Putting info pro work on back burner for a while 

Almost 30 years to the day since I started my first professional library job – at Today newspaper no less – I’m taking a bit of a break. Today will be my last full day of information work for a while.

I shall be sad to leave the Crick Institute in London. I’ve worked with some incredibly gifted people, who have been a joy to work with. I’ve had impact on how the Crick’s library & information services are organised & delivered, & look forward to keeping in touch to find out how plans progress.

The Francis Crick Institute, London
The Francis Crick Institute, London

I’ll miss working in an iconic building & entertaining people on tours. I doubt I’ll ever work anywhere with so much choice when it comes to areas to work in. Definitely one of the joys of having a building designed to encourage collaborative working & fitted out with appropriate furniture.

For those who haven’t heard: I’m stepping aside from information things for 9 months to expand my skills. I’m taking a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) in teaching secondary school geography. It’s going to be challenging for all sorts of reasons:

– actually being in charge of a class of teenagers & teaching them geography;

– grappling with masters level academic work – something I last did more than 12 years ago;

– working in a school environment – no more iconic designed work space.

I start on 4 Sept & have 2.5 weeks at St Mary’s University, Twickenham before starting a school placement (won’t know where until 4 Sept) for the autumn term.

I will remain as CILIP President for the rest of 2017. I have a couple of meetings to chair & speaking engagements lined up for the latter part of the year.

Wish me luck & keep an eye out for a training to teach blog.

 

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I’m doing a ‘Lucy Kellaway’ and training to teach

My news: I’m doing a ‘Lucy Kellaway’ and training to teach. For those who don’t know Lucy, she’s a well-known UK journalist who writes for the Financial Times. She’s retraining, although on a different scheme to me, to become a maths teacher, and has created something of a storm since she announced her plans in 2016.

I’m starting a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in September this year. I will be diversifying my skill set so I can be a librarian & a qualified secondary school (11-18 year olds) geography teacher.

I thought long & hard about what to call this post. Initial thoughts included the obvious George Bernard Shaw quote ‘He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.’ (Man and Superman. 230. Education). But decided this was cliched. 

Why choose the Lucy Kellaway reference? Well, most of what Lucy has said about why she is becoming a teacher is similar to my reasoning. We’re just following different routes. 

We are of a similar age – in our 50’s- & both poster children for taking up teaching at a later stage: she’s poster child for Now Teach; while I’m a poster child for RGS-IBG – Royal Geographical Society – as a scholarship recipient. Career changers have lots of transferrable skills and experience to offer. I’m looking forward to the challenge of gaining new skills and utilising my information professional skills in a school setting.

Roll on September and the start of my course.

 

Experience continuum

How much experience do you need to be characterised as a new professional; mid-career; and master? Answers on a postcard (how quaint!) or by email, tweet, Snapchat or Instagram.

I ask as I’ve been thinking about this for a while, in both a work & professional capacity. At CILIP conference I was wondering how people classified themselves and others in terms of experience. When does a new professional become mid-career? What stage do you become master and senior professional?

I have also had two opportunities to reflect on experience & how it’s measured during stints judging awards for SLA & CILIP this year. In  particular, SLA Awards involved nominations for all stages: Rising Star (new professionals); Fellows (mid-career) and Hall of Fame (recognition of whole career).

I was struck by a Twitter chat this week, from teachers starting their summer holidays, & discussing how many years experience was needed to qualify them as experienced teachers. There is some synergy between info pros & teachers: both require postgraduate study, on the job experience & training plus importantly subject (for info pros read sector) expertise.

 

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So how do you rate this answer? And where do you sit on the experience continuum?

It’s 30 years since I got my MSc, & set off for my first post qualification job. I’d say I hit most of the marker points outlined in this tweet. By that reckoning I’m a rock star! I do feel I’ve achieved that this year as CILIP President. I’m proud, honoured & lucky to have served as President of my two professional associations: SLA and CILIP.

#blogjune: post 30: Reflections on blogJune

It’s day 30 of blogjune, the aim being to ‘blog every day in June – or as often as you can manage, or comment on someone else’s blog every day’.

I managed 25 posts, five fewer than the whole month, but not bad given I expected work and personal life to get in the way! On the days I wasn’t able to blog I did have a look at other people’s blogs: keeping within the spirit of blogjune.

Things I’ve learnt:

  • I can write a first draft for a post in 30 mins during my commute, to or from work, on my iPhone. Then edit on the laptop at home before publishing.
  • It’s easier to write than I had imagined, or remembered. Particularly given a post is usually 500 words. Plus judicious editing is the key to success.
  • Planning helps: make sure to figure out what you’ll cover each day. Accept you’ll need to re-jig things to accommodate news & life events. Some of my most popular posts – chairing a meeting – were the result of reflections on events and that had happened that day.
  • As does being flexible about not posting every day. I’ve tried to do this, but ended up playing catch up. But I’m ok about that.
  • Write about what interests you – you’ll be amazed at what others want to read about & will comment on. My most popular posts have been on common all garden things like chairing meetings, bullet journals & scheduling. Timing posts to coincide with events is a way of garnering interest so I got a lot of tweets about my SLA campaigning & awards posts because they were published during SLA’s conference.
  • Likewise, promoting widely, via social media helps to gain readers. LinkedIn really does work as it was my second referee after Twitter. Think about when to schedule tweets for maximum impact. I found mornings & early evenings worked well for maximum impact. Those timings fit well into various time zones from U.K. To US to Australasia. 

When I checked the analytics this morning I found the following:

Top 3 referrers: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook.

Top 3 countries for viewers: UK, Australia/NZ, USA.

The 5 most popular posts:

– post 12: Organising my time & tasks: the joys of bullet journals; 

– post 1: I’m taking part in blogjune;  

– post 2: The gentle art of chairing a meeting;

– post 20: Schedule to get more done; 

– post 14: Mind the gap: transferable skills & moving sectors. 

I wanted to get into the habit of writing & improve my confidence in my editing skills. I’ve achieved that, so a big thank you blogjune. See you next year.

    #blogjune: post 22: Effective packing

    I’m just about to start my packing list for CILIP conference next week in Manchester. I thought I’d use one of my catch up blogs to outline my tips on effective packing. I was partly prompted by a packing advice article in Wednesday’s Guardian.

    My hints are all based on the last 10 years of travel, during which I have attended a lot of conferences & meetings all around the world. I picked up some useful tips on what to do & what not to do. Plus I used my librarians’s organisational & categorising skills to become a demon packer.

    1. Buy a decent suitcase, one with wheels & capacity to expand. Useful for gifts & conference swag. I’m a big fan of Eminent  and have had one of their pull along soft cases for nearly 10 years and it’s been around the world a few times and is still in fine form.

    2. Make a list – if you’re going to a conference plan what you’ll wear each day & keep that list. It’ll be a godsend to not have to think about what to wear each day. You’ll thank your forward thinking self.

    3. Always take an umbrella.

    4. Try to keep your footwear to three pairs – you’ll be wearing one pair & packing two. Footwear is heavy & you should be able to cope with two pairs of shoes. They’ll be odd occasions when three are necessary. I had a snow, sun and normal weather three week trip to USA in January 2017 and survived with three pairs of footwear.

    5. Layers are important, if you’re going to a conference in a hot climate you will need a cardigan as the air conditioning will make the venue cold.

    6. I’m a great believer in packing bags (or packing cubes if you prefer) & organise clothing by bags eg underwear in one bag, dresses and t-shirts in another. It makes it easier to find things.

    7. Roll your clothes, don’t fold them. This means you can pack things more easily & often results in fewer creases.

    8. Liquids & security – I invested in a Vera Bradley 3-1-1 bag (US term for the 100ml plastic bags) IMG_0547in 2013 & wouldn’t be without it now. It is very sturdy, for short trips means I don’t have to take any other wash bag. Only once during my travels around the world,  at Gatwick airport, have I had security staff ask me to decant my liquids into a different plastic bag.

    9. Take some empty ziplock bags – you never know when you might need one!

    10. When you get home & unpack check through what worked & what didn’t outfit wise. This is the equivalent of a lessons learned review. Make a note of what you took, but didn’t use. I count it as a successful pack if there are only 2 or fewer items I’ve not worn!

     

     

     

    #blogjune: post 20: Schedule to get more done

    Prompted by Oliver Burkeman’s Guardian column over the weekend, I’ve decided to be more disciplined in my scheduling. I know this works for me, particularly when I use something like the pomodoro technique. But all too often I opt for the easy, unstructured option of pulling a list of to do items together. Add in some things already done, so I can tick those off & feel like I’ve achieved something. Then pick the things I want to do, thus avoiding what I consider to be the hard things. Which once I do aren’t that hard at all. Case in point right now, as I’m compiling this post instead of finishing off my CILIP Update President’s column.
    I’ll persevere this week with adopting a more scheduled approach & will hope it means I’m more productive.

    #blogjune: post 25: A cardigan: lost property at a library conference #SLAYLG17

    It was a first, I’ve never been to a library conference where the housekeeping announcement includes a lost cardigan! The lost cardigan was about the only thing that was to be as expected at this conference, given it was largely attended by librarians. I’ve never worked in children’s or school libraries so I looked forward to learning more about this world.

    I was invited as CILIP’s President, and my badge said so! IMG_0541 Several people knew who I was & mentioned having read about me in Update; proof the magazine is a good communication channel.

    This week has very much been Carnegie Greenaway award week. It started with the awards ceremony on Monday, & my introduction to the infectious, enthusiastic world of youth & children’s libraries. It ended with the Lightbulb Moments: Powered by Librarians conference in Harrogate. This was a co-produced conference organised by School Libraries Association – the other SLA in my life – (@uksla) and CILIP’s Youth Library Group (@youthlibraries) attended by 260 people. Mostly women, all avid readers, who do extraordinary work encouraging reading & info literacy skills in school age children.

    The conference was over two days, with two dinners. I missed the first, with the theme of Harry Potter, & included a quiz. The second was attended by lots of authors & had honorary memberships announced. Always good to celebrate the sterling work done by members & supporters.

    What I liked:
    – The splendour of a big, Victorian hotel (the Majestic in Harrogate) faded in parts, but a glorious venue. Plenty of space, high ceilings and large rooms;
    – The length of sessions, at least an 1 hour, was superb as it gave time to go into depth & really learn something especially when there was just one speaker;
    – The mix of session format: some interview, plenary slots, others small group sessions.
    – Mix of attendees: publishers, authors & librarians. I’ve never been to a conference where you can be a fan girl & interact with not one, but two children’s laureates.

    What I felt could be improved:
    – I didn’t get the impression there were many news professionals in the audience. This is something I’ve seen a lot at other conferences & would love to see here. It’s the main driver for succession planning for the profession. Does either SLA or YLG offer conference bursaries for those in the first five years of their career?
    – Some people from outside the sector sharing their experience & case studies of how they’ve tackled questions like knowledge management & information literacy. I’m a firm believer in not re-inventing the wheel.

    What I learnt:

    • Some great ideas from #amymckay14 on how to be a stealth librarian and get children into the library, examples included: accelerated reading club with millionaire club based on currencies around the world. KS4 story time club when you read picture books to them during exam time to relax them; for pupils joining the school visit them in their primary schools before they start secondary school and give them a book and activity sheet to complete over the summer; book quests -a great way to introduce information literacy skills such as using an index, skimming and scanning by giving questions to answer using books during library time.
    • There’s a place in schools for knowledge management. Darryl Toerien from Oakham School is doing sterling work on this by becoming the school’s curriculum expert. He’s mapping what is being taught in each subject by year group, and then ensuring there are suitable resources – in print and online- available to support the teaching. In some subjects information literacy instruction is becoming embedded in classes. It sounds very like work going on in academic liaison in higher education and in some workplace libraries. All very exciting stuff.

    So all in all a great conference, in a stunning location of Harrogate, beautiful scenery on the journey there and fabulous architecture once I arrived.  Thank you to SLA and YLG for inviting me.