LwL Podcast Episode 3: Clare McCluskey Dean

In Episode 3 of the podcast I speak to Clare McCluskey Dean, Academic Liaison Librarian at York St. John University. I really loved recording this episode because Clare provides a great overview of her work (I’d go so far as to call it an Academic Liaison Librarianship 101) and I would particularly encourage anyone thinking of working in an HE library to listen to it. There are also plenty of transferable messages for other sectors, so there’s something for everyone.

We also discuss voracious reading habits, the importance of managing expectations, providing great service levels, working with both academic staff and students (and keeping them happy), the importance of working with a team, protecting your own time, balancing a doctorate with a full-time job and staying sane, the ‘B’ word (I apologise in advance; it had to happen eventually) and what it means for HE, and being an information professional in an era of fake news and alternative facts. The Readiness for Academic Study course that Clare mentioned can be found here.

The conversation takes a political turn towards the end. Obviously it goes without saying that our views do not represent those of our respective employers, etc. As well as learning about my interviewees each week I’m learning more about myself, namely that I didn’t realise how furious I was about various topics. Also that I need to shut the heck up when my ranty train leaves the station because It’s Not About Me.

This interview was recorded back in August over Skype Audio. One of the recording methods failed and the other made Clare sound like she had a time-delay echo, but luckily the third recording worked and she sounds only slightly like I interviewed her while she was standing in a tunnel. Apologies for that. Clare and I have chatted on Twitter for years, mostly about non-library stuff (Strictly, Kevin from Grimsby, Eurovision, John Barrowman) but we haven’t met in real-life so it was lovely to speak to her.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast so that you don’t miss an episode.

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 27th September and continues the HE theme, albeit with someone working in a different role at a different institution.

Happy listening.



LwL Episode 2: Jo Alcock

In episode 2 of the podcast I interview Jo Alcock, Consultant. Jo has worked in both public and academic libraries and is now a freelance consultant, working on projects and leading training courses in and around the information sector. We had a very honest discussion about a very wide range of subjects: professional triumphs and failures and what can be learned from them, having a life beyond work, stepping into leadership roles, the importance of taking action and getting things done even if the solution is imperfect, and Ryan Reynolds.

You’ll hear a lot more of my voice in this episode. Jo and I have known each other for a few years and we’re both very chatty people so it was more of a conversation than an interview in places, particularly as the episode progresses. We I get particularly ranty about two-thirds of the way through the podcast so I need to apologise for that in advance! This episode was recorded during the setup phase of the podcast project, when I didn’t know whether the concept would work or even if I could get it off the ground. The podcast has developed since so the doubts that I express during the podcast are no longer valid, but reflect how I felt at the time of recording.

The interview was recorded over Skype audio so there are instances where we talk over each other or miss what the other person has said, forcing them to repeat the statement or question.  I’m sure Jo won’t mind me saying that both she and I talk very quickly, so hopefully you can follow everything we say. It’s also worth saying that I don’t necessarily agree with everything Jo said and I’m debating how I tackle this in future podcasts. I said last week that I’m not seeking to start an argument or shut someone down, but equally I don’t want the podcast to sound like I’m mindlessly agreeing with whoever I’m speaking to that week. It’s something I’ll be mindful of in future interviews. 

Jo can be found on Twitter. She and I are both happy to answer any questions you have as a result of the podcast. Jo gave up a couple of hours of her time for me in the middle of August so I’m grateful to her for that, and for being the first person to be subjected to my ‘three methods’ style of recording interviews remotely.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the podcast so that you don’t miss an episode. Although I now have enough interviewees lined up to see the podcast through to mid-November, I’m always looking for people to interview so if you want to be featured, do get in contact with me via the blog or on Twitter. I’m particularly looking for interviewees working in the following sectors: schools, museums, third sector, and government. The podcast is also very white at the moment, which I’m not happy about and would like to change so help me do that!

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 20th September.

Happy listening!

p.s. Jo has sent over a ton of links that to relate to things we discussed: 

Blog posts about my career

Joeyanne Librarian: https://joalcock.co.uk/2008/10/01/joeyanne-librarian/

Librarian without a library: https://joalcock.co.uk/2010/09/24/librarian-without-a-library/

What do I do? https://joalcock.co.uk/2012/01/06/what-do-i-do/

Career and life planning: https://joalcock.co.uk/2012/10/01/career-and-life-planning/

A new chapter: https://joalcock.co.uk/2016/06/23/a-new-chapter/

Librarian without an organisation: https://joalcock.co.uk/2016/08/01/librarian-without-an-organisation/

Freelancing – six months in: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/02/01/freelancing-six-months-in/

Lessons from my first year of self employment: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/08/01/lessons-from-my-first-year-of-self-employment/

Conference planning experience

SLA 2017 Conference Vlog and Reflections: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/08/22/sla-2017/

10 Tips for Conference and Event Planning: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/08/23/event-planning-tips/

Mindful Leadership for Women

Mindful Leadership for Women Programme: https://joalcock.co.uk/workshops/mindful-leadership/

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Online Course: http://www.sarahdurrant.co.uk/overcoming-imposter-syndrome

The L Word

What makes a librarian a librarian? https://joalcock.co.uk/2008/04/05/what-makes-a-librarian-a-librarian/

Am I a librarian? https://joalcock.co.uk/2012/03/19/am-i-a-librarian/

LwL Podcast Episode 1: Helen Berry

In episode 1 of the podcast I interview Helen Berry,  Development Officer (Learning Providers) at CILIP. Helen has had an extremely varied career and has worked in almost every sector you can think of. Her career story is so interesting that we barely talked about her current role. We discussed moving between sectors and the ease – or not – of doing so, project management skills, career mistakes and how to recover from them, the importance of making connections and getting the right team around you, her work with CILIP in London, and knowing when to walk away from a job when it doesn’t fulfil you any more. We also discuss Helen’s dream library job and colleague, and what she would change about the profession if she was in charge of the Library Universe for the day.

Helen was the first person I interviewed for the podcast, back when it was very much an experiment. I didn’t give her the questions beforehand so she did well to think on her feet, particularly with the last three questions. As a result of this, subsequent interviewees have been given an idea of the questions prior to the interview. Helen and I spoke face to face, at CILIP HQ, in early August.

My role as interviewer is that of the choric. If you’re familiar with the Wittertainment podcast, you’ll know that Simon Mayo speaks on behalf of the chorus, or audience, asking a sometimes obvious question of Mark Kermode to explain a concept, or simply to appear stupid to elicit a more fulsome answer. However, I do interject with more challenging questions when appropriate. I’m there to allow the interviewee to show off and I’m not there to take them down or make them uncomfortable. I have found that giving the interviewee space to think about their answer elicits a more honest response than me harrying them along.

I hope you enjoy this episode and do let me know if you have any questions. Helen isn’t on Twitter, so if you would like to ask her anything send the question to me and I’ll put her in contact with you. Huge thanks to Helen for giving up an hour of her time to speak to me, and for bravely volunteering for the guinea pig role as the first LwL interviewee.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss an episode. All of the episodes recorded so far are very different in tone, so there should be something for everyone. The next episode will be released on Wednesday 13th September.

Happy listening!

The Librarians with Lives podcast

LwL podcast image Hi



Subscribe to the RSS feed for the Podcast

It’s been a bit quiet on the blogging front of late (and don’t even *start* me on Fellowship) because I’ve been working on something incredibly exciting: the Librarians with Lives podcast. I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s career stories (I won’t use the ‘J’ word) and I wanted to give people who are part of the information profession but aren’t necessarily particularly well-known (although the Uber-Librariati will feature as well; it’s hard to avoid them!), a platform to tell others what they do, how they got there and their thoughts on the profession generally.

I’ve recorded four interviews so far (and have more scheduled) and although the basic structure has been the same throughout, the conversations have been very different in tone. The common thread has been the passion communicated by the interviewees about their respective roles, and how honest they have been about the high and low points of their careers so far. A couple of the interviewees have even described the process as ‘cathartic’ and ‘cleansing’!

Creating the podcast and ‘meeting’ the interviewees, both in person and over Skype audio, been brilliant fun and I can’t wait to interview more people. As well as being enjoyable for me to do, I hope it has value to those working in the profession, and anyone thinking of a career in libraries and related disciplines.

The plan is to release an episode per week from 6th September, although I’m aiming to do a little introductory podcast prior to that to introduce myself and explain the format. It’s been a huge learning curve for me, from working out how best to record Skype Audio, to wrestling with the Audacity editing software, to registering for a Soundcloud account and uploading podcast episodes, to deciding on the thumbnail image for the podcast on Bitmoji. The last thing may have been the most tricky!

If you’re working in the profession and would like to be interviewed for the podcast, contact me via Twitter (@JoWood04) and we’ll set something up.

What studying for (and deciding against) an alternative career taught me

In my living room a framed print of a painting by William Hodges, called A Waterfall in Tahiti, hangs above the television. Hodges painted the scene when he travelled with Captain Cook on his second voyage and I fell in love with it when I worked at the National Maritime Museum. The print was part of my leaving present. I resolved to visit the waterfall depicted, which is in the Tuauru Valley, one day.

In 2012 I decided to re-train as a sport psychologist. The dream was to qualify, get a job with the English Institute of Sport and become good enough to go to travel to the Olympics as part of the Team GB ‘Team behind the team’.  Only…it wasn’t quite as simple as that.

I had absolutely no background in psychology, so in 2013 I did an introductory course recommended by the British Psychological Society as a way of accessing the Sport and Exercise Psychology MSc and was duly given a place on the latter in 2014. There are two paths to accessing the MSc: the traditional route for those that had already studied psychology at degree level, and the ‘applied’ route, for those that had transferable qualifications and skills. I fell into the latter category.

There are several steps to becoming a fully-qualified sport psychologist: Introductory course/undergraduate degree – Sport Psych MSc – Conversion course – BPS registration. I was funding all of this myself and each stage cost more money. BPS registration alone would have been several thousand pounds. [If you’re weeping over the cost of CILIP Professional Registration, it’s an absolute steal compared with BPS registration.] There was a more straightforward (and cheaper) route, which was to do the MSc and join BASES (The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences) although it was made very clear that this was regarded as a less professional path and that those who chose it wouldn’t be regarded as ‘proper’ sport psychologists.

Several of my course mates were already practising psychologists. The introductory psychology course had given me some idea of the basic concepts, but many of my peers were already working in clinical fields. It would have been very easy to feel intimidated and I certainly experienced ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

To survive, I fell back on my well-honed information professional skills. If I didn’t know something I knew where to look to find the answer. I relied on being able to write myself out of trouble. I’d done enough presentations over the years to be able to put together a half-decent talk on a subject that I barely understood. My grades were decent (I got a Merit for all but one of the assignments.) I faked it until I (nearly) made it.

I made the right decision to finish the course before I embarked on the dissertation though. I’d decided on a topic (the impact of fitness trackers on mental health) but there isn’t a magic money tree, I don’t own a time-turner and I’d fallen completely out of love with the subject. Also, I realised that I still really liked (and was actually good at) being a Librarian.

I got the most out of the assignments that allowed me to use transferable skills:

  1. Designing a workplace activity intervention that focused on Prochaska and DiClemente’s stages of change model (I’d still like my organisation to implement my intervention)
  2. Writing and presenting a voicethread presentation on team cohesion in cycling (team building; getting the right personalities in the right roles at the right time)
  3. A case study of skill breakdown in diving (why things go wrong, why they get into your head and exploring ways to put them right)

I’m in the process of planning a family holiday for August 2018. I’m dreaming of cruises to Tahiti but I’m a. A Librarian b. I’m funding 4 people c. We can’t disappear off to travel the world d. I spent quite a bit of money on trying to become a sport psychologist.

Still, I think it’s absolutely fine for me to spend my downtime researching cruises, like this one, or this, or this. Some dreams aren’t meant to work out but teach you to appreciate what you already had. I suspect this one might have to wait until I retire. Or win Euromillions. Whichever comes first.

Two steps forward, one step back

On Sunday I was doing the usual ‘preparing for the working week ahead’ routine. My life is made much easier if I get everything I need ready the day before, from my packed lunch to exactly the right handbag, to every part of my outfit, including earrings. It saves me so much time and I don’t even need to think about having an outfit crisis because it’s sorted.

I pulled a pair of socks (to go in the trainers I wear on the commute, see?) out of the drawer, turned towards my bed and smacked the little toe on my right foot hard against the bed frame. For a moment I thought I’d got away with it. There was a slight sting. Then I made a dreadful, primeval pain noise. I hopped downstairs and applied ice to the toe, which was already swelling and turning red. I muttered to myself: ‘It cannot be broken. It cannot be broken. It cannot be broken’. As a runner, I’m always in denial about anything that might prevent me from running.

Initially I thought (hoped?) that it was merely badly bruised. Yesterday I couldn’t put any weight on the toe and it was turning purple and black. I went to A&E (5 hours – worst game of Theme Hospital EVER) and they confirmed in less that 5 minutes that it was, indeed broken. It’s a small break so it should heal relatively quickly as long as I rest it, but it impedes every aspect of my life.

Why is this relevant to LwL?

I commute into the office (a short walk, a mainline train journey, a short walk and a tube ride) and I can’t do that journey when I’m struggling to walk at all. Luckily I can work at home this week because my organisation is brilliant about flexible, remote working but it’s far from ideal because…

  1. I’d arranged to meet the lovely Helen from CILIP to discuss lots of fun CPD ideas. I had to send apologies and postpone our meeting until August
  2. I had to dial in to an internal meeting and the phone reception was terrible so I felt very disconnected (lol) from the conversation
  3. The much-discussed desk move happened on Monday, so we’re now facing our lovely users but I’m not there to enjoy it
  4. I was supposed to go on a CPD visit to the Guildhall Library on Thursday and I had to send apologies for that, too
  5. I normally work at home two days a week, but the thought of doing five days on my own in a row is filling me with horror. I need to be around other human beings or I start to go slightly feral.

Last week I thought I was making really good progress with the ‘Born again Librarian’ project and it’s ridiculous how a tiny accident can have such a negative impact. However, it could have been much worse and, while I feel incredibly silly, I have devised a plan to get me through:

  1. I’m trying to get my work ‘To-do’ list done before I go on leave next week. I’m an inbox zero sort of person – anything I don’t have to deal with immediately goes into a sub-folder – so everything in my inbox is something I actually have to get done. This is keeping me nicely busy.
  2. I’m going to *drum roll* start gathering Fellowship evidence, dust off my job description and CV and begin working on the PKSB. I will also update my CPD log on the VLE (I’m pretty diligent about doing this, but I need to add the Conference to it.) [Note: someone needs to HOLD ME TO THIS. I need accountability. Essentially, I need Strava but for CPD]
  3. I need to make more tweaks to LwL. I’m still not completely happy with the way it looks and there are sections I need to update e.g. Publications

It’s a small setback, but nothing more than that. I’m resilient enough to realise that it’s not world-changing or life ending. It’s a temporary frustration that might just give me some much-needed headspace to reflect on various things.

Stupid toe.

CILIP Conference 2017: Part 4 -Day 2 sessions

My notes for Day 2 are (mercifully) brief as I was absolutely exhausted (see the Day 1 and lazy networking posts for more details), although a lack of sleep didn’t prevent me from going for a run in the morning.

An insiders guide to professional registration – Kate Robinson & Dan Livesey

I didn’t plan to attend this session as I thought it would be about Chartership and Revalidation and I’ve been there, done that. Juanita set me straight though and there was plenty of advice on Fellowship, too.

I now have a to-do list:

  1. Fill out the PKSB on the VLE (not all of it, just 6-8 sections that are most relevant to me)
  2. Annotate my job description
  3. Annotate my CV
  4. Find a mentor (this still feels insurmountable)

Learning points:

  1. The portfolio doesn’t need to precisely match the PKSB and evidence of change is good
  2. Be really obvious about your journey and how it meets the assessment criteria
  3. Think strategically when evaluating service performance. Don’t be too operational and adopt a high-level mindset
  4. The ‘So what?’ principle: which criteria does a piece of evidence actually match? Learn to be selective and let go of biases about favourite bits of evidence if they don’t fit the criteria
  5. When going on library visits, reflect on your understanding of how they work and how it fits into what they do.
  6. For fellowship, you can draw on a body of work, developed over a number of years.

Information Mismatch workshop – Jonathon Berry & Jane Fox

  • There’s a huge gap in understanding between clinical staff, patients and their families around the language used. This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve seen it in action. It’s very easy to overestimate intelligence (both intellectual and emotional.)
  • SMOG – Simplified Measure of Gobbledegook calculator. Online tool that aims to reduce nonsense and unnecessary wordiness [Won’t be using it on this blog any time soon.]
  • Good quality information requires the following elements: Information production, evidence sources, user understanding, user involvement, quality control, feedback and review

My specialist colleagues use a lot of acronyms (the name of our organisation is an acronym!) and specialist terms at work. As I have a different background to them it took me a while to adjust to the language and terminology used. As a result I try not to use any overtly librariany (I WILL make it an actual word. I will!) terms. It’s one of the reasons that I eschewed a more lofty job title and am simply ‘Librarian’ as it’s a term that everyone understands.

How to be a chief librarian in 15 easy steps – Caroline Brazier

SPOILER: Not 15 steps. Not easy!

I find listening to other people’s career stories incredibly interesting. It was refreshing to hear someone being honest about the fact that career decisions aren’t always made rationally and with a step-by-step plan. This session expanded out and looked at developments at the British Library, so that’s reflected in my notes.

Learning points:

  1. Tell people your career story
  2. Think about your core purpose (as an individual and as an institution.)
  3. Income generation is incredibly difficult and you have to work hard for it (I know this only too well!)
  4. Work out what people value about us and focus on that.


  • I found the exhibition a bit difficult because virtually none of the products are relevant to my library service. I did, however, enjoy chatting to people from the special interest groups and sitting on the faceless duck (long story.)
  • CILIP stand – I wish I’d had my photo taken with the Facts Matter sign on Day 1 as I look exhausted in the photos. I’m going to suggest that next year they take it to the evening reception as I’m much more comfortable with having my photo taken when I’m wearing lipstick and after a glass of wine.

Final thoughts

I was so tired that I was virtually on my knees by the end of the conference. I’d forgotten how intense a professional event over two days can be. I hope it’s evident from my posts that I got a huge amount from attending, both professionally and personally.

My primary aims when I submitted the bursary application were to reconnect with the profession and make a decision on whether to continue with Fellowship. I feel much more embedded now and I’m definitely going to continue my Fellowship journey.

After my Thursday morning run, which took me past Manchester Central Library, I popped into the coffee shop near my hotel for a cold drink. They were playing How Soon is Now by The Smiths and I had two thoughts:

  1. Manchester is amazing
  2. Being an information professional is BRILLIANT.

Well played, CILIP. Well played.