CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Alison Footitt, Information Officer, National Autistic Society Scotland

Category: Meet our Members

This blog is part of our Meet Our Members series, focusing on different members and their careers.

My name is Alison Footitt and I am the Information Officer for the Highlands for the National Autistic Society Scotland. I am their most northerly employee and it’s just me in Inverness, but I am part of a work team (who are mainly based in Glasgow) and a team in Inverness in the building where I am based (the building is a multi-agency one of autism professionals). I work very independently which is great, but I have support when it’s needed.

I love my job! Autism is absolutely fascinating, there is always more to learn as I deal with enquiries about autism from parents, carers, and professionals. The service supports families and the issues are so varied. It could be someone wants to ask about strategies to help with a behaviour issue, or understand about diagnosis, or find a local support group. The service covers the whole of Highland so it’s mainly support by email and telephone but I also run monthly training sessions along with a partner charity. I love research so being asked about a new tricky issue is great. I also look after a small library of around 600 books and sensory items and I’m helped with this by a volunteer.

Challenges are the same for me as most people I am sure, never enough time and working within very tight budgets. In Highland geographic challenges are also hard, delivering a service wherever people live. It certainly forces some creativity with service delivery. In 2019 I started organised filming of our training sessions which are now available on YouTube to people across Highland. This was a project involving the third sector, the local Council autism training staff and filming students. We’ve been shortlisted as a team for Innovative Family Support in the forthcoming UK Autism Professionals Awards so that is exciting.

I started my career a long time ago, although inside I feel about 28 years old I did an MSc in Information Science in the late eighties so I am clearly slightly older than I feel. I always loved research and worked in a university library before I did my MSc, and then worked in the information departments of a firm of chartered accountants and a bank. We moved to the Highlands from Sussex in 2005 and love the quality of life here. I have been with the National Autistic Society Scotland for over 6 years, I didn’t know very much about autism before I started but you know us information professionals, we certainly know how to research and find things out so I did a lot of research before my interview and I’ve been doing a lot of learning ever since.

I really value being a member of CILIP, it is difficult for me to attend events but I enjoy reading Information Professional and keeping up to date with issues. I have a great passion for knowledge management, so I’m always really interested in this topic. I also love being kept in touch with libraries generally and especially public libraries to see what is available to people. Our local Highland Library service is amazing.

If anyone is interested in working for a third sector information team, go for it! It won’t be the best paid job in the library world but you’ll get a huge amount of satisfaction from helping people and making a difference.

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