Friday, 23 November 2012

Thing 23 - What next?

So the final Thing is here, and prompts reflection on what I have achieved throughout the programme and what could be next.

In my first post I offered the following aims. It's pleasing to note how many of these have been achieved!

Achieved ?
provide me with a framework to explore some of these tools;
to identify applications that may be suitable to use for work and professional development, but perhaps also tools that will be useful for social means;
Yes – and more!
to see examples of such tools in use;
to update my skills and confidence in using new IT tools;
Yes – and more!
a number of us are undertaking CDP23 in work and I hope to support my colleagues, but also gain through our collaborative learning;
Not as much as hoped but it's still been fun and a discussion point amongst colleagues.
to see this as an example of online / distance / self-paced learning. To identify the challenges and difficulties that arise with this type of learning, but also to understand the potential benefits.

I also note that a number of further learning tasks were identified in my CPD 23 Things blogs:

  • Professional Knowledge & Skills Base
  • CV Database
  • More effective use of Twitter - follow up from Girl in the Moon's blog.
  • Further practice in using Screencast-o-matic
  • Blogging - trying to develop / integrate the blogging as a means for regular reflection
  • Further investigation of Prezi, particularly within the context of a guided learning tool
  • Consideration of formal study: BIALL Legal Foundations Course?
So, there is lots of scope for continuing to explore and develop!

What's next? 

Short Term - I'm seven weeks into secondment with CILIP. This therefore certainly shapes the "what next" for me for the coming months.  To-date secondment has provided :

  • an amazing eye-opener into sectors of the profession with which I had little personal experience. E.g. being present at a Youth Libraries Group session reviewing the Greenaway and Carnegie short-lists was amazing.
  • great experience of contributing to a consultation response on E-Lending in public libraries. A challenging task indicating that my information collection and writing skills still need honing for such a specialist role.
  • a new view of  accounting requirements and practical experience of drafting end of year accounts. I've gained new financial management skills and a new area of personal enjoyment.
  • revision of my event management skills, and updated my knowledge and understanding of corporate governance issues.
  • realisation that I need to manage my time and work routines more effectively.

I would love to get to the end of secondment and look back on a wide range of achievements, to know that CILIP Cymru has been well supported, and the hope that Mandy is able to return to post with confidence and ease.

Medium term - preparations for transition back into my substantive post. I understand that this "return" can be a very difficult time and I will need to prepare thoroughly for this. My hope is that I will be able to use the CILIP Professional Knowledge & Skills Base as a means to reflect on my skills and the gaps that are inevitably there, and use this tool in my formal work-based performance management plan.

Longer term - time to update my formal qualifications? Become a professional mentor? Focus on improving my project management skills?

I'll end this phase of blogging with a final thought .... 

                          "Learning is about the journey, not the destination"

CPD 23Things - thank you for an amazing journey!

 © Copyright William Starkey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence (

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thing 22 - Volunteering to gain experience

Hello! So Thing 22 encourages participants to consider volunteering to gain experience. I'm certainly not going to quibble with Jo's blog. I agree, sad as it may be, that in this time of infrequent job vacancy opportunities, volunteering may be the only way to get out of the Experience Gap Catch-22 situation. This may not only apply to new professionals. Established professionals, seeking a career change, may also be in similar situations. Or for that matter those returning to work after a career break! Volunteering can be good at whatever stage of your career! 

I also feel strongly that organisations which take on volunteers should provide lots in return to their volunteers and definitely not substitute paid professional roles for volunteers! CILIP have an excellent policy statement on using volunteers in public library services, but the principles will apply in other sectors too.

My experiences of professional volunteering have mainly been on CILIP Special Interest Group Committees at divisional and national level. These roles have provided me with wider professional knowledge, energy and transferable skills (chairing meetings, taking minutes, organising events etc). At the same time they have always been fun, confidence building and have left me with a network of fabulous, supportive and amazing contacts. I appreciate that the "day job" is becoming increasingly pressurised, stressful and burdensome. And although volunteering adds to these, it also provides huge rewards of wider perspectives, a different working regime, and a whole load of professional reassurance or inspiration. Although it can be hard work, for me at least, it's good to wear a number of "different hats".

Wearing a different hat. Rhododendron clearing in Snowdonia.
Copyright of the Author.  
I would also add that work can take up so much of our lives, and although I love my career and profession, it's a real bonus to have other interests. I use volunteering with the National Trust as one of these. My NT work enables me to mix with a different group of people, undertake very physical work and be outside at stunning locations. All of these in combination provide a very real tonic to life, and is something that I recommend to anyone who likes the outdoors, values our environment, and who want to give something back.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and interviews

Wordle: PKSB
Professional Knowledge & Skills Base

Maria's blog for Thing 21raises a great many useful tips and truths. I've sat on both sides of the interview desk, and I know that I'm not very adept at either, and I certainly don't enjoy either experience. The most successful, and least painful, interviews that I've had have nearly always felt more like professional conversations than some formulaic grilling. This of course comes down to the skills of the interview panel, the environment and culture of the organisation, and the compassion /  humanity of interviewers during interviewing.

Competence-based interviewing doesn't suit everyone, and there is certainly a specialist knack in answering  such questions appropriately. But practise and planning can mean that you should have a set of established examples and some answers to hand. Whether you can remember them all under the pressure of the interview might be a different matter! Fortunately, many interviewers are very skilled in their roles, inherently wanting candidates to give their best performance, and to be part of making a fair and appropriate selection decision. The interview can certainly provide a really fascinating insight into the organisation!

I do think Maria's emphasis on knowing your strengths and interests are good ones. For CILIP members the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) interactive tool provides an excellent framework for self-assessment and reflection on your professional skills and strengths. I will be looking at this in more detail after completing CPD 23Things!  But in summary:
  • I enjoy undertaking thorough enquiry work and the challenges of trying to meet users' needs and expectations. This is probably why I love legal information work.
  •  I work best when I'm appreciated and valued and can see benefits / impact / results from my outputs.  This means that the culture of the organisation, the people and the value systems are really important to me. In working with and managing others I hope that I enthuse these qualities too.
  • I relish working with others and I am learning to value project management frameworks to plan, deliver and evaluate project work. The challenges of projects and change are positive stimuli for me.
  • A big part of me is a perfectionist, and I'm a self-confessed work-aholic. I love to do things well, and to be shown how to improve things. I like to be challenged.
  • I'm a terrible leader, but hopefully a capable, supportive and energising "second in command".
Knowing your strengths and interests is very valuable. But, I suspect in this day and age, where job opportunities are few and far between, it is often an economic necessity to accept what you can and try to make the best of it. Undertake the role with enthusiasm and dedication, and try to take opportunities for development and training wherever they arise. However, keep in mind your personal strengths and ambitions and try to work towards these as well. Know when to "jump ship"; don't get stuck in a less than ideal role for too long if you can help it.

I heartily agree with Maria's suggestion of keeping your CV up to date, and having a record of your achievements in a form that is easy to update, review, sort and search. I'm a poor practitioner in this respect. Again, I will consider following this up after completing the programme.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Thing 20 - Library roots / routes

Library roots

Trips to the mobile library after primary school. A great deal of fun and excitement selecting that week's reading from the children's section. The mobile library was a terrible grey colour, but was an articulated lorry trailer, and the children's section was in the bit above the connection with the truck unit. (A similar sort of vehicle is pictured here). It was always exciting going, and they used Browne Issue!! Mum was, and still is, a big reader and she spent many hours encouraging me through my dyslexia and opening up the wonderful world of the book.

Teenage years. Seeking solace in the high school library. A lunchtime library pass would mean that I wasn't beaten up in the playground, or my blazer chucked over the school fence. Asterix the Gaul books in French. Similarly, at weekends visits to the central libraries in Luton or Dunstable. The microfiche catalogue was a wonder to behold. The Library at Sixth Form College also became a place of refuge, although the Common Room and cheese toasties had growing allure. That, or joining the masses sitting in the main corridor, just watching the other students go back and forth, trying to perfect that teenage disinterested / threatening look. Never really mastered that!

Luton Sixth Form College
© Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Undergraduate career. I worked incredibly hard at university driven by my love of study, poor social skills,  a general lack of balance in life, and most significantly, terrible A-Level results. Many happy hours in the Library, second floor overlooking the Loch and watching the mists and clouds dance over the Ochills. Biological Abstracts in hard copy became an absolute joy and I revelled in a catalogue on computer.

Grounds of Stirling University
© Copyright Eva Forbes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Present day. I still use my local public library, and have retained that magic and awe in visiting. It's a place that provides me with potential for escape, together with a feeling of belonging to my local community. My leisure reading helps me to escape to places or situations that I have slim chance of actually being at, and enables me to meet and experience people and lives whose paths I would not cross in real life. Library staff still inspire and guide my reading. However, the computer and smartphone take increasing amounts of my time and attention.

Library Routes

Another story of an accidental librarian (sorry!).

  • Uncertain what to do at the end of my undergraduate degree, I stumbled across several posts for graduate trainees to work in libraries. Lady Luck shone and I was successfully appointed to a position, one of four, at the Polytechnic of Central London (now University of Westminster), working in the Engineering and Science Library on New Cavendish Street. Completed a very happy and informative year, and was accepted to study Librarianship at the University of Sheffield.

115 New Cavendish Street - site of the PCL Engineering & Science Library.
© Copyright Stephen Richards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

  • On completing Sheffield I was fortunate in being appointed to a Senior Library Assistant post in the Normanby College Library, supporting nursing, physiotherapy and radiography students, linked with King's College Hospital and King's College London. Three very happy years learning about health and medical information sources, gaining Chartership. Supported, guided and encouraged by a fantastic line manager and mentor, the librarians at the adjacent Medical School Library, and in the other health care libraries in the South East Thames Regional Health Authority.
  • Took a giant leap of faith and relocated to South Wales to manage a small further education college library and learning resources service. Constantly inspired and  supported by other college librarians as part of CoFHE and a very supportive senior management team in the College.  Four happy years and my line manager suggested that I had achieved lots but that it was time to move on. 
  • A further leap of faith, and probably more blind courage than was really sensible, I was appointed to manage a Campus Library at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. New subject areas, managing and supporting professional colleagues, introducing three graduates to the profession via our own Graduate Trainee scheme, and finally a huge refurbishment project.  A fantastic environment in which to develop my financial management, team leadership and strategic management skills. However, the refurb project, although successfully completed, was my downfall. I ran out of enthusiasm and energy in the post-project phase - adapting  services and partnerships required of the new Learning Resources Centre, and saw my dream job wane into a buildings management, problems solving role. Made the best decision of my life, and resigned. Took time out, and after 6 months or so the yearning to return to the profession grew too strong to resist.
  • A fortunate  sideways  step saw me appointed as an Assistant Librarian at Morgan Cole Solicitors. Despite having no legal training my colleagues supported me, and were extremely generous in sharing their knowledge, experience and friendship.  Being outside of my comfort zone in both subject area and the commercial environment was hugely developmental, but it was clear that this wasn't quite the right role or environment for me.
  • Took up post with the Welsh Assembly Government in 2006 and have progressed through Policy Support Librarian and Legal & Business Team Leader roles, and other periods of temporary responsibility.
  • Currently on secondment with CILIP as Policy Officer (Wales).
In writing this account I'm struck by a few key messages:

  • Colleagues are so generous with their time and in sharing their knowledge and experience. Value these relationships and work hard to develop and retain them. If working in solo positions generate links with colleagues outside of your organisation.
  • I have never regretted those giant  leaps of faith and those periods of living on my Dutch courage.  Resigning from the Campus Librarian's role was a brave move, and horrendous at the time. But this was the correct decision. The possibility of still being a very unhappy, dispirited and probably a very unwell, dysfunctional Campus Librarian is just too frightening.
  • However, know your strengths and appreciate  your  weaknesses. I'm surer now that senior management just isn't for me.  Being at the "practical sharp end" of librarianship suits me well. 
  • My "fit" with the organisation has been significant. If I feel I can contribute to the organisation, if I am valued and challenged then I am far more likely to love working there, and stay longer.
  • Take opportunities when you can. Living outside your comfort zone for short periods of time can be positively developmental. Carpe diem!
(c) Lechoucas, 2012 - Creative Commons CC-by-sa 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Thing 19 - Reflection point - The tools at the top of my toolbox?

This task offers an opportunity to reflect on the personal outcomes of undertaking CPD 23 Things, and prompts reflection on how elements of the programme may have been incorporated into my work. I've become a more conscientious Twitter user, and thanks to Girl in the Moon I see I have some further work to do to make my use more effective. I'm really keen on Mendeley, but at the moment don't have to use it that much. I had great fun with Screencast-o-matic and would really love to develop my use of that more. I think Prezi will become a really useful tool for me too.

Perhaps most significantly is the blogging habit. I've had to blog as part of my secondment role with CILIP and CPD 23 Things has provided me with confidence in this aspect of work.

There are some elements of CPD23 Things which I really loved at the time, but which just don't seem to have been incorporated into my work. Evernote is a superb example of this. A wonderful tool, but it just hasn't seemed to make it's way to the top of the toolbox.

So what can I conclude from this?

  • I'm a very lazy learner .... I'll only get to grips with what I absolutely need to, when I need to ... but I guess a lot of us are like this too.
  • I'm very poor at seeing the links between tools. Girl in the Moon uses Evernote to capture a record of her tweets. What a great idea! I wouldn't have thought of that in the proverbial month of Sundays.
  • I'm not a good explorer of tools ... Pinterest, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc .... all would probably be useful, but I haven't made time to check these out.
  • I need an on-hand technology guru ... someone to question me in my lazy habits, show me the next wonderful tool (time-saving, ingenious, revolutionary, or just dam clever).
  • That working in an organisation that restricts use of many new  tools, especially those where local software download is required, really does limit the professional horizons. Being on secondment is a wonderful escape from these shackles.

CPD 23 Things has provided me with a framework for trying out new tools. I will need to find new avenues, and schedule development time,  to ensure that I continue to investigate new applications and to think about new ways of using these tools.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Thing 18 - Screen capture and podcasts

For me, the CPD23 Things "gentle wander" has just become a sprint finish. I've just found out that the completion target is 30 November. Heavens, 6 "Things" in 20 days!!

(c) Doug Tanner, 2010 on Flickr 

Thing 18 continues the theme of presenting information, and provides some tools to investigate for screen capture and for podcasting. Given, that in my usual work situation, I would not be able to download software onto my work PC, I opted to investigate Screencast-O-Matic. This is easy to use, and doesn't require software download. However, I still have doubts about whether I may be able to use screencast applications in work because of the reasonably sophisticated Java requirements.

My experience of using SOM was good, although it appears to be essential to check that your microphone is working prior to each recording. Don't complete a long screen capture sequence only to discover that your audio commentary wasn't being recorded. As a trial use of SOM I have put together an introduction to finding publications from the Welsh Government, using the WG Publications Catalogue, but also using the topics and browse features on the web site. An embedded version is given here or you can access this link to view it at You Tube

I've learnt quite a lot in the process.

  • At 11 minutes this is way too long. I need to think about relaying the message more quickly, or having a series of videos on particular elements of the search process.
  • The narration script needs to be tighter, and I know that I don't have a strong voice for narration!
  • But, most importantly, that screencasting is relatively easy and definitely something that I should consider using and developing in future.
So another big "thank you" to CPD 23 Things!

On podcasting my views are different. To my mind a picture really does tell a thousand words. I'm not sure how I could produce a regular podcast with any benefit. I am a real radio buff, and I really value the "play it again" feature available on many radio stations websites. But I don't see how I could generate a podcast with adequate information interest, or quality of production, to be of benefit. These are my initial thoughts. Please tell me / show me how I may be wrong! 

So another Thing closer to completion.What's next?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Thing 17 - Prezi and Slideshare

Hello! Apologies for my absence again. I've been adjusting to my new secondment role with CILIP - but perhaps more of that at another time. Here I am, way behind everyone else, working on Thing 17. I'm aiming to finish the programme before Christmas ;-). Ho, ho, ho!

I've been hearing about Prezi for some months now, but hadn't had the courage or incentive to investigate it further. Thanks to my secondment that's all changed! An invitation to speak to a small group of Information and Library Science NVQ students about the nature of the profession in Wales, key professional bodies, career prospects and help, provided an ideal opportunity to experiment with Prezi. Here's my first attempt. If the embedded  version doesn't work then you can also access a copy here

The process of creating the Prezi was reasonably straightforward, although I am grateful for the introductory video tutorials within Prezi. These got me through with addition of some patience and lots of trial and error. If only I'd seen Ned Potter's guide before! Still, a lot of Ned's tips seem to have been incorporated into what I did. Happy accident, more than good design.

What went well?

  • I think I adapted to the zooming, non-linear presentation style reasonably well. It worked well, captivated the audience,  and no one complained of feeling seasick!
  • My presentation was made up of a good balance of text pointers - and images. The tool helped me to deliver a more natural and interesting  presentation.
  • Prezi is a great vehicle for sharing presentations. 
What would I do differently?

  • Be careful with the pathway and presentation mode. Double check that the show is fully working and is complete. I think I will have a check-list of key sections in front of me, or incorporated into the pathway, just to ensure that I haven't missed an important section. This fits with the educational mantra: show them what you'll be teaching, teach it, and then recap on what you've taught them. Such a device may also be helpful if "going off piste" and delivering the session according to audience feedback, or when providing similar sessions in close succession. That aching doubt of "I did tell you "x" didn't I, or was that the previous group?" can easily arise when repeating sessions in relatively quick succession.
  • Definitely incorporate greater use of invisible frames, perhaps allowing more textual input to a zoomed in area. Also be less restricted by size and visibility on the opening view. Really small can work well, because zooming around invisible frames works so beautifully. 
  • Be prepared to start from a blank Prezi canvas, rather than working from one of the template presentations. In this instance, does a purple tree really fit well with libraries? OK, tree of knowledge aside.
Sebastian Munster - Tree of Knowledge - 16th Century.

So what next?

I will continue to investigate Prezi. I don't have too many presentations, but those that I do have are mainly in PowerPoint. So I will consider updating and converting into Prezi format. It would also be good to investigate using Prezi as a guided learning aid, especially once I'm back in my usual day job. The Solar System Activity is a great source of inspiration for this type of learning tool.

And what of Slideshare?

It's not a service that I've used for storing and allowing access to my presentations previously, although I'm sure that I have consulted a few presentations kindly stored in Slideshare by others. But clearly this could form quite a useful information resource, and a great resource for "creative swiping".

So that's one more Thing blog closer to completion. I'll welcome your feedback and comments.