Category Archives: Reflections

Final Reflection

This class was extremely useful to me as it really forced me to become aware of the professional issues relating to library and information careers. Before I started this class I had a vague idea about the kind of issues that were important in LIS such as adapting to new technology and articulating the importance of the services that we provide in the digital age. Now that I have completed this class I have a much clearer view of these issues and many other issues through carrying out class readings and listening to guest speakers. The most interesting part of the learning in this class for me though was the reflections on the readings that we had to write for our blog/e-portfolio. Even more interesting was reading my classmates reflections as this exercise really gave us the opportunity to read many varied reactions to the issues we had been reading about.

The biggest change to my ideas of LIS professions was that I had previously thought that upon graduating from the MLIS I would have gained most of the relevant knowledge regarding LIS professions. I now know that to be a good LIS professional I must constantly keep up to date with new developments and actively seek out new things to learn and new ways to do things! I must also be adaptable and not be reluctant to move out of my comfort zone. In fact from what I’ve learned over the course it is important to always be a bit out of my comfort zone. This way I will always be open to learning new things. I am kind of afraid that once the course is over I will gradually stop all of the good habits I have developed during the class like keeping up to date with my Personal Learning Network and reflecting on the readings I have done. The reflections and such great ways to record your thoughts and are great as reminders of what I have been reading since January. Luckily I came across this blog which encourages LIS professionals to do 23 things for Professional Development. It ran last year and was so successful that round 2 starts next Monday 7th May. I am going to register for this and hopefully this will keep me motivated! Here is the link to the blog

When I registered for this class I kind of expected that we would be learning about issues that affect libraries and maybe looking at some case studies of how libraries have developed in recent times. I was afraid that it would be a class that would not really be relevant until I was actually working in a library and then I might be able to refer to my notes from class for guidance. I was much more pleased with what the class actually turned out to be, which was more about professional development. I felt that the course was really just a starting point to help us to set up an e-portfolio and a PLN and means that I have both of these things which I hope will continue to grow throughout my career. While a lot of my course assignment will hardly ever be looked at again, I hope that what I have produced during this class is just the start of a life long project.

The most useful things that I learned during the class were from the guest speakers. I found it very easy to relate to them as most of them had done the MLIS just like us and all of them explained to us the career path that brought them to their current positions. Most of them had lots of experience in different areas before the jobs they are doing today and noted how this experience although it may have seemed irrelevant at the time, helped them in the long run. This advice has been incredibly useful to me and I have learned that instead of focusing on a particular job role such as becoming a public librarian, I ought to identify the features of that job that appeal to me, such as community engagement and project management and see what other positions will allow me to work in these areas.

Despite learning a lot about the issues relating to LIS careers through readings, talks and class discussions I really feel that I need to get experience working full time in an LIS environment to fully understand these issues and visualise how they affect the profession. My next goal in my professional development is to find a full time internship that will give me the opportunity to become fully integrated into a library team and hopefully this will allow me to keep up to date with LIS issues in a real life setting.



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.

Week 5: Libraries, the environment and the 21st century community centre

Sometimes I think it pointless to plan too much for the future as it doesn’t exist yet and we have absolutely no way of predicting how it will pan out. Listening to the point of view of ecologists, who warn us that we have passed peak oil and have caused irreconcilable damage to the planet, there is little doubt that the future will mean enormous change to the way we live whether we like it or not. In fact the less change that we make now (from small things like recycling and eating less meat to much bigger changes, like changing our whole worldview and the way we perceive the natural world )the more change we will be forced to make in the future. At the moment though, few people are interested in learning about ecology being preoccupied instead with the economy. Too often care for the environment is seen as getting in the way of economic growth. Of course with so many people unemployed, economic growth is all most people are hoping for!

I was therefore interested to see in the 21st Century Libraries reading that one of the drivers of change in our thinking of library buildings and services is environmental sustainability. Not only are libraries excellent examples of the sustainable practise of reuse but they also provide access to quality information regarding environmental issues. But the most important aspect of the library’s role for the future, as far as I can see is its emphasis on community. All of the environmental initiatives that I have seen happen over the years, from community organic gardens to housing and food co-operatives have all been grounded in the concept of community. And if people are going to come together to make positive sustainable change within their community, what better place than the library to do it!

I’ve talked about the changing role of libraries and the potential for change within libraries in previous blogs so I feel that I haven’t got much more to add on the subject although on the other hand I feel that there is too much to say! There are many different points of view regarding the future of libraries and I can see truth in them all. I think the most important things for future LIS professionals to keep in mind will be to keep abreast of current ICT developments, to  constantly look for opportunities for improvement, change and collaboration and to teach library users how to best search for and find quality information.

Week 4: Redesigning the library’s role

There is so much change and uncertainty going on in the LIS world that it can be overwhelming and sometimes disheartening: Many of the main ebook publishers are refusing to allow libraries to loan their books; plenty of libraries are experiencing drastic cuts to their budgets and circulation figures are down in academic libraries. A lot of the news these days is bad news.
But every now and again I’ll come across an article or topic that gets me hopeful and excited about the future of libraries and the last few weeks reading have done just that.

I really liked the reading this week and the concept of designing rather than finding a solution to a problem. I think that for too long libraries have been perceived in the traditional way and the majority of people out there believe that they no longer have a use for a library because they still associate it with solely being about ‘brand book’. In fact a lot of the people I know are actually afraid to visit their public library as they don’t feel welcomed. My own public libraries ‘reference desk’ is not advertised as so, and few patrons realise that the librarian is sitting there to be of help as opposed to sitting there because she is super busy, so they are afraid to bother her. I love the idea of design thinking and can see so many potential small design changes in my local library, such as improved signage and more interactive website features that would make a huge difference to the over all library user experience.

I remember the lecturer in one of the modules I did last semester ‘Leadership and Change Management’ saying that for a business to succeed it needs to constantly reassess it’s goals and to look for opportunities to change even when business seems to be going good because the time will inevitably come when the business will be forced to change. I think that time has definitely come for libraries and by reading about the concept of ‘library 2.0’, which calls for a paradigm shift and urges for transformational change on a deep level, I can see that the LIS community is certainly thinking about these things but what I can’t understand is that few people outside the LIS community are aware of the changing role of libraries. When I told a guy the other day that I was studying library and information studies he thought for a moment and then said ‘I suppose that’d be a nice career if you like reading books and stuff.’!

So I really like the idea of getting out there and observing and interviewing library users and non-library users and trying to come up with designs to best offer them the services they need. Then maybe LIS professionals will be able to work with the community to redesign the library’s role in the community, and people will no longer think that I librarian sits around reading books all day!

Week 3: The Information Use Environment

This week our class readings centred around the Information Use Environment or IUE which Taylor (1991) defines as “the social context or setting within which people live or work”. It was something I had never heard of or thought about before so it was interesting to read, although admittedly a bit challenging and lofty. Taylor notes that our Information Use Environment affects the way that we find and use information and he tries to develop a framework for examining IUE’s. He finds that different groups of people have different approaches to how they find and use information but the one thing they have in common is that they turn to other people for information. I thought this was interesting as it really emphasises the importance of the community – that no matter how much we communicate and find information virtually, people still prefer to interact with other people and it is their preferred method of finding information. So many of the libraries services are becoming virtual from renewing books to asking reference questions – it can all be done on-line and this is becoming more common, I just hope that in the future we don’t move to far away from the people aspect of LIS services as it’s one of the main attractions of the job for me!

The next article on the reading list examined community problem solving in public libraries using Taylor IUE framework. The article focuses on Hartford Public Library and it’s attempts to help solve the problems of the community. The HPL librarians became active members of the community and joined neighbourhood teams meaning that they had to go out and get involved in community affairs instead of just waiting for the community to come to them. This helped them to shed light on the communities information needs by actually being in the problem-solving environment. This approach reminded me of what Carol Maddock said at the NLI talk on social media use -that before the use of social media the NLI were relying on people seeking them out as opposed to being where people already are. This again stresses the importance of community engagement and gives me hope that the future LIS professional will not be a faceless worker behind a computer screen.

The final article we looked at put across a very interesting idea and one that I had heard of before. It proposed a new role for the public librarian – to advise the community on best practise of organising and archiving their digital objects for sharing with the community for the future. It’s a really interesting idea and before starting the MLIS I had never properly thought about how digital photography, email and social networking will affect the historical records of future generations. We are lucky enough to have the National Library and Museums and other memory institutions to protect the vast wealth of artifacts that our ancestors have left us. But unless our digital artifacts are properly organised they will be lost to future generations. The idea of public libraries helping the community to impose order on their digital objects is fantastic and absolutely necessary. The ‘third order of order’ has so many possibilities for how we organise information but unless people actually begin to embrace the third order of order then so much of our local cultural heritage will be lost which would be such a shame.

The articles for this week got me thinking of the LIS professional role in a whole new light and got me feeling nearly positive about the future! Here is a link to a discussion on the future of the public library that I found through This Week in Libraries discussion group. The speaker, Eli Neiburger sees the public library’s future as  a platform for the community to experience unique experiences and to host unique content and place less emphasis on having the ‘hot’new book. He thinks this is the only future of the public library or else witness the slow decline of circulation content. I think this idea ties in nicely with this weeks readings.