Archive Page 2

Hidden gems in London

Living and working in London it’s easy to walk past an area or building and not realise its history or what it contains, and thus to miss a hidden gem. This realisation came to me recently after undertaking a walking tour of Waterloo Station and its environs (Behind the termini: wonderful Waterloo) and listening to a talk on The Society Of Friends library and archive collection.

I’ve commuted daily in and out of Waterloo for some 20 years now, but I wasn’t  aware there had been seven stations there at one time, and one of them was the Station of the Dead. I also didn’t know that under the tracks on Leake Street is a public graffiti tunnel initially created during the ‘Cans Festival’ organised by Banksy in May 2008. I’m looking forward to doing some of the other behind the termini tours in this programme, led by Rachel Kolsky, to learn more about our major London stations.

Gresham College is running a series of lectures entitled ‘Special Collections’ focussing on some of the hidden gems of interesting and unique collections in London. The series covers eight very different collections ranging from Lambeth Palace’s library to the collection of anatomy at St Bartholomew’s hospital. All the lectures are free to attend, and the college makes transcripts and recordings of the talks available on their website. Here’s a list of the collections covered in this series:
    Anatomy Museums (September 2012)

    The Guildhall Library (October 2012)

    British Architectural Library, RIBA (November 2012)

    The Library and Archives of the Society of Friends (January 2013)

    New Scotland Yard Crime Museum (April 2013)

    Lambeth Palace (March 2013)

    The Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library (May 2013)

    St. Paul’s Cathedral (June 2013)

David Blake, Head of Libraries and Archives at The Society of Friends, gave an interesting and engaging talk on the history of the Quakers and illustrated it with materials held by the Library. I was impressed the Library was founded in August 1673 and that early on it was decided that it should acquire two copies of everything written by Quakers; plus one copy of everything written in opposition to them, the ‘adverse collection’. In the early 1700s the Society was thinking about disaster planning with the purchase of bags to carry materials out of the building in case of fire. Further inventiveness was displayed by the provision of a card catalogue on wheels which could be put away in the strongroom overnight as until 1926 there was no permanent reading room at the Society. This all changed in 1926 with the move to Friends House, opposite Euston Station where the Library is now. Amongst the hidden gems in the collection are the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded in 1947 and the Winchester Whisperer, a clandestine newsletter produced by conscientious objectors in Winchester Prison, written on toilet paper.

Getting ready for conference…..


How time flies it’s nearly SLA annual conference time again, it feels like just a few months ago I was preparing to go to Chicago. Two things last week prompted me to get my conference head on:  the announcement of SLA Europe’s ECCAs and discussions with colleagues about the Fellows and First Timers Meet on 8 June. So I’ve spent the weekend pulling my schedule together, and updating my tips and hints for attendees.  I can’t claim to have thought of all these things myself and I’m still picking up tips each time I go to conference. I’ve listed some helpful references at the end for those who want to read more widely.

Packing: bring comfortable shoes – you will be doing lots of walking around large convention centres and hotels as well as exploring the host city. Bring clothes that allow you to dress in layers – it’ll be hot outside, cool and or cold, in the air conditioned convention centre.

Leads, chargers and batteries – vital if you rely on your smartphone, tablet or laptop for keeping in touch or making notes. Plus don’t forget an adaptor plug if you’re travelling from outside North America.

1081068_business_cardBring plenty of business cards (if you don’t have work cards, or are between jobs, get some printed up) make sure you include your contact information: LinkedIn profile, preferred email address, blog address etc. Give them to anyone you’re introduced to. As soon as you meet someone and get their card, make a note about where you met them and what you talked about on the reverse of their card. It’ll make it easier for you when sending follow up emails when you get home.

Pre-conference networking – use social media to get in contact with other attendees and to plan your schedule. Check and see if your division offers any mentor/buddy system, if they don’t email and ask if you could set up an informal mentoring scheme.

Plan your schedule use the online planner to set up your schedule either online, or in Outlook. Choose all sessions that interest you and don’t feel you have to attend only those that your chosen division(s) run. For each session have a plan B, C and D in case there are no seats left when you get there, or you decide it isn’t what you thought it would be so you walk out early. Plan B, C and D can include visiting exhibition hall, taking a break, getting something to eat or going to another session.

Be aware of session etiquette – it is ok to walk in late or to leave early from a session (so non-North Americans take note this is ok).

Visit exhibit hall – plan to visit several times and take note of how to get the best from vendor interactions from Sara Batts and Liz Blankson-Hemans

Badges and ribbons – you’ll get a name badge when you register which you can either pin on or clip to a lanyard. Whatever Photo Kate SLA conference badge 2012you do make sure your name is easily visible, and if you use a lanyard a good tip is to write your name on the back of your badge as it will inevitably twist around and display the blank side (thank @bethanar for this tip). You’ll find there’s space for ribbons on your name badge, so take advantage of any that apply to you and get them from the Information Booth. If you’re a first-timer make sure you pick a ribbon up, it’ll be a great ice breaker.

Plan your introductions – you’ll be meeting a lot of people and will need a succinct and memorable way to describe yourself and what you do. You’ll be more confident if you’ve prepared your answers to questions such as where you work, what you do and what you’re aiming to get out of conference.

Plan breaks and pace yourself – days are long and busy, from breakfast meetings at 7:30am to parties that go on until after midnight. You need to remember to pace yourself, take a few breaks, even if it’s just a walk around the block.

Have fun – above all else enjoy yourself, immersing yourself in a wonderful bubble atmosphere where you’ll meet some great people, learn a lot and hone your networking skills.

Want to

Over the years many people have shared tips and hints on attending SLA conferences. To list them all would take a lot of space. So here are a few worth looking at: Stephen Abram in 2006; SLA tips on conference success; SLA on using social media to enhance your conference experience. Plus take a look at the blogroll from 2012 conference.

Here are some hints and tips from other conference goers:

Free Range Librarian’s experience of survival tips for ALA conferences.

iLibrarian’s  top 20 tips for surviving library conferences.


2012 in review

2012 has been an incredible year in so many ways from a personal perspective: my mother died; I was made redundant; got a new job; got elected as SLA President-Elect 1013 and supervised a house build in Cornwall. So a busy time for me personally, not to mention all things happening elsewhere in the UK: the Olympics, Queen’s Jubilee and SLA Europe’s 40th anniversary.

Thank you to all those who have supported me during the last year. It’s been gratifying to know there are so many different communities out there to provide me with support, love and encouragement. It’s been an emotional time during which I’ve learnt a lot including:

– when I put my mind to it I can write. As the smattering of blog posts, tweets, tributes and campaign speeches reveal. keep an eye out for more in 2013.

– public speaking virtually isn’t as scary as I thought. Careful preparation and practice can make for successful webinars and Skype presentations and show there really isn’t too much difference to face to face presentations. Except of course what you wear, webinars at midnight can be done in your pyjamas!

– challenges make you stronger, and show you how resourceful you really can be, whether it’s finding a new job or campagning I’ve dealt with an array of challenges.

Finally, stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog and here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

It’s helpful to know the first timers tips for conference was the most popular post, I’ll be working with SLA colleagues to ensure these tips are shared with first timers this year.

Click here to see the complete report.

Challenges and opportunities of working globally

Increasingly we’re all working and thinking more internationally, a recent example of this for me was the UK interest in the recent US elections. I can remember a time when I was considered odd for wanting to sit up all night to watch the results on TV, but then being half American meant I had a personal interest in the result. How things have changed thanks to technology in the form of internet and Twitter.

There are obvious challenges and opportunities that working globally presents from cultural issues to time zone nightmares. I’m speaking, via Skype, to the SLA Silicon Valley chapter later this week about ‘What being international means for SLA and our members’. I covered some of what I’ll be talking about in one of my responses to the board candidates’ questions  posted on SLA’s Blog earlier this summer. I have plenty of personal experience of working globally from my time at BBC, and learnt a lot about different cultures when answering questions from World Service staff. But that was nine years ago so may be dated. To ensure I’m as balanced and inclusive as possible I’d like to hear from others about what they see as the:

  • challenges of working internationally;
  • benefits of working internationally;
  • opportunities of working internationally.

And I’d be interested to hear responses from those working in a global company or being part of a professional association.

Please post responses on this blog, or via Twitter (@katefromuk) or  email (

Reflections on one amazing summer

Just wanted to share a few thoughts on the summer of sport and culture courtesy of the Olympics. First up are some photos of cultural things from this summer, followed by thoughts on what we can learn from sporting achievements this summer.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Paralympic Flame celebrations in Needham Market in late August. In particular I was thrilled to see the themed benches from local artist Amy Louise Nettleton of My Red Studio. I particularly liked the swimmer’s bench and enjoyed watching a couple of people try on the hat and goggles to be photographed doing a ‘Mobot’ gesture.

Swimmers bench by artist at Needham LakeWheelchair tennis artists bench

The wheelchair tennis bench was a really popular item, and it must have taken ages to stick all the tennis balls on to the bench. The effect was wonderful and much appreciated.

And closer to home in London there were a number of art related events at the Royal Festival Hall which I attended in early August. The first was the map of the world built in Lego, complete with mountain ranges! It was an interactive project and you could help to create it yourself, but by the time I got there it was the last day and all that was left to do was blue squares for the ocean.

Lego map of the world

Inside the Royal Festival Hall was a librarian’s nightmare of an art installation: a book maze. It was made of 250,000 books of which 150,000 were donated by Oxfam, the rest came from UK publishers. There was no rhyme or reason for how the books were organised (so no classification, which is why I call it a librarian’s nightmare), but the effect was very dramatic. It was great to see and hear so many children rushing around the maze, and to find one little girl curled up in the middle reading a book. And perhaps best of all braille books were included in the collection – very inclusive.

Those of us working in London had dreaded the commute during the Olympics and Paralympics, but our worst fears never materialised. Quite the reverse actually, as London became a really friendly, happy place. Things I’ll miss most from that time are the sound of children’s laughter on early morning packed commuter trains, the volunteers giving you directions at Waterloo station and the tweets from SW Trains about medal winners mixed in with updates on my local train services.

Finally, having watched and heard about the successes of all the Olympians and Paralympians I think there are some key lessons we can take from their achievements that can easily be applied to our lives.

  • Vision – be clear about what you want to achieve and by when. Many of the athletes taking part had clearly set their vision on attending London 2012, years before the event and been clear on what they had to do to achieve that vision.
  • Teamwork – visions can’t be achieved without the right support and structure – Team GB Paralympians and Olympians shared the same support teams and noted how important they were to achieving their vision, eg the cycling team.
  • Leadership – is required at all levels in order to make a vision reality – this was clearly in evidence at London 2012 from LOCOG leaders (Seb Coe et al) to athletes to the volunteers.

Are you ready for SLA’s Board of Directors 2013 election?

Ballot box imageSummer’s almost over, the Paralympics in London has started so that means September is just around the corner. For SLA that means it’s almost board of directors election time. I’m standing as a candidate for President-Elect and have been busy meeting and conversing with members, as have all the other candidates, since the early summer. We met a lot of people at conference, have all participated in webinars, and between 5-26 September SLA’s membership will vote.

Biographical details – for more information on each of the candidates, see our biogs on SLA’s website.

Candidates’ questions and answers – each candidate has answered five questions on SLA’s main blog. The questions cover the following topics:

  • advice on non-traditional careers;
  • when and why we joined SLA;
  • what our newest techie gadget is;
  • professional and personal benefits of participation in SLA;
  • involving SLA members outside North America.

Webinars –
treasurer candidates recording of questions and answers and cabinet chairs candidates recording of questions and answers (these are large files so may take a while to download).

President-Elect candidates’ podcasts – both Juanita and I have recorded interviews with SLA Europe.

X marks your vote

Don’t forget the election runs 5-26 September. All members eligible to vote (excludes organisational and honorary) will be sent an email with details of how to vote online. So remember to get out and vote early.

Finally, during my candidate process I’ve had people ask me about how to find out about what being on the Board of Directors involves, and how they can follow what’s happening at regular Board meetings. Two-fold response to that: look at the Board pages on SLA’s website, you’ll find details of recent meetings as well as position descriptions for the various roles; and don’t be afraid to contact the Board directly to raise concerns or issues. You elected them and they’re there to serve you and the Association.

SLA 2012 conference debrief


I’ve been back for over a month now, and have been slow in writing this post. I’ve been spurred on to get this done having read others accounts, which SLA helpfully pulled together. Here are my reflections on my 9th SLA conference.

‘Vote early, vote often’ – the candidate experience

We were after all in Chicago so the phrase  ‘vote early,  vote often‘  was used several times each day. As a candidate, I’m standing for SLA’s Board of Directors for the position of President-Elect; conference is a great opportunity to meet members and to get an idea of their concerns and issues, as well as answering questions about what I’d do if elected. I attended lots of open houses and receptions and met many interesting people. The one night that stands out, was Monday as it proved to be a logistical nightmare with three receptions, in different places in Chicago, to attend in a couple of hours. But the up side of this was that I got to go to two receptions I’ve always wanted to attend but not been able to: the Canadian and American West chapters. Both lived up to expectations, underlining conference’s fabulous networking opportunities. I enjoyed them so much I’ll be sure to try and attend again in future years.

The conference attendee’s experience

I found Ian Wooler’s post on how to use knowledge management techniques of learning before, whilst and after, to improve your conference experience very helpful. Here are my takes on:

‘Learning before doing (pre-conference)’

I was attending conference with the following aims: as a candidate for President-Elect, to meet and greet voters, to understand their concerns and issues, and to tell them about myself. So I was aiming to attend all receptions, open houses and as many sessions as possible to speak with members.

As a delegate I wanted to ensure I got an idea of the key trends and concerns in the industry and ideas on innovations I could take back to the office. I was aiming to attend at least one session a day that covered a broad theme.

‘Learning whilst doing (at the conference)’

I kept notes online (using Evernote) and in my notebook of the trends and observations I picked up from sessions and networking events I attended and here’s a list of the key ones:

  • ‘unconference’ events, in particular the impromptu one led by Lee Ann Benkert, gave a new perspective on session format and seemed to fill a gap in terms of providing a way for people to mix and interact that was missing from formal sessions. Lee Ann’s session was also a great opportunity to seamlessly include vendors and delegates together.
  • Global or international perspectives – for the first time in 10 years I really noticed a desire from attendees to hear more case studies and speakers from outside North America.
  • More collaboration between divisions with more co-sponsored sessions that provided an opportunity to approach subjects from a more holistic perspective.
  • Demonstrating or measuring impact and value – this was a common theme in sessions and during networking sessions and it resonated with everyone regardless of their tenure in the profession. It felt like it really was the emerging issue for us all.

‘Learning after doing (post conference)’

My key aims for attending: to meet and greet members as a candidate, and as a practitioner to understand key trends were both achieved. In terms of follow up I’ve completed this blog post, and attended Scott Brown’s excellent post conference webinar on how to usefully follow up the conference experience (one of his suggestions is cited below). I have kept abreast and commented on various blog posts and kept an eye on #SLAChicago on Twitter. Finally, I realise there are a few things to add to my post about preparing for conference:

– remember to write your name on the back of your name badge at the start of conference, then if your lanyard moves around people can still see who you are (thanks to Bethan Ruddock);

– keep your pocket planner, refer to it and the online planner in the weeks after conference to catch up on the sessions you missed and to look for trends when you do an overview of conference (thanks to Scott Brown for this tip);

– take more business cards than you think you’ll need, they’re your best bet for making and keeping in contact with all the great people you’ll meet. Don’t forget to write a few words on the reverse of the card you receive to remind you of where and when you meet the person. This will prove invaluable for jogging your memory on your return home.