Tuesday 13 October 2015

CILIP President Jan Parry talks Career Planning and Advocacy

On Wednesday 7th October we were honoured to receive a talk from none other than CILIP President herself, Jan Parry, at RISC in Reading. Thank you to Matthew Henry for writing the following summary of Jan's talk. 

Jan started the informal presentation with a brief roundup of her career, including how she got into librarianship, and how she got out of it again but used her professional skills to great effect in a wide range of applications. Of course, she was more modest than this but her CV includes senior Whitehall civil service positions working with Secretaries of State and other ministers and more recently being a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Secretariat.

Jan was not ashamed to admit that, having attained her degree in Librarianship and Information Management a little later in life after starting her career at the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate library, she discovered that she was ambitious.

She didn’t let on to anyone else – even her family – but quietly went about her duties confident that there was almost always a better way of doing something.  She also believed that she was capable of discovering and implementing those improvements, and that the only way to achieve them was building a case for them using evidence and demonstrating that they were effective by collecting data and communicating them.

The key to her message to us CILIP members at various stages in our information careers was that the very same principles apply to us as individuals. We should be able to communicate what we do, and its value, easily and quickly. And for this, librarians, “you need your business head on.”

If someone asks you what you do, don’t give the passive response “I’m a librarian” or “I manage a library service.” Better to say something like, “I’m an expert in finding information from a wide range of sources, and fast.” You might not be a natural self-promoter but becoming one will help to advance your career.

Jan told an anecdote about one civil service colleague who sought out his boss every day to give an informal report on what he was doing. Some in the audience thought this might become counterproductive, but this employee apparently got a bonus every year for his efforts. Jan recommended an alternative tack for those of us who don’t want to look like the school swot (because, lets face it, how many of us actually were the school swot?). Instead, write a weekly email to your superior, copied to his/her manager, outlining your achievements and ideas that week. Do this religiously. After a year your manager will have ample material with which to perform your appraisal, you will definitely have been noticed, and – perhaps most importantly – you will have had to stretch yourself in order to have written about your progress, week-by-week.

As to what that progress might be based on, with information services forever having to justify their resources – even existence – you should find ways to gather evidence, whether it be qualitative, such as written feedback or quantitative, such as user numbers, resources accessed, costs saved, etc.. All of this should be documented and ready for if – when – your service is under review.

In short, get a career plan. Don’t wallow in the “duvet of librarianship”. There are no longer jobs for life so you need to be ready to measure, improve, and move on and up.

Inspiring stuff; and it was easy to see why Jan has been so successful.

Matthew Henry library assistant at Reading Libraries and MSc Library Science student at City University London. Twitter: @matthew1001001

Jan has kindly shared her presentation slides for those who weren't able to attend:

Thursday 1 October 2015

Visit to the Dragon School Library

On Monday 28th September, we visited the Dragon School Library in Oxford. Beth Ash from Radley College Library has kindly written the following summary of our visit:

What a treat to be in leafy North Oxford on a glorious sunny September afternoon.  We were visiting The Dragon School, an independent mixed boarding and day school for children aged 8-13.  Tucked away  just off the Banbury Road, the school felt  100 miles away from the bustle of the city centre.

Our motley group of school, university and public librarians were welcomed by the Dragon School Librarian, Helen Mastrantone, who showed us across campus to the library.  Helen works full time across five days and is aided by a part time Assistant Librarian, to cover opening hours from 8:00-6:00 through the week and 8:00-12:45 on Saturdays.  My first impressions were of a well laid out, spacious and comfortable library, with thoughtful and clear displays.  Helen’s obvious enthusiasm for her role was apparent throughout the visit and it was fascinating to hear about her journey from teaching into school librarianship. 

Helen talked us through her ‘imaginary average day’, describing the mix of activities that make up her role at the Dragon School.  I was impressed by the amount of organised contact that students have with the library, with every English set having a reading lesson in the library each week.  This means that Helen has contact with every child in school across the timetable.  As well as this considerable responsibility, Helen’s role also includes the usual tasks of book buying, cataloguing and classifying (amongst other things!).

What kept coming across was Helen’s care that the children should feel ownership of their library.  She described herself as a custodian of the library, actively encouraging recommendations and suggestions from the students.  This struck a chord with me and the environment we try to foster in our library at Radley – in both instances the school is also the children’s home.  It is important that the library is a place that they feel comfortable, welcome and want to spend their time. 

It was great to hear some frank discussion about the positives and challenges of school librarianship, and helpful to swap tactics on dealing with issues such as building relationships with other school staff, library discipline and line management.  For me, working in a very similar setting, much of the conversation resonated and I enjoyed seeing what was clearly a well thought out, and well run school library service at work.  

This was my first foray into attending CILIP events, so I was a bit nervous about what to expect, but based on this afternoon’s event I can thoroughly recommend taking the time out to meet up with other librarians.  It is invaluable to see how other settings are putting ideas into practice, and there are certainly some aspects of Helen’s work at the Dragon School that I will be taking back to Radley.

Grateful thanks to Helen for her kind hospitality and all the work she put into our visit, and to Becci for organising the trip.  

Beth Ash – Assistant Librarian, Radley College Library

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Visit to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Library, 9th July 2015

On Thursday 9th July CILIP TV were lucky enough to visit the library at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire. The Lab itself is on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The library caters for staff of the RAL and Diamond Light Source, as well as a huge range of external visitors. We visited at a time when the whole campus was holding an open day, which meant that we had an opportunity to see a range of different workspaces, which was really interesting.

Linda Gilbert, the Site Librarian, met us and took us to the library for a presentation and discussion with the staff. The library is staffed by Linda and three Assistant Librarians, all of whom have different roles, covering the traditional sphere of acquisitions, resource description, membership and enquiries, while also supporting users with more recent developments in open access and institutional repositories and offering training sessions and tutorials on relevant resources. The library staff manage the development and content of STFC’s institutional repository, ePubs, and spend a lot of time working with Open Access publishing, helping STFC’s publishing authors adhere to RLUK (Research Libraries UK) guidelines. This involves helping them through every step, including producing a cover sheet and paying for Gold open access for STFC staff. ePubs went live in 2004 and currently has around 40,000 records which are updated regularly. It was interesting to hear how the library staff keep track of publications from STFC authors by setting up alerts in WoS (World of Science) and then uploading the records using articles’ DOIs.

Although the library does buy physical books, a lot of their budget is spent on e-journals, which are made available to staff of the RAL via their integrated catalogue, LibrarySearch. They also offer completely free inter library loans of non-stock material, which, to those of us who work in academic libraries, seemed very generous!

Once we had learned about the work that the RAL library staff do, we went on a tour of the site. The library itself was refurbished last year and is lovely and light, containing a study pod where people can hold meetings and talk on Skype. There is also a comfy seating area with a fiction book swap where site staff can sit at lunch time (drinks and food allowed!). While the library is staffed between 10am and 4pm, it is actually open 24hrs and users can borrow via a self-service machine.

After an excellent visit to the library and chat with the staff, we had a tour of the rest of the site and saw some of the research that takes place. It was a fantastic afternoon and incredibly interesting to see the work that goes on at the RAL. Thank you very much to Linda and her team for making the visit so enjoyable.

Becci Hutchins, Web & Social Media Officer. 

Sunday 9 August 2015

Visit to Oxford College Libraries, 20th July 2015

On 20th July, CILIP TV ran a visit with CILIP Library and Information History Group (@CILIP_LIHG) to see a choice of Oxford College libraries. Alefiyah Oakford has kindly written an excellent summary of the afternoon with fab photos by Tasneem Hassanali:

Our tour of the Oxford Libraries took place on a warm, sunny Monday afternoon. There was a good turnout which included many budding photographers!
We had a choice of attending Queen’s College Library or Merton College Library for the first part of the tour.  I decided to choose Queen’s College Library as I thought it would be interesting to see and find out more about the recent refurbishments.
Queen’s College Library
Queen’s College Library is often described as ‘one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Oxford’* and we certainly were not disappointed on our tour of the Upper Library which was built between 1692-1695.  The refurbishment project took place between 2013-2014, not only was this essential to preserve the historic aspects of the building and its contents but also to improve conditions for the library’s users.
The ceiling plasterwork in the library was amazing.  We learnt how during its refurbishment a birdcage scaffold was erected so it could be intricately cleaned.  UV filtering blinds were installed to protect from light damage and, to modernise the library, new wiring, lighting, heating and ventilation was installed. 
We also had the opportunity to view the impressive statute of Queen Philippa (the College founderess) and the globe set, which was refurbished in 2002, with globe cases created in 2007 to help conserve the globes, as well as the beautiful English Orrery which reproduces the movements of the planets. 

                                         Queen's College Library, photo courtesy of Tasneem Hassanali

Magdalen College Library
The next part of the tour took us to the Old Library at Magdalen College which was built with the College in the 1470s.  The tour covered the history of the library and gifts bequeathed to the library.  We were guided around various exhibitions that aimed to examine the libraries of a range of people and what their bequeathed books tell us about them and about society at that time.   
The impressive exhibitions included that of William Waynflete (founder of Magdalen College), Thomas à Becket, John Fitzwilliam, Thomas Wolsey and Olga and Jack Levinson – to name but a few!        
Perhaps one of the most exciting items we were shown were fragments of possibly the earliest known New Testament (possibly the oldest book!) which had been found in Egypt and sent back to the library.
We also had the chance to visit the atmospheric Magdalen College Chapel and viewed  a copy of ‘The Last Supper’ painting which is believed to be painted by Giovan Pietro Rizzoli known as Giampietrino, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci.
Magdalen College Library, photo courtesy of Tasneem Hassanali

St. Hilda’s College Library

The last leg of our tour took us to the Kathleen Major Library at St. Hilda’s College.  This light and airy library was built in 1935 so provided a sharp contrast to the two previous libraries we had visited.  During the tour we learnt about the history of the library and its collection.  The library felt very welcoming and overlooks the River Cherwell.  The library is spread over three floors with several reading rooms and we had the opportunity to wander through the library building and examine its collection.       

A timeline was on display which showed ‘The History of St. Hilda’s College Library’ from 1893-2004.  It was extremely informative and useful in showing how much things have now changed.  

                                                St Hilda's College Library, photo courtesy of Tasneem Hassanali

I thoroughly enjoyed the Oxford College Libraries tour, especially seeing three very different libraries and the changes that have taken place over the history of these libraries.  What made the event so memorable and interesting were the knowledgeable insights provided by the guides and librarians who were able to tell us lots of interesting facts and stories about these wonderful libraries.  A huge thank you to them and also to Sonja from CILIP TV and Erika from CILIP LIHG for organising this great event!
Alefiyah Oakford BSc (Hons), MA, MCILIP

* http://www.queens.ox.ac.uk/library/refurbishment/

Sunday 12 July 2015

BBC Monitoring and BBC Written Archives visit, 29 June 2015

Our visit to the BBC Written Archives and BBC Monitoring was an incredibly popular event with a long waiting list. Thankfully for those of us who were unable to attend, Kirsty Morrison has written an excellent summary of the visit, so thanks to Kirsty for the following:

Our visit to the BBC Monitoring and Written Archives took place on a beautiful sunny day, so we slightly regretted our decision to walk the two and a half miles from the train station up a massive hill!

We had an introduction to the Written Archives which outlined the remit of their work. Their collection consists of files, scripts and documents from a range of departments at the BBC, which provide a valuable insight into the works of this unique institution from its inception in 1922 through to the 1980s. This collection covers older programmes and the history of broadcasting, as well as containing correspondence, memoranda, contracts, scripts and publications.
They provide reference support for researchers and academics, who are also eligible to use the reading room by appointment. We saw some of the highlights of the collection, including censorship correspondence regarding the broadcast of Dylan Thomas' 'Under Milk Wood', papers from the state opening of the BBC and the first television broadcast, Lord Reith's diaries and scrapbooks, a project file for 'The Flowerpot Men' containing some unexpected complaints, and letters to the BBC from a young Vanessa Redgrave and Keith Richards.
The majority of the physical collection is housed in rolling stacks with a series of archive boxes relating to people and programmes of note to the BBC. We had a tour of this facility (which was lovely and cool due to the temperature control!). We were shown the files relating to Sylvia Plath's dealings with the BBC, and the Doctor Who nerds among us were excited to spot a drawer labelled 'Dalek diagram'.
We took a stroll through the picturesque grounds of Caversham Park to the stately home which houses BBC Monitoring. Staff took us through the colourful history of the property (as mentioned in the Domesday Book!). BBC Monitoring was established in 1939 to monitor the media of the world and provide intelligence to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Cabinet Office, GCHQ and other government departments as required.
Their role has adapted over the years to tie in with changes to the Charter, meaning that their funding now comes from the license fee rather than from core stakeholders. Consequently BBC Monitoring have had to adopt a more commercial mindset when promoting their services. Their main customers are now government departments, BBC newsrooms, Parliament, commerce and academic institutions.
They are able to rely on the expertise of staff arranged by geographical region (e.g. the Middle East or Western Europe). Core monitoring staff are comprised of translators and journalists who transcribe and analyse the output of their designated region.  Their operations span the globe so they are able to provide a 24 hour service.
Monitoring products can be extremely reactive and flexible, focusing on major world issues in a very timely way. BBC correspondents receive briefings from BBC Monitoring each morning for example, which keeps them up to date prior to delivering reports.
It was useful to hear about the innovative ways BBC Monitoring have had to change their strategy in order to promote their work, which is highly relevant to many library and information professionals in the current economic climate.
We ended the visit looking out on the stunning vista at the back of the house, including the pond, lake, cricket pavilion and views of the surrounding countryside. Definitely worth a visit!