#Libday 8: Day 1

So, what’s all this about? Well, twice a year or so, all kinds of people connected with libraries from librarians, library assistants and library students to information professionals, advocates and campaigners, share a week’s worth of detail about what their working life involves.

This year it’s more relevant to me than usual, since I now actually work in a library (albeit not today when I’ll have my info pro hat on instead of my library assistant one). So I’ll be blogging about it this week. (You can find more information about the project here.)

So, here’s what I’m doing and expecting to be doing today:

  • Organising my working week from the point of view of my information architecture/web development job. My biggest task will be to write updated user documentation for a client and I intend to get started on that today.
  • Updating my company website with some details of a past project that we have included in our portfolio.
  • Reading through some local council agendas which are likely to offer some insight into the future direction of library cuts in my county. Worried about what I might find and what implications it might have for the future.
  • Working on plans for National Libraries Day on Saturday. This could include glitter and poster paint as well as some quite high-level negotiating…
  • Trying to pick up work on my ACLIP portfolio which has been thrown into disarray by the changes to my working life that started in December.
  • Following up an unanswered email to City University’s postgraduate enquiry service to try to get more information about one of their Information Management courses that I’m very tempted to apply for.
You can follow #Libday8 on Twitter here.

A few announcements

Since finishing CPD23 in November I’ve let things go a bit quiet on the blog - although it has been as busy a few weeks in real life as I can remember for a long time. Several projects I’ve been working on have come to fruition and I’m now feeling ready to talk about them. So here’s what I’ve been up to in the latter part of 2011:

To The Library

I’ve spent quite a bit of the last year looking for a job - following more than 11 years of self-employment. The idea was to get some current library experience, develop demonstrable cross-sectoral awareness, and secure a more stable income that would help me study for a post-graduate qualification in an information field (although I’m moving away from the idea that it needs to be accredited now I’m taking the ACLIP route towards chartership). Well - I have succeeded and am now working for 16 hours a week as a customer service assistant at one of my local library branches - Stevenage Central in Hertfordshire. For the other half of the week I continue to work as a self-employed information architect and web developer. This is not the first time I have worked in a public library (although my last stint was a good few years ago), and I am told, to my great pleasure, that this is evident. Certainly it has been lovely to return.

This means that I have had to hand over the reins of the local library campaign and user group I have been working on to others - clearly it is not feasible to make critical public statements about the political decisions of one’s own employer. However, that aspect of the work is now in very capable hands, and it is going from strength to strength, with some very positive plans for the new year. I intend to continue work on the public advocacy aspects rather than the outright campaigning - such as promoting the monthly reading and writing activities and making National Libraries Day a success.

National Libraries Day website

Speaking of National Libraries Day, I’m delighted to announce that my company, Onlineability, was recently commissioned to produce the National Libraries Day website following the successful development of a site for our North Herts friends’ group We Heart Libraries. You can read our press release on the subject here.

The site is now live and it is designed to provide a hub for everyone organising National Libraries Day events, with a strong emphasis on sharing and social aspects - so please pay it a visit, join up and add details of any events you know about.

CILIP Affiliates Group committee

In November I went along to CILIP HQ to meet the lovely people who have been keeping the Affiliates’ Group running for the past few years. The trouble is that they have largely chartered and/or progressed into Associate positions - meaning some new blood is badly needed to secure the future of this important work. I was one of four people who joined the committee then and it is likely that I’ll become the group’s Secretary at some point during 2012. The current committee have done an outstanding job during their time at the helm, including winning the right in 2007 for Affiliated members to vote in CILIP’s internal elections - securing that kind of change is no mean feat with an organisation that is bound by a Royal Charter. We’re all very glad that they’ll be around to offer much-needed support and to keep things on track while us newbies learn the ropes.

The Affiliates’ Group is an unusual part of CILIP - the only other category of membership that has this kind of representation is retired members. But it’s also extremely important, as it makes sure frontline staff like library and information assistants have a way of making their views known - and it’s been a particularly testing year for people in these kinds of role during 2011. I’m very pleased and proud to be part of the future of the Affiliates’ Group and, if you’re an affilated member with a concern you’d like to raise, I hope you will get in touch.

Making a start on usability

There’s a project I’d very much like to work on in 2012 that involves a similar scheme of work to CPD23 - only with a more specialist focus and fewer instalments. It involves my creating an online course offering an introduction to website usability and I’m hoping to hear from people who are interested in this topic and would like to learn more about it, as well as helping me take it for a test drive. I already know of a few - but please leave me a comment if you’d like to know more.

- - - - -

The next thing is to get my ACLIP portfolio written up and submitted as soon as possible - I have all the material but need to get it organised. If I’m successful, I shall be looking to register for chartership straight away, as well as aiming to make a success of my probationary period at work. The next few months are going to be about consolidation rather than seeking out big new challenges, which is in many ways a harder thing to do, especially if you’re like me and constantly interested in what’s over the horizon rather than what’s at your feet. But it’s what is needed, so it’s what I shall now have to buckle down and do it.

#CPD23: Thing 11 - Mentoring

Welcome to Thing 11, where I discuss an often overlooked — but quite important — part of professional development: having a mentor. By ‘mentor,’ I mean someone who takes an active interest in your career either by sharing advice and knowledge or by facilitating professional opportunities. More here…

Mentoring - I’m feeling reasonably happy tackling this Thing since it’s something I’ve got my act together on already. I started my quest for a mentor shortly after sending CILIP a cheque and a completed application form putting myself forward as a certification candidate. If you’re contemplating certification this is recommended, but not essential. However, since I have every intention of progressing to chartership, I thought I might as well get the ship afloat.

It was, to be honest, one of the parts of the process I was less than completely comfortable with. I am terrible at asking for help. If something in my house goes wrong I will spend (often waste) hours taking it to bits and cursing at it before accepting the need to call in an expert. I was also plagued by assumptions - hearing how, in ye olden days, solo librarians and others without organisational support had struggled with qualifications because of the difficulty of forming mentor relationships. Of course, that’s exactly why CILIP now runs a scheme… Also, that practising librarians might be reluctant to mentor someone doing the kind of information technology-based work that I do. But I also knew damn well that I needed to get this sorted in order to make the progress I wanted to make, so I gritted my teeth and went about it.

I tried to recruit a mentor in the approved fashion, honest I did. I contacted a few people off the CILIP list but that didn’t work at all. It was partly my own fault - I was in knots after sending each email due to a chronic absence of self-confidence on the issue (which probably showed up only too well in the emails). The fact you are supposed to approach just one person at a time only prolongs the discomfort. The replies I received were incredibly kind and helpful - but unanimously from people who were much too busy or stressed to take on a left-field certification candidate from outside their own organisation. And, with the professional landscape as it is right now, who on earth can blame them? Certainly not me, however one observation I would pass on is that mentors need a way of updating their own details in real time on the CILIP website - and also some encouragement to keep them up to date, to minimise the stress and bother to everyone involved.

In the end I accepted a very kind offer from a colleague who I knew through online and face-to-face networking - particularly attractive since I knew this person lived a short train journey from Hertfordshire and had implicitly understood (long before meeting me) exactly how the kind of work I do relates to ‘traditional’ librarianship skills. That was one of my biggest worries dealt with and so I had found my mentor. My next goal is to get my certification portfolio together - workshop in November, my self-imposed deadline for submitting it is the end of the year.

And then it will be time to stop and think about the next stage. The most unexpected thought I have had so far is that, if I am successful in achieving ACLIP, I should probably train to be a mentor for people trying to do the same thing. I wasn’t expecting to think that, however I do. One for the future…

#CPD23: Reflecting on Thing 2

Reflection [mass noun]: Serious thought or consideration: he doesn’t get much time for reflection; [count noun] an idea about something, especially one that is written down or expressed: reflections on human destiny and art. OED (Thanks, local library).

My adventures in researching CILIP’s certification qualification for para-professionals have taught me that reflection is a crucial part of continuing professional development; indeed it is built into the CPD23 schedule and we’ll all be doing it come week four.

So I decided to get a bit of practice, both in reflection and in not writing dissertation-length blog posts. I thought I’d wait a day or two after completing Thing 2 and then have a go at expressing what I had learned. So, here goes.

One major motivator for people signing up was coming to terms with the social web and the practice of blogging. This is something I take totally for granted, since my day job is effectively in web development, and I started my working life as a journalist. It’s been a really salutary reminder for me to discover that I shouldn’t rely on other people being as comfortable in the world of words, and the world of new technology, as me. It also tells me about a whole area in which I may have something really valuable to offer colleagues.

But another major motivator for participants, the business of developing professional networks as well as the skills to maintain and grow them, is something I am completely useless at - absolutely the one standing in the corner and saying: “Can’t! Shan’t!” I’ve learned that I need to develop a professional and approachable web presence, as opposed to a lot of nebulous blogs and Twitter accounts, to be prepared to be visible, to comment and get comments back, and to conduct the whole process constructively. And, do you know what? So far the world hasn’t ended, somewhat to my amazement.

Moving on to a slightly different subject. In a recent LISNPN forum discussion, Liz Jolly said the following:

Being made aware of my Myers Briggs profile has been invaluable. One of the many things that I have found useful is that extroversion and introversion in Myers Briggs are about whether you get your energy from other people or from your own inner resources…so you can be a shy extrovert and an apparently sociable introvert! The lessons I have learnt about difference have really helped break down barriers with people I have thought just weren’t interested.

This struck me because I’ve also found Myers-Briggs very useful and my personality type includes an intuitive element - one that tends to concentrate on future possiblities at the expense of the present. This has made me realise that I’m a bit prone to gaze over the horizon towards grandiose future plans (like doing a library masters) rather than pursuing smaller and arguably more prosaic projects (such as certification) that are closer to home but that nevertheless have the potential to be hugely valuable. This is an important observation and one I am grateful to have made.

Right, that’s the pause and the reflection covered. Not to learn and apply, rinse and repeat, and to progress towards that terrifying Thing 3…