LwL Podcast Episode 50 – #LwL50 AMA

50 episodes! To celebrate this epic milestone Mike Jones hosts an Ask Me Anything (AMA), turning the tables on me by asking listeners and previous participants to submit questions on a variety of topics. This episode also features a surprise (to me) quiz, where I unleashed my poorly-concealed Monica from Friends competitive side…

I deliberately chose not to have sight of the questions beforehand, so the answers you hear are spontaneous. I have included every question I was asked, although I have made small edits for clarity and where I was rambling with no purpose trying to come up with an answer. I have left the pauses in during the quiz section for tension-creation purposes.

Huge thanks to Mike for putting a phenomenal amount of work into putting this episode together and for being an ace Quizmeister General.

Many thanks to the following people for submitting questions: Ian Anstice, Holger Aman, Sam Burgess, Mike Ewen, Paul Jeorrett, Sally Walker, Jen Bayjoo, Jo Cornish, Clare McCluskey Dean, Heather Marshall, Ellie Downes, David Clover and Helen Monagle.

Normal service will be resumed on 26th March with the wonderful Phil Bradley.

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10 years ‘Enjoyably stuck’ – Part 4 & Reflections on a decade

Intro & Part 1

Parts 2 & 3

Part 4

The beginning of 2017 to now has been the most professionally fulfilling period of my working life.

One of the first projects I collaborated on with the new library assistant was a complete reclassification of the physical collection. I had simply adopted Bliss from my previous employer and although I found it infuriating, I stuck with it as I was also responsible for cataloguing and classification. When the new assistant asked me to teach him, I found that I couldn’t – one of the things that simply disappeared from my brain when I was ill was (weirdly) Bliss classification. As the physical collection is relatively small we decided to reclassify it ourselves, to Library of Congress. I was resistant at first, but we actually got the project done in 3-4 months, fitting it in around our other work. As well as being a useful project it acted as a good bonding exercise. Two years on I’m glad we did it.

I’m really proud of the Library Management System Project, which accounted for one of my darkest times at work and one of my finest. In early 2016 I put together a project plan to secure funding for the new system. The initial project plan had been rejected, which I later found out was due to reasons beyond my control. In early 2017 I decided to have another go at getting support and funding for the system and this time I got the green light to get on with procurement. While my assistant (now promoted to LIS Officer) concentrated on the systems side of things, I worked with the new LMS provider on the design. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and we’ve managed to achieve that. The library catalogue is more ‘on brand’ with the rest of the organisation and works much better. The new system went live at the beginning of May 2018 and I can barely remember what the old one was like now, even though I worked with it for 11 years across two organisations.

I feel that the contribution of the library to the organisation is now recognised and appreciated. The library was specifically mentioned in the organisation’s Ofsted report in 2018 and I felt quite emotional when I read it. This came a few months after winning the Link Officer of the Year award from Research in Practice. We now offer access to the library to three external organisations in addition to our own staff.

None of this can be achieved overnight, particularly when you are working within severe constraints. I don’t think I could have squeezed everything I’ve achieved in the last decade into a shorter timeframe. It takes time – years, even – to build up the requisite level of resources, support, respect and contacts to get a library service going. The future of the service is now secure and looks extremely promising. Whatever happens next, I can look back and reflect positively on what I’ve done.

Reflections on a decade

Building and managing a workplace library is incredibly hard. I have fought to get the library recognised and for my skills as an information professional to be valued in my organisation. I have had to surmount the ‘Jo is *just* the librarian, what would *she* know about information/research/referencing/knowledge’ barrier on countless occasions. I have had to shift the organisational narrative from ‘An in-house library would be a nice thing to have’ to ‘This seems to be working, let’s see how it goes’ to ‘The service is so successful and well-used that Jo is off work and we can’t manage without it’.

I have been given the freedom to experiment and chances to fail. If I had stuck to my original plan I would have left the organisation in 2011 when the library moved location for the third time. I would have been absolutely devastated to read an article or attend a conference presentation by someone doing ‘my’ job, reaping the rewards of all my hard work. I don’t feel I’m making a direct difference to anyone’s life, but I know that my library makes the working lives of my colleagues’ much easier. There’s a lot of job satisfaction in that notion when I’m having a bad day.

In 2013, as an act of rebellion against the constraints at work at that time I spotted a job that looked interesting, applied, and was offered the role. It would have been my dream job when I was younger, but it required me to be in the office five days a week. I simply couldn’t manage it around childcare. I agonised for a while before, reluctantly, turning it down. When I was ill in 2016 I simply couldn’t contemplate doing my own job, let alone seek career progression somewhere else. I firmly believed that I was a hopeless information professional, that I was a failure, that I should go away and find something – anything – else to do.

I didn’t imagine for a second that I would qualify and set up a brand-new library service from scratch when I was firmly in the new professional stage of my career. When you pay half the rent, you need to work to help keep your family alive, and you don’t have family childcare on the doorstep, you do what you can with the resources you have.

None of my achievements over the last decade are unique or particularly special. I know a lot of library workers have been though similar, or had to deal with much worse, in their careers. The path I’ve taken is not the easy one and I’m not sure I’d be able to recommend it to someone coming into the profession. The highs have been wonderful and the lows have been horrific. I didn’t think it was possible to care about or cry so much over a library service. I currently describe myself as ‘Enjoyably stuck’. If my dream job came along tomorrow I’d be an idiot to turn it down (I absolutely wouldn’t at this point) but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in creating, building, cultivating and innovating a library service. That’s not something you can do in 2-3 years. Looking back, a decade feels about right.

 

10 years ‘Enjoyably stuck’ – Parts 2 & 3

Intro & Part 1

Part 2

By 2010 the library had become successful enough to need a full-time library assistant. It was my first experience of line management which was a massive adjustment. The library moved (in the end the service moved four times in five years and I project managed every move), into our head office in 2011, then based in Westminster. Initially we were based with the collection on the lower ground floor of the building with the rest of our colleagues six floors above us, but I started a campaign to get us moved upstairs. The collection remained where it was, but we were surrounded by colleagues who worked for the same organisation as us. My first library assistant left in 2012 after two years in post and there was a gap where I ran the library solo again before the new assistant started.

I had three different line managers in my first year at the organisation (the second was an interim manager while recruitment took place.) My first two managers were very supportive of the library, of what I was trying to achieve, and of my professional development. The third, by their own admission, was uncomfortable about line managing staff (they hadn’t done it before), *really* wanted my role although it wasn’t their job or background, found the organisation difficult to get to grips with (and therefore to gain traction in), and didn’t quite understand the degree of separation between their role and mine. This led to numerous problematic conversations and frustrations on both sides. After enduring a difficult three years that caused me to question what I was doing and whether I should be a librarian at all (this led to my becoming a mildly qualified sport psychologist), my manager left. I gained a new line manager, who still manages me now. He is deliberately extremely hands-off – there when I need him, but he doesn’t get involved in the day-to-day running of the library.

I’d spent four years to that point building up the service, slowly developing the collection, cultivating new users, keeping the existing users satisfied, managing my manager, and doing extensive relationship development and then it all bore fruit in one year, with demand going through the roof from 2013 onwards. My then library assistant and I were incredibly busy and had a great working relationship.

In conjunction with a graduate from another department I conducted a library impact study in 2013-14. It’s a piece of work that I’m still incredibly proud of. The study indicated areas for development and innovation, some of which I’d already identified, and justified the need for funding and support for them. The main area was the library catalogue, but I also wanted to do a massive weed of the physical collection. We secured funding to employ a part-time library assistant, which would free me up to do development work. From being on my own in 2009-10, and 2012, I suddenly had two members of staff to line manage. This was a delicate balancing act. I had an established relationship with one member of staff and we now welcomed a third person into the team, working part-time, on a fixed-term contract.

Part 3

In early 2016 the full-time library assistant left the organisation after 3.5 years. The part-time assistant was on a one-year-fixed term contract, which was coming to an end. I wasn’t allowed to recruit to the full-time role for several organisational reasons, and at one point it looked like I would be a solo librarian again. The part-time assistant found another job and left shortly after the full-time assistant. In the end, I was on my own for six months, trying to do the work of 2.5 people (probably more, in reality) by myself.

My father in law passed away in 2015 after a significant period of illness and so I was trying to support the people hit hardest and deal with the associated fallout, which none of us could have predicted. Up to this point work had acted as a protective factor. Whatever was happening in my life elsewhere, work was a reliable, safe, fixed point in my life. I quickly realised that I was no longer built to be a solo librarian. Moreover, my workload was so overwhelming that I simply couldn’t manage it. I accumulated hours of TOIL but if I took time off the work piled up and was waiting for me when I returned.

In some ways this was a nice problem to have. I had built a service from nothing that was now highly-respected, well-used, and constantly attracting new users. I had done the ultimately stupid thing of making the library I had created indispensable. This was unimaginable in the early days when I waited to be the next person to be made redundant. The summer of 2016 vindicated when I had done since 2009, but the cracks started to show. Essentially, over the previous seven years I had worn myself out. I kept getting knocked down and picked myself up again every time. I got used to getting told ‘No’ for everything I tried to do, fighting to get a yes the second, third, fourth time, and became adept at finding workarounds. This took a huge toll on my mental load because I was juggling so much work on top of my life away from the office.

I became so unwell that I had to go on sick leave for a significant period. I’d fought to secure a full-time replacement for the library assistant post and kept hitting brick walls while trying to keep the library service running on my own. I was given permission to do a full recruitment process and shortlisted for interview just before I went on sick leave. I was able to access the Employee Assistance Programme, which gave me eight one-to-one sessions with a therapist. It took a long time for me to get up to speed again when I returned to work. I returned initially part-time, building up to doing full-time hours again.

The phased return process was exhausting. I had to re-learn some basic processes that had simply fallen out of my brain when I was ill. I was also getting used to working with my new library assistant, who had been appointed when I was on sick leave. He’d been in post for three days when I started my phased return and was full of questions, most of which I struggled to answer. It was hard letting go of some of my work as I’d got so used to doing it all out of necessity but I’m a much more productive employee now and we’re a brilliant team.

Part 4 & Reflections on a decade

10 years ‘Enjoyably stuck’ – Intro & Part 1

Introduction

It’s become rather fashionable to judge those that have been working for the same employer, in arguably the same role, for more than five years as being ‘lesser’ mortals. Certainly, when I was qualifying I was (arrogantly) adamant that I would stay in a role for a maximum of two years and each move I made would move me up the ladder to…well, as far as I could go.

Life changes. I qualified in 2006 and got my first professional post shortly afterwards. I had twins at the end of 2007. In 2009 I started my new role with my current employer. My children were sixteen months old when I started this role. They will be 12 this year and off to secondary school in the autumn.

As I am shortly to celebrate a decade with the same employer I thought I would document some reflections on what it’s like to…stay put. A critically reflective version of this document is one of the pieces of evidence in my FCLIP portfolio. There’s also a much longer version with gory details that I gloss over here. Here’s the version I can tell.

Part 1

In April 2009 I stood in a room overlooking HMS Belfast in London, with 200 books on the floor, no IT equipment, no journal subscriptions, no library catalogue, no databases, no copyright licence, no shelving and no other library infrastructure to speak of. I did, however, have a small amount of stationery, which included a tiny date stamp, a desk and a chair. I had six weeks to get a skeleton library service up and running for c.1,500 staff based in (then) 60+ offices across England. I was in an outpost, housed with several  social care organisations but with no direct colleagues.

I’d been transferred over from my previous employer with whom my new employer had worked in partnership for the previous two and a half years. I’d got the partnership between them up and running in my first professional post after qualifying. The partnership had been an immediate success but was left without a home when my previous employer decided to close their library. My new employer and I spent considerable time looking for new external partners, but many organisations in the  sector had already downsized or deleted their information departments. Having exhausted all external options, the decision was made to bring the library service in-house. This meant that I was responsible for setting up the service from scratch, as the only information professional in the organisation and we rented office space from an external body.

As I had limited time I focused on replicating the successful processes that my previous employer had implemented for their library. This meant having the same library system as them, albeit the newer version. We were given permission (for a fee) to transfer catalogue data over. Getting the IT infrastructure in place was a challenge. For several months after the library opened I had to use my personal laptop to access the staff side of the system as the work computers blocked it. IT gave permission for both sides of the system to be made accessible – eventually – after my line manager and I endlessly explained that the library couldn’t function without it.

I got a skeleton version of the library service working in the time I’d been given, but I worked a lot of long days (and nights), regularly switching on my laptop and answering emails when my toddlers were asleep. The first version of the physical library collection was made up of books donated by libraries that had closed down. I felt like I was feasting on the carcasses of newly defunct libraries, but I was giving a home to collections that would have been disposed of otherwise and ensuring that they had a second life. Boxes of books from offices around England would turn up at my office unannounced. I ended up having to put out a message that I wouldn’t be accepting any more donations.

I had to win a lot of hearts and minds, which was exhausting on top of running the rapidly growing library service. I learned to fight the battles I had a decent chance of winning. There were some people that I would never be able to win over and it took me a long time to accept that. I used to travel to different offices, attending team meetings and banging the library drum. Most of the time my little spiel about the library was well-received but I encountered some hostility. A few incidents really stand out and even now I find them difficult to talk about.

In the first workspace I had, my library shared its office with several organisations that weren’t affiliated to my employer. I lost my view of HMS Belfast when a new organisation moved in and their Chief Exec decreed that she wanted my library as her office. This was granted because her organisation paid more in rent to the host. [Side note: this organisation had a huge turnover of (largely unhappy) staff – the CEO went in the first year –  amalgamated with another organisation shortly afterwards and has now disappeared]

Some of what I encountered could reasonably be described as bullying but as I was so isolated I didn’t have anyone to report incidents to after my first line manager left. I’m a union member but the rep had given me incredibly bad advice when I was being TUPEd over from my previous employer, so I didn’t feel I could take issues to them. Moreover, I needed the job. My employer offers flexible working and as I was fitting my full-time job in with looking after twins (they went to nursery three days a week) and a partner doing shift work, I couldn’t afford to move to an organisation that would expect me to be in the office five days a week, from 9-5 every day. (No, I couldn’t afford to give up work. No, I couldn’t afford to work part-time.) I was regularly working 40-50 hours a week rather than my contracted 37 hours. Any time the girls napped or slept, I worked.

Parts 2 & 3

Part 4 & Reflections on a decade

 

LwL Podcast Episode 49: Rebecca Hill

In Episode 49 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Rebecca Hill, Senior Library Assistant at the University of Huddersfield. She previously worked in FE at Huddersfield New College library. We chat about making the leap from FE to HE [spoiler – it’s not easy], library qualifications, Vikings, the usual….

Becky very kindly gave me some links to share with you:

  1. World Book Day fundraising for Book Aid International: 2013

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-03-11-library-makes-a-difference-around-the-world

  1. First Student Library Volunteer team recognised during National Volunteers Week: 2013

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-06-07-library-volunteers-rewarded-as-part-of-volunteers-week

  1. College Students & Staff read Alice in Wonderland for Read for RNIB Day: 2013

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-10-11-college-reads-for-rnib

  1. Poetry by Heart 2013/14 – national poetry recitation competition success: 2014

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-12-20-students-put-the-heart-and-soul-into-poetry-recital – College Heat & Championship

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-02-17-jenny-proves-she-s-got-heart – Jennifer O’Sullivan wins County Finals

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-03-24-pride-and-poetry-in-poetry-by-heart-finals – Jennifer O’Sullivan at the National Semi-finals in London

  1. Student Volunteer Team 2013/14 recognised & 2 V50 Awards: 2014

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-05-09-library-volunteer-reward-celebration

  1. Six Book Challenge Success for Students: 2014

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-07-03-reading-to-success

  1. Poetry by Heart 2014/15 – national poetry recitation competition success: 2015

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-11-18-poetry-in-motion  – Saliha Khadim win’s College Heat & Championship

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-02-02-saliha-khadim-to-represent-west-yorkshire-in-the-poetry-by-heart-semi-finals – Saliha Khadim wins County Finals

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-03-27-2nd-year-at-poetry-by-heart-national-semi-finals-for-hnc – Saliha Khadim competing at the National Semi-Finals in Cambridge

  1. World Book Day 2015 – Author James Aitcheson visit:

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-03-06-world-book-day-2015-1

  1. World Book Night Book Giveaway 2015:

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-04-24-world-book-night

  1. Six Book Challenge Success for Students: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-05-13-another-successful-six-book-challenge

  1. Student Volunteer Success 2014/15:

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-06-18-college-students-are-vinspired

  1. Celebrating National Poetry Day & launching Poetry by Heart: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-10-09-national-poetry-day-at-hnc

  1. Students Alicia & Praveen achieve V50 VInspired Awards: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-11-23-v50-success-for-hnc-students

  1. Poetry by Heart College Heats & Championship: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-12-02-third-time-lucky-for-poetry-by-heart

  1. National Literacy Trust Big Book Sale: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-12-07-big-book-raises-62-for-charity

  1. Reading Ahead student shares reviews on Reading Agency blog: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-03-16-another-successful-year-for-the-reading-ahead-challenge

  1. 30th V10 VInspired award to Student Volunteer: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-03-23-further-success-for-vinspired-library-volunteers

  1. Reading Ahead Success for Students: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-04-18-reading-ahead-at-hnc 

  1. World Book Night Book Give Away – Record breaking success! : 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-04-19-sharing-the-gift-of-reading-for-world-book-night

  1. Readathon sponsored read fundraising success: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-04-29-students-raise-impressive-sum-for-charity-in-sponsored-read

  1. Double V100 VInspired Awards for Student Volunteers: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-05-06-alicia-and-praveen-make-hnc-history-with-v100-awards

  1. Reading Ahead student starts book blog from challenge: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-05-13-reading-ahead-inspires-student-to-start-book-blog-more

  1. VInspired Scheme set to have another bumper year at HNC Library 2016

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-10-07-vinspired-scheme-set-to-have-another-bumper-year-at-hnc-library

  1. Festive Tales and Teapots party fundraise for National Literacy Trust 2016

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-12-13-festive-tales-teapots-party-for-national-literacy-trust

  1. World Book Day 2017 Celebrations:

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-03-06-hnc-celebrates-world-book-day

  1. Star Wars Day Celebrations 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-09-may-the-force-be-with-you

  1. Summer Tales and Teapots Party for National Literacy Trust 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-12-sequel-success-for-tales-and-teapots-party-fundraiser

  1. Young Writers Success 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-16-young-writers-success

  1. Reading Ahead Record Breaking Success 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-19-reading-ahead-2017-a-new-success-record

  1. Reading Matters/Beanstalk training for H&SC + Early Years Students 2018

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2018-03-14-hnc-students-train-to-help-change-children-s-lives

  1. HNC College Short Story Competition 2018

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2018-05-22-a-way-with-words

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 12th March and is a special 50th episode edition – LwL50.

Happy listening!

FCLIP – it’s all about the process, not the outcome

I have – finally – submitted my CILIP Fellowship portfolio. I want to celebrate the effort I have put in to writing, pulling together and submitting the portfolio, rather than the achievement itself (if/when it comes.)

I did Chartership in 2007 when you had to submit three printed folders. Guided by my wonderful mentor Allison I wrote the portfolio when I was seven months pregnant with my twin girls. I don’t remember it being an onerous process: I gathered evidence, put together a statement, pulled the portfolios together and posted the cumbersome package off to CILIP. I found out I’d achieved Chartership when my twins were a month old.

As revalidation is optional I didn’t bother doing it until 2016. I *meant* to do it every year but I was distracted by, variously: parenting small twins, building and running a library, having an early mid-life crisis and re-training to be a sport psychologist, dealing with health issues, wider family crises, bereavements and, finally, being ill.

By the time I got around to revalidating everything was done on the VLE and felt like a bit of a dark art. Part of the process seemed to be figuring out how to use the system, but revalidation itself was straightforward. I updated the CPD log, put together my statement, and submitted. I revalidated on three successive occasions. The easiest Revalidation I did was the year I was off work for a significant period.

I registered for Fellowship in February 2017. I’d let go of my professional networks when I was unwell and felt disconnected. I won a bursary to attend the CILIP Conference in Manchester. During the drinks reception I got chatting to Juanita and Jo from CILIP. They were both really encouraging and as she had successfully navigated the process recently, Juanita was able to offer lots of advice. She gave me a list of things that I could do, including completing the initial PKSB which I duly did.

I decided to record some interviews with library workers from other sectors to include in my – at this stage mythical – FCLIP portfolio as evidence of wider professional involvement, which became the Librarians with Lives podcast. I whinged about FCLIP. Barbara Band contacted me on Twitter and offered to be my mentor. Using the PKSB I created an incredibly detailed and highly pointless spreadsheet matching the areas for development with things I was doing/had done. Barbara came to meet me in April 2018, gave me a load of useful advice and I vowed to crack on.

I tried to write the evaluative statement on several occasions but had to deal with the tyranny of the blank page. My friend George offered her assistance. In September 2018 we sat in a café and she typed while I told her stuff. It was mostly her saying ‘You did X. How did you do that?’ and me replying ‘I don’t know. I just did it’ and her sighing and writing something coherent. Several hours later we’d put together version 1 of my evaluative statement. I pulled my portfolio together on the VLE. Barbara came back with a comprehensive list of questions, changes, corrections and suggested amendments.

After that I couldn’t face looking at the portfolio for another two months. In the interim I spoke at seven professional events in six weeks where I riffed on my lack of Fellowship progress. It became a sad joke that my speaker bio always said: ‘Jo is currently working towards CILIP Fellowship’. At CILIPS Autumn Gathering two people – separately – came up to me after my talk, gently asked if I was ok and told me that I didn’t *have* do FCLIP now if I wasn’t feeling well enough. At the HMC Librarians Conference one of the attendees, the wonderful Kate, came up to me after my workshop and asked ‘What’s stopping you pressing the submit button?’ I explained that my portfolio was awful. She kindly said that I could send her the draft evaluative statement and she would offer some advice.

In November 2018 I met with my line manager and asked him to write FCLIP into my workplan. I booked a meeting room, removed all distractions and set to work on version 2 of the portfolio. Kate gave me loads of useful advice: ‘This is too descriptive’ ‘Stop telling the story’ ‘What was the result of this?’ ‘Stop wasting words’. The statement went backwards and forward between us several times. I had a complete break over the Christmas period and decided to tackle it again in January. I went through the changes that Kate had suggested to versions 3 and 4 of the statement and once I was happy I updated the portfolio. Barbara came back with some more suggestions and now my portfolio is worthy of submission.

The evaluative statement is unrecognisable from the version that George and I put together in September. I think two partial sentences have made it all the way from versions 1 to 5. The process of writing the evaluative statement has been complicated by the fact that I tend towards the negative and am harder on myself than anyone else could ever be. I’m also bad at owning work-based achievements so my inclination is to say ‘we’ or depersonalise. Apparently, I’m unusual because I found writing the wider professional context and organisational context sections easier than the personal section. The latter has been subject to the most changes during the five versions of the statement. I’m now ready to let the assessors pull the portfolio apart and give their verdict.

Achieving FCLIP won’t give me anything particularly tangible. I’ll get some extra letters after my name and a nice certificate. My colleagues will get cake. I won’t earn any more money for having it. However, it’s likely to be the last academic endeavour I’ll ever complete. For years I kept going back to academia in a fruitless effort to become the cleverest person in the room. I know now that I don’t need to chase qualifications to prove my worth (to myself) as a person.

Submitting FCLIP also marks the culmination of my ‘comeback’, as it were. In 2016 I was convinced that I was done with librarianship. I couldn’t see how I could ever return to work and be the same as I was before I was ill. I can’t begin to describe how frightening it is to go from being able to write library strategy papers and academic essays to becoming incapable of writing a simple email and then to slowly, slowly recover enough to get myself to a point where I could even contemplate doing Fellowship.

Nothing I do is achieved in isolation. I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by amazing people. Glenn and our girls at home for giving me the rounded life I badly need. Matt for being my second brain and the other half of TGLTTWHES. Richard for being the line manager I need (and writing one of the supporting statements for my portfolio), and many other brilliant colleagues at work. Helen, Jo and Juanita at CILIP for kicking it all off. George for helping me write version 1 of the evaluative statement and for tolerating me sending her #FCKFCLIP when she asked me how it was going on Whatsapp. Barbara for taking me on as a mentee and guiding me through the process. Kate for the advice and support. Anyone that’s ever had anything to do with Librarians with Lives. My Library Twitter crowd.

I’m not saying that the outcome is completely irrelevant – I’ll definitely feel down if I fail or if I am asked to make significant changes to the portfolio. However, I think we’re too quick to dismiss the process and focus on the end product. FCLIP has been significantly harder than I ever imagined it would be when I enrolled. At some stage I’ll write something about my opinions on FCLIP itself and I’ll attempt to offer some advice to those thinking of doing, or embarking on the Fellowship journey. For now I’ll just bask in the fact that I have Finally Submitted The Damn Thing.

 

LwL Podcast Episode 48 – Holger Aman

In Episode 48 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Holger Aman, now working at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia as the Coordinator, Learning and Teaching Services. When I interviewed him for the podcast back in October 2018 he was working at BPP Holborn (UK) as the Library Manager.

We recorded the interview in person at BPP. Get comfy because there’s a backstory involved. When I did a call-out for people to get involved in Librarians with Lives…LIVE! at the CILIP Conference last year, Holger answered. However, we couldn’t make the timings work because break-out sessions, roving interviews, travel chaos, etc. When I podcasted at ILI, he answered my shout-out again and this time, because I had a stand, he knew where to find me. At the exact moment Holger came over to podcast I had a queue of people. When I spotted Holger in the queue I pointed at him and said STAND THERE! I may even have said STAY! What can I say? I get bossy when I’m podcasting at conferences.

Holger recorded his bit for the live(ish) episode and I did my classic ‘You should be a proper guest on the podcast’ line, which I use less than you’d think to lure potential interviewees. Holger told me he’d love to be involved but he was leaving the UK – FOREVER – in the next few weeks but maybe we could work something out. We arranged a recording date and I duly pitched up at BPP for the interview as he’d very kindly given me some time during his last few days in the UK to meet with me. All was going well until he needed to take a call. Not a problem; I was taken downstairs for a tour of the library (I flipping love a library tour) by his colleague, with my iPhone in hand. To explain: I record the in-person interviews using the Voice Memo app on my phone. I checked my phone to make sure the recording was still there and it had DISAPPEARED.

Even now, more than three months on, I cringe at the memory of frantically searching through *all* the voice memos to make really, really sure the recording wasn’t lurking somewhere. Apple had recently updated the Voice Memo app and a product that had been bulletproof beforehand had become glitchy and weird. [True story: a week later I inadvertently exacted revenge when I dropped my iPhone 7 down five floors in Selfridges. The Voice Memo App works perfectly on the replacement, the iPhone X.] Worst of all, Holger was going to finish his phone call and expect to carry on with the interview. I had two options:

  1. Run, Run out of the building  – not an option as my bag and coat were in Holger’s office
  2. Confess and hope that I didn’t look like a total moron.

I went for option 2. Holger was spectacularly lovely about the whole sorry mishap. He found some time in his diary the following day (I was supposed to be at CILIP New Professionals Day but missed the morning session to do the re-record.) For take 2 I took my full recording setup – Blue Yeti Microphone and laptop – and we pretended we hadn’t met the day before as I asked him (mostly) the same questions and he gave (mostly) the same answers.

I really enjoyed recording this episode (the second time) and I’m pleased with the result. It was the first interview in which I included the new ‘What do you do when you’re not being a librarian’ question. Full credit to Gus MacDonald for suggesting that I include it.

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 26th February and features Rebecca Hill.

Happy listening!