What am I doing here?

I’m writing this on the train on the way home from the CILIP 2016 Conference in Brighton. I don’t know if I’ll actually post it, but I’ve got a lot of thoughts swarming round my head, and I’m hoping writing some of them down will help me start making sense of them.

A conference that challenged

CILIP 2016 Conference has been the best conference I’ve been to in terms of my own CPD. It has challenged me to an extent that I am questioning some of my core beliefs about what it is to be a librarian, how I see myself professionally and how I see the library and information profession. This post is about only one of those questions. The one that is currently threatening an existential crisis [blimey, it’s a long time since I had one of those!].

Helping people

In Lauren Smith’s closing keynote she said “We’re not in the business of making money, we’re in the business of helping people”. This made me think. One of my primary reasons for joining the profession was that I enjoy, want to, and gain huge satisfaction from helping people. Much of my day-to-day role is helping people. I see helping people, both in my professional and personal life, as an important component of who I am.

However, I do not work for an organisation whose purpose is to help people, at least not as a primary function. I work for a nature conservation organisation. [Well, actually, a collaboration of nature organisations.]

“In the business of …”

I think it must have been the words Lauren used – “we’re in the business of” – that made me stop and think. I see myself as part of the information profession, but in the business of nature conservation. I’m not disagreeing with Lauren here, I believe she meant that as librarians and information professionals our role and service is about helping people. [Lauren, if you’re reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong.] It is just that her words got me thinking.

What is your organisation “in the business of”?

In some way, the parent bodies of public libraries, school libraries, FE libraries, university libraries and health libraries are all, in some way, in the business of helping people. But what about corporate libraries? Government libraries? Learned society libraries? What about me and my library? Corporate libraries have parent bodies who are in the business of making money. How does that fundamentally different purpose of the parent organisation of a library affect the library and its staff? Is there a clash between our professional ethics as librarians and our organisations’ missions?

**Edit added 21 July 2016**

Out of the echo chamber

Regardless of our sector, maybe there are positives to feeling strongly connected to two different “businesses” or professions. We talk a lot in libraryland (well, I do) about getting out of the echo chamber. I’ve just posted in a conservation-related group I’m part of on Facebook and it hit me – this is how I’m reaching out and taking our libraryland issues and concerns out of the echo chamber and into the community I serve. I often come across things posted on library blogs, or tweeted by library acquaintances, that I share with my conservation network. These are often things we talk about a lot in libraryland, but aren’t exactly high up on the conservation community network. It gets those ideas out there and getting the message across just seems to “work” so much better than in other roles I’ve had. Maybe, that’s because I’m sharing with people in their networks, or because I see myself as one of them and therefore they see me as one of them?

Now over to you

If you’ve read this far, thank you. But now I’m going to ask for some audience participation. Regardless of your sector or role, I’m interested in your answer to (or thoughts arising from) any of these questions:

  • Do you identify as being in the business of helping people?
  • Do you identify as being in the business of your parent organisation? e.g. nature conservation for me
  • If you answered yes to both the above, do you feel that those businesses are in some way at odds with each other?
  • Do you feel your professional ethics conflict with your organisation’s mission/goal/purpose?
  • Do you have a library mission statement? And if so, does it mention helping people?

Feel free to send responses via comments on this blog or via Twitter, openly or in a direct message to @library_lizzie. Or, if you want to be anonymous, umm … via carrier pigeon? Actually, I’m pretty sure you can comment anonymously on WordPress blogs. I really am interested in your thoughts!

P.S. If you were wondering, I did find writing all this down very useful and the impending existential crisis has been averted.


CILIP membership: what are you missing out on?

This post has been lurking in my drafts for quite a while now. I recently renewed my CILIP membership. In the past I’ve always paid my membership fee myself, but having recently started a new job I had the opportunity to request my membership fee be paid by my employer. Like everyone else our budget is tight and I had to put forward a strong case for the benefits of my CILIP membership. While putting together my case I’ve reacquainted myself with all the benefits CILIP membership offers, some of which I had either entirely forgotten about or never realised existed before!

This is not intended as an explanation of why I am a member of CILIP (see After the Storm: Thoughts on CILIP for that), but to help everyone who is a CILIP member make the most of their membership. Here’s a one page summary of what’s on offer.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Professional registration: This is one pretty much everyone knows about and it includes Certification, Chartership and Fellowship. It’s something I feel is an extremely important aspect of CILIP. I’m currently working towards Chartership and finding it a brilliant framework for my CPD, at a time in my career when I need to do a huge amount of CPD in a fairly short space of time, while juggling some big projects (moving a library, merging libraries, implementing a new library management system, RFID project …). You have to pay both to enrol for and to submit your portfolio for professional registration – £25 for Certification, £50 for Chartership and £65 for Fellowship. There is no charge for revalidation.

Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB): For me this kind of comes under Professional Registration, but even if you decide Certification/Chartership/Fellowship aren’t for you it could be a useful tool for mapping out your CPD. I’ve found it a bit woolly and confusing in places, but it has also opened up my eyes to areas of the profession I’ve not worked in and know very little about. It may not be perfect, but it’s a brilliant addition to CILIPs offering which just wasn’t there when I joined 4 years ago. When planning what to focus on for Chartership I found the gap analysis spreadsheet far easier to use than the PDF. I’ve also added various columns and will be using the spreadsheet to track my progress.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): I will admit I wasn’t exactly impressed with the VLE when it was launched, and the navigation still drives me nuts, but the range of resources on there is definitely growing and I’ve found some useful stuff recently.

E-learning from Maguire Training: One FREE module and further modules at a discounted price. A collection of over 100 short online CPD modules on a wide variety of topics from marketing and finance to leadership, time management and interviewing. Intended to support the generic skills section of the PKSB. I wish I’d discovered this one sooner, as I would definitely have made use of it.

LIBEX – international job exchange: Fancy travelling and experiencing the LIS sector elsewhere in the world? Exchange jobs with someone from the other side of the world!


Qualification credit points: This is one I didn’t know about and I don’t think I will be using any time soon, but if you’re doing a relevant academic or vocational qualification it might be useful. For Certification you can get up to 20 Level 8 credit points with the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA). You can get Open University general credit points for Chartership (30) and Fellowship (75).

Support in your professional role

Career coaching: This was another one that was new to me and one I might actually take advantage of this year. You get two free one-to-one email or phone sessions a year.

Employment law advice: Access to a helpline for advice and support with a range of personnel and employment law issues. As someone not responsible for HR matters, I hopefully won’t need to use this service any time soon, but it’s good to know it’s there.


There are all sorts of grants and bursaries available to CILIP members. Regional Member Networks and Special Interest Groups also offer grants and bursaries.  This list just contains those available to me as a CILIP East member and a member of MmIT and ILG in 2015, and only what I could find/remember. Sponsored places at conferences come up throughout the year, so keep an eye on mailing lists and check out what your regional member network and special interest groups offer.

  • Aspire Award: A full delegate place, with travel expenses and 3* hotel accomodation, for the CILIP conference for people who have joined the profession in the past 5 years.
  • IFLA conference grant: full and partial grants to enable CILIP members to attend the IFLA World Library and Information Congress. It seems how many people get a grant depends on where the conference is (and therefore how expensive it is to go).
  • The Travelling Librarian Award: £3000 to spend 2-3 weeks visiting and building relationships with libraries in the USA or a commonwealth country. This looks like an amazing opportunity you would be unlikely to be able to fund without the award and is something I hope to be in a position to apply to in the future.
CILIP East member network

Small Grants Fund: Up to £200 available (total of £1200 available in 2015, so several people can get a grant in one year) to allow you to undertake CPD activities you would otherwise be unable to undertake. Without this I wouldn’t have been able to attend Internet Librarian International 2015.

Multimedia and Information Technology Group (MmIT)
  • Bursary place at CILIP conference (now closed for 2016)
  • Bursary place at MmIT conference (awaiting details for 2016)
  • Bursary place at Internet Librarian International Conference (awaiting details for 2016)
Information Literacy Group (ILG)

CILIP Benevolent Fund: A bit different to all the other grants, the Benevolent Fund exists to help colleagues and their families who have fallen on hard times or have been faced with unexpected financial difficulties.


CILIP Update: I don’t often find CILIP’s member magazine particularly relevant to me, but it is quite useful for keeping up to date with news beyond my sector. You can read it online or via an app, but I prefer to take the hard copy to a tea break and give myself a screen break at the same time.

E-journals: This has been the most useful benefit of my CILIP membership to me in the past couple of years. As an information professional keen on evidence-based practice, not working in a university with e-resource access, I frequently hit paywalls when trying to keep up with recent LIS research. The access CILIP provides to SAGE journals, LISA and Proquest Library Science goes a reasonable way to solving this issue for me. Though I certainly wouldn’t object to a few more LIS researchers publishing open access!

MmIT Journal: Via my MmIT membership I have access to the quarterly journal of the MmIT group, with full-length features, news and technology updates, product reviews, dvd listings, moving image news, and book reviews.

Deals & Discounts



Club membership

  • 25% discount on joining fee of the Royal Over-Seas League
  • Temporary honorary membership of the Union Jack Club

Squishy boolean

Squishy boolean is a term I came across in Marydee Ojala’s presentation at Internet Librarian International.  I loved the sound of the term (cuddly boolean, how fun!) but wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.  I received the same sentiment from others on twitter so decided to check it out.

It seems squishy boolean was a term coined in 2005 by Mary Ellen Bates¹ and refers to a range of search algorithms less rigid than boolean, such as “preferably includes”, relevancy ranking, using approximate matches to your search terms and personalised search results.

What really hit me reading this article was that Bates was talking about squishy boolean giving the searcher more control.  The idea of the user choosing if they wanted to use this squishy boolean, and then choosing how they wanted to use it.  Whereas, what we now have in most search systems is squishy boolean imposed upon us whether we want it or not, and often there is no way of finding out what algorithms have been used.

To me, this is a real shame.  Sometimes, squishy boolean is great.  For example, I can type the word boots into google, and right at the top of the results is a map of Cambridge (my hometown) with pins for each of the Boots stores and their opening time beneath.  Google successfully translates my one word into the not exactly simple question “When and where can I get to a Boots shop?”, understanding that I don’t want to travel a long way and the shop needs to be open.

On the other hand, there are times when I don’t want to do a ‘normal’ search.  Perhaps I’ve got a more complex search to do.  I’ve found various techniques to get around Google’s assumption that it knows best: putting search terms in quotation marks; using – when I want to search for x NOT y; searching for specific file types or in certain domains.  But these techniques aren’t easy to find and those available are different for different search interfaces.  And when I don’t want personalised results I’ll use a different search engine (if you want some ideas of what to use check out Phil Bradley’s website).

I was discussing how google personalises search results with a couple of non-library colleagues last week and it scares them.  They feel uncomfortable with not understanding google’s magic black box and feel they should use something else that doesn’t ‘steal’ their data, but don’t really want to leave the convenience and familiarity of google. They were keen to learn about different options open to them, and wanted to be able to make an informed choice about when and if to use different search engines.  Whatever type of library we work in, this is something librarians can offer users advice on. It’s all part of digital information literacy.

At Internet Librarian International last week Marydee Ojala predicted that web search will get better, but not for librarians.  It may get better at working out what we ask the majority of the time, but I’m not sure the web search experience will get better for anyone.  Privacy concerns and the ever decreasing transparency of search engine workings do not create a happy searching public. We (librarians) need to help.

  1. Bates, M. E. (2005) online spotlight: Squishy Boolean. Online 29.2: 64

For those anyone with CILIP membership you can access this article via LISA.  Yes, your CILIP membership gives you e-journal access!  From the CILIP homepage go to Membership –> Benefits –> Monthly magazine, journals and ebulletins –> Online journals and select the ejournal collection/database of your choice.  Bates’ full article is available via Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA).

After the Storm: Thoughts on CILIP

The cause of the storm

There was a bit of turmoil in library land this week after CILIP posted a blog post (Libraries, equality and the “turnaround decade”) which appeared to be supporting the Conservatives (at least that’s what it seemed like to me and many others).  This resulted in a bit of personal turmoil and uncertainty to how I should react.  Some people have cancelled their membership, should I?

After a twitterstorm, CILIP added a statement to the post to “provide clarification” which stated “the post and our tweets do not support or endorse Conservative policy”. I’m not going to explain why I had a problem with the post since Phil Bradley has already written a commentary which succinctly covers that – Oh dear, CILIP.

Alarm, confusion, disappointment

My first reaction to CILIP’s post was alarm.  I’m not the most involved member of CILIP, but this did not seem to fit with the CILIP I knew and it’s not what I want CILIP to be.  I don’t want to be part of an organisation which is seen to be supporting the conservatives (though I acknowledge that the additional statement clearly states CILIP does not).  My next reaction was confusion.  Are they trying to ingratiate CILIP with the government?  Have they been fooled by Cameron and his words?  Is this a new direction for CILIP?  What’s going on?  My third reaction was disappointment.  I felt let down by an organisation I thought was supposed to be representing me.  I started questioning whether I should remain a member of CILIP.

Rational thought

This got me thinking about what I get out of being a member of CILIP.

  1. Ejournals: The first thing that came to mind was access to ejournals.  I don’t work in an academic library, and therefore my only access to subscription librarianship journals is via CILIP.  I fairly frequently use the access to LISA and Sage journals that comes with my CILIP membership. Obviously there are various open access journals (thank you CIG!) I could read, but sometimes I come across an article I want that isn’t open access.
  2. Chartership: I’ve recently started the chartership process and it is really helping me focus, record and reflect on my CPD.  Yes, I could do this without actually chartering, but on a selfish note I’d quite like the recognition for doing it.  Then there’s the question of “what if a job came up requiring/desiring chartership and I hadn’t done it?”.  I hope my current fixed term position will become permanent, but if not I’ll be job hunting in a year’s time.
  3. The VLE: The VLE has been an exciting development and I’m actually finding it useful.  Yes, it has been a bit slow to get off the ground, but it now seems to be going in the right direction and I don’t want to miss out.
  4. My special interest groups (SIGs) and regional member network:   I’ve always been more connected with my SIGs and regional network and I’ve been to far more SIG and regional events that national CILIP ones.  I think it’s a combination of these events being either easier to get to (regional network) or entirely focused on something relevant to me (SIGs) and generally smaller, so less intimidating. I also enjoy the publications, the networking and being able to get involved.
  5. A sense of community: Finally, I get a real sense of community out of being a member of CILIP. Yes, I would still feel part of the profession if I left CILIP, but I think I would feel kind of left out.  Maybe this is just my insecurities, but for me it’s a benefit of my membership.

This list made me realise how much I am actually getting out of CILIP. It seem’s unfair to leave CILIP and all that it is offering for one mistake (I’m hoping this is what it was).  Phil Gorman tweeted from the CILIP New Professional’s Day.


Hopefully, we’ll all get to see something of Nick Poole’s talk soon.

Then there’s the case that you can’t change it if you’re not part of it.  If the membership disagree with what CILIP is saying, we need to tell them.  We’ve started that on Twitter this week, and there’s the well timed survey on CILIP’s Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 we can use too.  I’ve already completed the survey, but will be sending an email outlining my concerns.

Pre-#uklibchat thoughts on ebooks in libraries

This evening’s #uklibchat is on ebooks and thinking about it I realised I’m a bit behind the times with what is happening in the world of ebooks.

As a solo librarian in a small library with, until a couple of months ago, no library management system and with no access management system I hadn’t really delved into the world of ebooks since I finished my MA two years ago. I’m not sure those things are necessary for an ebook collection, but it’s something that seems complicated and would need time to think about to set up (and budget!). I’ve had brief conversations with people working in similar libraries to me about the subject, but it’s just not reached the top of my to do list yet.

So I decided to quickly remind myself of what I used to know about ebooks and try to update myself.  A summary is below for anyone else who would find it useful.

  • Licensing electronic content vs. purchasing print content: Buying ebooks is not the same as buying print books.  You purchase a license to access the content, not the content itself.
  • Ebooks come in a variety of formats – the two main ones are EPUB and PDF
  • There are multiple ebook platforms with differing interfaces – wonderfully confusing for our readers.
  • When purchasing ebook need to consider:
    • Is access perpetual?  What happens if supplier goes out of business?
    • What loan length is allowed? Can readers choose the loan length? Can they be returned early?
    • How many concurrent users can look at an ebook?
    • Is the total number of loans limited?
    • What counts as a loan? A 30 second look equivalent to flicking through a book on the shelf?
    • What is the cost in relation to the print book?
    • Interoperability across devices?
    • What access systems (e.g. log ins) are needed for library users?
    • Library users privacy?
  • There are lots of different licensing models from different publishers.  It’s confusing.  Have a look at this 2013 Thinkpiece from IFLA for (a lot) more information.
  • European copyright law allows publishers to withhold ebooks from libraries because they can sell ebooks with licences which do not permit lending (Let libraries lend ebooks, CILIP webpage)
  • Open access (OA) books: OA books are a bit behind OA journals, but they’re following.  There’s now a Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) with over 3000 books from 120 publishers (as of 6th October 2015).  You can even download their metadata.
  • Epublishing makes self-publishing easier.  Good, but be careful of quality.
  • Ebooks allow use of more than just text and static images.  Where is the boundary between ebook and multimedia content? Ebooks and gaming? Does it matter?  Implications for cataloguing?
  • There’s the whole e-reading debate too.  Do our readers actually want to read ebooks?  My answer – it depends! (A more in depth answer would need another post, or more likely several)

Back to school

The past month has seen a fair bit of change in my life.  I’ve finished my traineeship in Oxford, moved to Cambridgeshire and started an MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL.  This post is just a little bit about my induction week at UCL which is just coming to an end.

Last Sunday, having packed a bag with notepaper, pens and my induction week timetable, I definitely had a bit of a back to school feeling.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the surprisingly full induction week timetable.  The week has turned out to be interesting, useful and (mostly) enjoyable – the only session I wish I hadn’t attended was the IT induction covering exactly the same things as a piece of paper we had been given three days before.  Some highlights of the week for me have been: an (actually rather enlightening) session on teamwork; the Jenkinson Lecture about the effect that the Houses of Parliament burning down in 1834 had on British record keeping; hearing about some of the research that is being conducted in the department; and having a chance to meet and find out about other people on my course.

This week has also been a chance to start thinking about extra things I would like to do this year to complement my studies.  I’ve been impressed by the wide range of IT and skills training available to UCL students.  So far I’ve signed up for the European Computer Driving Licence course (and am waiting to hear whether I’ve got a place) and will be setting aside some time next week to consider whether there are any other courses I want to sign up for.  I was tempted by the evening language courses, but have decided to give that a miss at least until next term when I should have more of an idea whether I could realistically find time for it (and also when there is the possibility of the fees for it being a christmas/birthday present).  Of course, there are plenty of opportunities beyond UCL too.  I’ve been discussing with my fellow students what sort of libraries we might like to arrange visits to and I’ve been looking up what library related events are taking place in London and Cambridge that could be interesting – for which the London LIS Community calendar has been pretty useful.

Into the web 2.0 jungle

Over the past month I’ve started using a number of web 2.0 technologies as tools professional development and networking.  They have varied in ease of use and how useful I have found them, though I can’t say I am using any to their full potential yet.  Here is a summary of my findings of this journey into the web 2.0 jungle (at times it has definitely felt like a jungle).

LIS New Professionals Network (LISNPN)

This was the quickest and easiest tool to set up.  The forums are great for getting information and connecting people, I’ve found the how-to-guides (in the downloadable resources section) extremely useful and it was through LISNPN that I found myself in London last Monday evening meeting up with other graduate trainees and library school students.  It was a brilliant evening and one that really made me really feel I am part of a community.  So a big thumbs up to LISNPN!


I set up a LinkedIn account back in (I think) September, but wasn’t really sure about it and had very little information on there and no connections.  An invitation from another trainee to connect on LinkedIn prompted me to have another go with LinkedIn.  I’ve added some more information, made a few connections and joined a couple of groups, but it’s not something I’ve managed to integrate into my routine and I’m not using it well yet.  Definitely one to come back to, but I’ll probably put it on hold until I feel I’ve settled in to blogging and twitter.  I think I’ve probably tried to start too many things at once and would be better focussing on fewer things for now.


I started using twitter because I wanted to participate in #uklibchat and initially I thought that might be all I’d use twitter for.  I’ve really enjoyed the two #uklibchats I’ve attended and have got some useful information from them.  However, the main use I have got out of twitter has ended up being the new source of information opened up to me through the frequent tweets of links to news items and blog posts.  So twitter has ended up being more of a success than I expected, though I feel I could still be getting more out of it if I used it more for its original purpose – conversation.

Getting started with twitter took more time than LISNPN, but not as long as I thought it might before I started.  An hour or so setting up the account, reading the twitter help pages and playing around searching for people and hashtags, and experimentally following a couple of interesting looking organisations and I was away.


Blogging, as expected, has been by far the most time consuming exercise.  Blogging for the Library Day in the Life project this week on the Oxford Libraries trainees’ blog has been particularly intensive.  I’m trying to blog both on this blog and the trainees’ blog because I see the two blogs as having very different main purposes:

  • I use the Oxford Libraries trainee’s blog to inform people who are interested about my traineeship – what I’m doing and what I’m learning through what I’m doing.
  • I use this blog to reflect on what I’m doing and thinking about and as somewhere for me to write down my thoughts.  I’d like other people to read it and find it interesting, but that’s really a bonus.

So far I’m struggling to get as many posts written as I’d like.  I’ve now got several half written posts but they all need more research or investigation to be ready to post and I’m not managing to find enough time for that at the moment.  This is probably another consequence of taking on too many new things at once on top of a full time job and my ongoing efforts to learn more about the profession I’m entering via more traditional methods (CILIP Update, journal articles and books).  Hopefully I’ll get quicker at the writing stage at least with practice.


I have made the decision to keep facebook as my personal social networking space and not using it in a professional capacity.  Although web 2.0 tools now blur the divide our between professional and personal lives, I still want to keep some distinction between the two.  Though saying that, I have always been careful to make sure there is nothing on my facebook profile I wouldn’t be happy with a (potential) employer or colleague seeing.  As much as I try to keep on top of my privacy settings I don’t feel that I can trust facebook to keep private what I want private.

So, in conclusion, I’m glad I made the leap and initiated my library self into the web 2.0 world.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience and finding value in these tools.  However, I do sometimes feel a little like I’m drowning in everything and it may have been better to start one new thing at a time.  On the other hand, everything is so interconnected now maybe doing several things at once is useful?