Libraries, the universe and everything

Notes from NPID2010
October 5, 2010, 09:15
Filed under: CILIP, Events | Tags:

The following is a precis of some of the points I noted from each of the NPID 2010 sessions I attended, with some of my own impressions, thoughts and take-home points as well. It’s mostly for my own benefit, and I wasn’t really sure whether to release it as a live post, but here it is anyway.

I’ve put in links to the presenters’ own materials where I know about them, and will add more if I can. I have to say that I thought everyone was excellent, and I hope I haven’t misrepresented anyone – please let me know in the comments if so and I’ll happily make corrections.

Session 1: Lex Rigby “The Ronseal effect: online personal marketing for career growth” (@lexrigby)

Networking is a means to enhance your professional profile, and the relationships it creates should be mutually beneficial. Networks can provide opportunities you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise encounter (eg. for collaborations on papers/presentations etc.), and create a group of people who you can draw on for support and advice. They also allow you to share information in order to remain relevant and current. Online networking is especially beneficial as it provides greater flexibility, enables more frequent interaction and allows you to create larger networks than would be sustainable offline. Online activity leads to online traceablility, though being aware of this can work to your advantage – and as long as you come across in a positive light. Use ego-searches on Google to monitor this, and don’t post anything anywhere you wouldn’t say in person.

As a new blogger and someone who has only recently started to appreciate the value of Twitter as a networking tool, this session was a useful round-up of everything I ought to be keeping in mind. I hadn’t really thought about ego-searching, but will definitely be trying to feature in the top Google results from now on, and as I’ve recently changed my name now is probably a good time to start! It was also refreshing to hear Lex say that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a presence everywhere, but rather that it’s best to focus on the platforms which work for you.

Lex has blogged about this herself, and linked to her presentation too.

(Having just read her post myself I can’t believe Lex was so nervous beforehand – she came across as a really confident and enthusiastic speaker!)

Session 2: Ned Potter “Techno-geek? What you have to know about technology* as a library and information professional” (@theREALwikiman)

(* If I have this right, Ned is using the word ‘technology’ here as a catch-all for all kinds of software, hardware, platforms etc.)

Ned contends that there are only two things in common across all LIS roles – problem solving and the use of technology. We therefore need to learn to use what’s important, as well as try to anticipate what will be important in the future – being generally comfortable trying out new tech things will stand us in good stead for this. That said, communication skills are just as important. LIS careers tend to follow a climbing wall pattern, rather than a ladder, so if you get the chance to acquire new tech skills do take it. He also recommends that you identify the next step(s) on your desired career and work towards an appropriate job description, as this will enable you to identify gaps and acquire the skills necessary to progress.  Social media can be the means to opportunities, and a good blog should become a communication tool (not just be a soliloquy). We then spent some time looking through Ned’s fab interactive library plan to learn more about specific roles and areas of LIS work.

This presentation certainly resonated strongly with me, as I spend a lot of my time at work doing techy things, which is something I would never have anticipated but which I greatly enjoy. I also think that up-skilling in anticipation of the next career move is an extremely sensible piece of advice – I’m not looking for anything new at the moment but I do have an idea which direction I’d like to move in when the time comes, and keeping an eye on how I can acquire the right skills to do this can only be a good thing. I particularly liked Ned’s point about how taking part in projects can be a good way to gain useful experience, and I can see how this kind of approach would benefit my current post in all sorts of ways (without even thinking about any future benefits it may also have).

Keynote 1: Phil Bradley “Around the world twice on a library degree” (@Philbradley)

I was really excited about hearing Phil speak for the first time, and he definitely didn’t disappoint.

Libraries are in difficulty but this is the best time to be an information professional – we need to use the difficulty and embrace opportunities. Libraries are about reading, information and power – therefore librarians are powerful people. All other professionals come to librarians for information, we need to use our reputation to increase our power, to be the information centre. Librarians need to emerge from the back room, have the enthusiasm to stand out. We need to use the tools available (eg. Google, to monitor our reputation, and to make sure we’re all up to speed on everything – it’s a personal responsibility. There also needs to be a major revision of attitudes towards books, music etc. – the container is less important than the content.

This felt like a real call-to-arms on behalf of the profession, and I have to say I was hooked. With so much debate about the value of libraries in the media recently it’s been easy to get concerned about the future of the profession, but if we all took Phil’s advice I think things would quickly start to change for the better.

Phil’s presentation is available via

Keynote 2: Maxine Miller (I’m not sure what Maxine’s title was, apologies for this.)

Maxine seemed to have been as struck by Phil’s equation of libraries with power as the rest of us, although for her the joy of the job comes from the power! She sees the key skill of a librarian as providing support and information, and relishes the power inherent in communicating what people need. She told us to ask ourselves what we enjoy, what we want to get out of being a librarian, and advised us to have a sense of ourselves in everything we do – she believes that career choices should be based on doing something you’re passionate about. We need to listen, respond and be flexible, using our skills to empower others, and we should learn the language and key issues of our audiences. We must always think about things, be prepared to stand up for what we are, and mean it when we do.

This speech felt like the verbal equivalent of a hug – warm, reassuring, and inspiring. It made me want to change my professional self for the better – not quite sure exactly how yet but once I’ve worked it out I’ll let you know! I loved the positivity in everything she said, and have a sneaking feeling that I also like being a custodian of power.

Session 3: Katie Fraser “Feel the fear and do it anyway: working with people at all levels” (@katie_fraser)

Katie’s talk was centred round her recent involvement in the CILIP ‘Defining our Professional Future’ project, and she encouraged us to get involved in this kind of thing wherever possible – even if we feel intimidated by the idea of working with more senior people, or worried we won’t have anything to contribute. Our input can be just as valuable as anyone else’s, and a new professional might actually have a fresh viewpoint on the issues at stake (see There may, however, be unexpected demands on your time – senior professionals will often work on such things during evenings or weekends, and may expect you to do likewise.

Apart from her interesting personal story and useful advice, my favourite part of this session was when Katie asked us to take a few minutes to talk to someone sitting near us about something we’d done which had involved a ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ kind of moment, and why we thought it had been a good thing to do. This was great, not only as a good way to chat to someone new, but also (as Katie said) to remind us that we tend to down-play our achievements so it’s nice to take a moment to talk them up for once.

Session 4: Sibylla Parkhill “The good, the bad and the ugly: managing a variety of stakeholder expectations”

In this session Sibylla used her experience as a prison librarian to identify three different types of library stakeholders, and her account of how she manages them can usefully be adapted to fit almost any circumstance.

Particularly when trying to do library work in a non-library setting, it is important to understand how you fit into the hierarchy, and to ensure that you can describe yourself and the benefits you have to offer in terms of institutional goals and targets. You also need to understand other peoples’ perceptions of you and of the library, as this enables you to work out how best to influence them. Use ambassadors wherever possible, and innovative or unusual means of communication if necessary, to reach the widest possible audience. Manage your manager, attend meetings strategically, remind people that you’re there and that you’re skilled and capable. Listen to what people want, and be clear about the reasons behind policies or procedures – stakeholders will be much more positive if they understand how and why things work the way they do.

As I understood it, in terms of library stakeholders:
The Good are those who know the library is there, use the services on offer, and who support and promote it;
The Bad are those who don’t really know anything about the library, have no interest in it or expectations of it; and
The Ugly are those who know a bit about it, but who have taken against it and may actively work against it.

NB: There is also a Twitter archive, and a Wallwisher wall, both set up by @theREALwikiman, I believe.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hello Emma! Was lovely to meet you at NPID2010 – and really like your blog! Thank you for your summary of the talks. It’s much appreciated; I was only able to see Lex and Ned in the afternoon.


Comment by Adrienne Cooper

Hi Adrienne, was great to meet you too, and I’m glad you found this useful.


Comment by Emma Davidson

[…] part of something much larger and far more significant. I’ve blogged previously about Lex Rigby’s excellent presentation on the values of networking, but I just want to stress here how significant networking has been in enabling me to feel part of […]


Pingback by My library top 10 for 2010 « Libraries, the universe and everything

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