As someone on the borderline of a new professional/experienced professional (I qualified in 2006, but still don’t really consider myself anywhere near experienced, certainly not in the chartership/conference attendance/networking stakes!), I appreciated the mix of attendees, though I was a little surprised not to see more people there. I sometimes get the impression that some people do little other than attend conferences!
The morning started off with a keynote speech from Liz Jolly, who emphasized the importance of learning together and lifelong learning. I was interested to hear that she was sure that professional activity (involvement in CILIP) has been instrumental in getting jobs through her career, and was one of her ‘unique selling points’. She went on to talk about the positives and negatives of social networking as a type of community of practise – the obvious (to me) advantage was learning as equals (there are no obvious levels on twitter) and the integration with everyday life, and a pointed reminder that it could be an unwitting contributer to de-professionalisation, not to mention giving a potentially unintended negative view of librarianship. (I see these points, but I can only then suggest all the positive examples that have come out of social networking – library day in the life, routes to librarianship etc which are out there to share all the positives about our profession). Liz made a pointed comment about the combination of continuity and change – that ‘professional’ is not just a single goal to achieve (“I must attain chartership”), but rather an on-going process. I think too many of us fall into the trap of thinking of chartership as a 1 act play (at least, of course, until you run into revalidation…!). Finally, Liz made a strong case for involvement: WE are CILIP – and the more we put into it, the more powerful and reflective of us it becomes. One to think about right there.
My first presentation of the day was Steph Bradley’s on resurrecting a library service, which I picked because sometimes it seems that is what I am trying to in my own job. She explained about the structure of NHS libraries (an eternal mystery to a corporate librarian like myself!), then went on to explain the problems of bringing a library back to life after a year/18 months with no librarian. This was particularly interesting, as they really had similar problems with regards to ageing stock and items going walkabout that we have every day! Steph was quite inspiring, as she was full of ideas and enthusiasm. I particularly like the idea of the “where’s Steph?” widget – as she works from various sites on no fixed timetable. I may integrate a basic variety of that here, as my colleague occasionally works from home, so the library can be unstaffed if that coincides with my being out of the office. She gave lots of tips on interactivity, being flexible, positive, enabling face to face contact, finding out what users want. Specifically:
People are better than things as publicity.
Don’t assume people know who you are and what you do – be ready to explain, anywhere and any time!
Fit in with the organisation – adapt to them because they won’t adapt to you.
This was probably to most relevant presentation to me of the whole day, provoking lots of thought about new ideas or old ideas with new ways to incorporate them into my own working practices.
My second choice of the day was, as it turned out, the only choice – Patricia Lacey and Emma Gibbs’ talk on developing your own skills network. This was about a learning and development group across health libraries in the West Midlands. Although this was interesting, it was less than relevant to me – there just aren’t enough corporate libraries to provide such a rich learning environment. We can learn lots from other sectors, but this kind of organised event simply isn’t possible, at least, not in specific library terms. Training within your company is of course a different matter, so perhaps we still have our own advantages!
After a coffee break we were back for our next sessions. This time I had chosen Stephen Ayers’ ‘Collaboration between NHS libraries for information skills training’. Interesting, because it was about proving the value of skills training from small sample sizes. Between a larger group of health libraries across the region, they had made use of a much larger sample size than any could gain alone in their individual small units. The one thing I did take away from this session was the Kirkpatrick hierarchy of the effect of training on your users (lowest: enjoyed training; next: new knowledge/skills/attitudes acquired; next: resulted in changes in professional practise; best outcome: improved patient outcomes though changed skills).
After lunch (honourable mention to the scones, which I understand were very good, although they had all gone by the time I had decided to try one!), the graveyard slot went to Michael Martin of CILIP talking about the Future Skills project. Although I had heard of this previously, I had never investigated in any great detail. The professional knowledge and skills base wheel for professional development did however look as if they may be worth investigating further for use with chartership work and cpd.
There was an excellent session from Jeremy Clarke of Sue Hill Recruitment on planning a career path. This was an excellent session covering the basics of planning a job search, including the very basic (in hindsight, at least) “knowing what you’re selling”.
Jeremy covered some interesting ideas on the job market, including one I am rather keen on - security in the modern job market is in employability rather than a single employer. Obvious, but reassuring in a way, and the best reason I have heard thus far for keeping up with one’s own professional development: your career depends on it!
Jeremy went on to suggest that professional skills development should be tailored to your own development and career aspirations, and could be linked to a different or future role, not just your current one, and may also incorporate activities outside of work. Your development: your responsibility.
He went on to cover obstructions and catalysts – something I am very familiar with, and methods to deal with them. Lastly, there were some pointers of things to be aware of (did you know that your team is a reflection of you? I know some people who should be very worried about this!), and tips of networking.
Following on from this was Charlie Cohen’s session on ‘breaking down barriers’, or organising an informal training event in an academic library. She covered learning, teamworking and running training. This is not particularly relevant to me at the present time, but interesting to hear about other workplaces and activities, and potential ideas for the future if there ever comes an opportunity to run this kind of event.
Stephen Bowman provided a lively end to the day with an exhortation to get out of the library! He had an interesting statistic (of as-then-unknown-source) that 44% of students never visit the library. Translate this to a corporate research library and I suspect that percentage would be higher still. Which makes the rest of his points even more relevant:
Institutions don’t appreciate value (customers do, some of them). Institutions are the ones who pay us, so we need to demonstrate value to them!
Visibility is very important. The more you are out of the office/library and visible the better. Always on show. This is a very good point – I often get asked library questions when passing people around the office, at the coffee shop, over lunch…even occasionally when out running!
Internal committee membership is useful (visibility again, but also a chance to demonstrate your value).
Another statistic: success in business is 30% skills and experience and a whopping 70% visibility. I think you’ve made your point Stephen – I shall make it my priority this week to get out of my library! (well, since I don’t actually sit in the physical library that won’t be a problem, but out and about in the office is a whole different matter, and one I shall pursue with vigour
So that's my take on the day. I enjoyed it, and came away with some useful ideas to implement in my own library. Were you there? What did you think of it? How many of you did I fail to meet?