National Librarian Day: Not all heroes wear capes

If information is power, then there's no hero mightier than a librarian. Take some time to learn more about the superheroes that work over at the OU Library.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the OU Librarians! Librarians are superheroes, adventurers, explorers, and invaluable guides to other heroes. They work with masses of data and wrangle complex systems to bring you a wealth of information in the hundreds of databases and e-book platforms we manage; work with publishers to get the best deals for our budget; manage intellectual property agreements; collaborate with academics, associate lecturers and other colleagues on module content; support student success by teaching research skills; support students and researchers with complex information needs; provide free training in digital capabilities and share their expertise with librarians and others all over the world and so much more… And their role is constantly evolving! So, to celebrate National Librarian Day, we asked our librarians to share with us what made them want to become literary champions and what they love most about serving the OU community. 

For Learning and Teaching Librarian Jude, librarianship was something that was always on the cards: “Being a librarian was something I always wanted to be, without knowing it! Librarians are teachers, researchers, advisors, and (in my case) data heads all in one, there's so much I can get involved in every single day. Plus, all the reading. Naturally.” 

Something else to know about Jude… she’s an excel master! Now, she may not be able to channel the levels of mystical energy that Doctor Strange can, but if you want to use Excel to crunch numbers faster and further than you thought possible and build bulletproof spreadsheets, Jude is the Sorcerer Supreme to go to. 

You may not realise it, but insights and analytics is integral to the running of the OU library – so much so that it has its own dedicated Insight and Engagement team. They work with data on a day-to-day basis to see what impact the Library is having on your experience as a student and what it can do to continually improve the service it provides. 

Caroline, a certified librarian who works within the Engagement and Insight team (and manages the Library’s Student Research Panel), thrives on being able to help the OU community reach that light-bulb moment with library resources. “I love solving problems, doing research, and helping people find the answers they need on their journey. Sharing that “bright spark” moment is a wonderful thing to be a part of and the reason I wanted to join this profession of superheroes!” 

Research expertise is another skill that our librarians hold under their multifaceted utility belts. Whether you need guidance on how to undertake and disseminate your research, want to attend training sessions to build your knowledge in areas of research data management and literature searching, or want advice on the best open access publishing options for your research, there’s always someone in the library that can come to your rescue. The team even carry out their own research on a variety of subject matters, from assessing the impact of library training on student success to how it can improve the accessibility of the services and resources it provides. It takes years of hard work and dedication for librarians to truly harness the power of their researching capabilities, and for the Library’s Associate Director, Selena Killick, the research librarian bat-signal has summoned her across the globe. 

“My role has led me down the path of becoming a researcher practitioner librarian and I have been fortunate enough to travel across Europe, the Middle East and the USA to share my expertise with other Librarians. American immigration was always very interested to know why a librarian would need to travel to the USA for business purposes – they couldn't believe someone in my profession would ever need to leave the library.” 

There’s definitely something superhero-esque about our library team’s ability to navigate the vast range of services they provide and the knowledge they hold… even The Flash would struggle to keep up with it! One of the Library’s Senior Managers, Jo, often has to don her superhero cape and utilise her librarian superpowers to manoeuvre her numerous job responsibilities… but luckily, it’s something she loves. 

“My favourite thing about being a librarian is…the varied nature of the job – not just in terms of what I do day to day (my favourite things are building relationships, supporting people to develop their skills, facilitation and strategic planning) – but also what I see my colleagues doing – we have user experience specialists, data analysts, customer service experts, marketeers and communications professionals, space and environment planners, learning designers….you wouldn’t think that those things would be part and parcel of the profession but they are, the opportunities to specialise are way more exciting, innovative and inventive than anyone could possibly imagine!” 

And if you thought that the life of a librarian was mundane and unexciting, our Learning and Teaching Librarian, Fiona, has a story from one of her previous roles that reads like a page out of Action Comics. 

“I used to work for a government department and as regional librarian for Northwest region in the 1980’s, being responsible for Library Services to Northern Ireland. I had arranged to visit one of our mini libraries in a sub office in the province, which was on an army base. Sadly, they had forgotten to tell the soldiers guarding the gate that I was coming, so I had to spend 40 minutes staring down the barrel of a machine gun while my credentials were checked out in Whitehall.” 

Luckily, Fiona hasn’t had to deal with that level of ‘excitement’ whilst working at the OU Library, but she is still known as the Wonder Woman of the Library World. 

If you’re dangling off a ledge waiting for Superman or Batman to come rescue you—you’ll be waiting a long, long time. But if you find yourself barraged by confusing information, in desperate need of some referencing advice, or unable to track down that journal article you need for your TMA…you can always count on an OU librarian to come swooshing to your rescue and help save the day! 

The Library Services website is your gateway to a wide range of online information resources. You can use it to find out more about the Library, search our extensive online collection of Library resources (including eBooks, journals, databases and more), and explore our programme of live online training sessions that are available to all OU students and staff. Or indeed, come and speak with us at the Helpdesk: we look forward to it and are ready to save the day 24/7. 

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