David Clover: A Research Librarian does CPD23

my CPD23 blog

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Thing 11: Mentoring

Following on from Thing 10, where I mentioned mentoring for the CILIP CHartership scheme briefly… but first a little about more informal mentoring.

Two early mentors were one of my first bosses and a consultant who we worked with. Sandra was one of my first bosses in my first permanent post, post-qualification. As well as being my manager she acted as a mentor, encouraging me to take on new roles and projects and responding to my desire to do new and interesting things. She took an interest in my career and professional development as well as in my work-related roles. As an example of how these combined, one initiative I put forward was a service quality survey. I’d read of an initiative at the University of Melbourne using SERVQUAL as a basis (this was before the development of LIBQUAL) and expressed an interest in replicating and adapting this for our own organisation. A few months later I was offered a secondment to carry this our, to also develop a service charter (another idea I’d had) and to work on a interdisciplinary research project with one of our academic departments on an information literacy research project (using Delphi research techniques). It was a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and develop a sound basis of experience in two key areas that were at that time emerging in the field internationally, but have been key throughout my career since (service quality and information literacy). The secondment also provided the opportunity to write my first professional article (in New Zealand Libraries) and present at an international conference (the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)) in the US.

The consultant also acted as a mentor in a different way. I’d got to know her through work she did for our organisation, and helped out when she revisited an organisation I had previously carried out a short term contract for. She became someone I could talk to about jobs I was interested in and my future career (not always appropriate topics to discuss with your manager).

In the UK, I was less successful in finding a mentor figure until I embarked on Chartership. In thinking about a mentor I faced two choices about how I approached Chartership. I could have seen it as a bit of a process where all I had to do was tick boxes and do the minimum required (afterall I had lots of professional development and involvement so could have seen this as merely a chance to certify this); or I could make the most of the process to really interrogate myself about my development and future goals. I choose someone who was a Director of Library Services in a university and actively involved in CILIP, and someone I respected at a professional level after hearing her talk at a CPD25 management skills training session. The fact that at the time she wasn’t based in London didn’t worry me as I decided I was prepared to make the effort to travel (and as it was she was often in London and then changed jobs so we often did meet in London). Debby helped me though the Chartership process but as well as that proved to be an able and considered mentor more generally. The mentor relationship is one I especially valued and gained much from.

This relationship in part inspired me to register as a mentor for the CILIP Chartership scheme. I’ve hoped to pass on some at least of the experience I had. More informally I have acted as mentor for a number of new professionals who were graduate trainees or temporary workers at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in their early periods of study, job seeking and early careers. I hope I’ve made a difference for them too. More generally it is something I hope to continue to do both through the chartership scheme and also in my workplace and is something that I intend to discuss at a future management group meeting to explore whether we can do more to develop our staff. And maybe it is time for another mentor for me! Perhaps something to consider as I look towards Fellowship.


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Thing 10 – Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

My pathway into librarianship doesn’t go down the ‘usual’ (if it is in fact usual) UK route where the graduate trainee role remains important. At the Institute of Commonwealth Studies we did employ a graduate trainee each year, and were pleased to host some hard working, intelligent and committed early professionals about to embark on their careers. We made sure we provided a good training environment, working with the other libraries in the School of Advanced Study to devise a training programme, and ensuring the trainee had experience in a number of roles (including cataloguing, which has been a real benefit for a number of recent trainees).

New Zealand didn’t and doesn’t have graduate traineeships, though for many people a similar route of finishing a first degree, then taking on a library assistant role before entering ‘library school’ is the norm. This has changed a little since I qualified with the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand offering a undergraduate degree route (one which I taught on a paper for many years ago). I had a slightly different route with some part time study and library experience consisting of evening work at the university Law Library for a few years (a job I got after working one summer for the Law Faculty) and a year’s project for a development charity organising their own collection of books, files and other resources.

I then attended the only postgraduate course, at Victoria University of Wellington. It was then a postgraduate diploma and a couple of years after we finished the school did replace this with an MA. While there was an opportunity to upgrade, I felt at the time the experience I had gained, which included a couple of research projects, meant that the time and expense of upgrading was of little value. The qualification in itself is only a foundation for further development, preparing you to enter the profession but only of value after you do a lot of on the job, and other learning and development. A year’s training in itself can only do so much, but yet it does provide a foundation for what follows.

I was pleased that my New Zealand qualification was recognised by CILIP (then LA) when I came to the UK, and the qualification and my experience stood me in good steed when applying for jobs here, I have since chartered but was a late convert to Chartership, largely because the scheme that was in pace when I came to the UK required reflection on one’s whole career up to Chartership (and as that included 7 years in NZ post qualification this seemed like an arduous task). My involvement in the CILIP then University College and Research Group especially at a national level (and cajoling from people like Liz Jolly and Jo Webb) led me to start the process of Chartership (with the support of a great mentor, Debby Shorley) and complete this, after which I registered as a mentor. I currently have three mentees, having just taken on a new one after my first candidate has submitted and will hopefully be considered and be granted Chartership in the next round of approvals. I’m also in the process of writing up my revalidation.

From an employer’s perspective and as someone who has often been involved with shortlisting, interviewing and selecting candidates for professional level jobs, it is usually common to ask for a qualification as a required or desireable criteria. We have less regard for where people have studied or the modules undertaken unless directly relevant to the post. Masters degree dissertations and often surprisingly esoteric… and while it is nice to see people pursue their own interests I occasionally wonder whether they have missed an opportunity to better place themselves in a tight job market with a more relevant topic (and please, some other methodology than a survey of library list subscribers!)

In itself we have never required chartership, BUT evidence of continuing professional development and of keeping up to date (especially considering how fast the external and technological environment changes) is essential. Chartership, from my own experience, helps with this and in providing a framework for professional development as opposed to merely job-related training. It really helps I think prepare people for the next job up, rather than just being better in their current job.