Umbrella 2011 – Session F: Mashed Libraries

I loved this session. I have followed Mashed Libraries events in the past on Twitter but haven’t been able to attend one myself so this workshop really appealed to me.

Key points:

  • Mashed library sessions bring libraries and technology together. They are organised ‘unconference’-style meetings where librarians and techies exchange ideas and solve problems.
  • We were asked to get into groups and come up with our own ideas for a Mashed Libraries event.

IDEA: Fishfingers and mash, 20th November 2011 (International Children’s Day). Mashup = design an educational resource for children and young people experiencing life/family difficulties e.g. divorce, adoption, fostering. Needs to marry up published resources and some form of interactive online presence. Everyone brings their own cakes, cookies, muffins and biscuits to sell. Competition for the best cakes! Prizes for great mashup ideas (following the children theme) include pots of bubbles and balloons

I managed to collect up the post-it notes from the session but stupidly didn’t think to write down a list of the people that were in the group. If anyone was in that session and can help me out, I’d appreciate it as I think we might have a good idea here…


Umbrella 2011 – Session E: IT for the LIS professional

If you were following the #ub11 hashtag on Twitter, you’ll know that this one caused a fair amount of debate.  Georgina Hardy has already done a very good post on this session but I just have a couple of points to make:

Key points:

  • Not everyone is as good at IT as we assume. E.g. young people use social networking but can’t understand computer filing systems.
  • Do we need a ‘real’ European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) before we’re allowed to buy a computer or smartphone? There was lots of eye-rolling about ECDL. I did it years ago as part of my graduate traineeship programme but I’ve learnt far more ‘on the job’ and it is totally Microoft Office-based.
  • Not everything IT-related is Microsoft or PC-based.
  • Should librarians regard programming as a basic skill? I last programmed in Basic to make a swirly shape in the mid-1980s. The ability to create a website from scratch would be useful but I don’t know how to do it.

Umbrella 2011 – Session C

1. Transparency in the public sector: what is the role of the information professional?

(I didn’t make many notes on this talk, but did learn that there are only two places in the UK that you can be buried at sea. They’re both off the Norfolk/Lincolnshire coasts, in case you’re interested)

Key points:

  • Data has to be fit for use ‘Out, quick and dirty’
  • Info kept in Excel spreadsheets. Makes them accessible but also open to misuse?

2. From practice to publication: professional assistance from the librarian

Key points:

  • Why do people publish academic research and write papers?
  • What are the barriers to doing research? Time (lack of), funding, not great at writing
  • Solutions – write collaboratively?
  • Where can librarians help?
  1. Act as the go-between
  2. Provide access to resources
  3. Referencing and bibliographies
  4. Ethics
  5. Intellectual property rights/copyright


  • Should librarians write systematic reviews? Are we qualified to write them as we’re not subject experts? However, we do accumulate a lot of knowledge ad hoc. How can this be documented and employed meaningfully?

IDEA: offer 1 hr sessions with the librarian to discuss research needs. Could be done over the phone or via social networking/e-mail. Might be useful for NQSWs. PQ and MA/MSc students

Umbrella 2011 – Session B – Creating a personal learning network and keeping up to date using social media

Key points:

  • Websites are dead. They’re not where development is happening.
  • Instead, development is happening in social media resources.
  • People are cyber-nomadic now. They go where the conversations are.
  •  – find out where you are online.
  • – Gary’s social media count.
  • Facebook becoming a search engine
  • Quora – a Q&A website.
  • – news collation service.  – getting social media to bring the data to you.
  • Liking and +1ing now influencing search engine ranking. This can be seen on Google.
  • create your own search engines. Uses slashtags to restrict searched sites to particular topics.
  • Search is becoming social. The traditional idea of search is no longer useful.


  • The idea is to create a personal learning network, but who (realistically) has the time to do that?
  • Can the librarian take on this work – aggregating searches and creating bespoke (subject specific) search engines so that the end user doesn’t have to?

Umbrella 2011 – Session A – Skills and Professionalism

Key points:

  • You have 6/7 seconds to make an impression on a first meeting
  • Reputation is built up piece by piece
  • Respect is also something you build up. How am I valued by others?
  • Intangible skills e.g. self-belief. All skills are transferable.
  • Your CV needs to show that you are the best at what you do. It must include examples and you have to treat it like an advertising and sales package.
  • Use ‘I’ not ‘we’ (no I in team?). Banned words: ‘only’ as in ‘I only do..’ and ‘them/they’.
  • You need a Plan B – an escape route out of the profession.
  • Write down what you’re good at and what your dream job looks like


  1. What is this thing we call a ‘profession’?
  • We’re connectors of information. We enable people
  • We’re great at customer service: reading people, employing psychological techniques.
  • Are we ‘the beating heart’ of the organisation?

2. How do I document my abilities, competencies and skills?

  • Do I have more skills than I recognise? What are my weaknesses?

3. Professionalism – what is it?

  • Attitude
  • Behaviour
  • Character


  • Is an employer outside the sector really going to consider someone for a non-library/information post that has always worked in LIS settings? Do we get pigeonholed and is that unfair?
  • Isn’t it enormously arrogant to tell an employer why we’re so great and not to address why we should work for the organisation? I always look at the job spec, do some research on the organisation and tailor my application to the job and the company, rather than write a self-promoting ‘pitch’. Am I getting it wrong?

Umbrella 2011 – Plenary session

Keynote speaker – Gerald Leitner, EBLIDA President and Secretary General of the Austrian Library Association

Key points:

  • Copyright law in England is still aimed at printed material. This needs to change.
  • Advocate of the hybrid library. Sees a need for a mixture of printed and electronic materials
  • E-books – could we use them in our library? What’s the take-up of handheld reading devices, e.g. Kindles among staff?
  • National libraries form a digital memory
  • Without research libraries, research would not happen.


  • Very user focussed. Thinks about the needs of the end user and aims to meet them, rather than running off with an idea and expecting the end user to keep up…or risk losing out.
  • As an advocate of evidence-based practice and CPD, I was heartened to hear someone senior saying that research libraries matter

Umbrella 2011 overview

This is going to be a (personal) overview of the conference. I’ll post some notes, thoughts and ideas from the sessions I attended in separate posts.

It’s rare to leave an event and feel that you did everything you set out to. I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years that I’ve sat on the train home and thought ‘Damn! I really should have spoken to X and Y’. I spoke to everyone I wanted to and felt quite happy going up to someone randomly in the exhibition, sticking my hand out and saying ‘Hi…’. The me of 12 years ago would be rather shocked at the boldness of her older self.

I even managed to rescue a situation where I got one person confused with another and (after dying inside for about 30 seconds) had a nice conversation with them about their work. Long story, don’t ask…

Wearing a name badge helped and saved a couple of seconds at the introductions stage. The first thing that everyone asked me was what my workplace acronym  stood for.  It often led to an interesting conversation about my work, why it was different to lots of other library jobs and the old ‘making a real difference’ chestnut. By day 2 of the conference I had developed a natty little patter to regurgitate when the question arose.

I was really struck, particularly on the second day, by how downbeat lots of the attendees were. That in turn impacted on the mood of the conference. I think many of us are feeling battered and bruised, particularly if we’ve been affected by restructures and redundancies over the last couple of years. Maybe I’m being a bit soft here (it’s my age) but I would’ve really appreciated someone senior standing up and thanking us for all that we do and to keep fighting for our libraries. It may seem like a silly gesture but a simple word of thanks can mean so much.

The workshops and talks are the major feature of the conference (of course) but as a solo professional I really valued the chance to network. It’s something I do so rarely ‘in the flesh’ and I was pleased to see that my brain hadn’t completely atrophied in the two years(!) since I last attended a library conference. It was good to have conversations about libraries without sounding like a massive geek (not that there’s anything wrong with a. Talking about libraries and b. Being a massive geek).

It was also fun to put faces to names and find out if the Library Crowd on Twitter matched their online personalities. For the most part, they did. Goodness knows what they made of me with my grinning, hand-flapping and gabbling at 100mph. Oh well, to quote an Apprentice candidate, I am what I say on the tin.