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.

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