On a humid evening at the beginning of June, around 30 dedicated CILIP members gathered in the Kings’ Arms in Oxford to hear about trials and triumphs they may face as part of the Chartership process. Drink in hand, I found a seat on the table where the majority of speakers were sitting and nervously shuffled my papers. Looking around the room, I could see a sea of young and serious looking faces. As normal for this kind of event, I wondered how much I would have in common with them as I don’t actually work in a library. My job title is Information Manager and I create and maintain taxonomies and ontologies for use on Yell.com.
The evening was very informal. There was no ‘death by PowerPoint’ to contend with just enthusiastic people who wanted to share their experience of Chartership with others. The first to speak was Franko Kowalczuk. Franko is a Candidate Support Officer at CILIP with a decade’s worth of experience mentoring Chartership candidates and assessing submissions. He took us through the familiar CILIP Chartership and Certification guidelines as well as the more unfamiliar Qualifications Board Assessment Panel interviews that reminded me a little of a PhD viva. Fortunately, Franko was suitably reassuring - candidates are only called to a panel interview when the assessors want to expand on a particular topic in their submission. Questions are sent to candidates in advance of the interview so the candidate has time to prepare and it is almost impossible to fail at this point. The bottom line is that CILIP wants to support every candidate and help them to succeed.
Next-up was Laura Wilkinson, Librarian at St Hugh’s College Oxford. Laura has already chartered therefore she was able to share hints and tips including how to get the most out of the initial CILIP Chartership seminars e.g.
· Read the Chartership Handbook before the seminar
· Make a note of anything you are unsure about and ask questions
· Take the time to read through past submissions
The part that I found most interesting (I am a bit of a geek) was Laura’s description of her e-portfolio. She created her submission as a Word document with hyperlinks between her personal statement and her evidence so the assessors did not need to scroll down. Having done that, she was able to submit electronically (using 3 CD-ROMs). This appealed to me as I am trying to collect all my evidence in an electronic repository on Dropbox.com. My portfolio of evidence is accessible from wherever I am and from whatever device I am using (desktop PC, laptop, iPad or HTC Smartphone). I am also trying to avoid filling my home with paper!
Chartership can be something you decide to pursue immediately after library school as part of your career progression in your role, something you do after a few years in a post (like me) or something you put off doing for many years. It can also be something that you start and do not finish. The next speaker, Tessa Shaw, Reader Services Librarian at Queen’s College Oxford was a mature candidate with 25 years library experience. She can tell you how to deter snakes from entering your Malawian library (I sincerely hope Tessa comes back and talks about that at a future event) and she has lots of experience of supporting members of her team through their Chartership. Tessa has watched those people move onwards and upwards after chartering so she has decided to join them.
Tessa’s experience matched mine in that the Chartership process has changed her attitude to work. With her new perspective, she has sought out new opportunities to develop and progress in her career. Tessa, Laura & I all stressed the importance of recording the details of all the development activities that you undertake at the time as if you leave them to the end of the month, you will inevitably forget. That is also the time to reflect on those activities. Most importantly of all, they advocated “getting the thing done”. If you make a start on writing your report and personal statement, you will finish it. There may be a few iterations along the way but it is the only way. You can’t reach the finishing line if you don’t get off the starting block.
My own talk focused on how I am getting on so far and what benefits I am getting from the process. Chartership has given me a much greater enthusiasm for learning, developing and networking: I haven’t felt this motivated since I left library school back in 2004. I have been fortunate enough to have a very supportive line manager who has allowed me time to attend events and to be an active member of the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) committee. In my mentor, I have found a good friend, a wealth of experience and an objective voice to help me to develop a more strategic view and a greater awareness of the broader professional context that I need to progress in my career.
The penultimate speaker was Barbara Moye, Healthcare Librarian at Prospect Park Hospital in Reading. Barbara has already chartered and I was interested to hear about her experiences because she has succeeded in moving sectors. Barbara also managed to keep focused on Chartership despite changing jobs and experiencing organisational restructure during her period of reflective practice. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to keep going. Barbara said she managed to keep on track by booking a meeting with her mentor before taking a 3 month break while she got settled in her new job. As the meeting was already booked, she had to keep it. Mentors are not there to badger candidates or drag them through the process. If you miss the targets you set yourself, you are letting yourself down.
The final speaker was Lesley Kumiega, an experienced mentor and member of the Qualifications Board. Lesley provided the mentor’s perspective – all the pain and excitement but no certificate at the end. The mentoring relationship is formalised at the beginning of the Chartership process but sometimes deteriorates. If this happens, don’t just let it slide, tell CILIP. The mentor/mentee relationship should meet both of your needs. I was surprised by how common it is to have a mentor that you never meet in person. It is possible to have a mentor that you only ever contact by telephone and email. Mentors will listen, give impartial advice and help you to review your progress however you decide to communicate with each other.
Looking through the past submissions, I felt that Chartership is not “rocket science”. Every portfolio was surprisingly individual considering that everyone is working to the same criteria. Each piece of evidence had been carefully chosen, organised meticulously, related to a specific assessment criterion and reflected upon rather than merely described. The aim of your submission is to guide the assessor around your career, making it easy for them to see which assessment criteria you are addressing. Getting the odd document number wrong is embarrassing but not fatal!
The evening gave me some comfort that I would be able to succeed and that the process is worthwhile. Thank you CILIP in TV for organising such a great get-together.
Georgina Tarrant BSc (Hons) MSc