library conferences

Do you do conference talks and library events in work time?


As of this week I've gone part time! Only a little bit part-time - I still do 90% of full time at York. That leaves me 1 day off in 10 to do freelance work. So now the vast majority of my public speaking happens outside of work-time, but it wasn't always that way, so I feel like I can objectively write a post about the thorny issue of doing talks and workshops in work time.

I've only ever worked for two libraries. One didn't allow me to do much in the way of CPD things on work time (I took annual leave to do a lot of talks, prior to 2011) and my current employer does allow me to. The first employer's argument was basically, what do we get out of it if you're off doing a talk? My current employer's argument is, we want people out there representing the University, talking about what they're doing. I can see both sides of the argument.

For me there are several reasons why libraries allowing employees to speak at events in work time is a good idea. It helped my professional development a lot - I learnt about areas of librarianship in more detail by virture of having to do enough research to present on them, and it boosted my confidence. I also got to hear a lot of other presentations at the events I was speaking at, so my knowledge and understanding grew. And I've talked a lot about what we do at York, and that's led others to talk about what we're doing here too. It's also made me a happier employee. I'm more contented knowing we're encouraged to get out there and do stuff, rather than frustrated about having to use holiday to speak at conferences.

There's another side to this too, which is that people who present at events are constantly keeping their hand in, and learning, about presenting and teaching. There's nothing like doing something regularly to make you feel more comfortable with it, and you don't get that 'I need a few sessions to get back in the groove with this' thing when October comes and all the teaching starts. Several things I've developed as part of my wider workshops I now incorparate into my information literacy courses at York. So the external and the internal feed each other and both develop.

Ultimately allowing people to talk at events can make them not just happier in their roles but better at their jobs, so I hope that in the unlikely event I ever get into some sort of management position, I'll let people out of the building so they can spread their wings...

I'd be interested to hear from staff and managers for their perspectives on this.