Monthly Archives: April 2012

Executive Librarian in a Rural Public Library

Click on the image below to see my Day in the Life of an Executive Librarian slideshow. Below is my reflection and bibliography.

If I was given the choice my preferred career path when I graduate from the MLIS would be to work in a public library. Public libraries provide open democratic access to information, support lifelong learning, provide community cultural spaces and are agents of social and cultural inclusion. I spend a lot of time in my local library and think it offers fantastic services for so many age groups so I decided to interview and shadow the Executive Librarian of Birr Public Library for my Day in the Life Project.

While interviewing and shadowing the Executive Librarian of my local public library I realised just how important the public library is for such a wide range of people. The Executive Librarian made every effort to engage the elderly patrons in conversation as she informed me that the library is one of the last services where you can expect such engagement. For many elderly people living alone such interactions may be the only social interactions they may have in the day and a service like this cannot be quantified. The local schools were on midterm break that day so there were lots of parents and children coming in and Martina made sure to talk to them all and make recommendations  for books and dvds they might like. She founded the hugely successful Reading Initiative, in which all local schools participate. Students are held responsible for their own log which is stamped whenever they take out a book. The aim is to read 50 books in the year and the children are given a certificate once it is completed. This encourages the children to interact with the librarian and hopes to foster in them a lifelong love of reading.

Martina informed me that for her the most attractive element of the job is the diversity. In a public library no day is the same and there are numerous opportunities to initiate projects to engage the community. She is personally interested in youth services in particular and has hosted many events for children based on her own personal interests such as science, film and reading. She encourages her team to do the same which brings to the library programs which focus on arts and crafts, genealogy and local history. This opportunity to be creative and to work to include all members of the public greatly appeals to me. With limited budgets though most projects must be carried out with the resources at hand. Maritna informed me that when deciding on collection development there are difficult decisions to be made such as whether to buy in the new popular books or to expand a particular collection. The best way to do this is to get to know the community and what they want.

Martina stressed that the role of Executive Librarian is, like all jobs, what you make it. She said that you must be able to work on your own initiative and to work on projects that you are interested in. This was very useful advice as while it might be some time before I can work in a public library, I can still make an effort in whatever role I end up working in to engage with the community and work with the library community to provide them with the services they want.


  • Branching Out – Future Directions, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, The Stationary Office, Dublin 2008 Available at  (accessed 20/04/2012)
  • Offaly Library Annual Report 2011
  • Public Libraries Overview Available at  (accessed 20/04/2012)
  • Job advertisements for Executive Librarian available at:  and

Elevator pitch

My name is Julie McGuirk. I’m a soon to be graduated MLIS student.

I have developed a range of skills relating to library and information management during various work placements in a variety of libraries as well as through studying the MLIS.

I’d like to find a job that will allow me to further develop my skills such as teamwork, communication skills, IT skills and cataloguing skills. I want to work in a role that allows me to interact with the public and that gives me the opportunity to develop projects on my own initiative. My particular interests are art and crafts, health and well-being information literacy and environmental education in libraries.

Reflection on past semester

Firstly, since starting this class in January I can’t believe how quickly it went! I set up my first wordpress blog for this class and I’m really pleased with how much it has developed over the past 4 months. Looking back over my weekly reflections and those of my classmates, I have a much clearer recollection of the kind of issues we have been discussing than if I had simply been taking notes in class. One of the key things that I’ve learned this semester about LIS professionals is that we have to keep up to date with current issues and trends and I  feel that taking Professional Issues in Information and Library Careers has provided me with all the necessary links and tools to do this on an ongoing basis.  Often during academic study the issues discussed during a module lose a lot of their relevance outside the university walls but on the MLIS most of the subjects I’ve studied have practical relevance in the real world so it makes sense to keep on top of these issues even after the module ends.

When I started this course I had experience working in an academic library, a gallery library and the National Library as well as some experience cataloguing in a small library but my ultimate goal was to work in a public library. I still feel most strongly drawn to working in a public library as I feel it is such an important part of the community, the range of library users is so diverse and interesting and there are opportunities to work on such a wide range of projects. However, any links I read from my Personal Learning Network remind me that it may not be realistic to set my heart on this goal as I could be a long time waiting to find a position. One possibility for me to gain experience in a public library is to find work abroad in Canada or Australia as a library assistant.

Many of the speakers that we had in class over the semester spoke about how their varied work experience helped them find jobs. I was particularly struck by Niamh O’Sullivan who found that her experience working for a newspaper in the US, which she had never thought would be library related, provided her with transferable skills that related to library work when she returned to Ireland. She reminded us that all experience is useful experience and her motto ‘See a need, fill a need.’ is one that every library wishes to do for it’s users.

I was also struck by Katherine McSharry’s talk in which she warned us that if we don’t feel out of our comfort zone in out jobs then something is wrong! This is very true to what has been said in a lot of the readings from this semesters class. LIS professionals must be flexible and constantly seeking out change and therefore should always be a little bit out of their comfort zone. Of course when out of ones comfort zone it helps to at least be familiar with the basics of other professions such as coding and graphic design in order to be able to communicate effectively with such professionals that you might find yourself working with.


This week I decided to show a piece of evidence that demonstrates my teamwork skills. As all of my classmates know the MLIS is very heavily dependant on teamwork and and it is a skill that we can all say we have refined while studying here at UCD.

Before starting the MLIS, I quire honestly did not have all that much experience with teamwork and I remember in a job interview when asked to describe my experiences working with a team the only example I had was planning a society trip, as all of my undergraduate assignments were individual. The next time I’m asked in an interview to talk about my team work skills I’ll have lots of different projects to talk about!

The one that I have decided to show as evidence was a group project that I did last year for my Cataloguing and Classification module. As a group we had to come up with a metadata consultation for an organisation’s library. We decided to do it for ECO UNESCO, where I was volunteering to organise their library. If I had had to organise the library on my own it would have taken a great deal of time, which I didn’t have, but as part of a team the task became a lot more manageable. I think that we worked very well as a team and although we divided up the different parts of the consultation we made sure to meet regularly in order to keep each other up to date with our progress. We never actually got around to implementing the proposed metadata schema, however we felt confidant that it would be a workable solution to organise the ECO UNESCO library and may be something I will work on again in the future.

Organisation of Information Group Project Final