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!

Guest post #6: Practical approaches to CPD

The latest guest post come from Frances Machell @hybridcollector and I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve recruited her as co-editor of Librarians with Lives, which means there will now be two of us asking for content on Twitter! Please join me in welcoming her to LwL. She wrote her own introduction to this piece and will be adding her own, longer contribution to the About section of LwL in due course:

I currently work for a university in the wonderfully titled post of “Hybrid Collections Coordinator”. Although it sounds like my job should involve cross-breeding butterflies, I actually spend most of my time working in e-resource management/content development/acquisitions areas. I’ve worked most of my library career so far in universities, both on the content and subject support side, and sometimes get deeply irritated by library world as only someone who loves it could do.

Frances’ post is a great, down-to earth look at CPD which sums up everything that LwL is about:

I’ll start with a confession. I used to be one of those super enthusiastic new professionals, the kind of person who stayed late at work doing my Chartership and who volunteered as a Candidate Support Officer. These days… well, I still enjoy my job (most of the time) and still feel that enthusiasm (when not banging my head against the wall) but I’m also a pretty typical time-poor, mid-career, middle management librarian whose “Professional Involvement” section of the CV is maybe starting to look a little bit dated.

And so time for a few salutary reminders – for myself and for the other Librarians with Lives out there.

Continuing Professional Development is not the same thing as going on courses. It’s also not the same thing as:

  • Going to many many conferences
  • Posting loads on Twitter and having hundreds of followers
  • Joining lots of local committees
  • In fact, you can pretty much insert whatever professional activity you feel guilty for not doing here, whether it’s reading the Gazette or keeping a blog or whatever.

Don’t get me wrong, all these things can be fun, motivating, and certainly a good way to see and be seen, but they’re not an automatic pass to being a good professional. The biggest problem has never been a shortage of information: it’s the application that’s the problem (how many times have I come back from a conference or course ready put the world to rights, only to be swamped by the everyday necessities?). It’s an old CSO cliche, but it’s not what you’ve done or read that matters, it’s what you learned and changed as a result.

So don’t worry about it. You don’t have to be an expert on all aspects of Library World. If time is short, focus on the useful stuff. In my area (e-resources/digital content/acquisitions), there’s maybe two or three mailing lists where most of the useful conversations happen, one really good conference, a couple of blogs which are worth reading and an awful lot of material out there on the Internet which can be skimmed or just plain ignored. And as for all those long reports – remember, executive summaries are there for a reason…

However I do honestly believe in true CPD. Which for me is about the serious question of: how can I be good at my job? Faced with this project/this team/this deadline/this set of limitations, how can I do my job better both as a librarian and, just as importantly, as a manager. And it’s precisely when I’m time-poor, that it becomes easiest to fall back on old habits of working, not even by conscious choice but simply out of pressure to get a job done.

That’s why I’d say that there’s one area of professional involvement (with a lower case p and a lower case i) that’s always worth investing time in: namely building up a strong, relevant network of people you can talk to. Like-minded individuals you can bounce ideas off, compare plans with, draw on for inspiration and outright copy from. Colleagues, ex-colleagues, local librarians doing similar jobs or just old mates from library school days, I’ve had long and useful discussions with all of them, and not just because I love a good gossip either.

So do I still think I’m not doing enough CPD? Maybe not, as long as I can still say “some of my best friends are librarians… and good ones at that”.*

* And yes, I’ve just written in praise of professional networks without talking about social networking. That’s a whole subject in its own right…

Guest post #3: The Social Networking beast upon my back

The weeks’ guest post comes from…well..he wrote his own blurb so here it is:

Gaz J Johnson (aka @llordllama) blogs over here  and here. In between gardening, writing, and far too much computer gaming he also makes (somewhat) entertaining videos with puppets.  He also fits some work as a library manager around this somehow.

I have a little story to about Gaz (I see Gaz, I desperately want to add and extra z and the surname Topp but that would tell you far too much about my childhood) but I’ll leave that to the end of the post. Here’s his excellent piece on professional development and Social Networking:

Professional development’s a tricky little beast.  Today if you turn around and ask your manager what it’s all about chances are they’ll tell you it’s about making you better at what you do.  Then they’ll blink, look sideways, and remember that there was something in your most recent appraisal about “wider professional engagement”.

 There used to be that bit in my appraisals too way back in the late 90s when I was starting out as a professional librarian; after a successful stint as a sales manager, drug researcher and late night telephone operator (don’t ask!).  These days I almost have to tone down what I’m doing with the wider librarian environment and try and make sure there’s something about the day to day job.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m fascinated by the countless aspects of my job that I have to learn more about each day (did someone say “Copyright”? Lordy I know someone will have!) but for me what’s got me stimulated and keeps me coming back for more in being able to reach out and touch someone.

 No wait, come back, not like that!  No matter what you’ve heard about me and the weasel.

 What I mean is being able to connect with people.  In the old days (well early 2000s) this was at conferences.  Little secret, I’m really a shy retiring flower who finds going to conferences a bit of a trauma – having to make new friends, all that unknown elements of the sessions, worrying that no one will turn up to hear me talk.

But what do I love when I’m on the motorway hammering back to Leicestershire at exactly  the speed limit?  Why it’s all the new friends I’ve made, the new things I’ve learned and the fact that I had a packed room to my talk and no one laughed.  Well at least not at the wrong bits.  For me this kind of contact reminds me of the fabulous people who make this profession such a delight to work within.

But conferences and events cost time and money, something organisations are often loathed to give in large quantity.  How can the busy professional (and professional manager in my case these days) stay on top of everything that’s going on?  Easy answer is you can’t, but since I’ve got a voracious apatite for learning new things I’m not going to accept that.  Sure I could read the literature (I do, it’s what gets me to sleep at night).  Problem is I have a digital native wired brain with the attention span of gnat; which is probably why the bit sized chuckettes that my social networking feed (largely Twitter, but blogs and Facebook all play a part too) delivers to me are consumed with gusto.  I love that by the time someone in the office gets around to recommending a new report, I’ve read it about three weeks ago thanks to some bright spark suggesting it to me.  And once in a while I get to repay the community by pushing a new report that’s caught my eye too.

So does social networking give me everything a conference would?  Not quite – I need those too, but in between these joyous blends of learning and socialising, I’ve got social networking to tantalise me with nuggets of news, isotopes of information and wedges of wisdom.  Keeps me fresh, keeps me current and it hardly takes any time at all.

Well unless you start replying to people….

My @llordllama story, which kind-of relates to networking online and at conferences, goes like this:

If you were at Umbrella 2009 you’ll remember that there was a conference dinner at RAF Hendon. There was also alcohol. There was also karaoke. I partook in the first two. I did not partake in the third – if they’d had Tainted Love it would have been a different story…

I digress. I was sitting with a few people enduring  enjoying the karaoke and occasionally checking the Umbrella Twitter feeds to see what everyone else was up to when I noticed quite a few posts from a Tweeter that called himself @llordllama – most were about the conference itself but as the evening progressed he did a commentary on the entertainment.

I have what can best be described as a heightened sense of moral injustice which magnifies ten-fold when I’ve had a drink. Or six. My indignance at @llordllama increased with every Tweet he posted. I turned to one of my friends and demanded “WHO IS THIS LLORDLLAMA PERSON?” (swearing removed to preserve professionalism). She pointed out a guy sitting across the room from us on his own and said that he was well-known  in the Library world, very well-respected, etc., so I showed her his Tweets.

I can’t quite recall what was said next but, emboldened by wine and vodka I decided that I should go and have a ‘chat’ with him. I felt (probably heavily influenced by my slightly iniebriated state) that some of his Tweets had crossed the line and that I should ‘have a word’. I got up and started to move towards him when @michaelstead sat down next to him….and I had a moment of clarity. I went back to my seat and did some Muttley style growling under my breath. I then wrote @llordllama off as an idiot and he avoided getting asked to ‘discuss’ his Tweets ‘outside’ with me (I suspect I may have wanted to challenge him to a fight and I actually hate physical violence), which was probably for the best all-round really.

Of course, I now know that he’s one of the good guys but it just shows how Twitter can create a false impression of someone. I judged him based on some late-night Tweets at a conference and I very nearly made a fool of myself by challenging him about his behaviour whilst under the influence. I guess this is a lighthearted cautionary tale of when Social Networking AND networking at conferences goes awry.

No Librarians were harmed in the retelling of this story…

Guest post #2: fitting CPD into a busy life – some tips

This  post is by Janet Clapton, Senior Information Specialist at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and actually someone I know in real life! She works in the same building as me (albeit for a different organisation) and we have lunch together regularly. At our last lunch we discussed ways in which I could avoid becoming professionally senile  – a very real fear of mine. The discussion that we had led (in a rather roundabout way) to the creation of LwL – so she has a lot to answer for!

“We now have many and varied opportunities to keep up to date, but so little time. I’m convinced the answer is in efficient and tailored professional current awareness, and feeling enough benefits to persevere.

The approach has to work for you – for me, this meant carefully chosen e-alerts (who can resist reading an email?), culls of subscriptions I didn’t read (no guilt!), converting feeds from other sources (such Linked In groups, e.g. Commercial Legal and Scientific Information Group) and media (such as Twitter, e.g. @LISResearch), using tools such as Feed my Inbox and Tweetdeck. I don’t access my RSS feed reader very often, however when I do I can search within it for topics of research interest. Reading hard copies of professional literature sometimes fits into commuting time (when not sleeping).

Going to events has social benefits as well as finding out what’s going on and adding to your network. If activities are a burden, you’re not going to keep them up whereas tangible benefit from being well informed makes extra effort seem worthwhile”.

Janet isn’t on Twitter but she is on Linked In, although she describes herself as ‘not an enthusiastic user’. Her recent publications are:

Clapton, J. (2010) Choosing databases for social care topics. Poster at Health Libraries Group Conference, Salford, July 19-20 2010. (Soon to be uploaded at http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/special-interest-groups/health/events/conferences/pages/conference-2010.aspx#posters )

Clapton, J. (2010). Bibliographic databases for social care searching. Report 34. SCIE: London. http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/reports/report34.asp

Clapton, J. (2010). Library and information science practitioners writing for publication: motivations, barriers and supports. Library and Information Research 34 (106)
http://www.lirg.org.uk/lir/ojs/index.php/lir/article/view/217/287

Clapton, J. (2009). Establishing the context for your research project. Library and Information Research 33(104), http://www.lirg.org.uk/lir/ojs/index.php/lir/article/view/154