CPD23 Thing 21 begins with congratulations for getting this far in the programme. Even though it has taken me until 29 December to get this far, I’m going to accept said congratulations as a slightly belated Christmas present (the fault re: said tardiness being decidedly mine).Looking at section 1 of the instructions for this particular “Thing”, it actually seems like rather splendid timing to be writing this in the run up to New Year, when we’re supposed to get all self-evaulatey about ourselves and our lives.
In order to identify your strengths, take a good look at yourself, your tasks at work, your career, your life
Maria Giovanna de Simone, the evil genius on duty for Thing 21, asks us to answer the following questions to help us in our self-examination as above.
1)What do you like to do?
Mainly thanks to several childhood holidays spent in medieval cathedrals and castles, and a lifetime spent in museums, I am in love with medieval artefacts. Since starting university (to date: an MA, an MSC, and an MPhil), I’ve focused on medieval literature, art, and manuscripts. My Library and Information Studies dissertation focused on access to medieval illuminated manuscripts in our own time, comparing the value of access to the original book to that of access to the digital facsimile.
It’s also as a result of writing the MSc dissertation that I have developed a significant interest in material culture, particularly the material culture of books and libraries. I’vpe recently been considering the use of authentic medieval artefacts and the creation of nineteenth-century medievalist artefacts, particularly by the Pre-Raphaelites.
The short answer to what I like, in terms of my career as a librarian and my complementary career as a researcher, is undoubtedly rare books and manuscripts, primarily of the medieval era, and the use thereof.
2)What do you dislike?
This question seems to me to be very like the interview question “what do you perceive as your weaknesses?” That question threw me the first couple of times that I was given it in an interview, but I’ve since found the best way to answer it. You acknowledge a weakness, but you emphasise how you have overcome it. For me, my most serious dislike is public speaking. I’ve done a lot to work with this issue – it’s partly to do with a lifelong case of introvertism and a tendency to be softly-spoken – and am now able to do, and to enjoy, user education presentations as part of my current role as Assistant Librarian. I am also building up my experience of presenting papers at academic and library conferences. My first step in overcoming this problem was to become a tour guide at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow; it was a great way to combine my love of research, when it came to creating my tour, with my determination to overcome my fear of public speaking. The result is that while I am still nervous, and while I feel that I need some formal training (or at least some tips), I know that I can get up and give a good presentation.
3) Do you remember the last time you felt that feeling of deep satisfaction after creating, building, completing something? What was it about?
Yes. Most recently, I worked hard in the few weeks leading up to Christmas to produce a thorough book review of Medieval Clothing and Textiles, vol. 8, general editors Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2011), for the Medieval Dress and Textiles Society (MEDATS). It was a great book, and so it was hard to keep my comments to a minimum. My completing the review was a sign that my Christmas holidays had truly begun. The most work that I have put into any paper that I have written, however, is that which I wrote about the Pre-Raphaelites as library users and medieval material culture geeks. I spent almost two years on that piece of work, and I’m sure that I could make it into a monograph or PhD thesis, time and finance permitting. That dream aside, when I wrote the final word of my final draft of two years work, I was so thrilled and proud of what I had done. Now I just need to find my research baby a good home.
4) What skills do you need to do the things you like?
In the coming year, I’ll be working on the various skills that I need to work more with rare books. Fortunately, there is a wonderful rare book in the Sotheby’s Institute of Art Library which I will be working with in the New Year, both as an item in the library collection to be catalogued and stored correctly and as a book whose provenance shows every sign of a quite interesting past. My PPDP for the CILIP Chartership program includes my goal of developing skills specific to rare book librarianship, so the book in question (currently remaining anonymous as part of my plans!) will give me the opportunity to have practical experience of rare book librarianship and curation.
Also in 2013, I need to develop my web design and presentation skills (in the latter case, I refer to developing skills that will enhance the visual impact of presentation and displays, in my librarianship and in my research). I have done a lot of work on the basics of creating our current Library website, but with further training as mentioned above, I can develop our user education resources and increase the use of our online journals and databases.
My final plan for next year is to improve my writing and researching skills, partly through adding to my publications portfolio, and partly through changing the way in which I use my blog, to put more emphasis on my librarianship and research careers. Of course, writing is another way of networking, so I’ll be looking at using social media and networking sites, as discussed in earlier CPD23 Things, to strengthen my various networks.
In order to meet these three targets, I must begin by evaluating what works and what does not work, what is a priority and what can be put aside until later in the year. The official CPD23 Thing 21 post reminds us that:
[i]t is important to remember that we are changing all the time: our interests change, our skills develop, we discover new things we like which we didn’t even know existed. Make sure that you keep up-to-date with yourself, and if you are unhappy in your current situation, acknowledge what has changed and take action.
The three plans outlined above, as well as the intended completion and submission of my Chartership portfolio, are some of the ways in which I am acknowledging the changes in me and my job, my professions. They are some of the ways in which I will take action. It seems that one of the best ways in which I can take action is to look at my CV. Does it reflect my achievements and expertise? Does it show how much I love librarianship and research, and all that I strive to do out of that love? It has been a long time since I needed to look at it, but to better assess what I can contribute to my current roles as librarian and researcher, I would do well to create the CV Database as recommended in the official CPD23 Thing 21 post, to better identify the gaps and the strengths in my experience, my knowledge in training, again as a librarian, a researcher, and a well-rounded and well-educated individual.CPD23 Thing 21 invited us to complete four tasks. The first was to answer the questions that I have highlighted in bold above. The second is to “make your own list of activities and interests: from watching the telly to something more work-related. Tell us what you’ve found about yourself: achievements/activities you had forgotten about, things you love to do, what they mean, how you could use them in your working life.” I’m not going to do this here, as I plan instead to use it to help me create content for my website which is currently in the works. When I work on creating my CV database (the third task), I will use it to that same end, to showcase my experience, knowledge and skills on my website. The fourth task asks that we share interview tips. I already mentioned above how, if you are asked a question about your weaknesses, you should turn it around to show how you recognised those weaknesses and dealt with them. My second tip is not to forget to show that you have a personality in addition to your librarianship skills; when I was interviewed for my current role, the discussion somehow turned to the fact that the square in which we are based was used for filming by the BBC in their 2008 adapation of Sense and Sensibility. I was rendered so giddy by this that I temporarily forgot that I was in a formal interview and asked if the staff ever got the opportunity to be extras. Afterwards, I was concerned at this lapse in concentration, but clearly it didn’t damage my chances. It very possibly increased them, because in my own experience of interviewing potential staff, we have looked for the right combination of character and experience. A demonstratively interested and imaginative personality can add a lot to the services that a library has to offer.
I couldn’t not be a librarian; I always stick my nose into other people’s research and make recommendations about further reading and resources. I couldn’t not be a researcher; I keep finding more ideas about which I need to know more. These careers are part of my personality; I think it’s important to show that this is the case in my CV, in everyday life, in interviews. Be Barbara Gordon and Batgirl, not Barbara Gordon or Batgirl.