Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Fame at Last!

The International Librarians Network is designed to help information professionals across the globe connect with each other and grow their personal network. Having taken part in the first two rounds I can vouch for its usefulness. I've learnt a lot from my partners and it's helped me to see the similarities and differences across the profession.

My last ILN partner was Megan Hartline from the University of Michigan Library. Megan is part of a group that runs the Library Lost and Found blog and I was flattered when she asked if she could interview me. The link to the result is below:


If you haven't already checked out the International Librarians Network then I recommend that you do so here. It's a great way to connect with people you might not get to know in real life and who knows where it could lead ...

Monday, 6 October 2014

How To ... Write a Book Review


Learning to communicate effectively is very important for those in the information profession. Despite the stereotype it's likely that you will spend much of your day interacting with people, either in person or online. Most library and information professionals I know are very good at talking to people and helping them to find what they need but many seem to panic a little at the thought of written communication. This might be down to the fact that writing things down means that people are actually going to read it! or it might be that it gives them flashbacks to library school essays.

Aside from being a good skill to learn for your job, written communication skills can really enhance your 'brand' as a professional. Whatever your feelings about the terminology I don't think it gets hurt to get your name out there. Writing a blog is one way to do this but there is also the option of writing for publication. If there is a burning professional topic that you want to write about or a project that you want to share then you already have something great to write about and you can probably stop reading here. If not then read on...

Writing book reviews is a great way to dip your toe into the waters of writing for professional publication. Reviews generally follow a set structure and plenty of advice is given by the publication requesting the review. I've written quite a few book reviews over the last few years, both for actual publications and online programmes and I've encouraged others to do the same. I get asked a lot of questions about exactly how to go about producing a review so I thought I would share my process.

What do I have to do?
Book reviews are basically just short pieces which help the reader to decide if they want to buy (or borrow) the book in question. Basically is it worth their time? If you want to buy a new laptop there is a good chance that you will have a look at some online reviews of the one you want to buy to see what others think of it. Book reviews are exactly the same and therefore nothing to be scared of.

Basic structure of the review
As I said, most publishers provide detailed outlines of exactly what they expect the review to contain and you should always follow these as they may be different for different publications. Below is the basic structure that I tend to follow which might help you get started:
  • Introduction: talk a little bit about the book, what is it about?, who is the intended audience? Does the book tell you what it's aim is (this will help you later on)? Most of the answers to these questions are found in the books introduction or somewhere on the cover.
  • Content: perhaps the most important part of a book review. Does the content meet the expectations you had from reading the title and description or has the writer gone off topic? Who are the authors, practitioners or researchers? If there are a number of academic contributors but no practitioners would you have preferred more application than theory? Consider the subject content of the book and ask yourself if it covers enough of the subject and in enough depth for the intended audience. If the book is aimed at students and contains a lot of obscure terminology then is this explained somewhere or will they be left scratching their heads? It's also important to consider any potential bias here. If the book is written from one particular perspective (eg. a specific country) is this acknowledged anywhere and what implication could it have for readers? 
  • Structure: taking a step back from the content for a moment think of the book as a physical object. How is the text laid out and is it easy to read? Are the chapter headings clear and do they reflect what the chapter is about? Think about navigating the book - a clear contents page and a complete index make it really easy to find what you're looking for and save the reader time.  
  • Main takeaways: if anything really stood out it would be good to mention it as it helps to personalize things and make the review more interesting to read (in my opinion). If there was one top tip that you learnt from the book or something that you want to take forward in the future then mention it here.
  • Recommended to ...?: I always finish a review by making it clear who I would recommend the book to. Is it good for beginners or is it for a more advanced audience? This is also where finding out the aims of the book is helpful as you can determine if the book has actually fulfilled it's aim.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list and nor will the points apply to every book. They're just points to think through and get you started.

It's important not to just describe the things in your review but reflect as well. Go through the what, so what process and really think about things. The chapters are nice and short. Great, but is that a good thing for those in a hurry or would you have liked more depth? To get some idea I would recommend just having a look at reviews on the Internet or in any publications you can get your hands on. Why not check out Amazon and look at some of the most popular book reviews on there? I'm sure they say more than just "this book was good".

How to get started
Watch out for calls for reviewers - these are frequently sent out via email lists and Twitter from various publications. You could also write directly to the publication and express your interest in reviewing. You might not always get an answer but it's worth a try. Speaking from a CILIP committee member perspective it can sometimes be quite hard to get people willing to review! There are also online review programs which you can take part in such as the O'Reilly Reader Review Program. This is the one I take part in but I'm sure there are many others.

I hope that this short guide helps some of you realize that book reviews are not scary and can actually be quite a fun way to add to your skill set. If all else fails and you hate the experience then at least you have something different to put on your CV!

photo credit: Olivander via photopin cc


Friday, 26 September 2014

#Chartership Chat - 25/9/14

It's been a crazy few months but I finally found time to schedule another Chartership chat. For those that don't know, a bunch of get together on Twitter every so often to support each other through the CILIP qualifications process. We only use the hashtag #chartership for convenience - anyone taking any of the qualifications is welcome.

Below is a Storify of the latest chat:



Monday, 22 September 2014

Recent Presentations

I've done quite a bit of public speaking in the last couple of weeks so I've been able to add some more presentations to my resume.

A couple of weeks ago I delivered my first official conference presentation at CILIP's Cataloguing and Indexing Group Conference. The theme was the Impact of Metadata and I chose to speak about Making an Impact with your Metadata on Social Media. This presentation looked at how I use Pinterest to promote metadata of the Library Science Collection at Cambridge.


A full write-up of this presentation will be written for the next issue of the CIG journal and I hope to post it here in due course.

Having completed my Chartership earlier in the year I was asked to talk about my experiences at a Chartership and Certification Event for CILIP East members. I had a really engaged audience who seemed keen to start the professional registration process. I've included the presentation below but if anyone wants further information then they can either read this post (on which the presentation was based) or contact me directly.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Powerful Phrases for Successful Interviews / Tony Beshara, AMACOM


In this book, professional recruiter Tony Beshara sets out to give job applicants an insider's advice on how to answer those tricky interview questions. The book mainly contains example questions with suggested answers as well as an introduction to each chapter offering some insight into the recruitment process.

Covering the whole of the application process from responding to the initial advertisement to how to negotiate terms once offered the job, the book contains something for every hopeful candidate. Beshara gives examples of words and phrases that will make you stand out from the crowd and stay in the mind of the interviewer long after you have left the room. Although set answers to the questions are provided I would use these more as a guideline to adapt rather than repeating them word for word. The context behind many of the questions is explained which helps to put the applicant in the shoes of the interviewer to uncover what the real meaning of the question is.

Advice is also given on how to construct your own answers. Readers are encouraged to answer interview questions in a clear and simple and provide examples wherever possible. Making these examples quantifiable can help to give you the edge over the competition. I was also pleased to see a chapter on covering letters and how to construct them as this is something that people, including myself, often struggle with.

I found some of the example phrases given a little forced and some of the techniques used a little aggressive. The book is written mainly for the business sector where tactics such as cold calling about jobs are part of the culture but I'm not sure this would transfer to all sectors. It would take a certain degree of confidence to follow some of the examples in this book, but if you can pull it off it might work for you.

Overall I think that the book has some useful general advice for job applicants and provides many examples of possible questions you could face. I would recommend it to confident people who have read all the usual 'how to ace the interview' books and are looking for something a bit different to add to their repertoire. 

For more information on this title please visit the O'Reilly product page.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Confidence in Conference Posters

A few weeks ago I tweeted asking for tips and advice on designing conference posters. My request got lots of retweets but not many answers which tells me that people are eager to find out about poster design. 

I've presented a conference poster before and it can be quite tricky to know where to start. For the past couple of weeks I've been collecting links from around the web and I've created a Pinterest board for easy reference:


Some of the sites refer to creating posters for specific disciplines such as science but I think there is something to take away from all of them. The board is still a work in progress at the moment so if anyone has any more links or some tips then please feel free to share them in the comments section below and I'll try to add them.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Let Them Eat CaKE..... And Learn Something!

Librarians are a very active bunch, especially when it comes to attending conferences and events. As much as we would like to it's impossible to attend everything we would wish to for reasons of money, time and sanity! Thanks to social media conference reports from a range of sources appear straight after, and often during, an event to enable us to catch up. However nothing beats in person feedback from attendees with the opportunity to ask questions and really explore the themes of the conference. 

In response to this need my colleague Celine Carty and I arranged what we hope will be the first of many feedback events. CaKE - the Cambridge Knowledge Exchange - provides  a way for Cambridge library staff to share their event experiences with colleagues. We tried to make the event as informal as possible by offering presenters a choice of formats from a formal presentation to a short discussion of their main conference take-aways.

As you might predict from the name we managed to generate a lot of interest (and yes, there was actual cake; with this gin and tonic cake proving very popular!). We're vey grateful to all our participants who took a chance on an unknown format and turned up to listen, tweet and speak.

We had a few teething problems but this was only the first event. We also had lots of positive feedback and suggestions for future improvements. I take this as a good sign as it shows that people want a repeat. We also hope that the informal format will help to attract less experienced presenters who want to develop their skills.

One of my main take-aways from CaKE was that you shouldn't be afraid of attending events that are outside your comfort zone. Try something new and you might be surprised at what you learn! This is also true of setting up CaKE itself in that we saw a need and tried to think of a way to fill it. We could either wait for someone else to set up an event or we could do it ourselves. I'm very glad we chose the second option and look forward to a few months from now when we get to try it again. The moral of this tale is that you shouldn't let the fact that something doesn't exist stop you!




CaKE has its own blog which can be found by clicking the image above. The blog features links to write-ups of presentations along with  a Storify of tweets. If you're interested in learning more about future CaKE events then please keep an eye on our Twitter hashtag #camcake.