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 (http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/jobs-and-careers/qualifications-and-professional-enrolement).

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.

Conclusion

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!

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


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