I fell into a job and subsequently a profession in my early twenties. I always had it in the back of my mind that I would stay in the profession for a year or two, maybe up to five years, while I worked out what I really wanted to do with my life. Nine years later…
…it turned out I was actually pretty good at the thing I’d started purely because it was a job and I needed one at the time. Then I got onto the professional treadmill, got qualified, got chartered and, through a combination of internal promotions and company moves, moved steadily up the ladder. Then I started doing continued professional development stuff: mentoring here, case studies in books there and some conference involvement and committee work for good measure.
To the outsider it probably looked like I was totally immersed in what I was doing. Inside I knew differently. What began as mild discomfort a couple of years ago became a roaring fury earlier this year. I tried to ignore it. I submitted ill-advised papers to conferences. I tried not to roll my eyes (I often failed but I really, really did try) when I was told WHAT I should be thinking about the future of the profession and WHY I should care. I thought about the next 10, 20, 30 years and where I’d like to be when I’m 60 and decided that, actually, I didn’t want to still be doing this when I was almost ready for my bath chair. For lots of people it is their forever profession (and that’s great), but I don’t think it is for me.
Running parallel to all of this is the fact that I really, really like my current role. Moreover, I’m good at it. However, I can do this role very well without any of the professional gratification I have been seeking over the last few years. In any case, it has become far less of a librarian role and much more about research so I don’t fit the ‘traditional’ model any more. In the current climate, though, I’m under no illusion that my job could go at any point. If the will is there…with that in mind, I like having a Plan B bubbling away.
In January I’m starting a distance learning access course in Psychology with the University of Derby. After that, I’m hoping to get a place on the distance learning Sports Psychology MSc course at the University of Staffordshire and from there, wildest dreams, pie in the sky stuff this may be, I want to sort sportspeople’s heads out and make them even better at what they do. Yes, it’s a massive swerve from what I’ve been doing (if you’re interested, there’s a more fulsome explanation of the reasons for this on my other blog I like to Ride.) It might not work out. However, I don’t want to look back and wonder ‘What if’? I have to try this out. If it doesn’t work at least I gave it a good go.
To juggle all of this some things have to give. I have given up the Chartership mentoring, but will be seeing the lovely Emma through to her submission. For obvious reasons I won’t be writing this blog any more. Most of what I write boils down to this: STOP OVERCOMPLICATING THINGS YOU CRAZY, MOSTLY LOVEABLE NAVEL-GAZING LOONS! It’s not exactly a great loss to the professional canon of literary works. Let’s face it, I’m no loss either. There’ll be no more conference presentations (thank the freaking Lord), no more meetings, no more professional networking, no more Twitter-baiting. Basically all the extracurricular CPD stuff is going.
I’ll leave the blog up because I know people have found the Chartership post useful (all I ask is that you give me due credit if you use or recommend it) and there are some posts that hold up pretty well. However, I won’t be writing Librarians with Lives any more. Through the blog and Twitter I have met some great people (and some not so great, sadly), some of whom I now regard as good friends. Oh yes, if you want to unfollow me now I’m not doing the librarian CPD thing anymore, feel free (I’ll only judge you very very slightly for being shallow and career-grabby.)
It’s been an entertaining few years, all in all, but now it’s time to give something else a try. It’s been….enlightening. Thank you.
I’ve hosted a couple of visits to my library for Chartership candidates recently (all welcome – do contact me if you want to come!) and one of the things (among many) I find myself banging on about is the importance of keeping detailed statistics in order to prove the worth of your service.
I became a stats fiend when I started doing the previous incarnation of my current job nearly six years ago. I was working across two organisations to set up a brand new remote Library and Information Service. A significant sum of money was being paid by one organisation to the other to provide said service and so it was decided – even before I was appointed – that statistics had to be kept. I was given the scope to decide the detail of the data I kept. I started off with quite general things like: number of articles sent out, number of new users and number of requests fulfilled (and not fulfilled) and recorded them all on a weekly sheet that I covered in five-bar gates.
Since then the way that I record the stats has evolved. We still like five-bar gates on pieces of paper but now we separate PDFs from photocopies, differentiate between requests completed within our Service Level Agreement (that I wrote) and I populate an Excel spreadsheet with the weekly stats, which populates the monthly stats and the yearly stats…and so on. We also maintain an entirely separate spreadsheet, arranged by month that records the name of the requestor, their location and the type of enquiry (books, renewals, subject searches, articles). The information on the latter spreadsheet is kept in addition to the borrower and loan data that I get from the library catalogue, and is only available to the Library Assistant and myself.
In the early days I was asked to provide managers with lists of names of staff that had used the library and the types of things that library users were asking for. I have always refused such requests on ethical and data protection grounds. I do, however, give them information on the number of people in their office or area that use the library but always placed in context of the library use of the organisation as a whole.
Our year runs the same as the financial year, from April-March. I have just finished compiling the final versions of the 2011-12 statistics reports, which didn’t take long to do as I have been updating and tweaking them all year. I turned the data into pretty graphs, wrote a short accompanying report (if your data is honest and your graphs are easy on the eye, you don’t need lots of words) and used a formula I devised a couple of years ago (my GCSE Maths gets a workout every so often) to produce a list of the best (and worst) library users by organisational service area. This gives a percentage of library users in that area and is a truer measure of the library’s reach than simply looking at the number of library requests from each area because they are all different sizes geographically and the number of staff in each one varies dramatically.
As well as the quantitative data I keep a feedback file of nice comments about the Library, which I update every quarter. Although we are not usually asked to provide this in reports, it is nice to feel that our work is appreciated.
I didn’t do anywhere near this level of record-keeping in previous library jobs. There was very much a feeling of ‘Well, we’re really good and everyone knows that and that’s enough’. I’m concerned that there is still a sense of this in the profession generally. I don’t have any hard evidence to back this up (bad librarian!) but anecdotally I know that a. People are surprised that I record the minutiae of the front-line library work that we do, and b. That more libraries (special libraries in particular) don’t keep such detailed statistics.
If I were an outsider reading this I would think ‘Well, WHO has time to do THAT?’. The annoyingly simple answer is that we build the stats compilation into our working day. We’re not chasing bits of paper or hunting through archived e-mails on a Friday afternoon. As soon as we complete a request, it is recorded on the paper stats sheet and the spreadsheet. It has become part of the enquiry process and it’s not an onerous task.
I feed the information to my line manager every month, my department manager every quarter (or every month if we’re going through a purple patch) and to one of the directors periodically, who passes the salient information on to the senior management team. The data is also used by quality improvement managers and training leads.
Why do I do all of this work? It’s very simple. I want to be in a position to prove the worth of the library at a moments’ notice. If I’m asked for information on the ‘reach’ of the library around the organisation, I can provide the data very quickly. I’m not faffing around for weeks on end gathering up bits of paper and feeding people a lame ‘everyone likes us and we do matter’ line while I buy for time. I have the information ready, in an easy to understand format and can produce it at a moments’ notice.
I’ll leave you with this example. I had a chat with one of the directors last week about my latest set of statistics. He thanked me for producing them and said that they proved that the library service had always been regarded as providing value for money. He went on to say that as a result of the latest set of stats, it is clearly very good value for money. Tough financial decisions are being made all over the information sector. I can’t say for sure what position the Library will be in in a year’s time. Whatever happens, I can, hand on heart, say that I did everything I could to prove that the service was worth having.
I’ve got the numbers to prove it.
Over the last year or so, as more of my professional peers have started the Chartership process, I have noticed that it has developed a mystique that I don’t think existed when I did mine in 2007. I think that Chartership candidates are making a much bigger deal of it than they really need to. Granted, compiling the portfolio at the end is a bit time-consuming and it’s hard to get the tone of the Personal Evaluative Statement right initially, but actually it’s no more difficult intellectually than writing up your thoughts for an annual appraisal.
There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about the Chartership process and in my role as mentor and as a concerned fellow professional I’d like to dispel some of the myths here*:
- 1. “I don’t currently do enough to put into a Chartership portfolio”
Putting aside the fact that the people that have said that to me are practically running one aspect of the profession or another, everyone will have done enough development (either at work or externally) since they completed their qualification to make a decent attempt at a portfolio. I recently wrote my pre-appraisal review at work and was concerned that I hadn’t achieved as much as I had done the previous year. Six pages of bullet points later… My point is that unless you sit in a pit of your own filth day after day baiting celebrities on Twitter, you will have done things that you can put into a portfolio.
- 2. “I’m not involved in enough committees”
Want to know how many committees I was involved in when I did my Chartership? None. Zero. Zilch. Well, I was on the Library Student Journal committee editorial board but that was online and I didn’t actually have to go and meet anyone. (Back then I was in denial about the whole librarian thing and didn’t want to fraternise with my peers). If you’re on a committee already – great! Put it in your portfolio. Don’t join something you don’t want to, or don’t feel comfortable with just to put it in your portfolio. You’ll end up resenting it.
- 3. “Everyone does more CPD than me and I don’t measure up”
When pressed, these people admit to comparing themselves unfavourably to the Gods and Goddesses of library CPD. It’s a bit like taking up jogging and getting depressed a week later because you’re not matching Mo Farah’s PB for 5,000 metres. The average Joe (and in my case the very average Jo) cannot hope to emulate the great CPD feats of the few, but you can carve out your own niche. As long as your CPD methods work for you, who cares what everyone else is doing?
- 4. “It’s all really woolly”.
Unlike everything you’ve done before, there isn’t a winning formula that will get you an A-Level or a degree. There isn’t a curriculum or a checklist. As someone that craves order and rules I found this a bit hard to get my head around to start with. However, I soon realised that within the parameters of the portfolio structure, I actually had a great deal of freedom to tailor my Chartership to what I actually needed to do to do my job better. So many people start a course and moan that it’s too generic, it doesn’t cater to their needs or it’s not applicable to their job. The beauty of Chartership is that it is what you make of it. It’s an opportunity for you to play teacher and set your own curriculum and who doesn’t have ambitions to be the master of their own universe?
- 5. “I’m rubbish at reflective writing”
This whole reflective writing thing has a mythology all of its own. You aren’t aiming to become the next Aristotle here. I’m sure your philosophical meditations on the state of information seeking among the great unwashed are beautifully constructed nuggets of wisdom that will live on long after you’ve been reduced to a small pile of ashes but remember this: you’ve got 1,000 words to play with. If, for example, you have identified five development needs you’ve got 200 words for each section. You aren’t going to get much beyond a ‘When I did X I learnt Y and in future I would do Z’ approach and that’s perfectly fine. Save your meditations for a blog post.
This is all a very roundabout way of saying that people are making a much bigger deal of the Chartership process than they need to and once you’ve registered you just need to suck it up, stop whingeing and get on with it. Oh, and get someone to kick your arse occasionally, should you need it.
Keep It Simple, Stupid!
I have added my Chartership portfolio to LwL (see the tabs at the top of the page) for your delectation and amusement…
*These views are my own and are not endorsed by CILIP
When you’re presented with an opportunity to do some CPD it’s very easy to say yes. Here’s a brief lesson in why you need to learn to say no sometimes:
In the Autumn was asked to consider joining the committee of a particular CILIP group. As the group was one that I had an interest in (it dovetailed nicely with my new Mentoring role), I said I would attend a meeting and see how I felt. I went along and discovered that the Chair and Secretary posts (along with a couple of others) were vacant. As the meeting progressed my synapses started firing and I thought ‘I could actually do something here’. When the discussion about the vacant posts came up on the agenda, I opened my enormous mouth and declared that I would like to be Secretary. The Chair post was still vacant but I figured that if I did a good job as Secretary I would be in with a shout of the role at the end of next year, once I’d learnt the ropes.
Call me old-fashioned – call me crazy (many do) – but I think you need some experience before you take on a leading role.
Anyway. I went home, buoyed by enthusiasm and the chance to really achieve something tangible. I started thinking of ways of generating revenue, events we could put on, new initiatives. A couple of weeks later, reality hit. The Committee needed more work and time than I could possibly give it. I have an aversion to people that sit around telling everyone how ‘busy’ they are. In fact, can we all stop using the infernal ‘b’ word? We’re ALL busy. EVERYONE has a life outside work – if they don’t they should really get one. I worked out how much time the Committee would need from me, looked at what I was already doing and the numbers didn’t add up. If my job wasn’t as intense, if I didn’t have small children, if I didn’t have creative hobbies, if I wasn’t a Mentor, I could do it.
I was faced with a straightforward choice. I could either be a Mentor or I could be on the Committee. I couldn’t do both. I’m passionate about Mentoring. I believe it’s a really important role and I really like the idea of helping future leaders get to where they want to be and offering them some support on the way. I realised that getting involved in the Committee would mean that I would become the thing I dislike – someone that justifies inaction by telling everyone how unbelievably busy they are. I couldn’t give the Committee the time and attention it deserved, and frankly it needed someone with plenty of both.
I sent the person that recruited me an e-mail explaining my decision to not only step down from the Secretary role, but to also leave the Committee completely (I’d only attend meetings, get irritated and get over-involved again). I sent the Committee an apologetic e-mail and have heard nothing since. I hope that the Committee fills their vacant posts soon and I’m sorry that I reneged on my promises.
It’s hard to say no, but you have to be realistic about what you can fit into your life.
I did the Chartership mentor training on 5th September and then time went whooshy (it did, didn’t it?) and now it’s mid-October and I STILL haven’t found anyone to co-sign my mentor application form - how hard is it to find a chartered person that I can
bribe ask? I also promised that I would write up my thoughts on the training day, so I have found my notes and will attempt to remember the pertinent points.
The training was split into two parts: 1. Mentoring generally and 2. The CILIP mentoring process. I had expected the day to be mostly about the latter and only a bit about the former, so I was a little surprised that we did some exercises on learning styles and active listening. They were really interesting (for example, we read too much into body language) but felt quite general, considering that it was only a one-day course.
The section on giving feedback (particularly constructive feedback) was helpful and I have taken much of the information back and applied it to supervision sessions with my Library Assistant, e.g. framing feedback in a positive way, sharing the problem and working towards a solution, and techniques for drawing the other person out.
After lunch we got down to the nitty-gritty of the CILIP mentoring scheme. There is no substiute for going away and reading the regulations yourself (and no amount of training will force you to do that) but there were some really helpful bits of information:
1. You don’t have to mentor someone if you don’t want to.
2. Have a contingency plan in place if you find you can’t mentor the person any more
3. Get the mentee to set their own target dates
4. When you arrange a meeting with a mentee, give them an agenda beforehand, so that they can contribute to it. It also formalises the discussion.
5. Mentees doing ACLIP don’t have to pay for CILIP membership until they submit their portfolio, but they can’t get the qualification unti they’ve paid their fees
6. The mentor DOESN’T make the final decision on the acceptance of a portfolio. They are only an advisor and cannot be held responsible for the success or failure of a candidate. It’s the mentees’ submission, not the mentors’.
Bearing all of that in mind, I’ll be appearing on a mentor list near you soon
as soon as I find someone to co-sign the ruddy form.
Revalidation (rapidly becoming my Macbeth) is now a dirty word in this house. I haven’t really moved on (in my head at least) from the last post I wrote on the subject. I can’t see the point of Revalidating but I think I should do it.
It all seems a bit theoretical to me. I’m not going to achieve anything tangible by doing Revalidation, and, as someone that is driven by process (i.e. working my parts off) – achievement (the bit of paper that tells me how hard I’ve worked) – reward (financial, satisfying, opportunity to show off) I don’t see the benefit. Mention the R word to (some) information professionals and their response is ‘Why’? Well, quite.
The really daft thing is that if I actually sat down and committed a day (maybe even a morning) to the bloody thing I could knock out a first draft. I don’t suffer from writer’s block very often. Who has the luxury of that much space in their life though? I don’t.
I only committed my Chartership portfolio to paper because I was heavily pregnant, couldn’t leave the house and was terrified of getting in the way of our former cleaner as she polished our surfaces with barely-disguised stereotypical Russian moodiness. There were only so many times I could refresh Facebook and Twitter wasn’t on my radar back in 2007 so portfolio writing whiled away a few days. I’m not planning to adopt the same strategy to complete a cycle of Revalidation.
At this point I’m not job-seeking (although, with the way the world of work is, you never know what might happen in the next year or two) and the majority of employers don’t recognise Chartership, let alone revalidation, anyway.
So, I’m putting Revalidation on the back burner for a bit and concentrating on another aspect of personal/professional development: Mentoring.
“Much to learn, you still have” Yoda, Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
First of all, a couple of home truths:
- I am not an activist
- I am not going to run CILIP
I am, however, keen on helping (enabling?) other people to reach their potential. Oh…that reminds me of a third one:
- I don’t really like management and coaching theory. I prefer practical action.
I have always considered myself to be quite selfish professionally. This was helped in no small part by being a lone worker for so long. I got used to being utterly self-sufficient and, because I had no-one to rely on I found that I didn’t need anyone to rely on. And so it goes.
Although I don’t feel able to make a difference on a grand scale, I’d like to think that I have something to offer to people by way of personal support and professional development. I really enjoyed a post by Michael in which he spoke about the mentor-mentee relationship and the notion of ‘paying it forward’. I had a fab mentor when I did Chartership and I’d like to give someone else that level of encouragement and support.
Nearly eight years into my library career I am not arrogant enough to assume that I know everything there is to know about the profession (who does, really?) but, having been round the block a bit (so to speak) and working my way up through the ranks, from graduate trainee to running a library, I reckon I might have something by way of experience to offer to the young (and maybe slightly more mature) bucks that want to do some career development. I’ve done everything from dusting bookshelves to speaking at conferences, via cataloguing, financial management, line management and dealing with the general public. I’ve worked in an academic(ish) library, a museum library, a charity library and, currently, a government library.
I did a distance learning library course whilst working full-time. I completed my Chartership whilst on maternity leave. I juggle a full-time job with two extremely demanding (but lovely) pre-schoolers and what’s left of that thing I used to call ‘a life’. I’ve had good managers and crap managers. I’ve made some enormous mistakes in my (brief) career and had some big successes. I’ve experienced air-punching triumph and sobbing desperately on the loo because I cared about my job and – by extension – about this bloody thing we call a profession so much. I love what I do but I’m not po-faced about it.
Bearing all of this in mind I have decided to try and become a Chartership mentor. I’m going to be doing the training at HQ on Monday 5th September and will be putting in my application straight afterwards. Hopefully I’ll be added to the illustrious list of mentors on the CILIP website at some point in the future.