Ruth Jenkins has been awarded a travel bursary by the John Campbell Trust to attend the SLA Conference 2014 in Vancouver. Ruth tells us about the award and her recent move between sectors.

Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the information profession?

Ruth JenkinsAged 16, I started work as a Saturday Assistant at a nearby public library. Although not quite as unusual as the job I was doing before it, this job suited me much better than my previous work selling ice creams at the zoo.

Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of settings, including a School Library Service, Oxford University, where I completed my graduate traineeship, and the University of Reading, where I held my first professional post as Trainee Liaison Librarian until December 2013.  I recently moved into my current role as librarian in a NHS healthcare library.

I first got interested in special libraries during my Masters degree, and was successful in winning a 2012 SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award to attend the SLA annual conference in Chicago. The conference really opened my eyes to the huge variety or roles in the information profession, having met professionals from all number of weird and wonderful services. I’m excited to be attending this year’s conference in Vancouver, with thanks to the John Campbell Trust conference bursary.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of switching sectors?

Changing sectors from a university to healthcare library was a big decision, but one I am glad I made. I was worried the work would be too different, and while it is different the core skills of an information professional are very transferable.

My advice to someone considering it would be;

  • Identify and develop transferable skills, such as management, marketing, or research skills.
  • Talk to people in the sector you want to move into, or read up on the kind of work they get up to. When I was preparing for my interview, I found it useful to read blogs by other healthcare librarians to find out what issues they’re facing, what projects they’re working on, and what excites them.
  • If you’re interested in the job, but are worried you don’t have experience in that area, just apply for it anyway – what’s the worst that can happen?! You never know, you might get an interview, and you might even get the job. And if you don’t get it, at least you’ll have an opportunity to get feedback for next time.

What excites you most about attending the SLA annual conference in Vancouver?

Being new to healthcare libraries, I’m excited to meet international colleagues from medical libraries and attend sessions about this area. The international perspective will be fascinating. The Canadian health care system seems similar to our NHS, but the system in the United States is so different. I think it will be quite enlightening to talk with colleagues and compare notes.

I came back from SLA 2012 excited, enthusiastic, and full of ideas. Having looked at the sessions in the online planner, I’m sure this year will be no different!

What do you enjoy about being an active member of SLA Europe?

As I mentioned earlier, SLA has opened my eyes to the possibilities for information professionals. I’ve found the SLA Europe community to be very welcoming, and particularly so as a new professional; you can chat with someone who is very senior in their organization and they are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

What are your plans for 2014?

2014 will be a big year for me in terms of professional development. As well as the annual SLA Conference in Vancouver, I am attending the LILAC Conference in April, where SLA President Kate Arnold is one of the key note speakers. I will also be submitting my Chartership portfolio to CILIP this year, so fingers crossed that I’m successful. As for personal goals, I hope to do my first outdoor rock climb this year, weather permitting!

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