Saturday, 17 December 2011

Trainee training 2011 - so how did we do???

Well, who would have thought it - it's nearly Christmas and this blog is still going strong! It is very amusing to look back to my first post - I was exceptionally nervous, apprehensive, unsure - you name it - of how I would use the blog, what I would write etc. It is good to know that I have managed to overcome those feelings (well most of the time!) and so to everyone who has been following me - thank you!!!

You may recall earlier in the year that I talked quite a bit about our trainee training programme that kicks off every September when the new trainee lawyers start. Just to recap - we run our sessions over a period of about 8-10 weeks, in contrast to some firms I have worked at whereby the library sessions with the trainees are all finished within their first couple of weeks.

The sessions are run by myself and one of my Managers. This year, we ran the following sessions:

1) Introduction to the library: how we work, what we can supply, charges, plus an overview of copyright restrictions (very important to try and develop an awareness of that early on!)
2) Caselaw: an overview
3) Legislation: an overview
4) Forms and Precedents
5) European caselaw and legislation: an overview

Each session involves a lecture-style presentation from myself and my manager, a chance to ask questions, and ends with the trainees answering questions relating to that session. We then go through the questions with them and explain anything they had difficulties with. For this part of the session we take them to the IT training room, where they have access to our online resources and so can work through real-life examples.

The reason we go back to basics and explain the fundamentals of caselaw and legislation is simply because our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds - some may have studied law at university before sitting their LPC, while others will simply have done another degree, followed by a conversion course and LPC. The LPC is the last stage of law school. However, this means they have all different levels of experience, therefore we have come to the conclusion that all of them will benefit from a recap of the basics, and it ensures that they are all starting from a similar point once they have reminded themselves of this base knowledge.

The one thing that we felt this year should be revised going forward, however, is the length of the sessions. Traditionally we have taken a comfort break halfway through our presentation; this year, however, we got the impression that the trainees found this a little frustrating, and would rather just press on and finish early! We tried this out in our last session and it worked really well, therefore I think it's something we will always offer in our sessions going forward - that way if they want a break, they can have one, but if they want to just keep going, we will do so.

We got very good feedback in terms of the content of the sessions, with some of the trainees saying in particular that the European caselaw/legislation material was particularly helpful, because they had no idea that so much pre-legislative material is freely available online. For the record this kind of material can be of particular interest to the trainees if they are asked to carry out research on a particular piece of EU legislation - there can be some excellent background material in there. We also produce some handouts each year - not for every session, but a handbook in the first session and an excellent guide to European legal research written by one of our PSLs. We got great feedback on this as well. I think the handbook in the first session is very useful to them, because that first session comes very early on in their time with us, and judging from the stunned/exhausted faces we always see before us, I don't think they are physically able to take in everything we tell them! So it's definitely useful for them take that book away to their desks. We include information not only on library services, but tips on Boolean searching, what resources are best for certain kinds of research and so on.

From our point of view, this year's training sessions on the whole went smoothly (I say on the whole - there were the inevitable IT blips/online examples that worked fine at my desk, but failed at the first hurdle in front of the trainees....!) - but I think one thing that both myself and my manager notice more and more with every year, is that many of the trainees give the impression - at least for the first couple of sessions at least - that they do not need to be there. I think the perception of the 'library' is one that they associate with their academic libraries. They have no concept of just how important we are to the fee-earners - although many learn very quickly once in their seats and being asked to carry out research! But in all seriousness, I find it rather sad that yet again, we face these ongoing preconceptions of what people think a library is like - they assume that all we do is manage the book collection and that's as far as it goes. For the most part, I can laugh it off, as one way or another, they come to realise that a corporate library is very different to the one they had at uni/law school....but at the same time, it's also frustrating that simply because of our job title, we are regularly having to justify our presence. When any of the fee-earners find out that we are actually all qualified to MA/MSc level, they are utterly dumbfounded. It is a sad fact that librarianism as a profession is sorely undervalued across the board.

Anyway, on the plus side, this year's trainee training is all done and dusted, the trainees have settled into their seats very well, and my Manager and I have given a collective sigh of relief that that is it out of the way for another year! I really do think we both have learned a lot from this year and have been able to critically evaluate how we did, both in our own opinions as well as taking into account the feedback given to us by the trainees themselves - thereby giving us some food for thought for next year....

Image courtesy of: jscreationzs /

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Public librarianship - a whole new world...

I recently went on a tour of the Barbican public library - which functions as a fantastic lending library bang in the City, and was really struck by the diferences between this kind of librarianship, and the kind we practise in the law library. Now obviously the environments are worlds apart - I realise that! But I have to admit I was quite struck by the differences in the skillsets needed by a corporate librarian, and a public librarian.

In some ways, however, our priorities boil down to the same fundamental issue - proving our worth in a very tough economic climate. The corporate law library within a law firm is always going to be very profit-orientated - and even more so than ever in the current shaky financial climate. We are trying to keep our spending down but our profits up. Our fee-earners want us to provide them with the best possible service in the most cost-effective way for their clients. As a service, we need to prove our worth, however, therefore we also want to carry out as much chargeable work as possible.

Talking to the librarians I met at the Barbican, the public library is equally, if not more, vulnerable in the current financial climate, and so they are trying to find ways of providing an excellent range of services to their users and encourage more and more people to join up, so that they can prove their worth to the local council who provides funding.

The key difference, I guess, is our users. A corporate library is rarely used for pleasure! A public library, although often used for research and so on, is often aiming to encourage people to use it for pleasure, or perhaps to learn a new skill. Therefore there is a far greater opportunity to be creative; to think up new ways to encourage people to use their library. The corporate environment will never be like this, and of course I accept this - but it doesn't mean I am always happy about it!

One other thing that struck me was that in the public library, I think you need to be far more adept at dealing with people from all walks of life, because your users are from a whole spectrum of backgrounds. In the law library, we obviously only deal with lawyers/trainee lawyers, who for the most part, tend to be more than capable of expressing what they want and when they need it. In the public library, however, we were told that when on the enquiry desk you really could be asked anything and everything! Plus, you need to be able to communicate effectively with people of all ages, in order to fully understand what it is they are looking for. I think working in this environment probably makes you a lot more open minded. Of course I don't speak for all us corporate librarians, but from my own perspective, we are probably at risk of becoming a little bit used to only dealing with a certain kind of person. Although dealing with lawyers undoubtedly requires a lot of patience and tact at times, dealing with the general public is a whole different ball game.

One thing that we do share is our outlook on e-books. The librarians I met said that there are no plans as yet to implement e-book lending in British libraries, and furthermore, that they do not foresee the oft-talked about 'death of the book' - but rather a world in which the two different kinds of book co-exist. At present we are encountering the same feeling...e-books are not something that every fee-earner would use; in fact there is a large proportion of our fee-earners who simply refuse to use anything other than a hard copy text. At present, we do not see ourselves venturing into the e-book quagmire any more than we do already, simply because the take-up of such a service would not be high enough to justify the costs involved. This may change as the older fee-earners retire and are replaced by a generation of lawyers who were accustomed to using mainly e-books at law school - but for now, we approach the area with caution and only have a few looseleafs and books available online. Where we have this, we also have the key ones in hard copy anyway.

Some of this post may sound like I am being a little bit negative about my own profession, so for the record: I'm not! All I am doing is critically analysing the kind of librarianship I currently practise. While I enjoy my job for the most part, I think everyone benefits from learning about other kinds of librarianship from time to time - and realising that although we may carry out very different kinds of work, we can still learn from each other, not just those who work in the same field as we do. Again it stresses the importance of good old networking and how we become far more rounded individuals when we have a greater awareness of all the different facets to librarianship.

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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Copyright in the digital age - BIALL Audioconference

I was very fortunate to be able to get a place on an audioconference being organised by the BIALL Solos group (BIALL has a number of spin-off groups for various parts of the country/types of librarian) on 24th Nov 2011. Although not officially a solo librarian any more, I used to be one for some time and so am still part of this group. When I read about this seminar it was of great interest to me, because copyright in the age of technology is a fast-changing and evolving field, and is something that I only have a basic knowledge of - but would like to learn more. One of my managers acts as copyright officer for the firm, therefore she is out 'go-to' person with any queries, but just for my own development, I would like to know more, and this free telephone conference lasting only an hour was the ideal way of doing so.

CLA License
The seminar was hosted by Chris Holland, who used to work at the Law Society. The first part was dedicated to going through the proposed changes to CLA Licenses (Copyright Licensing Agency). Every law firm needs to be in possession of a licence from the CLA in order to allow them to make photocopies and store materials within reason.  The problem with the proposed changes are not just about the potential 40% hike in price, but also because in terms of licensing digital content, this is something that we often have separate agreements for with each of our vendors. Lexis do not want CLA to license their content, nor do we as a firm wish to pay effectively twice for copyright licensing. Another issue that was raised is that firms are increasngly doing less and less hard copy photocopying as a whole, therefore people don't want to pay a full copyright license fee for copying that they rarely actually carry out.

It was clear from the vocal reaction of many participants that the CLA license is a thorny issue and it will be interesting to see how the situation is resolved. At the end of the day, the CLA as a body still need to make money, while the law firms are becoming more and more resistant to paying certain fees, as the way we copy has changed so much. Certainly in our firm I can understand why it is an issue; we really do not copy from hard copies on a regular basis at all anymore - almost everything is online in one shape or another.

NLA Licence
We then moved onto discussing the licensing arrangements that each firm has in place for newspaper usage. At present there a range of licenses depending on your organisation size/turnover and business needs. Changes that affect this side of things, however, are newspapers like The Times and the Financial Times, who have created a paywall in terms of access to their content, and perhaps the biggest issue to date is this year's NLA v Meltwater case. This was a case that attracted a lot of attention because the NLA maintained that users of a news aggregation service (Meltwater) needed a license to receive the info, even though it was just a headline and summary - the judge maintained that the NLA were in the right and their copyright was being infringed - this small amount of info can be classed as a substantial part of an article. But Meltwater were relying on the 'temporary copies' provision of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, which was meant to allow for the titles of work to be used - but things have moved on in the digital age, and this is why we are running into such problems nowadays.

There a number of licenses under discussion at present; it looks like we shall be hearing debate on both the CLA and NLA licenses for some time to come.

I definitely found this part of the discussion to be highly topical to what we do in the library, and it was interesting to learn more about what actual licensing agreements firms have in place, as this is something that at present is negotiated by our copyright officer (one of my managers as already mentioned). However, I think it is vital that in order to progress within this field, I acquire a good grasp of what the issues are in this respect, as adhering to copyright law is an extremely important part of managing any library.

General changes to copyright in the EU/UK
We spent the last half of the audioconference discussing what other issues are impacting upon copyright law at present. One of the biggest issues facing Intellectual Property law in the UK right now is the Hargreaves Review. This is a review of IP law that was commissioned by the Government in order to ascertain what works and what doesn't work/needs revision etc, in light of the digital age we now find ourselves in. Prof Hargreaves was pretty critical of copyright laws in the UK, stating that at present, it is a barrier to economic growth. This is said to be due to the difficulties that people face in obtaining permission to use copyrighted material. He proposes the establishing of a Digital Copyright Exchange, which would be an online, straightforward means of getting clearance rights. Vince Cable announced only a couple of weeks ago that Richard Hooper has been tasked with investigating how to take this proposal forward. The Government are strongly of the opinion that it will open up the UK's IP systems for the better.

Another major issue we touched upon is the EU Copyright Directive. Chris maintained that many believe that the copyright exceptions contained in this directive should be far more generally implemented in UK law - at present, they are not mandatory, only optional. Therefore at present, EU member states can effectively pick and choose what they want and don't want to implement! Hargreaves states that allowing all of the exceptions to be implented would also assist.

Orphan Works
Orphan works are basically pieces of work for which the copyright owner cannot be contacted. This presents a huge problem to an institution like the British Library who want to digitise their collection - how can they do so if they cannot obtain permission for certain works? Furthermore, getting in touch with each individual copyright owner is simply logistically impossible! This is an example of how current copyright restrictions are thought to be standing in the way of letting our cultural heritage evolve. It is certainly a valid point in my opinion, and one to which I hadn't given a lot of thought until now. It does seem rather silly that we have moved on in so many ways in the last 20 years - probably technology has evolved more in that short time than at any other time! - yet we remain bound by what now appear to be somewhat antiquated laws that certainly don't suit today's 'digital economy'.

Digital Economy Act 2010
The Digital Economy Act 2010 is an Act that was pushed through very quickly at the end of Gordon Brown's parliamentary reign. Its purpose is to completely overhaul Intellectual Property law and make it fit for the digital age. There was initially some doubt as to whether the new coalition government would take it forward, but it does seem that they are moderately keen to implement it. One of the main issues they wish to tackle is illegal file sharing/copyright infringement, and Chris mentioned that this does have an effect on libraries - although perhaps not quite so much for corporate libraries such as this one. However, he stated that many librarians are concerned that the legislation has not only been pushed through too quickly, but that the expectations of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are just too high. If ISPs are expected to tackle illegal file sharing, this could have implications for libraries that provide free wi-fi, for example. People believe that there is just too much onus being placed on ISPs to police the Internet - although copyright owners will be the ones who pass the info on to ISPs about people they believe are infringing their copyright.

The Digital Economy Act is an absolute minefield and is something that I have a vested interest in, given the work I do for our IP team. There is a huge amount of debate ongoing over it - we barely scraped the surface in our audioconference as was simply neither the time nor the place.

This was an absolutely fantastic seminar and I am so glad that I decided to participate. It gave me an excellent overview of the issues we face in terms of copyright, not just in the law library but on a more general level too. Chris Holland delivered the points in a concise and clear way that really enabled me to make sense of things. It is definitely an area about which I would love to learn more, and am considering speaking to my manager  who deals with this area, about getting a bit more involved/helping her out with it.

Image courtesy of: renjith krishnan /

Saturday, 3 December 2011

TFPL Connect Event: Achieving Prosperity, how to grow with what you have - and a bit of networking!

On 28th November 2011 I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an event run by TFPL Connect. TFPL Connect is a network of people who work in information/knowledgeand records management. Events are run regularly throughout the year to encourage networking and give us the chance to all meet up in a nice venue, listen to what is normally an excellent speaker on a topic of general interest, and then afterwards there's a chance to mingle, chat and enjoy drinks and nibbles.

This was the first event by TFPL Connect that I had been able to make it along to, so I was a little bit nervous on the one hand about what to expect - but equally eager to try and put all the networking skills and tips into practice that I have acquired over the last few months!

On arrival at the lovely Crowne Plaza in Blackfriars, we were given our name badges and invited to have a drink before the talk began. It was a little daunting when I walked over to the bar area, bravely armed with only my name badge, and was faced with various small groups of people, all of whom looked as if they knew each other. However, although part of me felt like running right out the room(!), I forced myself to take  glass of wine and move through bar towards the room where the talk would be held. From just listening to the conversation around me, I felt a little better when I realised that a lot of the people standing in groups had actually arrived together, as opposed to already becoming acquainted in such a short time! After a few minutes, I caught the eye of a lady also on her own stood not too far from me, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and introduce myself!

One of the things that I was told about at a session on networking skills was to break the ice by making a joke about being on your own, for example. So after introducing ourselves to each other, I made some remark about how I hate the start of events like this, when you feel the pressure to be talking to someone but just can't quite break through! This definitely broke the ice between us, and we had a chat about very general things - our jobs, our organisations, our commutes. After about 10 minutes, a lady known to the lady with whom I was already speaking came over, and so suddenly I found myself with 2 new acquaintances. Shortly after this, it was time to take our seats. I was expecting a lecture-style seating arrangement, i.e. rows of chairs, but in fact the room was set up in tables of about 8-10 people, and we could sit where we wanted. I ended up sitting with the lady whom I approached earlier on one side, and another unknown person on my other side. About 6 other people joined our table, none of whom I knew at all at this point.

The talk was all about influencing people and communicating effectively, and I am very happy to say it was given by none other than the very talented Nick Davies of The Really Great Training Company. Some of you may remember earlier in the year when I wrote a blog post on a fantastic session on networking that this man gave at one of our firm's internal training sessions. The fact he was speaking at this event was a big draw for me, as I knew he would be superb. He did not disappoint!

First of all, we talked about the 4 things that people do wrong when trying to influence or persuade others. Then we looked at the 6 ways in which people are persuaded to do something. Finally, we looked at the 2 essential things to do in order to persuade people! Nick called this the 4-6-2 method and it made for a witty, sparky and thought provoking hour.

One thing Nick said is that all too often, people focus on the want rather than the need, but rather, a savvy negotiator focuses on the NEED and WHY people are asking for whatever it is they're asking. If you can behind that, then you are in a stronger position to negotiate with the person. I found this quite an interesting concept. The automatic reaction we all have is to want to meet the want, or try and find a way around not meeting it. But it's a different matter to dig a bit more and find out why a person is asking for whatever it is they're asking. I think if you are armed with that knowledge, you are better equipped to handle the situation to your advantage.

Another interesting thing we looked at was all the ways in which people are influenced into wanting a particular thing. Nick gave the example of how marketing execs play on these typical characteristics. For example, if we think something is scarce, we automatically feel we better get it now before it runs out - so when we see a sale advertised on TV, we are often pressured into making purchases we might not have necessarily made, for fear that the offer will be gone completely. Social pressures also play a big part in how we behave - Nick gave an excellent example of how if you see a sponsor sheet and everyone has sponsored £10, it's highly unlikely you will sponsor more (don't want to be seen as flash), but you won't sponsor less either (don't want to be seen as stingy). Even as adults we succumb to social pressures like this.

Authority and likeability are 2 other ways in which we're persuaded. So if we see someone on a plane with lots of stripes on his shoulder and he tells us to get off the plane, it's far more likely we will listen to him than to a cleaner! Equally, our friends can persuade us to do things because we like them, we have trust in them and we want to please them.

It's all very interesting to me and I would definitely love to learn more about this kind of thing; about how we influence each other and how the human mind actually works! I think it's particularly relevant as you move up the ladder in the workplace - I think to have this kind of understanding of people would definitely be a bonus.
If someone asks for a payrise, it would be all too easy to focus on the 'want' and think how to get round of it. A little more probing, however, could reveal the actual need, and why they want this - and that might then put you in a better position as a boss to negotiate.

Nick maintains that the 2 key things to succeed in persuasion are trust and credibility. If someone gains credibility in their job, we have confidence that they know what they are doing - but this credibility is meaningless without trust as well. You need to build up a relationship with someone to get them to trust you. This is particularly pertinent to me, where building up a relationship with the IP team at work has been vital in terms of getting them to use me. It didn't matter where I came from and how many years experience in the law library I had. They needed to learn to trust me and see that I was reliable, and that I followed through on requests, and only then did they start to use me! Nick stressed the importance of not relying solely on email to build these crucial relationships - and I couldn't agree more. He said that people need to see you; they need to get to know you as a person rather than just a line of type. Even a phone call is better!

After the session with Nick ended, we had the opportunity to head back to the bar and have another drink, and actually do some more 'networking'. I spent about an hour talking to 2 people who had been on my table. Neither of them were remotely connected to the legal world, therefore it was really interesting for us all because we have very different perspectives on research. As a law librarian, I am very focused on cost and time-efficiency, while the people I were speaking to came from medical research/consultancy backgrounds, and provide a very different service to the one I provide. I think this is one of the most important things about networking - the exposure that you get to people in the information world, but who have a totally different working day! I had no idea that there were so many different facets to the information community - it's only once you get out there and widen your horizons, that you truly realise how diverse the field is.

All in all, I am really pleased that I attended this event. I was able to put some of the tips on what to do on such occasions into action, and I met some really interesting people. It's definitely increased my confidence for the future at such events. Although daunting, I think I can appreciate now that once you have broken the ice, one opportunity leads to another - and as a rule, everyone is there for the same reason, and if someone else is on their own, it's very likely they will be all too happy to chat!

I also very much enoyed the insight into negotiation and persuasion given to us by Nick Davies. A worthwhile and very enjoyable evening indeed.

Source: Image:

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Secondees - to help or not to help?

So one issue that has come up for discussion on more than one occasion this week is how to deal with our trainee lawyers who are out on secondment at one of our clients. This is quite a common practice in a lot of the commercial firms - basically, some of our trainees will spend one of their 6 month 'seats' at one of our major clients. They will be based in the in-house legal team and so will get exposure to a whole new environment. The problem that we have encountered this year though, is that we are getting more and more research queries from our secondees. Now on the one hand, that's great cos that's what we are here for...especially when they are out of the office and don't have access to a lot of our resources. The line that we have taken in the past is that we will assist secondees when they are on secondment, but usually just with accessing things they can't possibly do when away, eg. textbooks, certain caselaw searches....however in recent months, I have started to do quite a lot of research for one of them because he's with one of our key IP clients (I work mostly with the IP team). This has caused a little bit of consternation with the bosses, just because in theory, a lot of the research is not being done on any specialist resources....and it's for the client - therefore they are making money out of us, as opposed to if the trainee was office-based and asking us to help with research that is for a fee-earner....

So the question is - where do we draw the line? It's a really tricky one, because at the end of the day, our whole purpose is to assist the lawyers, and if a trainee is on secondent, got loads of work on and needs our help, it's very hard to say no!

It looks like the solution we are going to implement is simply to treat each secondee enquiry on a case-by-case basis....if we are pushed for time - as is the case most of the time! - and we get sent an enquiry that is time-consuming, but in theory doesn't necessitate use of textbooks and other restricted sources, then we may just give a general overview of the topic, and let the trainee extract the specific bits of info themselves - or at worse, push it back to them, giving them a few ideas of searches/places to look. Have to admit I do find it hard to say 'no' at the best of times, so it's not always the easiest thing for me to push work back to the trainees - even though sometimes it's for their own good, as they do need to learn to do their own research rather than just rely on us for everything!

But in all seriousness it's definitely an issue that I have never encountered before. I'll keep you posted on how it goes over the next few months...

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Stem your 'work obsession'...

All work and no play...
Regular readers will know that because this Law Library gets so busy that at times,  it's very hard for this particular Law Librarian to switch off and put it out of my mind...However, a recent tip from Harvard Business Review explains the importance of taking time out and being able to put work out of your mind, even when things are at their most stressful:

It is of vital importance that you take some time out of every working day in order to get away from your desk and computer screen. This is something that I used to be very guilty of, but in recent months, I have been making a point - where possible - of leaving my desk for at least 20 minutes, if not longer, at lunchtime. It is all to easy to fall into a rut of eating at your desk while perhaps having a quick browse of the Internet, but it means that you don't let your brain switch off - and you return to whatever task is at hand not feeling rested, but tired and weary. If possible get some fresh air - or as HBR say, even just going to the gym gets you out of the office and refreshes your mind and brain a bit. Unless I am caught up in a time-sensitive piece of work, I always try to get away from it nowadays and I definitely feel the benefit of my 'time out' on my return to my desk.

While I don't tend to have much work to do in the evenings or at weekend - although it would be very easy to start doing bits and pieces at the weekend when you can login to work from the comfort of your sofa! But again this is something that I try and steer clear of doing as a rule, therefore I think it's of equal importance to allow your brain to switch off at these times too, and make a conscious effort not to think or discuss work-related problems/stresses. It can be quite difficult at times, but if you don't try hard to allow yourself this down time, it simply means that you return to work the next day, or Monday morning, feeling totally unrested and demoralised.

If all else fails, find a new hobby!
As HBR correctly point out, the less time you have outside of work to think about work, and login to that work email account, then the less likely you will be to focus on it to the point of obsession when you are at home! Always make time to do the things you enjoy. Again if I am worried about a piece of work, I struggle at times not to dwell on it, but I am aware of the benefits of forcing myself not to do this, and certainly not at the expense of doing things I enjoy!

The upshot is: if you find that you are beginning to eat, sleep and breathe your job - stop yourself right there, and make a conscious effort NOT to login from home, to bring in a book and get away from your desk at lunchtime, and above all remember that your mental and physical health should always be the priority...Burning out through stress is not an option!

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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Something I learned this week: searching for images using

Just a little something that I learned this week, that in all my years of using various Lexis platforms to search for articles, I didn't know was possible until now!

At present we use the American platform,, to run searches for press articles worldwide. When articles are put on Lexis, they don't come with their original images, eg a newspaper article may have a picture or several pictures, often with captions. These actual photographic images do not show up on Lexis - but the caption does, along with the word 'graphic'. I was asked if it was possible to search by image on - so we were looking for articles that had contained a photograph of a particular item. Initially I didn't think it would be possible - but it turns out that you can run a 'graphic' search, where Lexis will search the captions that accompanied the various images that were in the original article. The fee-earner was delighted, and even though we would need to resort to obtaining original copies of the article if we want to actually see the image being referred to, the fact that we could identify articles with this particular image was a great start.

I have to admit, I do love it when I learn something new like this!!

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Delivering a successful presentation

 So it has been a while since I have had a chance to mull over some of the bitsesize gems of wisdom that appear on the Harvard Business Review Management Tip of the Day website, so it's nice to be able to take some time to reflect on one that I read recently about delivering presentations successfully

Believe it or not, we are still in the throes of trainee training  even though it's November - our program starts off quite intensively for the first four weeks of the trainees' arrival, and then we hold a couple of sessions later on once they are more settled into their seats. The session that I am preparing for at the moment is to do with European law, and believe me, it's not something I particularly enjoy training people in! In my opinion, European law research can be very tricky indeed when you start to dig further than, say, just looking for a case! I have just been going over my examples for researching European secondary legislation before its published in its final form, and so this particular tip is pertinent to me right now, as I am always open to ways to improve my delivery in such sessions.

Careful preparationThe first recommendation is excellent preparation. I cannot agree more with this. It may seem obvious to some people, but you would be surprised how many people think that a sketchy knowledge is ample, and they will be able to wing it once they're up there. I personally can't think of anything more horrendous! I realise that you don't want to be too 'scripted'; you don't always want to be looking down at your notes, but want to sound natural - but at the same time, I like to know I have a thorough understanding of the background to what I am actually talking about. My informal 'mentor', a lady I worked with a few years ago and who I talked about at length in one of my CPD23 posts earlier in the year, is without a doubt the person who always stressed to me the importance of being prepared. Not only will you feel more confident once you are up there, but you will also feel more confident when it comes to answering questions from the audience. A good knowledge of what you are actually talking about will make this side of things a lot easier. It's a piece of advice I have never forgotten and I am glad to see that the Harvard Business Review agree that it's of great importance!

Doing a dry run - 1
The next crucial piece of advice is to do a number of dry runs, first in front of your computer, with the slides if you have any, and then without the slides. The point of doing it first in this way is to enable you to focus on what you are saying without having to worry about body language at this stage.  Again this is without a doubt a very important part of the presentation preparation. I like to have enough time to familiarise myself with what I am going to be saying - particularly because when I am doing trainee training, I am doing live examples on various databases and websites - and there's always at least one example that goes wrong, no matter how many times I have run it in my dry run sessions! So while you can't preempt everything when you are doing 'live' searches, it certainly helps to make you feel more confident if you have run them before and they worked - sometimes it's just that you have made a simple typing error! Knowing that your examples worked previously gives you more confidence when it comes to sorting out any problems that may arise on the day, in my experience.

Dry runs also enable you to memorise a lot more than you would if you just turned up with some notes you threw together the day before. Nothing will make you feel more relaxed and confident than knowing you know your topic and the aims of your session thoroughly.

Doing a dry run - 2
For the final stage of preparation, they advise doing another dry run, but actually in the room, or a room similar to the one you are giving the presentation in. This allows you to put the whole package together, concentrating not only on what you're saying, but how you are delivering it: eye contact, posture etc. This is definitely a valid point, and is something that I tend to forget about when I am doing some kinds of presentation - I get so caught up in the content itself, that I forget about the image I am projecting when I present. The image I want to present is that I am calm, in control and moreover, fully understand what I am talking about! I think this is something that you really need to focus on projecting, even if you don't necessarily feel it 100%. I think people do pick up on nerves in a presenter. I often find it helpful to picture someone who I think gives really effective presentations; it could be a colleague, a friend, someone you saw at a conference. Watch their body language, how they move about the stage/room etc, how they make eye contact. You can learn a lot just from observation.

I definitely found this post a helpful one. It makes some valid key points with regard to preparing to present to others. Now, however, I better get back to the joys of Eur-lex... :)

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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Visit to the London Library - A Hidden Gem In Central London

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being given a guided tour around the London Library. It was organised by the CLSIG group, which is part of CILIP (Commercial Legal and Scientific Information Group).

I have to admit, I had never even heard of the London Library, so when I heard about the planned visit, I had a little look on their website and was delighted with what I saw! The chance to have a look round such a beautiful building and collection of books was too good to miss.

 It was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841, as an alternative to the British Library. He wanted to create a kind of home away from home, as he found the British Library unpleasant! To this day the London Library retains that lovely homely, stately home-feel, with reading rooms filled with leather, wing-backed armchairs, floor to ceiling shelves filled with beautiful old books - a veritable haven from the hustle and bustle of central London. The first thing to start of by describing is definitely the building. Tucked away in a corner of St James's Square, from the outside it looks like a very small - but beautiful - townhouse - until you're inside, you have no idea how far back the building extends and how much storage space there is! Members of note from the past include Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and George Eliot to name but a few.

As soon as you step inside you are hit by that unique smell of old books - there is nothing quite like it, and for a book lover such as myself, THIS is one of the reasons why I hate devices such as the Kindle - try recreating the same ambience with a bit of plastic and some microchips!!! Anyway, enough of my anti-Kindle rants. The collection at the London Library consists of more than one million books, as well as subscriptions to over 750 periodicals. There are some beautiful volumes to be seen everywhere, as well as rare books and books going back as far as the 16th century. Not only that, but there are some special collections housed there as well, such as the Montefiore collection of Jewish interest material. Journals and publications from a whole range of societies, from horse lovers to politics, are also kept there and date back 165 years.

We visited the newspaper storage room and I was amazed to see the HUGE bound volumes of The Times, going back more than 100 years. The lady giving the tour explained that when the library began, The Times was considered the only newspaper worth reading, so they will always maintain this collection.

Much of the decor of the building retains its original Victorian fixtures and fittings - it is only where they have extended that is more modern in places. We were taken up a beautiful dark wood staircase with red carpeting, and the walls lined with portraits of previous members and chairmen or benefactors. We arrived on one floor and it was quite amazing, because the floor was pretty much a metal grating, so if you looked down through the slats, you could see all the floors and shelves of books below you! Not great for high heels, but an excellent example of a Victorian attempt at air conditioning apparently! The idea being the air would circulate through the slats and so the books wouldn't get spoiled. The cataloguing system used is unique and while I can't recall the details, the tour guide did show us how it means that the books end up being in what appears to be a very random order! But I was assured there is a method to the madness, and I am sure you can pick it up quite quickly.

One of the other things that absolutely amazed me is the member services. You can take home up to 10 books at any time - obviously a huge advantage to the British Library! There are no fines or due dates - unless a title is requested by another member, you can keep them as long as you want. They also offer a postal service to members who can't make it into London, and the online services are superb: members can access JSTOR, which contains at least 1000 academic journals. Books can also be reserved online, and the catalogue can be browsed by non-members as well. Also offered by the librarians is a research service. I find it amazing that all this exists and I wasn't aware of it!

It genuinely was a privilege to be able to explore some of this truly amazing building and collection. It is a private members library, therefore there are membership fees - sadly I can't quite justify them as I don't live in London, so I don't feel I would be able to take as much as advantage as I would like of the actual building and ambience, as opposed to just the collection. The reading rooms looked incredibly inviting - lots of little nooks and crannies where you can curl up with a book - our tour guide did say that some people do fall asleep for hours at a time, they are so relaxed! There are some rooms with wi-fi and laptop access, but some reading rooms are totally silent and no laptops are allowed, so that the whir of the motors doesn't disturb people.

I really enjoyed this visit - I love learning about other types of library; I think it's important in all our roles to open our minds and think outwith our own little sector. It is fascinating what other types of role exist in the information world. All in all an evening well spent!

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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Thing 23 - Reflection: What Next?

23 Things may be over, but this blog certainly isn't!
Well, it has finally arrived - Thing 23 and the end of the program. The one thing that strikes me when I start to reflect on my experiences is how I now feel a lot more comfortable writing this blogthan I did back in May. Looking back at my first few posts, I was definitely ill at ease and not entirely sure how to 'brand' my blog. While I am by no means a seasoned blogger compared to some people, I am quite amazed by the way that I have taken to it and managed not only to keep up with the 23 Things program, but also try my hand at blogging about other experiences.

So that's my first observation, but let's move on to thinking about the actual program itself.

I would say that I got the most out of the following parts of the program:

It goes without saying that I would probably never even have considered setting up a blog if it hadn't been for hearing about the cpd23 program. I had always followed a few blogs relating specifically to law libraries, but I had never really taken it any further, and certainly never dreamed of maintaining one myself. Not only has this program spurred me on to create this blog, but it also got me interested in other blogs. Thing 2 involved getting to explore some of the oher cpd23 blogs, and this is something that I found really helpful, because it opened up a whole new world to me in terms of other kinds of library jobs that are out there. There are several blogs that I found particularly interesting and I have enjoyed following them over the last few months. It will definitely be interesting to see if other people will continue blogging going forward. I feel far more connected to the library/information community as a whole now, and feel like I am making more of an active contribution through writing this blog.

Online and real life networks
When we considered these networks over Things 6 and 7, I was very much of the opinion that LinkedIn, for example, wasn't really worth spending much time on, but I can honestly say that my attitude has changed in this respect. While I still maintain that dividing line between what I perceive as my personal life (Facebook) and my professional life (LinkedIn), I definitely see the benefits of being a bit more active on LinkedIn, because it does appear that a lot of connection can be made that at some stage may be useful when it comes to looking to change jobs. Previously I would never have accepted any requests on LinkedIn from people that I didn't already know fairly well - but now I am connected to some recruitment agency staff whom I know from the past and some I don't know yet at all - but it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it would have before. I would have been very uncomfortable before, but I think there is a lot to be said for LinkedIn and the influence it has in terms of networking and recruitment.

With regard to real life networks, I joined LIKE via LinkedIn and am hoping to attend one of their meetups in the future. Again from a networking point of view, groups like this are a great way of opening one's eyes to other sectors and meeting people involved in information provision outwith my usual legal sphere. I have also joined TFPL Connect and am attending a networking event later in the year - something that I would never have looked into, had it not been for this program. I have also taken a more active part in one of the CILIP Groups of which I am a member - CLSIG - and have already attended a couple of events organised by them.

Google Calendar
A small thing admittedly, but I didn't really have much awareness of Google calendar until we explored it as part of Thing 8. Although I don't have any use for it at work because we have to use our Outlook calendars to create events and so on, I have actually found it useful outside of work.

Thing 9 was fantastic as I had no idea Evernote existed and I was amazed at how useful it is at work, as when I am carrying out research, I always come across a number of random websites and then there are many that I can never find again. I loved the functionality of Evernote far more than Delicious, which is what I had tinkered around with in recent years. Definitely one of my favourite things to come out of the program!

Google Docs and Dropbox
Again I had heard of Google docs, but never explored it, and as for Dropbox, I had never come across it at all. I really took to both of them, but again, this would be more for personal reasons, as I explained at the time, we have a very rigid system of how we share documents in the Law Library, so there is no call for us to use anything like these programs. But I was quite impressed at how easy it was to dump documents in there, and it's definitely good to have a backup of work stored away from my actual laptop etc.

I chose Mendeley over Zotero and citeulike, because I felt out of all of them, it was the one that seemed most relevant to me in terms of my writing articles. I really loved Mendeley and in the process of writing my articles, have spent some time moving references there and organising them. All I can say is, I wish tools like this had existed when I was a student - or if they did, I wish I had known of them! I already recommended it to a friend studying for her masters in information science, as I really was impressed with how easy it enables storing references and creating bibliographies.

Jing took my breath away! It is something that I felt would provide so much value in terms of myself and the team training fee-earners in the same things several times a year. I have since shown it to my manager and she is considering if it's something we could convince IT to let us use, and if so, could any demos we make be incorporated somewhere on the relevant Intranet page. Like me, she had never heard of it - none of my managers had. I find it amazing that all these tools are out there and if it hadn't been for cpd23, I have no idea if I would have come across them....

As with Jing, I had never encountered anything like this - talk about making Powerpoint look utterly outdated! I would love to incorporate this into a presentation - I would say the only drawback is convincing my managers that this kind of look would go down well with fee-earners! But I found the functionality incredible - the graphics are jaw-dropping and you can incorporate so much information in a novel way.

Promoting yourself in job applications etc
I found this Thing helpful because it got me thinking again about the importance of keeping the CV up to date and in general, reminding me what my strengths are. This is particularly pertinent to Chartership and the work I am doing towards that goal. I quite enjoyed taking stock of what I enjoy outside of work and thinking about how that impacts upon the job I do. I was left thinking that I am definitely in the right kind of job for me, but not feeling complacent - what is right now may not be right in 12 months or 2 years etc. I think it's definitely important to keep thinking about professional development, long term goals and where we see our careers heading. Sometimes a change of sector may be desired - and it is definitely thanks to this program that I have become more aware, and have a better understanding of, the many variations of library-style jobs out there worldwide.

Things that I would like to work on more going forward
Getting Involved
I have already started to feel more involved in the wider community, as well as even just the legal community, over the last few months by writing this blog and interacting with others through it, or at the various events I have attended. I have also started to write for a couple of publications within the community. However, I am more than aware that this is just a starting point - again like blogging, it's still fairly new to me and it's something that I know I need to work on continuously.

Attending/presenting at events
While I have attended a number of events in the last 12 months, presenting at one is not something that had ever crossed my mind until we came to Thing 16. I think it is definitely something I would need to feel very confident about, if I were to propose to speak at any event - but at the same time, I am grateful to the program for opening this idea up to me and making it seem like it is something any of us can do.

It's hard to sum up how I feel about the end of the cpd23 program - happy that I managed to complete it successfully, a bit sad that's it come to an end, as I have almost got used to checking the blog to see what's coming up etc and then thinking about how I shall explore it and blog about it! On the whole I have got a great deal out of the program and I am delighted that I took part. It's made me so much more aware of the library community and all the different roles out there - and it's an amazing opportunity to be able to interact with people from all over the world, and read about their experiences. It has definitely also made me realise that while I thought I was quite on the pulse when it comes to technology/Web 2.0 etc, there was actually a great deal out there I had never come across - and probably is a great deal more yet to be discovered! So I am definitely a lot more curious as a result, and eager to ensure that I stay as connected as I feel right now thanks to cpd23.

There is no doubt that I want to keep this blog going, therefore I just want to thank anyone who has been following me, and hope all my followers will stay with me going forward as I keep you up to date with the latest happenings in the Extraordinary Law Library....

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Saturday, 8 October 2011

CLSIG Time Management seminar - Susie Kay

While I have been in the workplace now for over eight years and feel pretty confident when it comes to organising my workload, I decided to attend this seminar nonetheless simply because the preview explained that there is more to being organised than just being able to manage your time. I was quite intrigued by this, as although I am generally very good at keeping to deadlines and prioritising tasks, my physical environment can sometimes become a bit chaotic, and when that happens, I am aware that I have a tendency to start jumping from one thing to the next, desperately hunting for a scrap of paper that was there one minute, but seemingly gone the next. I felt confident that this seminar would be very helpful and applicable to my working life in general.

The first area we looked at was our physical environment. Susie showed us a picture of the most untidy desk you could ever imagine, with papers piled high all over the place and the computer barely visible among the debris. We discussed the sort of impression that a desk of this ilk would create to internal clients. If you don’t present an in-control and organised image, then people will have less faith in your abilities. Similarly if you are scrabbling around for a particular piece of paper, and then you can’t find it – that too is unreliable and irresponsible and simply puts people off working with you or asking for help. One point that she also made which I felt was very important is that from a damage control point of view, a grossly disorganised and messy desk, that uses a filing system that may make sense to you only, is from a business continuance perspective highly risky. If you were suddenly unable to come into work, would someone else be able to easily pick up where you left off? It’s a valid point and one that I am always aware of, having worked in a previous job with a woman whose methods were unintelligible and I was left in a huge mess when she was suddenly taken unwell – I had no clue of where to start with some of her work. It is vitally important to be organised both externally and internally. Procedures for your role should be well documented too. All too often have I been put in the position whereby a boss of mine keeps all their knowledge in their head, then they are on holiday and I am left with a red face because I don’t know how they manage a particular task because they have never told me, nor have they written it down anywhere! I strongly believe that part of being a true professional is transparency – making sure that your deputies know how to fill in for you effectively.

We then moved onto efficient email management. Again, this is something that I am very aware I don’t always practice, so it is something that I shall definitely try and heed going forward! Suzie advised that as a rule of thumb, you should really only handle an email once, as opposed to opening it, reading it, then thinking you will leave it until later to deal with and marking it unread again! I am aware that I am guilty of this on occasion. We decided the best thing to do is to open the email, action whatever needs to be done, then remove it from your inbox, either by deleting it completely, or filing it. Don’t go through the process of reading it several times over, and just leaving it in your inbox.

I do think it’s important to keep as clean an inbox as possible, therefore over the last few years, I have tried my hardest to remove items from my inbox as soon as they have been dealt with and the matter is ‘closed’. I only keep emails in the inbox that are still being worked on or due to be worked on. When I first started working, I did not do this at all! My inbox literally had about 3000 items at one point. I suppose it’s working in law firms that has made me a lot more aware of filing emails, because as well as running my own personal filing system within my inbox, we have a firm-wide file management system that asks you if you want to file your message just before you send it. In our team we file all of the work we do in folders by practice area, so that we can find it again easily if need be, or search these folders to find out if anyone has worked on a particular topic or matter before. Again it’s of the utmost importance to maintain an organised and tidy inbox, and email system in general – and I am glad that Susie reiterated this.

With regard to the old chestnut of ‘time management’, Susie interestingly said that it’s not really about managing time, simply because we can’t really do so because we only have a set amount of hours in a day and that is never going to change! It is more about getting the most out of the time you have. I found this a very interesting way of looking at the matter of ‘time management’, because it is very true – we only have 24 hours in a day to deal with and so there isn’t much we can do about that – we can’t give ourselves more time! What we can do, however, is ensure that we plan our time well – and one method she suggested was using a paper or online calendar, and a big A4 day planning book. What you would do on a daily basis is have a double spread page each day, and on the left hand side you divide the page into boxes in which you make general notes throughout the day. So if you get a phonecall you can jot notes down in one of those boxes, or any other general notes you need to make throughout the day. You then use the other page to create columns where you will detail specific deadlines, tasks, priority level and so on. Then you can supplement this with the definitive deadlines in your electronic or paper diary.

I have to admit, I am a little dubious of this method, simply because it’s just not one I have ever considered before – I am not sure if I would be able to discipline myself enough to set up the double page every day and make sure that I only write in this book, AND remember to transfer deadlines to my diary as well! I am going to try and give it a go for a week and see how I feel about it. I think it’s partly just fear of the unknown making me a bit doubtful of the merits of this method.

One thing that we did discuss which I definitely do not think is so easy to do in my particular role, is learning to say ‘no’! Susie gave the example of when you are interrupted by someone who wants to ask you something, you can sometimes just politely ask if they would mind giving you just 30 minutes and then you will be with them. Similarly, she suggested shutting your office door from time to time, making it a policy of an open door most of the time, but when it’s shut, you are not to be disturbed. While both of those methods make sense in theory, I do not think they really work quite so well in our law library. Firstly, in terms of asking someone to come back in half an hour – it’s just never going to be feasible to say this to a fee-earner who needs help now! I understand that perhaps it could apply to a team member who wants your help with something, but not with our customers! The ‘closed door’ policy again doesn’t work in our library, as obviously we don’t all have offices, and if we shut the door of the library, we feel it’s quite off-putting to people who might just want to pop in and browse. This kind of saying ‘no’ doesn’t really fit with our image or the service we provide to the firm. However, at the same time, saying ‘no’ is something that we all need to learn to do, but is very difficult for me I must admit. It’s my instinct to accept everything and I sometimes find it hard to ask for help even when I feel overloaded. This is undoubtedly something that I need to work on – I am aware of it and the discussion with Susie brought the importance of that home to me.

Overall this was a very interesting session and one that is definitely relevant to me. It showed me that it doesn’t matter how long we have been in the workplace, we should always be open to new methods of organising our time, and moreover, we should always bear in mind the importance of being organised in the workplace, and the consequences for our colleagues if we aren’t. 

We followed this session with some drinks and tasty nibbles, and a chance to do some networking...which tied in nicely with putting to good use some of the skills mentioned in my recent post on networking skills!

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Thing 22 - Volunteering to get experience

Standing out from the crowd
Volunteering in order to get experience is something that I have mixed feelings about in all honesty. I really enjoyed reading Jo's post about how she volunteered after qualifying, and can completely see the benefits of it and how that experience has helped her to get where she is today. However, she mentions that she was able to continue working part time, and use the rest of the time to gain voluntary experience. Alas this was always the huge stumbling block for me personally - I simply could not afford to work anything other than full time, therefore the capacity for voluntary work is reduced to weekends only. Now I realise that lots of people are probably thinking, tough - you will just have to use these two days then! Fair enough if that's your opinion - in theory I would even agree - but in practice, when you are doing a long commute like mine on top of working at least about 2 hours extra a day, the weekend is a godsend - I need it just to try and recover as I have little energy left for anything by this time.

That having been said, I think if you can fit voluntary work experience in somewhere, it is absolutely fantastic and will never go wrong on your CV. It is a really difficult position to be in, when you want a job in a particular field, but you don't have enough  or the right experience - how do you get it, if no one will give you a chance? Sadly it's probably becoming even harder to break into new fields in this climate, as there is so much more competition for every role now. While I now have a decent amount of experience in law libraries, I have virtually no experience in any other library/information field. I volunteered in my college library at uni, and I did some voluntary work at my local library helping out with a children's reading scheme that I absolutely loved, but the latter was while I was working full time AND studying for my MSc, and so I was pretty shattered by the end of it. I would really like to do more in the children's field, because I think this kind of voluntary experience is not only useful in itself, but I believe also shows some commitment to the field you want to get into. 

I realise this is different, BUT the principal is the same - when I was 14 years old I desperately wanted a Saturday job more than anything else, but I lived near a big city so there were no local shops willing to turn a blind eye to the fact I didn't have an NI number! So I had no choice to wait til I was 16 to find paid work...and in the interim, I worked in an Oxfam shop every Saturday in term time, and at least twice a week in the school holidays. It was actually fantastic experience in terms of the retail field I wanted to get a Saturday job in when I was 16, and I even made a very good friend with whom I still keep in contact. When I turned 16 I applied to loads of department stores and I got a weekend job in one 3 weeks after my birthday! So I know this is hardly a professional career, but the principal is the same - they liked the fact that I had gone out there and got some experience in dealing with the public, and it definitely made me a bit more confident once I was actually in a 'proper' shop.

All in all I would definitely say that if you can make it work financially (and sadly this can be a big barrier) - but if you can make it feasible, it's a fantastic way of showing you are committed to breaking into a particular field, and in gaining some solid experience of that field that will actually be useful when it comes to obtaining paid employment in it.

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Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

This is quite an interesting Thing really, because up until the last year or so, I wasn't maintaining my CV 
regularly unless I was jobhunting. However, given that I am in the middle of the whole Chartership process, one thing that I shall include in my portfolio is a detailed CV - therefore carrying out this kind of audit is helpful, because it has provided me with an opportunity to think about anything that should be on there that otherwise might have been overlooked.
I think this is the kind of task that everybody moans and groans at, but once it is done you definitely feel better for it! It is quite satisfying to know that all this kind of info is up to date...
My interests outside of work
One of the things I have done regularly and that I have developed a true passion for is cake making and decorating. I had always been a keen baker but wanted to take it up a level, i.e. be able to do something a bit more special for birthdays/weddings etc. Have been on a couple of courses with regard to the decorating side, because I am not naturally artistic replicating what i see in my mind onto the blank cake canvas is pretty tricky! But I continue to persevere and have been fortunate enough to get a few non-family 'commissions' (that sounds very grand; I'm not really Jane Asher!) which has been a great opportunity for me to build some confidence. Doing my best friend's wedding cake was the most challenging without a doubt (a crash course in creating three layered cakes!) but the satisfaction on the day once it was all assembled (actually, no, probably once I saw people eating it!) was like nothing else, and it's from that that I am doing the same for my own wedding next year.
Other than that, my interests are pretty ordinary - reading, TV watching (when there is something decent on - Eastenders is probably my only regular show!), meeting friends when I can (I don't live in London so the commute can make it harder than it once was, alas)...I think that's about it really. I guess the one thing that I only got back into recently is writing - not so much fictional writing, but writing for publications has always been my favourite kind, and I am in the middle of a couple of pieces at the moment which will hopefully appear in some professional journals/publications next year...I do feel quite pressurised as I am always worried that what I am writing won't be appropriate in the editor's eyes...but aside from those concerns, I truly love writing - always have done and it's not til I start doing it again that I remember why. The feeling of completing a piece and reading through it and finally feeling satisfied with it, is definitely as worthwhile as my cake decorating satisfaction!
How could I apply these kind of achievements to my working life?
This is a bit of a tricky one, as short of becoming the cake-making Law Librarian Extraordinaire, (which to be fair, if nothing else, I could perhaps use cakes as bribes to get people to sign out/return their books!), I am not sure how I can apply this kind of achievement to my working life. I suppose the best way to look at it is to consider the skills that creating the perfect cake necessitates...I think without a doubt the key skill is patience. It is not the kind of work that can be rushed because presentation is everything - spending an extra 15 minutes making that icing flawless really is worth it. I guess this is quite appropriate in my line of work, as some of the enquiries that we get asked to do are complex and piecey and require a LOT of digging around all sorts of places online, or in hard copy books....there are definitely times where it would be easy to give up and stop looking, but you need to have that sense of endeavour to fire you on to keep searching! The worst thing in the world for me would be to do a half-hearted search for something, go back to the fee-earner and tell them I can't find it...only for them to tell me they just found it using Google....
Presentation of research is also very important - there's no point in having all the facts ready for the fee-earner, but you present them in a garbled manner that doesn't make for easy reading. So again it's that kind of attention to detail that is crucial in our role.
With regard to my enjoyment of writing - again it is probably something I incorporate already into my daily job, and is partly why I enjoy my job. It all leads back to presentation - I enjoy drafting out emails and other informative documents, and it is important to make sure you explain things as clearly and concisely as possible. Information should always be presented in a logical manner to the fee-earner - some do get frustrated when they can't see at a glance the key facts/arguments. I imagine because they are often so pushed for time, they often don't actually read every word, therefore it's also important, I think, to highlight any particularly relevant parts, and also split these various parts into logical sections. The upshot is that my enjoyment of writing is something that I can incorporate into my daily working life.

Updating my CV
 I have been able to add quite a lot to my CV this last year, mostly because of the work I have been doing towards Chartership, and so I have attended several events and training sessions, all of which have provided me with a lot of new and useful experience.  It's definitely important to keep a CV updated on a regular basis, as it's likely unless you make notes of new developments/courses attended etc, you will forget when you did them!

Interview tips
The CPD23 blog post this week suggested adding any interview tips we have acquired in the course of our careers. There's obviously a whole host of material out there that could explain how to excel at interviews a lot better than I can here! - but I would say the main and fundamental things that I have picked up over the years is firstly, to be yourself at interviews - do NOT create facets to your personality that don't exist, or make up skills that you definitely don't have, because you won't be able to keep them up if you get the job, AND you run the risk of being taken on for a job for which you aren't really suitable. I speak from experience - back before I made the move into law libraries, I worked in the insurance industry for a while, and I applied for a job that I KNEW I wasn't right for, but I convinced myself I could make it work because I was totally swayed by the salary! I was very young and very naive! In the end I lasted only three months in the role, and it was that disaster that preceded my move into law libraries, so at least something good came out of it!

The second thing I would say is that you should also ALWAYS trust your gut instincts (and that probably applies to everything in life actually!) - but again, I speak from experience. Twice in the past I have turned down job offers that were perfectly good jobs on paper, but when I went to the interviews, there was just something about the interviewers, or perhaps even the office itself, that I just didn't feel quite right, or comfortable with. I truly believe I have always done the right thing in turning these roles down, because a much more suitable one has always come along shortly after. And similarly with regard to the job I mentioned above that only lasted three months - I knew when I went to the second interview that it really wasn't right, that I wasn't being myself, and that the person who was going to be my boss was NOT my sort of person - but I ignored it, and look at the outcome...! So the upshot is: remember that interviews are as much a learning process for you as they are for the interviewer - it's not just about them seeing if YOU are suitable - it's also about you getting a feel for your future boss, the company, the culture etc.

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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Uh-oh...not MORE talk about networking...?

Sorry, in fact, no why am I even apologising?! Networking is something that we are all increasingly having to do, albeit not always on a level with the movers and shakers that bring in clients to a law firm like mine, but I think many people are often surprised when I tell them that my job does actually involve a fair amount of networking these days. Don't worry - those of you who have read my Thing 7 post on networking will know that it's certainly not my favourite thing either, but the reason I make no apology for this post is because I just want to take some time to reflect upon and share some of the excellent advice I picked up in a recent training session.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an internal training session on Networking that was primarily being run for fee-earners, but was also attended by myself and a couple of people from Marketing. It was run by the absolutely fantastic Nick Davies of the The Really Great Training Company (check out his blog here) and I have to say, despite having attended a number of seminars and sessions on 'how to network' over the last couple of years, I have never been as inspired by any other session as much as I was by this one. By the end of it, I genuinely felt that for the first time in my professional life, I had some really good tips and tricks to try out and I actually felt something approaching an albeit nervous excitement - but excitement all the same - when I thought about the next library event that I was attending, where I could possibly give this a go.

I'll just say from the outset that I think it was Nick's sense of humour and his delivery style that immediately made it easy for me to relate to him, and made me quickly see that this was not going to be your typical, bog-standard training session!

One of the first tasks we did was getting to know the person next to us, then report back to the rest of the group on what we had learned about that person. Have to admit I found this exercise really tricky - that kind of chat doesn't come easily to me - I hate asking people questions, I can never think of what to ask next because I am so stressed out I don't actually hear their answers...which made for a fun 'report' back to the group! I actually had to admit that I hadn't written any answers down and so couldn't remember more than a couple of sentences about where she lived and what she enjoyed doing! Nick was very nice about it though at least!

Making that kind of small talk is definitely the hardest thing for me. I can chat away happily if someone else asks ME questions, but I am so inept when it comes to fulfilling this role myself - or at least, that's how I perceive myself. As I mentioned earlier, I get so caught up in worrying what to say next, I don't listen to what the person is actually saying - but it's not being rude intentionally, I just nod and smile but it's not really going in! However, we talked about the importance of 'agressive' listening - listening with both your eats AND your eyes - so don't let your eyes wander as the other person is talking, because I am sure we would all agree that it's really off-putting to be talking to someone, and see them looking over your shoulder as you do so! This is definitely something I would like to work on, and I did try and put this tip into practice a week later, when I had to attend a CILIP training seminar. I got talking to a girl I knew very vaguely through a former colleague, and I really did try harder than ever to just focus ON her, not sneak glances round the room to see who else had come in, and also properly listen to what she was telling me - and as a result, I was able to ask a few pertinent questions. It may sound like a simple thing, but it is amazing how many people at these events DON'T truly listen and focus on you, yet if you can develop that skill, it is definitely one which makes you a 'good' networker.

The session was Nick was absolutely packed with other example scenarios and how best to deal with them - I genuinely got so much out of it. One thing we did as a group was to establish what skills make a 'good' networker - obviously I mentioned being able to genuinely listen to people above, but we also decided that making people feel comfortable and at ease is another key characteristic. If you are able to be versatile and adapt yourself to talking to people of different levels in a firm, say, then this goes a long way. Another aspect we focused on was that a good networker is someone who knows how to terminate a conversation in a polite but firm manner. So for example, if you have been talking to someone for some time and you simply want to move on, Nick advised NOT to use the age-old excuse of saying you need to use the bathroom or get another drink, because there is the risk that they will do the same - which can be a little disconcerting - and also means you aren't able to move on as you won't have extricated yourself from the conversation at all. It also doesn't work because often, you end up having to sneak back into the room so as you don't get caught up talking to that person again - which is far from professional. No, one of the best ways is simply to say something like how much you have enjoyed talking with that person, but that there are a few others you need to catch up with, so you better get on and do so. That way, you have terminated the situation in a polite way with no awkwardness should you bump into each other later on again....

I think that particular point is undoubtedly another one that I have always struggled with - I feel terribly rude if I terminate a conversation with someone I have just met at an event, and consequently I have occasionally felt very awkward, as though we should be moving on but don't quite know how to get out of the conversation! I have to admit, I think I have definitely used the old drink top-up or buffet visit as an excuse before, but it's something I'll try to avoid in future! I have been lucky in that I have never been followed to the buffet table, but it would definitely be pretty awkward if that did happen, when all you want to do is move on from that person!

We talked a bit about how to actually get started talking to people at events, and one thing we focused on was how you can use the refreshments table as a chance to get talking to someone! If you are over there, say pouring a cup of coffee, and someone comes up beside you, you could ask them if they want coffee, and if they say yes, then give them yours and pour another a cup - or the same with the milk, if they have already poured the coffee! Doing something for someone else in this way is quite clever, because it's almost human nature for that person then to feel gratitude to you, and want to repay you - and the way in which they do repay you is with their time - and bingo! You have made your first contact!

Another thing that came up that I REALLY struggle with in every walk of life, not just at networking events, but even just being introduced to a new joiner in our firm, is remembering names. Several of us admitted that we simply cannot remember names 10 seconds after being told them. Nick explained that it's not so much not being able to remember; in fact the name almost gets lost in all the other things we are picking up on that person in those crucial first few seconds of meeting. So we are shaking a person's hand and thinking about the handshake, taking in their outward appearance, thinking about who is with them....the list goes on and so it's no wonder we simply don't take in the name! The best tip Nick could give us here is say the name back to them immediately, and then use it in the next few minutes of conversation if possible. So on being introduced to someone, rather than just saying 'pleased to meet you', add in their name to the end of that sentence. I think this is a fantastic way of consolidating names in your head, and I did put it into practice when I met a couple of our new trainees for the first time. It's definitely a tip that is transferrable to so many situations, and one that I find very helpful to bear in mind.

Another skill of a good networker is 'connecting', so introducing people you know to people you have just met, or vice versa. This is another way of moving on from a situation - if you introduce the person you have been talking to, to someone else you know, then you can gracefully remove yourself from the situation. Similarly, it can be useful to ask the person you have been talking to if they know anyone else, and  if so, perhaps they could introduce you to that person. Basically, the best networkers are those who excel in bringing other people together, as much as being able to just get talking to others themselves. I have to admit this prospect does intimidate me a little bit; I have never considered myself as the sort of person who could facilitate this kind of networking , but after talking about it in this way, it made me feel that perhaps I could.

Overall I found this session extremely helpful - we covered a lot of territory and as I mentioned earlier, it was one of the few training sessions I have ever been to where I came away feeling very enthusiastic about the subject, and that I had really been able to get a lot out of it. I think the main thing that Nick instilled in me was that we all have the potential to be 'good' networkers, and while it might not be something that we ever think, 'yay! A chance to network!' - we can get to the point where we are not filled with utter dread/nerves/apprehension at the prospect, and end up so worked up that we get little out of it, and can only focus on making our escape as soon as possible. This was proven when I managed to put a bit of it into practice at the CILIP seminar recently, and I hope to keep these skills in mind going forward at other events.

All in all it was a morning very well spent indeed.

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