Archive for June 2011
If there’s one thing you should learn about me, it’s that I don’t really do easy. And I don’t think that CILIP Chartership is an easy qualification, which is probably why I’m really enjoying it. Working towards Chartership is making me think, it’s making me reflect on what I do, and it’s making me take responsibility for my personal development as an information professional.
My Chartership journey is also challenging me to have a go at things I never thought I’d do. I can now add the words ‘accredited customer service trainer’ to my list of professional achievements. Flashy, isn’t it? But not at all easy. I want to use this post to reflect on my journey to becoming a customer service trainer for the library and what I’m learning from it.
The journey begins
Improving the customer experience of the library service is a key part of the library’s strategic plan for the next five years. As an organisation, we’re exploring various ways of doing this, including looking into Customer Service Excellence status and ensuring that all staff members undergo customer service training. Providing a great level of service to my customers is something I see as a priority in my role, so when the opportunity came up to become a customer service trainer and deliver training courses to my colleagues, I threw my hat in the ring…
Train the trainer
I was excited to hear that my head of service had chosen to put me forward for training and assessment to become a customer service trainer, along with three other colleagues. I hastily scrambled together a training-focused version of my CV, and went along to a ‘train the trainer’ session. At the time, I sketched out my thoughts about the day in my Chartership art journal (please excuse rubbish phone camera images!):
On the left hand page, the trainer, ‘Deborah’, discusses great and awful customer service, surrounded by the training materials we’d be using. I felt that there was a lot of information hurled at us during the 5 hour course, after which we would be left to deliver customer service training sessions to our colleagues. My confusion about conveying the course content is expressed on the right hand side of page one.
Page two, and it’s my turn. I’m in the spotlight, delivering the ‘Excellent Customer Service’ course to a faceless audience. And back in March, with the only training I was going to receive under my belt, I felt distinctly uneasy about that.
I didn’t feel that the train the trainer course was enough to thoroughly familiarise myself with the course materials, and actually, the course materials themselves weren’t all that relevant. The customer service training programme we’re providing was originally designed for the tourist industry – there are sections about increasing customer spending, the importance of tourism to the local and national economy, and so on. My workplace, a university library, doesn’t operate in the arena of tourism. We are not a commercial business. So there was a lot of preparatory work to be done between the trainer briefing and the first sessions, which were arranged for June, to ensure that the training we were going to deliver would be useful.
I met with the other three in-house trainers to organise the administration of the sessions and plan how we were going to deliver the training. It was decided that we would split down the day-long course into two half-day sessions. Two of my colleagues took the first half of the course, and I worked with another member of the academic liaison team to deliver the second session, which included providing information to customers, meeting specific needs and handling complaints.
What were the big challenges for me? Well, I actually found getting to grips with content I hadn’t written quite difficult. Normally, if I give a presentation or deliver a session, I’ve put the content and activities together. And I think that’s the way I learn and remember things – by creating and doing. It was important for me to look at the course content in quite some depth to really understand what I was trying to get across, and what I was asking the course participants to do.
Something that I’ve definitely taken from the experience is the importance of communicating with my colleagues. There were a lot of emails going back and forth between the trainers about what arrangements had been made, issues arising and adapting the course content. When I tailored activities to make them more relevant, or added in new slides to illustrate a point, I had to ensure that I kept my colleagues up to date and explained the rationale behind the changes I was making. Keeping up with the correspondence amidst one of my busiest periods in the academic year (the exam term, Library 24/7 and the start of the redevelopment work at the main library) was tricky, and next time round, I’d hope to improve on this.
And the session itself?
I’m never very good at accepting compliments, but the feedback from participants was positive. A number of participants highlighted the second session, and some of the sections that I led, as the parts they found most valuable about the course.
In terms of how I felt about the session; the course participants were a really nice bunch of people and were generally enthusiastic about thinking and talking about customer service. The session was quite relaxed – we presented sitting down, and there were lots of opportunities for discussion. I had been quite nervous about leading the training session, even with one of my colleagues by my side, and the participants’ attitude and the general atmosphere definitely made me feel more confident.
We’ll be running a second set of sessions over the summer, and next time I’ll be concentrating on the first section that I’m presenting, which I feel was the weakest part of the material I delivered. This was partly due to ‘start of the training session’ nerves and also because I had spent less time looking at this section. We also slightly overran the three hours we’d allowed for the session, so my colleague and I also need to think about timings and whether we need to cover less material, or cut one or two activities.
Providing customer service training courses to my colleagues has also been an important training and development activity for me. I’m directly contributing to a key aspect of my organisation’s strategic goals, my increased knowledge of customer service is feeding back into my front-line duties, and on a personal level, it’s been a great opportunity for me to develop my communications skills in a range of ways.
So not easy, but I don’t do things because they’re easy.
Image courtesy of ladybugbkt on Flickr
I just couldn’t help starting out my 23 Things for Professional Development journey with a Cat in the Hat reference. Plus all librarians love cake. Fact.
23 Things for Professional Development, or CPD23, is an online course starting this week which aims to introduce librarians and information professionals to a range of online and offline professional development tools. As you’re reading my blog, I’d hazard a guess that you might be the sort of person who’s probably heard about CPD23, and possibly you’re even taking part, but if you want to find out more about the programme, take a look at the blurb on the CPD23 website.
Thing 1 asks partipants to set up a blog and think about what they want to get out of the programme. I set up my blog back in January as a professional development tool to help me record my progress towards CILIP Chartership, so I’m feeling just a little bit ahead of the game as far as Thing 1 is concerned. However, there are other Things in the programme that I’m not at all familiar with and I’m interested to learn about. Like Pushnote (Thing 4) and LinkedIn (Thing 6), for example. And some of the Things are things to think about, like Thing 3: Consider your personal brand. It’s around a year since I started using Twitter, and around 6 months since I started my blog. What do they say about me? I’m hoping that CPD23 will help me to reflect on what I currently do, and encourage me to explore some new professional development tools along the way.
So that’s Thing 1. And Thing 2? Well, I’d like your help for Thing 2: Investigate some other blogs. I already subscribe to a number of blogs, but I’m going to use Thing 2 to investigate some new blogs I haven’t looked at before. I’ve already started by looking at the blogs of the people who commented on my post about the New Professionals Conference earlier this week to see what they’re blogging about. And I want to read your blog too. You’re reading mine, so it’s only fair. Leave me a comment and tell me who you are, and where your blog is!
And don’t tell me you don’t like cake.
If you’ve followed my posts for any particular length of time, you may have picked up that I’m relatively new to the library and information profession. So I was really pleased when my line managers said that they’d support me to attend this year’s CILIP New Professionals Conference, held on Monday 20th June. After a bit of a mad journey, which involved getting thoroughly confused with the Manchester bus system, I did finally arrive at Hulme Hall at the University of Manchester to meet other new professionals, listen to the speakers and participate in the workshops. In this post I’m going to try to pick up on what you could describe as the incidental things; the running themes, the throwaway comments and the things that were missed. And I’m going to tell you what I thought, and what I’m taking away from it.
Social and online networking was mentioned a lot
Helen Murphy talked about the cpd23 programme, which I’ll be taking part in over the coming weeks and months and involves using social media for professional development. Ka-Ming Pang and Jo Norwood suggested starting up hacklibschool-type web chats for UK LIS students, Voices for the Library representatives talked about Twitter flash mobs as activism. Yet when I looked around, there were a number of people who didn’t include Twitter names on their delegate badges. And Rachel Bickley’s survey suggested that some experienced professionals see online new professional communities as cliquey. I’m pretty pro social media as a communication and networking tool, but I think it’s important to be inclusive; you shouldn’t need to have a Twitter account to be fully involved in a professional conference.
Engagement seemed to be a key theme emerging throughout the day. Alice Halsey and Simon Barron discussed engaging with people to advocate libraries and information services and prompt change in society. Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert talked about special collections outreach and engaging the local community. Megan Wiley discussed engaging with colleagues – ‘don’t assume that your colleagues know what you’re doing. Tell them’. This engagement theme was linked to issues surrounding threats to library services and articulating our value as information professionals. Maybe engagement is part of the answer, and as I find the activism thing difficult, maybe that’s where I can make a contribution towards the #savelibraries cause.
The old meets the new
There was lots of talk of the old and the new. One of Rachel Bickley’s survey respondents questioned, ‘why can’t the new profs just get involved with the old profs?’. In Nicola Forgham-Healey and Franko Kowalczuk’s workshop, we were asked to think about old and new professional skills. Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert discussed ‘teaching old books new tricks’. I got the sense of new professionals perhaps struggling to find their place within an old, established profession, or the traditional profession of librarianship trying desperately to grasp the new. One or the other, or maybe both. I haven’t quite decided.
Question: Why do so many new professionals end up floating into the library and information profession by accident?
When asked why they chose a career in libraries and information services, 4 of the conference speakers confirmed that they sort of ‘fell into’ the profession. Answers on a postcard please…
I really hope that CILIP types amongst the delegates were taking notes
There were some important points raised about the way CILIP caters to its new professional members, and potential members. In terms of marketing the profession to potential new professionals, why aren’t sixth formers hearing about libraries and information services as a career choice? Why does CILIP charge the same subscription rate for everyone earning above £17,501, when a new professional’s salary is so vastly different to that of a library director? And can CILIP do more to attract student members?
The speakers blew me away
Massive admiration. They were very brave to talk in front of lots of people (something I need to improve on… I’ll be blogging about it soon after my upcoming public speaking jaunt on Friday). And they had interesting opinions, they talked about diverse subjects. I learnt about some areas of information work, such as careers information and special collections outreach, that I haven’t really encountered before.
The standard routes into the library and information profession were really reinforced
Which for me was a sad thing. From what I could gather, all of the speakers at this year’s New Professionals Conference either had a CILIP accredited Masters, or were in the process of undertaking one. In a time of downturn, an MA isn’t a possibility for everyone. I would have liked to have seen more engagement with the idea of non-typical routes into the profession.
And the issue of unemployment was skirted around
The title of this year’s New Professionals Conference was Professionalism and Activism in a Time of Downturn. Although recent news on unemployment figures has been quite encouraging, it’s still a tough old job market at the moment. What happens when you’re new, and you can’t even get into the profession?
All in all, I found that there was a lot to take away from the New Professionals Conference, and I met some great like-minded people. It might not be a detailed account of all the papers I heard (as evaluating is ‘not describing’!), but these are my thoughts, for what they’re worth.
Yesterday, I abandoned the library for the afternoon to attend a Building Your Portfolio workshop at Northumbria University Library. Attending a portfolio building course is a requirement of CILIP Chartership, so that was chiefly why I went (I didn’t bother when I was working towards Certification). However, the afternoon was actually pretty useful and the presentations from Michael Martin, Jackie Dunn, Patricia Crosier and Annie Kilner helped me to gauge how I’m getting on, what I’m doing right and what I need to think about a bit more.
One liners #3: Pearls of wisdom I gleaned from the Building Your Portfolio workshop
CILIP Framework of Qualifications designed to meet the needs of people at different levels/stages
Framework progresses from Certification to Chartership to Revalidation to Fellowship
Choose a mentor outside your workplace for objectivity, freedom when talking about work issues
Evidence of mentoring relationship can be used quite creatively, e.g. mentoring log
Initial PPDP: It can’t be wrong! It’s all about the candidate and their development needs
Completed PPDP can alter from initial PPDP as your job, priorities and ambitions change
Evaluative statement: Think of this as an executive summary of the whole Chartership application
Portfolios: Useful when preparing for appraisals, job interviews
Portfolio organisation: We’re information professionals! Should be well structured/organised
Electronic submission of portfolios is currently being investigated by CILIP
E-portfolio systems could be used to organised material, such as http://foliofor.me/
Chartership criteria 1 may be split in two… must demonstrate both aspects of this criteria
Chartership criteria 4 is the criteria which most applications fail on
Chartership criteria matrix can be useful to match development activities to criteria
Skills audits and CPD audits can be useful to look at/include in your portfolio
Don’t… include lots of material written by other people. Abstract or summarise
Attribute collaborative work
Be aware… of data protection and copyright
Your portfolio is about you. Should reflect your personality
Reflective writing skills: Lots of applications, relevant in a number of work situations
Evaluation is ‘not describing’
Never let documents stand on their own – annotate them, reflect upon them
Slide in reflection wherever you can
Your challenges can be the things you develop through most. Include the difficult stuff
Think deep and find ‘the rich veins of experience’, the activities you got the most out of
Link your development and experience back to strategy; team, library, organisational
Show awareness of the impact of national and global issues
Cross-reference the documents in your portfolio, it helps to signpost your evidence/reflection
Address future training needs/developments. What happens next?
One of the things I’ll really take away from the session was the importance of reflecting, analysing or evaluating all of the activities and evidence included in the Chartership portfolio, and making sure the evidence you include meets all of the Chartership criteria. This is the point of this blog, really, and I think writing about my development activities and experiences is a good practice to keep up.
The session also made it very clear that the organisational strategy and your individual contribution to it, as well as the contribution that your library service makes, needs to be at the heart of your application. I might have delivered an effective marketing campaign, which meant increased usage of a service, but how does that link into the strategies playing out around me? If I’m benchmarking our e-resource packages against our comparators, how does this contribute to the achievement of strategic plans? This is something I’ll be thinking about more over the coming weeks and months.
Lastly, I’ll need to begin thinking my last ‘one liner’ – I’ve got a year or so left to go, but what happens next? What am I going to do after Chartership? At the moment, I don’t know. This means I need to start to be strategic about where I’m headed, and what I need to do to get there.
Time is a funny thing, and it’s odd to think that around this time last year, I was starting to construct my portfolio for Certification. And that this time next year, I’ll be starting to put my Chartership portfolio together. It’s going ok, but I need to keep building.
Up here in the North East, there’s a saying about trying – ‘shy bairns get nowt’. This is a philosophy that I very much subscribe to in life; if you don’t ask or put yourself forward for things, you won’t get all that far (I also extend this theory to the practice of buying scratchcards, somewhat less successfully). And I tend to think that if you knock on enough doors, then generally after a while one or two will open.
So it is with this in mind that I have been applying for opportunities recently. I’ve been trying my luck at a few different things, applying to speak at conferences, for secondment opportunities and for postgraduate courses. With varying degrees of success, it must be said. I have absolutely no experience of writing conference proposals, and perhaps unsurprisingly, my proposal wasn’t accepted. I’ve had an unconditional offer for a place on a postgraduate Masters in Librarianship course (I’m only taking a token module, however!), and I’m waiting to hear back from another university. I was excited to be shortlisted for the internal secondment, my first interview for a professional level post, but unfortunately I didn’t get the job. Although again, I wasn’t too disappointed, being the youngest candidate and the only candidate without postgraduate qualifications.
BUT: although I didn’t get to speak at the conference, the organisers provided me with some feedback. I put in an interesting proposal, apparently, but ‘a number of people put in similar papers, so you had a lot of competition’. Fair enough. They also provided comments on my proposal, so I could see the things the organisers liked about it and the areas which needed some more explanation. Hopefully when I next answer a call for papers, I can learn from the comments I was given and use this experience for the better.
AND: although I didn’t get the job, I was also offered feedback on my interview. I got some useful pointers on my presentation technique and interview answers (including ones I already sort of knew. I need to stop fiddling and talking with my hands…). And I got the chance to prepare and present a short teaching session on an academic database, which has been a great experience and has given me a taster of this sort of library role. As I said, I really appreciated just getting shortlisted, as that shows me I’m moving in the right direction. And maybe next time, I’ll get the job.
Shy bairns get nowt. I’m not a shy bairn – I do stick my head above the parapet, professionally speaking. And sometimes things work out, and sometimes I get knocked down, turned down, which the last couple of weeks and months have proved. And I’m learning that for the time being I just need to keep going, keep working hard, and keep trying. I’m not saying that I’ll try at librarianship forever, because I’m not an idiot, and I have a timescale in mind in terms of how long I’m willing to try. But I know that the act of trying for things, and even being rejected, has its own value.
You can always get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.