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It’s a sad week here in Information & Library Services at Judge, as we prepare to say a fond farewell – on Friday – to one of our esteemed colleagues: Meg Westbury. Meg has been with us since January 2011 and despite her part-time hours has made a huge contribution to our service offering, regularly encouraging us with the expression: ‘I’m jazzed!’ None of us are at all jazzed about her departure, but hand-in-hand with these feelings, we’re of course very happy that her next challenge will be running her own library service (at Cambridge University’s Wolfson College).
Meg was originally employed as our ‘Projects Officer’, but it was her tapping into the zeitgeist and academic background in anthropology that led to the the renaming of her own post to ‘User Experience Librarian’. Although Meg ran the odd usability study or focus group, her part time hours never allowed her to fly with the more ethnographic elements of her role. As fate would have it only now are we able to offer the UX librarian post as a full-time position, but Meg is already set on a new course.
It would take too long to list Meg’s many achievements but it would be remiss of me not to mention: her extensive contribution to the Designated Support Librarian initiative – part of the boutique/personalising mindset we operate here; her regular 30 webapps classes and many other top-notch teaching sessions; evangelism on behalf of Mendeley (although I never once saw her in the Mendeley t-shirt that I know she owns); those project management initiatives, which we have spectacularly failed to embrace; her acres of social media expertise; and her undoubted excellence in website design. Perhaps the biggest impact she has made, certainly in organisational terms, has been her legendary support of our Executive MBAs which has been described in so many glowing terms it has frankly started to get a bit wearing!
Since September of this year, various circumstances have dictated that the teaching load we share has been heavier than ever, but we have both risen to the occasion and, even better, got to understand each other more as a result, to the point at which she is now finally giving back the sarcasm I’ve always dished out to her. I just knew I’d wear her down in the end.
What will I miss most about working with her? Other than her utter reliability as a co-presenter, and supportive function as a go-to person when I needed an additional voice to make a decision, probably her unfailing ability to respond with the line ‘That’s a great question!’ as a shorthand for: ‘Let me get back to you on that, after I’ve thought about it’.
Meg you will be HUGELY missed.
Thanks for everything (apart from the salt water taffy, obviously).
A very specific workplace-related blogpost today detailing a new vacancy here in the department I run here at Cambridge Judge Business School – the business school of the University of Cambridge – for a ‘User Experience Librarian’…
This is a revised position, formerly a part-time role, which has been extended with a view to the post-holder having more time to explore aspects of our service in detail, specifically the opportunity to design and introduce initiatives intended to gauge how well we meet the needs of our users and improve provision accordingly. So there is an expectation that the post-holder will be drawing on the fields of ethnography and usability in the course of their work.
As you will see from the job advert and further particulars this is an important part of the role, but there are other key elements, including: information support of our Executive MBAs; answering research enquiries; and classroom teaching. We are also keen to offer more support and expertise internally to business school stakeholders on RDM and Open Access (naturally in line with existing central University of Cambridge provision).
How much the role turns out to be UX-oriented will no doubt depend to some degree on the appointed candidate and the outcome and application of the initiatives and projects they devise, but there is certainly a will and a strategic determination to move in this direction.
Candidates do not necessarily need to have a background in UX, anthropology or business information, but either or both would of course be an advantage. The post is for one year in the first instance with a very good chance of extension beyond this. The closing date for applications is Friday 22nd November, with interviews in the first week of December.
If you would like to contact me for more details or have any questions then please do email me
Ned Potter has thrown down the gauntlet by name-checking me in a very interesting post about how he works. In between my 2nd and 3rd MBA induction of the day I’m going to attempt to do the same. See Ned’s post to find out where this meme came from.
Current gig: Information & Library Services Manager at Cambridge Judge Business School
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: A regular DELL PC with a nice wide screen monitor
One word that best describes how you work: RelentlesslyWhat apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Has to be Twitter because of the content I access via it and the community of librarians and other peeps on it whose opinions and tips & tricks I value.
What’s your workspace like?
Pretty tidy. In fact sometimes I fear that visitors to my office might wrongly conclude I don’t have enough work to do. I bloody do. I can’t bear mess but occasionally I get a bit overwhelmed and a clean-up is required. I’m easily distracted so that’s the chief reason I keep it pretty spartan.
What’s your best time-saving trick?
Only do the important stuff that adds value to the service. Not really a trick, more common sense. I’m a big picture person so quickly make a judgement call on whether the work I have (or my team has) to do is worthwhile and really adds to our offering or not. Sometimes I can reach this conclusion too soon though, not allowing enough time for reflection or recognition of alternative applications/related ideas. When I have heaps to do I write a paper joblist to tick off and when things are really bad I block off time in my Google Calendar with the tasks so I am reassured that I can get everything done in the time available.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
My physical notebook. I’ve tried various apps. Nozbe almost caused me to have a nervous breakdown with its incessant task reminders. The best thing I could do for my productivity was delete it.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I’m desperately trying to properly integrate my Android Samsung tablet into my life but I am mostly failing in this mainly because I never have time to explore how I could be using it better. It looks at me sometimes saying ‘I could be helping you out here, idiot.’ And then I hate the thing for being smug and the cycle continues.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Writing prose/text very quickly. I can write reports, cases for funding, blogposts, academic chapters and my non-fiction TV and theatre stuff very quickly and not too badly either, or so I am told.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading The Garden of Evening Mists – eloquent but simply written (I can’t bear heavy ‘intelligent’ books). Garden of Evening Mists reminds me of my favourite book of all time: Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World.
What do you listen to while you work?
My team working downstairs, or if they’re quiet – nothing. We have a weird arrangement whereby there’s a gap between my floor and their ceiling. I can hear them, they can hear me. Eavesdropping on both sides – for the win. If either they or I need to let off steam we go elsewhere, although they may have heard the occasional swearword emanating from above their heads. Because of this arrangement they sometimes call me ‘The Voice of God’. Not always respectfully.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I used to be a definite introvert but becoming a manager, presenting more, increased confidence in my vision for our service, and various big public events I’ve been involved in have, over time, made me a confirmed extrovert.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I had 8.5 hours last night – perfect, but I usually get 7 and can on occasion become the Black Eyed Beast of Cambridge. Raaarrrghh!
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
I was going to say Emma Cragg as she’s pretty darn fabulous, but I checked and she’s just done one so I’m going to say Emma Coonan, because I bet she’d be witty and interesting. I’m not obsessed with people called Emma. Other names are available.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
‘Show don’t tell’ from the actress Lucy Fleming. This belief regularly pervades my thinking and actions. Also less profoundly, but just as valuable, from my fantastic wife: ‘Everything will be OK’.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Usually you can’t shut me up, but no I’m outta here.
The first time I coined the phrase ‘embrace the informal’ was back in May when I was preparing a presentation and trying to find words to encapsulate our approach here. For the purpose of that presentation I used the phrase alongside a photograph of myself and (my Deputy) Ange’s legs and footwear. Well actually it wasn’t our legs but it may as well have been as its exactly what we wear most days – me in my brown boots and Ange in her Converse, both of us in jeans. Here’s the image:
The image later turned up in my 33 priorities Slideshare at the start of July and prompted some interesting reactions from many librarians, in fact the slide was commented upon far more than the 32 others, which I find interesting in itself.
The principal comment they made was that they could never consider wearing jeans at their institution and that formal business attire was an absolute requirement. Of course I accept that in some institutions there are firm ‘no jeans’ dress code rules and that therefore my encouragement to ‘embrace the informal’ in this way could not be taken up, but I thought – and still think – this a shame and that a crucial point about an opportunity to make connections with our users and helping them to feel comfortable is being missed. I also feel that this is a rule that is increasingly out of step with the age we live in and, moreover, is not just about clothes, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
Before I argue for a more informal approach I’d like to make it clear that I still wear suits and formal trousers as the occasion demands – meetings with senior management, dinners, receptions – and should I ever run a larger library service I imagine I would wear my jeans far less frequently (I admit that formal has its place when it comes to authority), however I know that myself and my team could have been forging quicker and crucially more ‘passing the time of day’ connections had we gone informal earlier.
You see, up until about 2 years ago I was still a card-carrying formal trousers-wearing librarian. I can’t remember the precise trigger to change, but I’m fairly sure it wasn’t a running out of clean work clothes situation! One definite factor was being around MBA students, faculty and fellow support staff who were predominantly wearing jeans, including – crucially – the Director of my business school, another was the sense that the boundaries between my work life and my personal life were blurring, partly because of Twitter and partly because of the fact that I was increasingly ‘on’ because of my smartphone. In addition there was the discovery – not Saul on the Road to Damascus, but still pretty revelatory – that casual, friendly conversations at work were bearing far more fruit than more formal encounters and that as a team we needed to start to take a more relaxed approach in order to create more and better opportunities for engagement. Taken together these elements made me quite suddenly feel like the ol’ formal trousers were, well, just too formal and no longer fitted with the image and outlook I wanted to portray.
2 years on I am quite certain that the engagement we have won with our user community and key stakeholders across the School has in part been due to the jeans and boots (or in Ange’s case jeans and trainers). We are an information and library service, we’re not the UN, we’re not politicians, or bankers. Why do we need to create further barriers to people coming to use our libraries?
OK, time for some facts. Concentrate.
Fact 1: Clothes don’t make you professional. In fact, some people hide behind the clothing they wear in order to feel up to the job. I may be kicking around in my boots most of the time but I’m still professional, perhaps more outspoken than some people, but still professional.
Fact 2: You feel more comfortable in casual clothes and this aids productivity. There’s plenty of research and studies out there, most notably in Harvard Business Review this year, which have concluded that companies who get the best results out of their employees have recognised that they need to be comfortable and relaxed at work and able to be themselves.
Fact 3: Just like pictures, clothes tell stories. Our clothes are important and very visual presentations of our personalities and outlook, without being able to wear what we want to express ourselves we’re hiding some very important clues and signals and as a result missing opportunities and hooks for connecting with our users. I don’t know how many PhD research requests have resulted from a brief exchange with Ange about her latest geek chic t-shirt, but it would be well into double figures for last year alone.
But wait, this isn’t just about clothes, or boots, or trainers, its about a mindset…
Here at Judge we have made a deliberate decision to be more informal in all aspects of our work, whether it’s through the delivery of more relaxed presentations, engagement with our users via social media funnies and zeitgeist-hitting stuff, or simply in our written communications. We took the decision to rewrite all our guides so that they sounded much less – quite honestly – bloody uptight and pompous, and have also sought to write for our blog/website journalistically with more casual turns of phrase.
All of this has gone hand-in-hand with an attempt to offer a far more realistic holistic approach to students, playing to the stresses and strains they experience during their time with us. Hence the introduction of DVD and fiction collections that have nothing to do with business but instead encourage them to relax and look after themselves and which crucially have also started conversations – and from there led to relationships and more effective use of both us and our business resources. Our pop culture plasma screens inside and outside the Information Centre – see the Game of Thrones example below – have also sparked conversations that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.
This more informal approach has made a real impact: because we have appeared less rigid and desperate, and instead, more relaxed and approachable – engagement has followed. And this isn’t just a feeling I have, its backed up by: an increase in the number of enquiries we receive; higher footfall; ridiculously good session feedback scores; and stratospheric overall service/team scores. Not all of this list is entirely down to us being more informal, but the approach underpins it all, ensuring deeper, more frequent, and more numerous connections.
Go on… ‘embrace the informal’ today. After all there’s nothing to lose.
I always find it a bit of a struggle to compile the annual report for the Information & Library Service I run. I’m not lazy, in fact I’m relentlessly motivated – some might say irritatingly so, so why is it such hard work? I think the reasons are three-fold:
1. For some reason the statistics my team take never exactly match the statistics I need for the report, plus some of the ways the stats are formulated change from year to year so we’re not always comparing apples with apples;
2. I know its not read as widely as it could or should be internally. I’m sure the front page of highlights (a light executive summary) will get a glance but how much beyond that?;
3. I’m not a great one for looking back, not at work anyway.
Having said all that, I am convinced that the benefits far outweigh these niggles. For the sake of symmetry let’s go for 3 points again :
1. Compiling the report is a great reminder to myself and my team as to how much we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come in a year. This year the most striking change was how much more teaching we’d done, and how much the overall tone of our service has changed – conversational and informal – in line with my ‘call to arms’ to ‘embrace the informal’ (incidentally the topic of my next blogpost).
2. We can record statistical progression of our service so I have facts at my fingertips rather than feelings when we’re required to account for our activities (see my previous post on stats collection).
3. It helps me to reflect on next steps and new priorities. Looking back helps one to look forward.
The full report is available to download here. Go on, make my day and read it! Better still, comment on it.
Yours truly contributed a chapter on communication entitled ‘Business school libraries on the radar: not seen and not heard?’ which examines how library services within business schools should be communicating with their stakeholders, particularly senior management, to ensure their value and purpose is actively understood and supported.
Here is a short pre-publication excerpt from my chapter which urges librarians to take a ‘pre-emptive stirke’ when communicating service statistics:
‘…In recent years the global economic recession has prompted swingeing cuts at most higher education establishments and libraries have been very much in the firing line. Perhaps partly because we’re considered to be soft targets; ‘nice to have’ rather than essential, unlike other business school activities. But how much do each of us actually do to counter or seek to address such an assertion within our institutions? Are we ready to level strong contrary arguments and fight our corner when required? As with the time spent battling for recognition and understanding, are such attempts to prove our value equally fruitless?
In this chapter I will seek to argue that although we may think we currently communicate enough within our respective business schools and that our excellent services speak for themselves, we actually live in an age in which there is no room for this sort of complacency and we must make better use of the many and varied communication channels open to us.
At the heart of the problem is a dangerous tendency amongst academic librarians to sit back and wait to be asked for information about our services. A tendency to wait until statistics on loans, enquiries and database use or a weekly breakdown of typical staff activities are directly requested; a new and innovative service is noticed rather than promoting it extensively; someone else identifies that a project or approach we currently undertake is perhaps not the best use of staff time. Business schools are becoming more and more accountable. These days, the bean counters are now very much in charge – very few Deans or Directors do not have an accounting or operations management background – and they only want to know facts and figures, not how you, or others, feel about the service, or how you ‘think’ it is doing. At the very least I would advise that we need to be collecting the following key statistics: footfall to the physical library; visitors to the library’s electronic presence (whether it is a website, portal or blog); usage of databases; cost of database subscriptions relative to use and each other; loans and percentage use of printed collection; usage of ebooks – downloads and views; and the number of enquiries received and fulfilled by staff in person, by email, or instant chat. However, it is not enough just to collate this data and wait to be asked for it. It is far better to ensure that the people who need to know this stuff are informed, at least once a year, of these top level statistics, before they ask for them: a pre-emptive strike if you like…’
The back cover text – below – recognises the value of the book to all librarians in the academic sector and beyond. We are all grappling with the same problems and opportunities…
So, I made it. I survived running the 2013 conference and am now back out at the other side. Thankfully I understand that the conference was very well received by its 40+ delegates. In fact, they made certain that I knew this both during and after the conference, and their thanks and appreciation have made the over-and-above efforts of the past 6 months very worthwhile. I do have high standards – which is probably why I spend quite a bit of my career feeling disappointed – but even I have to admit that last week almost went without a single hitch.
Rather than document the whole event here, I’ve instead decided to record some of my edited highlights. My ‘best bits’ if you like. Here, in no particular order, is my top ten of EBSLG 2013:
10. Sunny and Share
On the first full day of the conference, for which we were blessed with sunny, if very humid, weather, making the conference lecture theatre environment a bit of a challenge at times, six EBSLG members presented sharing sessions on projects and initiatives in which they’d recently been engaged.
A fascinatingly varied line-up saw presentations on: facebook student engagement at Moscow’s SKOLKOVO business school with posts about best-selling business books, yes books – who’da thunk it? (Helen Edwards); EQUIS evaluation in Stockholm (Marie-Louise Fendin); the repository at BI Norwegian Business School with a Star Wars film, complete with intro and music (Dagmar Langeggen); social media use by researchers in Germany (Thorsten Meyer); aerobics and space design at the Darden School, Virginia (presented by US conference guest Karen King); and for my money, the best of the six, a wonderfully wry presentation on the results of a survey about EBSLG members views on the future, and the proposed library models presented and chosen by London Business School’s senior management. This latter sharing session was the very last talk of the day so congrats to presenter Tim Wales for keeping us engaged and entertained.
9. Around Europe in 50 Questions
The first night of the conference saw Ange and I take to the floor at the River Bar restaurant with a European-flavoured quiz, largely penned by The Fitzpatrick (Ange) but presented as a tag-team by the two of us. It seems that all librarians regardless of nationality hotly contest a quiz and for fifty furious quickfire questions they were tested on their knowledge of an eclectic range of subjects such as National Birds, Football, Geography, Eurovision and Hungarian wine.
The River Bar’s Hungarian barman Gabor was keen to take the microphone to give his views on the latter topic and Ange and I found ourselves almost having to rugby tackle him to get the mic back! We’d been drinking so were quite prepared to wrestle him for it! A spot prize was offered for the delegate who could correctly guess the number of University libraries in Cambridge. The winner was Carolina of EADA, Spain, who won a mini-bottle of champers, while second place was awarded to keynote speaker Stephen Abram. I wont tell you what Stephen first thought the woollen Union Jack hand warmer he won was, as this is not that sort of blog. The quiz was great fun and a good conference icebreaker.
8. Roof Garden Invasion
One of my abiding memories of the conference will be the 20 or so minutes when the brilliant Andy Massey of The Pacific Institute took us out of the lecture theatre to invade the sun-bathed roof garden so we could throw balls at each other! OK So there was slightly more to it than that. We were tasked by him to, in turn, throw a ball to each other remembering both who we caught it off and who we threw it to. After a few complete circuits of the group we got much quicker at it, at which point more balls were added into the mix for complexity.
The purpose of the exercise was to prove that with practice processes improve and become more streamlined and that this is also the result if we take responsibility and work as a team. Another learning point was that René is good at poaching balls and that Ange is a really lousy throw. Who knew? Another illuminating exercise saw Andy divide us into two groups and ask us to organise ourselves in a line based on our birthdays. One group didn’t have a leader, the other did. Not hard to guess that the group without a leader completed in around two-thirds of the time of the led group!
Returning to the very start of the conference, I really enjoyed the first hour when delegates arrived in the early evening sun and we loitered outside the business school entrance for a bit and caught up with each other. We’re a close group and this informal and very relaxed arrival period reminded me how lucky I am to be a part of it.
Immediately after the arrival of delegates I presented my take on the information and library services we offer here from one of the large screens in our Information Centre. I was determined to counteract the potential disappointment of our physical space with some ‘wow’ full-screen image slides and the message that for us the physical space is a small part of our service and our wider service strategy and activities beyond the library walls are much more important. I think I succeeded in this.
6. The Abram
Stephen Abram’s contribution to the conference deserves a blogpost in its own right, suffice to say I very much enjoyed his challenging session even if in my case he was preaching to the converted. Stephen has some great ideas and equally good ways of expressing them. It was for this reason that he was right at the top of my keynote speakers wishlist. I was amazed and thrilled when I secured him and even more pleased when it transpired that he had cleared his week to spend the whole conference with us so he could take part in the whole event. The many many elements in his session that really struck a chord with me, 25 in all – some of which had me mentally punching the air – were as follows:
- ‘Our challenge is to be able to talk about our business without saying the ‘L’ word’;
- ‘The value of libraries is in librarians who promote themselves and network‘;
- ‘Library websites have too many nouns: e.g., ‘books,’ ‘databases,”;
- ‘Need more pics of librarians, links to services and social media’;
- ‘Number one fault of librarians is that we’re not timely enough. Need to be faster’;
- ‘Google is a piece of crap – as a search engine. And we are Google’s product not their customer’;
- ‘We must be service professionals, not servants; must offer value, not just fetch-it services’;
- ‘Do enough librarians check how their site looks on multiple devices?’;
- ‘Library staff competencies need to ramp up: we must be better at consultations, educating and building relations’;
- ‘Librarians value their time at zero’;
- ‘Where is the librarian at lesson level? ‘Where are the learning objects?’;
- ‘Scale learning and make it repeatable’;
- ‘Libraries core skill is not delivering information. Libraries improve the quality of the question & the user experience’;
- ‘Librarians are not in the business of information, but of intelligence.’;
- ‘We must add to the quality of the user experience’;
- ‘Librarians need to be friendly but also the shark in the tank. We must be more assertive about the value we deliver’;
- ‘Think deeply about: scalability, sustainability, depth of relationships, daily and future priorities’;
- ‘We’re frickin brilliant’ so why don’t we tell people? Brand yourself, put your name and your photo out there, claim your place ‘;
- ‘All learning is distance learning, unless they are standing in front of you at your library desk’;
- ‘Do you like change? Doesn’t matter. Get over it. Breathe. Find a rhythm. Don’t resist. Don’t react. Go explore. Commit.’;
- ‘Stop negativity. Negativity is contagious. Learn. Change. You can do it. Change is an attitude. Create a personal vision’;
- ‘Focus on what you *can* do, not what you can’t. Learn to love ambiguity’;
- ‘There is nothing wrong with attracting attention’;
- ‘Be playful. Create a playful environment. Be inspirational and have some fun. Tell your story. Admit it, you’re a change agent.’;
- ‘The future is NOT going to NOT happen – so get ready for it!’
What really struck me about Stephen, the more I spent time with him at sessions and dinners (and in various drinking establishments) was his genuine passion. I’m sure he’s unfairly dismissed by some as ‘know-it-all’ but he really does know his stuff (if not it all) and his motivation is absolutely all about turning the profession around. Many thanks for making the time for us Stephen. Slideshare of Stephen’s EBSLG talk
5. Punting and Hawking
The first night of the conference saw us partake in a truly Cambridge experience: punting down the Cam. Enhanced not only by many bottles of Champagne, but by Chinese lanterns and decorations adorning the length of the river due to the fact that we were in May Week. In Cambridge, May Week is in June. I know.
One further stroke of luck which added to the Cambridge magic – that had Jeff Wilensky of ProQuest open-mouthed – was the sudden arrival, mid-punt, of Stephen Hawking trundling along the riverbank – laid on especially by myself and Ange of course. We treat our overseas guests very well here.
4. Bricking it
I certainly wasn’t ‘bricking it’ when it came to facilitating my Lego workshop having done quite a few now (my fees are very reasonable), although the presence of Stephen Abram and that well-known Kiwi troublemaker Phill Hall, of Summon fame, in my group certainly concentrated my mind somewhat. Six other workshops took place at the very same time led by Ange (far right), Meg (on my right) and 4 other recently Lego-trained Cambridge-based facilitators, Libby, Hélène, Isla and Helen.
Thanks to Rachel Marsh we have some great photos of us all in our specially purchased Lego font t-shirts posing with our brick kits. By all accounts the session was the most popular of the entire event – making all the prep and Lego-related efforts worthwhile. A huge thank you to my excellent Lego facilitators. Some comments from attendees included: ‘I just loved the Lego session since my thoughts flows better while my hands are working’; ‘I was not very keen on the idea, however, it proved to be real fun, there was really no stress, everybody was friendly and relaxed…’; and ‘a nice way to bring out experiences, ideas and emotions in a playful way.’
3. A Night at the (Fitzwilliam) Museum
When Ange and I discovered that we could book the Impressionists Gallery at the Fitzwilliam Museum and have our delegates sip wine beside a Monet, a Cezanne or a Renoir before a fine dining experience elsewhere in the museum, we booked it with a tangible degree of excitement.
In the event, the venue delivered absolutely. The art historian gave just the right length of talk, the food was very special indeed – possibly one of the best meals I’ve ever had - and it quickly became clear that the following night’s Gala Dinner had a lot to compete with.
2. Question Time
In my experience most conference panel discussions fail for one of three reasons: 1. They overrun; 2. Certain panel members take too much airtime; and 3. The audience doesn’t get a look-in. I was determined to avoid all of the above and roved with a mic throughout and kept everyone on track as we discussed whether we needed library spaces anymore, Discovery software and Bring-Your-Own-Device.
The panel which consisted of Stephen Abram, Jeff Wilensky, Liz Waller (who also gave us a pictorial take on library spaces elsewhere in the schedule) and Tim Wales, representing the EBSLG Anglophone Group, did a uniformly excellent job, as did the highly-contributing audience. Valuable panel discussion? Tick!
1. A King at Christ’s
This isn’t me being arrogant about my experience of the final night Gala Dinner, but simply relates to how it felt to dine at centre top table at Christ’s College, especially when delegates gave me thunderous applause for my conference organisation – a very special moment for which I’m very grateful. Like most people I do need praise and it was pretty magical receiving it in that setting. The ‘King’ bit also relates to a delegate comment that, myself and my dinner partner for the evening – Dagmar Langeggen of BI Norwegian Business School, looked like, and I quote: ‘A thin Henry VIII with Queen Dagmar of Norway at his side’!
The Gala Dinner was also memorable because it gave me a chance to acknowledge the massive efforts of Ange and the rest of my team as probably for the first time I described her as ‘amazing’ rather than using my tongue-in-cheek more typical refrain – ‘she’s quite good’, but also because we all said a fond and tearful farewell to the wonderful Christine Reid of Strathclyde who described EBSLG as ‘her family’. It was also Mannheim’s Per Knudsen’s final conference with us – acknowledged at the AGM the next morning. Per too has been a fantastic colleague. Both of them are as entertaining as they are knowledgeable and I will miss them very much.
So that about wraps up #EBSLG13 up for me. An occasionally stressful, but undoubtedly rewarding experience, which most importantly for me offered the opportunity to strengthen my relationships with other European Business School Library Directors.
Until we meet again in St. Petersburg…
N.B. I will be sharing a very large Flickr photo album and a Storify containing all the conference tweets very soon.
Back in the Nineties and early Noughties the acronym EBSLG (it stands for European Business Schools Librarians Group folks) meant little more to me than having to ‘mind the shop’ while my then bosses were away at its annual conference. Actually, I must also make reference to another early ‘EBSLG experience’ when two EBSLG members from France visited Templeton College in the mid-Nineties. On that occasion I was rather startled to be introduced to two of the most glamorous and immaculately turned-out women I’d ever met. I could believe they were French, but librarians?!?
Later when I chaired BBSLG (yep that first ‘B’ stands for British, well done) I was partly responsible for the name change which distanced us from our European cousins as we became the Business Librarians Association (BLA). The distancing was not at all deliberate, however, the membership of EBSLG has always been a topic of controversy amongst the BBSLG/BLA as there have been accusations of elitism given that only the ‘top’ business schools in the UK are members. I’m not going to touch too much on that here, suffice to say that while there is more obvious service and budget parity between myself and other library directors at the highly ranked EBSLG schools, I have always learned as much from the content of BLA conferences as their European equivalents.
The first EBSLG conference I attended was at IMD in Lausanne (right), Switzerland, in 2008, which formed an excellent week-long leadership programme with a heck of a lot of assigned reading. It was important to me as I was mixing with other business school library directors from all over Europe, on the same level, for the first time. The beauty of the environs didn’t go unnoticed too. I swam in that there water one afternoon between sessions!
The following year’s 2009 conference at Ashridge Business School, back in the UK, was also significant for me as it partly prompted me to start this blog. After further conferences in Cologne and Paris, last summer I suddenly found myself volunteering to host the 2013 conference. This will be the first time its members will have come to Cambridge in its 43 year history. No pressure!
I’m no stranger to conference organisation, but this is the first time I’ve done it quite so independently (for the BLA conference, the committee helps take the strain more) or for such a complex and long event – four days. Four! Count ‘em! There have been a few problems along the way: the redoubtable Polly Harper – who was my right-hand conference woman for many months – being poached by a very wise Birmingham-based law firm; the fact that booking a year in advance is still too late for many Cambridge venues when you’re planning a conference taking place in ‘May Week‘; and, most challenging of all, an already mad normal workload.
Another factor was my determination to offer a tailored and personable experience for delegates in line with the approach detailed by myself and Elizabeth Tilley for library service users in our boutique book (still stocked by all good bookshops!). This coupled with my often unrealistically high standards has not made this an easy experience, but it will be worth it, provided it all goes to plan.
My intention was to put together a programme that would challenge and inspire in equal measure. I can’t be sure that this will happen until the conference is well underway, and delegates engage or no, but the right ingredients are certainly in place: speakers and activities. Personally I have a very low tolerance for poor content especially when I’ve travelled a long way to hear it and I’m keen that this year’s attendees feel that the long haul to Cambridge (the furthest flung delegates are from the US and Russia) has been worth it.
I stand now on the conference precipice, the day before the conference begins. My office at work is full of delegate bags, vendor info, bottled water, sweets, Lego, maps, champagne flutes, and clothes that I won’t have time to go home for during the conference. I won’t see much of my wife Marisa and even less of my son John over the next four days but I’m looking forward to it all the same. Content aside, the experience of fine dining at the Fitzwilliam Museum (right) and a four-course Gala Dinner at Christ’s College promise to be memorable, as does the sight of over 40 librarians punting down the Cam tomorrow evening!
Before I sign off, I must acknowledge the efforts of my deputy Ange, and of the rest of my team, Meg, Sarah, Cath and Natasha, who have either provided excellent conference admin support to me over the past few months, as preparation has gone up several gears, or kept their heads down ensuring our information and library service has been operating to the same standards. I owe you all a very good slap-up meal soon.
I usually blog during the conference but for obvious reasons I’ve decided to go for a ‘before’ and ‘after’ post this year, I’m a workaholic but I’m not mad! So… I guess I’ll see all you fine people at the other side.