Evidence Aid secondment

During a virtual team meeting at the end of March mention was made of a list of useful tasks that the Knowledge and Library Services team could work on to support COVID-19 efforts within PHE and with external partners.  Knowing that, as the Knowledge and Evidence Specialist for Health Improvement my workload was likely to be quieter for a time*, I followed up after the meeting. “We have just the job in mind for you” is always a scary phase because it generally refers to a terrible task that no-one else wants to do. The conversation continued “We know you miss managing people, so you get to do that and use your organisational, tact and diplomacy skills as well”.**

Evidence Aid, a charity, needed someone to co-ordinate a team of volunteer literature searchers for their COVID-19 collection of systematic review summaries and had asked their contacts at PHE for help. I was offered to Evidence Aid on a part-time basis (2-3 hours per day) from 1st April – 31st May to support them with Phase 1 of the project.

Literature Search Co-Ordination – During an initial chat with Evidence Aid it became apparent that as well as co-ordinating the searchers, they needed someone to recruit new searchers and set up the workflows and processes. I did that within a couple of days. To explain, Evidence Aid has a core COVID-19 search that runs every day looking for new systematic reviews, but they wanted volunteers to perform literature searches on related topics of interest as well. I am extremely concerned about using library workers as volunteers. I did an Evidence Aid mini episode of the podcast and approached established groups for health library workers with a very clear message of “Please don’t feel obliged to consider doing this work if you can’t/don’t want to, focus on looking after yourselves and your loved ones”. PHE have kindly allowed me to ‘borrow’ a couple of my colleagues to do searches, and a few other people answered my call for help. (FWIW the searchers either have jobs in which they are already doing COVID-related work, have been redeployed and want to keep their hand in with searching, or want to develop new skills while they’re working at home.)

I’ve developed a small cohort of keen, committed searchers and I keep a careful eye on them. They are asked to consider whether they want to take on a search, not to worry if they can’t, and to take care of themselves. I also ensure that they have realistic deadlines to work to and that these can be changed as/when necessary.

Summary Writing Co-Ordination – Once the searching end of the process was set up and running smoothly, it became obvious that someone was needed to co-ordinate the other end of the process, the summary writers, as well. Once suitable systematic reviews are identified via searches, they are prioritised for summarising (the bar for inclusion is high and many COVID-related SRs aren’t up to scratch so are rejected early on), allocated to summarisers, edited by a small team, and added to the website.

Initially the summaries were written by two people and finalised by someone else, but this model of working was unsustainable. Evidence Aid put a call-out on the Cochrane Task Exchange and academics and students from all over the world offered their services as summary writers. Initially they were co-ordinated by the two original summary writers, but their workloads were huge and one of them was studying for exams, so I took over.

When I started there was a lot of confusion about who was working on a summary, who wasn’t, what stage a summary was at, whether it was a duplicate, who was editing summaries, and liaising with the summarisers. I created the workflows and processes so that a summary could be tracked from when it was prioritised for inclusion to when it was added to the portal. I’m the initial point of contact for the summarisers and keep a careful eye on their workloads. Draft summaries are sent to two people (a student and a health specialist) to edit, go to an academic for finalising, and are given the final go-ahead by another academic before being added to the website.

This means that I’m now co-ordinating the work of c.60 people across the project.

Managing my time – I’m balancing the Evidence Aid work with my PHE work. When the project was in its infancy my inbox was overwhelming and I spent most of my time dealing with email traffic and fighting fires. Two months on things have settled down, there have been some personnel changes, and I have far less traffic to manage. I have clear boundaries. If I have PHE work to do, I’ll turn off my emails for a couple of hours so that I can focus. I won’t work late unless I need to finish something urgent off, and I absolutely will not work weekends.

Feedback – I’m the main point of contact for the volunteers and I want to make them feel welcome and valued. If they say they will get a piece of work done by a certain date and don’t manage it, I’ll follow-up to gently ask if they’re ok. An awful lot can happen in someone’s life in a short space of time and piling in on them for not doing something they’ve volunteered for is never appropriate. I emphasise that they must look after themselves and thank them for their work. The relationship-building aspect of the work is key, as is the need for kind and constructive feedback. English is not necessarily the first (or second) language of the summary writers so I need to be mindful of how I phrase emails e.g. not using colloquial or confusing language. I don’t always get it right, though, and I’m learning all the time.

Emotional toll – I’m incredibly lucky and haven’t been personally affected – yet – by COVID. Managing emails from 60 volunteers, plus those from the Evidence Aid team, being part of team calls across two organisations, updating the workflows, advising on the project, doing my PHE work, managing my own wellbeing, parenting, supervising home schooling and trying to get through life in lockdown is far from easy though. There are days when the last thing I want to do is work.  I have imposed a routine on myself on weekdays to prevent the gloom from descending too severely.

Next steps – In May Evidence Aid received funding for Phase 2 of the COVID-19 project and asked if I would like to carry on working with them. It’s been agreed that my part-time secondment will carry on until the end of October and I’ll juggle my PHE work alongside. My original job title was Searching Co-Ordinator. In early April I became the Searching and Summary Writing Co-Ordinator. I’m now the COVID-19 Project Co-Ordinator.

Final thoughts – It’s no secret that I’ve been through a tough time professionally in the last year. In an ideal world I would be doing my PHE role full-time, a job that I was just starting to get good at before lockdown started, and we wouldn’t be coping with a global pandemic. However, we can only operate in the situation in which we find ourselves. I’m enormously privileged that despite the challenges outlined, I can do my PHE and Evidence Aid work from home, and that everyone I love is ok. I appreciate the opportunity that I have been given and I’m determined not to waste it.

It’s not appropriate to do so now, but perhaps in a few months’ time I’ll be able to sit down and selfishly, cynically, write a list of the ways that this secondment will benefit my career prospects and how I can use my new and enhanced skills in the future. For now, my stance is that if my work makes the lives of my colleagues and peers easier, that is enough.

*The HI work quietened down for a time as everyone shifted to new ways of working and/or was asked to do COVID-related work but picked up again from late April. I’m now at the point where I get a lot of repeat business from happy customers who like my literature searching and with whom I have built relationships so I’m keen to keep working with them.

**I would describe my skills in these areas as a ‘work in progress’ but perhaps my management team views me a little differently to how I view myself.

LwL Podcast Episode 53 – Hong-Anh Nguyen

In Episode 53 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Hong-Anh Nguyen, Information Service Manager at The King’s Fund. I don’t want to give away too much because I want everyone to listen. She’s fab. That’s all the spoilers I’m willing to give you…

Hong-Anh is recruiting for a BAME graduate traineeship at The King’s Fund – contact her for more details.
CILIP BAME network is officially launching in the summer. Find out more here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/BAMENetwork

We recorded this episode in early February in person at Hong-Anh’s workplace. We chatted for about an hour prior to the recording, and the recorded interview itself ran to 1 hour 30 minutes. We’re chatty people! I have taken out the really non-librariany bits and put them into a mini episode, which will be released next week. I try to keep LwL episodes to an hour but Hong-Anh was so brilliant that I simply couldn’t edit anything else out.

Happy listening!

LwL Podcast Episode 52 – Shaun Kennedy

In Episode 52 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Shaun Kennedy, Information/Knowledge Assistant at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Shaun moved to the UK after completing his library course. We discuss his background, career so far, juggling distance learning with a full-time role, frustrations around library qualifications, and the exciting things that Shaun does (that made me gasp with delight) when he’s not librarianing…

We recorded this episode in early February over Skype audio. There’s been a bit of a gap between recording the last batch of episodes and releasing them, partly because I want to throw less LwL content at everyone this year and give the episodes more chance to breathe, but also because I’ve got quite a lot going on at the moment and I want to do the interviews justice.

The next episode will be released in May and features Hong-Anh Nguyen.

Happy listening!

 

10 years ‘Enjoyably stuck’ – Part 4 & Reflections on a decade

Intro & Part 1

Parts 2 & 3

Part 4

The beginning of 2017 to now has been the most professionally fulfilling period of my working life.

One of the first projects I collaborated on with the new library assistant was a complete reclassification of the physical collection. I had simply adopted Bliss from my previous employer and although I found it infuriating, I stuck with it as I was also responsible for cataloguing and classification. When the new assistant asked me to teach him, I found that I couldn’t – one of the things that simply disappeared from my brain when I was ill was (weirdly) Bliss classification. As the physical collection is relatively small we decided to reclassify it ourselves, to Library of Congress. I was resistant at first, but we actually got the project done in 3-4 months, fitting it in around our other work. As well as being a useful project it acted as a good bonding exercise. Two years on I’m glad we did it.

I’m really proud of the Library Management System Project, which accounted for one of my darkest times at work and one of my finest. In early 2016 I put together a project plan to secure funding for the new system. The initial project plan had been rejected, which I later found out was due to reasons beyond my control. In early 2017 I decided to have another go at getting support and funding for the system and this time I got the green light to get on with procurement. While my assistant (now promoted to LIS Officer) concentrated on the systems side of things, I worked with the new LMS provider on the design. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and we’ve managed to achieve that. The library catalogue is more ‘on brand’ with the rest of the organisation and works much better. The new system went live at the beginning of May 2018 and I can barely remember what the old one was like now, even though I worked with it for 11 years across two organisations.

I feel that the contribution of the library to the organisation is now recognised and appreciated. The library was specifically mentioned in the organisation’s Ofsted report in 2018 and I felt quite emotional when I read it. This came a few months after winning the Link Officer of the Year award from Research in Practice. We now offer access to the library to three external organisations in addition to our own staff.

None of this can be achieved overnight, particularly when you are working within severe constraints. I don’t think I could have squeezed everything I’ve achieved in the last decade into a shorter timeframe. It takes time – years, even – to build up the requisite level of resources, support, respect and contacts to get a library service going. The future of the service is now secure and looks extremely promising. Whatever happens next, I can look back and reflect positively on what I’ve done.

Reflections on a decade

Building and managing a workplace library is incredibly hard. I have fought to get the library recognised and for my skills as an information professional to be valued in my organisation. I have had to surmount the ‘Jo is *just* the librarian, what would *she* know about information/research/referencing/knowledge’ barrier on countless occasions. I have had to shift the organisational narrative from ‘An in-house library would be a nice thing to have’ to ‘This seems to be working, let’s see how it goes’ to ‘The service is so successful and well-used that Jo is off work and we can’t manage without it’.

I have been given the freedom to experiment and chances to fail. If I had stuck to my original plan I would have left the organisation in 2011 when the library moved location for the third time. I would have been absolutely devastated to read an article or attend a conference presentation by someone doing ‘my’ job, reaping the rewards of all my hard work. I don’t feel I’m making a direct difference to anyone’s life, but I know that my library makes the working lives of my colleagues’ much easier. There’s a lot of job satisfaction in that notion when I’m having a bad day.

In 2013, as an act of rebellion against the constraints at work at that time I spotted a job that looked interesting, applied, and was offered the role. It would have been my dream job when I was younger, but it required me to be in the office five days a week. I simply couldn’t manage it around childcare. I agonised for a while before, reluctantly, turning it down. When I was ill in 2016 I simply couldn’t contemplate doing my own job, let alone seek career progression somewhere else. I firmly believed that I was a hopeless information professional, that I was a failure, that I should go away and find something – anything – else to do.

I didn’t imagine for a second that I would qualify and set up a brand-new library service from scratch when I was firmly in the new professional stage of my career. When you pay half the rent, you need to work to help keep your family alive, and you don’t have family childcare on the doorstep, you do what you can with the resources you have.

None of my achievements over the last decade are unique or particularly special. I know a lot of library workers have been though similar, or had to deal with much worse, in their careers. The path I’ve taken is not the easy one and I’m not sure I’d be able to recommend it to someone coming into the profession. The highs have been wonderful and the lows have been horrific. I didn’t think it was possible to care about or cry so much over a library service. I currently describe myself as ‘Enjoyably stuck’. If my dream job came along tomorrow I’d be an idiot to turn it down (I absolutely wouldn’t at this point) but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in creating, building, cultivating and innovating a library service. That’s not something you can do in 2-3 years. Looking back, a decade feels about right.

 

10 years ‘Enjoyably stuck’ – Parts 2 & 3

Intro & Part 1

Part 2

By 2010 the library had become successful enough to need a full-time library assistant. It was my first experience of line management which was a massive adjustment. The library moved (in the end the service moved four times in five years and I project managed every move), into our head office in 2011, then based in Westminster. Initially we were based with the collection on the lower ground floor of the building with the rest of our colleagues six floors above us, but I started a campaign to get us moved upstairs. The collection remained where it was, but we were surrounded by colleagues who worked for the same organisation as us. My first library assistant left in 2012 after two years in post and there was a gap where I ran the library solo again before the new assistant started.

I had three different line managers in my first year at the organisation (the second was an interim manager while recruitment took place.) My first two managers were very supportive of the library, of what I was trying to achieve, and of my professional development. The third, by their own admission, was uncomfortable about line managing staff (they hadn’t done it before), *really* wanted my role although it wasn’t their job or background, found the organisation difficult to get to grips with (and therefore to gain traction in), and didn’t quite understand the degree of separation between their role and mine. This led to numerous problematic conversations and frustrations on both sides. After enduring a difficult three years that caused me to question what I was doing and whether I should be a librarian at all (this led to my becoming a mildly qualified sport psychologist), my manager left. I gained a new line manager, who still manages me now. He is deliberately extremely hands-off – there when I need him, but he doesn’t get involved in the day-to-day running of the library.

I’d spent four years to that point building up the service, slowly developing the collection, cultivating new users, keeping the existing users satisfied, managing my manager, and doing extensive relationship development and then it all bore fruit in one year, with demand going through the roof from 2013 onwards. My then library assistant and I were incredibly busy and had a great working relationship.

In conjunction with a graduate from another department I conducted a library impact study in 2013-14. It’s a piece of work that I’m still incredibly proud of. The study indicated areas for development and innovation, some of which I’d already identified, and justified the need for funding and support for them. The main area was the library catalogue, but I also wanted to do a massive weed of the physical collection. We secured funding to employ a part-time library assistant, which would free me up to do development work. From being on my own in 2009-10, and 2012, I suddenly had two members of staff to line manage. This was a delicate balancing act. I had an established relationship with one member of staff and we now welcomed a third person into the team, working part-time, on a fixed-term contract.

Part 3

In early 2016 the full-time library assistant left the organisation after 3.5 years. The part-time assistant was on a one-year-fixed term contract, which was coming to an end. I wasn’t allowed to recruit to the full-time role for several organisational reasons, and at one point it looked like I would be a solo librarian again. The part-time assistant found another job and left shortly after the full-time assistant. In the end, I was on my own for six months, trying to do the work of 2.5 people (probably more, in reality) by myself.

My father in law passed away in 2015 after a significant period of illness and so I was trying to support the people hit hardest and deal with the associated fallout, which none of us could have predicted. Up to this point work had acted as a protective factor. Whatever was happening in my life elsewhere, work was a reliable, safe, fixed point in my life. I quickly realised that I was no longer built to be a solo librarian. Moreover, my workload was so overwhelming that I simply couldn’t manage it. I accumulated hours of TOIL but if I took time off the work piled up and was waiting for me when I returned.

In some ways this was a nice problem to have. I had built a service from nothing that was now highly-respected, well-used, and constantly attracting new users. I had done the ultimately stupid thing of making the library I had created indispensable. This was unimaginable in the early days when I waited to be the next person to be made redundant. The summer of 2016 vindicated when I had done since 2009, but the cracks started to show. Essentially, over the previous seven years I had worn myself out. I kept getting knocked down and picked myself up again every time. I got used to getting told ‘No’ for everything I tried to do, fighting to get a yes the second, third, fourth time, and became adept at finding workarounds. This took a huge toll on my mental load because I was juggling so much work on top of my life away from the office.

I became so unwell that I had to go on sick leave for a significant period. I’d fought to secure a full-time replacement for the library assistant post and kept hitting brick walls while trying to keep the library service running on my own. I was given permission to do a full recruitment process and shortlisted for interview just before I went on sick leave. I was able to access the Employee Assistance Programme, which gave me eight one-to-one sessions with a therapist. It took a long time for me to get up to speed again when I returned to work. I returned initially part-time, building up to doing full-time hours again.

The phased return process was exhausting. I had to re-learn some basic processes that had simply fallen out of my brain when I was ill. I was also getting used to working with my new library assistant, who had been appointed when I was on sick leave. He’d been in post for three days when I started my phased return and was full of questions, most of which I struggled to answer. It was hard letting go of some of my work as I’d got so used to doing it all out of necessity but I’m a much more productive employee now and we’re a brilliant team.

Part 4 & Reflections on a decade

10 years ‘Enjoyably stuck’ – Intro & Part 1

Introduction

It’s become rather fashionable to judge those that have been working for the same employer, in arguably the same role, for more than five years as being ‘lesser’ mortals. Certainly, when I was qualifying I was (arrogantly) adamant that I would stay in a role for a maximum of two years and each move I made would move me up the ladder to…well, as far as I could go.

Life changes. I qualified in 2006 and got my first professional post shortly afterwards. I had twins at the end of 2007. In 2009 I started my new role with my current employer. My children were sixteen months old when I started this role. They will be 12 this year and off to secondary school in the autumn.

As I am shortly to celebrate a decade with the same employer I thought I would document some reflections on what it’s like to…stay put. A critically reflective version of this document is one of the pieces of evidence in my FCLIP portfolio. There’s also a much longer version with gory details that I gloss over here. Here’s the version I can tell.

Part 1

In April 2009 I stood in a room overlooking HMS Belfast in London, with 200 books on the floor, no IT equipment, no journal subscriptions, no library catalogue, no databases, no copyright licence, no shelving and no other library infrastructure to speak of. I did, however, have a small amount of stationery, which included a tiny date stamp, a desk and a chair. I had six weeks to get a skeleton library service up and running for c.1,500 staff based in (then) 60+ offices across England. I was in an outpost, housed with several  social care organisations but with no direct colleagues.

I’d been transferred over from my previous employer with whom my new employer had worked in partnership for the previous two and a half years. I’d got the partnership between them up and running in my first professional post after qualifying. The partnership had been an immediate success but was left without a home when my previous employer decided to close their library. My new employer and I spent considerable time looking for new external partners, but many organisations in the  sector had already downsized or deleted their information departments. Having exhausted all external options, the decision was made to bring the library service in-house. This meant that I was responsible for setting up the service from scratch, as the only information professional in the organisation and we rented office space from an external body.

As I had limited time I focused on replicating the successful processes that my previous employer had implemented for their library. This meant having the same library system as them, albeit the newer version. We were given permission (for a fee) to transfer catalogue data over. Getting the IT infrastructure in place was a challenge. For several months after the library opened I had to use my personal laptop to access the staff side of the system as the work computers blocked it. IT gave permission for both sides of the system to be made accessible – eventually – after my line manager and I endlessly explained that the library couldn’t function without it.

I got a skeleton version of the library service working in the time I’d been given, but I worked a lot of long days (and nights), regularly switching on my laptop and answering emails when my toddlers were asleep. The first version of the physical library collection was made up of books donated by libraries that had closed down. I felt like I was feasting on the carcasses of newly defunct libraries, but I was giving a home to collections that would have been disposed of otherwise and ensuring that they had a second life. Boxes of books from offices around England would turn up at my office unannounced. I ended up having to put out a message that I wouldn’t be accepting any more donations.

I had to win a lot of hearts and minds, which was exhausting on top of running the rapidly growing library service. I learned to fight the battles I had a decent chance of winning. There were some people that I would never be able to win over and it took me a long time to accept that. I used to travel to different offices, attending team meetings and banging the library drum. Most of the time my little spiel about the library was well-received but I encountered some hostility. A few incidents really stand out and even now I find them difficult to talk about.

In the first workspace I had, my library shared its office with several organisations that weren’t affiliated to my employer. I lost my view of HMS Belfast when a new organisation moved in and their Chief Exec decreed that she wanted my library as her office. This was granted because her organisation paid more in rent to the host. [Side note: this organisation had a huge turnover of (largely unhappy) staff – the CEO went in the first year –  amalgamated with another organisation shortly afterwards and has now disappeared]

Some of what I encountered could reasonably be described as bullying but as I was so isolated I didn’t have anyone to report incidents to after my first line manager left. I’m a union member but the rep had given me incredibly bad advice when I was being TUPEd over from my previous employer, so I didn’t feel I could take issues to them. Moreover, I needed the job. My employer offers flexible working and as I was fitting my full-time job in with looking after twins (they went to nursery three days a week) and a partner doing shift work, I couldn’t afford to move to an organisation that would expect me to be in the office five days a week, from 9-5 every day. (No, I couldn’t afford to give up work. No, I couldn’t afford to work part-time.) I was regularly working 40-50 hours a week rather than my contracted 37 hours. Any time the girls napped or slept, I worked.

Parts 2 & 3

Part 4 & Reflections on a decade

 

LwL Podcast Episode 49: Rebecca Hill

In Episode 49 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Rebecca Hill, Senior Library Assistant at the University of Huddersfield. She previously worked in FE at Huddersfield New College library. We chat about making the leap from FE to HE [spoiler – it’s not easy], library qualifications, Vikings, the usual….

Becky very kindly gave me some links to share with you:

  1. World Book Day fundraising for Book Aid International: 2013

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-03-11-library-makes-a-difference-around-the-world

  1. First Student Library Volunteer team recognised during National Volunteers Week: 2013

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-06-07-library-volunteers-rewarded-as-part-of-volunteers-week

  1. College Students & Staff read Alice in Wonderland for Read for RNIB Day: 2013

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-10-11-college-reads-for-rnib

  1. Poetry by Heart 2013/14 – national poetry recitation competition success: 2014

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2013-12-20-students-put-the-heart-and-soul-into-poetry-recital – College Heat & Championship

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-02-17-jenny-proves-she-s-got-heart – Jennifer O’Sullivan wins County Finals

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-03-24-pride-and-poetry-in-poetry-by-heart-finals – Jennifer O’Sullivan at the National Semi-finals in London

  1. Student Volunteer Team 2013/14 recognised & 2 V50 Awards: 2014

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-05-09-library-volunteer-reward-celebration

  1. Six Book Challenge Success for Students: 2014

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-07-03-reading-to-success

  1. Poetry by Heart 2014/15 – national poetry recitation competition success: 2015

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2014-11-18-poetry-in-motion  – Saliha Khadim win’s College Heat & Championship

https://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-02-02-saliha-khadim-to-represent-west-yorkshire-in-the-poetry-by-heart-semi-finals – Saliha Khadim wins County Finals

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-03-27-2nd-year-at-poetry-by-heart-national-semi-finals-for-hnc – Saliha Khadim competing at the National Semi-Finals in Cambridge

  1. World Book Day 2015 – Author James Aitcheson visit:

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-03-06-world-book-day-2015-1

  1. World Book Night Book Giveaway 2015:

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-04-24-world-book-night

  1. Six Book Challenge Success for Students: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-05-13-another-successful-six-book-challenge

  1. Student Volunteer Success 2014/15:

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-06-18-college-students-are-vinspired

  1. Celebrating National Poetry Day & launching Poetry by Heart: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-10-09-national-poetry-day-at-hnc

  1. Students Alicia & Praveen achieve V50 VInspired Awards: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-11-23-v50-success-for-hnc-students

  1. Poetry by Heart College Heats & Championship: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-12-02-third-time-lucky-for-poetry-by-heart

  1. National Literacy Trust Big Book Sale: 2015

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2015-12-07-big-book-raises-62-for-charity

  1. Reading Ahead student shares reviews on Reading Agency blog: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-03-16-another-successful-year-for-the-reading-ahead-challenge

  1. 30th V10 VInspired award to Student Volunteer: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-03-23-further-success-for-vinspired-library-volunteers

  1. Reading Ahead Success for Students: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-04-18-reading-ahead-at-hnc 

  1. World Book Night Book Give Away – Record breaking success! : 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-04-19-sharing-the-gift-of-reading-for-world-book-night

  1. Readathon sponsored read fundraising success: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-04-29-students-raise-impressive-sum-for-charity-in-sponsored-read

  1. Double V100 VInspired Awards for Student Volunteers: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-05-06-alicia-and-praveen-make-hnc-history-with-v100-awards

  1. Reading Ahead student starts book blog from challenge: 2016

http://www.huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-05-13-reading-ahead-inspires-student-to-start-book-blog-more

  1. VInspired Scheme set to have another bumper year at HNC Library 2016

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-10-07-vinspired-scheme-set-to-have-another-bumper-year-at-hnc-library

  1. Festive Tales and Teapots party fundraise for National Literacy Trust 2016

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2016-12-13-festive-tales-teapots-party-for-national-literacy-trust

  1. World Book Day 2017 Celebrations:

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-03-06-hnc-celebrates-world-book-day

  1. Star Wars Day Celebrations 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-09-may-the-force-be-with-you

  1. Summer Tales and Teapots Party for National Literacy Trust 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-12-sequel-success-for-tales-and-teapots-party-fundraiser

  1. Young Writers Success 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-16-young-writers-success

  1. Reading Ahead Record Breaking Success 2017

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/latest/2017-05-19-reading-ahead-2017-a-new-success-record

  1. Reading Matters/Beanstalk training for H&SC + Early Years Students 2018

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2018-03-14-hnc-students-train-to-help-change-children-s-lives

  1. HNC College Short Story Competition 2018

https://huddnewcoll.ac.uk/news/2018-05-22-a-way-with-words

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 12th March and is a special 50th episode edition – LwL50.

Happy listening!

LwL Podcast Episode 48 – Holger Aman

In Episode 48 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Holger Aman, now working at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia as the Coordinator, Learning and Teaching Services. When I interviewed him for the podcast back in October 2018 he was working at BPP Holborn (UK) as the Library Manager.

We recorded the interview in person at BPP. Get comfy because there’s a backstory involved. When I did a call-out for people to get involved in Librarians with Lives…LIVE! at the CILIP Conference last year, Holger answered. However, we couldn’t make the timings work because break-out sessions, roving interviews, travel chaos, etc. When I podcasted at ILI, he answered my shout-out again and this time, because I had a stand, he knew where to find me. At the exact moment Holger came over to podcast I had a queue of people. When I spotted Holger in the queue I pointed at him and said STAND THERE! I may even have said STAY! What can I say? I get bossy when I’m podcasting at conferences.

Holger recorded his bit for the live(ish) episode and I did my classic ‘You should be a proper guest on the podcast’ line, which I use less than you’d think to lure potential interviewees. Holger told me he’d love to be involved but he was leaving the UK – FOREVER – in the next few weeks but maybe we could work something out. We arranged a recording date and I duly pitched up at BPP for the interview as he’d very kindly given me some time during his last few days in the UK to meet with me. All was going well until he needed to take a call. Not a problem; I was taken downstairs for a tour of the library (I flipping love a library tour) by his colleague, with my iPhone in hand. To explain: I record the in-person interviews using the Voice Memo app on my phone. I checked my phone to make sure the recording was still there and it had DISAPPEARED.

Even now, more than three months on, I cringe at the memory of frantically searching through *all* the voice memos to make really, really sure the recording wasn’t lurking somewhere. Apple had recently updated the Voice Memo app and a product that had been bulletproof beforehand had become glitchy and weird. [True story: a week later I inadvertently exacted revenge when I dropped my iPhone 7 down five floors in Selfridges. The Voice Memo App works perfectly on the replacement, the iPhone X.] Worst of all, Holger was going to finish his phone call and expect to carry on with the interview. I had two options:

  1. Run, Run out of the building  – not an option as my bag and coat were in Holger’s office
  2. Confess and hope that I didn’t look like a total moron.

I went for option 2. Holger was spectacularly lovely about the whole sorry mishap. He found some time in his diary the following day (I was supposed to be at CILIP New Professionals Day but missed the morning session to do the re-record.) For take 2 I took my full recording setup – Blue Yeti Microphone and laptop – and we pretended we hadn’t met the day before as I asked him (mostly) the same questions and he gave (mostly) the same answers.

I really enjoyed recording this episode (the second time) and I’m pleased with the result. It was the first interview in which I included the new ‘What do you do when you’re not being a librarian’ question. Full credit to Gus MacDonald for suggesting that I include it.

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 26th February and features Rebecca Hill.

Happy listening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

189.5 hours of CPD – or trying to stay sane when your professional life explodes

I updated my CPD log on the CILIP VLE recently. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I’ve accumulated a considerable number of CPD hours in the last twelve months. If anything, 189.5 hours might be an underestimate.

I think it’s worth giving this some context. The majority of my CPD has happened outside of work hours, aside from the conferences and events that I’m very kindly given time to attend by my manager. I’ve been asked a few times if I have a proper job, and if my employer minds. 1. I do, and I’ll be blogging about it separately at some stage. 2. My line manager’s view is that anything that gets my name (and, by extension, my employers’) ‘out there’ professionally in a positive way is to be embraced and celebrated. I mostly record Librarians with Lives episodes in the evening, when my children are in bed. I don’t do any CPD at weekends, or when I’m on leave.

The background noise accompanying this is my mental health. In the presentations I’ve done about mental health and professional resilience I mention that there were three different things that triggered my severe illness in 2016. I have talked in detail about the work-related aspect and gloss over the other two. Currently, my work life is great and acts as a protective factor because the other two bits (one health, and one not-my-actual-family) aren’t so great and, right now, one of them is severely affecting my general health and wellbeing.

The Librarians with Lives podcast also acted as a brilliant protective factor until, one day, it didn’t. I had a crazy 6 weeks in October and November where I presented at seven different events, including a wonderful two days at ILI where I ‘live’ podcasted the event. I’m grateful that I was so busy because otherwise I think things would have been very bad indeed. I’m not going to give airtime to events in the autumn, but I am going to talk about the impact that it had and continues to have.

I was about and about doing my thing, meeting people at professional events, involved in all the stuff I love – presentations and podcasting, meeting new people and making connections, and feeling nauseous and frightened the entire time. Second-guessing whether the person I was talking to was happy to be talking to me, or whether I was being sized up to determine what I was *really* like. Suddenly feeling mistrustful of people and politely distancing myself from those that I felt had enjoyed the drama at my expense a little too much. Batting away ‘I saw what happened. Are you ok?’ queries from concerned friends, strangers and bystanders so I didn’t worry them. Fretting that I (and by extension Librarians with Lives) was damaged goods, to be avoided. Turning my experiences into jokes in conference presentations. Laughing at the ludicrousness of it all while feeling angry and sad.

I knew that once I stopped podcasting and presenting and networking and being ‘Jo the Librarians with Lives person’, my brain would make me pay for distracting myself for so long. The intrusive, frightening thoughts I have when I’m in a really bad place returned with all kinds of disturbing new twists. I felt irrationally panicky most of the time. When I didn’t feel panicky I felt sad. At least I had stopped feeling nauseous by this point. I hadn’t experienced anxiety-induced nausea before and I don’t recommend it as an experience. I had a long break over Christmas and apart from being (physically) ill for part of the time, it was wonderful.

I gave myself space to make decisions without forcing it to do anything and realised that:

  1. I love my job. It’s not fashionable to stay with the same employer for so long but (highly edited highlights time – as I said earlier the full version will get airtime in the spring), in the last 10 years I have set up a library and information service for social workers across England from scratch building up a large user base in the process, I won an award for my work to embed evidence-informed practice across the organisation, my library has partnerships (which I set up) with three external bodies to whom we provide information services and there are more in the pipeline, and the LIS was mentioned in my employer’s recent Outstanding report from Ofsted. This isn’t stuff you can do if you change jobs every two years. It takes time and effort to build the necessary partnerships, connections, and reputation to achieve meaningful change. Why on earth would I walk away from a job that offers me the chance to get involved in projects across the organisation and influence the sector externally, that is highly valued and championed by its users, with brilliant colleagues, an organisation that has families and flexible working in its DNA, with a management team that ‘gets’ me and understands that by letting me be me they’ve got a sector-leading LIS out of it?
  2. The Librarians with Lives podcast is a positive force, that is valued by listeners and participants and is leading to small but meaningful changes to the profession. I have a slide I use in my presentation about podcasting depicting a world map with all the countries in which LwL is listened to coloured in. It blows my mind every time I update it. I started LwL as the tiniest of CPD projects to put into my Fellowship portfolio as a way of demonstrating wider professional involvement and the fact that so many people listen to it is just mind-blowing. I seriously considered stopping LwL in the autumn because I didn’t feel I could ever enjoy doing it in the same way again. I’m continually meeting and finding new people that I want to interview though, so it marches onwards. When I’m feeling down I try to remember that I’m better off being me, trying to be a force for good in the profession, raising people up rather than tearing them down.
  3. I would happily go and podcast at conferences every year for the rest of my working life, so do invite me *hint* *clang*
  4. I will achieve FCLIP this year. After my #fckfclip rant to my friend (not on social media) at the end of last year, I have resolved to get my CILIP Fellowship done in 2019. The carrot for me is that when I (finally) achieve Fellowship, I can go and get a nail technician qualification and somehow combine professional networking, podcasting, wellbeing and manicures together in one sparkly package.
  5. I’d like to do more to highlight mental health in the profession. Every time I’ve delivered my mental health and professional resilience presentation I have had a little queue of people who want to speak to me afterwards. Some want to thank me for being so honest and for raising awareness of difficult issues. Others want to share their own mental health experiences with me. I’m asked for advice on supporting partners, family members and colleagues struggling with mental health. I think there’s *something* valuable I can do here; I just need to work out what it is.

Over the last few months I’ve found it hard to appreciate all the positive things that have happened as a result of doing LwL, but here are a few to remind me:

  • The articles and news pieces in Information Professional, the MMiT blog, and in Business Information Review
  • The conference presentations in London, Brighton, Glasgow, Cambridge and Aberystwyth
  • The networking workshops with Mike, who I now count as a good friend
  • Being a guest on Calon FM in Wrexham with Paul
  • Appearing as an occasional recurring character on the Doctor WHEasel podcast
  • My theatre trips with Clare
  • Becoming one of the ‘faces’ of CILIP (I wrestled with this for a time; now I embrace it)
  • Running after people I would have been too scared to approach at conferences previously because they’re cool and amazing and asking them to be on my podcast (sorry Joshua). See also: ‘Stay there! You need to be on my podcast!’ (sorry Holger)
  • Podcasting at the ILI and CILIP conferences (possibly the most fun it is possible to have at a professional event)
  • Plotting to steal CILIP Presidential medals with Ellie and Rachel in Aberystwyth
  • Squealy, excited hugs with Sally and Margaret in Glasgow
  • The pre-conference dinner in Cambridge, where Claire engineered the seating plan to surround me with lovely people
  • Getting to know a whole load of people, most of whom I wouldn’t have otherwise met, as a result of doing LwL: Helen B, Clare, Mike E, Andrew, Juanita, Katherine, Michael, Laura, Amy, Helen M, Tracy, Nick, Alisa, Mike J, Jo C, Rhiannon, Elle, Hannah, Jen B, Jenny F, Caitlin, Kathryn, Tom P, Tom R, Jane, David, Louise, Emma, Anne, Natasha, Ian, Minnie/Emily, Kate G, Leah, Kate F, Gus, Kat, Brian, Alison, Helen L, Martin, Hal, Phil, Lynsey, Sally, Paul, Ellie, Holger, Angela, Naomi, all the people I’ve interviewed at conferences, and the forthcoming interviews with loads of awesome people.

I reference the concept of high-achieving anxiety in my presentations and while it’s not a recognised medical term, it absolutely fits my approach to all aspects of life. If I *have* to deal with being anxious and taking on too much to cope, I might as well get a lot out of it. If almost 190 hours of CPD time is what it takes to feel reasonably sane, I’ll do it.

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!