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.

 

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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!

Two steps forward, one step back

On Sunday I was doing the usual ‘preparing for the working week ahead’ routine. My life is made much easier if I get everything I need ready the day before, from my packed lunch to exactly the right handbag, to every part of my outfit, including earrings. It saves me so much time and I don’t even need to think about having an outfit crisis because it’s sorted.

I pulled a pair of socks (to go in the trainers I wear on the commute, see?) out of the drawer, turned towards my bed and smacked the little toe on my right foot hard against the bed frame. For a moment I thought I’d got away with it. There was a slight sting. Then I made a dreadful, primeval pain noise. I hopped downstairs and applied ice to the toe, which was already swelling and turning red. I muttered to myself: ‘It cannot be broken. It cannot be broken. It cannot be broken’. As a runner, I’m always in denial about anything that might prevent me from running.

Initially I thought (hoped?) that it was merely badly bruised. Yesterday I couldn’t put any weight on the toe and it was turning purple and black. I went to A&E (5 hours – worst game of Theme Hospital EVER) and they confirmed in less that 5 minutes that it was, indeed broken. It’s a small break so it should heal relatively quickly as long as I rest it, but it impedes every aspect of my life.

Why is this relevant to LwL?

I commute into the office (a short walk, a mainline train journey, a short walk and a tube ride) and I can’t do that journey when I’m struggling to walk at all. Luckily I can work at home this week because my organisation is brilliant about flexible, remote working but it’s far from ideal because…

  1. I’d arranged to meet the lovely Helen from CILIP to discuss lots of fun CPD ideas. I had to send apologies and postpone our meeting until August
  2. I had to dial in to an internal meeting and the phone reception was terrible so I felt very disconnected (lol) from the conversation
  3. The much-discussed desk move happened on Monday, so we’re now facing our lovely users but I’m not there to enjoy it
  4. I was supposed to go on a CPD visit to the Guildhall Library on Thursday and I had to send apologies for that, too
  5. I normally work at home two days a week, but the thought of doing five days on my own in a row is filling me with horror. I need to be around other human beings or I start to go slightly feral.

Last week I thought I was making really good progress with the ‘Born again Librarian’ project and it’s ridiculous how a tiny accident can have such a negative impact. However, it could have been much worse and, while I feel incredibly silly, I have devised a plan to get me through:

  1. I’m trying to get my work ‘To-do’ list done before I go on leave next week. I’m an inbox zero sort of person – anything I don’t have to deal with immediately goes into a sub-folder – so everything in my inbox is something I actually have to get done. This is keeping me nicely busy.
  2. I’m going to *drum roll* start gathering Fellowship evidence, dust off my job description and CV and begin working on the PKSB. I will also update my CPD log on the VLE (I’m pretty diligent about doing this, but I need to add the Conference to it.) [Note: someone needs to HOLD ME TO THIS. I need accountability. Essentially, I need Strava but for CPD]
  3. I need to make more tweaks to LwL. I’m still not completely happy with the way it looks and there are sections I need to update e.g. Publications

It’s a small setback, but nothing more than that. I’m resilient enough to realise that it’s not world-changing or life ending. It’s a temporary frustration that might just give me some much-needed headspace to reflect on various things.

Stupid toe.

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.

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 #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.

Disillusioned

Before I start – I love my job. My family have jokingly described the Library I run as ‘My other baby’ and they are pretty much right. I birthed the library, I water and nurture it. I protect and defend it. It has grown into something I’m rather proud of.

I’m feeling rather disillusioned with the information profession generally.

Why?

1. I think we’ve forgotten why we exist. Libraries cannot exist without their patrons/end-users/public. In the general stampede to stand up and shout and defend information provision for the great unwashed (and to tell everyone we’re doing it) we’ve forgotten to ask them what they actually want. Information professionals have a tendency (and I include myself in this) to decide that they know what’s best for the users, which isn’t always the case.

There’s a definite whiff of ‘Dad at the disco’ about some of the leaps we’ve made in terms of online presence, Web 2.0, etc. Yeah! We’re groovy! We’re hip! We’re down with the kids! A great example of this is Second Life. A number of libraries leapt on the Second Life bandwagon a few years ago because they thought they should. Do many Libraries have a Second Life presence now? I’d love to know. Instead of assuming that we know what our users want and imposing our will on them whilst also trying to be cutting edge means that we can forget what a good service actually looks like.

2. A Library isn’t a means to an end. We are, lest we forget, a support service. To define ourselves in the same bracket as doctors, lawyers and accountants in terms of professionalization is utterly ludicrous. We promote learning. We support evidence-based practice. We enable people to do their jobs; and/or conduct their lives just that little bit better.

I’m under no illusions about my job and my place in the organisation I work for. I support front-line practice and I enable people to undertake CPD. If people stop using the library, I’ll lose my job. It’s as simple as that. I’m not out on the front line dealing with the messy stuff in social work. I (hopefully) make the social workers’ lives a little bit easier. If I provide some information that can influence a decision in a small way that will positively benefit a family or a child, I’m doing my job properly. I can make the library as pretty and forward-thinking as I like but the moment I stop focusing on the needs of the end user, I’m sunk.

3. There’s too many people trying to make a name for themselves rather than focusing on their jobs. I do wonder when some people actually do the work they’re allegedly paid to do. How can they fit it in between the CPD and telling us what to think and how to behave? Giving someone a platform and a voice doesn’t make them God (before you ask, I’m aware of the irony of that sentence….)

I do not have time to sit and ponder the great conundrums of the information profession during working hours. Why? I’m too busy ploughing on with my job. If I had time to look up and take a breather I’d be concerned about the effect that would have on the very detailed statistics I keep that help to justify the existence of the Library. Which reminds me – it’s not just public and academic libraries that are struggling at the moment. Show me a library service that isn’t under some sort of threat and I’ll show you someone with serious delusions. We’re all fighting demons, even if we’re not prepared to shout about it publicly.

I keep trying to remind myself that Information Professionals are BRILLIANT. We’re great at doing more with less. We provide fantastic, comprehensive services. Above all, we CARE so much about what we do that we’re evangelical about it. These are all great things, and we should be proud of them. I just think we need to be more self-aware and not think that we’re the gatekeepers of all knowledge. We can learn as much from our users as they can from us.

That’s a fairly key point. I think the root of my malaise is the sense that, as a group, we’re losing sight of what we’re for and why we do it. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case. I don’t want to fall out of love with the information profession completely, but at this point, my relationship with it is pretty rocky.