Lwl Episode 11: Tom Peach

In Episode 11 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Tom Peach, Academic Liaison Librarian at York St. John University.

Tom is the second person from YSJ to have starred on the podcast. Clare McCluskey Dean who I interviewed back in Episode 3, ‘introduced’ me to Tom through a slightly surreal set of circumstances involving Kevin Clifton from Strictly (we love him) and me re-registering as a Chartership mentor. Tom asked me to mentor him so I decided I needed to go up to York and meet him (and Clare) and see the library he worked in (any excuse to travel on a train, meet like-minded info pros and visit a library.)

We recorded this podcast in person (I know! This hardly ever happens!) in the library at YSJ during Libraries Week back in October. I also got to meet Clare, who I have chatted to for YEARS on Twitter about Strictly and Eurovision but had never met in person and we both got slightly giddy about it all. So, all you need to do to meet all the excellent people you really love on Twitter is to start doing a podcast. Simple!

Tom started at YSJ in September and before that worked in FE libraries. He’s also doing his library qualification via the distance learning route at Robert Gordon University AND doing Chartership on the side. He is super-enthusiastic and as his mentor I intend to mercilessly exploit harness this so that he eventually becomes CILIP President and I can say ‘I knew him when…’.

We chatted at length about information provision and inequality, the acquisition of facts, difficulties associated with working in an FE setting, rewards and challenges of providing public-facing services, the frustrations associated with being part of a profession that doesn’t advocate its worth particularly well, fangirling over Carla Hayden, and the transferable skills that being a confident performer provide (basically, winging it.) We get quite philosophical about information literacy and were having such a lovely time that this episode is quite  long.

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 28th November and stars…er…Jo Wood.
Happy listening!


LwL Episode 10: Helen & Amy from NLPN

In Episode 10 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Amy Finnegan, a health information specialist at NICE, and Helen Monagle, a senior assistant librarian (serials) at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

This is the first episode that features more than one person. Amy and Helen were together at one end of the Skype call and I was at the other. I was conscious throughout that I needed to give them both space to speak, and to refer to them by name as much as possible so that the three different voices were distinguishable.

Helen and Amy chat in-depth about NLPN, of which they are (with Catherine and Siobhan) co-founders: the process of setting it up, keeping the network going and continually being innovative. (I sound about 165 years old during this section, for which I apologise.) NLPN offer a job shadowing service, which I urge everyone to sign up to – either to offer to host or to take part in. The NLPN site also has a number of (written) interviews with information professionals on it and I may shamelessly ask some of the contributors to be on the podcast themselves at some stage.

We chat about becoming information professionals during an economic crash, lack of opportunity in public libraries, the depressing cycle of applying for library jobs and not getting them, Malory Towers, Chartership, I try to sell Revalidation (again) to them, and the importance of loving what you do. We also discuss library advocacy, ideas for public library campaigns, and the importance of evidence-based practice. A link to the abstract for an article on the tool that Amy mentioned can be found here.

In excellent news, I finally get to ring my bell ( the reason for this will become clear when you listen to the episode) AND we discuss setting up a private detective agency. I realised afterwards that I stole the idea for using a magnifying glass in the logo from QI, so I’ll have to have a re-think…



The next episode will be released on Tuesday 21st November and stars Tom Peach.
Happy listening!







LwL Episode 9: Laura Woods

In Episode 9 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Laura Woods, who is a subject librarian at the University of Huddersfield. Laura has worked in three different sectors – law, charity and academic  – so we had quite a lot of ground to cover. She’s also done a lot of CPD so we spent a lot of time talking about that. Therefore this episode is in two parts.

Originally I was going to release Part 1 today and Part 2 next week but I took to Twitter and asked people to vote on whether they wanted both parts at once or on separate weeks. It was neck and neck for quite a while but getting both parts at once edged it so you’re getting 1 hour 45 minutes of #librarianswithlives podcasty goodness in one go this week.

This episode was recorded one evening in September, back when I didn’t quite know when to shut the heck up. We recorded both parts in one go and finished recording quite late so I apologise in advance for how much I ramble towards the end because it was late, I was exhausted and I’m basically an idiot.

In Part 1 we cover Laura’s graduate traineeship, library qualification, her jobs in law libraries, awesome careers advisors, excellent job titles, the impact of life changes on jobs and career paths, doing things outside your comfort zone, doing media interviews, the helpfulness of Librarians, and the importance of asking for feedback after interviews.

In Part 2 we chat about Laura’s current role at the University of Huddersfield in-depth. As someone that hasn’t worked in an academic library but has now interviewed a few people that do, I’m fascinated by the commonalities and differences experienced by my peers working in different HE institutions. We also discuss long routes to Chartership, the sometimes insular nature of the information profession, building a body of knowledge across different roles, and a plea for all of us to communicate what we do in plain English. We also devise a Buffy spin-off show. Laura’s blog is here

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 14th November and features Amy Finnegan and Helen Monagle from NLPN.
Happy listening!

Awards and comebacks

On Friday I won an award. At the the Research in Practice (RiP) Link Officers’ Annual Conference (LOAM) I was awarded Link Officer of the Year. Full disclosure: I won the silver award. The gold award – deservedly – went to Shelley Caldwell, Principal Social Worker in North Somerset. However, the certificate says Link Officer of the Year and doesn’t mention the silver bit so my LinkedIn profile probably won’t mention it either. Lets keep that between us, eh?! 😉

RiP LOAM award

[Yup, I can’t say who I work for because people….]

It is always such a cliche when award winners say how honoured they are to win an accolade. However, it is generally true. I knew my manager had nominated me (which was very lovely of him) but the submission that Dez Holmes read out included information that he couldn’t have known about so there’s an anonymous guardian angel out there somewhere. Whoever they are I owe them a massive debt of gratitude.

Professionally I don’t seek awards but it is gratifying  to be recognised and I also think it is a good thing for the information profession. Look at the text on the certificate just below my strategically-placed finger: “…embeds evidence-informed practice at all levels across the workforce…” …encourage colleagues to engage with RiP resources” “…they really stand out as a champion of evidence-informed practice”. All of this is what we do in the information profession. Every. Single. Day. If this isn’t library advocacy on a wider scale I don’t know what is. What we do matters. What we do makes a difference. If they know about it, people outside the profession notice and appreciate what we do. We need to be bolder about telling people. We need to learn to stand up and shout. We need to be proud of what we achieve.

[Note: I was the only  information professional at the conference. I’ve been to a few RiP LOAMs over the years and there used to be a little group of us. No longer.]

Personally the award means an awful lot because this time last year I was incredibly unwell, had been off work for some time and no-one was quite sure (least of all me) if I would be able to go back again. To go from where I was in November 2016 to where I am now is actually mind-blowing. I made it back. I did it. I owe so many people so much for helping me achieve this. (I wrote a much longer post detailing how unwell I was last year but I’m not ready to share it just now because it makes for uncomfortable reading.)

I love being the RiP Link Officer for my organisation (not just because they give me awards and let me attend their annual conference with free food and wine) and I pledge to continue sharing the best evidence-informed practice service possible with my organisation, for the benefit of everyone.




LwL Episode 8: Michael Cook

In Episode 8 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Michael Cook who is a Knowledge & Evidence Specialist. Yes – a health librarian at last! We chat about pilfering books from libraries (not something we wish to encourage),working your way up up in a particular sector, literature searching in health settings (and the crossover with my role), public health initiatives, giving back to the profession, mid-career mini-crises and rediscovering information professional mojo, and the impact of being parents on our respective roles.

If you listen very carefully you’ll hear the *exact* moment that #Libraruns is born. Michael and I have subsequently recorded a side-special on Librarians who run, which will be released in the New Year.

We also discussed @NLPN_ – Helen and Amy from the Network will be the stars of Episode 11 of the podcast which will be released on 21st November. Michael gave Amy her break in health libraries and there’s a lot of connections between this episode and theirs.

We had a lot of fun recording this episode and I hope that comes across. After I stopped recording we got stuck into a very lengthy and highly enjoyable political rant – our views are very similar and definitely not for public broadcast! One of the many joys of doing this podcast is that I get to chat to all kinds of people from all over the place but it’s always lovely to discover that I have things other than libraries in common with my interviewees. Michael blogs here, so if you’re interested in health libraries and fellowship (which I am), it’s worth having a look.
Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast via Soundcloud and iTunes so that you don’t miss an episode.
The next episode will be released on Tuesday 7th November and features Laura Woods. It’s Part 1 of 2, the second of which will be released the following week.
Happy listening!

Lwl Podcast reflection: Katherine Burchell

I said in my reflective post that the podcast has taken on a bit of a life of its own and this is certainly true in Katherine’s case. She has very kindly given me permission to repost this from her blog Love Thy Library.

“This year I completed the first year of my Distance Learning MA with in Library and Information Service Management at The University of Sheffield and got myself my first permanent full-time library job. I then decided that it was the time for me to set myself a goal: to get more involved in the profession, get more confident and meet new people.
I started to become more involved in Twitter, follow more librarians, get involved in more chats, and this helped me to start meeting other librarians, other people who are / have been in the same position as me. It has been a great way to reach out for help / advice on jobs, assignments and ideas. It was on Twitter that I first “followed” and met Jo Wood. I’d been following her for a few months when I saw that she had started up again her blog Librarians with Lives .
It was then a few months later that I saw that Jo was reaching out to librarians and information professionals to get involved with a podcast she was starting that would showcase different people from the profession and allow them to have their voice heard and tell people more about themselves and their jobs. It was at this point that I thought to myself, it would be great if I could get involved in something like this, but I didn’t have the courage to put myself forward. If I am honest my brain was just telling me “why would anyone want to hear what you’ve got to say”. (I am honestly, my own worst enemy.) I sat on the thought of messaging Jo for a while, then I saw that she had tweeted asking for people who were new to the profession or doing a course to come forward and be on the podcast. I took this as my opportunity to just do it.
I was initially delighted when Jo said she’d love to arrange speaking to me for the podcast, this then soon turned into fear and nerves. I think Jo would agree with me that she could tell I was very nervous, I was frantically messaging her questions about the podcast. The week of my podcast recording Jo sent me the questions that she would roughly be covering and asking. I was lucky, as her first podcast interviewee did not get any questions in advance. So well done to Helen Berry for doing it all on the spot! I got answers organised for all the questions, which, when I look back on it was a lot harder than I imagined it to be.
The night of my recording came, I set myself up in my bedroom, told all my family to be quiet as I didn’t want there to be any background noise and I waited for Jo to call me via Skype. As soon as Jo started chatting to me before the recording started I instantly felt at ease. Jo started the recording and off we went, I didn’t even look at my notes once. It all came so naturally to me, and I felt just like I was telling a new friend about my job and my way into the profession.
Jo was keen to get my thoughts on doing a Distance Learning course and working full-time, something I was very keen to talk about. Ever since I started my MA I have loved talking to people about it and telling them about how I cope with doing it with a full-time job.
My episode of the podcast went live on the 18th of October. I can’t quite believe how popular my episode has been. I did not expect the reaction that I got. Lots of people have retweeted the podcast, sent me tweets to say they enjoyed it and even professional bodies have tweeted out the link to their followers. This is honestly something that I never thought would happen to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed being part of Jo’s podcast. I listened to it back, after telling myself that I wouldn’t and I am so glad I have. First of all, I do not sound as awful as I thought I would, and it’s really good for me to hear back what I have said and I can see room for improvement on my end but I think that’s because I need more practice of presenting myself. If I had the opportunity to do this again I would work on talking a bit slower and pacing myself. I’d love to do this in a couple of years time when hopefully I’ll have some more experience behind me and I can reflect more on my career so far.
This opportunity has given me an absolute confidence boost and made me more determined to get involved with things within the profession. I am going to continue to apply for bursaries for conferences and get involved in volunteering opportunities where possible to gain experience outside of work. I just want to say a big thank you to Jo for this opportunity and for her continuing support”.

The Podcast: first reflections

AKA reflecting on how my ‘thing’ became a thing.

The idea:

I was out for a run when the idea of setting up a podcast for and about librarians popped into my head. The podcast was inspired by hearing people’s career stories at the CILIP conference in July. I wanted to give those stories more space to breathe and I wanted to provide a platform for people to reflect on their experiences. I decided to focus on a different person each episode and chat to them in-depth about their background, career, CPD, frustrations, and achievements. Initially the whole idea of doing a podcast was just that. I treated it as an experiment I could conduct and, if it didn’t work out, could quietly forget.

The beginning:

I contacted a couple of people and asked them if they minded being guinea pigs. I recorded a small number of interviews (one in-person and a couple over Skype Audio), converted them to a suitable format for a podcast, uploaded them to Soundcloud and sent out a few Tweets. The first episode of the Librarians with Lives podcast was released on 3rd September.

The ‘thing’ becomes a thing:

In the last eight weeks the podcast has taken on a bit of a life of its own. LwL alumni now chat to each other online, offering each other advice and exchanging ideas (and Gifs. Mainly Gifs.) The podcast has been picked up by some of the great and good of the information profession [My favourite response to the podcast was from Charles Oppenheim on Twitter: “Not listened to any of these yet, but it looks like they would be interesting“] – @NLPN_ @CILIPInfo and a number of the CILIP Special Interest Groups have championed it.

I have interviewed people 5 minutes from my place of work (Helen, Juanita), and with a 5-hour time difference 3,500 miles away (Tracy.) So far the epicentre of the podcast seems to be Yorkshire (Clare, Mike, Andrew, Laura, Tom) although the North West of England is proving to be fertile ground for interviewees too (Michael, Helen, Amy.) I have interviewed several academic librarians but I have also spoken to people who have worked in a number of different sectors and a couple semi-escapees (although no-one ever really stops being an information professional.) I’m a mid-career information professional so the focus of the podcast has been on them but I’m making a conscious effort to connect with people at the start of their career as well as those nearing the end of their careers.

Learning points:

Organisation – many podcasts are recorded in a studio, have an editor and/or a promoter. Some are developed by production companies and have sponsorship. The LwL podcast was set up by me and me alone. I contact potential interviewees and liaise with them to work out suitable dates/times to record interviews. I work full-time and have a family so everything is scheduled around my other commitments. I record the interviews, edit them (not aggressively), upload them to Soundcloud, write show notes for the blog, promote the podcast on social media (Twitter and LinkedIn), answer questions about the episodes, and ensure that everything works effectively. It’s a very low-tech affair. The only thing I have paid for is an unlimited Soundcloud account. This is all on me. LwL is a wonderful project and I love the fact that it is absolutely mine, but it’s a lot of work. I’m quite precious about the podcast so I wouldn’t want to give the responsibility to anyone else but I have to be careful about the amount of time that the podcast takes. That’s the main reason for only releasing episodes during term-time.

Mishaps and criticisms – Episodes 3 and 4 didn’t record properly (sorry Clare, very sorry Mike). I didn’t give Helen (Episode 1) sight of the questions beforehand. It took Tracy (Episodes forthcoming) and I a month to complete our interview due to busy schedules and the time difference. I talk too much. I talk too fast. Recording over Skype means that sometimes I talk over the interviewee, and vice versa. I have to listen to each episode back at least once to write the show notes so I have to listen to my own voice A LOT. The episodes are longer than I originally intended. The podcast isn’t accessible to those with hearing disabilities. I have resolved all of the technical issues now and the recordings sound pretty good. I send pre-interview information to interviewees so they know what to expect. I’ve got better at being clear about when I can do podcast-related activities and when I can’t (or won’t.) I’m learning that I don’t need to talk to fill a silence and that it’s not about my opinion. I’m not going to apologise for the length of the interviews. When they’re clearly going to go on for more than 75 minutes I stop recording and so a Part 2 (Laura) and sometimes a Part 3 (Tracy). I stated that I wanted to give participants space to reflect, so I don’t want to hurry them through the process in 30-40 minutes. As a one-person podcaster I can’t solve the accessibility issue very easily. The best solution would be to produce transcripts, which I don’t have time to do.

People skills – all of my interviewees have given up their time for me, so it’s my responsibility to treat them with respect. I have become more attuned to when an interviewee wants to talk more about a topic and when they would rather move on and talk about something else. I have learned ‘on the job’ how to handle sensitive issues. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone that has agreed to be interviewed for the podcast. They have all been very open and honest, and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to create a comfortable environment for them.

Bravery: some participants have been approached by me, others have volunteered themselves, and others have been volunteered (Michelle acts as my unofficial guest booker.) It is much easier to ask someone over Twitter than to approach them in person, although I think I’d be comfortable doing the latter now, too. I have had to overcome some of my own insecurities to get the podcast off the ground. Originally I wanted to be the anonymous voice of the interviewer – you’ll notice that I don’t refer to myself by name when I introduce the episodes – but that hasn’t quite worked as I’m very much linked to Librarians with Lives as a ‘brand’. I have resurrected the old @libswithlives Twitter account so there is some separation between the podcast, the blog and my thoughts on Strictly, Bake-off, current affairs, nail varnish, etc.

What’s next?

I have now released seven episodes, recorded a further nine episodes, plus a side-special on librarians who run, and have a number of interviews lined up (all of them are really exciting but one in particular is really nerve-wracking for me.) The podcast will run well into 2018 and people are now contacting me and asking if they would be suitable for interview. This is absolutely not what I expected when I set the podcast up. It’s wonderful.

So that I can better understand the interview process, Helen Berry is going to interview me for the podcast in a couple of weeks. I want to see what it’s like from the other side and hope people find me as interesting as I have found them.

At some stage I’m going to reflect on some of the commonalities of experience across the episodes, collate all of the answers to the ‘What would you change if I put you in charge of the library universe for one day and could change one thing’ question, and put together a world map of dream library locations and a diagram of dream colleagues.

I know it isn’t the done thing to be too self-congratulatory but I’m ridiculously proud of the Librarians with Lives podcast. It is evolving constantly and I’m always looking to improve it (I’m a very self-critical person so if you’ve thought of something you don’t like about it, I will have already beaten myself up about that very thing at 3am for several nights running) but I’m overwhelmed by the reaction that the podcast has had and I’m grateful to everyone that has listened, liked and Tweeted about it.

Episode 8 starring Michael Cook will be released on Tuesday 31st October.