Sunday, 6 November 2011

Thing 23 - Reflection

23 by Auntie P, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Auntie P 

23 Things - all done and dusted! I've really enjoyed the 23 Things for Professional Development programme, both as an organiser and as a participant. It's certainly been useful in assessing where I am with my professional development, and where I would like to be. It's encouraged me to find out more about CILIP Chartership, which I hope to start next year.

I'll be completing the evaluation survey after I've published this blog post so I've been thinking about which elements of the programme I have found most useful. For me, it's been the 'thinky' posts that I've got the most out of - particularly Thing 3 on personal branding, Thing 5 on reflective practice, Thing 11 on mentoring, Thing 21 on evaluating your skills and areas of development. Many of those things I have wanted to work on for a while but it's been really useful to have them included in this so that I had to dedicate time to them. Thing 5 on reflective practice has been the most useful to me - I'm now trying to evaluate all my professional development activities with the 'What? So what? Now what?' model and will be doing this on my main blog when I write about the 23 Things for Professional Development programme.

Another positive outcome is that I've also started commenting on people's blogs more and I'm really pleased about that as I know how great it is to receive comments and how the conversations that happen in blog comments can be really useful to all involved.

I've recently completed my first annual IPR (Individual Performance Review) at work and as part of that I worked on a personal development plan so I decided to wait until I had completed that process before blogging this final thing. I looked at what skills I needed to improve my performance at work, and I now have a series of targets and areas to focus on which I hope will also be the areas to focus on in my Chartership. These include:

  • Networking
  • Presenting
  • Formal writing (e.g. academic writing)
  • Organisation skills (including project management, event management, time management and delegation)

Some of these I have already been working on developing, but I think I can improve on each of these areas. Some I have specific targets for, others I hope to incorporate into my professional development activities in the future. I plan to continue with the committee roles I am currently active in for both CILIP and ALA, and next year will be involved in the ALA Emerging Leaders program (January-June) which in addition to helping me understand more about ALA and how I can get involved,  I hope will include developing most of the skills I need to (particularly networking, organisation skills and presenting).

I found this activity really useful for helping me focus future professional development - I sometimes find it difficult to prioritise activities and as I take more on, I have to sometimes turn down opportunities that I can't fit in due to time commitments or that aren't within my current scope. I think knowing my areas of professional development focus should help me prioritise in future which will definitely be beneficial.

23 Things for Professional Development has been an incredibly useful process and definitely something I'm glad I participated in. Three cheers to all organisers and participants!

Hip Hip Hooray by What What, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  What What 

This will be the last blog post on this blog (though it will remain online and I will still chack comments) - if you want to continue following my professional development activities, including CILIP Chartership and ALA Emerging Leaders, please subscribe to my main blog, Joeyanne Libraryanne (you can subscribe by RSS or email from the links in the top left above my photo). Hope to see some of you over there and on Twitter :)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Thing 22 - Volunteering

There have been some interesting discussion about volunteering, particularly around the concerns that if librarians work in jobs as volunteers, does it devalue the profession? Why would anyone pay for librarians if they can get them for free? It's a difficult issue, and I'm going to wimp out of addressing that because I'd like to discuss the voluntary work I've been involved in throughout my career.

Volunteering to find out more about profession
 When I finished my degree, I knew I didn't want to go into a PGCE, was contemplating further study, but knew that was just putting off the decision about what job to do for longer. I was really interested in finding out more about librarianship, and though the best way to find out if it was something I enjoyed would be to get some experience. I visited some local libraries and tried to find some contacts to speak to for advice or let me have a bit of experience. I was turned away at the academic library (which I later ended up working for in my graduate trainee job!), but the public library and school library I approached let me visit. I spent a day at the public library, mainly visiting the different areas and chatting to different people to find out what it's like to work at a public library. It was an interesting day although the thing I remember taking from it was that there were a number of 'dodgy' characters that you had to keep an eye out for and watch what they were up to. Not something I had really considered before then! Shortly after that I managed to visit the school library and the librarian there was happy for me to come along every day to help her out. I was there for a few weeks of term time, and then there was a stock move to help with over summer. I absolutely loved my time there and the librarian really helped explain more about the library profession to me too (she previously worked in a university). I was able to discuss this voluntary work at two job interviews, and I really think it helped my applications (I was successful at both interviews). The feedback from one was that the voluntary experience really showed my commitment to the profession and they valued that greatly.

Volunteering to develop skills
 Although not on a daily basis, I continue to volunteer my time to serve on committees within the profession. I've mentioned before that I am on the CILIP West Midlands branch committee, CILIP Career Development Group West Midlands division committee, and I'm ALA NMRT-ASCLA liaison. Each of these positions are slightly different, but each benefits me greatly through both informing me more about the profession, and helping develop skills. Being part of committees has meant I can develop skills that I wouldn't ordinarily be able to in my day job. For me this has included organising events, managing multiple communication channels, representing a committee at wider events/communications, and working with a variety of different people from across different sectors. I find my committee work really rewarding and would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to develop skills outside their job role or wanting to meet and work with a variety of different people.

What next?
I definitely plan to continue with my committee roles, although they do eat up free time so balancing them with other commitments can be tricky. I'm getting a lot better at that though, and make sure to spend some time away from the computer (and phone and iPad!) in the evenings and weekends.

Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

Interesting thing, this one (even for those of us not currently looking for work). As I'm about to embark on my Chartership it will be especially useful for me to consider my current interests and skills and identify gaps to address throughout Chartership. I'm going to have a go at answering the questions posed in the blog post.

(Apologies for the long blog post - I just kept writing as it was really useful! Also no pictures I'm afraid).

Identify your strengths, take a good look at yourself, your tasks at work, your career, your life: what do you like to do?

Along with many librarians, I like to help people. It's what first attracted me to librarianship and it's been a common theme through all my jobs and voluntary activities (right from gymnastics coaching which I qualified in aged 13!).

I also like to solve problems. By nature I'm a completer/finisher and so I love to start with a problem and end with a definitive answer. Things don't always work out that neatly unfortunately, but I'm happiest when they do.

Something else I like to do is to plan. I'm a planner in all aspects of my life; work on a shorter term basis, life on a longer term basis. I don't have my whole life planned out or anything like that; I prefer to be flexible to make the most of opportunities as they arise and also as I mentioned, I'm terrible at decisions! But I do feel happier when I have a plan so that I have something to focus my activities. It's like saving money (another thing I like to do) - I'm much better when I have a specific goal to work towards rather than just saving money for the sake of it. I'm constantly reviewing my plans depending on my situation, and always feel better when I'm settled on a plan.

What do you dislike?

At school I loved every subject (yes, I was frequently called a swot) apart from Art and History. Art because I was rubbish (I'm still not very creative and would love to be moreso); History because it just didn't interest me much. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visiting museums and learning more about past civilisation, however generally I prefer to focus on the present and the future. In my research, I obviously need to examine the past in some way to set the context, but that's nowhere near as interesting (for me anyway) as finding out about cutting edge developments and considering the implications for future.

I'm really not very good at making decisions. I always look to others for advice when there are a large number of options to consider. Having said that, I seem to be far better at decision making in certain circumstances. I'm much better at making work-related situations (e.g. during projects and at meetings) than I am at making life decisions - small or big.

Another thing I'm not a big fan of is formal communications. When I'm learning, I far prefer to have a conversation or read a blog post than to read a formal article. Unfortunately that doesn't really suit the academic research world, and I know it's something I need to improve. I far prefer a more conversational style of writing, both to read and write. On a related point, I also don't like unnecessary jargon and acronyms (though I'm a hypocrite as I know I use them).

Do you remember the last time you felt that feeling of deep satisfaction after creating, building, completing something? What was it about?

I always feel a great sense of satisfaction when I've successfully completed something. It goes back to the completer/finisher thing I guess, and applies to all areas of my life. I like to have a clear end point and to be able to see what I have produced by the end. I think that's why I enjoy cross stitching so much - it's great watching the image come together and end up with a final picture.

I also feel satisfaction after teaching someone how to do something, or sharing advice/information via presentations. I used to want to be a teacher and although I'm no longer keen to do that (mainly due to curriculum), I really enjoy the aspects of my job that enable me to teach/present. This also includes my blog posts or tweets explaining things or linking to further information - it's very satisfying when people find them useful.

I find events very rewarding too - it's so great when all the hard work pays off and although during the event you run around like a headless chicken (I always aim for the swan - calm on the surface but frantic underneath, but not sure I always manage that!), I love it. Reading back the feedback and finding out that people enjoyed the event and found it useful is really satisfying.

What skills do you need to do the things you like?

The main skills I need for the things I like to do are communication skills, particularly written and spoken communication. I would definitely like to improve my formal written communication, and continue to improve my presenting skills and networking skills (I find this really beneficial in my work, but very draining and I still haven't mastered the art of avoiding the occasional awkward silence).

Organisation skills are also important for the things I like - managing myself (time management) and managing other people (particularly during events and when working on projects and with committees).

What next?

This has been a really useful exercise for me - it has definitely helped me focus on what skills I need to develop which I will be able to include in my PPDP (Personal Professional Development Plan) for my Chartership and in my targets for my upcoming annual review at work.

The areas I specifically want to work on are:

  • Formal written communication (reports, journal articles)

  • Oral communication (presenting, networking)

  • Organisation (time management, event management, people management, project management)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Thing 20 - Library Routes

Route 66 by JaviC, on Flickr

  by  JaviC 

I've previously written a few Library Routes posts recording some of my professional journey so please take a look at those if you want a full account but in summary this is my journey after sixth form until now:
  • BSc(Hons) Sports Science at University of Wales, Bangor
  • Voluntary library experience at school library and a public library
  • Public library job (library assistant on Sundays)
  • Graduate trainee at University of Wolverhampton (Wolverhampton campus)
  • Part-time paraprofessional position at University of Wolverhampton (Compton and Wolverhampton campus)
  • MScEcon in Information and Library Studies from Aberystwyth University (part time via distance learning)
  • Subject librarian (Education and Health) at University of Wolverhampton (Walsall campus)
  • CILIP West Midlands Marketing Officer
  • Branch Representative on CILIP Career Development Group committee
  • Evidence-based Research at Evidence Base, Birmingham City University
  • ALA ASCLA-NMRT liaison
I'm currently waiting for the results of my MSc (due December), planning Chartership (I'm hoping to register next year), and considering taking on more responsibility within CILIP West Midlands.

I think my route is quite typical, particularly the non-library undergraduate degree followed by a graduate traineeship and then the postgraduate library qualification. I've really enjoyed reading the journeys of other people on the Library Routes wiki, and I hope I remember to keep updating my own route as I progress.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Thing 19 - Integrating things

Math by A Mulligan, on Flickr
I miss integration #lovemaths

 photo by  A Mulligan 

I've just had a look through my posts and I'm afraid I have to be honest and admit straight away that some of my good intentions I just haven't been able to keep up with. I'm still not checking my RSS feeds regularly enough, and am often behind on them. I'm not using ReadItLater frequently either - I have an article I sent there about 5 weeks ago that I still haven't got around to reading. I think maybe I have to learn to accept that I'm not going to be able to read it all during busy periods. I seem happy to accept that I miss things on Twitter if I'm not around but for some reason it's different for RSS feeds. Maybe I ought to take a leaf out of WoodsieGirl's book and learn to be less afraid of the 'Mark all as read' button.

The thing I've taken most from so far is thing 5 on reflective practice. It came at a perfect time as I'm preparing for CILIP Chartership and need to be more reflective. I'm now taking a far more reflective approach and am making sure that anything which might be relevant in a professional development context I am reflecting on using the 'What? So what? What now?' model of reflective practice. I'm planning to use this when I record activities during the Chartership process.

The other thing that I have managed to integrate more into my routine is commenting on blogs. Before CPD23, I only rarely commented on blog posts but having realised how valuable comments can be and knowing how nice it is to receive comments from others, I have now started commenting on more blogs, even if it's just to say that I enjoyed reading the post. Sometimes I know about a resource that the blogger might be interested in (and therefore also the blog's readers), so I've started making sure I also leave a comment in situations like this.

I'm pleased that some of the things from CPD23 will stick with me after I've finished, and I'm really glad I have this blog as a record to look back on to remind me.

Thing 18 - Screencasts and podcasts


Jing is another tool I used during Festive 24 Things (I made a screencast on setting up a Twtpoll - I was even brave enough to record sound!):

I really liked how easy it was to use. I mustn't have loved it that much though as even earlier today I found myself taking numerous screenshots of my PC and cropping them to create a step-by-step guide in Microsoft Word to show my colleagues how to add Sharepoint as a network drive. That would have been a perfect excuse to use Jing but it didn't even cross my mind!

I guess it's just not integrated into my way of working yet, but I'll try to bear it in mind in future.


I don't see a need for creating my own podcasts, so for this thing I focused on listening to podcasts. I've never really got into listening to podcasts - the only time I could imagine myself listening to them is when I'm travelling but I tend to work on mobile devices whilst I'm travelling so I don't think I'd be able to listen to podcasts whilst I'm doing that. I do keep meaning to update my subscriptions to my video podcasts on iPad though - I enjoy watching videos and can imagine it would be good to watch those each morning as well as checking my RSS feeds. Does anyone have any video podcasts they would recommend subscribing to? I love gadgets, technology, crafts and nature.

Thing 17 - Prezi / data visualisation / slideshare

Oh dear, it's time for me to face my creativity demons...


Interesting one, this one. I'm generally an early adopter (don't get me started on my frustration of still not being able to get on Google+ yet due to having a Google Apps account rather than a generic Gmail account). But sometimes, there's a tool that you just don't really like very much. I have to confess that Prezi was one of those for me. I struggle to present things visually anyway - Art was always my weakest subject by far at school. Add that struggle to present things in a nice visual way to the fact that I watched some early Prezi presentations which really did go overboard on the swirling and made me feel quite seasick, and it wasn't a good start to the relationship between Prezi and myself.

Last year, as part of 24 Festive Things, I made my first Prezi and actually quite enjoyed putting it together. It took a lot of planning though and I still wasn't totally happy with it. Fast forward a few months and I have tried Prezi for two different presentations I've given. I had the ideas in my mind (one was based on a calendar to take you through the first few months of a student's journey at the start of university, the other was a mockup of a mobile phone) and could even start to picture it, but when it came to produce it I quickly lost patience with Prezi and moved back to Powerpoint. I like making presentations in Keynote on iPad, and with PowerPoint/Keynote I can work on both the PC and iPad but there's no way to do this with Prezi at the moment.

Prezi as a final presentation tool sounds good though, so I thought I'd have a go at turning an existing Powerpoint into a Prezi. The result is below (after far too many hours than I care to admit spent adjusting it). You might want to click on More... Full Screen once it's loaded to be able to view it properly.

I was actually pleasantly surprised that I could do this and may in future use Powerpoint to create slides but use Prezi to present them in slightly more interesting ways or combine the two via Prezi. What do you think? Does this sort of thing work OK do you think? I'm interested in feedback - please leave me a comment.


I've been using Slideshare for quite a while now, and all my public presentations are hosted on my Slideshare account. I don't tend to use Slideshare for inspiration, though I do use it to follow events that I am unable to attend in person.

I like the CV idea - interesting alternative to a document. I tested a different CV tool recently too - which uses data from your LinkedIn profile to create your own personal infographic. Check out my infographic below (or view the live version online). It only took a few minutes to create this and customise it too.

What next?

I'm still not a big Prezi fan, but I might try combining Powerpoint with Prezi in future to make more interesting ways of presenting information. It's still useful to try these tools out; I learnt a lot of time-saving tricks whilst I was playing around with mine. I do really struggle to make visually interesting presentations - they take me such a long time but I'm always really proud when they do actually turn out looking OK. I spend a lot of time looking for good Flickr photos and adding them to my favourites to use in presentations and blog posts - it's useful to have this bank of images, but you can guarantee you always want something you haven't so far come across!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thing 16 - Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License

I'm quite glad I'm a little behind as it has given me time to sort my thoughts on this issue - something that seems to have led to some fairly heated discussions about the difference between advocacy and activism, and whether either should be an expected part of having a role in the library and information profession.

As an 'Evidence Based Researcher' my current role doesn't involve me spending much time in the library (though my research is informed by, and in turn, informs, libraries and librarians). I'm also not a frequent library user, though I do occasionally borrow books and read journal articles from the academic library my department is part of. I spent almost 5 years working in public and academic libraries (with some voluntary school library experience), but I still don't feel I know enough about them to advocate for libraries on any great level.

The information profession however I'm far more comfortable advocating for - I find it a lot easier to explain to people why it's so important for us all to develop information skills and why it's important to have information specialists (some of whom are librarians) to help organise information for retrieval. I advocate for the profession when I'm out and about, and blogged about the small things I do to help spread the word.

I'm also passionate about driving the profession forward so that we're developing at the same rate (if not ahead of) the general society. We should be leading the way and one way we can do that is by sharing knowledge within the profession and building links to collaborate on innovative projects. That's one of the reasons I'm involved in supporting our professional organisations and why I'm involved in committee work for both CILIP and ALA.

On a more local level, I'm currently working to raise awareness of what Evidence Base does and how we can help the profession. We're a self-funded organisation working with all sectors of the library and information community (and sometimes further afield) in research, evaluation, and consultancy. We work on projects of any scale, from small-scale institutional level projects to national level initiatives, and are keen to work with practitioners to help them provide the best services they can for their users. We can help libraries to evaluate services or projects/initiatives, undertake user research (e.g. surveys, interviews, focus groups), or simply provide guidance or advice on current practice. Evidence Base also hosted events previously (before I joined) and we hope to do more of this in future. Our current areas of interest include usage statistics, mobile technologies, user behaviour (e.g. observing the way people use the library space), the value of academic libraries - and we're always open to other suggestions. It's a really exciting place to work and I hope we can do more to help practitioners in their day-to-day work; I really enjoy the research but it's applying it to practice that is the real valuable side to it.

As you can tell, we're a relatively unique organisation so it can be difficult to explain what we do. As all our work is project based and it is predominantly external (though we do help our own university library with their user research and other projects), it varies all the time so it's tricky to define and even trickier to relate that to people who might want to use our services or collaborate with us. It's been a good exercise to write it down actually so this thing has been really useful for making steps towards advocating for Evidence Base. If you are interested in learning more, you might want to follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our blog.

Getting published is another part of this thing, and that's something else I hope to do more of soon. This past year has been focused mainly on my dissertation and settling into a different area of work, but now it's time to start thinking about publishing again, preferably some peer-reviewed articles.

What now?

The actions specific to this thing aren't really so relevant for me so I'm devising my own actions:

  • Develop Evidence Base's message in collaboration with colleagues and devise strategy for getting message across to potential collaborators/users of our services
  • Continue to work on CILIP and ALA committees and advocate within the profession to share knowledge and build links
  • Consider opportunities for writing articles for peer-reviewed journals

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Thing 15 part 3 - Top tips for organising events

Day 88: Event organiser survival pack
Event organiser's survival kit

I've only fairly recently starting organising events, but I really enjoy it. I helped organise a local debate on behalf of CILIP West Midlands, organised our annual Member's Day and AGM earlier this year, and a hustings event for the CILIP election last year which we livestreamed.

I've developed a number of new skills in this process, and honed my organisation skills. There's a lot of elements to co-ordinate and different groups of people to organise; speakers, attendees, sponsors, and members of the organising team (if you're lucky!).

Here are some of my top tips for organising events:
  • Contact speakers to discuss ideas as early as possible and to check their availability.
  • Check out a variety of different venues and use any contacts you or any of the other organisers have - maybe you could get a free/reduced rate through your workplace or your contacts?
  • Begin publicising the event early (this way you may start to generate interest even if you're not yet ready to take bookings).
  • Provide clear information about the event when publicising (including a simple, descriptive title) - you don't want people to be disappointed to discover it's not what they hoped it was.
  • Provide information to help attendees (and their managers) understand the learning outcomes of the event.
  • Use multiple channels to promote the event to your target audience - face to face, website, email and social media.
  • Offer a number of options for payment from attendees (cash, cheque, online payment, invoice) to cover both personal and institutional payment methods.
  • Think about amplifying the event outside physical constraints (if appropriate). You might want to consider asking people to blog/tweet about the event.
  • If you're planning to encourage people to tweet about the event, establish a hashtag (preferably a short but distinctive one) and include it in all promotion.
  • Look after your speakers and delegates. It's really important not to let any frustrations or mini disasters show to attendees - I always try to aspire to be like a swan; calm and serene at the surface, panicking and frantically organising underneath. 

What next?

Well, I'm currently helping organise quite a few things for CILIP West Midlands, and I also hope to organise some events for Evidence Base (my workplace) soon. We're a small team and have been focusing on project work for the last year, but I'd definitely like to get some events organised for the library community. I've got so many ideas but I'm not sure what to prioritise - what would you like an event on?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Thing 15 part 2 - Top tips for presenting at events

University of Oxford - the last room I presented in
Although I've always enjoyed teaching, I get incredibly nervous before I speak in public. I'd been wondering about presenting at an event and it all seemed to come together in 2009. Meredith Farkas posted an excellent blog post about trying new things and pushing your boundaries and it really had an impact on me. I'd been chatting to my then boss about what challenges I wanted to accomplish next, and we'd come to the conclusion that as I loved teaching and loved attending events, I should try presenting at an event. At around that time I spotted the first New Professionals Conference advertised which was asking for proposals from first-time speakers. I was amazed (and terribly apprehensive!) when I discovered I had been chosen as one of the speakers. It was a really great experience; I didn't realise until the night before when we met together for dinner that all the speakers were first-timers. I think that fact really helped us bond - we were all nervous but wanted to support each other and it was great knowing that there were at least 8 other faces in the audience wishing you the best. I felt physically sick for most of the day, but I felt such a buzz after I had presented. It felt great to share my passions and experiences with my peers and hopefully they learnt something from me. I got lots of comments and questions from people in the break afterwards which let me know they were at least listening!

Since then I've spoken at a number of other events; some that I have submitted a proposal to, others I've been invited to speak at. I'm by no means an expert, and I still get incredibly nervous, but I learn something new each time I present. Here's my top tips for speaking at events:
  • Research the venue, room layout, technical facilities, and anticipated audience size to inform your presentation style and technique.

  • Tailor your presentation for every new audience.

  • Arrive early to ensure you can introduce yourself to the organisers and check the setup.

  • Be respectful to the organisers and stick to your allotted time when presenting.

  • If your timeslot is more than 15-20 minutes, make sure you schedule in some activities or discussion time to break it up for your audience.

  • Save multiple copies of your presentation on multiple devices. At the last event I presented at, I presented from my iPad but I also had copies of my presentation on Slideshare, Dropbox, my email account, the organisers email account and a USB (.ppt, .pptx and .pdf versions) - maybe a little too excessive but as all librarians know LOCKSS (lots of copies keep stuff safe)!

  • Embed your fonts if you are using PowerPoint (there's nothing worse than discovering the PC doesn't have the correct font and it has changed it which has affected the layout too).

  • Give yourself time for networking if you can, particularly after your presentation as people may well have comments or questions.
What next?

I'm currently preparing my first international conference presentation at Internet Librarian International 2011, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm presenting a topic I haven't yet presented on (productivity tools for librarians) which should be good as it's something I'm really interested in - I love a good to-do list! It's not until the final day of the conference which is a bit of a shame (I tend to prefer to get it over with so I can relax and enjoy the rest of the event!), but hopefully I can keep my nerves at bay.

In my current job role I'm no longer directly involved in teaching, so I like to try to find ways to satisfy that side of me by speaking at professional events. I particularly enjoy group workshop type events, but I think I'm getting better at the large groups (though I find that a lot more difficult as you can't connect with people as easily). I'm definitely going to continue to present if I can and might include it in my upcoming review at work.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Thing 15 part 1 - Attending events

Now you're talking, this is my kind of topic! I absolutely love events - I learn so much from them both from the content of the event and from the networking opportunities. I've also presented at a number of events and more recently been involved in organising them which I also really enjoy. I'm going to split this thing into 3 different posts including things I have learnt from each as well as my plans for future.

Attending events
LITA Top Tech Trends session at ALA Annual
I've attended a number of different events over the last few years; some free, some funded by my workplace, some funded by sponsors or bursaries, some funded by myself. Last year I made a decision to focus all my efforts on trying to attend the American Library Association 2011 Annual conference, and I'm pleased to say I managed it (thanks to the John Campbell Trust and my employer helping financially) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've managed to get some sponsored places at conferences (CoFHE Conference 2009, LILAC Conference 2010) and been fortunate enough to receive funding to support attendance at events so I thought I'd share some tips:
  • Look out for funding opportunities from different sources (professional organisations, special interest groups, suppliers, organisers), and if you are interested and eligible, apply. Get support from your employer or mentors (formal and informal) to read through your application and add their support if needed. The applications can be time consuming, but they are so worth it if you get to attend events you wouldn't otherwise be able to.
  • Be willing to put time and effort into sourcing funding and making arrangements - it might take quite a few attempts and could mean leaving planning your schedule to the last minute, but if you really want to go it will be worth it!
  • Don't be disheartened by unsuccessful funding applications - there is often really strong competition and a limited budget so don't look at it as a major failure. If appropriate, see if you can get feedback on why you were unsuccessful this time and use it as a learning experience.
  • Be prepared to pay for some or all the costs yourself if you are able to - sometimes you're not able to do so due to the high costs involved, but I always try to set aside some money for event costs or travel costs to help towards that perfect event that I'm bound to find out about. That way you can also sometimes book cheap deals and see if you can recuperate some of the expense later with funding options.
  • Offer to help out in return for a free/reduced rate - sometimes there might be the opportunity to help the organisers out, for example helping set up, supporting registration, or tweeting/blogging/photographing the event. I've offered to tweet at two events where this wasn't advertised but my offer was accepted in exchange for a free place meaning I only had to cover my travel costs. Without this I wouldn't have been able to attend at all. Some conferences offer free places to speakers too (though this isn't always the case).
  • Be willing to use up some of your free time - I imagine most people doing the CPD23 programme will be doing some, if not all, of it in their free time. Some employers are able to allow you to attend events during work time, but sometimes it's likely that you'll have to use up some annual leave, or your evenings/weekends. It's worth it though I think.
  • If the event is located somewhere you haven't visited before, try to schedule time to visit some local attractions. I haven't managed to do this much in the past, and always really regret not making time to explore the area.
  • Make the most of the event if you are offered sponsorship. Get involved in everything you can - attend sessions and social events, network with new people and strengthen existing connections, share  what you learn with others, write up blog posts or reports afterwards. 

What next?

I've been very fortunate so far, and I hope I can continue to attend events - I find them one of the most valuable forms of professional development. I have applied for the Emerging Leaders program in ALA which requires attendance ALA Midwinter and ALA Annual next year, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that. I'd also love to attend the IFLA conference at some point, and definitely want to attend CILIP's Umbrella conference.

Some upcoming events I am attending this year include Library Camp UK, LIS DREaM workshop, Internet Librarian International (speaking), and Online Information 2011 (tweeting).

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Thing 14 - Reference management tools (and how to manage your dissertation references)

In my previous job I provided reference management training for staff and students on EndNote, which was our institution's chosen reference management software. Although our main focus was on EndNote, we also explored other options, both paid for and free. I have previously tried each of the featured tools from CPD23 - Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike. I'm particularly interested in the development of Mendeley - I love the watched folder feature and they are involved in some really interesting projects to integrate with other systems (of particular relevance to academic libraries).

Whilst I was doing my dissertation, I chose to use EndNote to manage my references (the desktop software, not EndNote Web).

My EndNote library
I had some interesting discussions on Twitter about how I did this so I thought I'd take the opportunity to outline the process I used:
  1. Save all documents (reports, articles etc.) in one folder (I used Dropbox so that I had access from anywhere) using a standard file structure (I used the author's surname and the year of publication e.g. Alcock_2011). As a side note - I've just discovered that Mendeley can rename files for you which I may have to check out.
  2. Add an EndNote record for each reference to your EndNote library immediately after saving and attach a copy of the document to the record - you can either create the record manually, or export the records from many databases (but make sure you double check the details if exporting).
  3. Add the record to a 'To read' folder so that you can keep track of your reading.
  4. After reading the document add research notes to the EndNote record including quotes (along with their page number) if you come across some you may wish to use, add any relevant keywords (to help later retrieval), remove from your 'To read' folder and add to any other relevant folders if you wish (you might want to set up subject groups).
  5. Set up groups within EndNote for references from each chapter of the dissertation (you can probably do this with Smart Groups using tags in the records but I just did it manually by dragging and dropping).
  6. Have a catch all bibliography group which contains all references from each chapter (just select all references from each chapter's group and drag and drop onto the catch all group to ensure they're all in there). 
My reference groups within EndNote
Using this method means you can: 
  • Access your articles from anywhere (from your filestore in Dropbox or directly from your EndNote library which you may also choose to save in Dropbox if you're working at multiple computers that have EndNote software installed)
  • Use EndNote's search functionality to find articles based not only on their author or title but also the content (even better if you export the records from databases as this often includes the abstract and subject headings so you'll have those in addition to your own research notes in there)
  • Amend the reference style as necessary for all your records at once (there are plenty of styles already in EndNote but it's also pretty straight forward to create your own or edit an existing one if your department uses a slight variation of a common style)
  • Create reference lists for each chapter (useful when sending chapter drafts to your supervisor)
  • Create a full bibliography for the dissertation

After writing my first full draft of my dissertation, I had to completely change the structure from a traditional scientific approach (Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, Discussion, Conclusion) to a thematic approach. There was a lot of moving content around and adding/deleting references as appropriate to the new structure. I was so glad that I had everything in EndNote so it was just a case of dragging and dropping into my new chapter groupings.

I'm sure you could use a similar system for any of the reference management tools, but I chose to use EndNote due to familiarity and the fact that I was a little wary of relying on a relatively new or cloud-based system in case of problems. I know everyone has a slightly different system, but I hope some of this is useful  - I was certainly glad I didn't have to spend hours manually organising and writing references as I was finishing my dissertation.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Thing 13 - Wikis, Google Docs, Dropbox

I've used each of these tools before but I haven't really explored wikis to any major extent so I focused on wikis for the practical element of this thing, and I've included a brief description of my use of Google Docs and Dropbox.


I have had a PBworks account for a few years now and the main wiki I use is the UK library blogs wiki which I help administer (which I've just realised I haven't added this 23 Things blog to!).

I'm hoping to use a personal wiki to collect evidence for my CILIP Chartership which I'm planning to start next year, so I did a bit of exploring on an existing wiki to check out some of the more advanced features. We have a committee wiki for CILIP West Midlands which was set up last year by Katharine with the aim of recording what is involved in each of the committee roles to help new (and existing) committee members understand each other's roles and responsibilities. I completed the basics last year but was aware that I needed to add more explanation about the role, so I spent some time adding information about my different areas of responsibility as Marketing Officer.

Marketing Officer wiki page (click for larger image)
I set up a template for each of the different web tools I am responsible for (the hyperlinked bullet points under online marketing) so each page had certain sections:

  • Description
  • Responsibility
  • Content
  • Frequency
  • Promotion
To set up a template just create a page with the headings (or whatever else you want in your page template) and then tag it with the word template (all lower case). Then when you next create a new page you can choose to create it from that template. Nifty trick and definitely something I'll be using in future.

User permissions
I also had a look at different user permissions - there are lots of options but for some page specific options (e.g. hiding pages from all but admins) you need a paid account. The different user levels (administrators, editors, writers and users) are useful to enable people access whilst preventing loss of pages or crucial information, but it doesn't seem possible to have information only viewable to certain people on the free account. Please let me know if you found a way to do this as it's something I'm interested in discovering.

The one thing I do struggle a little with on wikis is the structuring - it's often not so easy to navigate I find, so I think a bit of extra work is needed to make either a site map style page or add the main areas onto the front page of the wiki. I was also a little disappointed to discover that if you change the title of a page, it will lose all the links to that page (I was hoping it would be clever enough to update them or to link to a static identifier but sadly not).

My exploration has reminded me how useful wikis are - I definitely think they will be a good way to record my evidence for my Chartership as I can set up a defined template for reflecting on each activity, and it should be easy to share with my mentor.

Google Docs

I've used Google Docs occasionally over the last few years. I used it whilst I was studying so that I could work on my assignments from wherever, though the formatting options aren't great so I only tended to use it in the early drafting stages. I've used it collaboratively which I do find very useful, particularly when lots of people are working on the same document. I like the fact that you can chat alongside the document too - that's been great for CPD23 planning as I'm not able to make the face to face meetings but can join in online and make amendments to the document and join in the conversation (thanks to kind people at the meeting who write in the chat to let me know what's happening!).

The forms options are also really useful for populating survey information - great for quick and dirty fact finding surveys.


I'm a massive fan of Dropbox and save most of my documents on there. I used it during my dissertation and I use it for any reports/documents I'm working on - for work documents once they are complete I add it to Sharepoint (though I often keep a copy on Dropbox as I'm nowhere near my limit yet). I love the fact that I can get access to my documents from wherever I am and on whatever device - I use it to share work documents and meeting notes between my computers and iPad. I haven't used the sharing options often - this is probably something I should look into doing more of for ad hoc sharing rather than emailing static documents.


I've been glad to use this CPD23 thing as an excuse to spend time exploring some of the more advanced options I keep meaning to do but never get round to. It's been really useful to dedicate some time to looking into the PBworks options and finally completing my section of the CILIP West Midlands committee wiki. It's reminded me to mention it to others on the committee to get it populated as I think it could be an invaluable tool for helping new committee members - so I've added it to my things to bring up at the next committee meeting.

I'll probably be using PBworks to help me collect evidence for my CILIP Chartership portfolio, although I am disappointed that there is currently no way to edit on iPad (again, this is an Apple restriction). I really like writing on iPad and can see not being able to update the wiki on the go being a frustration; I guess I'll just have to save in a separate document or in the comments and add it to the wiki when I'm next at a computer. Hopefully in future there might be a way to update PBworks wikis via iPad (e.g. through an app).

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Thing 12 - Putting the social into social media

For this thing, I'm going to answer the questions that were posed in the initial blog post (slightly adapted).

Are there advantages to social networking in the context of professional development?

The main advantages to me of social networking for professional development is enabling conversations. These might be a continuation of conversations stemming from face to face meetings/events, or they might be conversations with people I haven't met before. I love the fact that social networking breaks down so many barriers, meaning I can communicate with people from all around the world working in a variety of different roles and organisations. Some of these conversations have led to some really interesting developments - events, publications, discussions informing my work, and also a bit of fun too.

Can you think of any disadvantages?

Organisational views on social networking which restrict people from using social media, and a misunderstanding and fear of social networking from those who do not use it themselves. I often find myself having to defend the value of social networking for professional development and I think that's a shame.

Has CPD23 helped you make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally?

115/365 — 4/25/2011 by glaukos, on Flickr
Making new connections
Yes, particularly those from outside the UK or those working in other sectors. It's been good to follow the #cpd23 tweetstream to find more information professionals who tweet/blog to subscribe to. I've also organised and attended events stemming directly out of the programme and met some really interesting people through those events. Through helping organise the programme I have also strengthened links with people I have been in contact with previously but don't know well - I hope I can meet some of them soon!

Did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?

I've been actively using it to support my professional development for a number of years now (I joined Twitter in 2007). I shall certainly continue to do so in the foreseeable future and will do until I stop gaining value from it or we move onto a new way of communicating.

In your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?

IMG_4151 by dbking, on Flickr
Can social networking lead to segregation?
Yes, definitely. Though it can also foster a sense of separate groups which may seem hard to join in for new people. I was fortunate to be on Twitter quite early on so I explored it with other early adopters, but I can see how it may be bewildering for newcomers now that there are so many people on there and connections between people are strong. This is something I am quite aware of so I try to be as inclusive where I can - I aim to respond to all blog comments and Twitter mentions to help build the community and my connections.

Thing 11 - Mentoring

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've had a number of informal mentors throughout my career so far - some of whom have been bosses or colleagues, some of whom have been people I have crossed paths with during other professional activities. I've also had a couple of formal mentors assigned to me in my jobs, and next year I hope to begin my first formal mentoring relationship outside work through the CILIP Chartership process.

I've gained a heck of lot from my informal mentors and they have definitely shaped my career progression, both in terms of my job roles and the other activities I've been involved in. Some of them know who they are, whilst some probably don't. I have a lot of role models in the profession and I think there's quite a thin line between role models and mentors, particularly now that social media facilitates communication with people I probably wouldn't have made contact with otherwise.

Leap of Faith by ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser, on Flickr
My mentors frequently encourage me to take a leap of faith

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

One of the most influential mentors I have is my first library boss. She's an incredible woman - a superb manager who really gets to know her staff well. Whilst I was working for her she was really empowering - she gave me the confidence to speak up and contribute my ideas, and gave me the gentle pushes I needed to challenge myself both inside and outside the workplace. Although she's no longer my boss, I know she's always willing to give advice or just have a chat - she has that perfect balance of caring both professionally and personally. She has a real talent in being able to remain objective and consider things from other people's points of view. She's also an amazing academic librarian and all round lovely person - a real inspiration. I keep in touch via email (and a bit of social media - I know she sometimes follows what I'm up to that way), and if ever I'm faced with a tough decision I always think back to what she would advise me to do (or I contact her and ask her opinion!).

I always try to take advantage of mentoring opportunities as I really get a lot from them. At the American Library Association Annual Conference this year I signed up for a mentor from the New Members Round Table. I had a great mentor; I had a few questions about managing my time at the conference so we exchanged emails before the conference, and I attended a mentoring social where we got to meet face to face at the beginning of the conference. I found this really useful; it helped me to get more from the conference and also helped me socialise. I'd like to see more of this happening, particularly for newcomers at larger conferences.

I'm not currently at the stage where I could mentor anyone else, but I'd like to think that this is something I might be able to do in future and if I do, I'll certainly be trying to be like my first boss - it's a tough act to follow though!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Thing 10 - Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership

I have previously written a blog post on my main blog about my route into librarianship as part of the Library Roots/Routes project, and will be no doubt writing an update later in the programme (for Thing 20), so for this thing I'm going to discuss specifically my graduate traineeship, my masters degree, and my plans to charter.

Graduate traineeship

My graduate traineeship was at University of Wolverhampton from September 2005 to August 2006. I'd just finished my first degree (BSc Hons Sports Science from Bangor University), had moved to the Wolverhampton area for my partner's job, and was interested in learning more about being a librarian. It was my first full time job and I absolutely loved it. I had a fantastic boss (who I still keep in touch with, she's an amazing mentor - more on that in Thing 11) and was able to try my hand at lots of different things. I was based in a team of science librarians supporting applied sciences, engineering, computing and maths. As my background is in science/maths I was in my element. The traineeship year was more like a paraprofessional job really, though I did get the opportunity to go on training courses and I spent a few hours with different teams within the department.

I loved the flexible nature of the job - no two days were the same. As I began to learn more about what it was I was really interested in, I was able to support the information literacy teaching and was given responsibility for some of the more technology focused initiatives of the team (e.g. developing our VLE presence, using online tools to help with planning). I had regular meetings with my boss and she often gave me new tasks or projects to do but she gave me the freedom to approach them how I wanted to. I learnt so much during this year, and it definitely helped me realise that I wanted to become a qualified librarian.

Masters degree

I started the MScEcon in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University in September 2006 via distance learning. At the time I had managed to secure a part-time position at a different campus at University of Wolverhampton so I worked 4 days a week, and studied the rest of the week.

I found the course a little overwhelming to begin with; the study school was really intense (a packed week of lectures all day and social activities every evening), and when I got home I felt a little lost - there's so much to get your head around in terms of how the distance learning works before you even think about the content of the course! I soon got into the swing of it though and really enjoyed most (not all, I confess!) of the taught modules. There was a LOT of reading, both in the module pack and the extra required reading. I recently recycled the printed journal articles that I'd read - one of our kitchen cupboards was full to the brim with them all piled up! I found it weird to not have deadlines - it made it very difficult to stop working on an assignment as I don't think you are ever totally happy with something (or maybe that's just me).

I completed the postgraduate diploma section of the course by October 2008 and started my first professional librarian post the following month (at another different campus at University of Wolverhampton!). The dissertation, however, took a little longer. I wanted to take a short break to settle into my new job, but I started getting involved in other professional activities and I found it very difficult to get the motivation to work on the dissertation. I seemed to work in bursts for the next two years - I'd really focus on it for a few months, then send a chapter to be read by my supervisor, and whilst I was waiting for feedback I'd lose my momentum. I had a final deadline of September 2011 so this year I finally focused on it and I completed it a few weeks ago. I should get my grade in December.

I did find distance learning difficult at times - the flexibility to complete it in your own time is great when you're motivated (some people who started the course at the same time as me wanted to complete the full course in a little over a year whilst still working full time), but when other things happen in your life it can be difficult to spend time studying when you don't have to. I also missed the social side of being a distance learner, although I did meet some people local to me and we met up every few months for a natter which was good. I definitely think having a support group of some sort is useful - sometimes you need people to chat to about an assignment or just about the course in general.


I have always been keen to continue my professional development. I've been working on developing skills such as presenting at conferences and organising events, and I'm committed to supporting our professional organisations such as CILIP and ALA (and of course I'm also doing CPD23!).

I'd now like to prove this commitment and further develop my skills by chartering through CILIP. I'm going to learn from my mistakes though and I'm actually taking a proper break after studying this time, so I won't be starting my chartership straight away. I've been chatting about my plans to charter on Twitter, and fortunately found a willing volunteer to mentor me. She's not yet taken her mentor training but I already know she'll be an awesome mentor. Hopefully she'll be able to do the training next year and I'll be able to begin my chartership journey next spring/summer. In the meantime I'm going to start finding out more about chartership and think about starting to collect some evidence (I'm hoping to develop a wiki for the basis of collecting evidence as part of Thing 13).

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Thing 9 - Evernote

I've been a registered user of Evernote for a few years now, and I love the theory of being able to use it as a bucket to collect lots of different types of information and be able to access them from whatever device I'm using. Sounds great doesn't it? Unfortunately I have heard a couple of horror stories (such as this one) about Evernote losing a lot of people's work, and I just don't trust it enough to use it for anything important. This means it hasn't really integrated into my way of working, though I do have browser buttons installed and I do occasionally use it to keep copies of online order receipts (though usually use Microsoft OneNote as well if I'm on my home laptop).

Revisiting it as part of CPD23 has encouraged me to use it again though I'm still not sure I could trust it for work purposes. I'm on annual leave for a couple of weeks at the moment and planning to visit some local museums and go for walks, so I've been collecting web links and tagging them with 'Holiday ideas'. I've also got some paper leaflets, so I've taken a photograph of them and added them to Evernote via my iPhone, also tagging them with 'Holiday ideas'. This is all synced now on my iPad, laptop, and iPhone so hopefully wherever I am I can use this as inspiration for things to do.

My 'Holiday ideas' tag on Evernote for iPad
I do really wish I could trust Evernote as it does seem like such a useful tool and it integrates well with other systems I use, but I just can't get over the fact that some people I know lost a lot of work through no fault of their own. Does anyone know if there is a way to automatically back up information from Evernote?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Thing 8 - Google Calendar

I've been using Google Calendar for a few years now as a personal calendar (I use Outlook for my work calendar as it is shared with my colleagues). I have both calendars synced with my iPhone so that I can add personal or work appointments whilst I'm out and about and I know they'll be backed up. My Google calendar is also shared with my partner though I don't think he ever looks at it so we also use a paper calendar for when we'll be away from home (personal and work as I travel quite a bit with work).

Purple is work calendar (Outlook), blue is personal (Google)
I've also used Google Calendar in a library setting in my previous job where I used it to manage our information literacy teaching sessions so that we could see at a glance who was teaching which group of students and when. This was particularly useful during induction periods which were a logistical nightmare! In the end we set up a shared Outlook calendar to bring it into the institutional tools, though I have to be honest, I preferred the features and simplicity of Google calendar. We also used Google Calendar to promote our drop in skills sessions and embedded the calendar onto the website. This meant we could easily keep the website updated without having to keep editing HTML - we just edited the Google Calendar. It also looked a lot prettier and had the added advantage that students could subscribe to the calendar if they wished.

Google calendar embedded into website (different colours represent different campuses)
So I'm a big fan of Google Calendar, though it does have its frustrations. I tried to use it for scheduling my sessions at ALA Annual 2011, but I couldn't seem to get the timezone working (I'd be in a different time zone whilst I was there but couldn't seem to make that work). It also frustrates me that I can only sync my main calendar on my Google account with my iPhone, not any additional calendars on the same account or any shared calendars (though this is probably an Apple issue rather than a Google one). Overall though it's a great tool, and one I use on a pretty much daily basis.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Getting involved in professional organisations

As shown in my previous post for Thing 7, I'm a supporter of professional organisations, and I'd like to encourage others to do the same. As part of CPD23, I organised an informal event for CILIP West Midlands and we had a lovely group of people get together for a coffee and chat about CPD23 and about CILIP. One of the attendees, Naomi, kindly wrote up her experience for our CILIP West Midlands blog. I also attended the CILIP in London event the same week, which was a larger group and a slightly more structured event where we heard from a number of different speakers about their involvement in professional organisations. We also had chance to network and chat to others about their involvement. The questions from people at both these events tended to be why you should get involved and how you go about getting involved. I'd like to share my views on these two questions based on my own experiences.

Why should I get involved?

You might hear people talk about volunteering their time to help professional organisations, but wonder what the value is of getting involved in professional organisations. The main points for me include:
  • Supporting your profession
  • Informing the organisations that act as a voice for the profession
  • Being able to play a part in the direction the organisation is moving
  • Getting to know more about the wider profession across all sectors
  • Building your professional network
  • Using your existing skills and developing new skills
So there are some benefits for the profession as a whole, as well as direct benefits to you. Through my involvement with committees I have got to meet lots of people from different sectors and backgrounds, which has taught me a lot about the profession and opened up other opportunities for me. Over that time I have been able to develop skills that I wouldn't have been able to do within the scope of my job roles - in my case this was event organisation, but it could be budget management (as a treasurer) or people management (as a chair).

Bethan Ruddock is an active member of the SLA (Special Libraries Association) and has recently been featured in a podcast where she talks about her involvement with SLA and how it has helped her - it's worth a listen. Though my experience is in different organisations, I agree with a lot of her points about the value of getting involved.

What can I do?

There are a number of different ways you can get involved, and they don't all involve a major investment of time - there are options depending on how much time you want to dedicate, including the following things:
  • Vote in annual elections - I believe every member should do this; they are member-led organisations so you should make the most of being able to have your say in how it is run. I was pleased to hear that initiatives like live streaming our election event helped encourage more people to vote in CILIP elections last year, but I'd still like to see more people voting.
  • Attend events - even attending events really helps support your organisation, not just financially but also so that your views can be heard by others in the organisation. Committees often need to represent their member's views and events are a great opportunity for them to understand your point of view.
  • Join a committee - there are lots of opportunities to join committees; numerous different groups within each organisation with different positions and vacancies, each with different responsibilities and levels of commitment. Sometimes vacancies are advertised, but often committees will have vacancies (and even if not, I'm sure they would appreciate a hand!) so if there's a committee you are interested in joining, contact them to see if you can help out in any way or even if you can just go along to one of their meetings to see what they do.
  • Nominate yourself for Council/President - if you're keen to really make a difference and dedicate more time to the organisation, you might want to stand for election to become a member of Council, or for President. Nominations forms for CILIP in 2012 will be available from September 1st for Councillors and Vice President.
That's just a few ideas. but I'm sure there are other ways too. If you have any questions (or other suggestions I've missed), please feel free to add a comment. 

Thing 7 - Professional organisations

I'm a strong believer in the value of professional organisations and I invest a lot of my time into them. I'm a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in UK, and a member of ALA (American Library Association). I also recently discovered that being a member of CILIP also means I'm an IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), though I don't yet know much about this organisation (though I do follow the activities of their New Professionals group, NPSIG). I'd definitely like to learn more about IFLA; I think I'll be using my Twitter contacts (including IFLA staff) to discover more.

Both CILIP and ALA are member-led organisations, so they rely on members to support their development. They do both have staff, but any decisions essentially come from members (through committees, council and voting). So each member pays a membership fee, and in exchange for that they get lots of information though emails, magazines and journals, but the real value of the organisation is the membership and it does take a little bit of effort to make the most of that.

团队排列3D小人高清图片_zcool.c by 姒儿喵喵, on Flickr

Our organisations can lead but they need us (their members) behind them
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License

My involvement in CILIP

I volunteered to help out our local CILIP branch at an exhibition a couple of years ago, and when they were looking for committee members a couple of months later I decided to give it a go. I became Marketing Officer for CILIP West Midlands, a position I have held since January 2010. Through this I have supported the local branch committee through meetings and emails; communicated with members (online and face to face - I manage our social media presence but also like to chat to members at events); and organised events for the branch. Highlights over the last year have been the Library Debate we organised together with a local debating group, the election hustings (where we livestreamed the event and took questions from the room and also from those watching the video), and the recent Members Day where we heard about some innovative new library buildings being planned/built in the region. I've also set up some informal networking opportunities - we've started going to a local quiz night, which we won when we went for the first time earlier this month!

Sarah introduces the debate by CILIP West Midlands, on Flickr

Photo from the CILIP West Midlands/Birmingham Salon Library Debate
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Shortly after joining the branch committee, I was invited to join the West Midlands division of the CILIP Career Development Group committee as branch liaison. I attend the group meetings, share information between the branch and the group (at meetings and via email), help to make relevant links between the groups and share resources when possible. The Career Development Group (CDG) is interesting in that it has a number of regional divisions and also a national committee - this has some advantages but also presents challenges. On a related note, CILIP branches and groups are currently going through a period of transition so their structure and organisation may well change in future. One region is currently trialling a merge of the branch and their CDG division for example, something which I support in theory so I'll be interested to see how it develops.

My involvement in ALA

I decided to join American Library Association last year - they offer international membership for anyone outside the US. I'd been thinking about joining for a while as I was interested to learn more about the organisation and also get a wider perspective on the profession, so when a couple of friends recommended it as international members, I joined. I've been really impressed with the information I get from them and the different ways I can get involved. After attending the ALA Annual Conference this year I was even more keen to get involved, so have put myself forward for a committee liaison position linking two of my membership groups: NMRT (New Member's Round Table) and ASCLA (Association of Specialized & Cooperative Library Agencies). I'll hopefully be starting that role soon and am really looking forward to being able to learn more about both groups and help facilitate communication between them.

ALA badge with ribbons by joeyanne, on Flickr

My ALA conference badge with ribbons for membership groups
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

I've also applied for the ALA Emerging Leaders program which aims to introduce people to ALA and help them get involved in helping the organisation. It sounds like a really great program but I think there'll be a lot of competition so I'll have to wait to see what the result of that is. Even if I'm unsuccessful, I'd still like to get more involved with ALA if I can.

Committee work for me is one of the most rewarding professional activities I'm involved in, and I certainly hope to continue to support our professional organisations in this way. Now that I've finished my MSc dissertation (finally! - I've been studying since 2006), my focus is definitely going to be on supporting the development of professional organisations such as CILIP and ALA. If you're interested in getting involved (or wondering why you should), I'll be posting a further post later today explaining my thoughts on this.