ISEW Library 2015 Guest Michelle Bond excited about Finnish Library Services

While we are busy preparing for the new semester, we have time for a guest appearance in Kirjaston Kuukauden kasvo (Librarian of the Month) series. We are pleased to introduce Michelle Bond, a librarian from Liverpool Hope University, UK. She had a chance to spend a week at Helsinki University Library in June, and she’s excited to share her experience.

Tell us a bit about your background: How did you become librarian?

Photo by Michelle Bond
Michelle Bond, a staff exchange librarian from Liverpool

Before I worked in libraries, I spent a lot of time travelling and working overseas, doing lots of different jobs. I returned home from 3 years in Asia, Australia and New Zealand in 2009 and started to think about what I wanted to do next. I considered a few things – like doing a degree in cross-cultural communication, or getting certified to be a project manager. Luckily I attended a meeting at my local library, hosted by a librarian, and realised that being a librarian was a job! I emailed that librarian and got some work experience, which led to me getting a job as a trainee librarian at the University of Leeds and then doing my masters degree in librarianship at the University of Sheffield. The week I finished my degree, I interviewed for my current job at Liverpool Hope University, and got it! I love being a librarian and now I can’t imagine why I considered being a journalist or a project manager.

What are the current tasks and responsibilities in your job?

My job title is Faculty Librarian and I’m the sole librarian supporting the Faculty of Science. My responsibilities include everything to do with the Faculty! So I teach sessions for all courses at all levels, liaise with the departments and Schools, manage the book and subscriptions budgets, attend Faculty and department meetings to advise staff and students on library issues, respond to enquiries, and provide copyright advice to academic staff submitting items to our research repository. In addition, I’m social media lead for the library which includes monitoring our social media channels, creating content and supporting my colleagues in their use of social media. I’m a member of the library’s Communications Group and am also the liaison with our Careers Service. I also undertake ad hoc projects like helping plan induction and Freshers Fair, presenting at external conferences and running user testing of our website. It’s a really varied role with a lot of responsibility.

From the perspective of a Finnish library user, what would be worth knowing of your home university’s library services?

My home university is Liverpool Hope, which is a small university in the north west of England. We have around 5-6,000 students across 3 faculties – Science, Education and Arts & Humanities. The University places a lot of emphasis on personal relationships, and this is reflected in the library – the librarians all work out on the library floor and we get to know students by name over the course of the academic year. I work at the Sheppard-Worlock Library, which is the main library and based at our Hope Park campus. We have another, very small, library at Creative Campus. Our library is has 2 social media accounts – Twitter is @Hope_Library and

Photo by Michelle Bond
Subject Support Point at Liverpool Hope University Library

For Finnish library users, I think it’s worth knowing that libraries are fairly similar all over the world – I don’t think Helsinki University Library users will find much different at our library than theirs (apart from the size!). A couple of things they might find different is that we have Subject Support Points, where our Faculty Librarians sit – they’re out on the library floor so students can drop by and ask questions at any time [I’ve attached a photo of my Subject Support Point]. For in-depth enquiries we book personal library tutorials, where students can sit with us for an hour and go through their information needs. Another useful thing is that we have a scheme in the UK called SCONUL Access which allows any member of our university to go and use libraries at pretty much any other university in the UK. Quite a lot of our users take this opportunity to study in the libraries across the country. We also have quite strong links with the public libraries in Liverpool as we participate in Liverpool Libraries Together. The Central Library is absolutely stunning and worth a visit if you’re ever in Liverpool!

You took part in ISEW Library 2015, international staff exchange programme for library professional and got to spend a week at Helsinki University Library. What were your key learnings from this experience?

I had an incredible time taking part in ISEW Library; I really enjoyed the whole week. The thing I’ll remember most is how much fun I had with an awesome group of people – the week was filled with laughter as well as serious library talk. Since returning home I’ve been in touch with a number of the other participants and am working on an article for our professional body’s magazine with Sarah and Sarah, the other two British librarians.

One of my key takeaways was that librarians have similar issues, no matter where they work. It’s fantastic to be able to share experiences and learn from each others successes and mistakes; it’s what makes this programme so invaluable. I also learned that my view of libraries is very dominated by the English-speaking world, when amazing things are being done in different languages all across Europe. From now on I’ll try and expand my view of the profession and not just look at the usual places for ideas and inspiration.

My final key learning point was that it’s always good to end on a positive note! The envelope of little notes I brought home with me was full of lovely words and made me wonder if I could incorporate something similar into my teaching.

What should we learn from our international staff exchange experience here at Helsinki University Library?

It’s difficult to say what you should learn other than that you should keep running the programme as it was incredibly successful! I’ve told lots of librarians about it since I returned home, so expect a lot more applications from the UK next year.

Seriously, the international staff exchange week is a really useful opportunity to learn about libraries across Europe, meet and keep in touch with other academic librarians. You have an incredible library service with fantastic staff and it’s great you get to show other librarians what you offer.

Any other comments, wishes, thoughts?

Just to say thank you so much again for the week, and for choosing me to take part. I really appreciate how well organised the whole week was, as it allowed us as participants to enjoy our time and learn a lot.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to promote the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Awards, for all your newbie librarians. Winning the award allows you to go to the SLA Annual Conference in North America and meet librarians from all over the world. It also gives you the opportunity to get involved in SLA, which is a fantastic organisation – I became International Relations Chair for Academic Division after the Division co-sponsored my award in 2014. It’s an incredible opportunity for your career that shouldn’t be missed. I’m really happy to answer any questions people have about the award, the Division or SLA itself, so please get in touch.

You can follow Michelle on Twitter

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Michelle’s profile on LinkedIn