Wednesday 31 December 2014

2014 In Review

It's that time of year again when I write a short reflection on the last twelve months. 2014 has certainly been a busy one! 

I've been involved in organizing a number of projects this year, the biggest of which was the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group Conference. It was a very hectic summer finalizing plans for the September conference but I learnt a lot from the experience and it has definitely honed my organisation skills. I was also involved in organizing the 2014 Libraries@Cambridge conference where I was responsible for setting up a workshop session on professional development which got some really positive feedback. Cambridge librarians are a busy bunch and this year I've helped with two major projects - Cambridge Ten Days of Twitter (an online Twitter course for librarians) and Library Help (the Cambridge version of Library DIY). Being involved in these was a great experience and illustrates the good things that can happen when librarians get together as both projects were born out of online discussions. Another online discussion I've had a lot of involvement in this year has been the regular Chartership chats on Twitter.  I found these really helpful when I was chartering so I'm glad that I found a way to pay them back a little. The event I'm most proud of this year has to be CaKE - the Cambridge Knowledge Exchange. My colleague and I created this event in response to a need among library staff to learn about conferences and events attended by their peers. I'm really happy to report that the event was a success and we're planning the second event as we speak! 

I'm not sure I'll ever conquer my fear of public speaking but I can at least do it without running from the room now! I gave a presentation on Pinterest at CILIP CIG which was terrifying (especially as a vital slide was missing!!) but gave me the confidence to take on new presentation challenges such as speaking at a Chartership and Certification event. As well as formal presentations I've worked on my public speaking skills in other ways. I now regularly lead tours on my workplace such as orientations and open day tours. Although this involves a predetermined route I do have to think on my feet which is a challenge. No one has run away from a tour yet so I must be doing something right. In October I volunteered to help out at our Freshers' Fair which was certainly an interesting experience. I think we did a good job of promoting libraries - even though we were next to the Cambridge Union Society who were advertising Robert Downey Jnr...  

2014 has also provided plenty of chances for me to practice my writing skills. As well as this blog I've written articles on the Chartership process and social media for Catalogue and Index and several book reviews. I was also asked to write an article on mobile technology for SLA Information Outlook which was very flattering and allowed me to write for an international audience. This article came about after something I tweeted during a Twitter chat which goes to show the power of Twitter!

Everything else!
One of my major achievements this year was receiving CILIP Chartership in May. I worked hard on my portfolio and was delighted when it passed. Now I have revalidation to look forward to. The other big news from this year is that I got a new job. I've moved from cataloguing to front of house as Deputy Team Leader, Reader Services Desk. I now spend my day dealing with user enquiries, admissions procedures and being the public face of one of the worlds biggest research libraries! Although this promotion is only temporary I plan to take advantage of every minute and hope that it leads to bigger things in 2015 and beyond...


Photo credit: lorislferrari via PhotoPin

Monday 15 December 2014

The MOOC Library Degree

I'm a fan of continuing professional education (hence the title of this blog!) and I often look to courses to fill gaps in my knowledge or give me a taste of something new. MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are one way to take courses that fit around my normal work schedule and in the past I've been something of a MOOC addict. Although they do have their downsides I think they also have many benefits if both the institution and the participant are prepared to put in the commitment needed.

Whilst flipping through a magazine I came across an article about Laurie Pickard who has created her own MBA course from MOOCS as she doesn't have access to the 'regular' course. She has documented her experiences on a blog - No Pay MBA. Whatever your opinion of the value of MOOCs her experiment certainly shows that she's able to think creatively about her continuing education.

There's been quite a lot of discussion about the value of the traditional library degree in recent years, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. Laurie's blog has inspired me to have a go at putting together my own Library Science degree from available online courses. It covers some of the areas I think we could do with more of on library courses but I was limited to the MOOCs I could find. I should add that I've not taken all of these courses, this is just as experiment to see what I could come up with. It's also worth nothing that some of the courses below incur a charge, especially if you want a verified certificate of completion.

So below I present my version of the MOOC Library Degree:

Library specific courses
I figured that this would be a good place to start. Most of the MOOCs I've taken in the past have been directly related to library and information studies as this is closely linked to my job. The best of these was The Hyperlinked Library which looked at emerging trends in the provision of library services. The New Librarianship Master Class also looked at the future of modern librarianship whilst Library Advocacy Unshushed looked at ways in which information professionals could advocate for their services (increasingly important with the threat of budget cuts). Finally Copyright for Educators and Librarians provides a useful background to copyright legislation (with an acknowledged US bias).

Management and leadership
Management studies are a traditional part of most library courses and there are plenty of MOOCs available to help you get started. Learn the basics of people management with Managing People: Engaging Your Workforce which helps introduce you to ways to develop those you are responsible for. Entrepreneurship 101 and 102 help to develop skills around strategic thinking for leadership whilst Becoming a Successful Leader provides a way to put leadership skills into context. You can learn the art of negotiation with Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills and also brush up on your Project Management skills. General financial MOOCs are a little thin on the ground but I did find Financial Analysis and Decision Making and An Introduction to Corporate Finance. Finally an Introduction to Psychology course helps with the management of both staff and service users.

This is a very useful skill, especially for services which often need their own unique marketing approach.  An Introduction to Marketing provides a basic introduction whilst Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights looks at the increase in online marketing. Information services need to develop a brand like any other service - The Secret Power of Brands explains the psychology of brands and brand management and Projecting Your Brand Through New Media shows how to use this online.

Teaching skills are frequently asked for in job specifications. These skills are best developed in practical ways but courses provide useful theory and background. There are courses specifically about teaching such as The Virtual Teacher Program and The Art of Teaching as well as those which focus on associated skills such as Introduction to Public Speaking. Design and Development of Education Technology links to this by providing an insight into the new technologies used to deliver user education.

Technological skills
The role of the information professional is changing rapidly and part of this involves keeping up with technology. Programming skills are much in demand and this is reflected in the number of MOOCs available on the topic. Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game, Introduction to Programming with Java and A Taste of Python Programming all help to fill the gap. Building Mobile Experiences talks participants through creating an app, increasingly important as more and more people are accessing information services on smartphones and tablets. The use of data is also a popular MOOC subject with Coursera devoting a specialization to Data Science.

Job application skills
Finally any degree course should prepare you to get a job upon completion. Whilst not library specific I found the How to Succeed courses from the University of Sheffield useful for picking up tips on both Writing Applications and Interviews.

I'm not sure when people would find the time to take all of those courses but I hope I've at least given readers something to think about. The main point of this post is not to encourage people to ditch the traditional degree but to illustrate that there are many ways to fill gaps in your knowledge or develop a new skill. Thanks to Laurie Pickard and her No Pay MBA idea for inspiring this post and encouraging me to learn about some new MOOCs which I can use to plug my own knowledge gaps.

Photo credit: dumfster via Photopin

Monday 17 November 2014

Library A-Z

Back in September 2013 I attended LibCampEast, an unconference event for the East of England. I'd never been to an unconference before so I was keen to make the most of the format. 

One of the sessions I attended was led by Gary Green who wanted to produce an A-Z of words and themes associated with libraries to turn into a promotional tool. I had great fun at the session thinking of things for all the letters and discussing with the other attendees.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds, Gary and his partner in crime Andrew Walsh have managed to compile a range of fully illustrated promotional materials. Information about the project and the materials can be found here and I encourage everyone to go and have a look. As well as providing an exciting way to advocate for libraries this project shows what librarians can do if they put their mind to it which I think is brilliant advocacy for the profession in itself! 

Photo: courtesy of The Library A-Z

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.

Monday 21 July 2014

#Chartership Reflections

I promised that I would post some final thoughts about the Chartership process. The following is an article that I wrote for CILIP CIG's Catalogue and Index Journal. They have kindly agreed that I can reproduce it here.

Entering UnChartered Territory – Chartership for Cataloguers

The word Chartership often strikes unnecessary fear into the hearts of librarians. The whole process seems to have acquired a kind of mythical status which is completely unjustified. You don’t have to be some sort of CPD-wonderkid to complete Chartership, you just have to have an interest in developing yourself professionally. Many of the cataloguers I’ve met over the years do this as a matter of routine, for example if you’re reading this edition of C&I it means that you’re interested in learning more about the cataloguing world which counts as CPD! There’s nothing to be afraid of with the Chartership process and it can have many benefits, both expected and unexpected.

Ringing the changes

Although the Chartership regulations have changed it’s important to remember that the overall aim of the process remains the same – to demonstrate your continued professional development. The changes have been made in response to feedback from candidates and are designed to make the whole process more straight forward.

One of the most important changes is that Chartership is now open to all, rather than just following the traditional path of a library degree. For more detailed information about the changes contact your local candidate support officer or consult the CILIP website (

So, what do you actually have to do?

Whilst it’s true that the Chartership process involves hard work it’s important to remember that it’s as hard as you make it. Working on Chartership doesn’t have to involve a massive lifestyle change but rather a chance to formalise the CPD you already do. As mentioned at the start of this article professional reading such as C&I counts as CPD, as does following blogs or professional discussions on Twitter. This all shows engagement with the profession and a willingness to learn about new developments. Workplace training can also be considered as CPD since it addresses a training need. Beyond this, Chartership involves a chance to develop some new skills that might be out of the scope of your current role. This can be particularly useful if you work in a traditionally back office role such as cataloguing. I certainly viewed the process as a chance to explore other areas of information work that interested me at the same time as gaining concrete skills that I could demonstrate to both my current and future employers. 

Even though I submitted under the old regulations I did make use of the new PKSB document. The PKSB (Professional Knowledge and Skills Base) allows candidates to conduct a skills gap analysis by scoring themselves on a scale of one to four. Completing this analysis showed me where I had a good understanding of the required skills and where I needed to develop. I used this analysis as the basis of my Chartership portfolio and focused on a mixture of skills relevant to my current role and those that I wanted to develop.

The introduction of RDA was timely for me. I was able to use Chartership to solidify my knowledge of the new standard, something obviously important to my current role. In addition to helping me develop a greater knowledge about RDA this aspect helped me to justify the Chartership process to my employers. I was able to incorporate my workplace RDA training into my portfolio at the same time as using the introduction of RDA to develop unexpected new skills. I was made responsible for creating and updating my department intranet pages on RDA which meant that I had to learn about HTML and I helped to help create the Cambridge RDA blog as a way of sharing our training with the cataloguing community, again a useful piece of evidence for the portfolio. Beginning to catalogue in RDA also gave me a valuable chance to develop my teaching and training skills. Being one of the first in my institution to have access to comprehensive training meant that I was in an ideal position to pass on my knowledge to others and I was able to use this to my advantage. Teaching and training skills are highly prized by many library employers but are not always easy to develop in a cataloguing role so this is one area where the Chartership process has impacted positively on my career.

I also developed other skills outside the scope of my current role. Most people understand the importance of networking but many also fear it. Some people think that cataloguers are stuck in a back office all day and whilst this is far from the case anymore it can be hard to make an impact with people beyond the cataloguing department. Talking to people from other departments or sectors about what they do is an important part of advocating for cataloguing as a profession so I made it my goal to get out of the cataloguing echo chamber. I have to say that developing my networking skills wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. I did some background reading and then put things into practice. I then blogged about my experiences which turned into an article for C&I, helping to develop my written skills in the process. 

Another area that I wanted to work on was my reader service skills. I’m sure that many people undertake reader services work as part of their role but even if this is the case it might not be as extensive as they would like. Employers often look for demonstrable experience in this area so it’s an important skill to have. In my current role I’m very much a cataloguer which means that in practice I spend a lot of time in my own department. I used Chartership to shadow colleagues in other departments and even visited other libraries to see how they did things. This experience taught me a lot about reader services work and not only do I feel more confident now when working on an enquiry desk but I am also able to help out reader services staff when they have cataloguing queries which makes for a better service for the end user.

Chartership encourages you to explore the wider professional context in which you work. As I’ve mentioned I visited other libraries to get some experience and this has made a real difference to the way I work. Cambridge has a complex system with many libraries and through Chartership I gained a new appreciation for how all the services they offer work together. I also visited some libraries outside the academic sector and looked at cataloguing in a number of different environments. This really helped me to get an understanding of the challenges and opportunities in cataloguing and has definitely given me some ideas for the future.

Do I really need to Charter? What’s in it for me?

Whilst at the time of writing this I’m still waiting to hear if my submission was successful, I’m already starting to see the benefits. (Edited to add that I've since found out that my Chartership submission was successful)

There may be increased job prospects as a result of completing Chartership. Not all employers or roles ask for Chartered status but it does show that you’re committed to CPD and take your future development seriously. Even if it’s not a formal requirement for a role it provides another way to set you apart from the other applicants. It’s also worth investigating if it’s a known requirement for your future dream job. There’s no time like the present to get a jump start!

Even if it’s not something your employer asks for don’t underestimate the achievement that Chartership shows. There has been a lot of talk recently about the value of the traditional library degree and although this is really something for a separate discussion it is relevant to Chartership. Whatever you think about the value of the degree no one can deny the value of experience and this is where Chartership can help. Whilst the library degree concentrates very much on the theoretical side of things, Chartership is your chance to put this into practice, even outside the remit of your current role. As I’ve discussed I used it to develop skills that have nothing to do with cataloguing and this has led to many opportunities as well as helping to make me better at my current job.

The Chartership process provides you with a chance to challenge yourself, both personally and professionally. If you want to get involved with an area of librarianship but don’t know how to begin then Chartership can provide you with a framework to do this. These challenges can also lead to an increase in professional confidence, as it has done for me with public speaking. I seriously lacked confidence about speaking in any sort of public situation and this was impacting negatively on my future job prospects. I’m not just talking about presenting at a formal event but things such as speaking up in meetings or giving training to users. Thanks to Chartership I had a reason to push myself to develop these skills and I’m very glad I did. Now teaching and training are a regular part of my role and I enjoy them so much that I am thinking of taking an introductory teaching qualification. I have also become an orientation tour leader at work and I’ve just submitted my first conference proposal! Undertaking Chartership gave me the push I needed to work on my public speaking and I’ve acquired a valuable transferable skill because of it. 

The final benefit of Chartership that I want to highlight is how it can help you with your professional development beyond your registration period. Chartership itself helps you to get your professional development efforts recognised in a formal way which you can then show to potential employers. Completing the portfolio also taught me the importance of undertaking structured CPD rather than just attending everything on offer. It may sound like common sense but I think sometimes library professionals can be overwhelmed by the amount of CPD opportunities out there. The Chartership process helps you to learn to about setting goals for your professional development which in turn makes you more selective about what you do in terms of CPD. Of course you can update your goals as your professional needs and interests change but Chartership certainly helps you to focus. It also teaches you the importance of recording your achievements, something which can come in handy at job interviews or during a work review.


Whilst Chartership has many benefits I won’t deny that it is hard work. There will times when you have a crisis of confidence and wonder why you ever started this in the first place! This happens to everyone who goes through the process but remember that if you do decide to take the plunge then you’re not alone. You will have a mentor and it’s important to make use of them as a sounding board, especially when things get tough. The new CILIP VLE has facilities for you to talk to others doing Chartership or any of the other qualifications or you could even find others in your local area who are in the same position as you and arrange a meet up. Never underestimate the power of morale support! There are also the regular Chartership chats on Twitter (watch out for the #Chartership tag) to help with questions and keep your motivation going and a dedicated mailing list for candidates.

It’s important to remember that you don’t stop developing when once you’ve Chartered. CILIP are looking at making yearly revalidation compulsory for all Chartered members but it’s a good idea to keep your skills up to date regardless. Chartership and the PKSB give you a solid range of tools and a meaningful place to log your CPD so use them.

Remember that the new Chartership regulations are designed to make the process simpler and more inclusive so now really is the time to give it a go. I promise that you will get so much more out of it than a piece of paper!


Originally published in Catalogue and Index, Issue 175, June 2014

Tuesday 8 July 2014

#Chartership Chat - 3/7/14

The Storify of the latest Chartership chat can be found below. There was no special theme for this chat but we managed to cover a lot of general questions. 

Thursday 3 July 2014

MOOCs - Which Way Now? An ALT Event

Last week I attended an event run by the Association for Learning Technology MOOC Special Interest Group. I take a lot of MOOCs so I was interested from a personal point of view but I also wanted to hear about the courses from those involved in running them.

This post will just focus on my main take-aways from the day as there was too much information to cover everything in one post. The presentation above is something that I put together for a local feedback session (WARNING: the word MOOCs always makes me think of cows so you may notice a slight theme with the presentation!)

Are MOOCs delivering what they promised?
This first theme came up in many of the presentations throughout the day. Now that the initial excitement about the MOOC concept has passed it's worth asking if they are having the drastic impact on education that some predicted.

According to the research carried out so far it seems that MOOCs are mostly being taken by those who already have a university education. They take the courses for a range of reasons, from gaining new skills for the workplace to personal interest in the topic. Whilst this is a positive step as it shows that MOOCs are delivering education, are they delivering on their promise to create an educational revolution? If most MOOC participants already have a high standard of education are MOOCs only further adding to the skills of the already skilled?

MOOCS were supposed to broaden not just access to education but also its reach. It seems that based on the research there is still work to do - with some people arguing that MOOCs actually help to widen the digital divide rather than close it.

There were calls to go beyond measuring the number of people signing up to or completing a MOOC and measure the meaningful impact that they make on people's lives. This is especially true of those who need a non-traditional route into education such as early school leavers. If we can demonstrate that MOOCs are making a difference to people in need of education then we will have something concrete to show - as one presenter put it - that MOOCs transform education rather then just e-enable traditional education.

Benefits of developing MOOCs
Working on a MOOC can enhance the reputation of both the institution and the individual who does the presenting. Being present on screen in any way during a MOOC will instantly make people more memorable to students. An important point highlighted is that this can easily backfire if not enough thought is put into the planning process so it's worth spending time on.

Those who had developed MOOCs talked about the hard work that setting one up takes but they also highlighted the wealth of transferable skills that you can develop. MOOCs can also help to bring people together - not just teacher and student but across the institution. Different faculties are given the chance to work together in order to harness their collective expertise. This factor could be especially useful for libraries who are often looking for ways to develop relationships with faculty.

A final point demonstrated in this section is that MOOCs don't have to break the bank. Students responded well to content filmed via webcams and mobile phones and this could be easily updated in the future if needed. Certainly much more efficient than having to record a fancy new presentation every year!

Creating a community
To me this was the most important point to come out of the day. The fact that MOOCs create a strong sense of community was highlighted repeatedly as well as the fact that we need to stop thinking about MOOCs as online courses and start thinking about them as ways to draw a community together. In fact, MOOC participants often cite membership of a community of like-minded people as one of the main draws of the format.

Mini-MOOCs were presented as a solution to the problem of lack of participant time. Many MOOCs are quite intensive and this contributes to drop-out rates. By having shorter, less intensive courses you can hopefully retain participants. The main example of this given was in providing technology training to teachers. In a format similar to a 23Things course participants were introduced to various technological teaching aids. This resulted in a lot of discussion both inside and outside the course about how people had used various tools in practice. It was hoped that people would then go on and teach others outside the course.

Part of the sense of community comes from this sharing of people's ideas as a way to create new knowledge. I've personally taken part in some MOOCs which had a really strong sense of community which resulted in friendships and collaborations forming. The formal learning part of these courses ended some time ago but the learning still continues today.

Another point that struck me was that MOOCs should be used to teach people what THEY want to learn rather than what we THINK they should learn. This is an argument that has come up before in the library world, in terms of areas such as information literacy teaching. If you teach people what they want to learn you will attract them and stand a better chance of creating a cohesive community.

The final point I want to note was highlighted by one of the presenters: education is not broadcasting, it's a two way engagement between learner and teacher. MOOCs give us an opportunity to connect with people on a large scale and learn from them as well as teach. Hopefully this is something that MOOC creators and participants will both take forward.

Although I mostly attend library related events it was good to attend something which gave me an outside perspective of something that many libraries are involved in, either directly or indirectly. Those who presented at the conference were all directly involved with MOOCs in some way and the day gave me a lot to think about as a MOOC participant (and maybe one day a MOOC developer!)

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Manage Your Way Into Management

So, you're stuck in another catch-22 situation. You want to move on to the next level of your career, something which involves management but you find it difficult as you have little or no experience of management. And you can't get experience without having the job. Many people are stuck in positions like this and it can be frustrating. You can either save up and pursue a qualification on you own time and dime or you can get creative and look for experience elsewhere.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I'm a big fan of MOOCs. They allow you to learn where and when you need to and cover a variety of topics. One thing MOOCs are really good at is fulfilling a specific training need - in this case management training. I'm currently taking a course via FutureLearn called Managing People: Engaging Your Workforce which I'm finding both engaging and interesting. The course features a lot of opportunity for interaction and discussion and makes me think about some of the issues I've previously taken for granted. There are plenty more business/management MOOCs available so even if you can't commit to one at the moment there will likely be another opportunity in the future. A good list of management related MOOCs can be found on Class Central.

This is also something easy to fit into your everyday commitments. Do you have a commute? A spare lunch hour once a week? Why not do something productive with your time and read a management book. They're not always as dry as they seem and they can produce some really valuable advice. Something which gets you to think and reflect is always good. Many of these books can be purchased cheaply, either second hand or through apps such as Kindle. And of course there is always the local library! As with any sort of professional reading I would advise you to make notes about what you read - not only does it make it easier to remember the information but it helps you to really absorb it and relate it to your own experiences. Why not get together with others to discuss what you read? This can be done in person by setting up a reading group or joining in with an online group such as the Library Leadership Reading Group on Twitter. Writing book reviews is also a good way to reflect. The O'Reilly Reader Review Program offers bloggers a chance to read books on management and leadership in return for reviews. 

It's worth remembering that experience doesn't have to be in the workplace. Volunteering on a committee can be a valuable way to develop management skills such as negotiation, communication and people skills. For those in the library profession CILIP committees are always an option but there are many more ways to get involved. Perhaps you could join a group at work or an organisation you support or why not help to organise an event? There are many ways of gaining the skills used in management without actually being a manager and you get to make new friends/contacts at the same time.

This is another important skill and again, something that doesn't have to be developed in a formal way. I like to help colleagues with their CPD so if I see something that might be of interest then I pass it on. I also act as a sounding board when people have advice/problems (as other people have done for me). If you're Chartered then CILIP mentoring is also an option. I think that mentoring is something really important and can show you the kind of manager you would make. It's important to remember that management is about people as well as productivity.

Why not see if it's possible to shadow your manager or a manager in another department? What they do on a daily basis may surprise you. If shadowing someone isn't appropriate then why not just try observing someone who you think is a good manager to see how they handle things? You can also observe those you think are bad managers in order to learn what NOT to do! Again, the important thing is that you make a note of your experiences and use them for later reflection.

I'm sure there are many, many other ways of developing management skills on little or no budget but these are just the examples I can think of off the top of my head. If anyone can think of things to add then please share them in the comments section below. Remember that leadership and management are two different things. You don't have to be a manager to be a leader and you don't have to be a manager to look at developing some of the skill set. Hopefully even if I don't decide to pursue a formal management qualification there are still ways for me to develop the skills that will lead to my next career step, management or otherwise!

photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc

Friday 6 June 2014

#Chartership Portfolio

I recently found out that my Chartership portfolio has been accepted! This means that I can now officially use the postnominals MCLIP.

It's been an interesting process, at time very frustrating, but one I'm glad I did. I'll post some final reflections soon but in the mean time I wanted to share my portfolio. I found looking at example portfolios really helpful when I was completing mine and although the regulations have changed slightly since I submitted I hope having my portfolio up here might still help people. 

Please remember when looking at any example portfolios that everyone is different and has different experiences to draw on. Just because you have done something different with your portfolio does not make it in any way wrong!

If you're in the process of doing any of the CILIP qualifications good luck to you. Remember that there IS light at the end of the tunnel and it will be such a great feeling when you can finally use those post-nominals! 

Monday 19 May 2014

#Chartership Chat - 15/5/14

Below is the Storify of the most recent Chartership chat. Remember that the write-ups of previous chats, as well as general information on the professional registration process, can be found here.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Reflect

When I'm running the Chartership chats on Twitter I notice the same concern popping up again and again: reflective writing. I think that most people understand what it is but they're worried about how they can make their own writing reflective rather than narrative. Firstly if you are worried about this then stop. I would guess that nine out of ten people who undertake CILIP qualifications are worried about the same thing so you're far from alone. If this is a particular concern for you then please talk to your mentor about it, that's what they're there for. 

Reflective writing is practiced in many disciplines and provides a great way to think about your experiences critically. This is important as it allows you to learn from what you have done and improve in the future. This is especially important when undertaking CPD as it can help you to identify areas where you need to concentrate your learning.

It's OK to admit that you're not that confident with reflective writing. It's a skill and like other skills it has to be developed. I personally found Rolfe et al.'s (2001) reflective model a very useful way to get started. The model asks you to answer three questions about any experience:
  • What? - describe the experience (briefly) 
  • So what? - what did you learn from the experience? What did you enjoy/not enjoy? 
  • Now what? - how would you improve the experience if you did it again? What might you do differently next time? What action will you take as a result of the experience?
By asking yourself these questions you can start to be reflective about any experience and you can always dig deeper if you need to.

I've put together a Pinterest board with links to various resources on reflective practice. As mentioned above this is used in a lot of disciplines so don't be put off if the link isn't directly relevant to librarianship:

Follow Claire Sewell's board Reflective Practice on Pinterest.

From a personal point of view I find blogging a great way to reflect on my experiences or an issue in the profession. If you don't feel brave enough to share your thoughts with the world then why not set up a private blog? This way you can practice your reflective skills and you will always have something to refer back to when needed. Who knows, you may change your mind and decided to try your hand at public blogging one day ....

photo credit: juandesant via photopin cc

Tuesday 22 April 2014

What's In a Name...? Library Job Titles

I’ve been thinking a lot about job titles recently, probably thanks to compiling my Chartership CV and applying for a couple of conference bursaries. I’ve tried to keep my CV up to date over the years but this is the first time I’ve really had to sit down and consider what it looks like to an outsider. One thing that has struck me through this process is that my current job title doesn’t really reflect what I do on a daily basis. Worse than this I’m starting to wonder if it’s putting people off!

Above is the section of my CV which describes my current role. When I was putting together my CV I realised that only the last four bullet points are directly linked to my actual job description. Everything else is something I have done out of need or a desire to develop my skills. At this point I should say that I am very lucky to work in a large library which allows me to develop and take on new things. I wonder though how many people read the heading Senior Cataloguer and look no further as they think that all I do is catalogue? This is probably not helped by the fact that I have worked in a number of cataloguing related posts over the years, many of which have the word cataloguer in the title.

I often get told by people that I’m not a “typical cataloguer” which I take as sort of grudging compliment but it does make me think again about my job title and if it’s giving people a certain impression of me. I’m sure I’m not the only person to wonder about this. In these days of constrained budgets and shrinking jobs is anyone a typical anything anymore? Aren’t we all having to take on jobs and responsibilities that we never thought we would have to, for better or worse? People short listing for interviews have very little time to read all the applications they receive so first impressions are important. I’m just wondering if the first impression that my job title sends out is the right one?

I started to wonder if other people felt the same way about their job titles so I compiled a very short and extremely unscientific survey which somehow managed to get nearly one hundred responses. 67% of respondents felt that their job title accurately reflected what they actually did whilst 33% felt that it didn’t. This was the final result but for a long time it was quite close. I asked those that didn’t think their job title was a good reflection of their work to expand on this. Below are a small sample of answers:
  • "when I compare myself to others with the same job title I feel I carry out more varied and complex tasks"
  • "job title does not clearly express my actual role, area of expertise or skills"
  • "because I do so much more than that!"
  • "librarian doesn't sum up the information literacy, training or general information wrangling that I do all day"
  • "it's too general and doesn't reflect the degree of professionalism required"
  • "for those in the library profession I think it's obvious ... however to the outside world I still use the word 'librarian' and this is what I put on my Twitter account for instance"
  • "it doesn't include library or librarian"
  • "it's a generic job title shared by several others who do jobs that differ from mine"
  • "I have the word coordinator in my job title which means nothing to anyone, but not the word librarian"
  • "library assistant implies I do non-professional work, which is not the case"
  • "title is 'Faculty Librarian' which doesn't explain anything! No mention of liaison or teaching etc."

There were quite a few themes running through the answers. People felt that it would have been better to have the words library or librarian in their job title to give a better impression of what they do. This is an issue that needs a blog post all its own but it’s worth noting here. I think as the profession seeks to modernise itself and respond to critics who think the ‘L’ word is outdated we are in danger of giving ourselves titles that are too vague to be understood by the outside world but that’s just my opinion ....

Quite a few respondents highlighted this issue of vagueness, claiming that their title was too generic to reflect the variety of things that they do. With roles changing all the time I’m sure it’s not practical to keep updating job titles but what does that mean for their worth?

In contrast to this it’s interesting to note that people didn’t think their job titles would be too much of a problem on applications, as people within the library world would understand what they meant. This could be a positive or a negative and brings me back to my original point. People in the library world understand the term cataloguer but do they think all I do is catalogue books all day? Several cataloguers I know will tell you that we do a lot more than that! What all this adds up to is that there is no such thing as a perfect job title but there are several issues to think about.

Finally I asked people if they would be tempted to tweak their title to better represent what they do. 59% wouldn’t be tempted but 41% would, which was a higher percentage than I was expecting. I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted to change mine to something like Senior Library Assistant in the past to avoid people assuming that all I do is catalogue but I decided against it as I thought it would cause more harm than good!

I think what this very unscientific research has shown me is that I may be a little bit too sensitive when it comes to my job history. Having said that I think it would be a good lesson for us all to leave our perceptions of job titles at the door. Those judging applications need to look further than the title and see what the individual has achieved whilst the applicants (including me!) need to be better at demonstrating what they have done and not rely on their job title to tell the whole story.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Leadership / Brian Tracy, AMACOM

Brian Tracy, the chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, has written many books about the development of people and organisations. This latest addition to The Brian Tracy Success Library focuses on leadership and outlines Brian's tips for becoming a strong leader and maintaining this as you move through your career.

With each chapter focusing on a specific aspect, from motivating people to learning from your mistakes, the book includes something for most people. The book is easy to dip in and out of when advice on a particular topic is needed. However as the main text comprises less than one hundred pages it's no struggle to read everything. Tracy has an informative and easy to read style, making this an ideal 'train journey' book.

Tracy offers practical steps to achieving success, often backing these up with anecdotal evidence from this own career. Although Tracy comes from the business sector the examples used will be familiar to many people and could be applied to a lot of situations. I was especially pleased to see Tracy emphasizing the human side of leadership. He stresses the importance of building relationships with people, both in your own team and outside. He shows how this can strengthen your position and demonstrate your effectiveness as a leader. In some other books I have read this aspect of leadership is missing which is a worry as I think that the human aspect can help to define a great leader.

Although there is nothing especially new or earth shattering about the advice in the book, Tracy makes his points and makes them well. From my perspective it is much easier to absorb material from a book like this than a weighty tome that I struggle to read. I would especially recommend this book to those either new to leadership roles or looking to become leaders. If you want some practical guidance on how to make the most of leadership opportunities in an easy to read style then you could do a lot worse than Brian Tracy.

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

Friday 4 April 2014

#Chartership Chat - 3/4/14

Below is the Storify of the most recent Chartership chat. Remember that the write-ups of previous chats, as well as general information on the professional registration process, can be found here.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Seeing is Believing - Using the Visual Web for Promotion

I've blogged before about the benefits of using Pinterest to promote library collections but recently I've taken an interest in ways I can use the site personally. I've had an account for a while in order to have a play about (something I do regularly with new social media tools) and I mocked up a couple of boards on silly subjects like fancy bookshelves. Whilst I liked the look of the site I struggled to see how I could fit it into my already full social media schedule. However after reading that the popularity of Pinterest has surpassed Twitter I decided to have another look at the site and see if I could use it in a more focused way.

Pinterest is a very visual site and this is an emerging trend with both websites and social networks. Much like traditional websites have declined in recent years in favor of interactive sites, it seems that the visual web will be the next big thing. I think a large part of the popularity of these more visual sites is that they are able to draw you in straight away in a way that even the loveliest looking text doesn't. As with all social networks sharing the content is made really easy and the visual aspect means you don't have to scroll through lots of text. Applications in libraries include promoting new books, online exhibitions of material and sharing useful links.

One of the first things I've tried is a Pinterest board with posts from this blog. I'm not sure how successful this will be but I think it's always good to get blog posts out to as wider audience as possible. Hopefully the pictures will grab someones attention! You can see the results below:

I've also been looking at other uses of Pinterest. As anyone who reads this blog will know I am keen on professional development and I'm always looking for ways to share what I learn. I've been experimenting a little and I've come up with  Top Tips for CPD. At the moment there are ten tips on there but I hope to add more in the future so keep an eye out. This board was really easy to create and hopefully it provides links to sites that people will find useful. I'll be experimenting more with this concept in the future as a way of sharing links.

If anyone has experience of using the visual web in any of its forms for promotion, either personal or professional than please feel free to share them in the comments below. This is an area that I'm quite keen to explore, both in terms of promoting library collections and for professional networking. 

photo credit: Joe Dyndale via photopin cc