Reflections on the CILIP Conference 2018

The 2018 CILIP Conference was the second CILIP conference I’ve attended. And like the 2016 CILIP conference, I learnt loads. What, for me, sets the two CILIP conferences apart from other professional events is how much I’ve got from what Jo Wood called in her podcast “the bits in between” – all the conversations, twitter chat and stuff that happens beyond the keynotes, seminars and workshops in the programme.

These are my reflections on some of the big things that I got out of “the bits in between” at the CILIP conference 2018.

No longer new

I realised at the conference that I no longer feel I identify with the label “new professional”.

When I saw all the tweets from people saying how excited they were to be going to their first conference / first CILIP conference it reminded me about how I had felt a few years ago, but I didn’t feel part of the club. Conferences don’t make me feel nervous anymore; I feel I know what I’m doing when it comes to conferences.

Then there was the networking workshop in the first breakout session at the conference. It’s awesome that it happened and I understand that people at all stages in their career can struggle with networking, but for me I looked at the session and thought “that would have been really useful to me last time I was here, but not now”. It made me think about how I’ve changed and developed in the past few years.

There’s also how I feel in my job. I’ve been in the role I’m in now for two and a half years, and I now have a permanent contract. I feel settled in my role. My CPD and improvements I work on for my service are part of an ongoing process of continual improvement, rather than getting myself up to speed or setting up the service. I think the confidence I now have in myself as a professional, which I didn’t really have before, has also made a difference to how I see myself. This confidence comes from experience – not just of getting things right, but of dealing with the situation when things go wrong.

I started working in the LIS world as a graduate trainee in 2011 and studied for my MA in 2012/13. So in terms of years I seem the fit the “standard” definition of 5-years post-qualification for when you stop being a new professional. But really, I think it’s down to how you see yourself.

So, if I’m no longer a new professional what am I? After a short conversation on twitter I’m settling for ‘established professional’ and will be trying to embrace my new professional self-identity in the coming months.

CILIP: the team and how it works

An unexpected benefit of the conference was meeting lots of the CILIP team and getting to know a bit more about how CILIP works. Some of the CILIP staff I’d met before, but others I’d only ever ‘met’ as the name at the end of an email and it was lovely to be able to put faces to those names. Making personal connections with CILIP staff will, I think, make me more comfortable when I want to reach out and contact the organisation. Knowing there are friendly faces at the other end of the email black hole is always a good thing 🙂

I also spent one lunchtime talking to two of the CILIP trustees, Dawn Finch and Leon Bolton, finding out more about what the CILIP Board is and how decisions are made. I must admit I was pretty ignorant of CILIP’s governance before. The board is made up of members of CILIP coming from a range of sectors, backgrounds and perspectives. Having chatted to Dawn and Leon I feel confident that they really do want to represent the views of us as the membership. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the open meeting of the board but think it’s great that this is now happening at the conference making it much more easily accessible to the large number of CILIP members at the conference.

Maintaining networks

One of the things I realised bumping into several old contacts at the conference, is that although I’m perfectly happy meeting and chatting to people at events, and I’d say pretty good at networking, I’m not very good at keeping in touch with people after the event if I’m not actively working with. I don’t have the answers to this, but I’ve added it to my list of things to work on.


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.

Things 6 and 7: Professional networking – better known, better connected, better equipped

This post was written for 23 Things for Professional Development, Thing 6: Online networks and Thing 7: Real-life networks.

Professional networking is all about building relationships with people, sharing information with them and helping each other.  I often find the initial connecting stage of networking daunting, particularly in a large room/online network full of people I don’t know, but it’s something I’m definitely getting better at.  Once I’ve got past that first stage though, I find networking really fun.  I love talking to people and finding out what they do, I really enjoy helping other people – that’s one of the main reasons I joined the profession – and having people I can turn to when I need help makes life much easier and less stressful.

On the cpd23 Thing 6 post Helen suggests all the advantages of online professional networking fall under the headings of becoming:

  1. Better known
  2. Better connected
  3. Better equipped

I like this way of thinking about networking and I think it applies to real-life networking as well as online networking.  If you want more information on the What, How, Who, Where, When and Why of networking I would recommend the recorded webinar on this blog post.  I’ll now go on to discuss some networks I already use and some I have investigated for things 6 and 7.


My workplace is where I do most of my real-life professional networking.  I work for a large library and get a chance to work alongside, or at least chat during tea breaks with, a fairly large number of library professionals at various stages in their careers and with various areas of expertise.  I also have a ready made network in the other Oxford University library trainees, who meet regularly for training sessions.


Twitter is currently my main online networking tool.  As I said in my Thing 4 post, I find my twitter network really useful for keeping up to date with news and trends in the profession.  One of the best things about twitter as a professional network is that there are so many different people there – it’s not limited to one sector or one career stage like some of my other networks are.  Even though I’ve only been on twitter a few months I already have 99 followers on twitter (almost all library and information professionals), most of whom would probably never have heard of me if it weren’t for twitter, and I’ve had tweets retweeted so even more people will have seen my name in connection with something library-related.  Twitter has also helped me keep in contact with people who I’ve met at real-life networking events such as the CILIP New Professionals Day.


CILIP, and other professional associations, have great potential as a source of networking opportunities.  So far the only one I’ve really taken advantage of was the New Professionals Day, but I’m planning to attend my first regional branch meeting on the 4th of July in Reading (on updates in copyright) and hope to be able to make it to more events in London once I’m studying there.  I really enjoyed the New Professionals Day not just because of what I learnt at the sessions, but also because I got to meet lots of other new library and information professionals.  Talking to other attendees between the sessions, at lunch and afterwards at the pub I got to find out more about where other people were in their career, what they do, where they were going and their opinions on the talks and workshops.  My only regret was not getting contact details for some of the interesting people I met.

Even though I’ve been a member of CILIP for about eight months I didn’t know about the existence CILIP communities, a collection of forums, blogs and people, until I started Thing 6.  It’s interesting to know it’s there, but looking through recent threads on the forums there weren’t any conversations I felt I immediately wanted to join in with and I seem to follow most of the blogs that I find interesting already.


LISNPN was the first online professional network I joined and it really made me feel part of something bigger.  I enjoyed finding out about other graduate trainees on the forum, which resulted in my first real-life networking event outside my workplace when I went to London to meet other trainees and LIS students.  I’ve also found the downloadable resources section with anonymous reviews of LIS degrees and how to guides for tasks such as using twitter, getting published and interviewing well (as the interviewee).


The Oxford trainees had a session at the Oxford University Careers Service a couple of weeks ago which was amazingly useful and covered, among other things, LinkedIn.  Some of the top tips I came away with were:

  •  The headline, summary and your name are the bits that are searchable from a search engine, so make sure keywords are there. (The headline is the bit below your name, e.g. ‘Radcliffe Science Library Graduate Trainee at Bodleian Libraries’, and you can change it by going to Edit profile and clicking on the edit link next to your name)
  • Recommendations! You can get recommendations from anyone your connected with, which means you can basically have references from people you’ve worked with or for, but who aren’t your line manager.  I think this is brilliant, but it does have the rather large downside that you can only get recommendations from people who are on LinkedIn.
  • There are lots of sections you can add if you think they’re relevant, such as courses, projects and volunteer experience.  Find the link to add them just under the big grey box on the Edit profile page.
  • You can change your public profile url so that it’s your name rather than a string of numbers, for example mine is
  • A good LinkedIn profile can back up what you’ve put on a job application.  According to a 2011 US survey by Reppler 48% of hirers use LinkedIn to screen candidates and although (I strongly hope) you won’t be rejected for not having a LinkedIn profile, 68% of hirers had hired someone because of what they saw on a social networking site (not necessarily LinkedIn).  I’ve no idea what those stats would be like for library and information jobs in the UK, but if it might help me get a job it sounds like a good idea.

I came away from the session feeling very positive about LinkedIn and determined to vamp up my rather bare and neglected LinkedIn profile.  I wanted to include details about all the jobs I’ve had and all the volunteering I’ve done as they’ve all developed skills that would be useful for jobs I might want to apply for and I didn’t want to miss anything out.  Then I sat down and had a bit of a rethink.  I’m fairly open and happy for people to find me online, but I felt like I was putting my life history out there online and wasn’t really comfortable with that.  So, for now, I’ve stuck to my library work experience, with a description of my current post, and my degree with a bit of an explanation of what it was because the title doesn’t make it obvious, the projects I did and a list of the societies I was on the committee for and some of the outreach volunteering I did.


LIKE is the London Information & Knowledge Exchange.  I’ve not been to any of their events before but had heard of them and some of their meetings sound really interesting.  I’m hoping to make it to some of their meetings once I’m studying in London.

Organise your own event

Finally, if you think it would be good if there was an event to share ideas about a particular topic or for a particular group of people to meet then make it happen.  It might involve a lot of work or it might not.  I organised a cpd23 meet up in Oxford last week.  All I had to do was suggest a time and place via this blog and twitter and I got to meet some interesting library and information professionals who I’d not met before (as well as some who I had).