Christine Strachan, Robert Gordon University

CatherineHiya! I’m Christine and I’m currently working as Senior Library Assistant at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. I’m originally from Aberdeenshire and received my MA (Hons) in English & Scottish Literature from the University of Aberdeen in 2008. Since then I’ve been living and working in both Oxford and London, but I’m hopeful that one day I’ll be able to return to Scotland to take up my dream job as Mobile Librarian on the Mull Mobile Library!

You can follow Christine on Twitter @kiks_86


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

I began working in libraries when I was a student. At first I worked in the Georgina Scott Sutherland Library at the Robert Gordon University, then in the old Queen Mother Library at the University of Aberdeen, where I was a part-time library assistant working evenings and weekends. Although at this time I had no idea I would pursue librarianship as a profession, I absolutely loved the job and the interaction with students. After graduating and relocating to London I found myself gravitating towards library work, and in 2012 decided to apply for the Oxford Libraries Graduate Trainee Scheme. I was lucky enough to be offered a place working in the Bodleian English Faculty Library then in the library of New College, Oxford.


What qualifications are you taking?

I am in my final year of the MSc Information & Library Studies at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. I study as a distance learner, so the course is taken over 3 years instead of 1. At the moment I am working on my dissertation, looking at information seeking behaviour and information literacy amongst first year undergraduate music students. This is due for submission in May, and then with a bit of luck I’ll be able to graduate and move towards Chartership.


What else are you doing alongside your qualification?

In true Christine style, I have been doing another qualification alongside my qualification. In 2013 I started an MA in Music with the Open University and completed this in December 2015. As well as studying for two masters degrees I have been working full-time at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London….someone please give me a holiday!!


What does your job involve?

My position at the Guildhall is Senior Library Assistant and I am in charge of the day to day running of the issue desk. I oversee a team of student library assistants who help cover the desk during term time and I am involved in their recruitment and training. As well as this I have the less fun job of chasing up library defaulters and invoicing them if they fail to return their loans. To counteract the gloom of invoicing I manage the library’s journal subscriptions to ensure that we never miss a tantalising copy of Double Reed News.


Can you describe a “typical week”?

My working week revolves around the issue desk and I spend 4 hours each day sitting at our main enquiry point. This is my favourite part of the job because it means I get to know the students and staff of the School and the enquiry work helps to improve my knowledge of the collection. Wednesdays are my busiest day, as I have to work through reports of users with overdue items and send out invoices to those who have failed to return their library loans. Preparing invoices can be very time consuming, as it involves calculating the cost of replacing the overdue items as well as sending them off for binding and music is surprisingly expensive to replace! Much of my week is also spent managing the student library assistants –keeping them up to speed with issue desk procedures, creating their weekly rota and ensuring that there is always someone to cover the issue desk during opening hours. Although work keeps me busy during the week, I try to set aside an evening or two after work to read and write my dissertation. I think it is important to recognise though, that working can be mentally and physically exhausting, so I don’t put too much pressure on myself to study after a full day of work.


What advice would you give to anyone starting their studies?

As a distance learner, I would definitely recommend the experience of studying part-time. I’ve been able to study and progress in my career simultaneously and have found great benefits in being able to apply the knowledge I’ve gained in my studies to my working life and vice versa. If you are considering distance learning as an option, be prepared to sacrifice things like holidays and weekends off, as these times are when you will have to fit in most of your study. But as I said above, be realistic with your time management. I used to think I could fill every spare moment with study, but it’s just not possible and you need to schedule relaxing time as well as study time.


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

I would say that being flexible and open minded are both important skills for those thinking of entering the profession. The nature of library work is changing quickly, and the more traditional aspects of librarianship are being repurposed to meet the needs of today’s digitally literate users. In addition to this the skills of information professionals are becoming highly sought after beyond the typical library environment. Librarians therefore need to be open minded about using their skills in new ways and be willing to push themselves in unexpected directions.


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