Thursday, 25 October 2012

A month to remember

The month commencing 15th October 2012 will have been the most unusual month in my working career.  Last week,  I began my 3-year, 2-days-a-week secondment as a postdoc research assistant.  Considering I've never had a part-time job or a job-share in my life, this 'librarianship three days, postdoc two days' existence is very novel for me.  Being a postdoc researcher is equally new.  (OK, I've continued to do odd bits of research since becoming a doc, but I haven't been paid to do it before!)

And this isn't all that's new.  Next week I shall convene an SALCTG meeting for the first time.  I've never been a Convenor of anything else before, either. And I've an engagement as an assessor, the next day.

On either side of these momentous events, I gave a talk to Glasgow Gaelic Society on Tuesday evening this week, and I'm giving a talk to postgraduates at my alma mater, the University of Glasgow, the week after next.  The ironic thing about this is that when I was a postgrad the first time round, I couldn't imagine myself standing up and lecturing.  That's why I became a librarian.  Whereas now, I've stood up and talked to so many groups that I wasn't even bothered when the computer wouldn't open up on Tuesday night.  The group moved rooms, to enable me to show my  PowerPoint, but I wouldn't have been particularly upset if I hadn't been able to.

On the other hand, I felt decidedly guilty that I couldn't pronounce the Gaelic names of the songs I was talking about.  I played, rather than sang them - that got round one problem - but I felt a real ignoramus being unable to say what I was playing!  I've made two attempts at learning Gaelic.   It's deeply humiliating to admit that, whilst my Dad was head of modern languages in a big grammar school, and I was considered linguistically able at school, Gaelic is fiendishly difficult, and I haven't remotely got the hang of it yet.  An inability to speak Gaelic doesn't make me less of a librarian, or less of a researcher, but in terms of credibility and self-respect, I can see that at some stage, I shall really have to grasp that particular nettle!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Peeling back the wrapper: anticipating Thing 23

I'm cheating, and I feel a little guilty!  However, I know Thing 23 is about reflecting on the 23 Things CPD journey, so there can't be any harm in a little Sunday evening reflection, in advance of the email telling me what I should be reflecting about!

How has the journey helped me?

Well, I have to say that I've already been doing/ done much of what came up along the way.  Nonetheless, there's value in validating existing practice, and taking a closer look at the various activities suggested to us.  There have been quite a few things that weren't new to me, but stopping and thinking about them, then writing about them, was new.  Anyone that knows me will agree that I was born with fingers at the ready, itching to write about something and anything.  If my observations have been of value to anyone else at the same time, then I'm even happier.  

For a start, I can add the 23 Things project to my CV, demonstrating that even fairly late on in my career, I'm willing to engage in CPD.  I can also look at the individual Things and draw from them skills that maybe I haven't highlighted in my CV in quite the same way before.

I found that I indulge in more networking than I realised.  (Talking to other librarians over lunch or on the train home has sometimes been every bit as useful as the course or event itself!)  And now there are things like the Twitter #UKLibraryChat (amongst others) to take part in, too.  I've watched with interest from the sidelines at the new Library Camp un-conference concept, but I have to accept that I can't take part in everything that comes up. I'm in a number of professional interest groups, and I've volunteered for roles, like being convenor or organising events, that I wouldn't have experienced in the day-job.  

I'm also beginning to take part as an assessor in the chartership process, picking up a thread that began when I  once supervised a candidate's chartership.  I became a Fellow (FCLIP) a couple of years ago, and it feels like time I put something back into the CILIP organisation.  Being a full-time working parent and doing a PhD simultaneously in my own time (2004-9) didn't take me completely out of the CPD loop, but obviously curtailed extra librarianship activities to a certain extent.

 Notwithstanding other pressures, I've been pretty diligent at attending courses.  Mind you, I've attended several social media events in the past couple of years, and have finally reached the point where I need to be selective.  I do a lot of social media stuff for the library - any more would feel like overload.  The social media element is a way of promoting what we do, and interacting with staff, students and outsiders; but accurate cataloguing, stock selection, reader queries and course support still require as much attention as ever!  Similarly, I can't emphasise the importance of networking strongly enough, but let's not neglect the home-team in our own workplace!

When I'm choosing events to attend, or groups to join, I try to strike a balance.  Some things benefit my workplace, and others benefit me in a general sense as a professional.  Attending IAML events, or convening the Scottish training group, SALCTG, fall into the former category.  On the other hand, it might appear on the face of it that my research (musicology, not librarianship) fell into the second category.  However, I've updated research skills, networked with other researchers on an unprecedented scale, written about all kinds of things, and gained experience in public speaking that I'd never otherwise have had.  (I'm also becoming quite adept at finding ways of combining librarianship and research, whether it's giving a talk to librarians, or addressing our postgraduates on research skills for musicians.)  I like to think that the research has also added to my authority as a subject expert - everyone will know the feeling when a query comes along, and you realise that this one is right up your street.  It happens from time to time: I'm lucky to be in the right place to be useful!

As I said, I've written about things.  That's a slight understatement!  However, I'd say that my early involvement with the IAML Newsletter, with writing book-reviews, and as Brio Reviews Editor, were all very useful for an early-career professional.  I'd recommend this kind of involvement, and it also shows a willingness to engage with your professional associations.  Other writing opportunities have just kind of cropped up along the way.  It's been very much a combination of looking for opportunities, taking them when offered, and making them.  

Embarrassing mug
And that goes for a lot of career development.  I was on #UKLibraryChat recently, when somone said that "they" (the bosses?)  should make opportunities for younger or lower-grade professionals.  It's true: a good boss develops their staff.  However, from my advanced age (nearer to retirement than qualification), I don't go along with the assumption that "they" should do it for "us".  Sometimes you get lucky - other times you have to make your own luck.

The world doesn't owe us a living; we have to prove we're worth it.

POSTSCRIPT.  Now I've seen the final posting of 23 Things, I see we're invited to write down a plan, or a SWOT analysis of where we're at and whither we're heading.  I've pretty much done the first bit.  But where I'm sitting right now is something of a pivotal point.  Next week, I'm starting a three-year part-time secondment as a postdoc research assistant for two days a week, whilst continuing to be a subject librarian in a conservatoire library for the other three days a week.  A 'mini-me' is to be appointed to cover my research hours.  I'll still be doing the same 35 hours a week that I've always done, but not all of them in our library.  Now then, I've worked in libraries full-time for 27 years, taking only the minimum maternity leave that was available at the time for each of our three sons (6 weeks before, 12 weeks after).  I've NEVER been a part-time librarian before, and I've never job-shared before, either, so this is all very new for me.  Additionally, the research topic follows on from my PhD in one sense, but is NOT my PhD topic, so that's new, too.  I'm glad to have had three years' breathing space between the PhD and this next bit of research.  During that time I've written articles, delivered papers and sent a book off to Ashgate - it comes out next March.  So I feel ready to take a deep breath and start the next challenge.

I don't really feel that a blog is the right place for broadcasting a future plan.  The 23 Things final posting suggests we might not want to post our ambitions or self-development plans online, so that's fine.  However, at this stage in my career, it's safe to say that I see myself doing more mentoring and encouraging younger professionals.  Probably more writing, too.  And as for the rest?   In the days when women retired at 60, I would have finished the research project and then had less than three years to retirement.  Now, legally, I shall finish the project and have less than eight years to retirement.  But things have changed again - our family has a personal friend cheerfully and ably working on past 70.  

We'll have to wait and see!


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I've blogged Things 18 and 19 - and here's 22

I missed a couple of Things along the way, because other aspects of life got in the way in early September.  However, I've just blogged Things 18 and 19.  Things 20 and 21 are done.  That leaves me thinking about Thing 22, though it won't take me long to blog about volunteering.  Because I've never actually been one, if by volunteering you mean going to a place of work, and working voluntarily.

I did my postgraduate librarianship placement at the Royal Academy of Music Library.  But that's not really what people mean by volunteering, is it?, because it was an enjoyable requirement of my course.

However, what I have done voluntarily, is engage with fellow-professionals outside of my workplace.

I've been Newsletter Editor, Brio Reviews Editor, and a book reviewer, for IAML(UK and Ireland).  I was also Secretary of the North Eastern Audio-Visual Group when I was a music librarian in South Tyneside. 

I've also been involved with the SCURL Disabilities Group (now disbanded), and SALCTG (the Scottish Academic Libraries Cooperative Training Group), where I am the new Convenor.  I recently joined the Committee of the Library and Information History Group as Campaigns Officer.  And I'm a joint List-owner for the LIS Research Support Group.

Outwith librarianship, I was a Branch library rep for Nalgo in South Tyneside, and for quite a while I was Secretary of EIS/ULA, the Scottish lecturers union.  (Yes - if you were wondering - it admits college librarians, too!)  And I've just finished my term as a member of Council for the Royal Musical Assocation.

I can't imagine not getting involved in professional organisations, to be honest. How can liaising with fellow-professionals not be a good thing?  It means keeping informed, and that's pretty much a professional obligation.  And perhaps at times it also means driving the profession forward, because if something isn't moving forward, then it stagnates.  That must never be allowed to happen!

One more Thing to go.  It's been quite a journey!