Monthly Archives: October 2013

CILIP New Professionals Day 2013: Eyes wide shut – an exploration of different sectors

There’s so much that I feel like I could say about CILIPNPD13 that it’s going to be hard to condense it into one blog post. I went to CILIPNPD12 last year, and one thing I liked about this year was that the focus was completely different. Last year’s was, I felt, more of a focus on me as an individual, while this year was more focused on giving insights into the profession as divided by sector. As someone who’s just started my first professional post, I found it really interesting to be introduced to sectors which I knew little or nothing about, and hadn’t really considered working in (until now, that is!). I’m going to give my impressions of the day in chronological order, so I’m starting with the Keynotes address. In an effort to reduce space I’m not putting in titles of talks etc., but the programme for the day can be found HERE, and the presentations HERE.

The main things that I took away from the Keynotes speech by Barbara Band were these:

  1. CPD is always important – we work in a profession which is always changing and we need to keep our skills and awareness current.
  2. Advocacy is a key trait for all information professionals – the profession is often misunderstood, and therefore undervalued, and we need to change this.
  3. Get involved in things, and say yes!

I thought these were all good points which can’t be reiterated enough, especially the advocacy one. In the changing world of cuts, we need to demonstrate our value to everyone, and to prove that we’re essential.

For the first session, I attended Laura William’s session on media librarianship. I found this interesting, as I’d never really considered that librarians were even needed in the media sector. For me, the best things about it seem to be the possibility for becoming a specialist very quickly, the flexibility, and the ability to impact millions of people, just by doing your job. However, on the down side, there’s a lack of job security, limited opportunities, isolation and a feeling of being under-valued. For me, this last point really hits home. I work in the academic sector and have, in the past, worked in an institution where the Library was clearly under-valued. I hated it, and don’t think I could work somewhere like that again. Nonetheless, the sector sounds interesting, although I am surprised by some of the revelations. For example, most materials are still kept as physical copies on tape, instead of being digitised – something I find astonishing in this modern world.

??????They still use tape (maybe not quite this antiquated though…)!

The second session I attended was Nick Stopforth’s session on public libraries. This was actually really informative – I didn’t realise how much there was I didn’t know about modern public library services! The things I was most interested in include the idea of Universal Offers – keeping services consistent in 151 library services across the UK, which I think is a brilliant idea, and the ‘Bookmark your Library’ scheme, which is a national scheme to provide one online catalogue for users. They can then search for a title and find out which of their nearest libraries have the item available. It’s brilliant! It even lets you request ILLs if none of your local libraries have it. The last point I was most interested in was the fact that a pilot scheme has just started in public libraries whereby the ‘Big Seven’ publishers are trialling the lending of e-books. I’m really interested in this, as I think it would be a great addition to the academic library where I work, so now I know to look out for it and follow its progress.

Binary worldPublic libraries are modernising

The third session I attended (after a lunch of those amazing burritos again – CILIP certainly knows how to arrange an excellent meal!) was Chris Billing’s one on working in a prison libraries. I’ve always found prison libraries fascinating, and actually tried to get some work experience in one during my course but never managed to, so I was really excited about it. She didn’t disappoint. Some of the facts I found most intriguing are these:

  1. There are 132 prisons in the UK, and only 11 of those are for women.
  2. All prisoners have a legal right to 30 minutes of library access every week.
  3. Nearly half of all prisoners have no formal qualifications.
  4. The libraries are barely digitised. Prisoners are allowed no internet access, and staff access in restricted to computers in lockable offices. Additionally, staff are not allowed to have any mobile phones within the prison, unless they’re locked away.

In addition to this some of the benefits of working there include having ring-fenced funding, a captive audience (literally), lots of training and clear consequences for users who misbehave – and as someone who works in a Sixth Form College I can appreciate how nice it is when users are definitively sanctioned for bad behaviour. However, she did caution that you have to be aware of the importance of following procedures, being circumspect and not revealing personal details, and the idea that prisoners may try to ‘condition’ you – i.e. behave well and be nice so as to gain something from you in the future. While this also happens to a certain extent in academic libraries with students, the consequences are obviously much less serious. Furthermore, it’s fascinating to think of prison libraries in terms of reducing reoffending, and to hear about the range of schemes they run to improve literacy and rebuild links between prisoners and their families. I won’t list them all (there isn’t room), but I’ll just briefly mention ‘Storybook Dads’, whereby prisoners are recorded reading a book to their children, which is then sent as a CD to the family, along with a copy of the book. The job seems really rewarding, and I could definitely see myself taking a job in a prison library if one became available.

Row of Jail CellsA captive audience, indeed…

The last session I attended was on health librarianship, which was a real eye-opener for me. I literally had no idea about what is involved in working in this sector, and for this reason have never been interested in it. However, after Victoria Treadway’s talk, I would definitely consider it. The thing I like most about it is the idea that you can have a direct impact on the treatment of a patient, by providing doctors and nurses with advice on best practice. Additionally, I like that there is information literacy work involved, teaching staff and students to recognise the value of reliable sources and to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of research – I really believe in the importance of information literacy and I’m pleased to find that such teachings are being passed on to medical practitioners, for whom it can literally be life-saving. I was also interested to learn that all hospitals have a library service – something which as a librarian I feel I should’ve already known, but didn’t. Finally, a couple of tips I picked up from Victoria is the idea of ‘horizon scanning’ – sending bulletins to staff about upcoming research etc., and this website: http://www.nhs.uk/news/Pages/NewsIndex.aspx – you can find out the truth behind the headlines on medical research which is really interesting and a great find, I think!

MedicalReal impact on patient health

So, I think that’s more than long enough for one blog post! Just to say that the CILIP New Professionals Day is also really good for networking and meeting new people (as well as catching up with old friends), in addition to being very informative and insightful. I highly recommend you attend. And, of course, there’s also the huge added draw of the infamous BURRITOS!

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To diss or not to diss…that is the LIS question.

The discussion I participated in on #uklibchat on Twitter last week (1st October – agenda here) got me thinking, not only about the value of the MA LIS in general (some of my thoughts on the course at UCL can be found below), but on the value of the dissertation. One of the questions explored whether it is relevant to employers whether graduates have an MA, MSc or PG-Dip and it got me thinking how important the dissertation really is. I completed the dissertation at UCL and therefore will (hopefully) be gaining the MA. To me the decision was easy – the dissertation is of value, in my opinion, not only to employers, but also to the student in question. What I mean by this is not that I think most employers will discount graduates who have a PG Dip as opposed to an MA, but rather that having the MA can help to increase your chances. One of my fellow students only completed the PG Dip and she now holds a professional post, so it clearly didn’t harm her career prospects. Nonetheless, I stick by my assertion that completing the dissertation is the better route.

My reasons for this belief that the dissertation should be an integral part of the qualification are this:

1.      Completing the dissertation shows dedication to a project, as well as relevant skills such as time management, working on your own initiative, and a variety of research skills which, in our profession, are highly relevant. I know that many of these skills can be developed through the assignments during the course, but the dissertation proves that students can go the extra mile.

research

2.      Undertaking the dissertation shows a dedication, enthusiasm and interest in a particular area or topic which can be highly relevant to your future career. Not only does it benefit the student by allowing them to explore a topic they are extremely interested in, but it can also help students, in the choosing of such a topic, to clarify for themselves in which area of LIS they are interested. The value of this cannot be under-rated on courses which are generally broad reaching. Furthermore, I think that if the topic chosen really is of interest to the student, then the dissertation can actually be enjoyable. I’m not saying I enjoyed every minute of mine – it was stressful at times, very time-consuming and at times I resented doing it, but ultimately I wouldn’t change my decision.

Businessman Carrying Pile of Files

 

3.      The dissertation could well (and I deliberately say “could”, not “will”) help you to land your first professional role. Applying for a job which you can show you are enthusiastic and passionate about, through a relevant dissertation topic, hugely increases your chances of success. I’m not saying that it’s always relevant, but, certainly in my case, I was appointed to my first professional post partly because the subject of my dissertation addressed the way in which the institution is hoping my role will develop. Similarly, one of my friends has just been appointed to a job based largely on the subject of her dissertation.

 

This is not to say that the dissertation is necessarily an essential part of the MA. I understand from the reactions on Twitter during #uklibchat that many people think the PG Dip is enough to gain a professional post, and if it worked for them then who am I to argue? However, I remain convinced, from the point of view of my personal career, that completing the dissertation was the right route to follow.

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