LwL Episode 9: Laura Woods

In Episode 9 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Laura Woods, who is a subject librarian at the University of Huddersfield. Laura has worked in three different sectors – law, charity and academic  – so we had quite a lot of ground to cover. She’s also done a lot of CPD so we spent a lot of time talking about that. Therefore this episode is in two parts.

Originally I was going to release Part 1 today and Part 2 next week but I took to Twitter and asked people to vote on whether they wanted both parts at once or on separate weeks. It was neck and neck for quite a while but getting both parts at once edged it so you’re getting 1 hour 45 minutes of #librarianswithlives podcasty goodness in one go this week.

This episode was recorded one evening in September, back when I didn’t quite know when to shut the heck up. We recorded both parts in one go and finished recording quite late so I apologise in advance for how much I ramble towards the end because it was late, I was exhausted and I’m basically an idiot.

In Part 1 we cover Laura’s graduate traineeship, library qualification, her jobs in law libraries, awesome careers advisors, excellent job titles, the impact of life changes on jobs and career paths, doing things outside your comfort zone, doing media interviews, the helpfulness of Librarians, and the importance of asking for feedback after interviews.

In Part 2 we chat about Laura’s current role at the University of Huddersfield in-depth. As someone that hasn’t worked in an academic library but has now interviewed a few people that do, I’m fascinated by the commonalities and differences experienced by my peers working in different HE institutions. We also discuss long routes to Chartership, the sometimes insular nature of the information profession, building a body of knowledge across different roles, and a plea for all of us to communicate what we do in plain English. We also devise a Buffy spin-off show. Laura’s blog is here

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 14th November and features Amy Finnegan and Helen Monagle from NLPN.
Happy listening!

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Lwl Podcast reflection: Katherine Burchell

I said in my reflective post that the podcast has taken on a bit of a life of its own and this is certainly true in Katherine’s case. She has very kindly given me permission to repost this from her blog Love Thy Library.

“This year I completed the first year of my Distance Learning MA with in Library and Information Service Management at The University of Sheffield and got myself my first permanent full-time library job. I then decided that it was the time for me to set myself a goal: to get more involved in the profession, get more confident and meet new people.
I started to become more involved in Twitter, follow more librarians, get involved in more chats, and this helped me to start meeting other librarians, other people who are / have been in the same position as me. It has been a great way to reach out for help / advice on jobs, assignments and ideas. It was on Twitter that I first “followed” and met Jo Wood. I’d been following her for a few months when I saw that she had started up again her blog Librarians with Lives .
It was then a few months later that I saw that Jo was reaching out to librarians and information professionals to get involved with a podcast she was starting that would showcase different people from the profession and allow them to have their voice heard and tell people more about themselves and their jobs. It was at this point that I thought to myself, it would be great if I could get involved in something like this, but I didn’t have the courage to put myself forward. If I am honest my brain was just telling me “why would anyone want to hear what you’ve got to say”. (I am honestly, my own worst enemy.) I sat on the thought of messaging Jo for a while, then I saw that she had tweeted asking for people who were new to the profession or doing a course to come forward and be on the podcast. I took this as my opportunity to just do it.
I was initially delighted when Jo said she’d love to arrange speaking to me for the podcast, this then soon turned into fear and nerves. I think Jo would agree with me that she could tell I was very nervous, I was frantically messaging her questions about the podcast. The week of my podcast recording Jo sent me the questions that she would roughly be covering and asking. I was lucky, as her first podcast interviewee did not get any questions in advance. So well done to Helen Berry for doing it all on the spot! I got answers organised for all the questions, which, when I look back on it was a lot harder than I imagined it to be.
The night of my recording came, I set myself up in my bedroom, told all my family to be quiet as I didn’t want there to be any background noise and I waited for Jo to call me via Skype. As soon as Jo started chatting to me before the recording started I instantly felt at ease. Jo started the recording and off we went, I didn’t even look at my notes once. It all came so naturally to me, and I felt just like I was telling a new friend about my job and my way into the profession.
Jo was keen to get my thoughts on doing a Distance Learning course and working full-time, something I was very keen to talk about. Ever since I started my MA I have loved talking to people about it and telling them about how I cope with doing it with a full-time job.
My episode of the podcast went live on the 18th of October. I can’t quite believe how popular my episode has been. I did not expect the reaction that I got. Lots of people have retweeted the podcast, sent me tweets to say they enjoyed it and even professional bodies have tweeted out the link to their followers. This is honestly something that I never thought would happen to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed being part of Jo’s podcast. I listened to it back, after telling myself that I wouldn’t and I am so glad I have. First of all, I do not sound as awful as I thought I would, and it’s really good for me to hear back what I have said and I can see room for improvement on my end but I think that’s because I need more practice of presenting myself. If I had the opportunity to do this again I would work on talking a bit slower and pacing myself. I’d love to do this in a couple of years time when hopefully I’ll have some more experience behind me and I can reflect more on my career so far.
This opportunity has given me an absolute confidence boost and made me more determined to get involved with things within the profession. I am going to continue to apply for bursaries for conferences and get involved in volunteering opportunities where possible to gain experience outside of work. I just want to say a big thank you to Jo for this opportunity and for her continuing support”.

LwL Episode 5: Andrew Oakes

In Episode 5 of the podcast I chat to Andrew Oakes, a law librarian who lives and works in Leeds. We spent a long time discussing children’s books and writing for young people, avoiding becoming teachers, whether doing a humanities or creative arts degree is the best way to become a librarian, computer literacy, the state of public libraries, and not doing Chartership (although I do try and sell Andrew the idea of doing Revalidation…)

Andrew had an academic library job, left it for love and life, got stuck in an admin job and then spent several years trying to get back into library work again. He did his postgraduate qualification part-time whilst working in the admin role (highly unusual) and worked in public libraries before becoming a law librarian.

[Side note: the library course at Leeds Beckett/Leeds Metropolitan University turned out some brilliant information professionals (Andrew and Clare McCluskey Dean, who featured in Episode 3 for example.) It’s a shame it wasn’t around for very long.]

When I’m recording the interviews I often write down a word or phrase that sums up the interviewee’s career path. For Andrew I simply wrote ‘Serendipity’. He spent so long trying to get back into library work again and finally achieved it via both hard work and some serendipitous coincidences.

This interview was recorded one evening at the beginning of September over Skype. We both gave up our chance to watch Bake-Off live – THE HORROR! One of the many things I love about doing this podcast is ‘meeting’ new people and getting to know them. Andrew and I didn’t know each other at all before we recorded this episode and we didn’t discover our mutual love of Eurovision until afterwards which I regard as a great shame (although there is potential for a LwL side-special here.)  Andrew is on holiday this week but will be around to answer any questions when he’s back.

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 Wednesday 11th October and features Juanita Foster-Jones.

Happy listening!

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.

 

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.