Thing 7 is all about real-life networks and professional bodies/organisations. Formal library networks or organisations can and do provide benefits for librarians helping them improve their skills, meet people, network, update their knowledge etc. Currently I obtain those benefits from the job role I am in as Libraries Development Adviser for Wales (in CyMAL part of the Welsh Government).
I am contacted by librarians because part of my job is ‘advice and support’ which includes things like answering general queries to overseeing project grants, enabling me to be in contact with a large number of librarians across Wales. I am often invited to meetings, either for projects that we have funded or to give a CyMAL-based talk, so again I get to meet people and network at the meetings. We (CyMAL) also provide funding for training (individually, regionally and nationally) and I am able to attend the CyMAL-run training programme if I wish.
My employer is actually pretty good at employee training and development and I am able to attend training they provide. Each person has an agreed training plan as part of their annual performance management plan and if the training need has been identified, then we are able to look for and attend a relevant course (funding allowing of course).
As part of my job I also get to attend the CILIP Wales annual conference, and additionally sometimes attend conferences outside of Wales, such as the CILIPS conference in Dundee the other week (which I’ll be blogging about on my library blog when I catch up with myself). I haven’t been able to attend the WHELF Gregynog colloquium for a couple of years now, but I try to attend that conference because I find it is a really good way of picking up on what’s going on in the HE sector, and catching up with friendly librarians! I also try to attend the FE LRS Managers Network meetings which are held roughly every 4 months or so and again, that’s a great way to network and hear about what’s happening in the FE college libraries in Wales.
The notes on Thing 7 also outlined the opportunities of writing articles if you’re a member of an organisation, and again, I’m lucky that in my job role I’m sometimes invited to write articles (or guest blog posts – thanks Sharon!), or I’m able to offer one with an all-Wales perspective, such as the recent issue of Ariadne and my article on social media and Welsh libraries. I’m also invited each year to give a couple of guest lectures to undergraduates and postgraduates in the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University (my alma mater, but more of that in a future Thing I think.)
Belonging to a network group or professional library organisation can also give you the opportunity to chair meetings, become secretary or treasurer, or organise events. Again, I’m really lucky that my current job gives me all those opportunities and I chair various meetings (including the Libraries Inspire Advisory Group), take minutes for other meetings, and manage the Libraries Inspire budget (just under £1 million – eek!).
And finally a mention must be made of the real network of librarian friends I have who date back to 1998/99 when we met on the library masters course at Aberystwyth. We still seek each other’s help and advice on library matters, we occasionally see each other at library events (even though we’re now spread across England, Scotland and Wales), and we also meet up socially, generally at weddings!
If you’ve read this far, you’ll spot the elephant in the room. I wrote all the above a few days ago and have been reflecting on it (aren’t I good?) since then, prior to publishing it. I think I come across as a slightly stuck-up ‘I don’t need you’ anti professional library groups individual! But I’m not going to re-write it!
It comes across like that because I was seeing if I could write this without admitting that I’m not a member of CILIP. I feel that some people would expect me to be a member because of my relatively public-facing (public as in librarian) role. But for me personally I haven’t been convinced of the benefits of CILIP membership given the high membership fee, my location, my current job role, and my current career aspirations. I find other ways to obtain the same benefits (as outlined above). I don’t doubt that getting invoved in CILIP committees or sub-groups is very useful and helpful for some library staff depending on where they live and what they’re doing with their job and career, but for me, right now, it’s not something that I want to spend £194 a year on.
In contrast to that fee, my professional membership for the British Wheel of Yoga is £70 a year as a yoga teacher which gives me a quarterly magazine, a quarterly regional (Wales) newsletter, a free annual yoga day event in Wales, cheaper attendance at BWY yoga events, a network of Welsh and UK yoga teachers, potential to be on the Wales committee or to be a county rep, teachers’ discount for the BWY shop, and, very importantly, my public liability and professional indemnity insurance. I think that’s good value.