Librarians with Lives – LIVE! #CilipConf18

This week’s episode was largely recorded at the CILIP Conference in Brighton, which took place on 4th & 5th July 2018. CILIP invited me along to co-deliver the networking workshop with Mike Jones, and to record some content for a special episode of Librarians with Lives.

I recorded 41 interviews in total across the two days, bookended with my own experiences and reflections. I was really pleased to record so many interviews and I only wish I could have fitted in more.

Here’s the full cast list (in order of appearance):

Lizzie Sparrow

Hannah Smith

Ella Hassett

Lucia Butters

Gaz Johnson

Emma Sweeney

Mike Jones

Phil Gorman

Alison Wheeler

Gus Macdonald

Paul Caton

Jo Wood

Gemma Wood

Katherine Burchell

Kate Slone

Jo McCrossan

Lynsey Sampson

Nick Poole

Kathryn Aylward

Sam Burgess

Jo Cornish

Preeti Puligari

Steph Grey

Ruth Carlyle

Fotis Mystakopoulos

Louise Burkett

Kate Arnold

Leo Appleton

Claire Sewell

Laura Cagnazzo

Sergio Alonso Mislata

Jill Howard

Samantha Williams

Alex Pooley

Katharine Schopflin

Caitlin Moore

Kat Steiner

Jeremy Crumplin

Debbie Lee

Simon Berney-Edwards

Regularly scheduled programming will recommence on Tuesday 17th July with Natasha Chowdhury.

Happy listening!


LwL Episode 33: Matt Budd

In Episode 33 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Matt Budd, Library and Information Service Assistant at a NDPB that is the largest employer of social workers in England and is based in London. Matt is my library assistant and we don’t advertise where we work overtly online, for many reasons. He has previously worked in school libraries and was a graduate trainee at Lincoln’s Inn. Matt is doing his library qualification at Aber via the distance learning route.

Usually I don’t really know the people I’m interviewing for the podcast or if I do it’s because I’ve encountered them in a professional context, either at an event or online. Matt and I work in a two-person team and therefore spend A LOT of time together, either in person or via messenger when one of us is working remotely. This episode gives a sense of what it’s like to work in a tiny team, the projects we’ve done, and our working relationship. It also demonstrates the opportunities that a library assistant can have in a non-traditional setting.

I’m going to be at the CILIP Conference in Brighton and will be recording a special episode of LwL while I’m there, so there won’t be a ‘proper’ podcast for a couple of weeks. I’ll be releasing a conference-focused episode on 10th July, followed by a regular episode on the 17th.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 32: Ann & Emma from ZSL London Zoo Library

In Episode 32 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Ann and Emma from ZSL London Zoo Library. I recorded this episode in person back in March, which meant I got to visit their amazing library. They often host visits, so do try and attend one if you can.  The ZSL Library is one of the oldest and largest zoological libraries in the world and their collections are absolutely fascinating. You can access the ZSL Library catalogue here.

Stuart from the ZSL press team sat in on the interview and it was organised by them with assistance from Emma, so he’s the male voice you can hear and the person we occasionally refer to during the episode. The sound levels go up and down a bit as I was trying to capture four voices using my iPhone voice recorder, so the sound quality isn’t quite as good as usual.

We do cover Ann and Emma’s career journeys and CPD, but the focus of the episode is on the library itself. Full disclosure: I’ve been a ZSL member for years and have an almost nerdy fascination with both London and Whipsnade Zoos, which *may* become apparent as you listen to the episode.


The next episode will be released on Tuesday 26th June and stars Matt Budd.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 31: Louise Burkett

In Episode 31 Of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Louise Burkett, who is a school librarian. Louise did her graduate traineeship at Bath Spa University, went travelling, realised that she really wanted to be a school librarian and clearly loves what she does.

I was lucky enough to meet Louise in person at the CILIP Careers Day earlier this year, a little while after we recorded this episode. I love meeting my LwL ‘Alumni’ in person and Louise was just as lovely in real life as she is on the podcast.

Louise has recommended a couple of useful sites:

Booktrust book finder


The next episode will be released on Tuesday 12th June and stars Emma and Ann from ZSL London Zoo Library.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 30: Cassandra Gilbert-Ward

In Episode 30 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Cassandra Gilbert-Ward, Assistant Librarian at the National Art Library, housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Cassandra has had a varied career so far and has previous worked in prison, publishing house and academic libraries. We also discuss mental health, and work-life balance. As well as her full-time role, Cassandra is an ILS distance learning student at Sheffield and a keen rower. Cassandra blogs here

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 12th June and stars Louise Burkett.
Happy listening!

#cilipw18 – I wasn’t supposed to do that

On 9th May I spoke at the CILIP Cymru Wales conference in Aberystwyth. I delivered a presentation on mental health, professional resilience, career stories, and (of course) podcasting. I told c.100 people my story: the good, bad and downright ugly. I was the last speaker on the first day of the conference, so I knew I was fighting to keep people in their seats and keep them interested.

I didn’t know how my presentation would be received as it wasn’t a typical ‘Yay! Look at this amazing thing I’ve achieved’ talk. I feared a lengthy period of awkward silence at the end before some slightly embarrassed sporadic clapping broke out. I expected people to walk out. The stuff I spoke about is difficult to listen to and can feel very challenging. I probably made some of the audience feel incredibly uncomfortable.

A funny thing happens when you deliver a presentation. The words that you spend ages crafting beforehand don’t always work ‘live’ and so you have to ad-lib. I had my slides and I had a script that I stuck to for about 75% of the time. I left bits out that felt important to the story when I wrote them and added bits in that occurred to me as I was speaking. The overall tone of the presentation was exactly as I intended though.

I really *really* love public speaking and I don’t get to do it nearly enough. I went through a phase where I did a lot of presentations but when I made myself and my world smaller, I stopped. I had forgotten the thrill of looking out at an audience and thinking ‘Right. I’m going to win you over’ and taking it as a challenge. Something happens to me when I deliver a presentation. I feel like I can soar. Usually I try to keep it in check because I fear I’m too honest, too visceral, too frightening, too much. I don’t put on a persona or worry about who I am. I’m incapable of being anything but myself but I often dial it down. On this occasion I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t rein myself in and if I showed everyone who I really was.

I didn’t anticipate beforehand, for a single second, the reaction that my presentation would receive. When I finished speaking there was clapping. A lot of clapping. A lot of enthusiastic clapping. Then there was hugging. A lot of hugging. So much hugging. Then people came up to me to chat and said many very lovely things about my presentation. A lot of people. I was handing out my Librarians with Lives business cards in the same way that Oprah occasionally gives away cars.

When I looked at my phone I had a ridiculous number of Twitter notifications. I took a deep breath before opening any of them because people can be very honest on social media about their thoughts on conference presentations and I was more than prepared for some dissent. There was none. I’m realistic enough to recognise that not everyone in the audience will have enjoyed my presentation but if there were dissenting voices, I was not aware of them.

Afterwards I went to the drinks reception at the National Library of Wales. As I was hoovering up delicious canapes (public speaking makes me ravenous) and hatching elaborate plans to steal the CILIP presidential medals with the wonderful Ellie and Rachel (you definitely find your people at conferences), people came up and complimented me on my presentation. It really seemed to have resonated with the audience. I’ve noticed that when I tell others my story that people feel comfortable enough to tell me theirs and I feel very honoured. I don’t feel I can offer advice as mental health is a very individual thing, but I’m happy to give them space to talk.

After the reception and awards ceremonies there was the pub, there was Welsh gin and I was feeling extremely celebratory. I wasn’t able to attend the second day of the conference so I knew I could have a great time and not worry too much about how I felt the next day. I did lots of networking (of course.) I’ve got used to being a lesser version of myself over the years (particularly over the last 3-4 years) and I felt like it was finally ok to be me.

It lasted 24 hours. A couple of days later I was feeling extremely down. Attending the conference was physically and mentally exhausting. The sea of positivity I’d sailed joyously on during Day 1 of the conference became murky and becalmed. Everyone I met at the conference was wonderful and I had a fantastic time. The further away I travelled from Aber, though, the less real it all seemed. I started to doubt myself. Doubt what I’d done.

I wasn’t supposed to do that.

I wasn’t supposed to rock up at Aber and deliver that presentation. I wasn’t supposed to be that good. I wasn’t supposed to be so honest. I wasn’t supposed to get the wonderful accolades I received. I wasn’t supposed to drink Welsh gin, misjudge the distance from the bathroom to the bed in my hotel room and do a comedy roll onto the floor at midnight (I was fine.)


Now I’ve had a couple of weeks to reflect on what happened in Aber, I’m incredibly proud of what I did. As a result, Paul Jeorret has asked me to be a guest on his radio show (it’s all booked for October). I’ve been asked to speak at a CILIP in Scotland event later in the year. Karen Pierce wrote a very lovely series of reflective posts about the conference and said very nice things about my presentation. I’ve now watched RuPaul’s Drag Race (long story.)

I wasn’t supposed to do any of that…but I did and it feels pretty good.

LwL Episode 29: David Clover

In Episode 29 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to David Clover, Head of User Engagement – Library and Learning Services at the University of East London. He has written a couple of posts about his career journey that complement this episode, which can be found on his blog: Part 1 & Part 2.

This episode was recorded in-person at the UEL in February.

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 5th June and stars Cassandra Gilbert-Ward.
Happy listening!