Wednesday 11 December 2013

Advocacy: Let’s shout about Libraries!

For November’s Cilip in the Thames Valley event, we had Barbara Band, CILIP Vice-President, to talk to us about advocacy in the library profession.

To start off the talk, Barbara updated us all with changes going on in CILIP. To start off with, CILIP are keeping with their original name, despite the big re-branding project that saw us vote for a range of new names for the organisation. A new website has been made, and new changes made to the chartership and certification processes. Barbara was keen to note that chartership does differ from an academic qualification in Librarianship – the idea being that through certification and chartership, everyone can be at a certain level, regardless of whether they have degrees of postgraduate qualifications.  The revalidation process has also been updated – it’s free, and involves 20hrs of recorded CPD, and a 250 word statement. Finally, Barbara emphasised the need for members of CILIP to vote in presidential teams and councils, and to take an active role in organisation.

Next is on to the main topic of the evening – advocacy. Barbara spoke about the different interpretations as to what this mean, and its relative terms – petitioning, arguing, promoting, and defending. This can mean speaking out on behalf or someone or something, but also to argue for a cause, policy or idea. It should not always be a one-off thing, but a continual process. Barbara noted that library professionals are not always good at self-advocacy, but it is important for us to speak out about our jobs, and support the profession as a whole.

But why is this so important? Well, Barbara noted that the image we present affects how other people view us (we all know the stereotype of the woman in a twin-set shushing people). It is important for us to inform and educate people about libraries and the benefits of having good library services, and broaden our profile as a profession.

So, what is the best way to advocate the library profession?

An important and obvious way is through social media, particularly Twitter. Barbara spoke about the best times to tweet to get particular messages out (send the message out 4 times in a day – in the morning, lunchtime, after work, and late at night before bed).  We all know how quickly messages can spread through Twitter, and you never know where your Tweet will end up! Although not everyone on your followers list will be a librarian, sending library-related messages out will be advocating to people who aren’t in the profession. Also – the simplest message is often the most powerful!

Barbara also noted that it is important to think about target audience when advocating – for example, your approach to speaking to students will be often be very different when speaking and advocating to governors.

It is equally important to advocate yourself in the workplace as well, especially if you are part of a larger organisation, e.g. a school or college. It is important to keep others in the workplace updated as to what the library staff have achieved, targets that have been met, new projects introduced etc.  Don’t let the library be overlooked!

Finally, Barbara spoke about how advocacy is a two way process – CILIP can advocate for all sectors and need to do their bit – likewise, librarians and information professionals need to get involved in CILIP, through branches and groups, and play an active role.

At the end of Barbara’s talk, we had a brief chat from Sarah, from the Federation of Children’s Books Group – a national charity that holds a book prize every year, in which children are the only judges! They aim to support and encourage reading for children of all ages, through local reading groups, author visits to school, the Red House book award, and local events. Sarah brought some of the winning books from this year’s awards event, all of which engrossed the group! To find out more about the FCBG, visit

Overall, a good event was had by all, with inspiring talks by Barbara and Sarah. Thanks to both speakers for a great evening!

Wednesday 2 October 2013

CILIP Chartership event

Our CILIP event this month was focused around Chartership. We had five speakers, talking about all different areas of the process. First up was Franko Kowlaczuk, who is the candidate support officer for the South East. Franko spoke about the role of the CSO and how they can help anyone undertaking Chartership; whether it’s advice on what to include in your portfolio, or more general information about the qualification itself. From 1 November, there‘ll be some changes to professional registration. For one, the new VLE will offer online submission and assessment, and new assessment criteria have been written up for certification, Chartership, and revalidation. 

Next up was Natalie Guest, who is fully chartered and also works as a mentor for others. Natalie mentioned that it may seem hard to collate evidence needed for your portfolio, but chances are you have plenty of material to use in your everyday working life. Perhaps you tweet regularly (about libraries and library work, not so much cat videos on YouTube), have improved an aspect of the library service at work, or attended a local CILIP branch meeting. All of these can be used in your portfolio! In regards to choosing a mentor, both Franko and Natalie agreed that it was ideal to pick a mentor who wasn’t closely linked to you. A line manager as a mentor could be offended if you’ve been critical of particular practises at work, and it can really help having someone from a different library sector to work with– that way are you are given a certain level of objectivity when the mentor is looking through your work.

Last up was Anna Richards, Ruth Jenkins and Erika Delbecque, who are doing their Chartership as a group! They noted that undertaking the Chartership process alongside other people can really help motivation, plus their place of work allows them time to study together. They encouraged anyone going through professional registration to speak to people who are doing it too – whether it’s at work, on Twitter, or local groups. 

To get more information on the new changes to Chartership, there are details up on the CILIP website:

Thanks to all our speakers for a fun and informative evening!

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Anne Welsh : RDA

I must apologise for the tardiness of this post, I have been suffering from Critical Technology Failure. Better late than never…

Anne Welsh came to CILIP in the Thames Valley at the beginning of June to discuss RDA and what it will mean for cataloguing in the near future.
Anne started by asking if anyone had yet implemented RDA and I was a little surprised that at least two people said they had. Anne explained that RDA should provide for making the connection between things in a more flexible way, and that its aim is to be better for modern users, because it starts with the ‘work’ as an ideal, of which there many more expressions, resulting in many various items. She told us we should look at Variations FRBR. For further information, here is a helpful presentation by Dr Barbara B. Tillet.
We went on to compare RDA to AACR2 in MARC. Anne explained that AACR2 is geared towards an old, flattened structure, a necessity due to the machine readable tape MARC was developed for. There is not enough room in a MARC record for the modern encoding which we need for the stepped format of FRBR. The next cataloguing systems are likely to be XML structure, as that too is more flexible. Archivists and publishers were later in implementing electronic cataloguing so did not need to conform to MARC records, now libraries do not need to either, and we are increasingly trying to catalogue things other than books, now we may have to account for DVDs, MP3s, webpages, as well as many places making a more to be more cross-collections, i.e. archives and libraries, possibly with galleries in the mix too, it will make data-sharing easier. After all, libraries are the only ones operating in MARC.
Anne herself has been busy writing a follow-up to Welsh and Batley’s Practical cataloguing. Although only published in 2012, we have since seen further drafts of RDA and the roll out of implementation. Cataloguing and decision making in a hybrid environment will be published in December to help guide us through this time of flux. For those that didn’t see it, Facet Publishing recently sent around this list by email, suggesting some further reading on the topic.

Thursday 27 June 2013

A varied career

A sunny start to June saw Jacky Mathewson come and talk to CILIP in the Thames Valley about her varied career and, more specifically, about her work in prison libraries. She started with an inspirational quote from an ex-colleague and Young Librarian of the Future 06/07, Simon Smith, which she felt summed up how she felt about working in public libraries, and probably struck a chord with every librarian in the room:

“I love being part of a public space and organisation which people can use in so many ways – for help, relaxation and enjoyment.  Libraries are important because no one else offers access, help, inspiration and education to everyone without asking for anything in return.”

Jacky started her career working for The Economist Intelligence Unit, then moved onto the Arts Council of Great Britain, then as a freelance researcher’s assistant.
She finally found herself in Holloway Prison library for eight hours a week. Initially the prisoners were not able to benefit fully from the prison library; her job there was to try and help the women find books they would like, but with timetable restrictions she found herself with five minutes to help 20 inmates find a book. Needless to say, this had to change. They managed to make the library part of the ‘free-flow’ schedule, meaning that ladies who wanted to, could stay in the library for the entire two-hour period. This meant she could work with them on reader development. She also ran a course for the inmate library assistants so that they could show they had been doing something of worth while they were inside. She was dealing with women from wide ranging backgrounds, including non-English speaking women who had been caught drug smuggling to support their families, so many were in shock once they had landed inside. Understandably this was problematic in trying to find books they could connect with.

After a move to Reading, Jacky then found herself working part-time on the reference desk of Reading Central Library, a job which she enjoyed for its variety, with enquires ranging from wedding speeches to spider identification, and everything in between! This then merged with other reader services and she was put in control of acquiring the library’s stock of large print and spoken word, and she started a reading group for visually impaired people.

After seeking out more hours she was given shared care of the library within what used to be Reading Gaol, of Oscar Wilde fame, and which is now an institution for male young offenders. If the history of the institution interests you, Anthony Stokes, an ex-officer of the prison, has written a book, entitled Pit of shame (Winchester:Waterside Press, 2007). However, in the present day, what used to be the old chapel is now the recreation area, and the library is housed there. With no computer, a thorough knowledge of their stock is required, so they can keep track of the boys’ favourite titles.

They are dealing with some low levels of literacy so they have started a number of initiatives to encourage these boys to use the service; they regularly put together games packs, with word searches, spot the difference, and other puzzles. They also run the SixBooks Challenge every year, in which participants try to read six books, and write a small piece about them. At the end they receive a reward and a certificate which means a lot to boys who find reading a struggle.

They also run the Storybook Dads scheme, where a recording is made of an inmate reading a children’s story, which is then edited together with sound effects and sent to their child. However, in the prison service, inmates can be moved with little notice so organising future individual activities can be a struggle.

In segregation there are no televisions, so they always ensure these boys have access to games and books and, unsurprisingly, they are always welcomed! One of the great successes was a talk Jacky organised by Andy McNab, an author the boys like - no mean feat, as for obvious reasons, the security protocols in a young offenders’ institution are rather stringent.

There is a prison librarian’s network which offers valuable training and support;  all prisons have libraries though they vary greatly.
Many thanks to Jacky for such an interesting insight into this unusual branch of librarianship.

Monday 13 May 2013

CILIP Presentation by Julia Hordle of TFPL

Our AGM event saw Julia Hordle of TFPL give an interesting insight into recruitment in the information profession. Even those of us that have participated in the recruitment process recently, from one perspective or another, learnt a thing or two. It has been kindly reported for the blog by one of our committee members:

Julia began by introducing the audience to her own varied career and how varied roles can be in the information sector. Although there are few generic proscribed roles for a librarian, there are common skill sets, for example: Communication, methodology, organisational skills, an enquiring mind.

Librarians have hard skills (cataloguing, literature searching etc) and soft skills (which can make you more competitive in the job market (problem solving, preparation and approach to discussions and meetings, developing empathy (active listening, keeping in touch, showing interest, consistency), an analytical mind, ability to inform/influence stakeholders etc. To identify these Julia suggested reviewing your own value to your peers, taking lessons & feedback from appraisal, using your wider network (other non-library peers) and considering what recipients value in your work. Look at your competencies & examples, think about evidence of communication excellence.

We then moved onto CVs and reviewed the many roles a CV can have, from obtaining a job, identifying your skills gap, promoting your role to management, career mapping and many more (see list below). Find and harness your USP (unique selling proposition), use your CV for this, even if you have no immediate plans to leave your current role.

Purpose of a CV:

  • Obtain an interview
  • Gain promotion
  • Professional biography
  • Assessment tool (for HR & self)
  • Record of achievement
  • Measure of progression
  • Self analysis
  • Matching requirements
  • Compliance (company record)
  • To show desirable/essential requirements
  • Meets organisational requirements
  • Value matching
  • Where personal meets professional

Your CV has the value of being a reminder and a representation of you. It is a way to find opportunities both within and external to your organisation, a way to differentiate yourself from other candidates, showing where you bring value and acting as a showcase of your talent

CV Tips

  • Develop a CV profile
  • Use case study examples
  • Select referees that reflect/support your assertions about achievement
  • Try mind mapping to avoid over-simplification
  • AVOID function, dwell on your achievement
  • Include keywords for your CV that will ensure you are “found” for jobs you are targeting
  • Use a framework for self-assessment
  • Plan themes e.g. outputs, results, functional domain, contextual knowledge (industry or sector), methods & frameworks-research & analysis, IL retrieval analysis, technology, sources and tools, leadership, strategy. 
  • Advancement-personal development
  • Learning
  • Partnering arrangements and working
  • Find a balance between the personal and the professional
  • ALWAYS tailor your CV to the application.

It’s worth considering when you submit your CV for a new job whether  it is targeted to an automated recipient i.e. online form or to HR department for an initial shortlisting. You need to identify essential requirements and make sure you answer these.  The applicant needs to be self analytical, aware and purposeful.  Applicants should overcome self consciousness and tackle an application with direction, a sense of adventure and good planning (time, resources, focus).  Remember that covering letters are often stored separately and may not be viewed by the assessors. Prepare for & “harness” interviews, noting that interviews are often EVIDENCE based these days

Determining your market value

Finding the appropriate value of your role can be a challenge. Look for precedence in the information sector or business sector. Review how pertinent are your skills, performance & contextual knowledge to the role. Supply & demand will also have an impact, but remember it is the price of the role rather than the person
We finished with a look at the extensive range of job titles and roles that encompass jobs in the information sector – always something to remember when doing an online  job search. It was a thought provoking session and we would like to thank Julia sharing her expertise.

Monday 8 April 2013

Adding semantic mark-up to optimise your webpages for search engine

We didn't have a meeting last week due to our AGM taking place later this month (for more details see our events page), so in lieu of that we have a guest post from Georgina Tarrant about her work as a Taxonomist. Great to to be able to showcase the varied landscape of the information profession! Take it away Georgina...

Hello, my name is Georgina Tarrant and I am a taxonomy specialist.  I have worked on for a number of years and during that time I observed a shift from using in-house business listings data to using third party taxonomies and data providers to help us to achieve our organisation goals.

One of the simplest and most effective of these projects was creating mappings between taxonomy headings and specific classifications to improve the way our business profile pages are displayed in organic (i.e. free) search engine results using content mark-up. was chosen for this project as it is an open source taxonomy created collaboratively by Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Using the taxonomy creates semantic mappings that help search engines to make use of our content.  We started small – we simply added mark-up to our business listings pages which told the search engines that the page was about a local business.  We didn’t even say what type of business and yet this simple change led to a dramatic improvement in how our pages appeared in the automated summaries in search engine results.  Google have a test that web masters can use:

Website mark-up languages like HTML are used to specify how webpage content should be formatted. tags are different because they specify each different type of content on the page in a way that search engines can understand.  This enables us to control how our business profile pages are displayed in automated result summaries e.g. we can make sure that addresses and telephone numbers are correctly formatted as they are elements of the local business taxonomy term.

The next logical step was to tell the search engines what type of business each page was about.  The types of business were sub-categories of the local business heading.  My task was to create a new ontology structure to recreate the headings in and then to match them to the classifications that each business was classified under.  Now Google and other search engines can tell when it is looking at the business listing page for a bakery and when it is looking at a restaurant or takeaway – hooray!  Adding the mark-up made it worthwhile having all of our extended content such as maps, user reviews and opening hours displayed correctly.

We started with local business and food establishment Schema headings but our intention was to roll this out across the whole classification set.  Hopefully this will improve our search engine rankings and make use of the rich content we have!

Monday 18 March 2013


We are very sad to announce the death of our Research Officer Norman Briggs, a long-standing member of the CILIP in Thames Valley committee, and a vigorous champion of professional issues within CILIP. Norman died peacefully in hospital on Friday 8th March. The CILIP in TV committee would like to extend our condolences to Norman's family.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Running a Reading Group for Mental Health Patients

Our first meeting of 2013, held in Reading in March, was well attended and this may have had something to do with our new later time of 6.30pm for a 7pm start. We have made this move so that people in the Thames Valley who live further away from our usual venue can make it after work. However it was probably to do with the guest speakers visited us from The Reader Organisation and the Prospect Park mental health unit. Sue Colburn, a reading leader and advocate, and Sue McLaughlin, a Nurse Consultant at Berkshire Healthcare Trust, came to tell us about The Reading Organisation’s work leading reading groups with vulnerable people.

The Reading Organisation’s method is to read the whole text of a piece of literature together, slowly, so people can interact with the text and each other. In newer groups they tend to work with a lot of poems and short stories, but with more established groups they get through whole literary classics. They use literature as an in-road to helping people with their problems – many finding a way to talk, confront, or contemplate their problems by identifying with the literature. Participants can be as active or as passive as they like, but they can rely on the reading group running week in, week out, except Christmas, giving them a constant source of contact, release, or comfort when they may not feel they have this in other areas of their lives. They have open access public groups in some libraries across the country and others are help in care homes and mental health units.

At first the group at the Prospect Park unit was run as a pilot course, called Tea & Tales, which grew week after week. Some of the success of this may have been due to the fact it flattened the hierarchy, during the reading nurses and patients were all just participants. For a while they could not find the funding to continue running the group. The problem was finding a way to measure the success of these groups. They had qualitative evidence in the form of patients’ reactions and they ran demonstration sessions, but they seemed to be missing out to other things. The good news is that they have now found funding from the Healthcare Trust and hope to start up again in April. They intend to train four nurses to run sessions and run a session at Wokingham Public Library for outpatients that want to continue to use a group. They are also learning how to measure the outcomes of the programme to support their case and prove their value, however they believe that qualitative evidence should not be discounted, how people feel should count.

Currently the programme is little known in the Thames Valley, the only open group run here is in Wokingham Library. If anyone would like to become a group leader they can train to do so through the Read to Lead course, the details are on The Reader Organisation. It was a very inspiring evening and The Reader Organisation is a really worthy charity that makes a difference to lives through literature, what with being a librarian, something I have always believed in. I haven’t done it justice here but hopefully we can do our bit to spread the word in the Thames Valley region; as well as their website they have a blog, you can follow them on Twitter @thereaderorg, or email for more information:

Friday 22 February 2013

#uklibchat – don’t panic! – a beginner’s experience

Our new guest post comes from Slough Library's Audience Development Officer, Gaby Koenig. She has supplied a most welcome crib sheet to a first try at #uklibchat. If you are someone who has intended to join in for months and yet never got round to it (like me), this may encourage you to give it a try, because you won't have to figure out all this stuff for yourself. Over to Gaby...

What do you use twitter for? Some people use it for professional development or just as part of their profession. For others of us it’s more of a personal general fun tool, perhaps a bit like an RSS feed for sites we’re interested in with added bonus material. Some of us have no clue what we’re doing there and are making it up as we go along.

#uklibchat is a monthly twitter chat about libraries and library and information work in the UK. But what is it FOR? I could just say ‘professional development’. More specifically it’s more about having conversations that interest you with other people in the field, making connections to people you might not otherwise meet or speak to and learning about different ideas and working going on in other locations.

That all makes it sound extremely simple. It is, however, both exciting and incredibly confusing to first time users. It’s a bit like being in a room where everyone is talking at once and you have no idea what is going on. Due to the nature of twitter, tweets in a conversation are not grouped together, everything is in precise time order.

Because it is so immediate, it’s very tempting to try and hurry to catch up on the latest comment, but if that is the third reply in a conversation other people have been having on q4, you’re probably going to have to backtrack and by which time it won’t be the latest thing any more.

The two things that will save you from drowning are being prepared and being very clear about what you want to do or say, although being a speed reader doesn’t hurt.

Every chat has a public overall topic and agenda. This is hosted on Google Docs, where anyone can add their own questions but personally I prefer less questions and responding to what’s there rather than adding to the agenda, which may not be got through anyway. Reading the agenda in advance is a good idea, as is keeping it open while you are involved, as with only 140 characters, people may just reply to a question with just “q2” and #uklibchat without any preliminaries to explain what went before or what they are talking about. This gives you a good key to follow topics or when a certain question has come up. I also plan any responses to any questions that particularly interest me or at least what I might like to say.

During chat I have several tabs or windows open. One for the agenda, one for my twitter interactions, one following the hashtag and one following @uklibchat – the twitter feed for the organisers. I try and make sure I follow etiquette and include the question number I am talking about (eg. Q3) and the #uklibchat.

Once the chat starts, I try to do two things, firstly skim for anything that interests me and secondly watch out for prompts that the question I want to answer is officially up for answering. I try really hard not to attempt to join in with every conversation,  to avoid trying to read every single tweet and only respond when I have something to say. This takes a certain amount of self control.

Some people use twitter clients to help them follow the chat. Of these Tweetchat does look rather good and doesn’t require you to create a separate account for it. If you aren’t going to use it to respond, you don’t even have to log into twitter. Best of all though, it automatically adds the hashtag you are following to your tweets when you reply, which is easy to forget in the heat of the moment.

The organisers of #uklibchat asked us to mention the help they can offer new uklibchatters. They have a page that gives a bit of info about how to tweetchat:< and if you ever get lost or need help, people are very welcome to ask @uklibchat, either during, before, or after the chat, as they can answer questions while it's happening. So now there really is no reason to not join in. Many thanks #uklibchat for the extra pointers.