Archive for the ‘Wider professional development’ Category

A good send off

April 25, 2009

I finally posted off my chartership portfolios yesterday to CILIP. Yipee!  It is the culmination of two years hard work and I am pleased it has all come together. I hope the outcome will be good news for me.

However, my continuing professional development does not end here. This is an ongoing process and I will be intent on looking for opportunities to develop both professionally and personally in the future.

It is unlikely that I will continue this blog as I contribute to a team blog at my workplace and time constraints mean I can’t blog on both.  I hope for those of you who have been following my blog that you have enjoyed reading it and I wish you also good luck in gaining your chartership.

Palace Green Library, University of Durham: World Heritage Site (Tuesday 1 July 2008)

July 5, 2008

Revisiting the glory days of the British empire is not what you’d expect on a sunny day in July but a visit to the Palace Green library unearthed some real gems of British history. One of the gems was Ogilby’s Britannica, published in 1675, which was a series of road maps, depicting journeys from London to other towns. The Sudanese collection of letters, papers and photos covers the British empire at its height up to independence, and was part of an astonishing archive and special collections.

For a group of librarians more used to trundling around 1960’s concrete architecture, it was a real contrast to be allowed into a late 17th Century building, which houses:
• the Bamburgh library containing materials on 17th Century science and controversial literature and,
• the Routh Library holding titles covering the classics, church history, and 17th Century British history and politics.

Despite the historic setting, the Access & Learning Officer gave a dynamic presentation using an interactive whiteboard and enthused us about the projects she runs for school groups. A website with archive resources and interactive activities help bring the collections to life and can stimulate pupils to want to learn about British history. Subjects covered in these onsite sessions and outreach include history, citizenship, art, science and English. For more information on the 4schools project go to the following web address

With the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery last year, the Access & Learning Officer ran a project getting a group of pupils to lie down side by side to recreate the image of a slave ship. This makes understanding the crowded conditions in a slave ship more real than any dull book on slavery could ever do!

Another example was a project explaining to pupils what is history and introducing the concept of anachronisms, something that is out of time and order. A photo of two World War soldiers illustrates this concept and a few modern day items are slipped into the photo, such as a Harry Potter book, and a can of coke. Pupils are asked to spot the anachronisms in the photo. This stimulates pupils into thinking about the reliability of an historical source.

For those of us who attended the visit, we all agreed that it had been an engaging and stimulating day and that we had had the privilege of being shown around a beautiful historic building and of browsing a remarkable collection of archives.

Hollywood Librarian – 2 June 2008

June 6, 2008

In this case, the title didn’t say it all. It wasn’t about a librarian working in Hollywood. If you were expecting a life story of someone at Universal Studios looking after the scripts, you’d be wrong.

The film, directed by Ann Seidl, was a concoction of film footage depicting libraries and librarians, interspersed with public librarians giving a rosy picture and saying how much they loved their jobs!

I felt there were too many film clips – in fact anything that had a librarian in it! There was great emphasis on the public and school library but hardly any mention of academic or corporate librarians, except for one enthusiastic Head Librarian from Hewlett Packard.

One of the most inspiring moments was a prison inmate who spoke of being saved by a public library project which had helped him with his reading and literacy skills.

The political aspect of libraries was touched upon when the film mentioned the bombing of the Iraq National Library, which led to indiscriminate and mercenary looting of library resources and museum objects. This is a sacrilege as most of this is likely never to be recovered.

The theme of budget cuts and fund raising was covered at length using the threatened closure of Salinas public library (CA) in the US as a case study. It was positive to see how community spirit can prove stronger than the powers-that-be and the locals triumphed in their fight to keep their library open!

The film did not miss out on the opportunity to make a political statement comparing the $250 million dollars the US Government spends on all types of library with the equivalent spending in Iraq and Afghanistan every day!

All in all, an enjoyable film, with a few reasons to raise a laugh. However, I felt that the film could have been put together better.

In jail!

May 27, 2008

The Career Development Group ended up in jail on Friday 23 May. But don’t worry: librarians on the rampage weren’t arrested. This was the Old Gaol in Hexham. We hadn’t been arrested; we were visitors. The gaol, purpose built between 1330 and 1333, covered 4 floors from the gaoler’s lodgings on the top floor to the miserable prisoners and rats in the dungeon.

Then followed a visit to the library housed in the old gaol building and located in the Charlton room. The library was refurbished in October 2005, and was closed to the public in 2003. Just under 180 boxes of materials were housed temporarily locally in Belsay Hall for 18 months. The library is a charity and receives no government funding but relies on grants, e.g. a grant from DEFRA during the foot and mouth crisis which provided a printer and scanner and some archival storage. The library is run by a volunteer Librarian and there are currently about 5 other volunteers.

The library stocks a collection of about 5,000 books, and in the last year received a generous donation of 2,000 books from a local historian which still needs to be catalogued. No chance of breaking in here as there are barred windows and secure storage with compact shelving. The collection is organised by a card catalogue and is currently classified using Dewey 19-21. The library also stocks a poetry collection, and information on family history of the region, in particular the notorious Border Reivers.

Why do people come to the library? Some to find out about their family history, discover local poetry, look up a reference and to make use of the free enquiry service. Some queries just cannot be answered, such as how many prisoners were held in the gaol at the same time, but we do know the appalling conditions the prisoners were held in. Other queries are referred to other local history information units in the area.

One highlight of the visit was the opportunity to see a photo of Jack Charlton, born locally in Ashington and hero of the victorious England winning team of the Football World Cup of 1966. The photo was on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London and is one of several photos on display in museums and venues across the North East.

From the Armchair to Uganda: International Activism as a Means of Professional Development (CDG talk: 21 April 2008)

April 22, 2008


Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) is usually associated with building water treatment facilities or teachers trying to bring English to African schools. In this context it is surprising to find out that a librarian is needed out in Uganda. This was where I started out from before listening to a talk by Sara Ellis.

Sara spent the first 18 months of her stay in Uganda as an Organisation Development Officer with the Literacy and Adult Basic Education (LABE) in Kampala. The library had some old, out of date materials, but it was difficult to throw them away as books are like gold dust. Although there are 56 indigenous languages in Uganda, materials in the local languages are scarce and children from the age of 8 or 9 years old are taught in English.

In September 2005 Sara changed post and started working at the Kibala District Civil Society Organisations’ Network. Sara highlighted the huge challenge of attracting funding. Sara trained people on book-keeping systems, gender policies and fund –raising, and she enjoyed working with people immensely.

Sara emphasised how she had gained both professionally and personally from her stay in Uganda. For more information on working as a VSO volunteer, follow this link.

Then followed a talk by a very dynamic speaker, Maria Cotera, currently Vice President of the CDG. Maria spoke about how as an information professional you can make an impact at regional and national level as well as internationally, even if you haven’t got the guts to go and work in a foreign country!

Maria has had the opportunity to travel to several countries, including Buenos Aires, Oslo and South Africa as a delegate at The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conferences and latterly as Lead Convener of the Women, Information and Libraries Discussion Group of IFLA.

Being a professional activist comes naturally to some of us, but not to others. It is about more than just going to work, it is about being active and looking for opportunities. One common thread that emerged from both talks was the use of transferrable skills. Examples include organisational skills and time management, project management, problem-solving skills, creativity and imagination.

Some of the most challenging skills to develop are influencing skills and fund-raising, meaning the ability to relate to and inspire others, including the ‘Big People’,  such as persuading Bob McKee, Chief Executive of CILIP to do a sponsored slim as a means of raising funds for international projects.  And last but not least, interpersonal and leadership skills.

So the message from today’s event was very clear: don’t just be a couch potato and think about it but get out there and be a professional activist.

I believe that you should never underestimate the value of transferrable skills, in declaring them to your employer, when you are applying for a new job, or indeed, when preparing your chartership portfolio!