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NPC2010: That was the day that was

06 Jul
Chris Rhodes and I presenting at NPC2010

Chris and I insist on there always being champagne visible when we present

Wow.

There’s probably going to be a whole spate of conference reports on CILIP’s New Professionals Conference but I can’t resist adding my own. What a day! It was absolutely ace. It’s tempting to talk about things coming full circle etc, with this being the second ever NPC, and last year’s inaugural one being what pushed me over the edge into the world of blogging, and me helping organise this one and delivering a workshop on blogging etc. But I’m still inspired by Biddy Fisher‘s closing speech, and am desperate to follow through on all the optimism in the room and make stuff happen, so perhaps a circle is the wrong analogy as that suggests either coming to a halt where you started, or going round again… Maybe coming full circle in the same way a shot-put goes full circle before being launched off into the field. :)

Things that inspired me

Even though I was gutted to miss three of the presentation that ran concurrently with my own workshop, I still got loads out of the stuff I did get to see. I really liked Eleni Zazani‘s presentation on bridging the gap between employability and employment. I was sat next to Nicolás Robinson Garcia during that bit, and was once again struck by how awesome it is that people can present eloquently in a second language  – I’d say I was jealous, but the over-riding emotion is disappointment that like so many Brits I am rubbish at languages. I’ve got no excuses. (In fact, I was the first kid in any of my French Teacher’s classes ever to get below a ‘C’ at GSCE French  - apologies, Mrs Cousins!) Anyway, two things in particular I really liked – firstly her earthquake analogy. She was comparing the current job market with an earthquake situation (she’s Greek and has apparently been in a few!) and at first I thought it was just a simple pun on the fact that things were a bit unstable. But then she continued and explained that rigid structures fall during earthquakes, whereas flexible ones are able to move during them and then wobble back into place once the earthquake is over – and must we be able to be flexible in this economic down-turn, and be ready to re-assume our places once it is through. I liked that. The other thing I liked was that when she was talking about feeding the fire of your enthusiasm, she mentioned remembering why you wanted to be an Information Professional and keeping that at the front of your mind, rather than the back. Great advice.

Awen Clement’s talk on unleashing your professional edge was brilliant, and very nearly won the prize (just two votes separated the first two papers, and everyone had a sizeable stack of voting slips on their pile when we were totalling them up, which is fantastic really) – it was properly inspiring stuff and full of practical things to take away with you. I particularly liked how much the melting pot of previous non-library jobs she’d done had ununexpectedly (or perhas expectedly) fed into her current role and made her better equipped to perform it. That, to me, is related to the argument against librarianship as an under-grad degree – with it most commonly being a Masters, I feel you get valuable life-experience and experience of different disciplines that can feed in to the way you do your job.

I loved hearing about what public libraries get up to, via Ann Donovan and Rachel Edwards. It struck me just what a completely different world it is to the academic one I inhabit. It’s almost like a different profession – the resourcefulness and skills they were talking about are not ones I possess.

I also really enjoyed Laura and Lindsay‘s talk on Cataloguing and Classification. Their argument was that we should not forget the traditional skills that underpin modern librarianship, which is very important to remember and sometimes gets lost in the breathless rush towards 2.0 uptopia. Social media is after all mainly about communication, and communication is a means to and end not an end in itself. What they were saying about cataloguing being an important skill for everyone no matter what their role (more or less) really hit home – having resented every minute of the cat & class module at Northumbria on my MSc (until I realised there were right and wrong answers, so it was possible to get more than 90% for a module and push my overall mark up to a Commendation) I actually found it incredibly useful just last week, when creating metadata for digital objects. Metadata is basically what makes the Internet work for users, and is incredibly valuable. So, yay for its creators.

Most inspiring of all, though, were Biddy Fisher’s closing words (Biddy being the current CILIP president). I found myself grinning from ear-to-ear throughout – she was obviously inspired by what she’d seen, and inspired us in return and gave us confidence that we could not only succeed and go places but also bend CILIP to reflect our needs in the future. She said she was sure there were future CILIP presidents in the room, and I found myself wondering how many were on my row – I could think of two potentially (and there were only two people on my row…), the point being that her faith in us gave me faith in myself and in us as a group of peers, and it pushed my ambition right up. It was proper inspiration. (I just can’t believe I literally stumbled into this profession, and that it would turn out to be so consuming and involving and generally great…)

Things I learned personally (this bit is quite narcissistic, feel free to skip it…)

Being on the organising committee is stressful! I don’t get stressed that easily but I was definitely on edge for this event. Even though I had the least to do of the proper organisers by far (and owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Stella Wisdom for all the unsung hero stuff she did on the day) you just feel a sense of responsibility for the whole thing, as opposed to last year where I could just worry about my own paper. You sit there just desperate for it to go well. But it did! So that’s okay.

Meeting people off twitter is ace! I knew that anyway, but I’d never met the twitterati on such a massive scale before and it was great fun. Big up the #oxfordlibrarymafia massive. :)

I still haven’t really got the hang of small-scale presentations. For whatever reason, I find it easier to present to a big room than a small room. My workshop went okay, I think – I’ll have to read the feedback forms to find out what people thought of it because I wasn’t sure. It certainly went down well online though, apparently finding it’s way onto Slideshare’s homepage as the most tweeted presentation on the net (and Woodsiegirl’s earnt a similar accolade on Facebook – we think Slideshare might just be broken or something!) despite some issues with my future-tweeting reversing the order of some tweets… I was very surprised to find myself running out of time (we started late, which didn’t help) so it all felt a bit rushed and unbalanced, but I hope the delegates got something out of it. I put too much time into the materials preparation though – that much work would be completely unsustainable if I did public speaking on a proper regular basis.

So the workshop felt slightly difficult, but the LISNPN launch presentation with Chris Rhodes (more on LISNPN next time) felt really easy. I think it might come down to the fact that I’m naturally a fairly reserved person and quite laid-back, with a fairly quiet voice, who normally gravitates towards the observing end of the participation spectrum – I like to sit back and take things in on the edge, rather than being in the middle of the circle. So the gap between that and what is needed for a large-scale presentation is quite big and perhaps therefore easier to define and to leap – clearly being quiet and reserved doesn’t work in a room full of 100 people, so you have to step up and become a performer, amplifying your voice literally and your communication style metaphorically. I know what I have to do there, so I can do it. Small scale presentations to a room with far fewer people is a lot less of a step up than that, yet still my normal ‘talking to people’ style of communicating doesn’t work – there’s a balance there somewhere in the middle, which I’m yet to achieve. Something to work on, anyway.

I heart Chris Rhodes (more than ever). Presenting with Chris was brilliant fun, I had a blast. We had so many other duties between us we had basically zero preparation – we got as far as dividing the slides up, but had no run through, no notes, and no real idea what the other one of us was going to say. Liking your co-presenter enough to insult each other with impunity is a great benefit to a relaxed presentation, I think! It was in fact the only time I felt completely relaxed in the whole day – it was the only presentation with not much riding on it in a way, as the others were either competing for the best paper prize, or opening the day, or running the day like (CDG Past President) Maria Cotera’s bits, or closing and summing up the day. Chris and I just got to enjoy ourselves for 10 minutes.

Thanks so much to everyone who has signed up to LISNPN by the way; about 25 people have gone straight home and created their accounts just since Chris and I spoke less than 24hrs ago, so we’re now up to 77 members – that’s a great start!

Things to ponder for next year and the future

First of all, we ARE going to have some battledecks action! Chris and I will be participating in it, any other volunteers? It’s an ALA thing, where protagonists are given a topic and a slide deck they’ve never seen before AS THEY GO UP ON STAGE, then have 4 or 5 minutes to present on the fly. It will be mint! You can see videos via Bobbi Newman’s blog.

[Dear ALA, please don't sue us for stealing your fun ideas!]

Should we do the conference over two days? I was looking through the twitter stream from the conference (or see here for a nice bit of analysis of the #npc2010 tweets), and noticed Lex Rigby suggesting it would have been good to have had it over two days and with more workshops. Speaking as someone who missed three presentations I really wanted to see (including Bronagh’s winning effort – congrats Bronagh!) because I was in a workshop, I think that’s actually a great idea – we could have workshops on day 1, and presentations on day 2. People could pay a reduced rate to come to just one of the days, or full whack to come to both. What do people reckon to that idea? Would it be worth doing, or too logistically difficult or prohibitively expensive with an extra hotel night etc? Would love to hear what you think in the comments.

“We need more men!” Initially when Maria said in her summing up about needing more men, I thought it was just a personal plea from her. But she actually meant the conference needed more men.. And it’s true, the vast majority were female. Of course the library profession is predominantly female (although I bet that percentage is not reflected in the percentage of Library Directors and Assistant Directors who are male; there seems to be loads of them, but that’s a debate for another day) but still, would be nice to see some greater representation of the other half of the species next year. I read something in the Observer on Sunday about how female graduates are getting a lot more jobs than males because males are complacent and ‘generally hopeless’. Three people from my organisation came to the conference as delegates, and they were all female – I hope the men don’t feel complacent about continuing professional development, or generally ‘too cool’ to engage with conferences like ours. Anyway.

How do we keep energising this cohort when they’re no longer ‘New’ Professionals?

Perhaps I’m getting carried away by the euphoria of it all going well and meeting so many lovely people, but it really felt like a special group of Information Professionals who could make things happen in the future. I was honoured and thrilled to be with so many forward-thinking, dynamic peers. But quite a few of them, myself included, are close to exceeding the ‘five year’ CILIP definition of what constitutes a New Professional. And quite rightly, we should soon start to make way for the next generation to keep the progress flowing, the innovation coming, and the ideas fresh. But still, collectively we do have a lot of great people with great ideas – we need to continue to bring together this particular cohort (and adding to it) past the point when we’re all 6+ years into our library careers. We won’t be classed as senior professionals for ages – so we need to come up with some umbrella which we can continue to congregate under, and be energised by, at events like this. Any thoughts on this?

Anyway, the short version of this very long post is: NPC2010 was ruddy marvelous. :)

-thewikiman

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everything you’ve ever wanted to know about library blogs and blogging!

05 Jul

Today I’m delivering a session at the New Professionals Conference. Links to pretty much everything I’m using or have referred to are here, on a delicious page set up specifically for the worskhop. If you don’t want to browse through all that, here are the most important ones.

Firstly there’s the Blogging Workshop Workbook – click to download (.pdf)- a 5000 word booklet covering platforms, hosting, widgets, plug-ins, the anatomy of a blogging screen, the workshop exercises, and a load more on top of that. Feel free to download it if you think you might find it useful. If you don’t want to download it, you can browse it here:

Secondly there’s the presentation materials – here is the slide-deck I’m using:

View more presentations from Ned Potter.

Midway through that, I also use a Prezi presentation. You can click the picture of the Prezi in the slide-deck to go directly to it, or you can view it below – I’d recommend full-screen, and to manually press the ‘next’ arrow after you’ve read each bit, rather than putting it on auto mode (you’ll only end up being sick all over your monitor, and no one wants that).

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the ‘Libraries. It’s what we do.’ idea

27 Jun

But first: a correction…

I’m keen to move on from the whole Newsnight thing now, but there’s one thing I need to state here. In my previous posts, I said that as I understood it, Newsnight offered CILIP the slot and CILIP didn’t take it up. I now understand that in fact CILIP contacted Newsnight in the first place – although they ultimately couldn’t make it happen. For me, even though the end result is the same, there’s a huge difference between those two scenarios – in one, CILIP is shirking a fabulous opportunity, but in the other (in actuality) they were tryng to MAKE an opportunity offf their own proactiveness… Which is great. Shame, obviously, that it didn’t work out, and I stand by the idea that hevean and earth should be moved in such a scenario, but the most important thing to take from this new understanding of the events is that it shows CILIP is already moving in the right direction.

______________________________________

Broken Record

So, back to the point of this post. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but I need to repeat something important for the purposes of this post: I believe one of the major barriers to marketing libraries and the information profession in general, is that people outside it do not know what we actually DO. If we can achieve that, then people can make an informed decision as to whether they want or need libraries in their lives (or, indeed, whether they’d like to come and work in one!).

CILIP1

CILIP have responded well to the recent issues of media representation, and part of what they’re doing is asking us, the library community, to provide 1 minute messages about our value. Nicola Mcnee has taken this concept a step further, and asked for one line tweets explaining what we do – crowd-sourcing our skills set, as she puts it. Her first tweet as an example was: I’m a librarian and I teach students how to use information sources on the Web #CILIP1. I came up with I’m a librarian and the difference between Google and me, is like the difference between overhearing a conversation and participating one. Not sure about that though, really - librarians are doing a lot of Google-bashing of late, with perfectly understandable motives and good intentions. The message is an important one. But people LOVE Google – trying to present a positive image of ourselves via a negative image of Google might end up being seen as us just whining or bleating on about stuff. We can learn a lot from Google (not least in our library catalogues) so if we are going to make the point about finding the right information with a librarian’s help, perhaps we could just say ‘search engine’ as the comparison? Anyway, I digress.

I think both these initiatives are great, and reflect the current way people digest content online – one minute is quick, one line in 140 characters or less is REALLY quick! You can see an archvie of all the CILIP1 tweets here.

Providing the same information or message in different formats increases its chance of breaking out of the (fricking) echo-chamber. Phil Bradley has set up a space online to record audio 1 minute messages, which is great – I’m going to add one of these, and you should too if you feel you can. It would be nice to have something video based too, which is what this post is leading to.

Pastiching the Zeitgeist

A great way of getting a message across effectively is to frame it in something people already know and understand. Of late there’s been a couple of examples of librarians or libraries taking something zeitgeisty and pastiche-ing or parodying it – some I like and some I don’t. The famous Librarians do Lady Gaga vid was admirable in many ways, although I wasn’t a big fan – in fairness though (and I actually mean that phrase, I’m not using it like a footballer would use it, ie vapidly!) they were making no claims to be representing the profession as a whole, they were just advertising their services in a fun and novel way – and 500,000+ views on YouTube is brilliant.

The iPad advert spoof, on the other hand, I thought was absolutely ace:

Only 5000 views though, shows how hard it is to reach people. (I say “only” – 5000 is pretty good, but not compared to half a million.)

I’m a PC / Windows 7 was my idea

I keep making the connection in my head between the cilip1 tweets, and the recent Microsoft advertising campaigns. In the ‘I’m a PC’ one, loads of people said really quick things about who they were and added “I’m a PC” to the end or begginning - as  a badge of honour, in response to Apple’s campaign, featuring Mitchell and Webb as a cool, chic Apple and a geeky nerdy PC. The Windows 7 ad campaign is also quite quick-fire, with the ads typically lasting 30 seconds, and someone talking about a new feature of Windows 7, in isolation, and adding at the end that Windows 7 was their idea. Both nice ideas for ads, I find them slightly annoying but nevertheless, they’re both suitable for ‘I’m a librarian’ pastiches, no?

I’m a librarian

I’m imagining a series of extremely quick-cut pieces to camera, of Information Professionals in various visually arresting situations, saying their CILIP1 tweet lines out-loud. So all the cliches that typically denote exciting and dynamic people could be there – someone Sky-Diving shouting “I’m a librarian & I connect people with questions to people with answers!” (@alanfricker) then maybe someone in a school surrounded by fresh-faced pupils saying “I’m a school librarian and I train teachers to teach using new technologies,” (@stormfilled), then someone striding towards the camera in an office saying “I’m a librarian and I save taxpayers money” (@twistedwillow) then someone in a hi-tech looking modern computer lab saying “I’m a librarian and I don’t just point you to a resource I also show you how to get the most out of it” (@ekcragg), then Phil Bradley in maybe wearing some headphones in a studio saying “I’m a librarian and I like helping to make things better by providing timely, quality information to people who need it” (@PhilBradley) etc etc – and finally a close up of a librarian, who whispers “I’m a librarian..” then it pans out to her/him in a library and they shout really loud up at the camera “…and I make people’s lives better!” (@MarianneBamkin). Then it could all close with some url on the screen which would give people more info if they went to it, and a voice over saying “Libraries. It’s what we do.”

The Libraries. It’s what we do. slogan could be an umbrella for all sorts of efforts to explain ourselves, via all the different media we could employ, and across several countries.

What next?

Is this a good idea? Should we actually try and DO this? They don’t actually have to parody the Windows ads – they could just be stand-alone vids. If so, we could set up a wiki and do some more crowd-sourcing – people could send in decent quality vids of themselves saying their cilip1 sentences and I’ll edit them together into a short, sharp ad – maybe we can get some viral marketing going. (Actually, it only takes a second to set up a wiki; I’ve done so just in case: http://librariesitswhatwedo.pbworks.com/ And incidentally, I tried to create a mock-up of this with Xtranormal but they’ve started charging to publish the animations online…)

What do you reckon?

- thewikiman

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Newsnight: Lessons for Libraries

20 Jun

I want to draw a bit of a line under the whole CILIP and Newsnight thing pretty soon, so a good way to do that would be to see what we, the library community, can learn from the whole thing. [For those of you who missed it, a previous blog post on CILIP and the media generated unheard-of-for-this-blog levels of views and comments, so clearly tapped into something a lot of people feel strongly about.] Clearly all of the below deals specifically with CILIP, and particularly with Newsnight. But there may be lessons which can be extrapolated across the board.

Picture of a thumbs-up

This is a more positive post; here's a visual metaphor

In amongst all the debate it suddenly occurred to me that I have a Newsnight related contact! As exciting as a I like to think that sounds, all it means is one of my friends’ career paths took them in that direction, so I could ask them about it from a Newsnight perspective. So there’s a few quotes from, let’s call them a nice androgynous name – Alex – below. Alex did not work on either specific programme that we’re discussing, so Alex’s views are NOT officially representative of Newsnight; they are just opinions based on what has happened.

CILIP does go where the conversation is

I was impressed that many representatives of CILIP tweeted links to, and commented on, my post. The social-media using arm of CILIP are always open to debate, never afraid of engaging with posts which criticise the organisation, and manage, insofar as I’ve seen, to remain fair and balanced in the face of something of a battering, at times. Remember kids, these people aren’t necessarily the ones making the decisions they have to defend!

In addition to this, Chief Exec Bob McKee took the time to come and leave not one but two comments, responding to our questions, even though he had his own blog post on the same subject to deal with the responses to. I think that’s great.

If we’d ALL acted after Newsnight, we’d probably have got an apology

I know that Debby Raven, editor of Gazette, and Johanna Bo Anderson, and a few other people, emailed Newsnight after the incorrect figures being wrong by several hundred million, thing, but really we should ALL have done so. I didn’t, and I don’t know why not really – no excuses for not taking action if you’re going to stand on the side lines and criticise others’ efforts, as I have done. Would’ve been simple enough to use Twitter to get 100 Information Professionals to send a brief email correcting the figure, so we should’ve. I asked Alex if the BBC would have been fussed about getting the figures so wrong:

Yes, the BBC would have been bothered. Someone would have got an earful but it would have entirely depended on the editor (Peter Rippon) whether there was an apology made or not. Unlikely to be on the web, not Newsnight style. More likely to be at the end of the next days programme or something.  If there were only a handful of complaints, chances are they would have responded to those individually and not broadcast a correction.

Now as far as I know, Jo and the others didn’t actually get individual responses. But it seems that if literally 100 or 200 of us had emailed in, they would have corrected it on the next night’s edition! Perfect Echo Chamber escaping behaviour, that would have been – letting the same audience that saw the original misinformation about libraries hear the truth the next day, rather than just repeating the truth to other each other as we have done.

We have to go to the media, rather than expect them to come to us

I proposed a theory to Alex, that went like this. The first Newsnight programme didn’t invite CILIP simply because they weren’t aware of them, ran with incorrect figures, then Debby and Jo et al emailed irately in, and with that in mind CILIP was firmly on the radar of Newsnight, hence the offer to appear on the second programme.

You’d be right in saying CILIP didn’t get the nod for the first programme because nobody knew who they were. Unless you’re either a. on the BBC ‘ENPS’ contacts system because you have been on before/a reporter has talked to you, or b. been a regular in the broadsheets you’re not likely to be on Newsnight’s radar.

So it seems, and this presumably goes for most media, that we have to force the issue and make people aware we have a professional body (with a royal charter, no less!) to represent us.

We have to play by the media’s rules

It was suggested in the comments on my earlier post that even attempting to sum up the contribution of libraries / skilled librarians in just 1 minute was inevitably going to end up token and facile, and from Laura Wilkinson‘s tweets from a CILIP event yesterday I understand Bob put across the perfectly reasonable argument that it was better not to have anyone at all on the programme, than have someone under prepared who’d do a bad job representing libraries.

I agree with both those points. But on the other hand, the 1 minute elevator pitch is, considering libraries’ legendary problems with marketing themselves, actually quite a well known idea and an established part of every Info Pros PR armoury – it’s a shame there wasn’t anyone on hand who could quickly brush up on theirs. More to the point, if you spurn someone like Newsnight are they really going to ask you back in future? Alex again:

Now that CILIP have refused to comment, I would say yes, they are unlikely to be contacted in the future. There are plenty of important, good value people with pro-library views and so they’re not forced to go with an organisation which isn’t willing to ‘step-up’.  You have to remember that Newsnight is run by a very small team of people. They often have to put these things together in a day, so aren’t going to chase people around who are too afraid to speak on TV, providing there are many suitable alternatives as I said.

So could there be an argument for getting someone on anyway, even unprepared? I don’t know, it’s so hard – I’m glad I’m not having to make this kind of decision myself.

I do think, though, with regards to the ‘it was only a minute so it wasn’t worth it’ argument, that when libraries are in crisis, so many jobs are at stake under the new Government, and public perception has the potential to be a nail in a coffin or two, you’ve got to take any bone the media throws at you. Besides which, as Alex points out:

Note also that 1 minute of TV time is massive!  Any press person worth their salt should be able to get their point across in a 20 second clip. Bear in mind most news items are only 1 minute 30 to 2 minutes in total, and that usually includes 2 or 3 interviewees.  Newsnight is the exception.

There’s hope yet…

I asked Alex if we could get CILIP back into Newsnight’s good books, and to stay on their radar.

Basically, the BBC gets people on the radar because they either a. get to know reporters, b. have a high enough profile due to funding/politics or c. issue press releases alot and actively try and publicise the organisation.

I think that it would be a fairly rare thing for CILIP to be a regular story contributor as libraries are rarely in the news. But it might just be as simple as calling up Newsnight and asking to be contacted if there are similar stories in the future. the BBC has the system called ENPS which is a big database holding all contacts, scripts, research…everything. If someone types in ‘Library Specialist’, they’ll [CILIP will] want to be the one that comes up.

So – someone at CILIP, make that call!

Edit: a final thought (just like Jerry Springer)

I feel like I should add something which I didn’t make clear in the original version of this post.

For me, the thing to take from all of this is not, oh God, Newsnight are never going to invite CILIP back again. Admittedly that is rather depressing, but Alex could be mistaken about that, or CILIP could rectify the situation with a well placed call to the BBC. More to the point though, Newsnight is just one programme and doesn’t represent the be all and end all.

The big thing, for me, is that CILIP, BIALL, the SLA, the ALA, all the other professional bodies and libraries generally, need to understand how the media operates in order to successfully engage with them – and that understanding isn’t easy to come by! You have to proactively go out there and find out what makes the media tick, what the are the rules they operate by – in order that they / we get it right next time, and the time after that, and all the future times too. We must be self-confident enough to think to ourselves, yes, big news programmes do want to hear from us and yes, we do know how to deal with them effectively.

I think there’s a hang-over from the old days of libraries as public institutions – charities in effect – that makes us somewhat meek, whereas in fact now they need to be run as businesses, with all the aggressive marketing that entails (and both pro-active and re-active PR).

- thewikiman

P.S Woodsiegirl and I will be discussing these issues and MANY MORE as part of our echo-chamber presentation in Leeds next month! :) Details elsewhere on the blog.

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