That media librarianship gameshow
Laura Williams, Media Logistics Coordinator, ITV
Laura started the session by asking us what we thought her job entailed. No-one really knew so she gave us three key points: fast, under pressure, stay-in-the-game.
Something that I certainly did not know was that librarians have a key role in making live TV and catch-up service provision happen.
To give us an idea of the sort of programming that she is involved with at ITV, Laura showed us a quick promo reel of ITV shows.
Laura made some excellent use of Prezi for her workshop and it worked well with her talk’s format which used gameshow-style titles and she had members of the audience to spin a wheel to decide which section she would cover first.
This is your life
Start and 1st role
Laura started her career as a graduate trainee at the Bodleian in Oxford. She then did her MA at Sheffield University. Her first role after qualifying was as an Assistant Media Librarian at ITV. This mostly consisted of quite traditional librarianship whereby Laura worked in an archival setting, answering enquiries and loaning material out. She also did some work on metadata projects.
Laura described her first job as having a very big learning curve as, while she had her information knowledge, she knew little about how the world of TV worked. There was also a lot to learn about the variety of materials available.
One example of the complicated nature of her work is dealing with a loan request for an item on film. This would have to be sent off (at some expense) to be transferred onto CD. If the item was tape-based, this would be sent from storage in Leeds via a van to London.
Contrary to what many people may have thought, a lot of the ITV collection is not based in digital files and the lending process is therefore not easy or seamless. Many new programmes are still made on tape today!
Policy and governance work stream at ITV
In this role, Laura mainly worked on developing policies for the collection.
3rd role (and current job!)
In Laura’s current role as Media Logistics Coordinator at ITV, she is essentially based in a library even though the department does not necessarily see itself in this way. Typically, the department receives four tapes for each new programme (two standard and two HD). They then co-ordinate the provision of these tapes for broadcasting, catch-up services, press requests and subtitling. Currently, Laura mainly has responsibility for coordinating tapes for ITV2, where she often provides tapes for quiz shows for broadcast, and ITV3, which involves working with archival footage for repeats of old shows such as Poirot.
Build your media LIS toolkit
To work in media librarianship, you need to:
- Have good knowledge of organisational skills
- Be good under pressure
- Have knowledge of metadata and research
- Have specific TV skills if you want to work in the media sector as you will often be competing against trainees, runners and interns
- Know how TV works: different formats; knowledge of digital work; good knowledge of TV programmes and historical legacy, much like a subject-specialist librarian
- Be passionate!
The good, the bad and the ugly
Undervalued: you can often feel like you’re at the bottom of the pile and unappreciated by those at the upper levels. Often seen as there to serve others and that the stresses of the job are not recognised.
No professional network: Laura highlighted that while academic, public, school etc. Libraries have professional networks for support and knowledge sharing, the TV-based librarian does not. As she does not know anyone else doing what she is doing, Laura can feel very isolated.
Lack of job security: Laura is not a permanent member of staff and has had to reapply for her own job in the past. She finds this stressful and she is often anxious of the future. One point that also plays a part in this lack of job security is that wages are not always very good and many people can work for free just to get experience in the sector.
Limited opportunities: you need to look beyond traditional jobs and ideas to find new roles.
Learning new jargon: Laura mentioned that learning the TV jargon was a massive learning curse and that it is constantly changing. Laura regularly has to read up on new technologies so she can provide the best service possible. Also, the current push to move to a more digital-based film system will present a big challenge.
It is a very fast paced environment: a typical morning will consist of fifteen new programmes (two tapes each!) arriving and staff having to sort out what to prioritise. Everything has to be cleared by the end of the day as no work is allowed to roll over. There is always a demand for resources from the archives, even though “urgent” requests don’t always get collected!
Impact on millions of homes: you can see the immediate results of the work that you did with loaning out items for transmission that same night.
Non-traditional sector: because the work is so unique, it is very easy to become a specialist quickly. However, due to this quality, the work is also very challenging.
Celebrities: of course, there are celebrities around on a regular basis for filming etc.
Trying not to watch TV!: Laura has had to resist watching the newest series of Downton Abbey, even though the tapes are right behind her desk.
Main message from this section: be flexible and you can always move on to something else if you need to!
What, where and how?
Job titles can often be very unclear, even in the TV world. Laura proceeded to give some interconnected examples:
Picture research: find images and still for use in a programme
Production librarian: logging rushes from filming or going through BFI collection for clips for 100 Greatest Musicals show
Media manager: embedded in transmission process and deals with metadata
Media logistics: provision of tapes for transmission etc.
Other examples of titles in job adverts include “knowledge management assistant” and that legendary title that I always see popping up on insurance forms: the tape librarian.
Finding a job in the media sector
It is tough and highly competitive to work in this sector. For LMS jobs, media experience is useful but not as essential as information skills which are highly valuable. It is also important to look for adverts in places other than normal job as Laura reported that she has never seen media-related jobs listed alongside more traditional roles.
She recommended that interested parties look at TV channel and 3rd party production company websites, as well as programme-specific job listings for opportunities.
Laura’s session was really interesting and engaging. I had no idea what went on behind the scenes of TV production in the context of librarianship. While I don’t think the media sector is for me, I can see the appeal of being able to work in such a fast-paced and exciting environment. I quite like the idea of researching for programmes however. I have helped BBC researchers in the past and they have always been after really interesting facts that haven’t been covered before.