Leadership for librarians

Yesterday, I attending ‘Leadership for Librarians’ a training workshop presented by Andy Priestner at the University of Kent, part of CILIP in Kent’s programme of events.

We started with the easy bit: thinking about absence of leadership (i.e. bad leaders). Sadly, examples of these came to mind quite easily for all of us! Then we thought about great leaders – I chose my cardiologist because she is ace, and we recognised that leaders are not only people in positions of authority.

The key to successful leadership today is influence not authority. – Ken Blanchard

I’ve seen this truth borne out plenty of time during my working life – library assistants often make the best leaders! This quotation was also the one I identified with most of those that were stuck on the seminar room wall (one of our tasks was to guess who said each quotation).  As I suspected:

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else through hard work. That’s the price we have to pay to achieve that goal or any goal. – Vince Lombardi

We then went on to look at the differences between managers and leaders, and had to try and identify attributes of management and attributes of leadership. This was harder than I expected and led to some interesting team displays of team dynamics!

Management is doing thing right, leadership is doing the right things. – Peter F. Drucker

We followed this up by asking the (obviously rhetorical) question:

Do libraries need leaders?

Of course! Not least because there are many specific leadership challenges facing libraries, e.g.:


And not so many (good) leaders – at least in the experience of those in the room. We talked a bit about why this might be. Various reasons were given, such as the natural temperament of librarians (which I personally think should be, err…shelved as an idea in 2016. We are way past that). I think partly it’s because we have a lot of managers who have come up through libraries and been promoted to management positions without having the qualities really necessary to be good leaders. They may (or may not) be good managers, but leadership is a different kettle of fish. It’s interesting that nowadays a lot of library leaders have come in without a library background – you don’t need library experience (or indeed a library qualification) to be a good leader. Leadership is more transferable across fields, whereas managers probably will need more specialised knowledge of their working areas.

Then we took a good hard look at ourselves though the medium of post-it notes.


By Photoforia via Flickr

It turns out I value my family more than I thought I did. Which sounds wrong. I suppose it wasn’t really all that surprising – I’m always longing for home, whatever form that might take – literal or otherwise. I like the German concept of Heimat, for which there is no English equivalent, although for me it is most poignant in it not being its opposite – alienation, and it’s not to do with geography or nationalism in my case; more wanting to be a Hobbit.

To finish the morning off we looked at what qualities we respect most in leaders – time for more post-its!

We followed this with a discussion about leadership styles (including our own) – authoritarian, democratic or laissez-faire (there are others). I scored most highly for democratic – I’m not sure if this is because I value other people’s opinions or because I can’t make decisions on my own (probably both). We talked a bit about situational leadership, which sounds like a good idea – having the most appropriate leadership style for the situation you’re in at the time. As we said, people have a tendency to want to label themselves, but it may not always be appropriate (or true) to say (e.g.) ‘I am an authoritarian leader’ because we’re probably not just one thing all the time, and if we are this is likely to be a mistake because we need to be sensitive to situations and respond appropriately.

After lunch (I think), we watched this video:

Not all of it, I hasten to add. Six minutes was more than enough for me. I totally got the concept, but I found Mr Sinek a bit irritating. To save you watching the video, the idea behind starting with why is that instead of telling people what and how you do things (like we tend to do a lot in libraries) we should instead tell people why we do them – this way they are more likely to engage with us and our services. The reason this works is because ‘the why’ speaks to our emotions, rather than our reason….as demonstrated by our next example of leadership…


By Findntake via Flickr

In case you’re interested, @andytraining thinks Steve Jobs’ leadership style was a mixture of charismatic, autocratic and transformational. I’m sure Steve was a great leader, but I have a bit of a problem with him saying all those things he said about how Apple could change the world for the better and then allowing his phones to be made by people working and living in terrible conditions. Anyhow…

Now we were on to the really hard bit, assessing our own leadership (or lack of it). Actually completing the leadership challenge assessment wasn’t too bad, although people like me who are not currently in leadership roles found it harder to score highly because of lack of experience (even though you don’t have to be in a ‘leadership role’ to be a leader). I found that, in line with my democratic leadership style, I am allegedly good at enabling others to act (yay!) not so good at “encouraging the heart” (alas). I used to be better at encouraging people, I think – perhaps I have become more selfish over the years…I found it interesting to think back over my career, such as it is, specifically about how I used to manage people and I think, really, I tried to manage people with love (I know, yuck) which was (fairly obviously to anyone with sense) a mistake – I was an extreme teddy bear and wanted to keep everyone happy all the time, which, amongst other things (including other people’s poor management and leadership), led me to the edge of a nervous breakdown. This might be a form of servant leadership, but I’m not sure I was as selfless as all that. But we must move on….

To the personal leadership development plan. I was feeling quite positive about the day before I filled this in (lucky it was at the end!). I just didn’t know how I could practically do things to meet the leadership challenges I needed to meet. Perhaps I was just tired, but I was also thinking about my performance over the day. I am very concious of how I behave in groups, monitoring myself all the time. This is partly because I have got into trouble before for ‘misbehaving’ (e.g. being too negative) in group settings before and I know I can say things without thinking them through properly and end up sounding/being rude to people or making a fool of myself, or being ‘rebellious’ (which is often frowned upon in the workplace). A lot of workplace stuff makes me quite angry – partly because of my experiences at work (see above) and I do have a tendency towards negativity sometimes. Also, I can get bored quite quickly, which also leads me to ‘misbehave’, I fear. And then there are irritating people whose opinions I feel I must question. And so it goes on. Also (and so) I am very insecure and did I mention socially awkward and anxious?

Anyway, I thought I’d been rude to someone (by accident) so I was thinking ‘oh no, I’ve done it again, everyone’s going to think I’m rude, Andy is going to think I’m rude’, also I felt like I’d talked to much throughout the day and people would think I was overbearing, etc. I used to be so shy I wouldn’t speak in groups so now I think I say a lot because I might miss my chance if I don’t say it RIGHT NOW! I feel that I lack some kind of knowledge/instinct about what is good social behaviour – I may of course have behaved perfectly well all day, but the problem is I don’t think I did. I hate that uncertainty – I’m an adult, I should know these things.

So my filling in of the plan did not go well. I will have to look at it again and see if I can do better when I’m in a more positive frame of mind! However, I am generally feeling positive about leadership and what I could do with it, as it were. We are going through big changes at work at the moment, particularly (so far) in terms of management and leadership culture, so I’m hoping what we learnt on Tuesday will be of help in working through the changes, getting to know our new leaders and seeing how we can also lead within the library. I think, also, we can really use the idea of ‘starting with why’ in our relationships with our users. We need to tell them why we do what we do. Here’s a bit of Andy’s ‘why’ for libraries:

We work in libraries because we passionately believe in uniting people with the information they need when they need it so they can successfully educate themselves and learn more about the world around them…ultimately we are seeking to help you be the best that [you] can be.

Sounds good to me.

Notes from the second meeting of the Kent Special Collections, Local Area Studies and Archives Forum

Yesterday, I attended the second meeting of Kent Special Collections, Local Area Studies and Archive Forum, which was held at The Historic Dockyard in Chatham. The meeting was preceded by a tour round the new galleries at the dockyard – Command of the Ocean, about the glory days of the British Navy and the ships that made these possible, including a ship whose remains were found buried underneath a floor at the dockyard. It was amazing to see those massive beams of wood lying there after all this time and to think about what adventures they must have seen and experienced as part of the ship. We then walked almost the length of the dockyard (quite a long way) to our meeting.


The Dockyard Gate

This was my first time meeting most of the people present – there were representatives from the Drill Hall Library at the Universities at Medway campus, Medway Council Archives and Local Studies Centre, and the Historic Dockyard. It was really interesting to hear about what’s happening at other archives/special collections in the area, and useful to be able to talk about our struggles at [my place of work] because it turned out that some of the problems we experience are shared by other places. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised! One particular ‘problem shared’ is that we would like to promote and increase usage of our archives and special collections but at the moment they are not properly housed or cared for (we don’t have the resources in terms of place, human beings or expertise) so we are not really in a position to have people using them on a regular basis. I’m hoping that we will be able to at least try to tackle this problem in the near(ish) future, but it is a bit of a long-term goal at the moment.

Norma from Medway Council shared information about projects going on there: the archives and local studies collections are due to move next spring so they are in a bit of state of limbo at the moment, but they are still putting on exhibitions – the next one starts on 30th June and is about the ‘Men of the Medway Towns in World War One’, focussing on events that took place in 1916 – the Battles of Jutland and the Somme.

The meeting was an excellent way to get to know about other archives and special collections in the area, and we decided that it would be a good idea to perpetuate this knowledge by gathering together information about our archives and special collections into some sort of document, preferably one that be accessed online. Amelia from the Drill Hall Library is going to try to collate this information together and make it available. In addition, we all agreed that it would be good to share projects  – if we all happen to be working on the same topic we can try to work together and share resources so that we’re not duplicating ourselves.

The meeting was followed by a visit to the Dockyard’s archives and library and reading room, which was a lot bigger than I expected! It was a very interesting afternoon and really good to meet fellow special collections people. We are not alone!

Re-blog: Reflections on content overload and self-filtering

Re-blogged from Bookmouse

This a response to Ernesto Priego’s post, which is one of the best and wisest things I’ve read for a while. Please read his post before you read mine, which is but a poor reflection, and a bit of a mind dump, so please excuse waffle and bad syntax but not foolishness.

Reading Ernesto’s post, I thought again about giving up this blog, but then I thought, no, it is my voice. It is where I share what (for good or ill) would not otherwise be shared. I’m thinking of @PatientAsPaper, #chronicLife, etc. Patients’ views need to be heard. I could share elsewhere, on Facebook we have the Somerville Foundation page where lots of CHD-related sharing goes on, but some sharing needs to go outside the “echo chamber” (as we used to say in Library Land). Sometimes, I need to write to at least attempt to be heard, because I can’t speak, or I don’t want to, or I think it’s good to let other people know I go through these things too – I like to feel like I’m doing my bit for patient solidarity and support because I don’t do much of that offline.

Of course, this is all my way of justifying the continuation of my online ramblings, most of which aren’t even about my experience as a patient! But I do try to filter. I’ve recently removed (literally) hundreds of posts from this blog because they were there like a millstone around my virtual neck – I actually felt them weighing me down – adding to the content overload which I, too, feel overwhelmed by even as I add to the problem, typing some more letters, words, paragraphs, waffle, to add to the overfed monster that is social media.

I returned to Facebook fairly recently, after a few years’ hiatus, and this hasn’t helped, but actually I find it easier to filter Facebook than Twitter, partly because of the changes to Twitter Ernesto talks about – it is a bit ‘all or nothing’, whereas Facebook, though clearly evil, has grades of filtration. And, yes, I think it [social media] is evil, or at least partly so – we are making ourselves both the marketeers and the marketed – the consumers and the commodities, even as we preach against such things. As Ernesto says, I think part of this is due to the fear of missing out, especially in a professional context:

Fear of missing out means many of us feel we need to keep an eye on social media to be mildly aware of what’s happening in our fields and in the world, but the illusion created by what looks like everyone actively broadcasting how hard they are at work (or having fun taking planes to exotic conference destinations) can also have a paralyzing effect.

This may particularly apply to librarians and other information professionals who may feel (or it may actually be) that part of their job is to engage with it, and yes, Ernesto is also right about the self-filtering/accompanying professional anxiety. I don’t know how we get round this, apart from to self-filter more, but even if you cut out all the dross [how?] the anxiety would still be there. And also, who decides what is dross? Is it ethical to cut out (‘harmless’) dross on a supposedly democratic platform? Who decides what is harmless? Etc. [One of] the problem[s] with social media is that it is both tremendously subjective and in everyone’s* faces [*yes, I am also aware of the digital divide, don’t worry]. People are consuming other people’s lives like never before – and we the marketeers/consumers want them to do it.

It’s like a new form of social evolution/survival of the fittest – there is a pressure to be [seen] as the best – who takes the best pictures [Instagram], who has the cutest kids/makes the best cakes/has the most friends [Facebook], who has the most readers [WordPress] – the rise of ‘click bait’, even on the BBC News website for pity’s sake, illustrates such things quite well. There isn’t necessarily a prize (except possibly for advertisers) if you win – but it’s the feeling we want – the high of a jump in stats or likes or admirers.

I want to get excited by new forms of social media, but now I just feel overwhelmed. Like Ernesto, I’ve been at this lark for a long time. I do feel old now (even though I’m not yet 40), and a bit behind and a bit lost these days; partly because I feel unable to filter as I used to (see Twitter changes, dumbing down of the BBC website, etc.). I feel bombarded and bored and the same time, but, conversely and paradoxically (and hypocritically), I want to enter into the mix and have people read my content. But why? Why do I want to be a commodity? Because I want to be be heard, I want to feel important and valued. I want to be a survivor in the mad world of the web. To take a more benign view, I want to continue creating: to create is to be human, it is said.

I’m not sure what the answer to Ernesto’s questions are. I think we do have a responsibility as users to filter and self-filter, and to try and take a step back from social media sometimes, to critically assess both it and how we use it. As users/creators/consumers of social we are ultimately responsible for its content – we are the transmitters and the receivers of the messages that are sent and our fate is in our own hands.

CPD25: Researchers and repositories

On Wednesday (11th May) I attended two events hosted by CPD25: Engaging and Supporting Researchers and Open Access and Repositories.

Engaging and Supporting Researchers

Although both the talks at this event were very interesting and informative, they weren’t quite what I was expecting – which was how to engage and support researchers from a library perspective in a higher education institution (i.e. what I’m trying to do as part of my current role). The first talk was by Glenn Cumiskey from the British Museum, about digital preservation at the British Museum. This was really fascinating – digital preservation is not an area I’m very familiar with, although it turned out that lots of what he had to say is quite relevant to my work with the institutional repository. It was also thought-provoking from an archives perspective (which also comes into my current role, albeit in a minor part), and also my other role as a cataloguer/metadata person. As I managed to write down his ‘five Vs’ – things to be taken into consideration when dealing with data – I will share them with you:

  • Volume (of data)
  • Velocity (the rate at which data is created)
  • Veracity (of metadata – can be inaccurate, go what is good enough for now [interestingly different from the ‘traditional’ view of cataloguing]
  • Value (of the data – we should not keep data that is not of value to the organisation)
  • Variety (of formats – issues such as software/hardware dependence, small publishers that may not be here in 1o years’ time, etc.)

Glenn finished his presentation by talking about what data should evoke, using the Lampedusa Cross as an example.

Next up: Mahendra Mahey. He spoke about British Library Labs, and about the weird and wonderful things people have done with British Library data sets and online collections. His slides are available on SlideShare.

Open Access and Repositories

The afternoon started with Andy Tattersall talking about altmetrics –  alternative measures of  the impact/influence/engagement of/with research, using social media rather than traditional methods such as citations and journal impact factors. It was great to learn about something I’d previously only had a vague awareness of. I think we definitely need to look at how we could use altmetrics with the repository – maybe looking at engagement with the library research Twitter feed (which includes a feed of new items on the repository). I also wrote down five points Andy made about the value of altmetrics, so here they are:

  • Altmetrics complement, not replace, traditional metrics
  • They help people understand how research is being received and used, and by who(m)
  • Almetrics are not intended as an indicator of quality
  • They can help provide further evidence of engagement and societal impact
  • They give credit for research outputs other than articles

You can see altmetrics in action, as it were, on many journal articles, wherever you see the altmetrics ‘donut’.

Andy has written a lot about this subject, including a blog post on the CILIP website. This video might also be useful if you want to find out more:


Stuart Lawson was next, with an overview of Open Access, which I do know a bit about. Although I didn’t know about Sci-Hub. I was sort of shocked by it(s existence), but then I have led a (mainly) quiet and innocent life. I was also quite impressed. Anyway, possibly the less said about that the better…I enjoyed Stuart’s talk and obvious enthusiasm for his subject…and now I know it’s possible to do a PhD about Open Access!

Christina Emery from Knowledge Unlatched spoke next. I’m afraid I didn’t make many notes, partially because I’d read a lot about Knowledge Unlatched for one of my appraisal objectives! It is a good idea, I think. Here is a handy video to explain what KU is all about:

Finally, Lara Speicher presented about UCL Press, the UK’s first fully Open Access university press. I learned a new concept/acronym/word: BOOC – book as open online content. I’m quite interested in this because (a) its relationship to Open Access monographs, which I’ve been researching for one of my appraisal objectives, and (b) because I’m interested in books and can be done with them in terms of different formats, arty stuff, their meaning and how humans related to them as physical (or not) objects, and their relationship to the electronic world.

There is a Storify of the tweets from the Open Access and Repositories sessions and you can follow the tweets from the Engaging Researchers sessions using .

RDA in a Day

Last week I went to CILIP HQ in London to attend ‘RDA in a Day’. The course leader was Alan Danskin, who is Metadata Standards Manager at the British Library.

We started off with a brief introduction to FRBR – Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. As you may remember (not really), I had my first introduction to FRBR when I attended ‘FRBR for the Terrified’, back in 2013. Fortunately, I remembered some of what I learned then as it has become no less confusing over the years! I liked the definition of FRBR as a “conceptual model – a tool for thinking about/expressing part of the universe you’re interested in”. The FRBR model uses groups of entities and their primary relationships to try to  ‘express part of the universe’. As well as FRBR, there are other models in the “FR family”: FRAD – Functional Requirements for Authority Data and FRSAD – Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data.

The next session was about using the RDA Toolkit, which was really interesting as we don’t have access to it at work so it was my first time seeing the ‘inside’ of it. We also got to actually use it which was most helpful. We then had an ‘RDA primer’ – “a very brief introduction to RDA terminology and some core concepts”. I wrote them all down, but I won’t list them here – at least not right now. Perhaps I’ll make an RDA primer page.

After lunch, we looked at RIMMF. I’ve written a very little bit about RIMMF before – but now I’ve actually used it! This was quite exciting (I’m a bit easily excited by anything cataloguing-related, I fear) and slightly brain-bending after a while when it got more complicated. We practised by cataloguing examples of books (lots of Christopher Brookmyre) using RIMMF. I can see how useful it is for learning the concepts of RDA – it gets you thinking and thus cataloguing in a different way than using MARC and trying to fit/force RDA into it…

Which is what we looked at next (RDA and MARC). I thought it was interesting that any record that is not full RDA should be referred to as a hybrid record rather than an RDA record, even if it contains RDA elements. I suppose, technically, there aren’t really very many true RDA records out there. The ones we refer to at work as RDA are really hybrids of RDA and MARC.

Lastly, we looked ahead at what is (probably) around the corner in the world of metadata/cataloguing/standards/entity relationship modelling. It was interesting to hear about developments such as the LRM – Library Reference Model – and to realise that the world of metadata and ways of thinking about ‘things’ and their relationships to each other and their creators (ontology) is always evolving. One of the reasons I like cataloguing is because it’s a bit like philosophy (perhaps it actually is a form of philosophy?). Thinking about RDA, FRBR and the like certainly stretches the brain, anyway!

Also, the sandwiches were very good.

The only thing was, I felt like it was all a bit theoretical, even the practical bits. No one can catalogue properly using RDA as it should really be used because library management systems don’t have the capacity to do that. Even at the British Library they are creating hybrid records rather than true RDA ones. Also, the fact that ideas, concepts and models relating to RDA/FRBR are evolving, while being interesting, makes one feel in a state of flux. Gone are the days when there were cataloguing rules as with AACR2. This is a good thing, but in a stereotypical-cataloguer-like way I quite like to know where I’m going…It did feel a bit like playing or conducting philosophical exercises because of the lack of practical application. Which was fun, but felt worryingly pointless.

I guess this is mainly because we’re not even attempting to catalogue using RDA so it’s difficult to see how it can be applied in the real world, as it were – so one of my next bright ideas (!) is to go and a library where people do use RDA and see how they apply it in real life. Hello, University of Kent! I will be inviting myself to see you soon…




A short and very belated report about Open Access Week

This Open Access Week (October 24-30, 2015 – yes this post is very belated), the repository team decided to try to make more contact with academic staff by running some drop-in sessions on the use of our institutional repository. These took place during lunchtimes in the staff common room. We put up posters about Open Access (OA) (produced by the research centre), handed out flyers about OA and how it works within the University (especially with reference to the REF and the repository) and set up a table with a laptop so that people could ask us questions about OA and the repository if they wanted to.

Sadly, we didn’t get very many takers, but at least we raised awareness a little bit, and I did have some conversations about the repository with staff I wouldn’t normally have contact with. It was nice to be on the main campus for a bit as well, and feel more integrated with the University for a couple of hours (the library building is not on the campus). Although we had limited success in terms of conversations with people I think it was a useful exercise in terms of ‘showing our faces’ and the opportunity to raise awareness of OA through being able to put posters and flyers where academic staff should see them. It was also good to work in liaison with the research centre and meet members of staff I had not spoken to before.

“Open Access Monographs and Publishing Models: Collaborative Ways Forward”

Last Monday (19th October) I attended a panel discussion held at Goldsmiths to hear a panel of experts share thoughts and ideas as part of a discussion about open access monographs (OAMs). I attended as part of my research into collaborative models for the publication of OAMs, which is one of my appraisal objectives.  This event was part of International Open Access Week 2015 and was partly a response to the  HEFCE report on Monographs and Open Access (January 2015) – this year’s theme was “Open for Collaboration”. This report (also known as the Crossick report) came out of research led by Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The report found that:

“There is no single dominant emerging business model for supporting open-access publishing of monographs; a range of approaches will coexist for some time and it is unlikely that any single model will emerge as dominant. Policies will therefore need to be flexible.”

The panel comprised  Martin Eve, Senior Lecturer in Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck University of London; Alison Jones, Managing  Editor, Open Access, Oxford University PressSarah Kember, Professor of New Technologies of Communications, Goldsmiths University of London and Goldsmiths PressJoanna Zylinska, Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London and Radical Open Access Group. Professor Mark d’Inverno, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise at Goldsmiths hosted the discussion and it was chaired by Professor Simon McVeigh,  Goldsmiths’ Academic Lead on Open Access and Practice Research.

The event abstract sums up the main directions of the discussion:

“What is often forgotten is that, alongside transparency of public expenditure, the impetus for open access is the ethical and appropriate sharing of valuable knowledge for the betterment of society.

The proposed panel seeks to discuss the potential of the open access monograph format to contribute to this process of ethical knowledge dissemination, whilst highlighting the challenges presently faced by the publishing industry to make this a viable and financially sustainable reality.

The discussion will involve a group of speakers who hold contrasting perspectives on how this transition to open access monograph publishing should be managed and how it may support or disadvantage their particular professional sector and ethical goals.

Ambitiously and in keeping with this year’s open access theme of collaboration, this panel seeks to encourage the development of collaborative thinking between various kinds of publishers and the academe, in order to promote the ethical sharing of knowledge.”

It was a really interesting discussion, and there was a lot of information to take in. I have made copious notes, which I won’t write out here. If you want to read a pretty good summary of what was said you could have a look at Jeremy Barraud, Caroline Lloyd and Goldsmiths Research‘s tweets (scroll down a bit and look for the hashtag #OAweek).

I suppose the main thing I took away from the evening was that not everyone thinks open access is wonderful! As someone who works on a repository and is supposed to promote open access I think I’d been living in a happy open access ‘bubble’ where nobody ever talked about the potential downsides (or dark, neoliberal, sides) of OA. I still think OA is a good idea, but listening to the panel and the discussion has definitely made me think more about its potential effects on academics and their freedoms and made me realising I have a lot more reading and research to do!

Further reading/listening:

Monographs and open access (HEFCE report)

Open Access, HEFCE, REF and the threat to academic freedom

Opening out from open access: writing  and publishing in response to neoliberalism

The Open Access debate: challenges, threats and promises (podcast)


Open Access and monographs