Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Words in vogue : whinge

Whinge : to whine, to complain peevishly; an annoying complaint
Whine : a shrill protracted cry, to cry in a subdued plaintive tone

Whingeing (or whinging - but I think it needs the 'e') and whining is what many of us, me included, accuse our children of doing all the time. (How do they learn so young how to strike that particular high tone and falling note? It gets attention but it's surely so irritating as to be counter-productive!) There's also, of course, that antipodean insult, "whinging Pom" - the Brit who is never satisfied with anything, and always complaining.

It's a word which seems to be getting a lot of airing at the moment. If anyone protests about anything, they can expect some commentator to describe them as "whingeing". I am thinking particularly of it in relation to protests at library closures, but I've seen it recently aimed at a wide variety of others too. It seems quite inappropriate to me, as angry people protesting at perceived injustices are not usually peevish or whiny, they are merely expressing a different point of view from that held by the insulters. We do, after all, still live in a society in which people are free to express a variety of opinions.

I don't mind the "whingeing Pom" jibe, but I do mind the spreading practice of dismissing legitimate complaint and protest. The clue as to why it is an unpleasant insult lies in what I said about children. It's an attempt to belittle others (by the implied likening of them to whiny children). Let's all agree to disagree without these unlovely attempts to disparage the views of others. I'm going to try not to use it at all - even under duress from child!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Punctuation as a weapon : or, the inverted comma rampant

I've been becoming increasingly conscious recently of the use of language to make a point. I don't just mean the actual words used, but their context. Anyone with an Internet connection can broadcast their views to the world at the press of a button. I'm all for free speech, of course, but I'm not so keen on reading a lot of spitefulness.

One thing which seems to be happening quite a lot is the use of the inverted comma (quotation marks, sadly also known as "quotes" - ugh) to belittle and demean whichever group of people are the target of scorn. Thus, James Delingpole on public sector "workers" here and Tim Coates on the "profession" of librarianship here are trying to convey the ideas that people in the public sector do not actually do any work, librarians are not worthy of the adjective professional, &c.. Jacob Rees-Mogg's articles are chock-full of inverted commas, to the extent that it's quite difficult to see which bit of what he is saying you are not supposed to be taking at face value. (He sounds cheerful enough, though, so perhaps he isn't really having a go at anyone!). This blog by "categorically not the other one" captures his habit nicely.
Has the inverted comma become the weapon of choice in the blogosphere? Has it replaced terms such as "so-called"? I'd be interested in any other examples people come across - I've only mentioned a few which spring readily to mind, and I'm sure there are a lot more out there!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thing 23 : reflection - what next?

So here is the end of CPD23 (but, of course, it's only the beginning ...)
I'm a bit late finishing, but I hope I've still done enough to get that certificate! It's been an interesting experience, and I have really appreciated the chance to do a free course which hasn't tied me down with specific times (I registered for the ECDL a few years ago and I've never managed to fit that in to my timetable!). There's enough flexibility for the time challenged (I wish I had kept up as it went along though!)

The big thing which it has got me doing is the blog, although it is still very basic and I haven't yet strayed beyond CPD23. I'm hoping that I will keep it up now the programme has finished. I'm still conscious of the rather self-indulgent aspect of talking about yourself in public a lot (hence the title of the blog), and I'm aware that I am slipping into anecdotage at times. Still, perhaps the recent and not-so-recent library story has value for new professionals too, to understand how we have got to where we are now. I intended to make the blog look more interesting but haven't yet mastered my anxiety about using images, something I must do as blogs with pictures look so much more appealing. Watch this space!

Some of the tools we have looked at have great potential for me and I hope to revisit them one at a time and get to know them better (I'm thinking of Dropbox and Evernote in particular). Some of the others will be less relevant but at least I now know about them, and I may find a use for them. One really surprising outcome is that I'm definitely going to revert to the written appointments diary which fell by the wayside a while ago due to a combination of unexpected events and our getting an electronic calendar at work. Also, although it's an online programme, another unexpected result was actually meeting others locally and getting to know people better.

I don't think I'm going to share a formal analysis of my strengths and weaknesses with the world, but I'm hoping this element of "thing 23" will help with the ghastly and ever-evolving appraisal form I struggle with every year. (An aside - all the emphasis on goals and outcomes can sometimes have a knock-on effect on other people. I am behind with everything at work partly because there are lots of things which need to be done because they fulfil somebody else's goals and outcomes!)

Thank you to all those who put the course together and planned it so well, and made all these "things" so accessible.

Here's my six-word story:

Still got a lot to learn!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Thing 22 : volunteering

Can't get a job without experience, can't get experience without a job : it's an old problem. So why not work for nothing for a while to accumulate some experience (and perhaps to try out different types of work to see what suits you?)

I have to accept that some new professionals are saying that volunteering has been a help to them and has led to employment opportunities. That's great, if so. I've got a lot of reservations about this, but obviously it does get you that experience without which so many doors seem to be closed. I also know a number of young recent graduates who lead a double life: there's the work they get paid to do (shop assistants, barmen, waitresses) and then there's the thing they trained to do or the thing they aspire to, which doesn't pay (historical textiles, art history, fashion, playing in a band). Major couture houses rely heavily on interns, television companies and political parties use the free labour of eager aspirants hoping to get a foot on the ladder. There are far more young people working for free in some of these industries than there are ultimately opportunities for paid work. I wouldn't like to see libraries fall into this category.

People with private means are free to work for nothing, but that creates a difficult precedent for everyone else. With all the KPMG-inspired talk of volunteer-run libraries, a new strange attitude seems to be emerging: nice people don't expect to be paid for what they do, nice people wouldn't greedily insist on money for themselves to keep a service going, nice people offer their time. We all know, of course, that we need money to live on, and with that money we pay taxes and buy goods and services. Paid employment is an essential for most of us. The generosity of wealthy people with their time can have the effect of shutting other people out. If there is a plentiful supply of free labour, it may be that the employer will never need to offer paid work, which would create a vicious circle: you may gain experience but never then get the chance to get a paid job using it.

I qualified at a time when it would not have been expected or really acceptable to undertake voluntary work for any length of time. Quite a lot of contemporaries got into the workplace eventually after year-long low-paid placements on government-backed job creation schemes (e.g. the Manpower Services Commission). Some of these projects were very worthwhile, and while they were usually finite they sometimes led on to other things. I did work for the Church of England for nothing for experience for quite a while, at its request, but on reflection, while it was valuable experience, I am not sure that it did me any favours. That which is freely given is not always appreciated, and of course it may not be what is wanted - in which case it is much more difficult to tell someone so!

So, on the whole, I have deep reservations about voluntary work within a profession, except as short-term focused placements for those trying to acquire experience at the start of their careers. Voluntary work outside the profession is quite another thing, and there are lots of ways in which people with time to spare can make themselves useful, putting something back into society and gaining experience and some gratification at the same time.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Thing 21 : job applications and interviews

Just thinking about this one makes me feel miserable. So much hangs on successfully finding a suitable niche for yourself, and yet at times it can seem an almost impossible task. Fortunately it's a long time since I have had to go through this horror, and I am very much hoping it won't ever be necessary again, but you never know, especially given the current economic climate. I do not have a current CV, and I think I would need to start from scratch again if I had to do one now. I did at one time have the art of the written application so finely honed that I got a high proportion of interviews. Sadly if you are no good at interviews you don't get any better at it as time goes by - if anything I have found that you get worse ("that answer must have been the wrong one, I must find another one").

The interview process can have its lighter moments. *whispers* some people are not very good at conducting interviews - some consolation perhaps!  Most memorable disasters included the library which had summoned all the candidates for a day which was to have included a tour and sessions with current staff. The library had flooded in the night and everyone had been sent home, so we spent the whole day shivering in a different part of the campus which was deserted as it was out of term time, and never saw the library or met the staff (but had to hang about all day just the same!) At another interview candidates were given lunch, plate in one hand and glass in another, and then invited to traipse up some narrow stairs, through numerous doors and across a courtyard. Maybe that one was a test of social skills! Most annoying was the university library whose interview process required two days, with a shortlist of five being whittled down to two before lunchtime on the second day. Only as we three who did not reach the final cut set off to the station (without any lunch) did the box-ticking nature of this exercise become apparent. Out of five candidates, there were three white people and two from ethnic minorities, three men and two women; so, two white men, one white woman (me), one man and one woman each from other ethnic groups, thus exactly complying with an HR target of a 3:2 m/f and white/non-white ratio. No prizes for guessing which the final two were. This simply made me feel that I had been wasting my time: I don't want to be a token female (and I did really want the job!) On another occasion I tentatively asked a County Librarian of a public library service whether there were any plans to automate, and got the answer "over my dead body!" (This was in the 1990s, so it was not an unreasonable question!)

I could go on, but I won't: dwelling on this sort of thing embitters the soul and gets you nowhere. It's an employer's market at the moment (for those who are able to recruit at all), so things are not easy for those who are looking. Best of luck to everyone at the start of their careers, and even more luck to the older ones, because whatever equal opportunity policies are in place it does not become easier when you are older. I am going to take on board all the good advice in the cpd blogpost, and I may update my CV, but I am not going to spend too much more time thinking about this topic unless or until it is forced on me, as I think I've done my share.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Thing 20 : library roots and routes

Thing 20 asks us to blog about our library roots (how we got into libraries in the first place) and routes (our career paths to date, and to add the story to the Library routes project wiki.

I have already talked about how I came to be a librarian here, and my early experience up to chartership here, so I won't go over it all again. While all this was going on, I was on another trajectory, towards ordination in the Anglican church, which ultimately came to nothing but is relevant here because it was the main reason for my switch from academic to public libraries. My Oxford degree and academic library job didn't press the right buttons in the church at the time, so while jumping through various hoops I also changed from full-time to part- time work so as to gain experience as a lay assistant in a parish (as a volunteer), and from the so-called "ivory tower" (ha!) to more immediate contact with ordinary Londoners through working in a busy central London reference library. The public library post outlasted my attempt to become ordained, and eventually needing more than a part time income I obtained an even more part-time post back in the University of London which I fitted round my public library job. The main purpose of the second job was to edit the annual "Theses in Progress in Commonwealth Studies", which has only this year gone online only, and to do some cataloguing at times of the year when there was less to do for "TIP". Although my reason for doing it was not the usual one, I think a lot of people, particularly women, end up working part-time in librarianship, which can change the course of your career. I was ready to return to full-time work at a time of cuts in the public sector (plus รงa change ...) and in 1991 the university post came to an end and the public library one was scaled back to the half-time hours I had originally been employed on (trying to remember now what was going on in 1991 - probably much the same as today!) This left me with no option other than to seek a full-time job elsewhere (astonishingly, people do need money to live on - coming to that in Thing 22). 

My next move was to the English-Speaking Union, where I was Librarian & Information Officer for two years. Being a solo librarian is another interesting experience! I was rather isolated in the organisation, and I certainly needed to be an advocate both to members and to other staff. I needed to get out to promote the library, but if I did that it meant the library was unstaffed and there was nobody to do the day-to-day work, which wasn't ideal. I did get out to lots of other organisations, and I was also involved in the ESU's literary lunches and evening events. I wasn't there long enough to make a real difference, but I did unearth details of the defunct Travelling Librarian Award and revived it in 1994. There was a little hiatus after I left but I'm glad to say my successor picked it up again and it is now flourishing once more in association with CILIP.

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life ..."
I don't think I was tired of life, but I was very conscious that if I stayed in London I could look forward to many more years of bedsits and rooms in shared houses belonging to other people, and I wanted to see some of my own possessions again. All this time I had still been gently moving towards another shot at selection for ordination, but in 1994 the parish I was attached to imploded (nothing to do with me, but it resulted in the sudden departure of my sponsoring vicar and it meant I was back to square one). I was particularly, though not exclusively, looking for work in Wales, and the opportunity that came up was, once again, part-time, with the then South Glamorgan County Council, for which the writing was already on the wall with local government reorganisation scheduled for 1996. My post was as a Senior Branch Librarian in the north Cardiff suburb of Rhiwbina (a garden village), as a job-share. The post survived the reorganisation when it was transferred to the new unitary authority for Cardiff. With this post I filled a number of gaps in my experience - some very worthwhile and some not so much fun. Lending experience, and stock selection for it, were really useful, although we soon lost the latter to supplier selection (somebody please tell Tim Coates that this has been going on for years!), also lots of hands-on children's activities, story times and author visits. Less appealing, though doubtless useful experience, was the daily struggle with the timetable, trying to cover the opening hours with not enough staff and negotiating endless requests for relief from other branches trying to do the same thing, and, even worse, anything to do with the boiler or the roof. How I sympathise with Philip Larkin's boiler experiences in his first (public library) job!  How I grew to hate that (oil-fired) boiler! The library was at the heart of the community in Rhiwbina. I seriously hope that the rumours currently circulating about the possibility of a volunteer-run library in Rhiwbina are misinformed.

I stayed there for eight years job-sharing with the same job-share partner, but I also, in the year after arriving in Cardiff, managed to get part-time work on the retroconversion project at Cardiff University, specifically to catalogue the Salisbury Library (the Welsh/Celtic/Border Counties collection), so once again, as in London, I was splitting my time between the public library and an academic library, sometimes on the same day. The retrocon project was for two years, but I was kept on on a number of very short term projects and then became a permanent cataloguer at the university. When my son was born I knew I would find it difficult to do both, and I had to think carefully about which one I should relinquish. The public library job was on a higher grade and I liked the branch and the area, but it did involve Saturdays, and, early as it might seem to anyone wanting to use it, late nights (6 pm and 7 pm) are very late if you need to look after a small child.  Formal childcare ends at 6 pm, which means collecting child and therefore leaving work before that - and that is without all the extra times when you are summoned earlier because of child illness (I hadn't got as far as thinking about school holidays and INSET days!) It was already difficult covering the opening hours of the public library with the staff we had, and in fact I and my job-share partner did a higher proportion of late nights between us than a single full-time librarian would have done. I could foresee problems if I were simultaneously the person needing to leave early and the person trying to make other staff stay on later than they had been expecting. The thing that really swung it in the end was a silly bureaucratic thing - my baby was born 11 weeks early, which according to the rules meant that my maternity leave also began early. The rules therefore expect you to return to work earlier than you were originally planning even though you have had a baby requiring hospitalisation (whereas, if the threatened early birth had not happened but I had been sent home and told to stop work and stay in bed for 11 weeks and had the baby at the appointed time, I could have stayed off as planned). A baby born that early does not come out looking like a full term baby, whatever the date on the birth certificate, and in the early days you cannot be sure what additional problems there may be. I had no child care in place for an early return and in any case it was not appropriate. The council stuck to the letter of the law and said I had to come back early, although I could have taken the four weeks' emergency leave allowed with a child under 5 in one go to defer the date (but what would I have done if I had had an emergency after that?) whereas the university allowed quite a long period of unpaid leave to be added to the statutory six months. It has, of course, all become a bit easier since then!

That is how I ended up jumping off the fence on the academic side, since when my cataloguing post has been upgraded and I have also acquired additional subject liaison responsibilities, so I am no longer "only" a cataloguer. There is obviously a consistent pattern though - I may only have one employer now but once again I have two roles and I am not in the same building each day!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Thing 19 : catching up and fitting things together

Like quite a lot of people, I've fallen behind with cpd23, but I'm going to try to finish it by the end of the month, so I have plenty of catching up to do! I have not really reached thing 19 as I have skipped things 17 and 18, and I realise that the points where I have stalled with the programme are the points where stuff needs to be downloaded. I've been trying to do most of cpd23 in my own time as I am short of time at work, but there are some things which really require more sophisticated hardware than anything available at home (although there are some difficulties at work too - our system doesn't even like Blogger very much!)

So far, then, I've enjoyed experimenting with new things, although I have to confess that I haven't got very far with actually changing my habits and integrating some of them in practice. I was already using Twitter; I set myself up on Google Reader for RSS feeds but have not as yet remembered to use it much, and Twitter has been bewailing recent changes to it, so perhaps I am already too late with that one!

Setting up a blog, however basic, has been useful, even though I have not yet used this one for anything else - I hope I will continue with it after the end of the programme and, who knows, I may even overcome my great fear of using any images! Perhaps I should set myself the aim of going back through the posts and adding a suitable picture to each one. I have not commented on other people's blogs much recently (I started off with good intentions!) but I have been reading some. One thing which is a visible result of the programme is the blog which we began this summer to promote the work of our Special Collections. It was an idea which had been floating round for a while, especially with the major project involving cataloguing and conserving the Cardiff Rare Books collection now underway, and with several of us enrolled on the cpd23 programme we realised that this was something we could do fairly easily.

I probably won't be using LinkedIn for the time being, but will bear it in mind for future reference. I've made a mental note to come back to Evernote and Dropbox, both of which I can see possible uses for. I'm not so sure about Pushnote or Google calendar, likewise the citation tools which it is useful to know about but as my institution uses Endnote I probably won't need others at work, although you never know!

With the discussions on advocacy, professional issues and career issues, I am on surer ground as I've had broad experience in different sectors (special, public and academic libraries) and had time to reflect on a lot of different aspects. The seed of a role as a possible future chartership mentor for CILIP has been sown, especially as I'm aware of a lack of Welsh speakers available to undertake this.

I'm certainly better informed, even if not yet fully taking advantage of all the "things"!

Thing 18: Screen capture tools and podcasting

Likewise, I'm going to have to come back to this one, but here is its slot.

... (20th November)
Having had a little look, I can see this is something I can't do justice to at the moment, as it involves lots of downloading and the need for all Java issues to be resolved once and for all, which is not the case either at home or at work.

I can see mileage in both Jing and podcasting, although I have to put my hand up and confess to never having listened to a podcast. Probably another one of those things which require a change of habit! (No MP3 player and no general earphone habit either). One of my colleagues has experimented with podcasting at work, with a six-part essay survival guide, at the moment available in English only, so if I were feeling brave I could perhaps attempt a Welsh version of it.

Jing could also be useful for talking users through some of the oddities of our LMS. I like the possibility of using images with added captions. Could this be the way to explain the most annoying feature of our own OPAC display, the fact that if there is more than one copy of a book and one is out on loan it does not also tell you that others are on the shelf, unless you can work out for yourself that number of items - numbers of items on loan/lost/at binding = number of items available (see? it is not easy to explain in words!)

I'm only one of a much bigger team and it would never be just down to me to make decisions about the use of these tools, unless I decided to strike out and do my own thing for Welsh language provision. I'm a bit reluctant to do this as the scale of it is all a bit much for me as a part-timer. I can't possibly do in Welsh everything that all my wonderful clever colleagues do in English. More Welsh-speakers needed, please - it's a bit lonely sometimes!

Thing 17 : Prezi, data visualisation and slideshare

I am skipping Prezi for the moment, but cheekily borrowing an idea from the "the disconnected librarian"  - "marking the place". The things should be in order, really, especially to a cataloguer's mind! Watch this space ...

Two weeks later ... (17th November)
I had been planning to create a Prezi for this thing and kill two birds with one stone by using it for part of an actual training session which I am due to give in December. I've seen several Prezis, including two great ones by colleagues at yesterday's social media event run by CLIC (Cardiff libraries in co-operation). One colleague even neatly used Prezi to talk about CPD23, thus fulfilling thing 17 at the same time! I'd heard people talk about "Prezi seasickness", and as someone who feels ill on just about anything that moves and can't look at the new weather forecast map I wondered what they meant, as I haven't had any problems seeing other people's. It's very different when you actually try to do one yourself! I have a nascent Prezi here, but it is very incomplete as after an hour I really did feel that I couldn't go on. I also found it quite hard as I am without sound or headphones in the library, so the tutorial seemed less helpful than it probably is.

I realise that the concept behind it is something I am likely to have difficulty with in any case, as I just don't seem to have a very visual mind. The default for all our files and folders is icons, and I have to change them into a list before I even start doing anything. I really don't "get" mind maps. I must be a card catalogue person at heart! I do like the effects some people achieve with their Prezis though, and I like the idea of a break from Powerpoint. I think Prezi is probably better for something which tells a story, even though it doesn't look linear. The points in mine are really just that, headings to talk to, so Powerpoint is perfectly adequate. If I do manage to finish it without being ill, I think it wouldn't be too bad to use, as it really doesn't need a lot of zooming about.

Slideshare looks like a good way to keep presentations together, although once again it may not be relevant for us as we have a training materials repository. Once I have got this year's presentations into a form I am happy with I must remember to upload them. The problem with being almost "the only Welsh speaker in the village" is that if something prevents me from doing a session there are not many other people who can take my place, and everything ought to be where somebody else can find it. Prezi and Slideshare are both a bit public!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Thing 16 (part 2) : Getting published

Not much to say about this! I have a short list of not very seminal professional publications to my name, mostly connected with previous jobs in London. You can see it here. I've been a bit lazy since moving to Wales, apart from a few book reviews (my excuse was the distance learning degree I did at Aberystwyth, which took longer than expected due mainly to life intervening). Other than that, I've had the odd article, review and short story published in Welsh or Welsh-interest publications, but that has been sporadic and I haven't done much recently. This blog and another one at work (for our Special Collections) which I have begun to contribute to are publications, of course, and perhaps the practice will get me thinking again about whether there is anything else I could publish.

Publishing is one way to promote what you do, and if you are in the position of trying to establish yourself or build your career it is also a good move. If you've got something worthwhile to say and can add to the sum of human knowledge, do it!

Thing 16 (part 1) : Complacency, advocacy and activism

This subject seems to have roused some surprisingly strong reactions, possibly because the distinction between advocacy and activism has become blurred for some. Johanna Anderson has covered this subject fully in her blog here, including definitions of the words.

It might be apposite to remember that CILIP has a code of professional practice which "applies ethical principles to the different groups and interests to which CILIP members must relate", and its section D, "Responsibilities to society" begins: "One of the distinguishing features of professions is that their knowledge and skills are at the service of society at large, and do not simply serve the interests of the immediate customer." Of course many people working in the field of librarianship are not members of CILIP and are free not to consider themselves bound by its ethical code. The implication is clear, though: no librarian is an island!

Advocacy can take the form of speaking for the profession outside it, promoting your own service to your immediate users, and promoting your part of it to those who make decisions about your service.

As a subject librarian in a university, I need to connect with staff and students, to promote the collection I'm responsible for and help people to get the best out of it. As a cataloguer, traditionally my role is more hidden than that. For years cataloguers at my place of work have been literally hidden away, first in a basement and now in a different building located at a distance from most of the site libraries. We are much better integrated than we used to be: at one time we were not included in meetings or really in any of the activities other professional staff took part in. Even so I think that much of what we do and how we do it is a mystery to some of our colleagues. Obviously it is important that we communicate better what we do and how it is changing, because in a financially uncertain world if we are not valued we are vulnerable. If we think that what we do is worthwhile, we need to promote ourselves, as we cannot rely on other people agreeing with us. Cataloguing has had an image problem for years - or, as someone once put it to me, "People think librarians are odd but even librarians think cataloguers are odd" (thanks for that!) It's certainly still true - a recent post on LISNPN here ruffled a few feathers ("Is there any position more dreaded ...") and drew this response on the High Visibility Cataloguing blog (set up recently with just this advocacy role in mind). Outside libraries, the role of cataloguer is even more derided - Tim Coates, library campaigner and consultant, reserves his deepest contumely for cataloguers (although I think he excludes academic libraries from that).

As I've worked in special, public and academic libraries, I'm well aware that there's an element within librarianship which looks down on public libraries - I've seen it from both sides of the fence and it has surfaced occasionally during the discussion on advocacy. It is hardly surprising that public libraries are vulnerable to outside attack if they cannot depend on support from within their own profession. Although I work in an academic library now, the years I spent in public libraries were a very important part of my career. I didn't expect it to be like that (I'd listened to too much negative publicity!) but I learned a great deal about librarianship there and it informs everything I do now. (Sweeping generalisation coming up) I think that on the whole those who say they do not use the public library service fall into the category of young/youngish people in full time employment. A word to the wise: being young and in full time work does not last forever!

Advocacy, or at the very least absence of negativity about different spheres of library work, is surely essential. Gone are the days when we can hide away in the stacks and take for granted that everyone will continue to value what we do and fund it. Activism is what happens when advocacy has failed, or when there has been too much complacency (and there have certainly been senior figures in the library profession who have been happy to bend to whatever wind blows for short term advantage without apparently considering the long term for their service). Active involvement in campaigns to save library services is not for everyone, and happily it is not needed everywhere - yet - but one would hope that at least moral support and an understanding of the principles at stake would be forthcoming.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Thing 14 : citation services

Thing 14 introduces us to three citation services. I have only had a quick look at these - something to come back to later. My own institution has invested heavily in Endnote, which is therefore free to students and researchers, so it is unlikely that I would make much use of other similar services in my job. Endnote will store up to 10,000 references including importing from online data sources, and seems to answer the needs of my institution. However I am all in favour of open source alternatives, so it's useful to know about other options, and once again I might find a personal use for some of these reference management systems.

Browsers can be a problem: until a recent upgrade I was able to access Mozilla Firefox without difficulty at work. Although Zotero started out requiring Firefox, I got into it without, which is an advantage. It looks promising: as a cataloguer I like the option to tag. Mendeley seems to offer similar functions, and I'm glad I'm not in the position of needing to choose between them: there seem to be strong views regarding which is better, but as they are both developing it would be hard to be dogmatic without a lot more experimentation with both. CiteULike is a little different. I think this would be particularly useful for academics as it seems to focus on sharing articles. What a dreadful name, though! I'm a bit surprised that spudulike haven't been after them for brand name infringement. Perhaps it's meant to convey the idea that research is now made so easy by these new services that it is as quick as takeaway food.

I of course belong to the generation who used index cards for everything, and to be honest I still feel more at home with old school habits. My library school bibliography was done that way, and so was every other project I've ever done. I'm nostalgic sometimes for those days but look how much more you can do with the new services, in terms of importing information and organising it, and how much easier it is to correct errors. No more sad tales of PhDs falling by the wayside because of whole sets of references lost in floods and fires!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Thing 13 : collaborative tools (Google docs, Dropbox, Wikis)

This is not going to be an in-depth analysis, as I haven't yet made any of these tools a regular part of my work, but having had a look I'm quite enthusiastic about all of them in principle. A general (obvious) point: collaboration is only going to work if you have someone using the same tools to collaborate with.

We all badly feel the need (I do, anyway) to get away from torrents of emails, attachments, and clogged-up shared drives. All of these tools could help free us from them.

Google Docs seems easy to use (I just need an opportunity now!) It could function as a shared drive without the clunkiness.

Dropbox could in fact also be useful for personal things - it wouldn't have to be for collaboration. "Always have your stuff, wherever you are", it promises - it's a way to store online with access from multiple computers and no need for USB sticks or, ahem, floppy discs (yes, I know. Technology has been moving a bit too fast for me lately!). I'm never sure how much we can actually trust tools to remain as promised (there was a lot of recent anguish over changes to Delicious) so I'm probably not yet ready to believe the "always" bit.

Wikis are the only one of these tools which we have vaguely discussed using at work. We have a cataloguing manual which really needs to be accessible in a more flexible form (which could be amended easily), and I can see a Wiki being a good potential place for it.

I've been a bit slow to embrace some of the tools available for collaborative work, not least because I have not felt able to warm to our in-house "communities" tool which is designed to do some of this. I do very much see the benefit of getting away from all the duplication of emailing and forwarding documents, so perhaps I should try a bit harder with our own system. Unfortunately it operates through a portal which seems to time out very quickly and frequently. I must be more patient with it and accept the inconvenience - or persuade colleagues to migrate to one of these tools instead!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Thing 15 : Conferences and other get-togethers

Attending conferences
There's obvious value in meeting people connected with, and hearing experts speak on, a theme of interest to you. I've been to a couple of residential conferences in the last ten years: last year's cataloguing conference at Exeter, which I mentioned here, and a few years ago the CILIP rare books group conference. In my experience each such event results in at least one change of practice at work or useful future contact. In earlier jobs I have been to various area studies events (often cliquey!), and CILIP Cymru and UC &R group events. If you are shy, as I am, the world of business cards and networking doesn't come easily, and I am quite sure I have missed opportunities to talk to the right people.

Speaking at conferences
NOOO! I'm not at all comfortable with public speaking although I feel I should be. I come from a family of teachers and clergy, after all! I suspect that this is something which simply comes more easily with practice, although you can usually tell that even quite experienced speakers are nervous. I'm not keen on death-by-Powerpoint, although Powerpoint really should make public speaking easier for those lacking confidence, as it diverts attention from speaker to screen. I'm not sure I could handle Prezi well either. I have contributed to internal days for staff at work, on both occasions sharing the stage with colleagues who had done the lion's share of the preparation.

Organising events
I had one job which included event organisation to a certain extent, but it's a long time since I've done anything like it, and it certainly did not involve anything as big as a conference. In that particular job there was a well-organised infrastructure in terms of catering arrangements and rooms: the practical aspects of event planning can be quite a headache without this behind you.

I'm always surprised at how many parents of children still seem to be able to take part in events, especially ones involving overnight stays away from home. I have as I say managed it a couple of times, but it involved a lot of planning: I can rarely go to anything outside school hours without my husband taking time off, and as he doen't get as much leave as I do this is not often practicable. This is as much a problem before 9 a.m. as it is in the late afternoon and the evening, so it is difficult to travel very far during the day either. Thank goodness for Twitter and its hashtags for helping the stay-at-homes to stay in touch!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Thing 12 : Social and anti-social media

I don't think I've got much to add to what has already been said on this subject, at least by advocates of the use of social media. Phil Bradley has recently looked at librarians' use of social networks: if you haven't read it yet do, as it is a good summary (and not just for librarians). Interestingly, in the very week we were asked to consider this subject several librarians using Google+ deleted their (new) accounts.
- hold on! wait for me! I haven't got into it properly yet and people are leaving already! 
See Woodsiegirl's blog post here for some of the reasons why she and others have already given up on Google+.

What are the advantages to social networking in the context of professional development? Can you think of any disadvantages?
Advantages in the use of social media for librarians include the bringing together of what can be a scattered and sometimes isolated group, especially for solo librarians and back room staff. In these times a sense of cohesion can only be good for the profession, and social media can provide moral support for those actively involved in defending libraries. It is democratic: you can become accepted online in a way you might not at a networking event, especially if you are shy and/or not politically minded or looking to advance your career. Online nobody can hear your accent or be put off by your appearance: it is a leveller, in that sense.

There can be negative things too. We're all adults and grown up about this, but the whole following/not following/unfollowing thing can be irksome. I'm often surprised by how many people seem to have issues with their colleagues and social media, but I can see that problems could arise in an institution, as I have mentioned before here.

JISCMail lists are a survival of earlier attempts to provide a forum for sharing ideas and information, but they are less "social" than newer social media. They are periodically subject to lengthy posts which are not always "on-topic", or else rather tedious requests for missed recordings (the list fulfils its function if this provides a useful service to some). The tone of these lists is usually more formal than that of more recent channels of communication. Discussion lists and online message boards seem less friendly than more modern expressions of social media.

Social media can be time-consuming. The boundaries between work and play become blurred. I read a comment somewhere and now can't remember where (bad librarian) that employers used to worry about employees spending work time on leisure activities, but that it has worked out the other way round, with people thinking and talking about work late into the night and when supposedly on holiday!

Did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?
I'm a convert (not an early adopter usually). I've found my use of Twitter professionally helpful but I can't really imagine using Facebook in the same way. I have joined Google+ but have only lurked on it. Having got used to Twitter I'm finding it quite hard to change my habits again and try other things. I am sure I will keep using it and I hope try others after the end of CPD23.

In your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?
Social networking can create its own "in-crowd", but it is one which is at least in theory open to all, although as time passes and friendships or alliances develop it may become more difficult to break into. It certainly can help foster a sense of cohesion and community.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Things 10 & 11: Chartership and Mentoring

As I mentioned in my previous post, once time passes the names of institutions and other things change. My experience of chartership was through the Library Association (now CILIP) and I became an ALA (which sounds more elegant than MCLIP!)

It is not only the name which has changed. In the 1980s the path to chartership was (having completed a first degree, a year's traineeship and a year's postgraduate course at library school) = one year as a Pre-Licentiate, under the supervision of a chartered librarian, following an approved programme at the candidate's workplace, including a variety of experience, visits to other libraries and sessions on professional issues (all of which required the cooperation and participation of the employer). At the end of this year you received an enormous certificate declaring you to be a Licentiate of the Library Association, and you then had to do a further two years, again under the supervision of a chartered librarian, during which time you completed your professional development report demonstrating what you had learned and all the exciting professional things you had done. So, if you're still with me, that was a minimum of eight years from leaving school to chartered librarianship, assuming nothing going wrong or taking longer at any point, rather like training to be a junior doctor but with a small fraction of the salary at the end of it. The scheme was no doubt devised with the best intentions to provide a framework for training and development to take the place of the old Library Association examinations. It took no account of the economic situation of the time, in which jobs on what could be regarded as professional scales were few and far between, qualified librarians were suddenly widely being employed on clerical scales in universities, and training budgets were for sending chief librarians to IFLA.

My period of unemployment on leaving library school lasted for three months, which was not bad at all for the time. I got a job, not, alas, in Oxford after all, but at the LSE (London School of Economics), advertised as a "training post". As a training post it was on a clerical scale, and it turned out to mean a cheap way of getting cataloguers. I hadn't intended to become a cataloguer: I was happy enough to do cataloguing, but I really wanted the sort of post which was rapidly disappearing, the subject librarian who did the cataloguing for their own subject. Two other new librarians were appointed at the same time, and with two recently qualified librarians already on the staff we embarked on the pre-licentiate year as a group of five, which gave us a bit of a numerical advantage in asking for our employer's support. We got used to being referred to as "the pre-licentiates" (which sounded rather dubious).

Our training sessions and occasional trips to other libraries were not viewed with favour by existing staff who had not had any of this: we eyed their academic-related grades with envy and wondered what they were complaining about. The change from academic-related posts to clerical-related was so recent that we were working alongside people not much older than us who were on the higher scale, and the University of London in general being (then, at least) quite hierarchical this was about more than money: there were places which they were allowed to eat in and we were not, and they even got longer library loans. I am glad things seem to be so different for new professionals now (all those conferences they seem to get to!) At the end of the year I got my Licentiateship: I still have the huge certificate embellished with fancy calligraphy. It must be the most short-lived and least useful qualification I ever obtained, but it is pretty!

The problems with the LA scheme became more apparent after this stage, as the two year period to chartership was less well defined. Rumours of cataloguers across the University of London having their reports rejected for lack of professional activity began to emerge, but how was anyone supposed to get this experience in such an economic climate? Our employers saw us as clerical staff, even though they asked for all the usual qualifications; we were not going to be on internal working groups or attending external events. Our activity was confined to cataloguing, apart from late nights and Saturdays on issue and enquiry desks (for which we were under-trained and lacked experience, at times which could be very busy). The only way would have been some extra-curricular activity. Out of the five "pre-licentiates", I think I am the only one who did eventually both charter and remain a member of the LA (CILIP), but I was disillusioned and did not rush to add to the reject pile. I explored other options (it's a long story, so I'm skipping most of it) and moved from the LSE to Westminster Libraries as a reference librarian.

This really was completely different, and although I had never set out planning to work in public libraries my six years there were very good grounding in librarianship. While chartership was not essential for the post, there was an understanding that newish professionals would be working towards it, and it was not long before I was summoned to the office of a senior member of staff to report progress. She turned out to be a stalwart of the Library Association, heavily involved in training, and there was my mentor at last! She persuaded me that my previous experience was a valid part of my professional development and she pushed and pulled me through the process of chartership. Much to my surprise my report was accepted, I shed the unattractive "Licentiate" status, became an ALA and, the icing on the cake, it turned out that Westminster set such store by this that I was automatically upgraded on becoming chartered (which would not have happened in the university!) I did this about two years later than originally planned, and I don't think it would have happened without the extra push from my mentor. I have often considered becoming a mentor myself; I may do it one day, but I think I am too out of touch with current chartership procedures at the moment (hoping that younger CPD23ers will enlighten me with their thing 10 blogs!)

See some great pictures here of the LSE in the 1980s (including the library). They capture the atmosphere of the time very well. It is beginning to look like a long time ago!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Thing 10 : Dreaming spires and lost causes : the path to librarianship

Thing 10 asks us to talk about how we became librarians, and to consider our training and experience and how we arrived at where we are now. For those of us who are a bit long in the tooth this is a lot to consider, so I'm going to confine myself to training in this post. The passage of time also means that a lot of the places and bodies I've been associated with have since changed their names.

I grew up surrounded by books, read at an early age, and always used the public library, although it was quite a trek down a steep hill from our house so I wasn't as frequent a visitor as I might have been. I have an early memory of being ticked off by the librarian for tidying the books! As a teenager I had a great desire to be an archivist (even though a careers talk at school had suggested that there was a minimum height requirement for this, which I didn't reach). I never particularly thought of librarianship as a career, and I certainly didn't consider going down the BLib route.

I was lucky enough to have two particular teachers who had faith in me in the sixth form, and who encouraged me to sit the Oxbridge entrance exams in the lower sixth (the usual procedure then was to wait until after A levels and stay on for an extra term at school). You could say they were my early mentors: success at anything often depends on having someone like this in your life at the right time. I got into Oxford to read English (language and literature), a wonderful three years which allowed me to sit around on the lawn by the river reading novels - and that counted as work! This is all so long ago that perhaps I need to explain that my fees were paid for me and I also had a grant (my parents had to contribute part of this, but not on a scale which broke the bank). I even had a minor scholarship, which was a quaint legacy from the olden times when students did not have grants and fees paid for them, and was given to certain students with no reference to financial need. We were expressly forbidden from taking paid work during term time - it was a disciplinary offence - so no jobs shelving in the library for us.

All good things come to an end. In my third year at Oxford I duly went off to the then Oxford University Appointments Committee (popular name, the Disappointments Committee), and, along with just about everyone else at the time, was told that I should train to be a chartered acountant. No, I said, I don't think so. Further pressed, I said that I was not good at maths, had no interest in economics, law or tax, and didn't think I was suited to accountancy. "Perhaps you're not ready for the world of work at all then". Hmmm. (They never actually explained that chartered accountancy was the route to world domination). My first choice would have been to stay on to do research, but cuts were biting then as now and there was not much opportunity unless you were cleverer than me; I also thought of the civil service, even going as far as a three-day event for potential high fliers (!) but the entrance exams were due to take place on my 21st birthday, and that was enough to put me off (so I can't have wanted it that much). I rejected just about everything sent to me by the Committee except the library graduate traineeship schemes which I liked the sound of (despite the disapproval of my careers lady). To be honest, I fear my main motivation was to stay on at Oxford somehow - there are lots of libraries there, after all! I applied for the SCONUL trainee scheme and various other similar training posts, got nowhere with any of my Oxford choices apart from one interview, but struck lucky with my second SCONUL choice, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

This being the 1980s, the sector was contracting rapidly, and before I could go to my interview, the National Library decided to stop funding the SCONUL traineeship and withdrew its invitation. Then they wrote again, this time saying that they had come to an agreement with St. Deiniol's Library in Hawarden (who up to then had had an arrangement with John Rylands, who had also decided to cut back on its traineeship), and that the post would now be there instead, with a month at the National Library and some time with Clwyd public libraries. It was a bit of an accidental way to get a job, and it wasn't what I had applied for, but it was an interesting year. St. Deiniol's is a residential library and at that time was also a theological college with resident ordinands. It is the Gladstone memorial library, started by Gladstone himself (he lived in the village). Its strengths are theology and history (including Gladstone's own annotated books). Much was expected of the SCONUL trainee (living in, working until 7 every night, working every Saturday, chatting to guests at mealtimes, making teas for the weekend post-ordination and NSM courses). It had atmosphere:  the hand-held lamps planned by Gladstone for looking at low shelves in dark corners were still in use (soon to be banned for health & safety reasons), as were the card catalogues of his design with the original brass rods, and an in-house classification scheme allegedly derived from his ideas. There was little direct funding, and heavy use was made of Manpower Services Commission and Youth Opportunity Programmes, 1980s short term job creation schemes for people who had already been out of work for a while.

My month at the National Library of Wales had a great influence on me, and I can't quite believe it was only a month - it resulted in lasting friendships. Its wonderful flexitime scheme spoiled me for life (I've never managed to work anywhere else that had one since!) It was my first introduction to LC classification (which it later dropped). Clwyd public libraries were also fun, despite being in the middle of a work-to-rule (something to do with data entry and objections to computerisation - hard to believe now!) Scariest moment was being abandoned in Mold Branch Library with a Browne issue system (a child came to my rescue and showed me what to do).

After a year's graduate traineeship you were expected to go on to library school for postgraduate diploma (not a Masters then). My first choice was UCL, which had a good reputation for cataloguing and historical bibliography and for being somewhere from which jobs in academic libraries might follow (rumour had it that Oxford libraries favoured UCL students). I got an interview (much was made of the fact that my application had been posted just before the deadline, and I fell over a bin). I was offered a place, but without a grant. CLW (The College of Librarianship Wales), my second choice, offered me a place without an interview and put me on a reserve list for a grant. I tried to find funding sources and I also applied for other library training posts, but then CLW produced a funded place for me, so once again it was Wales which offered me a chance even when I hadn't made it my first choice. At CLW I chose historical bibliography as my special choice (25% of the course); I enjoyed the projects, I didn't enjoy all the stuff about pre-coordinate and post-coordinate indexing which I didn't understand; I remember being shown "the future", a shiny videodisc the size of an LP. I chose King's College London for a month's placement. By the end of the course I was fairly sure that I wanted to work in an academic library, ideally with older books and with a chance to apply the historical bibliography I had studied. I had no job at the end and (shame on me) I fled the minute the exams were over and rejoined friends in Oxford, where I found myself a room, and hoped to find a job. Most of us left without a job lined up, just a few were seconded from employers they were returning to.

I was lucky to belong to the generation which didn't have to have loans or need to find jobs to get through study. I did my share of studying part-time while working later on, and it's hard work! I was not so lucky in that I graduated and then qualified at a time of cuts and shrinkage in the sector, rather like today.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Thing 9 : Elephants never forget

Thing 9 introduces Evernote.

This is another new thing for me. I have duly registered, attracted by the promise that it is going to help me remember things (but oh! another username and password! not going to help me with remembering that, is it?) I love the elephant logo too.

It seems to offer to do what a writer's notebook does - a place to note interesting things to come back to for future reference - and it seems to address some of the nebulousness of the web (it's so easy to move around from one website to another and lose track of where you have been). I'm looking forward to getting to know my way around it (will it archive web pages which change? That could be really useful if so!)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Thing 8 : Google Calendar

I've set this up, but not yet put anything in it, which rather negates the object of the exercise!

I already have access to an electronic calendar at work through Lotus notes, and I don't get on with that very well. The intention is that meetings go neatly into it when they are set up (great if the person organising the meeting sends it as an appointment, otherwise you have to do it manually yourself). Annual leave automatically displays once it has been approved (in theory, but despite much discussion and several lots of instructions I still cannot get it to say anything other than "awaiting approval"). I have duly set the correct limits to show my working hours, but that results in querulous messages every time I try to accept an invitation to a meeting which falls outside them. Our internal electronic course booking system doesn't talk to our electronic calendar (this has actually caused me to miss things!) It is potentially useful to be able to see other people's availability, especially when trying to arrange meetings, and a colleague recently said that she blocks out time on her calendar for specific tasks, which means that she gets them done instead of being diverted by meetings all the time, so I might try that. Happily I no longer have the onerous duty of doing the timetable for library desks and enquiry points and don't have to worry about covering opening hours.

Google Calendar uses the American order of month first, day next, which is fine when reading American documents but I'm not sure I could adapt to using it myself for my own calendar: it would throw me at the beginning of the month and in the early months of the year (4/5? 7/6? 6/7?), and there's potential for messing up in November this year too. (I'm going to be quite glad in any case once we've got past 2012!) Thinking about this task has made me realise that what I really need to do is to try to return to the habit I had for years of keeping a hard copy diary which I took everywhere with me, with a back-up record kept at home. The only way in which an online version wins is allowing other people access to it, but I already have that at work within the limitations of the system. (My paper diary habit fell by the wayside when an unexpected life event made everything written in it totally redundant for quite a long time!) I also feel I would like to know more about how secure the information is on Google. Would it be possible for anyone undesirable to access the information?

I don't think I'll be using Google Calendar for now, since we have a different system at work and I haven't got a fancy phone, but I might think about it in future, and it's useful to know about it.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Thing 7 : professional networks and face-to-face networking

Before the internet, these were really the only networks. I think things are a little easier for introverts today!

Looking back, the big one which we were all steered towards was always CILIP, or as I still like to think of it, the Library Association. (I know all about the reasons for the name change but still think it was probably a mistake: it doesn't help advocacy, it is not self-explanatory to people outside the "echo chamber", and some people are not sure how to pronounce it - back to thing 3 and branding again!) Anyway, at my library school we were strongly encouraged to join. Then as now you could choose special interest groups - we were pushed in the direction of the then AAL (Association of Assistant Librarians) which has morphed into the Career Development Group. Over the years, as my job has changed, I have variously been in the UC&R group, the Public Libraries Group, the Information Services Group, and the Rare Books and Special Collections Group: the obvious omission for me is the Cataloguing & Indexing group. I'm not quite sure why I've never been in that! All of these have produced useful periodicals - I particularly used to enjoy "Refer" when I worked in a public reference library. I had articles published in "The Assistant Librarian" and I am a reviewer for the rare books group newsletter. Over the years the supply of hard copy journals has dried up, and I have to confess that I hardly ever get round to reading digital versions and suspect that they don't reach as many people - or maybe that's just me.

It's one thing to get journals through the post - quite another to get out there and get involved. While I was going through the chartership process, a meeting for candidates was arranged by the London branch of the AAL, advertised as being in a pub. I and a friend duly turned up, equipped ourselves with drinks, and realised we had no idea who the other people were. It dawned on us that we were actually going to have to go up to complete strangers and ask them whether they were librarians. I can't recommend the experience! Cue, friend and I arguing about who was going to do this and whom to approach. The first one was easy to spot - a shy girl who was very relieved to be asked, tagged along but clearly had no intention of taking the initiative. Desperate glances round the pub revealed two not very prepossessing chaps sitting in a corner. Definitely must be librarians, we decided. There followed a heated debate about whose turn it was to ask, which I somehow lost, and I can remember even now the horror of the two on being approached by three female librarians and accosted. No, they most certainly were not librarians, and let us say that they clearly misinterpreted our intentions. We beat a hasty retreat, and it was only on the way out of the door that we discovered the stairs to a meeting room on another floor (not mentioned in the announcement of the event). I remember nothing of the actual meeting.

Having failed this elementary initiation rite, I didn't get any further with getting involved with groups, which I now regret, as I think that they do have a lot to offer. When my work involved me in area studies libraries I had some involvement with other groups such as SCOLMA, and I edited one of their bibliographies of theses. There are a number of specialist groups like this.

One thing to bear in mind if involved in groups (online or real life) is that they can settle down into being groups of friends, which is fine but can make it difficult for outsiders to join in: it is important to make sure that newcomers are not made to feel that they are gatecrashers at a party. It's also true that there are some people who are really only interested in you if they think you are going to further their careers in some way (both online and socially). They could be wrong! You never know when someone you have slighted might turn up in a position of authority somewhere. 

CILIP membership is not cheap, and I have come close to giving up on it several times, but I'm still in it and I am sure that I am better informed and connected to the profession as a result. (Also, membership/chartership was often a  requirement for some jobs). It's a pity that it hasn't got the teeth of some other professional associations which have a more active role in representing members, but it has got better over the years at making representations about levels of pay.

Motherhood makes attending events away from home infrequent as they require a lot of planning, but I have been lucky enough to attend a number of training events and a couple of conferences: the Rare Books Group conference in (eek) 2003, and last September the CIG group conference at Exeter. The Exeter conference was very enjoyable. I made contact via Twitter with other attendees beforehand and have kept in contact since. I even stayed on after most people had left and went on one of the visits, and ended up writing about it for the CIG blog: Exeter Cathedral visit (a bit cheeky, since I am still not a member of the group!) In previous jobs I have been to events like the London Book Fair and the Online Exhibition, and (once only - it was cliquey - but it might be different now) LA Members' Day. More recently I've been to CILIP Cymru's Members' Day, which was great, but I've yet to get to its conference, about which everyone speaks highly. In my public library life there were fewer opportunities to attend external conferences and courses as staffing was always a problem, but I particularly remember a delightful Tir na n-Og Welsh Books Council event with a Q&A session with children's authors, which led to a very successful day of author visits back at my branch library with enthusiastic participation from two local primary schools. One thing can lead to another!

Recently we have seen the development of CLIC, which brings librarians from different sectors in Cardiff together. Most other parts of Wales already had some kind of network like this, so we were late to the party, but sometimes that means you can benefit from the advice of others who have already negotiated the pitfalls. I feel quite strongly that librarians from different sectors should not operate in silos: we are all in the same profession and there is a lot more movement from one sector to another than some would have you believe. Recently it seems to have become the fashion to denigrate librarians from other sectors who are involved in public library campaigns, and I think if we think about it we can all see why (dividing public librarians from others clearly weakens their position and isolates them). Sadly campaigns to save public libraries are another form of networking today.

"And finally", as part of thing 7, we had a very enjoyable "South Wales CPD23 things meetup" this week in Cardiff, as described by my colleague darklecat. We had exclusive use of a yurt, we had Twitter and blogs to help us make our arrangements to meet, and nobody had to walk around accosting strange men and asking them if they were librarians. Progress!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Thing 6 : Online networks

Thing 6 asks us to explore some online social networks, happily not expecting us to join them all!

I have a Facebook account, but I'm not a heavy Facebook user and I don't often post on my "wall". I use it mainly to keep in touch with friends and family. I don't find it as easy to use as it was (some people's posts seem to appear more than once on the same page, others never seem to swim past at all) and I find the targeted advertising very irritating. Seriously, has anyone ever bought anything as a result of having an ad pop up on their Facebook page? I know I'm not as young as I was, but is it really necessary to go on about my supposedly wrinkly face and the need for Botox/reconstructive surgery/facelifts? I removed the educational details for the same reason (astonishingly, Oxbridge graduates get bombarded among other things with requests from a company apparently willing to pay them to write essays for current students. That is SO not a good idea, in my case!) Still, it's a convenient way of keeping in touch, especially with people you don't see often. What I can't really envisage is the idea of students using it to connect with the library, but I'm willing to be proved wrong!

I don't have a LinkedIn account. I've had a snoop for a few people on Google, strictly for the purposes of Thing 6 of course, and noticed how high up LinkedIn comes in the results. I had a good look at my cousin's profile, which seems to comprise a very full CV with lots of tags (and some surprises - Russian martial arts? He didn't put that on Facebook!). I think the main purpose of LinkedIn would be for those who are or may be actively seeking employment or building a career: it would be a useful part of one's online profile for potential employers and I would certainly think about using it if my situation changes. I do have an account with Plaxo - I was invited to join it by a friend with a Very Important Job (she it was who got me onto Facebook and Twitter, too!). It seems to be for people working at a higher level than I am, although I do get updates telling me about other people in my organisation who are using it. This network is apparently not as well known as some of the others, but it has been around for quite a while : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaxo

LISNPN looks fantastic. Too late for me - despite its kind words about not being exclusively for the recently qualified, I don't think I could recycle myself as a "New Professional". It's good to see so much energy and enthusiasm from and for people at the start of their careers - I only hope that there will still be a profession for them to be in! LATnetwork also looks useful. I don't do much teaching but it looks like something that might interest some of my colleagues. Thanks CPD23 for nudging me back in the direction of CILIP Communities, which I haven't been using. I found some useful feeds and blogposts there, and will revisit it soon and edit my details.

However, one stumbling block to all these networks: the plethora of usernames and passwords you need for all these things! I use different ones for everything in the possibly vain hope that this is more secure, and none of them is like any of the public names or obvious words people might associate with me. Am I making life unnecessarily complicated for myself?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Thing 5 : We have no time to stand and stare

For Thing 5, we are asked to consider reflective practice, and to do some.

It's never a bad thing to be self-aware, of course, but the criticisms of "vanity", "self-indulgence" and "navel-gazing" often levelled at the blogosphere are a bit of a deterrent to me. I don't really expect everyone to be interested in what I have to say about my own experience.

So far, with the CPD23 things programme, I've learned a bit about blogging, and this is soon going to be put into practice when we launch our exciting new blog at work for SCOLAR (Special Collections & Archives). I'm only a peripheral member of the SCOLAR team, doing some of the cataloguing and with a relationship with one part of its collection which goes back several years before SCOLAR was even a gleam in anyone's eye. I'm very familiar with my own bit of the collection, but I am sure that there are lots of people even within our own university who don't know what it contains, so I'm looking forward to sharing snippets about it both within our own organisation and beyond. The idea had been floating around for a while, particularly after last year's success in acquiring the Cardiff rare books collection, and it is hoped that the blog will be a way to share news about the collection with the wider world as it is catalogued. The final impetus for being able to do this came in part from the fact that three of us are doing CPD23, and suddenly what seemed difficult to set up was proved not to be.

My own blog, so far, has only been used for the CPD23 things programme, and I have not yet made it very visually appealing (I also realise that I am actually very nervous about using ANY images, and quite paranoid about copyright, but I'll get over that!) Viewing stats have declined steadily with every post - I hope that's because there are so many blogs to read and not because I'm getting more and more boring.

Social media has enabled me to feel connected at a time when child care makes actually going anywhere quite difficult, even at work. No sooner had CPD23 introduced a new set of people to Twitter than lots of people seem to have semi-abandoned it for Google+. I've set myself up on Google+ but haven't got the hang of it yet - my only "circle" is a librarians' circle, and the only people in it are also Twitter followers so far. Something else to get to grips with! Same with RSS feeds - hoping they are going to be useful but needing to remember to change habits can be a drawback.

I think, on reflection, that I have always been reasonably comfortable with the first two steps recommended : recall, evaluate. It's that third step, "apply" what you have learned, which can be the stumbling-block.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Thing 4 : catching up and being left behind

As well as Twitter, we were asked to explore RSS feeds and Pushnote.

RSS feeds
Shame on me, I haven't been using these before now. It's an obvious gap in my knowledge and experience: somehow my eye was off the ball when everyone else seemed to be getting themselves properly set up with them. There are many blogs and websites I occasionally dip in and out of in a rather unfocussed way, so I'm looking forward to getting on top of this with RSS. I have set it all up in Google Reader, which seems to be what most people recommend after the demise of Bloglines. All I have to do now is change my habits and remember to look at it! That's the main drawback with a lot of new tools: habits can be quite hard to change, and we probably all have our own short cuts around the Web, which is fine but you can miss things. I did wonder whether I would use RSS feeds rather than Twitter to keep up with some people whose blogs are the main reason for following on Twitter, though I notice that other cpd23 participants say the opposite (that Twitter alerts them to new blogposts more quickly), so perhaps not! I will be making an effort with Google Reader.

This is completely new to me. I think it's important for librarians to know how people communicate information, so I am not writing this one off yet, but the browser restriction is inconvenient, and at the moment I'm not sure how useful rating things and sharing the ratings would be. I tend to wait and see what early adopters make of new tools, and as they are usually generous in sharing their assessments I'll probably wait for their verdict on this one. It seems to depend on enough of a critical mass using it to be worthwhile. One to revisit later in the programme.

Thing 4 : Keeping up

Thing 4 asks us to look at three current awareness tools, Twitter, RSS feeds and Pushnote.

I'm already using Twitter, as @Ceridwen339. Despite initial scepticism (lots of it fuelled by friends and family who have only encountered it through snide comments in the press), I got past the initial hurdles of "what shall I say?" and "now what?".  Colleague @SarahNicholas's enthusiasm and a request from a friend to join together with an article written by @PhilBradley in CILIP Update got me started. I've been on Twitter since November 2009.

Best advice : persist beyond the first month or so before you can really expect to see the benefits, and make sure you have a biography which tells people something about you. Although it can be a bit haphazard, it's surprising how you do build up a group of people whose links are useful, who are witty and informative, and who on occasion can answer questions quickly for you. You don't have to read every single tweet, and you can use lists to group people to make things manageable. I have quite a lot of non-library followers as well as library ones, and my tweets are a mix of personal and work (I think the non-library followers are more patient with library tweets than the other way round, on the whole!) I very rarely unfollow anyone who is following me back, although I think Twitter has been known to unfollow people at random.

I used Twitter to make contact with people at a conference I attended last year, and have maintained the contact since, which has been very helpful. As I'm not able to go to many such events, I find it useful to follow the tweets of others using conference hashtags. I've found it to be a quick source of news, sometimes including things I wouldn't have found out about as quickly or at all (e.g. the interesting fact that the hotel I was planning to stay in in August shut its doors suddenly last week and ejected the people who were staying there at 7.30 a.m. - still no word from the hotel, and I might not have picked that one up on the news!)

I did wonder at the start whether I should have a separate account for Welsh language tweets, but decided against it; I'm also not keen on tweeting the same thing twice in both languages (I find it a bit repetitive if you can understand both - and it would take twice as long!). I'll probably look at the whole issue of languages and social media in another post, but I'd like to mention indigenoustweets which lists Twitter users tweeting in other languages. (4.4% of all my tweets have been in Welsh, according to its stats, not updated daily).

Twitter has had the effect of making me spend much more time thinking about professional issues when I'm not at work (I work part-time) - which may or may not be a good thing! It's also reconnected me with some other interests that had been neglected. Give it a go!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thing 3 (Part 3) : Work and play : Never the twain shall meet?

I don't make any attempt to separate the professional and personal sides of my life. I take the view that as a whole person, all the parts are the sum of the whole, and I would find it difficult to keep them completely separate.  Unless you do succeed in keeping the different parts of life firmly in their boxes, one effect of social media is to blur the boundaries. Colleagues have no doubt recently discovered things about me they might not have guessed, and I've certainly had new light shed on the working lives of some friends and family which I would not have known much about before. I try to behave online in the same way I do in real life, which mainly means not swearing in public, and not necessarily sharing political and religious opinions with all comers (but I do have some and they are not all secret!)

As one whose career began in the days when The Librarian was a distant figure who swept past you in the corridor without apparently knowing your name, I rather like the "levelling" aspect of social media: some senior figures in the profession engage readily with those at the beginning of their careers. That's not without its dangers, particularly within an institution: imagine having to sack someone who was a Facebook friend, or a disciplinary issue with someone you have been chatting to on Twitter! Could social media distort a recruitment process? Make difficult decisions at work more difficult?  I'm not in a position of having to supervise staff much now (been there!), but I can see the potential pitfalls.

My Facebook page is fairly bland: I took the opportunity of the recent profile changes to remove educational details, &c., because I was getting some pretty silly targeted advertising, but it wouldn't be hard to work out where I've been and what I've done.  For sentimental reasons, I'm clinging to my film camera - ah, those far-off days twiddling things in liquid and the magic of watching the picture slowly appearing on the film! I know this can't go on forever, I admire the photos which others share, but as I haven't yet succumbed to the digital age there are not many images of me out there. I suspect that a lot of the sensitivity around about Facebook is about photographs.

The Welsh-speaking world is quite small: we brush up against each other in more than one sphere and the idea of completely separating work and the rest of life is even more difficult among the Cymry Cymraeg, especially in smaller places - I bet anyone from Aberystwyth could tell you the religious affiliation of lots of people they know professionally, for instance. (Interestingly, sometimes this world does exist in a separate dimension: you might have a Welsh-speaking neighbour or colleague and never realise that within that Welsh world your neighbour is a famous poet or singer!) Other things can undermine any hope of separating life at work and life outside, too. If you have children, you are thrown together with other people who have children the same age (who could be colleagues, senior or junior, academic staff, or students). My comments refer to academic libraries, as that's where I am now, but for anyone working in a public library and living in the community they serve the boundary can be more of an issue, even without the additional social media factor.

Privacy is maintained by a certain amount of self-censorship, and I'm lucky enough to work somewhere where secrecy is not necessary. On the whole, I think I'm happy to stick with my mixed approach, while bearing in mind the things that might derail it.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Thing 3 (Part 2) : Names


Unobjectionable, easy to pronounce. There were no others in my year at school (the only other Helen I remember at school actually had the same surname as me). At college, a few more, but not in overwhelming numbers. (One of those is now an academic at my place of work!) It was only on arriving at library school that I started to realise just how common a name it was. In my first professional post I was greeted on the first day with "we were wondering if you wouldn't mind using your middle name": I was the third Helen in a small team. In my current post I started on the same day as another Helen, and there are several others. And just look at all the Helens following CPD23! It does seem to be a very popular name for librarians.


"No", I said, "I don't mind using my middle name, it's Ceridwen". Cue hasty change of subject, and no more was heard about using my middle name. Outside Wales, not much chance of anyone pronouncing or spelling this one correctly. (The "C" is hard and the stress is on the second syllable. Ker-ID-wen.) Its heyday was a bit before my time (like a lot of expatriate Welsh, my parents were a bit behind with fashions in Welsh names), but there are more of us around than you might expect. Ceridwen comes from medieval Welsh poetry originally: she owned the cauldron of poetic inspiration, which sounds good, but she wasn't a very nice person. My parents did not realise, and nor did I for a while, that it is used widely within pagan circles, and quite often by people who didn't start out as Ceridwen. It gets shortened to Ceri (usually, though a recent Welsh novel featured a Crid). It's the name my husband and his friends and family use.

My Twitter name at the moment is @Ceridwen339. I'm aware that it puts some people off - too Welsh (tough!), can't pronounce it (see above), or possibly expect Wicca and are disappointed. 339 is simply the number of a house I used to live in. Inevitably there was already a @Ceridwen (she lives in Arkansas) and several variations on Ceridwen with numbers and different spellings, all foiled no doubt by the Arkansas lady (and including a Ceridwen Price). I'm probably going to tweak the Twitter handle (339 isn't a magic number, but maybe it looks that way in conjunction with Ceridwen!)


Another common name, but one which causes a surprising amount of bother. People make you say it and spell it over and over, and claim they have never heard it before. Nobody gets it first time on the phone. I get more financial spam than anyone else in the office. It has nothing to do with money! It's just a boring patronymic.

Helen Price? There must be hundreds. Strangely, several of them are or were librarians (and there's that Sol and Helen Price Library). There are over 80 Helen Prices on LinkedIn, and, inevitably, at least 6 on Twitter, including one in Cardiff. I always used to sign my name "Helen C. Price" and that is how it appears in LC authorities.


I'd been warned by married friends that marriage is a name minefield. I started out intending to keep my own name - well, as a cataloguer, I wouldn't want to mess with that authority heading, would I? Saunders, as well as being another common patronymic, was also the surname of two other people working on the same floor (it's right up there with Helen as a common name!) My intention was scuppered quite early on by officialdom, but I did hang on to my own surname as an extra middle name, which for some reason I thought was a well-established practice (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Barrett Browning), and now I know it isn't. The trend today seems to be moving back to wife taking husband's name. Changing your name brings its own problems. Credit rating? Back to square one. Getting bureaucrats to accept that you are still the same person, ditto. If you are a married woman, making sure you still have enough ID with your name on it, changed or not, to be able to produce documentation for anything, be prepared to do battle. I would really like to know what the experience of couples in civil partnerships in these matters is - I haven't spotted a name-changing tradition developing there but there may be one. I do know one or two married couples where husband and wife have joined their names.

Saunders is also probably on a level with Price for people making you spell it and not hearing it right first time (favourite version : Mrs.Thornbirds) and some people seem not to be able to pronounce it either.

Helen Saunders? Quite a few of those (though fewer librarians!) Helen Price Saunders? Yes, that's me, usually. Helen Ceridwen Price Saunders? Definitely me, but that is too many names!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thing 3 (Part 1) : Online presence, branding and advertising

Thing 3 requires us to consider personal "branding" and reflect on our own online presence. On reading the cpd23 blogpost, my first thought was "oh no! I'm doing everything wrong!" - no consistency, no picture of me, multiple forms of name - in fact I can't condense it all into one post.

By happy coincidence, to break out of the library echo chamber for a moment, journalists have been having a similar conversation among themselves this week. It's inspired by the idea that Web 2.0 enables individuals to escape the corporate identity of their employers (which is why some don't like it), creating an identity of their own, or "brand", which in times of insecure employment may be very important.

The concept of "branding" provokes strong feelings. I enjoyed Tom Roper's blog comments (and found much I agreed with): or, for a laugh, look at this robust response to a student from Gene Weingarten. At the same time, I do really like the careful way Jo Alcock has approached her online presence, with the purple flower theme across different platforms, and her consistent name use.

I've mainly been a public sector person, but my mother worked in the strange nicotine-fuelled hothouse world of advertising in the 1950s/1960s - real life "Mad Men" - so I've always been aware of some of the tricks (hence my dollop of cynicism - I can spot a publicity puff a mile off), understanding from an early age that the point is to promote and sell the product. 1950s jingles and slogans did just that (some are still memorable and even still in use today), whereas later more indulgently arty ads seemed to be challenging the viewer to guess what the product was. No use, according to my mother, if you don't remember the name. Moral: a clear message with attractive packaging = sales.

I don't think of myself as marketing a product. I'm not planning to change my job, although in these turbulent times who knows what the future holds? I do however think that considering how we present ourselves online is important to us all. I'm going to skip the name thing for now, as "it's complicated" (mix of common names, doppelgangers,Welsh names, the Welsh language, and marriage). I did the "vanity" Google search using various versions of my name, the best results coming from "Helen + Price + Saunders". Adding "library" to this puts "The Sol and Helen Price Library" at the top - yay! A Helen Price Library!- with the next three hits being me, all from the library staff page at my place of work. Not everything about us on the web is within our control! I found one annoying thing, the ubiquitous http://www.192.com/ which pops up high on Google searches.You get a result for a name (in this case, just me), with partial postcode and town in 2002 (an out-of-date address for that year), and a long list of people I've never heard of allegedly living with me. Who are they? It was a tiny house! Everyone who ever lived in the house? The street? The whole company of saints? Apparently you can get yourself removed from this site, so that's on my "to do" list now. I also found something nice, a "thank you" on the website of Cymdeithas Melinau Cymru (The Welsh Mills Society), which I'd never seen before, which was lovely.

I treat all online communication as potentially open to the world. As I'm a bit late to all of this I haven't got as much to consider as some! I have never had a blog before; I do have a Twitter account, which is not locked down, and I'm happy to be followed by colleagues and anyone else. It's a mixture of personal and professional. I also have a Facebook account -  more privacy settings on that but I don't post much on it and there is nothing there which couldn't be read by anyone (not posted by me, anyway!) - and I'm registered with Plaxo (which I never remember to look at). I try to treat email in a fairly cautious way, as it only takes one click for someone to forward electronic communications far beyond their intended audience. If I really needed somewhere to express things I didn't want particular people to read, I would dig out my fountain pen and ink, revive my old diary, and use that - cold revenge is safer! Seriously, no potential employer is going to be thrilled to read lots of negative or incoherent stuff, so if you are job-hunting, tread carefully in the Web 2.0 world.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Thing 2 : meeting the neighbours

Thing 2 in the CPD23 things programme is "investigate other blogs", find some of interest, follow, comment and generally get used to how the whole thing works and find out who else is taking part. There are so many! I'm sure I've missed many that are relevant to me and hope to stumble across them via tags - or serendipity - which come to think of it is probably how our catalogue works too.

I've found four colleagues from my own workplace so far, including a cataloguing colleague's blog darksideofthecatalogue, and Notes from the basement (featuring our special collections where I spend some of my time with the rare books), and lots of people who are already Twitter contacts, but I'm also hoping to reach out a bit and find the ones I don't already know in real life or online.

As my career, if that's what it is, has been quite diverse, I have a fairly wide range of points of interest (cataloguing, subject librarianship, public libraries, special collections, rare books, Welsh). I've found some blog names I like, e.g. ones with literary or cultural references such as Palely loitering and Libraries gave us power. I'm looking forward to following Adventures of a Welsh Librarian, from the National Library of Wales (one of the many places I've been associated with!) : it's a partly bilingual blog, too, which I also considered doing although I think for the purposes of CPD23 I will stick to English as there don't seem to be many Welsh-speaking participants. This may change later on once I have a better feel for how I might use the blog in future. Name and appearance make a big difference, sort of "kerb appeal" for blogs : I need to work out how everyone else is doing all the clever things which make their blogs look so professional, and I still need to come up with a better name for my own.   And finally, a trivial fact : a lot of people called Helen work in libraries!