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Meet the Shortlist – SarahLouise McDonald

The Scotland's Library & Information Professional of the Year Award logo, with a gold background and an open book, reading 'Shortlist - SarahLouise McDonald'.

SarahLouise McDonald, Academic Support Librarian at the University of Edinburgh

Our award judges admired SarahLouise’s outstanding commitment to the profession, highlighting her work on Open Educational Resources, accessibility, EDI and libguides. Her enthusiasm for professional advocacy was also commended, with the judges noting her dedication to representing our sector at a very high level.

In the past year, SarahLouise has written and published an article for the British and Irish Association of Law Libraries (BIALL) publication, Legal Information Management, in a special issue featuring law libraries from Scotland. Her article touched on the proud history of her library, the difficult times of the pandemic and the concerns they have faced with the swift move to ebooks in a challenging publisher landscape. SarahLouise was especially pleased to have been able to make this Open Access, only the second article ever to be published OA in the history of the journal. She has also written a forthcoming paper on the lack of diversity of reading lists in foundation level undergraduate Scots Law courses, which she hopes will provide data for HE library workers who wish to begin conversations with academics about awareness of bias and necessary changes in traditionally print-based courses. She is the current convenor of the Scottish Law Librarians Group and during the last eighteen months has spearheaded their move to a new website, including an entire rebranding exercise which affected their site, blog, social media and newsletter, and influenced huge administrative changes in procedures behind the scenes. SarahLouise was also responsible for the swift move to online events during the pandemic and the launch of a new lecture series ‘SLLG presents: in conjunction with the Advocates’ Library’. She recently ran a well-received event with colleagues from the National Library of Scotland where they demonstrated relevant databases for law accessible through their e-resources.

SarahLouise led on the creation of a Legal Information module as part of the LibSmart project, designing several Open Educational Resources for this which are freely available to view online. These have been received positively both by staff and students, particularly those working across disciplines, and she is now focusing on writing guidance to encourage more of her team to make the resources they create available as OA or OERs to increase the availability of quality information literacy material for all. SarahLouise leads the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion group in her team and their committee focuses on making sure that the work of the Academic Support Librarian team is compatible with good EDI practices, identifying areas where they can do better and undertaking tangible activities to improve. They are now producing a suite of libguides to help students and staff better understand how topics such as Race and Decolonial Studies, Disability Studies, Gender and LGBTQ+ Studies, and Widening Participation intersect both as academic disciplines and lived experiences for students. SarahLouise also now manages a student intern whose remit is helping with the creation and promotion of these resources. Over the past year, SarahLouise has launched the Academic Support Librarian blog, encouraging her colleagues to post regularly and producing guidance to assist them with the procedures of writing up and consulting with their social media team on posts. The blog’s first 24 posts had almost a thousand views in its first year and SarahLouise has identified next steps to continue to grow their following. She also co-owns and regularly posts on the Law Librarian Blog for law-specific issues and resources.

SarahLouise is a CILIP Professional Registration mentor, and last year she saw her first mentee through to the successful completion of her Chartership. She is also on the SCURL EDI working group as representative for the University of Edinburgh and strongly believes in advocating for the work we do as librarians. She recently spoke at the LILAC 2022 conference on the topic of her LibSmart information literacy course, and will be speaking at the 2022 CILIPS Annual Conference on the support her service offers to dissertation students at the University. SarahLouise recently completed her Postgraduate Certificate of Academic Practice (teaching qualification at HE level) which means she is now a fellow of the Higher Education Authority. She hopes to write a future conference paper on the topic of the importance of reflective CPD and how being good learners makes library professionals better teachers.

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