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February 14, 2012 / bethan

My first month: Laura Williams, Assistant Media Librarian at ITV

What’s it really like to start work as a new professional? In this series of guest blog posts, we’ll hear from new professionals about their first month in a new job. What have they learned? How have they fitted in? What’s been the best (and the worst!) thing?

This post comes from Laura Williams, Assistant Media Librarian at ITV. If you’d like to contribute the story of your first month, get in touch!

I completed my librarianship MA at the University of Sheffield in September 2011 and started working as an assistant media librarian at ITV upon completing the course. The first month of my first job after library school has been exciting, hectic, interesting and stressful.

My Role

The archive collection totals about two million assets; programmes, including news and sport content from the organisation are held on tape or film in physical archives in various locations across the country. As a media librarian I manage the content placed in the archive after the programmes initial broadcast. My role is to respond to enquiries about the collection, fulfilling requests from within the organisation and external customers for content. Our content is requested for reuse in new programmes which are being produced or for repeat broadcast. I am also involved in several projects including one to clean up the metadata in our database and weeding the collection.

Day to day, my job is extremely varied. One of the aspects of my job I love most is arriving in the morning not knowing what the day will involve. I might be dealing with returns and shelving items, or fulfilling requests for material or responding to enquiries about the collection. Enquiry work is diverse; requests to search our collection for material span extremely wide range of subjects, in my first month I’ve searched for footage of zombies, care homes and sofas.

New Skills and Knowledge

Knowledge gained at library school to be put into practice whilst skills gained in previous roles are being developed further. In previous jobs my roles have been primarily focused on customer service, working on enquiry desks and user education however this role places greater focus on collection management. I have been working on projects which have required in depth knowledge and understanding of metadata. I’ve been able to build upon the theoretical understandings gained at library school and build practical experience. My job didn’t require a library qualification but it has most definitely proved useful. The theoretical knowledge gained at library school has allowed me to learn the practical elements of the job quicker and bring a higher level of understanding to the role.

A Steep Learning Curve

With any new job one of the biggest learning curves is often learning sector specific jargon. My knowledge of television production was non-existent so I’ve been required to develop knowledge quickly in order to fully carry out my role. The collection I work with is comprised of thousands of programmes stored on different formats. Parts of the collection can be sent out to other locations though many items have restrictions on where they can be used and how. I’ve need to learn how to identify different formats, what they are, where they can go and how they can be used.

The majority of my work involves use of our media asset management and workflow management software. Whilst the system has some similarity with library management systems I have used in the past, there has still been lots of learn. Getting to grips with the software has been a steep and fast paced learning curve. Becoming familiar with the technology quickly has been important as almost all the work I do involves the system; everything from finding tapes on the shelves, to shipping materials to other sites and cleansing metadata.

A Few Surprises

I didn’t know what to expect when I started the job but there have been some good surprises. One thing I’ve done which I didn’t expect has been watch lots of television. As with the majority of library and information jobs, possessing a good working knowledge of the collection is an advantage. I can now watch lots of television without guilt, in the knowledge that it could come in useful at work. A part of the collection I am responsible is the programme archive of a popular long running soap opera. I’ve made an effort to learn about the programme, gaining knowledge of key storylines which has proved useful for enquiry work. Knowing the collection is important; for example I’ve been asked to provide copies of episodes to be used in an advert, the customer asked me to choose the episodes so knowledge of the programme proved useful when deciding what to give to the customer. I love my job because knowing that the work I do contributes to getting the programmes we watch to our television screens and computers is exciting.

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