Too close to the problem to see the achievements

Sometimes, you have so much to do, that you can’t see what you’ve actually done. I’m feeling very much that way at the moment, so I thought I’d make a public list for myself of all the work and professional things I’ve done since taking up my role in mid January. Then maybe I’ll feel less like I’m just not very good at anything. It’s worth a try. Although for obvious reasons, I can’t publicly say much about the baddest/hardest stuff, but…it’s in there. Maybe it’s not explicit about how hard it’s been, but it’s there.

So: what have I done?

Service management and development

  • Replaced someone who ran the library for 21 years, who retired 3 months before I started, and gave me no handover information.
  • Got 6 weeks of company/training on the library from an assistant, who then retired, leaving me as the only person in the organisation who knew anything about how the library actually worked.
  • Done the assistant librarian and librarian job simultaneously, while not really knowing anything about them, for a few weeks.
  • Trained the assistant librarian (who is awesome) to do their job…which I didn’t really know how to do myself, due to it not being my job. So we figured it out together. Painfully.
  • Trained the assistant librarian to do legal research, from the basics on to complex work – again, luckily, they’re awesome!
  • Learned about the organisation I work for, its history, and its coverage – I had only worked with civil law before, so I had to learn about criminal law from scratch.
  • Learned how to use the LMS for managing stock and circulation items.
  • Realised our LMS contract was coming to an end and the product was too costly, so worked with suppliers and Procurement to implement a new LMS (work in progress).
  • Decided that the current catalogue data was too unreliable/inaccurate to import to the new LMS, and made the decision to recatalogue all stock from scratch on our new LMS (work in progress).
  • Chosen and adapted a new classification system to reclassify all our stock to (work in progress).
  • Reviewed my job description, and the assistant’s job description, and updated them to actually reflect what we do.
  • Learned how to use the internal appraisal system, to manage assistant’s development needs and professional development plan.
  • Created a structure for management of emails and materials coming in to the communal library email account, and being stored there for access by both staff.
  • Contacted every supplier of anything to the library, to update the account manager details to me. Sometimes not very successfully (Bloomsbury Professional really, really like sending email to my predecessor, no mater how many times I contact them about it, and they assure me it’s now accurate).
  • Supervised the assistant librarian in their review of where every looseleaf that we buy goes to – we’ve cut any surplus spending on unfiled/unused copies.
  • Begun the process of asking for my job grading to be reassessed (work in progress).
  • Had a lack of support/accurate information when I needed it and asked for it.
  • Begun working my way through a datadump of 10 years worth/200 folders worth/800-1000 network files and documents, to learn about how the library was run prior to me starting here.
  • Researched the history of the creation of the library to determine who my actual users are meant to be.
  • Worked with other departments to determine what others thought the library did, and for who.
  • Created a Service Description, to describe and define where the library (and 3 satellite library locations) is located, what the library staff actually do, and who our users are.
  • Made sure everyone I speak to knows that they are welcome to use the library, work in the library, and there are user desks/pcs available for them to use here (backed up by a variety of smaller, subtle marketing activities like making sure sweets are available at the service desk).
  • Managed access to users of a group-access subscription service, and attended user group meetings. 
  • Attended a disaster planning event, and a practical training workshop, and used the knowledge from these to partially draft a disaster plan (work in progress).
  • Attended an event in London of creating a digital strategy for the library, which gave me lots to think about regarding how to develop the service (work in progress).
  • Worked with other departments to start redeveloping the library space on one of the intranets.
  • Reviewed every subscription we take to assess usage/relevancy, and cancelled any inefficient/underused subscriptions.
  • Attended induction training (local and corporate), attendance management training, change management training, criminal awareness training, and civil awareness training. And completed many hours of compulsory e-learning training. So much time away from working, in training! 
  • Created training materials on library resources for internal staff who provide cover for the library staff, and provided day-long training to multiple individuals.
  • Begun plans to implement the internal staff training on library resources across the wider organisation.
  • Written endless business cases, with the content ranging from internet filter proxy settings to professional organisation memberships.
  • Maintaining my part of the building – reporting and getting replaced lights that are out, broken/malfunctioning doors, splintering desks, spillages in the coffee area, splatters on the external windows etc.
  • Established good professional relationships with other libraries in the vicinity.
  • Attended an introduction to bookbinding course, to get the skills to understand how to do basic book repairs.
Oh, and of course, around all this, I’ve done my normal work of dealing with sourcing legal materials and doing legal research! Which, despite what people who come in think, is actually taking up a large amount of the time the assistant librarian and I have available – we suffer from the traditional misapprehension that, if we’re not working for an individual at that point in time, we must not be working at all. If only!
Professional activities
  • Visited multiple professional libraries in London and Edinburgh, including the equivalent service in London.
  • Hosted the meeting of a local professional group, and given a group tour of the workplace.
  • Been involved in a multitude of relevant professional groups, and attended meetings at a variety of locations, from the National Library of Scotland to the Royal Botanic Gardens.
  • Given individual tours of the workplace to at least 20 professional contacts.
  • Undertaken an Institute of Leadership and Management qualification.
  • Registered for Fellowship with CILIP, and begun compiling my portfolio for that.
  • Successfully revalidated my Chartership.
  • Seen one Chartership candidate successfully submit their Chartership portfolio, and taken on another mentee.
  • Co-managed the Informed website, and written information-issue articles.
  • Maintained this blog (it’s been a little bit neglected, as a lot of my writing/focus has been on Informed instead).

Physical
  • Cleared 30 bags of rubbish out of my office.
  • Cleared 70 large crates of old books out of a basement room. Twice, as various people then wanted some books retrieved, so they needed unpacked, shelved, then repacked. Oh my, that left me so bruised and battered.
  • Cleared 20 crates (and still going) of rubbish from the library office and main library shelves.
  • Relocated 10 book trolleys that had been holding surplus materials out of the library.
  • Created two full surplus sets of 100 year+ runs of a series of law reports, stored them, then moved them. For other people.
  • Reshelved thousands of books in a satellite library, myself.
  • Visited the Aberdeen library once, the Glasgow library twice, and visited the other Edinburgh library monthly.

Other services
  • Drafted recommendations for another part of the organisation on where they need to recruit another librarian (plus two site visits to assess their current setup, and attending meetings to discuss this proposal).
  • Giving virtual and in person support to staff partially providing an element of library service elsewhere (this is not actually my job, but…) 
  • Given support where requested re the stocking with appropriate materials of a newly-created part of the organisation.
  • Written a report re feasibility of potential enlargement of certain librarian responsibilities (work in progress).
Hmmmm….maybe this does make it a bit clearer. I have actually been doing a lot. A hell of a lot. And I know there’s loads I’ve not even got on this list because I’ve forgotten. And there’s only me doing this (with, thankfully, a great colleague), but it’s really actually quite a lot for just me to be totally responsible for!

Making foolish assumptions

There’s a saying about making foolish assumptions, and it certainly applies in this situation. CILIP, a leading professional body for the library sector has recently launched a new Virtual Learning Environment for members, which will provide an online method of tracking and submitting the evidence of members professional registration activities (e.g. Certification, Chartership etc). It should hold all the information we need to do those things, and the My Portfolio area is an add-on to the VLE, a virtual portfolio which allows logging and submission of evidence of your professional activities directly. It should be better than the old, paper based, “oh god, I think I just destroyed half the Amazon, and now I have to index tab it…in triplicate!” option, and simplify and speed up what had become rather time consuming, mainly because of the admin. However..it doesn’t appear that the changes, at this present moment, are much of an improvement. I initially went on yesterday to look for information about how my mentee should be tracking their professional activity using it. First though, I thought I should learn more about the VLE, so I went to the section “Getting started on the VLE”. There were two options available – one on getting started, and one on editing your profile. I went to read the getting started section…only to find it was a screencast. On YouTube. With audio. With no subtitling. There are a number of issues associated with the assumptions used with this approach to providing information. The assumption that everyone will have a learning style which works well with videos and audio. The assumption that everyone can access YouTube (one of the most popular sites for work filtering software to block). The assumption that everyone can see visuals when they access the site. The assumption that everyone can listen to audio when they access the site. The assumption that no subtitling is needed with an audio visual resource. And finally, and most importantly, the assumption that no users have visual or hearing impairments, which would mean that a video with no subtitling is completely inaccessible to them. I naturally thought that there would be a text based alternative. After all, given the issues listed above, you would expect there to be some alternative method for accessing these instructions available. However, surprisingly, this was not the case. There is virtually no text of any depth on the site: every section where you expect guidance and information has…a screencast. I cannot understand why anyone thought this was an appropriate or inclusive approach. Many people will be unwilling to sit in their lunch break at work and view time-consuming screencasts, when they could have read the same information in a fraction of the time if it was available as text. Even if they did want to learn in that way, many users couldn’t, and I am one of those people, with a workplace which blocks YouTube. Why is there no text-based guidance for anything? So, frustrated and dispirited, I left the VLE for the day. Then today, I thought I’d try to start logging my professional activities for Revalidation. I tried to look at the criteria for the Evaluative Statement for Revalidation – apparently it should be the same as the Chartership criteria, and can be found in the Chartership Handbook. However, it appears that you can’t see the Chartership Handbook, as clicking on the link to it within the Evaluative Statement tab in the Revalidation section, takes you to a page that requires entry of the enrolment key. However, I do not have an enrolment key as I’m not registered for Chartership. So I decided to put that on hold, and start logging my professional activities. 
My professional activities are meant to be tracked in the My Portfolio area but I’ve never used the My Portfolio area before. When I followed the link within the VLE to My Portfolio, and saw that I needed to log in, I assumed it was a new registration that I needed to do with My Portfolio, so I tried to register myself with my email address. It appears though that this email address is already registered with My Portfolio. So if my email address was already registered, then I assumed it must require my CILIP website password (as I entered via the CILIP VLE, which I had logged in to via the website) to let me log in, but it wasn’t accepting that password.

I reset my CILIP website password, just to be sure I was putting in the right password, and tried again: still no access.
Then, I used the button to ask for a password reset, since nothing else so far had worked. I know the email address I asked for the reminder to be sent to is correct, since it’s already told me I’m registered.
Bad idea – I get this nonsense in response: 


The user you requested uses an external authentication method. Ask your administrator for help with changing your password. Or provide another username or email address.


Finally though, I have accidentally found out how to access My Portfolio! 

Attempting access through the link within the Revalidation “course” page doesn’t work (the route I was trying above): the only way I have found to access it is through the Home page of the VLE (but not the “My Home” page, which is a sub-page of the home page, confusingly). In the top right corner is a reference to Network Servers, and CILIP Portfolio sits within that area. Clicking on that link will take you straight into the My Portfolio. But only that link, on that specific page, because as soon as you move into any of the VLE areas to actually use them, that area disappears. This whole process has been extremely dispiriting. I’m not sure if any user testing was done before its launch or whether it was rushed out for a deadline. Either way, it would have been better to delay the launch, than to release something that is far from user-friendly. Like others I was enthusiastic about its launch and was eager to engage with it and document my professional activities. Unfortunately, my experience has been less than positive and all that initial enthusiasm has ebbed away. And I’m not alone – other people are encountering the same issues and frustrations with the site. What concerns me is that somebody was paid to do this, and my membership fees contributed towards it. Myself and other CILIP members partly funded it. Yet it’s currently in a state where it is of limited practical use to myself and other members and, as a result, I am unlikely to use it again until these issues have been ironed out. I hope CILIP resolve these issues as soon as possible. The development of the VLE has been one that has been broadly welcomed and greeted with enthusiasm. It will be a shame for this initial enthusiasm to turn to widespread disillusionment with something that could be a useful and valuable tool.

Is it time for a new space for information professionals?

This post is a collaboration between @ijclark and myself, and is essentially a very rough outline of something that has been variously discussed between Ian, @ellyob and me. It is rough but we think it might be worth taking forward as an idea and we were hoping others could pitch in and help develop it, potentially bringing it to fruition. Ultimately, we need your input to help refine this idea and, perhaps, to help us get it off the ground. This information is also cross posted on Ian’s Infoism blog.


The Why


As a librarian who worked in a commercial law firm, I was very sensitive to the fact that any public statements of opinion made by me, on any topic, could be interpreted by my employer or clients as a breach of my employment contract. This was especially true if they could be seen to contradicted my firm’s stance on certain sectors or were overtly political. This meant that I had to be careful not to involve myself online with any contentious issues, and had to restrict myself to commenting only on library sector issues which couldn’t possibly reflect badly on the aims of, or be misinterpreted by my employer or their clients. I also couldn’t comment on the working practices I personally experienced, or any challenges I felt I was encountering in my career, as again this could be seen to reflect on my employer negatively, and could threaten my continued employment with them.

Unsurprisingly enough though, I did actually have opinions, on all sorts of things! Things I wanted to talk about, processes and systems I encountered that were not working well, or in areas where I felt there were developments that would have an impact on my work and approach to it.

To tackle this desire to speak when I had no place to put my words safely, I have previously blogged anonymously. I have done this as a representative of my local professional group, the Scottish Law Librarians Group, on an international legal information professional group blog (On Firmer Ground) and as a guest on Ian Clark’s Infoism blog. I found the opportunity to be able to speak about professional issues “safely” liberating, and allowed me to speak more freely without fear of repercussions from my employers. I believe I’ll also continue to need a “safe place” for me to discuss issues in, as my own blog is linked to my LinkedIn profile, and thus my workplace (and any discussion of it) is identifiable.

However, as far as I know, there isn’t really a “neutral” space available to me. When I say neutral, I mean somewhere that isn’t controlled by a specific body (e.g. CILIP, SLA or any other information professional group in the UK), somewhere that it would be possible to discuss any professional issues, without feeling that it had implications relating to membership of professional bodies. I feel that there is a need for a place to speak freely, one not controlled by any specific interests, or with a feeling that it could only be used by people to say the profession is perfect!

I initially suggested Ian’s Infoism blog, as I had previously been allowed to post material there, and Ian was interested in the idea of creating a forum, and was happy to give up his blog for the benefit of the profession. However, it’s been mentioned that as a long-standing blog with a defined purpose, it could be seen as not fulfilling the neutral element, which is understandable: it was initially proposed as a shortcut, a way to get a platform that was already established and had a large number of readers, but for the purposes of transparency and neutrality, it’s clear that a new site would be more appropriate.

Below, Ian explains his perspective on this and we have both outlined roughly what we think this could look like. We hope this kicks off some discussion and we’d certainly love to hear people’s thoughts on whether this is an idea worth pursuing and, if so, how we go about pursuing it.

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In the past year I have twice been approached to host guest blogs on my site about generally information based issues that touch on our professional expertise.  Whilst I am obviously quite chuffed that my site is seen as a suitable place to post such content, it has prompted me to wonder if perhaps this suggests the need for a place to host such content.  There seem to be very few websites out there where librarians and information professionals can share their thoughts on such issues where perhaps their blog isn’t an appropriate place, or doesn’t afford them the protections they perhaps require to enable public comment on particular areas.


I’ve recently got to talking about this idea with both @jaffne and @ellyob, who have both suggested an interest in something along these lines (although in what form we are not really sure at present!). I know others have also discussed this with me and think this might be something of possible interest across the profession and beyond, I guess the question is what would this look like and how do we go from here? I am particularly keen on something that is outward looking and expansive, that would tackle issues that are of interest to non-librarians. I feel strongly about this because I think reaching out in this way can go some way to addressing concerns about the profession being considered unnecessary and obsolete. And if not, well, maybe it’s worth a try?


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The How (by @ijclark and @jaffne)


So, how should a proposed UK information professionals blog or website be structured, and run?


Name


If this is to be run as a group site, then a name should be decided among the group. This would be something to be decided on as a first step, as it would allow the creation of all associated materials. A decision on a name could be made by first canvassing suggestions from interested parties, via publicity on blog posts and Twitter, and then running a poll to choose the most popular option.



Aim


Then the site needs an aim. So often, it seems that information professional blogs end up navel gazing and focussing only on insular issues, complaining to librarians about librarians, or people not understanding librarians, so that’s something we’d like to avoid if possible. Where possible, content should be written keeping in mind an audience beyond libraries and the profession. Of course, we want to be able to write about the profession and its issues, but it would be a far more useful blog if it focussed on how the skills of the information profession impact more widely on society, and issues arising around that topic. So, posts could cover everything from how we can aid information gathering, in all its guises, to our understanding of a range of concerns about the information society. However, rather than just focusing on instructional, ‘how to’ type posts, we’d rather focus on outward looking content that demonstrates relevance, how skills and knowledge can support other professions and/or sectors and the broader impact our profession has, or can have, on society in general.



Structure


For our purposes, the format of a group blog with editors managing the upload of materials would be sensible. It would allow contributors who wished to remain anonymous to send materials to the editors to be posted on their behalf (as long as the material was within certain guidelines, as listed below), or materials could be posted by the editors with an introductory block of text, crediting the author. It would also allow an element of risk management, as allowing materials to be posted without some measure of vetting could open the group to the risk of being held liable for the comments and activities of users. Content should be tagged consistently by subject area, and relevant content tags could be agreed upon by crowdsourcing suggestions.



Acceptable Use policy and post management


The site would need acceptable content guidelines for materials to be posted, the core probable guidelines are listed below, although as with most other management of the site, they would need to be decided and agreed upon by the editors prior to the blog launching.


Core acceptable content guidelines:


  • Nothing libelous
  • Nothing slanderous
  • Anonymity does not allow ad hominem attacks   


Materials submitted for publication on the blog which did not meet the requirements of these basic guidelines would be rejected: either entirely, or returned to the author for amendment before resubmission.


Rules would also apply for those commenting on posts, in order to maintain a professional and respectful atmosphere on the site. Those breaching the principles outlined above for content would be deleted, and/or blocked from further comment if they were seen to be deliberately inflammatory without foundation. It would need to be decided whether comments would require approval before publication, or whether they could be posted without checking.


Editors would need to understand that some of the posts they would be responsible for managing may propose viewpoints which they personally do not agree with. However, the editors must remain neutral, and maintain the blog as a place to share ALL viewpoints, within the guidelines outlined above.


Management of the blog


If the above approach to the site structure is used, it would need a team of editors to manage the site. Despite the use of the word “editors”, they would not be responsible for actual editing of the submitted content. The editors would upload the posts/content, monitor the comments to ensure they were not breaching any of the stated guidelines, and possibly write content, if they felt they had relevant material to contribute. It would be best if the editorial team came from as varied backgrounds as possible, in order to be able to give input and the benefit of experience from a variety of working situations. A team of at least 6 voluntary editors would provide a balance of workload, and the required spread of experience to effectively oversee the site. Core site management reference materials would need to be hosted centrally in a space where all editors could access them, most likely in cloud storage such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or if the materials are more extensive, on a wiki. This would need to be decided based on the needs of the initial editorial team.


A public call would be needed for volunteers in the information profession to become editors, with @ijclark and @jaffne as a core team initially.The timescale of commitment to the editorial role would be flexible, dependent on the editors personal needs.



Hosting


It would be preferable to host the site on a named domain, this would ensure it has a more professional appearance than ‘just another blog’. A WordPress.org installation would be preferable as it is easy to manage and maintain. However, hosting fees would also need to be taken into consideration. How would this be accounted for? It is not a substantial sum of money that needs to be paid on a monthly basis, but it will need to be paid nonetheless. Would this be covered by the editors, donations…how would we approach this? Again, this is something that can be decided once we have a group of volunteers in place to take this forwards. And obviously the URL would be determined by whatever name was given to the website, so that would need to be established first before proceeding.



Conclusion

So what do you think? Is this something that would be of interest? Would you be interested in getting involved? Where do we go from here? Add your comments below and let us know what you think! You can also contact us via email (ukinfoprofs@gmail.com) or tweet at @ijclark.

CILIP rebrand – an addition

Since my earlier post (multitasking lunch breaks R Us!), I’ve had some more feedback on peoples feelings about the proposed names for CILIP, and it seems that a lot of people are unhappy that the words “library” or “librarian” aren’t included in the options.

Now, it may just be because of my recent job hunting experiences, but I don’t see that the skills of an information professional are tied to the words library or librarian. If I had restricted my job search to only those sectors, I would never have found a job (there have been a grand total of 3 library roles advertised in 3 months). I have looked at roles with terms like: data, knowledge, information, management, administrator, researcher, project co-ordinator, digital, policy. Those terms are all related to dealing with information professionally, and to me, the core skills of an information professional lie in their ability to effectively manage information, in whatever format it may come in. Historically, that information was laid down in written texts, and held within libraries. The word “library” comes from the Latin for book, but these days, it’s not just books that librarians deal with. And it’s not just libraries that information professionals work in either: they can be in any setting, from industrial workplaces to working with the public. In any role, an information professional may deal with books, journals, databases, spreadsheets, intranets, websites, DVDs, memory sticks, Powerpoints, or CD…librarians are constantly working with information, in all its physical and digital formats.

To the mind of the general public though, libraries = books. And that’s a hindrance for a profession that wants to be regarded as cutting-edge experts in knowledge and information management, and the first people to go to for input on topics relating to them. It feels similar to accountants having “abacus operators” in their professional titles: yes, it’s a thing that did once describe their whole profession, but now it looks outdated, and would be laughed at if suggested as a way forward now. If this exercise is about creating a name and brand that the public will recognise, and positioning the body as the leading group for information management issues, that term “information” has to be there, and visible. And the term “library” is one that today, holds the group back. That’s why I am perfectly happy not to be in a “Library” professional body.

Losing the professionalism

So, recently, CILIP apparently sent out an email regarding a consultation on a change of brand image, and name. I say apparently, as despite being a member, I never got this email. When I went to the website to log in and check why it wasn’t sent to me, it didn’t let me log in. I tried a password reset, and that email came through, so it *can* send emails to me…but the password it sent won’t let me log in. I’m losing the will to keep trying. Overall, this is kind of symptomatic of how I feel about CILIP, and how useless its IT systems are….

Anyway, the consultation is on changing CILIP’s currently, clunky and meaningless name (picked as the best of a previous bad lot, as David McMenemy showed with this link to the 2000 consultation results ) to something more meaningful and relevant is open. If you want to take part, it’s here. I was a good girl, and pootled over yesterday to take part, and after filling in all the bumph, I got to view the glorious options.

Oh.
My.
God.

This is what they’ve given us as options:

Information UK
Information Professionals UK
Info Pro UK
The Information Association
The Knowledge People
Information Matters UK

Really? REALLY?!?! Did CILIP actually pay someone for this nonsense? It looks like they had a hard day in the office, it was late on a Friday afternoon, they managed to force out one or two vaguely OK ideas, and then threw in a few others just to bulk up the list. As someone online has already pointed out, at least one of the names is already (or was) a registered company, so probably couldn’t even be used. Info Pro UK looks like someone couldn’t even be bothered to write out words in full. The Knowledge People sounds like a spin-off from The Tomorrow People TV series. Information Matters is a statement, not an organisation name. And why the obsession with using UK in the name? Are people likely to get confused with The Knowledge People USA or Info Pro USA when they make comments on UK library matters??

And all of these options completely disregard one important aspect of the name: CILIP is a body which awards and regulates the professional qualification of a Charter. A Chartership is recognised through many professions as the mark of an advanced and skilled professional in that field. Would any other Chartership awarding body ever consider dropping that aspect from its title? Could we have The Institute of Architects of Scotland, rather than ICAS? Or The Royal Institute of Surveyors rather than RICS? It’s unlikely. Yet our own professional body is considering dropping the most visible element of its name that identifies its members as professionals. It seems like a huge step backwards to me, and so, I spent a whole 3.5 minutes thinking of other names, which include the word Chartered in them:

Chartered Information Professionals Association (CIPA)
Chartered Information Management Association (CIMA)
Institute of Chartered Information Managers (ICIM)
Chartered Information and Knowledge Management Association (CIKMA)

Look, it’s not hard, is it? If you’re a professional body, and have powers that the general public know relate to professionalism, you should really try and retain that signifier somewhere visible. Like…within your name?

Et tu, Lego?

So, the good news is Lego, purveyor of fine, building brick based excitement, have released a “Librarian” minifig. Yay! Lego are a cool company, they’re modern, and they make some great educational products, So, we’ll be seeing a little figure of a modern information professional, a veritable ninja of knowledge: ready, willing and able to assist their users in any way they need, right?

Wrong.

Lego have gone with a stereotype of a librarian more suited to 1913 than 2013. Look – a book! A mug that says “shhh”! A cardigan, glasses, pleated skirt, frumpy hair and sensible shoes! Wow – this is really showing the face of the profession today!

“Shhh!” 

Books are just about the Librarian’s most favorite thing in the entire world. Reading them can take you on exciting adventures in far-off lands, introduce you to new friends and cultures, and let you discover poetry, classic literature, science fiction and much more. If only everybody loved to read as much as she does, the world would be a better place…and quieter, too! 

The Librarian feels that it’s extremely important to treat a book with the proper respect. You should always use a bookmark instead of folding down the corner of the page. Take good care of the dust jacket, and don’t scribble in the margins. And above all else, never – ever – return it to the library late!

As if their range of pink Lego for girls, which instead of encouraging the use of kids imagination to make all sorts of cool things, tells girls that we can make cakes and do makeup wasn’t bad enough (and likely to reinforce the idea that subjects like science and engineering aren’t for girls). Now we get this toy that still focuses on the fact that librarians are frumpy females, and libraries only have books, and the librarians just love those books, don’t ya know? And, of course, that we all hate noise. *insert incoherent scream of (noisy) frustration here*

And yes, I am perfectly well aware that Lego are using a stereotype here, in the hope of making it recognisable. But really: no computer, either desktop or laptop? No tablet or smartphone? No CDs, DVDs, or an eReader of any type? Not even the slightest attempt to show the actual reality of the average role, or some of the items in use in a modern library, or that librarians give their users assistance with? The way to change stereotypes is by challenging them, and there isn’t even the slightest hint of an attempt by Lego to move this stereotype along into the modern age.

At least their Computer Programmer figure got to hold a laptop and an emoticon mug, to go with his own stereotyped outfit of a geeky Argyle jumper, bad hair, bow-tie and a pair of taped-together glasses….

Actually, maybe that librarian minifig isn’t looking so bad, in comparison…

Less moaning, more action

So, after initially complaining that I felt a bit cast adrift, professionally, and then through discussions with other equally drifting mid career professionals, working out what we could do for ourselves in order to actually create the network we felt we needed, the beginnings of a plan are coming together. It’s all thanks to lovely Moo (@_Moo_), also known as Lynne Meehan, and her partner. They’ve got the technical skills and resources to take the experiment a bit further, and set up an forum to see how exactly we could make this work.

If you’d like to be included as a Middler (loving that name, Lynne!), and take part in the experiment (AKA – poking about an online forum and axploring how to make things work as we go), either get in touch with Lynne directly (she’s the Lady in Charge), or leave a comment below and I’ll pass your details on to Lynne.

Lets give it a try, shall we? After all, if we don’t do it, who will?