3 Training courses coming up this Winter in London

Click the pic to go to the upcoming events page

Click the pic to go to the upcoming events page

Just a brief post to draw your attention to three workshops I'm running in London in November and December. All of these are open for anyone to book onto (unlike some of the things I do for the British Library, for example), and full details of each can be found on the Upcoming Events page.

People have fun on these courses and find them genuinely useful - the idea is to give practical advice which can be applied the minute you get back to your desk. You can see feedback from previous workshops via the links on the Training page. Any questions about content etc, let me know!

Ridiculously excited to be interviewed in SLA Information Outlook

I love being a member of the SLA - although the word 'Special' in the title implies that it will be solely aimed at legal or business librarians, it actually has a large percentage of its membership coming from academic institutions like mine. Part of membership includes getting the magazine, Information Outlook. This is a really good trade mag - there's a lot of useful, intelligent, grown-up content there. My favourite part of it is the member interview section, 10 questions with... I've learned a lot from it (and loved reading Bethan Ruddock's one when she did it) so I was ridiculously excited to be asked to participate in it. I've done a few interviews now but, with the obvious exception of Circulating Ideas, they've all been via email. This one was a proper telephone conversation with Stuart Hales in Washington, which was taped and then transcribed. It was exciting doing it this way. I got a copy of the questions in advance, although we went off on different tangents in the conversation itself (Stuart told me a great wedding-crashing related tale which you should force me to tell you should we meet at a conference or in a pub...). I was a little bit apprehensive in the lead-up to it because the questions seemed slightly passive-agressive in a weird type of a way, but Stuart wasn't remotely like that in the actual conversation, so I think I just got an incorrect impression from them on paper!

We talk about marketing, the SLA itself (more on that below the interview), the Buy India a Library project, professional development, new technology, and taking a step back. (Whimsical tales of my ability to lead a walking tour of York are greatly exaggerated. :) ) Anyhow, here it is - it specifically says at the bottom of this page that it's for personal use only and not for reproduction, but I've got proper permission to use it, I promise...


Ned Potter Information Outlook Interview by thewikiman


If you're an SLA member you can read the whole July-August 2013 issue from which this came by logging-in here.

On the subject of the SLA, at the weekend I read this absolutely brilliant post about the organisation and the annual conference, by Penny Andrews. It articulated things I value about being a member which I didn't know I knew... It certainly seemed to chime with a lot of people judging by the Twitter response, so particularly if you're not an SLA member but have wondered about it, have a read.

I'm a member of both CILIP and SLA, and will continue to be so. I get different things from them - in some ways I feel that CILIP helped me more as I was growing up (which is partly why I'll keep paying my membership fees; I owe them) and SLA helps me more now I'm grown up. The SLA is / are a confident bunch, and very positive - perhaps this is partly because they are under less obligation to 'save libraries' than CILIP or the ALA, so there's a lot less hand-wringing. (Incidentally, I LOVE Penny's comments about MOOCs and gamification in that article!) There's a lot of money in the organisation (they work hard to build and maintain relationships with corporate sponsors) and quite honestly it's nice to be part of an organisation that can afford to do things with style and without an ever-present sense of worry about finances. The downside of this is that it is if you don't like wearing suits for work-related things, and aren't going to do so just to fit in (*raises hand*) you can feel under-dressed at the London SLA-Europe events! Penny talks about being treated as an equal at the conference in the US, regardless of the status of the person you're talking to - I'd agree with that, but if you start mixing with the sponsors in London, expect at least a couple of them to be baffled that dressing in a suit and schmoozing isn't your number one priority...

What the SLA does (in my view) is focus on making us into better, more effective information professionals. They can afford to focus on improving us, and let others worry about the Latest Big Library Crisis besetting the profession. Part of the way we can endure in libraries is to be really brilliant at our jobs - it feels like the SLA addresses making a practical impact in a very hands-on way, all of the time, rather than being side-tracked. The conference itself remains the greatest experience of my professional career - I'm over the moon to be going back, to Vancouver in 2014, to give a few talks and see everyone again, and generally drink up the atmosphere of niceness and happiness.

Here's the link if you're thinking of joining; I wish I'd done so earlier. I didn't sign up to the SLA previous to winning the ECCA which gave me a year of free membership, because of the cost. To spend a big chunk of money on something work related, especially after already paying for CILIP membership, is daunting. But it's based on a sliding-salary scale so you pay less if you earn less, and now as a proper fee-paying member from my point of view (and from that of all the members I've talked to), it's worth it.

Librarianship can be tough these days, but the SLA makes you feel good and gives you confidence - that's not a trivial thing.

The only way we will definitely be screwed is if we screw CILIP

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CILIP have been getting flak from the Library community since before I became aware of its existence. I gave out some of the flak myself – my post on CILIP and its lack of media presence remains one of the most commented-upon post this blog has ever had. I spoke up to try and constructively catalyse change – whether by coincidence (almost certainly) or not (it’s a nice thought) CILIP has since addressed the issue and it a much more vocal presence in the media.

The trouble I have with some of the criticism it gets is the level of at best dismissiveness and at worst, bile (or perhaps scorn) that doesn’t seem to be accompanied by much that could be considered constructive. Lots of people are happy to express the opinion that the rebranding process needs halting, but fewer have suggested what we should then do about the fact that CILIP still needs rebranding and (almost certainly) have entered into a legally binding contract with a consultancy firm.

People seem to imagine CILIP is an abstract entity which is perhaps ignorant of or indifferent to the needs of libraries, librarians and information professionals. What CILIP actually is, of course, is a group of individual human beings who care very much about libraries, librarians and information professionals and are doing their best to support all of them. To say otherwise is ignorant. I’ve met a lot of CILIP people and never once have any of them given me even an inkling that they didn’t care, or weren’t working hard, or were not qualified to do their jobs.

CILIP is a big unwieldy company with a royal charter, and it has a lot of armchair critics. A lot of people who’ve never led a massive charity-registered organisation appear to think they’d be awesome at it if given the chance; a chance 99% of them would not take if it actually came down to it, of course. Perhaps because smaller groups have achieved amazing things online, people expect CILIP to be able to do the same – but it has responsibilities and processes which prevent it from being so agile. Rowing a boat is not the same as running a big old paddle-steamer with thousands of paying customers. I know of no big organisations with massive budgetary constraints that consistently do everything right.

Traditionally I’ve supported CILIP. Recently I’ve lazily drifted into the camp of taking easy shots at them, and I was horrified at the thought of £35k (if that figure is indeed correct) being spent on the rebrand. I didn’t renew my membership right away when it lapsed. One of the reasons is that people I respect have tried to work with CILIP and found it untenable.

But I’m a member now and will continue to be one. This is partly because certain individuals previously or currently at CILIP (particularly Kathy Ennis, Biddy Fisher and Phil Bradley) have been really supportive of me and given me confidence and valuable opportunities. It’s partly because the Career Development Group helped me develop my career – in fact they’ve helped me develop my career to a stage where I no longer need them anymore. But it seems a bit callous to just say ‘okay thanks, bye!’ and no longer put any money into the organisation. If CILIP has helped you get just ONE pay-grade higher, then that’s more than a decade’s worth of annual subscriptions in extra salary you earn every year – it only seems fair to reinvest a fraction in the organisation.

But the third reason I’ll continue to support CILIP – even when they do things I don’t agree with – is because the only way we’ll be completely screwed is if we screw CILIP. By supporting them and letting them speak for us, we might be screwed – they might get it wrong. Just doing one’s best is not a guarantee of success. But by withdrawing our support, dismissing them, being scornful of them, bringing up absurd conspiracy theories online – that way we’re definitely screwed. Because like it or not CILIP speaks for the profession in this country – that’s precisely why they’re going through the controversial rebranding in the first place, because they feel (and most of us have felt for a long time) that ‘CILIP’ and 'Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals' are not working for their role as mouthpiece. The way some people talk on social media, you’d think CILIP are quite enjoying this complicated process, and are just doing it as a way to thumb their nose at the members.

I think there’s an undercurrent to all this of ‘If we don’t renew our membership and say how much we hate what CILIP doing, that’ll show them – they’ll HAVE to change then’. But know this – if the personnel at CILIP changes, we’ll be replacing one set of hard-working people doing their best for the profession with (hopefully) another set of hard-working people doing their best for the profession, and they may not make choices you like any better. We are, after all, talking about very difficult choices here. Have you tried trying to change and adapt, move forward without leaving people behind, maintain the responsibilities of being a registered charity and having the royal charter, and trying to include everyone and yet speak with one clear and unambiguous voice, and all that at a time when there’s a hostile government, a public mostly indifferent or steeped in happy but irrelevant nostalgia, and unprecedented threats to the very existence and value of libraries? ME EITHER. I imagine that’s quite hard to do. It is not through lack of effort that these controversial decisions are being arrived at.

By all means criticise CILIP. By all means make your voice heard. But support the organisation at the same time. Criticism and support are NOT mutually exclusive. Make suggestions. (By suggestions I don’t mean ‘stop what you’re doing I hate it I hate it’, I mean suggestions which work towards addressing the problems which CILIP are dealing with in ways not currently to your liking). If half as much energy was put into helping CILIP as was put into slagging it off, it could get a lot more done.

Remember that running a big chartered institute is nothing like running a social media campaign or a pressure group. And above all remember that CILIP is a bunch of humans working all day on our behalf, on the really very tricky problems we face as an industry and a profession.

Libraries are in a bit of a state. I don't want a professional body that keeps everybody happy, I just want a professional body which gets shit done. CILIP can get more done with us, than without us.


You already have a brand! Here are 5 ways to influence it... (#CILIPNPD12)

Yesterday I presented at possibly my favourite library event of all, CILIP's New Professionals Day. I love it because it gets so many people fired up and energised, and there's so much enthusiasm about the place. I was honoured to do the first talk of the day, and my presentation was about two things: firstly the fact that you don't have to be a super-librarian to get on in your career, and secondly that we all have a personal brand so if you do want to try and build that brand, there are steps you can take to do so positively.

I wanted to dispel some myths (particularly that we all have to aspire to be like the really well-known, uberlibrarians), following on from this blog post about whether or not we really have to market ourselves at all, which explains a lot of the stuff I talked about yesterday.

Here's the presentation (works best on full-screen):

The MACHINES are Coming! Recent advances in library technology

Earlier today I did a session on technology and libraries, for the Prison Libraries Group at CILIP HQ. Prison Librarians are extremely limited in their access to technology - essentially they operate under the same restrictions as the prisoners, so not only can they not use Twitter, they can't even Google it at work! Here is the Prezi I used - it's a whistle-stop primer of recent advances, and while normally I try to make my presentations stand up on their own I'm afraid this one is really only the bare bones and I filled in a lot of gaps with what I was saying. (Works best on full-screen mode.)

I had a really good time even though I had to leave early due to starting my new job tomorrow. It reminded me again how diverse our roles are, and how two people called 'librarians' could go for years potentially without doing the same stuff. Having to make sure certain prisoners don't get access to fiction which glorifies the very crimes they are incarcerated for is not a Collection Development decision I'll be needing to make any time soon. And having to retain the catalogue in my head because not only is it not online but there isn't even a card catalogue is a skill I'm glad I don't need - I'd be really bad at that...

For the delegates

So for anyone who was there today, here are the links I mentioned that I'd include in this post:

- Thanks for having me, I had a great time! And especially thank you to Sibylla for inviting me. :)

- thewikiman