Uncooked Data

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

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.

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Filed under: Personal narrative

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…

Filed under: Uncategorized

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.

Filed under: Uncategorized

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…

Filed under: Uncategorized

LIKE, the Echo Chamber and Supreme Court

This week, Uncooked Data has been to three different and interesting events. In an ideal world I’d have blogged separately about them, but I’m rather running out of week…

On Tuesday, Westlaw hosted drinks at the Supreme Court. This was an opportunity to revisit the building (having been there on a CLIG-organised visit about a year ago), and to hear from Thomson Reuters about their ideas and plans. I also had a chance to catch up with legal librarian colleagues I’d not seen for a little while. Thanks to Westlaw for an enjoyable evening.

Wednesday saw me hot-footing it to the City Business Library to hear the about the exciting Voices for the Library project and how they’re beginning to make inroads into the mainstream media, making the case for the value of library spaces and crucially, professional library staff. Bethan Ruddock and Jo Anderson outlined the development of the website and their social media strategy. The event, run by SLA Europe, was themed around the idea that we need to escape from the ‘echo chamber,’ to be able to reach outside of our library peers and be heard as campaigning professionals. Ned Potter and Laura delivered an inspiring talk on this – I’d forgotten how annoyed I’d been earlier in the year at the KPMG report that assumed all librarians did was arrange books on shelves, and the way Newsnight quoted circulation figures for UK libraries that were out by a factor of 1,000. Details are all on the Echo Chamber prezi. There are writeups of the event at the View from the Hill blog, Laura’s, and SLA Europe recorded the whole thing, so do keep an ear out for the podcast. I’ll admit that although I’ve kept an eye out for VtfL’s work, and seen it discussed on Twitter, I’d not given it a whole lot of attention. Its focus is public libraries, and so I’m concerned, I’m not committed. My sector has already seen job cuts, downgrading and outsourcing. We qualified librarians are in this together as far as I am concerned – but I wonder how many public librarians think I have a really easy job, and vice versa? I work in the City, so I must be loaded…? We didn’t have a great deal of post-presentation chat time, but I did get to talk briefly with Annie Mauger from CILIP and Phil Bradley.

And it’s Thursday… so it must be LIKE… This was LIKE 20, and the first I’d managed to attend. Lesley Robinson took us through the gentle art of networking (you think joining a group of strangers is difficult…have you tried extricating yourself gracefully from the dullest conversation in the world?) Exposure to the SLA and North American networking means I’m pretty comfortable walking into a roomful of strangers, but even so it was nice to bump into someone I knew on the way in this evening! LIKE is a great bunch of people and a very successful community. I hope to have more free evenings on the last Thursday of the month in 2011 so  I can make a few more of the meetings.

And if you’re wondering what I did on Monday, I went to a recording of The Infinite Monkey Cage for R4. And tomorrow? Tomorrow I’m just going to the lovely Bricklayers, a stone’s throw from Uncooked Data’s HQ, to catch up with a lovely aspiring poet friend.

Filed under: Event report, personal effectiveness, SLA Europe, , ,

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

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.

Filed under: Uncategorized

If they’re not filing, you’re not finding…

On Monday 8 November Uncooked Data had the pleasure of attending a CLIG event purely as participant, after several years as a committee member.

Barry Vickery and Peter Jenkins from 7Side Ltd presented an entertaining run through of the mysteries and vagaries of finding company information in a variety of jurisdictions.

Starting with the easy ones, and the UK’s Companies House, we had a compare and contrast session…
Malta: “a cracking little registry
Latvia, Estonia, Hungary: “pretty good
Poland: “sometimes comical
Russia: “nightmare

Moving on to the US (“it might be the land of dreams, but it is the land of extremes”) Barry explained exactly why so many companies incorporate in the “teeny tiny” state of Delaware and just how useful the ‘general purpose clause’ might be.

Then we went offshore to the Channel Islands & the Isle of Man before heading out to more far flung places: Seychelles, Bahamas, Bermuda and the Marshall Island (“worse than Russia. You might get a name & date of incorporation but anything else is very very very very very unlikely*”) I’ve often been asked for information on Marshall Islands businesses and now I’m able to quote 7Side’s mantra “if they’re not filing, you’re not finding.” With studied understatement the challenge of getting information on a Cayman Islands company was described as ‘a bit of a pain.’

The highlight for me was learning how to make a company disappear – how different filing regimes can be combined to obscure the existence of offshore subsidiaries. One participant suggested that one can check the Cayman Islands registry, but oftentimes what we need is evidence linking similarly named entities together. Now I understand how this disappearing trick might work, I can explain it more effectively the next time I’m asked to help find a hidden company. As it was pointed out, companies are registered offshore for a reason.

We concluded with a look at common suffixes – where one might find a GmBH, an OOO or a YEH (sound more interesting than our plain old PLC).

7side are experts in what they do and this depth of experience shows clearly in this kind of informative and entertaining event. They know what we need to know. Thanks to Jas Breslin for hosting the event and to Mary, Barry and Peter for providing the insight.

*I counted and clarified the number of verys – important to be able to feed back to enquirers…

Filed under: Event report, research, , , ,

I need this today. Tomorrow is too late…

This week I was asked to obtain a copy of an article for a partner. That’s not an unusual task; we regularly use one of three document delivery services in London and I know my US colleagues have their own sources too. Mostly the doc del suppliers will, for a price, be able to send a copy to me within an hour. The peeople at IALS, Law Society and Sweet & Maxwell are seriously helpful and used to being asked for things in a hurry. The British Library & I have a mixed success rate. Recently they called me to check my email address and then 45 minutes later emailed to say I couldn’t have the article I wanted on a 2-hr time scale.  That’s another whole blog post, I think.

Unfortunately, this week, the article could only be obtained directly from the publisher (let’s give them the pseudonym ‘Wrights’) and it was needed for a deal closing on Tuesday. Wrights didn’t answer their phone at 5.15 on Monday; or 9.45 on Tuesday; responding to me at around 11am after I’d emailed. The content I needed would cost £200. Quite a profit for something was published a few years ago – essentially the fee was for a few minutes’ photocopying. “Fantastic,” I said.  “I need it today, can you email it to me, please?”

“No,” Wrights said. “You can’t have the content until you’ve paid for it. By cheque.”

“Right,” I said. “We are quite a large firm. You can be sure of your payment.”

That didn’t help so I went through the process of getting a cheque produced to send, all the time keeping the partner informed, but expecting that he’d not want the article after about 5pm. I was right – before I sent it I called for a final check the partner no longer needed it. The moment had passed. So I didn’t send the cheque and ‘Wrights ‘missed out on their fee.

This set me thinking. Are we not in Hard Times? Would you not jump at the chance of £200 for a bit of easy work? Would you not answer your phone? Or understand that something may be worth £200 to us NOW, but tomorrow it’s worth nothing? If Wrights’ keeping their content out of the CLA’s scheme was calculated to inflate their income from reprints, they surely shot themselves in the foot this time.

Filed under: research, , ,

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…

Filed under: Uncategorized

About me and Uncooked Data

Batty Towers

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Some possibly useful research links