Session two: Attitudes that add value
Ann Donovan and Rachel Edwards kicked off the afternoon session with their paper on Broadening your skills: The Bexley public library experience. Showcasing a number of projects within the public library sector the purpose of the talk was to illustrate the transferability of knowledge and skills within the LIS profession in general and how your professional development adds value to the organisation at large.
Discussing Bexley’s Golden Thread of staff appraisal and the contributions staff make to the local authority’s aims and objectives they introduced the idea of validating your role by integrating your personal/professional aims with the organisational strategy. Get to know the key aims which drive forward your organisation and prove your value by demonstrating how you fit into these.
They encouraged new professionals to say yes to everything; take advantage of all opportunities and worry about how you’ll pull it off later. Pick up a variety of project work to develop your generic skills in management, communication, organisation, interviewing, IT literacy and knowledge management and advocate the role of the library within this.
As an academic librarian it was particularly interesting to hear more about the types of activities public librarians carry out and how these differ across the sectors e.g. their summer reading challenge and library layout project.
Moving on to talk more about the traditional roles of librarians in modern times – Traditional skills in a changing world – Laura Cracknell and Lindsay Robinson focused on cataloguing/classifying and the growth of outsourcing. Historically cataloguing and classifying skills were taught at library school yet learning on the job has become much more wide spread and staff are usually responsible for a variety of tasks – not just cataloguing. Unfortunately the cataloguing aspect of my degree was removed due to license problems and so like many new librarians I have no idea how to catalogue a book.
Both Laura and Lindsay agreed that the rules of cataloguing are fundamental to understanding how the library system works and one of the benefits to learning more about classifying would be the time it saves in searching for information. They pointed out that even Google uses the same principles to classify the information it stores. It can also help you get to grips with Web 2.0 and the use of tags to categorise content etc. See LibraryThing as a modern example underpinned by traditional library values.
Ending the afternoon session came Awen Clement on Unleashing your professional edge. Having never achieved any professional qualification it was refreshing to hear more about Awen’s successes through the transferability of her vocational credentials – from supermarket check out girl to ‘projects and knowledge management controller’.
Like Awen I too started out in customer services, from Alton Towers to Miss Selfridge to HMV. I learnt how to offer a good customer service experience, categorise stock (as HMV’s vinyl buyer I needed to be able to tell the difference between break beats, house, drum and bass, techno etc – I’ve no idea how I did it), search catalogues, manage budgets and run reports. I still use some of these skills today!
The professional edge is really just the passion you have for the work that you do! Be enthusiastic and self-determined if you want to reach your goal, share knowledge and strive to learn, under promise and over deliver on activities and remember to network – even if it’s out of your comfort zone. Awen’s final tip on proving your worth was getting to know your worth, believing it and marketing it to a potential employer.
Rounding off the day came Chris Rhodes and Ned Potter with the launch of LISNPN (a new professionals network – get yourself signed up!), Kathy Ennis and the Information Unmanaged awards and Biddy Fisher with the closing remarks:
- don’t feel like you have to get to the top of the ladder to get the most out of your career;
- take charge of staff development reviews – your defining moment could come from someone saying no;
- take ownership of our professional future;
- make your noise count;
- challenge current set ups and processes;
- engage with your network – share best practice as it’s the professional generosity in LIS that makes it all worthwhile.
Overall I’d say the conference was a great success and the hard work of all involved really paid off. There are some personal comments I want to make about the experience so I’ll write up a special part four to save wasting space here.
- Twitter archive;
- thewikiman – NPC2010: That was the day that was;
- NPage – Proving your worth in challenging times;
- Palely Loitering – New Professionals Conference 2010.