Uncooked Data

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

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.

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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, , , , ,

Library Routes, or, an accidental librarian

Contributing to this project collecting stories about how people became librarians, feels like a very appropriate first post.

It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that I fell accidentally into librarianship. There is history in the family; my aunt and my mother both worked as library assistants – at Brightlingsea library and the University of Hertfordshire, in its Hatfield polytechnic days – but librarianship as a career was never really a hot topic of discussion.

A Potted pre-MSc work history

My first degree was in Psychology, from the University of Nottingham. After graduating in 1995, I worked in the University’s Accident Research Unit, on a project with novice drivers.  Then I moved into administration as the Undergraduate Recruitment Officer, travelling the UK (and a bit of the world) telling potential students about the benefits of higher education and offering advice on how to apply. Moving to London, I worked for a year with student physiotherapists at the CSP before taking on the role of organising the CSP’s conferences. In 2003, rather in need of some cold hard cash after getting divorced, I took a second job working part-time at the library at the Inns of Court School of Law. I enjoyed this work, even though much was fairly basic like processing and shelving books, and looseleafing. Lots and lots of looseleafing (although I do secretly still quite like doing it every now and again).

I was also beginning to think about a career change. I wanted to undertake a Master’s degree, and I wanted a qualification that would be portable and recognised. I was beginning to get a feel for the wider world of legal information; finding out about new areas of work in corporate and special libraries. It therefore felt like a Good Idea to apply for an Information Science MSc. It took a year to save up cash for the fees, and I started at City in September 2005. I also began a Saturday job in the library at University of Westminster. Originally, I had intended to study part-time but then switched to full-time. The following March I left the CSP and a week later started temping at Kirkland & Ellis. That was a major culture shock, going from knowing everyone and everything at the CSP to a state of conscious incompetence.

Qualified posts

In August 2006, just as I finished my dissertation, I started my first full-time professional post at Addleshaw Goddard’s London office. This was a varied role, including dealing with post, book acquisitions, current awareness, general legal and business research. I enjoyed this post (apart from the acquisitions!) but I had set myself a goal that I would not stay in my first job longer than 18 months. Long enough to consolidate what I knew from K&E, ICSL, Westminster and the theory from my MSc, but not so long that I felt over-familiar and perhaps a bit trapped by fear of more change.

In January 2008 I joined the research team at Reed Smith LLP. Here, my role involves co-ordinating training for the trainee solicitors, as well as current awareness and of course lots and lots of research.

Along the way I have acquired a number of committee posts, attended conferences in Brighton, Dublin and Washington DC, met a range of interesting people and hopefully encouraged others.  I’m also studying part-time for a PhD.

I think that there are themes that can be read in all my jobs to date, around research (ARU), organising information (conference proceedings), training (CSP) and facilitating people’s education and development (CSP, University). These are also core themes of the job I do now. Looking back, the path I have taken seems like a natural progression – it just took me a decade to realise that the role that combined the things I value was that of librarian.

Filed under: Personal narrative, , , , , , , , , ,

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Some possibly useful research links