Guess who’s back? Tell a friend.

Last time on LwL (November 2012!) I said farewell to library CPD and flounced off to study sport psychology. Now LwL is back and so am I. What happened?

giphy

I’m now a mildly qualified sport and exercise psychologist. I really enjoyed studying sport psych and was flying through the course but realised I was far more into the theory behind it than the reality of doing it. I took a break after the ‘taught’ component of the course with the aim of having a year off before starting the dissertation. Then things went really wrong and I was unable to do anything at all.

In the Wilderness Months my brain reset itself and I realised, very slowly, that I was Actually Really Quite Good at being a Librarian. Who knew?  It’s hard to describe how I went from being on the verge of quitting the profession to being *so* enthusiastic that I’m doing Fellowship and rekindling all of my professional associations, including this blog. Taking a break from ‘thinky work’ allowed my brain a chance to calm down and remember who I really was and what I’m actually good at.

I was co-opted onto the ALISS Committee in 2014 (I couldn’t stay away for very long, really) and it was one of very few side-activities I kept up when I was learning about physical activity interventions, team roles and leadership, and declarative memory. I managed to Revalidate twice; in 2016 and earlier this year. Once I’d made the decision to end the sport psych course, Fellowship felt like the natural next step if I was to fully commit to being an information professional.

Then I started to feel a bit stuck again. On a whim I applied for a bursary from CILIP in London to attend this year’s CILIP conference, hoping that it would give me the much needed kick up the backside to crack on with Fellowship and reconnect with my professional peers. I was awarded a full bursary and what happened next is worthy of its own post [TL;DR – it went well] …

giphy1

The ethos of LwL hasn’t changed. I still want to share my thoughts on CPD and I also want other people to write guest posts on how to fit professional activities into a busy life and stay connected to the profession without feeling overwhelmed by it.

Most of all, I want to enjoy being part of the community again. It’s going well so far.

 

 

The exits are here, here, and here

I fell into a job and subsequently a profession in my early twenties. I always had it in the back of my mind that I would stay in the profession for a year or two, maybe up to five years, while I worked out what I really wanted to do with my life. Nine years later…

…it turned out I was actually pretty good at the thing I’d started purely because it was a job and I needed one at the time. Then I got onto the professional treadmill, got qualified, got chartered and, through a combination of internal promotions and company moves, moved steadily up the ladder. Then I started doing continued professional development stuff: mentoring here, case studies in books there and some conference involvement and committee work for good measure.

To the outsider it probably looked like I was totally immersed in what I was doing. Inside I knew differently. What began as mild discomfort a couple of years ago became a roaring fury earlier this year. I tried to ignore it. I submitted ill-advised papers to conferences. I tried not to roll my eyes (I often failed but I really, really did try) when I was told WHAT I should be thinking about the future of the profession and WHY I should care. I thought about the next 10, 20, 30 years and where I’d like to be when I’m 60 and decided that, actually, I didn’t want to still be doing this when I was almost ready for my bath chair. For lots of people it is their forever profession (and that’s great), but I don’t think it is for me.

Running parallel to all of this is the fact that I really, really like my current role. Moreover, I’m good at it. However, I can do this role very well without any of the professional gratification I have been seeking over the last few years. In any case, it has become far less of a librarian role and much more about research so I don’t fit the ‘traditional’ model any more. In the current climate, though, I’m under no illusion that my job could go at any point. If the will is there…with that in mind, I like having a Plan B bubbling away.

In January I’m starting a distance learning access course in Psychology with the University of Derby. After that, I’m hoping to get a place on the distance learning Sports Psychology MSc course at the University of Staffordshire and from there, wildest dreams, pie in the sky stuff this may be, I want to sort sportspeople’s heads out and make them even better at what they do. Yes, it’s a massive swerve from what I’ve been doing (if you’re interested, there’s a more fulsome explanation of the reasons for this on my other blog I like to Ride.) It might not work out. However, I don’t want to look back and wonder ‘What if’? I have to try this out. If it doesn’t work at least I gave it a good go.

To juggle all of this some things have to give. I have given up the Chartership mentoring, but will be seeing the lovely Emma through to her submission. For obvious reasons I won’t be writing this blog any more. Most of what I write boils down to this: STOP OVERCOMPLICATING THINGS YOU CRAZY, MOSTLY LOVEABLE NAVEL-GAZING LOONS! It’s not exactly a great loss to the professional canon of literary works. Let’s face it, I’m no loss either. There’ll be no more conference presentations (thank the freaking Lord), no more meetings, no more professional networking, no more Twitter-baiting. Basically all the extracurricular CPD stuff is going.

I’ll leave the blog up because I know people have found the Chartership post useful (all I ask is that you give me due credit if you use or recommend it) and there are some posts that hold up pretty well. However, I won’t be writing Librarians with Lives any more. Through the blog and Twitter I have met some great people (and some not so great, sadly), some of whom I now regard as good friends. Oh yes, if you want to unfollow me now I’m not doing the librarian CPD thing anymore, feel free (I’ll only judge you very very slightly for being shallow and career-grabby.)

It’s been an entertaining few years, all in all, but now it’s time to give something else a try. It’s been….enlightening. Thank you.

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.

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)

 

First-time voter – CILIP 2011 Elections

I’ve been a member of CILIP (in various guises) since 2003 and every October, without fail, I receive my ballot form for the elections and think ‘Ooh I should really investigate that’ before I put the paper down somewhere, promptly forget all about it and rediscover the form about a month after the voting has finished.

(Actually, that’s not quite true. On occasion I have opened the envelope, looked at the form and promptly filed it in the recycling bin. Bad Jo.)

So, why did I decide to participate this year? Blame Twitter. For the first time I actually *knew* a few of the people running for Council and Vice-President of CILIP. I read the manifestos (for a change) and then did a slightly odd thing. I voted for the candidates that:

1.       I ‘knew’….in a virtual sense at least

2.       Didn’t mention UCL in their manifesto.

Ok, the first one is probably quite normal. In any given situation you’re likely to support the people you have some sort of relationship with, unless they’ve ‘wronged’ you and you’re set on revenge – ‘Pah! I disagree with their stance on copyright. I will show them who’s boss by not voting for them. BWAHAHAHAHA!’. The second reason is actually very pathetic but having been humiliated by that particular institution twice in my thirty years on this planet I tend to give it a wide berth. Incidentally I know some really nice people that went to UCL, good friends, etc., but still. I’m not proud of how I did it, I’m just saying.

Reader, I voted. I sent the form off, rather pleased with myself for not only completing the form but actually finding a stamp and a post box and posting it.

A couple of days later I started to feel…uneasy. Had I really made the right choices? Had I been seduced by people that were part of the Twitterati – the infamous Librarian Crowd – and had fed my ego (and therefore encouraged silly old me to vote for them) by replying to some inanity I’d voted on Twitter? Also, were people running on an unofficial slate and had I blindly – and stupidly – voted for the people on that slate?

Slate. For those that don’t know, at The Place That Shall Not Be Named (you’re bright, you’ll work it out) and probably other institutions but it’s the one I have experience of) a new student committee is elected every term and one of the peculiarities of their elections is that the nominees are not allowed to canvass for votes. Not publicly, anyway. It’s a well-known secret that people are buttered-up, people decide to run ‘together’ on the quiet and if candidate A, B, and C, all running for different positions and decide to co-ordinate their efforts, an agreement is made that any friends of candidate A will also vote for B and C, and so on. Officially, slates don’t exist, but everyone knows that they do and turns a blind eye, effectively (well, not always but that’s another story…).

So, there were (are) hashtags on twitter that imply that certain people are running together. They aren’t (as far as I know) but their similar views on certain issues make them a good team. I’m not a complete moron. I’d read the manifestos. I got the measure of the candidates through their Web 2.0 output. I felt I knew them well enough to believe that they would do a good job.

I spent a good week or so after posting my ballot off feeling a bit…used. Then I got over it. Only the truly Machiavellian (I encountered plenty of those in my brief stint at the Place That Shall Not Be Named) types deliberately set out to win friends and influence people. The people I voted for in the CILIP Elections had decided to run because they wanted to change things from the inside. They all seem like good, genuine people whom I have grown to like and respect. Heck, I’d happily go for a drink with them. Moreover, they are happy to put their heads above the parapet and advocate what we’ve all been thinking about the profession and about CILIP in particular (don’t get me started…) and for that I can only applaud them. I finally feel that, if elected, the people I’ve voted for might actually be able to represent the interests of the average information professional – if such a thing exists.

My reasons for voting the way I did may not be the most scientific but after seven years of apathy I finally put some crosses in some boxes, and voted.

No, I’m not telling you who I voted for… 😉

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 #1: Keep your(professional)self alive

This is our first (of, hopefully, many) guest post on Librarians with Lives and I’m very pleased to say that it comes from Bethan Ruddock @bethanar on Twitter and library blogger extraordinaire – she of recently Chartered, Mimas, recently honoured by the SLA, Librarian Crowd fame and a rather marvellous example of ‘our’ kind, who was pressganged offered to write a piece for me. Here it is and I think it’s brilliant We would both love your thoughts on it…

So, get me on Twitter of an evening after a glass of wine and I’ll agree to anything!  Such as writing a blog post for this ace new blog.  I really liked the ‘no more than 15 mins on a post’ rule – that’s something I can fit into my overcrowded days!

But what to write about?  I asked Jo, and got the response ‘anything with a prof dev/ revalidation slant really’ and so, me being me, I’ve taken inspiration from the tweet directly below that in my @ replies – from SimonXIX in response to a rather messy (in many ways) thread that had been going about sticky toffee pudding and celery. Don’t ask.  It said: ‘Perhaps suicide is unprofessional. Discuss’

This got me thinking: what is professional suicide? Is it doing something hideously, horrendously unprofessional – insulting members of the audience from the stage at a conference?  Being sued by the music industry for file-sharing? Going on a rampage through the library, destroying books and computers and traumatising users?

Or is it something more insidious?  Rather than going out with a bang, perhaps it’s a gradual death, a slow wasting-away, a gentle decline.  Perhaps professional death starts where professional growth ends.

We’re constantly told that by not eating properly and not doing enough exercise, we’re gradually killing ourselves with neglect.  I’d say the same is true of our careers.  Professional suicide comes not so much from doing anything wrong, but from failing to do the right things, failing to commit to continuing your professional development.  And just like diet and exercise, we need to find that small window of time to cram it into our busy day.

So, 15 minutes of CPD a day then, to keep your career healthy, happy, and active? Sounds eminently achievable.  And you don’t have to do anything spectacular in those 15 minutes – think gentle stretching rather than full-on sprint.  Spend 5 minutes reading a blog post, and then 10 minutes thinking about it while you’re doing the washing up, or waiting for a bus.  Scribble down a to-do list with some long-term goals.  Learn a fact about the information profession, your workplace, or your colleagues that you didn’t know before.

Keep stretching. Keep growing. Keep your career alive.

Other suggestions for 15 minute CPD fixes? Comments please!