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CILIP New Professionals’ Conference

July 15, 2009

It’s over a week since I attended the New Professionals’ conference jointly run by CILIP’s Career Development Group and the Diversity Group. Waiting a week to blog was a good plan because Laura has done the hard work blogging on the whole conference in 3 excellent posts over on Organising Chaos. I’m not going to try and match that so here are just a few of my observations from the day.

First up was Katie Hill talking about the consumer generation. The consumer generation knows what it wants and how to get it as well as what standards and services it expects. It is important to note that both library users and library staff are part of the consumer generation and this has a great impact on the service. We have to adapt to meet the new demands of our users. Katie gave an example from the University of York where the Lending Services team has been renamed Customer Services. This reflects a change in focus from the stock or resources to the users/customers. To sum this all up Katie used this great phrase:

“Librarians are no longer gatekeepers of information but gateways to information.”

Ned Potter followed on from Katie with a presentation on librarian stereotypes. First he looked at the different types of stereotype presented in Maura Seale’s article Old Maids, Policeman and Social Rejects. I’ve not really been confronted by the stereotypes but I often find that when I tell someone I’m a librarian they have nothing to say after that because they have no idea what being a librarian means these days. Ned’s talk was entertaining but I don’t think it really got us anywhere except that we all know that the stereotypical librarian is a myth.

Ned’s best contribution to the conference for me was his discussion of the idea that we’re only as good as our last customer interaction. Based on the old addage that a sportsman is only as good as his last game. He suggested that every time we engage with a user we should imagine that the whole service will be judged on our standard of service. This is something I am trying to employ when staffing the information desk – are you?

The stereotypical librarian?

After lunch we got on to the topic of marketing. I’m not sure how Kath Aitken’s talk on the skills a professional librarian can bring to public libraries fitted in here but it was thought provoking none the less. She began by looking at the value of a professional qualification in a public library from the perspective of someone who had started out as a library assistant then returned to work for the same employer post qualification. I found it intriguing to hear someone else’s perspective on this as someone who has also held both a non-professional and a professional post in the same library. The talk of the value of the library qualification has been brought up again this week at Umbrella. I’ve seen lots of tweets suggesting that library qualifications are only desirable, not essential in most sectors. This is something that clearly needs more discussion.

The last presentation I want to mention was given by Jo Alcock on marketing yourself using online tools. She focused on three areas, social networking, blogging and microblogging and rounded her presentation off with ten top tips for marketing yourself online. As someone who already uses tools like Twitter and also maintains a blog it’s always great to hear them being promoted. I find having an active professional presence online makes me feel so much more connected to the profession and other librarians and really inspires me to continue to develop my skills and interests.

Credits: image by bookgrl

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