Category Archives: Information Management

Over-qualified & Under-experienced

Intro Slide
Intro Slide

The above slide best sums up my first year seeking employment as a new Information Professional. While I have made it to a few interviews for Assistant Librarian roles, I have failed to secure these posts due to not having enough direct experience in these roles. This means I need to find an entry level Library Assistant role in order to build experience However, I have found it much more difficult to get interviews at entry level Library Assistant roles. I am told that I am over-qualified for these by experienced librarians I have spoken to about this problem.

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Slide 1

So what makes me overqualified and under-experience. I have 12 years experience in Teaching and Education. I have taught Secondary English and worked as an Examiner for the Leaving Certificate Mock Exams; I have worked as an Assistant Lecturer in English Literature at Maynooth University; I have taught English Language, Technical English and Academic English in university and private companies in three countries, including UCD her in Ireland; I have taught Academic Writing, Research Skills and Information Literacy at third level also.

Since graduating, from my MLIS at UCD, I have worked for 1 year as a Library Assistant in the University of Surrey in the UK because I could not find a job here in Ireland. For the past three months, I have been working as a Library Assistant in Laois Libraries on a temporary contract that could end at any moment. I also have two postgraduate degrees.

Slide 2
Slide 2

In 2016, I applied for Library Assistant jobs in 6 County Libraries and 5 Academic Libraries, but was only invited to one interview in Laois thus far. In the county, there are more than 17 Library Assistants, but I am the only one with a library qualification. I finished 10th on that panel, out of which 5 people were hired on full-time permanent contracts. 1 of the 5 had meaningful library experience and none had a qualification. I am happy for anyone who finds a job, but the numbers in public libraries are too heavily weighted towards those without library qualifications, suggesting the qualification is not valued for these positions. I personally do not have an objection to libraries hiring Assistants that have no qualification because I understand their need to have security and continuity in their staff as many Library Assistant are not interested in being upwardly mobile – unlike most MLIS graduates. Also, the people I work with at the University of Surrey and Laois Libraries are excellent at their jobs and I learn from them every day. My experience illustrates just how challenging it is for new professionals to land that first position in the current market.

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Slide 3

So how can you maximise your opportunities? You need to work hard on your cv, creating a new cv for every job. I delete my CV every time I apply for a job because it forces me to create a new one for each application, in which I use the job description in order to guide how I describe my experience. The Library Association of Ireland is also an amazing community of professionals who you can learn from and build in-person and online networks. They do provide many CPD opportunities. This is something I need to work on more myself. Using your new cv and networking powers, you can land that first job. But from there you need make that job work for you. Rather than sitting at the information desk at the University of Surrey, I got involved in Teaching & Learning projects, I shadowed Subject Librarians, and took on Cataloguing projects when I heard Cataloguing were very busy. I travelled outside of my own job description in order to develop experience that strengthens my employment opportunities. So long as you are doing your primary job well, then your Line Manager will likely be open to supporting your development. In my current role, I catalogue donated items rather than sending them back to Library HQ; I get involved in collection development and weeding; I am currently organising workshops for Leaving Certificate students in the area; and am planning to run basic computer and web design courses in the library in the near future.

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Slide 4

However, while there is a vibrant, helpful library community in this country, we do have to balance our view by considering that there is also a political and economic reality at work. Many librarians who act within the community and through the LAI are also going back into their daily professional posts and are failing to act upon the needs of new professionals in their hiring policies. They create CPD opportunities in the LAI but fail to realise that in order to really allow for career development to happen, more opportunities to apply these skills in a professional role need to be created. So by all means work hard on your CV, and doubly so on networking. But don’t forget to remind those senior librarians that you meet at CPD events, that the obligation they have to nurture the profession does not stop once they leave their LAI committee meetings. And that they need to carry that sentiment back out into the real professional environments, to their hiring committees and interview panels, so that we can be afforded the opportunity they themselves were once given. Thank you.

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Slide 5

Final thoughts…

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For my final ‘management’ blog post, I am required to reflect on the process of writing the weekly posts as a learning and development platform.

Personally, I found the process of reflecting on the course materials to be enjoyable. I wanted to use the readings as an informal springboard for my own thoughts and ideas. I don’t believe in wasting words and so if I was going to develop a web presence then I wanted to try and say something meaningful in my posts. I often find that the structures of more formal writing can act as an obstacle to the development of ideas. Writing informal blog posts meant that I could relax and not worry so much about writing style and structure, which allowed me to focus more on drawing out some of my own ideas. The blog also encouraged me to think more about the benefits of having an online presence as part of my own professional development, which is why I decided to write more substantial blog posts and to add extra content to the blog based on my interests in some of the other modules on the MLIS. I saw the blog as an opportunity to develop an e-portfolio that I could use to connect with other LIS professionals and that would also help me when looking for a job. In this sense, it was interesting to monitor the blog to see which posts were most popular. For example, the most recent post on Digital Curation received more views and shares than any other of my posts. This is an area that I am very interested in, and along with posting on information theory, I am going to continue to blog in order to try and make more connections online, and also to develop ideas for possible future articles and conference papers.

In this sense, the reflections encouraged me to think more about my own relationship to information studies, allowing me to understand how I can contribute to the field and develop my career. I must admit that I got sidetracked into thinking more about how to maximise the potential of the blog rather than focusing on understanding and explicating the course content. I am now looking forward to having more time to delete blog posts that I feel don’t really do anything for the overall look and profile of the blog, and then having time to create more content that is relevant to my interests in the field. Overall, the weekly reflections were not only enjoyable and informative of course content, but also very valuable in developing an identity and creating a presence in the information studies field. I am grateful to the lecturer for opening up this avenue of expression and career development to me.

Narrative and compassion in management practice

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For many years now I have been reminding myself of the reasons why my studies in English Literature have been so important to my own professional development. Through this self-reassurance I have constantly re-affirmed the concept that if one can understand the way a story or narrative in constructed, then one can understand better how the world itself is created. In this sense, it is interesting that Peter Brophy draws upon theories of narrative and story to inform ‘Evidence Based Library and Information Practice’ (ELIB). However, I do feel as though there is one key characteristic that is missing from his theory and that is of primary importance to storytelling. This year, I have read a lot of information and management theory relating to managing, teamwork, collaboration and leadership among others, but nowhere in that material have I encountered reflections on the importance of ‘compassion’ in both management and teamwork. It is only through compassion that a narrator can effectively create characters in stories, and, in organisations, having compassion is the only way one can understand and work with people’s own subjective and personal circumstances that they bring to work with them everyday, as well as understanding and accepting employees’ and customers’ limitations, while finding a way to work within them to achieve goals.

Brophy, drawing from Eldredge, outlines that evidence based learning and practice is both quantitative and qualitative but that there remains an imbalance in which emphasis is placed more on objective quantitative measures. However, he argues that this positivist approach does not apply well to librarianship because it involves a social system with variables that cannot be controlled within human interactions. Brophy shows an awareness of the prevalence of poststructuralism in contemporary social, cultural and linguistic theory: “To add to the complexity, all we have to describe the world is language, which itself introduces ambiguity, bias and difference.” Poststructuralism dictates that signs are not word-images but are experiences which are directed towards other signs based on the context of the receiver. To then try and take quantitative measures and apply them objectivity is an impossible task. Even one can take objective measures, these still have to be related to other people who are free to interpret the findings based on their own observations, meaning there is never a complete consensus agreed about the evidence collected and how it is to be used.

This leads Brophy on to consider post-positivism and social constructivism as qualitative approaches the may inform EBLIB by affirming the prevalence of narrative in human interactions. He argues that “These approaches suggest that rather than emphasising the transmission of “facts” (accepted knowledge about the world), modern societies need to encourage learning which encompasses both openness to differing world views and the ability to relate new ideas to existing knowledge in meaningful ways, so that each of us is continually constructing, sharing, and reconstructing our understanding of the world in all its complexity.” Such an approach emphasises the value of narrative in developing a more complete understanding of contexts and that can lead to greater decision-making for managers. This is because narrative allows one to look at evidence in context through structures: Culture, Holism, In-depth Studies, Chronology.

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One practical way that this can be applied to a library’s ability to understand user services could be in the use of surveys. Surveys are, of course, a quantitative method of research. However, it is also possible to hold interviews with users about the survey itself in order to add a layer of understand to the results in which users have the ability to express their ideas in more subjective, less structured ways. This kind of evidence feeds into Brophy’s narrative approach. Of course, what it creates is a sequence of narratives which will still need to be gathered together into a coherent structure so that it can be applied to improving a service. In order to truly understand a user-group, one not only needs to create quantitative analysis of their habits and needs, but also to understand why they behave as they do, their motivations and their needs or desires. In order to successfully achieve this, managers need not only to know how to read graphs and charts, but also need to be able to read and understand people. And for this compassion is a quality that all good readers and subsequent narrators retain because it allows them to more fully understand the qualitative aspects to social interactions and systems.

Is ‘managing’ innovation counterintuitive to creativity?

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In ‘Innovation and entrepreneurship in information organisations’, Rowley explicates the term ‘innovation’ in relation to the concepts of entrepreneurship and creativity. He argues that as organisations come under increasing external funding pressure that there is a growing need for greater innovation within the information sector. However, this innovation needs to be managed and processes need to be put in place in order to ensure innovative ideas are effectively utilised. I am not altogether convinced that Rowley’s ideas are adequately thorough in order to ensure a promotion of innovation rather than a suppressing of it.

Rowley describes innovation as ‘a multi-stage process whereby organisations transform ideas into new/improved products, services or processes.’ They can effectively do this by managing these ideas through a controlled process. This process is derived as a kind of entrepreneurship in Rowley’s essay. In order for innovation to be fully realised, he argues that we must recognise that innovation is inherently entrepreneurial. Definitions of entrepreneurship all revolve around taking ideas and turning them into success whether by being creative or utilising creative resources appropriately. Thus, the entrepreneurial process is one of interaction between individuals, their social networks, structures that objectify opportunities, and physical contexts. Entrepreneurship in this sense is explained as a systematic practice of innovation. This concept is then finally related back to creativity as Rowley accepts that all innovation comes from an initial creative design.

However, the one question that Rowley struggles to answer is how to put in place a framework that will allow employees to create the ideas in the first place. He accepts, for example, that innovators do not work well in bureaucracies and that Google’s ideas of allocating 20% of employee’s time to allowing them to be creative is unlikely to work within the public sector. Of course, Google can do this because they are generating their own profits, where most libraries are allocated budgets by their parent organisation who will demand that resources have a quantitative result. Rowley could perhaps have looked at the concept of ‘synergy’ as one way of promoting creativity within organisations in which employees are made feel ‘part’ of the organisation. However, cutting wages, reducing staff and demanding ‘more for less’ is not going to create synergy.

Finally, it is positive that Rowley is encouraging organisations to put in place a framework for managing innovation. On the one hand, the framework in itself may aid in increasing innovation in that it shows staff that new ideas will be developed in a serious and effective manner. Coupling this framework with some kind of rewards programme may well be a solid starting point for fostering an environment, even within a bureaucracy, for more creative ideas to emerge. However, and on the other hand, I am always skeptical of the ideas of controlling creativity because to me it seems counterintuitive. Rowley’s framework proposes to essentially institutionalise ideas so that they can be controlled and channelled towards results. This may well have the opposite effect of discouraging creative thinking in an organisation.

IT = Innovative Management System or Panoptic Hegemonic Control

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Fatat Bouraad, in ‘The Emerging Operations Manager’, puts forward the thesis that the increasing reliance on IT services and IT skills based staff needs a framework in order to develop new methods of management. This is because as IT becomes more prevalent, new methods of observing, evaluating and managing staff also emerges, allowing for shifts in management styles. However, I think it is important to ask whether we are managing staff through IT, or whether IT is becoming a mechanism for a more totalitarian style of management in which the machine allows for an even more strict top down management style?

I recently read an article by Mike Sosteric called ‘Endowing Mediocrity’ in which the author posits that IT in all forms comes from an increasingly prevalent surveillance culture within business, education and social media forms of expression. This surveillance is of course facilitated more easily through the use of IT, but rather than creating a more flat structure, it tends more towards a deceitful panopticism. Sosteric (1999) argues that “Panoptic systems thus function as systems of behavioural and ideational (hegemonic) manipulation and control.” So Bouraad may argue that IT allows for greater efficiency and a tendency towards a flat system, but he also argues for a framework through which this flat system should operate which is somewhat contradictory. There needs to be an understanding that as we move more into the realms of IT based systems, that all of our actions are constantly under surveillance by the hierarchy that we work within.

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Furthermore, modern communication systems were actually designed to create greater control over human targets. I use this language deliberately. Norbert Weiner is the father of modern IT based communication systems. He developed these as a way of controlling military missiles during flight so that they could become more accurate. The endgame was always to gain greater control over the end user/ target. The same system is now used in modern computing. In the ‘know how to be’ stage of regulating new operations management theory, Bouraad argues that employees must remain up to date in order to developed a continued propensity towards innovation. However, innovation rarely comes about within an environment of surveillance. Most companies are either trying to control employees or they are attempting to control the consumer habits of targeted customers. Information industries have been contributing to this manipulation of end user increasingly through the spread of Big Data and internet monitoring. These issues do have serious implications for libraries also as they move more towards digital and online forms of dissemination. We should of course embrace the many benefits that IT give us, but we should never lose sight of where this IT has come from and the negative impact it can have on the personal liberty of our information professionals and the public they serve.

UCD Law LibGuide Review

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The UCD Library Subject Guide for Law is very well laid out and follows the same style and structure as other subject guides making it easy to navigate. The webpage is clearly organised and provides easy access to a Subject Library Specialist whose contact details are posted in an individual text box on the main page. The menu bar also provides access to a range of resources that are available to students, ranging from books, journals, databases, websites, government information, newspapers and statistics. This range of material is more comprehensive than many of the other subject guides on the UCD Library Website. In the individual descriptions of each resource there are some law-specific terms that users from other disciplines may not understand. This is an important distinction because many subjects now have a multi-disciplinary element to them which means it is likely that students from outside the Law Department may need to navigate this particular subject guide. More user-friendly vocabulary would be helpful to such students.

The LibGuide for Law also does not contain the same video guide to using OneSearch that is on other subject guide pages, however, it does provide an external link to more general library user guides. This is disappointing in that a user who is not familiar with library search strategies will have to navigate away from the main subject guide page in order to learn how to use the search engines needed to locate the information and resources that the guide is promoting. This is a feature that could easily be integrated into the current site.

Finally, one element of the guide that I really like is the UCD Law Department Twitter feed which runs at the side of the page. They also compliment this with widgets that link to other social media platforms that they run. Studying a subject is not just about finding information, but is also about contributing to a community of like-minded people. The fact that the Law Department acknowledge and understand this is very encouraging. Advertising these social media platforms also provides more exposure for the department across a much broader range of library users which obviously enhances the profile of the department across the university.

History & Archives UCD Subject Guide Review

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The subject guide for History and Archives certainly has everything students need to get started, but I would say it is aimed more at undergraduate students than postgraduates.

Firstly, the page provides easy access to contact information for the subject specialist. It is positive that this information is clear and inviting for the user. It also contains clear links to the different sources of information available for the subject along the menu bar at the top of the page. The videos on library use and OneSearch are also well placed, as is the OneSearch engine which allows you to perform searches while watching the instructional video. The links to the different kinds of sources do lead to extensive source lists and descriptions, and also links to relevant databases, e-journals and catalogues. The language is simple and clear, and there are additional text boxes with basic explanations of terms like ‘peer-review’ as well as directions to where materials can be found in the library.

However, this guide is mostly designed for new users and most likely undergraduate students. This is apparent because of the basic language used to explain terms that postgraduates should already know. Also, the guide has OneSeach engines on every page. This search engine is not necessarily as helpful for postgraduate students who are performing more specific searches than OneSearch allows for. It is very difficult, for example, to find bibliographic and reference materials for PhD proposals through OneSearch. It would be more helpful for postgraduates if there was another link along the main menu bar specifically for them. This additional page could provide more detailed advanced search guides for different databases and journals. It could also contain an appointment booking form encouraging research students to meet their subject specialist librarian for consultations on finding information within their particular area of interest, which is always a good idea for research students to do.

So, to sum up, the History and Archives Guide is clearly presented with all necessary information for students to get started finding information, and it also contains relevant contain information for the subject specialist librarian. However, the guide needs to be updated with more detailed information for postgraduate students.