An Umbrella of anonymity

Ela-ela-ela (just getting it out of my system before tomorrow)

I have been allowed out of a. Work and b. The House of Twins to attend the bi-annual library conference, Umbrella.

I attended the 2009 conference and had rather a good time. I suspect that this one will be a bit different. Back in then I was completely and utterly anonymous in the library world. Ok, not totally anonymous. There were a few people there that I knew from courses, other conferences, previous workplaces and the #oxfordlibrarymafia.

Two years on….

I actually don’t know. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that even a third of the people there will know who I am, but I reckon that I’m probably going to at least recognise approximately 20-30 people and a few of them might recognise me in return.

I’ve done a little bit of self-promotion in the last two years. I started engaging with fellow professionals on Twitter and (bloody) LinkedIn and I started Librarians with Lives. I don’t put my full name or my workplace online but my social networking profiles have a picture of me and it probably isn’t that hard to work out who I am and where I work if you were nosey enough to want to.

Preparation-wise I haven’t done a huge amount. I have already decided which sessions I’m going to attend, with the exception of Session E on Wednesday morning. I think I’ll just make a last-minute punt and go for something unusual. Other than that, I have largely focussed on professional development; social networking in the workplace; and IT development. I’m also looking forward to the exhibition (not just for the freebies); the poster sessions; the chance to catch up with a few people and the social aspects of it.

I’m not taking my laptop. It’s too big to lug around for two days. I’m going to rely on my iphone, pen and notepad for notes. I don’t have personal cards but do have business cards so I’ll take a few of those. I think I know what I’m wearing (my outfit for the gala dinner is sorted) and I used to spend a lot of time travelling for work so I’m pretty adept at fitting everything I need into a small wheely suitcase. I have joined the Umbrella Spruz network. I need to pack my gala dinner ticket and joining instructions.

Now, a word about the social events. I actually think they’re almost as important as the conference itself. Unless something terrible happens I’m not planning on having an early night on Tuesday evening. I can (and often do) go to bed early so, as a parent of young children, the chance to stay up a bit later, socialise with grown-ups and have proper conversations appeals hugely. I’m not exactly going to be dancing on the bar at 1am (I’ll leave that to the other party animals) but I hope to make a decent show of being sociable.

Finally: a visual clue if you’re not sure who I am. I will be sporting very interesting nails.

Hope to see you there…

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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 #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!

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… 😉

CPD in three dimensions

I attended a small professional networking and development event today and didn’t even have to leave my building. The organisation downstairs (the Social Care Institute for Excellence) has a Knowledge and Information Management team and one of their staff has set up a series of one hour meetings (with biscuits – very civilised) and invited me along. Today was the first and it was lovely to talk CPD and library to three dimensional (mostly) like-minded people.

 

Every meeting is going to have a core topic and judging by today we’ll start and end with that and take a series of detours in between. The central theme today was abstracting and there was a brief presentation on the different approaches, which sparked off some interesting discussions around how far we should impose our judgments on a piece of research and whether there should be a ‘House style’ for abstracts and how a framework could – theoretically – be implemented.

 

The scheduled hour quickly became 80 minutes and we could have carried on talking but the biscuits were running out and we had to get back to our actual work (abstracting) but at the end we discussed the dates of further meetings…and then it all went a bit hazy…

 

…I found myself volunteering to lead the next discussion….on CPD and Librarians with Lives. What have I done?! I’m rather hoping that I’ll get some more willing victims to write guest posts and I’m going to use some of the previous LwL material in my presentation – if the guest posters don’t mind.

 

I’m hoping that I can use all of this for my Revalidation (of course) but it’s also very nice to meet up with fellow professionals and break out of the virtual library CPD world and into the real one.

Commenting is free…so why don’t I do it more often?

Despite being fairly active on various social networks I have to confess that I’m quite selfish when it comes to blogging and Tweeting. Despite following about 260 people on Twitter and 10-15 blogs by librarians via Google Reader I write my own, original stuff far more than I comment on the content of others.

As a Librarian with a Life, one of the timestretched (no, it’s not a real word but it is a Divine Comedy song and if it’s good enough for Neil Hannon…), it strikes me that I’m creating a lot of work for myself here. There are a number of blog posts that discuss how to make the most of Twitter but one that really struck a chord with me was this by The Wikiman. It advocates the importance of regarding Twitter as a conversation tool rather than just punting a random thought out into cyberspace and hoping that someone, somewhere will see it.

This makes sense. Why spend ages wracking my brain for interesting/witty/wise/controversial things to write about when I can simply read something that someone else has written (which I do anyway) and spend an extra minute or two writing a comment? I could then pat myself on the back for participating in a conversation, make someone else feel valuable and popular and put it in my Revalidation portfolio. Job done.

So why don’t I comment more often? The first excuse reason is that on Twitter it’s hard to fit what you want to say in 140 characters and you don’t want to clog up someone’s stream with a six-part diatribe on something you feel passionate on. Google Reader is brilliant but I do find myself skimming much of the content, thinking ‘Ooh, that’s interesting’ and then switching off the laptop to watch The X-Factor. It makes me a consumer of content, rather than a participator in it.

There’s also the fear factor to consider. What if I say something and it’s the comment equivalent of making a joke at a dinner party that no-one laughs at? Or worse, what if everyone thinks I’m a pathetic simpleton? On occasion, I find myself disagreeing with something that I read and have a long discussion with the angel on my right shoulder and the devil on my left as to whether I should be nice and leave well alone or nasty and instigate a virtual plate-hurling argument. The upshot of this is that I generally manage to talk myself out of writing anything at all.

There are undoubted benefits for getting involved and engaging with the conversation though. I started LWL six weeks ago and I’ve already recruited a co-editor and ‘met’ a number of people through Twitter that I would like to meet up and have a drink (or three) with in real life. My follower count on Twitter is now far higher than my Tweets deserve. I almost got involved in a campaign…then stopped myself when I realised that I couldn’t add anything to it. I feel more engaged professionally. I don’t feel like I’m wandering down the high street in my pyjamas, shouting random thoughts on librarianship to passers-by any more.

I’m making a conscious effort to make the leap and participate and I’m now doing this reasonably effectively on Twitter. Most of the conversations I get involved with aren’t actually about librarianship – recent subjects have included: winter boots, the Labour leadership contest (the lesson here? Don’t get involved in political Tweeting after a stomach bug), whether Phileas Fogg was a real person or not (don’t ask), the X Factor (of course) and the merits of dancing librarians (must never, ever post links to those You Tube Videos). It’s a step in the right direction though.

I need to get better at commenting on blog posts. I read so many interesting things and I really need to stop absorbing them mindlessly and start using them as a catalyst for my own thoughts. I need to put aside the sneaking suspicion that everything I say is stupid and instead focus on the fact that bloggers like receiving comments on their posts…as long as they’re positive and/or constructive. I’ll try to keep the hissy-fits to a minimum.

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…