CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Liz McGettigan, SOLUS UK

Category: Meet our Members

The following is a guest blog by Liz McGettigan as part of our focus on our members across different sectors.  You can follow Liz on Twitter @lizmcgettigan

Photo of Liz McGettiganMy name is Liz McGettigan and I am a very proud Librarian! I am currently Director of Digital Library Experiences at SOLUS UK. I am also an advisory board member for Internet Librarian International. Previously I was Head of Libraries and Information Services for the City of Edinburgh where I led my team to deliver the Best Library Service UK 2013.

As a team we were creative and innovative and implemented the first ever public Library App now in over 85 UK library authorities. I founded the EDGE Conference to promote and showcase innovation and excellence in libraries and it is still going strong.

What I like most is that there is no such thing as an average day. I spend a lot of my time out and about in meetings often in London, Europe and sometimes much further afield. In the office I spend a lot of time thinking and researching how libraries, our communities and indeed librarians are changing. I also present a fair bit and that takes time and effort.

I am an advocate and champion of libraries and librarians and the role they play and indeed could and should play in future city and community developments.

Librarians are probably one of the most tech-savvy groups of people outside of Silicon Valley. We understand the web and how it works. We’re curious about new tools and like to experiment and being able to adapt to the changing technological landscape is a necessary skill to have these days. Our skills mean we ought to be at the big boys table for example in the Smart City, Analytics, Big Data, Information, literacy and learning agendas.

I’ve been in the library and Information industry for over 30 years and I remember well when the public library’s role was to equalise access to the knowledge, skills and opportunity required for Joe Public to learn, thrive and succeed and the only means to do that was through access to books.

I thrived on my role in seeing that currency move from books to equalising access to the internet and online information. I was hands on in putting the first PCs, internet and online resources into libraries and skilling up our customers.

Fast forward again and now for me the job is innovating and developing new technologies to equalise access and skills around the new and fast developing technologies from apps, social catalogues, 3D printing, coding and circuit making to self-publishing and augmented reality.

I spend a lot of time with library staff and every time I interact with them, I learn so much, I get a better understanding of their changing business needs and match their needs to the current and future SOLUS portfolio and innovative products and services.

Digital isn’t actually a favourite word of mine even though I owe most of my success to this element of my work and career. To me saying that digital is important is a bit of a no brainer. It’s what you do with digital technology to achieve your organization’s goals that makes the difference. Digital must simply be part of the DNA of your library or organization and not a separate function, department, channel or role.

I thrive on innovation and change! I also love that the career I chose has given me the opportunity to work across Europe, Asia, Australia and the US. The huge added bonus is that I now have friends and colleagues based all over the world. I like to keep up with them on social media and in that way I learn about the global work in libraries. It’s exciting to identify gaps in the future library world and work in a team to innovate, learn and develop new technologies that can change the image of libraries and the way they work. I’ve been fortunate to have such a great opportunity to expand my knowledge in the library tech industry.

The People’s Network project sparked my love of digital and how it could shrink the world and expand horizons. I was excited by the fabulous content libraries owned and how we could make it so much more accessible with digital technology. I am still passionate about the public library’s role as an equaliser of opportunities

There is a great team at SOLUS and indeed team members in the US and Australia now. It is essential that we catch up on a weekly basis for project updates and bouncing innovative ideas and plans and digital has made this cross continent dialogue possible and indeed simple.

I have worked a lot in the public sector as mentioned earlier and in software for another commercial company. It’s not that different really – it’s basically the same in that we are all trying to understand our customers, our community and make them passionate, happy and excited about the future.

I have been a very proud member of CILIP for decades, I also served as a trustee of CILIP and am a Past President of CILIPS.

I think the profession is very special and I love being a part of such a vibrant and committed community. The commitment, ethics and sense of equality of the vast majority of my colleagues over the years has never ceased to amaze me.

As a CILIP member I feel CILIP promotes, supports and develops what we all know and do. It helps us build on the valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences we possess and underpins our work supporting people who must come to terms with the power of information in their lives.

Our code of ethics enables us to ensure free and equal access to information, to preserve free speech and democratic ideas. It gives us the passion to want to see people and communities doing better and to connect them more to the world.

I am currently working with a group of new professionals and I urge them to be proud, to step up and speak up! To survive in the current competitive, fast-moving world we need to challenge ourselves to consider other points of view, think differently, and to change fundamentals.

We all have transferable skills in varying degrees. The skills I believe all employers value highly are:

  • Adaptability
  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Patience and
  • Solving problems.

We all possess all of these skills and use them to varying degrees for different situations.

They’re transferable, but they’re not equal and you will be better at some than at others.

These days I ask myself who is going to equalise access to ever developing new technologies for Joe Public if not the public library. For me it’s the same as equalising access to books and the Internet.

We now know how to build makerspaces? What to put into the makerspace…… to inspire our inner geek? We can create a space that is transformational and has the power to inspire its users? Power to create life chances, digitally upskilling people to increase their employability? Or actually just so much fun that kids are happy to put down their tablets and phones for an hour, to come inside and explore?

This is what we must do now and these big changes require massive change and dynamic leadership. Nothing will change unless people want change, so ensure that every initiative to change has a plan to get buy-in from your organization and community including the grass roots.