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November 21, 2012 / bethan

Professional organisations for fun and profit

I’ve been over at MMU again today, this time talking to the MA Library and Information Management students about the value of professional organisations.

I always enjoy talking to new professionals. It leaves me feeling very energised, and optimistic about the future of the profession! As well as the slides above, I did 10 minutes on Voices for the Library, as they were unable to send a current member as rep to MMU this year.

The group came up with some really interesting questions about professional organisations and campaigning which raised some good points I haven’t covered, so I’ll summarise some of the questions and my responses.

Campaigning: why can’t people employed by local authorities campaign against them? Does this apply to all jobs?

If you work for a local authority, it’s likely to be in your contract or conditions of employment that you’re not allowed to undertake any actions that might be a conflict of interest with your employers, or bring your employer into disrepute. Political campaigning might also be prohibited. Campaigning and speaking out publicly against cuts can be considered to be doing all of those, and you may be threatened with dismissal or disciplinary proceedings. Talk to an employment lawyer or your union if you’re worried about your contract and what you can and can’t do.

Can non library/info professionals help out with VftL and campaigning?

Absolutely! Contact Voices for the Library or your local campaign group to ask how you can help speak up for libraries.

Professional organisations:

How do you find the time to be involved with all these things?

You need to find your personal balance. Some people can commit to working 10,12,14-hour days and thrive on it, producing excellent work! Others need more time for themselves, and can only commit short periods of time to professional involvement. It all depends on your circumstances and capabilities, and there’s no shame in committing less time than someone else is.

You may only find out your personal limits when you over-commit. That’s ok, too – figure out what you can and can’t do, and try to bring your life back into balance. Try and meet your existing commitments if you can, but maybe don’t take on any new ones.

See if your employer will allow you some work time for CPD or professional involvement. If you’re developing yourself as a professional, you’re going to be a better employee, which benefits them. It’s also a good advertisement for the to have their employees professionally active and involved, getting the organisation known as someone who employs good staff.

Make the most of the time you do have. If you can only manage half an hour a week, that’s fine – just make sure that you use that half an hour to its best advantage. What’ the most helpful, most impactful thing you can do with that time?

If I’m a member of an organisation, should I add it to my CV? How will that benefit me?

Yes! Being a member of a professional organisation tells the person looking at your CV that you’re committed to the profession – that you’ve committed at least some money to it, and probably time and effort, too. Professional memberships can show that you have professional awareness, and can help you stand out against people with similar experience and qualifications.

While being a member looks good on your CV, being an active member looks even better! Committee positions, professional qualifications, publications in professional literature – they all help showcase your talents, skills, and commitment to the profession.

Some jobs require CILIP Chartership – for example, The University of Teesside require all new library staff to be either Chartered Members of CILIP, or willing to work towards Chartership within a certain amount of time.

Do you know anyone who’s got a job through networking?

Yes, several – and probably many more I don’t know about! Networking isn’t just about promoting yourself – it’s about making genuine connections with people. Once they know who you are and what you can do, they”re more likely to come to you and ask you to do things.

One of my colleagues, Lisa Jeskins, is about to go freelance as a trainer, and most of her booking have come from people she’s worked with on committees  met at events, presented to – people who know her as a person and recognise her talents.

The key to good networking is professional generosity. Help others out of a genuine desire to help, not self-interest, and you’ll find that you’ll make friends who will be eager to help you in return.

The profession: do you think librarians need to come through a professional qualification, as opposed to work-place learning and development?

A very interesting question. The CILIP Future Skills Project Board has touched on this recently in the Qualifications review, and I think it’s an important issue for the profession.

I think it’s very important that the profession be open to entrants through work or study, and shouldn’t exclude those who (for whatever reason) are unable to undertake a post-graduate qualification. Though I do believe to be a professional librarian, you should undertake some form of professional qualification, be it through formal learning or a professional body. Having a qualified body of workers helps to advocate the value of the profession.

Library courses can be seen as hot-houses – they will enable you to understand and obtain the range of skills and knowledge that you need to be a library/information/knowledge professional within a short space of time. While they can’t teach you everything, they should equip you to be a reflective, questioning practitioner, and help teach you how to learn, and plan and manage your own further development.

I do think it’s possible to be just as good a professional practitioner without the formal post-grad qualification, but I think you’ll have to work harder to manage your own development, and to create opportunities and time to develop yourself. Your professional organisations are there to help you do that.

Remember that library school isn’t just about what you learn in the lecture theatre. It’s also about starting to make connections and build up your network. Your lecturers are a set of people who are there just to help you develop, so make the most of them! And your classmates are your future professional colleagues – connections you make now may still be important to you after many years.



Leave a Comment
  1. alison-cullingford / Nov 22 2012 09:13

    Reblogged this on Collections in a Cold Climate and commented:
    Great answers to frequently asked questions e.g. making time for professional development and the value of networking


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