Not Museum Pieces
The Developing Role of Archivists and Librarians in Museums.
London Museum Librarians and Archivists Group (LMLAG)
This was a very inspiring and informative conference.
Keynote speech: New Roles New Partnerships, by Andrew McDonald.
The keynote speech discussed the theme of COLLABORATION. Collaboration is closely linked to workforce development. For example IFLA champions professional training and development for GLOBAL CITIZENS rather than different disciplines. This means that a common skill set and vocabulary are needed for all professionals. As a librarian in a museum I can empathise with this viewpoint, and often question a need for a more joined up professional skills set rather than a focus on librarian or curator or archivist.
A brand and purpose will need to be identified before collaboration can be successful. Online opportunities can now offer exciting ways to collaborate.
The second speaker was Gunter Waibel: From Cooperation to Collaborative Transformation.
“The art museum library is a sideshow, a sideshow that serves to bring out the best of the main attraction.” (Ken Soehner Chief Librarian at the Thomas J Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art 2005)
This quote finally allowed me a context for my place within the museum. Up until this point I had been thinking of myself as an isolated librarian trying to promote MY service. This opened my eyes, I am part of a much larger whole and need to work to enhance the whole experience alongside promoting my services as indispensable to the museum.
The museum librarian has to be efficient and inventive and make sure relevance is recognised in order to survive and flourish. This is especially true for my role now as a few months after the conference I am heavily involved in researching text for a new exhibition and using the libraries resources to enhance this exhibition.
Beyond the Silos of the Lams.
This report shows the collaboration continuum. To collaborate internally you have to depend on others and let others depend on you. To collaborate externally you have to maximise input and reach.
The conference was next treated to presentations about collaborative web technologies from the National Archives and the National Maritime Museum.
The National Archives have set up a wiki- Your Archives. This presentation was very informative on the use of wikis for collaboration. The positives are extra information and an open and collaborative relationship with users. However negatives are the time needed to support the wiki and false information being given. This is an important area to consider as eventually I would like to set up a similar collaborative site for the museum library.
The National Maritime Museum make their images freely available on Flickr The Commons. This provides enhanced access and greater cataloguing knowledge as people can share information.
The National Maritime Museum have a digital strategy. This is best practice and is useful to learn from.
After some presentations about special collections the rest of the conference focussed on answering:
Is Professional Training Meeting our Changing Needs?
A representative from Sue Hill Recruitment stated that there is a gap between courses provided and the skills we actually need. We often need to rely on our own Continuing Professional Development resources.
However: “Diversity and opening up courses should not be a way to cut costs and create a de-skilled, de-professional workforce.” (Andrew Flinn University College London)
After a panel discussion about professional training I reflected on how useful my MSc in Information Studies was and is. Has it helped me practically at work and equipped me with essential skills?
My MSc was a useful and fundamental overview of the profession and most importantly was crucial to me gaining my first and subsequent professional post. However I feel that most essential skills needed have been learnt on the job through day-to-day training, organisational courses and specialist professional courses and conferences.
The MSc was mainly theoretical, the practical aspects with hindsight seem more relevant to working in academic, not public libraries. Skills essential to my work:
I have learnt and am still learning in the work environment.
A more vocational MSc with opportunities to specialise would be an ideal way forward.