23 June 2010

#cilipfuture meeting CB2, Cambridge 22nd June 2010

Filed under: Meetings — Tags: — malwen @ 12:23 pm

These notes as a mix of what was said around the table at the time, what I thought about the issues then and ideas that developed overnight when thinking about what was said. Sorry for not being able to acknowledge by name the sources of the good ideas I heard. I’ll take the blame for anything considered too controversial here.

Great opportunity to talk about issues raised recently as CILIP tries to re-orientate itself for the coming years – or is that what the Conversation is all about?

Group was a good mix representing academic, special, school, government and public libraries plus myself as a non-library information professional.

Discussion covered several issues:

CILIP’s recent survey of members
Much muttering about the range of questions and the way there were presented. Some people were put off responding. Particular dismay at the lack of understanding displayed by asking us to look 10 years ahead in a profession so dominated now by IT developments
Personally, I found most of the questions not only irrelevant to my working life but highly off-putting, since they ignored all aspects of my work, which is 100% information and should be squarely in the area of interest to CILIP. It took me an hour to work through it.

Future of CILIP
Looked at what we thought CILIP ought to be doing for its members, which was mainly standing up for the profession in a range of ways, including

  • putting forward a skilled, informed and authoritative spokesperson to respond in the media when necessary
  • lobbying MPs in support of libraries
  • rejecting job adverts for jobs where the pay is too low

It is accepted that unless/until one can only be a practising information professional by being a member of CILIP, it will always be a weak body. Or looking at it from another direction, until library jobs are only awarded to qualified professionals, the profession as a whole is in significant difficulties.

CILIP’s support for professional development is generally good (although the mechanisms could do with some improvement) whether talking about initial qualifications and Chartership or subsequent CPD.

Discussion would have been very much helped by access to financial information. There was concern that the CILIP HQ was expensive but subsequent postings have explained this is not the case. There is a lack of understanding why CILIP’s training events cost significantly more than equally good ones run by special interest groups. Since I have been and am still involved in organising special interest group training activities, so have some understanding of the expenses involved in setting such things up, I am puzzled why CILIP have to charge a lot more. I am left wondering whether they use these as a way of getting income, i.e. charging to make a good profit. If so, it might be better to charge members significantly less and non-members rather more.

We do not have access to figures to show whether the publications Update and Gazette are paid for by advertising. If they are, then suggestions for change to make them cheaper are less useful. The “pseudo-magazine” format of the online Update is just silly, in my view. I can view it but it doesn’t work for me since I want to be able to skim a clear listing of what’s in the magazine — ideally title, authors and abstract — then only look at articles of immediate interest (rare!). The current formats (both electronic and hard copy) are not that convenient. I tend to ignore the electronic and only read the hard copy if on a train or waiting for a dentist’s appointment.

The CILIP website is am embarrassment. If I can use a data host such as Dialog or STN for complex Boolean searching with adjacency and field searching to target what I need, why do I have to put up with such a simplistic search option when trying to get information from my professional body?
Many information professionals apply their expertise to website design, usability, information architecture and so on – the best principles of all these should be demonstrated by CILIPs site.

Future of the profession

My idea is that people will more and more be wanting information delivered to them quickly and easily. That means full text so there are issues to resolve with publishers and copyright holders.

I think search has to get a great deal smarter. That means lots of information professionals working behind the scenes to make the semantic web happen. Every published scientific paper needs suitable metadata to make search easy. I expect that many more people will be applying their professional expertise in these areas where I have been all my working  life. Standardisation is essential, so everything works across this metadata, databases and full text papers as easily as the way it works now across HTML pages.

There will also be demand for information professionals to provide individual guidance and tuition to people seeking information. The teaching element to the job may well become more important. In the case of school librarians, a teaching qualification may soon be essential to enable them to gain the necessary respect and play their proper part in education.

Very interested to hear the view of a client in an academic library, that the librarian should be expert in copyright (my section manager librarian spends a high percentage of her time on this already), and be able to help him get his work published.

11 October 2009

A career as an Information Professional

Filed under: Uncategorized — malwen @ 2:06 pm

This isn’t a moan. In order to add a contribution to The Library Routes Project at I need to make a blog entry on how I got into the profession and how my career has developed.

My interest in library work goes back to school days. I was “Prefect Librarian”, helping out in the school library (which was small and run by one of the English teachers). I tried to get a Saturday job in the town central library; they’d take me but only with the school’s permission and the head said I was taking too many subjects for exams to spare the time. This was unhelpful as I didn’t spend the time studying so could have been earning.

I picked university subjects without regard to a career choice. When my final year arrived, my mother told me about something new she had read about called “Information science”, and suggested I look into it.

At that time, one entered this new profession via a Masters course at Sheffield University, where a science degree plus two modern foreign languages were required (I could only offer one such language), or City University, which did not have the language requirement, so I had ideas about going there.

In the end, a friend went there but I did not. I took a job which was the post I would have been looking for after finishing the course. I worked in the information office for a chemical company for nine years, learning about abstracting and indexing, search and retrieval, all done without use of a computer. I gained membership of the Institute of Information Scientists by the work experience route.

I was made redundant from there but was lucky enough to find a suitable job close by in time to avoid actually being out of work. I joined an engineering consultancy to work on maintenance of an online bibliographic database and the use of this and other such databases to conduct literature searches. This involved use of computers.

Over 26 years on, I am still there. I took a “break” for a few years to set up and run websites, but moved back to the Information Services section in 2004 to run the database when my former boss retired.

1 March 2009

No longer stocked

Filed under: Moans — malwen @ 12:34 pm

I’ve lost track of how often I have gone to a shop to buy something I like and often buy, only to find that it has been discontinued. I notice it most with food items in supermarkets.  Sometimes the product has simply been withdrawn by the particular vendor, which is annoying enough and leads to a lot of wasted time trying to locate an alternative source. Sometimes it is no longer available at all.

Are my tastes so odd that demand vanishes?

22 February 2009

Fit for work?

Filed under: Moans — malwen @ 9:06 am

As I get older, I feel more than ever the importance of physical exercise. I know that I ought to do two twenty-minute sessions evey day but all I manage is two longer sessions twice most weeks and a brisk ten minute walk most workday lunchtimes. I could try to get up earlier and go for a jog or walk before setting off for work, but I can’t get through the working day if too tired. I could give up my evening classes and abandon domestic duties more than I do now to fit in more exercise in the evenings, or could give up some socialising at weekends to make space. However, being fitter yet having no  time for anything out of work other than keeping the home running strikes me a depressing.

I think the answer must be making more time during the working day for exercise. I certainly feel that I work better in the afternoons when I have had a good, if short, walk than the days when I can’t walk. I was on a course not long ago that presented all sorts of evidence to support the ideas that taking breaks from work for exercise and for meditation boosted productivity sufficiently that it made up for time ‘lost’.

Sadly, my employer does not see it that way, and I think I am stuck with the present situation until I retire and can control my own time during the day. I hope that before long most employers encourage staff to take breaks during the day to promote physical and mental well-being.

7 February 2009

Captions at an exhibition

Filed under: Moans — Tags: , — malwen @ 6:25 pm

Today I am complaining about two captions that bothered me. I very much enjoyed the exhibitions, but two problems are worth a short moan.
In one of the problem captions, one the beliefs of Christianity was presented in the past tense, implying no-one believes it any more.
In another, I was told by the caption what mood I felt on looking at the painting concerned. It was wrong. I think it is wrong to tell the viewer what they are meant to feel, and is undoubtedly wrong to tell them what they do feel, when looking at a work of art.

5 February 2009

Plastic bags left at the door to be filled

Filed under: Moans — malwen @ 6:32 pm

Where I live, we often get large plastic bags from charities (and possibly other organisations trying to look like them) with a request to fill and leave out for collection. Almost invariably, I have nothing I want to put in so I leave the bag outside to be collected and reused. No-one has ever taken an unfilled bag away to re-use, which seems very wasteful.

While one unused bag or more lies on the step, others are still delivered, sometimes from the same organisation.

My sympathy has been eroded away. I am fed up with them and have resolved that I shall now leave the unused bag for a few days so they can recycle if they will. Then I will use it myself for cat litter disposal.

1 February 2009

Presenting conference proceedings in electronic format

Filed under: Moans — Tags: , , , — malwen @ 9:51 am

In my work, I often have to deal with conference proceedings provided on CD. I need to look through the contents, work out which papers are suitable for inclusion in our bibliographic database, and then read those papers. Some providers make this easy but many put obstacles in the way.

For a start, there is no consistency over the way the contents of the CD is presented. Most convenient, I find, is where the contents is as HTML with hyperlinks to the individual papers, or as a PDF file of just the contents, with hyperlinks to individual papers. It is best if those individual papers are each a single PDF file, or possibly a page of HTML, but this is rarely seen so I don’t have much experience with that format.

Often, the whole proceedings comes as one huge PDF file. This means that some computers really struggle to open the file, and some never manage it. Scrolling through any one paper gets tricky because it makes up such a tiny part of the whole file. I know why it is done like this, at least in some instances. Authors and other scholars like to be able to quote references in the traditional way, giving the range of page numbers for a particular paper, so the publisher produces the file on CD as if it was for a printed book. Indeed, in some cases it goes out as real hard copy as well as in electronic format.

Some publishers of conferences use proprietary software to present the proceedings. This is very unfortunate. To use it, one has to install software on the computer, which probably means it has to be a PC rather than any other flavour of computer, and one where one is allowed to install things. In a work situation, this can mean going off to the IT department for permission.

The worst case I have yet had to deal with involve proprietary software presentations. In one instance, each paper was presented in small sections, each displaying in a relatively small window within the frame shown on my screen. Thus one had to keep fiddling with the navigation controls while working on the paper to produce the database record. Printing out a copy of a paper for a researcher was only feasible by making a series of screen copies – this may have been a deliberate move against copying.

It would be so good if some suitable format could be agreed and adopted. I am in touch with the leader of Council at my professional body, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, in hopes that the institute can have more effect on publishers than I can alone.

27 January 2009

Colour coded tea

Filed under: Moans — malwen @ 9:11 pm

For several years I have enjoyed two types of tea from the same producer. When I first bought them, one was in a pink box and the other in green. It was easy to see which was which on the shop shelf and in the cupboard at home.

Recently, the producer redesigned the packaging. All the various flavours are now provided in a white box. One has to look carefully to see which is which in the shop. And in the store cupboard, when lying side by side with only the white box ends visible, the only way to know which is which is to take one out, or remember. Whoever thought this new packaging was helpful?

25 January 2009


Filed under: Moans — Tags: , , — malwen @ 12:09 pm

Why do organisations think one wants yet another magazine?

It’s not that I find them uninteresting. I’m interested enough in the aims of the organisation to pay a membership fee after all, but I don’t have time to read magazines. They just sit about in a pile until I get round to recycling them. Once I found I had failed to see an important communication because it was in with the magazine which I hadn’t removed from it’s plastic wrapper. Wrapper and contents just add to the material that needs disposal.

Many offer email newsletters, but these often end up as in addition to the paper magazine.

I would rather pay less for the subscription and not get the magazine. I took this up with one major national organisation, and said I’d join if they would promise not to send me stuff. I didn’t ask for a reduced subscription, just freedom from excess paper, but they wouldn’t consider it. One organisation I belong to (Cats Protection) does offer a reduced subscription rate if one opts out of the magazine. If only more would do this!


Filed under: Justification — malwen @ 12:07 pm

I have evolved into a Grumpy Old Woman, so I may as well admit it.

This blog is intended to let me get used to blogging and tagging while allowing me a way of letting off steam from time to time. I’ve been reading other’s blogs for ages and find them a good way of keeping up with things, especially when they include an RSS feed. I started a blog of my own in Live Journal but one can only read those if one is a signed-up member so it is pretty restricted. This is my attempt to run a more accessible blog.

I have chosen WordPress because some I follow use it.

Updates will be very intermittent, not because I don’t often get annoyed at things, but because time to the computer is very limited.

Blog at