LwL Podcast # 57 – Evidence Aid mini episode

Here’s the transcript of the latest espisode.

Hello and welcome to this slightly unexpected mini episode of the Librarians with Lives podcast.

I actually have a proper episode to release at some stage, which I recorded with Andrew Preater at the British Library before Christmas.

However, I started editing it last week and had to stop because it was too painful to go back to a time when we could socialise with people outside of our homes, not be two metres apart, when the BL was still open, and we could go to the pub for a drink afterwards.

I’m going to record a lockdown episode with Angela Platt next week, where we talk about being library workers in isolation and the impact it’s having. If you’d like to do a Librarians in Lockdown episode, let me know and we can set something up.

However, that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I’m currently working with Evidence Aid as their Searching Co-Ordinator for COVID-19. I’ve been seconded to this work from my primary role as a Knowledge and Evidence Specialist at Public Health England. My remit is normally health improvement, but I wanted to do something to support those working on COVID-19, so I’ve volunteered to work with Evidence Aid and I’ve been given time away from my normal work to do that.

Evidence Aid is working with global partners and a team of information specialists to identify systematic reviews that might be relevant to:

(1) interventions for COVID-19 (including the rush of emerging reviews but also the many existing reviews of relevant interventions),

(2) interventions that might help health and social care services to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 response on other health conditions and healthcare interventions,

and

(3) the impact of COVID-19 on non-health outcomes (e.g. jobs and the economy).

The identified reviews are then prioritised and, working with a team of international volunteers, we prepare short targeted summaries that are freely available on EvidenceAid.org to help users see the key messages in the reviews and decide whether they need to read the full review.

These summaries are available in Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Evidence Aid are also contacting authors of non-free-to-view reviews to try to get those reviews free to view.

Evidence Aid have published more than 60 summaries as of  1st April, which are available at www.evidenceaid.org/coronavirus-covid-19-evidence-collection.

So please do go and have a look and share the summaries with anyone that you think might benefit from them.

More searches are being carried out, and summaries produced, all the time so do check back regularly for updates.

Although Evidence Aid already has a cohort of excellent searchers, the project is open to more offers of help.

To volunteer, please contact Claire Allen (callen @ evidenceaid.org) directly, or send me a message on Twitter via @libswithlives or @JoWood04 and I’ll put you in contact with Claire.

Until I volunteered for this work I felt quite helpless. I’m much better if I’m busy and feeling useful. If you’re working at home, feeling disconnected and want to use your skills, please do consider doing this. It feels crass to say that it’s an excellent CPD opportunity, but it really is and in normal times I would really advocate doing this kind of thing, particularly as it’s the kind of work you can do in your pyjamas, doesn’t involve face-to-face interactions, or getting annoyed by a committee!

Finally, please look after yourselves and your loved ones.

Stay safe and stay home and let’s look forward to better days.

Take care.

LwL Podcast Episode 40: Phil Gorman

In Episode 40 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Phil Gorman, Technical Services Librarian at the House of Commons Library about working in law libraries, implementing Library Management Systems, the pain of combining a full-time job with studying for a library qualification, drifting in and out of CPD activities, attending conferences, the amazingness that is the House of Commons Library open day (I’m a fan) and whether Chartership is really worth the bother.

Phil won extra brownie points for actually coming to visit ME to record the interview back in September, a #LwLPod first. Take note, interested future interviewees. My campaign to get Phil to register for Chartership has, thus far, been unsuccessful…

You can find the Commons Library website here and Phil also blogs here

The next episode will be released on 20th November and features Lynsey Sampson.

Happy listening!

LwL Podcast Episode 35: Ian Anstice

In Episode 35 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Ian Anstice, AKA Public Libraries News  about his day job(s) and lengthy career in public libraries, his ‘other’ job running PLN, sponsorship, marketing, speaking at conferences and much more besides.

The Time to Read initiative

The Librarians with Lives podcast is having a break over the summer so the next episode starring Kate Grigsby will be released on Tuesday 4th September

LwL Episode 16: Nick Poole

In Episode 16 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Nick Poole, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Nick was kind enough to give me 1.5 hours of his time back in November to record this episode in person at CILIP HQ.

We had a wide-ranging discussion (I asked some of the usual questions but several of them felt quite redundant, so it made sense to follow the flow of conversation for much of the episode) that included: the acquisition of and access to knowledge and information, routes into the information profession, efforts to diversify the workforce, living and working in the information age, “Librarian on Librarian Violence”, being part of CILIP, professional ethics, funding models for library services, and celebrating achievements without fear of ridicule. You can find out more about the CILIP Action Plan 2016-2020 here.

Nick also offers advice to both new and mid-career professionals, we chat about networking and speaking at conferences (please note my – frankly – shameless plea to be able to speak at the next CILIP conference), and the dreaded Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head yet again… If you have any questions, Nick is happy to answer them. Just click on his name at the top.

I’m very pleased to announce that this episode contains some exclusive news, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out more. No spoilers…

If you’re new to the profession, you can join CILIP here

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 16th January and stars Alisa Howlett (we’re going international again, this time to Australia.)
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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Disillusioned

Before I start – I love my job. My family have jokingly described the Library I run as ‘My other baby’ and they are pretty much right. I birthed the library, I water and nurture it. I protect and defend it. It has grown into something I’m rather proud of.

I’m feeling rather disillusioned with the information profession generally.

Why?

1. I think we’ve forgotten why we exist. Libraries cannot exist without their patrons/end-users/public. In the general stampede to stand up and shout and defend information provision for the great unwashed (and to tell everyone we’re doing it) we’ve forgotten to ask them what they actually want. Information professionals have a tendency (and I include myself in this) to decide that they know what’s best for the users, which isn’t always the case.

There’s a definite whiff of ‘Dad at the disco’ about some of the leaps we’ve made in terms of online presence, Web 2.0, etc. Yeah! We’re groovy! We’re hip! We’re down with the kids! A great example of this is Second Life. A number of libraries leapt on the Second Life bandwagon a few years ago because they thought they should. Do many Libraries have a Second Life presence now? I’d love to know. Instead of assuming that we know what our users want and imposing our will on them whilst also trying to be cutting edge means that we can forget what a good service actually looks like.

2. A Library isn’t a means to an end. We are, lest we forget, a support service. To define ourselves in the same bracket as doctors, lawyers and accountants in terms of professionalization is utterly ludicrous. We promote learning. We support evidence-based practice. We enable people to do their jobs; and/or conduct their lives just that little bit better.

I’m under no illusions about my job and my place in the organisation I work for. I support front-line practice and I enable people to undertake CPD. If people stop using the library, I’ll lose my job. It’s as simple as that. I’m not out on the front line dealing with the messy stuff in social work. I (hopefully) make the social workers’ lives a little bit easier. If I provide some information that can influence a decision in a small way that will positively benefit a family or a child, I’m doing my job properly. I can make the library as pretty and forward-thinking as I like but the moment I stop focusing on the needs of the end user, I’m sunk.

3. There’s too many people trying to make a name for themselves rather than focusing on their jobs. I do wonder when some people actually do the work they’re allegedly paid to do. How can they fit it in between the CPD and telling us what to think and how to behave? Giving someone a platform and a voice doesn’t make them God (before you ask, I’m aware of the irony of that sentence….)

I do not have time to sit and ponder the great conundrums of the information profession during working hours. Why? I’m too busy ploughing on with my job. If I had time to look up and take a breather I’d be concerned about the effect that would have on the very detailed statistics I keep that help to justify the existence of the Library. Which reminds me – it’s not just public and academic libraries that are struggling at the moment. Show me a library service that isn’t under some sort of threat and I’ll show you someone with serious delusions. We’re all fighting demons, even if we’re not prepared to shout about it publicly.

I keep trying to remind myself that Information Professionals are BRILLIANT. We’re great at doing more with less. We provide fantastic, comprehensive services. Above all, we CARE so much about what we do that we’re evangelical about it. These are all great things, and we should be proud of them. I just think we need to be more self-aware and not think that we’re the gatekeepers of all knowledge. We can learn as much from our users as they can from us.

That’s a fairly key point. I think the root of my malaise is the sense that, as a group, we’re losing sight of what we’re for and why we do it. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case. I don’t want to fall out of love with the information profession completely, but at this point, my relationship with it is pretty rocky.

Guest post #4: First they came for the school librarians…

Today’s very timely guest post comes from Katy Wrathall @SmilyLibrarian, who blogs here describes herself thus:

I started as a hotel receptionist book-keeper, then clerk in Civil Service, moved to IT as programmer, analyst, developer and then was an IT Consultant (Unix) jacked it in at 40 to do Library and Info Mgt degree, since when worked in Schools Library Service, then FE as LRC Manager, then info-lit project SMILE project manager, and temp Academic Liaison Team Manager, currently between engagements.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave this week you’ll know that, yet again, public libraries are in the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons. Katy explains why we need to support our professional colleagues and advocate on behalf of the profession. If we don’t, who else will?

School librarians have been fighting to retain the professionalism of their role for a long time, in some cases with little support even from their own professional body. If we do not fight for the professional qualification to be recognised and mandatory for all librarians are we saying that actually it has no relevance?

If you are a librarian in any sector you can’t fail to have noticed that Public Library Services are under increasing threat. There is a misconception about their role and the services provided that at times seems tantamount to a campaign of deliberate misinformation. The vitriol towards libraries and indeed librarians expressed in responses to articles such as those by I. J. Clark and Lauren Smith has been shocking, and, for me, deeply concerning.

It seems to me to be symptomatic of a much wider lack of understanding of the role of a librarian, wherever we work. I believe we are at a crossroads in the profession and we all need to stand up and be counted. No librarian, wherever they work, can afford to be complacent about the future of the profession. We have to work together to say what librarians are, and what we bring to our employers. We have to get loud about our skills in finding, organising, detailing and relaying information. We have to get loud about the fact that people may be able to afford to buy their own books, DVDs, computers and access to online services, but without librarians they can’t easily retrieve just the piece of information they need, they can’t have objectively selected fiction available freely and with minimum effort, there won’t be anywhere they can go to ask for help with their research and there won’t be anybody ensuring their work is acknowledged by others.

We can’t sit and wait for somebody to do this for us, and we can’t assume that they won’t come for the college, academic, legal, or business librarians next. We have to stand up and be counted, we have to tell people what they are throwing away which they will never get back, we have to act outside the stereotype. And we have to do it now.