Katie Flanagan MCILIP RMARA enjoys a career spanning two professions. She shares her thoughts on CPD and professional registration with us.
Please give a brief overview of your career so far. Has it taken the path you had envisaged when you first started out in the industry?
My first work experience was at Lincoln Cathedral Library and Lincolnshire Archives. I completed an MA in Library and Information Studies whilst at St Paul’s Cathedral Library and freelanced for the National Trust before becoming Deputy College Librarian at Eton College.
I then worked at the Royal College of Physicians library before my current role as Special Collections Librarian at Brunel University. I’m not sure you can plan your career in advance, but I’m pleased that I’ve been able to follow the trajectory I had hoped to when I first started out.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I’ve had the privilege of handling amazing manuscripts and rare books, but actually I think gaining a teaching qualification (Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy) in 2020 has been the highlight so far. This taught me a huge amount about how people learn and making learning accessible. I completely changed my teaching practice and I’ve enjoyed seeing the benefits to the students I work with, as well as the increased confidence in myself.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever been given?
You can learn from every experience, whether good or bad. This helped me get into reflective practice and also helped me to learn to take the rough with the smooth! I’ve often found, looking back, how much I’ve learnt which I may not have been aware of at the time, until I started deliberately reflecting more often.
Why did you apply for Registered Membership? How important do you think professional registration is in the workplace?
I have always worked in a hybrid environment with both rare books and archives and passed my CILIP Chartership over 12 years ago. I was therefore keen to have my skills and experience gained in the archives profession recognised, which I think is really important. Both Chris Sheridan at ARA and my mentor were really encouraging about using my experience to apply. I really enjoyed pulling together my experience into the competencies which gave me a great sense of just how much I had achieved.
What do you think are the key issues for the archives sector? How might the sector respond to them?
I know there is a lack of diversity within the sector so it’s encouraging to see a new post grad level apprenticeship route under development. I hope employers will support this route, helping others find their own pathway into the sector.
The long term impact of Covid-19 is also a concern, as so many institutions have had their income reduced or vanish because of the pandemic. This could lead to uncertainty over jobs and risks to collections both from parent bodies going bust and professional expertise disappearing. Definitely something to keep an eye on.
Why do you think continuing professional development is important?
It’s important to keep skills up-to-date, as change is inevitable, whether it’s big sudden change brought about by a pandemic, or more gradual change perhaps to improve access to collections, or storage, or sharing good practice. You never stop learning at any stage of life. It’s not about how many training workshops you can attend; you can learn so much from more accessible ways, such as your own research/reading, mentoring, social media, conversations with colleagues.
What advice would you offer to others thinking of enrolling and qualifying as a Registered Member?
Go for it! Look back at your previous experience and learning and map it to the competency framework; you can use experience going back up to ten years. I was pleasantly surprised at how many I could include, and actually had trouble limiting it to eight!
it’s OK to work for higher levels of competency than those required for Registration (five competencies at Level 3, three at Level 2). Some of mine were at level 4 and the rest at level 3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your mentor or Chris Sheridan if you aren’t sure. The only silly question is the one you don’t ask!
Keep a monthly CPD log. Personally, I only record the date, duration, title of workshop/workplace activity and a couple of sentences of reflection. This helps me keep track of my learning and development without taking up too much time. This approach helps me revalidate my CILIP Chartership every year, complete my workplace appraisal, and proved invaluable when working towards RMARA.