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 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 7 – Face to Face Networking revisited

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Rather than rehashing old ground I covered in 2011 I want to concentrate on three organisations in particular.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

I have been a CILIP member for 19 years and have been a Chartered member for 10 years.  Last year I talked about how much I had got out of being a committee member of the sub-group Career Development Group.   Sadly I am now beginning to question the value of membership and if I should renew for 2013.

My employer pays for one professional membership each for professional staff, in my case they pay for my membership of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians as membership of this association is considered vital for my role. This means I have to pay CILIP membership fees out of my own pocket and it’s not cheap, leading me to consider why I remain in membership.

Number one reason to stay a member is to retain my chartered status. If I want to move to a new organisation this might become very important.  However my current employers are more interested in my ability to do the job rather than my CILIP qualifications and I’m not looking for a new job at the moment (fingers crossed it stays that way).

Of course I now hear you all shout that merely being chartered isn’t enough and that I should be revalidating.  True, enough time has elapsed for me to have completed a couple of cycles of revalidation, and I have had a couple of half-hearted attempts at putting a portfolio together but am suffering from a lack of motivation along with a lack of willingness to give up too much of my weekend to revalidation.  I do lots of CPD and keep up to date anyway, I just haven’t formalised it with CILIP, I don’t feel my career has suffered in any way from this so far.

I am registered as a chartership mentor but don’t currently have any mentees so no longer feel compelled to stay in membership so as not to let them down.

And most importantly I no longer feel that I am getting much out of my membership.  There are few events on in Scotland, and most of them aren’t relevant enough to me to warrant taking time off work and paying for the course myself, and certainly not relevant enough that my employer would pay.  I do flick through Update every month but rarely actually read that much of it.  It’s great for maintaining awareness of the library world in general but I can do that for free via blogs and twitter.

I feel very conflicted about the possibility of leaving the main organisation for my profession, I have another 6 months to decide and make sure I make the correct decision.

Scottish Law Librarians Group (SLLG)

I’ve been a member of the SLLG since 1998 and I recently decided that now is the time to give something back to the Group so I answered a call for new committee members.  It’s a small committee so although I only joined officially on 1st May I’ve already been put to work!

I am SLLG editor for the On Firmer Ground blog, I haven’t written a post myself yet but I have added a post on behalf of another SLLG member. I’ve found being involved with On Firmer Ground has rekindled my interest in professional blogging and got me posting on this blog again.

SLLG is a very sociable organisation and the first “event” I organised was a fun one.  We had an interesting visit to the library at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery followed by a delicious meal in a nearby restaurant.

At the last committee meeting a couple of days ago I somehow ended up agreeing to take over as secretary to cover maternity leave.  Better get those minutes typed up …..

It’s an exciting time for SLLG with a new website coming soon, I think I am really going to enjoy being more involved.

Special Libraries Association (SLA)

I am not a member of the SLA but I am seriously considering  joining as it looks like an organisation that I might get a lot of value from.   A twitter and LinkedIn contact has kindly lent me her copy of the SLA journal and done me some screen shots of the members’ area of the website so I can get a clearer idea of the benefits of membership.  I think I’ll give it a go and see if SLA can provide what I am missing from CILIP, there’s nothing to lose (except a year’s memebership fee!) and there may be lots to gain.

My concluding thoughts for thing 7 are that whichever organisation or organisations you decide to join get involved, don’t just be a passive member and you’ll get so much more out of your membership.  And please don’t be put off by my current negative stance on CILIP, if you work in a more mainstream sector you will no doubt find it much more useful than I do.

CPD23 2011 Thing 7 – Face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I had a lot to say about face to face networking in 2011!

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Professional networking is one of the best things about being a librarian, there are so many opportunities for it and the profession is full of friendly, helpful people.

I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) and the Scottish Law Librarians Group (SLLG) and each fulfils a different professional need.

I joined CILIP way back in 1993 whilst still at library school and have stayed in membership ever since, chartering in 2002. In my experience CILIP is an organisation where what you get out of it is strongly related to the effort that you put into your membership.

In my time I have been an active member of the subgroup the Career Development Group, serving as both secretary and chair of the Scottish Division and honorary secretary for the Group. At the time I took on these posts I was in a fairly unchallenging job with spare time and energy to give and an eagerness to learn new skills. The confidence I gained from going to London to attend meetings was worth every ounce of effort I put into organising these meetings and the worry about hotel bookings and lunch orders! Even more important has been the people I served with on these committees, working in a commercial law firm library is a niche job, whereas the Career Development Group has members from every sector giving me a whole new set of professional contacts around the country. And not to forget the pre-meeting nights in the bar of the Tavistock Hotel which were always great fun!

I am less actively involved with the Career Development Group these days but I have also been on two international study tours with them, to Granada in Spain and to Malta so now I have international contacts as well and great holiday memories (it wasn’t all work!)

And just 2 weekends ago I joined the Career Development Group North East Division for a sponsored walk on the Northumberland coast

My active involvement in CILIP continues through the mentoring programme, I am currently a mentor for one chartership candidate. And I really must make an effort to submit my application for revalidation (yes, I have promised this before).

I have been a member of BIALL on and off for a number of years, my membership being dependent on the job I was in at the time. Unfortunately due to the recession and cutbacks to the training budget I haven’t been able to attend a BIALL annual conference since 2008. However membership is still valuable for access to the journal Legal Information Management, the BIALL blog and the email list and wiki. Even if I can’t network in person with the other members I still have access to support and expertise at a distance.

For me SLLG is all about the members, it is about having a support network to call on locally. Many of the SLLG members are solo librarians or work in very small teams, SLLG is invaluable to combat feelings of isolation, to bounce ideas off fellow professionals and as a pool of expertise. SLLG also organises low-cost courses that are targeted specifically at our needs and some SLLG events such as the annual speed networking meeting and the trip to the Edinburgh International Book Festival are great fun.

KM network
Very recently I started attending some networking sessions for KM professionals which run every couple of months in Edinburgh. Attendees are a mixture of lawyers, IT people, consultants, librarians and KM specialists and each meeting has a defined topic for discussion. I have only attended two sessions but so far both have been interesting topics which though not pure librarianship are related to my area of work. I think it will be very useful to network with a wider selection of people working in the legal information field. And the wine and nibbles at these events are the best I have ever come across!

Informal networking
With all these formal opportunities to network it is inevitable that friendships are formed (in fact a lot of my friends are librarians!) and in particular there are four of us working in law libraries who communicate very regularly with each other providing invaluable support to each other. And networking can happen anywhere, anytime; just this morning I was chatting to an old friend at the bus stop and discovered that she has a new job in a law firm know how team. After congratulating her it was natural to me to remind her to get in touch for help at any time if she needs it.

My advice to anyone new to the profession is to try out the professional networks available to them to find which suit their needs. Don’t be shy, librarians are usually friendly and helpful by nature and will welcome you. Join in, what you get out of your membership is often related to what you put in.