Career Development Group

Thinking of submitting a paper for the New Professionals Conference? Here’s some unofficial advice.

Wikiman logo made up of words .....

(A lot of this applies to conference proposals generally.)

CILIP have announced details of the 2011 New Professionals Conference, which takes place in Manchester at the University, on June 20th. The Hashtag is #npc11 if you want to discuss it on Twitter etc.

There is currently a call for proposals to present, and I can't recommend highly enough that you do this if you're within 5 years of having joined the profession. You have till April 15th to get something in. All the details are on the CILIP website.

Why present?

It’s a brilliant experience! It takes you out of your comfort zone, it connects you to your peers, it gets you into the conference for free! It’s completely worth doing – I guarantee you’ll feel differently about the profession afterwards, more positive, more energised and more excited.

Subject matter

Important disclaimer: I was on the organising committee last year and involved with choosing the successful papers, but I am NOT involved this year, so these views are just my opinion and are in no way official. Kay?

The most important thing about the subject matter is making it appropriate to the context of the conference. So for example, something about the value of libraries generally might be really interesting and really entertaining, but it might not be as useful for this particular conference as something which the delegates can take away and apply to their own lives, and to their own careers. Think about the utility of what you're saying, and the 'take-homes' that the people watching your presentation will get from it.

Be explicit about the value of your presentation. You have 300 words to play with – I’d probably use 250 to talk about the topic, and the last 50 would start with the phrase ‘this paper will be beneficial to new professionals because…’.

Get a second pair of eyes on it before you send it off – another opinion is almost always helpful.


Same disclaimer as above - this is my opinion, and is certainly nothing official or endorsed by the organisers.

I think, personally, the formatting of your proposal really matters. The organisers of this event are volunteering and doing it on their own time, so there's not always the luxury of a huge amount of time to discuss the proposals. There'll probably be more than 40 decent ideas, and it takes a long time to get through that much stuff. So anything that’s poorly put together is already heading towards the 'maybe' or 'no' piles rather than the 'yes' pile. Of course the content of the proposal is by far the most important thing, but that oft quoted scenario of 'two otherwise equal candidates' actually applies quite often in this type of situation, so don't put yourself at a disadvantage. Poor formatting shows a lack of attention to detail, and a lack of understanding of the assessment process. For what it's worth, here's what I would do if I were submitting:

  • Send a PDF - Word docs are only fit for emailing to people if there's a chance the recipient may need to edit it.
  • Don't use Times New Roman, use Calibri, Arial or similar, and make it a normal rather than tiny or huge font size.
  • Include your name, a short bio and your email address in the document (this does not have to fit into the 300 words - make it clear which section is which). You may have also put some or all of this stuff in the email you send it in, but the chances are the panel will be printing out all the documents and getting together over coffee to go through everything - they don't want to be making notes or printing emails. Put everything in one place for their easy reference.
  • It goes without saying, proof-read it to death. Read it out loud to catch mistakes, and don't rely on the spell-check - I still find myself having used the wrong their / there / they're from time-to-time… Americanised spellings are another thing spell-check might not catch.
  • Send it to someone whose opinion you trust, and get them to check it over too.


And if you do get accepted…

You’ll be asked to write a ‘full proposal’ by June. This is really just to check you can follow up on your promises and deliver a full paper. It doesn’t have to be written to a journal standard of prose and referencing. When I presented in 2009, I wrote mine up all formally and then a week before the conference, I started to practice delivering it and realised that I’d have to completely rework it. I couldn’t read it out loud as it was (that would have been rubbish) and I couldn’t even just split it up into notes (the tone and phrases were suitable for being read alone, not said out loud to an audience). So don’t beat yourself up trying to write the full proposal – it’d be more productive to write the notes you plan to learn or speak from, and then turn THOSE into the full-proposal, not the other way around. More tips on presenting for first time speakers are available elsewhere on the blog.

All just my opinion of course. :) Here's another one - last year's Best Paper prize winner Bronagh offers her views too.

Good luck!

-    thewikiman

Roll up, roll up - get the low-down on the New Professionals Conference!

Back from holiday now, so here's a second post in quick succession to make up for lost time... I’m on the organising committee for this year’s New Professionals Conference (run by CILIP’s Career Development Group), so here’s the inside track on what is happening. Full details of the programme are on CILIP’s website – this year it takes the format of presentations in the main hall all day, with parallel sessions going on at the same time for those who want to attend them. So the main papers are delivered in two clusters in the morning and afternoon – simultaneous to the morning are Workshops A and B, and simultaneous to the afternoon are Workshops C and D. You can choose to attend one of those workshops (you have to pick just one, and each is limited to 10 places; you put down a reserve choice on the form, but it’s first-come-first-served so book soon if you’ve a strong preference) or you can choose not to attend any of them, in which case you’ll see the full programme of presentations in the main hall. The workshops are quite practical and address specific subjects and needs – so if you don’t need what they’re offering, don’t just automatically tick a box from A-D… better to attend the main presentations which are many and varied in the same time-frame. If you DO have a specific requirement that the workshops cover, it’s a great opportunity to get some hands-on experience in a small group.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, an extremely high standard of papers were submitted this year. We literally could have run two conferences (perhaps three) without any ‘filler’; whittling down all the proposals was a very difficult process. The result, though, is an extremely useful set of presentations, on diverse themes but united by the fact that pretty much all of them (and this goes for the workshops too) will give you, as a New Professional, something to apply directly to your career once you leave the conference hall. There’s a lot to make you think, but there’s a lot which you can actually do, too – whether it’s to boost your 9-to-5 job, your use of social media, your professional development or your career aspirations. I will miss the morning session as it runs in parallel with my own workshop – I’m absolutely gutted because Bethan, Laura and Bronagh’s presentations look mint! Hopefully I’ll hear all about them.

One way you can hear what’s going on in the main conference if you attend a workshop is via Twitter. I know some people actively dislike twitter and the whole concept of micro-blogging (I used to count myself among their number) but so many Information Professionals have embraced it that we want to make the most of it at this conference. There will be a Twitter Officer who’ll have an official role to tweet on the conference throughout the day, and we’re hoping to have screens set up in the foyer with a feed of all the #NPC2010 tagged tweets from everyone as they happen. (I believe this is known as a back-channel… oooh, get me. Incidentally there's already an archive of #npc2010 tweets which is auto-updated as they happen, so check it out - distressingly, another event of some kind has since adopted the hashtag, but it's easy to sift those out as they're all tweets in a foreign language...) We’ll also be getting people’s Twitter usernames printed on their name badges – FOR THE WIN! :) This will of course be entirely optional, but for those who want to, their username will be on there with their actual real name too. Hopefully this will facilitate easy networking – it’ll break the ice, establish a way-in to talk to people, and of course mean you can get a head-start and build on existing rapport if you’ve interacted online already. W00t.

I’m leading Workshop A - The importance of an online presence: entering the world of library blogs and blogging. If you’re wondering whether this one is for you, here’s what it’ll consist of. I'm going to establish why I think it's increasingly important to have some kind of online identity in this profession: how it effects your employment prospects, what you can get out of it in terms of professional development, and what Google search results on your name will be like if left to their own devices... (this bit is hands-on.) I'll go through the various platforms and media used for blogging, and explain what is appropriate for each situation, and discuss all the annoying nitty-gritty stuff like registering blogs with Google, publicising them, generating traffic and so on. I'm keen on engagement with other people in the blogging community so I'll talk about the community aspect of it too. There'll be discussion of good (and maybe bad!) blogs, and I'll follow up on this blog with a top-10 essential blogs for New Professionals, too...

The focus isn't really on the content of blogs as such - I wouldn't presume to tell anyone how to write. It's all the other stuff that goes with it, simplified for you so you can get started right away, rather than learning by trial and error like the rest of us. The idea is you come out of the session enthused by the idea of blogging, aware of how it can actually be important to get online these days, and equipped with a bunch of practical knowledge it took me hours and hours to find out through searching asking questions myself... and you can go away and start a successful blog the very next day!

We've had a great rate of registrations so far, so get in there quick if you want to come. I can't recommend it highly enough - last years' was vibrant, vital, entertaining and exciting. There's also still time to win a sponsored place, via a CILIP competition, too.

- thewikiman

p.s you can help out one of the presenters at this year's conference with preperations for her paper, by filling out a sruvey as detailed here... Shiny Forager Blog Post.

two new publications

Just a short post to mention a couple of articles I've recently had published - the below is copied and pasted from the Papers & Presentations page on my website:

  • The Library Routes Project An article about Library Routes, from ALISS Quarterly, Volume 5, no. 3: April 2010. It details how the project came about, the methodology and so on - the article can be downloaded here, in PDF format. This PDF is actually the whole edition of the journal, by permission from the editor - my article is at the back, the last one in there.
  • Why are we still defined by our building? (the short version...) The full version can be found below [on the papers and presentations page linked above]; this is a much reduced edition, published by Impact (the Career Development Group Journal), as part of the prize for winning best paper at the 2009 New Professionals Conference. Available here in PDF format.


  • The Unspeakable Truth This is a copy of the essay which was one of the winners of the LISNews Essay Contest - it's about the future of libraries, and the positive lessons about reinvention we can learn from other industries. Downloadable here as a PDF.

So if you aren't bored of hearing about the Library Routes Project, and you've sometimes wondered what the Defined by Our Building thing was all about but didn't fancy ploughing through 4000 words of the full version, this is the blog post for you!

Thank you to Woodsiegirl who went through the ALISS article with a finely judged scalpel and made it a lot better. Cheers to Chris Rhodes for getting hold of the Building PDF for me. Bobbi and Buffy, you each get brief mentions in the Library Routes article, by the way...

- thewikiman

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