LwL Episode 19: Jo Cornish

In Episode 19 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Jo Cornish, Development Officer (Employers) at CILIP.

We chat about her previous life in public libraries, managing staff, qualifications, fellowship and baseball.


The next episode will be released on Tuesday 20th February is a graduate trainee special, featuring Elle Codling, Rhiannon Williams and Hannah Smith.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 18: Michael Jones

In Episode 18 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Michael Jones, Assistant Library Manager at a 6th form college. If you recognise his voice, Michael took part in the Christmas Special and was incredibly knowledgeable about films (the reasons for this will become apparent when you listen to the episode.)

Michael’s blog post and subsequent Twitter discussion about networking at conferences became a talking point during my chat with Nick Poole and has led to people advocating the inclusion of hot chocolate and board games to facilitate face-to-face interaction in a professional context. We spent quite a bit of time discussing mechanisms for informal networking at conferences during the episode and its great to see that this is being taken more seriously by conference organisers.

We could have chatted about films for ages (sound the Wittertainment klaxon) but we were very well-behaved and managed to focus on Michael’s journey to becoming a qualified information professional. The article that was published as a result of his dissertation on using social media to market libraries in an educational context can be found here. I knew a little bit anecdotally about working in a 6th form college library, but Michael’s insights into the high points and challenges are fascinating. We also chatted about his role as Chair of ARLG Southern.

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 6th February and stars Jo Cornish, Development Officer (Employers) at CILIP.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 17: Alisa Howlett

In Episode 17 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Alisa Howlett, an award-winning information professional, currently working as the Coordinator for Evidence-Based Practice at the University of Southern Queensland. Alisa and I recorded this episode in mid-November in the evening in the UK and early in the morning in Australia.

We chatted about weekly library lessons at school, being a recovering perfectionist, having an affinity for library work from a reasonably young age but not actually making a career decision until later, working in aviation library settings, deviations into archives and policy work before finding a home in academic libraries, evidence-based practice and data analysis and interpretation, taking a sabbatical, similarities and differences between CILIP in the UK and ALIA in Australia, speaking at conferences, taking a travelling sabbatical, and emotional and work-related burnout.

You can find out more about Alisa on her website.   We talked about the ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee and the 2017 New Librarians Symposium and the ALIA Students & New Graduates Group

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 23rd January and stars Michael Jones – he works in an FE college library and is the originator of the discussion about networking at conferences.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 16: Nick Poole

In Episode 16 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Nick Poole, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Nick was kind enough to give me 1.5 hours of his time back in November to record this episode in person at CILIP HQ.

We had a wide-ranging discussion (I asked some of the usual questions but several of them felt quite redundant, so it made sense to follow the flow of conversation for much of the episode) that included: the acquisition of and access to knowledge and information, routes into the information profession, efforts to diversify the workforce, living and working in the information age, “Librarian on Librarian Violence”, being part of CILIP, professional ethics, funding models for library services, and celebrating achievements without fear of ridicule. You can find out more about the CILIP Action Plan 2016-2020 here.

Nick also offers advice to both new and mid-career professionals, we chat about networking and speaking at conferences (please note my – frankly – shameless plea to be able to speak at the next CILIP conference), and the dreaded Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head yet again… If you have any questions, Nick is happy to answer them. Just click on his name at the top.

I’m very pleased to announce that this episode contains some exclusive news, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out more. No spoilers…

If you’re new to the profession, you can join CILIP here

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 16th January and stars Alisa Howlett (we’re going international again, this time to Australia.)
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 13 Parts 2 & 3: Tracy Z. Maleeff

In Episode 13 Parts 2 & 3 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Tracy Z. Maleeff, AKA @LibrarySherpa AKA @InfoSecSherpaPart 1 was released on 5th December. Tracy’s blog can be found here

As Tracy is in Philadelphia, I’m in London and we’re both Librarians with Lives, it took us a while (six weeks) to get all three parts recorded over Skype Audio. We started in September and finally completed Part 3 in mid-October.

Part 2

We discuss the ‘L’ (Librarianship!) word in the information security world, being better at explaining what we do and getting rid of jargon, winning over IT people, transferable skills, teachable moments, information security for information professionals, phishing, the John Lewis Christmas advert, ZeroFox, Catfishing, and the importance of educating peers and fellow professionals.

Part 3

We discuss CPD, speaking at conferences, overcoming the dreaded imposter syndrome, shouting out about, and being proud of, winning awards, owning what we do professionally, and women in tech.

Next Tuesday (19th) there is going to be a Librarians with Lives Christmas special….
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 13 Part 1: Tracy Z. Maleeff

In Episode 13 (Part 1) of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Tracy Z. Maleeff, AKA @LibrarySherpa AKA @InfoSecSherpa. Tracy and I got really stuck in to recording this episode, so it’s in three (3!) parts. Part 1 is being released today and Parts 2 & 3 will be released simultaneously on Tuesday 12th December.

As Tracy is in Philadelphia, I’m in London and we’re both Librarians with Lives, it took us a while (six weeks) to get all three parts recorded over Skype Audio. We started in September and finally completed Part 3 in mid-October.

Part 1

In the first part we discuss inspired by public libraries but not wanting to work in one, making the most of the transferable skills that information professionals possess, MLIS courses in the US, qualifications and professional status, the QVC Library (!), working in law libraries, outreach and networking, British v American traits, and moving into the information security world

Tracy’s blog can be found here.

Parts 2 & 3 will be released next Tuesday 12th.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 12: Jo Wood

In Episode 12 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to…ah, no. This week the tables are turned and I’m interviewed by Helen Berry, star of Episode 1 of LwL.

I originally planned to be the relatively anonymous interviewer; keen listeners will have noticed that I don’t introduce myself by name in the podcast. As I recorded the various episodes of LwL I was so impressed by everyone’s honesty that it felt dishonest of me not to offer something of myself. Arguably I’ve been doing that throughout with my interruptions and opinions, but no matter.

Here’s my episode. First of all, I don’t name my current employer for protective rather than sinister reasons. You can find out if you want to – it is hardly a secret – but you’re info pros and can do the necessary legwork! I chat about my introduction to libraries [Point of order #1 It was 27 years, not 25. Point of order #2 Mum also did an Open University degree in social sciences AND various City & Guilds and NVQs in computing], the excellent people that have helped me along the way, what it’s like to work in a series of unusual library and information settings, what happens when things go wrong (and when I say wrong, I mean really really wrong), ruining political careers, stand-up comedy, the time I inadvertently screwed over a colleague, my various FUBARs, some enormous highs, the whole ‘I built a library during a recession’ thing, [Point of order #3 I’ve had three full-time assistants – the third is in post now – since 2010, so I don’t actually break my staff!] a fair bit of impassioned ranting,  two almost-workable ideas for school and social work libraries, and several cultural references.

There are a number of things I forgot to mention (there’s a reason for this that I’ll explain after the episode has aired) including: the fact that I haven’t written my Mills & Boon novel set in a Library yet, getting offered a graduate non-library role when I was made redundant from a professional role and being asked if I could cope with it, being on a panel at a conference and realising I was out of my depth, conference discos, getting Library Twitter wrong (2009-2012), meeting my BFF when I was a graduate trainee, and getting REALLY annoyed when I go into my local public library now.

I’m concerned I may kill my own podcast with this episode but fear not! There are some cracking episodes coming up so hold tight. I’m happy to take questions should any arise – just contact me via @libswithlives

Next week’s episode is Part 1 of a 3-parter (parts 2 & 3 will be out on 12th December), starring @LibrarySherpa AKA Tracy Z. Maleeff, the first international guest on the podcast.

Happy listening!

LwL Episode 8: Michael Cook

In Episode 8 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Michael Cook who is a Knowledge & Evidence Specialist. Yes – a health librarian at last! We chat about pilfering books from libraries (not something we wish to encourage),working your way up up in a particular sector, literature searching in health settings (and the crossover with my role), public health initiatives, giving back to the profession, mid-career mini-crises and rediscovering information professional mojo, and the impact of being parents on our respective roles.

If you listen very carefully you’ll hear the *exact* moment that #Libraruns is born. Michael and I have subsequently recorded a side-special on Librarians who run, which will be released in the New Year.

We also discussed @NLPN_ – Helen and Amy from the Network will be the stars of Episode 11 of the podcast which will be released on 21st November. Michael gave Amy her break in health libraries and there’s a lot of connections between this episode and theirs.

We had a lot of fun recording this episode and I hope that comes across. After I stopped recording we got stuck into a very lengthy and highly enjoyable political rant – our views are very similar and definitely not for public broadcast! One of the many joys of doing this podcast is that I get to chat to all kinds of people from all over the place but it’s always lovely to discover that I have things other than libraries in common with my interviewees. Michael blogs here, so if you’re interested in health libraries and fellowship (which I am), it’s worth having a look.
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 Tuesday 7th November and features Laura Woods. It’s Part 1 of 2, the second of which will be released the following week.
Happy listening!

The Podcast: first reflections

AKA reflecting on how my ‘thing’ became a thing.

The idea:

I was out for a run when the idea of setting up a podcast for and about librarians popped into my head. The podcast was inspired by hearing people’s career stories at the CILIP conference in July. I wanted to give those stories more space to breathe and I wanted to provide a platform for people to reflect on their experiences. I decided to focus on a different person each episode and chat to them in-depth about their background, career, CPD, frustrations, and achievements. Initially the whole idea of doing a podcast was just that. I treated it as an experiment I could conduct and, if it didn’t work out, could quietly forget.

The beginning:

I contacted a couple of people and asked them if they minded being guinea pigs. I recorded a small number of interviews (one in-person and a couple over Skype Audio), converted them to a suitable format for a podcast, uploaded them to Soundcloud and sent out a few Tweets. The first episode of the Librarians with Lives podcast was released on 3rd September.

The ‘thing’ becomes a thing:

In the last eight weeks the podcast has taken on a bit of a life of its own. LwL alumni now chat to each other online, offering each other advice and exchanging ideas (and Gifs. Mainly Gifs.) The podcast has been picked up by some of the great and good of the information profession [My favourite response to the podcast was from Charles Oppenheim on Twitter: “Not listened to any of these yet, but it looks like they would be interesting“] – @NLPN_ @CILIPInfo and a number of the CILIP Special Interest Groups have championed it.

I have interviewed people 5 minutes from my place of work (Helen, Juanita), and with a 5-hour time difference 3,500 miles away (Tracy.) So far the epicentre of the podcast seems to be Yorkshire (Clare, Mike, Andrew, Laura, Tom) although the North West of England is proving to be fertile ground for interviewees too (Michael, Helen, Amy.) I have interviewed several academic librarians but I have also spoken to people who have worked in a number of different sectors and a couple semi-escapees (although no-one ever really stops being an information professional.) I’m a mid-career information professional so the focus of the podcast has been on them but I’m making a conscious effort to connect with people at the start of their career as well as those nearing the end of their careers.

Learning points:

Organisation – many podcasts are recorded in a studio, have an editor and/or a promoter. Some are developed by production companies and have sponsorship. The LwL podcast was set up by me and me alone. I contact potential interviewees and liaise with them to work out suitable dates/times to record interviews. I work full-time and have a family so everything is scheduled around my other commitments. I record the interviews, edit them (not aggressively), upload them to Soundcloud, write show notes for the blog, promote the podcast on social media (Twitter and LinkedIn), answer questions about the episodes, and ensure that everything works effectively. It’s a very low-tech affair. The only thing I have paid for is an unlimited Soundcloud account. This is all on me. LwL is a wonderful project and I love the fact that it is absolutely mine, but it’s a lot of work. I’m quite precious about the podcast so I wouldn’t want to give the responsibility to anyone else but I have to be careful about the amount of time that the podcast takes. That’s the main reason for only releasing episodes during term-time.

Mishaps and criticisms – Episodes 3 and 4 didn’t record properly (sorry Clare, very sorry Mike). I didn’t give Helen (Episode 1) sight of the questions beforehand. It took Tracy (Episodes forthcoming) and I a month to complete our interview due to busy schedules and the time difference. I talk too much. I talk too fast. Recording over Skype means that sometimes I talk over the interviewee, and vice versa. I have to listen to each episode back at least once to write the show notes so I have to listen to my own voice A LOT. The episodes are longer than I originally intended. The podcast isn’t accessible to those with hearing disabilities. I have resolved all of the technical issues now and the recordings sound pretty good. I send pre-interview information to interviewees so they know what to expect. I’ve got better at being clear about when I can do podcast-related activities and when I can’t (or won’t.) I’m learning that I don’t need to talk to fill a silence and that it’s not about my opinion. I’m not going to apologise for the length of the interviews. When they’re clearly going to go on for more than 75 minutes I stop recording and so a Part 2 (Laura) and sometimes a Part 3 (Tracy). I stated that I wanted to give participants space to reflect, so I don’t want to hurry them through the process in 30-40 minutes. As a one-person podcaster I can’t solve the accessibility issue very easily. The best solution would be to produce transcripts, which I don’t have time to do.

People skills – all of my interviewees have given up their time for me, so it’s my responsibility to treat them with respect. I have become more attuned to when an interviewee wants to talk more about a topic and when they would rather move on and talk about something else. I have learned ‘on the job’ how to handle sensitive issues. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone that has agreed to be interviewed for the podcast. They have all been very open and honest, and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to create a comfortable environment for them.

Bravery: some participants have been approached by me, others have volunteered themselves, and others have been volunteered (Michelle acts as my unofficial guest booker.) It is much easier to ask someone over Twitter than to approach them in person, although I think I’d be comfortable doing the latter now, too. I have had to overcome some of my own insecurities to get the podcast off the ground. Originally I wanted to be the anonymous voice of the interviewer – you’ll notice that I don’t refer to myself by name when I introduce the episodes – but that hasn’t quite worked as I’m very much linked to Librarians with Lives as a ‘brand’. I have resurrected the old @libswithlives Twitter account so there is some separation between the podcast, the blog and my thoughts on Strictly, Bake-off, current affairs, nail varnish, etc.

What’s next?

I have now released seven episodes, recorded a further nine episodes, plus a side-special on librarians who run, and have a number of interviews lined up (all of them are really exciting but one in particular is really nerve-wracking for me.) The podcast will run well into 2018 and people are now contacting me and asking if they would be suitable for interview. This is absolutely not what I expected when I set the podcast up. It’s wonderful.

So that I can better understand the interview process, Helen Berry is going to interview me for the podcast in a couple of weeks. I want to see what it’s like from the other side and hope people find me as interesting as I have found them.

At some stage I’m going to reflect on some of the commonalities of experience across the episodes, collate all of the answers to the ‘What would you change if I put you in charge of the library universe for one day and could change one thing’ question, and put together a world map of dream library locations and a diagram of dream colleagues.

I know it isn’t the done thing to be too self-congratulatory but I’m ridiculously proud of the Librarians with Lives podcast. It is evolving constantly and I’m always looking to improve it (I’m a very self-critical person so if you’ve thought of something you don’t like about it, I will have already beaten myself up about that very thing at 3am for several nights running) but I’m overwhelmed by the reaction that the podcast has had and I’m grateful to everyone that has listened, liked and Tweeted about it.

Episode 8 starring Michael Cook will be released on Tuesday 31st October.

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!