An anniversary announcement

Last month, June 2015, was my 20th anniversary of working in law libraries. In June 1995 I started my first post library school job working in the library at the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, from there I quickly moved on to the Faculty of Advocates to be a reader services library assistant. Since 1998 I’ve been in a variety of roles in two law firms, I’ve been at my current firm for nearly 12 years.

I don’t intend to blog on how things have changed in the last 20 years, others have already done this (see the posts on the Renaissance Utterances blog and Instead to celebrate this anniversary I am attempting CILIP Fellowship. CILIP describes Fellowship as –

“Fellowship is the pinnacle of professional recognition; a celebration of leadership and of significant contribution to the information professions.”

So why am I attempting this –

  • I’ve been a CILIP member since I joined as a student in 1993 and at times have felt that their perceived bias towards public and academic libraries is the case. A way to show CILIP that corporate sector librarians are just as good is to achieve their top qualification.
  • As a mid-career librarian Fellowship is the next natural step, it’s a long time since I Chartered and although I have revalidated my Chartership since I feel that the structure of Fellowship will be a good way to move forward personally and to make a difference to my organisation.
  • Peer pressure! A group of librarians I am friendly with are also attempting Fellowship and I can’t help but feel that if they can do it so can (and should) I!

And now that I’ve made such a public statement on attempting Fellowship I had better get started. Watch this space for thoughts as I move through the process.


CPD23 2012 Thing 10 – Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

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Before thinking about the various qualifications that may be appropriate for my role it is probably helpful to describe the role.  My job title is Librarian but that hides  the range of tasks I am actually involved in – legal research, research training, I buy books, deal with subscriptions, current awareness is a big part of my job, I also spend too much time on basic library admin, and then there’s all my knowledge management responsibilities too ….

As a bit of a studying junkie I have several qualifications, two are particularly relevant to my current job.

MSc Library and Information Studies

I believe that having a sound theoretical understanding of librarianship underpins a lot of what I do in my role.  We often adapt the rules to fit the specifics of this firm but to be able to do that successfully I need to know what these rules are in the first place.  It is also proving useful in the KM side of my job, at the moment we are working on harmonising and tidying up the taxonomy/taxonomies on the intranet so I am using skills I was trained for many years ago.

HNC in Legal Studies

Having a basic understanding of law is obviously very helpful when doing research for the lawyers, I found that although I was picking things up as I went along I needed to put some structure to my knowledge and fill in some gaps so chose to study this distance learning HNC.  It’s definitely been worth the effort, I still don’t have the same level of legal knowledge as even the trainee lawyers but I have enough to get me through!

Some other law firm librarians do have law degrees, for the moment I have decided that that’s a step too far and more than is needed for the job.

What else might be appropriate and which qualification might I seek next?

The two qualifications above are the closest to essential for my role.  However each year I have been with my present employer my job role seems to have widened and I wonder if I need to gain a little more background knowledge in these areas.  In particular other qualifications which might be useful and helpful are in the fields of IT, business studies and politics.  I have been toying with the idea of constructing an Open University degree around the most useful looking courses in these areas.  And of course a knowledge management qualification would be very appropriate.

What else?

If I decide to remain a CILIP member then I really must commit to it fully and finally revalidate (I chartered in 2002 so it’s long overdue).

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.