Report on NLPN Summer Event

I attended the recent Manchester New Library Professional Network (NLPN) Summer Event held in July in Manchester. This was my first NLPN event and I was thrilled to finally be able to make one! In their usual innovative fashion, NLPN shook up the traditional conference format. The event featured two speakers and then presentations from members on topics of their own choice. The aim was to give members an outlet to get presentation experience and I think this idea was very well received.

The theme for the day was employability and interviews. The first speaker was David Stewart, the NHS Director of Health Libraries North West. He was fantastic, down to earth, current and incredibly funny (I particularly remember his impression of a “vellum stroker” librarian and demonstration of appropriate men’s tie length….). He also brought a wealth of experience as a senior figure in librarianship who’d done loads of interviews and shortlisting/interviewing. Some points that stood out from his talk were:

  • Think about yourself and your career. What kind of job or sector are interested in? Are you mobile? Are you ambitious? That last one really got me thinking!
  • Register to do CILIP Chartership, even if you’re not planning to start straight away, as this can make an impact on an employer.
  • Each application must be crafted, yes crafted, from the person specification. If you don’t meet all the criteria, say how this job will give you that experience.
  • When it comes to interviews, it’s all about planning and preparation. Visit the organisation before, both to show your face and to find out where you’re actually going to avoid getting flustered and lost on the day. Be early in case another candidate doesn’t show. Proper preparation means you arrive as confident and calm as possible.
  • The loo’s, yes the loo’s are an important part of the interview. It’s your own handy dressing room!
  • We brainstormed an extensive “interview pack” list of what to bring to your interview including umbrella, charged phone, make-up, interview letter, originals and copies of documents like qualifications and IDs…
  • Be yourself (and friendly and interested) in non-interview scenarios such as tours. Watch out for using “We” when you mean “I”. When asked if you’ve got any questions, your backup one should be to ask about professional development opportunities.

Next were the three presentations from NLPN members. Evelyn Webster, a law librarian at Pinsent Masons LLP, talked about the process of moving her library. The moving process seemed to offer many possibilities (chance to weed stock, planning/customising/optimising new space) but also some challenges (unpacking when you didn’t pack yourself, figuring out where things will go when you’re moving to smaller space). Next was Helen Gaffney and Nicola Grayson, from University of Manchester, who talked about building a new learning development service. This was a really interesting look at how librarians are making a positive impact on students by training them up on various learning essentials. Finally Emily Wheeler, a library student, gave an inspiring talk on how she set up a Library Society at Sheffield University. Not only was this an experience that benefitted the university and raised the profile of libraries amongst students, it also gave Emily evidence of soft skills employers are after such as teamwork and project management. A highlight of her experience was protesting against library closures in Sheffield and getting the Students’ Union to approve a policy statement supporting libraries.

The final presentation was from Neil Donohue, Learning and Teaching Services Manager at Leicester University, on the interview presentation. Having never done a formal interview presentation, this was a new one for me (I’ve done a short presentation on a book to children as part of an interview before). His talk was structured around the different questions you might be given to present about, keeping in mind that the panel is looking beyond your answer to what skills and attributes you’ll bring to the job:

  • Action Question- “If appointed what would you do in the 1st, 3rd, 6th and 12th months to engage more students and staff in the library?” Key things to include were your vision, realism and a plan.
  • Scenario Question- “Feedback from a lecturer: ‘The library has nothing to offer my students’. What strategies and types of information would you use to change this attitude?” Key points were advocacy, knowledge and practical examples.
  • Knowledge Question- “Do students need libraries in the digital age?” Key points were showing knowledge, understanding and advocacy.

Neil also talked about practical aspects of presenting like deciding your key messages, less is more when it comes to slides, practice out loud in front of someone, and ask to see the room in advance. Also before you spend 90 hours on your slides, check what the weighting is and balance your prep for interview, presentation, etc accordingly.

Getting out on a very wet Saturday morning for this was definitely worth it and I even got to see all the costumed Comic Con folks! Manchester Comic Con was the same day, kudos to the Gandalf I saw.

Check out the excellent Storify of the day here http://manchesternlpn.wordpress.com/

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