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

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.

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Some possibly useful research links