#sheffvista 6 – Research Services Librarian, Dr Beth Hellen

Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.

Job title and company: Research Services Librarian, University of Sheffield

Approximate salary range for your type of role: £25,000 – 30,000


Beth.jpgIn a world of fake news, and politicians trying to supress scientific information for their own agendas, I can’t think of any job I could be doing that would be more important than working to promote open access to research, which is what I do as a Research Services Librarian. Our department used to be split into open access librarians and data management librarians, but we’ve recently all taken up the same title to create a cohesive front in scholarly communications.

My career path is not the usual one librarians tend to take. When I applied for this job, I was an evolutionary geneticist with a PhD and 5 years of postdoctoral experience under my belt, and I didn’t yet have a library qualification. However, the experience I had of the publishing world, and data management, from the side of the researcher was valuable experience that helped me get my foot in the door. I’ve since started an MSc in Digital Library Management, because while it’s possible to get a job like mine without it, almost all library jobs include it as an ‘essential’ criteria.

Many of the skills I picked up as a postdoc (see another blog post from that phase of my career) have been invaluable in my job as a librarian. Something that I do frequently is go to department staff meetings and researcher away days to talk about open access, or give introductory workshops about data management. My experience of teaching, interacting with senior academics, and presenting information in a clear and concise way – skills that most postdocs have – are exactly the skills that help here. Other parts of my job involve working with the White Rose Repository Online – ensuring that articles are submitted correctly, adding further information and discussing any issues that arise with researchers. Again, it’s skills from my time as a researcher that make the difference, including attention to detail and an ability to discuss problems with researchers calmly and clearly.

On a regular day, I’ll get in at 9 and immediately check the repository to see how many articles were submitted the day before. Then I’ll look at the articles that need to be processed, categorise them to help the staff who are going to be processing them (and sometimes this is me), and mark up any that are overdue.

calendar.jpgDuring the day I’ll be likely to have some meetings, sometimes with my team, but often with staff from research and innovation services, or the faculty librarians. I particularly liaise with the science faculty librarians and pass on information to make sure the team knows about relevant developments in that faculty. I usually have to make some time to work on special projects I’m involved with, e.g. a recent project involved a collaboration between the faculty librarians, research and innovation services, and me, working to improve the metadata webpages. What’s left of the day will usually involve dealing with queries that have come to the department email, and processing some of the more tricky articles in the repository.

Moving to a completely new job, but staying working in the same University has been a strange experience. There have been big changes, but other things have stayed remarkably the same. One of the changes that has been the strangest for me is the move from a STEM field, where women were often in the minority, to a workplace that is filled with women, so much so that some librarian jobs particularly ask for men to apply. Academic libraries tend to reflect academic cultures in general, but the library is probably more akin to an arts and humanities department than a STEM one, they are liberal, they have no tolerance for bigotry, and where issues of racisms, sexism or homophobia come up they are dealt with seriously.

14480621_543739038109_7573592410221293929_o.jpgOn leaving my academic path, I was scared that I wouldn’t fit into a service provision department, that I would find the set hours and formal hierarchies restricting, but I have found that this hasn’t been the case. The work is exciting, I care far more about it than I ever did my research and I find the only problem is that it’s no longer considered acceptable to work overtime at the weekends!

Where can researchers look for jobs like yours? www.lisjobnet.com/, jobs.ac.uk or University job webpages

What professional/accrediting bodies, or qualifications are relevant to where you work? While not essential a CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) accredited University course is almost always asked for on job applications. Once in the field CILIP also facilitate professional registration.

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