This week I’m participating in the Library Day in the Life project which charts the day-to-day activities of library workers at different points of the year. This is the sixth time I’ve participated; you can see my earlier posts from July 2009January 2010July 2010January 2011 and July 2011. I’m currently a full-time Researcher at Evidence Base, Birmingham City University, UK. Although my job title doesn’t include the word librarian and I don’t work in a library, I still consider myself very much a librarian – our research helps support the library and information communities.

Just a brief post – today I attended the LIS DREaM (Developing Research Excellence and Methods) workshop 2, this time held in London. It was an early start (left home at around 6.40am – too dark!), but it still amazes me that I can be in London by 9.30am and at an event before 10am.

Far too early to be catching the bus

On the train journey I worked on a draft of one of our reports (for the m-libs support project), and sorted through work emails.

The event itself was 10.30am until 4.15pm at the British Library.

The British Library

I have to be honest; it wasn’t my favourite research event as the topics weren’t very relevant to my interests or current research areas and I struggled to see how some of it could apply in practice in libraries/LIS research. I did find some of it useful – I enjoyed the session on webometrics and might do some further investigation into what can be done with sentiment analysis from online social media (e.g. using tweets), and I enjoyed hearing about other attendee’s research/ideas in the unconference half hour. I’ll write a full review of the workshop later this week.

Having coeliac disease means its always a bit of a gamble with conference food (I have to follow a gluten free diet), and the lunch was, as is often the case, pretty disappointing but in the afternoon I got my own special gluten free cake!

Gluten free cake

Once the event finished I checked into my hotel (staying over as I’m attending a writing for publication workshop on Tuesday), and after a quick catchup of work stuff via email I headed out to catch up with some lovely librarian friends from London and enjoyed a nice meal followed by some cocktails. Great end to the day!

 

As I’m currently working on my CILIP Chartership, I’m getting into the habit of reflecting on any professional activities. I also think it’s good practice after a conference to reflect on what you learnt (in terms of the conference content and also the logistics and organisational aspects), and had an interesting conversation last night at dinner about how useful it was to record the lessons learned after each conference (we also discussed how at a conference it was common to have more showers than meals!*). So here are a few points I have been mulling over after ALA Midwinter 2012 – things that I hope will help improve my future conferences (and may help others so I thought would be worth sharing).

Welcome to ALA Midwinter 2012

  • It really is all about the connections you make and the experiences you have at a conference. Yes, I attended some interesting sessions, but I took the most from the ad hoc conversations I had, often at the social occasions or just when a group of us happened to meet up over drinks/dinner. It will be interesting to see how this might change in future if the trend for shrinking numbers of attendees at conferences continues.
  • Don’t let finances be the only reason not to do something. I almost didn’t apply for Emerging Leaders in case I couldn’t get funding, but I decided to apply anyway to see what happened and I’m so glad I did. I was fortunate enough to have been awarded an EBSCO Scholarship to support my attendance, which really helped. I’d strongly recommend applying for funding opportunities, there are many options out there and they really do want to help support people who want to attend professional development events but may not have the funds to do so. 
  • The ALA Emerging Leaders program really is as good as everyone told me, if not better. Not only do you get excellent leadership training and an insight into the way ALA works, you also get to be part of an incredibly exciting and dynamic cohort of librarians. I’m so looking forward to both my group project (which I’ll blog about separately some time) and communicating with the wider group of Emerging Leaders. It also opens a number of doors for you – people are interested in hearing more about your project, and current leaders are interested to hear your ideas. I have also heard about a similar model being used at a regional level, and it’s something I am hoping we might be able to adopt in the UK (adding yet another thing to my ‘I want to make this happen’ list).
  • Plan your expected schedule ahead of the conference, but don’t be too rigid – have some backup sessions and don’t worry about sticking to your planned schedule. If you’re having a great conversation or someone invites you to something outside your schedule which you think would be interesting, then go for it (except for sessions you have paid to attend, you are speaking at/organising, or are required to attend of course!). 
  • Attend some sessions outside your immediate area of work, or just things that sound interesting. I went to Susan Cain’s auditorium session which was fantastic (and even went to the book signing afterwards), and really enjoyed Lisa Loeb at the wrap up party. 
  • Schedule some down time for yourself, especially if you’re an introvert and need to recharge away from other people. Head back to your hotel for a while or just take a walk outside, you’ll feel so much better afterwards. This time I learnt from my mistakes at ALA Annual 2011 and made sure that every day I took a break, usually between the daytime activities and the evening activities. I also spent quite a bit of time in the Networking Uncommons area in the conference – I learnt how to play Apples to Apples (an ALA version even!) and really enjoyed CraftCon which I helped organise. 
  • This one is specific to ALA conferences (or maybe US conferences, I’m not sure), but don’t worry if you aren’t at the *whole* session. Be kind and courteous to others at the session (sit near the back and keep quiet when arriving/leaving), but people really don’t mind as they understand there are numerous clashes and so much to fit in. Also sometimes something isn’t what you hoped it would be – if that’s the case, go somewhere else. The conference experience is what you make it and it’s a waste of your time to attend a session you’re not enjoying. 
  • Find out if anyone you know is staying at the same hotel as you and attending any of the same sessions/events, especially in the evening. I don’t like to walk on my own in cities I am unfamiliar with, but cab rides can be expensive, so it’s useful for me to find someone I can walk with. This is one I need to get better at!
  • Use the conference shuttle buses. Not only does this save some of your energy (and your feet!) but you also meet some really interesting people on the bus. I need to get better at this more informal networking – I tended to wait until people spoke to me. 
  • Don’t be afraid to speak to people you consider role models or ‘library superstars’. They’re usually very nice and will be glad you made the effort to say hello. I still need to work on this as am often too starstruck and kick myself afterwards for missing the opportunity to speak to them. 
  • Take things to last you at least 36hrs or more in your carry on luggage when flying. One friend this year didn’t get her luggage for a couple of days, and I’m currently sitting in DFW airport for goodness knows how long (they keep delaying my flight further – in fact this sentence was interrupted with news of yet another delay!). Fortunately I packed an international charger in my carry on and have found a socket so I have plenty of power for keeping my occupied on my iPad, and have lots of gluten free snacks with me (though they are rapidly depleting, I’m hungry!). I don’t have spare clothes but seeing as I’m flying home that’s not too much of an issue. I have some toiletries with me to freshen up too so shouldn’t be too smelly!

ALA Midwinter was really enjoyable – it seemed much more manageable in terms of size and organisation of my schedule, partly I think due to the smaller scale compared to ALA Annual, and partly I think (well, I hope!) because I’m getting better at organising myself before and during a conference. ALA conferences are so tiring, and because they are over a weekend it essentially means you pretty much work for two weeks with no breaks. I’m really looking forward to this coming weekend when I am planning to sleep and very little else! Having said that, I am also feeling invigorated – I have lots of actions to follow up and ideas to pursue thanks to some awesome library colleagues. Roll on ALA Annual in June! 

 

*We were discussing the quota of drinks, showers and meals – I think I may have had more showers than meals, though I had problems with having no hot water in my room at times so the scale may be tilted towards drinks! If you are wondering, the frozen mango tequila cocktail on my final night was my favourite.

Tomorrow morning (at the obscene time of 3am) I’ll be getting up and getting ready to fly to Dallas for ALA Midwinter 2012. I’ve packed my shoulder pads, I know who shot JR, and I’ve been humming “da daaa, da daaa, da da da da da da”. (I’m afraid that’s all I know about the Dallas TV show and though it was tempting to purchase a series to watch on the flight, I opted for The Big C instead).

Here’s highlights of what I’ll be up to during the conference (my full conference schedule is available here though it doesn’t include all the social meetups).

  • Wednesday 18th – arrive in DFW airport, find way from airport to Dallas (fortunately I should have a kind helper in the form of @daveyp to assist with this!), find hotel, eat, drink, sleep.
  • Thursday 19th – sleep, register for conference (hopefully – not sure when registration opens), attend Emerging Leaders pre-social in evening.
  • Friday 20th – Emerging Leaders all day session to kick off the program, followed by a leadership talk, LITA happy hour, and Emerging Leaders meetup and social
  • Saturday 21st – Library Boing Boing brainstorming, Susan Cain auditorium session (writer on introverts), games and gaming forum, CraftCon. NMRT social and tweet up in evening.
  • Sunday 22nd – EBSCO scholarship breakfast, NMRT/LLAMA new leaders discussion, CraftCon. Hacklibschool/Library Boing Boing social or ASCLA reception in evening.
  • Monday 23rd – Exhibition browsing, Midwinter Camp.
  • Tuesday 24th – collapse with exhaustion and head home.

I’m really looking forward to meeting my fellow Emerging Leaders and getting started on my Emerging Leaders project for NMRT, which I’ll be sure to blog about if I can. Hope to see some of you there! 🙂

Last week I gave my first ever webinar as part of the American Library Association (ALA) Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Mobile Computing Interest Group (MCIG) virtual meeting.* It took place instead of a physical meeting at ALA Midwinter to enable more people to attend and present. There were five presentations in 90 minutes so we each had 10 minutes to present and 5 minutes of Q&A. If you’re interested in the topic, you can watch a recording of the webinar – see the blog post I wrote for our m-library community support project blog.

I thought it would be useful to reflect on my experiences of presenting a webinar – I’m noticing more and more webinars set up to enable more people to attend virtually across different time zones and without the expense of travelling, so I imagine presenting at webinars is something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in future.This is my setup – home office with laptop for webinar software, headset for listening/speaking, iPhone for timing, and iPad and notepad for presentation prompts (and all important glass of Ribena!):

Webinar setup

Webinar setup

Read the rest of this entry »

I get asked this question a lot, and I often struggle to answer it. My job is pretty unique so there’s not really much to easily compare it to. I’m part of an academic library but rarely set foot into the library. I have an office on a University campus but don’t visit it very often as I regularly work from home or on the go (the train is a favourite of mine!). My job title is Evidence Based Researcher; if you asked me I would probably tell you I’m an academic researcher/librarian, but my partner would probably say he wasn’t really sure how to describe it but I’m a sort of information consultant. So what do I actually do?

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) have organised an Alternative Careers webinar to help introduce some of the more alternative jobs out there in the information profession. Bethan Ruddock, who is the webinar host, asked me if I’d be able to answer some questions about my job to help her research for the webinar (Bethan also has a pretty unique job but wants to get some other examples to share). I was happy to oblige and am reproducing what I sent her. So if you’re not sure what I actually do, this might give you more of an idea… Read the rest of this entry »

I found last year’s resolutions useful in helping keep me on the right track last year, and am pleased to say I kept most of them – here’s a review:

  • Complete my MSc dissertation – finished in July
  • Attend more conferences – I attended lots of great conferences and events in 2011
  • Implement the Getting Things Done system at home and work – I seem to have this sorted for electronic information, though need to work on physical organisation of paperwork and notes
  • Participate in Library Day in the Life – I took part in both rounds of Library Day in the Life in 2011
  • Continue to blog – I posted 44 times on this blog in 2011, and also blogged for Evidence Base and for projects I’m involved in

As it was a useful exercise for helping me focus last year, so I’ve decided to set myself more resolutions/goals for this year. In common with Erin, these are general aims so cover all areas of my life.

  1. To work on CILIP Chartership (reflecting on achievements and updating wiki on at least a monthly basis)
  2. To improve physical organisation, particularly in home office – notes and paperwork etc.
  3. To achieve a more productive balance between different parts of my life ensuring I make time for professional, personal, and social activities
  4. To continue to blog about professional issues and ideas as well as reflection on activities
  5. To publish at least one paper (preferably peer-reviewed)

Bring it on!