CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Jenny Foreman, Scottish Government Library

Category: Meet our Members

This blog is part of our Meet our Members series, focusing on different members and their jobs and careers. If you would like to write one, please e mail us at

I’m Jenny Foreman and I’m Head Librarian at the Scottish Government Library which provides a wide range of library services to 7,000 civil servants in Scotland.  One main remit of our work (outlined in the Scottish Government Digital Strategy ) is to help our colleagues develop their digital and information skills, so we offer a range of courses on digital and searching skills, research and keeping up to date. In addition, we provide training (10 Things) to the wider public sector. We also deliver literature searches/background reports and source information for our policy makers using a range of sources: press cuttings, articles, journals, books, eBooks, newspapers and legislation. We answer enquiries and provide advice on which social media or collaborative tool to use for a variety of work purposes from sharing information via a Knowledge Hub group or a Twitter account to keeping up to date in specific subject area e.g using our Topic newsfeeds .

A typical week for me might include any of the above plus delivering training, suggesting additions to materials, managing contracts (newspapers, journals and copyright licence) as well as approving budget payments for staff costs, library purchases and electronic resources. I attend meetings, meetings and more meetings all with action points from various projects. I also support the Head of Profession for Knowledge Management, answer Freedom of Information enquiries and liaise with external customers and organisations.

I enjoy working as part of a team and like the camaraderie, being able to discuss new work and ideas. Sharing the workload gives me time to focus on future library strategies, ensuring we’re a valued and vital resource, as well as working on projects outwith the Library, such as digital badges and the learning portal. I also try to look after the health and wellbeing of the library team and encourage staff to take up opportunities for training and professional development.

When I started in the Library there were ten librarians, twenty two staff altogether, now we’re six librarians and three support staff. As everywhere, our work load has expanded but there are fewer of us to deliver it. It’s a challenge and requires creativity, good people management and organisational skills from everyone. I try to keep up with the changing trends in technology as it’s essential to my job, but find it challenging to keep up with everything. This year I aim to keep up more with library colleagues, linked data/big data and knowledge management.

I didn’t plan on being a librarian. When I graduated in 1983 with a Russian and German language degree, during a recession, the careers advisor said there weren’t many jobs with my qualifications, so suggested I might possibly find a job at the National Coal Board!  So, I’m very grateful to Gordon Dunsire, my boss when I worked at Napier University Library, for setting me on the librarianship path. I got my diploma in librarianship in 1985 at the University of Strathclyde, incidentally with former CILIPS CEO, lovely Cathy Kearney, our paths crossing years later with our passion for information literacy. Two years ago, I was delighted to establish a student placement scheme between our Library and University of Strathclyde which has proved mutually beneficial.

In the past 30 years I’ve experienced a variety of jobs and worked with many inspiring librarians. I went into special libraries in London, where I had two particularly interesting posts. First at The London Library, as a Russian and German cataloguer, then at The Royal institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, as the Russian research librarian. Working there during the disintegration of the Soviet Union was an intense and rewarding time. The London years were exciting times in general. I joined Women in Libraries, contributed to Wilpower magazine and helped coordinate two women’s conferences. I decided on a career break to have children, moved back to Edinburgh, and later was fortunate to get an assistant librarian post at the Scottish Government Library, then become head librarian.

I work closely and get much support from other government librarians as part of the Scottish Government Librarians’ Forum. CILIPS too has provided me with valuable professional friendships. This has particular resonance with the vibrant work of the Information Literacy Community of Practice (IL CoP) which I co-chair with Cleo Jones along with other equally experienced and committed members. The IL CoP has delivered presentations and workshops on information literacy over many years at CILIPS conferences. We aim to work closely with the CILIP Information Literacy Group and we have a superb representative at both, Jacqueline Geekie.

One of the rewards of being in the library profession for so long is being fortunate to enjoy the support and friendship of colleagues from every sector. So, please do get in touch if you’d like to join the IL CoP or would like to find out more about the Scottish Government Library.