Romey Macdonald, University of Sheffield

Romey MacdonaldInformation Assistant and Library and Information Services Management student at Sheffield, writer, lover of reggae and all things Japanese!

You can follow Romey on Twitter at @RomeyMac


How did you first get into the information and library profession?

On reflection, a career in the information and library profession couldn’t have been a more suitable or more obvious choice, yet somehow it was an accidental discovery rather than a conscious decision. I took a rather winding path into the profession, pursuing first careers in film and television and then teaching, before discovering library work when taking a part-time job as a shelving assistant in a University library whilst studying for my PhD. The minute I started working in the library something clicked, and the more I learnt about the library profession from my colleagues, the more fascinated I became! It was the research and information literacy aspects of my PhD I had been most enjoying, such as preparing my annotated bibliography and literature review, learning how to complete the most effective searches on different databases and compile the most relevant and credible research on a topic, and despite desperately wanting to continue my research, I made the difficult choice to leave my PhD in order to pursue a library related qualification and enter the profession. I was fortunate enough to secure a full-time job in a further education college library, where I am now working, alongside studying for my qualification through distance learning.


What qualifications are you taking?

I began my Library and Information Studies Management distance learning course at the University of Sheffield last September. I couldn’t recommend it enough!


What else are you doing alongside your qualification?

I am currently working full-time at a further education college in Buckinghamshire as an Information Assistant in the Learning Resource Centre.


What does your job involve?

My job is incredibly varied, but incredibly enjoyable too and working with teenagers ensures there’s never a dull day! The library is called ‘The Hub’ and offers such a wide range of support services to students such as counselling, careers and university advice and sexual health, alongside library services for both further education and higher education students, so working on the main desk has enabled me to develop the ability to provide learning support, library and IT support, and when needed, emotional support too! The library hasn’t been run by qualified library staff for quite some time due to financial cuts, so it’s been a very different experience from working in a well-oiled academic library at the University, but this makes for a fantastic and rewarding challenge in helping both the library and the students fulfil their potential.

We have just had Heritage Cirqa installed, and are cataloguing like crazy to get all our books on the OPAC, and to get the library management system up and running, so that’s been a fantastic learning curve too! The bonus of working in a smaller library is being able to implement changes easier and to make and see the difference, and with only one or two members of staff manning the library at a time I have had a real hands-on experience of all aspects of librarianship.


Can you describe a “typical week”?

A typical week can be so varied, but would mostly involve a mixture of managing enquiries on the front desk and helping staff and students source and find information, ensuring the library environment and equipment is in good order, and cataloguing whenever there is a spare minute.

Other tasks include managing room bookings, laptop bookings and basic IT issues, ordering new books, helping students with UCAS applications and personal statements, adding posts to Moodle and promoting college services to students. We are also responsible for giving out late cards to the students when they are late to their lesson, which as you can imagine, is fairly frequent- and I have had the opportunity to hear some of the best and most obscure excuses! Alongside daily tasks, there are often ongoing projects I may be working on such as promoting university open days, updating the fiction section, and developing and promoting information literacy resources.


What advice would you give to anyone starting their studies?

My advice would be from a distance learners perspective- and would mostly centre around learning to become very disciplined with time. Fortunately I’m on the right side of my twenties to not mind devoting my weekends to essay writing, but it’s really important not to underestimate the impact of studying around full-time work. I don’t say this to scare anyone off, because it is totally achievable, and it can be a hugely positive thing because you’ll learn to become incredibly organised, to appreciate and make the most of your spare time, and it feels like even more of an achievement when you pass an assignment! I’d also really recommend making the most of the free CILIP student membership, and connecting to the library community through social media.


What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professionals?

I would say first and foremost a real passion for the profession and a belief in its value and impact upon education and society. Alongside a personal motivation is the need for flexibility, adaptability, to be committed to continued professional development and learning new skills in a changing environment. Interpersonal communication skills and the ability to listen to and understand a user’s needs are also invaluable, alongside basic IT skills and the ability to develop these skills further and learn to use new systems and software. Depending upon the sector the key skills may also vary, for example, an academic library professional would benefit from an understanding of teaching and learning theory and skills in developing information literacy for staff and students.


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