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NPC 2010: my impressions

My fellow presenters and delegates from Monday’s New Professionals Conference have already been blogging up a storm, so I’ve decided not to do a full write-up of everyone else’s talks. Instead, I’m just going to jot down a few impressions and ideas inspired by the talks I saw. If you want to see some good write-ups of what was actually said on the day, try these links:

I was really impressed with Eleni Zazani’s plenary on “Bridging the gap: from employability to employment”. Eleni was so inspiring in so many ways. I am completely in awe of anyone who is fluent in more than one language to begin with (I only speak two languages – English and bad English), so I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can actually deliver a presentation in their second language. I was also so impressed at Eleni’s courage in leaving a secure job in Greece to start again as a new professional in the UK. I’d been talking to Eleni about on the train on the way up from London on the Sunday, so I had a bit of background – and from the way she was talking, it really sounds like it’s been a positive change for her.

Eleni had some great practical tips on improving your employability. I particularly liked what she said about attitudes being just as important to demonstrate as core competencies are when job hunting. She also referenced some useful tools to use to measure your strengths and demonstrate your capabilities. I’m definitely going to check out the VIA Survey of Character Strengths.

I must admit to not paying as much attention as I’d have liked to Bronagh McCrudden and Bethan Ruddock’s presentations, which were before and after mine! During Bronagh’s talk I was alternately trying to control my breathing to calm my nerves, running through my talk in my head, and thinking about how well Bronagh was doing and what a tough act she’d be to follow! I had a bit more attention to spare for Bethan’s talk but still think I missed quite a bit. Very grateful to all the people who’ve written up the talks so far – gives me a chance to catch up!

I wasn’t too distracted to notice how compelling both talks were though. I thought Bronagh’s points about how working for free can potentially devalue the work we do as information professionals, and how to make sure that your work is visible, appreciated and your expertise is respected, were very important ones to make. As Bronagh also pointed out, information work is often invisible, as is voluntary work, so voluntary information work is somehow doubly invisible (if that’s actually physically possible…). As for Beth’s talk – well, I’m not sure what else I can say here other than I completely agree with Beth! Professional networking is so important, and Beth did a fantastic job of summing up just why it is so important, along with some great tips on how to build your own network.

I really enjoyed the afternoon sessions – I could actually relax and pay full attention! The first talk, from Ann Donovan and Rachel Edwards of the Bexley Public Library, was fascinating. Ann and Rachel were talking about the staff development programme at Bexley, and how they’d taken on projects and opportunities within their jobs in order to broaden their skills. It was so great to hear about what they’d been involved in. Having never worked in a public library, and not knowing many public librarians, it’s a job role I rarely get to hear about. By the sounds of things, public library work really can’t be beaten in terms of variety. I thought my job was varied, but it’s nothing compared to the range of projects that Ann and Rachel have been involved in!

A couple of the comments they made really stood out for me (apologies to Ann and Rachel but I can’t remember which of them said which of these points!). The first was that it’s important to know about your organisations strategic goals, and make sure that you align your goals with theirs and are seen to be adding value to the organisation. This is so important, no matter what sector you work in. I’ve been looking a lot at this recently as part of SLA’s alignment project.

The second was something that made me want to cheer when they said it – that their advice to new professionals would be to just say yes to any opportunity you’re offered, and worry about how you’ll carry it off later. A thousand times, yes! Completely agree with this sentiment – if you wait until you’re certain you can do something before you try it, you’ll never get anything done.

Next up was Laura Cracknell and Lyndsay Robinson’s spirited defence of cataloguing and classifying. As someone who never learned cat & class at library school, and who’s only experience of cataloguing is according to the usual law firm library rules (usually known as “sod AACR2, this’ll do fine”), it was great to hear such a passionate defence of an often overlooked skill.  I do agree with Laura and Lyndsay that the decline in cataloguing skills is something of a worry – they’d identified only 5 library schools in the UK which included compulsory modules on cat & class. If these skills aren’t being taught in library school, where is the next generation of cataloguers going to come from? These skills are fundamental to how information is organised and found, so it is vital that they continue to be taught.

The final New Professional presentation was Awen Clement, on “unleashing your professional edge”. Awen talked about her route into librarianship – she’s had a very varied career history! Incidentally, I really hope she’ll add something to the Library Routes project, as I think her story is absolutely fascinating. She pointed out that she is not a graduate, but that she’s taken experience developed from every job she’s ever had and applied it to her current job. For example, her first job as a supermarket checkout assistant gave her valuable customer service skills that she continues to use today. The main point I took away from Awen’s talk was to be passionate. Hard work will mean nothing if you’re not enthusiastic, and in order to prove your worth you have to know your worth!

The day was rounded off by Chris Rhodes and Ned Potter’s launch of the LIS New Professionals Network (LISNPN) – if you haven’t already joined, what are you waiting for?! We also had a great closing speech from Biddy Fisher, the current CILIP President. I’d never heard Biddy talk before, but she’s great – so enthusiastic! She talked a lot about the potential she saw in the new professionals present, and the future of CILIP – even saying that she believed there were future CILIP presidents in the room. Now there’s a thought…

All in all, a fantastic day. I came back absolutely buzzing – full of ideas, and inspiration. Can’t wait for NPC2011!

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