CILIP Conference 2017: Part 4 -Day 2 sessions

My notes for Day 2 are (mercifully) brief as I was absolutely exhausted (see the Day 1 and lazy networking posts for more details), although a lack of sleep didn’t prevent me from going for a run in the morning.

An insiders guide to professional registration – Kate Robinson & Dan Livesey

I didn’t plan to attend this session as I thought it would be about Chartership and Revalidation and I’ve been there, done that. Juanita set me straight though and there was plenty of advice on Fellowship, too.

I now have a to-do list:

  1. Fill out the PKSB on the VLE (not all of it, just 6-8 sections that are most relevant to me)
  2. Annotate my job description
  3. Annotate my CV
  4. Find a mentor (this still feels insurmountable)

Learning points:

  1. The portfolio doesn’t need to precisely match the PKSB and evidence of change is good
  2. Be really obvious about your journey and how it meets the assessment criteria
  3. Think strategically when evaluating service performance. Don’t be too operational and adopt a high-level mindset
  4. The ‘So what?’ principle: which criteria does a piece of evidence actually match? Learn to be selective and let go of biases about favourite bits of evidence if they don’t fit the criteria
  5. When going on library visits, reflect on your understanding of how they work and how it fits into what they do.
  6. For fellowship, you can draw on a body of work, developed over a number of years.

Information Mismatch workshop – Jonathon Berry & Jane Fox

  • There’s a huge gap in understanding between clinical staff, patients and their families around the language used. This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve seen it in action. It’s very easy to overestimate intelligence (both intellectual and emotional.)
  • SMOG – Simplified Measure of Gobbledegook calculator. Online tool that aims to reduce nonsense and unnecessary wordiness [Won’t be using it on this blog any time soon.]
  • Good quality information requires the following elements: Information production, evidence sources, user understanding, user involvement, quality control, feedback and review

My specialist colleagues use a lot of acronyms (the name of our organisation is an acronym!) and specialist terms at work. As I have a different background to them it took me a while to adjust to the language and terminology used. As a result I try not to use any overtly librariany (I WILL make it an actual word. I will!) terms. It’s one of the reasons that I eschewed a more lofty job title and am simply ‘Librarian’ as it’s a term that everyone understands.

How to be a chief librarian in 15 easy steps – Caroline Brazier

SPOILER: Not 15 steps. Not easy!

I find listening to other people’s career stories incredibly interesting. It was refreshing to hear someone being honest about the fact that career decisions aren’t always made rationally and with a step-by-step plan. This session expanded out and looked at developments at the British Library, so that’s reflected in my notes.

Learning points:

  1. Tell people your career story
  2. Think about your core purpose (as an individual and as an institution.)
  3. Income generation is incredibly difficult and you have to work hard for it (I know this only too well!)
  4. Work out what people value about us and focus on that.

Exhibition

  • I found the exhibition a bit difficult because virtually none of the products are relevant to my library service. I did, however, enjoy chatting to people from the special interest groups and sitting on the faceless duck (long story.)
  • CILIP stand – I wish I’d had my photo taken with the Facts Matter sign on Day 1 as I look exhausted in the photos. I’m going to suggest that next year they take it to the evening reception as I’m much more comfortable with having my photo taken when I’m wearing lipstick and after a glass of wine.

Final thoughts

I was so tired that I was virtually on my knees by the end of the conference. I’d forgotten how intense a professional event over two days can be. I hope it’s evident from my posts that I got a huge amount from attending, both professionally and personally.

My primary aims when I submitted the bursary application were to reconnect with the profession and make a decision on whether to continue with Fellowship. I feel much more embedded now and I’m definitely going to continue my Fellowship journey.

After my Thursday morning run, which took me past Manchester Central Library, I popped into the coffee shop near my hotel for a cold drink. They were playing How Soon is Now by The Smiths and I had two thoughts:

  1. Manchester is amazing
  2. Being an information professional is BRILLIANT.

Well played, CILIP. Well played.

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CILIP Conference 2017: Part 1 – Getting there

I haven’t been to a CILIP Conference since 2011 and over the last few years had become increasingly gloomy at my prospects of ever attending one again. Last year was a particularly low point as I felt completely removed from the profession and everything happening within it. Oh, how things have changed since then.

Proposal fail

As part of my whole librarian reborn thing I decided to submit a proposal to speak at this years’ conference. It’s important that this reflection records both my successes and failures so I’m going to be terribly brave and admit that my proposal was rejected. It stung at the time but I now understand why. I misjudged the tone and pitched the proposal at the wrong level. I needed to think on a much grander scale and what I proposed was too niche and was (frankly) dull.

Bursary success (not me)

I then did my selfless nurturing manager thing and encouraged my Library Assistant to apply for a bursary so that he could attend. I figured that if he attended he could share the learning with me (this is one of the joys of working in a two-person library team.)  He was duly awarded a bursary by the Government Information Group SIG and I was happy, thrilled, proud, etc., but also a little sad that I wasn’t going.

Bursary success (me)

CILIP in London announced their bursaries comparatively late, so I took a punt, applied and was lucky enough to be awarded one. [Note: I have sat on two bursary awarding committees previously and I know that people are *really* bad at applying for what is essentially free money, so I’m not saying that my proposal was amazing but I knew the odds of success would be pretty good] I actually squealed when I got the acceptance e-mail because I loved attending Umbrella (yore!) in 2009 and 2011. Having started the Fellowship process earlier this year I wanted the conference to provide the platform for me to get on with it. A metaphorical kick up the backside, if you will.

The bursary gave me a full conference place (including evening reception), plus a generous allowance for travel and accommodation. I felt very nervous because it had been a while since I had done any proper networking with real-life information professionals ( ALISS doesn’t count as they’re not strangers) and I had all the usual worries about saying something stupid, falling over and/or inadvertently dropping food over someone. Only one of those things actually happened. [Top tip: never get into a conversation about knowledge management over lunch where the conversation turns so you are quizzed on your definition of the subject. This does not end well.]

Fashion. Turn to the left! Fashion. Turn to the right!

giphy2

The agony of deciding what to wear to a library conference! There seem to be no hard and fast rules. I didn’t want to wear jeans as I felt that they wouldn’t convey my professional persona but equally I didn’t want to look too dressed up. In the daytime I wore shift dresses with flat sandals, which is exactly what I wear to work in the summer. For the evening reception I wore a nice skirt and top and sandals with a slight heel that I could walk in. I’m really into patterns and florals and I have a definite style, so my chosen outfits reflected my personality. I even got a couple of compliments (Oasis collection nerds of the library world assemble!) I also took two sets of running gear because I can’t go to a different place without exploring and Instagramming the heck out of it on a run. The air conditioning in hotels tends to be aggressive, which I like, but I don’t like having cold feet so a pair of fluffy socks is a must.

To Manchester!

My journey to the conference was uneventful but I saw the singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini at Euston. [Insert joke about last requests and pencils full of lead here. Or maybe not] I used to spend a fair bit of time travelling up to Manchester for work, so I have a great fondness for the city. My bursary allowed me to stay at The Principal, which was quite a step up from the Premier Inn. I took full advantage of the facilities during my stay, including the gym, the bar, the table tennis table, the pool table, the free wifi, and the excellent breakfast. I ran, I showered, I Nando’sed, I Herdricks’ed (just a small one), I slept, I gymmed, I bathed, I breakfasted and then I was ready to take on the Conference.

Coming next: Day 1 of the conference

 

Umbrella 2011 overview

This is going to be a (personal) overview of the conference. I’ll post some notes, thoughts and ideas from the sessions I attended in separate posts.

It’s rare to leave an event and feel that you did everything you set out to. I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years that I’ve sat on the train home and thought ‘Damn! I really should have spoken to X and Y’. I spoke to everyone I wanted to and felt quite happy going up to someone randomly in the exhibition, sticking my hand out and saying ‘Hi…’. The me of 12 years ago would be rather shocked at the boldness of her older self.

I even managed to rescue a situation where I got one person confused with another and (after dying inside for about 30 seconds) had a nice conversation with them about their work. Long story, don’t ask…

Wearing a name badge helped and saved a couple of seconds at the introductions stage. The first thing that everyone asked me was what my workplace acronym  stood for.  It often led to an interesting conversation about my work, why it was different to lots of other library jobs and the old ‘making a real difference’ chestnut. By day 2 of the conference I had developed a natty little patter to regurgitate when the question arose.

I was really struck, particularly on the second day, by how downbeat lots of the attendees were. That in turn impacted on the mood of the conference. I think many of us are feeling battered and bruised, particularly if we’ve been affected by restructures and redundancies over the last couple of years. Maybe I’m being a bit soft here (it’s my age) but I would’ve really appreciated someone senior standing up and thanking us for all that we do and to keep fighting for our libraries. It may seem like a silly gesture but a simple word of thanks can mean so much.

The workshops and talks are the major feature of the conference (of course) but as a solo professional I really valued the chance to network. It’s something I do so rarely ‘in the flesh’ and I was pleased to see that my brain hadn’t completely atrophied in the two years(!) since I last attended a library conference. It was good to have conversations about libraries without sounding like a massive geek (not that there’s anything wrong with a. Talking about libraries and b. Being a massive geek).

It was also fun to put faces to names and find out if the Library Crowd on Twitter matched their online personalities. For the most part, they did. Goodness knows what they made of me with my grinning, hand-flapping and gabbling at 100mph. Oh well, to quote an Apprentice candidate, I am what I say on the tin.

An Umbrella of anonymity

Ela-ela-ela (just getting it out of my system before tomorrow)

I have been allowed out of a. Work and b. The House of Twins to attend the bi-annual library conference, Umbrella.

I attended the 2009 conference and had rather a good time. I suspect that this one will be a bit different. Back in then I was completely and utterly anonymous in the library world. Ok, not totally anonymous. There were a few people there that I knew from courses, other conferences, previous workplaces and the #oxfordlibrarymafia.

Two years on….

I actually don’t know. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that even a third of the people there will know who I am, but I reckon that I’m probably going to at least recognise approximately 20-30 people and a few of them might recognise me in return.

I’ve done a little bit of self-promotion in the last two years. I started engaging with fellow professionals on Twitter and (bloody) LinkedIn and I started Librarians with Lives. I don’t put my full name or my workplace online but my social networking profiles have a picture of me and it probably isn’t that hard to work out who I am and where I work if you were nosey enough to want to.

Preparation-wise I haven’t done a huge amount. I have already decided which sessions I’m going to attend, with the exception of Session E on Wednesday morning. I think I’ll just make a last-minute punt and go for something unusual. Other than that, I have largely focussed on professional development; social networking in the workplace; and IT development. I’m also looking forward to the exhibition (not just for the freebies); the poster sessions; the chance to catch up with a few people and the social aspects of it.

I’m not taking my laptop. It’s too big to lug around for two days. I’m going to rely on my iphone, pen and notepad for notes. I don’t have personal cards but do have business cards so I’ll take a few of those. I think I know what I’m wearing (my outfit for the gala dinner is sorted) and I used to spend a lot of time travelling for work so I’m pretty adept at fitting everything I need into a small wheely suitcase. I have joined the Umbrella Spruz network. I need to pack my gala dinner ticket and joining instructions.

Now, a word about the social events. I actually think they’re almost as important as the conference itself. Unless something terrible happens I’m not planning on having an early night on Tuesday evening. I can (and often do) go to bed early so, as a parent of young children, the chance to stay up a bit later, socialise with grown-ups and have proper conversations appeals hugely. I’m not exactly going to be dancing on the bar at 1am (I’ll leave that to the other party animals) but I hope to make a decent show of being sociable.

Finally: a visual clue if you’re not sure who I am. I will be sporting very interesting nails.

Hope to see you there…

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…