CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Helen Robinson, Advocates Library

Category: Meet our Members

This is a guest blog by Helen Robinson as part of our focus on our members:

My name is Helen and I am a legal information geek!

I love that it matters whether round or square brackets are used in a law report citation. With such things being important to me you could say that I am in my dream job!

While completing my law degree I came across some information in the careers library about law librarianship (not something I was aware of) and knew that was what I wanted to do.  My first professional post was a really valuable spell in a busy city centre public library, where I realised that I loved the buzz of helping people and working in a frontline role.  This was followed by several years as an enquiry librarian at the Law Society Library in London where I completed their two year legal research training programme. I then returned to Scotland, got a legal geek’s dream job at the Solicitors Legal Information Centre at the Scottish Executive, before becoming the Reader Services Librarian at the Advocates Library.

At the Advocates Library I am responsible for planning and delivering an enquiry and information service to members of the Faculty of Advocates.  As a “legal deposit library”, receiving one copy of every book to do with the law published in the UK, my department also has a responsibility to make this collection available to the general public.  We do this by fulfilling requests from National Library of Scotland (NLS) readers for material in our collection which is then consulted in the NLS Reading Rooms.

I don’t really have a typical day, which is one of the things I love about my job!  As we are a small team (15 members of staff) curating the national law collection and providing a fast paced enquiry service to our members everyone does a bit of multi-tasking.  I am also responsible for our monograph acquisitions, communicating with our members, working as part of the libraries management team to manage and develop the library, training, managing my team, liaising with the NLS on a wide variety of issues and working with colleagues to negotiate and managing a growing range of electronic subscriptions.  On a daily basis I still interact with our members and spend time at the enquiry desk dealing with enquiries and interesting research.

If I had one piece of advice I would say “take opportunities”!  You never know where they might lead and they may offer a chance to develop or gain new skills.  I have recently completed five years as a trustee for CILIPS.  This was a hugely rewarding experience, while also providing an opportunity to develop some of my existing skills in new ways.  Being a charity trustee is a serious, responsible role, perfect for someone like me with a geeky love of scrutiny and detail.  While a trustee I was part of the Staffing and Resources committee looking at everything from accountancy tenders to assessing applications for the Professional Development Fund.  I was also Vice Chair for a year working with the Executive Committee during a period of significant change for the organisation.

For me being a member of CILIP is about something bigger than the day job.  Across our profession we work in many different environments, for different types of organisations, undertaking a wide variety of roles but I think it is the case that there is more that unites us than separates us. CILIP is one of the things that unite us.