A great, big, enormous thank you post

17 Mar

PLEASE NOTE: if you’re reading my blog for the first time, most posts aren’t like this! :)

I feel like I was professionally asleep for the first few years of my career – then in 2009 I presented at the New Professionals Conference and everything changed. I realised there were other people out there like me! Who really cared about the wider profession. I realised librarianship was awesome, and that the people in it were ace.

Movers and Shakers logo
SLA Logo

Less than two years later some amazing things have happened, and in particular over the last week – I’ve been named as the winner of SLA-Europe’s Early Career Conference Award (in the Leadership & Management division) and I’ve been named as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. I’m thrilled, delighted, proud, giddy, grateful, a little intimidated, honoured and above all excited. I get to go to the SLA conference in Philly in June (w00t!) so if anyone else is going, let me know and we can say hi…

And many of my library heroes have been Movers & Shakers, and to be included in a crop with Bobbi Newman, Buffy Hamilton, Aaron Tay and so on is just amazing.

It is particularly cool to be in there with Lauren Smith – we are the second and third UK Movers & Shakers ever… You can check out the map here, and read the editorial (which mentions echo chamber things) here. A list of all the Movers and Shakers’ blog and twitter profiles is here, and @micahvandegrift created a package whereby you can subscribe to all the 2011 Movers & Shakers blogs at once. Finally, my profile piece is here – on the subject of which, THOSE ARE NOT MY REAL TEETH!

(Incidentally, at the same time as all this stuff has been going on, my The Time for Libraries is NOW slide-deck has been embedded in loads of places and viewed lots of times so thank you for helping me get that out there! I’m also very honoured to have become a Guest Contributor to the Libraries & Transliteracy blog – if you have a second, you can read my article, The Future of Libraries is Transliteral, here.)

Anyway: there are a number of people to whom I’ve wanted to say thank you for a while. I figure I’ll never get as good an excuse again to break a number of rules about good library blogging, and just talk about myself for a post and say thank you to loads of people! So please forgive me… All of the following people having in some tangible way, through their actions, help, advice, influence or collaboration, had a positive effect on my library career: Angie Robinson, Ian Jennings, Chris Rhodes, Kathy Ennis, Lyndsay Rees-Jones, Jo Alcock, Maria Cotera, Laura Woods, Biddy Fisher, Richard Hawkins, Annie Mauger, Bobbi Newman, Oskar Smith, Bogdan Leonte, Alex “fair play, to be fair” Mayer, Ian Mayer, Andy Woodworth, Buffy Hamilton, Toby Greenwalt, Joel Kerry, Phil Bradley, Heather McCormack, Justin Hoenke, Andromeda Yelton, Jan Holmquist, Bethan Ruddock, Jennie Findlay, Andy Priestner, Sarah Busby – I’m really sorry if I’ve left anyone out, there are loads more people (basically my entire network) who have helped in other ways, so thank you everyone very much!

I really want to thank my wife because she puts up with the fact that I do so much library stuff in my own time. I always swore I’d never be one of those people who put their career first, and I’d still never prioritise it above the family, but the fact is when you’re writing a book and doing presentations outside of work time, you do spend free-time upstairs typing at a computer which takes you away from your wife. She allows me to do this, so thank you, The Wife!

Thanks to baby Emily because it’s a good excuse to get a picture of her in:

Picture of the baby

Apologies to all those who aren't fans of baby pics...

Really big thanks to my Mum, and really big thanks to my Dad. My Dad is my biggest inspiration, the person who generates most of my good ideas, the person who still reads every article before I send it off to the journal / publication / publishers, my biggest support and my biggest fan. He’s also an amazing singer! If you’ve not heard Officium or the Dowland Project I’d reccomend checking them out… (I know I’m biased but the former has sold over one and a half million copies and the latter was a New York Times record of the year, so other people like him too. :) )

Finally in this long and admittedly self-indulgent blog post (it is a special occasion though!) I wanted to reproduce part of my Mover & Shaker interview here. The way the Movers and Shakers process works, you get asked about a million questions to see if you live up to what your nominator said about you, and then you answer more questions, and then they follow up with yet more, and then they do fact checking – all in all I must have written over 4,000 words, which necessarily got boiled down to about 15 words from me in the final article. Because most of what I was nominated for is collaborative (all of it, really) I wanted to put my actual answers down in print (thanks to Sarah Bayliss for her permission) and give people credit where it is due.


- thewikiman

What drives your passion for this profession? Why did you start “Library Routes” and “The Wikiman?” What are your goals for these?

My passion for the profession comes in a large part from that combination of the fact that we’re doing amazing things in librarianship, coupled with the fact that not enough people outside the profession know about them. So it’s great to be working on interesting and innovative things – throw in the fact that there’s this massive challenge to increase awareness of them and the whole thing becomes all-consuming. It’s also about the community: there are so many interesting information professionals to communicate and collaborate with.

Laura Woods and I set up the Library Routes Project just as a way to bring together everyone’s accounts of how and why they got into the profession. There’d been gluts of blog posts where several librarians were inspired to talk about this subject at the same time – Laura and I figured if we set up a wiki it would collect them all in one place, and maybe inspire more people to join in. It worked better than we every expected, and there’s now more than 150 entries in what has become a really useful careers resource.

I set up thewikiman blog because I wanted to engage in dialogue with the wider profession. A blog is a fantastic way not just to get your views and ideas out there, but to become plugged in to libraries generally, and become part of a global conversation. That’s very exciting. For me, all the amazing stuff that has happened in the last couple of years (like this accolade!) ultimately can be traced back to my decision to start a blog in summer 2009.

Which professional assignments are you most proud of?

There are two things I’m most proud of – instigating the Echo Chamber movement, and creating the New Professionals Network. Myself and Laura Woods (with whom I worked on the Library Routes Project) began to try and start raising awareness of the Echo Chamber problem in libraries, at the start of last year. All we did, really, was draw  wider attention to an existing problem, give it a name (and a tag, #echolib, to allow a sort of trans-Social-media shorthand way of discussing it) and start going out there and writing and presenting on it. And it’s worked!

The Echo Chamber problem refers to the fact that we spend too much time in libraries talking with like-minded peers, preaching to the converted, having our own views reflected back at us, and never reaching the people we should really be targeting – potential patrons, currently indifferent to our unaware of our services. I sincerely believe that while libraries aren’t useful for everyone, there are vast swathes of most populations who would use them if they had a better understanding of what they were really like. So Laura and I started exploring ways of focusing the discussion in this way. A good example is when the profession is criticised from out-side – by a popular figure like Seth Godin for example, or by the media. The first response of the librarian seems often to be to find another librarian, and complain to them about how unfair the criticism is. This serves no purpose – the other guy already knows how unfair it is – and people were taking it to extremes, writing articles about how great libraries are, in library publications that are only read by librarians! So the echolib movement encourages people to think about what they could more productively use their time for. Writing a pro-library piece for the same main-stream media source which criticised libraries in the first place, is a good start. Reach the same audience that got the bad news about libraries, with some good news about libraries. This whole thing has grown and grown, and we’ve presented to more than 1000 people on this subject so far, with more booked for the summer. It really seems to be making a difference – particularly as people like Andy Woodworth (a Mover & Shaker himself, of course) and my personal library hero Bobbi Newman, have brought the issue to the attention of a wider library audience. Since we started talking about this, there are so many more librarian’s voices being heard in the wider media narrative on the industry, which is important. We need to tell our own story, because others won’t do a good enough job on their own.

LISNPN, the New Professionals Network, is the other thing of which I’m most proud. It came out of my work as New Professionals Support Officer with CILIP (which, roughly speaking, is the UK equivalent of the ALA), and offers an online and face-to-face network for librarians who have entered the profession within the last 10 years or so. Gratifyingly, many more senior Info Pros have joined up too, to give us newer people the benefit of their wisdom! The site contains forums with, for example, advice on Library School, and a blog with interviews (recently with Bobbi Newman, Buffy Hamilton and Andy Woodworth) and a Resources area with loads of downloadable documents to help people out. Se have guides to public speaking, anonymous reviews of library school courses, tips on getting published – everything you might need when you’re starting out in librarianship. There are over 800 members now, from all over the world – so come on over, people of America, and join us! LISNPN members have started to set-up face-to-face networking events themselves, under the LISNPN banner, all over the UK. It would be amazing if someone got them going in the US too. People have found it really useful to connect with their peers, and discuss the future of the profession over a drink or two.

Can you give me a few specific examples of the echo chamber’s success–published articles; lectures; etc. that reach a large audience?

Lauren Smith is the arch Echo Chamber escapologist, we feature her in our presentations. She wrote this article for the Guardian, and that was just the start. As it happens she was on the BBC News at 10 (the UK’s flagship news programme) this very evening. She’s also part of Voices for the Library who basically exist to escape the echo chamber. They’re mentioned in this newspaper article from yesterday – but really they do that sort of thing all the time. They’re a group of normal librarians, with full-time jobs, who have decided to make their voices heard in public.

An Echo Chamber escape that was pivotal for me was Mover and Shaker Toby Greenwalt. When Seth Godin famously questioned the relevance of libraries in the digital age, via his blog, Toby wrote a fierce defence of the profession on his own blog – so did a lot of librarians, via their own blogs. But what Toby did then was write a piece for the Huffington Post also – a brilliant and public account of libraries and librarianship.  We should all be thinking like this. A slide-deck I created to try and raise awareness of what librarians DO these days was featured on the Careers section of the Guardian website last week, in this brilliant article on 21st century librarianship – a really pleasing echo chamber escape.

Tell me, specifically, about the work you are doing to prevent library closures. Are you working with Lauren Smith on this (also nominated as a Mover & Shaker this year)? If so, can you tell me about your collaborations?

In terms of my efforts to prevent library closures, I shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as Lauren! She as an absolute legend, and has achieved extraordinary things. If I can claim any part in that, it’s that I know she took her library advocacy the next level after seeing mine and Laura’s Echo Chamber presentation. As a side note, I’m really proud that Lauren and I are representing the Brits in the Movers & Shakers!

The stuff I do is more about trying to raise awareness of the profession, and trying to establish a new paradigm for disseminating information about libraries and librarians. There are others much more skilled than me who have taken the actual messages out into the wider world.

Tell me about Buy India a Library. What is your role, and how did this come about? Where are you in the process, and what is your long-term goal?

Buy India a Library was and is a fantastic project to crowd-source enough money to make a real difference in a book-free area. When Jennifer Findlay pointed out on Twitter that you could build an entire library, including the building, books and staff for two years, for under $2000 via a charitable organisation, I couldn’t believe it. There were also mobile libraries, drawn by donkey, that would tour former war-zones in Africa, available for under $150! So I re-tweeted this information, and Andromeda Yelton said: why not try and fund one collectively, via Twitter? It was simple, brilliant notion. Jan Holmquist and Justin Hoenke got involved, we set up a blog, and started asking for donations. We all had the same role – promoting the project, trying to reach people and asking them to become involved.

As Jan put it, so many libraries are closing; why not open one? The response was overwhelming, and in less than two weeks we had enough to buy India a Library and to buy Africa TWO mobile libraries! It was absolutely fantastic – truly, the power of collaboration via social media, in action, changing people’s lives. People were so generous. Thank you so, so much to everyone who donated.

Can you tell me specifically what libraries where have been built/procured, and what the timeline is?

The libraries in both Africa and India will be built within the year. The library in India will be built at a school in Mysore, on the edges of a slum in a very poor area, where there are literally no books at present. The mobile libraries in Africa, which are aimed at promoting literacy among children in former war zones, will travel to schools in Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned from your successes? From the projects that didn’t turn out exactly as you’d hoped?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with four things which have had some generous recognition from the wider profession: the Library Routes Project, the Echo Chamber movement, Buy India a Library, and LISNPN (the New Professionals Network). The thread running through all of those is collaboration. Working with others is fantastic, I love it – you get new ideas, new angles, cover new ground, reach new audiences. If you have a particular way of working, chances are your skills will be complemented by someone else with a different way of working. And it’s fun… My advice to anyone is: worth with people. It is so much better to be part of a movement, to catalyse change, than just to achieve something on your own.

I’ve had one project which didn’t turn out as I’d hoped – and that was because it was launched before it should have been. With any venture which relies on the commitment and buy-in of an online community, you really need all your ducks in a row before you start issuing public invitations. No one wants to be the first on to an empty dance floor..

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  • Ned Potter March 17, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    [Including TEETH exposé video!] A great, big, enormous thank you post – via #twitoaster

  • Ned Potter March 17, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    @hmccormack McCormack, you should probably watch this… >>>>>>> :-)

  • Nicole Fonsh March 17, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    So eloquently said! Congrats! @theREALwikiman – great, big, enormous thank you post

  • Bobbi Newman March 17, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    OK first let me say how awesome it is that you wrote this! I really wanted to do a post thanking my friends and colleagues, but was too afraid of the “who the F does she think she is” response. Now I wish I’d done it and said to hell with the haters. Just one more reason you are so deserving of the recognition you lead by example!

    I must say my favorite part of all of this is the teeth video! I’ll confess that mine are my real teeth by my hair and my complexion are NO where near the orange that the pink background makes it look! I like my picture be keep asking who puts a redhead on a pink background its terrible for my coloring. lol

    But now I kind of have a desire to make us all into action figures, thanks for planting the idea :-)

  • woodsiegirl March 17, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    Nice post! I don’t think you need to apologise for putting this on your blog, it’s a good thing to do :) (and I’m not just saying that because I got a mention!)

    Massive congratulations for all your shiny shiny prizes – very well deserved! See you in Philly – terrifying plastic teeth and all ;)

  • Ned Potter March 18, 2011 at 8:09 AM

    A great, big thank you post Offered with no apologies thanks to @woodsiegirl and @librarianbyday's encouragment!

  • thewikiman March 18, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    Bobbi, thanks! I did worry that some people would be thinking “guy’s writing a thank you speech like his won an oscar! Who’s he think he is?’ (in my head, everyone talks like they are in an Elmore Leonard novel) but I thought, as I said above, I’ve wanted to thank people for stuff for a while and I’ll never get as good an opportunity again…

    I really like your pic, you managed to nail the whole, not just looking at the camera normally but at the same time not looking like you want to be ‘wacky’ thing… I went in to mine thinking ‘just don’t look at the camera, don’t look at the camera, it’s the key to a good pic’ but then forgot.

    Mighty Morphine Power Info Pros FTW. :)

  • thewikiman March 18, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    Wooders, thank you! I am SO looking forward to Philly, words can’t really express it.

    Woot. )

  • Buffy Hamilton March 18, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    RT @theREALwikiman: A great, big thank you post Offered with no apologies thanks to @woodsiegirl and @librarianbyda …

  • Bethazon March 18, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    @theREALwikiman @hmccormack ahahahahaha, that’s fabulous. (and congrats btw)

  • theREALwikiman March 18, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    @Bethazon thanks! :-)

  • [...] way less cool (and far shorter!) than Ned’s thank you post, and only with the video pinched from him because it has my whitened teeth in it too (see below!), [...]

  • Aaron Tay March 19, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Oh they touched up our photos? Inspired me to go take a closer look at mine, don’t see anything that jumps out. But then again I didn’t show my teeth on purpose :) Congrats on all your awards Ned, something tells me these won’t be your last.

  • Bobbi Newman March 19, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    love this post from @theREALwikiman wish I'd had nerve to write one -A great, big, enormous thank you post « thewikiman

  • gwynethjones March 19, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    @theREALwikiman Hm w/ theTwitters I sometimes get wonky lost in replies! But I Do Know your M&S thanks vid is awesome!

  • thewikiman March 19, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    Aaron – heh, that was very wise…

    Very nice of you to say these awards won’t be my last, but actually I reckon they wil! I’ve peaked, and should probably retire now… :-)

  • Toby March 21, 2011 at 3:51 AM

    Congratulations, Ned! I know this is just the start of more great things for libraries, and those of us trying to make them better..

  • thewikiman March 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Thank you Mr Greenwalt! I really feel like we’re in a tangibly better shape, in terms of our collective ability (and desire) to communicate the value of libraires more effectively to the outside world, than we were this time last year. That’s fantastic, we just need to keep going,.

  • Jennie March 28, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Admit it…they ARE your real teeth. You use them to blind your prey, before pouncing on them, and talking about the Echo Chamber….
    *Backs away from the dazzling light*


  • Hiiraan Report September 23, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    I thinks its a great idea that you’ll bring mobile libraries to Somalia.There are plenty of text books some even outdated that make up the curriculum for young students, but novels are nowhere to be found…no harry potter. I know you’ll have a great impact on the young eager minds of children fortunate enough to have been visited.
    Love what you’re doing keep it up.

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