Monday, 22 October 2012

Reflections on Shadowing

As part of my Chartership journey I have been taking the opportunity to shadow various member of the Wiltshire Library Service, to see what skills I will need to develop in order to progress on my professional path.

There is always an air of mystery wrapped around managerial positions and being able to shadow these roles gives a human angle which makes it all seem less scary for want of a better word. I have been very lucky to spend time with colleagues and question them about their own professional experiences, their time in the service and how they feel their jobs have changed over the last few years and where they may be in ten or twenty years time.

I have recently spent days shadowing a Community Librarian (the next rung) and our Library Operations Manager who amongst multiple responsibilities holds a managerial role over the stock and budgets for the county and reader development (areas that I am particularly interested in). Both colleagues were happy to give up a day to have me tag along and question them incessantly about present roles and challenges but I also found it very interesting to get their views on where they feel Wiltshire’s library service and public library services in general are heading.

For example, 5 years ago each library service would have a dedicated reader development librarian who would be responsible for reading promotions such as the six book challenge, quick reads, author talks and library reading groups along with regional and national programmes such as the National year of Reading in 2008. In the present climate this very important role for libraries has been intertwined with other responsibilities and does not seem to have a dedicated post anymore, more and more it seem it is folded into stock unit positions, outreach librarian roles and in some cases given as added responsibilities to library assistants and general librarians. When speaking to our operations manager about this he pointed out that not having dedicated roles for reader development meant that implementing national strategy can be very difficult. As reader development roles are spread over different layers of staff being able to attend meetings, conferences and committing to programmes becomes harder. Where some staff have control over budget and capacity to green light projects straight away others have to go back to their authority and sell an idea, this makes regional and national projects harder to get off the ground as you are unlikely to get a unanimous verdict on any given day for multiple authorities.

In my opinion shadowing provides a brilliant opportunity to understand colleagues various roles and the chance to talk about the service; it’s past, present and future. Being able to spend time with colleagues I would not normally interact with is also helpful on a personal level, to put faces to names and understand better how you can work together. Shadowing is an inexpensive and  yet valuable form of CPD and I feel it has helped me understand more about the services core goals and the future that we face. It is a worthwhile and educational experience and above all showed me what skills I need to develop to rise to these positions in the future.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Events, Conferences and Advocacy (Things 15 and 16)

Events and Conferences

I have been in the library profession for nearly three years now and have had the chance to attend a number of professional events and conferences. I know it is stupid to say but here it goes anyway... I am always taken aback by the friendliness and welcoming atmosphere at conferences. There always seem to be two cliques though... professional conference goers/organisers and those that get to attend a conference a year. I’m not in anyway surprised by the welcoming atmosphere and I love the opportunity it gives for me to network and put Twitter names to faces but I also feel somewhat like an outsider twice over, as a professional who doesn’t get to attend very many conferences and as a public library Librarian. In regard to the latter it is more often than not at conferences I attend that I am the only delegate from the public sector. This may be partly due to the climate we find ourselves in at the moment but I also feel that many conferences are aimed at the academic/private sector.

Then why I hear you say don’t you speak at one of these conferences or events? And the answer comes back... lack of self confidence, time and resources. I know it’s an excuse but it’s the one that I’m using for the moment. Not to say that the conferences I’ve attended have not been informative, helpful and educational but a balanced delegate list would help to advance networks and the sharing of best practice. These conferences and events are also helpful with keeping up with current awareness and building on my knowledge of the wider profession.

The idea of presenting at a conference or event scares the living death out of me I’m not going to lie but I think I would relish the chance to present a view of the public library sector at the moment. Unconferences such as Library Camps go some way to helping those like myself who aren’t gifted public speakers but the other side of the coin is working out whether you have something to contribute which is valuable to the profession or whether I’d just be filling time in a programme but I think that’s an issue I need to get over rather than a professional opinion.

When I was a student I was a representative of the North East CDG. With two student representatives and members of the committee we organised a careers event for that year’s librarianship intake. This included guest speakers from alumni and staff sharing their experience of the job market. I was also in that year part of the librarianship social society and so this helped me understand the organisation behind events in terms of finding a viable venue, and organising a programme attractive to your target audience. This event was attended by approx 25 students who gave excellent feedback and was a brilliant first step into networking and establishing professional relationships which are still helping me today.


I was lucky enough to be published in the Pubic Libraries Journal (PLJ) before it’s cessation in 2010 and have also written pieces for group newsletters regarding events and visits attended. This blog is also a perfect advocacy tool and I like to think people learn a little bit more about modern librarianship by reading it. The Internet and Twitter have become amazing advocacy tools over the last few years and the media are focusing a lot on libraries in the present climate and yet I still have people come into the library to sign up that are astounded when I tell them there is no charge.

This is why I believe events such as National Libraries day are so important to promote the versatility and breadth of the modern library service.  Now more than ever advocating our profession is essential, not only educating the world at large but those users who have only scraped the surface of our services.

I have not been a part of any national advocacy at large but have taken part in some on a local scale and getting out into the public whether it be a street stall or a school assembly and setting right some of the myths surrounding public libraries. These events needs to be well organised and publicised but are well worth the effort. It is something I would be very interested in pursuing given the chance and time.