Library Camping Again

The last conference I attended (the Ark Group Managing Your Law Firm Library) was seriously disappointing so could a free unconference event beat it in terms of learning opportunities?

Having been at Library Camp Glasgow last year I had a good idea what to expect, I decided not to pitch a session but was fully prepared to join in the discussion in the sessions I attended.

As I expected when I decided not to pitch a session none of the sessions were directly relevant to working in a corporate library so I chose which sessions to attend based on personal interest. Up first I went to to the session on CILIP Professional Registration, although I’ve been chartered for many years I am involved in the mentoring scheme for new candidates so I felt I had valid opinions and thoughts to add to the discussion and things to learn. The main thing I took away from this was that support for chartership is devolved to the home nations, as a mentor I probably should have known this before. My main contribution was probably to reiterate to CILIP that communication over the new professional registration rules has been poor and still needs to improve and the issues with the VLE such as training only in video form remain. Amongst other things we also discussed why we charter and is it still relevant today, there was a consensus that it’s useful to give structure to our CPD and to prove to current and future employers that we are keeping our skills up to date. Upcoming obligatory revalidation got the thumbs up from everyone.

For my second session I went to Martin Wade’s session on internet privacy and libraries. A really interesting discussion starting from IFLA’s current work to create a privacy statement for library associations to sign up to. The focus of this discussion seemed to be on public libraries, also touching on school libraries. However the main points that I took from the discussion are that digital literacy (or lack of) is a big issue and that libraries need to strike a balance between ethics and legislation to remain our trusted spaces; these issues are also relevant in corporate libraries. We do some work on digital literacy in our research training, there is possibly a gap for us to work with the IT team to do more in this area.

Lunch was a good chance to catch up with some people I don’t see often enough and to take a wee wander around the Mitchell Library picking up a leaflet about their services for businesses as well.

My first afternoon session was “Do you practice what you preach?” The concept of this session was that we teach the users of our services good practice but do we follow these practices ourselves? I know that I am OK at recording my CPD on the CILIP VLE but this session made me think about reflective practice. Do I do enough reflective practice? Probably not, when caught up in a busy day it’s easy to forget and hard to spare the time. Also just reflective practice on its own isn’t enough, how do I turn reflective practice into action to make changes? Something I need to reflect on I think 😉 In this session we also talked about keeping a personal bibliography. I already note all the books I read using Goodreads and I use Evernote to keep blogs and online articles I might want to refer back to but as I don’t do any scholarly research or writing there’s probably no need for me to keep a “proper” bibliography. I do intend to investigate some of the software used for this though.

My last choice of session was 23 Librarians Live – based on the 23 Librarians blog – a chat about our skills and where else other than traditional library jobs we might use them. This was a really interesting chat which I won’t give detail of as participants career journeys are not mine to share. The main conclusion was that librarians have lots of skills that are transferable to other jobs or to use in expanding what we currently do, often in unexpected ways.  A key tip was to concentrate on skills and not job titles.

Overall it was a worthwhile and interesting day. There were times it was frustrating to get bogged down in one person’s job or one sector and not to be able to look to the whole profession; if ever there was a time for librarians and libraries to work together for the good of the profession it is now when there are so many threats against us. There is also a lot we can can learn from sector to sector if we are willing to be open, perhaps because law firm librarianship in Scotland is so niche this is something I do anyway through necessity. Thanks to the participants who did share so much in terms of experiences and hints and tips, I hope I might also have said something useful to other people at Library Camp!

So did library camp beat the expensive law firm library conference? Yes, in terms of the inspiration and motivation I got from the day, I have lots to think about and ideas to take forward for my personal development. The law firm library conference probably wins on directly relevant work stuff but I enjoyed library camp much more.

Thanks to the organisers for your hard work in making a good day and to the sponsors, those chocolate muffins were yummy.


Library Camp Glasgow

Who’d have believed spending a Saturday in the Mitchell Library talking about libraries could be so much fun? I certainly wondered why I was up so early on a weekend day as I headed to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow for my first library camp.

So what is library camp? Well there are no tents involved so if someone could enlighten me where the name comes from I would be grateful! Library camp is an unconference, there are few rules, and the participants decide what they are going to discuss. Most sessions were pitched on the camp wiki beforehand and one brave person pitched a further session on the day.  The pitched sessions were organised into a rough timetable for the day so participants could choose which they wanted to attend, and as there are no rules it’s possible to move from one session to another.

Before we got going on the serious discussions there was some fun stuff – library bingo to encourage us to circulate and meet new people, and a competition for the best 60 second rant!

My main reason for going to library camp was to investigate the unconference format to see if might be suitable to use for events for another library organisation. I knew I was likely to be the only corporate librarian there so wondered how relevant the discussions would be to me, as it turned out there was one session of direct relevance to my job.

I elected not to take part in any of the discussions in the first session of the morning and instead went on a tour of the Mitchell Library led by the lovely Myra who works there. The Mitchell has certainly changed since the last time I was in it about 15 years ago, so much brighter and more welcoming I hardly recognised it as the library I used to dread visiting to dig through old volumes of Hansard.  Very interesting tour, I think I might book on another tour in the hope I get to see in the stacks next time.

The first session I took part in was the discussion about business information. The leaders of this discussion and the other participants were mainly interested in business information from a provider’s point of view but as a consumer/user of this sort of information it was very useful to be part of this discussion. It is definitely a growing area of work for law firm librarians so any efforts to improve the access to this expensive type of information will be very welcome. It was also useful to meet those involved in working with business information. I even joined Glasgow City Libraries so that I can investigate the services of Business @the Mitchell the next time I work in the Glasgow office.

Next up lunch and a chance to meet more people and chat over some rather tasty sandwiches (and soup).

The afternoon sessions I chose were for personal interest rather than for direct relevance to my job.  First the session on attracting young people to library work to correct the problem of the ageing demographic of library staff. It was interesting to hear how various organisations are dealing with this problem and some innovative ideas that are being talked about. However the discussion soon widened to the problems of graduates, short term contracts, low pay and general lack of professional jobs.  I am not sure we reached any conclusions that can easily fix all these problems.  My last session of the day was on e-content in public libraries.  As the owner of a Kindle I haven’t been using the public libraries recently so I was interested to hear if improvements in e-book provision might change this.  Certainly the developments in some libraries look impressive and whilst they’ve not reached Edinburgh yet as soon as I get chance I will investigate their e-content offerings.  I like the idea of listening to an audio book on my bus journey to work and browsing magazines via my phone.

So did I enjoy my first library camp? Yes, I did.  I met and talked to interesting people who are passionate about the libraries they work in (and libraries in general), and it was refreshing to widen my horizons beyond law firm libraries. If you are willing and able to be open and share and to take part in the discussions library camp is fun and energising and I recommend people to give it a go.

Oh and today I am very much enjoying the jelly beans I found in my goodie bag!

CPD23 2012 Thing 16 – Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

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Advocacy for public libraries is not something I have been involved with. Firstly because the threats to public libraries aren’t quite so terrible in Scotland as they are elsewhere in the UK and secondly because I work in the corporate sector.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about public libraries, I believe that they still have an important role to play in society. However I admit to being one of the many people who has drifted away from using the library regularly. As a child I visited weekly and pretty much read my way through the entire junior library! As a student I registered at the local library in wherever I was living at the time and carried on using the library regularly. Until I moved house a year ago I continued to visit the library every couple of months, my use being solely to borrow novels.  However since I bought a Kindle I haven’t been back in the public library, it’s so much easier just to download what I want to read.  Therefore how do I advocate for a service I no longer use either personally or professionally?

I am under no illusions that corporate libraries are also under threat for several reasons. Of course there is the recession, with less money to spend the library is often an easy target for spending cuts.  Then in law firm libraries there are threats from outsourcing of support services, increased use of online services and law firm mergers. The energy and spare time that I have for advocacy has to be spent on working to ensure a future for the library I work in.

CPD23 2012 Thing 15 – Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events

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Since the start of the recession in 2008 it’s been much harder to get funding from the training budget to attend conferences or training as what budget there is must be spent on business essential training which often means expensive legal training for the lawyers, this means there’s not much left for the rest of us to share.

But it’s still possible to get to events by being creative.  I applied for a bursary from the Scottish Law Librarians Group to pay the conference fee for a Career Development Group conference and work were happy to pay the travel costs so I was able to attend. Many professional organisations offer bursaries so look around and don’t be afraid to apply, you might just be successful.

An ex-colleague managed to get free attendance at a couple of conferences by running a workshop session at the conference. If you’re confident enough to do this it’s a great way of getting to conferences and has the added benefit of raising your profile within the profession.

Organising conferences and events can seem really daunting so start small!  I recently organised a visit to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery library with dinner afterwards for the Scottish Law Librarians Group, easy to organise and enjoyed by the attendees! Obviously organising a full scale conference is an awful lot more hard work than just a library visit, but joining up with a professional group and helping them with their events programme is a good way to start.  I’m not sure what events we’re planning next at the SLLG but I am sure our convenor will make sure I have plenty of tasks to do to help make it a success!

And I’ve also been lucky enough to be invited to attend two conferences organised by publishers we have accounts with for no cost. I was unable to attend the PLC conference earlier this year but a colleague was able to attend so we didn’t lose the free place. However I am able to attend the LexisNexis KM conference at the end of this month and by combining attendance with a long overdue day working in our London office it makes it cost effective for my employers to pay the necessary travel and hotel costs. The cost to me of the conference? Accompanying my account manager to the drinks afterwards and hearing about his holidays!

CPD23 2011 Thing 12 – Putting the social into social media

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Here’s what I had to say about thing 12 in 2011 – 

I love social networking and as I wrote a little excessively on it for Thing 6 I may already have addressed some of the questions posed in Thing 12 but I do have a few further thoughts prompted by these questions –

  • are there any other advantages to social networking in the context of professional development than those already outlined above?
    – I find social networking to be a great way to network for those that are a bit shy. On the internet no one sees that you are blushing, no one can hear you stutter or has to shake your sweaty hand.
  • can you think of any disadvantages?
    – There are all the usual concerns that you find on the internet such as “who am I really talking to?”. With professional use I still try to exercise some caution over who I connect with and how much information I give out about who I am and where I work.
    – Networking online is not enough, if possible we must still get out there and meet with others face to face as well
  • has CPD23 helped you to make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally?
    A little, I have found a few new blogs to follow but I haven’t yet made much effort to get to know their writers
  • did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?
    – Y
    es and yes!

Social media really needs the social to make it work. I feel that if someone never updates their Facebook page or never tweets and never interacts with their friends or followers their presence on Facebook or twitter almost becomes stalking. I have unfollowed/unfriended some such people as I get nothing back from them. For social media to work the social part is the key, not the network or website.

What will I do next? Well at last I have access to Google+, I am a bit wary of it but as soon as I can I will take a proper look at it and decide if I want to be part of it or not.

CPD23 2012 Thing 11 – Mentoring

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At the moment I am not involved in professional mentoring at all, my final CILIP mentee chartered recently and I’m not intending to take on any more candidates until I resolve whether to remain in CILIP membership or not.

I mentioned last year that I’ve never had a formal librarianship mentor and this remains the case.  I read someone else’s (sorry I didn’t note down who) post on Thing 11 recently suggesting that those of us further into our careers don’t really need a mentor and pondering on this I am happy to carry on without a mentor but with the excellent support given by the Scottish Law Librarians Group.

If I were to change careers (I’m not planning to) I would definitely seek out a mentor. My lovely friends are kind enough to act as mentors when I hit obstacles in my personal life so maybe I’m not too old for a mentor after all.