Madeleine Ahern – Taylor Institution Library

Hi everybody I’m Madeleine, one of two trainees based this year primarily at the Taylor Institution Library with shifts at the Sackler and Oriental Institute as well. I just graduated this spring with my BA Honours degree in History and Art History from Queen’s University in Canada, and after working in archives and museums previously I am now keen to pursue a career in academic librarianship.

A book from our special collections

 

Being a trainee at the Taylorian has been wonderful so far in part because of the extensive collections it encompasses. The Western and Eastern European languages, Linguistics, Film Studies, and Women’s Studies collections make for not only a fascinating range of library resources here but also some neat research going on at any minute. Most people gravitate towards our beautiful reading room adjacent to the main research collection stacks it seems!

 

The main reading room

 

I am primarily based at the issue desk so far, fielding reader inquiries, doing some book processing, shelving, and most recently preparing for inductions week. A favourite moment of my traineeship so far was when I got to work with Dalí, Matisse, and Picasso prints from the Strachan Artist Book collection all in one afternoon. I am really looking forward to all that is to come this year, in part because of an exciting new Navigation and Wayfinding Project that I am undertaking with my fellow trainee Chloe and a team of librarians across the Taylorian and Sackler to improve reader experience.

Rhiannon Perrin – Bodleian Law Library

Hi my name is Rhiannon (Rhiannon P as we have two Rhiannon’s on this year’s trainee scheme – although luckily not in the same library!) and I will be spending the year working in the Bodleian Law Library. The Bodleian Law Library is based in the St. Cross building on Manor Road, the English Faculty Library is also in this building and next door to us is the Social Science Library, with the old Bodleian Library less than a ten minute walk away.  So far in the past two weeks I have spent my time meeting and talking to all the different staff within the Law Library and learning about their areas of expertise. This year there are two trainees at the Law Library, Laura who is based in Information Resources, and myself in Academic Services. Being based in AS means that alongside my usual tasks like shelving and staffing the enquiry desk I am also involved in scanning resources to go online both on our internal page LawBod4Students and for ORLO reading lists.

Gladstone’s Library

 

Before coming to Oxford I was working in a small residential library in North Wales called Gladstone’s Library. In many ways this was great preparation for coming to the Bodleian as every day I spent time on the enquiry desk, helping readers, cataloguing and circulating books and journals, as well as working on specific projects being undertaken at Gladstone’s Library. However, Gladstone’s Library only had 150,000 volumes whereas the Bodleian Law Library has over 550,000 so far more material for me to familiarise myself with over the next year! Before that I had just completed my LLM in International Law at the University of Sussex where I got to visit The Hague and see incredible places like the Peace Palace which is home to numerous bodies of International Law including the International Court of Justice, but most importantly (to me anyway) the Peace Palace Library, an amazing building that holds over a million volumes on International Law. Finally, before that I was doing my BA in History where I spent part of my second year working in an archive, and I enjoyed it so much I then spent the whole of my third year working in the university library.

A few of us trainees outside Christ Church College

 

I am really looking forward to spending a year in Oxford, so far it seems like a fantastic city with lots of things to do and places to visit. I am excited for term to begin and to start seeing the Law Library in full flow, with postgraduate inductions beginning in less than two weeks and undergraduates the week after that. It has been really nice meeting my fellow trainees, we’ve already had a few training sessions together and the drinks reception in the Divinity School was a great way to be welcomed to the Bodleian.

Evie Brown, Bodleian Reader Services

Hello!

I’m Evie and I am one of the two new graduate trainees at the Bodleian reader services aka the Old Bod. So yes I get to work in the building Harry Potter was filmed in – pretty cool!

The Duke Humfrey's Library in Oxford

Duke Humphrey’s Reading Room – also the Hogwarts Library

I am a very recent graduate, having only finished my BA Anthropology degree in June of this year. Anthropology at the University of Bristol was an amazing experience, such an interesting subject and I cannot wait to make a visit to the Tylor (anthropology) library in Oxford.

During the last year of my degree and over the summer I worked in my local public library, which is the reason I decided to go for the traineeship here at Oxford. My experience at the public library has already been vastly different to the Bodleian – I have not had to sing nursery rhymes to babies yet or try to explain to an elderly person how to turn a computer on… I did love my experience there though, and I think it has set me in good stead for what may be to come in this new role.

So, I have been here at the Bod for two weeks now, and it is already flying by. I am finally starting to feel like I know what is going on and what I should be doing at any given moment of the day. Working in such a historic building is amazing (despite the stairs) and the Duke Humphreys reading room is definitely my favourite! I also have met all the other trainees several times thanks to several training courses we have had, and the Divinity Drinks reception we were invited to this week. Everyone is super kind and interesting – I think we are in for a fun year ahead of us!

I am excited for the undergrads to arrive in a couple of weeks, I think the phrase I have heard the most over the last couple of weeks is ‘just you wait till term starts’ every time I comment on the quietness or say something is easy! Its going to be an amazing experience, working in Oxford, and I still can’t quite believe I am here!

So that is my little hello post, I look forward to everyone else’s and to keep the blog up to date with my year 🙂

CILIP and the information revolution

This blog entry was first posted on the CILIP in the Thames Valley blog.

From across the academic, public and specialist sectors, we were a varied group of library and information professionals gathered in Oxfordshire County Library. Ayub Khan, CILIP’s president and deliverer of today’s presentation, pointed out how distinctive this makes our profession: libraries, knowledge and information are an essential part of a uniquely wide variety of industries.

Attendees at Ayub Khan's talk.
[Source: CILIP in the Thames Valley]
For CILIP, he explained, this is both an asset and a challenge. Very few other organisations have such a range of expertise, but how does CILIP speak for members across all these sectors? How, with the ‘international’ theme of this year’s presidency, does it become globally relevant? And who is included in the ‘family’ of L&I professionals in today’s shifting information landscape?

What unites us, CILIP has concluded, are our ethics and values. During a recent consultation reviewing its current and future role, the organisation developed a diagram of the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base. With its circular design, the PKSB diagram visually echoes the circular seal of CILIP’s Royal Charter, but updates it to specify the skills relevant to the twenty-first century. Ethics and values were placed at its heart.

CILIP's PKSB diagram and Royal Charter seal.
[Source: CILIP]
We can explore what our ethics and values are, but we also need to put them into practice. CILIP’s 2020 goal is to

‘put library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society.’

Built on five priorities (things to do) and six enablers (to help do the things), it gives us a professional framework during this time of ‘revolution’ in how information and technology are integrated into everyday life. The goal is true to the Charter, but with a clear vision of the instrumental ‘benefit’ to democracy, equality and economy.

Making this benefit visible to the public, though, can require active promotion of libraries and information; in fact, it was discussed how ease of information access can prevent people from noticing the work that goes into creating that ease. Advocacy is therefore one of CILIP’s priorities (along with workforce development; member services; standards and innovation; and governance and operations). Ayub showcased some recent campaigns. Utilising social media, radio appearances, ‘Facts Matter’ badges and more, perhaps these efforts are working: we were shown an independent poll suggesting that we are viewed as trusted professionals. Still, the impact of our own role is one piece of information that we can sometimes neglect to share!

Line drawing of a librarian stamping a book.
[Source: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddel in The Guardian]
Our core identity as stewards of information is unchanged by technological advances and new social contexts. Yes, many of us share a certain delight in books, but, while books continue to be relevant, they are being joined by new ways to organise and access information and knowledge. Ayub encouraged us to work together in adapting to these fresh opportunities. As a graduate trainee, only joining CILIP this year, I am excited to continue this tradition while being part of the future shape of the profession.

Even with the help of a library, it’s hard to find the answer to what to expect from the information revolution. There was limited time to discuss future challenges – but one thing we took away from this session is that having a strong sense of who we are as a profession is a starting point for facing these challenges.

BIALL, CLSIG and SLA Europe Open Day 2013 part 2

Hello, Francesca here, Academic Services trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. Following on from Kat’s post, here’s a little of what I took away from the BIALL, CLSIG, and SLA Europe Open Day (acronyms helpfully explained by Kat below!) which we were lucky enough to attend at the CILIP head offices in London on Wednesday.

After a nice rush hour battle with the tube, I soon settled in to the talk by the first of the day’s nine speakers, each of whom gave a fascinating insight into their career paths to date. What I learnt immediately from Jacky Berry’s presentation was that there are a lot more sectors into which a professional qualification in Librarianship and Information can lead that I had imagined! Jacky’s experiences and suggestions for sectors to look in included Building and Architecture, MI5 and charities. The number of different job titles associated with the information profession is also never-ending, and it was interesting to learn of Jacky’s management of the recent redevelopment of the British Medical Association Library. It was an excellent eye-opener to the types of roles to look out for.

IALS Library
IALS Library. Image from Twitter.

I had however, gone into the day hoping to learn more about the Legal sector, whether as a law librarian in an academic institutiton, or as a researcher for a law firm. Working for the Bodleian Law Library has certainly inspired me to consider specialising withing the legal sector when I finish my traineeship, and gain my professional qualification.  Six of the day’s nine speakers either work or have worked as a law librarian or for a law firm, and we were given an insightful tour of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount of information given. (A little overwhelmed maybe, but now is the time to go away and process it!)

Two of the speakers were recent graduates, both recipients of the SLA Early Career Conference Award. Both now work as Information Officers for London law firms. It was interesting to hear from people not long ago in my position on how they got to where they are, and allowed me to see that it is something realistic for me to pursue, given my experience in the Bodleian Law Library, and my enrollment on the MScEcon Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University. Their talks gave extremely useful tips on how to make yourself stand out. Indeed, I am a little behind the times, and yet to open a Twitter account or a LinkedIn account. Marie Cannon’s talk reminded and persuaded me of the importance of these tools (when used sensibly!) in keeping up to date with developments in the sector, keeping in touch and making new connections with professionals, and in job hunting in all areas of librarianship. I shall be going home to create these this weekend! Sam Wiggins highlighted the usefulness of joining professional bodies, particularly for those in corporate sectors such as law, and trying your luck at applying for awards and bursaries such as the ECCA . ‘If you don’t ask (apply), you don’t get’!

There were also two talks from established Librarians, one from Emily Allbon, Law Librarian at City University Library, and one from Sandra Smythe, Senior Information Officer at a London law firm. It was extremely interesting (and again a little overwhelming!) to learn of the huge variety of tasks that Emily undertakes as City’s Law Librarian, from teaching and managing budgets to her work on creating Lawbore, a fanatastic directory for students of links to law resources on the web. I am still very much drawn towards attempting to stay working in an academic environment, as I thoroughly enjoy the interaction with students. However, like Kat, the idea of undertaking legal research is an inviting (if daunting!) challenge. Sandra discussed her past and current roles working for London law firms. The process of research has always been something I thoroughly enjoy, and whilst in an academic situation the students research for themselves, a role at a law firm would be a great opportunity to continue researching myself (albeit under quite demanding and time-pressured circumstances!)

As you can see, then, the open day has given me a lot of food for thought! I too would like to thank everyone involved, particularly those who spoke – the talks were thought-provoking and extremely useful at this point in my deciding what opportunities to seek, whether they end up being in the legal sector, or somewhere else. I also learnt that planning a path in the Information sector doesn’t always work, so we shall see! As mentioned by Kat, the presentations can be found on the CLSIG event pages.

BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day 2013 part 1

Kat Steiner here again, one of the graduate trainees at the Bodleian Law Library. On Wednesday, Frankie Marsden and I headed down to London for the BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day, a day of presentations and tours based at the CILIP headquarters near Russell Square. We thought we’d give you a few of our thoughts on the day, especially on what we individually will take away from it.

A few acronym explanations before we start. BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CLSIG is a special interest group within CILIP standing for Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group, and SLA Europe is the European and UK division of the Special Libraries Association. Still with me? Just the names alone were a lot to take in!

Copyright Wellcome Library
The Wellcome Library

Over the day, we heard 9 speakers, whose places of work included London law firms, the Law library of City University, the Wellcome Library, the British Medical Association, the Inner TempleLinex (a company offering current awareness tools and aggregation for subscribers), and the British Library. It was fascinating to hear the stories of how they had reached their current jobs (often by a combination of luck, enthusiasm and perseverance), and their varied positions. It particularly stood out to me how many people mentioned TFPL, a recruitment agency, as being invaluable in helping them find jobs. I hadn’t heard of them, but I will definitely be looking into them now!

There was also the opportunity to go on a tour of either the Wiener Library, a collection for the study of the holocaust & genocide, the library of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, or the library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. As Law Bod trainees, Frankie and I both chose the IALS, and enjoyed a detailed tour and talk by David Gee, the Deputy Librarian. As the library takes three graduate trainees every year, he had a lot of insight and suggestions for what to do afterwards if you are thinking of going into law librarianship.

Several speakers were also from law firm libraries, or law librarians in other institutions, and it was very interesting to hear about their jobs in detail. I hadn’t personally thought much about specialising, or moving away from academic librarianship (I’m hoping to stay at the Bodleian while I do my library school masters), but there definitely seemed to be a lot to recommend ‘special libraries’. The chance to do real legal research was very attractive to me as an academic challenge (at the Law Bod, students are expected to do their own research, although there are lots of classes to help them learn how to do it). However, I’m not sure I could cope with the increased pressure, longer hours and difficult deadlines that come along with it. The rather better pay might sweeten the pill, though.

Copyright Inner Temple Library
The Inner Temple Library

The talk that really stood out for me was from Simon Barron, a Project Analyst at the British Library. He focused on the concept of  ‘digital librarians’, and the way that technology is transforming the information profession and will continue to do so. In the days of ‘big data‘ (a current buzzword that I’m still not hugely clear on – in my understanding, it can mean data sets so large that they allow statistical programs to crunch through them and draw remarkably accurate conclusions without any attempt at explaining how the causation between the conclusions and the data works), librarians who can code, use technology, and be willing to learn new technological skills will be more and more in demand. He described his current project with the British Library and the Qatar Foundation to create a digital National Library of Qatar. This is an ambitious project, involving huge numbers of documents to be digitised, including 14th- and 15th-century Arabic manuscripts. Simon’s job seemed to involve a lot of technological problem-solving, for example ‘how do we get this data out of this piece of software and into this other piece of software without losing it, or having to do it by hand’. He explained that his coding knowledge was entirely self-taught through Codecademy and that, although he didn’t consider it his crowning achievement, his colleagues were still very impressed when he made a spreadsheet where the boxes change colour depending on the data you enter.

Simon’s talk made a big impression on me, and really confirmed my feeling that the MSc in Information Science is for me. I have some basic experience with coding good practice (a 10-week internship at a software company, writing code in Perl), and the main thing I took away is that it’s really not that hard or scary, it just requires logic, perseverance (read: stubbornness even when it doesn’t work), and the willingness to have a go even if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I believe anyone who really wants to can learn to use technology, but they may not see the point. Simon emphasised the use of technology to automate what would be fairly simple human processes. This is a great point – if you can automate a simple action on a computer (for example, removing formatting from a text file, or averaging each row in a spreadsheet), you not only save time, you make the process scaleable to much larger sets of data, which would take humans far too long to deal with, and you reduce the possibility of human error, as long as your code actually works!

Anyway, you can see that this made quite an impression. Another thing I will take away is how many things are worth joining to get more involved in the information profession. You can join CILIP for £38 a year if you’re a student or graduate trainee, definitely worth doing! You can join SLA (of which SLA Europe is a chapter) for $40 a year if you’re a student (even part-time, but I’m not sure about graduate trainees). You can join BIALL for £17 a year if you are a full-time student. You might want to consider registering with TFPL. SLA Europe offers an Early Career Conference Award, which three of the speakers had won, allowing them to go to amazing conferences in San Diego, Chicago and Philadelphia. BIALL also offers an award for the best library school dissertation on a legal topic. And, finally, Information Architect is a job title it might be worth looking out for.

That’s pretty much all I have to say for this post (I’ve waffled for more than long enough). Frankie will be talking about the aspects of the day that she really liked, and I’m sure they will be very different! I just want to thank everyone who helped organise the conference – it gave me loads to think about, allowed me to meet plenty of other graduate trainees, and generally have a great time. For anyone who wants a more general idea of the day – the slides from the presentations that everyone gave can be found on the CLSIG website.

CILIP Career Development Group New Professionals Conference 2011

On Monday, June 20th, I attended the CILIP Career Development Group’s New Professionals Conference at the University of Manchester, along with Kirsty Braithwaite, Anna Smith and Sonja Kujansuu from the Bodleian Law Library. I initially found out about this conference through Twitter (#npc2011), in addition to the CILIP CDG website, and thought that it might be very useful to attend, given that the conference theme was “Activism and Professionalism at a Time of Downturn”, and, as graduate trainees soon about to embark on our journey towards becoming information professionals, this topic is extremely relevant.

The conference consisted of a two series of presentations with two workshops.

The morning programme opened with three presentations:

Helen Murphy presented the CPD23, 23 Things for Continuing Professional Development. Her presentation and links to the CPD23 programme can be found here.  Given that training budgets are often reduced, information professionals must continue to develop their skills and take charge of their own career development. The CPD23 programme is available for anyone to join, allowing work at one’s own pace. It is inclusive, informal and cost-free. Like the 23 Things programme, the CPD23 programme explores emerging technology which impact on the information profession, but differs from the 23 Things programme in that it examines and focuses on devlopment of professional skills (such as social networking for career development, personal branding and on-line presence). The CPD23 programme enables information professionals to share expertise and learn from others, thereby forming strong networks, and also encourages one to grow in confidence as goals are achieved.

The next presentation, given by Rachel Bickley, discussed how new professionals can establish a dialogue with experienced professionals for career development. Again, this presentation stressed the importance of establishing networks. New professionals can benefit from the expertise of experienced professionals, but are often perceived as lacking in skills and “cliquey” with their on-line communities. New professionals must be ready to think outside the box and take advantage of transferrable skills whilst demonstrating a willingness to learn and forge strong networks.

Sam Wiggins and Laura Williams then presented “What makes an Information ‘Professional‘”. This talk was very well-researched, and I was impressed with the depth and scope of the work. I found this talk particularly relevant given the debate over obtaining professional qualifications (postgraduate degrees and chartership) versus on-the-job experience, particularly as the definition of an “information professional” is evolving and changing.

I was fortunate to attend a workshop facilitated by Simon Barron and Alice Halsley on activism for new professionals. Simon and Alice are members of a library activism group, Voices for the Library, which has been very active in campaigning against library closures and funding cuts to public library services. I found this workshop inspring and engaging. Activism is not only marching in demonstrations, but can also take the form of everyday actions such as telling friends and family to visit their local public libraries. Activism can be used to boost your professional profile, as it can add to your toolkit of professional skills, thereby filling gaps in your CV. Finally, activism for libraries is in itself a worthwhile pursuit, as new professionals should be advocates of their profession, contributing to both short-term and long-term change for the better.

Following a light lunch, I attended the second workshop facilitated by Sue Hornby and Bob Glass: “Raising your Professional Profile”. This workshop enabled the participants to explore and become aware of potentially overlooked professional skills and transferrable skills such as communication, networking and time and resource management.

The afternoon session also consisted of three presentations:

Ka-Ming Pang and Joseph Norwood gave a beautifully-illustrated talk on LIS student activism and why it is important for LIS students to become engaged and involved with their profession.

Megan Wiley then presented on the need to develop professionalism in a careers information team.

Finally, the award-winning presentation of the day was given by Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert,  special collections librarians at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Their presentation examined outreach as a means of raising the public profile both of the library and its collections and librarianship as a profession. Their projects focussed on specific items within the library’s collections, in this case, the archives of the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, and  a 15th Century text on magic tricks, Hocus Pocus Junior (1638). The Hoyle project involved making your own astrolabe. You can even give it a go yourself!

In all, the CILIP New Professionals Conference was an engaging and inspiring look at what the profession will mean to new information professionals, and a practical examination at what we can do to further our own career development, thereby affecting the future of the profession as a whole.

CILIP: Framework of Qualifications

On 19th May, a few of us attended an informative session on CILIP Qualifications, including chartership and certification, run by Michael Martin from CILIP.

Michael began by explaining the difference between the two levels he would be talking about. Certification is for library assistants who have been in the profession some time, whereas chartership is for qualified librarians. Both are essentially different levels of membership to CILIP.

The first steps to either qualification is membership to CILIP, after which you register as a candidate, which costs £25 for certification or £50 for chartership. You then choose a mentor from a list provided by CILIP, and together you design a personal professional development plan (PPDP).

The basis of the CILIP qualifications is building a portfolio.  A portfolio allows you to demonstrate your learning, and how you have applied valuable knowledge and skills in your workplace. For a chartership application, it would include:

  • Contents page
  • CV (longer than for a job application)
  • PPDP
  • Personal evaluative statement (1000 words)
  • aims & objectives of your organisation
  • structure charts (where you are in your organisation)
  • evidence of participation in the mentor scheme

It is similar for certification, but follows a different template, including a supporting letter.

Michael also listed the criteria that the applications must meet. The criteria for chartership are:

  • to be able to reflect critically on personal performance and evaluate service performance
  • an active commitment to continuing professional development
  • to be able to analyse personal and professional development with reference to experiential and developmental activities
  • a breadth of professional knowledge and understanding of the wider professional context

For certification, the criteria are similar:

  • the ability to evaluate personal and service performance
  • to show how your personal, technical and professional skills have developed through training and development activities
  • an appreciation of the role and contribution of libraries and information services in the wider community

Michael then gave advice to those wanting to pursue a CILIP qualification: keep everything! Using a diary, a blog, or whatever suits you, try to keep a record of your evidence to support the criteria. He also advised completing a skills audit.

It was an interesting session, as I didn’t know what chartership involved, and the other options for library assistants who maybe don’t want to go down the Library School route.

After the session, Emma Sullivan emailed round information about how Staff Development supports staff wishing to gain certification, chartership or fellowship from CILIP. Staff can apply to get funding for their submission fee, though not membership fees. They can also provide your training record which lists the courses you have attended, and the Staff Library has copies of ‘Building Your Portfolio’ by Margaret Watson, a book recommended by Michael during the questions and answers time.