Monday, 29 August 2011

Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

Apologies in advance to international CPD23-ers; this is a fairly UK-centric post, but I hope that those from countries where advocacy has more of a history will be able to provide some useful thoughts and resources to the rest of us!

Advocacy and speaking up for the profession

Advocacy for libraries has probably been around for as long as libraries have, but recently it's taken a big step-up in the UK. During These Economic Times it's increasingly important for people working in library and information roles to be able to explain and express the value of their service – what it does that benefits users, how it can help non-users, how it can add value to the organisation it's in, and so on, in order to serve as many people as possible, meet their needs as well as possible and crucially, to ensure that we've got enough of a budget to do all the things we need to do. Stakeholders need to understand exactly what it is we do and why what we do is important – they're the ones holding the purse-strings.

Perhaps the highest profile advocacy taking place at the moment is public libraries campaigning; there's a busy #savelibraries hashtag on twitter and organisations like Voices for the Library, CILIP, Campaign for the Book, Unison and the Women's Institute are all fighting drastic cuts to public library services across the UK. Unfortunately it's very hard for public library staff to campaign for their own sector without risking their jobs, so it's very important for people outside of public libraries (and within, where possible) to shout about the role of public libraries and talk about why they're more relevant than ever.

Annie Mauger's address to the WI by ijclark on Flickr

A lot of the advocacy for public libraries has involved activities that not all of us would be comfortable doing: banner-waving; shouting; marching on parliament; speaking to local and national politicians; giving interviews for tv, radio and newspapers; helping lawyers put together arguments for legal's certainly not part of any job description for a librarian I've come across! However, this kind of thing is far more along the lines of activism than advocacy, and shouldn't put people off getting involved with advocacy. If promoting/advocating for your own service isn't in job descriptions yet, it a) blinking well should be and b) probably will be soon...! CILIP have put together some advocacy resources for different sectors including special library and information services, schools and further education. There's also a campaigning toolkit on their website. The American Library Association has absolutely tons of advocacy resources that I recommend having a scout around. Some fantastic advocacy came out of the LIS New Professionals Network Advocacy Challenge including jigaws, knitting patterns, and the That's Not Online! Project. It'd be great to see more of that kind of thing. The Lib Code is an advocacy campaign from the Philippines I stumbled across on Tumblr when I was looking for images for this post – they've only very recently had a soft launch, and I think it'll be worth keeping an eye on what they're doing.

The Lib Code [2011] from UP LISSA on Vimeo.

Getting published

In addition to all the skills you pick up when engaging in advocacy (public speaking, constructing arguments, communicating with different stakeholders, using social media effectively, designing online and print materials etc.), there is the opportunity to write and get published. Keeping a blog about your work lets people know that you're active and people will think of you if they need information, or someone to write an article. For example, the posts I've written for the Voices site and things I've published on my own blog have led to requests for articles from places such as False Economy, Living Streets and Public Library Journal. It's also worth pitching article ideas to places like The Guardian's Comment is Free – they're keen to hear from people who specialise in particular subjects, and have commissioned pieces by me, Ian Clark and Simon Barron when we've approached them. Emma Cragg and Katie Birkwood approached Guardian Careers, who published their piece on what it takes to be a 21st century librarian. Publishing within library-related publications helps to keep library and information people up to date with what's going on, and publishing outside of library publications helps to get your message out of the accursed echo-chamber. Both can be very useful, and help to boost your skills and experience.

Library Love by justgrimes on Flickr
Things to Do

There's plenty you can do to incorporate advocacy into your day-to-day life; the hardest part is working out how. For this Thing:
  • Consider why it's important to advocate for the section of library and information sector that you work for or want to work in.
  • Have a think about what advocacy you've been involved in. Give examples so we can pool resources and inspire others to do the same. Or, give an example of some advocacy that you think has been particularly effective – library-related or otherwise.
  • If you haven't been involved in advocacy, reflect on what your skills are (or which you want to develop), what you're most passionate about and think about what you might be able to do.
  • If you're passionate about public libraries and want to help – let Voices for the Library know! We're keen to get more people involved with things like asking organisations and well-known figures for supporting statements, securing sponsorship, liaising with other campaigning bodies and representing us at events.
  • If you've got any potential content for That's Not Online! let Jacqueline know.
  • Think about where advocacy fits in with professionalism – maybe comment on Johanna's blog post about Activism, Advocacy and Professional Identity or if you can get hold of any, look at some job descriptions and identify where you think the advocacy might fit within the requirements of the roles.

  • Publication challenge! A prize for anyone who gets a piece of library advocacy published.

Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events

This Thing is all about events—conferences, seminars, training days, unconferences, teachmeets, or anything else vaguely organised that brings people together with a more-or-less strongly defined goal of teaching, training, or sharing ideas. We’ll look at why and how best to attend, speak at, and organise events, and hopefully by the end of the Thing you’ll be motivated to get more involved in this important part of professional life.

We’ll start with the easiest of the three facets: attending events.

Hopefully it’s fairly obvious why you might want to attend events. They’re a way to learn about something that you need, or would like, to know about, and/or an opportunity to meet people it would be good to know.

Perhaps, in these straightened times, it’s worth noting that a good event will be more than the sum of its parts: you’ll come away feeling more inspired, motivated, or capable than the event the advertising blurb promised. I’ve rarely regretted going to anything, however irrelevant to my work it might have seemed at the time. I’ve definitely regretted not going to things though - it’s best to take the plunge whenever you can.

And there’s a huge range of librarianly activity going on out there - from 20-people TeachMeets to the thousands-strong ALA annual conferece. There’s sure to be something that suits you.

1. Money
I’m not going to hide the fact that many events cost money, and that some of them cost a lot of money. Most employers have restrictions on what, if anything, they will pay towards conference attendance, so it can seem impossibly daunting to try and get to some events.

There are channels that can help out, though. Your local professional body (I’m from the perspective of a CILIP member, but I hope it’s more-or-less the same elsewhere) may be able to help. The CILIP special interest groups and regional branches have some funds of money to help with training, development and conference attendance. Large conferences themselves will often offer bursaries to help people attend. Some of these can seem very specific in focus, or as though they’re designed for the sort of high flyer that you might not imagine yourself to be, but the awarding bodies will want *someone* to get them - so do apply. You might be surprised. (And having taken part in cpd23 will be excellent testimony to your ongoing commitment to your development.)

2. Making the most
Obviously, when you get to an event you want to make the most of the time and money that you’re devoting to it. My best advice is to (try to) relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t view it like a day at school where you have to write down as much as possible in your colour-coordinated folders. Try to take in the big picture of the sessions you attend, and, above all, talk to people. It’s not easy, but remember that they’re probably there to try and meet people to, so by striking up a conversation you’re helping them out, too! And do ask questions of the speakers: when I speak to an audience I like to hear their questions. If nothing else, it shows that they have at least been listening, and that my paper interested them enough to respond.

Jo Alcock wrote a great post about preparing for a major conference, which is definitely worth a read:


The next step up from just attending an event is to get more formally involved and to speak at it. Speaking to an audience has several benefits for your professional development and your career. By taking the time and trouble to prepare a paper you’re showing that you’re committed enough to want to share your ideas and successes with the rest of the profession. There’s a lot to be said for overtly demonstrating a generous attitude. More selfishly, you’ll be raising your profile. People will be more likely to remember you in the future, whether that’s at a job interview, when looking for committee members, or when looking for someone to write an article or case study.

1. What to speak about
You may well be wondering what on earth you could speak about. I’m strongly of the opinion that if you’re working in a professional way - evaluating your services and modifying them in the hopes of improving them, you’ve probably got something to speak to others about. Nevermind the fact that you may have done research (for an MA or other reasons), or that you may work in a library or with a collection that are interesting in their own rights.

2. Applying
There are conferences and events on every conceivable subject. Some of them invite speakers based on proposed topics, and who the organisers know in the field. Others invite applications from anyone who’s interested. Some informal events will accept talks from all comers - a great way to ease yourself in gently! Keep your eyes peeled on mailing lists, Twitter and in publications, to see what’s what. I can’t do better in giving advice on writing proposals than these two posts from Ned Potter and Bronagh:
3. Presentation tips
There are whole courses out there on public speaking and how to present to an audience, and this post would go on forever if I were to list lots of good advice here. Remember that your audience is there because they want to hear something interesting, not because they want to rubbish the speaker, and you’re more than half-way to success. Then read these two perspectives on how to present, and you’ll see that there’s no ‘right’ way to do it, and you can go with whatever suits you:
This post from Ned Potter is humorously dogmatic, but it does highlight some of the errors commonly made, so you should flick through it and make some mental notes:
And from my own dogmatic perspective, I’d advise that everyone using a powerpoint presentation learn how to embed fonts in the file. This means that even if the computer used for the presentation doesn’t have the fonts you used to make the slides, the right fonts will still be shown, thus reducing the risk of your slides looking funny and poorly designed when you stand up to speak. Here’s a how-to:


Last, and definitely not least, is organising an event. This is the ultimate events-based way give yourself sleepless nights, hectic days, and to contribute to the profession.

Events come in various flavours. There are some that happen regularly, probably organised by a committee of people from an established organisation. Under this heading I’d put IFLA ALA, SLA and CILIP major conferences, as well as smaller organisations’ annual events. If you volunteer for the appropriate committees then you’ll have opportunities to help with those. Larger conferences also recruit volunteers to help as stewards and back-room people.

But there’s room to organise your own thing, as well. Informal events like TeachMeets and LibraryCamp are created by groups of people who just happen to meet and decide that it’s a good idea. There’s no recipe, I’m afraid for how to bring together such people - I’d advise just talking to all and sundry about this great idea you’ve had for an event, and hopefully some of them will volunteer to help out!

What to do for this thing
Don’t worry - we’re not now asking you to organise a conference. Instead, think about your experiences attending/speaking and/or organising professional events.
  • What worked and what didn’t work?
  • What advice would you give to others, based on your experiences?
  • And think about what you’d like to do in the future:
    • Are there conferences you’d like to attend?
    • Are there topics you think you could talk about?
    • Is there a training/networking/sharing need in your area/sector that you could help to meet by organising something?
    • If you have a burning idea for a great event, now would probably be a good time to talk about it!
Right. That’s the end of my talk. Any questions?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / citeulike

When I wrote my masters dissertation I typed out my bibliography reference by reference. I worked through the whole text too, slotting in the references, remembering where I’d referenced the same thing twice – the whole 15,000 words of it.
I don’t say this in a “we had it tough back in my day, you lot, you don’t know you’re born” sort of way. I say it because I didn’t have any alternative (that I was aware off).  It was time consuming and error prone – who would chose that?

There are so many tools out there these days that there’s no reason for anyone -  student, academic, researcher, would-be librarian  – anyone to have to do that anymore.  

For those of us still in the throes of writing essays, or perhaps writing articles for professional journals, picking one piece of software and running with it makes life a lot easier. But looking beyond our own needs to consider the needs of the library users we support, being aware of a number of different tools is always an advantage (and a big selling point on a CV). Being able to explore the pros and cons of different ways of achieving the same goal helps others decide which is the tool for them.

Managing information in this way, and helping others to do so too demonstrates our worth in a new way, and is a very useful skill. We’re not just there to help people find information, we can help them manage it to more easily achieve their goal. (I’m mostly thinking of these tools in an academic or research environment, but please give me examples their use in public libraries, business  information centres – anywhere!)
There are 4 essential elements that you need in any reference management system. The ability to:
  • import references from a number of difference sources (eg websites, library catalogues, bibliographic databases etc)
  • manage and/or edit the references once they’re in the system, and add manually any references that you cannot find online
  • export references into the document that you’re writing, either as a single bibliography, or individually, often called “cite while you write” which generates a list of references.
  • format the bibliography according the referencing style of your choice, and re-format if/when necessary
There are some other “bells and whistles” which might be nice. The ability to:
  • share references with colleagues, supervisors, co-authors
  • attach the text of the article to the reference, so you can manage the full-text documents as well as the references
  • find full text of the articles in your list of references (particularly relevant in academic libraries)
There are many commercial products out there – Endnote, Reference Manager, RefWorks and Papers  are just 4 examples. Those of us working in higher education may already have access to one or other of these. But there are also some free tools which are accessible to anyone (so long as you’ve got the rights to download software onto your computer!)

Of the many possibles, we’re going to look at 3 free ones: 
Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike.

Thing 14A – Zotero –

Zotero is an open source product that is a plug in for Mozilla Firefox (if you don’t/can’t use Firefox, jump to Thing 14B!)
A useful video which demonstrates Zotero is available from their front page, and rather than re-invent the wheel, I suggest you watch this

Zotero is free, but you can get extra storage space and more flexibility for a monthly subscription if you need it.

I think it’s a great, simple to use product which allows easy importing of references from a lot of sources – check if the ones you use regularly are covered:

Thing 14B – Mendeley –
Mendeley is another product which requires a download, but this time it’s a desktop feature, rather the forcing you to one particular browser.  Like Zotero, there is a free version of Mendeley, but more features and increased storage are available if you chose to subscribe.

One of the nicest features of Mendeley, is that if you’re starting off with a desktop or folder full of PDFs, there is a “watched folder” feature that you can point Mendeley towards, and it extracts metadata from the PDF files and populates your Mendeley library automatically. This is great if you/your library user has a great morass of files they want to organise retrospectively. There’s also a PDF editor function within Mendeley, so you can “scribble” on the fulltext articles ( you can get this functionality without by using PDF-XChange)

Thing 14C – CiteULike
CiteULike is a like delicious  but for articles rather than websites. So it’s not strictly comparable with zotero and mendeley, but still an interesting tool.
There’s a nice tour of citeulike by Alan Cann :

It’s a great site for sharing references (very useful for many academics who work collaboratively). It’s easy to gather references into citeulike using the browser button (similar to the functionality of delicious) and there is a massive bonus that you can upload PDFs to attach to the reference – since there is no desktop element this means you can access your documents and references from any computer, any time. You can share your library of references, or keep them private as you see fit.

If you chose to make your library public, just like delicious, you can see if anyone else has this paper in their library – ie who is reading what you’re reading. This might give you clues as to who your competition is, or who potential collaborators are.

But the big down side (I think) is that there is no cite while you write functionality – you can export the references in a single bibliography, in a range of difference referencing styles, but not add references through a document. (but since I don’t think it’s designed to do this, so not a fair criticism).

Thing to do
For this week’s Thing, I’d like you to explore and play with at least one (or more if you’re feeling enthusiastic and have time) of these tools – how could it help you achieve some of your own goals? How could your new skill help you improve the support you offer your library users?

If you’re already using one or several of these tools, please share how you’re using them. If you are running courses, who are they for? What format do these courses take? Does this service help to change perceptions of the library service?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

In this Thing you will investigate different methods of online collaboration and file-sharing and explore the benefits of using these tools within your library.

Collaborating on group projects with colleagues can be a great way to boost your professional development. However, when several people are editing the same document simultaneously this can sometimes lead to the existence of multiple drafts of the same file, which can result in confusion! Tools such as Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox are designed to enable you to share information and documents more effectively when working with others on a joint project.

For this Thing, you will need to have a go at some of the activities below and then blog about any or all of these tools.

One of the main purposes of Google Docs is to allow multiple people to edit the same document, spreadsheet or presentation without creating duplicate copies. Documents can either be uploaded or created from scratch within Google Docs and the fact that everyone can access the file in one place means that it is much simpler to edit and update. This can be very useful for librarians who are collaborating on a project; for example, for this very 23 Things programme we have used Google Docs to create a spreadsheet of everybody who has registered to take part. This allows us to store the information in a single location where multiple administrators can edit and update it as necessary.

Accessing Google Docs is quite straightforward: simply login with the same username and password that you would use to access your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, you can quickly set one up by clicking here and completing the online form.

Once you have logged in to Google Docs, click ‘Create New’ and choose what kind of document you would like to create – such as a spreadsheet, word-processing document or a presentation.

Create your document and then save it by clicking on ‘File’ and ‘Save’.

Example of a presentation created in Google Docs

Now you are ready to share your document, either with a colleague or even with another CPD23 participant if you wish! Click on the ‘Share’ button in the top right-hand corner of the screen. In the ‘Add People’ box, enter the email address of the person with whom you would like to share the document and decide whether you will allow them to edit the document or just to view it. Click ‘Share’ and this person will now receive an email with a direct link to your document.

Dropbox is a free desktop application which allows you to store your documents online so that you can access them from multiple computers.

Like Google Docs, Dropbox can also be used when collaborating with others on a project as it enables easy file-sharing without the need for creating duplicates. For example, one person can drop documents and files into Dropbox and then invite other people to access and edit those files.

Have a look at this useful presentation to learn more about how Dropbox works:

If you don’t already have a Dropbox account, go to the Dropbox website and create one. Once you have created an account, you will be directed to a page that explains how to download Dropbox.

After you have downloaded and installed Dropbox, you will have a Dropbox folder on your computer where you can store any files that you want to share with others. You can access these files from any computer by logging into the Dropbox website with your username and password. From here, you can view, download and upload files securely using any web browser.

Sharing documents using Dropbox

Sharing with someone who already has a Dropbox account:
Create a new folder called CPD23 inside your Dropbox folder, select a file from your computer and paste it into this folder. Now go to the Dropbox website, login if you aren’t already logged in, and click on the tab called ‘Sharing’.

Select the option to share an existing folder, click ‘next’ and then select your CPD23 folder. Enter the email address of someone with whom you wish to share your folder and click ‘share folder’. This will send an email inviting the recipient to view your CPD23 folder via Dropbox. If the recipient is not yet a member of Dropbox, the email will direct them to page asking them to register.

Sharing with someone who does not have a Dropbox account:
Dropbox will also allow you to share single files (but not folders) with people who do not have a Dropbox account. In order to do this, simply copy and paste a file into the folder called ‘Public’ which is already inside the Dropbox folder on your computer.

Next, navigate to your Public folder via your account on the Dropbox website, right-click on the file you want and select ‘Copy public link’. This will give you a URL which links to your file and you can then paste this, for example, into emails or blog posts in order to share it with others. If you wish, you can paste this link into your blog post for Thing 13!

A Wiki is a public or private web page which allows multiple people to contribute to its content. The most obvious example of a Wiki is Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Wikis can be a great collaborative tool for library staff and may be particularly useful when creating documents such as library resource guides, student handbooks or teaching materials. Wikis can be used to store information which is useful to all staff members, while at the same time allowing all staff members to edit and update this information. I personally have found a Wiki to be quite useful for recording updates to the website which I jointly maintain with the other graduate trainees in Cambridge. The Wiki enables us to keep a record of the changes that each of us has made to the website, as well as the work which still needs to be done. We also use it to store all our HTML instructions, as well as the weekly rota.

One excellent example of librarians using a Wiki as a collaborative tool is the Library Day in the Life Project, which is a semi-annual event organised by Bobbi Newman (Librarian by Day). Librarians from all around the world add their blog URLs to a shared Wiki and then write blog posts about their working day. The Wiki acts as a central location from which to access all of these blog posts and as such it becomes a really informative web page which offers an insight into the wide variety of careers that exist within the field of librarianship.

Another good example of a Wiki is the Library Routes Project set up by Ned Potter and Laura Woods. This Wiki was set up in October 2009 to bring together the thoughts of Information Professionals on how they got to where they are today, and why they initially chose to work in libraries. As more and more people have contributed, this Wiki has quickly become a valuable career’s resource for those thinking about joining the library profession.

If you’re still unsure about how Wikis can be useful, check out this 'Wikis in Plain English' video:

Optional Activity
If you are interested in setting up your own Wiki, the basic edition of PBWorks provides a free platform for librarians. Alternatively, you could try MediaWiki, which uses the same software as Wikipedia.

Suggestions for your Thing 13 blog post
You could write about your first impressions of any or all of these tools, or you could explore their potential uses within your library. If you are already using one or more of them, you could write about the kinds of projects for which they have been useful. If you wish, you could also compare and contrast the value of each of these different tools and consider how they could be used to further your own professional development.

Don’t forget to visit other CPD23 blogs and share your insights with other CPD23 participants!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Thing 12 - Putting the social into social media

Librarians and information professionals are turning more and more towards social media as a way of advancing their professional knowledge and networks. CPD23 had nearly 100 participants who registered before the programme started and this has since risen to 750 at the time of writing this post. This was all achieved through promotion of the programme using social media, which demonstrates the reach it can have.

In a recent article in CILIP's Update magazine, Debby Raven discussed this growing trend. She highlighted many recent studies which have explored the use of social media as a means for professional development and gave a brief rundown of the advantages:
  • social networking can lead to better communication between individuals who may or may not have the chance to meet otherwise
  • it creates a more collaborative working space as people are encouraged to share ideas
  • it aids in building online communities, which can then turn into real-life communities. This was highlighted by Things 6 and 7 of CPD23. During week five of the programme many real-life and virtual meet ups were organised by participants, taking an online community into the real world
  • social networking can provide easy access to other fields of the profession. I work in an academic library but social networking has provided me with a way to contact colleagues in a variety of different sectors to get opinions on different matters. This could have been a hassle but social media has made it a much more informal process

By being part of an enthusiastic online community, librarians and information professionals can help to advance their development. Due to the current economic circumstances many institutions have cut training budgets and individuals are finding it hard to justify the cost themselves. Social media seems ideally placed to help people advance themselves professionally in light of these developments.

Although it can't replace face to face networking, social media does give users a chance to interact with others within the profession. Networking can be a valuable way to see and be seen. You may start off small, with just a few friends and colleagues, but it's amazing how quickly and easily your contacts will build up. This can then lead to a valuable web of knowledge that you can use to develop yourself and your career. It goes without saying that the more you interact with others, the faster this network will build.

For Thing 12 I would like you to consider the role of social media in building up networks and a sense of community. Possible areas to consider are:
  • are there any other advantages to social networking in the context of professional development than those already outlined above?
  • can you think of any disadvantages?
  • has CPD23 helped you to make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally?
  • did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?
  • in your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor do you have to answer all the questions, they're just some prompts to get you thinking. If you only do one thing this week then add a new contact on any of the social media platforms that you've started using. It can be someone you already know, someone that you have heard mentioned or you can even follow Stephen Fry on Twitter! The important thing to do is to make a new virtual contact (or two) and open yourself up to the social side of social media.

References: Opportunities not to be missed by Debby Raven in CILIP Update, July 2011, pg. 43-45.

Photo credits: Web Wizzard and Documentally.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Thing 11: Mentoring

Welcome to Thing 11, where I discuss an often overlooked -- but quite important -- part of professional development: having a mentor.  By ‘mentor,’ I mean someone who takes an active interest in your career either by sharing advice and knowledge or by facilitating professional opportunities.  A mentor is an advisor who is usually more senior than you (ideally by 5 to 15 years), but does not have to be, and you can seek one out at any time of your career.  Everyone should have a mentor, but circumstances often prevent many of us from having one.  

A bit of personal sharing

I have been lucky thus far in my career to have had two very good mentors, one formal and one informal.  These mentors have provided advice about my career path, explained the political workings of a new work place, provided professional opportunities, and have been a sounding board when I had hard decisions to make.  Though busy people, they took an active interest in my work, and my career benefited tremendously from them.  In return, these mentors learned from me about new technology developments in the field and (they said) were inspired to try new lines of research by my enthusiasm.  The mentoring relationship has been so critical for me that I would encourage everyone to seek one out, no matter where you are on your career path.

My formal mentor was someone I explicitly asked to be my mentor -- something that admittedly was scary to do.  However, as many writers about mentoring in librarianship have noted, reaching out like that is tremendously rewarding (and it was).  Before asking, I was worried my mentor wouldn't have time or, worse, wouldn't see me as worthy of being mentored.  Upon asking, I discovered that she was actually flattered and thrilled to be asked, as it validated her role as a leader in the library world and gave her a chance to give back to the librarian community.

My informal mentor was not someone I asked explicitly to be in a mentoring relationship with me, but someone I chose to consult a lot and to emulate early in my career ('What would so-and-so do in this situation?' was something I would constantly ask myself).  Having a role model to aspire to gave my career path a clearer trajectory and, even though she likely would not call me a 'mentee' per se, she did indeed mentor me as I often sought after her advice.

Qualities of a good mentor -- and of a good mentee

If you do ask someone explicitly to be your mentor -- highly recommended -- you should choose someone you feel comfortable with and would like to learn from.  It's imperative to be clear about what you would like from the relationship -- career advice, sounding board, professional opportunities -- and then to ask about such things in particular.  A mentor/mentee relationship needs to be cultivated like any other.  Remember that your mentor is giving his/her time and energy so make sure to reciprocate accordingly with gratitude and offers to share information from your perspective and experience.

What sorts of qualities should a mentor have?  Not everyone is cut out to be a mentor.  For starters, you should look for someone self-aware, respectful, and empathetic, with a strong sense of collegiality.  After all, you're asking someone to help you, so that person should enjoy helping and understand the need to help colleagues network and find professional opportunities.

As a mentee, your role is not to accept the advice and assistance of a mentor passively, but to try to give back in terms of gratitude, professional sharing, and enthusiasm.  You should be quite clear about your strengths and weaknesses and be honest about what sort of assistance you would like your mentor to provide.  Such clarity and straightforwardness will lead to a much more productive and successful relationship.


In short, do try to find a mentor.  At any stage of your career, reaching out to people you admire and seeking their counsel is immensely rewarding and beneficial.  You will find that if you cultivate a good mentor, it is likely that one day in the future you will in turn ‘pay it forward’ and generously give of your time to a fellow librarian seeking advice and traction in this rapidly changing world of librarianship.  

Further reading

The literature on mentoring in and out of librarianship is voluminous.  It is not possible here to give a complete resource list, but a few good starting places online include:
Mentoring page:

How to Find a Mentor

Effective Mentoring
doi: 10.1177/0340035209105672
IFLA Journal June 2009 vol. 35 no. 2171-182

Sharing program: The Big-Boy Boomeroo of mentoring
Carrye Syma and Cynthia Henry
C&RL News March 2009, pp 178-180

Revitalizing a Mentoring Program for Academic Librarians
Diana Farmer, Marcia Stockham, and Alice Trussell
College and Research Libraries, July 2009, pp 8-24

Thing 10 - Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

This week we will be discussing routes into librarianship. This post will mainly focus on the training and qualifications available to librarians in the UK.

Graduate traineeships
Although there are now undergraduate qualifications in librarianship, most librarians tend to have done their first degree in another subject, and then go on to a Masters in Library and Information Studies.
Most UK universities who offer LIS courses want you to have a year’s work experience before you start the course. Some people get this experience by working as library assistants but there are now an increasing number of graduate traineeships in the UK.

Graduate traineeships are usually 12 month long posts which start in August or September and are aimed at recent graduates who are thinking about going into librarianship. There are many different types of institution that offer these positions, amongst them are schools, universities, businesses and law firms.  CILIP have a good directory of traineeships in the UK.

Every traineeship position is different but a lot of institutions offer training and a programme of visits to other libraries. Traineeships not only provide recent graduates with relevant library experience but can also help them decide whether the career is really right for them.

If you would like to know more details about an individual traineeship programme in the UK then I would recommend looking at Catalog. This website documents the traineeship programme in Cambridge and is maintained by the trainees themselves. There are many more types of traineeships out there though so have a look at the CILIP website and see which one looks good for you!

The 2010-2011 Cambridge Graduate Trainee Librarians on a visit to Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Masters degrees
The next step for most people is to complete a CILIP accredited course. It is becoming more and more necessary for holders of professional library positions in the UK to have or to be working towards a qualification in librarianship. A list of CILIP accredited courses can be found on their website It is useful to note at this stage that graduate level qualifications from the USA, Canada, Australia and the EU member states are accepted by CILIP in the UK.
Most courses are quite similar in structure and contain core course on cataloguing, classification, IT systems and management. Courses are offered both full time and part time by most institutions. The distance learning courses at Aberystwyth, the Robert Gordon University and Northumbria University are becoming increasingly popular as there is the opportunity to continue working whilst you study.

Most librarians go on to Chartership after completing a qualification accredited by CILIP. Some professional posts require their applicants to be chartered but most people look at Chartership as a way to continue their professional development. You have to be a member of CILIP to undertake the programme. Chartership is a portfolio based qualification where you collect evidence of you professional development. Another important part of the programme is finding a mentor, (a concept which will be discussed more fully in the next Thing!) See the CILIP website for more information.

Certification is another CILIP qualification. It is open to anyone at any level who has had a minimum of 2 years work experience in the sector. You do not need to have completed an accredited course by CILIP and so in this way it is a different route to Chartership for people who might have had a different library career. The qualification is portfolio based and like Chartership is based round critically evaluating yourself and the job that you do. Again the CILIP website has a lot more information about how to join the Certification programme.

What next?
For this week’s 'Thing' I would like you to blog about your experiences as a librarian so far. Tell us about why you joined the career, where you are now and how you got there and what you are planning to do next. I apologise that this blog post has been rather UK focused and therefore I would love it if our international colleagues out there would blog about their experiences in their countries so we can learn more about routes in librarianship on a global level.