How two early career librarians met in a hostel and grew a professional support system

By Niamh O’Brien and Veronica Santoni

The night before the official opening of WLIC 2022, Veronica and I met in a hostel dorm room. Veronica overheard me mentioning that I’m a librarian and asked if I was in Dublin for the IFLA conference. “Me too,” she said, and we quickly became friends. As we shared our life experiences, we discovered many commonalities. Veronica had arrived in Dublin the previous Friday for volunteer training. Like me, WLIC 2022 was her first international conference after becoming a librarian during the pandemic. Veronica had attended her graduation from the Vatican School of Library Science in Rome wearing a mask, while I watched my own graduation from University College Dublin online.



Left: Veronica graduating from the Vatican School of Library Science. Right top: Niamh’s final thesis submission. Right bottom: Niamh’s online graduation from University College Dublin.

Both of us encountered a complex journey while entering the library workforce, attending virtual interviews, and receiving training from home. We also felt isolated from the broader library community due to limited networking opportunities at the beginning of our careers. The COVID pandemic brought changes to the job market. Veronica had to travel across Italy and Europe for short-term contract jobs, while I worked as a technical writer after graduation. Thankfully, I soon secured a position in an academic library, managing a laptop loan scheme that was established in response to the need for online learning support during the pandemic.

As volunteers at WLIC22, we bonded over our shared experiences and learned from one another. While Veronica specialized in Cataloguing and Electronic Resources, I focused on Open Access and Plan S throughout my MLIS.

Our participation at WLIC has played a crucial role in our career development.

Discussing our volunteer roles within an international context like IFLA has proven to be an impressive way to demonstrate essential skills such as communication, creativity, and cooperation, particularly during interviews. Both of us have received excellent feedback from interviewers in these areas.

Moreover, the conference provided us with unique perspectives on various librarian roles, including those working in prisons worldwide, which we had not previously encountered. We strongly believe that we have greatly benefited and will continue to benefit from the professional insights we gained through attending panels, learning from fellow librarians, and expanding our network.

The richness of our shared experience has become a fundamental part of our friendship. Since meeting at WLIC2022, we have been supporting each other in our early careers by assisting in job searches, resume creation, and sharing stories and interview tips.

We are an example of how the various ways in which education permeates. In addition to graduate school, this conference has shown us the importance of connecting with fellow librarians. The networking opportunities have been instrumental in fostering professional advancement, gaining a better understanding of the job market, and discovering our place within the broad landscape of librarianship.

Education presents an opportunity to explore alternative pathways while embracing the new experiences right in front of you. From the perspective of two young professionals, we encourage new librarians and those currently studying librarianship to seize the volunteering opportunity provided by IFLA. It allows you to connect with individuals from around the world, expand your curiosity, and deepen your knowledge.

We have already booked our hostel room in Rotterdam and eagerly looking forward to once again donning our volunteer vests for WLIC2023!

Niamh and Veronica at OCLC Reception at WLIC2022