FCLIP Feedback and advice

Now that have achieved FCLIP, I can pass on some of my hard-earned wisdom (such as it is) on how to avoid all the mistakes that I made and give yourself the best possible chance of getting your portfolio through the assessment board first time (unlike me…)

I have divided this into three areas: portfolio-specific advice, general advice, and advice for CILIP

Portfolio advice

  1. Critical evaluation: It’s not enough to say you’ve done an amazing thing and to provide evidence of it. You need to reflect on what you did, how it went and what you would do differently next time. Repeatedly. On multiple documents: your evaluative statement, your evidence (every single piece of it), the PKSB, your CV, your job description and through your supporting statements. If you’ve done Chartership recently (note I said recently i.e. in the last five years) you will already know this. Forget passive voice. You need to adopt the persona of a charismatic preacher convincing the congregation that you can heal their terminal illnesses simply by laying hands on them.
  2. Supporting letters: The handbook states that you need a minimum of two. Actually, the more letters you can get to prove your case and blow your trumpet on your behalf, the better. This should be explicitly stated in the guidelines. Ask everyone that had anything to do with anything in your portfolio. Those people will say extremely nice things about you. Their words are useful to refer to when you’re on your fifteenth go at doing your evaluative statement and you hate yourself, CILIP, all library workers (even the ones you vaguely like), anyone who already has FCLIP, and you wish you’d become a nail technician/writer/professional Sims player rather than a librarian
  3. Mentor: You need an FCLIP mentor – as in, you need someone that has been through FCLIP themselves, or at the very minimum has a proven track record of getting other people through it. I firmly believe that an MCLIP mentor (even a very experienced one) is NOT sufficiently equipped to know which areas to push in an FCLIP portfolio. I’m a Chartership mentor and I don’t think that I would have had the skills to support someone doing Fellowship before I went through the process myself. Moreover, I think that FCLIP mentors need more extensive training than MCLIP mentors and that they should refresh their training every 2-3 years.
  4. Evidence: You must link it to the PKSB and I mean by putting a paragraph at the top of every single bit of evidence stating explicitly which bits of the PKSB it supports, down to the numbers. So far, so Chartership. Additionally, you need to signpost the assessors and point out PRECISELY why this evidence matters. You also need to elevate the reflection so that it provides clear evidence of higher-level management and leadership thinking.
  5. Language: forget everything you’ve been told about not putting ‘I’ into stuff because there’s no I in team. In your FCLIP portfolio you are the supreme ruler of your realm. You did a thing? Great! You LED that thing. You’re an ADVOCATE! You’re a LEADER! You’re an INFLUENCER!. Modest people DO NOT ACHIEVE FCLIP. Even if you *are* modest by nature you must pretend that you’re an arrogant so-and-so. This is hard but there’s no way round it.

General advice

  1. It’s a selling job. You’re selling yourself and your skills to convince the assessors and the panel that you are worthy of FCLIP. It’s not enough to have done lots of innovative, interesting things. You have to tell them, through your portfolio, in glorious technicolour. Repeatedly. In self-glorifying language. Activate jazz hands, a chorus line and twenty-five tapdancing musical theatre stars WITH CANES AND TOP HATS singing at the very top of their lungs about your greatness.
  2. You need to be confident about your management and leadership skills: You need to demonstrate – repeatedly – that you have high-level management skills. Don’t assume the assessors will be able to read between the lines and see that you’re working at a significantly higher level than a Chartership candidate. You have to tell them repeatedly throughout your portfolio.
  3. It’s lonely: Some candidates set up FCLIP support groups and have find them extremely useful, but I know they wouldn’t work for me because they would enhance my already heightened feelings of inadequacy. Everyone I’ve spoken to has gone through a really difficult time with it and it does feel like you’re trying to navigate without a map. If you can’t face being part of an FCLIP group, perhaps buddy up with someone who already has already achieved Fellowship but isn’t your mentor, or with someone going through Chartership. Even if you just end up sending each other Gavin and Stacey gifs on Twitter.
  4. It’s emotional: someone said that to me early on and I was surprised. However, reflecting on your career and your journey pushes certain buttons. It forces you to go back and explore complicated unresolved feelings about projects that went wrong, significant achievements, and the reality of day-to-day working life over a period of time. It also reminds you of things that you’ve done that you completely forgot about. It’s an odd sort of professional therapy.
  5. You have to want it: I had two drivers pushing me towards FCLIP. It’s the last library-related qualification I plan to do, and I wanted to reflect on what I’ve achieved so far in my career and work out my next steps career-wise. I don’t think that I would have contemplated taking it on otherwise. You need your reasons and you need to be able to refer back to them when the going gets tough.
  6. You’re allowed to find it hard: I think it’s very dangerous for anyone to pretend that it’s a smooth process because it prevents others from sharing their fears and worries. FCLIP should not be easy. It’s a significant step up from MCLIP. It feels like you’re trying to free solo El Capitan at times and I worry that the step from one to the other is too high and that the expectations are disproportionate.

Advice for CILIP

All of the above plus:

  1. Mentor or tutor? I think the line is pretty blurred in professional registration and I don’t think it’s entirely helpful. A mentor advises and a tutor teaches. I needed both when I was putting my portfolio together. I’m not convinced that a one-day course or webinar teaches anyone how to support a candidate through FCLIP.
  2. The step (or rather, the sheer climb) between Chartership and Fellowship needs to be made clearer at the outset. The woolly expectations in the handbook don’t indicate how onerous it is in terms of time commitment and sheer mental and emotional effort.
  3. Make the processes and documentation clearer. The handbook is extremely woolly and there should be a separate FCLIP-specific version. There shouldn’t be a whole host of ‘Stuff you aren’t told but are somehow supposed to know’ hidden away. It’s not supposed to be a treasure hunt.

Don’t be afraid of social media

Reposted with permission from Mike Jones:

Last year when Jo Wood and I were delivering our “Networking for the rest of us” workshop at a variety of library events, including the 2018 CILIP Conference in Brighton, the most frequent question we were asked was how the advice we were giving about how to better approach social situations at professional events could be translated into the online environment, particularly how they could be applied to better use social media as a tool to expand, and make the most of, their professional network.

So here were are getting ready to head off to CILIP’s main event once again and attempting to answer those questions with more detailed and evidenced answers than we garbled as a response 12 months ago. So what will you get from attending our session (at 11.05am on Wednesday 3rd July in 1.218 should you be interested)?

First and foremost you’ll get an analysis of the data gleamed from the survey we carried out in April that sought to discover how library workers are currently using social media for personal professional purposes. We’ll also take a look at the options available to you in regards to the social media tools on which library folk interact. Finally, we’ll offer some advice as to how you might approach getting started on these tools. There’s even going to be some interactive elements (for which you’ll need an internet enabled device if you have one) and of course (and most importantly) the opportunity to mix with fellow members of the library community in a similar position to you – hey, you might even pick up your first Twitter follower, LinkedIn contact or Facebook liker from within the room! 

Ultimately the workshop brings together two things that we’re both really passionate about – improving networking opportunities and the place of social media as a tool for harnessing a vibrant and supportive library community. If that sounds like something you’d like to be part of then we’d be delighted to see you there!

LwL Podcast Episode 51 – Phil Bradley

In Episode 51 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Phil Bradley, until recently a consultant and trainer about working for the British Council, CD-ROMs and libraries, the coming of the internet, the impact of Twitter, playing around on the internet for a living, mental health and loss, and what it’s like to be CILIP President during turbulent times…

Phil’s training website: https://philbradleytraining.weebly.com/ He’s offering his Apps for Librarians video course of 40 videos entirely free of charge. His training course of 40+ videos lasting over 6 hours is available for £20 for unlimited personal access. People can email him for more details: philipbradley@gmail.com (Phil is happy for me to publish his contact details here.)

We recorded this episode in early February over Skype audio. Normally I’m able to switch off after a podcast recording but this one really stayed with me as it was a lot to process. Phil talks very candidly about being CILIP President and the impact that the experience had on his mental health. I was shocked by some of the things he said and, listening back to the episode, I think that comes across.

I missed a lot of what happened in CILIP and in the profession generally when I went on an extended CPD break from 2012-2016 and I was largely disconnected for about a year for various reasons prior to that. On reflection it was probably a good thing.

Even if you’re not a massive fan of Librarians with Lives I’d urge you to listen to this episode. If nothing else, we should reflect on how we treat others (as a previous low-level library twitter moron I very much include myself in this) in the profession. The main point being that if you’re moved to send death threats to the CILIP President by email, maybe…don’t….?

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 23rd April and features Shaun Kennedy.

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 44: Paul Jeorrett

In Episode 44 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Paul Jeorrett, until very recently Chair of CILIP Cymru Wales. Paul retired from his role at Wrexham Glyndwr University at the end of 2017.

I met Paul at the CILIP Cymru Wales conference, which was held at Aberystwyth University in May 2018. I delivered a plenary presentation at the conference, which was probably one of my highlights of my entire professional career. I’ve done some great stuff since, but Aber will always be special.

Just before my presentation Paul popped over for a chat with me and apologised in advance because he was master of ceremonies at the evening reception, so thought he might need to dash off part-way through to prepare. When I finished speaking Paul was one of the first people to come over and congratulate me on my presentation. We had a “You stayed!” “I couldn’t leave!” conversation and he asked if I’d ever done any live radio. Why yes, I used to co-present a (terrible, but I wasn’t telling him that) student radio show in Reading. Paul asked if I’d consider being a guest on his radio show. He’s an extremely nice man. I suspect he asks a lot of people and normally they politely turn him down but not me. No way. You’ll hear the results of that in the next episode, which is a music-free version of the radio show I guested on in October 2018.

Paul worked at ZSL London Zoo Library early in his career, and after hearing their episode he got in contact with them and actually visited his old workplace in the summer. That was a ‘I did that!’ lovely moment for me.

The next episode will be the radio show recording, and then I’m having an extended break over Christmas because why the heck not? LwL proper will be back on Tuesday 8th January and will feature Ellie Downes.

Happy listening!

LwL Podcast Episode 43: Sally Walker

In Episode 43 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Sally Walker, Children’s Librarian in Orkney and CILIPS Library and Information Professional of the Year 2017.

Sally and I first met at the CILIP Conference in Brighton in July, where she delivered one of the keynote presentations. During her talk I tweeted CILIPS and asked them if they could help me get Sally on the podcast.

After delivering her kick-ass talk, Mike Jones and I were shocked when Sally came along to our networking workshop. While we emphasise the fact that the workshop is for everyone, it tends to attract new/trainee info pros/library workers. We didn’t expect one of the keynote speakers to come along and confess that they found professional events extremely daunting.

Since then Sally and I have become friends [One of the lovely benefits of doing the podcast is that I’ve met so many people that I now class as friends as a result of interviewing them. Sally is definitely in this category.] and we recorded this episode over Skype audio in September. Again, apologies for the quality of the recording. My ancient desktop computer (RIP) was definitely on the way out and the sound quality isn’t great. I’ve cleaned it up as much as I can and it’s absolutely worth listening to.

I haven’t quite decided which episode I’m going to release next. I have a few episodes banked and ready to go so it’s just a case of choosing one…

Happy listening!

 

 

LwL Podcast Episode 41: Lynsey Sampson

In Episode 41 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Lynsey Sampson, Information Services Assistant at the University of Strathclyde.

Lynsey previously worked in public libraries and a mental health service. We discuss CPD, getting bursaries, attending conferences, and visiting libraries abroad. Lynsey’s answer for the dream library job question is excellent and entirely unexpected… #GetOuttaMyPub

I met Lynsey in person at the CILIP Conference in July and she kindly provided one of the soundbites for the conference special. Lynsey blogged about her conference experience here.

I need to apologise for the sound quality in this episode, which was recorded via Skype audio in September. I’ve cleaned it up as much as I can and we both sound significantly less like we did the recording in a public toilet now. You think *this* is a FUBAR? Well, have I got a story for YOU early next year…

The next episode will be released on 27th November and is an extremely sparkly, jazz hands side-special featuring Clare McCluskey Dean, star of Episode 3 of LwL.

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 39: Angus MacDonald

In Episode 39 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Angus MacDonald, web and digital manager at CILIP, who is also a qualified information professional. He worked briefly in libraries before moving into roles at a start-up and an advertising agency. We discuss developments at CILIP, engaging with members, and whether Mad Men accurately portrays what it’s like to work in advertising…

Happy listening!

A year of the Librarians with Lives Podcast

Librarians with Lives in numbers:

[from 3rd September 2017 to 25th July 2018 am]

35 episodes released (plus the CILIP Conference Special)

72 people interviewed

9,928 plays

Top 5 most listened to episodes:

  1. Nick Poole
  2. Helen Berry
  3. CILIP Conference 2018 special
  4. Katherine Burchell
  5. Jane Secker

50+ (the Soundcloud stats stop at 50) countries in which the podcast has been listened to

The top 10 are:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. USA
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. Luxembourg
  6. Ireland
  7. Canada
  8. Sweden
  9. Japan
  10. Spain

10 things I have learned:

  1. How to spot who has enough ‘voice’ and personality to sustain an episode
  2. Once you get (most) people talking about themselves, it’s virtually impossible to stop them
  3. Being bold but polite gets results.
  4. People will complain about things that never occurred to you
  5. Social media personas can be extremely amplified versions of someone’s actual personality.
  6. Some people are *exactly* the same in real life as they are online.
  7. Everyone hates the sound of their own voice. Nobody has a bad voice.
  8. Occasionally, interviewees will drive you mad by not promoting, or mentioning to anyone, their own episode of the podcast when it’s released.
  9. Don’t go looking for the dissenting voices. If you’re *really* lucky they will a. Make themselves obvious and/or b. People will tell you about them. Honestly, I and/or LwL are not worth your hate.
  10. The Librarians with Lives alumni I have gone on to meet in real life have, without exception, been absolutely lovely.

27 Unexpected consequences…

…or things that wouldn’t have happened if the podcast didn’t exist:

Conferences

  1. Co-delivering a workshop on networking at the CILIP Careers Day in April with someone I interviewed for the podcast, who I hadn’t met in real life until the morning of the workshop
  2. Subsequently co-delivering that workshop at the CILIP Conference in Brighton in July
  3. …and being asked to co-deliver it again at the CILIP New Professionals Day in October
  4. …and at a CILIP in London event in November
  5. Seeing the Welcome Zone at the CILIP Conference and thinking ‘I helped to affect that change’.
  6. Going back to Aberystwyth, 12 years after I finished my distance learning ILS qualification there, to deliver a plenary presentation about mental health, podcasting and resilience at the CILIP Cymru Wales Conference in May
  7. Standing up and telling 100+ people, most of whom had no idea who I was, about my mental health (see no. 5.)
  8. …and being asked to deliver a similar talk at a CILIP Scotland event in October.
  9. Recording an episode of Librarians with Lives at the CILIP Conference, where I interviewed 40 people, many of whom I had never met before and turning it into something coherent
  10. Submitting a very speculative proposal to speak at the forthcoming ILI Conference in October and for it to become a break-out session called Live, Love, Librarian!

In print

  1. Appearing in three consecutive issues of Information Professional magazine in 2018 (sorry…):
  • 60 seconds with…
  • Revalidation and CILIP Cymru Wales conference mentions
  • Networking article with Mike and being mentioned in Nick Poole’s editorial
  1. Writing an article for MMiT about the tech behind the podcast
  2. Being interviewed for a journal article about my experiences of being involved with a professional body
  3. Being interviewed for a case study for a forthcoming book on management

Professional development

  1. Gaining two Chartership mentees
  2. …and a Fellowship mentor

Fun stuff

  1. #Libraruns
  2. Hacking a shop-bought Guess Who game and turning it into a special Librarians with Lives edition for the networking workshop
  3. Hosting a Christmas Special of the podcast featuring previous guests and keeping it (mostly) in order
  4. Getting to see the inner workings of CILIP HQ (small, mostly open plan, desks, people) [Spoiler 1: it’s not Narnia. Spoiler 2: everyone I’ve met from CILIP is lovely]
  1. Being asked to guest on a community radio show
  2. Being asked to voice a small role on a comedy sketch podcast
  3. The Love Island DM group
  4. The Queer Eye DM group
  5. Chess: the musical with Clare “Wasn’t it good? OH SO GOOD” “Wasn’t he fine? OH SO FIIIIIINNNNNNEEEEEE” etc.
  6. Becoming (very) mildly ‘Library Famous’.
  7. Making new Library Friends who are now Actual Friends

2 negative things

  1. I have severe writers’ block with my Fellowship portfolio. If I could record me speaking about it, I could probably submit it. I firmly believe that I *will* be able to write and submit a successful application at some stage, but I’m not *yet* ready or able to do so.
  2. I probably won’t ever write my Mills & Boon ‘Love in a library’ bestselling novel now…

1 sad thing

I can’t believe it will ever be as good as this again. To watch something that I started as a tiny little CPD project grow into an actual podcast with listeners across the world and from different sectors of the information profession is mind-blowing.

…and finally…

Thank you to everyone that has taken part, listened to, promoted, and contributed to the Podcast in some way over the last year. There are too many of you to thank individually but it takes a village small city to make a podcast successful and I’m incredibly grateful. This is the greatest CPD thing I have done, and will ever do, and I’m already looking forward to the next LwL Podcast season.

LwL will be back on 4th September after a little summer holiday.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Queer Eye.

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