Wednesday, 29 April 2015

YLG Wales Unconference 2015 - Reading for pleasure

Three cheers to the Wales Youth Libraries Group for running a fascinating and successful Unconference on Saturday 25 April in Bridgend. This relaxed event provided an effective forum for a select group of children's and school librarians, two authors, a publisher, and an imposter (Me) to discuss and share good practice. Our focus for the day was "reading for pleasure" and encompassed the Summer Reading Challenge (SRC), a thought piece from children's author Dan Anthony ("Steve's Dreams") on reading and writing for pleasure, a brief consideration of using comics and graphic novels, and the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards.

Summer Reading Challenge

As an "outsider" this event reminded me of the significance of the SRC in the calendar of children's librarians. Children are encouraged to read six books over the school summer holidays, with the aim to combat the dip in reading levels often seen between the end of one school year and the start of the next. But many libraries grab the opportunities that SRC provides to:
  • encourage library visits, recruit new members, promote regular events, and to involve the wider family in visiting and using public libraries. Other schemes are often run in parallel with SRC: toddler challenge, and the teen reading challenge for instance, but there is also presumably scope for reader development work with adult visitors too! Many libraries also use the SRC as a valued opportunity to engage volunteers.
  • boost liaison and engagement with primary schools in their catchment area. In Swansea visits to schools are used before the holidays to promote the SRC. In September the staff return to award certificates and medals to the successful participants as part of school assembly. Other authorities use this as an opportunity for superb PR with award ceremonies taking place in the Mayor's Parlour or Council Chambers, again involving wider family and lots of social media coverage, perhaps even the local newspaper.

And this year's SRC theme? Record Breakers. This was thought to offer great scope for drawing in the interests of boys, but also for some unusual record breaking themed events in libraries. It will be fascinating to hear how it goes!

Reading for Pleasure

Dan Anthony provided food for thought, and led an interesting discussion on engaging teenagers in reading. Many participants thought the key was to finding the right book to entice someone back into reading. The publishing field is strongly segmented and so finding the right genre of book is crucial. And then maintaining that reading bug through the recommendation of similar titles. Dan also thought that subversion was a great way to bring teenagers back into reading. "Steve's Dream" works very much on this principle. Making time to read for pleasure can also be a challenge. The distraction of smart phones, computers and games, not to mention a packed school curriculum, all compete hard against reading for pleasure. Manga and graphic novels can have a strong role to play here too.

Firefly Press - a new publisher for Children's books

We also heard about Firefly, a recently formed publisher currently working on a Welsh Government funded project to develop a small collection of contemporary children's titles with a strong sense of place and resonance within Wales. Firefly don't just see themselves as a niche publisher in Wales. They have ambition to publish quality titles that will sell across the UK and beyond, and to increasing diversify into publishing for the young adult market too.

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals

Finally we considered the nomination, long listing, short listing and judging procedures for the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals. Young people's reading groups and classes can get involved in the Awards by shadowing the judging and appraising their own favourites. The shadow groups' opinions often differ from the formal judging panel, but altogether these annual awards create significant feedback for publishers and authors. Most importantly the Awards celebrate excellence in writing and illustration for children and young people, creating dialogue, publicity, energy and a fantastic focus for libraries. The contribution that the YLG bring to these awards is staggering. Their work needs and deserves further recognition and praise!


For me, as an imposter, this had been a Saturday extremely well spent. The enthusiasm, creativity and energy of all present was infectious. Even in this difficult economic climate for libraries, children's and young people's librarians are continuing to achieve inspirational results and have a huge and positive impact.

And my over-riding takeaway learning for the day? Don't let a lack of budget put you off! Don't think "we don't have a budget for that, so we can't / won't do anything". Instead, reverse the thought process. Far better to think, "so ok, we don't have a budget, but what can we still achieve without need of funding?". This questions opens the floodgates to creativity, innovation and continuing dynamism ... And quite probably quite a lot of fun, positive impact and success.

Thank you YLG Wales for a brilliant event, for your hospitality and your generosity of spirit. I do hope that you will run future unconferences, and that others will have the opportunity to attend such high quality professional development.

Image credit -Chenspec via licensed for reuse under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, 26 April 2015

CILIP Revalidation

Annual Revalidation of CILIP professional registrations (Certification, Chartership and Fellowship)  will become obligatory from January 2016.  The process is free and requires online submission of a log that accounts for at least 20 hours professional development in the year, together with a short reflective statement. Why wait until 2016? Why not start the process now?

I can see a number of advantages to undertaking Revalidation early.
  1. Beat the rush, and in doing so choose your own Revalidation year. I'm guessing lots of us will be working to a calendar year, but is that the most convenient for you? Academic librarians may choose to revalidate over an  academic year, with submission perhaps planned over the summer vacation. Let the choice be yours!
  2. If you submit prior to January 2016 then there is strong likelihood that your submission will be appraised. You will received valued and often very complementary feedback from staff in CILIP. This will give you confidence for future years, and may assist you in supporting your colleagues in their revalidation processes. Once Revalidation becomes obligatory then only a small sample of submissions will be monitored and appraised. So if you leave submission until 2016 then you may not get this personal touch of feedback.
  3. Early Revalidation is one further demonstration that you are a committed, enthusiastic and conscientious professional - someone who takes their personal development seriously. In the current turbulent job market this may serve you well and may just be the factor that places you above other candidates.
  4. In starting to plan for your Revalidation you will discover if you understand the submission protocols, if you have accrued the 20+ hours for the year, and if you can craft a reflective statement that cuts the mustard. The reflective statement is, for me at least, the most challenging aspect of the process. Reflective writing doesn't come easy; it's definitely a skill to practice and develop. An early start will take the pressure off you if you discover inadequacies in any areas. You will have time to seek help, to take further training, or to develop your reflective writing skills .
  5. If you have a development plan through you work then do use this in your Revalidation. This plan, or the discussion that went in to formulating it, will prove useful in providing an a priori statement of your identified development needs. If your work-based development plan doesn't meet this purpose then use the PKSB (Professional Knowledge and Skills Base), or similar framework, to map out a formal evaluation of your training and development needs. Updating this annually will help you to identify your development needs, and so spot, plan for, or create the development opportunities that meet these needs. It will serve you well, in providing you with a more structured approach to your CPD.

In the last week I have received the fantastic news that my Revalidation submission has been approved. And so I have a promise to fulfil: sharing my reflective statement more widely! I'm sure this isn't a top notch example, but at least it may inspire and provide confidence to some of you in that challenging task of turning a year's worth of learning and development in to a 250 word reflective statement. I hope that this assists and possibly inspires some of you!

Personal performance

Marketing and customer focus were identified priorities for development in 2014 - needs associated with new responsibilities delivering the Ministerial Decisions (MD) upload into the Library Management System, promotion of the Welsh Government (WG) Publications Catalogue (PC), and introducing a new corporate legal information subscription. Presentations at CILIP Cymru Conference and CLIC successfully marketed the PC to stakeholders and receive their feedback.  I  also developed effective dialogue with legal information service users: increasing training attendance, provide feedback to the product provider, and creating FAQs. These raised the profile of the Library Service but evidence for this was diffuse. On reflection upfront marketing plans with planned measures of success, would have been helpful.

Organisational context

The delayed delivery of the MDs demonstrates  the need for project management (PM) for on-time delivery of information, especially where progress is dependent on others within WG. PM would have provided greater importance, a strict timeline, better resource allocation, and exception reporting / intervention mechanisms. I have learned that PM not only supports delivery through its structured framework, but comes with a perceived organisational kudos.

Wider professional context

GIG Committee work provided me with greater awareness of challenges more broadly within the government sector, especially shared service developments. Event attendance, together with professional reading, have provided wider understanding of professional issues from other sectors (e.g. Public and education sector libraries).

Sunday, 12 April 2015

My work year 2014-15

Image (c) Chris Piascik reproduced under
CC-BY-ND-2.0. Source
I'm often asked by friends and family what I do in work. Why does Welsh Government need librarians? This posting will hopefully give you an impression of my work.

There have been several excellent "day in the life" blogs of UK librarians which provide snap shots of career routes and often a sample list of activities and challenges experienced in a working day1. My account here is different, looking at a overview of a year's activity, it draws on my annual statistics.

Legal librarian.

My core role is to provide support to civil service lawyers and policy staff with their legal information needs. This includes providing:
  • access to amended UK legislation.
  • copies of supporting materials, such as official circulars, guidance, explantory notes, but also to legal commentary and analysis.
  • comparative legislation. What does legislation for "x" aim look like in other jurisdictions? How effective has it been? What have the issues been?
  • online databases that support these information needs. This includes involvement in selection, procurement, promotion within the organisation, training and ongoing support for users, as well as user account management, statistical analysis of usage, and feedback to the database providers.
  • a legal information service. Using my database search skills and knowledge to identify information that answers complex legal information enquiries. E.g. What case law is there on this aspect of law ; how was "y" aspect of legislation discussed during Bill debates. More recently I've also been supporting government lawyers in identifying candidates for amendments (consequential amendments) as a result of changes introduced under Welsh legislative powers.

In 2014-15 I provided:
  • 38 complex legal information searches, each taking a minimim of 15 hours, but often taking more that 30 hours. This isn't an increase on past years, but this work has become more complex, required more urgently, and can contribute to very high profile work, including preparations for Supreme Court cases and other judicial reviews.
  • 150 "long" enquiries. These are enquiries that take over 30 minutes to resolve, but aren't quite as involved as a complex searches. Some of these enquiries also relate to copyright matters, where librarians play a key role in providing information and in ensuring that our organisation meets the requirements of copyright legislation.
  • over 1000 short enquiries - anything less than 30 minutes to resolve. This number has increased over the years as we have lost support colleagues within the library team.
  • access to over 47 hours of database training and support to more that 210 colleagues.

Other roles?

  • team management - support to 3 team colleagues, assisting with their work, including supporting business information needs within government, providing and organising training.
  • management and supervision of the library computerised management system and our Publications Catalogue. This is a relatively new addition to my portfolio, again as a result of having a smaller library team within the organisation.
  • contributing to the capture, cataloguing and archiving our external publications so that they can be found within the Publications Catalogue, and deposited with copyright libraries. I catalogued more than 400 titles in this work year. In previous years this would have been cataloguing of purchased titles for addition to our library collections. In this year much of this cataloguing would have been for the Publications Catalogue.
  • Contributing to a current awareness service. Helping policy colleagues to keep up to date with key developments and news in their areas of operation.
  • advocating for high standards of information management, information ethics and professional librarianship within the organisation.
  • maintaining my own professional knowledge and skills.
What's missing? 

So, the balance in the pie-chart above is reasonably good. Two-thirds of time spent on enquiry work, and one-third on other roles indicated above. But you've probably spotted two potentially large omissions?
  • Meetings. Fortunately my schedule isn't dominated by meetings - in fact they are a very small part of my working week. That's not to say we don't communicate! We do, but this tends to be in short, highly effective, focused discussions.
  • Email. I find it difficult to quantify how much time I spend in reading, storing, responding to and writing emails. Off the top of my head perhaps 30 minutes per day?
I could break the green segment of the pie-chart down with some further estimates. Handling email approximately 20% of the "other work" or 7% of the total year's time. And cataloguing, 11% of "other work" or 4% of the total year.

Other aspirations?

Workloads are very high, but there's room for improvement, especially in the following areas:
  • our marketing and profile within the organisation. We aren't short of work, but awareness of Library Services remains poor.
  • how we demonstrate our value to the organisation. Not just a drain on resources, or an "overhead", we save time, equip officals with the information that they need, and help innovation. But how can we capture, chart and disseminate this information to prove our worth?
  • using technology to improve workflows, making us more effective but also helping us to innovate.

1 . 23 Librarians - Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland

Monday, 6 April 2015

Government "librarians" and CILIP chartership - why bother?

At the recent Government Knowledge and Information Management (GKIM) conference (25 March 2015 1) I attended a Table discussion session facilitated by David Smith (Head of Profession, Department for Communities and Local Government). David is also a committee member of CILIP's special interest group for Government Information (CILIP GIG). David posed the question "Will CILIP Chartership get you any further, and will it improve your pay?".

This proved to be quite a lively discussion, and the 20 minutes allocated could have been filled two or three times over. Here's a summary from my notes of the discussion, with apologies for any omissions or misrepresentations.


In the past Charterhsip 2 used to be a more frequent requirement within Government library posts in initial recruitment, and for progression to more senior grades. This is no longer the case.

Does Charterhip improve your pay?

Possibly. It can do, in some departments (e.g. BIS - Business, Innovation and Skills; FCO - Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and GCHQ - Goverment Communications Headquarters). However, many departments no longer require Chartership for career progression within their KIM structures or as a trigger for enhanced salary through qualification recognition.

Does Chartership get you any further?

Possibly / probably! Chartership is a clear demonstration that you:
  • are a committed professional,
  • take your professional development seriously,
  • actively reflect on your professional contribution to your organisation,
  • operate to a clear set of ethics and values, and
  • work to recognise your continuing development needs and to achieve these.
All of these will stand you in excellent stead for internal job opportunities, or indeed if you decide to seek roles outside of GKIM.

It was also noted that in these times of cutbacks, efficiency and austerity measures, Chartership may assist staff in retaining their posts when cuts are being made. Where two individuals are being compared and where both have similar performance and experience levels, then tangible proof of professionalism as evidenced through Chartership, may be the deciding factor. It could be the tie-breaker that makes the difference! And if it isn't Chartership directly then it could be Revalidation - a clear demonstration of regular / annual continuing professional development, professional growth, career planning and reflection.

Challenges to Chartering?

A numbers of colleagues around the table were contemplating working towards Chartership and cited a number of barriers to commencement or completion:
  • length of time since qualification. Where do I start, where do I draw the line?
  • lack of support from their employer and peer group, with additionally perceived difficulties of finding a mentor, and maintaining the momentum with the mentoring relationship;
  • lack of time, timetabling issues;
  • lack of pressure. Possibly also lack of reward and kudos associated with becoming Chartered?
  • process - a laborious process. Now possibly more streamlined through the changes implemented to the routes to professional qualifications, and through submission via the CILIP Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)?

Over the last few years CILIP has undertaken extensive work re-designing the routes to registration (formerly known as qualifications), the supporting professional skills and knowledge base, as well as the VLE. If you haven't looked at CILIP's Professional Registration pages recently then may I urge you to do so? The barriers may not be as numerous or as high as you believe! And there is lots of support to help you achieve your goal.

Other bodies providing professional recognition
  • Information and Records Management Society IRMS - offers an Accredited Members scheme. This may be more appropriate for colleagues dealing with records management, information rights and governance. I believe that the Scheme requires IRMS membership and submission of a reflective account of 750 words with a supporting reference from an IRMS member.
  • Archives and Records Association ARA - Registration Scheme supports trained archivists who are members of ARA to demonstrate continuing professional development.

Chartership and me

I chartered in 1993 and Revalidated in 2010. Within the last week I've just submitted my second revalidation under the new regulations. Along the way, admittedly in the dim and distant past, Chartership has enabled me to apply for and gain roles in further and higher education library posts. More recently, it seems to have been less of a requirement, not just in GKIM but also in the commercial sector. Despite this I firmly believe that being Chartered has served me well. It's something that I'm proud of, and that motivates me to maintain and update my skills and knowledge, to follow the code of professional ethics, and to share that pride with my colleagues. I've supported a few colleagues to successfully Charter, but I've also supported and encouraged colleagues to undertake professional library and information management qualifications who haven't then gone on to consider professional membership or Chartership.

I've always considered Chartership as a kite mark for professionalism, one that can be recognised by employers (current and potential), but that also provides the individual with a strong sense of pride, confidence, ethics and values. Some people will have inherent confidence in their skills and abilities and won't need the support and recognition that Chartership provides. But for the rest of us Charterhip is that comforting, external benchmark that we can shine to and promote.

For me Chartering has definitely been a continuing source of strength, pride and professional energy. Revalidation serves as a useful reminder to evaluate, plan, actively seek out and undertake opportunities for continuing professional development and to reflect on all of these stages. The forthcoming introduction of obligatory annual Revalidation will, I believe, be helpful for all committed professionals. Far from being a detractor for Chartership, this should be seen as a bonus, and as a very natural extension to the Chartering process.

1 . KIM Profession Conference 2015. "Building capability: a profession that works for you". BIS Conference Centre, Victoria Street, London.

2 . Chartership is now one of the stages of CILIP Professional Registration. See this link for further information.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Useful Internet sources for statistical information

Lately, I've been fortunate to attend some excellent  training with Internet search gurus Phil Bradleyand Karen Blakeman. Here are some of my learning points, specifically about statistical information on the web, from those sessions.

OffStats - a database of free, official statistics available to search by topic, country or region. Expertly compiled by the Business and Economics Information Services Team of the University of Auckland. Save time in locating the official sources of information, especially lesser known or less obvious sources. The regional collections could also serve as a reminder of wider scale comparative statistics and their originating organisations. is a similar service although there are some concerns about the frequency of updates. When I checked today (1 April 2015) the latest updates appear to date from 1 January 2015. Nevertheless a useful directory of statistical sources which provides useful clues to the publishers of information. These can then be checked independently. NationMaster also comes with some interesting data visualisation tools which may help to indicate trends, interesting features or anomalies and most importantly,  missing data. In the example below, for steel production, the United Kingdom is missing from the dataset. This is odd because while the EU is listed, France, Germany and Spain have their own listings.

Google Public Data Explorer - A tool aggregating data from 136 sources including the likes of EuroStat, allowing data selection and visualisation. An interesting concept because there seems to be an expectation, in part, that developers will load their own choices of statistical data and make this available with graphics and visualisations. There don't appear to have been that many uploads of this type but if the data that you are looking for is given then you will be rewarded with some great visuals and interesting features. Google Public Data

Other information sources?

Guardian data blog - potentially interesting if it includes information that you are looking for. One to check quickly using Google Advanced searching and the site: option. Original postings at Guardian Datablog

Don't forget and StatsWales. Again, advanced searching techniques might be required to find the information required. These are complex data sets. There may be missing data, and occasionally data errors (e.g. Keying errors, unwanted spaces, incorrect decimal points, etc).

Zanran - the numerical search engine, searches for data from charts, tables and images. Zanran. Provides a vast array of answers, but filters can be used to narrow search results. Data sources may need confirming / double checking. Annoyingly free registration is required to access to original result in full text. If other statistical sources fail then Zanran may be a useful resource especially as this may select data from slide presentations, reports and materials containing tabular information. - a subscription site although some basic information may be available free of charge. Registration with this site is required to access full statistical information.

Wolfram Alpha may also be a potential source for factual data. Wolfram Alpha

I'll be interested to know if you recommend any other sources! Please do comment below.