Information Professionals get Future Ready – Proofed and Prepared

For an Information Professional, it essential that we understand so many aspects of the customers we serve, technology, infrastructure, resources and society in general. It is hard to isolate all of the threads that make a good information service. In the last few months, I have been keeping a close eye on the role and conversations of information professionals in relation to the term ‘Future Ready’. It is a term that has been used by schools in the USA to prepare their librarians and information services for the “leading edge of digital transformation of learning”.   It also seems to have been used by other companies to signify preparedness, trends, adaptability, continuous change and innovation as shown in Accenture’s view on it.

My first recollection was in 2011, when Future Ready was launched as in initiative by SLA to prepare members for the concept with a dedicated 365 blog posts. The term was used then to motivate professionals to harness the following Future Ready ideas:

  • Collaboration to accelerate the availability of useful information
  • An adaptable skill set that anticipates and responds to the evolving marketplace
  • Alignment with the language and values of the community you serve
  • Building a community that connects stakeholders in mutually beneficial relationships

Currently, there is more information on the web on what it means to be ‘Future Ready’ for information professionals, with the most apt piece mentioned in the American Libraries Magazine stating that expecting and preparing for change is one way of being ready, but also digging deeper to find ‘change is useless without considering values’. The article elaborates: “we need to look at trends and changes with consideration of our own professional values (confidentiality and privacy, diversity, equitable access, intellectual freedom and expression, preservation) and the values that we seek to provide to our communities (a civic commons, democracy, discovery, education, literacy, public discourse). And so looking at changes, we need to ask ourselves what they might mean for intellectual freedom, for education, for equitable access, or for any of the other values that drive our work”.

 

 

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Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP, has presented on what is ‘A future ready information profession’, which also aligns all the guidance I have mentioned above and the link has some great slides too. This was interesting to read as another CILIP article on the British Library leadership reiterated that our values are at the core of what we do. It is on this basis I was able to prepare for my talk on the theme ‘Future Ready’ entitled ‘Promoting and Celebrating Diversity in Delivering and Managing a 21st Century Information Service’ at the inaugural SLA Europe conference held on 5-6th September 2019 at Newnham College, the University of Cambridge. I felt I had to cover this topic in my blog this month as the conference left an imprint on me, and having researched my own speaker topic on ‘Future Ready’, I wanted to highlight this here with you. I am unable to cover the whole conference programme but there are some key points below for future proofing as an information professional.

 

 

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The conference was my first full attendance at a UK conference. I reminded myself that it was extra special for me as President-Elect of SLA Europe, organised by great people who I know well, and also not far for me to travel. Newnham College was a great venue choice and the whole inclusive programming and organisation was an excellent and thoughtful experience for me, and hopefully other attendees. The setting and history of the college at this recess time was peaceful, invigorating and ideal for a conference. I particularly liked the garden tour and hearing from the head gardener about the plants, the layout of the garden, and the past and present women and men who developed the college. The college library tour was also interesting and gave us a practical insight into the working of a historic and functional library. The venue is inspirational now by past and present famous and influential women, and some men, who gave the college its’ great reputation. The college is bound to create future influential and great leaders.

 

 

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To set the tone it was interesting to have Dr Jessica Gardner, the University Librarian and Director of Library Services welcome and opened the conference on our role in organisations and society as information professionals. She reminded us of our strengths in building networks, learning together, collaborative working, our deep knowledge of resources that is transferable to other settings, and that we should aim to work well in partnerships.  I also loved the slide with the words – Integrity, Diligence, Honesty. There was a call for us to not be neutral when there are obvious levels of inequality, and the important role that information professionals have in their organisations and communities for the future of research and information services.

 

 

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The Opening Key Note on ‘A practical model for distributed digital leadership’ by Cerys Hearsey of POST*SHIFT was great for demonstrating digital leadership where it is not only top management’s responsibility but also everybody’s responsibility. I liked the example of some of the effective and open digital leaders being the ones who listened to staff that were closest to their customers, for example the leadership at the company Haier. It was also a different perspective from the digital giants we know and a very non-hierarchical approach to digital transformation.

 

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There was also a common theme of the digital archive, information services and the future of these services. I am familiar with the The Guardian’s Archive, and so it was interesting hearing Richard Nelsson on the selection of stories, the use of data mining for analytics for gauging popular keywords and how a simple historical newspaper article could lead to a more creative outcome such ’12 Years of a Slave’ film. Apparently anything on The Beatles always draw in a popular readership. It was interesting to hear about uses in past content to create new media stories.

Maria De La Pena from the IE Business School Library in Spain also spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and libraries. AI is becoming more prevalent in various walks of life and so Maria spoke about the ways it can improve and free up time for library and information staff, who may be under pressure with budget cuts, and have to use AI so that they can carry out more value-added work. Obviously there are pros and cons of more AI in the sector, but it was good to hear with some excitement on what opportunities it will bring to the services we provide.

The theme of collaboration, project management and cross-cultural services were put across by two talks by the multi-site Judicial Office of Scotland and Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs.   The speakers have all had experience in challenging projects of change, influencing stakeholders and creating efficiencies. In the library world – they are working with people, physical library spaces and also content that is paper and digital. This all requires a vast array of skill sets and competencies to offer cutting edge services.

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Chatham Library, Royal Institute of International Affairs

I love learning new topics and one of the newest I learnt was ‘Nudge in Libraries’. It is the subtle use and awareness of ‘human behavioural economics and psychology can, if channelled ethically and effectively, lead to the development and implementation of behavioural nudges which collectively enhance well-being’. I loved the Nudge techniques introduced at Coventry University to create a better UX (user experience).   I can see this being adopted with colleagues in the workplace, or even in the home, as we all need a little coercing sometimes.

The first day ended with Xuemai Li from York University in Canada sharing her experience on mindful transitioning under library structuring. She shared tips for undergoing change in roles, departments, the ever-present restructuring, budget constraints and how to still provide the same level of service and developments. I personally understand this pressure and the impact it can have your health and well-being, therefore this was a useful reminder and inspiration for me to think of mindfulness exercises that has worked for Xuemai. I had the practical session on Mindfulness first thing the next morning, and I really have to include the exercise in my busy diary daily for my own good!

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Workshop on International Standards in Cataloguing

I also attended a fab workshop facilitated by Anne Welsh of Beginning Cataloguing (@beginningcat) on cataloguing and the metadata practices. It was a fun experience to demonstrate international standards in cataloguing, and how specialised information adjust to these confines. During lunch and dinner, it was nice to get to know other delegates better in a more informal and social way. Being a member for SLA Europe for a number of years, I was able to meet old and new counterparts.

 

 

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Day two presentations started with the brilliant Dr Katherine Schopflin on the use of Knowledge Management as an asset for organisations and the value that has created when this is part imbedded in the culture of an organisation. It was interesting to hear about the individuals who are the ‘aristocrats’ and the role they play in the knowledge gathering and harvesting process. It is also a valuable lesson on losing knowledge of staff when they depart an organisation, and therefore some on the advantages of capturing and re-using knowledge.  Katherine has co-written the book ‘Practical Knowledge and Information Management’.

 

 

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Good information governance, record keeping, ethics and data integrity were covered in the three morning talks. The Qatar Foundation had implemented a high tech enterprise-wide information management change management process with high levels of information governance and records management. Matthew Platt spoke about the cultural importance, significant differences and languages in the Middle East,+ but also the values of religion and family that were most important to the people in the region.

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Matthew Platt, The Qatar Foundation

Predatory Publishing presented by Simon Linacre of Cabells is also a new topic for me on scholarly communications. It is like a form of cyber-crime for academics where online publishers are abusing and presenting journal articles that are of poor quality and research. This is interesting as it showed that some rogues will cut corners in whatever field you may be in. I haven’t thought of this before and being aware of the issue will help if I need to help customers find information in future.

Presentations on Fair Data Principles (Finable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable), Competitive Intelligence and Business Insight presentations also highlighted that information, data, analytics and intelligence are some of the core activities and skillsets naturally attuned to information professionals. It was interesting to see the use of metadata that is searchable but findable for the present, and also in the future. The competitive intelligence and business insights talks mentioned the use of good ethical practices although we live in the present in a mainly open source digital world. Information and Intelligence are value assets that can give you a competitive advantage and should be integral to your strategy. I also like that Lara Lopez Boronat (from Spain) mentioned that Bain & Company are using social media for corporate analysis as a lot of information is available in ‘hidden messages’. If like me, you have been working in business information for a long time – you are sure to be excited by the current practices, but also the talks and the future potential of data and intelligence mentioned.

 

 

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The final topic presentations were to highlight the diversity and inclusion agenda of the conference with a presentation on ‘The Future of Female? Exploring Patterns of Gender (im)balance in UK business, pharmaceutical and electric vehicle research practices’ and my own talk mentioned above. It was interesting to hear the call for balance in research by female – where the perspectives are not one-sided, and there is more inclusion for groups that a particular subject research may directly impact. We were both advocating for greater representation by gender, race, ability, sex orientation, well-being, minority groups…and for everyone. I wanted to cover everything that we have achieved in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and profession, but also to acknowledge that there is still a lot of work in progress. Hopefully I was able to put across my main points in 15-20 minutes and going by the feedback received, I think my talk was punchy as I intended it to be.

 

 

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The conference closing keynote was by Simon Chalpin, Director of Culture & Society at The Wellcome Trust highlighting our role in preservation, storytelling and also the importance of people in everything that we do. Simon brought all of the elements of the physical with the digital, the scientific with the cultural and the past with future.

 

 

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We ended the session with a Questions and Answer session on the Future of SLA Europe by SLA President Hal Kirkwood, SLA Europe President Simon Burton and myself as the forthcoming President in 2020. There are lots to be proud in what we have achieved with this first SLA Europe conference, our annual early and new professional awards, excellent events programme, engagement and other great volunteers who help and make things happen in our groups and board here in Europe. There is still continuous work in retaining more members and attendees, advocating and attracting hard to find persons in the profession, and also collaborations with other professional bodies such as CILIP, IFLA and other geographical chapters of SLA in the Arab and Asian regions. I already have a whole list of things to do for 2020!

 

 

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At the end of the conference, I had many take-away and learning points which will help guide and inform my work in this field. It also makes me more confident in my understanding of the issues, challenges and opportunities in this sector. Attending the conference has also made me aware of key contacts in their subject fields and I know I can draw on this network should I need their expertise in future. I am also looking forward to assisting SLA Europe at the Internet Librarian International conference in October 2019, and also picking up other new, innovative and thought-provoking topics. I do truly feel equipped and ‘Future Ready’. However in the information field, there is always a mixture of experience and knowledge but we also have an adaptability for what is new and around the corner. And so with every turn, I hope and will prepare to embrace and tackle future changes head on as they come my way.

 

 

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Volunteer your time – it is all worthwhile

Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves – Horace Mann

In the last few weeks I have been busy supporting volunteers in my local community, neighbourhood and profession. I am what is termed ‘a frequent volunteer’ and actively volunteer in various roles and diverse causes. I also do this unpaid and in my own time. According to the UK Civil Society Almanac 2019: …“there are 20.1 million people who volunteered through a group, club or organisation during 2017/2018” with £17.1 Billion the total contribution to the voluntary sector to the UK economy. I have been fortunate to also be able to have an impact locally, as on my doorstep, but also internationally across the world as a Board Member to SLA Europe. The research by NCVO in their report ‘Time Well Spent’ quotes …“81% do their volunteering in and for their local communities” and volunteers get involved in different ways, reflecting their lifestyles, values and priorities. Volunteering is quite common now with a large number of us giving our time freely, and the benefits are not just for the causes we support but also for our own happiness, wellbeing, achievement, fulfilment and self-satisfaction.

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Two years ago, when NHS hospitals – among other organisations around the world – were attacked by ransomware hackers, one of the first to have their computers back up and running was the Lister Hospital in Stevenage. It did not pay the hackers a penny. Instead, Hertfordshire police provided a team of young techies from their squad of volunteers, whose employers encouraged their staff to support local charities and public services. Welcome to 21st century volunteering.

CEO Peter Keller in ‘Time well Spent’ NCVO

Volunteering is really important for the success of various causes, organisations and society as a whole. We sometimes volunteer in informal ways and do not necessarily recognise this. Most of us also volunteer to causes that we care about that are nearby but a very small percentage (3%) volunteer outside the UK. Overall we are providing unpaid help to groups, organisations and individuals that matter to us. Volunteering is one of the best ways we can help others in society.

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It has been an extra special time this month to be able to spend time briefly with past and fellow volunteers in my various roles. They were moments of celebration, an opportunity to meet old and make new contacts in the nice summer months. I will mention some of the events I have attended below. And in true connecting the dots style I will be thinking of the greater impact volunteering has in the short-term…and as well as the long term for me and hopefully for these communities.

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Plant from seeds for my guerilla gardening volunteering

I volunteer throughout the year regardless of the weather, indoors and outdoors, virtually, in groups, individually and tirelessly. I have been a frequent and addictive formal volunteer for the last 15 years, and prior to this in my childhood.

The first set of volunteering this summer was for my local neighbourhood which usually entails gardening, picking up rubbish (constantly!), sending out local notices and information, sharing news and relevant stories on social media feeds and giving a helping hand or moral support for local arts and community events. The best photos here are from local guerrilla gardens, our street party and poetry competitions. I am certainly not the only person to volunteer but there are a few hard-core dedicated people who have been doing fab things year on year since 2012. I am not sure how long all of this will last but I live here, and our neighbourhood is fully engaged in the whole process of looking out for each other and our patch. We have also missed having a local police station after cuts to public budgets, and sometimes have to literally clean up mess, anti-social behaviour and watch out for drug pushing in our neighbourhood. There are lots of families in this area yet there is a lot of worrying anti-social activity. Recently it is the worst it has been, but hopefully our community action will help us all to keep our neighbourhood happy…but also safe.

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It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference – Tom Brokaw

In early July, I was invited to attend the celebration and retirement party for the CEO of the local charity, The Lloyd Park Children’s Charity, where I volunteered for 12 years. Pauline Thomas MBE has dedicated the last 35+ years for developing, championing and actively campaigning local authorities and local government for the provision of services for children, their families and the wider community. She is an amazing person and has a real, authentic and kind portfolio of all the work that she has fought for, won and established. She is the first one to make it clear that she has not achieved it all by herself and constantly depends on her brilliant staff, dedicated volunteers and supporters. Her leadership and committment will always be an inspiration. In this organisation, I was happy to learn so much, develop new skills, challenge myself and offer whatever time I had to assist over those years. There was also a great community affairs programme at the time at the company I worked for whereby they supported staff that were volunteering in their local community with a financial award. I was able to get some recognition and the financial reward, which went to the charity. There are several companies who do support charitable causes and communities – this is reported that there are 8000 funders giving to £8 Million in The Guide to UK Company Giving by the Directory of Social Change.

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A tip to share with you is to give incentive, encourage and display value to volunteers and paid staff. One such way is to hold fun award ceremonies for staff and volunteers. You can reward with a certificate, and those events that were held at this charity were great fun and motivating. I still have my certificates for volunteering and fundraising as they are great merits for community and charitable work. Volunteering is worthwhile not because of awards – but for the intangible skills, experience, talent, understanding and networking you gain working outside your day job. This is beneficial for my own personal development, and I gain experience in tasks and roles that I may not do in my day job. I still refer and draw on volunteering time spent with the charity. There are some good award examples for recognising volunteers on The Third Sector website.

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With Pauline at ex-employers Volunteering Award 2007

I currently volunteer mainly for SLA Europe, an international and professional organisation which the motto – ‘Connecting Information Professionals’. It is an organisation this is based on volunteer support. Events and my activities with them helps me to keep my skills and experience fresh, broad, at the cutting edge of technology…and thought leadership. I host meetings monthly, help in various tasks and activity that may arise – gaining valuable ‘hands on’ experience in the process. It is also great for my strategic thinking and professional leadership experience exposing me to experience that I may not have in my day job. Over the years, I have also grown in confidence in the roles that I have conducted in the Digital Communications Group and as Membership Chair. It has also been excellent for me to also gain regular training and Continued Professional Development (CPD) from physical and virtually events (e.g. webinars). SLA Europe and my self-development are so inter-link in my mind that I sometimes don’t see my volunteering as separate to my day job. It has a direct impact on my abilities, experience, exposure, competency and personal development. To be honest in this profession, we have to be constantly moving with the times, and in this professional volunteering capacity…I am the one who is benefiting from the time that I give freely. It was especially nice to celebrate with other members at the recent Summer Drinks and to feel rejuvenated.

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Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls – David Thomas

I am really lucky to see the holistic way that volunteering can regenerate and also create new business and artistic benefits for the local community and the wider society. The borough I live in is celebrating this year with the Borough of Culture, and there are a great bunch of volunteers over the years that initially helped the borough to achieve this accolade, funding and attention. There are many activities for this year and the volunteers were in full mode ‘Getting Involved’ at the Walthamstow Garden Party as shown in my photos.

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I still too have a lot of respect and admiration for voluntary organisations that are tackling poverty, homelessness, abuse, or the general well being of other citizens and community members. I sometimes wish I could do more but there just isn’t enough time for me to fit in more. I do like that I work full-time in a profession which helps and empower people to get on with their own objectives. You are never too young or too old to volunteer, and so I will always look to volunteer in the causes and communities throughout my life hopefully.

Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.  – H Jackson Browne Jr.

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Ten Years on Twitter – Highlights and Reflection of my Decade on Twitter

“…We came up with the word Twitter, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information’, and ‘chirps from birds’.

And that’s exactly what the product was.”

Jack Dorsey –Co-Founder of Twitter

I am celebrating ten years of actively using Twitter this month and there is much to reflect, think about and hope for with this brilliant platform. There are many fabulous benefits as in individual, as well as in a professional capacity, for using Twitter over the years. You may have been on another planet if you haven’t heard of or used Twitter. Twitter is best described as a micro-blogging platform where you can share a lot in ‘Tweets’ that are messages in limited characters, photos and other multi-media. I have seen multiple definitions of tweets in the last few weeks but as a reminder – a Tweet is “an expression of a moment or idea. It can contain text, photos, and videos.” A tweet, in essence, is a ‘nugget of information and by extension, Twitter a tool for the sharing and dissemination of information’. In the wider world context in politics, social interaction and humanity – there have been great impact, both negative and positive. We should not let negative human behaviour stop us from using this tool to communicate and connect with people who we may or may not agree with. Since the early days, there has been much development of the platform, some regulations and several business, as well as social networking benefits.

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Humans have been using texts and symbols to communicate for over century. I have just been to see the ‘Writing: Making You Mark’ exhibition at the British Library where I witnessed human’s great achievement of writing, carving and printing notes, letters and symbols to create our own mark in this beautiful world. The exhibition gave me a chance to “reflect on works of genius that wouldn’t exist without the writing traditions of civilisations past”. In the bigger picture perspectives, Twitter is powerful but also a humble experience to all that was written, craved, printed and typed in the past. We should remember this. The time has past for you to think about using social media – it is a necessity in the Web 2.0 world of social media and interactions.

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The best way to remember my Twitter anniversary here is to jot down some of the ten top tips I have experienced in the last 10 years:

1. Good Business Communications – I currently run workshops and webinars on social media to highlight some of the business benefits of using Twitter, which usually include strategy and ideas for good customer services, brand awareness, communication, brand credibility, building relationships, etc. In ‘Get rich with Twitter: Welcome to the World of Microblogging’, there is a fabulous quote on Twitter which states that it is a standout name in micro-blogging. The site has cut a ‘new path right through the overgrowth of information excess, showing all a new way to speak and heard’. As a communication tool, “Twitter makes it possible to get to the point and get down to the real business of communicating in a real and meaningful way. To the business person, Twitter enables a message that values the customer’s time, offers immediacy of product or service availability and helps establish a brand identity via brief but easy to remember messaging’. There are several opportunities to go viral and reach millions of customer or alternatively grow your following organically and develop meaningful business relationships. It is also where people will be talking about your business, and a lot of other fun things. There have been several examples of negative public relations on Twitter and the quick fire responses that are needed to mitigate and control further damage. You can also be liable to libel if you are not careful on Twitter.

2. Library and Information Community – I started using Twitter in a professional capacity whilst working in an information centre. There are several reasons to do so for we must harness and appreciate new technology to tap into the wisdom of the crowd. There are honestly too many excellent uses for Twitter, as I have elaborated here. There are also several concerns in the negative and dangerous misuse of this platform, such as with Fake News, Bullying, Racism, Trolling, etc.

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I am hoping to use this blog post to clear some of the headspace I have after many years of using Twitter (almost) daily, heavily and full-heartedly. As information professionals, we must be at the forefront of using collaborative technologies and social media to reach out to our customers, community, other professionals and keep abreast of topics of interests.

3. Live Tweeting – To this day, I find Live Tweeting and Real Live Tweets the most refreshing feature of Twitter. This works hand in hand with hashtags (#). Searching for trending hashtags topics daily, and creating your own is one of the most exciting functionality of the platform. In the heat of the moment and mood, you can also ‘develop your own rhythm and reason for how and when you’ll launch a hashtag’. Live tweeting is also great for letting you know what people are talking about and is a powerful source for news breaking and hard to find information from traditional media. There is the major issue of fake news but hopefully as a professional, you may be able to spot the differences and champion good information ethics and best practice. I also have a lot of fun in my social life and share some of that by live tweeting ( #youdoneknow).

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4. Trends – Twitter is great for finding out the hot topics over the last few hours, days and even as a database for old stories. I honestly use it as a database and use it frequently for searching for odd or obscure topics of interest or discussion (conversations in my head anyway!). It is great to use it as a knowledge management tool for finding expertise in person, places of interest and specialisms and good old-fashioned knowledge. This can be global as well as local. If the information is not there – you can even start the conversation with a question. Easy as that.

It is also great to see trends on topics of discussion on the system called Trendmap. Trend jacking is also good fun and I love finding hashtags on popular culture to see what other people are saying on a point or subject. It is also a great source for research or to scope for knowledge on a hot topic.

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5. News and Citizen Journalism – Social Media has changed the way we can share, create and find out news. Journalism has also been turned upside down and inside out. Twitter is an important source and facilitator for generating news stories and citizen journalism. Twitter is sometimes my first port of call for news and even traditional media uses it for groundbreaking and live tweeting stories. It is also an excellence source of information on international affairs, culture and local information. It is even better when you find information from someone with local knowledge and kudos. Obviously there are issues on fake news, misinformation, manipulation and post-truth if you get your information from unreliable and distrusting sources.

It was reported that ‘in the case of the 2015 Paris terror attacks, those reporting on the destruction were generally ordinary Parisians’. In the 2011 London Riots, I do remember being one of the first tweeters as I had just come from picking up relatives from the Tottenham versus Atletico Madrid football game in Tottenham where the initial riots started and saw some of the tensions arising. This riot was known for the spread of misinformation, which was unhelpful at the time.

We still need professional journalists for newsgathering, creation, analysis and presenting. The evolution and balance are that there are now tweets that are mentioned in the broadcast news, some news organisations live-tweeting, and embracing collaborative practices with these newer forms of media and content sharing. The main aim should remain at sharing the truth of the matter. However, there is a lot more noise from the crowd that there ever was before!

“It’s Just Like Passing Notes in class…”

It’s just like passing notes in class” (Content Analysis of the Use of Twitter at #asl2015)

6. Events Conferences and Engagement – Twitter is great for live tweeting and generating active engagement for event organisers, presenters, and attendees alike. Over the years, I have taken part in small and large-scale events with great levels of engagement, interactions and impact. Events hashtags are one of the best uses – do create and use hashtags to see what is being shared on a particular event.

“By using an agreed hashtag (#), a dynamic real time virtual conversation space is creating. Dialogue from beyond the conference centre can also be included simply by following the relevant hashtag. Twitter has also been the fore winner of the hashtag (#) and it has changed the way we communicate with each other”. (Source: It’s just like passing notes in class” Content Analysis of the Use of Twitter at #asl2015).

Yes, you may seem a bit distracted and absorbed in your tweet, but the levels of participation at events are a greatly enriched in physical presence as well as virtual meet-ups with the use of conference hashtags.

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7. Collaborative Business – In the early days of Twitter, I tried to encourage my colleagues to use it, and also attended a SLA Europe talk on ‘Tweeting whilst you work’. I NEVER STOPPED Tweeting! I have said that I am in it for the long haul and there is an interpersonal tone on Twitter. I sometimes see tweets with no interactions and wonder why? (Ha! There is a funny Twitter parody of God where he/she follows no one).

As you may have noticed – I live tweet to this day and although it may seem obsessive, I am actually checking in to see what people are discussing etc. I do like to interact too and there is a brilliant quote in ‘Get Rich with Twitter’: …”you can provide deeper access to who you are (or who your brand or company is) while learning more about who your follower are.” It really is an opportunity to build a better collaborative relationship, trust and engagement. I have also had people un-follow me, it had upset me but generally – I get on with it.

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8. Community Building – Twitter is great for tapping in to the wisdom of the crowd, caring for people, keeping informed on a topic, and for creating a community – be it for profitable business or your local neighbourhood for community spirit. I have used these to much effective at work with sharing at our live events, and in my local community for various activities over the years. You can use Twitter to share news and items of mutual interests, to explore and develop ideas, ask opinions and raise issues of concerns, such as local crime, events and Brexit. I look after a community neighbourly Twitter feed – it is lovely and reassuring to see and share on the issues that are shared by people in my neighbourhood. Social media helps and strong communities make stronger societies.

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9. Political and Social Justice – Twitter has also been an enabler and game changer with some of the political movements of our time such as with social activism such as the examples as: #BlackLivesMatter, #JeSuisCharlie, #MeToo etc. It is also an opportunity to seek and tell tweets on a diverse and inclusive world.

For the #BlackLivesMatter – new Pew Research Centre analysis of public tweets finds the hashtag has been used nearly 30 million times on Twitter – an average of 17,002 times per day – as of May 1, 2018.

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10. Authenticity – Being this long on Twitter, it is very hard to be a fake. I personally feel that I have come to the point in life that Twitter seems a part of me.   I have shared the joys, lows, highs, support, anger, dislikes (I try to repress this emotion) and love.

Twitter started in July 2006, and Twitter was a full-fledged company by May 2007. When I worked at the Greater London Authority – I discussed, used and saw this as an opportunity to share our knowledge and insights with my colleagues, as well as offered training to other staff. I also took part in Social Media Week 2012 on ‘Collaborating on Cancer’ at City Hall, London. The whole team was made redundant the same month, I was unemployed and then carried on knowing all along that this platform is too good to give up. I ended up at the British Library, where there are phenomenal and knowledgeable staff with unique subject knowledge. There is a constant flow of ideas, thoughts, content and topics of conversation. Brexit and the current political climate have not been ideal and sooooooo different to the early days of ‘happy’, collaborative and responsible social media. Let’s hope it gets better but it seems unlikely, as there is real power in words!

I am not sure how long Twitter will last but I think I have seen so much in life from my local community to big picture content on Twitter – I have also tried to maintain a neutral tone and be conscious of others around me. It is very hard to pretend for this long and therefore, I am still here with hopefully an authentic voice and with greater resilience.

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Let the good times roll – taking the leads in New Orleans and Houston

Laissez les bon temps rouler – Let the good times roll

– New Orleans Cajun French

I can officially now say that I am the President-Elect 2019 for SLA Europe, and one of the recommendations from the Board of Directors was that I should attend the SLA Leadership Summit in New Orleans, USA. Therefore, I started the year with much anticipation with this trip to New Orleans – the Crescent City. These learning and collaboration opportunities don’t come by often, and as a destination, New Orleans has always been on my bucket list. I flew into Louis Armstrong Airport with Geraldine, a Swiss-British SLAer, and it was very nice to be given the pep talk by someone who has been through the role and who had some practical tips with stepping up to share with me. I have mentioned before in this blog that I have been a member of SLA since the early 2000s and still find the organisation beneficial and relevant to my work and profession. I have been able to take on tasks and responsibilities that have developed me personally, and this was an opportunity to hone in on my leadership skills and style. I also was able to fit in some great fun!

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The Leadership Symposium was three days of full-on meetings, presentations, table topical discussions, group exercises, networking, sharing best practices, knowledge, wisdom and general chat with a wide international network of information professionals. The facilitator Jon Hockman was excellent at enlightening, coercing, motivating, as well as helping us to focus our attention on our leadership missions, professional objectives, and personal goals.

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I have had some training in the past in my previous full-time and volunteering roles, but this was extra special as I was able to understand SLA better by being engaged at the symposium, participate in meetings, presentations and discussions I had witnessed – but most importantly, I was able to meet fellow professionals face to face. These all made the trip worthwhile and valuable to me.

To reach others, we first have to know ourselves. And to contact the deeper truth of who we are, we must engage in some activity or practice that questions what we assume to be true about ourselves.

– Adapted from A. H. Almaas

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I am one of those persons who actually does enjoy team building away-days and socialising, so the exercises and meeting new people are tasks that I relished. Most of the attendees were friendly and really pleased to know that I was representing the SLA Europe Chapter, and indirectly, my employers The British Library. They were excited to hear of our forthcoming autumn SLA Europe European Conference in the UK. Also, they were very complimentary and curious to know more after my short talk about our Continuous Professional Development (CPD) events and programmes that we had conducted here over the pond.

Everyone has influence in their association or organisation –

Slide provided by Jon Hockman

 

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One of the best aspects of the symposium was an opportunity to see historic and charming New Orleans! I went out on my own on Saturday to soak up the pre-Mardi Gras preparations and mood, especially as the New Orleans Saints were playing that day. For those of you who are not aware – Mardi Gras is the same day as Shrove Tuesday and Carnival Tuesday in Caribbean Carnivals (yeah – party time!). I loved the architecture, street music, art shops, galleries, musically theme bars, restaurants with Cajun and Creole foods, etc.

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I really was very contented to walk around in awe, from the modern convention district, hotels and commercial centres to the historic colonial building in the French Quarter better know as Vieux Carre (Old Square). Historic signs of indigenous names, colonialism and slavery are very apparent around the Louisiana landscape and buildings, from the shores of the Mississippi straight to the St Louis Cathedral and the Voodoo Cultural Centre. I made sure that I visited the Mississippi River for its significance and impact on American immigrant history. New Orleans is not dissimilar to parts of the Caribbean where I am from, and some of the buildings look like those you may find in colonial Port of Spain. I felt quite at home with the Mardi Gras costumes culture, music, street activity, food, and ethnic make-up in a mixed society.

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My friends and family were sending me recommendations to try various delicacies such as fried chicken in Treme, Beignets at Café Du Monde, Po’ Boy sandwiches and the lush….King Cake. Luckily the SLA Leadership Symposium had a high-quality King Cake that was ever so light and appealing to the eyes with the three Mardi Gras coloured sugars represented – Purple as Justice, Green as Hope and Gold as Power. I hope to make a King Cake for Mardi Gras this year. This will be a vintage epiphany year as I have eaten King Cake in London with my French friend Veronique, in New Orleans with SLAers, and in Houston with friends. The sweet perfume of the cakes in the local patisseries is something special too!

New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz and as a final treat, I went along with SLAers Ruth from Sacramento and retiree Janet from New Jersey to the Preservation Jazz Hall Band in the museum-like setting for an authentic live New Orleans Jazz show. It was an awesome, quaint, intimate and once-in-a-lifetime type of gig that I won’t forget. The musicians and singers were of a high calibre and I couldn’t help myself humming along and tapping my toes.

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New Orleans will have a lasting impact on me for the leadership training and work we carried out over the two days but also for the magical and creative influences it also has on me in terms of its’ culture, identity, and energy. No wonder the saying is appropriate…let the good times roll!

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Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.

Theodore Roosevelt

Houston was my next stop. It was easy to get an internal flight to a city I had heard a lot about from a neighbour who lived there since the 1980s. I have always been curious as it is not far away from Dallas, which is famous for the well-known 1980s soap opera. On arrival at the airport, it is clean and noticeably very high tech, where I was able to get free Wi-Fi – which is always a bonus when travelling abroad. I also saw only one cowgirl, but apparently, there aren’t many about in the city. It is not Rodeo season too when it is certainly an attraction for music, food, and entertainment from photos I have seen in the past.

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Although I saw some cows, there were certainly a lot of freeways, shopping malls, restaurants and fields of oilrigs and tanks. Houston is a wealthy city with a steady economy and ‘old money’ from the oil industry. It is also a financial centre, university city and at the cutting edge of medical research with the Texas Medical Center complex hosting 60 medical institutions. I also liked the downtown skyline, the gorgeous architecture, and homes. There were newer neighbourhoods in suburbia, where there are large and expensive homes in gated communities near lakes. My friends told me that your money goes a long way in Houston compared to other cities. It is seventh in the best largest cities in the USA.

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Houston is famous for NASA’s Mission Control Centre. We have all heard the saying “Houston – we have a problem!” from an astronaut’s message to Houston’s NASA mission control popularised in the film Apollo 13. This is synonymous with problem-solving and working in remote teams. I was really pleased to know that my friend lives close by and we were able to visit the NASA Johnson Space Center. The exhibition areas were curated with mock-ups, film, and simulations that were informative and entertaining for children and adults. I even liked hearing about the mission control problems, such as with Italian Astronaut Luca Parmitano – it was a gripping real-life story of the challenges faced by astronauts and space exploration. It was an informal leadership lesson as it reminded me of the need to have strong individuals but also strong teams to help with problem-solving. One of the clips extols about the need and the steps in failure that NASA has taken so far to get that far in outer space. Their failures have enabled learning and progress.

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Like magic, that very morning the news in Houston showed a clip of entrepreneur Richard Branson speaking about his Virgin Galactic space tourism programme, and what it is likely to be when it is launched. I thought of this in the real mission control training rooms for astronauts after seeing the various space equipment and components that they must learn to use and get familiar with before they set out for discoveries in a life-challenging, harsh and dangerous space and environment. In a presentation, we were told about the Boeing and Space X programme, the latter by entrepreneur Elon Musk. We were still able to see the actual Mission Control room that is currently used for training but soon it will be used for the MARS space programme by mid-2020. We also saw engineers working on innovative robots and space equipment.

“People actually make sense by thinking about the past,
not about the future….constructing explanations about
past performance often yields new strategies, insights or innovations.”

– Jon Hockman course slide on Leadership.

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The other remarkable aspect of the tour was seeing the large equipment that has been in outer space but they were now located next to a field of cattle and cows on a heritage farm on the NASA site. There are signs for deer crossing and other wild animals that roam the site – this is ironic for keeping space explorers grounded in the countryside and natural environment in Texas. There are trees planted to honour and show appreciation to astronauts who have passed away. NASA also apparently has a local outreach and competitions programme for schools. Unite, Create and Explore is their mission motto displayed on site to encourage space exploration…and that is a good problem to have!

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Like New Orleans, I spent some lovely time socialising with my friends and it was amazing checking out the local homes, shopping and leisure areas. There were some cows in a field but also a lot of large shopping areas with the likes of JC Penny, Guillards, Wal-Mart, Costco and very nice entertainment and restaurant areas. The food was amazing and my friends made sure that I tried some of the local dishes!

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We also took a drive to Galveston, which is on the Gulf of Mexico. I was aware of it by a couple of pop songs, and by looking at the maps of the south of the USA. It is a really nice seaside town with influences from the immigrants who came there – so you can still see French and Spanish architecture, British telephone boxes, and they were also getting ready for Mardi Gras.

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Both New Orleans and Houston have the crossroads and waterways with the past and present, the wild and the unknown – a coming together with the old and new USA and Europe. I am truly grateful for the learning opportunities and insight this trip gave me and see it as an honour and privilege to continue to serve SLA Europe, its’ board, members, and stakeholders. I hope to see some new contacts, and familiar faces I met on this trip another time at the USA annual conference in 2020.

All you read is love – a reading challenge

One in six adults struggles to read. Reading Ahead supports young people and adults who struggle with the written word or who don’t read for pleasure. Reading Groups for Everyone celebrates all the good things that happen when people come together to share reading and Reading Well supports people’s health and wellbeing. Because everything changes when we read.

– The Reading Agency

 

It is always a challenge to read novels for leisure if you live a busy life at work, home and socially. If you know me, it would be evident that I spend a lot of my spare time listening to music, catching up on current affairs and pop culture. Therefore finding the time to read can be scarce and finding a good book is also a task. I may also work as an information professional in a library, but we are usually providing factual information and there is no time for lightweight fictional or even non-fictional novels during the day. Despite all this, I still want to make sure I spend some of my time reading those best selling books written and sold that are frequently presented to us as books we need to read before we die in a list.

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Reading is beneficial to all of us regardless of age. So, one of my resounding wish each year is to read more novels. I obviously support reading and literacy for libraries, bookshops, the book industry and general community building. Reading challenges such as the Summer Reading challenge, and young people after-school programmes have also been set up by organisations to help children with their literacy. The Literacy Trust also has their ‘young reader programmes’ whereby corporations (such as KPMG’s Family for Literacy) help in encouraging young children to read…and it is also a good business Corporate Social Responsibly (CSR) initiative.

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Hatchards, St Pancras Station

It was a real pleasure to receive a suggestion from our neighbourhood that we should form a new neigbourhood book club. We all agreed that when we joined that it was because it was not a snobby club, and we already knew each other well enough to feel comfortable to do this together. We started the book club about a year ago and it has been really good for me in terms of reading commitments to get the book completed for our discussion at the monthly book club meeting. We usually meet over some drinks in a local pub and dissect the book of the month. The books suggested by other book-clubbers may not have been ones I would have tried but after hearing pitches from other members, it helped us to decide which book to try. We do go deep into our literary critique of the characters in the story, setting, style of writing, offer any likes and dislikes about the book in question. We also catch up on what is happening in our neighbourhood, and wherever the conversation may leads us. It is only a short walk back to our homes at the end of the evening.

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Given the choice with eBooks and kindles – I also know that I still prefer buying traditional hard copy books. Some of the book clubbers use a kindle. It is also interesting that some of the books have been made, or are about to be made into films, such as the Man Booker 50 Prize winner ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. I also saw that Reese Wetherspoon has set up her own book club ‘Hello Sunshine‘ recently. All good for brilliant reading and researching material for film scripts!

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Seriously, some of the great factors for the book club have been (1) for me to read regularly as a literature fan (2) help me support local bookshops (3) pass on books to friends and family and (4) stay in touch with the lifelong learning benefits of reading. It is also an interesting sense of camaraderie to know that a group of you are reading the same book and you are going to discuss it together. It does feel like schoolwork and homework sometimes when you have to meet the deadline! Having a book club definitely is a great incentive for reading, fun socialising and for community building. There are some fabulous tips about reading groups in the Reading Agency’s website.

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I wasn’t always good a reading. I mentioned before that my first primary school focussed on maths but my second school focussed on literacy. After joining a new school at seven years old, I had to do extra reading with my mother to catch up with classmates for about a year. However as a teenager, I loved reading romantic fiction with other girls from school and in my neighbourhood. Yes, we studied serious English Literature up to A-levels but we still circulated and shared romantic novels such as Mills and Boon. I think I must have read about 1000 books in the 1980s! We didn’t have neighbourhood libraries to borrow books from then, neither mobile libraries. These books we good for light reading – but also increased my vocabulary and exposed other cultures, languages and places to me. I know that the romantic content and formulae story lines we not realistic, nor a true representation of real couples’ lives – but they were a fun way to spend a day or two reading. Another book club member mentioned that she loved reading and swapping these romantic novels when she was younger with her grandmother.

A male information professional friend who worked in Westminster Libraries in the 1990’s said that the Chinese community in Chinatown still borrowed a lot of Mills & Boon, and I think romantic novels are still kept in many local libraries to encourage writing them too. One of the book club suggestions I read recently reminded me of a Mills & Boon! Never mind. The main point is…I am reading novels regularly again.

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I am due to recommend a book for my book and may suggest ‘The Lonely Londoners’ which is currently in the Windrush exhibition at the British Library. And I can’t remember if I have read it before. Or another book to suggest is ‘House of Mr Biswas’ by V.S. Naipaul, who recently passed away. We obviously studied him at school in Trinidad and being an exceptional writer – since his death, there are a few people who have told me how great a writer he really was. It was great to see Twitter light up with tweets about his books and their importance, as well as comments on his controversial personality. In July, the British Library usually hosts Africa Writes, which is interesting for books by other diverse writers. To be honest – I always come across something interesting and inspiring to reading in the library. It’s just the time required to read these good books!

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As with everything, there are always persons who are less fortunate than us and any help with reading is a bonus. In our neighbourhood, we recently received a donated decorated reading bench and a children’s Little Free Library. It is brilliant to see people having a break to read and to receive donations. There was some vandalising of the books but hopefully this does not occur often. There are other free libraries in my neighbourhood for adults, the local library is well-stocked and the bookshop still has an immense presence and customers.

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Another neighbour hosts a Rock and Roll Book Club with talks and events in the local bookstore. These are great initiatives that help in keeping physical spaces like shops, libraries and hard copy books thriving. Digital formats and cyberspace are great for literacy but they are too broad topics to delve into now, so they are other stories for another blog post in the future.

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One good point about social media is seeing what other people are reading, or what is recommend by peers and libraries. The Orkney library (@OrkneyLibrary) always find interesting and funny trends to tweet to promote their books. In the meantime, I am happy that I am frequently reading for leisure and enlightenment with my book club – some of the books have been interesting for imagination as well as thought provoking. It also is a fun community initiative, and I get to support local bookshops.

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Read over a year

You never really stop learning and comprehending language and vocabulary. Reading new stories to understanding human behaviour is always exciting and informative too.  Therefore, there will always be a long list of books I still want to read. You may also have a list. Even if there is no book club – I’ll just have to make time, as reading should always be one of my top priorities.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Women’s Health – raising awareness, challenges and opportunities

“I’m interested in Women’s health because I’m a woman.

I’d be a darn fool not to be on my own side.”

– Maya Angelou

I am astonished that women are still struggling to have high levels of healthcare in the 21st century. Yes, we have come a long way in understanding our own bodies and the healthy lifestyles we need to lead, but despite the advances in Women’s Health – there is still progress to be made and we sometimes get a bit complacent with our own lifestyles choices. I don’t think we can ever stop improving our levels in health facilities and education. And so we will always aim to advance health programmes, especially in less developed countries of the world. There is an essential need to be open, transparent and to have this conversation. Our vaginas, breasts…and whole body need attention throughout life.

The last few months has provided a lot of inspiration for me to write this post. I have the following great examples of women helping other women, and also raising awareness in on health issues using traditional and social media to keep us engaged and to get their messages out. These are new channels to reach out to women, and girls. It is also encouragement to take the initative to have ownership of our health and bodies. With women constantly facing challenges in our life cycle – here are some of the amazing examples of positive action where women are helping other women to take control of their own lives and destiny. Some of the health issues on here are easy to write about as I feel compel to share the amazing work going on.

A gynaecologist relative, Dr Sabrina Ramkisson, proactively campaigns to raise awareness on women’s health issues, especially Cervical Cancer Screening. Sabrina regularly use tradition and social media to inform and empower women and girls to stay ahead on their health. She organised a 5K ‘Smearathon’ for women and men last August in the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, Trinidad. At the event, there were other gynaecologists to offer advice, on-site smear booths and some fun activities. Sabrina also successfully hosted the digital #SmearforSmear lipstick campaign to remind and encourage women to take a regular smear test to prevent cervical cancer. I was able to take part here in London, and she also shared photos of other women in Trinidad & Tobago and other countries, who smeared their lipstick.   It was a visible bond and showed support for women who took part.

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There is a decrease in the number of women and girls who are not taking their cervical cancer screening. Therefore, it is with greater impetus and purpose that campaigns like these are being transparent with much fervour. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is a UK charity set up by a co-founder who has survived cancer, and they also aim to raises awareness of cervical cancer with active campaigns. The charity founded the #SmearforSmear campaign which is run in January for Cervical Cancer Awareness. It was an utter pleasure to see #SmearforSmear trending on Twitter last month as the figure for women taking a smear test was in decline.

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Only yesterday I read an article about comedian Karen Hobbs, who was diagnosed at 24 years with cervical cancer. Luckily she is another cervical cancer survivor, whose blog and performance urge you to not be embarrassed about your smear test. Karen has also been praised by The Eve Appeal for making light the serious topic of cancer.

I also know the lovely Claire Mcdonald, who is working on changing behaviours, cancer prevention and raising awareness in health. Claire and her colleague Sinead recently visited me at the British Library to find lifestyles information for women and girls for their awareness campaigns on Jo’s Trust and Coppafeel, the Breast Cancer Prevention Cancer charity. They were particularly interested in demographics that will help them target their audiences, and their health messages. They were looking at factors such as reproductive behaviours, poverty, income levels, age, geographical locations and other factors that may affect a woman’s health. These bring the questions: Do women share a bath? Would they have time to ‘do the check’ on their breasts? How many persons are having children at a younger age that may prevent cancer? Are they smokers at a higher risk level? Questions needs answers.

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Do the Check! – Coppafeel

The library is useful for helping in researching these issues. For example some golden information nuggets in Mintel’s ‘Marketing to Women February 2017’ are:

  • the age of motherhood continues to rise “although 2015 saw a slight increase in the number of live births, the average age of motherhood continues to rise, reaching 30.3 years”.  
  • social media stars are feeding a culture of health and wellness amongst young women
  • on ‘Period leave’ – the issue of period impacting on women’s sports performance with Heather Watson and Fu Yuanhui both blaming their period for their underperformance, whilst marathon runner, Kiran Gandhi chose to freeblee for the duration of the London event
  • 16-34 years old are most likely to use or be interested in using apps that help anxiety or stress management
  • ‘This Girl Can’ campaign helps to get female more active with 16 million people aged over 16 play sport on a weekly basis

Looking at these lifestyles choices and demographics inform their messages in campaigns. Claire said something touching to me on young women…”You don’t know who is coming up in the world under you and you must take them along”. The best way to prevent poor health is to inform people of good healthy moderate habits. Cancer Research also organise 5K or 10K ‘Race for Life’ runs to raise funds for research, which are very popular with women. As the old adage goes – Prevention is better than cure.

 

There are still so many women in the world who also cannot afford menstruation products – therefore being open and discussing this in the mainstream is great for breaking barriers.

I also know the founder, Mandu Reid, of the menstrual cup charity ‘The Cup Effect’. Mandu foundered this charity that aims to change menstrual behaviour by empowering women and girls to use a menstrual cup, and protect the environment – that is synchronicity! The charity also uses the income raised to help women in ‘period poverty’ in the UK and in other less well-off parts of the world. Mandu also takes part in active campaigning, and again it was recently publicised in this brilliant article in The Guardian newspaper. To put some zest in this good work – Mandu also invites you to come to her Cupaware Party with friends.

Menstrual Cup
An Ergonomic menstrual cup  
The invention relates to a menstrual cup (10) having a bell-shaped lower part (20), comprising a plurality of non-convex grip surfaces (22, 24) which are distributed in a substantially axisymmetric manner at least over said bell-shaped lower part (20), and designed so as to be able to be pinched by the user’s fingers in order to facilitate the removal of the cup. Source: Espacenet.

Growing up in Trinidad, the girls in my school and neighbourhood circulated a famous book on puberty called ‘Growing up and liking it’ – see the link for past versions. It was in an easy-to-read format, and was instrumental in educating us on menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and what to expect of our bodies. We were fortunate to have mothers, sisters, aunties, friends and teachers at school to inform us too. Sadly, some countries still don’t have basic adolescent and puberty education, and so these challenges still exist.

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Growing up and liking it – Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health.       http://www.mum.org/GULIcov.htm

In all these Women Health issues, there are still opportunities to create charitable and profitable businesses. I have recently conducted some business research on these very issues. Again, only recently I have encountered ‘Fab little Bag’ whose mission is to stop pollution caused by flushed sanitary items: to make an awkward disposal into a fab experience…and to break down the barriers to promote female hygiene. You too might start to see their product in toilets across the country. These are the opportunities that entrepreneurial women are taking to help other women.

Women’s Health is too vast to cover as a one-off topic. As we enter the theme ‘Press for Progress’ for International Women’s Month in March 2018 – there is so much we can be thankful for in developments in research, health screening, hygiene etc. It is even better that we can rely on each other to talk, communicate, lobby, and raise awareness on Women’s Health to those near…and far to us. Pressing ahead, looking after ourselves is the best gift we can give ourselves – making time for our health and happiness should be top and number one on our To-Do-List!

Information Superhighway: access all areas

The Information Superhighway was a term used when I started working in the information industry in the early 1990’s. There are also a few books published on the topic at the time and my manager ordered some for our collection in the library where I worked. Recently I was reminiscing with my ex-colleague, Lina Kouzi, about this and we discussed how revolutionary it was at the time. That was about 24 years ago…before “everyone” used the web. I had already attended lectures at university on the “information society” vision that was a precursor to the information superhighway or cyberspace, as we now know it. All of this is history, but there are two aspects of the information and library world that will remain relevant even now: (1) Some people can use web-based sources very easily for their information needs, cruise at their leisure and/or accelerate in the fast lane for such things as the deep web and e-commerce. But (2) there are also parts of society and the developing world that do not have access to this road – much less so to a superhighway. These access barriers get forgotten sometimes.

Librarians and information professionals are always keen to help users to access content regardless of format, and to provide content that is relevant, correct, critically analysed within research frameworks and standards in various fields of interest.

This month, it was such a pleasure to volunteer to represent SLA Europe in Dublin for the inaugural Information Professional Career Expo at the Dublin Business School in Ireland. I was keen to meet professionals and new graduates in the Irish Information Community and to make time to see my ex-colleague and friend Lina at the National Council for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI). I flew into Dublin City Airport early in the morning and Lina took me straight to her office at the NCBI. I have kept track of Lina’s amazing work over the years and I find the library and media services she provides to the blind and partially sighted to users across Ireland awesome and inspiring! There are many features about their services that are unique and tailored for their users, such as a collection of braille resources and various media output in audio recordings of news, magazines (journals), books, etc. Lina showed we around the purpose built office in the Dublin suburbs with traditional library storage, but also with BBC standard built recording studios and booths. It was also very nice to be introduced to her colleagues, and I made sure I told them how amazing their work is to their users.

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Lina is also working with the local residents in a deprived community on a programme for up-skilling and training with recording items from the collection to be sent to users. I also saw the postal bags for materials that are sent out across Ireland free of postage charges, and with easy postal bags for users who may find it challenging to return items to the library. Some of her users have access to content on memory USB sticks, which are then returned in these postal bags (see photo). Library users have machines and devices for playing the audio materials that they receive from the NCBI. Obviously, there are younger users who may have smarter technology but some of them still use tradition and antiquated machines, as they are familiar with the machines. Lina created an annual report with some amazing facts and figures of their work and the valuable contribution they provide for their users and the positive impact this service has on users’ quality of life.

We both loved catching up and it was non-stop chatting on old and new stories. That is the beauty of being with an old friend – you pick up where you left off! We both quietly recalled and congratulated each other on our careers’ progress and how those early days at Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) were foundations skills and learning in the ‘Books’ and ‘Journals’ sections even in a corporate library – the experience is still relevant to the services we provide today in our current roles in terms of the ‘content’, transferable and business skills that we possess.

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After a quick lunch at the Temple Bar district of Dublin, I made a quick dash in the Dublin Taxi to the inaugural Information Professionals Career Expo at the Dublin Business School (DBS). Bursting with energy and excitement after seeing my dear friend, I entered the expo in full swing to a warm welcome to meet Irish SLA Europe members and DBS contacts Siobhan McGuinness, Neasa McHale and Marie O’Neill. I was mainly here to network, exalt the benefits of SLA Europe as a global network of information professionals and to give advice to anyone who wanted to chat at our stall.  I had the pleasure of meeting a few new graduates and gave then a few tips on how they can keep in contact with SLA Europe and what we are up to by our social media channels.  I also spoke on some of the more important CPD and social events we host. I gave tips on job seeking and staying on top of their personal development and seeking emerging new roles as well as traditional ones.

In the general career mentoring area, I also met Florence Curley from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).  Florence and I (like many other geographical territories) used to communicate to exchange information and assist each other in finding information or leads for our library users.  It was nice to meet someone in person you have never met before – even if it was 10 years ago that I left PwC!

It was also a pleasure to give a short talk at the start of the SLA Europe hosted networking and nibbles, where I was introduced by Philip of the Library Association in Ireland.  Philip set the tone with any introduction that called for information professionals to be excited to “put information in the hands of their users”, but also to “fight the good fight” with all the changes in the industry. I had prepared for a light-hearted talk on my career and what SLA Europe has meant for me and my own professional development, but I went on to mention thoughts that was hopefully motivational, encouraging and praiseworthy. I also urged the room to be prepared for the fight that we face as information professionals.  There are various roles, industries, subjects and creative cultural aspects of our valuable contribution – and I made sure that point was not missed.  Siobhan has written a fab Information Professional Expo event review here.

It was really nice to meet many of the group attending the nibbles and networking afterwards for a more personal chat on issues and opportunities that they may face. It was a true pleasure to attend these different venues in Dublin with varied user experiences and professional elements, which personally put the library and information industry into clearer perspective on the roads that lie ahead.

My time in Dublin was not all work and I was able to take a nice walk to my hotel, spend the evening listening to live music in my music-themed hotel and go by train to Galway the next morning.  I have visited Ireland before about 15 years ago for St Patrick’s Day, and definitely, it is a fabulous city that is worth a visit.  The countryside on the way to Galway was beautiful and very cliche green with livestock roaming the fields.  It was such a joy to see the animals resting, playing or grazing in the green grass of Ireland.  Galway was really nice as shown in my photos and I hope to visit Ireland again one day to see more of the countryside.

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Not only did I spend time speed networking in Dublin, but I also attended the Business Show as part of the Business & IP Centre team at Excel in May.  It is amazing that information is ubiquitious and accessible night and day in the palm of our hands, but people still want face to face information or pointers for those hard-to-find information needs.  Even if it is to reassure them what they already know.  I assisted with about 15 speed mentoring sessions for the London Growth Hub at the Business Show and most speed mentees wanted information that was practical or confirmation of where they can go to find out what they were looking for. The Information Superhighway may be all well and good but there is still a need for information professionals to provide that face-to-face conversation or provide answers that some people still need…and they may prefer to communicate in person. We still do this everyday in the library where I work.

Fake News and digital literacy are other issues that have come to the forefront in the last year.  This had probably been exasperated by social media and mainstream news being manipulated by the powerful.  This is not a new issue and I have been interesting in the topic for a while but not overly passionate about it.  There is a fabulous article in Information Today May 2017 entitled ‘What’s behind fake news and What you can do about it‘ by Kate Dempsey – which gives some fabulous insight into the role of information professionals and librarians in fact-checking and preventing the spread of misinformation. Tracey end by stating “It is vital to prove your continued value, and this is a timely, powerful way to do it. It’s one thing to repeat the old trope ‘People need libraries now more than ever,’ and that is another thing to get out there to prove it”.

It is vital to prove your continued value, and this is a timely, powerful way to do it. It’s one thing to repeat the old trope ‘People need libraries now more than ever,’ and that is another thing to get out there to prove it” – Information Today, May 2017, ‘What’s behind fake news and What you can do about it‘ by Kate Dempsey.

As with all content, we eventually will manage archives for future scrutiny, analysis and fact-checking. We are here to provide accurate, impartial and unbias information for independent research and for the empowerment of our users. This is not always easy, appreciated or even possible, but we professional won’t have it any other way!  It is our standards. So if you get away with half-truths or disinformation – we will eventually catch up with you in time!  I remember telling the attendees at the networking event in Dublin that I would have changed my career by now if I didn’t like being an information professional. I haven’t always had the “luck of the Irish” in my career…but I do feel lucky to do what I do.  Information works for me.

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Emerald – Ireland from the airplane.

Beat the January Blues – starting the year with a Bang!

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Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld lang syne

We’ll tale a cop o’ kindness yer

For auld lang syne

Auld Lyne Ayne by Robert Burns.

 

It has been a few weeks since we sang those words by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, but it is an appropriate reminder for how we want to carry on in the New Year. Christmas and the festive cheer are finally over but its’ excess can make us feel down and a bit underwhelmed in January. The weather is still cold, but like a lot of us – you may want to get going and set some self-imposed resolutions you want to try. Some of these recur every year and personally I always hope to get fitter, read more, eat less, save more, spend less, be kind, more volunteering, etc. I am not sure about you, but I am still trying to stick to these at the end of January! Stacia Pierce @StaciaPierce, a life coach to women entrepreneurs, is one of my Twitter followers and shared this motivational new year goals picture below and blog post on ‘Focus: the key to reaching our goals’. I quite like it as a visual reminder.

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Photo: Stacia Pierce’s Blog

However in January, there are still a few celebrations that are great for beating the well-known ‘January Blues’ that I am going to mention on here. Firstly in my neighbourhood, we had our second all-day soul disco party around my corner on new years day! It is a great way to start the new year in a local family friendly environment. I popped in the last two years for a boogie, and it was so nice to see people in the community dancing away the beginning of a new year. This is usually arrange by local deejays and community organisers in the Walthamstow Trades Hall.

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Next, I started celebrating Epiphany after over a decade ago when my French friend, Veronique, introduced us to La Fetes Des Rois with the cake Gallette Des Rois (King’s Cake). It is a national celebration in France and some continental European countries have a public holiday on the 6th January for Epiphany. It is a delicious cake and represents the arrival of the Three Wise Men who brought presents for baby Jesus on the 12th Day of Christmas.  The Gallete Des Rois is a fairly simple cake to make and you can find the recipe easily on the web. The best tradition of the cake is sharing it with close ones over a cup of tea or coffee. We play a fun game of getting the youngest child go under the table to randomly choose who should get the next slice of the cake. This is good fun as (1) it normally holds a token of good luck for the year ahead, and (2) you get to wear a crown for that day. It is a sweet tradition, and I am so grateful for my friend for introducing it to my family and I. It is not dissimilar to ‘Twelfth Day‘ which is another tradition that used to be practiced in the United Kingdom with coins in puddings.

This year, I made my first Gallette Des Rois to celebrate at home with Veronique. It will probably be a tradition I will continue after celebrating it for more than a decade. If you would like to try the Gallette Des Rois – you can order the gallette in advance from the French Patisserie Paul. I also saw this month that there are a few restaurants in London that were celebrating it – so you can give this feast a try next year.

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Another January celebration that I now look forward to is Burns Night, which is held in honour of the Scottish Poet Robert Burns on or around the 25th January. Robert Burns is Scotland’s most revered and famous poet – he is the same poet of ‘Auld Lyne’s Ayne’ as mentioned above. In the year 2001, I had my first experienced of a magnificent Burns Night party at the Waldrof Hotel. The venue was stunning with a live Ceilidh Band for some ‘Highland Fling’ dancing. Some of the men were dressed in Kilts and it will remain a memorable and fun experience for my colleagues and I at the time. Coincidently, on New Years Day this year, we stumbled upon the Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre with the Ceilidh Liberation Front band and dancing en masse in the foyer (see main header photo).

More recently, my Scottish friends invite us over for Burns Night and usually make the national dish – Haggis, mashed swede, mashed potatoes and cranachan with some of their own lovely traditions. Haggis tastes like spicy mince and it deservedly gets all the attention on this auspicious night! Robert Burns wrote many literary greats including his ‘Address to a Haggis’,  whereby the haggis usually is brought into the room by the chief, lead by a piper followed by toasts, poems and song, ending in the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

If you would like to celebrate this next year at home – Delia Smith has some tips on her website, and you can buy haggis from some supermarkets. There were also a few Burns Night celebrations in London, such as at Kerb Street Market. There is no excuse for you to join in the Scottish fun!

Burns Night is also a night when you can get in the spirit to partake of a “wee dram” of Whisky – the great Scottish export reliant and successful in international trade. The Scotch whisky industry has a “reputation as a global powerhouse, accounting for the largest volume of exports in the Scottish Manufacturing sector”. The current revenue is £5.1 Billion with 151 businesses whereby the spirits industry expects to grow by 2% in the current year as the depreciating pound lifts exports, according to the report ‘Spirits Production in the UK’ 2016 by IBIS World. Let’s toast to that!

Whisky – the great Scottish export reliant and successful in international trade. The Scotch whisky industry has a “reputation as a global powerhouse, accounting for the largest volume of exports in the Scottish Manufacturing sector”. Spirits Production in the UK – IBIS World 2016.

And my final January celebration is the annual Winter Warmer SLA Europe Quiz. It is a great time to meet friends, guests and fellow information professionals with a lot of fun, food and drink in an informal networking event. An excellent and funny quizmaster called AskTony runs this quiz. The general knowledge questions are hard (some are easy), random and themed with video and music clips – a librarian’s dream. I always come away with learning all those useless facts I didn’t know before! The connections quiz round is the one that make your brain cells frizz with excitement or dread! I have been lucky to be in the winning team for a few years, and win or lose…it is a brilliant night that I can recommend to you for your friends or colleagues.

So, I have had a lot of ‘January’ fun and I seem to be celebrating non-stop this year already. However, it is a time when I also think of serious goals for myself such as those mentioned in my opening paragraph. They are resolutions that I recycle each year and I am forever trying to adhere to them – but honestly it is difficult. Last year I made a resolution to myself to start my own blog. Evidently on here, I am pleased that this is my first full year of blogging. I am grateful for your comments, feedback and positive encouragement. I am happy and will continue to share a bit of my world with you, and together we can keep those ‘blues’ at bay.

Festivals and the Living is Easy

I have just returned from the International Festival of Business 2016 in Liverpool. This was an amazing opportunity for the Business and IP Centre to coordinate business advice clinics with regional Business & IP Centres in the network in the ‘Business Advisor Lounge’ at the newly opened National Exhibition Centre. The centre officially opened the same day as my visit by Queen Elizabeth II HRH, and I was told by colleagues that there was a lot of excitement having such a high profile respected world leader visit earlier that same day.

I was quite happy to go back to Liverpool again after visiting Anfield Football Stadium on the outskirts of Liverpool for a Euro 2000 football qualifier with Wales against Italy in 1998, as the Welsh Millennium Stadium was under construction. I didn’t see much of the city then, but I recently went back to for work for the day to Liverpool Centre Library to meet their staff at the Business & IP Centre Liverpool.  As a city, Liverpool has benefited in regeneration from a lot of investment in the public realm, and it looks shiny and fabulous on the two sunny days I was there. There is old architecture mixed with the new, Beatles tributes everywhere, the Mersey River, Albert Docks and attractive pedestrianised shopping areas. It is definitely a city worth visiting!

 

The International Festival of Business had a few highlights for me:

  • The Business & IP Centre held an Inspiring Entrepreneurs event on ‘Going Global’ with an excellent panel of entrepreneurs with some practical insight and tips for taking your business global.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers had a stall at the festival to the theme ‘The Next Chapter’ as it was in my full view all day – and kept reminding me of my time working for them. When I worked at PwC, there was a good-hearted joke that you can go anywhere in the world and still encounter a PwC experience or meet someone with a connection with them!
  • The UK Trade and Investment and HSBC both had massive presence in the exhibition space for attracting inward investment, advice for exporting and creating business connections. Whilst I was there, the theme for the festival last week was ‘Energy and Environment’.  It was interesting to see the innovative productions on display and the eco-friendly and green initiatives.

As I was working in the Business Advice Lounge to give information to businesses – I was unable to attend other events on simultaneously. However, it was a brilliant opportunity to collaborate with our partners in Business & IP Centre Sheffield and with The Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

I have just told you a brief review on a serious business festival, but I am going to use this opportunity to write about the Summer music and arts festivals bloom in the United Kingdom. My childhood friends would remember that I love music, dancing, listening to the radio, going to live concerts and shows. It was this very same vice that was one of the attractions for me coming to London in the first place to study. Think of the heady 1980’s with Live Aid and MTV that were broadcast across the globe – Trinidad & Tobago never missed a thing! And so I was seduced by this global pop culture.

Festivals are big business and ubiquitous in the last 12 years. This summer, I saw many festival articles, poster advertisements in the London Underground and promoted on the radio. There are a few articles on the industry that have caught my eyes. The Guardian Newspaper informs that the industry attracts foreign visitors and that overseas visitors spent £852 a visit.  The article also refers to an industry report ‘The Real Cost of Festivals’ by Parcelhero and states that 40% of British went to one festival and we collectively spent £2.1 Billion Pounds.

There is always excitement in who is going to headline the main stage at Glastonbury to rock out the crowd, and it seems that the line up of artistes is crucial in this competitive market. The line-up and offerings must be attractive to sustain its clientele.

Coachella, the biggest festival in the world, sells 198,000 tickets and pulls in $84 million for the Californian event. The UK’s largest festival – Glastonbury – has a turnover of £37m but sees profits of just £86,000: less than 50p per ticket.

Source: ‘The Real Cost of Festivals’ by Parcelhero.

At work, I also have access to the Mintel market intelligence reports that I used to research the industry. Mintel’s ‘Music Festivals’ which states that festivals and concerts have been the fastest growing area of leisure spending over the last five years to 2015.  There is also a fun and informative article by a member of staff on The IPO’s blog on Festivals.

Locally, I have participated in the Walthamstow Garden Party, a community festival which is hosted by the Barbican Centre in London. The Barbican with the local council and community groups ( arts, artists, craft-makers and businesses) coordinate the festival. They all have been successful  in delivering a fine show with headliners such as Tiken Jah Fakoly, Femi Kuti, The Brand New Heavies and The Asian Dub Foundation (due July 2016).

As the Fundraising and Events Chair at The Lloyd Park Centre – we have hosted the Mini-Garden Party offering as a family friendly space. The garden party is great for showcasing the newly award winning park redevelopments (including the skate park and William Morris Gallery), ‘Useful and Beautiful’ creative local arts and crafts, fitness groups, real food market, poetry, music, DJs, disco and many other businesses. Personally, I think it has been successful with visitor numbers at 30000 per annum. The organisers have given the opportunity for the Barbican, Waltham Forest Council and local groups to collaborate, and get to know each other better to put on a fantastic community festival which is open and free for all. Yes…I said free!

Love Supreme Festival is held in Glynde and is hosted by Jazz FM.  The name is inspired by John Coltrane’s ‘Love Supreme’. Glynde is not to be confused with Glyndebourne that is famous for opera but you do have to pass through there to get to the festival.  This festival is aimed at the family friendly market and is in a very scenic field in Sussex. I have been a fan of Jazz FM for a while, as my ex-colleagues will tell you. Three years ago I tried the station’s competition for festival tickets for fun …and I actually won two free camping tickets!! There was no way I couldn’t go! I ended up going with two friends and our children.

For Love Supreme, I normally pitch a tent (glamping is too expensive for me!) with the help of my dear friends. This is my third year there and I am looking forward to the Funky Sensation Party on the Friday night. It is nice to be there in the inaugural night when campers are settling in before the busyness of the next two days. It is pure pleasure to see people filling in the Arena tent and dancing to Jazz, Soul and Hip Hop (correct me if I am wrong please). People dancing, the energy and movement remind me of Trinidadian Fetes or Parties where everyone just want to dance!

People dancing, the energy and movement remind me of Trinidadian Fetes or Parties where everyone just want to dance! …on Love Supreme Festival

I have been listening to Jazz for a few years before the digital age. Listening to radio stations on apps and digital broadcasting will enlighten jazz lovers to the biographies of the artistes, history of the song and allows you to share your (impulsive) experiences on social media. This is a very powerful immersive experience, so I am constantly trying to resist sharing songs – but have little control as you may noticed. I am sure you have experienced this too. I have written about this user experience in a blog post for work ‘Rock Stars to Classical Orchestras’ at the British Library. I think this must make me a fan, groupie or in this case – a ‘Jazzhead’. I am already trying to coordinate and organise which acts I am looking forward to seeing at which stage in the festival and at what time, so that I can see and not miss them! 

Feel it in your heart and feel it in your soul
Let the music take control
We’re going to party, limin’, fiesta, forever…

‘All Night Long’ by Lionel Ritchie.

One point that I would like to make is that festivals are fabulous outlets for businesses. I love all the various international food stalls being a foodie, fashion stalls, bookshops, coffee shops, bars etc. I understand there is going to be a new beauty salon and banquet style dining on offer this year. This must be a great opportunity for businesses with so many festivals in the United Kingdom. I would like to try another festival another time such as Glastonbury, Latitude and Womad. Womad is extra special to me as The British Library has recorded it for over 30 years.

Soon I will be there, lost in the music and experience with good friends (especially in the chaotic times of Brexit!). I hope you will forgive me for this self-indulgence.  It is one of my guiltiest pleasures and so I must try to behave. My only wish is that we’ll have some sunshine there.

Networking in a small world

One of the best aspects of working in Business Information is that both information suppliers and professional organisations are generous and committed to helping clients and members to network and get to know each other.  I have been fortunate to be going to these events across London for more than twenty years, and relish seeing old friends and making new acquaintances.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the City Information Group was a professional association that hosted networking and social events across London in fabulous locations.  Some of the memorable events were held at The Dorchester Hotel, The Conservatory at the Barbican, an Art Gallery in Bermondsey and the Dover Street Arts Club (Yes my friends, I still remember the quail eggs canapés and potent wine).  Most of these events were sponsored by information and online services providers. So it was a very cost effective way for me to network, discuss interesting topics and purely for having some fun (I see nothing wrong with that!).  Most of all, I still see myself as a tourist in London and so enjoy going to new venues.  Sadly, the City Information Group no longer exists.

I have been a member of SLA Europe for 14 years and they are great at arranging networking events, educational seminars and tours across London. I get so much value for money from my membership, and honestly, I am not just saying that because I am their Membership Chair.  SLA Europe are always hosting events that are on the cusp of the information profession and industry SLA_Europe Logosector, such as ‘The Future of News’, ‘Tweeting while you work’, ‘The Evolving Value of Information Management’ etc.  Their programme of events over the years has been exceptional for networking and for visiting interesting buildings such as Dow Jones at their News Room, Nomura Bank on the Thames riverside and the quirky Barber Surgeon’s Hall in the city. Some of these venues shown on SLA Europe’s Flickr account are private offices or corporate venues to hire, and therefore they would not normally be open to the public.  There have been many more fun and interesting events over the years but I can’t remember them all. Along my same train of thought, here is a handy recent SLA Europe event review written by Vicky Sculfor with Top Five Tips for Networking.

“We are shifting from people who manage collections to people who manage connections.” – Deb Schwarz. SLA.

Timely too, is a relevant article and quote above from Deb Schwarz in SLA headquarters’ journal ‘The Connected Librarian – More than Social Media’, Information Outlook, March-April 2016. Deb evaluated from her colleagues that the “guide to the future of our profession” are:

  1. The connected librarian is about building and strengthening relationships, both within and outside the profession as well as personal and virtual.
  2. The connected librarian creates and maintains a linkage to time—past, present, and future.
  3. The connected librarian links people to increasingly diverse types and voluminous amounts of information.

Bureau Van Dijk (BvD), an online provider for business intelligence and company data, host two parties a year for their clients, often in museums. I try to make sure that these are in my diary! Some of these museums have been so remarkable, that I want to mention them specially:

  • Imperial War Museum (IWM) – covers conflicts, especially those involving Britain and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present day. The IWM was renovated recently and it was special to be there in 2014 on the 100th anniversary of the first world war.

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    A V1 Doodle Bug hanging over the BvD party at the Imperial War Museum
  • Hunterian Museum at The Royal College Of Surgeons – has unrivalled collections of human and non-human anatomical and pathological specimens, models, instruments, painting and sculptures that reveal the art and science of surgery from the 17th century to the present day. This was the most surreal venue to network! Where you are surrounded by thousands of glass medical specimens whilst mingling and drinking canapés! The display meant I could not manage to eat in there but it is a must to see, if you like that sort of thing.

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    Hunterian Museum
  • The Natural History Museum– has 80 million specimens spanning billions of years.  It is always amusing and enchanting regardless of the time of year or how many times you go.  In 1995, I went behind the scenes on a private tour with a Brazilian Marine Biologist relative who was visiting London. We were shown extinct specimens that are inaccessible to the public.
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The Natural History Museum
  • Wallace Collection – has unsurpassed displays of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings. Earlier this year, we were impressed by the grandeur and exquisite French styled rooms and artefacts of a bygone era.  It really is special, educational and heartwarming that we still have these treasures in museums for our collective history.
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Selfie with Colleagues in the Boudoir at the Wallace Collection

As I conclude, Librarians and informational professionals are one of the most connected professionals.  Long before the Internet and LinkedIn, we have relied on our network for career development, to share information and knowledge.  As professionals, we are still active face-to-face as well as tuned in virtually, and use this interconnected and interoperable network in an increasingly small world. Be it in search of good, sad or bad news and information – we are able to rely on our network to find, provide and support each other to show that we can help or that we care.  Some sceptics may disagree.  One thing is for sure – Librarians are certainly not boring!

For these reasons, I am a staunch believer in the idea of Six Degrees of Separation where people are linked in the connectivity of a modern but also digital world. I once helped to host a seminar entitled ‘Creating Connections’, where we demonstrated that people are linked from high official positions to people in the most remote places on Earth! But seriously, you can read more on this idea as there is much written on it in books and on the Internet.

When I need to extol the benefits of my profession – I always say that these social person-to-person networking events are a great opportunity for personal development and for business.  Networking is a dedicated and fun time where reconnections and new connections with people are made with great camaraderie in quirky, grand and historic buildings, usually with food and drink.

I hope I have convinced you. What are you waiting for?