Thing 15: Events

Or to give it it’s full title: “Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events.”

Launching into speech

I’ve lost count of the number of library events I’ve attended over the last thirty years – I’ve been lucky in having employers with reasonable training budgets. Some events have been better than others, but I’ve always paid close attention, if only because I would be expected to present a report to colleagues on what I had learned that could be useful to the library. There’s always been something. When I was an officer with SALCTG, I also had the added bonus of participating in events I wouldn’t normally have gone to because I was there as an organiser. In terms of the future, what I attend will depend on what direction my “retirement” takes (I start a temporary job on Monday) and what contacts, skills and interests I need to develop.

I’ve never run a big conference, but after 10 years of running events for SALCTG I feel I am something of an expert. Only once have I had a sleepless night over it, when someone who was organising the catering unexpectedly became incommunicado a few days beforehand – but we got fed, it was all under control and I should  have been more trusting. Recently, I’ve also been organising informal events under the GLTU banner for Glasgow’s library tweeters, which is great fun and I’ve met a lot of new people through it. When I finished my last job, I applied for a part-time post administering courses for another library group and, although I was unsuccessful, this is definitely an area where I feel I have skills to offer.

As far as presenting goes, well you can’t be an academic librarian without having to speak in public. User education sessions, from a handful of students to a few hundred in a lecture theatre, library training sessions and addressing staff in other parts of the university are all par for the course. However, presenting at events, beyond introducing speakers and votes of thanks, is not something I’ve done much of. I’m filled with admiration for the younger professionals I follow on Twitter who seem to do it regularly. When I first started out, I think there were far fewer conferences and seminars, and it tended more to be the great and the good who spoke at them, so it never occured to me that it might be something I might do. Later, I suppose I never felt I had anything distinctive enough to say. However, this June I had two opportunities to speak from which I learned a few things.

I wrote in Thing 11 about the talk on being a mentor that I gave to a Chartership Workshop. I prepared my material well, and tried to have a balance between covering the facts and conveying the spirit of the mentorship relationship, mixed in with a little humour (and a picture of a cute baby near the beginning to break the ice. There was a point to that, honest.) I was confident in my subject matter, but less confident about my delivery. When I rehearsed, I could hardly get the words out. This was at the time when the Library had closed and I was about to leave so, emotionally, I was all over the place. In the end, I just had to hope for the best – and it worked. I still stumbled a bit, but people seemed appreciative, they laughed in the right places and two of the audience later asked me to mentor them, so I must have said something right. My conclusion is that if you prepare well enough, adrenalin will help you through.

In the picture above, I am making a speech after my leaving presentation in Jordanhill Library. This doesn’t really fall within the scope of this post, but it does have a bearing on how I think of myself as a speaker. I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve – to say thank you, obviously, but also to reminisce about my time in the library and celebrate what we had achieved as a team. Most staff were transferring to the main library, and I knew some had anxieties, so I wanted to boost their confidence and make the point that, although the team was breaking up, they would take those achievements and experiences with them and use them to enhance their new teams. In this case, I had very few notes and hadn’t rehearsed: I had been working through it in my head for days and wanted to be as spontaneous as possible. This is easy, of course, when you are talking about a subject you know so well – yourself! What I didn’t know till later was that one friend had videoed me, so I was able to see how I did: I hoped to be inspiring and I think it worked. I sounded confident, didn’t look at my notes much, apart from once when I was reading a direct quote,  there were murmurs of appreciation, laughter and, I’m told, not a dry eye in the house at the end. I’m obviously a better speaker than I think.

Overall, events are an important way of learning and making connections with people, whether you are an organiser, a speaker or simply part of the audience. On a personal level, I hope to continue attending library events, but at the moment my life is going through such a period of change that it is difficult to know which ones, and in which capacity, but I’m confident about my ability to do all three.

Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

I’ve read back over my posts on Twitter and online networking and I think I pretty much covered the spirit of Thing 12 in them, i.e. emphasisng the importance of the social aspect and discussing the balance between what you put in and what you get out. However, circumstances have changed since then so there is scope for an update.

When I wrote about Twitter before, I had two accounts – one of my own and one for Jordanhill Library. The Library is now closed and I have left the university. After a bit of lobbying on my part, @JordanhillLib morphed into @StrathLibHaSS (Humanities and Social Sciences) and continues with another tweeter. I’ve found my own use of Twitter has changed as a result. At the end of Thing 4 I resolved to share more, but I now scan Twitter less and tweet less too – probably because I’m no longer looking for links to share with the students and haven’t yet found a new role. Conversely, my use of Facebook has gone up, admittedly from almost zero. This was one of my resolutions at the end of Thing 6, because most of my (now-ex) colleagues use it and I thought it would be one good way of keeping in contact. So far it’s working, and you can’t get more social than staying in touch with your friends.

However, “social” doesn’t just apply to individuals. Here’s an anecdote from the weekend which illustrates (I think) the benefits of social media to organisations – if they use them well by being responsive and not just using them as bulletin boards. We visited the National Galleries of Scotland’s new exhibition, Van Gogh to Kandinsky: symbolist landscape in Europe 1880-1910. On Saturday evening, I tweeted about how much we’d enjoyed it, but wondered why you had to pay more to gift aid your ticket money. When I looked at Twitter again on Sunday morning, there was a reply and a short discussion took place – it’s something to do with HMRC’s requirements for charity apparently, but that’s not the point. Whoever tweets for the National Galleries was on the ball enough to monitor Twitter over the weekend and reply to queries. (This might sound an obvious thing to do but, believe me, there are other organisations I have tweeted and never got an acknowledgement at all.) As a result, I feel very well disposed towards the galleries and tweeted again:

This they then retweeted – good publicity or not? I think it is, and if you are ever in Edinburgh I urge you to visit the exhibition. Finally, it also proves that I can still remember how to embed a tweet as learned in Thing 4!

Thing 6: Online networks (with added cake)


Now, excuse the gratuitous cake shot. I know librarians love cake, but I also know that cake has nothing to do with online networking. However, it does explain why my mind has been on other things recently with little room for even the one network that I do use regularly, Twitter. My library closed on Friday, but I’ll come back to that at the end.

I find it hard to imagine the effort involved in belonging to a variety of networks and actually keeping up. I understand that people use them for different things but I’ve always found Twitter enough. This might have to change though. I did sign up to Facebook a while back because, I think, of something you had to like to enter a competition. So I have this sparse little page without a picture and no friends! When I leave my job I will have time to tart it up and use it properly – many of my soon-to-be former colleagues use it a lot and it will be a good way to keep up with them. I’ve often thought of signing up to LinkedIn too, but somehow never got round to that either. Again, if I want to keep up my library contacts it might be a good idea to do that soon. So those are my resolutions for Thing 6: sort myself out with Facebook and LinkedIn.

Of the other networks mentioned in the cpd23 blog, I don’t have any need for LISNPN or LATN and the only thing I’ve used CILIP Communities for is to fill out my mentor profile. I can’t see that there’s much going on there. Google seems like the new kid trying too hard to be liked – they’ve had Buzz and Wave and now Google+, and I’m still not sure that one is going to turn into the next big thing as I think they’d like. I love Pinterest, but I don’t really see that as a social network, although I am interested in what other people pin. It’s great for storing recipes which I can then take into the kitchen on my iPad. (Who am I kidding? I’ve never actually made one of them but they look nice!)

And that brings me back full circle to the library and the cake. I had the brilliant idea of making a commemorative Pinterest board: Farewell Jordanhill Library. And harking back to Thing 4, I also Storified our last day. Sad times!

Thing 4: (1) The joys of Twitter

Thing 4 is enormous, and I have something to say about all three components so I’m giving each its own entry. First, Twitter. I’ve looked at a few Thing 4 posts and Twitter is not universally appreciated. If it’s not for you, fair enough, but please don’t dismiss it as silly. If you think that, then you haven’t yet learned to use it properly. It can be trivial, but remember its tagline is “Join the conversation”. I talk seriously to my real life friends sometimes, and at other times I talk a load of rubbish. Twitter is just the same, but virtual. If you don’t like one conversation, drop in to another, or start your own. It can feel at first as if you are talking to yourself, but eventually people will respond and what you make of it then is up to you. Here’s what Twitter’s done for me.

I’m a veteran user of nearly three years. I have my own, personal account @AnabelMarsh and I look after the library account @JordanhillLib. I find HootSuite really useful because it allows me to run both accounts at once, retweet from one to the other and schedule tweets, which is particularly handy for work. Even if you only have one account, it is worth using it, or a similar service such as Tweetdeck, because you can organise everything into columns rather than having to jump between screens as in Twitter’s own pages.

I try to make the work feed interesting and useful, and not just a rehash of information available elsewhere, such as the library web pages. In the beginning, I tried to cover all subjects that we teach, but it has become very much biased towards the Education students because a) I am effectively their subject librarian so I know more about their interests (and although I ask, other staff hardly ever suggest things I could tweet) and b) those students have engaged with Twitter far more than other groups. A few got really keen and set up a CPD session for their peers at which I spoke about @JordanhillLib and prepared a webpage, Twitter for Teachers. A couple of lecturers have also been very supportive and the overall result is that I have got to know them and the students much better and have put the library at the forefront of their professional development. For example, in anti-bullying week the students ran a CPD session for which I provided a reading list and I also targeted all my tweets that week to relevant topics. I got a letter of thanks from the Course Director at the end and the library’s profile was raised considerably. The immediacy and ease of use of Twitter has also been invaluable in emergencies, such as bad weather closures, when I can keep students updated from wherever I am and, because the feed is embedded there, visitors to the library’s home page will see the messages too.

I don’t have any problems with using my full name for my own feed, and I don’t regard it as being specifically professional. I do follow lots of librarians and organisations connected with my work, but I also follow local people to share restaurant tips and so on,  and other accounts which reflect my personal interests. Sometimes quite random connections can be made when you just happen to be tweeting about the same thing at the same time as someone else and one of you picks it up through a hashtag or search. I must say, I certainly get a lot more out of Twitter than I put in, collecting great links for my own use as well as to pass on to students via the library account. My cpd23 resolution is therefore to try to put more value in myself.

So what have I learnt from this part of Thing 4? As I said above, I should try to share more on my own account. I’ve shared lots for work, but the future of @JordanhillLib after the campus closes is still under discussion and it won’t be my responsibility any more. However, I could offer the experience I’ve gained running it to other organisations I am involved with which have yet to try Twitter, or have only done so in a small way. Finally – I have learned how to embed tweets in my posts. Not sure when I will need to do that again, but, hey, I’m showing it off now!

A new library world? Joining cpd23


Why cpd23, why now?

I thought about joining this CPD programme for libraries last year because, although I knew quite a bit about some of the things, others could do with polishing and some were new altogether. Even though I am in the latter stages of my career it is always good to learn. I decided I didn’t have time because my library was a year from closing and I thought all my energies should be put into making sure that was a smooth transition for the staff concerned.

This year, things are very different. My library is at Jordanhill, the smaller campus of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. You can see Jordanhill in the picture above (although that is the attractive 1920s building and not the rather hideous 60s edifice which houses the library). We are now about a month away from closing – the university is becoming single campus – and I feel my work here is almost done. This week, after months of ups and downs, I have taken the momentous decision not to move with the library. I hate to use the term “retirement” because it makes me feel ancient, but that’s what it is – though I hasten to add it is as early a retirement as it could possibly be. I squeak into the category by 2 weeks.

So what better time to start learning something new and meeting new people, even if only virtually? As several people have remarked, once a librarian, always a librarian, and I certainly agree in my case at least. I have various plans for keeping in touch with the library world and starting new activities. If I find new roles, I will certainly need new skills so a new library world indeed – here I come!