When Michelle Dalton finished library school in Dublin in 2009, she graduated into a tough professional climate with few available jobs. After nine months as an unpaid intern cataloging at the National Library of Ireland, she landed one of the few jobs, as a librarian in University Hospital Limerick, an off-site branch library of the University of Limerick.
“Without a background in health sciences, working in a medical library was daunting, but now my knowledge of medical terms makes me a valuable asset on the pub quiz team,” jokes Dalton, who handles high-level reference queries and literature searches for the clinical information and research needs of hospital staff.
It’s that same short learning curve that has taken Dalton from relative newcomer to social media trailblazer in Ireland in the last year or so. In November 2011, she and Ronan Hegarty joined former Dublin Business School Library colleague Alexander Kouker in launching the frequently updated blog Libfocus, which has dozens of contributors. The most popular topics are professional development, information literacy, publishing, and social media.
“The Libfocus blog has been revolutionary, and it has proven to be a great catalyst for the profession in Ireland,” says Giada Gelli, an assistant librarian at the National Gallery of Ireland and a colleague during Dalton’s intern days. “In the space of just over a year, it has become an essential tool for librarians of all sectors in Ireland and farther afield.”
Just as popular has been #irelibchat, the monthly Irish LIS Twitter chat Dalton launched and runs, inspired by #uklibchat. “Irish LIS professionals have been reluctant to embrace Twitter as a learning and networking resource, but over time #irelibchat has gained significant momentum,” she says. During November 2012, for instance, #irelibchat was trending at number two in Ireland.
“These activities are contributing to a wider adoption and use of social media in the library field in Ireland,” says Gelli. “Michelle is…dedicated to the development…of the library profession. She is an IT wizard and constantly tries to arouse other people’s interest in new technologies. She also has an honorable vision of how the community of librarians should strive together to share practices and develop new and transferable skills to improve their daily work and their professional careers.”