Monday, 23 September 2013

Cilip AGM 2013 : Motion of No Confidence in Ed Vaizey


 On Saturday, 21st September, the Cilip Annual General Meeting was held at the recently opened Library of Birmingham. I spoke in support of item 9 on the agenda - the motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey. It read:

“In view of his failures to enforce the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, this Annual General Meeting of Cilip has no confidence in Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Communications and Creative Industries, and instructs Council to work with all other interested parties to protect library, information and knowledge services”

The motion was carried. 669 people voted in favour. Less that a third voted against (200) whilst 103 people abstained.

I prepared for debate. I prepared myself for some vocal objections, but was rather surprised that, other than an objection to the wording, and clarification over the spirit of the motion (Were we asking Cilip not to work with Ed Vaizey. No. That was not our intention), there were no objections raised.

I admit to being a little disappointed. The AGM hosted a passionate discussion about the potential name change. And whilst it's nice to have folk nod in agreement and vote it through, I'm aware that not everyone agreed - some disagreed quite vocally on Twitter or via other blogs. And that's OK.  But what a shame that discussion couldn't have been had at the AGM.

I'm not the first to have a strong opinion on Vaizey. I certainly won't be the last. Others have expressed their disappointment much more elegantly that I ever could. (This one, from Gary Green is a particular favourite).


For what it's worth, the text of my speech is below, which was mostly read as written. I've removed identifying information.


"My name is [redacted]. I work for the [Government Agency] in a team called ‘Evidence’ which is a service responsible for creating, finding, managing and sharing data and information. I've previously worked in both public libraries and academic libraries in front-line roles and joined the Library Association shortly before it evolved into Cilip.

I want to start off with a quote from Ed Vaizey, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries. He’s talking here as shadow secretary about plans for 15 libraries to be closed in Wirral back in 2009. Vaizey said:

“Andy Burnham's refusal to take action in the Wirral effectively renders the 1964 Public Libraries Act meaningless. While it is local authorities' responsibility to provide libraries, the Act very clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the culture secretary's door. If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state, which in the process renders any sense of libraries being a statutory requirement for local authorities meaningless” [Bookseller]

If you were to swap a few names around, change the name of the library authority under threat then this could easily be the current shadow secretary, talking about Ed Vaizey. In this speech, Vaizey himself makes the point of his own ineffectiveness clearly.

When in opposition, Vaizey, described proposals to close public libraries in areas of deprivation in Wirral as "cost-driven vandalism". You only have to read headlines in Bookseller or take a quick glance at Public Libraries news to see how starkly that contrasts with his words and lack of action as current secretary.

He seems to have little sympathy or time for the libraries that are closing, libraries that are being removed from council responsibility through privatisation or outsourcing, or libraries that are being forced into community hands to run themselves, else live with the guilt that they somehow contributed to the loss of their local library services. That’s before we’ve even stopped to consider the libraries that are clinging on, hollowed out with little left in terms of staff, opening hours or resources.

Vaizey claims he is delighted that libraries continue to thrive, and at the recent select committee enquiry into library closures, he queried the crisis.

Crisis?  What crisis?

All this against a backdrop of closures in Somerset, Gloucester, Lincolnshire, Sheffield, Sunderland, Moray, Herefordshire, Isle of White... It’s not the Secretary of State intervening in these closures. It is the local library campaigners.

According to Public Libraries News, compiled by Ian Anstice, since April 2013, 364 libraries, including mobile services have been closed or transferred out of Local Authority control or are under threat. That’s just in six months. The Library Campaign recently estimated that by 2016 we will have lost almost 1000 libraries.

Vaizey is quick to point to the successes of shiny new libraries, like the very library we are stood in today. But his silences on the closures that loom over the few that have opened, stand in dark contrast. [See: Ed Vaizey’s statements on public libraries]

During the passionate debates around what our professional body should call itself, the one message I heard time and again was: ‘It’s not what the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is called that matters. It is what it does’.
Cilip is perceived by campaigners to have very little to say about large-scale changes that are happening in our public libraries. We need to change that.

Few people working in public libraries are able to speak out in confidence about what is happening to their service – to their jobs. I read a letter recently from someone in my own local area, where the very library that inspired me to become a librarian is now under threat as plans to turn 1/3 of its space into classrooms for a local school dismiss it’s collections as ‘book storage’.

The passion and despair in that letter moved me to tears. A library worker’s whose voice is silenced because speaking out against changes means speaking out against her employer and all the risks associated with that.

A vote of no confidence in Vaizey, from Cilip members sends a powerful message to government and to those that are working in and campaigning to protect public libraries from further loss. This vote gives Cilip members the chance to drive the agenda. It says we value our public libraries and support our colleagues who work in them. I believe that no matter what our background, or in what kind of library or information service we use our skills, we have a professional obligation to stand together and express a vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey."


My thanks go to Tom Roper, who encouraged me to get involved, and who was the driver behind much of the work to make it happen. Please do read his blog post on the outcomes of the motion.

Thank you also to everyone who tweeted their support or engaged in debate (whether in agreement or otherwise) and gave me the confidence to stand up and speak. When it's the quiet one's that speak out at AGM, you know there's a problem in Library Land.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Forum for Interlending, Cardiff 2013 :: Day Two :: Tour of Cardiff Library


Day two of the Forum for Inter-lending started with a quick Annual General Meeting, before launching in to a visit to Cardiff Library, which was a short walk from the Maldron Hotel.

The library is instantly impressive, forming part of the St. David's redevelopment in central Cardiff. Opened in 2009 by the Manic Street Preachers, the building won a RIBA award in 2010.



It's hard not to love this library. Six stories of glass and light and colour, it's a purpose built library designed to accommodate the variety of different users. Lots of detail gave this library personality: Bright orange signs clearly indicating a route round the library - along with orange chairs to identify members of staff; a clean, uncluttered look that included dedicated wall space to keep displays to a minimum to increase impact; low level shelving with lots of display features, allowing readers to see across the whole of the library.

Cardiff Library || baby grand piano
The readers were at the heart of this library. Dedicated IT suite, where an Ancestry training session was in progress as we passed; a dedicated space tucked away under the stairs for teen collection, listening pods, individual desks, combined with large study desks, giant chairs dotted around the floors to curl up in and read a book. My personal favourite was the baby grand piano - complete with headphones to allow for individual practice without disturbing other library users. I loved the idea of someone having a 'silent disco' style boogie-woogie on the piano.

The children's library was hidden away on it's own mezzanine floor, visible from the main escalators, but only accessible via it's own staircase. Although smaller than they would have liked, it was a space created to be explored by little hands. Cubby-holes contained hidden collections which were rotated on a regular basis, a curtain created a magical enclosed space for story-time and there were dedicated computer desks that couldn't be used if you were over the age of 16.

What personally struck me whilst I was walking around were the number of staff. We were given the tour by the Children's Librarian who outlined the structure of the staff and the number of specialist staff providing support to readers. Whilst there were self-issue machines, there were no queues to use them, and no staff hanging round to provide support - a very different picture to the self-service set up in Bristol where readers are still acclimatising to the change. Talking to the Children's Librarian, she emphasised that although readers needed support to begin with, most were now happy to use self-service, and it freed staff to do more outreach work in the community. Having worked on a self-issue implementation project at a University over 10 years ago - and remember the trauma of having to empty the book return bin - I admit looking on at the self-return system with a little envy. A complex conveyer-belt system that assigned book to the right floor before being manually transferred to the shelves by staff. I still have some concerns about a library service that forces users to use self-issue in a public library but used in the right way, self-service provides the opportunities to open up access to collections. I'm much more comfortable with the use of self-service in an academic environment where it has more potential when combined with 24 hour access. But that's another issue...

If you're interested in the full set of pictures from the day, along with descriptions, they can be found on Flickr.

I won't be blogging the rest of day two... partly because Jenny Foster has already done a much better job of reflecting on the sessions and collecting tweets from the day... but also because I want to focus on the changes I've made since attending. I'll do that in a separate post shortly.


Saturday, 29 June 2013

Forum for Interlending, Cardiff 2013 :: Day One :: Copyright, BLDSS, Scan & Deliver, Bookmark Your Library


I've always had a soft spot for inter-library lending and document supply. Back in 2002, my first full time job in a large university was sole responsibility for ILLs in a campus library. I'd sought the role after starting off in an acquisitions post, so inter-lending felt like I was dealing with another side of the same coin - providing access to an ever-increasing pool of information. At it's peak, I was ordering between 900 and 1500 items a month. I had a good relationship with other ILL folk both in my own institution and across other libraries. A tight-knit community that was willing to share resources and ideas. My proudest moment was being given a copy of a student's thesis. At the front, he'd thanked me for helping him to obtain the materials he's needed for his history Phd. And only I knew the written thanks were partially because I'd quietly allowed him to go over his limit of 100 items per year. Just a little.

I always felt the job gave me a grounding in searching bibliographic databases, understanding sources of information, designing user-friendly processes and deciphering academics scrawly handwritten request forms. I was part of a group that tested and implemented a self-service scheme for academics, enabling them direct access to materials from the British Library via British Library Direct. The service was trialled and then scrapped, but at the time it felt innovative and slightly dangerous. What if the academics went on a wild spending spree?

Ten years later, I'm now in a government library that works very differently from most libraries. Eight years ago, our National Library and Information Service was dismantled in favour of a central library service. The Information Services Unit was born. Serving an internal working population of 13000, we delivered books from our Document Delivery Centre through the post, and provided access to journals, technical reports and legislation, online. Whilst we still purchased books, our focus changed from purchasing items 'just in case' to 'just in time' with customer-led acquisition policies.

Following a Government Review of our department, we found the library service under review, and our staff numbers reduced from 16 down to four. Our print library was digitised. We no longer purchased books. Customers have a choice between purchasing items from our bookshop, or requesting a short-term loan which we arrange via the British Library.

After spending 5 years as a Knowledge Manager and Information Specialist, I found myself returning to a role that included inter-lending. My role was to revamp our inter-lending processes, implementing BLDSS and move towards making our inter-lending self-service. I've almost come full-circle.

Like many others, I've been waiting a while for BLDSS to come online. I attended the BLDSS roadshow, back in October 2011 at the British Library, anticipating it would come online in February 2012. It finally launched over a year later. So having someone from BLDSS was my main motivation for attending Interlend, along with needing to catch up on developments in Copyright.

I found I got a lot more out of it that that. Talking to people about their own processes gave me a sense of relief in some ways - we weren't the only one's with outdated processes that needed a kick up the backside to land with a thud in the 21st Century! It gave me the head space to think about what we did, how we did it - and how we could make improvements. So I've left inspired and feeling brave enough to make a few radical changes.

Professor Charles Oppenheim - Developments in Copyright Law

Day one kicked off with a key-note speech from the ever-entertaining Professor Charles Oppenheim. Who deserves an award for making something that could be really dry so darn entertaining. He announced it was his last conference speech, as he is now retiring. And although librarians across the land will mourn, I wonder if Cliff Richard will breath a sigh of relief?

Prof Oppenheim gave an overview of the Hargreaves Review and what this would mean for libraries. In a week where we've seen a lot of activity around intellectual property legislation, there were lots of notes for me to make. But the welcome news was that there might finally be an end to forcing library users to fill out paper copies of Copyright Declaration Forms, as the UK government finally catches up with the reality of electronic signatures and accepts an on-line form or email.

Kate Ebdom & Joanne Cox - British Library Document Supply

Kate provided an overview of inter-lending over the past few years, highlighting the need for change at the British Library as lending has declined from 4 million requests at it's peak in 2000 down to just 1 million in 2012. I found this decline in use surprising as I thought more libraries were moving to a 'just in time' philosophy of supplying materials to their readers. But a Jisc report published in May 2013 outlined the impact of changes in reader behaviour: Readers favour items that are available for immediate download. Document Delivery comes low on the list of options for items they do not have access to. 

RLUK UK Survey of Academics 2012
For digital libraries like mine, hidden on an intranet, attempting to make the library visible via Google or Wikipedia using innovative techniques (as outlined by Aaron Tay) isn't really an option. But perhaps if we gave our researchers direct access to the British Library, we might be able to have a greater impact? This is what the new British Library Document Supply Service offers.

I've already embraced BLDSS as an online ordering system. We were previously ordering Explore. Even after 8 years, I still can't remember the password for our account. So for me, I found BLDSS easy to access, simple to order from, ammend and track. I'm still waiting for Get It For Me and Find It For Me to come online, (Although, can anyone remember which service is which?) and hoping that the few glitches we've noticed can be ironed out. My next step is to start rolling this out as a way for our researchers to access the materials they need. There's one big flaw in the plan : Copyright Declaration Forms. The need to obtain a signed, paper copy of a form in an environment where we are based online, with no physical access to a library, serving a working population of 12000 people across England is a huge problem, and seriously slows down our turnaround time from request through to delivery. 

Kate and Jo's presentation gave me a few things to think about in terms of what I want to see from BLDSS in the future (Ability to manage requests to the British Library independently of any other tracking systems), and a few more improvements to look forward to, including a DRM wrapper for Secure Electronic Delivery that doesn't need to be installed separately.

Carol Giles - University of Exeter: a fully integrated service

With a choice of two sessions after lunch, I chose to attend this one over Helen Bader's session on music inter-lending as it seemed more relevant to my interests. I admit, I was expecting something a little more revolutionary than what was offered. But the session highlighted the complex political and logistical issues that are still faced by University's attempting to implement a seamless library document delivery service for their readers. Certainly, Carol's presentation highlighted the ongoing issues library workers have with being able to have direct access to IT support that understands their needs.

James Shaw - Scan and Deliver: a new service from Bodleian libraries

And now for some Adam and the Ants. In Lego. Well I had this little earworm in my head for the rest of the day, so I thought I'd pass it on... and lets face it. It beats Cliff Richard EVERY TIME.


So James sneaked in something that isn't technically inter-library lending, but there were so many applications to inter-lending that we forgave him. Bodleian Libraries developed the Scan & Deliver service as a solution to the problem of off-site storage being some 40 miles away from the Library in Swindon. The service is an electronic document delivery service that provides copies of book chapters or articles held in the off-site storage facility, an alternative way of accessing the collection and having to wait for the item to be physically delivered to their home library. The service looked like it was seamlessly integrated in to the library catalogue, making it popular with the students. James outlined the results from a focus group about expectations for the service: They wanted it to be free; They wanted whole copies of books to be delivered; They wanted a fast turnaround. So the University had to work hard to manage expectations of the service and to ensure that it complied with legislative provisions around supplying copies. 

Currently, the service is only offered to Bodleian Libraries card holders, and specifically only for items held off-site. But it was easy to wonder what impact this model might have if it were extended to supply documents to other libraries? Could this be a viable rival to the British Library Document Supply Service?

Elisabeth Robinson - Collaboration and Cooperation: an OCLC update

Elisabeth kicked off the session two Cliff Richard quotes shoehorned in along with a Torchwood reference. But with a focus on raising awareness of FAB libraries, it was surely a missed opportunity for a Thunderbirds reference? With a quick trot through the history of inter-lending and a look at some seriously retro methods of obtaining catalogue information, Elisabeth outlined her background in public libraries and inter-lending before looking at how OCLC continued to connect libraries and their resources world-wide.

For library users in the UK, how easy was it for them to find their local library? Wales offered Library Wales, Scotland offered their own regional version, as did Ireland. But there was a gap, with no collaborative library portal for England.

Bookmark Your Library aimed to fill that gap. Aimed at people who might not necessarily think of using libraries as their first port of call, it launched in March 2013 with a piece of research that caused controversy among library campaigners as it hit the headlines with a 'Use them or lose them' statement. Continuing with the publicity, Elisabeth landed in The Sun a few days later with another survey on the most common books owned. Through local radio interviews alone, she reached over 4 million people talking about books and libraries. A pretty impressive feat that any library campaigner would be proud of.

WorldCat will be well-known to most library workers involved in Inter-Library Loans. A tool to enable libraries to locate the nearest available location for a sought-after resource, it's a key resource in most ILL practitioners tool-kit, but with a heavy emphasis on US libraries. Set to change shape to become WorldShare with a new interface that recognises that ILL staff like pretty pictures of book covers too.

Day one of the conference ended with a plenary and question-answer sessions aimed at British Library and Charles Oppenheim. I left with a notebook full of things to think about and ways to improve my own service.

Day two will be blogged in a separate post. Phew!






Saturday, 15 June 2013

Motivation for Chartership


In the last few weeks, I've started to host 'Chartership Chats' on Twitter. A topic that seems to keep coming up is motivation for completing Chartership.

Strictly speaking, I'm not actually doing 'Chartership'. I'm working on Aclip Certification with my eye firmly on Chartership. It's part of a long-term goal. And it has been for a few years. Despite the fact that neither Cilip, library qualifications or Chartership are recognised by my workplace. As far as they are concerned, I have the skills and knowledge I need to do the job. The fact I'm an 'information professional' is neither here nor there.

I'm holding my hands up here. That degree thing? I didn't quite make it. The rest of life took over and I found myself having to quit Aberystwyth just before I started the dissertation. But it didn't matter to my employer. It still doesn't matter to my employer. So why am I doing it?

I've wanted to be a librarian ever since I was a child. The library was one of my favourite places to be. Whether that was the local library (currently celebrating 80 years), my school library and later on, my college library. But it took me until my mid-20's to realise that I could actually work in one.

Having to leave my studies at Aberystwyth was devastating. But in around 2006 my line manager became a Cilip Mentor, supporting people through Chartership and Aclip. She encouraged me to sign up to Aclip, along with a few of my colleagues. I was reluctant. I didn't want to do Aclip. I wanted the degree. I figured Aclip would do until until I actually managed to make that happen.

Fast forward several years later, and I still haven't completed it. And I'm driving myself nuts in the process. It hangs around my neck, weighing me down. A process which should be fairly straight forward, but seems like a labyrinth of twists and turns, and I'm never quite sure I'm heading in the right direction. On my way down the long straight corridors, the rest of life calls out to me to distract me. I'm a volunteer at Voices for the Library. I organise the @VoicesLibrary rotation curation project. I'm a governor at my child's school. A single parent to a child with special needs and help to care for an elderly grandparent with dementia. And yet... and yet... it's still not a good enough excuse to justify the amount of head space I've given Aclip and Chartership without actually handing anything in. (Although don't even get me started on this blog post by Michael Martin. I still can't read it without wanting to throw stuff!)

Part of it is fear. I've been doing it for so long, that now anything I have to hand in has to be super-amazing to justify the amount of time I've spent on it. I still feel like I'm faking it by calling myself a 'librarian', even though the job I do would be recognised as a professional role.

So I decided to think about this a little differently. I used to be a big believer in 'creating your own reality' and making things happen. I had notebooks as a child filled with pictures of things I wanted to do, wanted to be, books I wanted to read, pictures I found inspiring. Anyone that wandered into my downstairs loo of my first house would be met with four walls covered with postcards and pictures sent to me by friends, photographs of beautiful places I'd visited, child's drawings, letters from my mum, pages torn from magazines of Ani Di Franco, along with a huge poster of the Fairy Fellers Masterstroke. Visitors would come out 30 minutes later, apologising for taking so long in there. It was a place to dream, a place to wonder, and a place where I remembered all the things I wanted to do. When I moved into a house on my own, I recreated the space over my desk - a more natural place to put it as this is where I work.

My 'memory wall'
  I spend a lot of time looking at this wall. And something occurred to me. There was a huge difference between the scrap books I created as a child - which focussed on my future, and what I wanted... and the board I had created as an adult, which only reflected my past. Looking at this wall, you'll spot lots of things that are important to me. Faeries. My child. My Godmother. Reminders of adventures with my beautiful Croatian friend. Brian May. My family. There is only a teeny, tiny reference to libraries. A tiny little red badge which says 'Reference is cool'. But what I want for my future? My librarian dreams? They aren't represented.

So, I decided to 'pin my way' to my future. There's a lot written by life coaches and mentors about the ability to visualise what you want. 'Mood boards' are credited with boosting well-being, increasing happiness, and providing motivation. I've been playing around with Pinterest recently as a way of increasing awareness of @VoicesLibrary and Voices for the Library. How about I create a board to visualise completing Chartership, consider what my dream job looks like, and provide a little library motivation? There's something powerful about a collection of images, and I'm a big fan of playing tricks on the brain to fool it in to behaving differently.

I've started a board. I think I need to get better at positive motivation, rather than hitting myself with a stick...

But I thought it was worth a go. Either that, or I've just created another way to procrastinate from actually completing Aclip. But think of all those beautifully organised bookcases I can pin. Whoops....

In case that isn't enough, I'm making my goal to complete Aclip public. I'm going to print this out in colourful letters and add it to my wall. All chivving welcomed!

My Aclip goal :: It is 31st October and I have handed in my Aclip Portfolio. 

Phew!

What's your goal? And what's stopping you getting there? You know... apart from you.

Monday, 20 May 2013

23 Mobile Things // Thing 1 // Twitter



I've been using Twitter comfortably now for about two years. (If you feel like it, you can read my post on CPD23 Things : Thing 4 : Current Awareness : Twitter)

It was only when I acquired a smart-phone that the idea of Twitter started to make sense, and become a viable way of keeping up to date. And only when I discovered TweetBot that it became an enjoyable way to keep up to date.

Using Twitter personally


I'm not really keen on the idea of following 'celebrity Twitter accounts'. Although I'm still amazed by the idea that I can send a tweet to @DrBrianMay and there's an outside chance he might read it and think 'Oh, it's that nice lady that gave me a fairy cake last time I was in Bristol'. Maybe. Or that I can share a tweet with an author who's book I am reading. I did have a proud moment when @JannArden tweeted me recently. But mostly, I tend to use Twitter Lists to follow the musicians I adore along with the authors I read, rather than following them as part of my main feed.

Using Twitter professionally


Being part of the conversation on Twitter has changed the way I perceive myself as a librarian. I now feel part of a community. It's enabled me to get involved in Continuing Professional Development, follow conferences I'd never be able to get to in person, develop contacts, and get involved in projects like 'Voices for the Library'.

It's also allowed me to develop more confidence in teaching research skills to the Scientists I support at work. Working in a government library means we're slightly cut off from the rest of the world in terms of our ability to access and engage in social media and use it as a research tool. That's only just started to change. Being on Twitter, actively using it to keep up to date means that I feel I can talk with some authority when discussing social media with researchers who are wide eyed and apologetic when they explain that they don't use it, don't understand it, and wonder whether it's more than just ranting about the weather and last night's football results. I've started creating information sessions specifically for Researchers's looking to promote their research, both internally and externally. Twitter is a key part of this toolkit. Twinned with our organisation winning an award for it's social media communications during recent extreme weather incidents, there is also an interest in the research around use of social media to change risky behaviour such incidents. I've been able to harness this interest to engage people in using social media and exploring the use of new tools to support their research and the way they communicate and raise awareness of their services. There's also an argument for official organisational tweets - along with any responses -  to be archived and indexed as part of our 'corporate memory. If the organisations knowledge is stored in it's structures, it's culture, business processes along with an archive of it's data, information and communications, then I think there is value in preserving the tweets as a way of studying both the organisation and the impact it has on external customers.

Although I've been aware of tools like Storify, I haven't yet used them as a way to present information. This Thing gave me an excuse to explore the tool as a way of gathering interest in a recent project I've been involved in. It was a bit clunky in places and felt it was missing some functionality. Searching could be long and tedious, but the main idea - to blend different kinds of online media together - is a lovely way to write compelling stories created with content from around the web. So far, a Storify board I created has generated over 75 views - maybe not much, but more than my average blog post :-). Perhaps that's because it's easier to digest than a wordy, rambling blog post?

Due to the length of the Storify, I've embedded it into a separate post. I'll let the Storify take it from here... 


23 Mobile Things // Thing 1 // Storify // Could you be a 'Voice for the Library'?


This is a copy of the Storify I created for 23 Things. The original can be viewed here.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Making time to think


The lack of time to think is probably the biggest complaint I have about my current role and the way I work.

I work part time. 22 hours spread over four days so I can be there for my son to take him to school. 12 miles away from our home, then pick him up again. It means I get in to work most days around 10.00 in the morning, only to leave again four hours later, with the exception of one day where I work through until 19.00 in the evening.

That short window of working time means that when I get in to work, I throw myself straight in to it. Working in a hot-desk environment, finding a desk is the first challenge of the day, and locating my colleagues to check in and catch up the second challenge. Logging on, the first thing I do is check my email. I work in a library at a distant from my customers, in a fast reactive enquiry environment where I pride myself on a quick, accurate response to customer needs. Email is also the only way I know what reactive work I need to prioritise that day. But it does leave me feeling like a proverbial slave to the email. I'd much rather be a Slave to the Rhythm.

The two phone lines,two email accounts, interruptions from colleagues, a noisy working environment and a short working day means that I don't stop until I leave the building. And it's only later when my son is finally in  bed, I've cleared the dishes, packed our bags ready for the next day, cleared my own paperwork and collapsed into bed and I suddenly have a little peace and quiet that I find myself reflecting on the day and pondering solutions to the challenges thrown at me. My notes and thoughts get typed quickly into an email to remind myself the next day. But it doesn't feel very efficient, and work life is bleeding over in to home life, especially with the additional task of attempting to complete a portfolio for Cilip accreditation.

I'm not a big fan of the over-used philosophy of 'working smarter, not harder'. It suggests that we're inefficient and all we need to do is implement a technique to suddenly create space... but the likelihood of that space being filled with more reactive work, rather than thinking time is high. I've worked to ensure email's get automatically tagged and filed, use 'If This Then That' to reduce the amount of time I spend moving information from one platform to another. I already use an on-line diary, and an on-line to 'to do' list that I use for both home and work and have identified and reduced efficiencies in our admin for processing requests. So 'working smarter' means I can get more of the same kind of work done, but that's it. I still hadn't found the space to just think.

Two weeks ago, I found a rather dramatic solution to the problem of not having any thinking time. My office was involved in a fire, making it unsafe to work in the office for a week. I found myself at home wondering what on earth a digital librarian does without access to the digital library. Or email. Or the files on the network that I wasn't able to access from home. 

Firstly, I did what I could. British Library Document Supply Service, Athens, and many other resources were all available to me on-line to enable me to carry out some of my reactive enquiry work. I stayed in close contact with colleagues who were set up to access everything from home, in an attempt to respond to priority users. But there was a large hole looming in my day where email, sending post, answering phone-calls, meeting partners and all the other little distractions would be. 

I did what every sensible librarian would do. I made a note of all the things I could work on from home that didn't require access to email or anything else that was stored on my computer back in my office. It looked like this.

Doodle To Do

Looking at my list, apart from reminding me that I really need to take some coloured pens in to work so I can do this more often, I realised almost all of the things on it had been delayed at work because they involved thinking time. They weren't every day, reactive enquiries that I could easily complete. It was one-off unique pieces of work, or the start of a project that needed a different approach. They needed planning. They needed creativity. They needed time to think and ponder.

I was working from home for five days. Divorced from my work email, I discovered the freedom from the day-to-day urgency of routine tasks and found a new way of working. It took a few days to adjust. It didn't feel right to just sit down and start work. It felt like I needed the trigger-routine of sitting in a traffic jam for 30 mins, running madly to the office from a car park 20 minutes away and to scroll madly through my email before I could access my 'work head'. That routine got replaced with a new one instead. Clear desk, pour myself some water, grab some bourbons, and text line-manager.

Those five days at home, I felt like I achieved a lot. I was inspired by posts on Twitter. Read blog entries that contributed to my though-processes. Found examples of other organisations achieving things I wanted to do in my own work place. Created new templates, pondered on notes I'd made myself months back and only just rediscovered, found new ways of approaching a problem and... strangely... wrote down a lot more in an old fashioned notebook, rather than typing things out. I need to stop framing 'thinking time' as 'time wasting'. And I wanted to carry this new way of working back to the office when all the usual distractions were back in place. The Google philosophy of offering it's software engineers 20% of work time to develop their own projects and work on whatever they like is well known. It's a concept that was first created by 3M, resulting in the creation of the little yellow sticky note. [1] The science behind daydreaming as a powerful tool for problem solving is also documented. [2] And I loved this Guardian Blog [3] about a teacher implementing the 20% idea in to the classroom to engage the kids in their own learning.


I also realised that I'd actually created this thinking space for attendees who came on my ' Essential Searching Skills' course where the last hour was dedicated to surfing, playing, and random clicking leading to new discoveries and idea's about how to integrate the techniques we'd been discussing into their every day research practice. I offered it to them. Why not give myself the same option?


So how could I create thinking time in my own day (both at work and home) and feel that I could still justify that time?


Challenge my workload

Although I'm part-time, I'm a key member of the team. And I'm a sucker for sticking my hand up first to volunteer to take a lead on new projects. Which often means I bite off more than I can comfortably chew. I need to get better at giving others the opportunity to take on new and interesting projects, and give myself the chance to focus on what's already filling up my plate. My eyes really are bigger than my belly sometimes.

Focus on objectives

I had taken a sneaky short-cut recently, when I tied in my own work-based objectives into my Cilip accreditation objectives. But to follow on from the task above, I need to make sure that every piece of work I do fits in with my objectives - if it doesn't, I need to challenge myself - why am I doing it? Would it be better done by someone else?
Turn off email

I've recently started using 'Sane Box' to manage my email at home, combined with Unroll.me to work towards the ultimate goal of 'inbox zero'. What Sane Box does is remove the clutter from your email box, and save it in a 'Sane Folder' to access later. Unroll.Me does something slightly different. It takes all the newsletters and regular emails and rolls them up in to one to read / dismiss in one step. I already filter all my work email's so that current awareness bulletins, RSS feeds and newsletters, community alerts, Jiscmail messages and LinkedIn email's go in to one folder that I can access later when I have the time.

But email is also used a lot in our workplace to communicate across the team. We're a dispersed working team, operating across different working patterns and geographical locations. I want to change the way I communicate with my colleagues. Swapping email from Instant Messenger for quick messages will reduce the amount of email traffic. It can also remain open when email is closed, so I'm still marked as 'available' to colleagues and easy to contact. I dislike using the phone due to my deafness, but there is always the option of getting up from my seat, playing 'hide and seek', taking a walk and a break from the screen to go and find my team mates. [1000 workers spread across four floors in an open plan hot-desking environment - it's often harder than it sounds! But the break from the screen and the chance to stretch my legs is one I welcome]
The third task might be the hardest to implement in a reactive work environment - to reduce the amount of time I spent dealing with incoming mail. A constant flow of email can be distracting and need to get better at setting aside time to focus on email - and separate that from time to focus on other tasks.
Break tasks down

I already use a 'to do' list. Now I want to start separating tasks in to 'thinking time' and 'doing time'. I think just focusing on completing the physical task itself masks the true amount of time needed to spend on it.

Find the space to 'day dream'

The problem with working in an open plan office is the silent pressure to be seen to be 'doing something'. And although I know I'm doing something productive when I'm reading a book about metadata, I'm still concerned that that time on self-development activities is judged by others that I clearly don't have enough to do to keep me occupied. Luckily, the joy of working in a flexible working space is that I do have other options. A designated 'quiet space' where there is a strict 'no phone' policy, and less passing foot traffic is an ideal place for 'thinking time'. Little high-backed sofa's creating an enclosed world in the corner of the office, providing shelter from on-lookers is a great place to sit and read. Heck, there is even a public library over the road, with all the inspirational reading material we could need to feed new ideas. I need to improve the way I interact with my working space and move away from the idea of sitting at one desk to do my work all day. Moving to a new working space gives a chance for new habits to form. Now I've worked from home for a week and proved it can work, I have the option - and trust from my manager - to do it again.

Develop new habits

Rather than diving head first in to the new day, I want to spend the first part of the day reflecting on what I didn't get done the previous day - and what I need to prioritise for the day ahead. I also want to start scheduling in 'thinking time' into my calendar. This needs support from my line-manager. I can't guarantee that 'thinking time' will always come up with innovative solutions and I need buy-in from the boss so that thinking time is recognised as a valid part of my work.

The next goal? Make my office more playful. If only I could replace the central stairs with a Google-like slide...




Thursday, 2 May 2013

Chartership Portfolio Writing Month - 1st May - 31st May 2013 - 30 days and nights of portflio writing joy and abandon

You're all familiar with #ChaPoWriMo now aren't you?

You're not?

If you've not come across it before, it was an idea created by Helen Murphy in November 2012, creatively adapting the idea from National Novel Writing Month to complete an outrageously impossible task in one month - Write a novel. The birth of Chartership Portfolio Writing Month is documented in a Storify by Emma Davidson

For those of us attempting to complete a portfolio to submit for Certification, Chartership or Revalidation, the process can often feel just as daunting as writing a novel.

I didn't take part in the first cohort of #ChaPoWriMo graduates. I forget why. There was something else I had to do. There always seems to be something else I have to do. Which is why this time I realised I really needed to buckle down and get on with it if I were ever to hand something in.

So. I've decided I really shouldn't get distracted and sign up for Coursera's Introduction to Data Science. Bank Holiday Monday will not be spent doing the garden and decorating the hallway. And I need to stop pulling faces at the Body of Professional Skills and Knowledge, take a deep breath and fill it in.

I have a silly fear. It's a fear of showing people work I've done. It's a fear of that work being criticised and ripped apart. And it's a fear that it won't be good enough. Every time I hit 'publish' on a blog post, I hold my breath. Who is going to respond and tell me what I've written is nonsense? The idea of sending something to my perfectly lovely, honest and very supportive mentor worries me. (Even though I actively sought her out for feedback when she previously my line manager, I trusted her so much.) So I hold off. Then when I do have to send her something, it has to be perfect - because I've been sat on it for so long. So nothing gets sent.

On top of that, life in general, just gets in the way. So I start something. And six weeks later, come back to it, scratch my head and wonder what on earth I was doing. By the time I've got back in to the swing of it, it's 2.00am in the morning, the seven-year-old is due to get up in two hours and I've started a cycle of sleep deprivation that takes me days to recover from and means it's another few weeks before I'm brave enough to look at it again.

This time. It's going to be different. It needs to be manageable. So I've set myself a target of 1 hour a day, 5 days a week. Anything else I do on top of that is a bonus. I'm going to write down the specific tasks I want to achieve - and look back at the end of May and see how well I did. Here goes...

  • I need to get organised and make it easier to dip in and out of portfolio work when I have the odd half an hour between leaving work and dashing to school to pick up the kid. Most of my digital evidence is stored in Dropbox, but I know I've got a few pieces floating around both at work and on my home computer. I've already signed up to 'I done this' and use this to record what I work on (or delete the daily reminder with a guilty click!), but I could probably sync it to my Google Calendar and get smarter about collecting evidence using Evernote or a Google form to enable me to share it with my mentor.
  • I have three boxes of printed stuff. Collected from projects and Continuing Professional Development going back to 2003. I'm not going to be able to use all of it for my evidence, but I at least need to have a better understanding of what it is, and which criteria it fits. It's no good. I need a matrix. Anything that isn't suitable for inclusion needs to be scanned, filed and discarded. (gulp)
  • Implement light touch project planning techniques. I want to map out my route to completing my portfolio with a clear set of tasks and milestones so I can track progress. It also means that if I have to abandon the work for a few weeks, I can come back to it and pick it up with a bit more ease. I need to implement a daily/weekly/monthly routine so that good habits are formed and it feels a little easier to manage.
  • I've recently mapped all my experience, skills and knowledge to a set of capabilities, giving me a dataset of examples to use when applying for jobs and revising for interviews. I'm wondering if I can re-purpose this for my portfolio.
  • My CV currently weighs in at seven pages. I need to seriously cull it and whip it into a much slimmer shape to meet the guidance of four pages.
  • I need to read Reflective Practice : Writing and Professional Development. And actually put it in to practice. I've read a lot of books over the past two years about marketing, digital libraries, data librarianship and metadata. But  haven't built on reading the books by writing a review and reflecting on the contents. I need to develop better book habits rather than just furiously reading it as fast as I can before I need to return it to the library, scribbling a few notes in my 'CPD notebook' and forgetting about it.
A lot of this feels like a student's way of revising for an exam - making a pretty timetable and spending far too much time deciding on a colour scheme. But I'm hoping that starting afresh and creating some good habits will make the rest of the process easier - and that the enthusiasm for completing my portfolio will continue long after 31st May has been and gone. I need to find the joy in writing the portfolio.

As for the word 'ChaPoWriMo', it reminds me of Julie Andrews singing Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music. That's my earworm sorted for the month then...


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

LGBT Careers Unconference: Part two : Personal Reflections

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for... yikes...just over a year. A pretty good reminder that I'm sometimes like an over enthusiastic puppy that takes on a little too much, but sometimes forgets to go back, tie up the lose ends and finish things off. Having said that, coming back to the post and re-reading it, I've realised how much I've gained over the past year from attending this unconference, and it has enabled me to reflect on what has changed in that year - and whether that change came from me or from the external environment. I've posted the draft as it was intended to be posted at the time. I'll write a reflective post shortly. The post which introduced the themes of the Unconference is available here: LGBT Careers Unconference: Why do LGBT people need specific careers advice?

A few weeks back, I attended an LGBT Careers Unconference within my own workplace and blogged about why LGBT people needed specific careers advice. I noted that I felt being a working single mother held me back more than being openly queer at work. I left the workshop feeling enthusiastic about possibilities that had appeared to open up. And just as I was ready to blog and take some positive action something happened: My child was threatened with  permanent exclusion from school. It was a reminder that actually, my first job will always be a Therapeutic Parent.

For those that follow me on Twitter, you might be aware that I'm a single adoptive Mum to a child with special needs. I choose to work part-time, and I'm aware that this choice limits my ability to get involved in CPD activities, to develop contacts and network, travel to other offices and attend training events. But I'm as active as I can be in my own development. It's my career. It's up to me to push it in the direction I want it to go.

As anyone working in government libraries will know, the sector has changed a lot over the past few years.

I was lucky in that job restructuring. I didn't get the job I wanted, but I did have a job. I spent the next year Being Grateful. The job I loved changed shape. I lost a lot of what I saw as 'professional responsibilities  to another team. Took on old responsibilities that I thought I had long ago left behind when I accepted a promotion. But took a deep breath and got on with it.

One year later, I stopped being grateful for having a job. I was bored. I looked around me. The organisation had changed a lot. Could I step outside of the comfort zone of  the library team and find a role elsewhere? I wasn't sure. I went on a mission to fall back in love with my job again. I had no idea how to do this, but it looked something like this:

1. Figure out what I was unhappy with.
2. Remember what used to inspire me about working for the organisation
3. Which parts of the role did I dislike?
4. What did I still find exciting and motivating about this role?
5. Talk to my boss

My boss was sympathetic and helpful and helped me take stock and develop an attack plan. I stuck my hand up. I volunteered for everything I could feasibly do inside of work, and a few things outside of work. I worked on improving my relationship with key colleagues in the team. And then an unexpected opportunity came up for a promotion within my team. I applied.

I didn't get it.

It floored me. Totally and utterly floored me. I'd been working for the organisation now for seven years with one promotion. The feedback I had was that I 'wasn't working at the level above'. Yet I felt I had outgrown the role I was in. I scratched my head. Time for a rethink. I needed inspiration. An advert for the LGBT careers unconference came through. My first thought was that I didn't have a career. There was nothing I could contribute. And what did being gay have to do with it anyway? The second thought was 'Sod it. Attend anyway'.

So I arrived feeling a little like a fraud, with the expectation that most others attending would be much further on in their careers with more to contribute. I left that day with a notebook crammed full of notes and ideas and lots of things to consider.

The first thing I discovered was that almost everyone suffers from Imposter Syndrome. Even Executive Managers. What I hadn't considered was how much this fear of being found out was holding me back.

The second thing I realised was that I had made a crucial mistake around two years ago, when I developed a goal for myself to progress within the organisation and based it around a particular team and a particular position. When that team shifted, my goal had been taken away. It was no longer there. So here is my first tip.

Describe your idea role. Describe what skills you want to be using. Don't describe the team or the place. It might not be there.

The rest of this post may well look like a scrapbook of idea's, prompts and questions. But I'll put them here because I found them useful. It's my own personal reminder, and maybe it will be useful for you too...

Once you've figured out what skills you have, the next task is to consider what you want from career progression. What are you looking for?

  • To improve your own performance?
  • Personal growth?
  • More recognition?
  • To develop others?
  • Increased pay and rewards?

And how are you going to get there?

  • Vertical promotion - moving sideways into a different role
  • Structural responsibility - moving up in your current line of command
  • Line management
  • Increased productivity - taking on more responsibility within current role


Consider what options you have for developing opportunities. I made a list. It looks like this.





There are two priorities for me:

Keep a reflective diary
Expose yourself and consider what is it you are avoiding? Figure out what scares you - and do it more! An Executive Manager, having progressed past Grade 7 dug out his diary from 10 years ago, when he worked as a Grade 1 assistant. He read an entry from his early days. He was scared of standing up in front of people and giving a presentation. He says he reads this now and laughs. He's known throughout the organisation for giving engaging and inspiring talks, motivating people to take action. He did it simply by doing it more often and asking for feedback.

Stop asking for permission
Where you have come from has an impact on your self confidence and career. My career path has been rocky and shaped by early experiences that left me with a lack of confidence. It means I'm often grateful for opportunities, but stranded by a fear that I don't have the skills to deliver what I've promised. I've also got a habit of asking for permission, rather than making a positive suggestion and creating an environment where I give managers the confidence to say 'yes'. I want to present a more positive version of me, and project a persona that instils confidence rather than gives away ideas to someone else to implement.


In terms of 'what does being gay  have to do with it anyway'? We considered how the organisation benefited from our diversity. It turns out that there are some positives to being a gay manager. We are more likely to allow people to be themselves. And we understand when people break rules. On the negative side, we're more likely to be hyper-sensitive to criticism.

I wonder whether the research evidence supports this? Sounds like I've got some research to do on the benefits of diversity in an organisation...

Friday, 15 February 2013

Warning: This is not a post about libraries


If you've ever attempted to take me out for a romantic, candle-lit dinner for two, you'll be very aware of my freaky fear of fire.

So it makes perfect sense that someone that can't turn the hob on without whimpering is attempting to walk across hot coals in aid of St. Peter's Hospice. Right? Er... maybe not. But that's what I'm going to do.

I came across the flyer for this event a few days ago. Picked it up. Stuck it in my bag. Mentioned it to a colleague at work. Who told horror stories about people with severe burns limping around. Pondered. Thought about it a bit more. And then rang my Mum.

"St. Peters Hospice are doing a sponsored fire-walk. I thought I'd take part..."

I can't publish her response. It's a little rude and contained the word 'crazy'. But suffice to say there was laughter involved. After the laughter had stopped, she realised I was serious. "I'm sorry. That wasn't very supportive. I'm not sure I want to watch my daughter torture herself from the sidelines, but I'll come down watch."

The idea that I could walk across hot coals IS funny. Ever since I can remember, I've had what the family fondly call 'a freaky fear of fire'. Or anything that gets remotely hot. I can clearly remember several incidents...

An aunt appearing unexpectedly when I was home alone. The house was cold. I didn't put the heating on. I wore extra jumpers. She asked me to put the fire on. Just the thought of walking over to the 1980's gas fire and turning it on was enough for the tears to flow. She was rather puzzled.

Aged 19, living on my own for the first time. A time to be independent, right? I tried. The cooker I owned was a little old and the ignition had failed. My Dad had bought me extra long tapers so I could light it. That was the idea anyway. I could practically stand on the other side of my kitchen and light the oven. Once I could light the actual taper with an extra-long match. 45 minutes of tears and a lot of phone calls to my Dad, I finally managed to light the oven. I wasn't in a hurry to do it again. I'm lucky my Dad is patient. He's been on the end of the phone when the iron self-imploded (I might be exaggerating there. But a freaky fear of hot things is a GREAT excuse not to do the ironing!) or when I've been hyperventilating as I've attempted to flick a switch to turn on an appliance. Toasters are a no-no. I removed the electric fireplace from my lounge. It was never going to be used. The iron rarely makes an appearance. And don't even get me started on light bulbs. Evil inventions. It's only very recently, with a little help that I turned on the grill in my kitchen for the first time.  I've lived in this house for nearly four years. Now I need to learn to do it without holding my breath and screaming.

I often get asked 'Why?'. Why do I have this fear? What happened? The truth? I have no idea. I don't remember. My parents often considered things that had happened to me as a child. Was it an accident when I was younger? There was an incident which resulted in a dash to the local hospital after old shower-hose caused severe burning. But I was fine around hot water. 

I didn't recall. Did it matter why?

It was at my Grandpa's funeral two years ago that we finally got to the bottom of why I have this freaky fear of fire. During a humanist ceremony, we shared family photo's and memories of Grandpa, things we loved, things that infuriated us, made us laugh. We're a family spread out geographically over many countries and it's rare we came together as a whole. As the afternoon wore on, I was listening to a conversation between my parents and my uncle, sharing a well-trodden joke about his inabilities as a child-minder and one of his many adventures that happened whilst he was left in charge of me. "You were the one that threw her up in the air - UNDER A DOORWAY and bonked her on the head." He retorted "Yeah, but do you remember when you let her SET FIRE TO HER HAIR?"  Excuse me? I needed to hear the explanation. Apparently, during my Christening, the vicar had given me a candle to hold. I was under four years old. Stood at the front of the church, with my baby sister. Waving a candle around, I set fire to my long hair.

I turned to my parents. "Do you think THAT might be why I have a fear of fire then?"

They'd totally forgotten the story until then.

Grandpa had been diagnosed with suspected Motor Neurone Disease. He was 89 years old when he died in June 2009. St. Peter's Hospice were there to help us when we could no longer care for him and make him comfortable at home. During his illness I was one of many family members who pulled together to help care for him during his stay in hospital, his return home and then to St. Peters. During that time, I learned more about my family, myself and about a charity that I had been plonking donations in for most of my adult life, but never really encountered on a personal level.

This is my way of remembering Grandpa. And saying 'Thank you' to St. Peters Hospice.

So, if you're bored on Friday 22nd March and fancy some entertainment, I can highly recommend coming down to Millennium Square in Bristol. Where more than 30 of us will be running as quickly as we can over the hot coals in order to raise money. With a smile on our faces. Look ma, no hands! (Or feet!) And yes. I know. It's all about physics. It's a fancy parlour trick and one that's not that impressive either. I tend to think I'm a scientific person. But try saying 'it's just a trick' to my sub-conscious...

It's easy for me to join in the local 'St Peters lotto', to donate clothes I've grown out of to the local shop, and pop a penny in the box, but I wanted to do something more. This is the scariest thing I could think of doing. 

I hope you think it's worth a small donation

If you just want to come down and support the fire-walkers on the day, details are on the events page on Facebook. The fun for the on-lookers kicks off around 7.30pm.

Please bring ice. And large quantities of chocolate. Thank you! :-)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Celebrating National Libraries Day in the specialist library sector


As part of National Libraries Day 2013, I wanted to do something to promote and celebrate library and information resources available both within my sector and geographical location. I work in a government library, based in the south west. We're not open to the public. We're a digital library, focused on sharing knowledge rather than lending books and I'm one of dwindling number left in the team that describes myself as a 'librarian'

Many of the ideas I have might be very specific to my users and could easily be filed under general 'promotional ideas' but I thought I'd share them and attempt to generate some more suggestions and enthusiasm among other specialist libraries.

Increase my profile

I've already put myself forward for our weekly intranet highlight which allows readers to 'meet a colleague'. I've used the space to talk about my work within the organisation, and about my belief in public libraries being a core part of rebuilding communities and responding to support citizens in the current economic climate, the digital divide and the celebration of libraries at part of National Libraries Day. Obviously, I've also popped in a sneaky plug for Voices for the Library

Handily, one of the statutory questions is 'what's your favourite source of information'. I normally sigh reading this on a Monday morning. It's usually filled with the unimaginative 'I find everything I need on Google'. The writer normally gets an email from my introducing myself, a link to a specific resource in our collection I think they might find useful in their role and an invite to our series of 'Essential Search Skills' workshops. So you can guess as to how I answered this question - it's a great way to raise the profile of our resource to a large audience.

Write a blog post

No not this one. I recently took a deep breath and launched an internal-facing blog focusing on information and knowledge skills in the modern workplace. It's my sneaky way of introducing information literacy to the masses (I use the word 'masses' loosely. The highest number of visitors for one blog post in a day is around 80). I'm encouraging creative use of our resources, sharing ideas about learning and development and challenging perceptions about what I do in my role. It initially felt like a brave thing to do. Not many people in my organisation blog, and those that do are usually higher up the chain of command than I am. But I've found it's been a great way to reach out to colleagues who don't normally use my service, generate publicity for resources and encourage discussion about the use of information resources. It's only been going a few months, but it's generated lots of positive comments. I now feel that I'm in a place where it's appropriate for me to discuss 'libraries' generally. So I'm planning a blog post on National Libraries Day, discussing different kinds of libraries and why we're still relevant in an environment where many people are still listing 'Google' or 'Wikipedia' as their favourite resource, and talking about the role of librarians using our 'Free Library Voices' project. (If you're interested, you can find our more by following @VoicesLibrary on Twitter)

Create a directory of local libraries

It's easy to find public libraries. It's not so easy to find corporate, workplace, specialist library and information services. Around about 8 years ago, I created a local directory of library and information services - taking a very broad view of what a 'library and information service' was. I sent every organisation that responded to my request for details about their service a copy of the directory and got some great feedback. I think it's time the directory was updated and published again. It's a way of creating a local network of services who can work together and rely on each for support. It could also be used to raise awareness among my own service users of local specialist collections and the wider role of libraries. The library opposite my office has a specialist print and electronic business collection. I doubt many people in my office know about it.

Legal information resources quiz

There are some weird and wonderful pieces of legislation still on the statute books. (Don't put a stamp with the Queens head on the envelope upside down, or you could be accused of treason!) I'd like to use these as a focus for a quiz to encourage our users to explore the legal information resources - and introduce a few new searching skills whilst I'm at it.

Job shadow

I'm going to offer myself as a 'training and development opportunity' for the day, and invite my colleagues to shadow me. Working in a mostly electronic environment, I'll need to be creative about how I involve others in my work. But there's lots for them to do from assessing individual items in our print collection for digitisation,  preparing to set up our 'live meetings' where we demonstrate information literacy skills or answering simple company information enquiries. It could improve their awareness of the breadth of our work as well as the range of resources and services that we offer. I could also take this further with a 'job swap'. It would help me to develop a greater understanding of the needs of service users. I always fancied donning a pair of wellies and getting out from behind the desk and into the field.

Increase visibility locally

Most of the users access our services from a distant and we rarely meet them in person. In a large open-plan office where no-one owns their own desk, we don't have a physical presence in the office. Hotel-desks means that I can be sat next to someone new every day. They won't be part of my team. They probably won't know me, what I do or how I can help them with their own objectives. The advantages of constantly moving around mean that I can network around the building, introduce myself to colleagues sat around me and strike up conversations about my work. I can choose to sit next to colleagues who I think might benefit from knowing who I am. But I could be more visible. Perhaps I need to be creative about temporarily decorating my desk? Popping a big arrow above it with 'Librarian sitting here' along with flashy lights and disco music? I once took to wearing a branded 'hands on training' t-shirt so that I  was visible walking around the office. Luckily the environment I work in happily accommodates those that arrive to work on a bike in Lycra shorts, hippy environmentalists walking round in chunky sandals and wind-dried hair alongside the suited-and-booted. Perhaps there is a snazzy 'National Libraries Day' t-shirt I could wear to complement my 'Librarians - The Original Search Engine' mug?

Lunch and learn

Our office has recently acquired a rather whizzy white board, linked to Internet with touch-screen capabilities. If it sounds like I'm looking for an excuse to go and play with it, you'd be right! But the new technology is also interesting people, and I'd like to hook that up to something useful. Working in a networked office means that this sort of presentation isn't just limited to those who work in the vicinity - we have the ability to link up via video / audio conferencing with other offices. 'Lunch and learn' sessions are quite a popular format, enabling bite-sized learning and are usually well attended. I dislike the idea that colleagues need to be bribed with jaffa cakes to come along, or that learning is something that can be squeezed in to a lunch hour, but it offers an option to those that might not make it if it were scheduled during core hours.

Team collaboration

It's time to hook up with other teams. We work closely with other departments, including 'Research & Innovation', 'Facilities' and 'Legal' and 'Information Security' teams. Collaborating with other teams on cross-promotional activities helps to embed us in to the organisation and encourage the idea that we are a core service, rather than an add-on.


Hire a librarian


We have a team of 'pool workers' who respond to local needs by offering their skills to projects that need more resources. Working flexibly, they work in a variety of teams and cross-cutting projects. Using this as a model, I could offer myself as a member of a 'rapid response project team' for the week. Again, it allows me to increase awareness of the skills and knowledge we have within our own team, as well as providing me with a broader perspective of the activities elsewhere in my organisation.


Dress like a librarian - donate to library charity / development


This one might be a bit controversial! And perhaps work better in an academic library? But rather than coming to work in jeans, or spotty pyjama trousers for the day, could we encourage our users to come to work 'dressed as a librarian'? Using it as a humorous platform to acknowledge the stereotypes, I want to get people talking about librarians and what they do. I'm not entirely sure it would work in my office. I don't think I'm brave enough to try it this year, but maybe someone else will be?

Libraries on tour

We serve a workforce of around 12000 people, spread throughout England and Wales. Whilst we have no physical collection to promote, we can travel to other offices, provide a 'drop-in' session, face-to-face training or invite ourselves to local team meetings to showcase examples of our work.

Favourite resources wall / cool wall

An easy idea to implement. Create a display with the ability for users to provide feedback and comments on the things they love about the service, how they use it and what positive impacts the service has on being able to complete their work.

Launch group on Yammer

In the last few weeks, my organisation has finally embraced social media and allowed us out to play. Previously, resources like Delicious, Facebook and Twitter were blocked. We now have access to tools like Yammer. I'd like to launch a group focused on sharing tips and tricks for keeping up to date with the range of data, information and knowledge skills required in the workplace.

It's a whole week of activities, and there is so much we can do to promote our specialist digital collections, promote online learning resources we've created like our 'Netvibes' platform for pointing to information literacy resources for the workplace. My goal now is to persuade the team that the rewards of this will be worth the effort - and to monitor the impact it has so we have the ammunition to do it all again soon.

I think libraries of all kinds are worth celebrating, and National Libraries Day gives us a great platform to do that.

How is your specialist library responding to National Libraries Day? Are you collaborating with other similar libraries? How would some of these ideas work in your library / information service?