Thing 23: Reflection and six word story

Reflection

I’ve found the 23 Things programme useful, both in terms of learning new skills, but also (perhaps more so) in terms of thinking about my strengths and weaknesses, and about where I am now in my career, where I might want to go in the future, etc. Although I can often be quite negative about myself and my career prospects, I think doing more reflection through the 23 Things course has helped me to be realistic about my career and realise that I do have skills that are valuable, but I need to make sure I’m doing a job that uses my skills and strengths, and not try to be something I’m not. I perhaps have more of an idea of what I’m bad at than what I’m good at, but at least this means I know what I don’t  want to do!

Through the 23 Things course, and through looking into applying for a couple of jobs I’ve seen recently, I’ve realised there are quite a few things I could do with brushing up on, or just learning about from scratch. I’ve already spoken to my line manager about attending a course to deal with one of those things, and yesterday I found out about planned changes to my job, which will mean that I need to learn some new things, but will also be good for my own development (I hope).

Doing the 23 Things course has given me more confidence in using some tools I wasn’t at all familiar with before, and also reassured me that I do have something to offer. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, in terms of career path (or lack of) and in terms of thinking negatively about oneself, but doing something positive and practical, like the 23 Things, can help you look outside of your little box for a bit (at least) and find out more about what’s going on ‘out there’. I think doing the next  part of Thing 23, the SWOT analysis and PDP, will also be a good way of helping myself to think more positively about my strengths and weaknesses, particularly as they are fairly structured methods of reflection, which I find helpful. It might take me a while to get these done, but I’ll try and update this blog on a fairly regular basis from now on, and keep more of a record of what I’ve been up to in a professional context.

Six word story

Reading, writing and reflection. All good.

Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

Are there any other advantages to [online] social networking in the context of professional development than those already outlined above?

(Those advantages already mentioned were: better communication between individuals who may or may not have the chance to meet otherwise, creates a more collaborative working space as people are encouraged to share ideas, aids in building online communities, which can then turn into real-life communities, can provide easy access to other fields of the profession.The only thing I can think of is that online networking might help those who otherwise would not engage in networking, such as people who don’t feel very confident in face-to-face  social situations or who dislike real life networking.

Can you think of any disadvantages?

Only that people could use online networking as a replacement for face-to-face networking. Not sure this is necessarily a bad thing in all cases, but online networking is probably not appropriate for every situation. Sometimes you do just need to talk to people face-t0-face.

Has CPD23 helped you to make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally?

Yes, lots of people, especially on Twitter and blogs.  I think I even have more contact with people who work in my building via Twitter than in real life, which probably tells you all you need to know about communication in our workplace.

Did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?

Yes and yes.

In your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?

Well, I think it does – it’s certainly made me feel part of the wider library community,  but I also think it can do the opposite and lead to people feeling excluded, for example if they don’t feel confident in using social networking, or are latecomers to it, or just don’t understand it.  As with pretty much anything, social networking should be used with caution, and should not replace a normal diet of day-to-day, face-to-face interactions.

Thing 11: Mentoring

My only experience of ‘official’  mentoring was when I did my chartership. I never actually met my mentor, as she lived in a different county, and we usually communicated by email, and once on the phone. I think the distance between us made it difficult to form a good relationship, but I must also admit that I wasn’t great at keeping in touch with her.

As for  ‘unofficial’ mentors, there are people I’ve worked (and still work with) who I look up to and try to emulate, but I wouldn’t class these people as mentors as such. I can see how mentoring can work well, but  I’m not sure I would make good use of an ‘official’ mentor at this point in my career.

Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, Masters degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

For this ‘Thing’ we were asked to blog about our experiences as a librarian so far. I’m afraid I’m going to cheat, having written about this not all that long ago, and use the  post I wrote for the ‘Library Routes  project in 2010:

I thought I would join with other people in the library world and write about my library roots/routes for the The Library Routes Project. So, here I am, a library assistant in the shiny new library (I will have to stop calling it that one day, although it is still quite shiny at the moment). But how did I get here? Well, my career path hasn’t exactly gone the way I expected it to, but never mind…I’m not entirely sure why I wanted to become a librarian. I have fond memories of the local public library’s summer reading schemes for children, particularly one about the Aztecs, but I’m not sure that this influenced my choice of career at all! I think I probably went into librarianship because I couldn’t think of anything else I could do (!). Or, alternatively, because I had the privilege of access to education, books, information, reading and learning and I liked these things and thought they were important I wanted to help other people to access these things and like them and find them important, too. I still do.

I finished my degree in English and Religious Studies and then my Master’s in Theology (Jewish-Christian Relations), and decided to apply for a SCONUL graduate traineeship (now the CILIP Graduate Training Opportunities scheme). I think I had twelve interviews, or it may have been sixteen, and then I decided to give up for that year and got a job opening envelopes and processing magazine subscriptions. It was very dull, but we got tea breaks and the people were nice.In 2001, I did six weeks work experience at my local public library (the one with the Aztecs) and applied for a SCONUL traineeship again. After quite a few more interviews I got a job I hadn’t actually applied for, at theTaylor Institution Library in Oxford. I think I got this job because it was in a modern languages library and I’d done A Level German and they hadn’t found anyone suitable in the first round of interviews, so they added me to their list. [The way the Oxford traineeships worked was that you applied using one form, indicating which libraries you were most interested in working in. It looks like it’s different now, in that you don’t indicate your preference at all.”]I loved working at the Taylor Institution. It was a beautiful, old-fashioned library, with eccentric staff and even more eccentric readers (as were allowed to call them then).

 I met my husband during my year at Oxford – he was working at the Economics library, so we had training sessions together. These training sessions were really useful, giving us insights into aspects of librarianship that we may not have come across in our day-to-day work, and included visits to different types of libraries. The year confirmed for me that librarianship was the career I wanted to pursue, so I applied to do a Master’s in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth. I was lucky enough to get AHRB (now AHRC) funding.

I enjoyed the year at Aberystwyth, although I would question whether what I learned during that year has been any help to my in my various jobs – but that is a discussion to have another day! Having a postgraduate degree has helped me get jobs, but whether it has been of any practical use in any of the jobs is debatable. Anyway, I finished my course and applied for lots of jobs and had lots more interviews. Eventually, I was offered a job as a senior library assistant at an FE college, which I took because I was desperate. This was a mistake and I hated it almost immediately. My colleagues were lovely and I learned a lot, but the students were, with some exceptions, awful. Like my colleagues, my job involved a lot of ‘crowd control’ and taking abuse. So, I spent the next 18 months trying to leave. I applied for lots of jobs and had lots of interviews. On a more positive note, I started my chartership and my ECDL!

In July 2005, I got a job as assistant librarian for reader services in my current place of work – then known as the Library of Doom! Despite the library’s rather ominous nickname, I really enjoyed the job at first. It was my first experience of managing other people, which was a challenge, but not too bad at first. It got harder as time went on and my manager left…but I won’t go into all that because you can read about it elsewhere and this blog and on my old blog!

In 2008, I was seconded as a faculty liaison librarian for three months, which was really interesting and a very different role to my reader services post.

I completed my chartership* in 2009 – the highlight of my career to date! [I found it a really useful experience and it enabled me to feel more positive about my career, which was something I really needed at the time. You can read more about my experiences of chartering elsewhere on this blog.]

After almost five years of struggling on as an assistant librarian, I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore (well, it wasn’t quite that simple) and went down a few rungs of the career ladder to become a library assistant, assisting with periodicals and cataloguing – indulging my geeky side! I’m now the happiest I’ve been in my job for a long time.

I realise my routes might seem like they’ve gone the wrong way, but I have learned a massive amount about librarianship, work, career development, management, other people and myself over the last nine [now ten] years since I began my career as a library professional. My experiences may not all have been positive, but most of them have been worthwhile. I feel that I’m now being more helpful to people as a cataloguer-in-training than I was as an assistant librarian, so perhaps I’m where I originally set out to be after all – for the moment, anyway.

 *********

Postscript:
Since I wrote the above, I’ve started working as a senior library assistant, still doing cataloguing, and still enjoying it, for the most part.

Thing 8: Google (and other) calendar(s)

Although I’m tempted to try Google calendar because I like playing with new toys, I don’t really need to use it  because we use Outlook shared calendars at work and I don’t have enough of a social life to need to use it out of work!

The Outlook shared calendars work quite well – we use them for general knowing-where-people-are purposes, and also for planning leave, to try and make sure there aren’t too many people off at the same time. Busy periods of term are highlighted, so we know there is a very limited number of people who can be on leave during these times.

I used to use a paper diary for work, when I had to create rotas, mainly because we didn’t have the shared leave calendar at that point and I needed somewhere I could record when people were away, as well as when pool staff were coming in. It was also useful to have a paper diary to take with me to meetings and so on. I don’t have to create rotas anymore, and I don’t go to very many meetings either, so I’ve given up using a paper diary for work, although I still have one for non-work things.

Thing 7: Face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I’m a chartered member of CILIP and  a member of the South Eastern branch (by default), but I’m afraid to say I’ve never been to any of their meetings. Perhaps this is something I should get more involved in. I’m also a member of the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing group and the Universities, Colleges and Research Group. I subscribe to the Cataloguing and Research Group’s blog, which gives me some good insight into what’s going on in the world of cataloguing. I flick through Update whenever it arrives and use LISJobnet for job hunting.  I  find reading Update and the weekly email digests from CILIP  helpful in my attempts to keep up to date with news related to the library and information profession. I’ve written articles for the (now extinct) CILIP Gazette in the past.

There aren’t many CILIP members in my organisation – in fact I think I only know two or three others (out of about 30 library staff) and sometimes I do wonder what the point of being a member of CILIP is. However, I do think that doing my chartership was good for me – it’s the only thing in my career I really feel proud of  -, so I will retain my CILIP membership so I can retain my chartered status and eventually re-validate, and, as I’ve said, I do find the communications from CILIP very helpful for current awareness.

I think being a CILIP member probably has a lot more potential for excitement and ‘value’  (if that’s what you want) than a lot of people (including me) give it credit for. Like most other things, you get out what you put in – at least to a certain extent.

Thing 6: Online networks

Like many other people on the planet, I use Facebook. I sometimes wonder why I use it, and whether I even like it, but it does have its uses. I’ve got back in touch with people I haven’t seen for years and would have no other way of contacting, and it’s useful for organising events, or at least attempting to. I don’t update my status every day, just when I can think of some suitably interesting or random to say, which is not really very often. I do check what everyone else is up to on quite a regular basis, though.

The only other network mentioned in the CPD23 blog post  that I’ve used is CILIP Communities, but I haven’t been active there for a long time. I can’t remember if I’ve ever actually posted anything, I think I just had a look at it once. Hmm, this probably doesn’t really count as using it, does it? Perhaps I’d better have a look at it again and update my profile, etc.

I’ve just joined the LIS New Professionals Network, as part of this Thing and to try and explore it a bit more. I’m not sure I’ll use it very much, but I can see that it could be a very useful tool in some situations and it’s definitely a good way for new professionals to connect with each other and more long-standing members of the LIS profession.

I’m a bit wary of joining LinkedIn or any other online networks, mainly because I have enough trouble keeping up with the ones I’m already on! I can see the benefits of LinkedIn, particularly if job-seeking or trying to connect and keep in touch with people you might meet in a professional context but wouldn’t necessarily want to be ‘friends’ with on Facebook, but I don’t think it’s really for me at this time.

Thing 5: Reflective practice: Some rambling thoughts

I  must admit I’m not very good at reflecting on what I do in a professional context, except in a self-critical way. I suppose that’s better than nothing, but I don’t very often do any kind of formalised reflection on what  I do at work. If I’ve been on a course or other training or unusual activity I might write about it for the library newsletter, which is actually quite a useful way of reflecting and also of thinking about how to communicate what you’ve learned to other people. In the past I’ve also had to train other members of staff, which, again, helps you to think about what you on a day to day basis.

The last time I really sat down and reflected on what I do in a more formalised way was when I did my chartership, which was a couple of years ago now. I find that writing a blog helps me to reflect on what I do at work, even though most of what I write (at least on my other blog) is from a personal rather than professional point of view, although the two do overlap.

It’s easy not to see the point of reflection when you’re just ploughing on and trying to get work done. I found that was especially the case in my old job, but now I have more time to think and more space in my head for those thoughts – hence I’m attempting to do the 23 Things now – I don’t think I could have done them before. Taking part in 23 Things has helped me to reflect more on what I do – even though I’m only on Thing 5 I’ve already had to think about my ‘brand’ and some of the tools I use.

Apart from doing 23 Things, I suspect my reflective practice will continue to be of an informal nature – at least until I have to revalidate my chartership…I may try and write more on this blog as well, but I’d better not promise anything!

Thing 3: Consider your personal brand

First of all, here are my Google search results (searching for my real name, which is not very common in the UK). On the first page of results were:

  • A Facebook page (not mine)
  • A Mention of me on Tim Coates’ blog. (I’d mentioned his blog in an article I wrote for CILIP Update.)
  • Someone on Twitter who isn’t me (I don’t use my real name on Twitter).
  • Various other people who aren’t me.

Name used

I don’t use my real name anywhere online apart from on Facebook, and even this doesn’t come up on the first page of a Google search (this is a good thing, in my opinion). The main reason I don’t use  my real name on my blogs and on Twitter is because I don’t really want any of my line managers or all of my colleagues to be able to read what I write online.  This blog should be fine, because I set it up for professional purposes and have made sure (I hope) that I have never written anything on here that I wouldn’t want my line manager to read. However,  I occasionally use my personal blog as an outlet for my feelings, and there are things on there I want to keep anonymous.

I do try and use the same nickname across different sites, although now I’ve started thinking about it there are places where I’d  probably need to change it if I wanted to make my online presence more consistent.

Photograph

I don’t use any photographs of me online, apart from on Facebook. I don’t particularly want people to see what I look like, partly because I don’t always want  to be identified online (see above) and partly because I don’t like looking at myself  and I’m not photogenic at all so I don’t really want anyone else looking at me either.

Again, I should probably try and make my avatars more consistent across sites.

Professional/personal identity

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I prefer to keep my professional and personal identity separate. To be honest, I’m not good at being professional at the best of times, and I’m not particularly brilliant at social interaction so I think any cross-over of my personal identity into my professional life (online) would only damage my professional-ness, such as it is. I’m particularly wary of doing this because of the lack of control I would have over who can see what I post online! I wouldn’t really want potential future employers or current managers to read some of what I’ve posted in my personal blog in the past.

Visual brand

As I’ve said, I could be more conistent about things like avatars. I’ve used the same template on this blog and my personal blog, in some effort towards a visual brand having read the post on the CPD 23 blog and I do spend quite a lot of time fiddling with templates and things, but this is more because I like things to look nice than any attempt at (conscious) visual branding!

In conclusion, I can see the logic of having consistency across sites and the sense in being careful about what you put online. However, I still don’t really feel comfortable with the concept of  branding myself.  Now I’ve started thinking about it, there’s probably a lot more I could write about my online identity/ies, but I might save that for another post as it’s probably more to do with self-analysis of my psychological make-up than CPD!

Thing 1: Blogs and blogging

I’ve rather belatedly, and probably rather foolishly, decided to attempt the 23 Things for Professional Development. I did ask people on Twitter if they thought it was a bad idea, and no one replied, so I thought I may as well give it a try.  Also, I noticed that next week is ‘catch up’ week, so now is probably as good a time as any to be a late starter!

I currently work as a Senior Library Assistant doing cataloguing in a university library in South East England. You can read all about my library routes and roots over at  my other blog, if you so wish. In case you don’t,  in summary: I worked as a graduate trainee library assistant in Oxford, then did a postgraduate qualification in Library and Information Studies at Aberystwyth, followed by lots of interviews before getting a Senior Library Assistant’s job in FE that I quite quickly regretted taking.  I worked in FE for 18 months, before getting a job at my current place of work as an Assistant Librarian. This was fine at first but became very stressful and I was not suited to it, so after 5 years of struggling I (with the help of managers and some external influence) moved roles to be a library assistant,  helping with periodicals and cataloguing, before applying for and getting my current job about six months ago when my former supervisor left. So, perhaps a slightly unsual career path, but I don’t regret moving down the ladder. I enjoy my current role.

 To be honest, I don’t know where I want to go now, which is part of the reaon I decide to take part in 23 Things. I think I need to get back the little confidence I started with all those years ago in Oxford, and gain a lot more before I can seriously contemplate moving onwards (but probably not upwards – management is definitely not for me!).

The things I’m most looking forward to about 23 Things is generally learning about lots of new things and hopefully gaining some confidence. So far, the thing I’m least looking forward to is Thing 3 – considering my personal brand! Really not me at all!