Prison Libraries in Ireland

In Ireland, prison libraries are a recognised group within the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) and receive their funding through the Local County Council (Development Plan for Dublin City Public Libraries 2012-16, p. 14). In this context, a prison library is defined as a service ‘provided in partnership with the relevant local authorities. Prison officers have a key role in facilitating the availability of services in the evening and at weekends. The library service tries to reflect the material available in the wider community, including books available in languages other than English, audio books and easy reader materials’ (Irish Prison Library Service, Para. 1). An understanding of this service is essential to how we ascertain the information needs of both the employees and patrons within the prison library service. However, despite the recognition that prison libraries receive from the LAI and the important contribution they make to the prison service, there is a distinct lack of scholarly research concerning the prison library service in Ireland. As a result, there is very little factual data available concerning the operation of prison libraries or how librarians engage with this unique working environment.

International Studies

Research on the Scandinavian Prison System reveals that prisoners generally had lower educational attainments, no significant work experience, reading or learning difficulties and had suffered from some form of substance abuse (Ljodal & Ra, 2011). The Penal Reform Trust UK states that ‘half (51%) of people entering prison were assessed as having literacy skills expected of an 11 year old’ (Prison: The Facts, Bromley Briefings Summer 2016, http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk). The ability to obtain employment post-imprisonment is significantly hindered by low literacy levels. Recent statistics from the UK reveal that unemployment among prisoners directly affected their likelihood of re-offending. See chart below:

Statistics and graphs from the UK on unemployment among prisoners and how it directly affected their likelihood of re-offending. Test reads: Half of prisoners had been in employment the year before custody. People are less likely to reoffend if they had a job before being sent to prison, 65% unemployed and 40% employed. 15% of prisoners were homeless before entering custody. People who were previously homeless have a higher reconviction rate. 79% previously homeless, 47% previously had accomodation. Source Minitry of Justic 2010 Compendium of reoffending statistics. From Prison Reform Trust UK, Summer, 2016: www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk

(Prison Reform Trust UK, Summer, 2016: www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk)

Prison libraries, therefore, play a vital role in promoting prisoners education and learning. Inclusive training programmes and literacy groups have tackled development needs and promoted a positive reading culture. Germany and Scandinavia provide some of the most progressive library services in Europe (Peschers & Patterson, 2011 & Ljodal & Ra, 2011).

Irish Prison Libraries

Recent studies acknowledge that there should be little differences between a ‘public and prison library service’ (Conrad, 2012, p. 414). As previously outlined, Irish prison libraries seek to provide a service similar to that of public libraries (Irish Prison Library Service, Para. 1). One existing challenge within Irish prison libraries is the inadequate level of technological resources available. In 2015, the Cloverhill Visiting Committee stated that despite the ‘wide variety of books… it would be very beneficial to introduce modern technology, that can offer a higher quality of education and a better understanding of learning to prisoners that may have impairments such as deafness and other physical difficulties’ (Report of the Prison Visiting Committee, Cloverhill, 2015, p. 6). The provision of such a service would provide additional supports for prisoners with learning difficulties or those with specific information needs. It is accepted that ‘the internet- is an important resource in modern life… Public libraries provide electronic catalogs and computers for searching the Internet as part of their core services’ (Ljodal & Ra, 2011). However, Irish Prison libraries provide an invaluable service to the prisoner community. In recent years, Prison Visiting Committees acknowledged the diverse range of literature available in the country’s prisons (Reports of the Prison Visiting Committee Mountjoy, 2015; Arbour Hill, 2015; Cloverhill 2015; Wheatfield 2015). In Mountjoy, books were seen as a necessary learning aid for prisoners and these items should made be available as part of the rehabilitation process (Report of Prison Visiting Committee Mountjoy, 2014, p. 8).

Conclusion

To date, there is little research available on Irish prison libraries and prisoners’ information needs. Each prisoner has a unique and individual need or requirement and educational training/work experience in the prison library service would be immense benefit to prisoners during their sentences. Future research could assess the information needs of prisoners and how the library service contributes to the education and training of prisoners Ireland.

References

Bowe, C., (2011) Trends in UK Prison Libraries, Library Trends, 59(3): 427-445. DOI: http://muse.jhu.edu.ucd.idm.oclc.org/article/420680/pdf

Conrad, S. (2012) ‘Collection Development and Circulation Policies in Prison Libraries: An Exploratory Survey of Librarians in US Correctional Institutions’, The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 84 (4), 407-27. Retrieved 21 Sept. 2016, http://www.jstor.org.elib.tcd.ie/stable/pdf/10.1086/667435.pdf

Cramard, O. (2011) ‘The Long Development of Prison Libraries in France’ Library Trends, 59 (3) 544-562. DOI: http://muse.jhu.edu.elib.tcd.ie/article/420687/pdf

Fought, R.L., Gahn, P & Mills, Y., (2014) Promoting the Library

Through the Collection Development Policy: A Case Study, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 11:4, 169-178, DOI: 10.1080/15424065.2014.969031

Hayes, M. & Cassidy, A. (2012) Development Plan for Dublin City Public Libraries 2012-16, 1-54. DOI: https://www.dublincity.ie/sites/default/files/content/RecreationandCulture/libraries/About%20Us/Documents/Development-Plan-for-Dublin-City-Public-Libraries.pdf

Huffman, R.D. (1976) Robert Palmer, Prison Librarian: Guys tell me: “If I couldn’t read, I’d go bugs”, American Libraries, 7 (6), 351-351. DOI: http://www.jstor.org.elib.tcd.ie/stable/pdf/25620717.pdf

Irish Prison Library Service, 2016, http://www.irishprisons.ie/index.php/prisoner-services/library-services/, Retrieved, 27 October 2016.

Johnson, P. (2009), Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management, Chicago: American Library Association.

Lehmann, V. (2011) ‘Challenges and Accomplishments in US Prison Libraries’ Library Trends 59 (3) 490-508. DOI http://muse.jhu.edu.elib.tcd.ie/article/420684/pdf

Ljodal, H.J., & Ra, E., (2011)’Prison Libraries the Scandinavian way: An Overview of the Development and Operation of Prison Library Service’ Library Trends, 59 (3), 473-489. DOI: http://muse.jhu.edu.elib.tcd.ie/article/420683/pdf

Peschers, G., Patterson, A. (2001) ‘Books Open Worlds to People Behind Bars: Library Services in Prison as Exemplified by the Munster Prison Library, Germany’s “Prison Library of the Year 2007”, Library Trends 59 (3) 520-43. DOI: http://muse.jhu.edu.elib.tcd.ie/article/420686/pdf

Reports of the Visiting Committees to Arbour Hill, Cloverhill, Dochas, Mountjoy and Wheatfield, 2014-5. Retrieved 29 Sept. 2016,

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Prison-Visiting-Committee-Annual-Reports-2014

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Prison-Visiting-Committee-Annual-Reports-2015

 

Websites

Irish Prison Library Service: http://www.irishprisons.ie/index.php/prisoner-services/library-services/

Penal Reform Trust Ireland: http://www.iprt.ie/

Renal Reform Trust UK: http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/

About the AuthorPhoto of Anne-Marie McInerney

Anne Marie McInerney is presently studying for a MLIS at UCD 2016-17. She completed a PhD in Modern Irish History entitled ‘Internment of the Anti-Treaty IRA 1922-24’, in Trinity College Dublin in 2015. Anne Marie previously worked as both a researcher and a teaching assistant at Trinity College Dublin. She is presently employed by Dublin City Public Libraries. Her major research interests include the Irish Revolution 1916-1923, penal history, prison reform and civil wars.

Spotlight on John Stearne Medical Library

PC's in the John Stearne medical library.

The John Stearne Medical Library (JSML) is located in the Trinity Centre for Health Sciences on the campus of St. James`s Hospital Dublin. Established in 1973, the JSML was relocated to its current location in 1992. In 2006, the library received extensive refurbishment to create additional space to accommodate both readers and the physical collection held here. Up to 100 readers can currently be accommodated comfortably in the reading room. It is a very open and vibrant physical space finished with wood panelling, and the vaulted glass ceiling allows lots of light to enter into the room. There are also three bookable rooms within the JSML to facilitate students who prefer to study collaboratively and work on group projects.

In term-time, the JSML is open Monday-Friday from 9am-10pm, and on Saturdays from 9.30am-1pm. It is intended to serve as the primary reading room for medical students in the latter yejs2ars of their training, along with occupational, physical and radiation therapy students at all levels, and nursing students. However, all registered students and staff of Trinity College Dublin are entitled to use the Library facilities. It is also used by postgraduate students, researchers and staff of both the Trinity Centre and St. James`s Hospital throughout the year.

The clinical portion of Trinity College’s medical collection are housed at the JSML. This collection includes textbooks and journals relating to the clinical disciplines. In addition, other periodicals and textbooks in fields allied to medicine and surgery – primarily physical, occupational and radiation therapy – are also housed here. The physical collection is divided into two categories. Undergraduate students are entitled to borrow from the SJ collection, while staff and research postgraduates can borrow material from the SJR collection. Patrons can also submit requests to have materials held in offsite storage to be delivered to the library, along with inter-library loan requests.

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Occupational therapy section

The reading room is enabled for wireless internet connection and has a number of live points which allow access to the College Network. There are currently 6 PCs available in the reading room, 1 PC in each group study room, and 1 guest PC to allow students, hospital staff and visiting researcher’s access to the online resources available through Trinity College. The Library subscribes to a wide variety of electronic journals and databases including EMBASE.com, the Cochrane Library, Scopus, Web of Knowledge, PubMed, AMED, CINAHL, BIOSIS and PsycINFO. Furthermore, the library provides access to an assistive technology computer/scanner in group study room 2. This computer is wheelchair accessible and equipped with the latest assistive technology software, including; Zoomtext™, Duxbury™, JAWS™, Kurzweil 1000™/Kurzweil 3000™, Hal™, Lunar™ and Supernova™.

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Group study room

Regarding future developments, we are currently making space in a section of the library by relocating some of the infrequently used or outdated items in the collection to offsite storage. When this section is emptied and the shelving has been removed completely, (subject to funding and permission) we hope to use the space to create additional group study rooms or to house more PC`s.

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Area currently being cleared for repurposing

About the authorPicture of Jesse Waters in front of library shelves.

Jesse Waters is a 2015 graduate of the MLIS at University College Dublin, and also holds an MA in History from Mary Immaculate College. He is currently working as a library-assistant in the John Stearne Medical Library (Trinity College Dublin) on the campus of St. James`s Hospital. Previous to this role, he worked as a library-assistant at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, the James Joyce Library (University College Dublin), and volunteered in the library at Limerick School of Art and Design and the Glucksman Library (University of Limerick).

Register now for #SLIP2017!

Registration for the SLIP Ireland Student Conference 2017 is now open! Head over to our Eventbrite page to register for your free ticket.

The theme this year is “Connecting the Dots: From Study to Practice” and we have a great line-up including presentations and posters from current students and recent graduates, not one but two panel discussions about library school, research and practice, and of course time for tea, coffee & refreshments.

We look forward to welcoming you to Dublin City Library on Saturday 25th, tickets are limited to please book early to avoid disappointment!

Check out our event page on the blog to keep up to date with the conference schedule and read more about our presenters and sponsors.

Image of exterior Pearse street library.

Image credit Dublin City Public Libraries

 

SLIP Student Conference 2017 Guidelines

Image of hand holding a microphone. Text reads: SLIP Student Conference 2017. Connecting The Dots: From Study to Practice

On the 25th of February 2017 SLIP Ireland are delighted to be holding our Second Annual Student Conference. Submissions are now open for current students and graduates of the last three years from any library qualification (UCD, DBS, Ulster University, distance learning). This year we are extending submission to students and graduates of Archival Studies, Archives and Records Management and Digital Humanities.

The theme of the conference is “Connecting The Dots: From Study to Practice”. We are open to a broad interpretation of the theme and welcome presentations on topics including (but not limited to):

  • Comparing the theory and practice of librarianship
  • Management
  • First professional jobs
  • Balancing education and work
  • Networking
  • Presenting
  • Communities of practice
  • Transferable skills
  • Working in non-traditional libraries
  • The job market/emigration

Presentations

  • Should be no more than 10 minutes
  • May have a PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, Prezi of PDF visual presentation format. If you would like to use another format please check with us by emailing conference@slipireland.com

Posters

  • Should be A1 size
  • Professionally printed (at your own expense)
  • For help with designing your poster take a look at this excellent blog post written by Jenny O’Neill for the Library Association of Ireland Career Development Group.

 

Sign up with the submission form here!

Designing Library Spaces

Image of a modern white library. Text reads: designing library spaces.

The “library as space” is a pervasive and attractive theme in the sphere of library and information studies (LIS). In an article (User-Experience Design and Library Spaces: A Pathway to Innovation?) in the Journal of Library Innovation, MacArthur and Graham1 argue for the role of design theory in library planning. Drawing on the work of Donald A. Norman, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, the authors map his user-experience design framework2 onto physical spaces rather than physical objects or products. Norman’s theory is explained very clearly and case studies are presented to illustrate each point.

Norman’s theory is hinged upon the emotional response to objects, or as the authors argue, physical spaces. The visceral level is the immediate response to sensory input and this immediacy is said to be “innate for humans” (McArthur & Graham, 2015, p. 3). The authors discuss successful uses of visceral design in the Queens Library in Far Rockaway New York where a dedicated Teen Library was set up separate to the main library. This space was designed specifically for the target users with services to match, including a $70,000 recording studio and editing suite, forty computers and magazine subscriptions. The teen library pushes the boundary of what is traditionally considered a library as it does not circulate books and has no librarian. It is run by director Kim McNeil Capers, a mental health counselor and the rest of the staff is made up of youth counselors. You can read more about the teen library here3

Image of woman (Kim McNeil Capers) standing smiling in teen library in Far Rockaway New York. Text of quote from Kim: When they come in here, we're going to get them the help they need.

The authors succeed in suggesting a number of jumping off points for exploring visceral designs in libraries. These include considering bringing “the outside in” and “creating visually stunning entry points” as well as more unorthodox design elements, such as different audio environments for various sections of the library and the tactile and olfactory aspects of design (McArthur & Graham, 2015, p. 4).

The emphasis on usability and universal design is welcome and important. As public spaces libraries and librarians have duty to provide accessible services to all patrons beyond what is legally mandated. We have an opportunity when designing these spaces and services to push the boundaries of what accessibility and usability look like for the 21st century. If you want to learn more about accessible design for libraries have a look at the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Access to Libraries for Persons with Disabilities Checklist or Emily Singley’s site, which showcases public and academic libraries that demonstrate exceptional usability. 

While this article does a solid job in introducing the topic of design in libraries, there are certain aspects that are somewhat problematic. Most of the libraries featured are public libraries and little mention is given to other types of libraries. Discussion of how to fund these expensive designs is neglected, which leaves less privileged libraries to the wayside. The authors also seem to support a project run by the Sno-Isle Libraries in Washington State that recruited “Community Ambassadors” to advocate for the library by discussing their positive experiences with the library. The use of unpaid labour is exploitative and the idea of recruiting well-meaning individuals to proselytise in their communities should strike librarians, at the very least, as inappropriate. Cheryl Telford of Sno-isle Libraries said of the ambassadors:

“This is a much warmer, softer role than being perceived as someone who is an agenda-pusher and who overwhelms others using philosophical debate, facts and figures.”  (Telford, 2012)4

The fact is libraries are under-funded and under-supported and it is our duty as librarians to advocate for our libraries. And I don’t think it’s that radical an idea to use evidence to back up our claims.

The article ends with more suggestions on how to engage in reflective practice, including a nice idea to record the oral history of the library. The authors suggest capitalising on emerging social media trends as a way to target specific user groups, which is advice I would take with a very large pinch of salt. Social media for brands is very difficult. When done right it looks very easy but finding the right tone and platforms can be very challenging. Adam Koszary runs the social media for Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and wrote an incredible piece in Medium about his experience5. If you have one library as your Twitter idol, make it the Bodleian. 

Brands using memes can fail spectacularly, here are a few examples (warning NSFW!). So consider making a robust marketing plan incorporating social media that is relevant to your target user group before pulling out all the stops to make a Harlem Shake video.  

Overall, this article is a good introduction to the concept of “library as space” with lots of scope for further research within the examples given. While the article suffers from a narrow focus on public libraries, readers can gain enough of an understanding of the underlying design principles to apply them to other types of library environments. A similar article discussing academic or special libraries would be a welcome follow-up. This article is relevant to students and those who want to learn more about library design. It is freely available in the open access Journal of Library Innovation here


Written by Clare Murnane. When Clare isn’t tweeting for SLIP @SLIPIreland she spends too much time on her other account @Clarebrarian.

If you have an idea for a blog post and want to write about it for SLIP contact clare@slipireland.com


  1. McArthur, J.A. & Graham, V.J. (2015).  User-Experience Design and Library Spaces: A Pathway to Innovation? Journal of Library Innovation 6(2), 1-14. 
  2. Norman, D. A. (2004). Emotional design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  3. Gilbert, K. (2014). What is a library? Retrieved from Narratively: http://narrative.ly/what-is-a-library/ 
  4. Telford, C. (2012). Community ambassador: Sno-Isle Libraries. Retrieved from Urban Libraries Council website: http://www.urbanlibraries.org/community-ambassador-innovation-183.php?page_id=40
  5. Koszary, A. (2016). Social media is stupid and museums should be too. Retrieved from Medium: https://medium.com/@adamkoszary/social-media-is-stupid-and-museums-should-be-too-3d6d9b23e17a#.1b7srtn9c 

Week 3: Job Interviews

This is part three of a three part series on Job Searching. Check out part one Job Searching and part two Applying for Jobs.

image of a woman being interviews by two women, text reads: week 3 job interviews.Congratulations you’ve got an interview! Over the past two weeks we have reviewed looking for and applying for jobs. This week we’re tackling the part that most people are apprehensive about. So we have some of the best advice resources out there to help you along the way.

Be Prepared

Just like you did for your application, research the organisation you’re interviewing with. They will either ask you a direct question about how much you know about them or you can incorporate it into your answer. If they don’t ask you directly, you can show off your due diligence and use relevant information in your answers to other questions.

Prepare answers to common interview questions. Lots of interviews start with being asked to walk your interviewers through your CV, so take some time to prepare a good answer for this. Each point should have a specific example to back it up. Use the STAR method: 

Background image of stars in space. Text reads: STAR Method: Situation: Describe the challenge or situation giving context and relevant background information. Task: What was your role? What was required of you specifically in this project? Action: What did you do? This is the most important part. Describe what you did using “I” statements in some detail. Say why you chose a certain course of action over another. Avoid using jargon. Result: What was the outcome? What did you achieve? What did you learn? Be as specific as you can. slipireland.com

That might sound like quite a lot but remember you can prepare this ahead of time. It’s also a good thing to have in your mind during an interview if you’re asked something unexpected as it helps you to structure your thoughts in a logical manner. Often it’s easier to do things we find difficult when broken down into small, manageable chunks. Come up with STAR examples for each of your previous jobs and for common questions and themes like:

  • Tell me about a time you worked as a team/group/collaboratively?
  • Tell me about a time you experienced conflict at work?
  • Give me an example of a time you succeeded.

Now practice your answers. Out loud. Yes, it might feel embarrassing but it really works. Get together with friends or classmates and practice interviewing each other. If you can’t do that then practice your answers out loud to yourself, you need to hear how they sound and see how you feel speaking the words you’ve written. You could try recording them on your phone and listening back. Careers advice services in universities often have mock-interview services. All of these techniques are designed to make you more comfortable and confident during the real interview. Who cares if you feel a bit silly talking about “a time you had to work to a tight deadline” while alone in your bedroom? It will be worth it when you walk out of that interview happy that you represented yourself in the best possible light. 

The Big Day

Aim to arrive early, but not too early. About ten minutes is fine. If you’re very nervous arrive in plenty of time and find a nearby coffee shop (except if you really are that nervous maybe stick to chamomile tea!). Your interviewers are probably doing interviews all day and arriving 45 minutes early may make them feel pressured (just don’t do what this person does and show up 15 minutes late to “test” your interviewers). If you’re unsure what to wear to your interview err on the side of business/formal. Your interviewers will ask if you have any questions at the end and it’s usually a good idea to ask something. But don’t ask just for the sake of it, it needs to be something you are genuinely curious about.  You could ask to clarify something they mentioned earlier if it wasn’t clear, ask them about a typical day in the role, ask about their jobs or something about the organisation. Once the interview is over make a note of the questions they asked you, you will forget very quickly but it’s good to know so you can practice for the next one.

After everything it is as simple as that. If you’re not successful this time please don’t be too disappointed. It is a very competitive market, so try not to take their hiring decision personally. If you don’t get the job you can ask for feedback on your interview. Sometimes they will refuse, largely due to time constraints. However, often they will provide valuable feedback to you. This isn’t just pointing out your faults, they will point out your strengths too. For example, they may say they were very impressed with your technical skills, when you didn’t realise you were particularly strong in that area. A lot of the time it comes down to just a few minor points, such as more experience or greater familiarity with the organisation. Don’t be too disheartened, getting an interview is such a positive – you are likely in the top 5 – 10% of applicants.

Further Resources

I cannot recommend enough the website Ask A Manager. Alison Green answers reader-submitted questions from a hiring managers point of view. Always entertaining and insightful she has also written a free guide on preparing for interviews.

GradIreland has a wealth of resources about what to expect from job interviews and how to prepare.

If you have a disability and are concerned about applying for jobs, check out the National Disability Authority website for guidance. James Gower describes his experience of job searching as a graduate with a disability in The Guardian.

Note: SLIP has not received sponsorship to promote any of these resources, they are all used and recommended by the SLIP committee. If you have a resource you would like us to take a look at send us an email here, tweet us @SLIPIreland or leave us a message on Facebook.

 

Week 2: Job Applications

This is part two of a three part series on Job Searching. Check out part one Job Searching and part three Preparing for Interviews

image of a person writing on a form on a desk, text reads: week 2 job applications.

Last week we looked at job searching, where to find jobs advertisements and how to find the ones you’re looking for. Now you have found the job advertisements you like you need to actually apply for the position! The first thing to do is make a note of the deadline for applications, including time. Lots of jobs will require your application toFine day, Sunday...No post on Sundays! be in by a certain time e.g. 12 midday on the 6th. If the job requires an application by post be sure to send it in good time. Public sector jobs can require multiple copies of the application form, so make sure to follow the instructions given. It’s also a good idea to save a copy of the job description and requirements, it will probably be removed from the website after the application period expires and it will be helpful to prepare for interview. It may seem obvious but it is easy to overlook these few basic elements and it could be the difference in your application being accepted or not.

Writing your CV

This is the part that will likely take up most of your time. You should tailor your CV specifically for every job you apply for, but to make this easy for yourself you can create a “Master CV” that includes everything. Using this modular system you can easily pull in the relevant parts as you need them. You could also try developing different styles of CV. For instance, if you’re applying for a job that requires a focus on teaching you should highlight the teaching & learning aspects of your work experience. The same previous job could also be relevant for a job as a cataloguer but would need to highlight different aspects of your work. It’s all about making your CV work for you.

When you’re working keep a diary of what you do every week or fortnight and use this information for your  CV. This diary doesn’t have to be long or detailed, just list the activities or projects you worked on and include any new skills you’ve picked up e.g. learned to use the Library Management System, helped to set up new exhibition, dealt with five reference questions at the desk.  It’s amazing how quickly you forget what you’ve been doing and it’s nice to reflect on how much you’ve achieved at work.

Image of infographic, text reads: Tips for writing your CV. 1. Save your CV as “yourname_cv.pdf” to avoid it getting lost along with a pile of others in the recruiter's inbox. 2. Use the vocabulary used in the job description. The person reading your CV may not be in the field and won’t recognise that “decriptive cataloguing” and MARC are the same thing. 3. Proofread your CV! If you’re not confident about your spelling and grammar that’s okay, ask a friend to help, or send SLIP a message on Facebook and we’ll do our best to help out. 4. Avoid using very light colours that are hard to read. It may look great on a screen but your CV will probably be printed. Print off a copy and make sure you can read everything easily. 5. There’s a lot of myths around font choice and CVs. Times New Roman, Helvetica, Calibri - it doesn’t matter so long as it’s legible.

Writing Cover Letters

Your cover letter is where you can go into a bit more detail than is necessary for your CV. It may seem a little uncomfortable to “sell yourself” but try to find a way you are comfortable talking about yourself and your accomplishments. Be authentic to yourself, if you see a job advertised that is your dream job and you’re super excited? Tell them! Find and use your natural voice. Don’t be overly casual, this isn’t Facebook, but you don’t have to be an anonymous drone bee reporting for duty. Practice writing to find your style.

Talk about specific examples of your achievements and always align them with the job requirements from the listing. Use the STAR method (Situation Task Action Result) to structure your writing, we will look at this in more detail in next week’s post.

Most importantly, remember to show why you’re interested in this job and in this organisation. Do your research on them, read their “About  Us” section on their website, familiarise yourself with their governance structure,  look at what projects they are involved in and research them on LinkedIn. However, don’t waffle on and praise them just for the sake of it, only highlight projects that you are genuinely interested in. Insincerity is easy to spot.

Lots of people get hung up on the nitty gritty parts of job applications, like where should the cover letter go? In the body of the email or as an attachment? The answer is simple, follow the instructions given, if there aren’t any then it doesn’t make a difference. However, if you send it as an attachment don’t also write it in the body of the email – don’t make the hiring manager read it twice! Just include a short note in the email specifying the job you’re applying for and attach your CV and cover letter as one document.

Getting Help

There a lots of great services you can (and should!) avail of to get advice on your job applications and interview skills, which we will look at next week. Your college or university will have a Careers Centre, these are available even after you have graduated. Have a look at UCD here or DBS here. GradIreland is a great resource with guides and videos to help you. Get advice from peers, colleagues, mentors and lecturers. If your lecturer has offered to help you with job applications they really mean it! Don’t be afraid, send them an email with a link to the job and ask for some advice. You can also ask us here at SLIP for help, we may not be experts but we’ll do what we can and point you in the direction of people more knowledgeable and experienced.

So, when you have created your CV and written your cover letter pause for a moment before hitting send on that application and make sure you’ve checked off these three things.

Image of infographic of CV Checklist. Text reads: Is all your contact information on your CV & cover letter correct? Are you submitting in the requested file format/sufficient number of hard-copies? Do they request the subject line of the application to include a reference code?

A final word of advice, if you’re still using the email address you set up when you were twelve it may be time to update. Nobody wants to hire backstreetboys_4lyf@hotmail.com. Use your name, don’t use the current year as it will go out of date, well every year!

Check back next week when we’ll be discussing job interviews. 

3 Lessons About Collaboration Learned at CONUL

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 22.50.25

The theme of the CONUL Annual Conference this year was collaboration and it was fascinating to see the breadth of presentations that centred around this one topic. Collaboration means different things to different people and is often heavily influenced by circumstance. It was clear from the speakers at CONUL that collaboration isn’t just the tools we use, it’s a mindset we adopt to help us achieve our goals. So, with that in mind here are three takes on collaboration that were seen at CONUL.

Collaboration is Sharing

Sharing Space

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Space may be vast but it’s also increasingly expensive. Ivy Anderson (Director of Collections at the California Digital Library) gave the first keynote of the conference and spoke about libraries pooling collections to save space, money and to reduce duplication. This is certainly not a new phenomenon and has been going on for decades. She emphasised that the narrative of shared print is not about reducing collections but about collaborating and expanding access to a wider audience through shared repositories or inter-library loans. Later, Michelle Agar (Trinity College Library) introduced the Australian library consortium CAVAL (Cooperative Action by Victorian Academic Libraries). CAVAL provides collaborative storage for print and non-print collections in impressive climate-controlled secure repositories. CAVAL began with CARM1, which reached capacity within ten years. CAVAL have now built CARM2 to store low-use print material1. The topic proved popular with delegates and it will be interesting to see whether a similar shared print repository is established in Ireland.

Sharing Knowledge

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Collaboration is also about sharing knowledge. We can use expertise in our discipline to help others as well as learning from other disciplines. CONUL featured many projects about supporting teaching & learning in new and interesting ways.

Ursula Byrne (UCD) spoke about launching the Irish Poetry Reading Archive, a permanent repository of readings by Irish poets. These videos are now built into the curriculum of the School of English Drama & Film and provide an authentic experience for students studying modern Irish poetry.

Hugh Murphy and Barbara McCormack (Maynooth University) collaborate with the Department of History on a Master’s Degree in Historical Archives. This degree is accredited by the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) and library staff contribute to over half of the modules offered. The ARA Qualification Accreditation Team were impressed with the diversity of the staff of the course, saying they “bring a breadth of skills and experience to the programme which will be of great benefit to the students”.

Elsewhere Maynooth University, librarians are collaborating on the new Critical Skills course for first year undergraduates. Lorna Dodd and Brian McKenzie presented on this course, which has an impressive range of topics and highlighted the intrinsic link to information literacy. This is a fantastic and robust example of collaboration to support student learning in the long-term.

Collaboration is Partnership

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The first plenary began with a brilliant presentation by Siobhán Dunne (DCU) about an ethnographic research project she carried out to investigate the undergraduate research process. This project is a great example of using the library as a lab, echoing Jeffrey Schnapp at the Library Futures Symposium. This project required Siobhán to collaborate with the students to establish a mutually trusting relationship. The collaboration was two-fold, as there is also collaboration with the academic staff to discuss and implement the findings of the study. Among other things, Siobhán spoke about a phenomenon familiar to many students, abject fear of “The Word Count”. The nature of the research enabled Siobhán to assess the students’ abilities and compare her assessment to their own reflections on their skills. You can read more about this project in the New Review of Academic Librarianship here.

Collaborative partnerships are happening at an institutional level too. In the last few years many small colleges have merged with larger institutions including Froebel College, now part of Maynooth University. This merger and the collaboration required to complete it was the subject of Marie Cullen’s prize-winning poster.

Partnerships can also be more unexpected. Elizabeth Kirwan (National Library of Ireland) spoke about how the National Photographic Archive collaborated with photographer Jeanette Lowe and Pearse House Flats to curate and house an exhibition about the local community. This imaginative project engaged a new audience and created a new collaborative online community on the Pearse House Facebook page, where users can share photos and stories of their family and friends. Even though this project began three years ago the facebook page is still active with people interacting regularly. 

Collaboration is Virtual

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One of the things I was struck by most over the course of the two days was when Stephanie Ronan (The Marine Institute) said that the whole committee of Rudaí 23 has never been in the same place and the same time. Collaboration is happening more and more online, often beginning with a tweet! Virtual collaboration, or online collaboration is easier now than ever before with free and easy to use collaborative tools like Google Drive & Docs, Dropbox, instant messaging, Skype etc. But that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging in its own way. Virtual collaboration is often par for the course in University as students move home for the summer or increasingly have to work part-time. Scheduling in-person meetings can be unfeasible so we rely on tools like Whatsapp and Skype. At SLIP we want to collaborate with students in Ireland using an online platform and we are curious about how the future of virtual collaboration will unfold. 


One of the most inspiring moments at CONUL was when Valerie King (UCC) spoke about building the new Creative Zone in the library. Once again referencing Jeffrey Schnapp, the Library as Lab element of the space was an emergent process. The plans for this space were drawn up before funding was available and the delegates loved the positivity of the presentation; “design the library space you want, the money will come”. And it did! I loved the challenge in this message, asking what can you do now? And saying don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen.

If you have an idea for a project you would like to collaborate on why not tell us in the comments or on Twitter using #SLIPIreland. You can also send us a message here.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” George Bernard Shaw

References

  1. Jilovsky, C. The CARM2 print repository: from planning to operations. Library Management Vol. 34 No. 4/5, 2013 p. 281-289. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/01435121311328627
  2. Header image credit http://conference.conul.ie

 

5 Projects from Future Facing Libraries

Last week Trinity College Library hosted the Library Futures Symposium in the Science Gallery. If you missed it you can read a brilliant article in libfocus written by Marie O’Neill (Head of Library Services & Information Services, DBS Library) and check our storify of the #futurelibrary tweets here. Hugh Linehan interviewed Richard Ovendon and Helen Shenton for the Irish Times Off Topic, listen here.

There were so many fantastic projects introduced to us at the symposium, so we’ve rounded up our favourite five to share with you.

“Librarians are the most future-facing community I have ever encountered” – Roly Keating

Roly Keating (Chief Executive of the British Library) spoke about the British Library Sound Archive, which makes available 50,000 of the 3.5 million sounds held in the British Library. The collection is diverse and extensive, ranging from popular and classical music, to accents and sound maps. Here’s a calming recording of the dawn chorus with light rainfall.The project to make these sounds available ran from 2004 -2009 and was funded by JISC.

If you’re interested in getting involved in A/V archiving, have a look at the Archiving Tomorrow conference, which is taking place in the Royal Irish Academy on June 1st & 2nd.

Image of Yewno search for Humanties in a circle showing related concepts connected by lines, including Aristotle, alchemy and Aquinas.

Mike Keller (University Librarian, Stanford University) introduced Yewno a “discovery environment”, a conceptual search engine that provides visualisation or related concepts. Let Mr. Keller himself explain it to you in this video.

Continuing with the theme of data visualisation, Stanford were also involved in ORBIS which is a geosptial network model of the Roman world. Users can reconstruct the time and cost of journeys across the Roman Empire form the slowest mule carts to the fastest horse relays or even the full force of an army on the march.

Image of map from ORBIS showing the trip duration difference for travel from Rome versus travel to Rome.

Orbis has obvious uses for historians and researchers but it would be interesting to see less conventional use of this phenomenal tool. There is possible use with primary school kids or authors of historical fiction (accuracy ftw).

Richard Ovendon (Librarian, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) spoke about the gargantuan task of renovating the Weston library, a multi-million pound project that recived no govenment funding. The renovation was funded entirely through philanthropic donations and partnerships with industry. An inspiring project indeed!

The Centre for Digital Scholarship in the Weston Library was opened in 2015 and in December they held a mini-hackathon for kids celebrating Ada Lovelace. This sold-out event shows the importance and popularity of libraries reaching out into their communities. The library as space was a recurring theme of the Library of the Future symposium.

Three images showing parts of computers.

Jeffrey Schnapp (Founder/faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard) introduced revolutionary projects on the theme of library-as-space, including the Labrary.

Scnapp’s presentation was jam-packed full of innovation. One of the upcoming projects that really stood out was Book a Nook, a digital toolkit enabling the public to book a space in their public library.

Take a look at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab if you want to get inspired and let us know what projects you would like to see in your libraries! How about the Awesome Box? It’s an alternative returns box, if you think the book you just read is awesome then return it via the Awesome Box. The barcode is scanned and the library can share the items tagged as awesome.

So, would you use the Awesome Box? How do you think you incorporate innovation into Irish libraries? Let us know in the comments below or using #slipireland on facebook and twitter.

Image credits: http://corp.yewno.com/   http://orbis.stanford.edu/ and http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley/news/2016/feb-05

If you want something done, ask a busy person

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If you want something done, ask a busy person, or so they say. However, what if that something is pursuing a MSc in Library and Information Management, or any masters degree? Is employment a drain on time and energy or does it focus the mind and improve efficiency as the proverb suggests?

In 2013 Ross et.al. carried out a cross-sectional survey on Australian undergraduates to measure the effects of juggling full-time study with part-time work. Three hypotheses were tested, with the objective of finding associations between paid employment in students and (H1) time spent on studies, (H2) levels of intrinsic motivation and (H3) levels of Information Literacy (IL) self-efficacy.

Initially, this study supported what one may intuitively assume; that working students spend less time outside of the formal schedule on study (13.7 hours per week for working students as opposed to 16.96 for non-working). Troublingly, a significant proportion of all students in this group (24.1% of working and 15.5% of non working students) were reported to spend 5 hours or fewer studying in a setting where 28 hours per week were recommended.

The second hypothesis was also supported. There was a significant difference between the groups in their motivation to gain knowledge for personal satisfaction; their intrinsic motivation. Working students displayed lower levels than their non-working counterparts.

Be that as it may, there was no distinctive difference between working and non-working students in their extrinsic motivation, i.e. desire to develop a career or to achieve status, or in their motivation. (Males showed more apathy compared to females, but no difference was evident between employed and unemployed students).

I would suggest that regardless of the type of motivation, be it career progression or achieving a more in-depth understanding of a subject, the same end goal may be achieved.

This survey measured IL self-efficacy and not actual IL skills. It is well documented in the literature that one’s abilities in IL can be quite significantly over estimated. Keeping this in mind it is unsurprising that there was no difference between working and non-working students in their estimations of their IL.

The third hypothesis tested for this treatise was unsupported:

“Apparently, among non-working students, time spent on their studies significantly improved their IL self-efficacy, but not, it would seem, for working students.” (Ross et al., 2013).

This occurrence is counterintuitive. Working students showed lower levels of intrinsic motivation, and reported equally well in IL self-efficacy. Meanwhile, a strong positive correlation was established between intrinsic motivation and IL self-efficacy!

Although the survey and its results were interesting in its choice of subject, it was somewhat limited in its remit. It is clear that there are many areas of further study to be investigated regarding student achievement, IL and employment. It is also evident that librarians and libraries are perfectly placed to carry out these studies to strive towards student engagement and sense of achievement.

Challenges of combining employment and study are made easier by honing IL skills; revision, reading and assignment work become more enjoyable, less taxing and grades can be improved. I feel that it is essential for librarians to reach out to scholars and tutors within all academic pursuits to champion this message.

Ross, M., Perkins, H., & Bodey, K. (2013). Information literacy self-efficacy: The effect of juggling work and study. Library and Information Science Research, 35279-287. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2013.04.008

Image courtesy of Damir Kotoric at Unsplash

beth

Beth Whitney is an aspiring librarian. She is a part-time MSc Library and Information Management student at DBS. She has worked in the office at a veterinary hospital for the last eight years.

You can follow her @bwhitneybeth