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Helen McGregor

Helen McGregorWhat is your job title?

Library and Information Manager – very grand sounding!

What are your main responsibilities?

I look after the library service for Marine Scotland Science (MSS). This means that I am responsible for buying information – previously in the form of books and journals, but now more usually in the form of online access to those journals – and then organising and making it available to the scientists working in MSS. I am also responsible for advising and assisting with Freedom of Information enquiries received by MSS, as well as helping out with the Marine Scotland website and intranet.

What skills do you need to be able to do your job?

You need to want to help people out. The library is a service – we only exist because we provide things that people need. So you need to have an interest in customer service, and it helps to be organised and have a methodical mind. Good communication skills are also important, although that is true of pretty much any job.

What qualifications do you need to do your job?

I have a university degree (in history) and post-graduate professional qualification in Library and Information Studies.

What are the highlights of your job?

A complete cliché, but the people. It’s very satisfying being able to find the thing that somebody really needs to help them finish what they need to get done. I also really enjoy writing which I don’t get to do enough of – even just writing guidance for the Library pages on the intranet. Dealing with the Freedome of Information (FOI) requests that we get can be a real challenge, but it can also be extremely interesting and has taught me a lot about what work is done within MSS.

And any low points?

Not being able to provide as much information as we would like. We are a small library service and are not able to provide the same type of service, or the same number of resources, as a university library, for example. The phrase ‘managing expectations’ is one that I am not fond of - I would like to be able to meet and exceed everyone’s expectations for the library!

What advice would you give to someone interested in your line of work?

Go for it. There are big changes going on in the information world. Library work isn’t just about books – in fact, it’s probably less about books than it is about other information formats. As a society, we are overrun with information and will always need ways to find and organise it - which is where librarians come in.

It’s a scary time in a lot of ways for librarians, with all the talk of library closures, but there are opportunities out there too.

What interested you about your line of work?

Despite all that I’ve said about library work being about a lot more than books, I like to read, so it really is as simple as ‘I liked books so I fancied working in a library’. Turns out that I work less with books than with any other type of information though!

How long have you worked with Marine Scotland?

I started with the Fisheries Research Services (the previous name for MSS) almost 12 years ago now. Scary.

How did you get started with Marine Scotland?

The usual way I suppose – I saw a job advertised in the paper and applied. I was already working in the library of a scientific research organisation so the chance to come here really appealed.

What would be your advice to your younger self when making subject, study and career choices?

I think that I would probably do things pretty much the same way. An Arts degree may not equip you for a specific career but I don’t regret studying history at all. I’ve been lucky enough to study what interested me and end up doing a job that I (mostly!) enjoy.