#blogjune: post 24: Lightbulb moments at YLG/SLA conference


I have arrived in Harrogate to attend CILIP Youth Libraries Group (YLG) and School Libraries Association conference entitled  Lightbulb Moments: Powered by Librarians (#SLAYLG17).

I’m excited to be attending a conference in a sector I don’t have experience of. I’m aiming to learn a lot, talk to CILIP members and network.

I’ve got a couple of fascinating sessions this afternoon: on stealth librarian – encouraging young people to read – and planning for learning – how to tie library collections & management into the curriculum.

#blogjune: post 17: Effective awards that keep on giving ….

Everyone loves an awards ceremony. The recognition, kudos & lift you get as a winner is unbelievable. I loved watching the tweets from the Special Libraries Association (SLA) conference in Phoenix (#sla2017) over the weekend. SLA conferences open with an awards ceremony & there’s a lot of razzle dazzle as befits an American conference.

As chair of this year’s SLA awards committee I am thrilled that we had so many  nominees to choose from. I’m also pleased to have been able to make some – much needed – I believe, alterations to the awards process. Firstly, we re-jigged the timing, so nominations closed in mid-January, allowing people longer to collate nominations. Secondly, all the winners were told who had nominated them. This was a really important change I wanted to implement. Prior to this year, winners weren’t routinely told who had nominated them. That means those who nominated often went unnoticed. As both a former award winner, & someone who had coordinated several nominations, I know how nice it is to be able to thank people, & to the thanked. I’m hoping both of these changes will become
regular practice.

One of this year’s award winner’s, is Rising Star Marie Cannon (@mariegcannon), who just happens to also be President of my home chapter, SLA Europe. Congratulations Marie; you’re a star.

Marie won an SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) in 2012, which was co-sponsored by the Legal division. These particular ECCA’s are known in the Legal division as Paddington’s, thanks to @Librarysherpa.

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I can still remember the discussion in New Orleans in 2010, with Martha Foot & John DiGilio, Legal division past chair and chair elect, which resulted in the Legal division joining the units co-sponsoring ECCA places.

The SLA Europe ECCA programme was set up in 2007, based on a suggestion by Sylvia James and Barbara Robinson. Its aim is to raise awareness and encourage participation in SLA by those in the early stages of their career. Offering winners the chance to network and learn, while developing a pool of members to run SLA Europe in the future. The prize is an all expenses paid trip to the SLA conference in the US, and the chance for winners to participate in the conference and get the SLA bug. SLA Europe worked with several divisions to co-sponsor the awards. Since 2007 SLA Europe has worked with the following divisions: business and finance; insurance and employee benefits; academic; legal; science technology; pharmaceutical and health technology; leadership and management and competitive intelligence. Eleven years on 34 people have won the awards and the majority have become active with SLA, taking on unit positions and in Bethan Ruddock’s case being elected to the Board of Directors.

Now that sounds like a very successful awards scheme delivering on its aims. Long may it continue.


#blogjune: post 16: Career transitions: advice and support

Throughout my 32 year career I’ve worked in several sectors: media, health, government, health, charity and academic. I’ve always seen the power of my transferable skills. We’re very similar to doctors, as we possess basic skills, which we supplement with more specialist skills and knowledge as we develop our careers.

I think this tweet beautifully captures our basic skills, thanks @infoFaerie.

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We then build on these skills and develop an understanding of our patrons/users/customers (choose your preferred term) needs and adapt our services and practice accordingly. Often developing our practice and career means moving sectors and I was excited to hear about Davis Erin Anderson and Ray Pun’s book: Career IMG_0504Transition for Librarians: Proven strategies for moving to another type of library.

This is a great book of interviews and essays from information professions in a variety sectors who have made the transition from one sector to another. It covers most of the sectors you can imagine, for example, specialist to academic and vice versa; specialist to public and vice versa; school media to academic/vendor services and more.

I like the mix of formats for the chapters: some are question and answer interviews; others reflections on careers with tips and advice lists; some are in-depth journeys from newbies or mid-career people, outlining all their moves and how they accomplished them. There’s advice there for every stage of a career and most sectors.

The recurring themes that resonated with me most were:

  • know your organisation: learn how to find out how your organisation ticks and how you can utilise this institutional knowledge to improve your services;
  • moving jobs gives you a good idea of what work environments suit you best;
  • identify your strengths and skills and figure out how to reuse them in a job, either by creating a role for yourself, or broadening the scope of what you do;
  • be flexible and take up chances to learn new skills;
  • get involved in professional associations, for contacts when your unemployed, or job hunting, and for mentoring opportunities and support;
  • patience is very important in job seeking process; it will take longer than you expect.

My main criticism is the North American focus, there are a few non-North American contributions, but I would have liked to have seen more as there are undoubtedly some cultural subtleties missing. This though, is a very minor criticism of an excellent book; a must read for anyone who is looking at making a move from one sector to another, or just reviewing their career.


#blogjune: post 14: Mind the gap: transferable skills & moving sectors

On 14th June I spoke at the CILIP London network’s AGM. I was asked to talk about something personal. As one of my themes this year is transferable skills. I opted to share my story, highlighting my use of transferable skills and tips on moving sectors. I entitled the session: Mind the gap: reflection on transferable skills and moving sectors.

The event took place at CILIP’s Ridgmount Street office in the early evening of a really sunny day, so attendance was slightly lower than expected, with about 15 people. We had a good cross section of attendees representing all career stages, a variety of different sectors, with most people having moved between at least two sectors. This made for an informal session which meant we had a great discussion after my talk about barriers to moving sectors (are we, information professionals, the main barrier?) the benefits of highlighting transferable skills, and tips and advice on how to get the best out of the interview process (it’s a two way process).

Thanks to those – you know who you are – who took part in my survey of transferable skills and advice on moving sectors. The three most transferable skills identified by my survey are:
Flexibility – be prepared to take on new roles and activities;
Curiosity and an aptitude to learn – you don’t have to be an expert on everything, just  use your information skills to ask the right questions and find an answer.
Organisational culture and influencing skills – it’s important to understand how your organisation operates and how best to influence key people.

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Advice on moving sectors included:

  • importance of using plain English in your applications and at interview. Make sure to practice describing what you do in language that resonates with those in other sectors;
  • don’t restrict your examples of activities to just work experience. Remember to include volunteer experience too; often you may have done something more challenging and impactful as a volunteer;
  • use your network for advice on how to learn about a new sector; what to include on applications and what to say at interview;
  • always ask for feedback after an interview, or if you don’t get shortlisted but expected to. You will always learn something that will help you with developing skills or improving your interview performance;

Finally, persevere. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. We all have had to make many applications before getting the right job.





#blogjune post 9: ‘Apologies for cross-posting’ is a distant memory …

Do you want to know the secret of losing ‘Apologies for cross-posting’ from your life? It’s quite simple, you need to diversify your personal learning networks and ditch relying on mailing lists. Last year I was on a LIKE panel discussing experiences of personal learning networks. I thought I’d provide a reprise of what I covered and add in some reflections of what I’ve noted since then.

How did I come to personal learning networks and why?

I have always been a keen networker, and in analogue days a lot of my personal learning network took place on the phone, or face to face at AUKML (Association of UK Media Librarians) meetings and other conferences. That learning involved sharing stories and best practice, making connections, helping with problem solving. It was very much a give and take experience.

In the last 20 years I’ve moved from analogue to a personal learning network (PLN) using technology to share best practice; discuss and debate issues; make connections; keep in touch with issues across the profession; and to learn. But I do still appreciate the opportunities that attending face to face meetings enables. I often find the best way to develop relationships post conference is through social media.

I’ve used social media (Twitter, LinkedIn etc), email lists, internet and my network for work, for study and in the periods when I’ve been unemployed. At all times my PLN has been a source of great support and advice,

You have to be disciplined, and not constantly keep looking at social media. It’s best to schedule time, and stick to it, when you know you can fit in looking through social media. I’ve found it helpful to schedule time on the way to and from work and for short bursts at lunchtime. I tend to read and respond to tweets during this time.

My personal learning network has given me:

  • the chance to get perspectives on issues and challenges from a variety of sectors. It has also made me realise that solutions from one sector can be adapted and used in another; thus reducing the number of times I’ve had to re-invent the wheel;
  • speedy access to a range of people to help me with improving my professional practice e.g. in 1999 my SLA News division contacts facilitated visits to the then libraries at NY Times, Time magazine and ABC News, which provided valuable insight into the use of online services which I took back to the BBC;
  • a diverse and constantly on tap current awareness service – putting listservs into obscurity – to keep me up to date on professional issues.

Two pieces of advice I’d give to somebody new to this?

a. Join Twitter, if you haven’t already and check out various chats: #UKlibchat; #UKmedlibs; #llrg; #interlibnet; #critlib; #slatalk; and follow people in your sector.

b. Schedule time to indulge in virtual networking, and drop some other things to fit in it. Bear in mind it will take time to develop links and network.

Reflections ..

During the panel discussions I realised I’d pretty much given up on LinkedIn, either as a source of information, or place to interact. I kept my profile up to date but didn’t regularly use the website. My views on this changed when I updated my profile following a new job on LinkedIn and Twitter. I was immediately inundated by notifications on Twitter, as I’d hoped and expected. I didn’t expect much from LinkedIn, but over a 3 week period I had messages from nearly 50 people. Proof that there is still life left in LinkedIn, and that there is value in re-connecting you to people.

I do now regularly look at LinkedIn for updates on people and as mechanism for ensuring I’m keeping up to date on issues in the sector. I find I get a good balance of learning from using Twitter and LinkedIn, plus of course attending networking events and conferences.



#blogjune post 6: ‘You get out of a conference as much as you put in’

I’m in Scotland at CILIP(S) conference (#CILIPS17). It’s day two so lots more sessions lined up: copyright; Macmillan Cancer Support in libraries case study, and fake news/alternative facts.

My mind is already buzzing with lots of ideas & thoughts: building digital capacity for changing roles; opportunities to do innovative UX activities; trying out incremental changes to refine and improve services.

I’ve been using my networking tips to reconnect with people & to make new contacts. I’m impressed with how vibrant the library profession is in Scotland. A good mix of attendees from a variety of sectors. Impressively there seems to be quite a few people moving from public libraries into academic sector. That’s wonderful news as it highlights how transferable our skills.

I’m now planning for post conference activities; these are equally as important as pre-conference preparation.

My next steps are:

  • writing up notes of the conference and sharing as a post;
  • considering what things to try out at work & discussing with colleagues;
  • following up with everyone I spoke with, via email, social media & Linked-in.

Does anyone have any other advice on getting the best from conferences?