Monday, 5 September 2011

Things 15 and 16 - Events, Advocacy, and Writing

In an effort to catch up on 23 Things for Professional Development (or CPD23: my other posts are here), here are a couple of Things.

Thing 15 - Conferences and events

Thing 15 is about conferences, seminars, and events. This year I’ve been lucky enough to attend several library-type events (partly thanks to the generosity and support of my current employers Nord Anglia Education (by the way, you can now apply for my job which is a great opportunity for people new to the profession who want to learn the ropes of librarianship)).

From Sarah Ison's New Professionals Conference photos.
There are loads of benefits to attending events and these are just some of the most important ones to me. The first is the opportunity to break out of my environment. I (currently) work in a fairly restrictive, isolated, and cloistered environment: when I first started working at the Army College, I felt cut off from the world of librarianship in which I was immersed during my Masters. Events and conferences have allowed me to reconnect with the wider librarian community, look past my own four walls, and feel that I’m not alone – that other people share my interests, my concerns, and my ambitions. Particularly for young librarians, events enable a wider point of view and confer a knowledge of one’s place in The Profession. This leads to the second benefit which is meeting new people and old friends. We librarians are spread across the country, across sectors, across the world. Sure, we can connect through Twitter or email but nothing beats face-to-face communication for sparking a connection with other people and having real discussions about the topics we’re interested in. And then there are the benefits that Katie mentions in the blog post: “feeling more inspired, motivated, or capable”. Getting out of work is exciting but a key benefit of attending events is the impact they can have when you get back to work. Perhaps you’ll have a new idea about doing things in a different way; perhaps you can work on a project with someone you met; or perhaps you just feel reinvigorated with a renewed appreciation of librarianship. 

This year I was also lucky to be asked to present at a couple of events: I presented a paper at the CILIP Library and Information History Group Conference and I co-presented a workshop at the CILIP New Professionals Conference. Doing my first presentation was scary – being fairly young and by no means an expert on library and information history, I was terrified of reading my paper in front of so many people more intelligent than me – but good things are often scary. Both presentations turned out to massively rewarding experiences: as well as developing my presentation skills for future jobs (and job interviews), I discovered that I enjoyed the immediacy of the presentation format. I enjoy writing: that’s a whole other blog post suffice to say that there’s something about constructing a well-formed argument or a beautiful turn of phrase that appeals to me. I discovered that by presenting something that I’ve written, I get to see the immediate impact of my words and my argument and I get to discuss criticisms or ramifications with the people who’ve engaged with the piece. So presenting at conferences is something that I enjoy doing, that develops my career, and that, as mentioned above, helps me to connect with other people in The Profession. It’s scary but good things often are. 

Thing 16 - Advocacy

Thing 16 is about advocacy, activism, and publication on behalf of libraries (ably written by my Voices for the Library buddy, Lauren). I believe that, as professionals, advocating for our libraries is not only our duty but it’s something that we should be doing naturally. 

Premise 1: I enjoy librarianship and I love libraries. 
Premise 2: If I enjoy and love something, then I will enjoy talking about it. 
Conclusion: I enjoy talking about librarianship and libraries. 

An advocacy poster from Ned 'thewikiman' Potter

Aside from this kind of day-to-day advocacy with family, friends, and colleagues, I advocate for my library at work (which – for those applying for the job – can be a challenge with the military staff), I try to advocate for a UK National Digital Library (an idea I feel passionate about), and I do a little for public libraries as part of the Voices for the Library campaign group (radio stuff, writing, marching, keeping an eye on the news, etc.). 

Advocacy comes down to doing what you can do and taking what action you can take on behalf of the things that you love. As mentioned above, one of the things that I can do is write so I try to advocate through that. Whether it’s deliberately writing for a publication after having an idea (as happened with my Guardian article on ebooks) or writing something for my blog and then deciding it’s good enough to publish (as happened with my Guardian article on Google Books and my CILIP Update article on National Digital Libraries). When I write something, I want it be read and so I try to get it spread as far as possible: this can spread the word about libraries or about an issue I’m passionate about. That’s just how I feel I can best advocate: other people may vary. 

As Lauren mentioned, library advocacy has taken a step-up recently. Advocacy is becoming an increasingly important skill to learn for young librarians since more and more libraries and library staff have to justify their existence. Every librarian should be advocating what they do and, particularly in the UK, public libraries need our support and need voices shouting for the people who can’t.

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