LwL Episode 10: Helen & Amy from NLPN

In Episode 10 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Amy Finnegan, a health information specialist at NICE, and Helen Monagle, a senior assistant librarian (serials) at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

This is the first episode that features more than one person. Amy and Helen were together at one end of the Skype call and I was at the other. I was conscious throughout that I needed to give them both space to speak, and to refer to them by name as much as possible so that the three different voices were distinguishable.

Helen and Amy chat in-depth about NLPN, of which they are (with Catherine and Siobhan) co-founders: the process of setting it up, keeping the network going and continually being innovative. (I sound about 165 years old during this section, for which I apologise.) NLPN offer a job shadowing service, which I urge everyone to sign up to – either to offer to host or to take part in. The NLPN site also has a number of (written) interviews with information professionals on it and I may shamelessly ask some of the contributors to be on the podcast themselves at some stage.

We chat about becoming information professionals during an economic crash, lack of opportunity in public libraries, the depressing cycle of applying for library jobs and not getting them, Malory Towers, Chartership, I try to sell Revalidation (again) to them, and the importance of loving what you do. We also discuss library advocacy, ideas for public library campaigns, and the importance of evidence-based practice. A link to the abstract for an article on the tool that Amy mentioned can be found here.

In excellent news, I finally get to ring my bell ( the reason for this will become clear when you listen to the episode) AND we discuss setting up a private detective agency. I realised afterwards that I stole the idea for using a magnifying glass in the logo from QI, so I’ll have to have a re-think…

 

 

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 21st November and stars Tom Peach.
Happy listening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t mention the war

Revalidation (rapidly becoming my Macbeth) is now a dirty word in this house. I haven’t really moved on (in my head at least) from the last post I wrote on the subject. I can’t see the point of Revalidating but I think I should do it.

It all seems a bit theoretical to me. I’m not going to achieve anything tangible by doing Revalidation, and, as someone that is driven by process (i.e. working my parts off) – achievement (the bit of paper that tells me how hard I’ve worked) – reward (financial, satisfying, opportunity to show off) I don’t see the benefit. Mention the R word to (some) information professionals and their response is ‘Why’? Well, quite.

The really daft thing is that if I actually sat down and committed a day (maybe even a morning) to the bloody thing I could knock out a first draft. I don’t suffer from writer’s block very often. Who has the luxury of that much space in their life though? I don’t.

I only committed my Chartership portfolio to paper because I was heavily pregnant, couldn’t leave the house and was terrified of getting in the way of our former cleaner as she polished our surfaces with barely-disguised stereotypical Russian moodiness. There were only so many times I could refresh Facebook and Twitter wasn’t on my radar back in 2007 so portfolio writing whiled away a few days. I’m not planning to adopt the same strategy to complete a cycle of Revalidation.

At this point I’m not job-seeking (although, with the way the world of work is, you never know what might happen in the next year or two) and the majority of employers don’t recognise Chartership, let alone revalidation, anyway.

So, I’m putting Revalidation on the back burner for a bit and concentrating on another aspect of personal/professional development: Mentoring.

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…

Revalidation malaise

I registered for Revalidation back in January. I have done precisely nothing towards it since. I had a quick look at the documentation and downloaded a couple of templates and then? Nothing. A big blank space of nothing. I simply can’t work up any enthusiasm for it. What am I going to get from it? A step closer to Fellowship? Do I really want that when I’m in such a funk professionally? It’s not going to gain me anything at work, financially or developmentally.

Why should I persevere with it? Should I cut my losses and abandon the idea? I’d welcome your thoughts…

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.

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…

Librarians with lives

I’ve been working in libraries since 2003 and I have set this blog up to address my (and I suspect others will identify) professional crisis.

I Chartered in January 2008 and I’m in the slightly unknown, slightly bizarre stage of my professional development. When you first decide on a career in librarianship the path you take in the first few years is pretty defined; graduate traineeship, library school, first professional post, chartership (although I didn’t exactly follow that path, as I’ll explain elsewhere) and then what? Revalidation 1? Revalidation 2? Fellowship? Retirement? Death? Scary stuff.

Coupled with that, my life has changed dramatically over the last seven years. Life has a habit of doing that, I find. Back then I was a carefree twentysomething and now I’m married with toddler twins and a full-time library job (and until now I was a solo librarian) and a Hotel Chocolat habit to support. I used to trot around the country attending courses, seminars and conferences and now I’m painfully aware that my continuing professional development file is sadly lacking – the last conference I attended was Umbrella 2009 and the last external training I had was in November 2008.

I’m fairly confident that there are lots of people out there in the same boat as me. CILIP tends to support those new to the profession and the retired members well but what about the people in the middle? Those of us that still like the profession, still like our jobs (and are lucky enough to have jobs) but simply don’t have the time to devote hours of our free time to CPD. There needs to be something for us to do that doesn’t take up much time, money or energy and that we can use as evidence of a commitment to CPD if/when we revalidate.

This is it: Librarians with Lives. I thought I ought to devise some rules. As I have no time to come up with a comprehensive list I’ve just got three:

1. All posts have to be written in 15 minutes or less (write a 5,000 word dissertation and I’ll know you’ve cheated)
2. Contributions from guest librarians/bloggers are very VERY welcome. Ideally, you need to be having a professional crisis of some kind. I’d really like contributions from fellow professionals who have chartered and are thinking of, or are revalidating. That’s what I’m aiming this at really.
3. Grammar Nazis need not apply – this hurts me as I AM one but this is about making connections, not writing perfect prose.

Final thing: I bet that somewhere in the blogosphere someone has already had this brilliant idea but I can’t be bothered to find out (and I follow a fair few library blogs) and in any case I’m sure someone desperately helpful (aren’t we all?) will soon tell me so I merely offer you a shrug and a ‘Whatever’ by way of a slacker return.

Librarians with Lives. CPD for the CBA.