Running: More Than Just a Marathon…

1 Jun

This is a departure from library stuff but it’s important to me and until I get my running and mountains blog properly set up I’m writing it here.

On Sunday I ran my first marathon. In 04:48:42. I did the Rock n Roll Liverpool Marathon (having previously done the half marathon in 2014). I wasn’t planning on running for charity however people kept asking me where they could donate when I said ‘I’m running a marathon’. So I thought I’d raise some money for my efforts.

Thanks to all who have donated, £386 has been raised which is more than I ever imagined on my fundraising page.

The Brain & Spine Foundation

My chosen charity was the Brain and Spine Foundation.  It took a lot of careful consideration to pick my charity. I felt like the Brain and Spine Foundation were the best fit, the most meaningful choice. I don’t usually talk about what happened, so this marathon fundraising has become my outlet for reflection on a part of the past that will forever be with me.

My Broken Brain

In 2003 I had a massive brain hemorrhage. A stroke. It was caused by an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation), which is a vascular problem in the brain. A tangle of weak blood vessels. Mine burst, which was the first I knew about it, leaving me with paralysis on the right side of the body.  I came home from school as usual, went to bed with a headache, and woke up on the floor unable to move or talk. Thankfully I made a full recovery after a couple of months in hospital. After some radiation and years of follow up tests I now don’t even have to visit the hospital for check ups. I’m lucky that I can run when there was a time when I needed nurses to roll me over in bed and a hoist to move me from my bed to a wheelchair.  I always remember these horrible moments when I moan about not wanting to go for a run. It’s hard to forget.


Ready to run in my Brain and Spine Foundation vest

The Marathon

I wanted to run Liverpool because it is my home city and my favourite city. Other marathons may be at a better time of year, or flatter, but I wouldn’t hold as much love for the course (I’m thinking of you boring boring Manchester). My training hadn’t gone entirely to plan although I’ve covered a lot more miles so far this year than ever before thanks to my amazing running club. I encountered terrible hip pain on my planned longest run which meant I had to cut it short to 14 mile instead of 20 miles.

I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be on race day, although the heat was a concern as I am not a fan of hot weather. I don’t even like sitting out in the sun nevermind running in it.  I told myself I just wanted to get round but secretly I think I was hoping to be under 5 hours, closer to 4:30 if luck was on my side. I set off and felt great. The first 10 miles flew by, and thanks to living in a very hilly part of the country, I didn’t notice the hills on the first part of the route.  Reaching Goodison Park was a highlight and of course I had to stop for a quick selfie.


I can’t believe I ran all the way to Goodison Park

It all started to go wrong at 13 miles when I felt sharp pain in my left shin. I knew it was probably more than the usual aches and pains of a long run. I carried on running, telling myself I would do the second half with regular walk breaks and strech stops. Jeremy suprised me at mile 19 which was a boost. I carried on at decent pace until mile 22. Then I heard a charity cheering point woman say ‘ooh she looks like she is in agony’. Yes I was in a lot of pain but plodded. I text my Dad at 23 miles with an update, then my  Dad appeared at mile 25 to get me though the final mile. This was the best thing ever. We walked for a bit and then jogged together to the final stretch. Running down the finish was an emotional experience.


Determination on the finishing straight!

I’m glad I let myself stop for walking breaks when I realised I was going to do myself serious damage if I pushed too hard. I could have cried through the pain for a better time but I love running too much for months out with a more serious injury.  I came out in horrific bruises on both shins straight after the race which I really don’t think is normal or a good thing. So I’m glad I chose to listen to the sensible voice within and go easy. There will be more marathons!

IMG_3856 2.JPG

Very happy to have finished.


*anyone feeling charitable can donate on Justgiving or text LBSF99 £2 to 70070 although I understand we all have our charities to support and there’s people to sponsor*


Chartership: Excuses, Excuses…

3 May

A long overdue blog post about my failed attempts at Chatership. Or a list of excuses about why I still haven’t managed to do my Chatership, two years on from giving CILIP my 50 quid registration fee.

  1. It’s really really hard to focus on Chartership when you don’t have job stability. When I registered for Chatership, full of hope and good intentions, I was bouncing from one short contract to the next. For me this meant the ongoing stress of job hunting, just in case I didn’t get a new contract. Did I focus on keeping my CV up to date and writing job applications or did I spend time writing up my Chatership? I prioritised job hunting and didn’t have the energy for Chatership as well.
  2. If you move jobs then evidence becomes out of date. I have a folder on my computer called Chatership, and it is full of evidence collected during my last job. However it all seems a bit useless now as I’m doing something very different. If I was to complete the PKSB for my current job I would pick very different sections to focus on, for example a lot of my evidence is for Records Management & Archiving.
  3. For Chartership you need to reflect on organisational context which is hard if you move jobs a lot.  It takes time to get to grips with a new job, and an organisation. Perhaps the reflective aspect of Chartership would be useful for starting a new job in a new organisation though, as it could provide a neat framework for refelecting on your organisational context.
  4. A lot of employers don’t care meaning it is harder to find the time to do it. In my last job I managed to get it made part of my appraisal objectives but then I left.  If I had stayed a little bit longer, I probably would have got it done by now!
  5. Sometimes I worry that maybe I’m just not that committed to focusing on Chartership incase I can’t get another library job. But then I worry that if I don’t put the effort into Chatership I definitely won’t get another library job.

Looking back on that list, it definitely reads like a list of rubbish excuses. I’ve got until October in my current job, so although I am reluctant to start it all over again from the begining, I am going to try vary hard to just get it all done before my job ends.

Reflecting on Meeting the Reading List Challenge 2016

12 Apr

I’ve been inspired to try a new style for writing up my latest library conference experience by my colleague Jess Haigh and her brilliant LILAC write up. So credit for the more structured format for this reflective piece goes to Jess!

The Event

I attended Meeting the Reading List Challenge at Loughborough University, April 5th-6th 2016.   I presented at the event, alongside Alison Sharman, about the strategies for staff engagement with reading lists at the University of Huddersfield.  Part of the presentation was specifically focused on my current project based role at the University, which is all about Business School reading lists.  As my full time job is all about reading lists, I was particularly excited about this event as an opportunity to share my own experiences and see if I could find inspiration from others to try new things.

The event programme is available on the conference website  and my presentation is on the University of Huddersfield Repository.

Day One

Key Themes

  • Reading List versus Resource List – What do we call them?
  • Intellectual Property and Open Data
  • Staff and Student Engagement

What was the best thing I learned? There were lots of brilliant ideas shared about getting staff and students engaged with reading lists. My talk on staff engagement was complemented by the following presentations which also dealt largely with issues of staff engagement:

  • If at first you don’t succeed… by Sarah Rayner and Olivia Walsby (University of Manchester)
  • Co-ordinating complexity by Sara Hafeez (University of Westminster)

Both these presentations were very reassuring. I don’t feel alone in my struggles! Manchester focused on sharing their failings which was refreshingly honest and very useful. Sara from Westminster had some great stories to tell about trying to co-ordinate reading lists in her organisation.  The presentations left me feeling inspired, with new ideas of things to try out.

What was the most though provoking idea? Open data proved to be an interesting discussion.  We were asked to think about how reading list data could be useful for the library, the academic faculty, and the institutionAlso about how useful reading list data from other institutions could be and what barriers there are for sharing this? It is this second part that led to discussions about the intellectual property surround reading lists came into this debate. If we start to share reading list content as open data then does it cause intellectual property problems and issues for universities in a competitive educational market?

What do I want to learn more about? I’m going to learn more about open data because Martin Hamilton’s talk highlighted that I don’t know very much about this at all.

Day Two

Key Themes

  • Top down policy v academic driven processes
  • Reading list best practice
  • Engagement again!

What was the best thing I learned? I surprised myself by enjoying the two vendor presentations. A lot of people left in the break before these, and I was tempted, as we have our own in-house system. I’m glad I stayed as it was very interesting to see what commercial systems are currently on offer and learn about their features.

What was the most inspirational idea? The turning your reading list into a conversation workshop from Sheffield Hallam. We did a group activity to build an engaging and interactive reading list with the help of big paper, pens, glue and lots of bits of paper with example reading list items on. Could this be used to teach academics about best practice for creating reading lists? It might work at a department away day for example. To make it effective I’d need to team up with someone with expertise in teaching to make sure pedagogical issues could be properly included.

What do I want to learn more about? Library systems. I found all the discussions surrounding the technical aspects of library systems interesting and the processes involved in the procurement of a new system.  The presentation from Kingston about being a development partner with Leganto was fascinating.  I can see myself enjoying working in this area of librarianship so I’m going to start building my knowledge of this area.


Teaching – Thoughts Provoked by #hudteachmeet

16 Mar

After attending my first TeachMeet in Huddersfield I started reflecting on my own experiences of teaching. I wasn’t initially going to attend the TeachMeet because I thought ‘well I don’t really teach’ but I was talked around at the last minute!

Teaching is not my favourite part of being a librarian. It’s not why I decided to become a librarian. So far it hasn’t been a core part of past job descriptions, working in roles where doing the research for people is still the focus. However I now work in a university, so teaching is naturally a bigger part of the job.  I enjoy one to ones but delivering group training or teaching sessions can prove more stressful.  I actually love speaking in front of an audience. My training in improvisation means I’m good at thinking on my feet so I don’t get nervous or panic about speaking to a group. Presentations I’m fine with however teaching is more than that. I am not very good at some of the things that come with running formal training sessions, for example managing a group of people with different levels or experience, coordinating activities and facilitating interaction.

A lot of librarians I speak to have a surprising amount of prior teaching experience. I have some prior teaching experience which I do not look back on with fond memories:

  • As a drama student I had to do some teaching as part of a Theatre in the Community module.  One assessment involved facilitating a drama workshop to a group adult male prisoners in a prison. Going to the prison was fun however I wouldn’t have survived the workshop without my classmates. The other assessment was to design and deliver a drama workshop to the rest of my class, which went spectacularly wrong on the day. I got my lowest marks for this module.
  • I once thought applying for the TeachFirst graduate scheme was a good idea. At the assessment centre I realised as soon as I arrived that I definitely did not want to be a teacher.  I probably had the worst, most ill thought out lesson planned they had ever seen and crumbled in front of a group of interviewers pretending to be disruptive teenagers in a classroom.

I’m starting to enjoy delivering group training more as time goes on. Experience helps build confidence and positive feedback from attendees helps.  I recently delivered a workshop which didn’t go to plan so I’ll need to reflect on that experience for next time. Being introduced to the lesson plan template used by the subject librarians here has been a great help too.

At least if I can get a group of prisoners to play ‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf’ then I know I can definitely deliver a training workshop to a room of lecturers. Although teaching those who teach for a living can be quite a daunting prospect in itself.

Long Time No See

14 Feb

This blog is being ressurected.  It has been a quiet couple of years on the blogging front. I haven’t had much to say and I’ve been busy focusing on things other than being a librarian, like running. Although I have been writing the odd thing elsewhere for SLA Europe and NLPN.

So why bring it back now?

I’m going to attempt one last go at Chartership whilst I’ve got a job so need somewhere to document my progress.  This blog seems to be as good a place as any. Hopefully having a blog will mean I get some reflective writing done and make it easier to keep track of things.

I’ll write more about my previous failed Chartership journies in a future blog post. There are references to getting Chatership done in previous posts on this blog so my intentions have been around for years but progress has been minimal.


Apply for an SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award and do it NOW!

7 Jan

Are you a library or information professional in the first 5 years post qualification? Do you want to go to a library conference in Vancouver?  Interested in meeting library and information people from all over the world?  If YES then carry on reading and then apply for this amazing opportunity.

Applications are open for the 2014 SLA Europe Early Career Conference Awards (ECCAs). This year there are three awards, sponsored by Leadership & Management, Legal and Academic Division. The conference is an amazing experience. You’ll get fabulous mentors from your chosen division and SLA Europe to help with getting the most out of the experience. It is an opportunity to meet great people and build a fantastic network to last a career lifetime.


In short you should apply because:

  • I find it quite hard to put into words how brilliant the entire experience was for me so apply and find out for yourself.
  • It is one of the best opportunities for professional development you are going to find, no matter what you are interested in. I’d say last year we were a diverse bunch of ECCAs with different professional backgrounds and interests however each of us found the experience extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
  • You will meet many, many interesting, exciting and inspiring people. People from a very diverse range of organisations and backgrounds too. So whatever you find interesting, chances are you’ll find someone to talk about it with.
  • In addition to the conference-y bit the social side of the event is great.  There is a party for everyone at an SLA conference. It will most definitely be lots of fun.
  • You might as well apply because if you don’t try you won’t get it. And as the old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed try again. I was successful on my third year of application. Learn from past applications and just keep trying.
  • Also the conference comes with AMAZING ribbons on the badges as illustrated above (and until UK conferences catch on to the idea your going to need to apply for an ECCA to get some!).

So go on, apply now.  As Nike say, just do it.  Here’s the link again to tempt you

SLA 2013 Reflections: The People

1 Sep

My aim for SLA2013 was to make the most of every opportunity for networking. The main reason I wanted to attend an SLA conference was for the opportunity to meet people.  People have always been the highlight of professional events that I’ve attended before.  The times for networking are usually my favourite times at any conference. It is a great opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances, and former colleagues, as well as a chance to meet many new people. Armed with a stack of business cards and my best smile I tried my best to throw myself into the conference.

I’m not afraid of meeting new people and usually thrive at networking events. However I’ll admit that I went to bed on the first night feeling deflated and anxious that I wasn’t the right person to be at the conference. A classic case of letting my own confidence levels take a hit because of the overwhelming scale of the task.  The first day was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, which weren’t helped by jetlag. I spent most of the Saturday exploring San Diego on my own before attending a first timer reception, followed by the Business and Finance Awards reception.  The first day on your own in a new city is always a tough one. Thankfully the first timer reception was a great icebreaker and I met a number of people who would become great conference friends. The Business and Finance Division event was great because it was nice to be recognised by the division and the number of people congratulating me was overwhelming.  Everyone was wonderful however I felt a little lost at sea, unsure how best to introduce myself to people and found it hard to work out what best to talk about.  As a result I went to bed that night feeling worried about being cut out for surviving the conference. Ultimately though I need not have worried because everyone at the conference was so very friendly, welcoming and ready for conversation.

The noticeable thing about the SLA conference was how willing people were to engage with everyone regardless of background or level of experience.  At SLA people are equal.  People are valued. I can’t recall any occasion at the conference where I felt inferior or less worthy of my place in the conversation.  What I do have is many memories of occasions where people at the top were happy to engage with newcomers like myself.  Hierarchy is not a driving force.  SLA CEO Janice Lachance sat at my table during a lunch break. SLA Europe board members invited me to join drinks in the bar each night.

One of the most important set of relationships I developed during the conference was with my fellow ECCA winners.  We helped each other navigate the vast conference experience. We bonded over food, drinks and baseball games.  We shared new experiences and reflected on our different pasts. I learnt with them. I learnt from them. I’m still learning from them.  Reading the blog posts written by fellow ECCA winners continues to bring new perspectives and challenge my viewpoints on the conference and the profession.

SLA 2013 Reflections: The Conference

16 Jul

The first in my series of write ups of SLA 2013 focuses my experiences of the overall conference programme; the sessions, and events attended.

In the weeks leading up to the conference I was able to use an online conference planner to find out what sessions and events were planned.  My first observation was the volume of sessions and the comparatively small space of time they were crammed into. Every day of the programme offered a lot of choice, everything from breakfast business meetings to panel sessions and interactive workshops. There were even some of those old school style speaker and a PowerPoint type things.  Navigating my way through all of the choices seemed like a challenge at first however the online planner was great as I was able to build my own personal schedule for the event.  Though of course I didn’t really stick to that at all choosing instead to pick sessions as I went along. Recommendations from others and reading tweets during the event were really useful in making these decisions.


There were huge conference sessions…

I went to some amazing sessions and some rubbish sessions, as is the way with conferences.  You never know what it will actually be and how good the speaker will be until you get started.  As a result I attended a lot of sessions but not a lot of complete sessions.  At US conferences it is acceptable to switch between sessions at any time.  I found myself doing this a lot, partly because I could and partly because too many potentially interesting things were happening at once.  Session hopping has downsides though.  It was great to be able to leave sessions that weren’t overly interesting or living up to expectations but arriving part way through a session can make it hard to understand exactly what is going on. I found there was a lack of focus in the room, which was perhaps due to a flow of people coming and going.  Session switching is definitely an interesting and useful concept though, especially when you are in a session that you don’t think you are getting anything out of.

There were small sessions too

There were smaller sessions too!

My favourite sessions were:

Alongside the conference sessions was a varied and busy programme of social and networking events. These were often hosted by specific divisions however were generally open for anyone to attend.  For me these events were the best part of the conference. As presentation and panel sessions can often be very specific it is sometimes hard to feel properly engaged but networking events are great opportunities for learning and building contacts. I took the advice of my mentor Neil to heart and attend as many as possible.  One evening I attended 5 different social events, namely The Canadian Reception, Solo Librarians Open House, International Reception, Legal Division event and the IT Dance Party.  At all of these events I was able to engage with people, discuss various topical issues and build up a network of contacts.  Even the IT Dance Party provided opportunity to get to know people; it was especially good for getting to know people in more social context.  I’ll write more about this aspect of the conference in Part 2: People.

I’m not going to write about the exhibition hall as I didn’t feel I had much to talk to any vendors about.  I did enjoy the wide range of vendors and absorbed quite a lot of awareness about various organisations and services though which could be useful in the future.

There is so much more that I could write about however for now that is the broad overview of my reflections concerning the actual conference itself.

SLA 2013 Reflections: Where to Begin?

15 Jul

In June 2013 I was lucky enough to travel to San Diego to attend the 2013 Annual Special Libraries Association conference as an Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) winner. The experience was truly epic in every sense of the word; an 11 hour flight, 18 hour days, thousands of people, over 200 events and a conference centre stretching across more than 8 street blocks. Everything about the experience was massive and overwhelming but absolutely amazing.


Now that I’ve been back for a month (or so) I’ve have had time to digest it all and distil the experience down. I’m writing up by splitting my reflective writing into four parts;

I’ve also been busy writing up my reflections for various other blogs and journals.  A conference report can be found in the July edition of the CLSIG Journal. I’ve written a piece for the SLA Europe Blog so look out for that in the future, as well as a report for the Business and Finance Division Bulletin.

The challenge is trying to work out what to write and what to leave out.  There is so much I could say, so much I’d love to capture in writing so I don’t forget it all in the future.  The experience of being an ECCA and attending a conference of this scale is so mind boggling and overwhelming, so it’s hard to condense my thoughts down into neat reflections.

Conference Season has Landed

31 May

The arrival of the summer season might not mean guaranteed sunshine, picnics and beer gardens for the British librarian but it does mean conference time. Summer tends to be packed with conferences of all shapes and sizes .  Summer means finding a way to attend conferences without bankrupting myself. This year I’ve been really lucky as I’ve bagged myself sponsored places at two of the big summer library conferences; SLA2013 in June and CILIP’s Umbrella conference in July.

I gained my place at this years SLA conference by applying for the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award.  I had no expectation of winning this one because I’ve applied a couple of times before with no joy, but I don’t give up on dreams so poured a lot of energy into making this years application the best one yet.  Next week I will be on the other side of the world with a lot of amazing information people which is slightly terrifying but very exciting.  I’ve known about the trip for a couple of months now but I don’t think it has sunk in as reality yet even though I’ve worked through the online conference planner and made plans for meetings with mentors and others whilst there.

My funded place at Umbrella has come about thanks to my involvement in the Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group (CLSIG), which is a CILIP special interest group.  Last year I started attending committee meetings to become more involved in a professional body, and earlier this year I was offered opportunity to take on the role of secretary.  My fellow committee members were kind enough to select me to attend the conference on behalf of the group, in return for representing and promoting CLSIG at the event.

Sponsored places are the only way I can attend conferences because I have no money and my employer isn’t going to send me to any events because I don’t really work in a library anymore. So I’m extremely thankful such opportunities exist and even more thankful that this year I’ve been given more than one.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; APPLY FOR EVERYTHING!