Advocate? Activate? Who feels they can decide what I should do to be a professional?

On Twitter over the last few days I’ve seen debates over whether people should be actively promoting the library profession. And I have tried to stay out of it, because apparently, unless I’m willing to sing and dance and say how much I just loooooove libraries and the library profession, I’m not allowed to define myself as a librarian, and that pissed me off, which would lead to a more incoherent than normal blog post.

But the whole thing is ridiculous. I’m a librarian, but I don’t love “libraries” as a concept. And I’m not an activist, I don’t “do” promoting activities for any service other than my own. Yet I remain a librarian, regardless of whether I think libraries are the best thing since sliced bread or not. I did the qualification at University, and I continue to prove my professionalism through my work and the Chartership and Revalidation process: nowhere did I sign a form saying “to be a librarian, you have to do everything someone else thinks you should do”.

I’ve also stayed out of it because I was busy using my free time to live my own life. Why should I be expected, because of the larger profession that I am part of,  to promote to others a service I don’t use, and never have used, (public libraries – it’s never about anything other than public libraries) in order to be able to be accepted as a “proper” librarian? Why can I not just have a job, do it well, make sure my users are happy with what I do for them, and go home at the end of the day, to continue with my own life, without being accused of being lazy? I am involved in plenty of professional activities to aid my peers that I don’t shout about – but because I’m not saying “I love libraries” in general, I’m useless? Making sure my service is the best it can be, and I’m doing the best that I can for both my users and my peers should be enough – that is how I advocate. Not by doing what others declare I should be doing.

I don’t see what entitles anyone to judge my actions and make sweeping statements, with no knowledge of my circumstances, or what I feel able to do in my own free time.

An old fashioned habit

I like handwriting.
I was informed by my Dad at an early age that an inability to write in a straight line without having a lined page to guide you was the sign of a Weak Mind.*
I can write in a straight line without having a lined page to guide me.
I can write in multiple sizes (1mm high is my favourite).
I struggle to write continuously in capitals when official forms require it (lower case is my natural habit).
I have nice, readable handwriting.
I write to people, because it’s nice to get a letter.
I keep every letter or postcard ever sent to me.
I make interesting line images using words.
I wrote all my University notes by hand…with bonus illustrations, when I was bored.
I keep to-do lists in my handbag, and delight in carefully scoring out things when they’re done.

So…writing: is fun, even though I barely do it for the bulk of my time – in my daily life, typing is King!

But I find that writing’s actually the best way that I learn: the physical act of writing transfers the information that I’ve read or heard into my brain, and it stays there. Typing the same information means it travels from my fingers, to a document…and leaves my brain.

I think there’s a few reasons for this.

I was never taught to type, or touch type. When ahh were a lad….you were either expected to go to university (and would therefore come out Fully Qualified in Excellence, and leap straight into a job where you’d have staff/minions to do typing for you…because that’s what a degree means, doesn’t it?), or you were going to be a secretary, therefore you did OIS (Office and Information Skills – there’s a misnomer!) where you learned to type. I was in the first group: ohhh, get me, expected to go to university, likely to have minions to do my typing, woo-hoo!

In reality, what happened was – I taught myself to touch type up to a point using a programme on a BBC Micro at home while in late Primary school/early Secondary school, and it was enough to get me by, including for Computing Studies (also using a BBC Micro – damn that Other Class who got to use the brand spanking new pcs!). Then, I went to Uni….in first year, handwritten assignments were the norm….in second year, there were guidelines on spacings for word processed documents…in third year, ALL documents had to be word processed. It was a rapid switch, and not one I (or many others) was totally prepared for.

So, I’m now a reasonably fast typer…but not properly. I’ve learned to get along using about 8 fingers, but almost certainly not in the right way (judging from how my fingers/knuckles can hurt at the end of the day). I still need regular glances down at the keyboard, I make plenty of typos (my favourites are “nihgt” and “hte”, with spacings between words being too earl yor too lat e.), and need to correct frequently. It’s too late really to fix that – I’d need to unlearn how to type wrongly in order to learn to type correctly and in my job, I need to type constantly.
So, typing: I can do it, but I’m partially thinking about typing when I do it, rather than focussing on the content of what I’m typing.

Writing’s different – I know the shapes of the letters so well that I don’t need to think about them, and I’m pretty good on spelling so I don’t really need to think about that either. So when I hand write something, particularly if it’s the points being made by a speaker, I listen, distil to the core point (if needed), write that point down as a note, and remember the information. I can also go back to my notes later, and they’ll really only be needed to refresh my memory, rather than have to be read and understood all over again.

People used to borrow my lecture notes at university, because they were clear, readable, and easy to understand and get the gist of the lecture. Unfortunately, this didn’t always work the other way round – I had a hard time trying to make sense of some other peoples lecture notes if I missed a class! I’d also work far better by transcribing points into notes, rather than photocopying the original material when I was studying. It’s just a shame that I get The Fear when in exams, and all useful information evaporates from my head!

So, I’m not being awkwardly old fashioned on purpose with my avoidance of using any technical devices to make conference or meeting notes – the iPad, iPhone tablets, smartphones etc may work well for other people, but if you see me at a conference or seminar, I’ll be the one sitting there with a pad of paper and a pretty pen, quietly scribbling away.

Does anyone else have this issue with not retaining information if you type it, but being fine if you hand write it? Or are technical devices the way forward for you?

*Please note: my Dad is 72, and had his own natural lefthandedness beaten out of him by vicious teachers in a 1940s schoolroom, leaving him semi-ambidextrous. He may not be the best judge of what is an appropriate way to write.

It’s a Charter, or nothing, apparently

A friend of mine* recently saw a advert for an interesting library post. She’s always open to trying new things, and she wondered if it was worth her applying…she ticked a lot of the boxes for the skills that they wanted, and was willing to learn whatever new skills were were needed for the role – she’s done it before.
But then she saw the fateful words…”Chartership essential”.
Now, she’s worked in various libraries, including special libraries, and Charterships are not particularly recognised or often supported in these sectors, so it’s not something she currently holds. But she is a professional, qualified librarian with a wide range of experience, an involvement and interest in the wider profession, and an enthusiasm and willingness to learn, and gain Chartership if a role requires it.
  
So she decided to phone up and enquire if they were flexible on the Chartership aspect, before possibly wasting her time filling in an application. 
Apparently, if she doesn’t have a Chartership, they wouldn’t even look at her application! It didn’t matter what her other skills or qualification were – it was a Charter, or nothing.
So, what happens if no-one with a charter applies, she enquired?
If they didn’t receive an application from a Chartered candidate, they would just readvertise until they found one.
Now to me, this is a very odd, and bizarrely shortsighted approach to recruitment.
I can understand why those recruiting for certain senior positions would like to be able to say the candidate would have to be committed to high levels of professionalism in both themselves and their staff, and that the Charter is a mark of this.
But, if your personal situation means you haven’t have the chance to Charter, is it fair to exclude those applicants on the basis of a qualification that is entirely optional within the profession?
What if you were Chartered, had a career break (leaving CILIP and also therefore losing your Charter), then came back to work…seems like you wouldn’t get a look in for this job.
If you want to move from a sector where Charterships aren’t valued into a new sector, you wouldn’t even be looked at twice in this case. That’s not doing much for mobility between areas is it?
And what if your Charter was gained 20 years ago, and you’ve done nothing since, such as Revalidate. Is the person with an old Charter really better that the person without, but with the willingness to learn and gain one? 
Is this a case of the requirement for an applicant to hold a Chartership (no matter what) blinding management to the skills of those without a Charter, or is it just some very odd people approaching recruitment very strangely?
* – Not a convoluted way of saying it was me, and trying to pretend it wasn’t, honestly. This really did happen to a friend of mine. And it’s true, I do actually have friends!