Rudai 23 / Thing 2: How and why I became a librarian

Thing 2: Writing Your First Blog Post – some thoughts:

Why I became a librarian?

I just love to sit in the library – its quiet and studious atmosphere, the shelves filled with books, people learning and searching for answers.

Even as a child, I was a very frequent library user. I went to the local branch of the public library by bike. On the shelves, had a free selection in the children book section and the audio dramas. At home, I read the books or listened to the drama in bed. And in the summer time, I lay on the gras in the garden surrounded by the rustling of leaves from the trees.

How I became a librarian?

After school, I chose to study librarianship at the University of Applied Sciences, It provided me with a clear direction of the field of occupation and a picture of the future work place. However, I liked reading about new findings as well as academic research and writing. I was also very interested in the area of user instruction and information literacy. While working in a university library, I started and finished my dissertation. Being a librarian and an academic library user enabled me to develop a very user-centered view on operating processes in the background as well as library services for the user. In addition, my master degree helped me to gain a deeper understanding and taking a view from the business perspective on library operations.

I have also been thinking about role models who inspired my choice of occupation. Over the course of time, I met colleagues that I found inspiring in their approaches, attitudes and ideas. I also met a few librarians who assumed the role of a mentor or as peer counsellor both within and outside the library profession.

What I love about my job?

My favourite part about being a librarian is making sure the library collection provides the needed information as well as helping users find what they are looking for – books, articles, data – and enabling them to use effective strategies for their future searches.

I have been working in libraries for more than 10 years. The aspects that keep the job interesting are: the interaction with the user, the continious advancement of metadata and fulltext availability and access, the exchange with colleagues and other libraries, the changing needs of our users – and in general the diversity of tasks (just check out the post “What librarians do” by Voices for the Library – many of the aspects also apply to academic libraries) and the flexibility of the daily routine.

Rudai 23 / Thing 1: Blogging

Task 1: Blogging

I chose WordPress a few years back. It is very easy to use and so far, I have not had to use a part you have to pay for. As I am also using WordPress for the internal communication blog at work, I am going to stick with the WordPress platform.

  • I revisited the customize section, thought about changing the appearance and changed from the Coraline theme to the Twenty Fourteen theme – love that you can randomize the header images and uploaded some of my pictures. However, it might kill the recognition factor.
  • I updated the pages About me, Publications and Presentations.
  • At the end, I was a little bit disappointed that there are no Plug-ins at all with the free WordPress.com blog page.

I also checked out the Bloggers That Rock Pinterest board and came across some known and some interesting new weblogs:

cpd23: Thing 23 – Reflection & what next?

The final thing: Thing 23!

Reflecting on the programme
I’ve never done a professional development programme entirely online before. I liked about cpd23: doing it in my own time and at my own pace, reading the concise introductory posts and browsing through the participants blogs, getting to know a few selected tools of the web 2.0, the concrete examples for applying these tools for personal (professional) continuing development activities and planning. Challenges have been finding the time to explore each Thing thouroughly, facing to engage more deeply with Things for which I could not see a practical application at the first glance or just playing around. However, while taking part in this course, my radar for all things mentioned has been very sensitive so I discovered some things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise (i.e. infographics, Wordle, Doodle). I have missed the mentioning of learning tools, i.e. for mindmapping and memorizing, like Webspiration and Mindpicnic.de). All in all, I have found it a valuable experience.
In 6 words: Explore, communicate, select, reflect, apply, teach.

What’s next
The challenge for me will be to actually transfer some of the new tools into my daily working and private life. What the cpd23 programme has really drummed into me is the value of reflective practice, something I plan to do on a regular basis from now on. Putting together a comprehensive SWOT analysis (thanks to Laura Wilkinson for mentioning the tool) as well as tailoring my professional development plan and portfolio will supplement my to-do-list for 2012.
The next step: Passing on some of the things and tools learned to students and staff in the context of my library’s Research Day.


Photo: Bürgerpark, Bremen, November 2011. (c) Sabine Rauchmann

cpd23: Thing 22 – Volunteering

Thing 22 is discussing working for free to gain experience. According to the blog post, benefits of volunteering are:

  • Demonstrate transferable skills and experience
  • Increase your confidence
  • Extend your professional network and broaden your knowledge of other sectors
  • Get a foot in the door

I have little experience of voluntary work in the library and information sector (excluding internships), as I have been fortunate to have worked full time throughout my career. I have volunteered to run an English for librarians workshop for colleagues in the Bremen public library and an internet literacy workshop for colleagues in Bremen libraries. I am actively involved in the Bremen librarians’ regular table (BreBiStaT). However, I have not yet volunteered conciously and target-oriented for acquiring new skills or experiences, i.e. in a different library sector. For me, volunteering is no option at the moment as I am working towards a master degree in a distance education program. However, the Freiwilligen-Agentur Bremen will definitely be a point to start for looking of volunteer work in two years. I will also keep volunteering in mind when planning the next steps in my professional career.

In Bremen, the university library as well as the public library are supported by friends of the library (Freundeskreis, Freunde der Stadtbibliothek). As far as I am aware there is no official volunteer work in both libraries.

Considering the latest developments in the UK, there has been a very lively discussion of the topic in cpd23 posts, i.e. the overview by Ed Osborne. Taking on volunteers is a balancing act: “I’m determined not to use the post to compensate for our vacant library assistant posts, but at the same time need to find something that will be useful to our users and rewarding to the volunteer” (Claire Charnley).
Volunteering has also been a focus of the German library association BIB. In its statement, presented to the public at the Bibliothekartag in Berlin in June 2011, the association welcomes volunteers as supporters for additional services: “Der Berufsverband Information Bibliothek e.V. (BIB) begrüßt das ehrenamtliche Engagement in Bibliotheken ausschließlich dann, wenn damit zusätzliche Angebote ermöglicht werden und die Stärkung der hauptamtlich und qualifiziert betriebenen Bibliothek Ziel und Anliegen ist” (Bibliotheken haben einen öffentlichen Auftrag: qualifizierte Bibliotheksarbeit erfordert qualifiziertes Personal – Leitlinien zur Freiwilligenarbeit in kommunalen Bibliotheken, 2011).

For me, volunteering should not be not only about the work, but first and foremost about meeting new people with the same interests, different backgrounds and experiences. From my point of view, volunteering is also a two-way process – volunteers receive training and provide support and time in return.

Further reading on volunteering in German libraries:


Photo: Maligne Lake, Canada, September 2011. (c) Sabine Rauchmann.

cpd23: Thing 21 – Promoting yourself

Thing 21 is about “how to promote all the hard work we do and the abilities and skills we have acquired in our career and life so far.”

Part 1: Identifying your strengths; capitalising on your interests
I have been thinking about my strengths and weaknesses a lot in the last few months, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of posting all my thoughts on a public blog. I am surprised, however, about the amount of things I have done and how many activities have been target-oriented.

Part 2: Applying for a job
Even if I am not looking for outside opportunities at the moment, putting together interests, strengths and skills achieved and acquired so far as well as reflecting on my skills and experiences is relevant for developing the role and myself within my current job. I really like the idea of a CV database including all the training and conferences I’ve attended, so I will certainly get on to it.
For everybody who is unsure if she/he should apply for a job: I was told that it is worth applying as long as you meet at least a third of the given requirements.

Part 3: Interviews
In my experience, you will be successful in job interviews when you pay attention to the questions and answer those concisely and authenticly. It is helpful when you can create a positive relation on a more personal level to the interviewers and come across as enthusiastic person. In the end, the interview is about getting to know you as a person, so be personable – with the invitation, you can already be sure you are fitting the formal requirements. Some more tips by fellow cpd23 participants that I find very helpful:

  • “It’s not you, it’s them” […] It’s all to do with how different people perceive you, and if you don’t fit with what they are looking for, or they don’t ‘get’ you, do you really want to be working for them? (Laura Steel)
  • “Be honest and true to yourself and personality.” (infopromom)
  • “If you have an interview, take the time to evaluate it after the fact.” (infopromom)
  • “Go with your gut.” (Daniel)
  • “[…] you need to make the research personal to you and the job – so instead of reeling off stats about how many students the university has, I could perhaps talk about the student demographics and how these will affect the service I will work for (in terms of information we will provide and types of enquiries).” (Michelle)
  • “My second tip is to remember that if you’re at a job interview, it should be a two-way process. You should interview the prospective employer too, to check that you’ll be happy there, that the job really does match up to the description, and that you like the people you’ll be working with. […] It’s your chance to check them out too!” (Lost and found)
  • “[…] never answer a question that you have not properly understood, always ask for clarification!” (Erin)
  • “From looking at the last post I did I have to say one of the biggest tips I have learnt is to put yourself foward and believe in yourself. If you don’t think you can do something you aren’t going to persuade a panel that you can at an interview.” (Kelly-Anne)
  • “Whilst I’ve prepared for them (listed my strengths, read and analysed my skills against the job spec, researched the organisation and thought about the questions I might be asked), I’ve never really rehearsed my answers to the questions I knew I’d be asked.” (Liza Moore)

Apart from the further reading provided in the cpd23 blog post (Ned Potter’s What’s the key to a good interview, Guardienne of the Tomes’ Jobseeker Tips, Open Cover letters), I came across the ingrographic “Western Civilization’s Historical Guide to The Job Search” by Colin Dobrin. More serious resources in German are the Karrierebibel.de and Die Zeit’s Karriere and Job category and newsletter.


Photo: Bridal Veils, B.C., Canada, September 2011. (c) Sabine Rauchmann.

cpd23: Thing 20 – Roots & Routes

Thing 20 asked the participants to write about their library roots and how they got into libraries for The Library Routes Project.

The roots or: why I became a librarian

  • I like books and I love to read (I know, it is a cliché and most of my fellow students gave the same reason). I have always been a library user for as long as I can remember.
  • I embrace the quiet and studious atmosphere of the library.
  • I want to work in contact with people providing assistance, support and researching information.

In the Easter holidays a few years before finishing school, I completed an internship at the Department for Children and Youth Books at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – my first encounter with a research library.

The routes, or: how I became a librarian
I completed a four-year diploma in librarianship at the Faculty of Information Sciences at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (diploma thesis). The programme required three internships in various libraries and information institutions. I took the opportunity to get a look behind the scences of different special libraries in Berlin. As student assistant, I was retro-cataloguing books at the library of the Wissenschaftsparkt Albert Einstein in Potsdam. My first encounters with an academic library and its operation and services (apart from using the library of my university) was an internship at the Music Library at Trinity College Library and at Alexander Library, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, NJ.

Returning to Germany after 6 months in the U.S., I got my first job as Technical Services librarian at the Information Resource Center at Jacobs University. Asked by the library director to fill-in for a few months, it has been a great opportunity for starting for my professional career and turned into a permanent position, providing me with a very comprehensive background knowledge about cataloguing, publishers, electronic resources, licences and consortia.
However, I always wanted to be in closer contact to the library users. That is why I changed jobs and applied for my current position as deputy librarian in the Branch Library for Engineering and Social Sciences at the Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek Bremen. I am a liaison librarian, responsible for the collection development in various subject areas as well as information literacy instruction for several bachelor and master degree programmes. So far, I have been lucky, being in the right place at the right time.

While working, I finished a doctoral dissertation at the Berlin School of Library and Information Science at Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin in 2010. Currently, I am working towards a MSc in Management via a distance learning course at Fernuniversität in Hagen. I am looking at areas of business administration and management that are completely new to me and hopefully this qualification will open up doors in the future.

Having a look at The Library Routes Project
I enjoyed reading about other peoples’ career starts and paths. It looks that most people just fell into the profession and didn’t set out to be a librarian in the first place – unlike me. In addition, the project demonstrates the variety of job titles and tasks in the library field. I am surprised about the number of career changer from completely other subject areas, from one focus (i.e. cataloguing) to another (i.e. reference) as well as from one library sector to another (i.e. public to special or academic or vice versa – this does not happen very often in Germany). Each described path into library and information work appears to be individually formed. While browsing through a number of posts, I came across two citations that I completely relate to:

“I enjoy every bit and I don’t think there’s any other job that would give me this much variety and all in a building that’s filled with my favourite thing – books.” (Felicity Cross)

“Our profession is so varied and constantly evolving that there is absolutely no chance that what I’m paid to do each day becomes tedious or mind numbingly boring. You can take your career in lots of different directions just by being open to possibilities and transferring skills from one sector to another can be really useful.” (Colette Blair)

A few weeks ago, I also came across the posts by Lauren Smith (“What do public librarians do?“) and Phil Bradley (A library is not…) – both advocacy texts about what librarians do. Two very interesting infographics are “One week in the life of one librarian” by Janie Hermann and “A Librarian’s Worth” by Masters in Education.org.


Photo: Woods near Bremen, October 2011. (c) Sabine Rauchmann.