What do I do? - Jo Alcock Consulting
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What do I do?

What do I do?

I get asked this question a lot, and I often struggle to answer it. My job is pretty unique so there’s not really much to easily compare it to. I’m part of an academic library but rarely set foot into the library. I have an office on a University campus but don’t visit it very often as I regularly work from home or on the go (the train is a favourite of mine!). My job title is Evidence Based Researcher; if you asked me I would probably tell you I’m an academic researcher/librarian, but my partner would probably say he wasn’t really sure how to describe it but I’m a sort of information consultant. So what do I actually do?

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) have organised an Alternative Careers webinar to help introduce some of the more alternative jobs out there in the information profession. Bethan Ruddock, who is the webinar host, asked me if I’d be able to answer some questions about my job to help her research for the webinar (Bethan also has a pretty unique job but wants to get some other examples to share). I was happy to oblige and am reproducing what I sent her. So if you’re not sure what I actually do, this might give you more of an idea…

Whats your job?

Evidence Based Researcher at Evidence Base, Birmingham City University.

What does it involve?

Research, evaluation and consultancy for library and information services. Our work is solely project based so it varies depending on the projects I’m working on. At the moment our main projects are:

  • Journal Usage Statistics Portal (where we are working with libraries to get feedback via surveys, interviews and case studies to feed into future development of the service)
  • JISC m-libraries support project (where we are gathering existing evidence of work using mobile devices in libraries to share across the sector to reduce duplication of effort, and building a community to support development in the area)
  • Internal library feedback survey for students (using Surveymonkey – this was live until the end of the Dec and we will be analysing this in the next few weeks to feed back to library management)

Although we are part of the university, the majority of our work is external and we are self-funded so I’m also involved in looking for funding opportunities for relevant work and putting together bids and proposals.

What skills are valued?

Research skills (e.g. designing surveys, facilitating focus groups and interviews), flexibility (we often travel and work on the go), time management (to balance multiple projects with varying timescales), organisational skills, communication skills (report writing, designing and delivering presentations).

Have you had to learn any new skills on the job?  If so, what are they?

Yes – project management and some research skills I hadn’t previously used (e.g. facilitating focus groups).

What technological skills do you need?

Social media (e.g. blogging, tweeting), email, advanced use of office and research software (desktop and online software).

Did you have them, or learn as you went along?

Mainly skills I already had, though some of the more advanced use of software I learned on the job (e.g. formatting reports, SurveyMonkey administration).

How did you find/apply for the job?

It was advertised in CILIP Update.

Were they looking for someone with a degree in librarianship/info management?

Not specifically – a postgraduate degree was required though not necessarily in librarianship/information management. Knowledge of library/information management is definitely an advantage though and my research colleagues both also have library/information management degrees.

Do you have any tips for people looking for similar roles?

Library and information management skills are transferable to many different types of job so think outside the box when looking for work and don’t take the job on its title alone. I previously thought of researchers as spending the majority their time in an academic office doing desk research, but I travel a lot in this job (and really enjoy it). In addition, skills and interests from outside the profession can also be useful for library/information management roles. For example, I was a research assistant for a short period of time after my undergraduate degree, and the skills I learnt then and during my statistics A level have helped greatly in my current job.

So there you go – that’s a bit of an insight into what I do in my day job. It’s a really fascinating job which I love, but I appreciate it wouldn’t suit everyone.

If you’re interested in learning more about alternative options within the information profession, I’d strongly recommend registering for the SLA webinar. I’m sure with Bethan hosting it will be really interesting.

  • Kristi C.
    Posted at 14:05h, 06 January Reply

    Fascinating! I love hearing about the “out of the box” careers that those with library science degrees can find. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 14:45h, 06 January Reply

      Glad you found it interesting Kristi – you should definitely try to attend the webinar if you can.

  • Chris
    Posted at 14:28h, 06 January Reply

    Indeed “sort of an information consultant” is exactly how I describe your job, but in all fairness you can’t describe mine either 😛

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 14:44h, 06 January Reply

      Very true! I think it just shows how diverse many professions are becoming.

  • Sarah Wolfenden
    Posted at 15:47h, 06 January Reply

    I find mine easy to describe to others in the information profession but not at all to people who aren’t. I’ve signed up as I want to know what else is out there…

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 16:23h, 06 January Reply

      Yes, I think I’ve always found it tricky to describe to anyone outside the profession, but now I find it difficult to describe to those in the profession too! Hope you enjoy the webinar 🙂

  • LibGirl09
    Posted at 20:02h, 07 January Reply

    Thanks for sharing — this is fascinating! I’m a current MLS student interested in health sciences librarianship, but I want to keep my options open. I like hearing about the outside-the-box positions.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 20:11h, 07 January Reply

      Glad you found it interesting. Good luck with completing the MLS and finding your perfect job afterwards! 🙂

  • Laura Williams
    Posted at 11:16h, 17 January Reply

    Thank you choosing to share this. I’m very interested in alternative career options so this has been a great read.  Being ‘a sort of information consultant’ sounds like a fantastic job.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 11:26h, 17 January Reply

      Thanks Laura – it is a fantastic job if you enjoy working on projects and with lots of different people outside your organisation, and don’t mind travelling. A lot of time is spent on my own though so it’s not good for those who prefer working closely with others most of the time. It suits me well but I appreciate it wouldn’t be for everyone.

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