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?

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!