attractive to me as an academic challenge (at the Law Bod, students are expected to do their own research, although there are lots of classes to help them learn how to do it). However, I’m not sure I could cope with the increased pressure, longer hours and difficult deadlines that come along with it. The rather better pay might sweeten the pill, though.

Copyright Inner Temple Library

The Inner Temple Library

The talk that really stood out for me was from Simon Barron, a Project Analyst at the British Library. He focused on the concept of  ‘digital librarians’, and the way that technology is transforming the information profession and will continue to do so. In the days of ‘big data‘ (a current buzzword that I’m still not hugely clear on – in my understanding, it can mean data sets so large that they allow statistical programs to crunch through them and draw remarkably accurate conclusions without any attempt at explaining how the causation between the conclusions and the data works), librarians who can code, use technology, and be willing to learn new technological skills will be more and more in demand. He described his current project with the British Library and the Qatar Foundation to create a digital National Library of Qatar. This is an ambitious project, involving huge numbers of documents to be digitised, including 14th- and 15th-century Arabic manuscripts. Simon’s job seemed to involve a lot of technological problem-solving, for example ‘how do we get this data out of this piece of software and into this other piece of software without losing it, or having to do it by hand’. He explained that his coding knowledge was entirely self-taught through Codecademy and that, although he didn’t consider it his crowning achievement, his colleagues were still very impressed when he made a spreadsheet where the boxes change colour depending on the data you enter.

Simon’s talk made a big impression on me, and really confirmed my feeling that the MSc in Information Science is for me. I have some basic experience with coding good practice (a 10-week internship at a software company, writing code in Perl), and the main thing I took away is that it’s really not that hard or scary, it just requires logic, perseverance (read: stubbornness even when it doesn’t work), and the willingness to have a go even if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I believe anyone who really wants to can learn to use technology, but they may not see the point. Simon emphasised the use of technology to automate what would be fairly simple human processes. This is a great point – if you can automate a simple action on a computer (for example, removing formatting from a text file, or averaging each row in a spreadsheet), you not only save time, you make the process scaleable to much larger sets of data, which would take humans far too long to deal with, and you reduce the possibility of human error, as long as your code actually works!

Anyway, you can see that this made quite an impression. Another thing I will take away is how many things are worth joining to get more involved in the information profession. You can join CILIP for £38 a year if you’re a student or graduate trainee, definitely worth doing! You can join SLA (of which SLA Europe is a chapter) for $40 a year if you’re a student (even part-time, but I’m not sure about graduate trainees). You can join BIALL for £17 a year if you are a full-time student. You might want to consider registering with TFPL. SLA Europe offers an Early Career Conference Award, which three of the speakers had won, allowing them to go to amazing conferences in San Diego, Chicago and Philadelphia. BIALL also offers an award for the best library school dissertation on a legal topic. And, finally, Information Architect is a job title it might be worth looking out for.

That’s pretty much all I have to say for this post (I’ve waffled for more than long enough). Frankie will be talking about the aspects of the day that she really liked, and I’m sure they will be very different! I just want to thank everyone who helped organise the conference – it gave me loads to think about, allowed me to meet plenty of other graduate trainees, and generally have a great time. For anyone who wants a more general idea of the day – the slides from the presentations that everyone gave can be found on the CLSIG website.

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