Back in 2009 a terrified version of myself, along with a group of others who were apprehensive if not terrified also, presented my first conference presentation. It was the New Professionals Conference in London and I had to stand on a stage in front of over 100 people and share a presentation I’d written. I say “had to” but actually I’d chosen to. I wanted to share my experiences using social networking (a relatively new thing back then!) and encourage other librarians to join me in blogging and tweeting. I wanted to experience public speaking at a professional conference to stretch myself. I felt physically ill until my presentation, but from about 20 seconds in to my presentation that all changed and I loved it. We were all first time speakers so the audience knew to go easy on us, and many of the audience were new professionals too. Everyone was so supportive, including those who weren’t new professionals but had come along to see what we had to say. People smiled at me as I spoke, and others took notes. Many people came up to me after my presentation to thank me, ask questions, and congratulate me. They told me I didn’t appear nervous (despite the fact that I was convinced I looked like a nervous wreck). Aside from the whole being absolutely terrified thing, I actually really enjoyed it.

So I did more. I wrote proposals for other conferences, and was invited to speak at other events. My confidence grew and although I always get nervous, I learnt how to deal with the nerves better and I knew that once I began speaking I’d be fine. I have always prepared well and only ever speak about topics I am very familiar with, and generally about things I am passionate about which always helps. I still get nervous, and I can definitely improve, but I think I’m starting to fall out of love with presenting in this way. Why? Well, I’ve been having an affair.

Some of the conferences I have been invited to speak at in more recent years have asked me to deliver a workshop rather than a presentation. This appeals to the part of me that really wants to help others develop – I always wanted to teach, and I find it incredibly rewarding. Seeing someone have a ‘light bulb moment’ because of something I’ve asked them to reflect on or to apply to their own context is wonderful. I generally find that for me, facilitating active learning results in something more exciting than the traditional method of delivering a presentation.

As a learner, I definitely prefer this approach (which I appreciate may skew my opinion). During the Clore Leadership Short Course in February, we had a number of external facilitators delivering full day or half day workshops over the two weeks. Many of them involved a lot of group discussion as well as group and individual activities. I absolutely loved it and learned so much, my head was full of ideas (it was exhausting too, but an incredible learning experience). On one of the days we entered the room and I noticed we had handouts with lots of presentation slides. My heart sunk. To be fair, we did have some discussion points in the session. I learned a few new things, and some of the points made were very interesting, but I felt like I was back in a conference room rather than in my lovely active learning bubble. I noticed as I was reflecting on the fortnight that the sessions I’d enjoyed the most were those where the facilitators prompted us to think for ourselves. They often didn’t share as much in terms of theory, and focused more on sharing their experiences and encouraging us to share our own experiences and perspectives. They were incredibly skilled facilitators, but in a different way to traditional presenting. They created a safe, supportive environment to enable us to share our thoughts and our learning without fear of ‘being wrong’. They encouraged us to explore things and learn from each other. They gave us space to think.

In the workshops I have delivered I know sometimes I have tried to pack too much content into them, and sadly the active learning parts are the parts that sometimes get cut a little short. However having been a participant in this type of environment I can now see that for many workshops less is definitely more in terms of sharing content and that for these types of situation more emphasis (and therefore more time) should be on the discussions, activities and opportunities for reflection.

Recently I’ve facilitated workshops on leadership, a topic that I believe we all have knowledge of in some way and something that although I do have experience of I do not consider myself an expert in (I don’t think I ever will be; I support the view that leadership is learned and that we always have more to learn about ourselves and how we interact with others). When I started planning the workshops, I had lots of ideas of activities I wanted to do, but I also for some reason felt like I needed presentation slides. In practice, I absolutely loved the activities I facilitated (and received good feedback on them) and I didn’t much enjoy the sections I “presented” – even when the slides were just photos or pictures with very little text. It felt too structured and didn’t enable me to adapt what I said as much. Facilitating rather than presenting is a very different experience; I found it just as tiring, if not moreso, but so much more rewarding. I learned about the participants and was able to support them as they needed it, and I could tailor the guidance I provided and the topics covered based on their needs. It’s definitely a skill I’d like to develop.

I think for most of the things I do there will be part that needs presentation slides, and I’m aware that some people prefer to learn in this way so I am unlikely to remove it completely, but I’ll certainly be thinking very carefully about whether a presentation is the most appropriate medium in future. Of course this does partly depend on the topic as well as the audience and the situation (venue, time etc.); I do think there is still a place for traditional presenting, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do it (I’ll be giving a presentation at a conference next week in fact!), but in future I’ll definitely be considering when honing my facilitation skills may be more appropriate than honing my presentation skills.

What do you think? Do you prefer presenting or facilitating? Any tips for developing my facilitating skills?

I haven’t blogged about a conference for a while, largely as I tend to tweet any highlights, and I prefer to write reflectively rather than descriptive as many of my previous conference blog posts were. However, this week I attended CILIP Conference 2015 and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to blog some of my highlights as I reflect now it’s over. It’s caused me to think about things differently, and really opened my mind to some things I hadn’t previously fully appreciated. 

The keynotes

The keynote sessions I attended were varied in terms of background and topic, as well as their approach to the talk (since doing more public speaking I often find myself examining the way others present whilst listening to the content). One of the things I loved about CILIP Umbrella 2013 was the keynotes, specifically the fact that there was something to be taken from each keynote for everyone in the audience. That’s not an easy thing with as varied an audience you will find at CILIP conferences – there will be librarians and information workers from such a variety of different sectors and organisations. I was really pleased to discover the same was true from the keynotes this year; regardless of background I am sure there was at least one take home point for everyone in the audience for each talk. The overarching themes all had relevance to the library and information profession, and they celebrated our similarities as a profession rather than highlighting our differences. The speakers were inspirational and at times challenging, and gave me a lot to think about. They spoke with passion and emotion, and drew the audience in. 

One keynote in particular really touched me; Erwin James. He spoke honestly about his journey including some of his early life, his time in prison, his rehabilitation (supported hugely by the prison library), and a little about his time since release. The nature of his story was of course highly emotional, but some of what he talked about, particularly the importance of hope and valuing yourself was a pertinent reminder of just how crucial that is, and how important other people can be in helping us get to a better place if we start to lose that hope or perception of our value. I found his story fascinating, and his delivery so natural; I was completely transfixed during the talk, and even now, a few hours later, I am still mulling over some of what he shared this afternoon. 

The exhibition

I took some time after lunch on the first day of the conference to explore the exhibition and chat to the exhibitors. The lure of the iPad competition helped initially (to enter the draw you had to collect a sticker from each exhibitor – an idea that works well), but I found that I was really enjoying chatting to the exhibitors and learning more about what they offer. Realistically, in my role I’m very unlikely to be purchasing anything from the exhibitors, but I may know someone who might want to, and I feel far more informed now than I did two days ago! I learned about some new products and services, and was able to share some of my experiences with those who were there to understand more about the current state of the profession. I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up staying in the exhibition all afternoon! I’ll definitely be making an effort to spend more time in the exhibition at future conferences; the exhibitors help make the conference what it is by providing funding and sponsorship, and they’re all there to help the profession. Often I feel like the exhibitors are seen as sales people, and of course some of them are, but that’s just one part of who they are and I had a really good time getting to know them and their products/services. 

The people

The library and information sector is full of fascinating people, and I’ve had some great conversations over the last few days. I spent time with people I’ve met at previous conferences, some I communicate with on social media, and some I’ve not met before. I’ve spoken to fellow delegates, exhibitors, and CILIP staff. Without exception everyone I spoke to had something interesting to share, and I really enjoyed being able to learn more about the diverse roles within our profession. 

The sense of community

As a librarian who doesn’t really work in a library (I’m technically part of the library in terms of structure, but I don’t spend any time in the library), and doesn’t do any librarian tasks any more, often taking on more of a consultancy role or that of a trainer I can find that sometimes I’m not sure where my ‘home’ is in terms of professional organisations. However, the common thread across all my work is that it supports other librarians, and I found that I not only got value from the content of the conference (which is difficult given the unusual nature of my role!) but also felt like I was part of a community, and not just that but a really excellent community (or perhaps ‘awesome’ is a more appropriate term as R. David Lankes used in his keynote!). 

Perhaps I’m getting better at explaining what it is I do, or perhaps the current projects I work on are things that are a bit easier to explain, but so many people made me feel welcome and commented that my role sounded really interesting. Often I feel like I need to use the caveat, “Well I’m not really a librarian any more”, but aside from a few early conversations in the exhibition I didn’t do this often at all at the CILIP Conference; I didn’t need to because everyone accepted and respected the fact that our profession is so diverse, and I really felt like I belonged there. 

The support

Since learning more about the things that drive me and the things I’m really passionate about, I’ve been able to share these with people and am fortunate to have been able to start to work on some of them.  The day before the CILIP Conference was the launch of the CILIP Leadership Programme, which is something I’ve been wanting to see come into fruition for a long time and am delighted to be part of. I was very touched by how supportive people have been during both the programme launch and the conference; some people very kindly thanked me for the part I’ve played in getting to where we are, and others have offered their own support to help towards the programme. It’s wonderful to be part of something that I’m so passionate about, and to find others who feel the same and really want to make the programme a success. So many people, both CILIP staff and CILIP members, have already been incredibly helpful and supportive, and I really appreciate it (and am sure the participants do too). 

I also presented at the conference about a couple of work projects, and spoke to a number of people outside the sessions about some of the other things I’m passionate about. Again I was bowled over by how supportive people were, and had some really exciting conversations. It’s great to find people who have similar passions or who really see the benefit in what you want to do. 

Overall

I really enjoyed the CILIP Conference and think this will be a conference I will aim to attend each year if I can. I love the cross-sectoral nature of the event, both in terms of content focus and delegates. Of course I do think there are some things that could be improved, and I have some ideas which I will be including in my feedback form, but overall it was a truly excellent event and one I’m sure I’ll be thinking about for a long time. 

What next?

I still find it helpful to use the ‘What next?’ question to encourage me to think about how I might apply what I have learnt for future, and in fact I’m likely to be getting back into the habit of more regular reflective writing, so what am I going to do as a result of the conference?

Firstly, I’ll be making sure the CILIP Events team get feedback from me via the feedback survey to help with future planning, so I’ll be sharing all the positives as well as some future considerations such as improving time keeping (or restructuring the day to help with this) and encouraging people from all sectors to share a bit about their work. I’d like to see something like a “Day in the life of a…” strand where you can go along and hear people talk a little bit about what they do. I’d love to learn more about the different roles within the profession and would like to see something fairly informal/conversational (so it’s not a huge undertaking for people who are willing to share) and interactive so people can ask questions about what it is like to work in different parts of the sector. 

Secondly, I’m going to be mulling over Erwin’s talk for a while but his message about the importance of hope I think will stick with me. It’s very pertinent for me at the moment and I’m going to be thinking about what that means for me, as well as how I can support others when they’re not feeling so good. I’d also like to learn more about prison libraries, and would really like to either visits one or speak to a prison librarians about their work (if anyone is reading this who is a prison librarian, or knows one, please let me know!). 

Thirdly, I had a bit of an epiphany during an impact masterclass when I suddenly realised that although I support libraries in demonstrating their impact, I don’t actually do this for my own work. I’m planning to discuss this with my manager and hopefully do some follow up work to understand more about the impact of workshops I have delivered. 

I’m also going to be registering for CILIP Fellowship soon, and plan to attend CILIP Conference next year if I can. I feel really invigorated after the conference, and despite the tiredness I also feel mentally refreshed and enthused (hence writing this blog post straight away!). 

I highly recommend the CILIP Conference – it’s a great event to attend to open your mind and inspire (and possibly challenge your views), and to help you learn more about the profession as a whole – there’s so many similarities despite the differences, and CILIP Conference offers a unique opportunity to bring people together to discuss this on a broader level. 

Back in February I attended one of the Clore Leadership Short Courses, a two week intensive residential course for people in the cultural sectors to reflect on, and develop, their leadership skills. For anyone who has discussed it with me since, I apologise – I feel a bit like I’ve been indoctrinated into a cult and have been extolling its virtues and encouraging everyone to experience it for themselves. It really was incredible though. I’ve been interested in leadership for a long time, and have learnt a lot through reading, attending courses and events, and reflecting on my own behaviour. Often this is in small snippets though, and the Clore Leadership Short Course enabled me to really focus on leadership learning for two weeks. It was really intensive but so worthwhile. I wanted to blog some of the things that have stuck with me and that I’ve been continuing to reflect on since the course.

Authentic leadership

Authentic leadership is something I first learnt about at the CILIP in Wales Conference in 2012, and was a common theme through many of the presentations there. I’ve since included some reading on authentic leadership for the Library Leadership Reading Group, and have enjoyed learning more about how we can all lead in a more authentic way, building on our strengths and staying true to ourselves. This was a key theme throughout much of the Clore course, but in particular we had a one day workshop to help us reflect on our own authentic leadership. The evening before we were set homework of recording a timeline of our life including any things we’ve been good at, things we’ve been interested in, proud achievements, and inspirational people. It took me right back to my school days and of course I spent far too long thinking and planning before committing anything to paper. I found the process really useful though; I’m a reflector by nature so spend quite a lot of time thinking back on things, but usually within my adult life. This took me right back from my young childhood and helped me identify some of the key themes of my life.

My lifeline

My lifeline

 

During the workshop we discussed our timelines with our peers, and then in the afternoon we had a short activity on our drivers to help us think about what really motivates us in life. We were then given the opportunity to reflect on these individually, and prepare a 5 minute talk to a small group of our peers to talk about what being an authentic leader meant to us. I found the whole process so incredibly useful – a lot of it was common sense but having the time and space to think about this in a focused way really helped me consolidate my thinking and has given me a much clearer idea of who I am and how I want to lead.

Importance of story telling

As part of the Clore programme, we had a number of guest speakers throughout the fortnight. Some of these are people who have done the Clore Short Course in the past, or Clore Fellows, whilst some are involved in supporting the Clore programme. They all had really interesting backgrounds and were from various different parts of the cultural sector (dance, museums, Arts Council…). They each approached their talks differently, but the one thing constant throughout was the focus on telling us their story. Some did this in chronological order, some shared key themes that have always been present throughout their lives, some shared photos, some shared challenges, some shared achievements, some intertwined their leadership lessons within their story. Many of them shared elements of their personal life as well as their professional life. All were compelling stories that told you about the person as well as their experiences. I made notes for some of the talks, for others I just listened. I took something from every single one and it really made me appreciate the importance of good storytelling to help you get your message across. This was also reiterated in some of the course workshops, but it was the examples of the guest speakers which really emphasised that for me. I’ve noticed storytelling being mentioned quite a lot recently, it’s come up in a number of our LLRG conversations as it’s mentioned in a number of key leadership texts, and it was also the focus of a recent Slideshare blog post on The Secret To Activating Your Audience’s Brain.

Quiet leadership

A number of the guest speakers at Clore spoke about quiet leadership, and this is something that interests me. I often seem to gravitate to leadership positions (gymnastics club captain for my University, chair of committees, etc.) but I don’t lead in a traditional dictatorial way. I prefer to lead by being an active member of the team and understanding more about them and their motivations, and then for me to help facilitate that. When someone on the team (or the team as a whole) performs well, it’s really important for me that they get the recognition rather than myself as the leader. Some refer to this style of leadership as quiet leadership, and it was really good to hear some real life examples of that. I’ve also recently read Quiet by Susan Cain and will be discussing this as part of the Library Leadership Reading Group tonight (8.30pm UK time on Tuesday 5th May, feel free to join us using the #llrg tag) – this is focused on introversion in general but does include elements of quiet leadership. I’d like to learn more about this style of leadership in future.

Value of coaching

One of the workshops we had at Clore was on coaching, which reinforced a lot of what I learnt on my ILM Coaching course. One of the main things for me is the shift in power to enable the person being coached to consider their options, and make their own decisions. I really struggled with coaching at first because I always want to try to help by offering solutions. This is the total opposite of to what you should be doing when coaching as the solutions come from the person being coached. However, I’m also incredibly curious and constantly question things, and this (used appropriately) can be really helpful when coaching. Most days at Clore we had an opportunity to go for a ‘walk and talk’ which often involved an element of peer coaching. I really enjoyed these sessions, and particularly enjoyed acting as the coach. I did also have a coaching session from one of the course leaders which was useful, but I most enjoyed being able to coach others in the group. I try to do this in my mentoring for CILIP Professional Registration, and hope to continue to develop my coaching skills further.

Reflective practice

The whole of the residential course was an opportunity for reflective learning and it was so valuable. Having the time and space to allow yourself to focus on your own development for more than an hour or so was so rare, and so special. It was difficult to switch off from other worries initially, but after a short time I was able to do so and really benefited from it. Within the workshops, we were encouraged to think about our own experiences and consider how what we were discussing could apply to our practice. We were also encouraged to try some of the new things out, and having a safe environment to do that in was very beneficial. Because of the type of environment we were in, we were also highly aware of each other’s learning and were able to provide feedback and support each other during our learning. We were encouraged to continue to do this afterwards too, and some of us are now forming action learning sets to help us with that. Even for those people who don’t have the support group like we have, we were encouraged to do this individually too. Many of the guest speakers commented on the fact that there is no end point and no ‘perfect leader’ and that we are all continually learning, and should be encouraged to do so. This is definitely something I can relate to as I think I’ll always be a work in progress, but it was good to know that’s OK, as long as you take time to reflect (individually or with your peers) and to apply your learning.

On that note, I think I’ll be processing what I learnt at Clore for a long time to come, but I wanted to share some of my initial reflections. I would highly recommend the Clore Leadership Short Course for anyone working on the cultural sector interested in developing their leadership skills.

On completion of my Chartership, having had such an excellent mentor (a CILIP Mentor of the Year no less!), I knew I wanted to mentor other candidates myself. I completed the CILIP mentor training, which I found really interesting (I particularly welcomed the focus on a coaching approach to mentoring rather than a focus on the CILIP Professional Registration process), and soon found myself with some willing mentees. Everyone works at a different pace, so some of my mentees are taking a longer term approach, but my first mentee submitted her portfolio last month so I thought I’d share my experience as a mentor. 

I knew I wanted to mentor in a similar way to the way I had been mentored myself. I didn’t want to be the sort of mentor who is a task master or keeps people to deadlines – I don’t mind doing an element of this, but predominantly I want to be able to challenge mentees, guide them, and encourage them to develop. Fortunately my mentee was looking for that sort of mentor so it worked well. As I work remotely (I do have an office but a lot of my time is spent away from the office), much of our communication was via email, but we did also meet at key points throughout the process. The meetings were very much led by my mentee, though a week before each meeting I did ask them to complete a few questions in the form of a meeting planning template so that I knew what they wanted to focus on for our meeting. This really helped me, and I think it helped them too. 

We kept our communication quite informal (this was the way we’d agreed it would work best for us), so as well as the formal mentoring, we got to know each other better and share experiences. I learnt a lot from their experiences too so was keen to encourage this. I’m keen to mentor people from different types of work within LIS in future to continue this – the two-way learning process is a useful part of CPD I feel (and can help them with criteria 3 of CILIP Professional Registration on wider professional awareness!).  

We tended to meet in coffee shops, though we did meet once at my office as my mentee wanted to familiarise themselves with the CILIP VLE so I thought it might be useful to do that together. During this session they got access to the VLE, I explained the different sections and what they were for, and we discussed how they may wish to use the Portfolio functionality for their own portfolio. After this session, we communicated via the VLE as well as by email, which I found very useful. My mentee shared their portfolio page with me so whenever they updated it, I received an email alert and I checked in every so often and provided feedback/suggestions via the comment functionality. This was particularly useful during the final stages of the process, and also helped speed the submission process as they had been building it up for a while within the VLE rather than having to add everything in at the end.

During our discussions, I was able to use some of the coaching skills I have learnt to explore my mentee’s career goals, as well as address any barriers they experienced. I used the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) to help them explore different options and decide on a way forward. I found the process incredibly useful, both in terms of practicing my coaching skills, and in ensuring the development ideas came predominantly from the mentee, with me acting as a guide. Hopefully this ensured the development was tailored to them and I think it helped with their motivation and commitment. 

The most rewarding thing for me was observing my mentee develop in confidence during the process. I knew from the beginning that they are an extremely competent professional, though they doubted themselves occasionally. They ended the process far more self-aware and with a much clearer idea of their current abilities and their future plans. I’m not saying this was down to me, but I was pleased to be able to be a part of it and to witness their growth. 

Their portfolio was excellent, and I had no doubt (apart from the tiny but ever present niggle of nerves!) that they would be successful in their application. They have received really positive feedback and I’m so pleased. 

I’d highly recommend being a mentor for CILIP Professional Registration; it’s a really interesting experience and incredibly rewarding to support someone through the process. I very much look forward to continuing to mentor other CILIP Professional Registration candidates.

NOTE: This blog post was drafted over a year ago but wasn’t published. I’m currently reviewing my working preferences to help my colleagues and I understand each other better and thought I’d take the opportunity to share one of the tools we’ll be looking at and show how mine has changed since I started my current job (I don’t think my scores on Belbin’s team roles will have changed much over the last year). 

On the first day of my current job, I completed a Belbin team roles survey. It was a really useful tool and something which taught both myself and my manager about the way I worked. I blogged about my results – I came out as an implementer, gatherer and completer finisher. This seemed to fit well with my preferences in a team situation, and pleased my manager as he’s not by nature a completer finisher and we’re only a small team so it’s useful to have someone happy to take on that role.

Fast forward about 3.5 years, and I find myself doing the Belbin team roles survey again, this time as part of an internal ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) course. So have my results changed?

My Belbin team role preferences - Aug 2010 and Mar 2014

My Belbin team role preferences – Aug 2010 and Mar 2014

On the whole, my results are fairly consistent. I still have relatively high scores for implementing, gathering, and for completer finisher. My main preference (IM – implementer) is summarised as:

Implementers are the people who get things done. They turn the team’s ideas and concepts into practical actions and plans. They are typically conservative, disciplined people who work systematically and efficiently and are very well organized. These are the people who you can count on to get the job done.

This is often the role I take on given the opportunity to utilise my natural preferences – it’s consistent with some of the other tools I’ve been doing too. In my current organisation, I’m the person who plans projects and reviews progress – I keep things running to time (when I can!) and am aware of what we have coming up and try to ensure we have things in place to accommodate that. In many projects I’m involved in, even when I’m not the project manager, I’m often the person who prompts others (possibly to their annoyance I appreciate!) when things are in risk of running behind schedule or reminds them we have things coming up and need to plan for them and prepare things in advance.

It was no big surprise to me that implementer came out as the top score again. Many of my other scores are quite similar too. However there’s one quite interesting change in my scores – two roles seems to have swapped importance. My team worker role (TW) has decreased, and my shaper role (SH) has increased. Here’s what Belbin has to say about these roles:

Team Workers are the people who provide support and make sure that people within the team are working together effectively. These people fill the role of negotiators within the team and they are flexible, diplomatic, and perceptive. These tend to be popular people who are very capable in their own right, but who prioritize team cohesion and helping people getting along.

Shapers are people who challenge the team to improve. They are dynamic and usually extroverted people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches for solving problems. The Shaper is the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that the team does not become complacent.

What does this mean in practice?

According to the course facilitator, it is quite common for this change to happen over time. At the beginning of our careers, we’re keen to work well with everyone we meet, but over time we shift to just wanting to get things done. The desire to focus on tasks is definitely true in my case, and I think the fact that I work fairly independently on most projects (as part of a team, but often with a specific area of responsibility) has impacted this reduction in my team player score. I was a little surprised to find that Shaper now scores fairly highly for me, but aside from the extroverted part (I’m an introvert) I can see that I do often take on that role, certainly questioning norms and challenging for improvement.

I found it really interesting to revisit Belbin, and am so glad I blogged my initial results so that I could easily compare them during the workshop. If you’re interested in learning more about the type of role you tend to play on a team, and the roles which should ideally be fulfilled for a successful team, I’d recommend checking out Belbin – the Mind Tools guide is a useful overview.

Have you looked at your Belbin team role preferences? What did you find? Do you think any of these have changed over time?

I’ve stuck with my 2014 resolution of living for the moment, and have changed a number of things this year due to focusing on the present rather than the future. I’m still a reflector though, so the end of year blog post is one thing I have decided to continue. This is my seventh year of doing these annual reviews now – you can see previous ones for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

I haven’t blogged much in 2014. I’ve been spending more of my free time focusing on other areas of my life and have learnt a lot about myself this year. I turned 30 in May, which to some is a scary thing but to me was something I’d been looking forward to for a while – I feel like I’ve been mentally living in my 30s for a long time anyway! I’m feeling quite positive about my 30s – I’ve been on a bit of an exploratory journey already, and hope to continue to do so.

Juggling different demands on my time

Juggling different demands on my time

I’ve been eating better and exercising more regularly, and as a result have lost quite a bit of weight this year. I didn’t set myself a specific goal, but just knew I wasn’t happy and wanted to be healthier and fitter. It’s worked really well and I’ve discovered exercise DVDs which I love (I highly recommend Jillian Michaels, most of them are only 20-30mins long so easy to fit into your day, and the progression you see when you stick with it is incredible). I’m taking a bit of a break from exercise over the festive season, but am very much looking forward to getting back into it – it offers great physical and mental benefits for me. I’ve also been doing more cooking and baking this year, and learning more about gluten free ingredients and how they differ from ‘regular’ ingredients (I have coeliac disease so I have to follow a gluten free diet for life). I’ve continued to do crafts, with quite a few knitting projects, a cross stitch project, and some crochet too. I’ve also learnt more about beauty and cosmetics this year, and now actually know what bronzer, blusher, and highlighter do (and why), and am learning how to blend eyeshadow colours. I love playing with make up, trying new skincare products and learning what suits me (and what doesn’t!).

Professionally, it’s been an interesting year too. Work has been fairly busy (particularly the last few months of the year) and at times I have struggled to retain a healthy balance. I’ve had a lot of different projects to juggle, each with their own unique challenges. Each one teaches me something new, but I haven’t had as much of an opportunity to reflect on it before the next challenge (hence not as much blogging).

Some personal highlights of the year have included:

  • Developing a full-day practical workshop on planning and facilitating focus groups

I mentioned that in 2013 I’d delivered more workshops, and was pleased with how I had developed skills in designing these. Earlier this year I developed a half day workshop for University of Cambridge libraries on planning and facilitating focus groups. I themed the workshop around chocolate so there were a number of practical activities which used this as a theme, and of course chocolates as an added incentive! I received really positive feedback from the workshop and some commented that they’d like to see this expanded and offered as a full day workshop. I was already planning to do this, so it was good to get confirmation that the half day session worked and could be used to further develop a full day workshop. I did this, and offered it for Evidence Base in September. We were fully booked and again received positive feedback. I have since run the full day workshop for University of Nottingham, a taster session for North West Libraries Interlending Partnership in Manchester, have a full day workshop scheduled for January (which is again fully booked) and have one full day workshop booked for Anglia Ruskin University. I’ve really enjoyed each session, and am looking forward to delivering more in 2015.

  • Developing my mentoring skills and supporting CILIP Chartership candidates

I completed my mentor training at the end of 2013 and starter properly mentoring this year. I have two active mentees, and one who’s currently on maternity leave. I’ve really enjoyed the mentoring process and am learning a lot about both myself and my mentoring/coaching skills. I’m learning how to listen more carefully, and how to adapt the guidance I provide based on the needs of each of my mentees. It’s early days so far but going well. I’m very much looking forward to being able to hopefully help them complete the process and become chartered soon.

  • Working with CILIP to scope a leadership development programme

The last few months I’ve been working with CILIP on scoping a leadership development programme. Since doing ALA Emerging Leaders myself in 2012, I’ve been keen to see something similar in the UK. There are of course leadership development programmes available, but mostly they are sector specific (i.e. within an organisation, or targeted at a certain sector e.g. Universities). The things I loved about the ALA programme which I felt differentiated it from others was the information on leadership within ALA and a greater understanding of ALA as an organisation, and learning about different working environments within the library and information sector. When I heard CILIP were thinking of developing a leadership development programme I was so pleased, and even more pleased to be invited to help scope the programme. I’ve been doing some research into other similar programmes, and speaking to lots of different people about their ideas via focus groups, interviews, and individual discussions, and just before Christmas I worked with CILIP to form the initial draft programme. It’s been a really positive experience so far, and I’m looking forward to finalising details in 2015.

  • Being accepted onto the Clore Leadership Residential Short Course

Leadership development has been quite a strong theme of the year, and is likely to continue for 2015 as I’ll also be developing my own leadership skills via a Clore residential course. The Clore courses are something I’ve had a keen interest in for a while, but the timing has never been right. This year I decided to explore the opportunity and fortunately my employer was happy to support my application. Even more fortunately, the application was successful so I’ll be spending two weeks in February on an intensive residential course. I recently received the programme and some information about others on the course which has got me very excited. It sounds fascinating (though slightly overwhelming!); I’m sure it will be an incredible experience.

What’s next?

In 2015 I hope I can learn techniques to help retain balance across all areas of my life and also protect some down time too as I’ve really come to appreciate the value of that. I’m really pleased with my progress on living more for the moment, but I still have a way to go. I’m not setting any specific resolutions for 2015 but hope to continue to do things I enjoy, see people I enjoy spending time with, and trying new things to learn more about what makes me happy.

I hope you all enjoyed 2014 and have a happy and healthy 2015.

By the way, the cocktail I linked to last year we had as 2014 began, and it was delicious! I fully intend to make it again tonight and would highly recommend it if you light sweet (well, very sweet!), fruity drinks. Cheers!

As it’s the first working day of 2014, I’m taking the opportunity to review how I did against my 2013 resolutions. They were:

  1. To write (and hopefully publish) a paper for a peer-reviewed journal
    Unfortunately this still hasn’t happened – it’s been on my resolutions for a while now, but the opportunity still hasn’t yet materialised. However I do have some plans for this so maybe 2014 will be the year.
  2. To embed current awareness into working routine (e.g. keeping up-to-date with RSS feeds)
    Yes, I’m much better at this now. I’ve cut down the number of RSS feeds I subscribe to so that’s it’s not so overwhelming, and check on a far more regular basis.
  3. To develop skills in training/coaching and put them into practice through workshops
    I successfully completed my ILM Award in Coaching, and have utilised these skills in a number of different situations, both one-to-one and in workshops. I’m much more confident in designing and developing workshops now and really enjoy delivering them.
  4. To continue to support other professionals via Twitter (by keeping an eye on the #chartership tweets, and joining in Twitter chats)
    I’ve been keeping an eye on the #chartership tweets, particularly during my CILIP secondment, and am planning to register as a mentor to continue supporting people in this way.
  5. To retain balance in life and ensure I continue to spend time away from the computer doing other things I enjoy and seeing family and friends
    Sort of. I’ve been much better at this, but there were still periods where I let work take over my free time – either in doing work during multiple consecutive evenings or weekends, or just through planning, worrying, and thinking about work to an extent where I struggle to switch off. I think this will always be a work in progress but I’m much more aware of it and have developed a few mechanisms to help.

So what about 2014? Well, I’m taking a different approach this year by not setting myself lots of goals. My one resolution across all areas of my life is to try to live for the present more than the future. I spend so much of my time planning for future and setting myself goals that I haven’t been enjoying things much as I’m constantly looking to the next thing and not appreciating the current situation. I’m not going to go completely cold turkey, as planning is of course important for some things, but I’m going to try to take a more balanced approach and think more about doing things I enjoy right now rather than doing things because one day a few months (or even years!) ago I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to do in future. So here’s to today! :)

Another year has flown past and it’s time for my annual review – you can see previous ones for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

2013 has been a funny old year; nothing particularly terrible has happened, but I haven’t felt as positive as I usually do and this has been reflected by a decrease in blogging and use of social media. It’s not all bad though, as another reason for this decrease is a continuation of what I mentioned last year as a major lesson – trying to achieve a more sustainable work-life balance. This year I’ve been doing a lot of other hobbies – for some months I was regularly running, I’ve been learning nail art (and building quite a large collection of nail polishes!), I’ve learnt to crochet, and I’ve been doing lots of knitting. Oh, and I’ve become a little addicted to Grey’s Anatomy. There have also been some professional achievements during the year, so I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight those as I have done in previous years.

2013 highlights

2013 highlights

Top left: Entering the CILIP offices for the final day of my secondment
Top right: Attendees at one of my CILIP Umbrella Conference breakout sessions
Bottom left: One of my CILIP Update columns
Bottom right: Lean In book by Sheryl Sandberg (image from Google Books)

One major thing this year has been my part-time secondment to CILIP for the Future Skills Project. Between May and November, two days of my working week were spent on the project along with another project worker, Julie Griffiths. Our focus was to work on the recommendations from the Future Skills project board to prepare for the launch of the new Professional Registration (previously referred to as CILIP Qualifications). We worked on the assessment criteria, the assessment process, the handbooks, and online support materials for Certification, Chartership, Fellowship, and Revalidation. For revalidation we reviewed the process and made it much more straight forward to submit on an annual basis, rather than a large portfolio every 3 years. We also provided training for a number of specific groups related to Professional Registration – the Professional Registration Assessment Board, Mentor Support Officers, and Candidate Support Officers. After a successful member vote in November, the new scheme has now launched and people are starting to use it. I hope they find it clearer than the previous system, and I know CILIP staff will be working hard to support everyone involved to make it a relatively smooth transition. The project was really interesting to work on, and totally different from my day job; the variety was good for me, and I enjoyed working with lots of different CILIP members. It was also really good to get to know more of the CILIP staff, who are lovely and made myself and Julie feel very welcome. I feel honoured to have been able to work on the project and the experience has certainly been a highlight of my year.

Towards the end of last year, I made a conscious decision to not attend as many conferences in 2013 as I had in 2012. This was a tough decision; I absolutely love conferences and learn so much from them, both through the sessions I attend and the conversations I have with people I meet at conferences. However, I find them pretty draining, particularly when I have a presentation to prepare for and deliver (though I love doing it and it is a really important part of my role as a researcher). I knew though that attending too many conferences could reach a stage where it impacts on my work, as it’s not just the time out at the conference, but the preparation time before and reflection time after. I knew I needed to prioritise so that I wasn’t spending as much time outside working hours doing activities relating to conferences.

I decided to only submit proposals for CILIP Umbrella Conference, which is a conference I’ve never been able to attend previously. I was delighted to discover that both my proposals had been successful, though of course that meant quite a bit of work ahead of me. I was very fortunate to be working with two fantastic co-presenters who made the whole process enjoyable, and I really enjoyed the conference. The keynotes were excellent as no matter what sector you work in, there was something to take from them all. I also really enjoyed a leadership panel discussion I attended, and breakout sessions on continuing professional development.

I was invited to present at other events, and although I couldn’t fit them all into my schedule, I was able to accept some and really enjoyed the opportunity to speak about topics that interest me. I presented workshops on tools and techniques to improve productivity; getting the most out of professional development; using mobile technologies in libraries; and at Internet Librarian International I was invited to share my experiences as a learner on a MOOC (see my previous blog post for further information on MOOCs). You can see a full list of the presentations I gave in 2013 on my Presentations page.

Another highlight of 2013 for me has been writing a column for CILIP Update. This followed on from an article I wrote for the magazine in 2012 on the Getting Things Done methodology, and this year I have written tips and advice on a number of different themes to do with improving productivity. I received some really positive feedback on the column and know some people have found the ideas useful in changing their own practice. I’ve drafted a blog post to summarise the key points from the column and will share that soon – in the meantime, the columns are available from my Publications page.

Something else I’ve enjoyed in 2013 is the Library Leadership Reading Group (LLRG). I started this after the CILIP in Wales 2012 conference on leadership, and since then have hosted discussions on ten different readings relating to leadership. I’ve found the discussions really useful – sometimes I haven’t really enjoyed reading the book but after the discussion have taken more from it due to other people’s perspectives after reading it. I’ve been tending to create a Storify of each discussion and you can see them linked from the LLRG Google document. At the moment we’re reading a book on change management, Our Iceberg is Melting, which we’re likely to discuss in January. Keep an eye on the #llrg tag on Twitter if you’re interested in joining us, everyone is welcome. One particular highlight of LLRG for me this year has been reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I absolutely loved it and it has had a huge influence on my life. I’ve discussed parts of the book with so many different people, and continue to think about some of the things mentioned in the book when I have to make decisions. I’ve also become part of a Lean In circle which has been a very positive experience for me.

So there we go, my personal highlights for the year. I hope you have enjoyed 2013, and whether or not you celebrate New Year I hope you have the opportunity to mark the beginning of 2014 in some way. I’m looking forward to a fresh start, beginning with a potential break of tradition (something I very rarely do!). First though, I shall be trying some new cocktails tonight including the one below – cheers!

…here a MOOC, there a MOOC, everywhere a MOOC MOOC! That’s what it seems like at the moment anyway – everyone seems to be talking about MOOCs at the moment.

I was invited to give a presentation about MOOCs at Internet Librarian International 2013 Conference earlier this month. Since it might not be a familiar term to everyone, let’s backtrack a bit and cover some of the basics.

What on earth is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. The name is fairly explanatory but it’s useful to break that down a bit. In order to be classed as a MOOC, a course needs to be:

  • Online
  • Open to anyone to join
  • Able to handle a large number of participants

Most MOOCs are free for participants, though I’m hesitant to say they have to be free to be classed as a MOOC as there are likely to be some exceptions (though is it still open to all if there is a cost involved in addition to the cost of online access?).

Could you give me some examples of MOOCs?

Many MOOCs use a platform to deliver their material and this also helps participants to find them. Probably the most well known platform for MOOCs is Coursera, which has a number of universities signed up to provide courses. There’s also EdX (supported by Google), iversity, OpenupEd, and recently launched FutureLearn which is UK based (though also has international partners). Some providers opt to use their own system, or their own installation of another platform such as Blackboard CourseSites.

Who participates in MOOCs?

Well, they’re open to anyone, though in my experience it tends to be those looking for extra CPD opportunities and generally those who already have an educational background (i.e. have studied for a degree). Of course the nature of MOOCs means that they could be taken by those who may be interested in a subject but for whatever reason don’t want to (or can’t) study a traditional course in the subject, hence widening participation to education.

I’ve participated in a 23 Things course, is that a MOOC?

It could be, yes. In the case of 23 Things for Professional Development (CPD23) it was massive (though not as massive as some courses – I recently took one that had over 200,000 participants enrolled!), open, and online, and people completed the course at the same time (as cohorts) so I would class it as a MOOC.

So MOOCs have been growing with more platforms being launched and more institutions signing up to deliver them. I’ve been interested in them for a little while, partly to support my development, and partly because I was curious as to how they would work and how librarians could support them. I signed up for Coursera and have now completed two courses with them. I was invited to share my experiences as a learner at the Internet Librarian International pre-conference workshop and found it really useful to evaluate my experiences and think about what I’ve learnt from them and how I could apply this. In a nutshell, though I successfully completed both my courses, I much preferred one of them. The main reasons for this were:

  • I found the topic fascinating
  • I was able to apply what I had learnt in practice in work and social situations
  • The reading materials were provided as part of the course, and easily accessible
  • The combination of lectures, readings, documentaries and assignments helped to cement my new knowledge

A copy of my slides is embedded below – the first few slides are about my background to provide the context for the learner’s perspective (and the cat slide is *totally* relevant as I talked about how naturally curious I am!):

The discussions we had during the workshop were really interesting – we considered how libraries (predominantly academic) could support MOOCs, particularly for those whose institutions had already signed up to provide MOOCs or were planning to. We heard from Gavin Beattie from King’s College London who launch their first course on FutureLearn in January, and the group included people from a number of different organisations who were planning to provide MOOCs in future. Many of the ideas from the discussions were similar to the ways we can support other activities such as information literacy and mobile technologies in libraries, with suggestions such as:

  • Providing information to academics so they are aware how the library can help them with their MOOC
  • Getting involved with MOOC discussions with colleagues across your institution
  • Discussing ideas with other librarians and share best practice across the sector

It seems the skills required for these activities are essential for today’s librarians. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about MOOCs and libraries in future events, it certainly seemed to be a hot topic at Internet Librarian International, both in the pre-conference workshop and at the main conference (if the tweets are anything to go by anyway!).

Is your library involved in supporting MOOCs? Is there anything else we should be doing to support our institutions as they provide MOOCs?

productivity

Productivity by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

I’ve been writing my column on productivity for CILIP Update for almost a year now, and I’m really enjoying writing it and getting comments from people – it seems to be encouraging people to try new ways of working, sometimes with real day-to-day benefits for them. I’ve been getting really good feedback and I’m so pleased. My columns so far (also available on my Publications page) have included:

I’ve tried so many different tools and ways of working and am always interested in finding ways to improve, so I’m glad I can now use some of the things I have learnt to help others on their journeys to a more productive way of working. I came across a blog post from Lifehacker a little while ago inviting people to share their own techniques, and thought I’d take the opportunity to use their questions to share mine.

Location: West Midlands, UK.

Current gig: Evidence Based Researcher for Evidence Base, Birmingham City University (also currently on part-time secondment to Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals as a Future Skills Project Worker).

Current mobile device: iPhone 4S and iPad (I also have a Nexus 7 but rarely use it).

Current computer: iMac at home (this is my main computer), PC at work.

One word that best describes how you work: Flexibly.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without: Omnifocus (to do list manager), Dropbox (to sync documents between devices), Google Drive (for collaboration), Evernote (for meeting notes and image capture).

What’s your workspace like? I work from a variety of different places, but my main workspace is at home in our spare room which is fitted as an office. I share it with my partner and have plenty of desk space (my space is to the left of the computer as I’m left handed), and a set of drawers. I don’t really need much physical space as most of my work is electronic, but I like to have clear space around me to help me work more productively (currently I have some tickets on my desk waiting for me to sort claims for and even just those are driving me mad!). Here’s what my desk looks like at the moment (mine is the computer to the left – spot the essential glass of Ribena!):

Home office

Home office

What’s your best time-saving trick? Inbox zero. Before I start working on anything each day, I sort through my inbox and move everything to the right place. That way I know my calendar and to-do list are completely up-to-date and I know exactly what tasks I have to do. Then as all my tasks are in one place I can focus on prioritising things to focus on based on importance and urgency, and won’t get distracted by looking through my inbox. It really helps me in terms of knowing what I should be working on, and now that I have a process in place for organising my emails it saves me lots of time.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager? Omnifocus. I particularly like the iPad app and am currently using the beta version of Omnifocus 2 for Mac. The one downside is that it’s Mac only so no good when I’m in my office at the university which has a PC. I always have my iPad with me though so access it from there. I live in the Forecast view so I can see at a glance what I have on that day – tasks and appointments in my calendar.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My iPad. I take it everywhere with me and use it at meetings, for working when away from home/office, and for keeping me connected (and able to work) whilst travelling. I seem to really enjoy writing on the iPad so often use my iPad to write blog posts and to transcribe interviews.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Within my team I’m the one who tests out new tools/software/techniques to see which might work for us and I often take on this sort of role in other projects I work on. I love trying out new things and figuring ways of using them to save me time or help me stay organised.

What are you currently reading? I’m reading Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? What it takes to be an authentic leader (for the Library Leadership Reading Group), and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

What do you listen to whilst you work? I listen to a variety of different playlists on Spotify. I use music most when I’m writing (e.g. research reports) and absolutely love this GTD playlist for when I need to focus. Instrumental soundtracks are perfect for this and I often end up looking up music I hear in films and TV documentaries.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Introvert. I need to have time to myself to recharge, and now always build time to do this during conferences.

What’s your sleep routine like? Not so good. At times I struggle to sleep at night and often spend a good 2-3 hours trying to get to sleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see __________ answer these same questions. Emma Cragg – I know she shares an interest in trying new tools and ways of working to improve productivity and I’d love to hear her tips.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? That you should stop beating yourself up about things because you can’t have it all. This blog post by Jenica Rogers is really excellent advice, and something I need to remind myself of often. There was a lot of great advice in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book too, much of which I think about regularly.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’d be really interested in other people’s response to these questions (partly maybe because I’m nosy, but also because I think there’s a lot we can learn from each other). If you decide to blog your own responses, you can get the questions from the blog post on Lifehacker, and please share a link in the comments on this blog post once you’ve published your own How I Work.