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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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…

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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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Online Information 2010 (part 1)

Last week I was at Online Information at Olympia. I had dual roles here: designing & staffing the SLA Europe exhibition stand, and as one of the main conference presenters. I really rather needed to be in two places at once. As a presenter, I had access to the main conference sessions – sad to say that the only one I attended was my own: there really was a lot going on elsewhere. Perhaps I have been fortunate in attending both the SLA Conference and Internet Librarian International this year and didn’t feel I missed out on too much.

I spent the greater part of the three exhibition days on the stand or in the exhibition chatting with new and old acquaintances, discussing ideas for future SLAE events, and of course explaining what the benefits of membership of SLA are. It was a privilege to be able to highlight the Early Career conference award to those who may be eligible. I rarely miss my previous roles as exhibitor or conference planner, but every now and then I do enjoy the opportunities to talk to new people at different events. Talking with interesting people is something I will never cease to enjoy.

SLA Europe’s annual breakfast was a great success. Many hardy souls who braved the snow and early start were rewarded with a delicious cooked breakfast (thank you, Dialog) and great conversation. I enjoyed hearing Anne Caputo’s assessment of where we are as information professionals. The idea of dis-intermediation is one I have heard Anne explain before, but it will definitely bear thinking through further in future.

I was part of a meeting with newly elected Phil Bradley and Annie Mauger to discuss the differences and similarities between the SLA and CILIP – there are more of the former than the latter, but as with all the professional organisations, there’s an overlap and a few shared concerns.

SLA Europe and EBSCO presented the European Librarians Theatre, which was well received – at least one session was standing room only.

As this was actually annual leave for me, I was also trying to fit in a bit of PhD reading – if you saw me with my head in a book but I didn’t speak to you, I’m sorry, I wasn’t being curmudgeonly on purpose. With the tube strike, the snow and trying to be in several places at once, it was a fun but exhausting week. I understand some people go to the beach for their holidays, not a wintry exhibition hall…

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Online Part 2: Helping the Hybrid

Helping the Hybrid: Leveraging Personal Networks to Support Changing Roles

Olwen Walker and I presented a paper outlining how the concept of a personal learning environment can be exploited to find and develop in a hybrid role. We followed an interesting discussion on the landscape of homeworking from Marieke Guy – a degree of flexibility is afforded to academic staff that would be alien to the corporate environment we are both from. In turn, we were followed by Henri Stiller discussing a research project looking at “New roles for Information Professionals in today’s fast changing environment.”

In the preparation for the paper we were struck by how our mapping of our personal learning environments was so different: Olwen’s focused on the subject matter, mine on the processes or places. Which just goes to show that there really is no right or wrong way to think about this concept – it is just a useful tool to help map your own personal information flows.

Our slides are available and a proforma for thinking about your own PLE is here.

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Online Information 2010 (#online10)

It’s that time of year again when the great and the good descend on Olympia for Online Information. Uncooked Data will be there in several guises. First, I’m prepping the SLA Europe exhibition stand tomorrow, then staffing it for part of Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday we’ll be hosting the annual SLA Europe breakfast, welcoming over 100 members and non members. On Thursday morning I’m presenting a session with Olwen Walker about how the idea of a personal learning environment can be used to help with career change and personal development.

I’ll be tweeting some of the event as Batty_Towers, and later this week will be adding the presentation slides and handout to this blog.

See you there…

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Complete or delete

I’ve got half a dozen draft posts that for one reason or another didn’t get finished and published. I’m going to delete or complete them this afternoon – so there may be a slight spike in the posting rate for Uncooked Data.

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Internet Librarian International 2010

Uncooked Data was in Hammersmith for ILI 2010. I startedwith the joint SLA Europe/ ILI/ Infotrieve drinks on Wednesday evening and attended most of the two-day conference. I was fortunate to be able to go last year as recipient of one of SLA Europe’s tickets, this year I was one of the speakers.

The conference was a few weeks ago now and has been blogged and reported extensively, so there’s no real need for me to go into great detail. The hashtag was #ili2010 and there’s a Twapper Keeper archive. This year’s SLA Europe ticket holders have written up their experiences on the blog.

I had the same odd-one-out feeling at ILI2010 as I did last year – it’s a great conference, and with an audience of predominantly academic librarians, I felt in the minority as a corporate employee. I’m not suggesting we should be segregated – just that sometimes, the assumptions academic speakers make about what we ‘should’ be doing with our online time may need qualifying a little for those of us who don’t have the freedom to tweet during office hours, for example.

However, presenting was enormous fun, as were the networking drinks where I discovered my ability to list the entire R4 schedule for the day, courtesy of Hazel Hall. I learned a couple of good lessons from my first formal presentation at a library conference:

  • Don’t be put off when the sign falls off the lectern. It happened to Obama too.
  • Don’t be put off by discovering the lectern is in fact slightly furry when you touch it mid-sentence
  • If you’re going to time yourself by your watch, it helps to look at it when you start and remember what the time is…

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Maximising Personal Impact

Uncooked Data went to another fun SLA Europe event on 28 September. There was wine, lovely food, networking, children’s books, tongue twisters, West Side Story, alliteration, Singin’ in the Rain and an uncomfortable amount of eye contact. Not, perhaps, the usual mix for an professional how-to kind of event…

Suzanne Wheatley from Sue Hill Recruitment led an evening on ‘Maximising your Personal Impact,’ using nearly all of these things to illustrate her points. It is a rare skill to keep an audience as interested and engaged after a long day at work, but this is one that Suzanne’s enthusiastic presentation definitely managed. The key things I will take away from the evening are:

  • Dealing with nerves through deliberate and slow breathing is a good idea
  • Making eye contact is not daunting in normal situations
  • My handshake is *very* firm… maybe ease off a bit!
  • I need to speak more slowly… more slowly than feels comfortable

I don’t want to give too much away here because the event is running again in October, having been quickly over-subscribed first time around. Although I’ve heard or read similar tips to Suzanne’s in the past few years, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of our bad habits. And the participative nature of the session meant we were rehearsing good habits in friendly company, definitely better than just reading lists of hints and tips again.

Thanks to Perfect Information for sponsoring the evening and providing food and wine, and to Suzanne for leading the evening.

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About me and Uncooked Data

Batty Towers

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Some possibly useful research links