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Orla Kennelly | Trust Librarian

Orla Kennelly

Company: 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

Title: Trust Librarian

Industry: Public Libraries

Function: Librarian

Education:

BA-History and Politics from National University of Ireland

MA-Public Affairs and Political Communication, Dublin Institute of Technology

Diploma-Journalism, Independent Colleges Dublin

MA-Information and Library Studies, Aberystwyth University (distance learning, in progress)

Survey:

What is your daily schedule like?

Each day is different (which is part of the appeal), but most days I spend time interacting with staff and library patrons, answering emails, and planning for events and activities. I work 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday but also some evenings and weekends as well.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love that I get to be so close to real pieces of history.

What were the steps you took to get your job?

I was working for the Norfolk Heritage Centre when the listing for my job was advertised. Both the Heritage Centre and the Memorial Library come under the umbrella of the local government, so I was considered an internal candidate. After I sent in my application, I was asked to come for an interview with the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust chairman and library administration.

What is your best piece of advice for young women interested in this field?

Whenever you meet anybody who has a job you think sounds interesting, make sure you ask them how they got there. Many paths lead to a career in libraries; not all of them are librarians.

What inspired you to pursue this career?

History is fascinating and often stranger (and more interesting) than fiction. Working at the library gives me a platform to convey that to the broadest possible audience.

Blog post:

Career Snapshot

Orla is the librarian for the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust Library in Norwich, United Kingdom. It is a unique library because it is a public library as well as a living memorial to the U.S. Army Air Force servicemen who fought in the surrounding area during World War II. After the war, the servicemen donated money to a fund which became the trust that continues to fund the library today. This fund allows Orla to help maintain an extensive collection of American books and magazines and rare local history books as well as an archive of thousands of photographs and war-era artifacts.

Her day-to-day work includes purchasing new book stock, managing budgets, and engaging with library patrons who may need help locating information. She also thinks of new strategies to help increase the number of people visiting the library through events and programs that promote the mission of the library. These aspects of her job are critical because the administration work, the available resources, and the patrons are all needed in order for the library to exist.

Changing Paths

After college, Orla wanted to make a difference in the world and went to work in the Irish Parliament. She had hoped to build a career in political communications and policy development; however, soon after the 2008 economic recession started, she lost her job and had to rethink the plans she had for her future. She soon found a job at a museum teaching patrons about important parts of Irish history, reconnecting her to her love of history. This was a great job, but after a few years, she wanted to do more and accepted a position in a training program for museum curation in the U.K. It was during her time as a trainee curator with the Norfolk Museums Service that she realized her love for connecting communities with their heritage. This newly discovered love lead to a job as an archive specialist at the Norfolk Heritage Centre in Norwich where people can learn about local history. She then started her current role as trust librarian of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in 2018.

Advice

There are so many types of libraries and different jobs in them, so always be open-minded about what kind of work you want to do. Before you spend time earning a degree or certification in library sciences, you should try volunteering at one and get to know what kinds of jobs there are and how the library works. If you keep an open mind, you will find all sorts of opportunities–not just as a librarian. You should keep in mind that you can change your mind during your career journey. For instance, if you become a qualified librarian, you can use that as a foundation for other kinds of careers in information management and beyond.

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