Thursday, 29 September 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 12 - Social Media

You've already had to put up with some of my musings about the professional use of social media so I will focus this post on answering the questions that were part of the cpd23 post for this thing. If you would like more detail I have written about social media in thing 6 - online networking, thing 4 - current awareness and way back in thing 2 - our personal brand.

Are there any other advantages to social networking in the context of professional development other than those already outlined?

As the cpd23 blog implies social media can be used to organise and promote events. This is a good example of online networks working hand in hand with or even helping to create face to face networks.

Social media also helps us to stay in touch with the latest developments in the library world and it helps us to take a wider view of our profession. It offers us all an easy way to look beyond our day to day working experiences and think about the broader perspective. For example it gives us a taste of the variety of different roles that are part of the library and information profession.

Can you think of any disadvantages?

I think there is a danger that being a part of various different online professional networks can make you complacent about participating in face to face professional networks and building up 'real life' professional relationships. I don't want to devalue online networks or imply that they are inherently shallow but at their best they feed into and feed from other kinds of network. My point is that despite the dizzying array of different tools for online networking it is just one method of communication. We shouldn't let it blind us to the other ways that we can reach out and connect with our fellow library professionals.

Has CPD23 helped you to make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally?

Yes, it definitely has. CPD23ers come from every sector of our profession and every corner of the world. This has been one of the huge strengths of the scheme. It has given us the opportunity to share ideas with a wide variety of different people. I'm sure lots of us have connected with people that we probably wouldn't have met in any other context.

Did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?

Yes and yes. The importance of using social media to stay up-to-date with developments in the field and to build up professional networks has been a recurring theme ever since I got into this profession. It was practically the first thing they told us back when I started my Library Science course. Since then it has been emphasised at almost every training event that I have attended.

As part of the interview process for my current job I had to give a presentation on how the Library could use social media to engage students.

I regularly train teaching staff in the use of our Moodle VLE. Encouraging them to use the social media aspects of the system to create active learning communities is a big part of that.

My own experience has supported this overwhelming consensus in favour of the career development potential of social media. Using social media has helped me to be part of the conversation, to stay in touch with developments in the library world and of course to stay in touch with library people.

In your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?

Yes. It's easy to be cynical and dismiss online networks as shallow or ephemeral but they do help people to communicate and to connect with each other. That said it shouldn't be the only way that we are trying to build a sense of community. It is one set of tools among many.

CPD 23 - Thing 11 - Mentoring

A mentor, a guru like figure to guide you through the mysteries of librarianship. What new library professional wouldn't want such a figure in their life?

That said CPD23’s implication that people should just go up to someone and ask them to take on this role out of the blue seems slightly odd. If you are going to have a formal mentor relationship than perhaps it should spring from some kind of formal process? Have you considered Chartership? Just to pick an example out of thin air.

Thing 11 involves thinking about our experiences of mentorship. Thanks to my attempts to work towards Chartership I have recent experience of being formally mentored. Working with a mentor is at the heart of the process. It's central to the whole ethos. Since this is an important part of my working life at the moment I will be very much looking at mentoring through this prism. I am sure other cpd23ers have looked at it in other ways and I look forward to reading their (your) thoughts on this.

Finding a Chartership mentor

Finding a mentor for Chartership can be a slower process than you might think. The list on the CILIP website is a good place to look but it is not strictly speaking up-to-date. Don’t be put off if you don’t get a reply or the potential mentor isn’t available anymore. Keep at it. You will find someone. I did find my mentor through the list so I shouldn’t really complain.

If you find the official list frustrating you could also try asking your colleagues or other library folk if they know anyone in your area who is registered to mentor Chartership candidates. Alternatively you could always try using one of these online professional networks we are all talking about so much.

The official advice is that it is best to have a mentor who doesn’t work with you because that will give them an outsider’s perspective on what you do. It will also help you to take a broader view of your profession, which is actually a requirement if you want to pass. By the same logic there is an argument for choosing a mentor outside your own sector of the profession.

While looking for a mentor I decided I didn’t want to stretch this too far. I wanted someone who worked in an educational library which would therefore have similar goals and similar challenges to my own workplace. I thought that would make our discussions more helpful. Partly in the spirit of adopting that broader perspective I was more than happy to look beyond further education though. That has worked out very well. My mentor is an Academic Liaison Librarian at a University so her role overlaps with mine enough for us to compare notes. We can talk about issues like building professional relationships with teaching staff and running induction sessions for students and so on. But in some ways she works in quite a different environment to me. For example higher education doesn’t need the behaviour management focus that is actually quite an important part of the job at further education level. On the other hand her libraries are significantly bigger, geared towards a higher level of the education system and they are ‘libraries’ plural which all clearly brings challenges that I haven’t had to face yet.

If you are looking for a Chartership mentor I wish you all the best with the whole process. Good luck finding the right person to guide you through it and good luck with getting all your evidence together.

Working with your Chartership mentor - Being mentored

I'm glad that being mentored is such an important part of the Chartership process. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the qualification it involves putting together a portfolio of evidence which has to prove that you meet certain criteria. This requires careful planning and an ability to step back from your day to day work and think about the wider context and impact of what you're doing. From there you have to reflect upon and improve your own performance. With the guidance of a good mentor this can be very productive. You start to feel that this is a qualification that is giving you new insight into your role and into the profession itself.

Without a mentor it would be very easy to feel that you are getting lost in the maze. I would advise anyone who is considering Chartership to get a mentor as soon as you can. It seems natural to try to get your head round it all and then get a mentor when you feel that you're ready to start. Don't. You can do some background research while you're looking for someone to guide you but start looking early on, if not straight away. You will feel much more comfortable with the whole process once you've talked it through with your mentor.

When I first had a look at the qualification I didn't feel that the criteria were immediately crystal clear. Attending a CILIP working towards chartership workshop was a huge help and all potential candidates should read the book but it was talking them through with my mentor that gave me the confidence to pin the criteria down. One to one guidance has the huge benefit of ensuring that you are confident about what you need to do.

Each mentor / mentee partnership has to work out how they're going to organise the practicalities. In my own case we meet up regularly and we email each other as and when we need to. We've been taking turns to host each meeting which is great because it gives us the opportunity to see each other's workplaces. Apart from simply being interesting that helps us both to put some flesh on our discussions by giving us a better understanding of the physical context of our respective working lives.

I enjoy working with my mentor and I've found it very useful. Most obviously I've relied on her to guide me along the winding paths that lead to Chartership but there have also been other benefits. Perhaps most importantly I've found our meetings very productive in terms of encouraging me to be more reflective about my experiences. That's a key part of the Chartership process but it has also helped me to be a more effective librarian. I'm better able to learn from my experiences at work and to incorporate training experiences into my professional practice. I recommend being mentored and indeed taking the plunge into Chartership.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The London Library

The London Library is a library that seems to have accidentally arrived in our London from some alternate world. With the nineteenth century idealism of its founding fathers, the tendency of famous Victorians to appear in its story and the iconic steel grid flooring the whole place struck me as slightly steampunk. A combination of the best of the Victorian age with elements of the latest design and digital technology. I visited this strange and wonderful place early on in the summer. They have regular tours which I recommend to anyone with an interest in such things (i.e. libraries, books, architecture, design, history and so on).

The London Library was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841. (See. Count the famous Victorians in this blog entry.) Unhappy with the British Library he wanted to set up a members' library which better fitted his vision of what a library should be like. Its collection would aim to cover the humanities in a depth and range comparable to a national library. Members would be able to borrow books to read in the comfort of their own homes and the reading rooms would offer a more comfortable atmosphere than those of the British Library.

Carlyle's project soon attracted the involvement of people like Thackery and Gladstone. Charles Dickens and George Elliot were among the first to join the exciting new library. The London Library's ability to attract such key figures clearly wasn't just based on momentary fashion, the appeal of a trendy new place to read and study. The Library has continued to attract big names throughout its history. The current president is Tom Stoppard. We saw a Library Christmas card designed by Quentin Blake. This gave our tour a slight celebrity tour feel which I hadn't been expecting. Not in a bad way and obviously it does suggest that the place has something to offer.

As a private members' library the London Library has always been free to do its own thing in a way that other libraries aren't. This has left it with a slightly eccentric classification system which they are very proud of. Essentially books are organised by subject. Then the subjects are in alphabetical order. Then...well I'm sure you would get used to it if you worked there or you were a regular visitor. The staff seemed very proud of it so it must work reasonably well. From a tour group's perspective it throws up some interesting juxtapositions. The strangest subjects end up next door to each other.

However the London Library gets much weirder then that. They never throw anything away! Well not really ‘never’. If something's horribly damaged or they have duplicates then they make an exception but there is no actual weeding. Once a book is part of the collection it stays there. This is an interesting contrast to every library that I've ever been involved with. Presumably it goes back to that early ambitious desire to compete with the British Library. It certainly adds to the London Library's value for researchers, particularly historians. Think of the research value of their books on education or parenting for example. The chance to see shifting social trends on one bookshelf. Our tour guide also mentioned a writer who used a decades old tourist guide to check if a fictional journey would have been possible for her characters. This collection policy also adds to the appeal of the place for those of us who just love old books.

The London Library is a fantasy labyrinth of a library. Thanks to the steel grid flooring you can look down and see the floors below. You can look down and see the bookshelves going on into infinity.

My impression that the place was slightly otherworldly was only reinforced by the design of the new art section which riffs on the original design. The new steel gird flooring is narrower to allow for high heels and to stop readers dropping things on their fellows below. Clear evidence that designers do learn from the mistakes of the past. It also has glass panels which slowly change colour thanks to cleverly placed lighting.

It's clearly and justifiably proud of its past but the London Library is forward looking in many ways. The new area and the plans for further expansion testify to that. That said some of the old-fashioned habits help to maintain its unique atmosphere. They have a better archive of the Times than the Times does but they don't stock any other newspapers. In Victorian London the Times was the only newspaper, certainly the only newspaper that a gentleman would be interested in.

As you might expect from a private members' library in this more demanding century they also offer an impressive range of online resources. Their e-collections include JSTOR and other major journal databases. Alternatively the database of 19th century newspapers could be used to see if those Victorian gentlemen were missing anything.

This is a dream library. A vast maze of shelves full of weird and wonderful titles, including many that must be largely lost in the outside world. It's a maze where you can see the floors above and below. This liberates you from the shallow temptations of merely wondering what's round the next corner. You are free to wonder what those books are just down there or just up there. I could happily spend days exploring this place. The tour is a good way to get a glimpse of the mysteries on offer.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 10 - Becoming a Librarian

Thing 10 asks us to share the details of how we became librarians. My journey into librarianship didn't follow the most direct route. Traineeships sound great but I didn't do one myself. More controversially I didn't have library experience behind me when I started studying for my Library Science MSc.

Where had I come from? Why did I think that this profession was for me?

I came into librarianship via teaching. I spent nearly two years working as an English teacher in secondary schools. Towards the end of that second year I realised that I had chosen the wrong career path. I needed to try something new.

Despite my disillusionment with teaching I was still the same person. I still had the same interests, ideals and motivations that had drawn me to teaching English. I enjoyed helping people to learn and to explore their world. I wanted to stay in education.

I also really liked reading of course (although it sometimes seems that it is the done thing in library world to pretend that this had no impact on our career choice).

Libraries have always played an important role in my life. Without them my world would be a narrower place. My enjoyment of life, and my understanding of the world would be diminished.

Ever since stumbling upon 'Bunnicula' (the first non-picture book I read on my own, it's about a vampire rabbit) in my year 1 class book corner I have devoured books with a ravenous hunger that only libraries could meet.

Later on I relied on libraries to support me through my studies. They opened up new perspectives and revealed new horizons. I see an educational library as a base camp. Librarians give students the equipment, training and guidance that they need to explore their world.

With these formative experiences to inspire me it seems almost natural that I decided that the library was a better place than the classroom for me to pass on my love of learning. If anything I should have thought of it before but it is good to have some teaching experience. Librarianship has definitely turned out to be a better fit for me though.

Having decided that this was the path for me I looked into how to make the jump. I spoke to people I knew who worked in the sector. I investigated different courses. I applied for a couple of library jobs (without success). I investigated all the avenues.

In the end I enrolled on the Library Science Msc at City University. I enjoyed my year there and I learnt a lot. It did seem to go by very quickly though. One minute you’re in the ‘welcome to the course’ lecture and the next the dissertation is due in. I would advise any current library school students to realise that you’re not actually going to be there for very long. This is corny but it’s up to you to get what you can out of the experience in the time that you have.

Luckily I did manage to get some library experience while I was studying. I worked voluntarily in a local secondary school library. Then I started to work Saturdays as a Library Assistant in a public library. That was completely invaluable. Library school students do need to get as much experience as they can while they’re studying.

Look at me handing out advice. The really sensible library students have a job already and combine the course with their day job but where’s the fun in that? More seriously it obviously doesn’t work out like that for everyone.

Having gained my shiny new qualification in library science I set out on the great library job hunt. I stumbled across my notes from that yesterday. I had a table of jobs I’d applied for with the responses and the levels of success. The failures ranged from no response to interview offered but then the post was abolished to simple failed interviews. The latter were the ones that really brought back fun memories. The point here is that this part of my journey was a bit of a slog.

As you know there was a happy ending. Almost exactly a year ago I started work here at the College as a Liaison Librarian. Everything that I’ve mentioned has been a stepping stone that has helped me to get to here: teaching experience, my library science course, experience of working in libraries, even all that interview practice. That said becoming a Librarian isn’t the end of my library journey. It is just the beginning. ..

Further thoughts and some clarification

CPD 23 - Thing 9 - Evernote

"You want to be able to make comments on webpages and archive them along with your own notes so that everything is all in the one place and easy to access." - CPD 23 Blog

Erm. Do I? Now you mention it that might be useful but it's not a problem that's been keeping me up at night. The cpd 23 blog entry about evernote starts off with this 'problem'.

Once I'd got over the slight sense that cpd 23 was making up problems for me to worry about I realised that this might actually be useful. I decided to try using evernote to organise and make notes on my professional reading.

Evernote does have the potential to help me. Being able to make notes on blog entries, articles etc might help to make my professional reading more effective.

I'm just starting to explore this tool really. For example I haven't tried the photo feature yet but so far it looks interesting.

Perhaps most importantly evernote gives you a cool elephant icon. What's not to like?

CPD 23 -Thing 8 - Google Calender

Reading others' work before you do your own is a mistake. I would have thought that the danger is that you worry about saying the same thing as everyone else but actually I feel left out and worse a little behind the times. I use a paper diary at work and perhaps odder my library uses a paper shared diary which we all update with meetings and so on. Is that hopelessly oldfashioned? I've never thought of it as unusual before. I've used outlook calender in other jobs but those teams were larger and spread out across a wider area.

Other cpd23ers seem to either already use Google calender at work or their workplace uses outlook calender to coordinate everyone. Perhaps we should be using google calender? I hate to let go of retro chic and I can see the advantage of just picking up a diary. It means people don't have to be logged onto a computer in order to check what's happening or to make an appointment.

In terms of embedding a calender in our website the college already has an online calender on our VLE which we do use to keep users informed.

My own investigation of Google calender suggests that it is a good online calender. It does what it should in terms of letting you organise your own life and it offers calender sharing options that would be useful for collaborative work or keeping a workplace coordinated. It can also be embedded into a website in order to promote events or to keep people informed about opening hours and such like. It's all very useful. I will look into using it at work.

Monday, 12 September 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 7 - Face to face networking & professional organisations

Online networking is great but talking to people face to face does have its advantages. Obviously we don't have to choose between the two. They feed into and enrich each other. Presumably in the bad old days people often had really interesting conversations at events and then had no easy way to maintain that connection after they returned to work. Online tools make it much easier to keep the lines of communication open.

The danger is that we will neglect face to face networking. We have all of these clever tools for staying in touch. It's so easy to feel that you are already participating but if you're neglecting real world contact then you are missing out.

Let's be honest here. In almost all cases face to face networking requires a much greater commitment than its younger sister does. It takes more effort to take part in real life meetings and events. The extra investment is worth it though. It is worth taking the time to build up real world friendships and connections within the profession.

What is the best way to go about doing that? Professional organisations are a great place to start. I am a member of CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals). I've particularly benefited from being a member of CoFHE (colleges of further and higher education), the subgroup that serves my particular sector. That's actually about to be replaced by a new subgroup but the principle is still sound. If you're interested in the finding out how CILIP has given me opportunities to take part in some interesting face to face networking than please browse this blog. The best examples are probably my report on the CoFHE conference in Wrexham and my post about their local branch's information literacy training day.

Obviously these are also examples of a professional organisation supporting continuing professional development. That is another very important part of their role. The chartership process is another key example of that.

CPD 23 - Thing 6 - Online Networking

Apologies for absence

I'd like to start by apologising to any regular readers for the long gap between posts. I got married in August, which was amazing but it meant that this was a pretty busy summer. I have managed to fall even further behind on the 'things' than I thought I was going to. I do intend to catch up so please bear with me.

On with the 'things'...

Thing 6 - Online networking


There is some overlap between thing 6 and two of my earlier 'thing' posts. When discussing the use of twitter as a current awareness tool I explained that I started to tweet because my Library Science Msc lecturers told me to. As I said then cpd 23 has helped to cement my impression that twitter can be a very useful tool for professional networking. It removes barriers and gives us all a chance to be part of a million ongoing conversations about every aspect of our profession (or whatever else you want to talk about).


There seems to be a developing understanding that facebook is primarily for the more 'social' side of social media. The informal, staying in touch with friends aspect of it all. I have 'library' friends on facebook but I draw a fuzzy distinction between staying in touch with old classmates or coworkers and seeing a site as a natural place for professional networking.


My impression of Linkedin is that it is primarily a job hunting tool. It wouldn't be my first choice if I was trying to exchange ideas or discuss experiences because I feel active users are primarily there to sell themselves as potential employees. Good luck to them obviously but doesn't that make the conversations less free than it is on sites where users have a less specific agenda? Is that unfair? It's arguably ill informed prejudice so please educate me if you're an enthusiastic Linkedin user. (Only if you use it for something other than job hunting though. I understand that it's useful for that. Thank you.)

Librarians as Teachers

I am a member of the Librarians as Teachers network. This 'thing' has reminded me that I really should be a more active user. As a former teacher who's now working in an FE college in a librarian role that involves teaching I'm pretty much exactly the kind of person that this site is designed for. I recommend this network if you are in a similar role.I have picked up some useful tips. I should try to contribute more.