An interview with Anita Cooper a current Library Management MSc student at DBS – who attended #npdishine14 – we approached Anita to share some thoughts with us on the event itself and her own journey into the profession. Many thanks to Manchester New Library Professionals Network for allowing us to utilise their interview format.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the library and information profession?
I moved from Canada eight years ago to Kildare and had worked most of my life in the investment industry. I had many different roles which gave me the opportunity to collect a wide range of skills from on-the-job-training, internal and external courses, and self-study programs. In 2009, I made the decision to ‘retire’ that career and pursue my dream of becoming a librarian. It is something that has always been at the back of my mind and was confirmed when I met a distant cousin who is a research librarian for a small museum in New York – I thought she had the best job in the world! I am a firm believer in life-long learning and am now making my dream a reality with family and friends to inspire and support me. So I enrolled into Maynooth University to begin my journey towards librarianship.
2. Can you tell us about your route onto your course?
The path was not as smooth as I had initially envisioned it. In 2012, I completed my BA in English and Greek & Roman Civilisation – subjects that I always wanted to explore formally. It certainly made going back to education a better experience because I was studying subjects that were really interesting to me. Next step was choosing my master’s program. Here’s where the roller-coaster began. Do I go to UCD SILS? DBS also has a program. What about archiving or conservation? What is Digital Humanities? After researching all the choices and careful consideration of my interests and other factors such as tuition, transportation, and work experience requirements (of which I had none), two applications were submitted. I had chosen DBS as my first choice and secondly the MA Digital Humanities at Maynooth and was accepted to both. So, I was going to do them both – starting with Digital Humanities. Unfortunately, this did not work out the way I planned but was a valuable learning experience none the less. No worries, I would take my place at DBS next year. Or not – the course was not being offered due to re-accreditation. What to do in the meantime? Answer: I took an evening certificate course (Medieval Irish History and Latin – again more personal interests) and got some work experience at DBS and Maynooth libraries. This worked out great but the roller coaster had not stopped completely. I had to change to a two year part-time degree in the evenings as the full-time course was cancelled. On the positive side, this now gives me the opportunity to find more work experience and attend seminars, conferences, and networking events. So, after two years, I am finally back on track with a little more learning and experience to reflect on.
3. What advice would you give to new library and information professionals who are currently looking to begin studying in the library and information sector?
My advice to future MLIS students – whether you are working in the field already or wish to be – is to find opportunities to learn about what interests and inspires you. Discover your passions! Knowledge for its own sake is good but it is even better when it’s for YOUR sake. Or, if there are subjects/skills that you do not particularly enjoy or understand try to find out something about them that interests you and provides a chance to increase your understanding. The learning experience may affirm, question or change your perspective. More importantly, it will challenge you. Experience the library as a student as often as you can throughout your career to develop personally and professionally, finally learn to enjoy roller coasters!
4. You recently attended the New Professionals Day Ireland: SHINE; what do you see as being the benefits of being in a network and what did you gain from the event?
One great piece of advice I received during my internship at Maynooth – thank you Helen Fallon! – was to join Twitter. This has helped me immensely to develop contacts in the profession as well as getting to know about current issues. Also, this online network is becoming a great source for recent publications and topical insights to consider for any coursework. It was through Twitter that I found out about New Professionals Day Ireland (@NPDIreland) and their networking events. They are a chance to meet online contacts face to face, meet former colleagues, and make new relationships. I attended my first event – SHINE – in October. The posters and presentations are a terrific way to get to know about the diversity of interests within the profession. So, hopefully, all my eclectic knowledge will be appreciated one day when I am accepted to present as a newly qualified professional. I believe in giving back to those who inspire me and paying it forward. But more importantly, the opportunity to talk with other new librarians about their experiences is of immense benefit. Being originally from outside Ireland and completely new to the profession, the chance to develop a supportive network is fantastic. It truly is a sharing community of inspirational professionals which I have been warmly welcomed into.
5. What would you like to see from New Professionals Day Ireland in the future?
More events definitely. Also, NPD Ireland as a promoter of continuous learning and sharing knowledge should consider opening up their events to everyone. We are all ‘new’ professionals in the sense that we are all learning new skills throughout all stages of our careers. We could benefit even more from a wealth of experiences.