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

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.

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Filed under: Event report, Personal narrative

January 2011: Reviewing; thinking; being Future Ready

Happy New Year from Uncooked Data. May you be blessed with an abundance of brilliant and inspiring half baked ideas, thoughts and notions and throughout 2011.
2010 was certainly a good year for professional activities. I helped organise a number of events, wrote articles, gave conference presentations, took on new responsibilities and met a host of new and inspiring people. And hopefully became better at my day job as a result.
2011 sees me taking the helm as SLA Europe’s president. One of the first things this entails is attending the Leadership Summit. This is where the workings of the SLA will be explained and Darron Chapman, current president-elect and I, will be equipped with the tools we need to effectively lead the Chapter. I’m looking forward to sharing the innovations and improvements we’ve made here in Europe as well as learning from others about how they’re facing up to our common challenges.
This is a great opportunity to for me to think about the challenges that a leadership role will present me and how I will learn and grow as an individual professional and as part of the wider community. Kate Arnold and Geraldine Clement-Stoneham have big shoes to fill and I hope to serve the association as well as they have.  The only downside to attending the Summit is that I miss CLIG’s January networking drinks and I’m sure that will prove to be a fun evening.

I’m also pleased to have been asked to contribute to Information Today’s new European website and newsletter and my first couple of items are on the website here and here. It’s a really useful newsletter and website so I’d recommend subscribing.

So I’ve not blogged much recently, but I have been busy watching, talking thinking and reading about what’s changing. I also particualry enjoyed seeing this 1964 film of what my professional predecessors got up to.

I guess my next post will be a write up of the LIKE event at the British Library next week. And if that event’s not your cup of tea, don’t forget SLA’s Winter Warmer quiz on 9th Feb (law folk can practice trim at BIALL’s event); CLIG’s drinks and their bound-to-be-popular tour of the City Business Library.

Filed under: Personal narrative

Mentoring

I read this article on mentoring in the workplace and was minded to reflect on those who had provided mentoring and support to me in the past few years. None of this has been on a formal basis – I’ve just been fortunate to find people alongside me at key times who have challenged me to examine my assumptions and world view. In turn, I hope I am able to do the same for others, now and in the future. I’m not naming names, but these people will know who they are…

The librarian who encouraged me to think seriously about Information Science as an MSc, and who answered endless questions about various aspects of librarianship. She also allowed me to test my pet theories out as a newbie, supported my Early Career Award application, recommended me resources and acted as cheerleader when I was landing my first info pro post.

The corporate librarian who initially offered me 3 days’ work moving books around, that turned into a couple of months’ admin and research. Another patient person who answered my questions, introduced me to others, encouraged me to write and is still someone whose management opinion I value.

The training and development manager in one firm who arranged coaching for me, allowed me to air my problems, but at the same time pushed me to find my own solutions and realise my own value as an experienced professional.

The committee chair who welcomed a newbie with events experience but no information industry contacts, who built relationships, allowed me to use the experience I did have, and encouraged me to become involved.

This is the kind of informal support and help that have provided a strong framework for my professional growth in the last few years, and the time and effort is really very appreciated. I hope in future to be able to hand on what I’ve learned, recognising value of prior experience wherever it’s gained.

Filed under: Personal narrative

Writing: an inventory.

It occurred to me recently [actually – in April, and I have just retrieved and completed this draft…] that I didn’t have an inventory of things I had written over the past few years. The kind of thing one might put together if one was aiming for chartership, which I’m not, but that would be useful to remind myself when I next get hit by writers’ block. I haven’t included postings here, on the BIALL blog or on the SLA Europe blog.

So here it is. A good way to track my plans for world domination, sorry, career development from the MSc in 2005 to date.

February 2006: My MSc and why I started it, for BIALL’s newsletter, in response to an article in a previous edition about whether such a course was worth undertaking

August 2006: Conference writeup: I was awarded a bursary for BIALL’s Brighton meeting.

August 2007: “I wish I’d known that” – a collection of useful information for the perplexed (for example, the difference between the Family Law Journal and the Family Law journal, or that the Yellow book is actually purple). I had great fun collecting people’s anecdotes about misunderstandings and various howlers for this.

July 2008:  Conference writeup, again for BIALL’s newsletter, after BIALL awarded me a bursary to Conference in Dublin

July 2009:  SLA event reports on the SLA Europe blog and the B&F division journal

April 2010:  Trainees’ induction, for the SLA Legal Division newsletter

August 2010: Putting a survey together , another one for the BIALL newsletter

October 2010: Internet Librarian International conference presentation

I’m also putting together a webinar for the SLA’s First Five Years Council; and preparing a joint presentation for Online Information in December.

Filed under: Personal narrative, , , , , ,

CLIG Spring Party 2010

City Legal Information Group, for which I am currently membership secretary, has just announced details of this year’s Spring Party.
We’ll be enjoying the views across the City from the 31st floor of Broadgate Tower, one of London’s newest landmarks. The Spring Party is always fun with a hotly contested quiz, a raffle of generously donated prizes and of course wine and canapes.

I’m looking forward to this, not just because it is being hosted where I work, and I know that people will love the view. There’s something really mesmerising about being able to see so much of London and beyond. Full details and the booking form are on CLIG’s website.

It will also be my last Spring Party as a CLIG committee member. I am going to be stepping down as Membership Secretary at this year’s AGM and leaving the committee altogether. It’s been a great 3.5 years since I joined – only a few months into my first full-time post as a librarian. At that time the most relevant contribution I could make was from my experience organising events and I clearly remember saying little more than ‘Hello’ at my first committee meeting. That in itself is remarkable if you know how often I talk too much!

So if you’re looking for a way to contribute to our profession, to expand your knowledge and bring your set of skills ‘to the table’, I’d recommend volunteering for a similar opportunity.

Filed under: Committee, Event report, Personal narrative, , ,

Library Day in the Life – end of the week

Thursday and Friday seemed to rush past in something of a blur.

On Thursday morning I saw a demonstration of Westlaw China – I had seen the first release at the SLA conference last July, so this update was interesting. Then I met with our head of L&D to iron out some problems with the trainees’ inductions starting next week. My third meeting was an all-firm presentation about changes to the appraisal system for 2010. By the time I had been to all those meetings, squeezed in my review of the FT and a frankly more interesting daily update, it was lunchtime. I went out for another run – just my usual 20 minutes loop – then logged in at the enquiry desk.

This was an afternoon with two deceptively simple queries – one for medical articles, another for an international standard. These both took over two hours to resolve. The first I couldn’t help with, as unpublished conference abstracts are difficult to find. The second I did solve with help from a Russian-speaking colleague in the US. I was also asked if we had an Athens password. That’s a typical ‘Google first and look at library resources last’ kind of question. It means that someone’s run a Google search for relevant articles, found something likely-looking, and then asked the library for it. This is rather less efficient that using the legal journals index and our catalogue, particularly since these were articles we did have access to. If the lawyer hadn’t asked, would they have gone without  – or spent money on a download that duplicated our resources?

A slew of shipping queries kept me at the desk until 6.00pm when I escaped to the pub for a much needed pint.

Friday saw me back at the enquiry desk at 9.30 carrying on with the shipping queries and trying to record Thursday’s time and enquiries. Another busy morning – juggling shorter, easier questions with the more involved kind of query. During lunch I talked with a colleague who’s just joined the research team on a part-time basis; we discussed what the trainee induction would involve and how she’s been getting on. I spent about an hour in the afternoon on a new update that we are developing for one of the practice groups. I followed that with a piece of research I’d taken on during the morning – looking for possible future conferences for another practice group. The conversation I had with the trainee about the research was a classic example of what my US colleagues call a reference interview. I’m asked for ‘forthcoming events’ in a number of sectors. Is that just in the UK? What sort of events? Is a major trade show as relevant as a networking breakfast? How far in advance do you want me to look? Is this chargeable and how long do you want me to spend looking?

The last half an hour was employed by tidying up, finishing the time recording and leaving myself an enormous list of things to do on Monday.

Filed under: Personal narrative, research,

Library Day in the Life – Wednesday

So… today started off OK, relatively calmly… my train was on time which is always a good start. Was trying to mug up on statistics but the chap next to me was talking a lot on the phone, so that made it tricky concentrating.

My working day began with a read through of the FT. We don’t have this online so we still read it and send photocopies of articles to the lawyers. I maintain that this cannot be done effectively without a cup of tea to accompany the task. It generally takes about 45 minutes to get the articles copied and sent out.

Once I’d done that and washed the ink off my fingers I started a conversation about the upcoming trainees’ legal research sessions. In previous years we’ve run a two-hour class with them designed to introduce new starters to the library, our print and online holdings. Now we’re in a new building we don’t have the space to do that, and as we’re trying to integrate our presentations more with the rest of the induction, this is changing. Rather a lot of to-ing and fro-ing happened this morning as the PSL booked to co-present has pulled out. I’m meeting our head of L&D tomorrow to finalise our plans. That contretemps took nearly an hour to resolve. Later on in the morning, I gave two new paralegals a quick overview of the functions available on Bloomberg. This just covered some of the basics of navigating around the system and a few of the topics for which Bloomberg is useful. Then on to run my daily vessel and news searches. I squeezed in a brief email conversation about the next BIALL MSC meeting and the salary survey for 2010.

Next stop lunch, when I drafted an entry for the SLA Europe blog on last night’s quiz alongside sending a few PhD related emails, and a dash to the shops for life’s essentials (bread and milk: for without tea and toast how do we function in the morning?)

Back on the enquiry desk this afternoon and a bunch of very interesting questions. First, to see if some conference proceedings  were available for one trainee. I enjoy this kind of question as it gives me a chance to flex non-legal research muscles, even though I couldn’t find what I had been asked for I am confident I had left done everything save emailing the authors and asking. An associate came along in person with a query about finding out the solvency status of overseas companies; she stayed at the desk and we went through the available options together. Another journal request meant requesting a volume back from off-site store; that will arrive tomorrow morning. There was an interesting discussion about conflicts when the fourth lawyer this week asked questions about a particular company; we discussed what we should do in this situation with our conflicts manager. As a result I learned a bit more about how we manage client conflict, meaning, is it possible for one firm to act for both sides in a dispute? Over the course of the afternoon I answered many more enquiries with only the briefest interlude for other things. Let’s just say I enjoyed the large lump of fruit cake I scoffed at about 4pm.

I spent most of the afternoon playing catch up trying to work, record time before forgetting the details of a query and respond in a timely fashion to the incoming queries. There was definitely a shipping focus to the work I did today. But by 5.30 I had answered all the questions posed, recorded most of my time and noted what was still outstanding. I made a sharp exit at 5.35; milled around at Liverpool Street and was enjoying a well earned gin and tonic at Batty Towers at 7.15pm.

Filed under: Personal narrative, , , ,

Library day in the life – round 4: Monday

I am Senior Research Librarian for the London office of the US law firm Reed Smith.

For once, my Monday morning train was bang on time and I was in the office just after 9am. It’s my session on the enquiry desk this morning so once my tea was brewing I logged in at the desk. We have an actual separate desk in the library where people do come and ask questions. It’s about three metres from my allocated desk so generally people do just come to me when there’s no-one in the official hot seat.

Checked through the emails in our inbox and queries in the web-based request system too. Dealt first with an urgent query sent late on Friday evening asking for a definition around the status of the Channel Islands. I remembered a similar query from a while back so I searched for that as starter. It wasn’t quite the same, but finding the answer did 50% of the thinking for me. Once that was out of the way I cleared up a few easier requests for cases and journal articles.

On Friday I had helped with a last minute request for authorities for a bundle. One of the case citations seemed to have caused the trainee some consternation. This morning I drafted a brief email to him mentioning the online Cardiff Index; that we have Justcite and the library’s catalogue to help locate which series we have via online access. Since it took a fair amount of my time too on Friday I also needed to ask for a client/ matter number against which I can record my time .We record our time on the same system the lawyers use.

Following on from this I revisited the schedule we have for the new trainee lawyers who start next week; I arrange library inductions and training on our databases for them all. I do this in conjunction with our Learning & Development team to try to integrate the library sessions into the induction rather than being seen as an optional extra. Just as I had begun to think about wording for the calendar invitations the phone rang; and I was then involved for half an hour making sure a database add-in was working for one of the firm’s partners. That meant working with the IT team and luckily I spoke with someone who knew about the circumstances of the original installation.

More tea and a few more quick answers sent and I was into the final half hour of the morning. The phone stayed quiet and the emails dried up giving me a chance to update the time and enquiry records for the day so far. At 1.30 I handed over to my colleague and escaped.

I try to fit a short run in twice a week; I generally reckon that I can run for 20 minutes and still fit in changing, showering and eating lunch. Today I ran a mile at a fast pace (well, for me, anyway, a bit less than 9 minutes) and took a slow jog/ walk back to the office.

Back at my desk I ran through the daily checks I do for various people – updating vessel locations; assessing new alerts; searches of websites not elsewhere indexed. Then I had a fun meeting with our IT trainer who showed me how the interactive whiteboard in the training room works; most of the database sessions are going to be held there so I reckoned it was time I got to grips with it so we could use it if we wanted to.

Just as I once again returned to my desk a request for information from the business development team arrived. My manager and I split this between us and I ran a couple of litigation searches, saving the results in various formats so my colleague could see the available options to drill down through the data. Another quick update for my time entry and it was nearing  4pm. I briefly thought about database usage statistics but decided it iwas a bit far on the day to start number crunching, but a good time to try again with the preparation for the trainees’ session. I was a good way through this by 5.45pm when I stopped work on the day job and turned my attention to an imminent session with fellow CLIG members Neil Stewart and Olwen Walker. Both came over to the office here and Neil demonstrated some of the features of the website; principally allowing us to send out messages to our members. This took until 6.30 or so when I packed up and headed home via Liverpool Street.

Arrived home at about 8:15; had an unexpected trip to my parents to collect a spare key after I broke one of mine in the lock… no idea how… and did a few little jobs about the flat. A quick sit down to catch up with the Daily Show from Friday and that was about it for the day.

Filed under: Personal narrative,

Christmas break

Uncooked Data is taking a break for Christmas and will be back in the New Year with more events news, library ideas and generally relevant stuff. Watch out for a flurry of activity though over on phdinprogress as my second year end rapidly approaches.

I’ve got one last thing to share – a website I came across yesterday when looking for some stats on the growth of the internet. It’s a simple site that interests the geek in me. 22bn pages, that’s a lot. I wonder what percentage are funny cat pictures?

Filed under: Personal narrative, ,

Changing Landscape of the Information Profession

This event was my first taste of being part of a panel. I rather enjoyed myself and hope everyone else in the room did too. If you were there, I would be interested to know what you thought about the evening. Did the questions address the issues you were expecting?

One thing that we as a panel didn’t do was introduce ourselves. Although I was billed as a new entrant to the profession, unless you take 30-year tenure as the only appropriate apprenticeship, I won’t be ‘new’ for much longer. I graduated from City in 2006 and my current role at Reed Smith, where I’ve been for nearly two years, is my second professional post. I have an entry in the Library Routes wiki outlining this.

SLA will be publishing a review of the event on the official blog shortly – I’ll link to it when it’s available. For now though I wanted to give my own personal account and perhaps outline some things I didn’t say. Ever wanting the last word! The other panel members were  Liz Blankson-Hemans  representing SLA as recently elected Director to the main SLA Board as 2010 Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect,
Mark Jewell, Vice President, Integreon and  Laura Vosper, Lexis Nexis.

We talked about employers’ roles in facilitating employees’ professional development. I also chatted about this in the bar afterwards. I think the panel all agreed that it’s down to an individual to plan their own career path; no-one else will do it for us. Also, that if we expect employers to develop us, they will develop us to their own ideas. This does not necessarily fit with where we want to go – it’s unlikely that our managers will willingly pay for time out for us to train ourselves up for our next job. I have ‘made my own entertainment’ since 2006; looked for and seized opportunities. It’s involved sticking my hand up and volunteering  for things; organising events, attending meetings, writing articles, introducing myself to people I don’t know – and contributing to this blog. Why is this of benefit? Well, for example, I now have fledgling relationships with a number of vendors with whom I would have no ‘official’ contact  – when I do move into a role with purchasing power, I am not going to be starting cold. I’ve been fortunate enough to be supported at four conferences and I’ve attended a number of formal seminars and informal networking events. This is alongside developing my core subject knowledge and research skills, for me the two go hand-in-hand.

Another topic touched on was social media. I have a big concern that the quantity and accessibility of opinion is eclipsing the value of measured facts. Is this the same argument as was used at the start of the internet? That’s what Mark reckoned. I disagreed as I believe the difference lies in the provenance of the content. Yes, there were lots of online interactions between people, and lots of unofficial and pointless websites proliferated. But the print providers who went online were still providing authoritative content. We have now moved from the Encyclopaedia Britannica to Wikipedia; and these are different products. Laura claimed that there is evidence showing Wikipedia is more authoritative than the EB; I’m off to look for this. So the shift in the beginning was print content to online equivalent; now we are moving from authority to opinion and from expertise to chatter. This is something that my research project is also concerned with.

I am not a luddite; merely a sceptic and I would exercise caution before jumping on the latest bandwagon. It took me 18 months between signing up for my Twitter account and actually finding a reason to use it.

The final question I’ll reflect on was one asking whether there is any future for print books. We were divided on this. I suspect that at some point in the future I will own an e-book reader; but unless one is invented that survives being dropped in the bath, I will be hanging on to my paper books too.

In all the evening was fun, a way of introducing CIG and AUKML members to the work of the SLA as well as producing (hopefully) an informative dialogue.

Filed under: Event report, Personal narrative, , , , ,

About me and Uncooked Data

Batty Towers

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Some possibly useful research links