Thursday, 12 September 2013

Career Paths and Networking

Back in July 2012 I attended the CILIP Career Development Group/New Professionals conference and had intended on blogging about it, but I never got round to it and now so much time has passed it doesn’t really seem worth it. Plenty of people who attended wrote up their own thoughts on the event, a couple of which you can read here or here or here.
However I thought one of the sessions I attended might be useful to share as it focused on Career Paths and Networking and was presented by Jeremy Clarke of Sue Hill Recruitment. It aimed to highlight some of the ways in which you can approach career development regardless of whether you are just starting out or more established.

To begin with Jeremy highlighted the importance of planning, and asked these questions;

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How will you get there?
Once you begin to answer those questions you can target areas that perhaps need improvement, and focus on trying for jobs that will help your progression. He also mentioned that it might be worth doing a 'skills audit' at this stage to help you answer some of those questions.
If we accept that the idea of a ‘job for life’ has pretty much gone, then the idea of training for just one particular type of role makes less sense. Transferrable skills and the need to be more flexible in our career choices is becoming increasingly important, so Jeremy suggested we think more in terms of ‘portfolio careers’. Selling your skills and experiences, and trying out various job roles and ways of working to demonstrate your flexibility.

He also gave us a number of practical tips on where you can find out about job opportunities, such as;

  • Local & national papers, and trade publications
  • Websites such as Lisjobnet
  • Recruitment agencies – although these are often better for temporary positions
  • Social media – LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts such as @UKLibraryJobs or @LISNPN
  • Listservs such as LIS-LINK, or ARLIS-LINK if you’re interested in art librarianship
  • Organizational websites – as it’s increasingly expensive to advertise through traditional channels, some organizations will only advertise on their own website
  • Direct approaches – some organizations will keep a database of potential applicants and let you know when vacancies arise
  • Word of mouth – networking and personal contacts

The second part of his presentation focused on networking, a skill which many people can find off-putting or uncomfortable, so he shared some practical tips he'd picked up over the years that had helped him to get started;
  • Learn to smile & say hello – basic but important, and the easiest way to get chatting to someone
  • Ask someone you know to make introductions – you probably won’t have to ask outright, just mentioning that you don’t know anyone else there might result in them offering!
  • Approach singles – always less intimidating than a group, and often grateful for someone to chat to as well
  • Prepare in advance – if you have a couple of topics/questions in mind it can help fill the dreaded ‘empty silence’
  • Go with your boss – I’m guessing this depends on how well you get on with your boss
  • Learn to listen – try not to fall into the trap of panicking so much about what to say next that you forget to pay attention to the conversation

Some of Jeremy's recommendations for successful networking included;
  • Picking the right event – some events make it easier to network than others
  • Realize that there are ‘sliding scales of networking success’ – you shouldn’t expect all networking experiences to be the same, and never compare yourself to others, what you need to achieve your goals may not be the same as someone else
  • Set yourself targets – ie I will try to talk to at least 3 new people today, as it can help you to feel less overwhelmed and keep you focused
  • Consider what it is you want to find out – having a goal or purpose can help focus your thoughts
  • Have an idea of what you want to communicate – networking is a two way thing, you’re not just looking to find information from others, but you are also taking the opportunity to advertise your own skills and experience
  • Follow up afterwards – a good way to ensure that you don’t get forgotten, particularly if your networking has been done at a large event with lots of people
And a related tip I remember from a similar training session – always have an ‘out’, a way to disengage naturally from the conversation, rather than see it flounder. Common examples include, 'I'm going to get another drink/visit the toilet/check out the trade stands/find the next presentation or session'. Personally I’m not a fan of the ‘there’s so and so I just need to go and have a word with them’ method as it can come across as a bit rude!


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

CILIP Umbrella 2013 #ub13

Last week I went to CILIP’s big annual conference, Umbrella, for the first time thanks to a bursary from the Cataloguers & IndexersGroup. I will blog in more depth about some of the sessions later, but I wanted to get down some of my impressions of the event as a whole.

Never having been to a conference of more than about 200 delegates before, I was incredibly excited to attend Umbrella, which I think had about 600. Before setting off, I had gone through the list of sessions to try and get a feel for what I wanted to go to and was fairly overwhelmed at the choice, there was a lot going on!

Biddy Fisher giving the opening address at Umbrella

What were my highlights?

Un-brella 2013 - I headed up the night before the conference, so went to the drinks event they put on. It was great for a first timer who didn’t know anyone else there, as it meant I got to know people before the conference began, I would definitely recommend it. Un-brella also ran a number of other events over the two days, including ‘un-conference’ sessions (and ‘Human Bingo’ which was a great ice-breaker) I thought the team were great, and they did a fab job over the conference.

Janice Lachance (CEO, Special Libraries Association) - I found Janice’s talk really inspiring, I could tell from Twitter that not everyone shared that feeling, particularly with her suggestion to ‘release your inner executive’ and proposition that the word ‘librarian’ could be limiting. While I get where people were coming from, personally I did connect with it. I think if you bear in mind the context of what she was saying (many members of the SLA work in corporate environments) it’s more understandable. I found it encouraging that she spoke at Umbrella, it was a recognition that those of us working in less typical library sectors may need to consider different approaches to suit our workplace.

Ben Showers although much of Ben's session focused on the skills we need for the future, I found his discussion of projects that use technology to open up collections and the work of the JISC/OCLC digital visitors and residents project most useful. Likewise Rebecca Bartlett’s portion of the debate (!) about libraries without walls, outlining mobile technologies and interactive tools at the new Library of Birmingham, was very interesting.

Future skills – I ended up in a few sessions that discussed training for library staff, both formal and informal, I’ll blog more on them later, but it was really interesting to see the approaches of library professionals in the UK and around the world. Transferable skills were definitely the buzz words of the conference!

MOSI - attending a wine reception in such an unusual venue (Museum of Science and Industry) and hearing about some of the amazing life changing and life saving activities that libraries are involved in at the Libraries Change Lives award ceremony. It really hammered home the amazing impact libraries can have on their community.

Photo courtesy of @Librarianpocket (Victoria Treadway)

Any down-sides?

Timings – a number of the sessions had four talks squished into the hour, it wasn’t long enough. A good proportion of the presentations I would have really liked to have heard more from, but there just wasn’t enough time to go into them in detail. Perhaps less choice would have allowed for longer sessions?

Seating – or lack of it! It meant eating lunch (it seems wrong to complain, it’s not the lunches you are there for, but they were terrible!) while sat on the floor. At coffee breaks you’re trying to juggle bags, conference programme, cup and saucer with nowhere to sit or a table to rest belongings. I wouldn’t ordinarily mind, but I don’t think it helped to facilitate networking.

But, overall it was a fantastic experience, and I’m so grateful that CIG gave me the opportunity to go, it certainly left me feeling inspired, and with things to mull over, which I suppose is the purpose of a conference!
Watching Phil Bradley give the closing speech

Check out presentations from the conference on the CILIP website.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

New Professionals / Chartership meet up - Cardiff

Fancy an informal chat with fellow new professionals? Want to know more about chartership? 
Then come along to the CILIP Career Development Group Wales New Professionals get together on Wednesday 24th April at Chapel 1877, Churchill Way, Cardiff. We’re meeting at 6pm in the bar on the ground floor.

Details on how to find Chapel 1877 can be found on their website. For more information contact Laura Moss (@lmossinfo) at

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Library Camp London part 2

I've all ready blogged about the morning sessions here, and after an amazing lunch (all provided by the attendees) it was time for the afternoon sessions.

Photo courtesy of Claire Black

First up was a speed networking session, based on the speed dating concept, we were partnered up and given two minutes to introduce ourselves before we swapped to the next partner, and so on till we'd met everyone. It was a great opportunity to meet people, but the two minutes weren't long enough. I wish it had been scheduled for before lunch so you could carry on the conversations that had been started.

Next up was the 'Sweary Session' pitched by Richard Veevers, on dealing with library users swearing at you. I really enjoyed this session, even though I now work in a closed access library and so don't anticipate experiencing this particular problem. It was however, pretty surreal sitting in a session discussing the origin of certain swear words while hearing 'The Wheels on the Bus' from the Rhymetime session behind us!

To start with we made the distinction that there is a difference between swearing and being sworn at. Often it's not the language which is unacceptable, but the manner of communication.

With this clarified we shared our own related experiences, and discussed the various ways we'd dealt with them (or would have preferred to deal with them!), ending with a list of points that people found useful.
  • Strong support from management staff - backing you up, particularly in front of library users
  • Clear guidelines on what is and isn't considered acceptable, and procedures to deal with them - although not so inflexible that some personal discretion can't sometimes be used
  • A consistent message across all frontline staff - if you are all saying the same thing then situations created due to confusion will be less likely
  • Confidence to call in back up if required - sometimes just a change of face can help to defuse a situation
  • The understanding that there won't always be a happy resolution - you can do everything in your power to resolve the situation and still end up with an unsatisfactory result, that isn't a failure, it's just how it is sometimes!

The final session I attended was run by Steve Bowman called Vacate the Library! I was particularly keen to attend because I missed the excellent Librarians Awake! presentation he did at the CDG/New Professionals Conference last year, so I was hoping he'd cover similar themes in the session.

Steve began by telling us about some of the outreach work he's been doing at the University of Chichester, and how as a result it's allowed his department to become more visible both in the local area and within his institution. He pointed out that getting out of the library can be of benefit to you professionally and also to your institution. He also suggested that to get on as a library or a librarian it is 30% skills and 70% visibility!

There followed a discussion which allowed people to swap stories of the outreach activities they've been involved in, some of the suggestions included;

  • Interact more with like-minded departments, such as e-learning for example
  • Volunteer for things at work - committees, projects
  • Send out regular newsletters informing staff/students/library users of your activities
  • Have a strong presence on your institutions intranet
  • Have pop up libraries - strategically placed by canteen/coffee machines etc.

  • Go out to local schools, colleges, or organised groups
  • Present at conferences or write for professional publications - handy if your institution is keen on raising its research profile
  • Use social media - it can have a greater potential reach

I found the session really interesting, even if we did feel a bit outnumbered by the Librarians and Personality session next to us!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Library Camp London part 1

On Saturday 2nd March I headed to Senate House Library for Library Camp London. If you've never heard of Library Camp before you can read more about what's involved here, but to put it very simply they are 'unconferences' whereby the attendees are encouraged to set the programme of sessions and actively participate.

On arriving at the stunning Senate House there was a great deal of excitment caused by the film crew in the courtyard below, apparently they were filming the next Muppets movie (but sadly I didn't get to see any Muppets).

After the session pitches, the timetable was arranged and it was down to business! The downside of a Library Camp, is that there are always far more sessions that I want to attend than I am actually able to go to, so you just have to make your choices and hope the ones you missed are blogged about afterwards. In the morning I decided on two related sessions, 'Creative CPD' and 'Design your own LIS course'.

Creative Continuing Professional Development was proposed by @ellyob and got such a large response we ended up dividing into smaller sub-groups. The idea was to look at ways you could continue to develop your professional skills if you can't afford expensive training courses.

Our group started by sharing experiences of CPD activities we'd been involved in which led to us listing solutions and alternatives to keep training costs as low as possible. They were coming so thick and fast that it was getting difficult to make sure we had managed to list them all properly!

Top tips included;
But there were loads more suggested, and I'm sure some of the other groups came up with plenty of things we hadn't even thought of, which hopefully will be writen up and appear on the Library Camp London wiki.

Then it was straight into the second session, organised by the #uklibchat team, Design your own LIS Qualification. The session was live tweeted, with the team monitoring questions and responses from non-attendees so opening up the discussion to a wider audience than just those in the room. They had also set up a Google Doc prior to the session to pose a number of questions that would direct the conversation.
If you've got a LIS qualification, where did you study and what was the best module?
Which elements of your LIS qualification have you used the most since starting work?
Which elements have you not used so much?

The general consensus in the room was that the practical aspects of librarianship were far and away the most useful, a number of people had found they used the cataloguing skills they'd learnt most, and many others found the IT and web design aspects most useful. Liz Jolly explained to us that LIS courses are supposed to be vocational, that it is the diploma which is the professional qualification and the dissertation is an academic extra. She also suggested we check out the new CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base for further clarification on skills required.

It was also interesting to hear the point of view of employeers on what they were looked for in employees, which included project management skills, awareness of the issues surrounding the sector as a whole and practical experience.

After some discussion on what had worked well, what had appeared to be a waste of time, and what people wished they had had the opportunity to do we started to note down our ideal qualification.

The proposed selection
  • A greater choice of modules
  • Stronger links between theory & practice
  • Practical experience of cataloguing
  • Opportunities for group work
  • Teaching
  • Work experience opportunities
  • Management skills - people, budgets, projects
  • Up to date IT skills
  • Strategic planning

There was a call for more teaching from practitioners rather than academics, and that the library staff of the university should have much more involvement in the teaching of courses than is currently the case. In short the conclusion was that courses needed to be much more in tune with what libraries are doing today.

Check out tweets from the session here.