There are many ways in which librarians can advance advance and develop their careers, like taking different courses or attending conferences. However, one maybe underutilized method is to improve through writing. Guest writer Siobhán McGuinness shares how writing helped her throughout her career.

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Why writing?

My journey into the Library profession began in 2008 and it has been a long road to where I am now. I came to the profession late in life and struggled to find my feet. However, the encouragement you get from all the established Librarians as you make your way through the masters and into the working world is something I will always be grateful for. They always have your back.

Now that I am one of those established Librarians, I always try to make sure to repay that kindness and encourage and cheer on all the new upcoming Librarians. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to keep writing, lead your own blog or contribute to other Library blogs or a professional journal that no one sees, as you forget very quickly the amount of work you do; be it in your day job or professional development.

Contributing to other library blogs gave me the platform for other librarians to reach out in regard to potential collaborations. This came in the form of me joining the Special Library Association and being approached by a lovely librarian asking if I would be interested in becoming a mentoree with her. This mentorship was crucial to me as it encouraged me and pushed me in a new and exciting direction. This new path led me to apply for the Career advancement award with The Leadership, and Management Development Community of the SLA, which I went on to win and gain an enormous opportunity to attend the 2015 SLA conference in Philadelphia. I had already become part of the #uklibchat team on Twitter, and anyone will know how good Twitter is for your professional development. If you can’t attend conferences you can watch the live tweets or follow back on the Hashtags.

Writing gave me confidence, it let me find my voice and in finding that voice, I learned to express my views and interests to others and take a deep dive into presenting at conferences. While working my way into employment my writing experience has contributed to successful collaborations with library professionals.

Following on, it allowed me to be confident in an interview, to hold my ground, and instill in the panel that I was the perfect person for that post, however it didn’t always go to plan.

Resilience is only built if you can work on it, and rejection does not mean failure. However, to become better at what you do, it is important to focus on the right things that keep you going. Writing how you feel, the questions you were asked, and the feedback you received, all help you build on the next interview, the next application form. Being a librarian helps, because we love to learn and we love information, and we have guts. We know what we want and we go get it. Yes, life does get in the way, yet I am a firm believer that what is for you won’t pass you.

My advice is if you are struggling, take a moment and own it, rejection is difficult, especially if it keeps happening, I nearly (very nearly) gave up, but once you express these feelings, either all the librarians will pick you up or your family or friends will, or maybe you might surprise yourself and do it. The way I got through it was to write, write, write. Keep those connections, keep in the know, you might be sitting on the outer circle looking in but you belong in the center. Once you know in your heart you belong somewhere you will do anything to get there.

All of this leads me to today, I hope to progress further in my career and that means learning every day, taking all the opportunities that come my way… My next big task is (was) to be the team leader for the registration/information desk at Dublin’s Convention Centre in July for IFLA WLIC 2022. I am in huge debt to the profession; the belief they have in you sometimes makes you sit up and pay attention and tell yourself; I am willing, I am able, I can do this. It makes me play Beyonce on loud and yes sometimes I think I can run the (library) world.

Find a topic you are passionate about within the profession, and build on it through writing for blogs, articles, or presenting it at conferences. Lots of opportunities and collaborations happen only if we put our name and work out there. Think about the training you take part in, reflect on it and see how you could share that information with the wider profession. Use social media to engage and learn. Using the theme of IFLA WLIC 2022 ”Inspire, Engage, Enable & Connect”

Through writing, you will engage and connect with new people in the profession and you will then enable and inspire others along the way.

We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!

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Siobhan McGuinness

Siobhán McGuinness

Librarian Louth Library Service, based in Drogheda Library, County Louth, Ireland

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