Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, masters degrees and chartership

I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on traineeships and masters degrees.  I don’t know whether this means I’m just nosy and more interested in reading about people’s lives than I am about what they think about Google Calendar? It’s great to hear that there are so many different paths into the profession; traineeships straight after graduation, traineeships later on, library assistant jobs, MAs or MScs, full time masters, part time masters, distance learning, certification, chartership with and without a masters, traineeships at the same time as the masters, the permutations are endless!

Here are some of the most interesting Thing 10 posts I’ve chanced upon:

Emma has been doing a traineeship alongside a distance learning Masters programme.

As Jen is already working in an information role, she is going to do a traineeship as well as working towards certification with CILIP.

Katrina came into librarianship after a career change from publishing and is now working towards chartership.

Ruth has taken the traditional (although increasingly uncommon) route of a traineeship after graduation and then a full time MA.

Judy took a distance learning postgraduate diploma whilst working as a library assistant.

As Lorna works in legal librarianship, she has an HNC in legal studies as well as an MSc in Librarianship.

Sarah is an archivist so the qualifications are a little different, but with a similar route in.

It was interesting to read about Sheila Webber’s first library assistant job in the 70s, and the circulation system that went ‘kerplunk’.

However, there is also a worrying ‘darker’ undercurrent to Thing 10 posts – graduate trainee posts are being cut, MA fees are going up, MA funding is very scarce, library assistant posts are fairly low paid so doing a distance learning course plus working full time is a big decision to take.  Does this mean that loads of talented trainees and library assistants who would make great librarians will be priced out of doing the postgraduate qualification?  Is the postgraduate qualification even useful in terms of what you actually learn, or is it outdated and overpriced?  Does there need to be an overhaul of the system, so that there is more on the job learning in the style of certification and chartership rather than having to do the MA or MSc?  So many questions without real answers being discussed and debated at the moment. Siobhan, Jen, and Rosie talk a bit about the confusion surrounding postgraduate study in their Thing 10 posts.

But on to my own experience:

Graduate Traineeships

I am sad to say I’m coming to the end of my graduate traineeship at the Bodleian Law Library in Oxford.  We had our ‘Year in Review’ session yesterday with all the other trainees, and it seems as though the year has just flown by.  The traineeship has been a really positive experience for me – I’m lucky to have landed in a library with a supportive supervisor, lovely colleagues and lots of different things for me to do.   I’m based in the information resources department, which means I generally help out with cataloguing, serials and acquisitions, as well as spending time on the enquiry desk and joining in with any other projects they’ve got going on.  We’re very much occupied at the moment with a huge reclassification project, so it’s all hands on deck with reclassifying, labelling and reshelving, but that’s because it’s the long vacation – the time for getting things done when not so many students are around.  Earlier in the year I was working on anything from cataloguing and boxing a collection of government papers from commonwealth countries, writing a LibGuide on Swedish Law, taking part in a legal research course, making a massive spreadsheet of reading lists and going through the library web pages as part of a web page redesign project.  So I’ve come from knowing virtually nothing about how libraries function to knowing several notebooks-worth of things!

I would say that trainees do have to be prepared for the fact that some of the work will be repetitive and boring – after all, as a trainee you haven’t really developed any skills yet, and you are at the bottom of the library heap.  Everyone knows more about how the library works than you do, especially at the beginning.  My advice would be to be enthusiastic and friendly, and willing to take on lots of new tasks even if you find some of the day-to-day work a little dull.  Take advantage of any extra training offered, go to outside events organised by CILIP, or to an unconference – I found that it was the mixture of my day-to-day role plus all the extra stuff going on that made my trainee year a really useful and enjoyable experience.

Oxford trainees on a visit to the Bodleian book storage facility – the only time we got to wear lovely orange jackets.

I would recommend the Bod traineeships because of the training programme that goes along with them – on Wednesday afternoons we got to attend talks on subjects as varied as e-resources, special collections, conservation and subject consultants.  We visited a medical library, Oxford Brookes Library, the British Library, the University Archives, a tiny little library especially for conservators, and probably some other libraries that I’ve forgotten, to see how different they all are, and what different librararians’ roles involve.  We had training in presentation skills and customer service (although the customer care workshop was a little bit cringeworthy – we had to do role play, horror of horrors).  We got the chance to present on aspects of social media, and on the projects we’d been working on – see my write-up here for more info on that.  Oh, and we were encouraged to arrange tours of each other’s libraries around Oxford.  I’ve seen more libraries and eaten more biscuits this year than ever before in my life!

Photo from a trip to the Radcliffe Science Library

I feel very lucky to have been able to benefit from the Bodleian scheme, and I don’t think I would have had such a fun and interesting introduction to librarianship if I hadn’t done a traineeship.  That said, I had come from knowing nothing at all about librarianship, so if you were in a different position – say you had already worked as a library assistant for a few years – I can see why the traineeship wouldn’t be so useful.  They’re also usually less well paid than some library assistant posts, and you may have to be willing and able to move to a place where there are traineeships for just a year (bloggers in Scotland and Wales seem to be saying that there aren’t so many to be found there).  In the end, as for most things, it all depends on your circumstances – as the links above prove, there are lots of ways into the profession without doing a traineeship.

2011/12 Oxford Trainees. Taken from the trainee blog


Masters Degrees

I just got my ‘Welcome to the University of Sheffield’ pack through the post this morning – how exciting!  It seems like ages ago that I applied, and I’ve not really had time to think about it as there has been so much going on in Oxford, but in reality it’s only a couple of months till I start studying in Sheffield.  It won’t be a big move for me, as I grew up near, and went to sixth form in Sheffield, but it will be a bit of a shock to start studying again after a two year gap.  Hopefully I haven’t forgotten how to do it – I’ve taken a language qualification this year, to keep my studying hat on.

I should say that I realise that I am in an extremely fortunate position in that I got funding from the AHRC to study for the MA full time.  It wasn’t my plan at all to go to Sheffield – I applied on the off-chance and was really expecting to stay in Oxford and study the Aberystwyth course by distance learning.  This would have had its advantages – I would have been able to stay in the Oxford Libraries system, and gain more work experience by working full time – but with the funding I will be able to save a lot of money, and get the qualification done a bit quicker.  Plus the Sheffield course looks really interesting.  There are pros and cons either way, really – and despite my own ‘traditional’ route in, I would argue for some more options for entering the profession, as I’m sure the amount of funding available is only going to go down, and the fees are only going to go up.

I’m sure I’ll blog more about the course when I start.  For people thinking about Sheffield, another former Bodleian trainee, Ruth, has written about her first two terms at Sheffield here and here.


Let’s just get the MA over with first, and then try and get a job before thinking about Chartership.  One step at a time is the way to go!  I’ve heard on the grapevine that it’s a lot to do with reflective practice, so I’ll probably try and get better at that in the meantime.  I’m sure it’s something that I will want to do later on, although I can imagine that it might fall by the wayside if you end up in a job that doesn’t require it.  We’ll see…

I’ll leave you with an interesting thread from the LISNPN forums where graduate trainees in my year say what they’re going to do next in terms of working/studying.



Things 8 and 9: In which my mother gets an ipad before me and I experiment with Evernote.

Yes, it’s true.  Mother LibraryEms has purchased herself a shiny new ipad with a lovely purple cover, complete with astronomy app so that Father LibraryEms can take it outside and identify stars with it.  Cue jealousy from both me and my sister – how can this have happened, that the parentals have become more technologically advanced than us?  I know in the grand scheme of life not having an ipad is really not a big problem, so I am mostly being tongue-in-cheek whilst complaining about it – but it’s so SHINY.  Aaaaah.  Perhaps if I enter enough competitions I may win one.

I’m talking about ipads for Thing 8 and 9 because I think that you could only really get into these Things if you owned a tablet or a smartphone big and fast enough to access them on.  I technically have a smartphone, but it is absolutely tiny, the on/off/silent button has fallen off so I have to press it with a pair of tweezers/earring hook, the internet only works about 50% of the time, and on those rare times I can access Facebook it refuses to display anyone’s name and just mysteriously calls everyone ‘Facebook User’.  Although this provides many happy hours of ‘guess whose status it is’ whilst sitting on the bus, it does mean that I wouldn’t attempt to introduce it to Google calendar or Evernote.

Still, I have obediently loaded up both the Things onto my aging laptop, and am hoping that the poor thing will cope with the extra pressure.

Google Calendar

I already have a Google account, and regularly use it for Gmail and Google Reader, so I found that I already had a Calendar – I just haven’t ever entered anything into it.  I have now entered in events for the next few weeks – social ones, such as a friend’s wedding and a theatre trip, rather than work related ones.  We use Outlook calendar at work, and I prefer the interface to Google, plus we have our Outlook open all the time so that the notifications pop up regularly and remind us of meetings etc.  I use the Outlook calendar for everything, and find it very useful.  You can also access it online via webmail, so there wouldn’t be any use having Google Calendar as well.  My supervisor can just add things to all our calendars, so we don’t forget team meetings and other important events.

However, as my traineeship is coming to an end, I shall soon be leaving the happy world of Outlook calendar and will have to find a replacement as I probably won’t be working next year as I do my MA full time.  Hopefully Google Calendar will then prove to be useful, as I shall have to schedule in all my classes.  I shall have to experiment a bit with the notification times – how long before an event is best to have an email/pop up reminding you that something is going to happen?

I don’t think I would ever need to ‘share’ my personal calendar with others, but I can see the advantage to sharing if you worked in an organisation where everyone was using Google as a professional calendar.  It would be useful if you were a supervisor and wanted your team to know when you were going to be available to talk to them etc.

I have to admit, that I also am going to buy a pretty new diary for next year with my 20% discount from the Bodleian Shop, so unless I win that ipad I shall probably stick with pen and paper for the time being.



So, I’ve downloaded Evernote and set up a Webclipper in Google Chrome, which seems to work quite well.  To test it out, I’ve ‘clipped’ an article from the Guardian webpage about how the bestseller ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is boosting readership in public libraries.

Screenprint of my first Evernote Web Clipping

I seem to have been inundated recently with ingenious tools to store webpages – from Delicious to! and Pocket, I now feel like there are too many choices, and am tempted to go back to my original tactic of copying and pasting links into a handy Word document or emailing myself a list of links.  I think I need to decide on one way of storing webpages and stick to it.  Evernote Web Clipper seems useful because it saves the webpage as a clipping, so that it will still be there even if the page itself is taken down or changed.  It also allows you to add tags and comments to the clipping, so you can annotate it with your own thoughts and sort it out to make it easily searchable later.  I can see that this will come in much more useful when I’m studying next year, so it’s good to practice now so I get the hang of it.

The syncing feature would sadly only be useful if I had a number of different devices to access it with, which I don’t, and I can see that if I had an ipad I would be able to use it to take notes in lectures and all kinds of other things.  All roads seem to be leading to me getting an ipad, don’t they?

In conclusion, I will probably put these two Things on hold until I start the MA, and then will crack them out again and try and use them to organise my chaotic research methods (when I was studying for my English MA I had hundreds of emails to myself saved as such illuminating things as ‘dissertation notes 45’ ).

And even if I can’t afford an ipad, I’m sure my phone is due for an upgrade at some point this year – I will definitely try and go for one with a bigger screen, a working on/off button and a more reliable internet connection!


Enthusiastic about Thing 7 (because real life networking always involves more cake)

I never really trusted the word ‘networking’, as I don’t like the idea of only making an effort with people if you can use them to further your own career.  However, I may be looking at it through rose-tinted spectacles but there really doesn’t seem to be too much of that involved with networking in the library world – from what I’ve seen, people are enthusiastic about meeting other information professionals, sharing their knowledge and expertise, and making connections in order to work together on interesting projects.  And I have to say that one of the best things about my graduate trainee year has been the chance to get involved with real life networks, attend events, and chat to other people working in libraries.

I would highly recommend any new trainees next year to try and get involved as much as possible with real life networks – not only have I learnt a lot about the profession and met some nice people, there is often plentiful tea and cake as well!

Cake! Photo courtesy of A.L. Nunn

I thought I would make a list of all the real life networking I’ve taken part in this year – hopefully it will help me remember, and perhaps give new trainees an idea of what to get involved with.

BIALL Graduate Open Day: I attended this event way back in October, when I hadn’t much of an idea of all the different possible library careers.  BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, and as my trainee placement has been in a Law Library, my work kindly paid for me to attend the open day (the cost was around £35 I think).  It was the first time I had been outside of the Oxford bubble, and it was great to meet trainees from law firms, inns of court, media libraries and health libraries.  We heard talks from more experienced law librarians, representatives from the Masters course at City University, self-employed librarians and people working in library recruitment.  We also got to visit the Wellcome Library, which specializes in the history of medicine and was really interesting.  We got the chance to chat to the speakers and the other attendees over lunch, and I found it useful to hear from people who had already started the MA, as well as trainees at the same stage as me.

LISNPN London Trainee Meet-up: Although I probably prefer real life meetings to online networking, I don’t think there would be so many opportunities for one without the other, and this trainee gathering is a good example of that.  It was organised through the trainee forum on the LIS New Professionals Network mentioned in Thing 6, and a couple of us from Oxford ended up adventuring into central London after work to meet some London-based trainees for food and drinks.  It was fantastic to meet enthusiastic trainees from different libraries – we talked about plans for MAs/jobs, the differences between traineeships and what it was like working in such varied libraries.  It’s something that I’d definitely recommend to any new Bodleian trainees, as it’s easy to start thinking that the Oxford libraries are the be all and end all, just because there are so many of them!

Libcamp Brunel: I didn’t get the chance to go to Library Camp 2011, as it was too soon after the start of my traineeship, but I heard good things about it from one of the other Bod trainees, so when I saw (via Twitter – again, the value of online networking!) that there was going to be a smaller version of Library Camp based at Brunel University in Uxbridge, I decided to go – encouraged further by the fact that it was free!  Libcamps are organised in an unconference format, which means they are participant driven and anyone can choose to pitch and present a session.  Here and here are blog posts about the event  from other participants, which go into detail about what happened on the day.  I attended some interesting sessions about information literacy, social media and next generation catalogues – I didn’t always feel qualified to contribute, as there were some much more experienced professionals there, but I learnt a lot through listening, and it was nice to talk to a mix of trainees and librarians.

Trainee visit to Oxford: Again organised through the LISNPN forums, this was going to be a small affair but ended up being a fairly large group of trainees descending on Oxford from such far flung locations as Cambridge, Sheffield and Leeds.  One of the other Oxford trainees organized the visit, and I agreed to show the group round the Law Library as part of their day.  Although the Law Library sadly isn’t the prettiest part of the Bodleian, I hope they enjoyed it – we almost got lost wandering around the maze of the secondary collection and we managed to dig out some Law Library treasures to show off, a tiny sixteenth century copy of the Magna Carta, one of the first maps of an African region and the  ‘illustrated police news,’ gaudily illustrated with unlikely and theatrical true crime.  We all met up in the pub in the evening and got to know some of the (exhausted) visiting trainees.

CILIP New Professionals Day 2012: I’ve already blogged at length about this, so I won’t go over it again – I really enjoyed it (and it’s free!), and would recommend next year’s to anyone.  Remember to book quickly though, as places were limited.

New Professionals at CILIPNPD12 (the side of my head is just visible). Photo courtesy of usernametaken10 on flickr under a Creative Commons License.

CPD23 Oxford Meet-up: In order to do something proactive for Thing 7, a fellow trainee organized a cpd23 meet-up in a pub in Oxford after work.  I enjoyed meeting a few other people following the CPD23 course in Oxford, and it was especially reassuring to find that they were behind with the programme as well!   The Library Bee and  Charlie’s 23 Things are two blogs from Oxford library staff and part time UWE students who I met at the meet-up.  It was interesting to hear about their experiences of library school, dissertation topics and how their careers have progressed after the traineeship – especially interested in Charlie’s job as an information specialist for the NHS, as it sounds quite different from traditional library work!

I’m going to leave the blog post here for now, but I shall return with ‘Thing 7’ part 2, as I realise I haven’t touched on joining professional networks like CILIP – so far, I’ve stuck with free networking opportunities!  But I finally got round to printing out the joining form for CILIP this week, so watch this space…

Confused by LinkedIn: Thing 6 (online networks)

A couple of weeks ago, the Bodleian trainees had a useful training session at the university careers centre.  As well as tips for writing CVs and practice interview questions, there was an introduction to LinkedIn – how best to use it, how to make sure you appeared in Google search results and why you shouldn’t link your Twitter account to it if you’re going to post inane comments about sandwiches.  Our careers adviser, who was very good, was a fan of LinkedIn, even if it was just in terms of having a professional CV floating around out there online.  She made the point that when you’re applying for jobs you have to fiddle around with your CV, removing and adding things in order to tailor it to the specific position you want.  The LinkedIn CV can be broader if you want it to be, listing everything you’ve done, as well as skills you have, groups you’re involved in and so on.  She wasn’t so keen on the actual social networking aspects of LinkedIn, although she advised us to use it to find other people online if we were jobhunting or trying to find someone to ask for work experience.

I came away from the session determined to create a LinkedIn account, especially with the added incentive of cpd23 Thing 6.  And I have indeed created one.  But so far I’m not very enthusiastic about it!  It may be that I haven’t quite grasped its full potential, but it just doesn’t seem as user friendly as some other networks.

1. It just doesn’t look very nice.  This may be fussy, but profiles on other networks are a lot more aesthetically pleasing – even my actual hard copy CV looks smarter than a LinkedIn profile.

2. I don’t understand the social code of LinkedIn when it comes to making connections.  Unlike Twitter, it seems to be that you are only supposed to ‘connect’ to people if you know them quite well, so therefore the only people I’ve felt comfortable about adding are my colleagues at the library, and a couple of fellow trainees I’ve got to know quite well at conferences.  Although they are lovely people, I’m not sure I really need to see their CVs, and if I want to talk to them I can always talk to them on Twitter (or in real life).  If anyone else knows the unwritten rules of connecting on LinkedIn, I would be pleased to hear them.

3. I find it a bit scary that LinkedIn knows so many ‘people I may know’, and therefore I imagine I (and my photo) am coming up on other people’s homepages too.  As this is the only time I’ve decided to use my real name, I am still slightly uneasy about it.

4. For some reason, it seems to be recommending jobs to me, but not ones that are actually useful.  There are plenty of other ways to find useful library and info jobs online – no, I don’t want to be a graduate trainee analyst or a call centre assistant, thank you.

Anyway, I have added a few of my colleagues, just to see what happens, and have joined the groups recommended in the cpd23 post.  Hopefully I can explore them in the next few days.  I’m not 100% convinced I will keep my profile, especially after the recent security breach, but I will give it another chance before I make a decision.

Onto friendlier networks… Twitter…

I’ve already written about Twitter in a previous post, and it’s probably my favourite online network at the moment.  I think this is partly because it’s the one network which has enough library and info people engaged with it to make it a valuable resource. It’s all very well to have forums, but they easily fall out of use if not enough people use them regularly.

I like the fact that on Twitter you definitely are allowed to follow people you don’t know, just because they look like interesting librarians, and it is even fine to start a conversation with those people.  I have heard about many things on Twitter that I wouldn’t have done otherwise – Libcamp Brunel, CILIP New Professionals Day, CPD23 itself – all things that have really enriched my graduate trainee experience and caused me to become more enthusiastic about librarianship.

I have even used Twitter usefully at work today, in order to search for what people are saying about replacements for the Meebo instant messaging widget, which has been bought out and discontinued by Google.  Searching for the #Meebo hashtag brought up comments and links to blogs and articles about other IM clients, and I got a couple of replies from other information professionals about their experiences with Meebo replacements, which I can usefully take back to my colleagues.

I have to say that not all of Twitter is useful – I have had to unfollow a few people who tweet a lot about their personal lives (this is OK on Facebook, but I find it odd to read so much about the lives of people I’ve never met).  But for the most part, I’d give Twitter the top marks for online networking, and will definitely continue to tweet for a while longer.

… and Facebook

Like most Thing 6 blogs I’ve read, I’ve decided to keep Facebook personal and private.  I really appreciate it – I’ve moved so many times that I’ve got friends scattered every which way, and I don’t think I’d keep up with them if I didn’t have Facebook.  I’ve had a look at the CILIP page, and other library pages, but I’m not going to use them for networking.

While we’re on Facebook though, I think this is a great example of a library page.  It’s St Hughs College Library in Oxford, and I think the use of photos and the new timeline format makes it look really smart and professional!

LISNPN and Librarians as Teachers

As a new graduate trainee in September, the staff development team at the Bodleian recommended that we checked out LIS New Professionals network, and I found the Graduate Trainees forum really interesting – it was the first time I’d heard what was happening in the world of libraries outside of Oxford, and I went to a trainee gathering in London organised through it, where I met a few people that I’m still in touch with, and have seen at other events.  There was also a really successful trainee trip to Oxford organised through LISNPN – I showed a large and enthusiastic group of visitors round the Law Library, and I think everyone enjoyed seeing the different Oxford libraries.

I haven’t been on LISNPN for a while, and it doesn’t seem to be hugely active, but I explored it a bit for Thing 6, and particularly like the downloadable resources.  Anonymous reviews of the MA courses are a really good idea, as well as other good advice.  There’s a new thread to discuss the future plans of this year’s cohort of trainees, which I’ve posted in, and am interested to hear other people’s experiences.  The jobs and placements section also sounds really useful.

Finally, my role at the moment doesn’t involve any teaching, but I know that it’s a skill that more and more academic librarians need, so I look forward to looking at Librarians as Teachers Network at a later date!

Next up – leaving the virtual world behind and meeting face to face…

Oxford CPD23 meet-up: Wednesday 13th June

Dear fellow Oxford based CPD23-ers,

This is just to let you know that there is an Oxford CPD23 gathering on Wednesday 13th June from 5.15 at the Mitre on the High Street.  Anyone is welcome to come along, whether you’re following the course or not – it will be nice to meet some other Oxford library folks!

Many thanks to Lizzie (library_lizzie) for organising it – here is a link to her blogpost.

Hope to see some of you there!

Mirror mirror on the wall: exploring reflective practice (Thing 5)

Reflections in a sculpture at Chatsworth House

After pondering on the nature of the wonky reflections pictured above, I created a little diagram  which I think demonstrates how NOT to be a good reflective practitioner, or indeed, any kind of practitioner.  It stemmed from considering the art of reflective practice, and the bad habits that form from not reflecting enough, over-reflecting to the point of inactivity and reflecting in the wrong kind of way.   Although everything on the chart is exaggerated for effect (honestly), they are all tendencies I sometimes find myself veering towards when faced with a challenging task.

Bad habits caused by too little / too much reflection.

For me, becoming a good reflective practitioner would mean avoiding falling into that cycle as much as possible.  From reading the links that the cpd23 blog helpfully provided, the actual theory seems fairly simple:

Greenaway 1995

Reflective Practice and Me

Ideally, I should be reflecting on things I do, identifying what went well, and what didn’t go so well, and working out ways I could do better next time, and then using this new understanding to prepare for my next task.  Simple!  And hopefully an excellent way of not falling into the traps pictured above.

I have not carried out much formal reflective practice in the past – the closest I’ve come to it is filling in my annual review at the Law Library, which was useful in that it helped me to reflect on what I had achieved in my trainee year, and how I felt about it.  However, this involved a bit of mental gymnastics, as I had to dredge through my mind to review a whole year’s worth of work.  Some of the best advice about reflective practice seems to be to get your thoughts down in writing quickly so that you can remember clearly what happened and what your gut reaction to the event was.  Forcing myself to do this will be useful, as I often plan to write a diary entry or a blog post about something – a conference that I’ve attended, a talk that I’ve seen or a book that I’ve read – and never get round to it until a few months later, when my initial memories have faded and I don’t remember exactly how I felt at the time.

More good advice is that you should act on what you’ve reflected about.  Although running over events in your head or on a blog may be beneficial to you, it’s no good if you don’t try and apply what you’ve learnt next time you do a similar task.  I think that must be one of the hardest parts of reflective practice – I find it easy to waffle on about my thoughts, but changing my behaviour is another matter!

Reflective Practice at the University of Sheffield

Next year I am going to be studying for my MA Librarianship at the University of Sheffield.  From what I’ve heard, Sheffield is very hot on reflective practice, which scares me a little, as I’m not sure it should be something that ought to be given a grade, but other Sheffield students have said that they found it quite useful.  Here is a blog post by a tutor at Sheffield, all about teaching reflective practice.


The main problem I can see with reflective practice is quite simply lack of time.  When I write, I tend to write a lot – new ideas always occur to me half way through – and reflecting in writing on everything that I do at work would take up a great deal of time.  Although I’m only a trainee, I’ve heard a lot about CILIP Chartership, and one of the main difficulties seems to be fitting writing up reflective practice evidence into already busy work and home lives.  I suppose it’s probably best to be selective, and choose the things you think you can learn the most from.

Another problem would be that I wouldn’t want to reflect publicly on this blog about my paid work – it’s not particularly secret but it just seems quite unprofessional.  I would prefer to keep a private reflective practice diary for that, and use the blog to reflect on the wider profession.

Reflecting on CPD23 so far

Taking a few moments to think back over the last few weeks, I would say that I have got a lot out of the CPD23 course already.  I am already falling behind by a week, but I feel that as long as I keep myself to within a couple of weeks of where we’re up to I’m not in danger of giving up completely.  However, if I get too far behind I think I might lose motivation.  I am pleased with my blog as a personal record of my thoughts – with the added bonus of other people reading and commenting, and have enjoyed reading and commenting on other people’s blogs.  It has made me realise that there is always room for professional development, no matter what stage of your career you’re at, and has given me a valuable insight into what career options there are out there.  More practically, it has introduced me to useful web tools such as Storify, and Google Reader – and even little, simple things such as how to add a picture to a WordPress blog.  This week’s topic has encouraged me to write down some of the tasks I’m undertaking at work and as part of the graduate trainee scheme, both so I can reflect on them and to provide evidence for when I am writing job applications in future.

In terms of acting on my reflections, I will try and catch up with everyone else this week, and I will make the effort to comment on a few more posts (it’s always rewarding to get a comment).  I will continue to investigate the new online tools I’ve discovered, and I will start a private reflective journal to note down some of my feelings about the work I do at the Bodleian.  I’d also like to use this blog as a way of reflecting on any good training sessions/ events/ conferences that I am lucky enough to be able to go on.  Although I might not have time to reflect on absolutely everything, I hope that the attempt will be of some use.


In the interests of fiddling around with my newly-discovered web tools, I have created a page full of useful articles about reflective practice.  Some are very education based – teachers seem to have to do a lot of compulsory reflection – but are still interesting and relevant to librarianship.  Enjoy reflecting everybody!

Thing 4: Twitter, RSS and Storify

I’m a little bit behind with CPD23 already, and I blame my own weak will and the weather for it.  An important discovery I’ve made is that the more sun we have, the less interest I have in social media of all forms.  Luckily (and this relates to Thing 4 – Twitter) it doesn’t actually matter if you miss out on a few days of Twitter – there will still be a lovely stream of information drifting by when you get back, and you can often catch up on the more important things through retweets and blog posts.  However, English weather has reasserted itself in full form, and as I’m trying at all costs to avoid any mention of our beloved monarch on her special day, here I am trying to catch up!


I’d heard of Twitter a long time before I decided to create an account for myself.  Like a lot of people, I couldn’t really see the point of it – not that I didn’t like to update people on the inane details of my life/ opinions on certain Daily Mail writers, but that was what Facebook was for.  It was only when I started investigating graduate traineeships that I realised how useful Twitter could be as a professional tool.  I joined in July last year, and tweeted my pleasure that Brighton and Hove Jubilee Library had opened a cafe (something I am still pleased about, even though I have moved away from Brighton – it is an awesome public library).  At that time, I was really only tweeting to an audience of one – my cousin Douglas, who is not a librarian but tweets very entertainingly about theatrical goings on.  Because of this, I found that I didn’t have much to tweet myself, but followed some of the recommendations I found on people’s library blogs (@theREALwikiman, @Philbradley etc) and some institutions and organisations (CILIP, the British Library).  I used Twitter as a useful source of library news, job adverts and conference recommendations.

Here is my Twitter profile now.  As you can see, I do tweet a little bit more now, and not always about libraries.  I do try and keep it less daily-life driven than my Facebook though!

Emily's Twitter

My beautiful profile!

I have managed to build up 128 followers, which seems like a fair amount, although some other library tweeters have a following of thousands!  I found the best way to find people to follow has been through attending conferences such as Libcamp Brunel and the more recent CILIP New Professionals Day.  I like the way you can search by the hashtag for an event and find who is attending, and what people are saying about it.  It’s also useful if you can’t actually make it to an event, but want to find out what’s going on anyway.

Here I was going to link to a really interesting blog post I read about the unwritten rules and societal codes of Twitter, but I’ve just spent ten minutes looking for it and I can’t find it anywhere, or remember who wrote it or where I first saw it!  I feel that this is actually a good lesson, as it shows I need to start saving interesting links and tweets somewhere I can easily put my hands on them.  I shall make that my task to take away from this week, but if any one else knows which post I mean, a link to it would be appreciated!  In the meantime, here is a useful Twitter advice post that I can remember.

From reading other people’s CPD23 blogs about Twitter, it is clear that the best advice is that you can’t possibly read all of the tweets all of the time.  And to be honest, you really don’t need to.  I would say that even the most high profile tweeters that I follow only devote about 50% of their time to useful library related things – there are a lot of conversations about lunch, about knitting, about running and generally normal human stuff that I don’t have to pay a huge amount of attention to (except if it’s nearly lunchtime, and then it makes me hungry).  That’s where I find hashtags and retweets really useful – if something is important, it will probably be retweeted, and if I want an overview of what people are saying about #cpd23 or #uklibchat or #cilipnpd12, I can just search the hashtag when I get back from work.

I’ve heard lots of people recommend Hootsuite and Tweetdeck as a good way of managing your Twitter feed, so I set up a Hootsuite account as part of my work for Thing 4.


A bewildering array of lists!

I set up different tabs reflecting my different interests – one for libraries, one for feminism/LGBT related news, and one about general cultural happenings.  The screenshot is the Libraries tab; I’ve organised some of the most informative library tweeters into one list and some institutions into another.  Then I’ve run searches for the hashtag #cpd23 and #uklibchat for the other two lists.  I think the hashtag generated ones work best – unfortunately, and through no fault of their own, my useful library tweeters all know each other and therefore all you really get on that list are conversations that they are having among themselves!

Hootsuite looks very impressive, and I like the idea of different lists.  However, for the moment I think I prefer the simplicity of the main Twitter feed – so many lists make me stressed!  I shall come back to it if I find Twitter getting too unwieldy in future though.


I have to admit that RSS was always a bit of a mystery to me, so I ignored it.  Happily, I’ve discovered that it’s actually simple and useful – I’ve set up a Google Reader account and used it to follow lots of blogs.  It’s great to have them all in one place and to be alerted whenever a new post comes up.  I don’t think I would be able to follow as many blogs if I didn’t use Google Reader.  It’s also useful to be able to sort the blogs you follow into groups – and I may have alphebetized them within the groups in a nerdy librarian way.


Storify is a new discovery for me, and I really like it!  I love the drag-and-drop simplicity of it, and I think it might be a useful way of saving all the tweets and blog posts about a specific topic, as well as creating pretty ‘stories’ for other people.  I particularly like the way you can add your own ‘narration’ in between the boxes you’ve pulled in from other social media platforms.

Annie created some excellent stories about the talks at CILIP New Professionals day, which summed up the talks and other people’s opinions of them.  Here is her Storify of Phil Bradley’s talk.   YiWen has also created an interesting Storify for her CPD23 post about the Glasgow Women’s Library – an institution I’d love to visit some day!

I don’t feel I really have anything particularly useful to make a story about yet, but as I wanted to get to grips with the tool, I made one about LibCamp Leeds – an event that I sadly couldn’t make it to, but which I read about on Twitter.  I hope I can look back at it and find it useful in future.  Here it is, for your general edification – my next task is to work out how to embed Storify in my blog, as I see some people have.  So much to learn!


I have just read an article in the paper about the new Wifi provision in some London tube stations, where the writer enthusiastically claimed that this was so you could ‘tweet your journey’ if you so wished.  Now, I may be missing something here, but one thing we surely don’t want to read are people’s tweets about their daily commutes!  Stick to libraries (and lunch) folks, and we’ll all be happy ;-).

Thing 3: Considering my personal brand (comes with added soul-searching)

Not the kind of brand example you should be following…

A few years ago I went to see feminist writer Nina Power speak at the University of Sussex, and came away with something she said that really stuck with me – that in the modern economy we are forced into being  24/7 “walking CVs,” constantly networking and advertising ourselves until our whole lives and personality are swallowed up by our CVs.  Now, I thought then (and still think now) that this is a nightmarish scenario and not to be encouraged.

That’s why I feel a little bit uneasy trying to create myself a ‘personal brand’ for Thing 3.  Other people have explained the problems with branding a person more eloquently than I can – I broadly agree with this post, for instance, and I’ve seen the same anxiety voiced in a few other cpd23 blogs.  Of course, we all have to sell ourselves sometimes – in job interviews and grant applications for example – and if we are trying to market a service, then creating a brand is an essential step, but I find the pressure to constantly maintain an online presence that is supposed to “portray an accurate reflection of who you are” yet still sell yourself at all times, to be a whole different ball-game.

However, in the spirit of not being grumpy and cynical, and taking on board the wise words of Ned Potter (and the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy) – DON’T PANIC – I shall attempt to muse upon how people experience me professionally online.

Name used

My Twitter name is LibraryEms, as I created it mainly to tweet about all things library based.  I was planning to use it for everything, but some other LibraryEms has already made a WordPress blog! (if this ruins my career I’ll be extremely peeved).   So, I’m LibraryEm for the blog.  I don’t use my real name, and for now it’s going to stay that way.  Here is a useful post on online anonymity – I have gone for the author’s third definition of anonymous: “Pseudonymous but identifiable to those in the know. A consistent identity with enough details relased that those nearby in the offline world can identify the person.”  I’m new to the profession so my blog will naturally be more of a reflective sort than an advice-giving sort – I don’t feel the need for the world and his aunt to be able to find my thoughts so easily just yet.  I’m willing to sacrifice a possible disadvantage in real-life networking for an element of caution online – after all, I’m such a baby librarian that I’d probably have to explain who I was at networking events anyway!  My Linked-in account has my real name, as I’m happier about it being attached to a purely professional CV.  Oh, and my Facebook uses my real name but I keep my privacy settings super-high!


My photograph is a silhouette of myself dancing in front of a sparkly Christmas tree.

Future employers will at least know I love Christmas

Pros of this – who doesn’t like Christmas?  And it’s consistent over several forms of social media.  Cons – it has nothing to do with libraries and doesn’t show my face.  I will think about changing it if I find another good one.

Professional vs Personal 

If I told you that I was not only an enthusiastic new information professional with an interest in special collections, but that I was also loved reading and watching films, learning languages, getting involved with LGBT, women’s and disability rights, visiting museums/galleries/authors’ houses/stately homes, especially if they have a cafe with tea and cake, satisfying my woolly left-wing politics by reading the Guardian, hiking in the Peak District and posting irate comments on online Daily Mail articles – my online presence would be erring towards the ‘personal’ .  However, I wouldn’t be being ‘honest’ about who I was, because that’s just not the way it works – everyone creates the identity they want people to see online, whether they keep it professional or add personal details (for example, I might want to show that I’m a well-rounded, fairly cultured, politically motivated yet not too threatening type of librarian!).  At the end of the day, I add  a few personal details just because it’s more fun that way :-).  Nothing I wouldn’t want my boss to read though!

Visual Brand

I took a long time deciding on a theme and photo for my blog – I went for the simple, uncluttered look, and the pretty library photo.  Any advice on how it looks visually would be welcomed, as I’m not very creative.  My Twitter has William Morris wallpaper, which I quite like, although it doesn’t match the blog.

Google search

I don’t come up on a Google search at all at the moment – although if I add ‘library’ to my name it brings up the Bodleian Law Library website, where I am listed as a graduate trainee.  I’d quite like to get my Linked-in CV to appear, but it doesn’t seem to.  Ideally, when I have done more ‘library stuff’, I’d like to appear related to projects I’ve taken part in, articles and (non-personal) blog posts I’ve written, professional and volunteer roles I’ve taken on, presentations I’ve given etc.  So I better get started with doing all those things – scary!  As I said before, I’m happy with my reflective blog and Twitter feed being fairly hidden for now.

Final words

The more I’ve thought about this, the more I realise that I’m so new to the profession that I don’t even have a brand yet.  All I can try to demonstrate is that I’m enthusiastic about the profession, eager for advice, willing to take on new things, and curious about all aspects of the library and information world.  Hopefully, as I work out what I want my career path to be, I can work on how to reflect that online.

What does anyone else think about my brand? 

Any ideas?

Ready, steady, go… Things 1 & 2

Thing 1: Blogs and Blogging

I set up my blog a couple of weeks ago when I first saw that the cpd23 was going to run, as I thought I would get used to WordPress before the course began in earnest.  I ran into a few minor hitches – choosing a theme took me longer than strictly necessary, and then came the dilemma of a photo.  Should it be library related, or something that reflected the inner workings of my personality?  In the end I went for a library related one – a photo I took on a recent tour of the Radcliffe Science Library in Oxford.  It’s not, for the most part, a very pretty building, but it did have a couple of photogenic rooms and I thought that this one looked suitably calm and peaceful.  I also successfully managed to link my Twitter feed to the blog, and created a Good Reads account because I was enticed by the the thought of a display of pretty book covers.  Sadly, the aesthetic considerations then came to an end and I had to start thinking of what to write!

I have already introduced myself and my motivations for doing the cpd23 course in my previous post.  I’ll just add here that now I’ve had a proper look at the cpd23 schedule, I am looking forward to the ‘getting involved’ weeks (Things 15 and 16), as I think they will crack me out of my comfort zone a bit.  I find it fairly easy to ramble away online, but it takes a lot more courage to turn up to real life groups, let alone volunteer to take on any responsibility!  I also think the ‘librarianship training options’ weeks (Things 10 and 11) will be useful, as they should hopefully be relevant to where I am in my career.

Thing 2: Investigate some other blogs

I ran into the problem with this quite quickly – the sheer number of new cpd23 blogs means that it’s impossible to read them all.  However, there are a few things I did to make it easier for myself.

1. I subscribed to ten or fifteen cpd23 blogs on my Google Reader, creating a new section to separate them from the more established library blogs.

2. I looked at the cpd23 Delicious list which gives handy tags to help you sort out which blogs to read.  For instance, you can pull out all the graduate trainees, or all the public librarians.

3. I followed other people doing cpd23 on Twitter, so their blog posts pop up on my feed and it reminds me to read them.  Most of them kindly followed me back, which hopefully means my blog posts reach a wider audience as well.

I made an effort to comment on the blogs – although at this stage the comments were along the lines of “Hello!  Welcome to cpd23, your blog looks awesome.”  Still, I very much appreciated getting comments on my first blog post – it made it feel less as though I had been shouting into the wilderness, and so I hope my comments had the same effect.

Here are some blogs that I suggest you investigate too:

Happy blogging everyone!

Lego, social media and a burrito lunch: CILIP New Professionals Day 2012

I thought I would interrupt my CPD23 blog in order to recap what I learnt at the excellent CILIP New Professionals Day on Friday.  Three workshops, three presentations, lots of coffee and an enormous burrito for lunch meant that I was a tired trainee by the end of the day.

Lesson 1: I do have a brand, whether I like it or not.

We started off with a welcome from Annie Mauger, CEO of CILIP, and moved swiftly on to Ned Potter‘s talk on influencing your personal brand.  I’m usually completely put off by marketing jargon, and run for the hills crying if anyone mentions the word “brand,” but I was really impressed by Ned’s talk.  His idea was that you have a brand whether you like it or not, and it’s up to you how you want to influence it.  Your brand is basically the sum total of everyone’s perceptions of you as a professional being – online, in your job, in your written publications, as part of a professional body, when you give presentations and so on.  I liked the way he talked about tailoring your brand to your career aims – it isn’t always necessary to devote all your energy to being a 24/7 Twitter whiz kid when getting involved with a CILIP group might be more useful to your professional development.  I came away enthusiastic about getting involved with events and groups, so that my brand is more than just my ‘LibraryEms’ twitter feed (as inspiring and informative as I’m sure it is).

Lesson 2: Cataloguers are awesome, and Lego can be used for educational purposes.

My first workshop was called Game On: Cataloguing and Classification in the 21st Century.  As I’m based in the information resources department in the LawBod, I share an office with two lovely full-time cataloguers and have had a bit of a crash course in cataloguing and classification during my traineeship, (I’ve recently become very familiar with the slightly-worse-for-wear orange Moys book).  It’s definitely something I’d like to learn more about in future.  Opinions differ among librarians about cataloguing – from “it’s a dying skill, you shouldn’t specialize in it,” to “it’s still the foundation of the information profession, it’s a shame that only UCL with its £7000 fees teaches it any more.”    I don’t know yet which opinion holds the most truth, but I do know that our presenters for this workshop were very enthusiastic cataloguers.  Deborah Lee and Jennie Perry were part of a group called High Visibility Cataloguing, working to address the invisibility of cataloguers within the broader information profession.  During the workshop we attempted to reclassify lego bricks: (“should it be by colour or number of nodules?” and “where o where does that little Lego horse go in the scheme?”).  We also played Snakes and Ladders whilst learning about the daily life of a cataloguer.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed there will be room for cataloguing in my future career!

Lesson 3: Your mid-nineteenth century Bible probably doesn’t count as a special collections item

My second workshop was Special Collections Librarianship: what’s it all about? presented by Katie Birkwood.  This gave me my fix of lovely digitized manuscripts for the day, and also lots of valuable information about the (admittedly hard to get into) area of special collections work .  It was interesting to find out what a diverse range of material can constitute special collections, and the focus on exhibitions and outreach work with school kids.  Also, I was happy to see that our presenter loved fourteenth century music manuscripts and queer feminist zines with equal measure.  Excellent taste!  Following on from this workshop, I’d be interested in hearing the career paths of special collections librarians without an Oxbridge background – Katie’s career path was very Cambridge based, including her undergrad degree, which always seems a little daunting.  I will make it my mission to find more special collections stories over the course of cpd23.

Lesson 4: Burritos are tasty but messy.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but in this case there was, and it came in the form of a large burrito.  It was delicious, but not ideal networking food as it was shamefully messy.  I chatted to some other new professionals over lunch – one of the best things about the event was the chance to meet new people.  It was particularly nice to meet some current Sheffield students, and a Cambridge trainee who will be studying with me in Sheffield next year.

Lesson 5: Always check whether your reader’s using the right password.

After lunch was workshop number 3, Have you tried logging out and then in again?  You’ve guessed it – e-resources, led by two long-suffering e-resource librarians, Abby Barker and Simon Barron.  Recently, I’ve talked to a lot of students and ex-students who honestly don’t seem to realise that librarians have anything to do with e-resources.  So many times I’ve heard: “But librarians don’t have anything to do now everything’s online.”  It doesn’t occur to them that librarians manage the e-resources budget, liaise with the faculty to decide which ones to trial and purchase, work out the best way to teach people about them, deal with technical problems when they go down and finally answer numerous e-resource enquiries from puzzled students.  No wonder e-resource librarians feel overworked and under-appreciated!  The main point I took from the session was that ALL LIBRARY STAFF NEED TO LEARN ABOUT E-RESOURCES.  It’s no good any more to rely on your friendly e-resources librarian – we all need to make the effort to learn what the library subscribes to, what the log-in procedures are and how to guide a reader if they can’t access a resource that they want.  It’s a really valid point and something I have to work on in future.  Thanks to the presenters of this workshop – it was very entertaining as well as informative.

Lesson 6: Make lots of library buddies.

Bethan Ruddock talked to us about How to Assemble your New Professional’s Toolkit, which was good advice about building up a network of supportive colleagues and other professionals.  I’m not sure I need to go as far as deciding whether people are ‘mentors’ or not (until I get to Chartership of course), but having lots of people to call on for help is always an excellent idea.  I look forward to reading Bethan’s new book when I can get my hands on it.

Lesson 7: Get a Google+ account. Or else.

The final talk was from Phil Bradley, the President of CILIP this year.  He was talking about social media, and it was the only talk of the day that I had mixed feelings about.  On one hand, I loved some of his points – the idea that information is moving into the hands of the users through social media, rather than being a one way information exchange, is very exciting; and the idea that better information can be found through a tailored network of trustworthy contacts than through a general Google search is an interesting one.  Certainly I’ve found that my ever-expanding Twitter network of librarians is a fantastic source of information – I even heard about this event through Twitter.  Phil argued that its the duty of information professionals to know about all the different social media tools out there, as they are the future of the internet, and the future of information – which I agree with.  However, he went further than this, and said basically that all information professionals had to actively use ALL the different kinds of social media that existed, otherwise they would fail as librarians.  His tone was almost threatening – I felt as though I was being told that I would be unemployable in five years time if I didn’t get a Google+ account, which to be honest, isn’t the best way of persuading me that I should get one!  I thought that it was a little problematic, in that even the most dedicated librarian would find it difficult to dedicate enough time out of their life to trawl through the thousands of tools out there (even this blog and twitter takes up a lot of time), and that if you have any other commitments (caring responsibilities, other work, disabilities etc.) it would be impossible, and not a positive thing to hear from someone who is representing your professional body.  It’s a shame I felt this way about it, as I actually agreed with a lot of things he said, and will go away and act upon some of them – although an executive decision has been made that I won’t be venturing into Google+ just yet!

Lesson 7: The pub is where all the real networking happens.

We all rushed off to the pub after the event for a well earned drink, (not gin – I’m still slightly confused why librarians are supposed to love gin so much).  Overall, the day was a fantastic (free) opportunity to learn and network, and I will certainly be heading to lots of the books and online resources mentioned in the talks.  It’s also encouraged me to get involved with CILIP more actively next year.

For anyone that’s interested, CILIP has published links here to all the presentations I’ve blogged about, plus all the other ones I unfortunately missed.

My CPD23 will continue soon… watch this space!