Monday, 2 June 2014

First adventures in Chartership

I have taken the plunge and signed up for Chartership. Eek! Chartering has been a vague aim for a while now, something I've mentioned in job interviews when I've been asked where I see myself in X years time. But now I've paid my registration fee, found a mentor, and it is time to actually get on with it!

I had my first meeting with my mentor last week. Sheila is an information scientist managing bibliographic databases and search services for the specialist engineering firm TWI. I know that finding a mentor can be a difficult process, especially when trying to find someone in a different field from your own. I was very lucky to find a mentor quite quickly, and to find someone working in such a different role. I found my mentor through the CILIP East Mentor/Mentee Matchmaking group on Facebook which was the brainchild of Maria Giovanna, CILIP East's Candidate Support Officer.

After chatting for a while about what I wanted to get out of Chartership and going through the mentoring agreement form, Sheila gave me a tour of the library. The library at TWI provides information resources for a range of different user groups, including onsite staff, those studying for PhDs, and offsite users from many different companies. As a lot of the reports and so on in the library are confidential to some level or other, it is important to identify the user and determine whether they should be able to access the resource in question. While we have policies in the College library about who can register to borrow books, and different loan periods for different types of user, there are no restrictions on reference use - we don't have any classified information!

For offsite users, electronic copies and physical books are sent out by library staff. The online database has an 'add to cart' button for each article. Orders are sent to the library and then copies are made and sent out. The database uses a specialist thesaurus of welding-related terms. Sheila goes to an annual international conference where new terms are suggested and debated. During my Cat & Class II module at UCL I had to create my own thesaurus on a subject of my choice which I found one of the most enjoyable pieces of coursework (and not just because my subject was Harry Potter...) I haven't used that skill since my MA, so it was interesting to see this kind of work being carried out.

Cataloguing a new article for the TWI database involves a lot of work. Keywords are assigned from the thesaurus (if the topic isn't accurately covered then a free-text keyword is added - this is where Sheila looks when taking new suggestions to the annual conference). TWI information staff write their own abstracts for each article, as author-provided abstracts don't usually provide the necessary detail required by TWI employees about the types of material, techniques etc. being discussed. Journals, reports etc. are acquired from all over the world in many languages, so abstracting and keywording is a considerable task!

On my visit I saw the TWI library in its temporary home, as a new building is currently under construction. At Magdalene we are planning a new library building, so I jumped at the chance to look at site plans etc. and hear more about the process. TWI are much further along in the process than us, they will be in the new building in a matter of months whereas our new building is still several years away. When building work begins we will hopefully not have to move into temporary accomodation as, unlike at TWI, the current College Library is not being demolished to make room for the new building, but the idea is to repurpose the space afterwards and turn it into some kind of visitors centre/exhibition space for the Pepys Library.

Welded swimsuits
Before I left, Sheila showed me the exhibition space in the reception area which displays the wide range of welding techniques used, and the variety of industries supported by TWI - from communications technology to medical equipment, and even clothing. Sheila had mentioned earlier in the afternoon that some prospective mentees were put off as her role is far removed from that of e.g. an academic or public librarian, which surprised me as I found the difference in our roles fascinating.

The next steps for me are to do the PKSB gap analysis to identify which areas I'm going to focus on improving, and to spend some time playing around with the virtual learning environment on the CILIP website. My target is to complete my portfolio in a year so I better get cracking!

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