Innovating, inspiring, creating and disrupting: a report on the i2c2

On 5th March 2014, I headed up to Manchester with my lovely boss Andy to attend i2c2, a conference themed around Innovation, Inspiration and Creativity (‘conference’ is the second C) with the aim to use positive disruption to improve libraries. I am very fortunate to work where I do because I have been in libraries before that would have never have been able to send me on this conference due to budget constraints, but Cambridge Judge Business School takes staff development very seriously so I was able attend i2c2.

I know I often write up training sessions and conferences in a way that allows others to get a similar experience, even if they weren’t able to attend, but I fear this is impossible with i2c2 as it wasn’t like any other conference that I’ve ever been to. It was a very visual, engaging and collaborative conference with less sitting down and listening and more getting involved and networking. Instead I’ll give an overview of what I did and heard.

Continue reading “Innovating, inspiring, creating and disrupting: a report on the i2c2”

Librarians on film (and TV)

Star Wars librarian, Jocasta Nu

Credit: LucasFilm

So, Obi-Wan Kenobi does what all good Jedi should do and goes to his local library to find some information from a hopefully helpful librarian. Unfortunately he meets Jocasta Nu. Seriously Jocasta, that’s your reference interview technique? Can’t you sit  Obi-Wan down in front of your futuristic OPAC or access a database with him to help him find what he needs? Sure, he might not have the “right reference” but who does? It isn’t as if he’s asked for a book and only remembers that it was blue. “Oh yes, I’m looking for a planet…I remember it was sort of cloudy” doesn’t really cut it.

No. You send him on his way without any information at all. Of course, you could have taken some notes and his email address (or hologram address) and researched his problem in your own time and get back to him. Tut tut. Bad librarian.

Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Credit: 20th Century Fox Television

Controversial decision because I love Giles and the Buffyverse. However, Giles, I get that you’re saving the world and all that but what is your outreach policy? We never see any students using the library, apart from very very rare occasions which you react to with confusion. You hate computers (I seem to remember you called one an idiot box), at a time when they were beginning to transform the librarianship landscape. As a high school librarian, you were pretty bad. Sure, Sunnydale was inevitably going to fall into the Hellmouth but surely you could have put on a literacy programme or something for the students. I mean, they didn’t even get to graduate properly due to the Mayor turning in to a giant snake thing. Poor students.

Ghost librarian, Ghostbusters

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Honey. I get that you’re all dead and incorporeal but that doesn’t excuse your terrible manners in the book stacks. What’s with all the floating books? Are you sure they’re being reshelved properly because you of all people should know how impossible it is to find a misshelved book. We may as well write those ones off and put a missing note in the catalogue. And really? Gunge in the card catalogue? Your living colleagues probably haven’t put those onto an electronic database and some poor intern is going to have to clean those up and reorder all the ones you rudely scattered everywhere. Honestly, even in the afterlife you can make a ton of extra work for the living.


Evelyn O’Connell, The Mummy

Credit: Universal Pictures

Two words. Ladder training. Really…you could have killed someone.

Monsters University Librarian

Credit: Pixar/Disney
Credit: Pixar/Disney

Oh dear oh dear. Bun. Check. Old age. Check. Glasses with chain. Check. Tentacles…er….check? I get the importance of silence in a study space but charging about the place, tackling students, causing injury and causing a whole mess that only you are going to have to tidy up is not a good way of maintaining a user friendly service. Calm yo’ self. It’s ok.

Disclaimer: this is all meant to be very tongue-in-cheek. Tell me your personal bad librarians from TV/film/other. Let’s share in the cringing.

Where’s your librarian bun?

Image taken from Kyle Cassidy's LJ post. I hope he doesn't mind!
Image taken from Kyle Cassidy’s LJ post. I hope he doesn’t mind!

So I’ve been wanting to write about the image of librarians for some time and as today is International Hug a Librarian Day, I thought…heck…why not write that post today? Also, the recent Slate photo essay “controversy” made me want to talk about this topic even more. In case you don’t know what I’m referring to, there has been a recent furore in the US (and elsewhere) about a lovely photo set by Kyle Cassidy, but I will come to that in a minute.

Continue reading “Where’s your librarian bun?”

Beep! Beep! Can I see your licence please?

Fabulous post from Andy Priestner (my boss!) about some new Social Media-related shenanigans we’ve been getting up to at Cambridge Judge Business School. It’s all rather good fun and fascinating to be involved with!


smdlcar Major breakthroughs here at my place of work in respect of social media. I get the feeling we’re at a tipping point or at the very least at a point at which my non-library co-workers are starting to recognise that there actually is a tipping point.

I’ve banged on about the value of social media here at Cambridge Judge Business School for nearly 5 years now, not always a lone voice, but often the most vocal, and I have long seen the need for education as to what it is social media can actually do for anyone researching or learning. Of course us librarians have been ahead of the curve on this for, well, years. It was way back in 2010 that Emma Coonan and I initiated the successful ‘Cam 23’ a 23 Things programme for library staff across the University (following on from the great work of Laura Wilkinson

View original post 770 more words

Librarian as Educator: doing outreach, access and education with schools

This is a blog version of a Librarians in Training session that I co-presented with Ryan Cronin. We decided to write this up for people who attended as something to refer back to, as well as for those who were unable to attend due to meetings/family commitments/geographical location etc.

Please note that this was presented for a Cambridge University audience so a lot of the terms and references will be specific and may not make sense to all. We hope that this session (and blog post) helps people considering trying new outreach and engagement activities and we aim to show that it isn’t scary and can actually be a lot of fun!

This is a very long write-up, hence the cut!

Continue reading “Librarian as Educator: doing outreach, access and education with schools”

Mini update

Apologies for my blog being a bit dormant since November 2013. The main reason for this is that I have a new job!

Since early January, I have been the User Experience Librarian at the Cambridge Judge Business School which is all exciting and new. I will blog about my role and what sort of work I’m doing because I find it really interesting and engaging, and I hope you will too.

I am also co-presenting a Librarians in Training (Cambridge-based peer-to-peer training programme) session on Librarians as Educators on Wednesday 12th February at St John’s College, which I will do a write up on and disseminate materials for those unable to attend. If you are thinking of coming along, there are just two spots left so book now! If you’ve got the Cambridge credentials, courses can be booked through the main UL website here:

I’m also involved with the ARLG Eastern committee, am going to lots of conferences over the next few months and have lots of other projects and exciting things planned so watch this space as I will share as much as I can as and when I get time to write.

Thanks for reading and I hope 2014 is as exciting for you as it is going to be for me!

CILIP membership – update

I feel I should be honest with you as my readers. Since my shockingly popular post on the CILIP 2014 hustings and the topic of membership fees, I have actually joined CILIP as an associate member.

My reason? I was asked by a colleague if I would be interested in being the Research Sector Representative on the ARLG Eastern Committee. I am very flattered and delighted to be offered this opportunity and so I took it. However, of course, to hold a portfolio position meant I had to cough up my £194 and join CILIP properly.

I am still unhappy with the fees level. I am still unhappy with what we seem to get for our money (which isn’t a huge amount). However, I feel that if I am ever going to make a difference with regards to this sort of thing, I can do it better as a member. Plus, I have not joined for life. I will see what CILIP has to offer and if, after a few years, it isn’t working out for me I can always stop my membership.

So yes, I am still unconvinced about the benefit of membership but I have joined so I can do something that I want to do rather than joining for the sake of it which is a bit better in my book.

Librarian as researcher: doing research in your day job by Emma Coonan and Jane Secker (workshop write-up)

"3 out of 4 scientists can't explain copyright. The choice is clear: Creative Commons" by BrokenCities on Flickr
“3 out of 4 scientists can’t explain copyright. The choice is clear: Creative Commons” by BrokenCities on Flickr

Disclaimer: as this training session was offered to University of Cambridge librarians, it may be very Cambridge-centric. However, I think there is a lot you can get from what was discussed anyway!

Yesterday I attended an excellent Librarians in Training session called Librarian as research: doing research in your day job. It was presented by the delightful Emma Coonan (Cambridge University Library) and Jane Secker (LSE). To give you a picture, we were all sitting in groups around a table with Emma and Jane presenting from the front of the room and then occasionally roaming around the groups. We knew we were in for a mixed and interactive session from the get-go.

The slides from an earlier (but almost identical) presentation on the same topic was available on SlideShare.


Emma and Jane shared much of the presentation and switched around quite frequently which made for some interesting variety. Initially, Emma spoke on what we could expect from the session, through both talking about how they did research together and what they have found beneficial. Attendees were told that they could either sit and listen (as beginners or people wanting to see if research is for them) or they could get ideas and tips (for those already doing research). Either way, the session was aimed as being practical and reflective in equal measure, which is certainly was.

Jane started by telling us a bit about herself. She currently works as part of LSE’s e-learning team which is based in the Information Management and Technology department. She spoke about how she found she didn’t want to be a librarian while doing her library qualification so she carried on to do a PhD at Aberystwyth so she could pursue an academic career, only to realise that wasn’t for her either and switched back to wanting to be a librarian again. She continued on to pursue roles that combined research and librarianship such as digitisation and JISC projects and then moved on to e-learning work. Currently she is in a more practical job where research is not in the remit of the job, but she still wants to include this into her work.

Emma comes from a very different background to Jane and has a lot of experience in researching literary theory and other areas. However, she worked with Jane on the Arcadia Project which was interesting as they did not seek each other out for the project. Someone else put them together which turned out to be an excellent judgement of characters as they worked well together with their similar interests in undergraduate education and other similar areas. As part of their Arcadia research, the pair came up with a curriculum based on actual research rather than something thought up by sitting in a room.

The data collection element of Emma and Jane’s Arcardia research mainly consisted of carrying out interviews by talking to people and experts, carrying out an extensive literature review and then running workshops to present the raw form of their curriculum for feedback purposes. Over the course of three months, they achieved a huge amount which is a testament for how two people combining their efforts can lead to achieving so much more than someone on their own necessarily would.

Jane is currently working on information sharing and literacy. Emma made the point that she is very different to Jane in that she has never done any externally funded research projects. All of her work has been practitioner-centric with a lot of it reflecting local needs and demands. She has also done some work on distance learning support and highlighted how there isn’t a lot of data being captured about current distance learning students.

Doing things; writing about it; sharing ideas through research and opportunity

After this introduction, Emma and Jane continued the session based around several key questions that they presented on and also threw over to us to discuss as groups and with the rest of the room. I will block out the rest of this post using each question area as a theme.

Continue reading “Librarian as researcher: doing research in your day job by Emma Coonan and Jane Secker (workshop write-up)”

Women and Leadership talk

So, today I attended a talk in Cambridge called New Perspectives: Women and Leadership – Taking the Leap, which was run by the Equality and Diversity, and Women’s Staff Network folk at the University of Cambridge, where I work.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t too sure. I have become a bit tired of late with all of the language used in courses for women. Leaping, springboards, general terms indicating that we all need a helping boost to heft ourselves up-and-over that lovely glass ceiling. Or is it a wall? I’m never quite sure. So, I was basically expecting a lot of this:



Which made me feel a bit like this:


I am happy to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong about it all. Now, my point about language and training for women remains and anyone who follows me on Twitter and/or Facebook would have seen my gripes about this. In fairness, I also dislike the language used for training aimed at men too as it often doesn’t do them any favours either. What is with segregated training anyway? Seems all a bit odd to me.

Anyway, back to the talk today. The brilliant Professor Dame Athene Donald (University Gender Equality Champion, and accomplished physicist) started things off with an excellent introduction. The main message that I took from her intro was: identify where you want to be! She mentioned how many people within the University wait for their career paths to happen, rather than get proactive about things which I thought was a valid concern that many probably hadn’t even realised.

Following on from the intro, we listened to a few lovely ladies talk about their careers and lives as women in leadership positions. They were: Flick Osborn (2013/14 CUSU President), Dr Hannah Critchlow (Neuroscience engagement and Naked Scientist) and Marie Butcher (Assistant Registrary at Faculty of Economics)

All three women came from very different backgrounds. Flick is a student representative, Hannah is an academic engaged in outreach and Marie is an administrator. However, they had much in common and we learnt a lot from their experiences. Apart from anything else, it was nice to hear from peope who did not have a dead-set career plan, who had maybe not got the best results at school, but who made it work for them.

The main points from their presentations and the subsequent Q&A session can be summarised as follows:

Enjoy what you do!

If you believe in what you’re doing, keep persisting and keep that understanding of why you want to do a certain thing for your career.

If you don’t know what you want to do, just go for every opportunity you can and you’ll figure it out.

Write things down, and regularly assess your strengths and weaknesses

Turn negatives into positives. If you don’t get something the first time, go on to try and get the next thing instead!

Also, be aware of your own strengths/weaknesses as well as those of people in your surrounding environment. That way, you can work together for the overall betterment of the team.


Networking is very important! Participants said that it is something women can sometimes be bad at and we need to be proactive in our careers.

Put your name forward for things. What is the real cost of not getting involved? What is the worst that can happen?

Is being a woman a burden? How do you separate your gender from your job?

This question was fascinating which is why I’m unpacking it a bit further. Most participants did say that being a woman can be a burden but some had different additional answers.

Flick highlighted the importance of empowering herself and others. She also feels that she sometimes has to be more forceful due to her age, rather than gender. Hannah mentioned that while she found it trickier to be taken seriously in her 20s, she has found it a lot different now she is in her 30s. She finds being a woman is now a huge advantage and she is better at talking to people, sometimes more so than her male counterparts.

Marie mentioned that while many of her peers are women, she is more working to change the perceptions that administrators are there to make life difficult for people, rather than them actually being there to help! Athene mentioned that she is certainly more memorable as the only senior woman in the room!

I found this question to be even more interesting given the context of what I do for a profession. Aside from a perceived dominance of men in higher management positions within academic libraries (of course this is different depending on where you are), librarianship is rather dominated by women. So, how do you stand out as a woman in a female dominated world? Also, what about men? How do they fare, especially at lower levels? It is all well and good talking about breaking in to a male dominated research area, like Athene has done in physics, but it struck me how librarianship is a different kettle of fish altogether!

Quite frankly, I enjoy working in a mixed gender workplace. I think having a mix of approaches, thoughts and attitudes makes for a far better work environment, and this applies to all professions. Why is it that librarianship is seen as a female profession and is this even correct as a perception? Lots of interesting things to think about and this will probably turn into a post all of its own.

However, the talk itself was really good. It was nice to hear from a range of female professionals who were doing different things at different stages of their lives. It was nice to hear about things not always going to plan and how they dealt with that. The main conclusion that I took from today is:

Do what you want!

Don’t be held back by others. Push to do what you want in your career. Be proactive, take every chance and opportunity and really push and pester and fight. Just try new stuff out, whenever you can.

CILIP 2014 Hustings: membership fees #cilip2014

I thought I would do a quick blog post about last night’s CILIP 2014 Election Hustings rather than try to pick it apart on Twitter as 140 characters can only provide so much.

I had a question answered that I had posted on Twitter about the current fees tiers and if they were linked to low membership levels.

All the candidates had a range of things to say, some of which I agreed with and some of which was rather disheartening and verging on frustrating. I will try to break these points out a little bit and explain what I mean because  I think that this is a discussion that needs to continue. As a disclaimer, I am not a member of CILIP. The fees are a big sticking point for me. Hence this post.

Being a professional

David M opened his response with the statement that being a professional means that you should want to be a member of a professional body (i.e. CILIP). I found this response to be rather offensive. I do want to be a member of CILIP. I do want to be professional, hence why I just forked out the best part of £7000 to do a professional Masters. However, I simply cannot afford £200 a year for what doesn’t seem to be a lot in return. I do want to be a part of what is going on but if I can’t afford it, how is this going to happen? David also described people “moaning” about financial matters and that this shouldn’t dominate the conversation. I think the description of people moaning is rather unfair. While I haven’t seen all of the comments to which he was referring, people are obviously raising this on a frequent basis because it is a major concern and issue. If CILIP is to represent and support its members, and attract new members, surely making the actual joining process as easy and as accessible as possible should be the main priority, otherwise what is the point of it all?

David M also mentioned that the ALA is cheaper than CILIP to join and I think that this should be looked at more because, from an outsider’s perspective, the ALA is doing a lot more with its time.

Value for money

Many of the candidates mentioned that people need to be able to measure the value that they are getting for their money. I couldn’t agree more. One of my main gripes about the £200 price tag for CILIP membership is that, from what I can see, you mostly get a magazine and some occasional discounts. I realise that I’m probably being quite flippant here but as a non-member, what is there to attract me? As I have already said, I actually do want to be a member because I want to get involved in supporting my profession and developing as a professional librarian, but a lot of that is my input. What do I get for my money aside from (or in addition to) what I would get from me putting in a lot of time and effort?

“You get out what you put in”

This is something that I have heard a lot about CILIP and yes, I can understand this approach. I do want to put a lot in. I do want to take part. However, with the financial barrier, how can I do that? Also, where is the £200 of my membership money going if all of us are volunteering our professional time to run groups and chair meetings? There may well be a good answer to this but I haven’t seen an easily accessible way of assessing this value for money. Where was CILIP when the public library closures were taking place? I didn’t hear that much from them but I heard a lot from volunteer groups supporting their local branch library. If I am paying £200, surely that should be going towards representation on a national level to defend libraries, ensure that professionals are being paid properly, promoting librarianship as a career, doing outreach and many many other things as a body, rather than relying on members to do all of the legwork.

I realise that I might sound a bit like I want something for nothing, but this isn’t the case. We are putting in a large sum of money. We are expected to put in a good chunk of time as well. What is the actual measurable return on this?

Tier system

Something that really bothers me is that due to my pay spine, I pay exactly the same membership fee as (for example) the head of the British Library. I pay the same as my boss, I pay the same as many many people who are earning a lot more than me. I am also working in a job that isn’t a professional one due to the fact that the job market is rather limited for new professional roles. How is this fair? Now, I recognise that many of the candidates did agree that the tier system did need to be addressed, with several mentioning that it should be raised at the next AGM which gave me some hope. However, one candidate did say that we shouldn’t “agonise” over this issue. I couldn’t disagree more. As already mentioned, if enough people are raising this as a concern and on what seems to be a regular basis, we should be agonising over it. For the sake of balance, another candidate said that it made him feel uncomfortable that he was paying the same membership fee as someone who had just qualified.

Exit interviews indicate that some members left due to financial constraints. It should never be the case that our colleagues can’t get support and be part of a professional body because of something as relatively simple as money. Everyone is getting pay cuts, being made redundant, facing higher household bills, struggling to pay mortgages. It simply isn’t acceptable that those of us who do not have the fee amount spare are effectively cancelled out of the professional library CILIP world.

It was also mentioned that some work could be done to encourage employers to provide some assistance to covering professional membership fees if they want qualified staff. While a good point, this again means that those of us who are not earning large salaries from being in managerial roles are limited in what support we can get to pay CILIP fees.

The future

I was reassured that some of the candidates are taking this issue seriously but there was also a lot of talk about what will happen in the future, and that people will start to see the benefit of what CILIP is trying to do once it has all been worked out. That is all well and good but what are these changes? How are they being promoted to attract new members? Forgive my scepticism, but will these changes actually happen?

CILIP was described as being a charity. I donate a small amount to two charities and to be honest, I get a lot more information, emails, magazines and opportunities for involvement from them than I can measurably see from CILIP. Promotion and listening to that its members want is critical for the future of CILIP. Some of the candidates mentioned that they were concerned about how few younger professionals were going for council positions and I found this to be an interesting point. Are these young members being put off because of the fact that other council members are often individuals who are high up in their careers and they therefore feel that they can’t contribute due to their lack of experience? Are they individuals who can’t afford the time to get involved? Are they people like me who struggle to pay the membership fee and are disillusioned that they then get asked to do more, with little in return? I’d be interested to see how the discussion pans out over time and if there are ways in which CILIP can support those who are nervous about getting involved but who could contribute a great deal.

Final thoughts

A lot of what I have said may come across as antagonistic but I actually do care about my profession. I have always wanted to be a librarian and I am dedicated to being the best that I can be at it and to support colleagues, help others realise their librarian potential and raise the profile of the profession as a whole. I think that CILIP can have a massive role to play in this but I am also frustrated at how restrictive it can be at times. I want to be a member of CILIP. I want to be a part of making it a great professional body that can help transform lives, the public perception of what we do and much much more. But I can’t afford to join which makes me sad.

If I have missed anything or have got anything wrong, please tell me. If you can point me in the direction of resources that may answer some of my questions or if you have further questions for me, please get in touch! I would really appreciate it.

%d bloggers like this: