Thursday, 17 April 2014

LIKE Picnic

I went to the London Information & Knowledge Exchange picnic last night. Given the torrential rain this was an indoor picnic but the food was lovely!

I didn't have the indepth conversations that I usually end up having at LIKE events but I'm sure that's because I dashed off home early (about 8pm). No real excuse to leaving but I had a headache, felt a bit grotty and was just sick of wearing wet clothes!

We did play a game of 'bingo' where you had to find a person for each topic on your 'card' e.g. has not seen Avatar, doesn't have a TV etc. This was pretty good fun and I ended up finding out the names of the two or three new people.

I am also encouraged to hear that we have a new venue for LIKE events so there won't be the mad scramble to get your name up on the list! LIKE events are always good and I look forward to the one planned for the end of September. I hope the weather is nicer then!

Library School

Everyone (Girl in the Moon; the Wikiman; Libreaction; Agnostic, Maybe; Niamh Page) seems to have been discussing the pros and cons of the current system of library MAs.

I thought I would throw my hat into the ring on this one.

I don't think the current system really works properly. I think that there is a real contradiction between the various aims of the MA; prospective librarians and their employers want people to be introduced to the basic skills and ideas of librarianship and get practical proven experience in these things.

Universities, in order to offer a masters course, want to do theoretical work which is academically rigorous. This seems to cause some problems.

In my MA, I feel that they were trying to merge these objectives and it ended up slightly you would be constantly referring everything back to your workplace and using it as a case study but instead of just referring to theory where it applued, it seemed to be pushed into abnormal prominence.

An example I can give is the creation of a short resource guide for my firm - they said set it out in a way which would make sense to the users but then it had to be properly referenced which if I was doing it for real. Stuff like that popped up everywhere.

I definitely don't advocate a BA instead because it is just dragging a year of work out over three including unnecessary modules like IT systems (as far as I can tell, not having done it!) but I think a return to the sort of courses being offered fifty years ago where it was proof of professional skills. I think it would be difficult to change now but maybe something could be done...

I definitely have different views to a lot of people with regard to the MA - I cannot imagine anything worse than being forced into a marketing or teaching module but I wouldn't mind having them offered as an option so long as I could do Cat & Class or business or something...

We'll see if anything changes over the next few years with regard to the content and manner of teaching within MA courses!

Can English people speak English?

I just found this article and I am shocked that "a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences"

The piece notes that this might disprove Chomsky's theory that grammar is innate which is of course interesting but I think the more important point is that the adults studied at least to the age of 16 and cannot understand "The soldier was hit by the sailor"

This is extremely scary - you have to assume that most of these people have an English GCSE but even if they don't surely most people have that basc grasp of grammar by the time they start secondary school. If they don't then (remembering this is solely concerning native speakers of English) what on earth are the schools teaching people?!

Answers on a postcard!

My Library Roots / Route

This is in response to the Library Routes wiki I have already posted something very similar to this on the now defunct New Professionals Blog but thought I should have it on my own too...

I really very much fell into the idea of Librarianship from nowhere (like many other people) but once I had thought of it, it seemed so obvious I could not (and still can’t) work out why I didn’t think of it much much earlier.

I studied French and German for ‘A’ level, I also got stuck with Law (rather than politics and the four other subjects I had as preferences!) The plan was to apply to study French and German with perhaps one more language at university. Then on a whim, after having a really interesting lesson in Law, and atrocious language lessons, I decided to apply for law degrees instead.

There was then no going back, so I studied Law, enjoying the theory but being very sure that it was not the career for me. In the second year of my law degree, we had to go to the careers service and do one of those online quizzes to see what jobs would suit me. The top three which came up were interpreter, translator and librarian.

As I had no intention of going back to university for four more years after the end of the degree, I decided to look into option three: libraries. I went onto the CILIP website and looked at the graduate training opportunities page. I took the contact details for everyone in London and Cambridge and started emailing looking for work experience. I had found that I would need a year of work and a masters if I wanted to do the job, so I thought I should make very sure it wasn’t awful before I made up my mind.

Of the people I contacted, a number responded – many apologising but giving links or advice, some offering tours of their service or chats, and three offering work experience. I took everyone up on their offers, so I met a lot of people, spent a day shadowing staff, looked around a lot and most importantly arranged the actual work experience.

I spent two weeks at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, two weeks at Drivers Jonas and two weeks at the Institute for Historical Research during the summer between my second and third year.

All three of the stints of work experience were really interesting, everybody was lovely to me and kept apologising for giving me boring menial work. But I really enjoyed myself. That really was what made my mind up for me, if I enjoyed doing the bad parts of the job, I obviously would enjoy the job if I had an even spread of good and bad.

I went back to university researching libraries and beginning to sort out applications for graduate traineeships. In November, the Information Unit Manager at Drivers Jonas called, and told me that one of the part-time members of staff (two days per week) was leaving and asked if I would be interested in filling the role. I was waitressing at the time, working about 14 or 15 hours a week so to do the same hours for more pay and gaining experience for my career seemed an absolutely obvious decision.

I started work almost straight away but continued to apply for graduate posts, as I could not get my experience on two days per week. The first interviews I got from this (and actually my first ever interviews), were for ICS, IHR and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies all on the same day, back-to-back. I was an absolute mess by the end of that day and unsurprisingly didn’t get the jobs. But then DJ offered to increase my hours to full-time. I admit that I wasn’t sure about whether I should go for a traditional graduate trainee post or stay where I was. I was worried about whether a non-traditional route would harm my chances of getting into Library School, and also of becoming stuck in a rut; I thought it would be better to work in a few different sectors before I qualified.

I looked at all of the jobs I had applied for, or could apply for and compared them with the work I was doing. I realised that I was by then doing work at a professional level and that in many of the graduate trainee roles (although by no means all) I would be doing less interesting, less challenging work. I decided that this, coupled with how nice everyone at DJ was, meant I should stay put.

I started working full-time in July 2008 and started applying for MAs. I subsequently decided that I should limit my search to courses which meant I could remain in post. I then compared all of the courses, and the distance learning course at Northumbria stood out as the obvious favourite given the content of the course.

I was not keen at all on the idea of the Hypermedia for Information Professionals module (I am not a web developer!!!) but all of the other modules were better than comparable modules elsewhere and nowhere else had option modules I particularly wanted to do. I got in to the MA and it turns out that I really didn't mind Hypermedia after all!

I have now been with the firm for almost three years altogether and still really enjoy my job. I get a chance to do a bit of everything from cataloguing to enquiries to organising training sessions to writing reports and trialling software. It is a really interesting job and the fact that I really like all of the people I work with and the level of autonomy I get in my work means I would struggle to leave!

SLA - Maximising your personal impact

Tuesday night saw me going to Perfect Information’s offices for an SLA event. Suzanne Wheatley (of Sue Hill fame) enforced participation in a number of interesting activities including staring into each others eyes for a minute (I noticed that my partner had very pretty greenish eyes, she noticed I wore mascara!), reading books aloud (We got the Gruffalo), and voice and breathing exercises.

It was a really interesting evening and it was great to have an event of this sort that dealt with the full gamut of speaking from one-on-one to small groups to large presentations. I found it useful as well as fun. The food and drink (thanks PI!) were good and having a good chat over them was fun too.

I am now the envy of my office thanks to the Perfect Information goody bag and am feeling virtuous due to attending five CPD activities in five days…although I did spend nearly 48 hours trying to remember that a word I struggle to say is ‘inanimate’”

Points to take away –

∙ enunciate

∙ speak with rhythm

∙ project your voice

∙ be confident

∙ be interested and knowledgeable in your topic

Suzanne was extremely fun to listen to and I will be signing up to anything else she does in a flash (although that could be because she kept saying I was her new favourite person!)hehe!


Last Thursday I went to LIKE 18 at the new venue - The Crown Tavern in Clerkenwell.

It was a really nice evening with lots of new faces to meet but some people I recognised too. The theme was on the changing nature of the Information Professional with the speaking coming from Luisa Jefford of TFPL.

We looked at the shared skills that information / library / knowledge workers have and how easy it is to change who a job is aimed at by using the language of that area with the same core skills underpinning it.

Amongst the skills that we thought to be amongst the most useful were communication skills, specialist knowledge, influencing and negotiation skills, ICT and organisation of information.

All in all, a good time was had and the halloumi salad was scrummy!

New Professionals Information Day 2010

On Friday I went to the New Professionals Open Day at CILIP HQ (I'm not missing out the ' by accident -it doesn't appear anywhere in CILIP or CDG materials - not sure why) and then on to the LISNPN meet up kindly arranged by Laura Woods.

I had a really good time and unlike many attendees I had been to another of these back when they were still branded as graduate open days.

Overall thoughts:

-Great speakers, really enjoyed the vast majority of people I listened to.
-A slightly wider set of people than before - it was previously mostly people thinking about getting into Librarianship, graduate trainees and the odd LIS student. This time it seemed that there were more students and more newly (first 5 years) qualified people as well as the trainees and potential librarians.
-I would have very much liked name badges even if they were just sticky labels and a delegate list - it breaks the ice and allows you to remind yourself of names (I'm horrific with names so a major concern for me!)

The day was arranged so that we saw two sessions in the morning then the keynotes from Phil Bradley and Maxine Miller followed by two sessions in the afternoon. The morning and afternoon were repeats but there were three 'streams' so you could see at most 4 of 6 and some did clash (i.e. I really wanted to see Irfan Master on "The no-holds barred profession: do what you love; love what you do" but it clashed with Katie Fraser's talk).

My first session was Lex Rigby - "The Ronseal Effect: online personal marketing for career growth"

This was a really interesting session, when I was speaking to Lex afterwards offering my congratulations hse said she was a bit worried about talking to people like me (who are blogging and on twitter etc.) because she might end up preaching to the converted but I completely didn't feel that way.

I really liked this session because Lex stressed the fact that social networking is not compulsory. I feel like more and more you get the message shoved down your throat that if you aren't on every network alive then you are a bad librarian so it was nice not to be guilt-tripped.

That said, she clearly set out the reasons to engage with this sort of thing:

∙Employers will search for you online - it should be you they find (and the 'good' you)
∙It is easier to enthuse about libraries with the online community than the people in the office, especially if they aren't very engaged
∙Creating a mutually beneficial network helps you to do your job better
∙It also offers opportunities such as writing and speaking at events
∙Keeps you in touch with the profession

She also said that at first she did think "what is the point?" and that cheered me up because I look at everyone on twitter and blogs and wonder how they find the time to do anything and whether it is worth me trying...a really inspiring presentation and one which really made me think.

Next I attended Ned Potter's "Techno-geek?: What you have to know about technology as a library and information professional"

I have to admit that this session depressed me very slightly. When Ned said that he learned to build his website from the MA he took, I felt very stupid indeed. I took that module and although I can now do some basic HTML and CSS, Ned's website is really whizzy and almost certainly not something I could manage.

That said, it was a really interesting session - I really like the idea of getting the job descriptions for all of the roles you want to move into and working towards them even if they are some way off. I was also really struck by the idea of the library profession as being a climbing wall where you can't really just plough straight up like a ladder but you'll have to go sideways and up or maybe even diagonally.

He mentioned a few things thst I had never heard of like Perl when discussing the kind of technology needed in various roles. It was quite a good insight into the background of an academic library and would be of use if trying to move into that sector.

I came away from this session thinking about how my technical skills could be improved and where I should concentrate...something to think about.

He also said that a good blog should be a piece of two way communication not a soliloquy. I guess I have some more work to do there too...

The next session was Phil Bradley's "Around the world twice on a library degree"

I have slightly mixed feelings about this presentation. I was both inspired and interested but also quite annoyed in places. I found it really interesting that Phil suggested librarians were powerful because everyone needs us and the idea of being self-employed without knowing it but equally he got my back up slightly by showing a slide with eleven social sites which we "must" be on.

I hadn't even heard of some of these and now having looked into them I still don't know why I should be on them. Why should I be on Youtube or Flikr? I have no videos or photos which are library-related. Why do people care where I am? Who wants to read my delicious bookmarks?

I also was a little grumpy about saying that books aren't important. Now I completely understand that the point he was trying to make was valid but we do need to remember that what most people remember and know about libraries is the books so we shouldn't alienate them too much!

I found this an good presentation and I took a lot away from it because I was made to really think about whether I am gaining more experience or just the same experience over and over. I also became aware of some tools I hadn't seen before and got the joy of two slides of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which pretty much made my day!

After lunch I went to Katie Fraser's "Feel the fear and do it anyway: working with people at all levels"

I liked this session - it was good to hear about the CILIP Conversation from a different angle. I liked the narrative of this - always good to hear other people talking about how they got here and I found the idea that we do need to be brave about things and just go for it quite inspiring.

I was flagging slightly by this point so my notes are not as full as from other sessions but I really came away thinking that everyone in the library world is nice and having extremely good 'vibes' about the world!

My last session of the day was Sibylla Parkhill's "The good, the bad and the ugly: managing the expectations of a variety of stakeholders" which I went along to not really knowing what to expect but thinking it might be something to do with a council as the main time in my life that I heard the word "stakeholder" was when I was at school working with the Children's Fund committee.

It turned out to be a really intriguing session on the perils an pleasures of life as a prison librarian. There is so much about this sector that I don't know and I was really enthralled e.g. prisoners are allowed to read true crime books and Martina Cole novels; many prison librarians can't access emails.

The thingas I will take away from this session are to remember that as a solo librarian (or part of a small team) you are the library, to feel grateful that I have access to internet and emails at work, and to engage as much as possible professionally.

There was then a short Q and A session and we went to the pub! The meet up went quite well although I will freely admit that I was pretty tired by the end of it.

It was lovely to meet so many fresh faces and catch up with people I already know both at the day and in the pub. I hope I manage to stay in touch with everyone because so many of the people I chatted to were really nice and seemed interesting.

Final thought (Because this is a stupidly long post): be professionally engaged, be inspired by your network and try to maintain and increae it, don't be discouraged - put the effort in and a mutually beneficial relationship will come!

[I will go scout out links to everything at some point]