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.

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 21.47.07

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 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.

     

    #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.

    Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 18.43.41

    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.

    Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 11.00.44

    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.