LwL Podcast Episode 7: Katherine Burchell

In Episode 7 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Katherine Burchell, who is a Library Assistant at Cambridge University Library. Katherine is also doing her library qualification at Sheffield via distance learning.

If anyone is playing Librarians with Lives Podcast Bingo, please mark the following topics on your card:

  • Being an advanced reader
  • School libraries as a saviour (and ace school librarians)
  • Doing a degree in English Literature
  • Being advised to become a teacher and refusing to do so

We chat in detail about graduate traineeships (or not), alternative routes into the information profession, applying to library school, combining a full-time job with studying, thoughts on dissertations and advice for fellow distance learning students.

I also attempt to offer advice on work-life balance, being realistic about how much studying you really need to do during your library course, applying for bursaries, and grabbing CPD opportunities. (Not that Katherine needs advice from a mid-career person like me, she’s acing it already.) I also tell Katherine to do Chartership. CILIP – you can thank me later…

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast via Soundcloud and iTunes so that you don’t miss an episode.

I’m having a break next week for half-term so the next episode will be released on Tuesday 31st October (note the change of day – new episodes will be released on Tuesdays from now on) and features Michael Cook.

Happy listening!


LwL Podcast Episode 6: Juanita Foster-Jones

In Episode 6 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Juanita Foster-Jones, Development Officer (VLE) at CILIP. It is very apt that in Libraries Week Juanita acknowledges – and namechecks – the brilliant school librarian (Mrs Haynes) who not only provided a brilliant, personalised service but also offered a safe space for those who found school difficult. SAVE SCHOOL LIBRARIES.

We discuss accidental librarianship (yes, teaching-avoidance crops up again), getting employer support to study, balancing work and part-time study (and latterly parenting and work), strategies for applying for jobs and the importance of building up career experience and grasping opportunities. Juanita had the perfect job, which she gave up for her ideal lifestyle and couldn’t quite marry up the two for a while, but she’s now in the lovely position of having the best of both worlds

[Note: academic librarianship sounds ACE]

We recorded this episode in September, in person, at CILIP HQ. I couldn’t do a lot about the sporadic background noise but – great news – CILIP are through to the International Door-Banging Championships, so yay for that! This was the second in-person interview I’d done so there’s a lot less of ‘me’ in this episode, which is probably for the best.


After the interview I joked on Twitter that Juanita should be prescribed on the NHS. She’s the reason I’m still trying to progress my own Fellowship and she’s a brilliant sounding board for ideas as well as being a great shoulder to cry on. Juanita is genuinely interested in other people and their progress and achievements and it was lovely to sit down with her and find out how she got to where she is.


Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast via Soundcloud and iTunes so that you don’t miss an episode.

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 18th October and features Katherine Burchell.

Happy listening!



LwL Episode 5: Andrew Oakes

In Episode 5 of the podcast I chat to Andrew Oakes, a law librarian who lives and works in Leeds. We spent a long time discussing children’s books and writing for young people, avoiding becoming teachers, whether doing a humanities or creative arts degree is the best way to become a librarian, computer literacy, the state of public libraries, and not doing Chartership (although I do try and sell Andrew the idea of doing Revalidation…)

Andrew had an academic library job, left it for love and life, got stuck in an admin job and then spent several years trying to get back into library work again. He did his postgraduate qualification part-time whilst working in the admin role (highly unusual) and worked in public libraries before becoming a law librarian.

[Side note: the library course at Leeds Beckett/Leeds Metropolitan University turned out some brilliant information professionals (Andrew and Clare McCluskey Dean, who featured in Episode 3 for example.) It’s a shame it wasn’t around for very long.]

When I’m recording the interviews I often write down a word or phrase that sums up the interviewee’s career path. For Andrew I simply wrote ‘Serendipity’. He spent so long trying to get back into library work again and finally achieved it via both hard work and some serendipitous coincidences.

This interview was recorded one evening at the beginning of September over Skype. We both gave up our chance to watch Bake-Off live – THE HORROR! One of the many things I love about doing this podcast is ‘meeting’ new people and getting to know them. Andrew and I didn’t know each other at all before we recorded this episode and we didn’t discover our mutual love of Eurovision until afterwards which I regard as a great shame (although there is potential for a LwL side-special here.)  Andrew is on holiday this week but will be around to answer any questions when he’s back.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast via Soundcloud and iTunes so that you don’t miss an episode.

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 11th October and features Juanita Foster-Jones.

Happy listening!

LwL Podcast Episode 4: Mike Ewen

In Episode 4 of the podcast I speak to Mike Ewen, Teaching Enhancement Advisor at Hull University. I need to apologise for the sound quality of this episode. ALL of the recording methods I use failed in one way or another, but Mike was so brilliant that I didn’t want to make him say it all again. I have cleaned up the sound as best I can and it is perfectly listenable but it’s not the best quality. My biggest apology is reserved for Mike as, frankly, he deserves better. With that in mind, as he’s since started a new job since recording the podcast, I’ve invited him to come back onto the podcast later this year.

[Side note: This is my first podcast venture, I’m doing it alone and learning as I go, so just be kind, eh?]


We discuss history degrees (the perfect introduction to becoming an information professional), Goosebumps books, unofficial mentors, Philip Larkin’s record collection, working in archives, not doing postgraduate dissertations, non-linear career plans (and not having a plan), crossing sectors, the McDonaldsisation of academic libraries, cricket, communism…you know, the usual.

Mike’s blog can be found here and information on the Chambre Hardman Archive, which he used to manage, can be found here

I was introduced to Mike by Michelle Bond, who now acts as my occasional unofficial guest booker and suggests people to me who turn out to be excellent. One day I will persuade her to come on as a guest herself…

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast via Soundcloud and iTunes so that you don’t miss an episode.

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 4th October and, once again, is very different. All of the sound quality issues have been resolved for all subsequent interviews.

Happy listening!

LwL Podcast Episode 3: Clare McCluskey Dean

In Episode 3 of the podcast I speak to Clare McCluskey Dean, Academic Liaison Librarian at York St. John University. I really loved recording this episode because Clare provides a great overview of her work (I’d go so far as to call it an Academic Liaison Librarianship 101) and I would particularly encourage anyone thinking of working in an HE library to listen to it. There are also plenty of transferable messages for other sectors, so there’s something for everyone.

We also discuss voracious reading habits, the importance of managing expectations, providing great service levels, working with both academic staff and students (and keeping them happy), the importance of working with a team, protecting your own time, balancing a doctorate with a full-time job and staying sane, the ‘B’ word (I apologise in advance; it had to happen eventually) and what it means for HE, and being an information professional in an era of fake news and alternative facts. The Readiness for Academic Study course that Clare mentioned can be found here.

The conversation takes a political turn towards the end. Obviously it goes without saying that our views do not represent those of our respective employers, etc. As well as learning about my interviewees each week I’m learning more about myself, namely that I didn’t realise how furious I was about various topics. Also that I need to shut the heck up when my ranty train leaves the station because It’s Not About Me.

This interview was recorded back in August over Skype Audio. One of the recording methods failed and the other made Clare sound like she had a time-delay echo, but luckily the third recording worked and she sounds only slightly like I interviewed her while she was standing in a tunnel. Apologies for that. Clare and I have chatted on Twitter for years, mostly about non-library stuff (Strictly, Kevin from Grimsby, Eurovision, John Barrowman) but we haven’t met in real-life so it was lovely to speak to her.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast so that you don’t miss an episode.

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 27th September and continues the HE theme, albeit with someone working in a different role at a different institution.

Happy listening.


LwL Episode 2: Jo Alcock

In episode 2 of the podcast I interview Jo Alcock, Consultant. Jo has worked in both public and academic libraries and is now a freelance consultant, working on projects and leading training courses in and around the information sector. We had a very honest discussion about a very wide range of subjects: professional triumphs and failures and what can be learned from them, having a life beyond work, stepping into leadership roles, the importance of taking action and getting things done even if the solution is imperfect, and Ryan Reynolds.

You’ll hear a lot more of my voice in this episode. Jo and I have known each other for a few years and we’re both very chatty people so it was more of a conversation than an interview in places, particularly as the episode progresses. We I get particularly ranty about two-thirds of the way through the podcast so I need to apologise for that in advance! This episode was recorded during the setup phase of the podcast project, when I didn’t know whether the concept would work or even if I could get it off the ground. The podcast has developed since so the doubts that I express during the podcast are no longer valid, but reflect how I felt at the time of recording.

The interview was recorded over Skype audio so there are instances where we talk over each other or miss what the other person has said, forcing them to repeat the statement or question.  I’m sure Jo won’t mind me saying that both she and I talk very quickly, so hopefully you can follow everything we say. It’s also worth saying that I don’t necessarily agree with everything Jo said and I’m debating how I tackle this in future podcasts. I said last week that I’m not seeking to start an argument or shut someone down, but equally I don’t want the podcast to sound like I’m mindlessly agreeing with whoever I’m speaking to that week. It’s something I’ll be mindful of in future interviews. 

Jo can be found on Twitter. She and I are both happy to answer any questions you have as a result of the podcast. Jo gave up a couple of hours of her time for me in the middle of August so I’m grateful to her for that, and for being the first person to be subjected to my ‘three methods’ style of recording interviews remotely.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the podcast so that you don’t miss an episode. Although I now have enough interviewees lined up to see the podcast through to mid-November, I’m always looking for people to interview so if you want to be featured, do get in contact with me via the blog or on Twitter. I’m particularly looking for interviewees working in the following sectors: schools, museums, third sector, and government. The podcast is also very white at the moment, which I’m not happy about and would like to change so help me do that!

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 20th September.

Happy listening!

p.s. Jo has sent over a ton of links that to relate to things we discussed: 

Blog posts about my career

Joeyanne Librarian: https://joalcock.co.uk/2008/10/01/joeyanne-librarian/

Librarian without a library: https://joalcock.co.uk/2010/09/24/librarian-without-a-library/

What do I do? https://joalcock.co.uk/2012/01/06/what-do-i-do/

Career and life planning: https://joalcock.co.uk/2012/10/01/career-and-life-planning/

A new chapter: https://joalcock.co.uk/2016/06/23/a-new-chapter/

Librarian without an organisation: https://joalcock.co.uk/2016/08/01/librarian-without-an-organisation/

Freelancing – six months in: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/02/01/freelancing-six-months-in/

Lessons from my first year of self employment: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/08/01/lessons-from-my-first-year-of-self-employment/

Conference planning experience

SLA 2017 Conference Vlog and Reflections: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/08/22/sla-2017/

10 Tips for Conference and Event Planning: https://joalcock.co.uk/2017/08/23/event-planning-tips/

Mindful Leadership for Women

Mindful Leadership for Women Programme: https://joalcock.co.uk/workshops/mindful-leadership/

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Online Course: http://www.sarahdurrant.co.uk/overcoming-imposter-syndrome

The L Word

What makes a librarian a librarian? https://joalcock.co.uk/2008/04/05/what-makes-a-librarian-a-librarian/

Am I a librarian? https://joalcock.co.uk/2012/03/19/am-i-a-librarian/

LwL Podcast Episode 1: Helen Berry

In episode 1 of the podcast I interview Helen Berry,  Development Officer (Learning Providers) at CILIP. Helen has had an extremely varied career and has worked in almost every sector you can think of. Her career story is so interesting that we barely talked about her current role. We discussed moving between sectors and the ease – or not – of doing so, project management skills, career mistakes and how to recover from them, the importance of making connections and getting the right team around you, her work with CILIP in London, and knowing when to walk away from a job when it doesn’t fulfil you any more. We also discuss Helen’s dream library job and colleague, and what she would change about the profession if she was in charge of the Library Universe for the day.

Helen was the first person I interviewed for the podcast, back when it was very much an experiment. I didn’t give her the questions beforehand so she did well to think on her feet, particularly with the last three questions. As a result of this, subsequent interviewees have been given an idea of the questions prior to the interview. Helen and I spoke face to face, at CILIP HQ, in early August.

My role as interviewer is that of the choric. If you’re familiar with the Wittertainment podcast, you’ll know that Simon Mayo speaks on behalf of the chorus, or audience, asking a sometimes obvious question of Mark Kermode to explain a concept, or simply to appear stupid to elicit a more fulsome answer. However, I do interject with more challenging questions when appropriate. I’m there to allow the interviewee to show off and I’m not there to take them down or make them uncomfortable. I have found that giving the interviewee space to think about their answer elicits a more honest response than me harrying them along.

I hope you enjoy this episode and do let me know if you have any questions. Helen isn’t on Twitter, so if you would like to ask her anything send the question to me and I’ll put her in contact with you. Huge thanks to Helen for giving up an hour of her time to speak to me, and for bravely volunteering for the guinea pig role as the first LwL interviewee.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss an episode. All of the episodes recorded so far are very different in tone, so there should be something for everyone. The next episode will be released on Wednesday 13th September.

Happy listening!