Author Archives: Sam (LibWig)
Please see below for a summary of the chat. A full archive of all tweets from the conversation can be found at the following URL (hosted in Google Docs): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AltAorjMX56YdC1mVU5IRllRQzA0TUU1dEdyNTFYUmc&usp=sharing
What projects have you been involved with that required project management skills?
We had a wide range of examples in response to this question, showing that project management skills can be applied to small everyday projects, as well as big on-going tasks!
@jackoliver40: I’ve been involved with a larger project to create a new service desk to smaller e.g. intro of laptop loan and I had to lead on creation of a new service desk (we call it iZone) which was tied into a wider refurbishment. Challenging!
@louise_ashton: Small projects = creating online tutorials from scratch and a project involving reading lists & references
Bigger projects = new LMS, new library website, complete library refurbishment & arranging disposal of a patient lib
@Sonja_Kujansuu: I’ve helped out on many projects at work. Many reclassification projects of entire library collections, creating records on an Access database for foreign dissertations. Creating LibGuides, Measuring and doing an inventory of books.
@pmshort: I negotiated for space in the building to create a study support zone
@AidanBaker: Multi-site book move last year; sundry sub-projects to address the dust as it settled
@theangelremiel: I opened a new library. I expanded a 1 library system to 2 locations (without expanding the staffing, that was a mistake)
2. What are the good ways of getting experience in Project management if it’s not something you can do in your day job?
There are a wide array of ways to bolster your project management experience – from volunteering for committee and work, to planning a wedding! Some highlights to this questions are outlined below…
@jackoliver40: I think you can apply basic PM principles to many things e.g. a review of a basic process. Look at why, how, who and plan
@louise_ashton: Chartership needs PM. Extra curricular CPD – dissertations etc. Hobbies, social life too – planning a wedding!
@louise_ashton: Anything outside of your day to day duties can be considered a project. So anything with a unique end result.
@tinamreynolds: Look out for project management modules whilst studying for an MA/MSc
3. Have you attended a course on PM? Was it useful?
@LibWig: Attended training courses from our in house learning & development team on PM. Found it v useful as was tailored to our workflow
The course we attended was quite short, which was good. Was about 2hrs, with take-away examples, exercises, sample worksheets
@greebstreebling: Yes, I have and it was useful. Not based on software but handouts to take away and worked through actual examples
I’ve had more formal PM training e.g. using MS Project. I’ve also had informal training on our own inhouse methodology
@preater: Not had formal PM training but have absorbed a lot by osmosis working with PMs. Doing Prince2 training later in September
@jackoliver40: Without formal learning, you can apply good self-organisation skills and planning. Works as well as any formal learning
@louise_ashton: Courses are good but it helps having had some experience to relate it to. Am trying to put what I’m learning in to practice
@tinamreynolds: Conference organisation for a prof body is a good way of getting PM experience
@pmshort: I attended a very good PM course run by JISC [please comment if you know any more about the JISC course! Ed.]
@darrentheviking: I’ve done a couple based around Prince 2 and a week long one around Accept (model for pharma industry)
4. What key skills do you need for project management?
Our respondents had a great range of skills that you can show and develop!
@louise_ashton: Having an overall vision of the end result. Clear aims and objectives.
@tinamreynolds: Organisation – must be organised or everything fails
@louise_ashton: Delegation of tasks is crucial!
@jackoliver40: Organisation. Need to be able to plan in advance. Need to listen to the project team and take input. Delegation of tasks
@LibWig: Understanding timescales and implications of missed/revised deadlines also important
@louise_ashton: Being able to manage resources and people. I think being able to motivate others is key too.
@pmshort: Taking ‘knocks’ on board and moving on. Learning from setbacks
@jackoliver40: You have to take ownership but try not to take things personally! Very hard to balance. Take time to reflect is good practice
@edchamberlain: Tracking project progress across several teams and groups can be v. difficult.
@preater: Key skills IMO are getting buy-in across departments at the right level and being an effective political operator.
@Sonja_Kujansuu: Ability to understand the perspectives of other people working on the project.
@theangelremiel: Big one here is the ability to describe a project in as simple terms as possible… but no simpler.
5. What is it like working in a project team (not as manager)? Are expectations and requirements different from your desk job?
Unsurprisingly, our respondents explained that it can be very different to your day to day role – but this of course partly depends on what your core job description consists of! Time to work on the project was cited as becoming a problem in a number of replies.
@theangelremiel: I’ve found on large projects there can be a problem if you’re also working a regular job. Time constraints & conflicts.
@jackoliver40: I have also been part of a P team. V diff to desk job. You need to plan time to commit. V good to gain broader experience
@louise_ashton: The recognition that you often have to do projects alongside your everyday duties
@pmshort: Time management is vital…and the ability to get away from the day job. Prep for meetings and reflection time afterwards
@preater: Balancing requirements of day job vs. projects is challenging work time management.
@theangelremiel: My current job is in a very small team. Tough to differentiate between “project” & “regular” tasks.
@jackoliver40: I use my calendar to plan my time and colour code it to reflect meetings, core work, uni wide work, project work etc. helps!
6. What library activities fit project management activities?
Our first answer summaries the majority of responses quite nicely for this question!
@louise_ashton: Anything that is outside normal day to day activities.
A lot of projects seem to be about the implementation of a new system or way of working.
@jackoliver40: I think any task that involves a timeline and a change to process, no matter how small
@louise_ashton: There seem to be a lot of digitisation projects going on at the moment
7 . Are there practical resources/stuff which show successful project management cases in similar places?
Only one resource was suggested for this question, though I suspect that there are plenty more out there. The problem is that they aren’t collated, but rather exist as examples in case studies etc. Other explained that libraries don’t market completed projects as such, but instead promote the resource that they have developed on the project, such as a new website or catalogue.
Look at the SLA survey in latest Information Outlook for September 2013.
8. Can you suggest any useful tools for project management?
Don’t under estimate the power of Excel!
@jackoliver40: We have formal documentation that helps e.g. PID, highlight reports, end report. Personally I like MS project for planning
@louise_ashton: The famous Gantt chart
@louise_ashton: I’ve seen massive projects – £1m lib refurb planned using Excel
@jackoliver40: I think for anyone doing smaller scale projects, excel is perfect to aid planning. Doesn’t need much more for a good outcome!
Thank you to all our participants!
Our latest feature on #uklibchat links into our recent discussion on librarians and research. Barbara Sen, currently a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, tells us of her experiences in moving from LIS practice to academia. Thank you to Barbara for sharing her experiences and tips with us.
Moving to the Dark Side: Practitioner to Academic Practice
I came into the LIS profession quite late, though I had been a library assistant when I was in my teens. I did my Masters at MMU when I was in my early forties and immediately after I graduated I managed to get three part time jobs! I was worried that being an older graduate it would be harder for me to get a permanent post but I really recommend it. You get a broad range of experience on your CV, it helps you to decide what you would like to do, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.
One of those jobs was with the Health & Safety Executive, one was as a part time Research Assistant on a project investigating flexible working, and one was teaching at MMU on the Database Design module. They all gave me valuable experience and set me off on a future path to being an academic. The down side of having so many part time jobs was that it was very tiring. Each job required different skills, and whilst I was learning so much, doing each one was exhausting, so I was pleased when after a year when a full time permanent post came along in the Health & Safety Executive.
I prefer some autonomy and found the Civil Service too restrictive so after a year I moved into the NHS managing a library service. I loved this role as there was plenty of opportunity for development within the NHS at that time, and I could shape the service how I wanted it. The health sector is very dynamic. I found health librarians, like other sectors, to be highly skilled, innovative, and always willing to push the boundaries. They love learning, and engage in research. I loved so much about my job, developing the collection, researching quite complex medical problems, and delivering training sessions to all kinds of health professionals – I really enjoyed the training aspect.
Whilst in the health service I had to write my first strategic plan for my service. I loved bringing stakeholders together, getting people involved in the planning, and setting a vision for my service for the future.
Shortly after this I saw a job advertised in CILIP Update for a part time Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to work on the Strategic Management module and the Collection Development module. As I had been an Acquisitions Librarian at the Health & Safety Executive, I felt that I was really well suited to this role and I thought I could probably fit it around my health service job. We had extended opening hours, so I could do more of the late and weekend shifts to make up for the time I might be teaching.
Well I got the job, and the rest is history. I loved it so much that when a full-time post became available I moved into academia full-time. LJMU at that time did not have a strong research culture, and as I started to become more involved in the academic context I realised how much I enjoyed the research aspects of the position, so I knew that would have to move to develop this side of things.
A job came up at the University of Sheffield. I didn’t get it. I didn’t even get shortlisted. I spoke to a lecturer at another LIS Department and he suggested that I needed to publish much more, so I started to do small research projects related to my work, and my teaching areas. I managed to get a few things published and I also got invited to work on a number of small projects, one consultancy, and one a Knowledge Transfer Project working with a small business. I made sure that I published the outcomes from these so they would enhance my CV. I also embarked on a PhD part-time. Then a post for a Lecturer came up again at Sheffield, and this time the subject areas were more closely aligned to my areas of expertise. To my surprise, this time, I got the job.
I have been at Sheffield now for six years. Since then, so many opportunities have come up. I love the teaching, and the research – you can’t separate them, one feeds into another, and really I think that’s how it should be. In academia we have to remain relevant to LIS practice. Most of my research has practical applications.
It is much more difficult now to get a job in academia without a PhD -my advice to anyone who is thinking of making the move is to get the PhD. There are more opportunities now to do a PhD part-time, and also by publication. Instead of the usual 100,000 word full research project, you submit a 10,000- 15,000 word report based around previously published papers that you have written.
I must say, Sheffield is the most challenging job I have ever had. The up side is that you have autonomy, and flexibility. There is always something new, and something new to explore. The down side is that I have never worked so hard or such long hours. I find myself working every evening, and every weekend. It is very rewarding especially when you see students getting on and doing well, but the job is very demanding indeed.
If you thing you want to make the transition from practitioner to academic, then start to write and get published. Every article counts. Gain some experience at training, or teaching – make sure you can cope with that. A few people I know like the idea, but then cave in when they have to stand up in front of a group of people and deliver a talk or a lecture. Develop a specialism, something you are known for, and think how you can become an expert in that. A friend of mine started a blog, and soon became widely followed on that topic because of his blog. Go to conferences, and network, great to get known and great experience, of one aspect of academic life. Get researching! We work in an evidence based profession. Publish from your Masters. Supervisors are usually very happy to publish with you at this point. Research in the work place is valid. Don’t be shy of putting work based research out into academic journals. Find opportunities to work with others on joint projects to build confidence. Explore different research methods and approaches, it will build your confidence.
Join research groups such as the Library and Information Research Group LIRG or the Library & Information Science Research Coalition At this point, I will also give a shameless plug for a book that I am co-editing with Maria Grant and Hannah Spring: Research, Evaluation and Audit, published by Facet. This book is designed for people who might be new to research.
#uklibchat are pleased to present the following guest post by Geraldine Clement-Stoneham. To continue discussing Open Access, join us for our next chat on February 5th, between 6:30-8:30pm.
For many years Open Access publishing was a topic of discussion reserved to a very small circle of enthusiasts. If anyone had told me only two years ago that the subject would make the front page of top newspapers, be on the news and attract so much attention that it generates a petition to the White House, I would have looked at them in disbelief. Not that I thought that open access wasn’t the right thing to promote, but I felt that much work was still needed to inform and convince people that the traditional model of disseminating scholarly knowledge needed changing.
So what has happened, and what is the hype about? What does it mean to “publish in open access”? Why is it so different?
At the beginning there were two key elements which triggered off the movement: the growth of the Internet as a fast way to communicate large amount of information at low cost; and the exponential increase in the costs of subscriptions.
These two factors, accompanied with a belief that public information, and therefore the outputs of publicly funded research, should be available to the public, lead the way to exploring new options for sharing scholarly findings.
And it is worth keeping in mind that any new model developed would need to respect two important elements: the peer review process, which provides assurance on the quality of the research; and the fact that researchers work in an economy of reputation – where acknowledgement and citation is directly linked to career prospects.
I don’t want to dwell too much about the history of open access, or the details of issues to be considered, as I’d rather focus on what has changed in the last few months. However, if you want a comprehensive summary of what open access is all about, I recommend the Wikipedia entry, itself one of the most beautiful example of what open access to knowledge can achieve. For a more in-depth account, Peter Suber’s recent book has become the reference source, and includes a compilation of many of the ideas he developed in his blog entries. (Note that the book is not in open access yet, but will be 12 months after publication, ie. Summer 2013).
However, for a more interactive experience, this short video, Open Access explained will give in you in less than 10 min a good snapshot at how absurd the current situation is. I recommend watching it!
So coming back to what happened in the last 12 months, and how the world gradually shifted to make open access such a hot topic, not only for librarians and researchers, but also for the mainstream press, research funders and governments.
The Cost of knowledge
Let’s get back to January 2012 and a blog post by Field Medallist and Cambridge mathematician, Tim Gower, in which he ponders on the high costs of Elsevier’s journals and the role that scientists themselves play in maintaining the status quo. Check out Alok Jah’s article in the Guardian for a good summary. Tim’s blog set the blogosphere on fire, and lead quickly to an online petition being set up to collect signatures of all those who, along Tim Gower, would make a public stand and refuse to work with Elsevier in the future. The Cost of Knowledge website attracted hundreds of signatures in no time, and today over 13000 researchers have committed in one way or another not to work with Elsevier.
The Research Works Act
So why did Gower pick on Elsevier in particular. Let’s face it, there are quite few large commercial publishers out there who have been increasing subscription prices steadily for years.
At the end of 2011, a new bill had been proposed in the US called the “Research Work Act”. In summary, the Bill was proposing to make the National Institute of Health open access policy illegal and stop it being extended to other publicly funded research in the States. As well as a the unveiling that Elsevier had supported financially the two politicians who were proposing the new bill, the American Publishers Association public letter explaining why the bill was a good idea had the tone of a declaration of war. The bad publicity turned out to be a big reputational risk for Elsevier, which eventually withdrew its support.
It was not the first petition, but in the days of social media, it made enough noise to be heard by many, and the fact that it was taking on a big player in the industry also attracted the interest of investors, not just in Elsevier, but other publishers too. Publications which only a few months ago would have never covered the topic suddenly were making it a big headline:
New York Times
Open Access policies in the UK
The discussion about economics has not been limited to assess the risk to the shareholders of large publishing companies, but has also considered the costs to innovation, the economy and society, not to have the results of publicly funded research available to all. Research, and the knowledge gained through research, is perceived to be a key element to economic recovery and growth. At the end of 2011, David Willetts, the Science Minister, announced that the results of publicly funded research should be free to access.
Recognising that some results were already available freely, a group of stakeholders’ representatives, chaired by Dame Janet Finch, was tasked to make recommendations on how to accelerate this change, whilst proposing sustainable solutions. The report was published in June 2012 and generated a lot of comment all around the world.
The government accepted all but one recommendation made in the Finch report.
Shortly after, the Research Councils published their new joint policy on open access to research outputs, which was informed by the Finch report and built on the existing RCUK Open access policy, first introduced in 2005. This was followed by a statement by DIFID, and HEFCE.
More recently, The House of Lord Science & Technology Committee announced that it would be holding a hearing in relation to the UK government and RCUK open access policy.
And only last week, the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has also announced its intention to inquire into the Government’s Open Access policy.
Whilst things were moving fast in the UK, in the US the momentum lost energy with the upcoming elections. The RWA having been withdrawn, a bill was re-introduced in support of expanding the NIH mandate to other federally funded research, and the White House is still to respond to a public petition asking for the President to make an official statement.
Recently the Natinal Institute of Health announced that they would enforce more strictly their policy, but the other large funder, the National Science Foundation (NSF), still does not have any official position on open access.
In July 2012, the European Commission issued a Communication in relation to the future funding programme Horizon2020 and a recommendation to member states recommending they put in place national open access policies.
Many universities have also been active all around the world and established institutional OA mandate. The most famous outburst of 2012 will probably remain that of Harvard University, who recognised openly that they could no longer afford to subscribe to all the journals needed by their scholars, and it was time to “move prestige to open access” (see also http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/24/harvard-university-journal-publishers-prices)
Whilst many have accepted that publicly funded research outputs should be freely available, there are still many questions about how this can be achieved. Any changes to the current system will have implications for all the players involved and these can be perceived as important enough to challenge openness as a principle, particularly when big financial interests are at stake.
New opportunities arise too, and new ideas. A group of mathematicians has just announced that they would create “overlay journals” on top of ArXiv (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArXiv) to provide an alternative to traditional publishers; PeerJ is a new OA journals which offers a life-time subscription to authors to publish; eLife is a new journal paid for by funders and free for authors to publish in; Social Science Directory is a new open access “mega journal”.
Much has to change simultaneously as open access touches on issues of copyright, intellectual property, freedom of the internet, publishers business models, researchers’ career path, etc.
No doubt we will be discussing some of these during our #uklibchat and the debate is far from being over.
Whilst I was drafting this blog, the sad news came in of the death of Aaron Swartz. Aaron was not a well-known figure to most, but an influential advocate for open access and his death brings to mind the uncomfortable reality that the principle of openness some of us value cannot be taken for granted.
Geraldine Clement-Stoneham is a knowledge manager for a large medical research funder. She tweets on open access and other KM related stuff at @geraldinecs. She writes here in a personal capacity.
This blog entry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Our next chat will be on Open Access, and you can now add to the agenda here!
We are also pleased to confirm that we will be posting a guest blog discussing Open Access the week before the chat to help get you thinking!
We look forward to chatting with you then.
1) Have you any tips for getting into a library management position?
- Be “that person” who is always happy to help out, suggest new ideas, makes people see you in a new light
- Ask your employer if you can enrole in a “moving into management” course
- Show leadership whilst not in a “managerial” role – you don’t have to have a managerial role to gain experience
- Blog post on managing in libraries: http://infoism.co.uk/blog/2012/01/managing-in-public-libraries/
- It can be tricky in some roles to gain this experience, where this is the case offer to volunteer in other roles/committees
- Differentiate between leadership and management – you can gain skills in either, and they are transferrable between the two!
- You can volunteer outside the library world to gain experience! i.e. girl guides!
- Think about how you define management : http://bit.ly/SwzZoN - don’t just think of management as the person at the top, there are many steps to get there!
2) How do you get supervisory experience without ever having it before? Is it a catch 22 situation?
- Ask managers for more responsibility – flag it up in your annual review/appraisal
- Be in the right position at the right time!
- Try a job swap with a colleague
- Try writing training materials and then sharing them with your users
- Engage with CILIP’s special interest groups, or other professional organisations
- Good recruitment will spot the potential of a good manager – likewise, poor recruitment will prevent it from showing and being spotted
- Remember that being in a management position is not the be all and end all of a career – there are many other ways to a fulfilling career.
- Management courses from the CMI: http://bit.ly/OGuBv3
3) What should be the key skills of a library manager?
- Honest and trustworthly
- Being able to delegate confidently
- Give credit where it is due
- Being able to balance organisation, staff and a user’s needs
- Spot the big picture, and the small details
- Effective communication
- Risk tolerance
- Embracing change successfully
- People management
- Project management
- Awareness of professional values and ethics
4) How do you adapt from being “one of the team” to “the boss”?
- Listen to advise from others, you won’t have been the first to make the transition
- Do not try to be the world’s friend – it isn’t possible. Instead be fair and take a step back
- Accept that you will have to change how you work with people, in order for both of you to do your role
- Respect and be fair to your staff – but you do not have to become an ice queen!
- Moving organisation makes adapting easier, as it also stops you from being viewed in your previous role and guise
- There was a difference of opinion between if a manager should muck in and help out, or sit back and guide the library’s strategy
5) Do you think managers are out of touch with issues facing the frontline staff?
- It was decided by pretty much all involved, that this will vary depending on many factors; sector, organisation and most importantly, the individual
- It was pointed out that we should think both ways – do you know about all the problems and issues your manager has to deal with? Communication both ways can help to address any gaps that are present
- Perhaps have your manager work a “floor day” to remind them of some of the problems that you face – put any problems in a constructive way that will help them to understand
6) How important is it that managers have experience of lower level jobs/delivering services in the places in which they manage?
- Perhaps it doesn’t matter as long as they are happy to listen to the views of lower level staff?
- It can give credibility – you have been “at the coalface” dealing with tricky customers and problems
- It is important for them to understand work pressures and staff values – perhaps it doesn’t matter how they come to understand them though!
- Perhaps in general it is vital, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be from the same organisation
- No one owned up to having an MBA, or transitioning in from a business background to run a service. NVQs were mentioned though and the LFHE, which can be more profitable and give better experience.
7) How do you handle difficult behaviour in your staff? Particularly where staff refuse to cooperate with each other?
- With fairness and transparency!
- Often it is case of what you’re not doing, rather than what you are
- Talk to the individuals in private and try to identify any causes of friction
- Do not demonise anyone – often problems and legitimate and solvable
- Key is communication – the difficulty is handling it correctly! You must maintain your staff’s confidence
- Try to step in before it gets to the stage that staff refuse to cooperate with each other
8) Have you ever had to manage a disaster situation such as a flood?
- Minor leaks are often solved with buckets!
- Absorbeez cushions were highly recommended for leaks, spills and minor floods
- Some problems with fire alarms, power issues, and asbestos removal were reported, but no long term disasters
- Water pipes and air-conditioning units leaking onto stock seem rather common! Mop up, replace stock, and try to keep going. One experience was retold where the library enquiry desk stayed open, but the rest of the building was closed while renovation/repairs took place
- No one had experienced a fire (thankfully)
9) How does your organisation support its managers personal and professional development?
- Investors in People Award was mentioned as a positive symbol for an organisation, and made a difference to its workforce
- Some are happy to provide time/limited funds to directly relevant courses
- First aid courses were listed as often provided by organisations
- Some support Chartership, and will pay some professional organisation’s fees
10) How do you recommend getting shy, quiet members of staff to communicate with their colleagues?
- Maybe they don’t want/need to? Happy as introverts? No point in pushing
- Do not make it an issue! There are many ways to communicate within teams – perhaps try more 1-2-1s if necessary?
Our next chat, hosted on Tuesday 2nd October, 6:30-8:30pm will discuss library management at all stages. Tips for managing successfully, how to get into a management position and much more!
To be sure that the questions you want to know the answers to are discussed, add your query to our agenda: HERE
We look forward to talking with you then!
This week’s #UKLibChat will be discussing conferences, events and networking. Now that conference season is upon us, it seems only right that we should come together to share our tips for building contacts, getting the most from conferences, and discuss any trepidations that you may have.
As always, the event agenda is now live, and can be edited via the Google Doc at this link: http://goo.gl/voTWr
We look forward to talking to you between 6:30 and 8:30 on Tuesday!