Chartership and the KISS Principle

Over the last year or so, as more of my professional peers have started the Chartership process, I have noticed that it has developed a mystique that I don’t think existed when I did mine in 2007. I think that Chartership candidates are making a much bigger deal of it than they really need to. Granted, compiling the portfolio at the end is a bit time-consuming and it’s hard to get the tone of the Personal Evaluative Statement right initially, but actually it’s no more difficult intellectually than writing up your thoughts for an annual appraisal.

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about the Chartership process and in my role as mentor and as a concerned fellow professional I’d like to dispel some of the myths here*:

  1. 1.       “I don’t currently do enough to put into a Chartership portfolio”

Putting aside the fact that the people that have said that to me are practically running one aspect of the profession or another, everyone will have done enough development (either at work or externally) since they completed their qualification to make a decent attempt at a portfolio. I recently wrote my pre-appraisal review at work and was concerned that I hadn’t achieved as much as I had done the previous year. Six pages of bullet points later… My point is that unless you sit in a pit of your own filth day after day baiting celebrities on Twitter, you will have done things that you can put into a portfolio.

  1. 2.       “I’m not involved in enough committees”

Want to know how many committees I was involved in when I did my Chartership? None. Zero. Zilch. Well, I was on the Library Student Journal committee editorial board but that was online and I didn’t actually have to go and meet anyone. (Back then I was in denial about the whole librarian thing and didn’t want to fraternise with my peers). If you’re on a committee already – great! Put it in your portfolio. Don’t join something you don’t want to, or don’t feel comfortable with just to put it in your portfolio. You’ll end up resenting it.

  1. 3.       “Everyone does more CPD than me and I don’t measure up”

When pressed, these people admit to comparing themselves unfavourably to the Gods and Goddesses of library CPD. It’s a bit like taking up jogging and getting depressed a week later because you’re not matching Mo Farah’s PB for 5,000 metres. The average Joe (and in my case the very average Jo) cannot hope to emulate the great CPD feats of the few, but you can carve out your own niche. As long as your CPD methods work for you, who cares what everyone else is doing?

  1. 4.       “It’s all really woolly”.

Unlike everything you’ve done before, there isn’t a winning formula that will get you an A-Level or a degree. There isn’t a curriculum or a checklist. As someone that craves order and rules I found this a bit hard to get my head around to start with. However, I soon realised that within the parameters of the portfolio structure, I actually had a great deal of freedom to tailor my Chartership to what I actually needed to do to do my job better. So many people start a course and moan that it’s too generic, it doesn’t cater to their needs or it’s not applicable to their job. The beauty of Chartership is that it is what you make of it. It’s an opportunity for you to play teacher and set your own curriculum and who doesn’t have ambitions to be the master of their own universe?

  1. 5.        “I’m rubbish at reflective writing”

This whole reflective writing thing has a mythology all of its own. You aren’t aiming to become the next Aristotle here. I’m sure your philosophical meditations on the state of information seeking among the great unwashed are beautifully constructed nuggets of wisdom that will live on long after you’ve been reduced to a small pile of ashes but remember this: you’ve got 1,000 words to play with. If, for example, you have identified five development needs you’ve got 200 words for each section. You aren’t going to get much beyond a ‘When I did X I learnt Y and in future I would do Z’ approach and that’s perfectly fine. Save your meditations for a blog post.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that people are making a much bigger deal of the Chartership process than they need to and once you’ve registered you just need to suck it up, stop whingeing and get on with it. Oh, and get someone to kick your arse occasionally, should you need it.

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

I have added my Chartership portfolio to LwL (see the tabs at the top of the page) for your delectation and amusement…

*These views are my own and are not endorsed by CILIP

CPD and the art of saying no

When you’re presented with an opportunity to do some CPD it’s very easy to say yes. Here’s a brief lesson in why you need to learn to say no sometimes:

In the Autumn was asked to consider joining the committee of a particular CILIP group. As the group was one that I had an interest in (it dovetailed nicely with my new Mentoring role), I said I would attend a meeting and see how I felt. I went along and discovered that the Chair and Secretary posts (along with a couple of others) were vacant. As the meeting progressed my synapses started firing and I thought   ‘I could actually do something here’. When the discussion about the vacant posts came up on the agenda, I opened my enormous mouth and declared that I would like to be Secretary. The Chair post was still vacant but I figured that if I did a good job as Secretary I would be in with a shout of the role at the end of next year, once I’d learnt the ropes.

Call me old-fashioned – call me crazy (many do) – but I think you need some experience before you take on a leading role.

Anyway. I went home, buoyed by enthusiasm and the chance to really achieve something tangible. I started thinking of ways of generating revenue, events we could put on, new initiatives. A couple of weeks later, reality hit. The Committee needed more work and time than I could possibly give it. I have an aversion to people that sit around telling everyone how ‘busy’ they are. In fact, can we all stop using the infernal ‘b’ word? We’re ALL busy. EVERYONE has a life outside work – if they don’t they should really get one. I worked out how much time the Committee would need from me, looked at what I was already doing and the numbers didn’t add up. If my job wasn’t as intense, if I didn’t have small children, if I didn’t have creative hobbies, if I wasn’t a Mentor, I could do it.

I was faced with a straightforward choice. I could either be a Mentor or I could be on the Committee. I couldn’t do both. I’m passionate about Mentoring. I believe it’s a really important role and I really like the idea of helping future leaders get to where they want to be and offering them some support on the way. I realised that getting involved in the Committee would mean that I would become the thing I dislike – someone that justifies inaction by telling everyone how unbelievably busy they are. I couldn’t give the Committee the time and attention it deserved, and frankly it needed someone with plenty of both.

I sent the person that recruited me an e-mail explaining my decision to not only step down from the Secretary role, but to also leave the Committee completely (I’d only attend meetings, get irritated and get over-involved again). I sent the Committee an apologetic e-mail and have heard nothing since. I hope that the Committee fills their vacant posts soon and I’m sorry that I reneged on my promises.

It’s hard to say no, but you have to be realistic about what you can fit into your life.


I did the Chartership mentor training on 5th September and then time went whooshy (it did, didn’t it?) and now it’s mid-October and I STILL haven’t found anyone to co-sign my mentor application form –  how hard is it to find a chartered person that I can bribe ask? I also promised that I would write up my thoughts on the training day, so I have found my notes and will attempt to remember the pertinent points.

The training was split into two parts: 1. Mentoring generally and 2. The CILIP mentoring process. I had expected the day to be mostly about the latter and only a bit about  the former, so I was a little surprised that we did some exercises on learning styles and active listening. They were really interesting (for example, we read too much into body language) but felt quite general, considering that it was only a one-day course.

The section on giving feedback (particularly constructive feedback) was helpful and I have taken much of the information back and applied it to supervision sessions with my Library Assistant, e.g. framing feedback in a positive way, sharing the problem and working towards a solution, and techniques for drawing the other person out.

After lunch we got down to the nitty-gritty of the CILIP mentoring scheme. There is no substiute for going away and reading the regulations yourself (and no amount of training will force you to do that) but there were some really helpful bits of information:

1. You don’t have to mentor someone if you don’t want to.

2. Have a contingency plan in place if you find you can’t mentor the person any more

3. Get the mentee to set their own target dates

4. When you arrange a meeting with a mentee, give them an agenda beforehand, so that they can contribute to it. It also formalises the discussion.

5. Mentees doing ACLIP don’t have to pay for CILIP membership until they submit their portfolio, but they can’t get the qualification unti they’ve paid their fees

Most importantly:

6. The mentor DOESN’T make the final decision on the acceptance of a portfolio. They are only an advisor and cannot be held responsible for the success or failure of a candidate. It’s the mentees’ submission, not the mentors’.

Bearing all of that in mind, I’ll be appearing on a mentor list near you soon as soon as I find someone to co-sign the ruddy form.


Don’t mention the war

Revalidation (rapidly becoming my Macbeth) is now a dirty word in this house. I haven’t really moved on (in my head at least) from the last post I wrote on the subject. I can’t see the point of Revalidating but I think I should do it.

It all seems a bit theoretical to me. I’m not going to achieve anything tangible by doing Revalidation, and, as someone that is driven by process (i.e. working my parts off) – achievement (the bit of paper that tells me how hard I’ve worked) – reward (financial, satisfying, opportunity to show off) I don’t see the benefit. Mention the R word to (some) information professionals and their response is ‘Why’? Well, quite.

The really daft thing is that if I actually sat down and committed a day (maybe even a morning) to the bloody thing I could knock out a first draft. I don’t suffer from writer’s block very often. Who has the luxury of that much space in their life though? I don’t.

I only committed my Chartership portfolio to paper because I was heavily pregnant, couldn’t leave the house and was terrified of getting in the way of our former cleaner as she polished our surfaces with barely-disguised stereotypical Russian moodiness. There were only so many times I could refresh Facebook and Twitter wasn’t on my radar back in 2007 so portfolio writing whiled away a few days. I’m not planning to adopt the same strategy to complete a cycle of Revalidation.

At this point I’m not job-seeking (although, with the way the world of work is, you never know what might happen in the next year or two) and the majority of employers don’t recognise Chartership, let alone revalidation, anyway.

So, I’m putting Revalidation on the back burner for a bit and concentrating on another aspect of personal/professional development: Mentoring.


“Much to learn, you still have” Yoda, Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

First of all, a couple of home truths:

  1. I am not an activist
  2. I am not going to run CILIP

I am, however, keen on helping (enabling?) other people to reach their potential. Oh…that reminds me of a third one:

  1. I don’t really like management and coaching theory. I prefer practical action.

I have always considered myself to be quite selfish professionally. This was helped in no small part by being a lone worker for so long. I got used to being utterly self-sufficient and, because I had no-one to rely on I found that I didn’t need anyone to rely on. And so it goes.

Although I don’t feel able to make a difference on a grand scale, I’d like to think that I have something to offer to people by way of personal support and professional development. I really enjoyed a post by Michael in which he spoke about the mentor-mentee relationship and the notion of ‘paying it forward’. I had a fab mentor when I did Chartership and I’d like to give someone else that level of encouragement and support.

Nearly eight years into my library career I am not arrogant enough to assume that I know everything there is to know about the profession (who does, really?) but, having been round the block a bit (so to speak) and working my way up through the ranks, from graduate trainee to running a library, I reckon I might have something by way of experience to offer to the young (and maybe slightly more mature) bucks that want to do some career development. I’ve done everything from dusting bookshelves to speaking at conferences, via cataloguing, financial management, line management and dealing with the general public. I’ve worked in an academic(ish) library, a museum library, a charity library and, currently, a government library.

I did a distance learning library course whilst working full-time. I completed my Chartership whilst on maternity leave. I juggle a full-time job with two extremely demanding (but lovely) pre-schoolers and what’s left of that thing I used to call ‘a life’. I’ve had good managers and crap managers. I’ve made some enormous mistakes in my (brief) career and had some big successes. I’ve experienced air-punching triumph and sobbing desperately on the loo because I cared about my job and – by extension – about this bloody thing we call a profession so much. I love what I do but I’m not po-faced about it.

Bearing all of this in mind I have decided to try and become a Chartership mentor. I’m going to be doing the training at HQ on Monday 5th September and will be putting in my application straight afterwards. Hopefully I’ll be added to the illustrious list of mentors on the CILIP website at some point in the future.

Umbrella 2011 – Session F: Mashed Libraries

I loved this session. I have followed Mashed Libraries events in the past on Twitter but haven’t been able to attend one myself so this workshop really appealed to me.

Key points:

  • Mashed library sessions bring libraries and technology together. They are organised ‘unconference’-style meetings where librarians and techies exchange ideas and solve problems.
  • We were asked to get into groups and come up with our own ideas for a Mashed Libraries event.

IDEA: Fishfingers and mash, 20th November 2011 (International Children’s Day). Mashup = design an educational resource for children and young people experiencing life/family difficulties e.g. divorce, adoption, fostering. Needs to marry up published resources and some form of interactive online presence. Everyone brings their own cakes, cookies, muffins and biscuits to sell. Competition for the best cakes! Prizes for great mashup ideas (following the children theme) include pots of bubbles and balloons

I managed to collect up the post-it notes from the session but stupidly didn’t think to write down a list of the people that were in the group. If anyone was in that session and can help me out, I’d appreciate it as I think we might have a good idea here…

Umbrella 2011 – Session E: IT for the LIS professional

If you were following the #ub11 hashtag on Twitter, you’ll know that this one caused a fair amount of debate.  Georgina Hardy has already done a very good post on this session but I just have a couple of points to make:

Key points:

  • Not everyone is as good at IT as we assume. E.g. young people use social networking but can’t understand computer filing systems.
  • Do we need a ‘real’ European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) before we’re allowed to buy a computer or smartphone? There was lots of eye-rolling about ECDL. I did it years ago as part of my graduate traineeship programme but I’ve learnt far more ‘on the job’ and it is totally Microoft Office-based.
  • Not everything IT-related is Microsoft or PC-based.
  • Should librarians regard programming as a basic skill? I last programmed in Basic to make a swirly shape in the mid-1980s. The ability to create a website from scratch would be useful but I don’t know how to do it.