Case study

Senior assistant librarian — Louise Frith

Louise's work as a senior assistant librarian involves managing the library's subscriptions to journal and e-journals. Discover her top tips for getting your first library job

How did you get your job?

I originally studied for a degree in ancient history. My first library job was as a graduate trainee library assistant at Manchester Metropolitan University, which gave me a fantastic overview of what it's like to work in libraries. I would advise anyone wanting to be a librarian to get some work experience, whether that's through placements, volunteering, job shadowing or paid entry-level work.

I managed to get this first job in libraries by emphasising how my skills and experiences matched what they were looking for. Subsequently, I studied for the PGDip Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, graduating in 2017. The course is approved by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

I've been very lucky that opportunities have arisen when they have, and I haven't felt afraid to go for roles outside of my comfort zone.

After about a year as a subject librarian, I got my current role. In the interview, I tied together my previous roles and experiences in the library working in various roles, along with the theoretical knowledge I gained from the PGDip, to demonstrate my suitability for the role. I also researched the areas on the job specification that I wasn't experienced in, such as open access (OA).

What's a typical working day like?

I can be dealing with invoices and queries from academics wanting to publish their work open access, checking in print journals when they arrive or supervising the work my team are doing to keep the collection tidy.

Other activities include analysing usage statistics, checking orders and log in details, and cancelling subscriptions. Yesterday I was sorting out signage and displays. Tomorrow I'm teaching a session on fake news!

What do you enjoy most about being an academic librarian?

I love the variety of tasks the job offers, and finding creative solutions to tackling a range of different problems. I also really enjoy teaching students.

What are the challenges?

There's a lot to learn and remember (especially when you first start), and chasing suppliers and publishers can be frustratingly slow. You also have to be prepared to say no sometimes, or else you risk burning out.

How relevant is your degree?

My postgraduate degree gave me the theoretical foundations that I now apply and use in my role. I learnt lots of useful information, from copyright, learning theories (which inform my teaching) and improving the discoverability of resources to management and presentation skills.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I was previously focused on managing print journals. Now, with the prominence of electronic resources, the role covers subscriptions to print and e-journals and also article processing charge (APC) invoices for articles to be published open access.

I would like to continue to progress and am open to opportunities in all areas, from behind the scenes roles to teaching/subject support roles.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

  • Look closely at what the course covers and consider distance learning or taught options to suit your needs.
  • Apply early on for any discounts and bursaries available.
  • Take up placement opportunities to gain practical experience and enhance your CV.

What's your advice for any aspiring academic librarians?

  • Perseverance is key. Don't narrow your search to one sector or type of role too early.
  • Ask for feedback from interviews - it's one of the best ways to improve.
  • Attend events aimed at new professionals. There are several networks across the country (like the NLPN based in the North West), and CILIP host these too. You can also network through Twitter and participate in LibChat on there.

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