Picture by osde-info via flickr
In an attempt to get a better idea about the career market, and in order to feel productive without actually applying for any jobs, last week I made an appointment to see an advisor at the Brighton Careers Centre. In the course of the discussion, we got onto the subject of what qualifications she needs for her job and she arranged me to meet the information professionals who work for that department.
They gave me a pretty detailed tour of the centre, and told me about the issues of careers centre information management. It’s not really something I had considered before but I found what I learnt interesting, so I’ll work on the assumption that you will too.
The big issue of Careers Centre information management is (of course) the shift to patrons finding the information online. This doesn’t mean that there’s less need for the career’s centre. The internet contains an infinite amount of careers advice. The Careers Centre has a big job keeping a list of what information is current, relevant, and most useful. They also maintain some resources in specific areas that would be otherwise quite difficult to find information on. I believe they mentioned horse medicine as a specific specialist area for Brighton that isn’t covered elsewhere.
But if students are getting their information online, what should we do about the careers centre’s well established print collection? Every year it has to be updated, subscriptions need to be renewed, books bought and website pages are printed out and made into leaflets. With multiple careers centres in multiple campuses to buy for, this is a time consuming job. As these materials are rarely borrowed, it probably wouldn’t be worth doing this just for their own sake. But printed resources have a few advantages over a fully online careers library.
The main advantage of print materials in this context is that they have a promotional value. They can be taken out of the careers centre to stalls and used to promote the service. They also give students who come to the centre something physical to take away and something to read while they’re waiting in the reception. Without books, the careers centre would have to find some other way to make it clear to students that it’s not an office and that it’s okay for them to visit. On the other hand, large folders full of bits of paper aren’t exactly accessible or friendly.
So what are the alternatives to the current set up? What about storing careers materials in the library? Right now, subject specialists buy books on careers, but these resources are never collected together. This makes it hard for the library to display everything it has on the subject, surely careers information specialists would be best placed to make a useful careers collection in the library? At present, careers specialists do their best business when they set up a stand outside of the library, as more students go here than to the careers centre. But it’s still important to find the right materials to support careers advisors. This is a very different problem to the issue of just getting information to people. My guess is that as students start to get access to the internet by mobile devices, they’ll start to feel a lot differently about coming out of the careers centre with a handful of bits of paper containing information they’d rather read online.