Monday, 9 April 2018

The Unexpected Side of Working in Research Support - CILIP Careers Day

Last week I traveled what is starting to become a familiar route down to London to speak at the CILIP Careers Day. This annual one day event started in 2017 as a way to reach out to those who have been working in the information profession for a while and were looking for a way to take the next step or refresh their career. The sessions included both talks and practical workshops from people working in a variety of different sectors. We also heard about valuable techniques such as networking, reading a job advertisement and how to move on if you are stuck in a career rut.

I was asked to speak about working in research support, an area which is becoming increasingly important in libraries as evidenced by the number of job advertisements that keep cropping up in this area. Librarians sometimes get nervous about the language that is used in these adverts and worry that because they are not experts in areas such as Open Access and Research Data Management that they shouldn't apply for these roles. However, if you actually look at the skills that are being asked for then hopefully it should become apparent that librarians know a lot about this area already:
  • We are used to dealing with and describing data in order to open it up to a wider audience
  • Librarians tend to be very adaptable and good and problem solving - ideal for dealing with publishers who change their policies (and consequently your department workflows) at a moments notice
  • We know about different methods of publishing and the differences between them - for example that journals often appear in print/online faster than books. This is the kind of advice we can pass on to our users
  • We are accustomed to explaining sometimes complex procedures and rules to our users in a way that makes sense to them which comes in handy when trying to explain various Open Access policies!
The point that I (hopefully) made on the day was that librarians often expect to be baffled by research support roles but once they start digging a bit deeper then they realise that they know more than they think. As with any librarian role the subject knowledge can be learnt, it is much harder to be the sort of person who has the aptitude to work in research support but I think librarians have all of the necessary traits already.

Every day working in research support is different, even if the tasks can sometimes seem a little bit routine. In my own department there is always something to make the day go faster - like the time that someone uploaded multiple images of penguin guano as the data supporting their publication, the day my office crashed the Cambridge University server by publishing Dr Stephen Hawking's thesis or the fact that I have a Krispy Kreme loyalty card for work purposes! 

As well as getting to meet a great bunch of people (and hopefully not putting them off a career in research support!) I learnt a lot from the other sessions. I've always been a bit nervous of networking but the excellent session by Jo Wood and Michael Jones helped to boost my confidence so will probably be my top takeaway.

For those interested in either working in research support or what colour penguin guano is, my slides are available below:

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