Thing 15 – oh lordy, I’m behind

Oh, Thing 14 was the last thing I did, back in August! Life and busyness in work got in the way, but I’m aiming for a full-on assault of lots of Things now, while I have a moment!

Ok, so this was about attending, presenting at, and organising events. Now – two of those activities I’m perfectly happy with, and one puts the fear of God into me.

Attending events
I love doing this: I get to meet lots of interesting people, learn new things, and generally go away from them having gained lots of useful tips or contacts. The only problems for me attending events are:

Time out of work to attend events is time that I’m not available to deal with enquiries, or do my day-to-day tasks, so it’s got to be something relevant enough to my duties that being away from them will be recompensed by better skills to do those duties afterwards.

Often the most relevant courses and seminars for me are nowhere near me, usually in London. Attending a course in London would involve me getting a 3.5/4 hour train each way, and usually need an overnight stay the night before, to get me there for a 9am start. That’s not cheap – at least £100 for the train usually, and approx £60 for a room, even before the cost of the training. Which brings me on to the third problem…

I don’t know about you lot, but my workplace isn’t in the habit of throwing money at me to allow me to attend any random event I feel like (as interesting as lots of them may look). I need to be able to justify the business relevance and cost-effectiveness of the events I wish to attend, and quite often, it’s just not worth it as the event is only marginally work related.

So, what I do is…keep an eye out in various places for all sorts of free events, and evening events, which have an interest for me, either law, or library, or technology related. The Society for Computers and Law do some seminars, The Royal Society of Edinburgh too, Mashlibs pop up here and there, and mailing lists and Twitter feeds publicise events, and archives and other libraries often offer tours. I may end up attending some random stuff, but it’s all free! And local!

Organising events
Through my involvement in the Scottish Law Librarians Group, I regularly help out with co-organising formal and informal events, or even organising an entire event myself, in order to get the sort of events and training the group members need, without having to go to London to get it. I’m currently taking bookings for the most complex thing I’ve run yet: an all-day event with a Big Important Person (who, through the power of inane emails, I have managed to get to deteriorate into taking about jelly babies with scarves), with catering (and all sorts of non-meat/non-wheat/non-nuts options), and so far, I think I’m coping quite well with it.

It does involve lots of elements – defining the requirements for the event for the trainer, finding potential venues, getting estimates from them, working out the best value, booking the best venue, setting pricing, publicising the event, taking bookings, noting special requirements, liaising with the trainer…

And I live in constant fear, when things are going smoothly, that they’re only going smoothly because I’ve missed out some Very Important Element by mistake, and everything will collapse at any second. Thankfully, so far, that’s not been true, but you never know…

And now…the horrible one…

Presenting at events
No. Nonononononono. I hate it! HATE IT! Even the thought of standing up in front of people and speaking makes me feel sick. I am a bit shaky and have a racing heart when I do have to do this – as Convenor of my professional group I must speak at the AGM to give the report on the groups activities for the year, which I just about manage to do without doing it at a full gallop – I sometimes even stop for breath, or to take votes. Lets just say our AGMs can be very quick, when I’m speaking at them!
I also introduce the trainer at any events I’ve organised, or our annual festive networking meeting, which is slightly less traumatic as it’s often a smaller group than the AGM, but can still get me in a minor panic.

I have always had a phobia of speaking in front of groups (because I hated doing this, in secondary school, my genius English teacher forced me to go and stand up in front of the class and make (thankfully unanswered) phone calls with everyone listening, to his wife and the school office, thus not only reinforcing my phobia of speaking in front of groups, but also giving me a new one about using the phone when anyone can hear me. Great.), and I just don’t think it’s worth me putting myself through the stress and terror of having to do any sort of presentation, especially when I don’t have anything to present about, so this is one activity I’m scoring off my list, for good!

What do I get from these activities?
Well, I get either (depending on whether I’m attending, organising or presenting), fun interactions with interesting people, a headful of details and a lurking feeling of not doing things right, or a huge dose of extreme stress and mild terror.

I think that I get most out of attending an event – it’s the easy option. I turn up, I enjoy, I go home (and write a blog post or newsletter article about it). The organising is far harder, goes on for much longer, and has so many more elements to tie up. It is however, the most beneficial, both for my professional group, and for me too. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s quite an achievement to pull it off, and satisfying when an event goes well and people go away happy and feeling that their time was well spent.

What more could there be? 
What I do keep coming back to is the thought that it’s difficult to find an affordable event that people from different library sectors can go to here in Scotland. I’m going to Library Camp in Birmingham because it’ll allow me to meet and speak to a lot of people I know online, but who work in different library sectors and who I therefore would not be able to meet in a professional capacity or event, because we simply wouldn’t be at the same events. And it’s at the weekend, so there’s no need to justify my attendance to work. It’s free to attend, but I’m paying the travel and accommodation costs myself, so no need to ask for funding fromt he training budget.

At the back of my mind is the thought that perhaps people would want to come to a Scottish Library Camp event, perhaps pay a nominal fee per person in order to enable a venue hire, and just have a day of mingling and informal presentations from other library professionals across all fields, along the same lines as the Birmingham Library Camp.

What I think it would really need is an academic venue to host it at, as they’re usually large, easy to get to, and not extortionate to hire, but I don’t know the right people to look into that. Maybe someone else would like to create a Haggis Camp? Or help me to do it?

Author: Jennie

Law, libraries, books, crafts, and general geekery.

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