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.

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.

Guest Post #9 – Following events from afar

Jo Alcock is an Evidence Based Researcher at Evidence Base in Birmingham City University. This basically means she’s a librarian without a library who spends her time on research, evaluation and consultancy for the library and information community. You can find Jo on Twitter @joeyanne and blogging at Joeyanne Libraryanne. Here, Jo introduces the concept of ‘Event Amplification’ and demonstrates that even librarians with the most active of lives can still find ways to participate in CPD:

I’m not at the stage of my life yet where I have delightful children who take up all my spare time (though our two cats can be demanding little fusspots at times!), but I do like to think that I have a life outside of work, so I consider myself a librarian with a life. I also have a few professional plates to juggle; I’m still completing my MSc dissertation, I’m a member of two different CILIP committees, and I write a blog.

CPD is important to me. I love to attend events, but it’s not always possible to attend the ones you’d like to – sometimes for financial reasons, or lack of time, or maybe it’s during the day and you have work commitments. But nowadays you can often still follow the event without physically being there.

Event amplification is a term which is being used more commonly now – it refers to the event being amplified beyond its physical barriers, often by utilising technology such as Twitter, live blogging or live streaming. Many event organisers are starting to utilise these technologies to enable people to follow the event from afar. It helps the event get more publicity and could mean more people attending their next event – I’ve certainly earmarked a few events I’d like to attend based on the information I have followed.

Through my Twitter connections, I’ve been able to follow events from all over the world. Sometimes it might not even be an event you’re aware of, but if you spot a tweet from someone and it has an event hashtag, you can then set up a saved search to see all the tweets with the hashtag.

More and more, event amplification information is publicised on the event fliers and emails, so you can even set it in your calendar and try to set aside some time during the day to catch up on the tweets from the event, or watch a particular section of the event when it is live streamed if it’s something you are interested in.

So, if you want to follow events from afar and help others do the same, here are some quick tips:

  • join Twitter and follow people within the community with similar interests to your own – they will be most likely to tweet from events that you will also be interested in following
  • keep an eye out for details of a Twitter hashtag for events or details of any live streaming or live blogging for events you are interested in – add them to your calendar with appropriate URLs where applicable
  • if you attend an event and are able to tweet, explain to your followers what event you are at and include a hashtag if there is one (if there isn’t, consider creating your own to keep all tweets together and make it easier for people to follow)

Here’s to more event amplification enabling us to follow events whilst sat at home in our jim jams or drinking wine – cheers!

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 #5: Conversations in the pub

This post is by Georgina Hardy @georginahardy.  George and I have been friends since we were part of the #oxfordlibrarymafia Oxford Graduate Trainee scheme (2003-4).  She is now an Information Specialist at Aston University and Chartered earlier this year.

It was during the course of  one of our famously long telephone conversations a few weeks ago that I developed the idea of Librarians with Lives, so now you know who to blame…

Her contribution is a brilliant (can you tell she’s my bestest real-life librarian friend in the whole wide world?) take on *actual* social networking – in the pub – our favourite place (apart from Pizza Express)…

Last night, I went out drinking.  I left work shortly after 5.30pm, wandered down to the Wellington pub (winner of many CAMRA awards), ordered myself a delicious pint of Purity’s Pure Gold and found a table.  A few minutes later, my friend arrived.  Being a woman of exceptionally good taste, she ordered Purity’s Pure Gold unprompted by me, and we settled down for a chat.  We hadn’t seen each other for a while, so we were catching up on news and our conversation was wide-ranging, gossiping about friends, houses, toddlers, and, of course, putting the world to rights (transferable parental leave, if anyone in central government is reading).

So what has this got to do with professional development?  Well, it just so happens that this friend of mine is also a librarian.  And naturally we spent a bit of time talking about our jobs.  The result?  I have returned to work today with a few more ideas for things to try in relation to a long-standing and knotty problem at work.  Some of those my friend suggested outright, but others I thought of myself, having had the opportunity to talk around the problem.

As a librarian with a life, I spend a lot of time with friends, both librarians and non-librarians.  Often, those friends will want to talk to me about my job, or what’s happening with the Library of Birmingham (what was wrong with the old one?), or perhaps something that’s happening in their own workplace.  Using these conversations to really think about what you do and why you do it, and importantly, bringing those ideas back to work with you – that’s professional development.

If I remember rightly, this is exactly the way in which this very blog was born.  And if you don’t believe me, next time you go to a conference where an eminent librarian is talking about a great project, listen out for “it all started with a conversation over a glass of wine…”.

Guest post #4: First they came for the school librarians…

Today’s very timely guest post comes from Katy Wrathall @SmilyLibrarian, who blogs here describes herself thus:

I started as a hotel receptionist book-keeper, then clerk in Civil Service, moved to IT as programmer, analyst, developer and then was an IT Consultant (Unix) jacked it in at 40 to do Library and Info Mgt degree, since when worked in Schools Library Service, then FE as LRC Manager, then info-lit project SMILE project manager, and temp Academic Liaison Team Manager, currently between engagements.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave this week you’ll know that, yet again, public libraries are in the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons. Katy explains why we need to support our professional colleagues and advocate on behalf of the profession. If we don’t, who else will?

School librarians have been fighting to retain the professionalism of their role for a long time, in some cases with little support even from their own professional body. If we do not fight for the professional qualification to be recognised and mandatory for all librarians are we saying that actually it has no relevance?

If you are a librarian in any sector you can’t fail to have noticed that Public Library Services are under increasing threat. There is a misconception about their role and the services provided that at times seems tantamount to a campaign of deliberate misinformation. The vitriol towards libraries and indeed librarians expressed in responses to articles such as those by I. J. Clark and Lauren Smith has been shocking, and, for me, deeply concerning.

It seems to me to be symptomatic of a much wider lack of understanding of the role of a librarian, wherever we work. I believe we are at a crossroads in the profession and we all need to stand up and be counted. No librarian, wherever they work, can afford to be complacent about the future of the profession. We have to work together to say what librarians are, and what we bring to our employers. We have to get loud about our skills in finding, organising, detailing and relaying information. We have to get loud about the fact that people may be able to afford to buy their own books, DVDs, computers and access to online services, but without librarians they can’t easily retrieve just the piece of information they need, they can’t have objectively selected fiction available freely and with minimum effort, there won’t be anywhere they can go to ask for help with their research and there won’t be anybody ensuring their work is acknowledged by others.

We can’t sit and wait for somebody to do this for us, and we can’t assume that they won’t come for the college, academic, legal, or business librarians next. We have to stand up and be counted, we have to tell people what they are throwing away which they will never get back, we have to act outside the stereotype. And we have to do it now.

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…