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Feature Post #42: The Former Librarians Project

Our next #uklibchat on Tuesday 5th May 6.30-8.30pm (British Summer Time) is titled:

What the Librarian Did Next:    The open agenda is available

The inspiration for this chat was a link to the blog post about a librarian who now works as an undertaker! Through this we found at more about the Former librarians project and we’re happy to have a feature article from Verity Westgate about the project.

Former Librarians

@formerlibs logo The Former Librarians project came about at the end of 2015 when I made a career change after fifteen years working in libraries, eight of which were as a qualified library professional.  I was not aware of any dialogue around career-changing librarians, but as I talked to others on twitter, I found that my experience was not an isolated one.  The Flash (“Former Librarians Are Seriously Helpful”) project was born.

The project aimed to collect the experiences of qualified librarians who were no longer working in the sector to find out what they did now, why they had made a move and to ascertain if they were still making use of their library skills and practice.

Participants were sought through networking, social media and mentions in both CILIP’s Update and weekly newsletter.  25 individuals agreed to take part, completing a questionnaire about their experiences.  Their answers were then shared on the project blog (www.formerlibrarians.blogspot.com).

Contributors moved into a wide range of roles.  Some of these roles remained closely aligned with the library and information profession, such as content analyst, freelance researcher, information architect, and user experience researcher.  However, other roles were apparently completely unrelated, such as undertaker, events assistant for Sustrans, volunteer foodbank manager and music tutor and education outreach officer.   See below for the full list of transitions.

The most common motivation for leaving the library sector was changes in the job or the organisation.  Personal reasons, including health, family or relocation were also significant as was the availability of roles and redundancy.  However, three participants noted that the arising of an interesting opportunity provided a positive driver for their change.

word cloud

The majority of participants felt that their library skills helped them to gain their new role and all but three identified a range of skills that they used in their new position which they felt that they had brought with them from their career in libraries.   The wordle demonstrates the prevalence of the library skills used mentioned by the participants.

“I see the skills associated with being an information professional as very transferable.  The need to be associated with a “library”, even a virtual one, has gone”.

The responses clearly showed that profession-specific skills were as important as generic skills.  In particular, core information management and research skills were most frequently mentioned.  These skills may be firmly aligned with the LIS sector, but it seems that they are of immense value beyond the sector.  One participant wrote: “I see the skills associated with being an information professional as very transferable.  The need to be associated with a “library”, even a virtual one, has gone”.

Of course, new roles beyond the sector did require the acquisition of new skills and these depended on the specific new role.  Most participants needed to acquire knowledge of their new area, such as the clinical environment or the retail sector.   Other skills depended on the job but included learning new software for transcription or for carrying out surveys and observation, how to write code or use of new technologies, such as for remote support.

“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without working in libraries, gaining skills, experience and confidence”

In general, participants seemed to have valued the time spent in the sector in developing their skills even if they no longer worked in libraries.  One participant concluded: “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without working in libraries, gaining skills, experience and confidence”.   Impressions from this small group of participants suggest that there are many roles beyond the LIS sector which qualified library and information professionals are well suited for.  One participant wrote: “You only need to scan through the list of knowledge, skills and experience I use in my current role to see how aligned it is with library and information work”.

List of participants current and former roles:

Current role

Former Role

Lecturer in medical education Social inclusion librarian
Learning and development manager Librarian in further education
Education Outreach officer Indexer
Application Support Analyst Systems librarian
Events assistant for Sustrans Liaison librarian
Knowledge exchange coordinator for university science department Digital research repository assistant
Information Architect/User experience specialist Archivist/Taxonomy Librarian
Editor, proof-reader, transcriber, localiser. Library Assistant, Acquisitions and Metadata
Development officer at a professional member organisation Support for Learning Manager in FE Learning Resources department
Self-employed editorial project manager and career change coach Digidocs Project Assistant
Disability Team Manager Disability Librarian
Research Coordinator Reader Services Team Leader
Improvement Project Manager Public Library Manager
Learning and Teaching Technologies Manager Reference Librarian
Music Tutor, Volunteer Project Manager for a Foodbank, Volunteer Family Learning Centre Coordinator Community Librarian
Bookshop Manager Deputy Librarian at a private library
Content Analyst Librarian at a University Library
Social Enterprise Project Manager Librarian Consultant
Administrator in Higher Education Assistant Librarian in a university library
University Equality Professional Cataloguer at a university library
UX Researcher Information Specialist at a university library
Partnership Manager Library Assistant in a university library
Continuous Improvement Advisor Information Officer in a specialist library
Independent Undertaker Information Specialist in the voluntary sector
Freelance Researcher Subject Librarian at a university library

Author Profile
Verity Westgate worked at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, from 2005-2015; she is now Research Coordinator at the Kadoorie Centre, part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford.

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About Ka-Ming

Librarian at a University in London and one of the founding members of uklibchat.wordpress.com Find me @agentk23

One comment on “Feature Post #42: The Former Librarians Project

  1. Pingback: #uklibchat 4th April 2017, 18.30-20.30 BST What the Librarian Did Next | #uklibchat

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2017 by in Feature and tagged , , , , .

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