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.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thing 6 - Online networks

I've been using a number of online networks for a long time now. I started out on forums and progressed to MySpace, hideous thing that it was (you'll be pleased to hear I never had any background music on my profile, though I did have a custom background) before joining Facebook and other networks that I still use. Building on my previous post on reflection, I think the most useful way of approaching this thing for me will be to think about my current use, and consider some 'now what?' actions to improve my use of them.


I joined Facebook quite early on, when it was only for those with university email addresses. I've never really been a massive fan of Facebook though - I only really used it to find out what old school friends are up to for the first few years, and now I use it to contact people who aren't on Twitter or if I don't have their email address. I do manage a number of professional pages on Facebook, so I use those to update people who want to use Facebook for professional purposes. I've also recently been replacing most of the 'friends' I haven't seen for 10 years or so with the professional contacts I class as friends. I also have quite a few family members who I communicate with through Facebook.

Plan of action:

  • Consider purpose of using Facebook and adapt use as appropriate (probably for more personal updates than other professional networks)


I also use LinkedIn, but not regularly. I only really visit when I get a request to add someone as a contact, and though I'm a member of a number of groups and receive email updates of discussions I very rarely contribute.

Plan of action:

  • Update profile
  • Join in relevant conversations (possibly need to streamline group memberships and change frequency of emails)
  • Remember to update status at least once a month (with current projects or events)

CILIP Communities and ALA Connect

As a CILIP and ALA member (more on both of those in the next post), I have a profile on CILIP Communities and ALA Connect - again I don't really use these much and am more of an occasional lurker rather than an active contributor.

Plan of action:

  • Update profile on both networks
  • Add contacts on both networks
  • Look for interesting groups to join in conversations
  • Set up relevant alerts

Other professional online networks

I'm a member of a number of other online networks - things like LISNPN (I help manage the social media for this), LAT Network, and more recently the LIS DREaM network. I don't really ever log onto these and don't tend to join in the conversations.

Plan of action:

  • Consider relevance of membership
  • Investigate alerting options if considered relevant (does anyone know if you can access Spruz forums through the iPhone Tapatalk forum app?)

Last but not least, Twitter

Probably the main reason I'm not that active on some of the networks I am a member of is that I absolutely love Twitter and get most of my online networking needs from that. I follow over 1200 people on Twitter, and probably 95% of those are librarians (I do also use Twitter to communicate with some family and friends too). I don't necessarily read every tweet from every person I follow, I use private and public lists to manage Twitter. There are some people that I want to read every tweet from, so they all go into a private list that I use if I am too busy to read all tweets. I also use saved searches to follow tweets for certain hashtags I'm interested in.

Other than the lists I use and the saved searches, I treat Twitter as a conversation. If I'm online I'll join in and follow the conversation, but if I'm busy then I don't worry about checking. I might miss something, but if it's important I will find out about it later or through other means (emails, RSS etc.). I've already tidied up my lists as part of Thing 4, so I don't need to do anything with Twitter at the moment.

The future?

With any of these networks, it's the people that really make them valuable. If my network on Twitter moved over to Google+ (or any other tool), I'd move with them. I do definitely need a network that I can keep up to date with easily on the move though, so mobile access is important to me (which could possibly explain why I don't use some of the networks very much).