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!

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CILIP Conference 2017: Part 3 – The art of lazy networking

To the evening reception! This year’s event was at the Museum of Science and Industry and it was an impressive venue that I spent a nanosecond exploring before I started chatting.

It’s tricky to get networking at conferences right. The received wisdom is that as practically everyone is a stranger you can just go up to anyone and say hi to them. In theory that’s fine, but in practice it feels quite forced. Also, bowling up to someone and saying “HIIII!” in a decidedly tiggerish way really freaks people out. I’ve had some bad networking experiences at conferences that come back to haunt me in the dead of night. Part of the problem is that I try too hard, forgetting that it’s not up to me to make all of the conversational effort. Networking has to be a two-way process.

I have, in the past, encountered a small handful of people who fall into the category of ‘Just a bit rude’. Being socially awkward is completely fine and I get it. I probably understand that more than anyone knows, as I spent a considerable amount of time last year not being able to have meaningful, intelligent conversations with anyone. I generally find that librariany types are nice; we’re used to dealing with people after all, but that some find enthusiasm a bit wearing and I can go into YAY! LIBRARIES! WOOHOO! mode when I feel a conversation isn’t going well.

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It feels much more natural if you chat to the people around you in the lunch queue, or when you sit down at a session. As I don’t drink tea or coffee I don’t get to join the queues for those so it makes networking during the morning and afternoon breaks a bit harder. During the first morning break I felt a bit panicky – completely my own fault as I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to be outgoing, funny and generally great company AT ALL TIMES and it’s really hard to live up to that. I went for a little walk to calm down and resolved not to be so hard on myself. The rest of the day I networked like a demon and felt much better about it all.

It feels like a bit of a cheat but if you know one or two people really well you can rely on them to act as a social buffer. It also means you can be quite lazy about networking. At the evening reception I decided to calm the heck down and just enjoy it with people that I knew and liked. CILIP had organised a ‘getting to know you’ bingo game which I didn’t take part in myself, but I was able to assist some of the participants with answers to the questions. Later in the evening we were joined by lovely CILIP people and the evening got very interesting.

It’s kind-of difficult to explain my job to people and no-one knows what the acronym for my organisation stands for, so it’s a good talking point. I spent a lot of time chatting to the lovely Juanita about what I do. I sometimes forget what an interesting (and sometimes challenging but always rewarding) job I have. This means that when I am asked about my job, I can go on for absolutely ages. We also spoke about Fellowship, too and she was incredibly supportive. Prior to the conference I was seriously considering giving up on it, but she convinced me otherwise.

As a result of that I’ve made all kinds of interesting connections and some very good things could happen over the next few months. I’ve always felt before that as I run an unusual library, I don’t quite ‘belong’ in CILIP but maybe that’s changing.

Learning points:

  1. Don’t get into such a state about the pressure to network that it becomes overwhelming.
  2. Find ‘your’ people and spend time with them rather than trying to persuade the disinterested that you’re amazing (and making them dislike you more)
  3. If you look like you’re having a good time the fun, interesting people gravitate towards you (or they try to rescue the person you’re with. One of the two.)

Next: Day 2 of the conference. Likely to be very short as I was tired (see above)

 

Guest post #12 – CILIP Update and CPD

Cara Clarke has recently been appointed Systems Librarian at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, after spening five years as a school librarian. She blogs at Behind the Bookshelves and is a member of the Editorial Board for Cilip’s Update with Gazette magazine. On a personal level, Cara describes herself as a closet geocacher and a chocolate connoisseur! Here, she discusses the idea of maximising Update with Gazette in terms of CPD.

As a Cilip member, a copy of ‘Update with Gazette’ magazine pops through my letterbox every month. In the past, I’d usually push it aside before idly flicking through, ignoring the guilty thought at the back of my mind that I should make more of the magazine (and no, I don’t mean in terms of origami). In late 2009, I saw an advert in Cilip’s Gazette recruiting new Editorial Panel (EP) members. Never having heard of the EP I read on. ‘Perhaps this is the kick up the bum I’ve been looking for – a reason to read the mag,’ I thought. I knew I should, but I never really did, and I bet I wasn’t alone in that.

I enquired about joining the EP and discovered it was free and minimal effort required (hurrah!). Now that I know more about it, I know Cilip is always on the hunt for new EP members to represent a cross section of Cilip membership. It is an excellent way of being an active Cilip member, rather than an inactive one, with minimal hassle.

What exactly is involved? Read the latest issue (in paperback or online) and post feedback on a forum. That’s all. 15 minutes to flick through and 15 minutes to post feedback. Nothing more. How easy is that?! Cilip members often moan about membership not being value-for-money (me included), but this is a way of making our voices heard: what was enjoyable to read, what went way over your head, what you’d like to see in there, what articles you read, what articles you don’t read etc. Comments don’t have to be high-brow (mine are a case in point) and the whole thing is casual and informal in tone. Our personal thoughts aren’t being judged or graded, the EP simply exists to tell Cilip what readers think of the magazine.

I wonder, do many readers notice the reference made to the EP in the magazine? It’s usually found on the front pages amongst the circulation details. I certainly hadn’t ever noticed it before (but then again, if I didn’t read the big articles I wouldn’t exactly read the ‘small print’, would I?). EP members’ names are listed and each month it gives me a teeny tiny thrill to see my name in print (sad, I know).

I don’t want this post to read as though it’s an advert for the EP, that’s not my intention. That’s up to Cilip to sort out. But, if you’re like me – wanting to find a CPD opportunity which entails minimal cost and minimal effort – then this could fit the bill perfectly. Just flicking though the magazine knowing I have to comment on it, makes me pay far greater attention to it. My awareness of current issues is now pretty decent and the act of providing feedback provides pause for thought. Earlier this year I was made redundant (Boo! Hiss!) and had a job interview (urgh). In the feedback given, the interviewers said being part of the EP helped me stand out from the other candidates and showed I was passionate and proactive (hmmm, it comes and goes). Being on the EP really helped me to secure a new job (hurrah!) – surely, in this current economic climate, that’s reason enough to consider getting involved?  To paraphrase the first LwL blog post: this is perfect CPD for us CBAs.

LwL seminar – 14-December-2010

I mentioned in a previous post: CPD in three dimensions that I was going to do a seminar on CPD and Librarians with Lives. I had grand plans to do a Prezi thing (bells, whistles, etc) but then, as it always does, life took over and I found myself hastily cobbling together an extremely primitive Powerpoint presentation the night before. I have posted it here for your delectation. Don’t laugh too much:

LwL presentation – SCIE 14-Dec-10

(Note – the original presentation had an extra slide in, which I have since removed)

I took away three messages from the seminar:

1. Find your CPD niche (I’ll write a post on that in the New Year)

2. Twitter isn’t always the answer (especially if you are uber-suspicious of the medium and you have vowed never to use it)

3. Don’t let the profession take over your life (if you don’t want it to)

 

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 #1: Keep your(professional)self alive

This is our first (of, hopefully, many) guest post on Librarians with Lives and I’m very pleased to say that it comes from Bethan Ruddock @bethanar on Twitter and library blogger extraordinaire – she of recently Chartered, Mimas, recently honoured by the SLA, Librarian Crowd fame and a rather marvellous example of ‘our’ kind, who was pressganged offered to write a piece for me. Here it is and I think it’s brilliant We would both love your thoughts on it…

So, get me on Twitter of an evening after a glass of wine and I’ll agree to anything!  Such as writing a blog post for this ace new blog.  I really liked the ‘no more than 15 mins on a post’ rule – that’s something I can fit into my overcrowded days!

But what to write about?  I asked Jo, and got the response ‘anything with a prof dev/ revalidation slant really’ and so, me being me, I’ve taken inspiration from the tweet directly below that in my @ replies – from SimonXIX in response to a rather messy (in many ways) thread that had been going about sticky toffee pudding and celery. Don’t ask.  It said: ‘Perhaps suicide is unprofessional. Discuss’

This got me thinking: what is professional suicide? Is it doing something hideously, horrendously unprofessional – insulting members of the audience from the stage at a conference?  Being sued by the music industry for file-sharing? Going on a rampage through the library, destroying books and computers and traumatising users?

Or is it something more insidious?  Rather than going out with a bang, perhaps it’s a gradual death, a slow wasting-away, a gentle decline.  Perhaps professional death starts where professional growth ends.

We’re constantly told that by not eating properly and not doing enough exercise, we’re gradually killing ourselves with neglect.  I’d say the same is true of our careers.  Professional suicide comes not so much from doing anything wrong, but from failing to do the right things, failing to commit to continuing your professional development.  And just like diet and exercise, we need to find that small window of time to cram it into our busy day.

So, 15 minutes of CPD a day then, to keep your career healthy, happy, and active? Sounds eminently achievable.  And you don’t have to do anything spectacular in those 15 minutes – think gentle stretching rather than full-on sprint.  Spend 5 minutes reading a blog post, and then 10 minutes thinking about it while you’re doing the washing up, or waiting for a bus.  Scribble down a to-do list with some long-term goals.  Learn a fact about the information profession, your workplace, or your colleagues that you didn’t know before.

Keep stretching. Keep growing. Keep your career alive.

Other suggestions for 15 minute CPD fixes? Comments please!