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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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My feelings of inadequacy from NPD 2012…

So… I attended my first Cilip New Professionals Day this year, and found, by the end of the day, that I had accumulated huge feelings of my own inadequacy…not really what I was hoping to get from the day to be honest! However, it has had the effect of spurring me on to create this blog and to finally take the leap and join twitter. So this is me throwing myself into the world of web 2.0!

Apart from my own obvious lack of savvy, the New Professionals Day taught me a lot though – Ned Potter’s (@theREALwikiman) talk about branding made me realise that I can’t hide out in the library forever – I need to start making sure that I control my brand as it is out there whether I like it or not. Key point: we all need to recognise that an online presence is essential…well, lesson learned Ned, for here I am!

Next I attended my favourite workshop of the day, ‘Game On: cataloguing and classification in the 21st century’, – what’s not to love about Lego and giant snakes and ladders?! I have to admit that the whole reason I chose this workshop was because everything I’ve tried to read and learn about cataloguing so far in my traineeship has bored me, and I was hoping that this would change my views. Success! I can truthfully say that I’m now thinking about it in far more flattering terms, and am actually looking forward to my module on it when I start at UCL in September.

My second workshop was on Careers Information – something which I didn’t really know that much about before I attended it. My main impressions of the talk were that it’s somewhat of a specialist field, with jobs few and far between. But for all that, it seems like an interested and varied job; after all it’s not everyone who gets asked to find out about a career in Cat Psychology! I think the most important piece of advice was, ironically, that you shouldn’t give advice! We are information professionals, and it is not our job to give advice.

Lunch followed this – CILIP had been inspired enough to get in Burrito Joe’s, so we all had a gorgeous custom made burrito to munch on – a big thumbs up from me! I have to confess that by the time lunch was over I was fighting some serious drowsiness though – the combination of good food and a warm room almost proved too much! At this point I’d like to point out to anyone reading this (although I’m not holding out too much hope) that if you haven’t attended NPD before, then I urge you to! It’s not only a big learning curve (or at least it was for me!), but it’s also a great opportunity to meet people who are/were recently in a similar situation to you, both at the day itself as well as at the pub afterwards.

After lunch I attended my third workshop, the original had been cancelled so it ended up being the ‘Art of Reflection’ instead. As you may have already gathered, a lot of ideas were new to me during the day, and this was another one. However, I’m now convinced that I should indeed try to practice more reflection as not only does it help you to personally get more out of your experiences, but it also helps you to recognise skills that you need to progress

The first of the two talks after this was about ‘How to assemble your New Professionals Toolkit’, and the key aspects to this were simple: have a network, mentor, resources, a plan and a voice. Work on these five and you’ll soon be well on the way. And you can tell that I once again took this on board, because look how many boxes I’m ticking with this blog – having an online presence, managing my brand, undertaking reflective practice, having a voice…the list goes on and on!

The last talk of the day was by Phil Bradley all about the importance of social media. I have to say at this point that I am completely overwhelmed as to the sheer number and variety of social media and networking sites which Phil appears to frequent on a regular basis – I’m afraid that I can’t possibly commit to that many! This isn’t to say that I didn’t find the talk interesting, because I did. However, I certainly don’t have the time to undertake such a vast array of sites as he was suggesting, although I am going to try and increase my intake, so to speak. That being said, I must confess that I heartily disagree with Phil on one point – the contentious issue of Facebook! Phil insists that it’s a professional network, and while I concede the validity of his point, I feel that it’s a little late in the game to point this out. Those of you out there who have, like me, been using Facebook since its conception as a personal social network, will, I assume, have the same problem. It is too deeply integrated into my personal life for me to now start using this as a professional tool. If only Phil had been there to guide me from the beginning!

That’s about it for my impressions of the day, and for the close of my first ever blog, but I would just like to say thank you to CILIP for organising such a wonderful day, and for providing it free of charge, and to urge anyone out there who has not attended yet to go next year – it’s definitely worth it!


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