On Friday 9th October, CILIP will be holding their New Professionals Day 2015. I attended this event in 2014 and found it both useful and inspiring. There were around 60 delegates, from across the country. The majority were, like me, just starting out on their careers, but some of the attendees had been in the profession for a while and wanted to learn how to progress their careers. After welcomes from the CILIP team, we were split into groups for a series of workshops.
The Anthropological LIS Researcher
My first session was Hooked On A (UX) Feeling: Research, Users And Academic Libraries, led by Georgina Cronin of Cambridge Judge Business School. In retrospect this was a good session to go to as I hope to be involved with the user experience (UX) project this year. I was drawn to her session as it focused on how research methods from anthropology can be used to study user experience in libraries. My original degree was a joint honours in Social Anthropology, and while studying for my MSc, I had been surprised that there wasn’t more use of anthropology in studying information behaviour.
Georgina spoke about how researching UX involves aspects of IT, sociology, psychology, anthropology and information science. The aim of UX is to get the user to the right source for their need. If you are tailoring your service to the user, it’s important to understand them. We often see it as our role to teach patrons how to use the library, but it’s important to remember that we should be learning from them too. If you want to improve an IT interface, then understanding how it’s used and how users want to use it is an essential part of the process. We need to be able to feed this information back to IT teams and system vendors. Not only will we end up with a system that suits our organisation, but the vendor will have a better product too.
I was reminded of the anthropological idea of participant observation at this point. Reserachers have to recognise how our culture affects how we view other cultures. We need to be aware that our own library experience colours how we understand users’ behaviour. What seems illogical user behaviour to someone familiar with a system, makes perfect sense if you can understand how users navigate a system.
The flipside of this is to challenge any tendency to think that “this is the way we’ve always done it.” It should also help to identify areas where we are doing things for our own rather than our users’ convenience.
How To Get That Job
The second session was with Suzanne Wheatley (@suzyredrec) of Sue Hill Recruitment and Jayne Winch Of TFPL. They spoke on the essential topic of how to “get that job”. There were a lot of tips on where to look for jobs. Think about who you want to work for and then monitor their websites. For academic posts, keep an eye on jobs.ac.uk and sign up for JISC mail. Use LinkedIn, not only to look for jobs, but also to stalk your interviewers when you do get that interview. We also practised our handshakes, and practised maintaining eye contact with our neighbour for 30 seconds. Harder than you think!
Who Is Sleeping With Who?
The keynote presentation was given by Jan Parry, the Vice President of CILIP. Jan has had a long career in the civil service, moving up from working in a job centre, to working for Government ministers. She reflected on how to develop your career. Think about where you want to go and plan how you want to get there through promotion and progression. One way to get noticed is to give your line manager a regular update on your work. It can be just a few lines in an e-mail, but not only will your boss know what you’ve done, you’ll also have a record of your progress too. Pass on any good customer feedback you’ve received. She also warned that you have to know your politics – learn who to trust, work out who are the bosses’ “chosen ones” and, most importantly, figure out who is sleeping with who! Don’t get complacent in your role. Keep learning and developing your skills. Most importantly, she reminded us that the only person who can change your career is you.
Certification Or Chartership
The third session of the day was on the process of professional registration. As someone who had been a little confused over whether to go for certification or chartership, I felt a little clearer afterwards. I have been giving myself a breather after having completed my MSc but I will have to think about tackling certification soon. At least I am now armed with a better idea of how to start the process and what to include in my portfolio.
How To Make Yourself Indispensable
My final session was with Emily Allbon of City University. I had been lucky to have heard Emily speak to our LIS class and at a City Uni LIibrary employability event. So I had paused before I selected her talk as one that I would attend on the day. But I’m glad that I did, as she continues to inspire.
Emily spoke about how to make yourself indispensable in your workplace. Firstly, gain an understanding of the whole business/organisation. Don’t limit yourself to “library stuff” but work out where else your skills can be used. Develop new skills, and bring in your experience from any other non-library roles. (My years of creating rotas for subtitling staff have already helped with doign the library rota!) Carve out your own niche by looking for the areas where there are gaps and inserting yourself into them. Not only will you make yourself indispensable, but you’ll also increase your own job satisfaction
Change isn’t optional
The day ended with a Q&A session with the session leaders. With various questions on how to get your foot in the door and how to get that promotion, again I reflected on the theme that I had noticed throughout the day – continual professional development isn’t optional in this sphere, it’s a must. This is a profession where you must be prepared to keep learning, to keep pushing yourself, to keep networking and keep blogging!