Thursday, September 28, 2017

Interview Post: Ian Clark



Ian Clark

Current job?

Academic Services Librarian for Psychology at the University of East London.

How long have you been in the field?

I finished my degree in 2012, but I’ve been working in libraries since 2005. Initially working in public libraries, I jumped to academic libraries in 2010.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I work in an open plan office with my own desk space that I can at least personalise a little to make it feel more “me” (which inevitably means Rothko, Orwell and, er, Star Wars).

How do you organize your days?

My main focus at as I write this is getting prepared for the new academic year, so anything that impacts upon that is my priority. Student emails, particularly requests for 1-2-1s, tend to get prioritised, alongside emails from academics. In terms of keeping on top of tasks, I’m terrible at keeping lists or writing things down, or having any kind of organisational system. Basically, I rely on a combination of my memory and, as when feeling super organised, Wunderlist.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
In all honesty, probably dealing with emails! After that, it’s probably 1-2-1 support with students, which I find an effective way to engage with students (as well as enjoyable as I get to learn about different psychology research projects!). As I have large number of doctoral students, I spend a lot of time providing support for them, particularly in terms of systematic literature searches.

What is a typical day like for you?
Usually we start by having a “sweep” of the library, ensuring everything is ready for the day (all staff do this). Then onto emails and the rest of the day is a mixture of 1-2-1s with students and desk duties to support library users.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale – which followed on from reading Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough. I have a tendency to read political and historical the current climate it has certainly helped to make sense of recent developments.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Listen to those without the privileges you enjoy and try not to provide instant, simple solutions, but to think more deeply about what is being communicated. I try to keep this in mind, particularly given the state of online discourse.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Appearing in videos is certainly one thing I wasn’t expecting...I’m not one for being in front of a camera where I can help it.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Whilst – I seem to use it a lot and I was interested to discover recently that it sounds weird to Americans. For reasons best known to myself, I currently have “WHILST” on a post-it note on my desk. (Alternatively, the naughty schoolboy favourite word is fuck.)

What is your least favorite word?
Customer. It reduces relationships and interactions between people to a purely commercial level.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I’d love to attempt to be a professional writer or photographer.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything medical (my partner is a medical professional and I don’t envy her at all – although it helps me keep things in perspective) and anything that might possibly involve heights (I suffer from height vertigo).

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
The ability to remain fit without having to do any exercise (like, when do you see any superhero in the movies actually workout??).

What are you most proud of in your career?
On a personal level, when I had my first article published in The Guardian. The desperate wannabe writer in me was punching the air over that. More generally, I’m proud of helping to establish both Voices for the Library and the Radical Librarians Collective in the UK. Whilst (sorry!) both haven’t exactly overturned government policy or revolutionised library work in the UK, they have both had an impact in their own ways. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the little changes that have been effected by the efforts of a collective, and be too concerned with failures to achieve The Big Things. Too much dwelling on the latter breeds stasis and inaction.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
There have been times where I’ve overlooked a reading list and not bought the books required for the course. And there was the one time I received an email from a tutor asking where I was. Turned out I should have been delivering an induction session in a lecture theatre, not sitting at my desk going through my emails. I’ve learnt to not let mistakes get to me. We all make them.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Outside of work I like to spend time with my partner and two children, where possible getting out and about exploring our little part of the world. After years of taking photos and playing around with cameras, I finally took a short online photography course earlier this year and I’m continuing to learn and develop my skills.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Any one of my very good friends and comrades (all of which I learn so much from): Lauren Smith (@walkyouhome), Binni Brynolf (@brynolf) and/or Andrew Preater (@preater).

Ian is on Twitter as @ijclark.

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