CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Charles Oppenheim, Consultant

Category: Meet our Members

The following is a guest blog post by Charles Oppenheim as part of our focus on sectors.


I am a self-employed consultant, specialising in copyright, data protection, scholarly publishing and licence negotiation, and bibliometrics. I work with librarians, publishers, authors, not-for-profit outfits (including schools and academia) and for profit companies. I work from home (Aberdeen), though I am often out and about giving talks or meeting people. I am also a Visiting Professor at two Universities (City, and Robert Gordon), and am sometimes involved in advising students or giving lectures. Although my work is somewhat solitary, part of my work comes through a company (Naomi Korn Associates), so for that part, I work as part of a team.

I’m lucky enough not to have an “average day”.  Each day is different, though I am often at my desk spending time on drafting or commenting on documents. I use Skype quite a lot. A nice thing about being independent is that I control my own time and take on, or decline, assignments as I see fit. I sometimes do work for no fee at all if it interests me, and the person asking for consultancy has few resources.

I have had quite a complicated job history. I started my professional career in 1970 as an information scientist working for Glaxo (a pharmaceutical company, now part of GSK) in its patents department. Whilst working there, I undertook a Diploma in Information Science at City University and got involved in the then Institute of Information Scientists. I then moved to Plymouth Polytechnic (now University) as an information officer, working in the library.  An important part of that job was giving lectures to students on sources of information and how to search the literature. In 1976, I became a lecturer in information science back at City University, but in 1980, I was headhunted to work in the electronic information industry, spending 12 years, primarily involved with licence negotiations, for Thomson-Reuters, and Elsevier. In 1992, I returned to academia, becoming a Professor (and sometimes Head of Department of Information Science) at Strathclyde, De Montfort and finally Loughborough Universities.  I then took early retirement to start this final stage of my career.

When I was doing my PhD in chemistry in the late 1960s, the thing I enjoyed the most was doing literature searching in the library.  I was spending more and more time in it, voluntarily also helping my fellow PhD students with their searching – so much so that at one stage, my supervisor called me to warn me that I would never get my PhD if I continued to spend so much time in the library.  When it was getting close to the end of my PhD, I spoke to the careers advisory people in my university (Manchester) and said I wanted to have a job just doing literature searching.  The careers advisor replied, “there are no such jobs.  Just become a research chemist – that’s what you are trained for.”  Despite this advice, I applied for jobs by writing on spec to companies saying, “do you employ people just to do literature searching?”  Glaxo responded, interviewed me, and then employed me.  Then, when I did my Diploma in Information Science, I thought, “I can do better than these lecturers”, and so got interested in becoming a lecturer myself.  My move to Plymouth Polytechnic was part of this plan so I could claim I had lecturing experience.

My mixture of careers – as an information officer, an academic, an information industry executive, and a consultant, means I have never got bored with any one aspect of my professional life. Early in my career, I was committed to the Institute of Information Scientists, and ended up as President between 1994 and 1995.  I joined what was the Library Association around 1990. When the two merged into CILIP, naturally I continued my membership; I am now an Honorary Fellow of CILIP.  My professional associations have given me a network of contacts and mentors, as well as useful events and conferences.  I have been heavily involved in some special interest groups as well, such as UKeiG, and the patent and trademark searchers group.

My advice to anyone wanting to follow my sort of career path? Develop your support networks, and be good at spouting BS. I rest my case, m’lud.

Charles Oppenheim