Open book: It's all about the people

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James Molloy

James Molloy reflects on the many different strands of his role as a librarian

An uncle of mine who worked in the public libraries was being interviewed on national radio and was asked that as a librarian I guess you're all about books, and he replied that it was all about people. 

When I started in University College Dublin Library in 2006, I initially worked in Reader Services, a very front facing user focused role. Under a restructuring in 2013 an opportunity came my way to change roles to a College Liaison Librarian, a role that would focus on the teaching and instruction of information literacy skills to students of a designated college within the university.  

The other area involves the relationship management with staff and students of the college and to the wider UCD community. This was a good fit for me, I had dabbled in teaching in previous jobs, however the chance to work directly with people is what most interests me as a librarian.

Teaching

During my college days I did some part time work as a club DJ, it's a tough job, you have to be able to quickly read the room, a record you play one night that fills the floor will empty the same floor with a different crowd.  

You need to adapt and come prepared. Teaching is similar. You can introduce different elements such as game based learning, but you need to be ready to change things up if it doesn’t work with a particular cohort of students. You think on your feet and draw from your experience. You often have a short window of time to inspire, engage and win over a room of people you have never met before. 

The classroom sessions are supported by a blended approach, students get online videos, tutorials, infographics and libguides. Academic teaching librarians can look to the various frameworks of Information Literacy in what we strive to achieve for our students, examples include CILIP, ACRL or ANCIL. The approach you take is then in the hands of the individual.  

At UCD Library we have won both institution wide and national teaching and learning awards, and this recognition from our peers outside the library community demonstrates the value of what we offer in the journey of students who progress through the university. 

Relationship management

Building relationships within a large university campus takes time and patience, you need to weave yourself into the fabric of a school, college and university community. Out of sight does mean out of mind, so being involved in activities across campus really helps. I try to put myself forward for as many campus wide events as possible. This ranges from getting involved with committees, speaking at campus talks and looking for opportunities to reach outside the library world into the wider academic realm.  

Often the informal contact is where this can work best.  For me, having a child in the campus creche led to conversations about the perils of nappy changing with senior members of college staff, a great leveller. Getting outside of my office and being visible is really important.  

We are lucky that UCD has a fantastic woodlands campus, with several lakes where you can sit and enjoy a coffee. I am strategic about this and position myself between the College of Engineering and the main restaurant, that way I get to casually make myself present to staff from the college, and it works, plus I get to enjoy a coffee outdoors. 

My role is to act as the main communication channel between the college and the library, so although I am not solely responsible for collections management or research support, I do need to be kept in the loop on all library activities as much as possible. This is not always an easy task, the larger the university the harder to keep communication channels open and transparent.  

As a team each College Liaison Librarian will represent the library on college committees and then look to inform each other and library management on issues, developments and updates taking place on campus. We also need to channel information from the library back to our colleges. 

Striking the right balance in how and when you communicate is something you learn and will differ across disciplines. Our input into school quality reviews and accreditation panels is where we really get to show our value to the staff and students we support and help cement that long term relationship

But I do love books

Before someone asks me to hand in my librarian badge, don’t get me wrong, I do love books.  I would advocate this job to any library student who loves books, research and working with people. There is also a great opportunity to bring in creative interests to your work through involvement in campus orientation, e-learning, and in your teaching practice.  

You have to wear many different hats and this article will only give you a flavour of the role as there are so many different strands involved. Universities constantly evolve and always have new ideas and new faces which will keep you engaged with the wider world.

James Molloy is a college liaison librarian for engineering and architecture at UCD Library

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