Uncooked Data


Library related events, questions and links: My professional life on a page

I think the data is done now.

You may be aware that I am just in the midst of changing jobs. I’ve left one US law firm in a tall building in the City and in a couple of weeks I will join another US law firm in another tall building in the City. I’m enormously excited about the change, as the two job roles are very different. I’m looking forward to joining a smaller London office, and to getting to know the firm quickly as I get to grips with my new role.

One thing that will change is that I will have a fair bit less time on my hands for bits and pieces like writing my own blog posts. I will continue to contribute to SLA Europe’s blog. But for professional issues, and ironically, just as everyone’s starting their own #cpd23 blogs, I’m retiring Uncooked Data. It’s served a great purpose as a place to record thoughts and events, but as the priorities in life shift, I need to make choices about where to spend my time online. With looming PhD deadlines I need to concentrate my spare time on getting a thesis written.

It feels very odd to be taking a step back, particularly after having just been recognised as one of the SLA’s Rising Stars. And I am aware my Twitter account contains far less professional content than it used to. However, it’s been a while since I had time to think and write properly for this blog and it makes sense to draw a line under it now.

Thanks for reading and for commenting. Happy Librarianing.

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SLA Conference 2011

I’ve recently returned from SLA’s annual conference in Philadelphia. It’s taken me a week to recover from a packed few days of activities – kicking off at 07:00 on Sunday 12 June and wrapping up at about 11pm on Wednesday 15th. In that time I…

  • attended Leadership Development Institute: hearing about financial changes, Board of Directors candidates and the Loyalty project
  • took part in the Rising Stars and Fellows round table
  • received my Rising Star award
  • went to my first Legal Division board meeting
  • co-ordinated SLA Europe drinks (thanks to TFPL for sponsorship)
  • welcomed people to the International Reception
  • learned about Loyalty
  • discovered the science behind ice-cream
  • took tea with the Legal Division
  • enjoyed cookies with LMD and listened to Ned talk about his conference experience
  • unconferenced with the Legal Division
  • ate ice-cream with this year’s Early Career Conference Awardees and was inspired by their enthusiasm
  • listened to debate in Chapter cabinet and Joint cabinet
  • had a drink with a colleague I’ve never met before
  • caught up with old friends
  • talked to plenty of new people

And by the end of Wednesday, I was just about ready to start all over again and do all the things I didn’t get time to do…visit the Expo, see 60 sites in 60 seconds, see Philadelphia, run, go to a Business & Finance open house… there were just not enough hours in the day!

After I left Philadelphia, I spent a couple of days in New York. I’m planning to write more about that over on Running Life in the next day or so, as it was a rather fun trip recovering from conference.

Filed under: Event report, Personal narrative

Breakfast basics – Twitter for the Terrified

On 15 April, kindly hosted by Perfect Information, SLA Europe presented a breakfast session aimed at those for whom social media is as yet unchartered territory. My PhD research has involved a lot of thinking about engagment with online communication. So although I would never cite myself as an expert, more an averagely competent user/ participant, I’ve seen and been part of many discussions on the usefulness or otherwise of social media sources. The opinions voiced were definitely my own take on this – not necessarily the same as the rest of SLA, SLA Europe or friends or employers.

We had an engaging conversation on why you might want to sign up for a Twitter account; what the advantages and disadvantages might be; how to manage the information flow; identity and anonymity and some of the third party services that are out there. It really was touching just the tip of the iceberg, but I think folk found it interesting. At least, they stayed awake until 9am! The slides I used as a background to the discussion are on Slideshare.

Filed under: Event report, SLA Europe

BookNext: The Future of Reading

As SLA Europe President I was invited to speak at BookNext, the 4th Spring Event hosted by the American Embassy and the American University in Rome at the end of March. The theme for the event was the rise and rise of the ebook and we had a number of presentations from users and vendors discussing their impact and adoption.There’s some great video and photographs giving a real flavour of the event on the event’s website.

Mine was possibly a mildly dissenting voice; talking about how ebooks restrictions (licence and format) and vendors’ options mean their use in London law libraries is minimal. Key legal textbooks are either in print or used via vendors’ databases, not as standalone downloadable products.

Christopher Platt told an engaging story about the New York Public Library and its ebook issuing service – reflecting the libraries’ ability to reach its audience when the library is closed; issues around the way that ebooks are accessed. We don’t ask patrons to find physical books based on their publisher, but that’s the way that ebooks are arranged if every vendor has their own platform. Antonella De Robbio discussed the way that publisher and author rights have not changed despite the changes in printing and distribution and wondered if it wasn’t time for an update in the expectations around intellectual property.

Across the board it was interesting to see the same issues are being addressed – are publishers talking to libraries, or making assumptions about what will work? How do we influence the way ebooks can be borrowed to ensure our users get the best options?

Personally, I found the experience of speaking at a bilingual conference intriguing; each time a speaker changed language there was a flurry of activity as folk removed or used their headsets. Meeting Italian and American participants was also fun. Gimena Campos-Severa and Fransiska Wallner worked hard to produce a well attended, thought provoking and exhausting day. Thank you for the invitation and for the opportunity to see the beautiful city of Rome.

Filed under: Event report, SLA Europe,

Upcoming events

Uncooked Data is possibly the only interested person in London not to be attending SLA Europe’s next seminar on 30 March – a blockbuster event looking at the future of information services. The outsourcing and offshoring library functions is clearly a hot topic as we wait to see how the models adopted by some of the major law firms turn out. Is it too early to count these as a success? I’m thinking that if staff move from in-house to outsourced under TUPE rules, there’s no change in pay/ contracts for two years (but I might be wrong on that). What happens after those two years? Will we see salaries shrink and people leave? If one organisation has a large community of info pros, who have their training and networking needs met in-house (or not at all) will that have a detrimental or a positive effect on the rest of the community?

The reason I can’t attend is because I’ll be at the 4th annual Spring Event – the Future of Reading, organised by U.S. Embassy to Italy and the American University of Rome. So it’s a nice reason – I’m excited about contributing to the day, and only mildly concerned about being simultaneously translated. I’m still prepping my presentation on the use of ebooks in London law libraries; when my slide deck is done I’ll post it to Slideshare.

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A cautionary tale

Google first and think later?

At our firm we’ve just welcomed our February intake of new trainees and we’re preparing for next week’s research sessions. Like many others I’m sure that one of our key messages is to think first, then ask, and only then Google. Also like many others I suspect that when under pressure the first reactions are the reverse of that. One example I came across recently illustrated this perfectly. A librarian queried exactly which year’s Arbitration Act an enquirer was looking for – having been asked for a non-existent 1976 version. The enquirer responded with this link.


Now, they were probably busy. They’d been asked by someone else equally busy to find this. There are probably other reasons why sending a link to a bit of Samoan legislation was a legitimate mistake. It has, however, had one benefit: providing a cautionary tale for training sessions…

Filed under: Uncategorized

LIKE 22- What is KM, really?

LIKE 22 addressed the question ‘What is KM, really?’ with a mix of short talks and table discussions. I’m interested in understanding more about how KM has moved on from rigid databases and the use of the concept outside of the legal profession. My interest was matched by the content and conversations and the fishcakes were pretty good, too.

So briefly we fishcake-scoffers decided that KM was about:

  • Better decision making
  • Not re-inventing the wheel
  • Apprenticeship models

The barriers to effective knowledge sharing provided further discussion. One point that I was intrigued by was that many excuses for non-participation revolve around status. How does one make sharing know how as status friendly as being due for a flight to New York?

One idea was that video capture of interviews post-project could build into a tagged searchable database. Not easy to implement well but more user-friendly, perhaps.

We talked about the “Joan with all the knowledge.” What happens when they leave? In retrospect we didn’t hit on the point that we think this issue is important: but plenty of firms make folk redundant and don’t suffer ill effects – or at least not that they admit when the bottom line is all that matters.

As well as great food and interesting company the evening sparked off several lines of thought. The ideas are relevant for my PhD: one issue is that the website builders work in isolation wasting time and effort repeating the same mistakes, and not learning from successes.

Filed under: Event report, ,

Winter Warmer Quiz

Last night was SLA Europe’s perennially popular Winter Warmer Quiz. AskTony provided the questions and SLA Europe members and friends provided the atmosphere for what was a really fun evening. There was much laughter from our team (named Fleur Boat: an anagram of Table Four) and we eventually placed third behind Team Gav, and last year’s winners Olivers Wisemen. Considering I was on the last-placed team in 2010 that was rather an improvement – although my ability to name the Paddington Bear theme tune in about three notes of music was probably my biggest contribution. Fortunately there was no picture round – since I rarely watch TV I am hopeless at recognising faces. Now if there was a Radio 4 voices round, I’d be in with a chance.

Thanks to the SLA Europe events team for their hard work with the organisation; and to Swets, who not only sponsored but sent two very helpful participants.

Filed under: Event report, SLA Europe

Leadership Summit 2011

Between 19 – 22 January I was in a chilly Washington, D.C. attending SLA’s Leadership Summit. This event provides opportunities for unit leaders and leaders-elect to come together, learn from each others’ experience, share ideas and build relationships. I’ve just recorded a podcast with Dennie Heye for the SLA Europe blog, so I won’t repeat myself here about the technical and serious aspects of the Summit.

Instead I’ll share a few other reflections. I’d already visited Washington, D.C. in 2009 as one of four Early Career Conference Award winners. It’s about two years ago since I completed that application form, little forseeing how success would have an impact on life. So it was nice to be back in the same city and to think about how much more I knew and understood about SLA, the information world and probably – cheesy though it sounds – myself. Being at Leadership with only two other UK people was also interesting; a real sense of building our own connections and not being overshadowed – or being able to hide behind – other long-standing SLA Europe colleagues.

I’ve got some great ideas to share with the rest of SLA Europe; probably several fairly rubbish ideas too, but I’m not precious about the things I suggest being accepted or rejected! It was good to see how strong we are as a Chapter. I had a fun time hanging out with the Kentucky chapter – friendly and also great at retrieving lost property… and Valerie drinks one of my local brews. (I still get excited by this kind of connection). I also spent some time with folk from the Legal Divsion and other divisions who are so-sponsoring the ECCAs for 2011.

I was part of a panel presenting ideas about building community finances; we shared our thoughts and practices on this. SLA Europe made a good showing at the conference, with this formal presentation and our ability to socialise (Darron’s dancing in particular!)

I’ve come to expect and take for granted the networking opportunities that all the SLA events provide, I love the way that Facebook/ Linked In/ Twitter connections are made in the days following events. I hope that we in Europe can replicate some of that welcome and facilitate growing networks for our members locally as part of the value of our organisation.

Filed under: Event report, , , , ,

Any Answers?

I was pleased to have had emailed comments to BBC Radio 4’s  Any Answers? programme read out this afternoon. Any Answers? is the phone in that happens after the Saturday repeat of the Any Questions? panel show, which is usually a good Friday evening listen.

The link to iplayer is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/xgr13/ (I’m on at abot 23:20) and the full text of the email I submitted is below. I considered mentioning the Voices for the Library campaign, but on balance decided that sticking to one point in the email was probably a winning strategy.

Good evening,

I did not quite know whether to laugh or cry at the comments the panel made regarding Wikipedia and online information. On the one hand, praising Wikipedia as a marvel of free information; on the other admitting that its content is inaccurate and that the volume of information on the internet is sometimes overwhelming. And this moments after discussing funding cuts to libraries. It is the skilled professional librarians at the heart of the library service who will find, share, and manage information on behalf of a huge range of clients. An information professional’s job is so much more than reshelving paperback fiction. Public libraries provide services that are unseen, or missed in simple counts of books borrowed  – accurate business and biographical data from commercial databases, for example, is available. This would perhaps have been useful for your panelists’ background research.

I write as an interested party – a qualified librarian, working in a City law firm, rather than a public library, and president of the European chapter of the SLA (Special Libraries Association) – working for information professionals in a vast number of industrial, commercial, research or financial businesses.

Kind regards

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About me and Uncooked Data

Batty Towers

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Some possibly useful research links