Wednesday, 7 July 2010

New Professionals Conference 2010

It looks like everyone's writing about the New Professionals Conference held on Monday, but I'm going to write about it anyway, because it was a really good experience for me, and it was my first proper conference (I did go to the Libraries@Cambridge Open Day when I was a trainee, but that was exclusively for librarians in Cambridge, so I don't know if that counts). Handily, it was held in Sheffield, so to say I didn't have far to travel is an understatement. The event was held in the same building where I attended many of my lectures, and when Sheila Corrall stood up to give the opening presentation I did feel as though I had been transported back in time a few months - albeit surrounded by smart, alert librarians as opposed to sleepy students playing with their phones. The sense of déjà vu did disappear almost immediately, thankfully.

I was really impressed with Eleni Zazani's presentation on bridging the gap between employability and employment, and her bravery in moving from Greece to London to develop her career. I found the three months I spent in St Petersburg teaching English and trying to make my tentative Russian understandable to be difficult enough, so I have the utmost respect for anyone changing countries or tackling any sort of language barrier. I could also relate to Bronagh McCrudden's presentation on unpaid work in the library and information profession, Would You Work For Free? (complete with brilliant pictures). I have my own (rather strong) opinions on volunteer work, but her presentation was really positive and inspiring.

Laura Woods' presentation on Taking Charge of Your Continuing Professional Development was a timely reminder of how important CPD is, especially for us new professionals. So far I've always been encouraged to go on courses and learn new skills - my graduate traineeship was really excellent for this, and the course at Sheffield really encourages it too. Once I get my first professional post, though, there's no guarantee my employer will be so encouraging, so it's important I take responsibility for my own CPD.

I also enjoyed Bethan Ruddock's talk on Proving the Value of Peer Networks. I'm taking steps to extend my own peer network at the moment, by starting this blog and engaging with people on Twitter, and the presentation really made me realise how important this is.

The Broadening Your Skills presentation by Ann Donovan and Rachel Edwards was really interesting for me, as most of my experience has been gained in academic libraries, so it was fascinating to get an impression of the different skills you develop in a public library setting. Laura Cracknell and Lindsay Robinson's presentation on Traditional Skills in a Changing World made me feel very relieved that I did so much cataloguing during my graduate traineeship.

All of the presentations were excellent but I think my favourite was the very last one - Awen Clement's talk on Unleashing Your Professional Edge. The way she spoke about the different skills she gained from even non-library related jobs was something that made a lot of sense to me, as I've had similar thoughts about jobs I've done in the past - jobs as varied as working in a call centre, as an assistant in a stationery store (note stationEry not stationAry), and for my local council, which involved explaining just why we couldn't send somebody out to inspect the unidentified dead animal at the bottom of the caller's garden at 5.45 pm on a Friday afternoon (I was best off out of that one). I didn't realise it at the time but the skills I developed at all of these jobs and more have proved really useful.

The conference ended with a closing address from Biddy Fisher, the outgoing CILIP President, which was really positive and forward looking, and ended the whole thing on a high.

So my first conference was a success, I think, and I hope I can attend more in the future. I'm going to try and make more of an effort to network next time!