library routes project

Everyone should read this article! Then maybe write their own...

Librarianship was yesterday featured in the Guardian's Beyond the Job Series. The article was entitled Beyond books: what it takes to be a 21st century librarian and was written by Emma Cragg and Katie Birkwood. Screen grab of the Guardian article on libraries

I am so happy about this article! For loads of reasons.

First of all, this is a brilliant piece. Here is a quote - I originally highlighted three paragraphs I really liked in order to copy and paste them, but realised that would basically be quoting half the article... Here is one bit I liked, but I liked all of it, and you should go read the whole thing.

"Books are only one aspect of what libraries and librarians are about. Librarianship is a people profession; a librarian's job is to connect people with the information they are seeking, whatever format that may take. At their heart, all library jobs have a central purpose: to help people access and use information, for education, for work, or for pleasure. In all library roles customer service and communication skills are important. If anyone ever thought they'd become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be sorely disappointed if they did not also like people too."

The article says all the things you'd want it to say, as a library professional, and all the things you'd need it to say, as someone curious about entering the field and needing to know the reality of it.

Second of all, it is in the Guardian. It will be read by thousands and thousands of people, all of whom will be educated about what librarianship consists of even if they don't go on to try and become one. It is a proper bonafide Echo Chamber escape. I believe the genesis of the idea came from this post on Emma's blog, and the comments that followed.

Thirdly, it mentions the Library Routes Project. Laura and I wanted to break this resource (which, if you're unfamiliar with it, documents librarians' roots into the profession and their routes through it) out of the echo chamber but have been unable to do so, really. I actually contacted the Guardian to propose an article about it, but didn't get a response. Emma and Katie have found just the right medium in which to mention it, and they got in lots of references to Bobbi Newman's Library Day in the Life Project too (you can see my video contribution to that project, here). Perfection! Since the article was published around 24hrs ago, the Library Routes wiki has been viewed hundreds of extra times - finally by some non-librarians, I hope.

Fourthly it mentions me! And this slide-deck:

I sought to get this slide-deck seen outside the echo chamber as much as possible, and although that certainly happened this will really add to it - in fact Emma commented that they were going to try and link to it from a Guardian article way back then, now it has finally come to fruition. It's really kind of Katie and Emma to include a link to this, so thank you to them. As a Guardian reader since literally aged 12 (yes, I know...) and someone who literally loves the paper and the institution, being mentioned by a Guardian article is definitely (literally) pretty fabulous!

So the question is, can any of us repeat this success elsewhere? Emma and Katie are presumably forbidden from reproducing their work in other publications, but there is nothing to stop the rest of us finding avenues for writing a guide to librarianship and getting it published in neutral, non-library places. Are you up for the challenge?

- thewikiman

Echolib / LISNPN / Advocacy: New Year's Round Up

A quick catch-up post for all the stuff I've not mentioned in previous posts but which has happened in the last couple of months.

The Echo Chamber

Lots of echolib stuff has been happening recently. The article I wrote a while ago for Library & Information Update has finished its embargo and so now can be made available - I've been displaying it on the Echo Chamber Netvibes page, but you can also download it in PDF format, here.

Continuing the Stealth Advocising theme from a few weeks back, I created a video version of my If you want to work in libraries... slide-deck. It has some funky hip-hoppy latin music in it that I wrote when I was about 17! Woof. Here it is - as ever, in the interests of spreading the messages far and wide, feel free to use this however you like, embed it wherever, etc etc.

The Slideshare version of this has now been viewed more than ten thousand times, so surely LOADS of those people must be outside the echo chamber, right..?

I also wrote an article for PostLib, the journal for retired librarians! I was really pleased to be asked to do this, I like to see the divide between senior and new professionals being bridged whereever possible. The resultant article is now available: Statistics, the Media and the Library Legacy (PDF) - and owes a big debt to Ian Clark [Thoughts of a Wannabe Librarian] who read it over for me and gave me his approval to use some of his ideas! It mentions the echo chamber in passing - but really the main thrust of it is to note that, if you take combined footfall and internet usage stats, public library use in the UK is actually UP over the last couple of years (quite considerably), contrary to popular reports.

Laura and I will present a new version of the Echo Chamber presentation in Cambridge in a couple of days, to an audience of 200 or so people - the biggest we've spoken to yet, so we're really excited about that.


There's also a couple of articles I wrote about LISNPN, the New Professionals Network, available elsewhere. They're both on CILIP platforms but both are freely available to all - Moving forward together opens Library  Information Gazette in digital form, and The LIS New Professionals Network takes you to CILIP's Information & Advice blog.

Look out for a BIG competition on LISNPN later this month, with a library-related-prize worth literally hundreds of pounds and well worth winning.

Library Routes Project

Remember Library Routes? It's still going! And there's plenty of great entries that have come in in recent months - there's now over 150 contributions from Information Professionals about how they got into librarianship, and their path through the profession. Check it out if you haven't already, or if you've not done so for a while. The project homepage has more than 25,000 views now, so maybe some of those will be from people outside the Echo Chamber too.

Gazette Profile

I was really pleased that Debby Raven featured me in the last but one edition of Gazette, following up on the Essential Careers Advice for New Professionals post. You can read the interview, again via the Digital Gazette magazine platform, here. Incidentally the permanent, to-be-added-to, and containing the wisdom of the people who've commented on the original, version of the Essential Careers Advice post is here on its own page of the blog - check it out and tell if there's anything that needs adding to it. What do you know now that you wish you'd known earlier?

All of these articles are available together on the Papers & Presentations page of my website.

And finally...

I created a hectoring advocacy poster a few weeks back - it's deliberately harsh and provocative, but I do think there is an underlying truth to it.

Poster that says there's no such thing as abstaining from library advocacy


- thewikiman

Library Routes Interview

Woodsiegirl and I have had quite a few approaches from people writing about the Library Routes Project, asking us for our thoughts on it and plans for where it is going. A lot of them are for regional or organisation-based publications which not everyone would get to see normally, so we plan on putting them altogether on a web-page sometime as there are lots of great pieces. In the meantime, Joseph Hughes from the University of Essex has very kindly allowed me to use the interview we did for the publication he edits (called, intriguingly, The Goose...) on this blog, on the grounds that the two readerships probably don't overlap too much! The questions are very insightful, so for anyone interested in Library Routes I thought I'd share it here. Cheers Joe! Could you give us a brief biography about yourself and your current position? I’ve worked in the academic library sector for just over four years now, at the University of Leeds. I started in Customer Services, eventually worked my way up to become Digitisation Coordinator, and now work on a JISC-funded project called LIFE-SHARE, looking at digital preservation and curation. I’ve never thought of myself as a techie person but it turns out digitisation is actually very interesting…

Why was the Library Routes Project (LRP) set up? Were there clear objectives from the outset or was it more of a whim that has developed? It was definitely a whim – it was a case of, let’s actually do something rather than wonder what might happen if we did, and then we did do something, and then it took off. Someone blogged on their own root, someone else said ‘we should all do this!’ and I set up a wiki and said, ‘let’s make it a formal movement and try and get lots of people involved’. It went from whim to fully-fledged project in about an hour, it was ace.

You were clearly at the forefront of LRP but who else was involved? (Directly or merely as inspiration)It’s very much a joint effort between myself and Laura (who blogs as Woodsiegirl) – we planned it together, we approach people to ask them to contribute, and we tidy up the wiki when peoples’ edits make the table go wrong! Jennifer Findlay (who, like Laura, is a law librarian) was the person who originally said ‘maybe we should all blog our roots / routes!’ so she definitely gets the nod for inspiration.

Have you noticed any patterns or recurring themes in why/how people got into the profession? The amazing thing is that we haven’t, really. It is extraordinary that some 115 entries to the wiki later and we’re still yet to see many people with the same roots. One theme does seem to be careers advisers – a well-placed word from a careers advisor at a relatively early age often seems to result in a Eureka moment where the person realised that actually the information profession suits them perfectly. The careers advisor who doesn’t suggest this often sends the person off on a wild vocational goose-chase that can sometimes take decades to eventually lead them to the realisation that they wanted to be librarians all along.

Do you hope that the project might break some of the traditional stereotypes of Librarianship, for both the profession and the professionals? (E.g. the strict dowdy Librarian.) I would love it if it did that, yes. Some of the participants to this project do conform to some of the stereotypes – many profess to have loved organising books as a child and that sort of thing… but I don’t have a problem with that side of the clichés – it’s when librarians deliver bad service to their patrons / customers because they are so strict or humourless or inflexible that the stereotypes really harm the profession. The LRP myth-busts to a certain extent because it showcases how diverse the careers in librarianship can be – the vast majority of participants appear not to have been able to imagine, when they first started, the job they are now in. That element of career adventure is definitely not part of the traditional stereotypes, so it’s good to bring it to the fore.

For the Project to really break the stereotypes it needs to be viewed by those outside the profession, rather than those who already have a lot of familiarity with the reality of the modern library - which is something Laura and I are working on.

Do you think careers services and other such organisations have a correct view of Librarianship? Is there a need to re-educate these facilities so a more contemporary and representative view of the profession is put across? That’s a good question, I’m not sure. I’d hazard a guess that the majority of professionals aren’t quite correctly portrayed by careers services as they (careers services) can only know so much about so many different aspects of the job market; the onus is on the professions to update and inform the careers service of the current state of play. I’m not sure what current mechanisms there are for that, it may be something I’ll go away and look into after this interview… [edit - blog readers, any suggestions here?]

Have the respondents been drawn mostly from the Blogging community or have there been a wider range of participants? The majority are from the blogging community as they are more likely to know about it in the first place – but a gratifying amount of people have created articles on the wiki itself and linked to those, if they don’t have a blog of their own. A quick look at the website today reveals just over 15% of people participating are not from the blogging community; I’ll take that, that’s pretty good.

The LRP seems at the moment to be known mostly only to those Librarians who are heavily involved with the online community. Has there been much promotion of the site through more traditional means or are there plans to do so? We have promoted via traditional means: Laura wrote an article for CILIP’s main paper, Gazette, which goes out to 20,000 people or something like that – we’ve also been mentioned a couple of times in Update which reaches the same audience, and various regional divisions of the Career Development Group have run features in their quarterly magazines. But mainly the promotion has just been self-replicating as people have blogged their roots and linked to the wiki, and the biggest impact has come when the very influential online people have participated, which spread the word to their followers and subscribers.

It would be great to get more people from outside the online community involved, but much harder for all the reasons you’d imagine: unfamiliarity with or mistrust of the (wiki) medium, not knowing about it unless we tell them directly, or perhaps they’re the type of person that isn’t involved with the online community because they are too busy so don’t have time for this either!

I am speaking at a couple of conferences in the next few months – I’ll definitely be trying to reach new audiences by trying to crowbar in a few references there…

Are there any other Library community-based projects that are planning? Wow this is a very well researched interview! Yes there is – I’m creating a New Professionals Network (or LISNPN) as part of my role as a New Professionals Support Officer for CILIP. I’m in the Yorkshire & Humberside branch, so the idea is to trial it up North and then if it works successfully, open it out across the UK (possibly launching it at the New Professionals Conference in Sheffield on July 5th). It will be aimed at people who have started in the profession fairly recently, but there won’t be any particularly strict criteria. It’ll start as a website with news pages, tutorials and discussion forums, but may extend to organising get-togethers or events in the future. There will be details emerging there shortly, hopefully [via this blog, among other places].

Do you think that Libraries need to make better use of internet resources? Particularly popular social sites such as Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, etc…Very possibly, but I am hugely wary of the tail wagging the dog in those circumstances. It’s hard to be truly clued up on the best internet resources – you need to go where your patrons are, or choose somewhere and direct them to it, and that’s a hard balance to strike. Whenever anyone mentions a Library MySpace account a little part of me dies. But yeah, as long as you’ve identified a reason for embracing an emerging technological trend (rather than setting up an account and then casting around for a way to involve your library) then generally speaking a lot of libraries would benefit from using social sites. The New York Public Library has 17,000 followers on Twitter – it allows them to communicate important (or entertaining) information quickly and easily in a way which doesn’t put the impetus on the patron to go and check the library website or whatever. That’s terrific.

Have you any aspirations for the LRP or are you happy with its current state and how it is evolving? We are relatively happy now – it’s grown to the extent that it’ll remain a useful resource for many years, whatever happens. But we’d like to expose it to a wider and not-exclusively-library audience, and perhaps introduce some multimedia entries to the wiki – audio, video and so on. If someone makes a video on why they became a librarian, and shows real passion for it, then they can stick it on youtube where any number of people might pick it up and embed it and be inspired to make their own and run with it – that sort of thing has a lot of potential to escape the confines of the world of library blogs and blogging, and reach new people. As long as they link to it from the project homepage, we’ll be happy!

- thewikiman

Library Routes hits 50!

May contain roots The Library Routes Project is still in its first month and has already passed the 50 contributions mark (with over 3,500 people having accessed it) – I think that’s pretty good for a new project like this, and it means the Wiki really does provide a useful resource for aspiring or current Information Professionals, wondering how and why people got into the job. Thank you very much to everyone who has contributed so far! And if you've been wondering about writing your own post on the subject and haven't quite got around to it, then now is as good a time as any.

Woodsiegirl has been promoting the Project via the latest issue of Gazette (see page 12), and there may also be an article relating to the subject forthcoming in one of the CILIP Career Development Group newsletters.

There’s a couple of things still to sort out, though. The first is how to make the Wiki more international in terms of contributors – it is fantastic to have so many people from the UK getting involved, but it would be great to broaden the scope to other countries too. The second is how to make this whole thing some kind of annual event, much in the same way as Library Day in the Life is; a resource like this needs the value of annual exposure in order to draw in contributions from new professionals, and to expand, and to generally retain its relevance. Any thoughts on how we can achieve these? Let me know.

In other news, my local public library in York is closing for 6 months of major refurbishment, in order to become an Explore centre with all the obligatory cafes etc that modern libraries have. I’m told that during its closure, not only can people take books, CDs and DVDs out for the entire period without incurring any fines, but the limit on how many an individual can take has been rescinded! So you could literally grab 100 books and keep them until April. I think this is brilliant – it is a nifty way of getting some of the stock out of the way, of course, saving on storage costs and logistical nightmares. And, it is a great example of a library doing a decidedly non-stereotypical-libraryish type of thing – not getting uptight about the stock, relaxing the rules, and allowing the customers to benefit from difficult circumstances. Good stuff!

 - thewikiman