Sunday, 23 December 2012

CPD 23-Things "Hail the conquering hero"

My CPD 23-Things Certificate arrived a few days ago. Truly an email to raise the spirits and prompt a brief personal celebration! Thank you CDP 23-Things team for your devotion to such a wonderful programme, to the support and encouragement provided, and for having the guts to get together and make it happen!
Kind of Christmassy ... Victory counterposed with Peace
St Michael's Mount . Photograph by S Gregory.

I'm still pondering what to do next and so will be keen to hear what other graduates of the programme are up to. 

And as for this blog? Well it's been quiet of late because I'm blogging for CILIP Cymru Wales at the moment. I'm not a chatty person by nature so posting on one blog with reasonable frequency exhausts my capacity to post here. But I will post from time to time and once my secondment  finishes I promise to return to posting here. 

Actually, being on secondment is little bit like CPD 23 Things. I'm working on tasks and projects that are new to me, developing a wider professional network, and being required to think in new ways. Like 23-Things I also have excellent support and guidance from colleagues in CILIP in Wales and also in London.

Happy Christmas everyone, and best wishes for 2013!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Thing 23 - What next?

So the final Thing is here, and prompts reflection on what I have achieved throughout the programme and what could be next.

In my first post I offered the following aims. It's pleasing to note how many of these have been achieved!

Achieved ?
provide me with a framework to explore some of these tools;
to identify applications that may be suitable to use for work and professional development, but perhaps also tools that will be useful for social means;
Yes – and more!
to see examples of such tools in use;
to update my skills and confidence in using new IT tools;
Yes – and more!
a number of us are undertaking CDP23 in work and I hope to support my colleagues, but also gain through our collaborative learning;
Not as much as hoped but it's still been fun and a discussion point amongst colleagues.
to see this as an example of online / distance / self-paced learning. To identify the challenges and difficulties that arise with this type of learning, but also to understand the potential benefits.

I also note that a number of further learning tasks were identified in my CPD 23 Things blogs:

  • Professional Knowledge & Skills Base
  • CV Database
  • More effective use of Twitter - follow up from Girl in the Moon's blog.
  • Further practice in using Screencast-o-matic
  • Blogging - trying to develop / integrate the blogging as a means for regular reflection
  • Further investigation of Prezi, particularly within the context of a guided learning tool
  • Consideration of formal study: BIALL Legal Foundations Course?
So, there is lots of scope for continuing to explore and develop!

What's next? 

Short Term - I'm seven weeks into secondment with CILIP. This therefore certainly shapes the "what next" for me for the coming months.  To-date secondment has provided :

  • an amazing eye-opener into sectors of the profession with which I had little personal experience. E.g. being present at a Youth Libraries Group session reviewing the Greenaway and Carnegie short-lists was amazing.
  • great experience of contributing to a consultation response on E-Lending in public libraries. A challenging task indicating that my information collection and writing skills still need honing for such a specialist role.
  • a new view of  accounting requirements and practical experience of drafting end of year accounts. I've gained new financial management skills and a new area of personal enjoyment.
  • revision of my event management skills, and updated my knowledge and understanding of corporate governance issues.
  • realisation that I need to manage my time and work routines more effectively.

I would love to get to the end of secondment and look back on a wide range of achievements, to know that CILIP Cymru has been well supported, and the hope that Mandy is able to return to post with confidence and ease.

Medium term - preparations for transition back into my substantive post. I understand that this "return" can be a very difficult time and I will need to prepare thoroughly for this. My hope is that I will be able to use the CILIP Professional Knowledge & Skills Base as a means to reflect on my skills and the gaps that are inevitably there, and use this tool in my formal work-based performance management plan.

Longer term - time to update my formal qualifications? Become a professional mentor? Focus on improving my project management skills?

I'll end this phase of blogging with a final thought .... 

                          "Learning is about the journey, not the destination"

CPD 23Things - thank you for an amazing journey!

 © Copyright William Starkey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence (

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thing 22 - Volunteering to gain experience

Hello! So Thing 22 encourages participants to consider volunteering to gain experience. I'm certainly not going to quibble with Jo's blog. I agree, sad as it may be, that in this time of infrequent job vacancy opportunities, volunteering may be the only way to get out of the Experience Gap Catch-22 situation. This may not only apply to new professionals. Established professionals, seeking a career change, may also be in similar situations. Or for that matter those returning to work after a career break! Volunteering can be good at whatever stage of your career! 

I also feel strongly that organisations which take on volunteers should provide lots in return to their volunteers and definitely not substitute paid professional roles for volunteers! CILIP have an excellent policy statement on using volunteers in public library services, but the principles will apply in other sectors too.

My experiences of professional volunteering have mainly been on CILIP Special Interest Group Committees at divisional and national level. These roles have provided me with wider professional knowledge, energy and transferable skills (chairing meetings, taking minutes, organising events etc). At the same time they have always been fun, confidence building and have left me with a network of fabulous, supportive and amazing contacts. I appreciate that the "day job" is becoming increasingly pressurised, stressful and burdensome. And although volunteering adds to these, it also provides huge rewards of wider perspectives, a different working regime, and a whole load of professional reassurance or inspiration. Although it can be hard work, for me at least, it's good to wear a number of "different hats".

Wearing a different hat. Rhododendron clearing in Snowdonia.
Copyright of the Author.  
I would also add that work can take up so much of our lives, and although I love my career and profession, it's a real bonus to have other interests. I use volunteering with the National Trust as one of these. My NT work enables me to mix with a different group of people, undertake very physical work and be outside at stunning locations. All of these in combination provide a very real tonic to life, and is something that I recommend to anyone who likes the outdoors, values our environment, and who want to give something back.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and interviews

Wordle: PKSB
Professional Knowledge & Skills Base

Maria's blog for Thing 21raises a great many useful tips and truths. I've sat on both sides of the interview desk, and I know that I'm not very adept at either, and I certainly don't enjoy either experience. The most successful, and least painful, interviews that I've had have nearly always felt more like professional conversations than some formulaic grilling. This of course comes down to the skills of the interview panel, the environment and culture of the organisation, and the compassion /  humanity of interviewers during interviewing.

Competence-based interviewing doesn't suit everyone, and there is certainly a specialist knack in answering  such questions appropriately. But practise and planning can mean that you should have a set of established examples and some answers to hand. Whether you can remember them all under the pressure of the interview might be a different matter! Fortunately, many interviewers are very skilled in their roles, inherently wanting candidates to give their best performance, and to be part of making a fair and appropriate selection decision. The interview can certainly provide a really fascinating insight into the organisation!

I do think Maria's emphasis on knowing your strengths and interests are good ones. For CILIP members the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) interactive tool provides an excellent framework for self-assessment and reflection on your professional skills and strengths. I will be looking at this in more detail after completing CPD 23Things!  But in summary:
  • I enjoy undertaking thorough enquiry work and the challenges of trying to meet users' needs and expectations. This is probably why I love legal information work.
  •  I work best when I'm appreciated and valued and can see benefits / impact / results from my outputs.  This means that the culture of the organisation, the people and the value systems are really important to me. In working with and managing others I hope that I enthuse these qualities too.
  • I relish working with others and I am learning to value project management frameworks to plan, deliver and evaluate project work. The challenges of projects and change are positive stimuli for me.
  • A big part of me is a perfectionist, and I'm a self-confessed work-aholic. I love to do things well, and to be shown how to improve things. I like to be challenged.
  • I'm a terrible leader, but hopefully a capable, supportive and energising "second in command".
Knowing your strengths and interests is very valuable. But, I suspect in this day and age, where job opportunities are few and far between, it is often an economic necessity to accept what you can and try to make the best of it. Undertake the role with enthusiasm and dedication, and try to take opportunities for development and training wherever they arise. However, keep in mind your personal strengths and ambitions and try to work towards these as well. Know when to "jump ship"; don't get stuck in a less than ideal role for too long if you can help it.

I heartily agree with Maria's suggestion of keeping your CV up to date, and having a record of your achievements in a form that is easy to update, review, sort and search. I'm a poor practitioner in this respect. Again, I will consider following this up after completing the programme.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Thing 20 - Library roots / routes

Library roots

Trips to the mobile library after primary school. A great deal of fun and excitement selecting that week's reading from the children's section. The mobile library was a terrible grey colour, but was an articulated lorry trailer, and the children's section was in the bit above the connection with the truck unit. (A similar sort of vehicle is pictured here). It was always exciting going, and they used Browne Issue!! Mum was, and still is, a big reader and she spent many hours encouraging me through my dyslexia and opening up the wonderful world of the book.

Teenage years. Seeking solace in the high school library. A lunchtime library pass would mean that I wasn't beaten up in the playground, or my blazer chucked over the school fence. Asterix the Gaul books in French. Similarly, at weekends visits to the central libraries in Luton or Dunstable. The microfiche catalogue was a wonder to behold. The Library at Sixth Form College also became a place of refuge, although the Common Room and cheese toasties had growing allure. That, or joining the masses sitting in the main corridor, just watching the other students go back and forth, trying to perfect that teenage disinterested / threatening look. Never really mastered that!

Luton Sixth Form College
© Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Undergraduate career. I worked incredibly hard at university driven by my love of study, poor social skills,  a general lack of balance in life, and most significantly, terrible A-Level results. Many happy hours in the Library, second floor overlooking the Loch and watching the mists and clouds dance over the Ochills. Biological Abstracts in hard copy became an absolute joy and I revelled in a catalogue on computer.

Grounds of Stirling University
© Copyright Eva Forbes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Present day. I still use my local public library, and have retained that magic and awe in visiting. It's a place that provides me with potential for escape, together with a feeling of belonging to my local community. My leisure reading helps me to escape to places or situations that I have slim chance of actually being at, and enables me to meet and experience people and lives whose paths I would not cross in real life. Library staff still inspire and guide my reading. However, the computer and smartphone take increasing amounts of my time and attention.

Library Routes

Another story of an accidental librarian (sorry!).

  • Uncertain what to do at the end of my undergraduate degree, I stumbled across several posts for graduate trainees to work in libraries. Lady Luck shone and I was successfully appointed to a position, one of four, at the Polytechnic of Central London (now University of Westminster), working in the Engineering and Science Library on New Cavendish Street. Completed a very happy and informative year, and was accepted to study Librarianship at the University of Sheffield.

115 New Cavendish Street - site of the PCL Engineering & Science Library.
© Copyright Stephen Richards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

  • On completing Sheffield I was fortunate in being appointed to a Senior Library Assistant post in the Normanby College Library, supporting nursing, physiotherapy and radiography students, linked with King's College Hospital and King's College London. Three very happy years learning about health and medical information sources, gaining Chartership. Supported, guided and encouraged by a fantastic line manager and mentor, the librarians at the adjacent Medical School Library, and in the other health care libraries in the South East Thames Regional Health Authority.
  • Took a giant leap of faith and relocated to South Wales to manage a small further education college library and learning resources service. Constantly inspired and  supported by other college librarians as part of CoFHE and a very supportive senior management team in the College.  Four happy years and my line manager suggested that I had achieved lots but that it was time to move on. 
  • A further leap of faith, and probably more blind courage than was really sensible, I was appointed to manage a Campus Library at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. New subject areas, managing and supporting professional colleagues, introducing three graduates to the profession via our own Graduate Trainee scheme, and finally a huge refurbishment project.  A fantastic environment in which to develop my financial management, team leadership and strategic management skills. However, the refurb project, although successfully completed, was my downfall. I ran out of enthusiasm and energy in the post-project phase - adapting  services and partnerships required of the new Learning Resources Centre, and saw my dream job wane into a buildings management, problems solving role. Made the best decision of my life, and resigned. Took time out, and after 6 months or so the yearning to return to the profession grew too strong to resist.
  • A fortunate  sideways  step saw me appointed as an Assistant Librarian at Morgan Cole Solicitors. Despite having no legal training my colleagues supported me, and were extremely generous in sharing their knowledge, experience and friendship.  Being outside of my comfort zone in both subject area and the commercial environment was hugely developmental, but it was clear that this wasn't quite the right role or environment for me.
  • Took up post with the Welsh Assembly Government in 2006 and have progressed through Policy Support Librarian and Legal & Business Team Leader roles, and other periods of temporary responsibility.
  • Currently on secondment with CILIP as Policy Officer (Wales).
In writing this account I'm struck by a few key messages:

  • Colleagues are so generous with their time and in sharing their knowledge and experience. Value these relationships and work hard to develop and retain them. If working in solo positions generate links with colleagues outside of your organisation.
  • I have never regretted those giant  leaps of faith and those periods of living on my Dutch courage.  Resigning from the Campus Librarian's role was a brave move, and horrendous at the time. But this was the correct decision. The possibility of still being a very unhappy, dispirited and probably a very unwell, dysfunctional Campus Librarian is just too frightening.
  • However, know your strengths and appreciate  your  weaknesses. I'm surer now that senior management just isn't for me.  Being at the "practical sharp end" of librarianship suits me well. 
  • My "fit" with the organisation has been significant. If I feel I can contribute to the organisation, if I am valued and challenged then I am far more likely to love working there, and stay longer.
  • Take opportunities when you can. Living outside your comfort zone for short periods of time can be positively developmental. Carpe diem!
(c) Lechoucas, 2012 - Creative Commons CC-by-sa 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Thing 19 - Reflection point - The tools at the top of my toolbox?

This task offers an opportunity to reflect on the personal outcomes of undertaking CPD 23 Things, and prompts reflection on how elements of the programme may have been incorporated into my work. I've become a more conscientious Twitter user, and thanks to Girl in the Moon I see I have some further work to do to make my use more effective. I'm really keen on Mendeley, but at the moment don't have to use it that much. I had great fun with Screencast-o-matic and would really love to develop my use of that more. I think Prezi will become a really useful tool for me too.

Perhaps most significantly is the blogging habit. I've had to blog as part of my secondment role with CILIP and CPD 23 Things has provided me with confidence in this aspect of work.

There are some elements of CPD23 Things which I really loved at the time, but which just don't seem to have been incorporated into my work. Evernote is a superb example of this. A wonderful tool, but it just hasn't seemed to make it's way to the top of the toolbox.

So what can I conclude from this?

  • I'm a very lazy learner .... I'll only get to grips with what I absolutely need to, when I need to ... but I guess a lot of us are like this too.
  • I'm very poor at seeing the links between tools. Girl in the Moon uses Evernote to capture a record of her tweets. What a great idea! I wouldn't have thought of that in the proverbial month of Sundays.
  • I'm not a good explorer of tools ... Pinterest, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc .... all would probably be useful, but I haven't made time to check these out.
  • I need an on-hand technology guru ... someone to question me in my lazy habits, show me the next wonderful tool (time-saving, ingenious, revolutionary, or just dam clever).
  • That working in an organisation that restricts use of many new  tools, especially those where local software download is required, really does limit the professional horizons. Being on secondment is a wonderful escape from these shackles.

CPD 23 Things has provided me with a framework for trying out new tools. I will need to find new avenues, and schedule development time,  to ensure that I continue to investigate new applications and to think about new ways of using these tools.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Thing 18 - Screen capture and podcasts

For me, the CPD23 Things "gentle wander" has just become a sprint finish. I've just found out that the completion target is 30 November. Heavens, 6 "Things" in 20 days!!

(c) Doug Tanner, 2010 on Flickr 

Thing 18 continues the theme of presenting information, and provides some tools to investigate for screen capture and for podcasting. Given, that in my usual work situation, I would not be able to download software onto my work PC, I opted to investigate Screencast-O-Matic. This is easy to use, and doesn't require software download. However, I still have doubts about whether I may be able to use screencast applications in work because of the reasonably sophisticated Java requirements.

My experience of using SOM was good, although it appears to be essential to check that your microphone is working prior to each recording. Don't complete a long screen capture sequence only to discover that your audio commentary wasn't being recorded. As a trial use of SOM I have put together an introduction to finding publications from the Welsh Government, using the WG Publications Catalogue, but also using the topics and browse features on the web site. An embedded version is given here or you can access this link to view it at You Tube

I've learnt quite a lot in the process.

  • At 11 minutes this is way too long. I need to think about relaying the message more quickly, or having a series of videos on particular elements of the search process.
  • The narration script needs to be tighter, and I know that I don't have a strong voice for narration!
  • But, most importantly, that screencasting is relatively easy and definitely something that I should consider using and developing in future.
So another big "thank you" to CPD 23 Things!

On podcasting my views are different. To my mind a picture really does tell a thousand words. I'm not sure how I could produce a regular podcast with any benefit. I am a real radio buff, and I really value the "play it again" feature available on many radio stations websites. But I don't see how I could generate a podcast with adequate information interest, or quality of production, to be of benefit. These are my initial thoughts. Please tell me / show me how I may be wrong! 

So another Thing closer to completion.What's next?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Thing 17 - Prezi and Slideshare

Hello! Apologies for my absence again. I've been adjusting to my new secondment role with CILIP - but perhaps more of that at another time. Here I am, way behind everyone else, working on Thing 17. I'm aiming to finish the programme before Christmas ;-). Ho, ho, ho!

I've been hearing about Prezi for some months now, but hadn't had the courage or incentive to investigate it further. Thanks to my secondment that's all changed! An invitation to speak to a small group of Information and Library Science NVQ students about the nature of the profession in Wales, key professional bodies, career prospects and help, provided an ideal opportunity to experiment with Prezi. Here's my first attempt. If the embedded  version doesn't work then you can also access a copy here

The process of creating the Prezi was reasonably straightforward, although I am grateful for the introductory video tutorials within Prezi. These got me through with addition of some patience and lots of trial and error. If only I'd seen Ned Potter's guide before! Still, a lot of Ned's tips seem to have been incorporated into what I did. Happy accident, more than good design.

What went well?

  • I think I adapted to the zooming, non-linear presentation style reasonably well. It worked well, captivated the audience,  and no one complained of feeling seasick!
  • My presentation was made up of a good balance of text pointers - and images. The tool helped me to deliver a more natural and interesting  presentation.
  • Prezi is a great vehicle for sharing presentations. 
What would I do differently?

  • Be careful with the pathway and presentation mode. Double check that the show is fully working and is complete. I think I will have a check-list of key sections in front of me, or incorporated into the pathway, just to ensure that I haven't missed an important section. This fits with the educational mantra: show them what you'll be teaching, teach it, and then recap on what you've taught them. Such a device may also be helpful if "going off piste" and delivering the session according to audience feedback, or when providing similar sessions in close succession. That aching doubt of "I did tell you "x" didn't I, or was that the previous group?" can easily arise when repeating sessions in relatively quick succession.
  • Definitely incorporate greater use of invisible frames, perhaps allowing more textual input to a zoomed in area. Also be less restricted by size and visibility on the opening view. Really small can work well, because zooming around invisible frames works so beautifully. 
  • Be prepared to start from a blank Prezi canvas, rather than working from one of the template presentations. In this instance, does a purple tree really fit well with libraries? OK, tree of knowledge aside.
Sebastian Munster - Tree of Knowledge - 16th Century.

So what next?

I will continue to investigate Prezi. I don't have too many presentations, but those that I do have are mainly in PowerPoint. So I will consider updating and converting into Prezi format. It would also be good to investigate using Prezi as a guided learning aid, especially once I'm back in my usual day job. The Solar System Activity is a great source of inspiration for this type of learning tool.

And what of Slideshare?

It's not a service that I've used for storing and allowing access to my presentations previously, although I'm sure that I have consulted a few presentations kindly stored in Slideshare by others. But clearly this could form quite a useful information resource, and a great resource for "creative swiping".

So that's one more Thing blog closer to completion. I'll welcome your feedback and comments.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Thing 16: Advocacy - being a beacon for the profession and for libraries.

Be a beacon for the profession and for libraries!
Image (c) Stephen Gregory - Souter Lighthouse, National Trust

Lauren's post for Thing 16 outlines the variety of ways in which we can be engaged in professional advocacy. The brief goes further in suggesting that all professionals should consider their personal involvement and commitment to advocacy. I couldn't agree more, but can't help wondering if advocacy is role that we don't often recognise in ourselves? We might happily badge stuff that we do under the headings of marketing, service promotion, information needs analysis or user education, but advocacy probably doesn't feature on this list. I suggest that we do more advocacy than we think. Do you do any of the following?
  • Marketing your library service to your user communities and reaching out to non-users. In these sessions, briefings, articles or posts you will be expressing values in using the service, highlighting benefits and impacts for users and potential users.
  • Management reports. Updates on service utilisation, hopefully not just measures of inputs and outputs, but also those difficult to achieve measure of impact. Public libraries are now fantastic at highlighting how they can contribute to wider goals of their parent councils. For example aiding targets for health and well being, community cohesion, inter-generational interaction, as well as the traditional factors of improving literacy, supporting formal learning, servicing local businesses and innovators. As a workplace librarian I support not only the direct information needs of the organisation, but also support the health and well being of colleagues through book prescriptions, in addition to encouraging innovation through supporting personal development and learning.
  • Talking to your users and non-users, finding out about their information needs and requirements. This will probably involve discussion of your services, but may also suggest other services too. An academic librarian talking to students on a part time vocational course may well suggest using workplace or professional body libraries, in addition to their “home college” services. A workplace librarian may refer to local public libraries or near-by university / college facilities.
  • Professional groups may have collective formal remits for advocacy and therefore involvement in these will provide superb experience at national, local or subject specific level. My own experience of working for CILIP Groups (CDG, CoFHE) has demonstrated how valued this level of advocacy is. But I've also been impressed by BIALL's activities in this area, and those of UKOLUG in the past! Local information partnerships (e.g. Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation) also undertake valued advocacy work no behalf of libraries in and around their area.
These are just a few examples of things we do that may include advocacy, aside from the bigger scale political lobbying, newspaper articles, attending demonstrations, or talking to our elected representatives. I'm not dismissing these latter “big scale” and hopefully high profile advocacy activities. They are extremely important. It's just that many of us won't be able, inclined, permitted or suitably skilled to contribute to these large scale advocacy initiatives.

I also agree that in contributing to professional writing is an excellent form of advocacy, and a vital part of contributing to a vibrant, progressive and learning-centred profession. Again, it's easy to fall in to the trap of thinking that our work isn't innovative, or won't be of interest to others. We become blinkered by familiarity of our own roles. But sharing your learning, your achievements, or indeed your thoughts or questions, really will help the profession move on. I've written a couple of pieces in the past. The usual stuff of meeting reports and a book review, but I have also tried to provide a more informative and challenging pieces on how the legal information landscape is changing in Wales, and how this may impact legal practitioners and their librarians across the UK.

As Lauren's brief suggests, blogging is an excellent “way in” to this. Blogging encourages reflective practice, established a habit and practice of writing for another audience, and demonstrates your expertise, areas of interest and professionalism. I would still “advocate” for contributing to the traditional printed media, but acknowledge that online forums and media will become increasingly important.

Finally for this blog, I hope to increase my own expertise and experience in professional advocacy work in the near future with an exciting secondment opportunity with CILIP Wales. More on this to follow ...

To protect, warn, guide, inform, illuminate and broadcast?
Souter Lighthouse, National Trust. Image (c) Stephen Gregory

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Profession in crisis? Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events.

CILIP Career Development Group / North Wales Library Partnership joint event – January 2012, Llandudno Junction. Image © Stephen Gregory / CILIP CDG Wales, 2012.

The picture above, for me, recalls an excellent joint event hosted in North Wales in January 2012. I attended and spoke at this event, and it reminds me of the pleasures and perils of doing both. I found myself agreeing with so much provided within the brief for Thing 15 and its related links. Participating in professional development events, as delegate, speaker, chair or organiser really is so fulfilling, beneficial and invigorating. Consequently, my first attempt at this blog did little more than replicate the suggestions and experiences encapsulated in the brief. Little point in re-inventing the wheel!

However, I would agree with Katie Birkwood's comments that attendance at events is being increasingly jeopardised by the current economic situation. In my experience this really is becoming a significant factor to the viability of our professional events. Furthermore, in the absence of other activities, this affects the viability, vibrancy and raison d'etre of our formal professional groups. It seems to me that the impacts of the economic downturn on professional development are numerous, including:
  • from the employer / employee perspective:
    • depleted or non-existent training and development budgets
    • reduced staffing levels, meaning that: retained staff work to increased workloads; capacity for planned absence is reduced; ability to catch-up after absence, or to clear the decks prior to absence, are diminished.
    • Stagnation on the career ladder. There are fewer opportunities for promotion and advancement, meaning that staff loose motivation and enthusiasm for cpd. Staff new to a role will have greater need to attend formal CPD activities in order to aid their development for fitness to undertake the role effectively and fully.
    • Organisations are less likely to support professional development in its broadest contexts, favouring job-specific training only. This is in part because of training budget limitations, but also because of workload pressures and reduced capacity to sanction cpd absence.

  • From event providers' perspective:
    • Economic viability of events is being squeezed, leading to increasing likelihood of event cancellation.
    • Events become undertakings where the risks of financial and reputational disaster are too great. Can an organisation afford to loose money, or in effect subsidise events? Can organisations weather the potential for loss of credibility with poor attendance rates and perceived declining impact or professional value?
    • Events are not able to get off of the ground because the burdens of event organisation are too great for volunteer group committee members, especially given that support by their employees may be severely decreased.

There may be additional factors in some areas too. For instance, being based in Wales, where travel times from Bangor to Cardiff are at best half a day, we have significant problems of geography and costs associated with this (hotel fees, journey practicalities and time). However, in Wales geography can also be an issue for much more local destinations. Public transport routes between a location in one valley and a nearby location in another valley may be tortuous or non-existent. Video conferencing may be a solution, but as professional and social networking is such a valued feature of many meetings, can this be effectively replicated via a video-link?

How can some these barriers be overcome?
  • Collaborate or use partnerships for events! Use vibrant local groups to jointly host successful, well attended events. The North Wales Library Partnership was a superb group to collaborate with. In South Wales groups such as Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation are incredibly active, now run with very little financial assistance. Other local divisions or circles of CILIP's Special Interest Groups or your CILIP Branch may also be able to assist. In the case of Wales it may be more appropriate for us to collaborate with our neighbours in West Midlands, North West, or South West, because transport links make it as easy, or easier, to attend events in Birmingham, Hereford, Chester or Bristol. (It could work the other way around though couldn't it! Marketing events in Wales more actively to colleagues just across Offa's Dyke.)
  • Make events free / very low cost, and seek funding to cover costs via other routes. Grant funding, sponsorship, bursaries, awards, and dare I say, creative financing.
  • Where possible use central locations, with excellent public transport links, and if possible with addition attractions or benefits.
  • Plan well ahead and market your event extensively. Know your intended audience(s) and plan timing to maximise attendance. I consider timing to mean in this context two factors. Recognition of delegate availability (e.g. probably best not to run an event for academic library staff in late September or October). And also training budget cycles. When are training budgets set (April / August / January)?, and so when might chances for successful bids for expenditure from this budget be most successful? Remember that with some organisations expenditure for events that coincide with the end of a financial year, or which can be billed for in advance, using up residual funding in one year, to support CPD in the following, will be successful. Of course, if you are funding an event through means other than delegate charges, then this becomes less relevant, except where creative financing options may be considered.

Case Study

Walled Garden at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales
© Copyright Andrew Hill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In the Spring 2012 I organised for CILIP Career Development Group in Wales, a one day event at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales with the Gardens' voluntary library manager. The day was planned to enable delegates to find out about:
  • botanical and horticultural information and library collections for these subject areas, including the delights of herbaria and seed banks;
  • implementation of Koha shareware library management system, and how to do this very successfully on a very small budget;
  • the use of volunteers within a library service; and
  • the Library's plans for the future.

I naively thought with that spread of fascinating and pertinent topics there would be significant interest from delegates. Unfortunately we had far too few bookings to make the event viable and so cancelled the event at one week's notice.

So what did I learn from this?
  • Sell-ability. Potential delegates may have found it difficult to convince their line manager that attending this event was good use of their time and would provide excellent returns for expenditure from the training budget
  • Affordability. If your employer wouldn't pay for your attendance, then the pricing was too high for self-funders (£40). If this is an option then delegates may also be burdened with using a day's leave and funding transport costs.
  • Geography. The Gardens are difficult to get to unless travelling by car. Public transport would have been viable, but the journey is time consuming and a further expense. (I'm not quite so convinced by this one. No one contacted me to see if lift-sharing was possible, or if a quicker connection from the local train station could be collectively organised.)
  • Increasing professional malaise or apathy? I hope not, but sometimes I can't help but suspect that this is the case.

What might be the way forward?

  • Technology - video conferencing / virtual meetings are proving to be a vibrant and low-cost means for providing cpd. But technology has it's limitations: uneven user demographic; barriers caused by the technology; the lack of “by chance”, face to face networking opportunities.
  • More local “live” networking events: pub meets, New Professionals meet ups; charity fund-raising initiatives.
  • Mentoring – mentees and mentors both gaining through formal planning, discussion and evaluation of professional development, job roles, professional issues etc.
  • CILIP Branch and Group Review. Changes to enable Groups and Branches to be more sustainable, but also more vibrant, creative, effective and supported.
  • Where geography allows, the formation of cross-sectoral local groups providing cpd events, forums for discussion and debate, library visits etc. Partnership working between groups of all different types, sharing the burdens and risks of running events, but also gaining through their collaborative muscle and reputation. For CDG Wales linking more directly with the Annual CILIP Wales Conference might be a good way of promoting the Group, increasing our membership and our activity levels.
  • Further exploration of alternative funding mechanisms and sources.

Regrettably, I don't have a prescription guaranteed to provide success. I do have ideas, enthusiasm and energy to support events, where and however I can. But what do you think?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

CPD Thing 14 Reference management software

Reference Management Software - helping to bring order in an otherwise disordered world?
Order or disorder? Prairie planting of spring bulbs at Ascot House (National Trust), Buckinghamshire.
Image (c) Stephen Gregory

Thing 14 encourages participants to investigate reference management software, or to reflect on experiences on using referencing software in the past. To my shame, I had no previous experience of using RMS, although I recall that such packages have been available, commercially at least, for many years now.

I haven't been an extensive writer of assignments, professional papers or reports, and therefore my need for RMS has always been somewhat insignificant. On reflection, I guess that the thought of getting to grips with a new piece of software, successfully integrating this within my word processing package, and making effective use of it, would have been far more time consuming than rewarding. This Thing has demonstrated just how wrong that misconception was! 

It's some time since I worked in higher education librarianship, where I suppose greatest knowledge and usage of RMS occurs. Awareness and demand for RMS in my current organisation has been very low. To be fair, how many of us can truly  say that we successfully and confidently use indexing, referencing and content page features within our standard word processing packages? These relatively simple tools can help make life easier when creating reports or longer documents, but how many of us have taken the trouble to find out about them and use them? There are strong parallels aren't there! If you are like me, then you'll probably have done all of your referencing manually, and this will have been reasonably straightforward when using Harvard, and with a small set of cited documents. On the rare occasions when creating a longer reference list, or indeed when required to use numeric or Vancouver referencing, then this can become more problematic, especially when citing the same reference at several different points in your document and trying to retain numbering consistency. Isla mentioned her similar experiences in the Thing 14 brief.

So is there scope within my routine work to use RMS? In providing literature search results and current awareness bulletins, probably “yes”. But these aren't straightforward bibliographies are they? And so I guess that some manipulation and experimentation with output formats will be required. [Anyone have any experience of using RMS in these contexts?] My colleagues are experimenting with Reference Manager at present and I await their findings with keenness. Were our service to develop into providing more narrative and evaluative research (see my Blog on information synthesis / value adding) then the argument and benefits for using RMS are clear. In this context RMS could make our work more efficient, alongside the possibility of creating a database of frequently used references easily sourced within our RMS repository.

As part of Thing 14 I explored Mendeley, a freely available internet client and desktop download, with add-ons for reference import and citation management within word processing packages. The registration, download of the desktop client and installation of the add-ons was all straightforward. Within an hour, I had viewed the helpful training presentations, installed the package, explored the desktop and internet clients, imported references from documents already held on my laptop, imported additional references from a variety of internet sites and databases. In this time I had also drafted some sample text, inserted references and created the bibliography all using Mendeley's intuitive features. The integration with Open Office, my word processing software, with Google Chrome for reference harvesting, and the synchronisation between desktop and internet clients all worked perfectly. So my experiences were all very positive, and I had wondered why I hadn't used such systems previously! Very definitely time well spent.

Mendeley offers a range of collaborative tools too and I plan to explore some of these in a little more detail. The Mendeley profile will be of interest; I'll complete my details more fully and see if other Mendeley users share similar interests. PDF annotation will also be helpful. I like the idea of being able to create my own notes and comments on PDF documents. I doubt whether the PDF sharing function will be of relevance to me, but can see the value of this function for a team of colleagues working collaboratively on something, or within a research grouping. However, I'm struck once again by the need to caution our users about copyright and database licensing terms and conditions, with this type of activity.

So Thing 14 leaves me with some follow-up actions:

  1. Investigate and implement Mendeley more fully, including profile and seeing if other users match my interests. Equally importantly try to incorporate using Mendeley as a matter of routine.
  2. Find out about my colleagues feedback on Reference Manager, and see if this can be used within our context of literature search results and current awareness bulletin creation. If yes, how is this achieved and could similar be achieved in Mendeley?
  3. Check out CiteULike. This would be useful to have some basic knowledge on this.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Cloudscapes ... Thing 13... collaborating and sharing

© Copyright s g b roberts and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
I'm old enough to remember early online searching where connection was enabled through dialling and then placing the telephone handset into a modem carriage. You paid for the phone line and so searched after 1pm when line charges were cheaper. You also paid for your time spent online with the database provider, and for the number of references retrieved. So your searching was very well prepared, very focussed, and undertaken with trepidation.

In 25 years how we have moved on! Online connections are now ubiquitious, fast and cheap; online storage is similarly plentiful and cheap. Thus, cloud computing comes to the fore - hence my title for this blog. Through the cloud Google Drive, Dropbox and wikis can function.

Thing 13 invites participants to explore and consider Google Drive, Dropbox and wikis. Regrettably I haven't used Google Drive in the past, but I have used the Microsoft Hotmail equivalent - Skydrive. Similar to Google Drive this allows online document creation, storage, sharing and group editing, as well as enabling remote access and working across platforms (Mac or PC). I have used Skydrive to access files from multiple locations and devices, but I haven't used these tools for collaborative working. I appreciate the secure storage and backup that cloud based storage provides, and the fact that if I loose or break my laptop then I can still access many of my vital files. (I do have alternative local backup solutions in place too, but Cloud-based solutions give me extra reassurance and ease of remote access). Skydrive came into it's own in pulling together my CILIP revalidation portfolio, but perhaps, on reflection, Dropbox or a wiki may have been even better?

As Secretary of the CILIP Career Development Group Wales Division the Committee has talked about using Google Drive for collaborative drafting of our divisional plan. Having watched the Wikis in Plain English video I now wonder if this process may be more easily achieved through a wiki.Worth trying this for 2013! The group currently archive and share files through JISCMAIL File Store features, which forms a handy central repository, but it is now cumbersome and dated in its operation. A wiki or cloud-based solution for Divisional files would, it seems to me, to be easier for us all to use.

Some departments in work are dabbling with internal wikis, providing desk notes, a knowledge base and an interactive environment in which to work collaboratively. For self- or team- generated content I can see that wikis would form an excellent platform. However, as information professionals we need to be exceptionally careful in guiding our users in appropriate use of external content within their wikis. In such situations we need to effectively raise awareness of copyright  and database licensing terms and conditions. I speak from experience on this one!

I haven't tried Dropbox, but it is very useful to know about this facility. The security restrictions of my work-based computer may not enable me to download the local software for Dropbox. This is disappointing because the automated storage and synchronisation of files seems to be such an advantage. That said, in work we access files from shared drives and within an electronic records document management system. Consequently, we should all be working from the same files and not generating multiple copies of a document. The need for Dropbox within work is therefore not quite so clear. But when collaborating with external partners Dropbox could be very helpful , and far less trouble than  remembering to manually synchronise files between different machines, network drives and cloud based storage services! There may be times when Dropbox could prove invaluable and I am glad for this opportunity to find out about it.

Definitely food for thought, and inspiration for future action here.

1. Try out a wiki page for use with CDG Wales.
2. Maintain my awareness of Dropbox.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thing 12 – Lurking on the sidelines

 Thing 12 invites participants to reflect on their use of social networks and to consider whether you:
ñ     interact with people or do you lurk?
ñ     tend to stay within the comfort zone of your own sector or do you actively look for people who work in different areas of the profession?
ñ     Are a bit reluctant to get involved, and if yes, why do you think this is?

Claire Sewell also suggests looking at the blog of a CPD23 participant who is in a different sector and starting active dialogue on their blog.

Lurking on the Sidelines?
© Copyright 
Sarah Charlesworth and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

My use of social networks?

I guess that I'm more of a lurker than an active participant, although I have published a couple of reflections on legislative developments in Wales and on value-adding work in business information provision. I also occasionally respond to requests on email lists or via Twitter. I try and use my professional judgement to comment on aspects with which I have knowledge, or which fascinate me. Hopefully my contributions will therefore be of value and will add to the discussion in a helpful way. I don't necessarily want to add to “random noise”, but when it matters I would like for my voice to be heard. Louise Cowan's Peripheral Device blog notes her reluctance to blog for reasons of time and confidence. I guess many of us can identify with these constraints! Louise sets out a great action plan to address these - an admirable practice, and one to follow.

However, I beginning to wonder if lurking is being overly dismissed as a negative activity. Is this always fair or true? Lurking can still be great for professional development, raising awareness of issues, concerns or current professional news. An appreciative audience of a social network discussion is surely still to be valued? A "live" audience would mark the end of lively debate with applause and perhaps questions or comments. Then perhaps should we do similarly for online discussions? A quick contribution to indicate that I've enjoyed the conversation, would, I'm sure, be welcomed by the main parties in the discussion. Better still a comment to indicate that discussions have provided a new perspective, or that you agree with most of the points, but what about “x”, or would anyone suggest to a good resource to improve understanding about “y”? And of course, in doing so, one breaks free from the shackles of lurking. This is certainly something that I hope to undertake a little more frequently.

Comfort zone or "social animal"?

Inherently by nature I'm a "comfort zone" kind of person, although I'm really lucky in having a reasonably diverse and wide professional network. My involvement with CILIP Career Development Group helps here. And I'm fortunate to receive updates from Cardiff Libraries in Cooperation [CLIC] and attend their excellent events.  My blog for Thing 10 also records that I've worked in a number of different library sectors and over a number of years so this helps provide a varied range of contacts. So, on reflection, perhaps I'm not quite so confined and parochial as I think I am. However, Thing 12 has inspired me to reach out beyond my usual list of contacts and to expand my horizons. I found a lot of shared experience and interest in Anabel Marsh's experiences of CPD23Things in her blog and we've sent some supportive Tweets. Anabel has encouraged me to reconsider becoming a mentor :-) and it was just the encouragement I needed. A school librarian, Caroline Fielding's blog also provides a new perspective for me.

Reluctant participant?

Yes possibly, mainly because of time and confidence - so here I agree with Louise. However Thing 12 has encouraged me to reflect on my social network participation, and as a consequence to try to be more engaged and to be more of a contributor. Creating time to work on 23Things may well help me with this goal too.

Lurking on the Sidelines? No way!
© Copyright Peter Kazmierczak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.