Tuesday, 21 June 2011

New Professionals Conference 2011

Yesterday was the CILIP Career Development Group's annual New Professionals Conference. This was my first NPC (if further proof was needed that I'm a geek, it has taken me quite a while to stop thinking "non player character" each time NPC is mentioned!) and I was lucky enough to have won a place at the conference in LISNPN and CILIP's recent advocacy competition.

A few of us were travelling up from Cambridge, and we decided to go the day before to avoid a 4am start. This worked out really nicely as it meant we had the chance to meet up with some other conference-goers that evening for a drink, a meal and some librarianly chat.

The next morning I tramped across the city (fuelled by a bacon sandwich) to the university building that was the conference venue. The day was structued so that we had three of the papers in the morning, then workshops and lunch, and then the final three papers in the afternoon.

Helen Murphy started off the morning session with her paper on the juggernaut that is CPD23. (Did I tell you we have over 400 people signed up for this already? If I have met you in the last few days the answer is probably yes!) Helen's excellent slides (featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and a puppy) can be found here.
Helen spreading the CPD23 love

Second to present a paper was Rachel Bickley, on the subject of 'Establishing a dialogue between new and experienced professionals'. Establishing a dialogue and avoiding cliqueyness (spelling?!) was a theme that several of the papers and workshops touched on, as throughout the day we were encouraged to talk to more experienced professionals, colleagues at work, and the public at large, letting them know what it is we do, and the value of what we do.

Sam and Laura
The final paper in the morning was given by Sam Wiggins and Laura Williams. I found their paper 'What makes an Information 'Professional'?' really interesting, as I'd seen their survey and was keen to know what other people thought about this question. I would consider myself to be a 'Professional' despite not being chartered or even qualified, and since it was after all the New Professionals Conference, I'm sure many of the other attendees would too. Because I'm in a graduate trainee role, and have always intended to get my MA, I see myself as a professional albeit a (very) new one! Sam and Laura's research led them to come up with the following definition of what makes a Professional: "possession of qualifications, experience or skills, alongside an underlying professional attitude." I guess I've got the attitude and am picking up the rest on the way!

We then split off into our groups for the first workshop session. I'd chosen a workshop on 'Information roles - expanding our horizons' run by Nicola Forgham-Healey and Franko Kowalczuk. In this session we were given a collection of required skills taken from job listings on recruitment websites, and had the task of dividing them by whether they were traditional and non-traditional librarian skills. Although we were asked to divide them, my group ended up making more of a continuum, as did most others. We were then asked to pick three which we could improve on or get more experience in (for me: budget/finance skills, leadership skills, communication skills), and then as a group pick 5 which would be essential for all information roles. Good communicator came top, then professionalism, prioritising/time management, team player, and internet savvy. Interestingly "organising information" was only chosen by two groups, which I was quite surprised by.

After lunch, my second workshop was with Alice Halsey and Simon Barron from Voices for the Library. The theme of the workshop was 'Getting involved: activism for new professionals'. Besides fanning the flames of my Kindle-envy (Simon was using his Kindle to read his notes!), this workshop was one of the parts of the day I enjoyed the most, as it was great to hear from two members of a group that I really admire. It was also a very positive session, and I'm sure many people came away feeling encouraged to get more involved in library activism.

Then it was back to the lecture theatre for the final three papers of the day. Ka-Ming Pang and Jo Norwood were up first with 'Can we play? Building opportunities for LIS student activism and why it matters'. Click the link and take a look at the slides for this, as they're very cute. (I'm such a fan of hand drawn slides!) Despite the fact that four of the speakers during the day were currently studying for a library MA, library students often don't seem to be that engaged or active. Like in Rachel's paper in the morning, the importance of effective communication and networking was emphasised. I particularly liked the suggestion of a regular #libchat style event at a more convenient time for us Brits. If anyone were to start up a #libchatUK, I'd be a regular participant!

Up next was Megan Wiley, who works as a Careers Information Specialist. Megan talked about the importance of making sure your work wasn't 'for your eyes only', but sharing what you do with your non-librarian colleagues, and proving the worth of your LIS qualification. If they don't know what you do, they won't be able to recommend your services to students!

The final paper 'Teaching old books new tricks: how special collections outreach can help you, your career, and your library' was by my travelling companions Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert. I'd heard a bit of this presentation on the train on the way up, but was looking forward to seeing the full shebang. Katie and Naomi have both done a lot of outreach work at St Johns College, and although it looks like a lot of work, it also looks really good fun. The extra practice on the train clearly paid off, as at the end of the conference this was voted the best paper! Helen's CPD23 paper took 3rd place, so it was a good day all round for the Cambridge library mafia!

Presenters from the afternoon. Left to right: Megan, Katie, Ka-Ming, Naomi, Jo
 There were several themes running through the day. As well as establishing a dialogue/avoiding cliqueyness which I've already mentioned, we were encouraged throughout the day to make things happen for ourselves, not to sit around and wait for things to come our way. Twitter was also constantly being mentioned, mostly in passing as in "Any questions, send me a tweet." "Aaaah so you're @LibWig!" Whilst any regular reader of my blog will know that I am a huge fan of the Twitters, speaking to a couple of people at the conference who weren't fans of Twitter made me wonder whether this is another case of being cliquey? I'll try and bear that in mind in future.

This is getting very long now, so I'll just finish up by saying I really enjoyed my visit to Manchester, and hope to be at the 2012 New Professionals Conference!


  1. Thanks for the blog post and the photos! I feel like I've got a good sense of what the conference was like now, despite being unable to attend. It sounds like it was a really interesting day, I'm definitely going to go next year! Also - loving the new blog theme - very summery :)

  2. Glad you like the post and the new theme :) I always end up writing a really long blog post whenever I go to an event like this, but at least that way I'll remember it I guess!

  3. Great post and some fab pics there!

  4. Thanks Laura, and I really enjoyed reading your NPC post!

  5. Sounds like it was an interesting and useful day. I'm considering going next year, so its great to read about everyone's thoughts of the day.

  6. It is well worth going to. I hope it will be down south next year for a change!