new professionals conference, 2010

On the 26th of Feb, at 5pm, the Call for Papers for 2010's New Professionals Conference closes. Get a proposal in! It's well worth it. The titles of last year's papers, via Wordle

The New Professionals Conference is organised by CILIP's Career Development Group, and is aimed primarily at people relatively fresh to the profession but there is value in attending for almost anyone. If you've joined the profession either through work or study in the last five years, you can submit a paper to the panel - first-time presenters, current LIS students, and individuals from diverse backgrounds are especially encouraged, but don't be put off if you don't fall into any of those latter three categories. The theme this year is Proving your worth in challenging times - I think everyone can agree that's an important topic - and it takes place in Sheffield, on July the 5th. (If you're from outside the UK that shouldn't put you off either - last year Nicolás Robinson García came over from Spain and gave a fantastic presentation.)  You can find the full details of the theme, the prizes, and how to submit your proposal on the CDG website.

I thought I'd also include my own proposal from last year here, just to calm the nerves of anyone fretting over theirs...  What I said was (roughly) this:

Why are we still defined by our building? Ned Potter

People still have negative perceptions of librarians. I am guilty of pandering to this – when people ask me what I do, I try to avoid saying the word ‘library’ as long as possible. I say I am the Digitisation Coordinator for Leeds University, then I say I work centrally, and if pushed I’ll say I’m based in the library...

Of course, I know there is nothing wrong with library-work, but many of my contemporaries don’t agree. They are particularly sceptical about the idea of doing a Masters in Information Management: “What? What are you studying exactly..? Surely all you have to do is buy books, put them on the shelves, and say ‘Ssshh’!”

Things are changing - information Professionals at Universities are increasingly young, necessarily dynamic, and play a far bigger role in Learning and Teaching than the average customer realises. The academic Library often drives the new technologies in Higher Education, and leads the way forward regarding content-delivery. Yet still people imagine the staff to be the archetypal dour, severe, and socially awkward librarian.

We can respond in one of two ways. Embrace our building, and prove people wrong about ‘librarians’. Or cast off the old and outmoded associations completely, and ditch the word ‘library’ that lingers in most of our job titles; with the changes and advances in what we do, why should we be defined by the building we do it in? Many of us spend more time in the virtual library than in the physical one as it is. And yet it’s hard to imagine any attempt to overhaul our image that isn’t crass or completely self-defeating  - where do we go from here?

This paper is about how the profession is changing, and how public perception is struggling to keep up. It’s also about setting the record straight.

Now the first thing to notice is that it is not a very formal proposal. (In fact it's not really that good a proposal... but it did the job of getting me through the door, and then I had time to develop my ideas properly.) I deliberately decided to be colloquial on the grounds that, if accepted, I'd end up being fairly colloquial in the actual presentation. So don't feel you need to put together something very dry and serious, if that's not ultimately what you're aiming for. Second thing is that it is basically an abstract, rather than a proposal as such - I'm not saying 'I would like to look into a, b and c, in order to show that x is happening' or whatever - I just wanted to give a feeling for what I had to say. Ultimately you are trying to give the panel a flavour of what you'll deliver, rather than necessarily trying to convince them of the merits of your proposal as such. (I can say this with a bit of authority; I am helping organise the Conference this year, so I'll be looking at the proposals as they come in.) Third thing to notice is that, for anyone who reads this blog regularly, you can see the seeds are clearly being sown there for hobby-horses I've been riding ever since! (Probably mixing my metaphors a bit too much there...)

There was a moment, when the urbane and handsome Chris Rhodes got back to me to say they'd accepted my proposal, when I thought: "Oh God, I actually have to write a paper now, what have I done..?" But actually it was a really enjoyable experience - I really enjoyed doing the research, I enjoyed the process of writing it up, and I enjoyed ultimately presenting it in front of the 100+ delegates that were there. The next issue of the CDG journal Impact will feature a shortened version of the final result; you can wade through the full paper here (.pdf)...

The last thing I'd like to stress is that although as it happens my presentation went well, all the good things that came out of the conference for me had little to do withthe success of the paper. Just going to the Conference was the biggest thing - I met a load of really interesting people who I still keep in touch withand collaborate with, and I saw some very useful presentations (one of which is, as I've said previously, the reason I'm writing this blog now). It was a Conference full of energy, questions, discourse and above all enthusiasm for tackling the issues we face as new professionals. Moreover it really introduced me to the whole world of thinking about and interacting with the wider profession - actually being a 'reflective practitioner', that phrase we hear so often and perhaps sometimes only pay lip-service to. It's all the stuff that comes from attending and presenting at events that makes this a vocation, it's what makes me check my new emails via my phone on the weekend, because there's so much exciting stuff going on other than just my 9-to-5 job... So I would thoroughly recommend giving it a go.

Finally, in the course of writing this I've received some useful pointers for potential applicants from Mr Rhodes, and he is the man you'll ultimately need to submit your proposal to. He says:

  • The most important thing to remember is that the proposal should be brief and snappy.  Last year we had about 40 proposals and had to narrow them down to 9 accepted ones.  So your proposal has to not be overly complicated if we are to take in and remember your salient points.
  • It’s a good idea to include a provisional title, which again, should be memorable and tackle an issue that is going to catch our eye, or approach an issue from an original viewpoint.
  • There is no need at this stage to worry about references or any of the formal trappings of academic papers.
  • It is also worth remembering that if you get selected then we will give you guidelines of elaborating on your proposal, so the very basic, bare-bones of what will become your papers are all that are required at this stage (but obviously there needs to be enough there to make us think you could create a full paper from it).

So there you go! As we get nearer the time there'll be more discussions about the Conference on Twitter, using the hashtag #npc2010, so do chime in if you have any questions.

Get proposing. Do it now! It'll be ace.

- thewikiman