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!

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.

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.

Guest post #11 – On putting it off

Our latest guest post comes from Janet Clapton, who wrote a piece for us back in August on fitting CPD into a busy life. She’s back to talk about something that every LwL-er can relate to. The art of procrastination:

I thought I was ruthless. I always did my homework well in advance, tackled years of distance learning while doing my BSc and MSc, blasted through CILIP Chartership….then gradually, I realised all my spare time and energy for CPD had seeped away somewhere. I had become an expert at Putting it Off.
It seemed to have something to do with struggling at work…precisely the reason we need to keep in touch with CPD! In theory. Somehow, growing vegetables, drinking wine, coffee etc., decorating the spare room, dismantling the gas flue (yes – really – two days ago), and washing up, had all become more urgent and exciting. When they were finished – guess what, it was time to go to bed.
Finally, the day came when avoiding CPD had just become too shameful. Revalidation was approaching, and I couldn’t remember where I’d saved the files. I’d submitted a conference proposal on a whim, and not done the research I was going to talk about. There really wasn’t anything less boring to do. So I tracked down the revalidation files and started work.
Fairly quickly, I realised that recapping on what I’d done over the past 2 years was interesting and useful. When I checked files stored on the work server, I was pleased to see I had an email asking me to review an article for a journal. Maybe my enthusiasm had only taken a small, recent dip. Ideas started coming back and it didn’t seem quite such an awful chore. Maybe I would do this more often. Maybe I would even write something for Librarians with Lives….

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 #10 Professional Involvement – the #LwL way

Our latest guest post comes from another returning contributor: @georginahardy, who wrote for us previously on ‘Conversations in the pub’. This time she looks at professional involvement from a LwL perspective:

How many times have you heard professional activists telling you that “you will get more from CILIP if you put more in” and “it’s your professional organisation”?

At the end of this year, I will be stepping down as Chair for the West Midlands Division of the Career Development Group of CILIP, a role I have held for the last four years.  The role has been very rewarding:  I have had the opportunity to develop skills I don’t really use in my day job, I’ve met a wide range of interesting and enthusiastic professionals from all sectors of the library world, and it was a no-brainer in terms of gaining evidence for my Chartership portfolio.

But not all of us have the time or the sympathetic employers to allow us to attend committee meetings, organise full events, or edit a newsletter.  So here are a few suggestions of ways to engage with your professional institute that are eminently suitable for Librarians with Lives:

  • Check your special interest group membership.  Have you received newsletters from your special interest group in the last year?  Are you getting information from the most relevant groups?  When you renew your membership each year, consider whether you should change your special interest groups.  If you’re not getting anything out of your current membership, choose a different one.
  • Write an article for a newsletter.  Most regional branches and special interest groups have a newsletter or divisional newsletter of some sort (e.g. Central Issues).  This is an excellent way of maintaining your reflective writing skills once your Chartership is finished.
  • When your professional organisation asks for your opinion, give itVote in CILIP elections.  Complete questionnaires (such as the recent Defining our Professional Future consultation).  You might not be leading the charge, but you can certainly shape which direction it goes in.
  • Make suggestions.  You may not have the time or the opportunity to arrange an event or visit yourself, but you’re unlikely to be the only person interested and committees are always keen to find out what their membership would like them to do.
  • Follow and comment on blogs (such as the West Midlands Branch blog).  You’ll find plenty of discussion relevant to your professional institute via CILIP Communities, and it’s a good way to get your voice heard from the comfort of your home/office.

A word of caution: professionals with both the time and inclination to become activists are rare.  Once you express an interest, your local CILIP (branch or SIG) committee will be keen to involve you further.  Be prepared to say no, and state in advance the limits on your time.