Monday 20th June was day of the CILIP Career Development Group's annual New Professionals Conference. This was my first time attending the New Professionals Conference, and I was lucky enough to have won a place at the conference in LISNPN and CILIP's recent advocacy competition.
A few of us were travelling up from Cambridge, and we decided to go the day before to avoid a 4am start. This worked out really nicely as it meant we had the chance to meet up with some other conference-goers that evening for a drink, a meal and some librarianly chat.
The next morning I tramped across the city (fuelled by a bacon sandwich) to the university building that was the conference venue. The day was structured so that we had three of the papers in the morning, then workshops and lunch, and then the final three papers in the afternoon.
Helen Murphy started off the morning session with her paper on the juggernaut that is CPD23. From the show of hands at the start, it seemed that most of the people in the room were planning on taking part in CPD23, but for those who hadn’t made up their minds yet, Helen reminded us of the benefits and importance of CPD. Helen's slides (featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and a puppy) can be found here.
Helen - Supercharging your CPD
Second to present a paper was Rachel Bickley, on the subject of 'Establishing a dialogue between new and experienced professionals'. Establishing a dialogue and avoiding seeming cliquey was a theme that several of the papers and workshops touched on, as throughout the day we were encouraged to talk to more experienced professionals, colleagues at work, and the public at large, letting them know what it is we do, and the value of what we do.
The final paper in the morning was given by Sam Wiggins and Laura Williams. I found their paper 'What makes an Information 'Professional'?'really interesting, as I'd seen their survey and was keen to know what other people thought about this question. I would consider myself to be a 'Professional' despite not being chartered or even qualified, and since it was after all the New Professionals Conference, I'm sure many of the other attendees would too. Because I'm in a graduate trainee role, and have always intended to get my MA, I see myself as a professional albeit a (very) new one! Sam and Laura's research led them to come up with the following definition of what makes a Professional: "possession of qualifications, experience or skills, alongside an underlying professional attitude." I guess I've got the attitude and am picking up the rest on the way!
Sam and Laura - What makes an Information 'Professional'?
We then split off into our groups for the first workshop session. I'd chosen a workshop on 'Information roles - expanding our horizons' run by Nicola Forgham-Healey and Franko Kowalczuk. In this session we were given a collection of required skills taken from job listings on recruitment websites, and had the task of dividing them by whether they were traditional and non-traditional librarian skills. Although we were asked to divide them, my group ended up making more of a continuum, as did most others. We were then asked to pick three which we could improve on or get more experience in (for me: budget/finance skills, leadership skills, communication skills), and then as a group pick 5 which would be essential for all information roles. Good communicator came top, then professionalism, prioritising/time management, team player, and internet savvy. Interestingly "organising information" was only chosen by two groups, which I was quite surprised by.
After lunch, my second workshop was with Alice Halsey and Simon Barron from Voices for the Library. The theme of the workshop was 'Getting involved: activism for new professionals'. Besides fanning the flames of my Kindle-envy (Simon was using his Kindle to read his notes!), this workshop was one of the parts of the day I enjoyed the most, as it was great to hear from two members of a group that I really admire. It was also a very positive session, and I'm sure many people came away feeling encouraged to get more involved in library activism.
Then it was back to the lecture theatre for the final three papers of the day. Ka-Ming Pang and Jo Norwood were up first with 'Can we play? Building opportunities for LIS student activism and why it matters'. Despite the fact that four of the speakers during the day were currently studying for a library MA, library students often don't seem to be that engaged or active. Like in Rachel's paper in the morning, the importance of effective communication and networking was emphasised. I particularly liked the suggestion of a regular #libchatstyle event at a more convenient time for us Brits. If anyone were to start up a #libchatUK, I'd be a regular participant!
Up next was Megan Wiley, who works as a Careers Information Specialist. Megan talked about the importance of making sure your work wasn't 'for your eyes only', but sharing what you do with your non-librarian colleagues, and proving the worth of your LIS qualification. If your colleagues don't know what you do, they won't be able to recommend your services to students!
The final paper 'Teaching old books new tricks: how special collections outreach can help you, your career, and your library' was by my travelling companions Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert. I'd heard a bit of this presentation on the train on the way up, but was looking forward to seeing the whole thing. Katie and Naomi have both done a lot of outreach work at St Johns College, and although it looks like a lot of work, it also looks really good fun. Katie and Naomi won the prize for the best paper, so the extra practice on the train clearly paid off!
Presenters from the afternoon session - Megan, Katie, Ka-Ming, Naomi, Jo
There were several themes running through the day. As well as establishing a dialogue/avoiding cliqueyness which I've already mentioned (and which has spawned its own discussion thread on Twitter and on the LISNPN forums), we were encouraged throughout the day to make things happen for ourselves, not to sit around and wait for things to come our way. Finally there was the question of ‘Professionalism’ and attitude. In Biddy Fisher’s closing remarks I think she summed it up very well with “enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, and commitment – that’s what makes a New Professional”.
I had a fantastic time in Manchester, and very much hope to be at the 2012 New Professionals Conference!