Friday 24 July 2015

LibCAMp: A Cambridge Unconference

People who follow me on Twitter may have recently seen me frantically tweeting about something called #camlibcamp. This was the first Cambridge library staff unconference and was held this week at the Alison Richard Building in central Cambridge.

We are lucky in Cambridge as every year part of the University Library team organise a conference for staff in January. As well as being something to perk you up just after Christmas it provides a great way to meet new people and share new ideas. Circumstances and busy work schedules for the organisers meant that there was no official conference held this year so a group of us decided to do something about it. LibCAMp was born!

I've been to an unconference before but never organised one so it's been a bit of a learning curve. There were nearly sixty attendees in all which exceeded our expectations and showed that there is a real appetite for this kind of discussion. Below are a few of the lessons learnt during the planning process:
  • plan for more people than you think will come. We thought we would only get about thirty attendees at best but we were overwhelmed by the response. The event sold out in two days but luckily we had some wait-list spaces available which we could release
  • be flexible and listen to other people's ideas when planning. You might have a vision of how you think everything should go but you need to be open to the experiences of others. Some of our best ideas came from someone saying, "how about doing it this way?" so it's important not to discount anything during the planning stage
  • collect feedback soon after the event whilst it's still fresh in the minds of participants. We are not sure at the moment if there will be a rerun of LibCAMp but if there is we have some ideas to encorporate. We asked participants to rate the event but also asked them what was they one thing we could do better. This has given us some valuable ideas for any future events we might run
  • try not to be too hard on yourself when things go wrong. I have a tendency to do this personally so I'm really trying hard to focus on everything that went right as opposed to the fact that I forgot to mention a few things
Overall I think LibCAMp was a success. There were things we could have done better but if we had done everything perfectly it wouldn't have been much of a learning experience! People are still tweeting and blogging about the event so we must have made some sort of impression. The main lesson I've taken away from this is that if you see a gap for an event, rather than complaining about it why not try doing something about it? You might surprise yourself at what you can achieve. 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

CILIP Leadership Programme - Liverpool, July 2015

Recently I was lucky enough to be accepted to the CILIP Leadership Programme. This is a new programme which CILIP are piloting in 2015-16 in order to increase the leadership capacity within the profession and is based on similar models offered by other associations. The programme will involve face to face meetings, online learning and group project work. The launch of the programme was held last week just before the CILIP Conference in Liverpool.

There are twenty-one participants in all and I was pleased to see a large range of sectors represented. Meeting face to face in this way helped to break the ice and it was really interesting to hear about what people did and what they were hoping to get out of the programme. Quite a few of the participants were there for the same reason as me - to develop confidence in their leadership skills - but it was also reassuring to hear other people's reasons for taking part. It reinforced the idea that leaders can come from anywhere and there is no one special skill that people are born with.

This was something that we discussed at length. After a noisy getting to know you exercise where we shattered the illusion that librarians are quiet we discussed what makes an effective leader. There were a lot of common themes suggested such as someone who is inspiring, approachable and consistent. This very much fits with my idea of a leader but it was interesting to hear what others thought. For example some thought that leaders were those that were good at succession planning to ensure the future of their organisation, something which had not really occurred to me before. We also had a group discussion on how leaders are made. Out of all the options presented I was drawn to the social script option which claims that leaders arise when the situation requires them. This is very much how I have seen my own leadership journey as I never considered myself a leader but like to think I can step up when needed.

We also looked at different leadership styles and their associated advantages and disadvantages. This is something I was quite familiar with through my work on the ILM Leadership Course but it was useful to have the discussion in a library context. I think that all leaders have a tendency towards a particular style but most people are able to adapt it to different situations (known as situational leadership). Having all the styles outlined for me highlighted the importance of this type of training to all leaders as you may not fully realise the disadvantages of your natural approach or indeed the advantages of other approaches. For example I think the term autocratic conjure up certain negative images but in a crisis situation this type of leadership can be very useful.

The next session was a chance for several key members of CILIP to share their own leadership stories. CILIP CEO Nick Poole never set out to become a leader. At the start of his career he made use of every opportunity to talk to leaders about what they did and why they did it. He built his skill set both through work and by taking CPD opportunities such as committee work. Nick also stressed the importance of work/life balance, something I think even the best of us forget at times. CILIP President Jan Parry spoke of how drama lessons helped her to overcome a childhood stammer. To me this was an important lesson in thinking outside the box to solve problems and gain valuable experiences. As an adult Jan was involved in local politics and learnt a lot from observing those around her, something which seemed to be a key theme from all of the talks. Finally Simon Edwards (Director of Professional Services at CILIP) spoke about imposter syndrome, something I know I’ve struggled with. I was also really pleased to hear his shout out to cataloguers! Simon spoke of an everyday kind of leadership. We cope with change and difficult circumstances every day and we shouldn’t underestimate how these feed into leadership potential. He advised creating a career map to show what you have done and what you want to do. This is something I plan to do as I think it will help to consolidate my past (and hopefully future) achievements. At lunch there was another opportunity to observe leadership in action as we were joined by the CILIP Board.

The last part of the day involved the initial planning of our group projects. These will be a key component of the programme and a chance to put theory into action. I am involved in looking at the Member Network CPD offer. As I’m very interested in CPD this project really appeals to me but I think it will also be a chance to test myself. As well as challenging myself with aspects of the project it will force me to think beyond what I consider CPD and look at the point of view of others. I’m really looking forward to getting started!

The next time all the participants will meet face to face is at CILIP HQ in November. In between there are lots of opportunities to interact online as well as additional training scheduled in the form of webinars and online chats. I’m really excited to be involved in the inaugural year of this programme and I hope that my input can help shape it for many years to come. So far it has really rejuvenated me professionally so I’m looking forward to seeing how much further it can take me.

Photo credits: 

Monday 6 July 2015

CILIP Conference 2015

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the annual CILIP Conference in the stunning St. George's Hall in Liverpool. I've attended the conference only once before when it was still Umbrella and enjoyed the experience but CILIP seemed to have upped their game even further with the new annual conference (and especially the conference drinks reception during which we had the run of the Museum of Liverpool). I've compiled some thoughts on the event below and whilst I've tried to make it as short as I can there were many points that I wanted to touch on. The conference had four main themes:
  • Information management
  • Information literacy and digital inclusion
  • Demonstrating value
  • Digital futures and technology

Having taken the New Librarianship Masterclass I was already familiar with a lot of the ideas of the first speaker - R. David Lankes. A couple of the things he talked about stuck with me and seemed to provide a recurring theme for many of the speeches over the next two days. Lankes spoke about the need for librarians to 'control the narrative' about libraries and he suggested that we do this through being present, whether that is out in our communities or sitting at the table when decisions are made about our service. Most librarians I know do this in some way but its important to be reminded of it. I know that I sometimes shy away from promoting what I have done and this is something I need to improve on. Luckily the conference gave me a lot of ideas on how to do this. 

This theme was repeated by Stuart Hamilton, the Deputy Secretary General of IFLA, who discussed the need to talk about libraries in the language of the policy makers. Get invited in to the big discussions and make your case for the importance of your service. Hamilton outlined how access to information supports the development of countries and communities and called on those in the information profession to help protect it. A similar call was issued by Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty who talked about the importance of human rights. She considered access to information as a basic human right and tasked the information profession with helping to defend it. Asked to name the one most important thing that the profession could do she asked us to make sure that people had access to the Human Rights Act. There is a lot of misinformation about the Act in the press and the only way to truly make an informed decision is to read it. Chakrabarti also discussed the differences between secrecy and privacy. The innocent may have nothing to fear when it comes to people prying into our lives but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with a desire for privacy. Author Cory Doctorow spoke about the same thing and took issue with the assumption that secrecy is a key component of security.

There was also an insight from Barbara Schack into the fascinating Ideas Box project which provides access to information and information spaces in crisis situations. Each box contains the tools to create a local network for online access as well as books and tablets. This project links back to the sessions mentioned above where librarians were called on to preserve access to information. Joseph O'Leary from Full Fact outlined the work of his service which provides fact checking in situations such as the recent election. This service allows people to make informed decisions without the spin.

The final keynote came from Erwin James, a columnist at the Guardian and former prisoner. He gave a very moving speech about his experiences of using a prison library and how this helped in his rehabilitation. He painted an honest picture of life behind bars and how something seemingly as small as a book from the library can help you overcome your demons. I've always found talks about prison libraries fascinating as it is so far removed from anything I have experience of. Having the talk from the point of view of a prisoner rather than a librarian certainly gave me some food for thought. 

Demonstrating impact
This was the strand I attended most as it's a major professional interest of mine. From Output to Impact was a chance to put together a toolkit for measuring the impact of an activity or service that we provide. Tying in with the keynotes on how librarians add value Carolyn Rankin and Sue Reynolds discussed the different ways in which we can add that something extra for our users. The presenters highlighted the need for qualitative information to highlight impact which I was relieved to see as I believe numbers only tell you part of the story. Andy Ryan of CityRead London gave a very passionate talk on her work to encourage more people to read by creating an immersive experience. Again the theme of community was mentioned as the programme helps to get the community reading together. Mary Dunne talked about Communicating your Value in a Way That Works. Linking back to the keynote delivered by Lankes she talked of changing the conversation around libraries by including value propositions. These short statements profile key member groups such as users or stakeholders and target the things they value. For example you might show how the library links to management strategies or how it fulfills a key user need. The trick is to keep these statements short and focused, much like an elevator pitch. Dunne finished by reminding us that what we do is just a mechanism to do our jobs. It makes more of an impact to say why.

Also launched at the conference was the CILIP Impact Toolkit. Further information can be found here

Information management
Elisabeth Goodman and John Ridell talked about How to Add Value to your Organisation as a Knowledge Facilitator. The benefits outlined were both organisational and personal and included creating a culture of innovation and enhancing the CPD of the knowledge facilitator. As readers of this blog will know I am always in favor of anything that enhances your CPD! By Making the Right Connections Denise Carter outlined information professionals can engage stakeholders. Carter claimed that preparation is the key to success - if you want people to come along with you then you have to know where you are going. Think of engaging with your stakeholders as a marketing campaign and plan it accordingly including staff time and other resources needed. She also cautioned us not to over-engage with our targets. You don't want to come across as too pushy.

Information literacy and digital inclusion
Adam Edwards and Vanessa Hill gave an engaging Abba themed presentation on methods of teaching information literacy. There are several issues with trying to provide effective information literacy teaching such as a lack of embedding and the bad timing of some sessions. Edwards and Hill argued that librarians often try to teach three to five times as much information as their students can cope with. I know that I've had this experience on library inductions - trying to cram everything in as you don't know if/when you will see the students again. To solve this problem the presenters have gone back to basics and used a game approach to encourage their students to learn. These social activities allow peer learning to take place, something which the presenters have found success with. Although this method might not appeal to all it is certainly something to consider as an alternate approach. We tried out one of the games in the session and it made for some lively discussion. Further information and instructions can be found here.

Digital futures and technology
I'm a big fan of MOOCs so I was really interested to hear about Resisting the MOOC Stampede. Anthea Sutton and Helen Buckley Woods talked about their project which brings small scale web CPD courses to librarians. Numbers are limited to 30-49 participants and focus on various professional topics such as customer care and measuring impact. These smaller coursed have several advantages over huge MOOCs such as creating a tight knit community and the fact that instructors can provide detailed feedback to all participants. Completion rates of the courses average at 97% and is measured by the completion of an e-portfolio. There is also a reflective writing element - no doubt something many CILIP members are familiar with! Further information on the FOLIO courses can be found here.

Leo Appleton and Andy Tattersall looked at how librarians can harness the power of social media. They told us that social media is constantly developing and its important to keep on top of it. Although library use of social media has traditionally been limited to advertising the service the presenters outlined new uses such as an online enquiry service. For this reason it is important that we keep checking our online presence. If we have a presence on sites then our users will find it. They finished by discussing the importance of altmetrics and how social media is used for research. Academics have to measure impact and this can increasingly be done through measuring their online presence, for example the number of Mendeley reads an article has had. Although these altmetrics don't replace traditional measures they can be used as an interesting complement. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the conference and came away with lots of ideas to try. Although it was a very full few days I managed to meet lots of people I've only known via Twitter. As always with these conferences the most important chats happen over tea and this was no exception. I would encourage anyone who has a chance to attend another conference to give it a go - you will regret it far more if you don't!