CILIP Careers Day: North

I attended my first CILIP event last month and as someone about to start her Masters in Librarianship this Careers Day: North opportunity came at a great time.

To quote the CILIP website it was:

‘A careers-oriented day-conference facilitated by CILIP North West Member Network (NWMN) and supported by the North East and Yorkshire and Humberside Member Networks. Suitable for every career stage, and with expertise from across the Library and Information Services spectrum.’

My day started by me getting the 7.10am train from Leeds to Liverpool Lime Street.
Fully prepared with print outs, notebook, coffee and Juxtapoz to read for my 2-ish hour journey. I used this time to read up on the speakers and remind myself what sessions I had booked onto. Sometimes you book these things so far in advance you can’t remember who’s speaking let alone the things you wanted to do!

I got into Liverpool just after 9am and had to leg it to the Sydney Jones Library, which was actually really easy to get to if I hadn’t been stressing about turning up late.

As soon as I stepped into the library I met a fellow library and information professional Lorna (@DameGinger) and we chatted on our way to the function room. Lorna is a Senior Information Assistant in a Health Library that is part university part NHS Trust (if I’ve remembered that right – sorry Lorna definitely correct me if I’m wrong!)

I really do love meeting people and speaking to them about their jobs, what they like, how it’s different from other jobs they’ve worked in and what else they’ve done before. Lorna has already graduated with a Librarianship qualification so it was nice to chat to her as I haven’t even started mine yet. We got ourselves some tea and coffee and asked each other more about our current roles. We also spoke to a Librarian who had just got a job working in a school library – sadly I didn’t get your name, but if that was you get in touch! I’d love to know how the job’s going!

Our first speaker was Susan Williamson from St Helen’s Library Services, which is a public library service. Susan started by telling us about her career journey and her different positions in different locations and how she’d worked her way up the ladder. Susan then went on to speak about all the fantastic things that had been happening in St Helen’s. At this point it really hit home, as it always does when you read about public libraries, how much they do for people. They definitely aren’t just buildings with books in. The books are just as important as all the other work that is done in terms of outreach, working in partnership with (for example) the NHS to promote things like…. brushing your teeth! That’s a little random part of Susan’s talk that really stood out. I think it ended up being part of a ‘Bath, Book, Bed’ type initiative to encourage kids and parents to read. Yet they made it something along the lines of ‘Bath, Brush, Book, Bed’ I feel like I’m remembering this really badly, but it was similar to the above and just highlights how reading can be linked with all different aspects of your health and well being. That was just one small example there were loads of others and so much amazing work being done to help the community in lots of different ways.

After Susan’s talk we had all picked different sessions we wanted to attended. My first one was ‘Effective CV-Writing and Job Application Workshop’ given by Cathy McGowan from the University of Liverpool. I thought Cathy’s talk was fantastic in terms of signposting what a careers service at a university can do for you. I had no idea they could help you write CVs for other countries. I think delivering CV/application help sessions is a really difficult task, especially in librarianship, as jobs can be so wide ranging and in so many different sectors you can’t do a ‘one size fits all’.  Some of the advice can leave you thinking ‘Well yeah I knew that already’, but someone else might not know it. The only way I’ve learnt to do decent applications and CVs is by seeing other peoples and talking to them too!

Next up was the amazing ‘The Importance of Networking and CPD’ session from @NLPN which stands for New Library Professionals Network. Two of the four members of the team, Helen / @HelenMonagle and Cat / @CatMcManamon, gave the session I attended and Amy / @AmyFinnegan and Siobhan / @shibshabs took the other (I think!). Helen and Cat introduced NLPN and told us what they as a network were doing. They organise events for new library professionals to attend and these are nearly always on weekends and nearly always somewhere in the North and free, which makes a great change from everything being in London all the time. Helen and Cat also mentioned the recent work they’d been doing in terms of helping people find shadowing opportunities. I saw NLPN put a call out a while ago for librarians who would be happy to be shadowed in their current role. This really is a great idea as seeing some real life library work can expand your knowledge of different areas and as Erica Brown said in a recent blog post about the shadowing she’d been on ‘Job adverts can be intimidating and off-putting; by spending time with Helen it was easy to see how my skills and experience could apply to that job.’ The speakers also mentioned how being involved in NLPN had helped them in terms of landing more professional roles. Both Helen and Cat had used examples, such as running events and managing projects with NLPN, to use in job applications or in interviews to highlight their wide and varied skill sets.

After NLPN’s session it was lunch time. CILIP knew the way to my heart from the start of the day with endless tea and tiny cinabuns!

Over lunch I spoke to @LibraryDroog who works in public libraries and is really interested in children’s and young adult literature. Again, like speaking to Lorna, I was chatting to people in fields I’d never worked in. At this point we also went on a tour of the Sydney Jones Library, which was great for me to see another HE library. The building felt huge and like it went on forever!

After lunch Sarah-Jane Raymond / @porschespider, the special collections librarian at Durham Cathedral, gave a talk she had titled ‘The Accidental Librarian’. Sarah-Jane had initially qualified as a Primary School teacher. Due to various factors she then moved into a part time post at a public library and studied a part time library qualification at Northumbria University. When Sarah-Jane got her position working as special collections librarian at Durham Cathedral I felt she gave a really honest account of both the highs and lows of a position such as this. Hearing about the lows, which aren’t as readily talked about, like the huge backlogs of work, all the things that need catalogued, the issues of working in a listed building, was all very refreshing. Sarah-Jane also really pushed the importance of adaptable skills when applying for jobs that might be slightly outside your remit, which I think is really important.

Also this needs a whole new paragraph, but if I remember rightly Sarah-Jane had a slide that was just a screenshot of an example of a cataloguing page. I’ve been to other careers related, arts, archives, library style events and no one shares this kind of valuable information! I thought that was a really great touch to be like – this is what I use and look at every day.

Next I went to a session held by the FLIP network (Future Library and Information Professionals Network) Their session was called ‘Why didn’t they teach me this at library school?! Practical  skills for new professionals’. Sarah Arkle / @sazarkle and Suzannah Bridge / @suzannahbridge split us into groups and gave us 3 scenarios. This was the only more involved participation style session I went to and I’m really glad I did. It allowed me to talk more with new people and the real life scenarios we were given really got us thinking as a group. I think the most interesting aspect was in my group there were mainly people who worked in HE libraries and one person, the lovely Helen Osbourne @Library_HelenO,  who works in public libraries as an area manager. The knowledge we all put together gave us some great responses, but we quickly realised how focused some of scenarios were on HE issues. There was one scenario about e-book licenses and these are really pretty different in terms of purchasing if you work in an HE library or in a public library. It was a great session and allowed me to hear other people’s views on different things and I liked figuring out solutions to the problems we were given!

The final session of the day was a talk by Dawn Grundy the University of Bolton Subject Librarian and Secretary to ARLG North West. Dawn is the Health and Human Sciences Librarian at the University of Bolton, which means she’s kind of a Health Librarian and an Academic HE Subject Librarian at the same time! Dawn told us all about the two staff ERASMUS trips she had been on (I can tell even though this talk was great I was lagging as my notes are trailing off into the incomprehensible), but if I remember rightly one trip was to a university in Finland and the other was a short trip…somewhere else! Both staff ERASMUS opportunities sounded amazing to go to another HE provider’s library in a different country and see how they do things. Dawn also talked to us about the HEA Fellowship process and the University of Bolton TIRI Fellowship application. Dawn struck me as someone always wanting to have a go at the next thing, always wanting to progress, do better and truly take every opportunity.

At the very end there was a question and answer session and I won’t lie I was knackered by the end of the day. I had enjoyed it all, but had been constantly taking notes, trying to tweet and network. The Q&A finished early and I legged it to my train in the pouring rain. Coincidentally Siobhan from NLPN was getting the same train as me and recognised me from Twitter. We chatted on the train ride to Leeds, which was really great to speak to someone from the event more personally  and it was even better to hear about her current job as a Systems and Acquisitions Librarian at an FE college. It also made me feel much more at ease as I’d signed up a few weeks ago to go on their organised tour of Manchester Public Library, which was also amazing and it’s probably the best public library I’ve ever been to! It’s nice to know people, and at least faces, before you rock up to something.

I filled in the feedback form that was emailed to me after the event. One question was: ‘What themes would you like to see the CILIP North West Member Network cover in the future?’ Two things immediately sprung to mind. A) Funding. Funding is a huge issue for people wanting to take any of the qualifications to become a librarian/information professional and funding to support going to events such as this one. B) I mentioned I would like to see issues concerning Equality and Diversity discussed and tackled more. I was very aware on the day of the (totally?) white ‘audience’ including myself obviously and an all white panel (of the sessions I went to).

So to end this massively long blog post thank you CILIP North West Member Network (NWMN) and supported by the North East and Yorkshire and Humberside Member Networks for putting this day together. Thanks to all the wonderful people I met and have mentioned in this post. And a pretty big thank you to my employer who paid the attendance fee and my train fair for this event – I wouldn’t have been able to go without that funding and time off work!

Links/Sources 
https://www.cilip.org.uk/north-west/events/cilip-careers-day-north [accessed 02/08/2017]

https://nlpn.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/job-shadowing/ [accessed 02/08/2017]

https://flipnetworkuk.wordpress.com/ [accessed 02/08/2017]

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