Monday, June 18, 2012

Thing 7: 28 years of Real Life networks: was it worth it?

I have spent a lot of time in face to face professional networks. I have never totted up the amount, but just when I was editing the Institute of Information Scientists' monthly newsletter Inform I spent about 20 hours a month, 10 times a year, for 6 years, which I think works out at about one working year of 35 hour weeks. I started doing things on committees in about 1984 (it's so long ago I can't remember). After all that, I would say:
1. It was worth it. I made friends, I got new skills, I gained confidence, I made useful connections, I had fun.
2. It's not worth unless you are having some fun. At least that's the way it works for me. Looking back on it, "Do these people seem like they are having a good time" is one of the criteria for getting involved in a new commitee.
3. You get out what you put in. Trite, but I think it's true. I've made my most meaningful connections when I'm working on something with people, rather than just going along to meetings.
4 If all the people you worked with are retired or dead, nobody remembers you did stuff.

That last point may seem a bit flippant, but I don't feel at all flippant when I look at the first picture, of the UK Online User Group (now UKEIG) Management Committee, in the summer of 1986. I retained the picture's sepia look, as it seemed sort of appropriate. Linda Dorrington, a wonderful information professional, in the centre of the picture, is no longer with us. I hope all the rest are: but I haven't been in touch with Rodney Bennett (back row, left) for years. Christine Baker (middle, far left) is just retiring as administrator of UKeiG; a startled looking Charles Oppenheim, next to her, is retired though still professionally active. The rest of us are still around, but drawing firmly into the retirement zone (I'm far right of the middle row, BTW, and a picture of me this year is here though you will notice I have chosen one where my double chin is hidden by a sprig of cherry blossom).

Of course one good thing is that if you hang around long enough then the people who who you organised events with, and drew up guidelines with, and washed up cups with, and wrangled with for hours about whether or not the association should change its name or not (oh the time I've wasted doing that)- at least some of them get to be gurus and chief librarians, which can be useful.
However, it's not something where you can rest on your laurels. I probably did most for the Institute of Information Scientists (on the right is an article about the silver jubilee of the IIS Scottish Branch in 1995, I was Branch Chair at the time). I got a tremendous amount out of my IIS activities (see 1. above), and got my Fellowship for "Services to the IIS": that is something I am really proud of.

However the IIS is an ex-association, following the merger of the IIS and the Library Association to form CILIP. I still hope I made a contribution to the profession, and the benefits I got out of all this are still there, but the fact remains that the number of people who knew what the IIS (membership circ 3000) was are proportionally few, and dwindling all the time.

In terms of "advice" one point I am coming round to in a rambling sort of way is to say that if one of your goals is "visibility" and "contacts" then you have to work out who you want to be visible to, and who you want to connect with, because you can't do it with everyone (unless you have clones). Before I left my last job at the British Library (Head of the Business Information Service) I was starting to get involved with the local branch of the British Institute of Management. This was very interesting, getting to know a new set of people, and definitely CPD for me as a manager. However, it gave me zero additional visibility with information professionals.

Similarly, I made a decision to get more involved in international groups (as I got to know more people outside the UK) and less involved in UK groups (the third picture is of an IFLA Information Literacy Section committee meeting, which I'm a member of, in Puerto Rico last year). I also started going to more education and research conferences, because now I'm an educator and researcher.

However, from a UK LIS perspective it looks like I dropped out of professional involvement altogether. I've maintained visibility in particular through my blog, and I do go/get invited to UK events still, and can keep in touch via my students and through social media. Still, one of the things I'm pondering through this CPD blog is whether I want to re-engage a bit more face to face with UK LIS groups (and if so, how, as the international/education/research stuff is important to my work now). Realistically, it makes more sense to concentrate on virtual involvement (which is so much more extensive nowadays), but thinking back to my happiest professional-involvement days has made me nostalgic, not a mood I normally cultivate.

So this may be another piece of advice: when you are where you thought you wanted to be - take time to reflect. Are you happy with the networks you are in? Or have you lost the elements that made you want to get involved in face to face professional networks to start with? I hasten to add that, as you can judge from the above picture, the IFLA section meets my criterion of "these people have a good time". However, the problem of international networking is that you don't meet face to face very often.

I thought I would end this by listing the groups where I've been on committees. I put this in, then I took it out, and then I put it back in again. After all, it shows that you can be on numerous committees, and survive.

- Member of the Committee of the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA) Information Literacy section (2009 - )
- Member of the Committee of the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA) Management and Marketing section (2001- 9)
- Executive Committee Member of the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) (1992-1997, Alternate Member 1999-2002 )
- Chair of the European Chapter of the American Society for Information Science (1999-2000)

- Member of the committee of the CILIP Community Services Group Information Literacy Group
(2004-7 )
- Member of the Recruitment and Retention Panel of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (2002-2007)
- Member of the Executive group on Information Literacy of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (2003-4 )

Institute of Information Scientists (IIS)
- Member, IIS Council (1988-1994)
- Chair of IIS Scottish Branch Committee 1994-96 (Committee Member from 1992-1999)
- Chair of the IIS Marketing Coordination Group (1987-1990)
- Editor of the monthly newsletter (Jan 1992- Dec 1997)
- IIS representative to the Scottish Library and Information Council (1994- 2000)
- Member of IIS Publications Committee (1985-1989, 1992-1998 )
- Member of IIS External Affairs Committee (1987- 1996)

- Member of the Society of College, National and University Libraries Working Group on Information Literacy (2004-2010 )
- Treasurer / Committee Member, Business Information Network (1990-1992)
- Member, Library Association Standing Committee on Business Information (1988-1992)
- Member & Officer on the Management Committee of the UK Online User Group (now UKeiG) - in the 80s (from 1985) and early 90s - I chaired the Subcommittee on Education and Training at one point
- Member of the City Information Group committee - 1990-92, as far as I can remember

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thing 6: Online networks

This is rather a long post in which I chunter through some of the networks I belong to, though (apart from Second Life) I wouldn't say I really "network" professionally on any of them. Some of them (e.g. are more like calling cards or CVs.
The online networks which were mentioned in the main CPD23 blog post were Facebook, Linked-In, Librarians as Teachers Network, and CILIP communities, plus the New Professionals network. I belonged to all except the last one already, plus some more. I thought I would review what I was doing with at least some of them.
As I will probably discuss at more length in another post, one issue is that I already know a lot of people professionally, because I've been around a long time and done a lot of things.
Also if I do get another job (and I may stay where I am til I retire, now) then it won't be on the basis of a profile on Linked-In. Therefore some of the motivations I might have had earlier in my career don't apply so much. Also, when your interests change and increase, then the number of online networks you are potentially interested in are really too many to keep track of regularly. I think I need to monitor them better than I do, and I'm pondering where: possibly via the page on my Netvibes site.

Linked In
I really only joined Linked-In because people kept inviting me to connect, and I have mostly use it reactively to respond to invitations. There are 8 Sheila Webbers on Linked In, and I have the most connections. I have joined a few groups, and been in a couple of useful conversations as a result, but there also seem to be a good number of spammy conversations on some of the groups. I just reviewed my profile to change the picture and add a bit more information. I also investigated a few more groups that I thought might have interesting discussions, so I may be a bit more active there.

I keep my profile private to my friends, and almost all my friends are people who I know in the physical world. In fact most of them are also people I've got to know professionally, but then I've been working a long time and that's mostly where I've made friends. I'm not a Facebook addict, but I do mostly check it at least daily at the moment. My groups are a mixture of personal interests (like Thorntons chocolate) and professional groups.
My main "serious" involvement is with the Facebook groups for our cohorts of students in the iSchool at Sheffield University; I try to pick up on questions that I should respond to. I also have contributed a bit to the iSchool's page. A couple of my students have done small scale research studies into use of Facebook recently: I would never make use of Facebook for study mandatory (because some students don't want to use Facebook, and that is their right). However, it seems (from a study one of the third years did this semester) that explaining the potential of Facebook to support (in particular) group work, would be worth doing. I used to use Facebook to publicise events: I need to get back into doing that. There seem to be about 27 "Sheila Webber"s on Facebook.

Librarians as Teachers network
I joined this last year sometime, when Teachmeets started happening. I was aiming to have a Teachmeet at Sheffield, then interest seemed to die down, but I'm planning to revive the idea if the librarians here are interested as well (possibly in the autumn semester now, to get students involved). I hadn't looked at the site for a while. It doesn't seem extremely active, but when there are discussions, they are interesting, so I ought to be monitoring it more thoroughly.

I hadn't looked at CILIP Communities in a while, either, and had forgotten what my password was. My Information Literacy Weblog is one of the "selected" ones, so I'm present in the site, even if I don't actually go there.... I used to be very, very active in one of the forerunners to CILIP (i.e. the Institute of Information Scientists), and then a bit in CILIP itself, but lately I haven't been engaged much at all, as I switched focus to international organisations & academic networks. I've been thinking I might aim to get a bit more involved again, but probably in face to face events, rather than via CILIP Communities.

There are various sites for academics, and is the dominant one at the moment. As with Linked In, I really only caved in and joined it when I kept getting invitations. However, I think that this is the site which I ought to be doing more to maintain, because research is an important aspect to my job. Therefore I have just spent a couple of hours putting in more details of my papers (I still haven't listed all of them) and making a few more contacts: my profile is here

I have joined loads of networking sites e.g. the Technology-Enhanced Professional Learning and the ARVEL SIG nings. These are interesting, but keeping tabs on all of them is difficult. The Centre for Information Literacy Research and Information Literacy in Second Life nings are rather an embarrassment, as they are both ones I started, and which have members, but I have been very poor at updating and monitoring them recently. I need to decide whether I'm going to keep these going, with or without other people's help.

As I already mentioned in a previous post, the online network I'm probably most active in professionally is the network of educators and librarians in Second Life. I'm Sheila Yoshikawa in the transcripts you can see on the Virtual Worlds Educators Roundtable site. Also the Journal Club that Marshall Dozier and I run in Second Life is a sort of online network, I suppose. I find these 3D virtual networks more enjoyable and meaningful than most of the 2D ones, really, and I have made friends and professional contacts through them.

This has become too much of a dull list, so I'll stop. Apart from having done some useful maintenance work at and Linked In, I have decided that I must at least have a favourites folder for my networks, so I can remember which ones I've joined.
Photos by Sheila Webber: Circles in the sand, Great Keppel Island, 2004; Street art on mobile phons, Ljubljana, 2006; Wild rose circle, Sheffield, 2004; Meeting on Worcester University island, Second Life, 2012.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thing 5: Reflective practice

I'm not managing very well to keep up with CPD23 (work! family!) but as I've almost finshed marking my portion of some reflective e-portfolios it seemed like a good time to blog about reflective practice. The first year students have to reflect on how their concept of Information Management has evolved through the module (that I co-teach). In case you are interested the criteria we mark to are: "Narrative clearly expresses how the student’s understanding of Information Management has evolved"; "Statements made in the narrative are substantiated by evidence"; "Presentation and organisation of portfolio"; "Quality, quantity and scope of evidence"; and "Spelling, grammar, syntax and reflective style."

We have a few assignments that are mainly about reflection, and also students always have to hand in a short individual reflection when they do any group work (that is actually a University requirement). Therefore one of the things we have to do is support the students in learning how to write reflectively, which is a hard thing to do (I mean writing reflectively is hard, but teaching it is hard too!).
At the Second Life educator's meeting last week this came up during our discussion, and a number of us agreed that a reaction from some students in the US as well as in the UK is (at least at the first year level) that it is challenging and they don't like it. So we know we have to get people into the habit of reflective writing, and provide guidance, we can't expect people just to do it (though of course there are also some people who do just do it).

My colleague Barbara Sen sets a reflective journal assignment as part of the Management module on our MA Librarianship course. The main post on reflective practice on the CPD23 blog has some excellent advice & readings, but I will add Barbara's powerpoint that she gave at LILAC last year Reflection: improving information literacy practice. Learning from the past, developing for the future, becoming a reflective practitioner and also the article (not open access, I think) Sen, B. (2010) "Reflective writing: a management skill", Library Management, 31 (1/2), 79 - 93.

Anyway all this is not saying much about my own reflective practice, except that since I am supposed to be teaching other people about it, I have to know what it is.  In terms of my teaching, I do always think about what I might have done differently and what I might do better next time. I don't think I ever do anything exactly the same twice running, because you can always see room for improvement: and of course every learner is different too.
It's probably best when I'm teaching collaboratively with someone I trust, because then you chew things over as you go along and get a different perspective, but with encouragement and you share the OMG moments as well. Obviously I aim to get the learners' perspective too. I suppose the most challenging reflective part is balancing these different perspectives with the desired outcomes for the session, class and programme to decide what to do next.

I think what I'm less good at is reflecting on my practice more broadly and worrying away at the bigger issues there. Also, I don't do that much reflective writing, although I do try to note down "improvements for next time" in teaching. One of the reasons I joined in with CPD23 was to do a bit more of this, including some things I might have got complacent about.
Being reflective about not keeping up with CPD23: at the end of the day I'm following CPD23 for my own benefit, and I can't see any point in beating myself up over not having "kept up to date" so far. The online presence and networks parts are issues where I do want to do something (to summarise, I have a lot of online presence, but it needs tidying up a bit). SoI think my "action" will still be to blog and take action when I feel alert and with some time to do something about it, rather than trying to get through the posts as quickly as possible.
The first photo was taken at the Creating Knowledge conference in Copenhagen in 2006 (it's not my handwriting, it must have been a break out group I was in). The second one is me reflected in a sculpture in Kristianstad when I was at another conference. I chose it over some more picturesque reflection pictures, because it had the "different perspective" in it. As you might guess, I just did a quick search through my photographs on "reflect".