Friday, 17 August 2012

SLA Chicago 2012 - Part 3

Last day of the conference

The last day was a short one for me as I was flying back home that afternoon. It started at 8am with a look at what’s next for social media. It didn’t really cover anything new for me, however, it did emphasise the need for a strategy. This has cropped up in several social media events I’ve been to recently so I have created one for my newly formed Social Sciences Twitter account, which will be completely separate from my personal account. I also intend to create one for the Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG)London and South East Twitter account. I have been able to pass this tip onto my work colleagues who are all in the process of creating their own accounts or reinvigorating old ones at a staff training session I delivered recently and intend to amalgamate some of the tips for further sessions.

Mary Ellen Bates in action
 - another lady who has trouble seeing over the lectern.
My next session was another delivered by Mary Ellen Bates and, despite having had to make some tough decisions over the last few days regarding which events to attend, I had no qualms about this one after attending her previous one. This one was entitled ‘Marketing for introverts’ and she started by claiming she was an introvert before going on to talk about how we can talk about our value in an obvious way. There was a lot packed into this session so this is another candidate for a separate blog post, however, some of the main points I took away were:
  • Get used to speaking off the top of your head as it will be sod’s law that you won’t have any notes or script when you could do with it most – I’m not great at this as I’m awful at remembering specifics but really want to try to improve this.
  • Promote, don’t defend what you do – I think librarians in general are very bad at this
  • Get a three second elevator speech – when the person opposites asks you to tell them more you can always go into your three minute more detailed synopsis of what you do.

The latter point was mentioned in several of the sessions in completely different contexts so this is something I aim to develop. I have mentioned it at the ARLG London and South East Committee as a possible training event as I think a lot of people could also do with developing this not only for themselves but for the resources and services they are providing. Nicola Franklin also posted a very useful and timely response to some of my questions about it.

The very last session I attended was on public libraries and the state of the ones in Chicago. Like libraries all over the world, they are struggling with funding cuts and closures and Chicago is no exception. The library of Gloucester got a round of applause for their innovative idea of borrowing all the books and Simon did his bit to promote Voices for the Library. As part of the session they included the American Library Association’s core values of librarians. If you have a look at them below I’d be very surprised if you didn’t feel just a little bit proud.So, after a debriefing from Bethan and a slice of leftover Chicago Town pizza I was ready to come back home. The whole experience has left me with so much to think about, write about and put into practice it could probably keep me going for a very long time.

The overall feelings and thoughts I have taken away are:

  • The Chicago Conference was incredibly well organised; everything seemed to run seamlessly and events stuck to time. It was often very difficult to choose which events to go to as several good ones seemed run at the same time; however, it must have been so much more difficult to plan the timetable and arrange the people so they were in the right places. Everything was huge and normally I prefer much smaller venues and fewer people but it worked well and didn’t make me feel overwhelmed or too crowded as can sometimes be the case in massive events
  • The whole event, even before it started, was very much connected by social media. It was quite easy to follow what was going on in other sessions and also feedback your own session to those who were elsewhere. On the other hand there was no pressure to do this if you didn’t want to. I didn’t tweet at all the lectures but the ones I did were often followed by those in the UK – it really made me consider the time of day I usually do this.  The person or team behind @SLAChicago was on the ball all the time and did a fantastic job at the conference itself and in the run up, offering advice and tips etc
  • I was impressed by how proud people were of their profession and of their fellow members within it. There were a multitude of prizes given but this didn’t seem to lessen the genuine pleasure people took from receiving them
  • Chicago has a lot of very fast revolving doors, which made entering every building just that little bit more exciting
  • American librarians really like dancing
  • An elevator/lift speech would be very useful to me as I generally say ‘I’m a librarian’ and then spend ages going through my job description. By which time both I and my companion are bored
  • I need to connect more with people and ask more questions. I often hear about people being helped with this and that and it gets them far in life.  I rarely ask for help, even from people who are there to give me advice.  This does make me much more independent but may sometimes mean I take a little longer to do things as I have to figure it out for myself
  • I think the friendliness of the American librarians has been remarked on by many UK attendees of the SLA Conference, even the vendors were nice and not in the hard sell, fake ‘have a nice day’ sort of way. I have made many contacts who I really hope to stay in touch with and I felt genuinely welcomed to be there.
Chicago was a fantastic opportunity for me and I'm very pleased to have won the award. It will keep me in blogging material for a long time! There were lots of people there who made it an enjoyable experience but I'd particularly like to thank Sara Batts for keeping an eye on us throughout the conference, Tracy Z.Maleeff for being incredibly friendly and welcoming not only at the conference but once we returned (and despite most of us not being law librarians), Bethan Ruddock for being a fountain of knowledge and also keeping an eye out for us. I'd also like to thank Ruth, Anneli, Marie, Simon and Giles - the loveliest bunch of people to share the experience of conferencing, cold pizza, jet lag and dancing with.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

SLA Chicago 2012 - Part 2

Early starts, ebooks and Macy's

Monday started early and finished late – this was the start of the 8am to 1am days I had been warned about – usually I tend to fall asleep but as I was still not yet accustomed to the time zone I was in it didn’t really matter what time it was. The 8am session on Wikileaks succeeded in making me feel insecure about security classification process - not something I was expecting first thing Monday morning. Apparently, librarians aren’t getting the right training and are using material decades out of date to help them classify information. This is wrong on many levels, but the worst thing is that people can still get into serious trouble for releasing classified information even if it should never have been classified in the first place.

PDA slide from session
This session was very quickly followed by a panel discussing eBooks and collection development. As I am now responsible for the collection development of my area in my current job and I buy a lot of eBooks I thought this would be right up my street. I was surprised there weren’t more people using patron driven acquisition (PDA); quite a few were trialling it but none had got much further. I like how using PDA (which in my head still automatically makes me think of public display of affection) can reflect trends much quicker though I was pretty shocked at the statistics of how few students chose books over DVDs. The downside of giving people what they really want is often they don’t know what’s good for them!

In between this session and the next I attended a lovely lunch hosted by the San Jose school where we were all informed about a 24 hour conference taking place in future which due to its long length means that anyone from whichever time zone can tune in at a reasonable time for them. One for the calendar methinks. I was initially blown away by the School paying the SLA membership fees for their library students, however, on reflection, I realise that with ridiculously exorbitant US tuition fees and student rates for SLA this doesn’t quite seem so magnanimous. It is still a nice gesture though and introduces newbies to their professional organisation – which is A GOOD THING.

After lunch I watched Bethan Ruddock in action on a panel discussing the difference between mindsets and skills and how people should not limit themselves when given a job but see it as an opportunity to go in with your eyes open and understand the organisation and your role within it. While a lot of interesting and useful points were made in this session, however, one of the key things I need to take away from this is that not all work is of equal value – I tend to want to do everything and everything well and feel a bit guilty when this can’t be achieved. I really need to evaluate what I’m doing and see what’s worth it and what’s not. If anyone has any advice on this it would be very much appreciated…

After a quick scoot round Macy’s and a brief swim, it was time to cheer on Anneli receiving her conference award.
Tiffany ceiling at Macy's
Anneli receiving her Conference Award

Speeches, pizza and dancing
Tuesday morning started with a very packed Mary Ellen Bate’s session. I was lucky enough to get a seat as I arrived early but there were many on the floor. I hadn’t realised that she was librarian royalty but I was left in doubt as to why! She was incredibly passionate, eloquent and articulate and despite being a solo librarian with her own business what she said could easily be transferred to other sectors. Having managed to leave my notebook in one of the several free bags I was given I took to using Evernote – I’m not the fastest typist so it was a little bit tricky but it was much easier to read the notes afterwards. She gave a huge amount of emphasis to the value-added, something that had come up previously in Monday’s panel session and cropped up throughout the conference. Having looked at making a small-holding work by adding value to produce (possible long term dream) I was not new to the idea, however, I’d not really come across it that often in a library setting – definitely a transferable skill!

Picture by Bethan Ruddock

After a packed lunch in the sunshine, kindly provided by the Info-Expo people (the lunch that is and not the sunshine) it was time to attend the Leadership and Management afternoon tea. Every ECCA had been sponsored by their division and had to be presented at a breakfast or tea to everybody and receive certificates or awards. I didn’t have a clue what to expect other than possibly saying a few word of thanks so felt rather apprehensive. As I looked at the minutes from the previous meeting I spied Ned Potter's name (he had won the same award the previous year) and at the bottom of the page there was a synopsis of his speech. As I looked at it my initial though was ‘that’s not too bad – I can do that’ - then I turned over the page and it went on! I suddenly started to feel very sick and when it was suggested that Anneli and I both give a speech I could have died – especially as you could barely see me over the podium. Luckily, enough stuff about the conference came back to me, including a Woody Allen quote from Monday’s panel session about 80% of success in life is just about showing up. I thanked them for sponsoring me and giving me the opportunity to ‘show up’ at the conference which I hoped would be the start of my own successful life. It seemed to work – everybody clapped and I didn’t trip or throw up although I had to quickly put my glass of water down as my hands were shaking violently.

I calmed my nerves by joining the ECCAs for a huge slice of mozzarella topped with tomato, otherwise known as Chicago Town Pizza. Then got ready for the 1920s themed IT party where Anneli, Ruth, Marie and I danced all night in our outfits and high heels – we’d lost the men at this point but did find Giles again before we were whisked off for margaritas – we were told this was in readiness for next year’s San Diego conference...

L-R: Giles, Ruth, Sarah, Anneli, Marie and Simon (photo from SLA Photographer)

Monday, 13 August 2012

SLA Chicago 2012 - Part 1


I was recently awarded the Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) sponsored by the Leadership and Management Division and SLA Europe) and was given the amazing opportunity of attending the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Conference in Chicago. I first found that I had won the award in between a two part interview for a job as a Subject Liaison Librarian. I was very excited, however, I managed to retain enough composure to complete the interview and on the way home I was told I had the job too. All in all, a pretty good day! I can’t fit everything that happened at SLA Chicago into one blog post so there will most likely be several looking at different aspects of the trip.

Bethan Ruddock introduced all the ECCAs (Ruth Jenkins, GilesLloyd Brown, Marie Cannon, Simon Barron and I) and Anneli Sarkanen, the Conference Award winner, to each other and this meant we had formed a little group by the time we had arrived in Chicago; I was also able to meet some of them at the SLA Social a few days prior to flying for a few last minute sharing of jitters.

L-R: SLA Europe President-Elect Stephen Philips, past President Sara Batts, ECCA winners Ruth Jenkins, Sarah Wolfenden and Marie Cannon, Conference Award winner Anneli Sarkanen and President Darron Chapman.

Even though we had plenty of time to prepare I still felt underprepared as I left England. I had just started the new job and as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows the sometimes 5 hour round trip to work and the preparations for the LIKE Conference were eating up all my time. However, I managed to sort out my business cards, which were to be a crucial element to the SLA Conference, and organise my conference planner.

I haven’t flown very much and like many of the other ECCAs this was my first flight to America. I didn’t have much luck at the start as my hair mousse squirted everywhere and then my hair clip set the security alarm off so I was frisked (I was also frisked and had my hands swabbed on the return journey so I must just have one of those faces or my nerves were betraying me).

To stave off jet lag and to get our bearings we had all decided to go on the highlights tour of Chicago. The main part of this was a trip up the Willis Tower, including a quick, nay, very quick, step on and off the SkyDeck. It was a fabulous introduction to Chicago.

Pancakes, ribbons and enchantment

Sunday started, as any Sunday should, with Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and a stack of American pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup.

Fully fortified, we ECCAS caught the shuttle to the McCormick Convention Centre. People weren’t kidding about the size of it – it sprawled. Because of this, I think, it made the place seem more relaxed – there wasn’t the hustle and bustle and I didn’t get squashed or bumped into once – this is quite a feat when you’re rather on the petite side. I also got a lot of walking done over the conference period.

We immediately gathered our badges and ribbons. The ribbons are supposed to give people an idea of who you are and offer talking points – as ours reached our knees almost they were most definitely a talking point; fairly often a conversation would start with; “awesome, look at all those ribbons”. I am afraid I had to suppress a giggle at the amount of ‘awesomes’ issued – quite hard to get Bill and Ted out of my head.

Fully ribboned, we ECCAs hit the Info-Expo vendor area and Marie and I left so many business cards we had to return to our hotel room to retrieve more. The advice on business cards wasn’t misplaced. One of the surprises for me was that the majority of the vendors were so friendly (common theme throughout whole trip) and they were willing to talk without the hard sales patter despite us not being able to purchase anything off them there and then. I was told later, although I can’t remember by whom, that often they had been librarians/info professionals in the past so they really knew their customer base.

L-R: Giles, me, Marie, Simon and Ruth (picture courtesy of Ruth)

As a first timer, it was recommended that we attend the First Timers and Fellows reception, which, as the name states consisted of conference first timers and SLA Fellows. The room was filled with warm, welcoming people and everyone was very friendly. A few of the Fellows gave conference tips such as, ‘never eat alone’ and one gave a well rehearsed story which I quite liked – he remarked on how fascinated we would be if we were walking down the Champs Elysses and bumped coincidently into another librarian and how we would have lots to talk about. Then he asked us to consider what a coincidence it would be if we happened to travel to Chicago and end up in a room full of librarians, ending his story by asking us to look around us and make the most of the opportunity in front of us.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Guy Kawasaki, of Microsoft fame, he gave us a general overview of how to be successful with a few practical tips on giving a good presentation, for example, ten slides is an optimal number and use 30pt text and no smaller. I must admit I was then quite surprised to find out he hadn’t created his own slides but maybe you don’t need to when you are as ‘enchanting’ as he was. Enchantment was the name of his speech (and his book) I found him to be a confident corporate speaker but his smugness did grate a little.

Like everything in Chicago the stage for the keynote speech was massive, as was the auditorium - it can apparently fit in over 4000 people. Prior to Guy’s speech, Brent Mai gave awards to SLA members who walked, or in some case danced, over the stage to collect their certificate/handshake. What struck me was how proud they were, and how proud everyone in the room felt at their achievement. You could feel it in the room; despite its size, it was palpable. There was no cynicism or irony – just a pat on the back for a job well done. The other ECCAs and I discussed this all the way to the Open Houses where we were given free drinks which helped us in our reflections…

Friday, 10 August 2012

Collaborative research - living the DREaM

Edinburgh Napier University was awarded £45,000 grant funding in 2010 from the AHRC to support the DREaM project. The purpose of the grant was to develop a formal UK-wide network of Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers in 2011/12. Several events were held since its creation bringing together researchers to share their strength and weaknesses, and share good practice.

Hazel Hall introduced the event by giving everyone an overview of the project and where it had got to. From the evidence she supplied it seems to have met its main objectives which were to improve access to LIS research and to improve its impact on services. She went on to express her hope that the DREaM legacy of collaborating and communicating across the sector would continue and the following speakers built on her address.

The first keynote speaker of the day was Professor Carol Tenopir from the University of Tennessee. Carol emphasised how the world economic situation was creating challenges and opportunities for libraries, not just problems, and that it was a good time to promote the increase of research and its value. She is currently working on the LIBvalue project of which the ultimate outcome will be that there will be tried and tested methods of proving impact of libraries on their institutions so that others can use or enhance them. This should be ready by next year. Carol explained all the different types of value which could be measured from purchase exchange value to explicit and implied value, warning of the need to measure the right one or face the consequences of it not providing the results needed. She also highlighted the need to use a range of measurements to provide a greater depth of understanding and tailor the results to match the institutions mission and values, for example, there’s no point spending time looking at the affect of the library on the grants process if the university isn’t research intensive. Cater too for senior managements own peccadilloes, for example , show economists statistics such as academics spend on average three months reading – 67% of which is from the library (despite many academics claiming they don’t use the library) and show social scientists what a successful graduate looks like in terms of how much reading and accessing of resources they do. The final message from Carol was to work out where your value is – whether it is the buildings, the space, the collections or the librarians and brand this effectively.

Next we had One Minute Madness which was very much like a Teachmeet for anyone that’s ever been to one, expect that in this case candidates only got one minute (hence the name)to showcase their project rather than five. There were twenty speakers in twenty minutes and some were timed brilliantly, others not so much so they got the foghorn treatment. I generally like this kind of thing as it really cuts out the waffle and introduces you to an idea – you can always then chase this up if you’re particularly interested. Some highlights for me were; Allan Parsons talking about transforming the role of the academic liaison librarians, Jennifer Hopkins talking about improving relationships via teaching, Peter Cruickshank talking about online reputations and Sue Reynolds telling us about social media, open access and research. One Minute Madness videos

After lunch, Dr Louise Cooke from Loughborough University spoke of the social network analysis she had completed based on the DReaM members – she found that they had all strengthened their ties and that they all had several connections whereas previously they had only had one or two and were vulnerable to being kept out of the loop. She told us that on the basis of her analysis of the network cadre academic librarians performed very well. She finished by emphasising the importance of using social media to create networks.

The panel discussion which followed consisted of four participants in the project who used the opportunity to consider what the next step. Members of the audience were encouraged to participate. The theme of lifelong libraries ran through the session with the suggestion that the sectors should not be put in boxes and should all be engaged in research. It was also recommended that projects should help bridge the gap between researchers and practioners and that this should be key to all events.

The second keynote, and final session of the day, was delivered by Dr Ben Goldacre . He spoke about medical journals only publishing positive trials and not negative ones therefore skewing the view of medicines, often to the detriment of patients’ health. We often only hear about positive library stories and research is rarely disseminated, however, in medicine this can have fatal consequences.

My photos didn’t come out very well so here are some others taken by event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin.

In my past role, I was involved in a fair bit of research via all aspects of the annual questionnaire, focus groups, mystery shoppers and information skills feedback. In my current job I haven't had the opportunity yet but having attended this session I at least now know my first port of call if I do.