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.


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 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 19: Learning a new skill is …

    27898481016_2c2198e46f_mI know it sounds improbable but I’ve been taking a ‘ballet for grown ups’ class since September last year. Needless to say I don’t look anything like this picture, but you get the idea.

    The experience has been trying & fun in equal amounts. Lots of laughter needless to say. Suffice to say I am not a natural dancer, something to do with lack of coordination & balance. But I’ve enjoyed the classes. There’s a mix of people attending, & after an hour of warm up & learning the next steps in our dance I am tired. I’ve discovered muscles I didn’t know existed.

    Learning a new skill is an interesting process. You become more attuned to how you you learn, & to style of teaching your tutor adopts. Of course learning for an hour a week, particularly when practice outside the class is minimal, makes for slow progress. I’ve mastered the basic five positions of ballet (feet and arms), but find learning dances difficult. It takes time & lots of repetition to get the choreography right.

    So learning ballet is a bit like writing blog posts: it takes lots of practice and hard work.


    #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 15: Half way through BlogJune

    I’m half way through BlogJune (for more information on this see my previous post), a little behind in my postings, as this is day 18 and I’m ploughing through a backlog of posts for the last few days. I’ll get there in the end I know.

    I’ve enjoyed this week’s blogging, organising my thoughts and committing them to paper and online. I’ve also had time to look at others blogs, which is one of the aims of the event.

    I’ve been looking at site statistics and found that the most popular referrer is Twitter, followed by Linked-In. Unsurprisingly, the readers mostly come from the UK, but are followed by Australia and the USA.

    The most popular posts, are largely related to skills and do have snappy titles, so maybe that’s why they’ve proved popular:

    organising time (using bullet journals) 

    taking part in #blogjune

    chairing meetings 

    networking tips 

    I’m wondering if this will change over the next 12 days.

    I’ve got lots more to cover in the next few weeks: volunteering, outreach in the workplace, fellowships, review of conference formats across the world. So do keep reading.


    #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.





    How to survive virtual meetings

    Tin can phone from www.ccPixs.com

    Following on from yesterday’s post, about the art of chairing meetings, I’ve moved on to virtual meetings today. Over the last 5 years I’ve been in countless virtual meetings, as 2014 President of an international professional association, Special Libraries Association (SLA), I chaired over 15 such meetings and participated in another 20 meetings. I like to think I’ve got a good idea of what works for chairing and participating in virtual meetings. I’m this year’s CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) President (I like being President of professional associations, but that’s another story and content for a later post) and am keen that CILIP starts to hold more  virtual Board and committee meetings. So with that in mind here are my tips for successful virtual meetings.

    • It’ll feel odd for the first few virtual meetings, but it does get easier; practice is the key to success;
    • Be prepared for technology to be a problem, so have a back up plan;
    • If unfamiliar with these calls do a practice run, particularly important for webinars or meetings with 20+ participants;
    • Preparation is key: make sure papers are sent out well in advance and everyone has a chance to read them. Make sure the agenda is clear about action and decisions;
    • Ground rules for the meeting are clearly understood. If necessary clarify these in advance of the meeting. It can be useful to ensure everyone calls in 5 minutes before the start time;
    • Just as with in person meetings make sure to allocate people to support logistics of the meeting eg monitor chat box, take notes and manage display of slides;
    • Get everyone to introduce themselves and then to mute until they have something to say. There’s nothing worse than feedback and background noise to disrupt a meeting;
    • If you’re chair make sure to have a list of participants so you can tick off speakers and check in on those who have been silent;
    • As chair it’s also good to remember to summarise discussion and decisions made before moving on to another item;
    • As chair get in the habit of silently counting to 10 in your head when asking for feedback or comments, this helps to overcome the fact you can’t see the participants;
    • It’s ok for people in the same office to join from their desk, rather than in person all in a room, around a speaker phone. This ensures parity amongst all users;
    • Remember to get in the habit of saying your name before speaking ‘this is Kate & my point is ..’;
    • Be conscious of timings for calls – thankfully in the UK this isn’t as much of a problem as we have one time zone. If you’re involved in any international teleconference calls you do need to think about the time of day for all participants.
    • Avoid multi-tasking, particularly email, while attending the meeting, this is especially important if 4318854698_7d8df10ff4_myou forget to mute yourself.

    That last one is very important, avoid any multi-tasking, particularly email – that’s my best piece of advice.

    I’d be curious to hear from others about their experience of well run virtual meetings.

    Other sources of good advice
    Life Hack tips for having great virtual meetings

    8 tips on running great meetings from Huffington Post

    CIO.com advice on running virtual meeting














    The gentle art of chairing a meeting

    To attend a well led meeting is a joy. You feel you’ve used your time well, learnt something, contributed & been listened to. This is particularly true if you have a masterful chair.

    I was struck by this thought at lunchtime today having attended meetings last night (a hustings for my local parliamentary constituency) & this morning (a ‘town hall’ meeting at work). The contrast between the two meetings was stark: the work one was excellent, the hustings a mess. I began thinking about why this was. My conclusion: the work meeting had a very competent chair, while the hustings had a weak chair.

    A chair is in charge of the meeting; takes control of the proceedings; is supported in managing the meeting; facilitates discussions & input from everyone in the room. Senses when things aren’t going well & sets the meeting back on course. Plus of course makes sure things are running on time, & if not, sorts out if over running the meeting is an option.

    This isn’t an easy task. It requires practice & self-awareness. It helps too, to have the opportunity to observe excellent & poor chairs in action to learn from them. I’ve adopted that technique & believe my chairing has improved, thanks to putting into practice techniques I’ve observed.

    If you want to improve your chairing skills make sure to observe others in action & reflect on their behaviour. I do wish the chair of the hustings last night had followed that advice.