Friday, 30 September 2011

Thing 11: Mentoring. Me and Helen Keller

Looking back, my first encounter with the idea of mentoring was when I was 12 years old. I was reading about Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. I found the book inspiring, and it was one of the motivators for later choosing to go into a 'helping' profession, and work with people.

So what is mentoring?
  • A developmental tool to promote change in individuals
  • A formal role model who teaches, encourages or supports
  • A process to help individuals personal or professional development
Not all mentors will have such a profound impact on someone else's life as Annie Sullivan, and I've personally experienced both 'good' and 'bad' examples of mentors.

My first experience of being mentored was a poor one. I'd recently joined a library that had gone through a high-impact change. The team was fragmented. A 'buddy' system was put in place, with all new members of staff paired with an experienced member of the team. I had no choice over my mentor. It was clear we didn't like or trust each other. The conditions to foster a good mentoring relationship were poor, and I was grateful when the idea was slowly forgotten about.

My second experience was a much more positive one and it's a relationship that still exists. Moving into a new role as an Information Specialist, I found myself with a manager who had many years of experience working in specialist and technical roles but was new to managing a team. She became my role model. I was enthusiastic about my job, but still learning how to be creative in finding solutions to the queries I was dealing with. I found we worked well together. As a line manager, she was supportive and encouraging. Provided me with specific feedback that enabled me to improve my work. She was never afraid to either challenge me to do better or praise my work. I strived hard within the role to improve my skills and get better at what I did. I approached her if I needed a second opinion, or to offer my own idea's. She was never afraid to let me try something out, and adopted a 'yes' approach, enabling me to grow within the role. It was only when she moved on from the role and I found myself with a new line manager that I realised how lucky I had been.

When I made the decision last year to complete Acilip, I approached her and asked her to be my mentor. Much to my delight, she agreed. It's made the process so much easier. In the space of nine months she has
  • Enabled me to complete a skills assessment, and identify my strengths and weaknesses
  • Turned a muddle of thoughts about Acilip into a clear step-by-step path for completion
  • Challenged me to create a Personal Development Plan that was realistic and met my own goals
  • Provided a focus to enable me to concentrate on the stuff that mattered - and dump the rest
I've also just acquired another mentor, within my own workplace. It's not that I'm greedy, (or needy!), but for me, the two mentors are helping me to achieve two different things. I'm using someone within my organisation to help me apply for a promotion and make a leap into working at the next level up. I've specifically chosen someone who is working at a higher level in an area of the business that has similar goals to mine. I'm also aware she has faced the same challenges as me, so I'm interested in her perspective. The mentoring scheme was a grassroots initiative set up a 'Community of Interest' in my organisation. Participants advertise their services as mentors, and potential mentee's get in contact. There is also space for a mentee to put a call out for a mentor to assist them with a specific task. For both participants, it's very much about professional development with both gaining benefits from the partnership.

As for me, I like to think I've learned how to be a good mentee over the years. My rules:
  • Understand what it is you want to gain from the process, and what kind of mentor you are looking for. You need to pick the right person with the right skills and qualities for the job.
  • Trust your mentor. Have confidence that they are acting in your best interests. If you doubt that, find a different mentor, you're in the wrong relationship.
  • Stay engaged in the process. You've both made a commitment, so accept the challenges they chuck your way with a smile.
  • Be prepared to take risks. Step out of your comfort zone. Learn from your mistakes. It's the only way you will see movement in the right direction. Progress!
  • Keep a reflective diary or a learning log. Actually write in it.
  • Be prepared to talk and share knowledge. Be prepared to listen and receive knowledge.
  • Don't expect your mentor to do the work for you, to manage you or set you deadlines, or even to give you the answers.
  • It's a relationship. Keep in contact. Revisit the basic's every now and then and make sure that the arrangement is still working for both of you.
I'm just starting out as a mentor for a colleague. Eventually, I hope to establish my rules for being a good mentor. I just need to figure them out first.

Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

It's fair to say, I've always done things the hard way. My route into librarianship has been no exception. I've taken the scenic route. It looks a little something like this.
Way back in Thing 1 when I was introducing myself, I pretty much outlined my path into the library world. I started working life as a nurse, but after a meander around various community homes, rehabilitation centres and psychiatric wards, I found myself in a public library reading picture books to five year olds. My library path has taken me through University libraries, with a short stop as a volunteer in a chaplaincy library. Driven me on to volunteer as an information officer for a small charity. Guided me to a specialist library, with a small detour into a knowledge management position. And on the way, I attempted to complete a degree in library and information studies. An experiment which was suddenly halted.
Currently, I'm at a bit of a crossroads. I have an undergraduate diploma in Library and Information Science. Which means I can officially call myself a DipLib. Or as I much prefer, a dippy librarian. I work in a government library in what might be called a 'qualified' position. I'm currently completing my Acilip portfolio and attempting to make a decision about what to do next. I'm under no illusions that the Acilip is enough to keep me in a job I love. My options appear to be:
  • Volunteer work to gain further technical skills
  • Crawl back to University of Wales, Aberystwyth, complete my dissertation and gain a full BScEcon Information & Library Studies.
  • Find a way of travelling to London each week to complete the rather sexy sounding MA in Electronic Communication and Publishing.
  • Apply to Robert Gordon University to complete the MSc in Information Management
  • Attend the University of the West of England, Bristol to complete the MSc in Information and Library Management.
  • Hang for a potential promotion within my own workplace...and accept that it may not be within the 'library'.
Or attempt a combination of some of the above.
Not the usual path into life as a qualified librarian, but so far, the journey has been fun. If only the scenic path was a little less convoluted.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thing 9: Evernote

I came across Evernote at work a few years back. The ability to download the tool was blocked, so I filed away the URL in Diigo and promptly forgot about it.

Five months ago, I finally joined the rest of the world and bought a smartphone. Downloaded the Evernote tool. Was unable to sign in. Forgot about it.

Which is odd, because according to Belbin, I am a completer-finisher.

23 Things has forced me to go back and spend some time exploring it some more. I'm glad I did.

Like Delicious, it can be used as a simple bookmarking tool. But it's much more sophisticated than just a simple bookmarking tool. It could be more easily compared to Diigo, an information management tool.

Evernote has recognised that it's not just URLs we want to file away. It's images, files, texts from webpages, email's and conversations. It's a virtual online scrapbook that can file things away from a surprising number of sources, with a variety of ways to recall items.

It's easy to like and simple to get started. But I've been using Diigo for some time now. Whilst I haven't compared the two in a systematic way to look at the advantages and disadvantages of using each service, it strikes me that it's not easy to transfer to Evernote. I couldn't see an option to import my existing bookmarks from either my browser or another bookmarking service.

But it's worth exploring, and with the ability to access it from my desktop, browser and smartphone, I'll be coming back to this tool again.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thing 8: Google Calendar

I confess. I do not know how I would get out the door without Google Calendar. I've been using it in a personal capacity for a while. I have also encouraged my son's school to use it, rather than the hideous website calendar they use, complemented by a paper-based newsletter full of things to remember each week. The suggestion didn't go down so well. I am persistent. I will try again!

As for my own workplace. We fall at the first hurdle. Google Calendar is no longer supported on IE6. And yes we are in the last 2% of the UK population who are still using IE6.

The second hurdle would be that providing a library service to an internal workplace, use of Microsoft Outlook is quite ingrained in the culture. It also links in to other software products we use like BT Live Meeting to manage conference and video calling. I'm also fairly convinced that a move to promote Google Calendar as a useful tool wouldn't got down well with our IT department. I'm pretty sure it would be swiftly blocked.

But it did encourage me to think about how we could use the 'calendar concept' to promote what we do. Here's the list I came up with:

  • Promoting our Information Skills courses. Customers could search the calendar for courses to find out the date and time of the next session.
  • Raising awareness of planned downtime of key resources.
  • Advising customers of online training sessions available via our paid for online resources.
  • Asking for feedback - Letting them know when we have a team meeting and inviting feedback on our services for discussion.
  • Posting the dates of our service evaluations, and product evaluations. These all require conversations with our customers, and usually result in plea's from us for feedback and comments.
We're not a traditional library service. We don't have a lending collection. We do however borrow books through the UK inter-library lending system. One of the biggest issues we face is getting our customers to return these books on time. The books aren't logged on a catalogue, so sending traditional automated reminders isn't possible. But sending a calendar appointment may provide the additional prompt they need to pop the book back in the post to us.

So Google Calendar won't be conquering our workplace. But I think a few more appointments might suddenly appear in our team calendar tomorrow as I put these idea's to the test.

Thing 7: Face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I want to love Cilip. I really do. I remember the early days when we first met. I was working in a public library. I fell in love with my job, and threw myself into becoming A Professional Librarian. This was back in the day when it was the Library Association. I moved with it to become part of Cilip. When I moved from public libraries to academic libraries, Cilip was right there with me. My employer at the time supported me getting involved in my local branch, I attended various training events and felt I knew a few familiar faces from other libraries in the region. Then I did A Bad Thing. I moved into a role within a specialist library. Every now and then, Cilip remembers I exist but my copy of Update isn't as well thumbed as it used to be.

Other things are a bit different now I'm in the specialist library sector too. My qualification is not recognised - or required - by my employer. I pay my own membership fee's. And any events or training I want to attend are done in my own time. I'm a single mum with a disabled child, so any event I attend has to prove it's worth to me for the time and effort it would now take for me to attend. I've managed to attend two events this year. The first was a visit to the BBC Information & Archives, which includes the Natural History Unit. The second event was a CPD23 Things event in London.

Not living in London I wasn't sure what to expect. A meet up where I live is most likely to be swamped by the librarians from the two main university's in the area. I can't complain too much. I used to be one of them. There may be the odd law librarian, a smattering of school librarians and someone from a public library. So for me, the London meeting was a surprise. A librarian working in BFI Southbank (Hi, nice to meet you, can I have your job please?), from all sorts of corporate and business libraries, the British Library and various diverse university's. It was my first experience of live-tweeting an event, so was surprised to be recognised and acknowledged because of my tweeting. I definitely felt like I got more out of the event because of Twitter. The meeting was based around the idea of talking about about involvement in professional organisation, and we found ourselves considering Continuing Professional Development, how getting involved can help you get that next job, and stories about meeting Charles Oppenheim. I have come to the conclusion that every librarian has a story about meeting Charles Oppenheim.

I went away thinking more about the other professional organisations I could get involved with. Working in a specialist library, Special Libraries Association is an obvious one, but I also discovered NetIKX (Network for Information and Knowledge Exchange). Membership of this organisation entitles you to attend meetings and events for free, but is also flexible enough to enable attendance at individual sessions for a small cost. For me, this enables me to take part as and when I am able to.

I strongly believe that library and information professionals need an organisation like Cilip, to champion the role of libraries and the value that a qualified Library and Information Professional can bring to an organisation. Cilip has some ambitious plans over the next few years, to increase it's membership and  embrace the wider library and information community. I hope to to be able to get as involved as I am able to. My first step has already been taken -  I'm taking part in their 'back to the floor' initiative, and have invited them to spend the day in my office. I'm looking forward to the results of this, and seeing more of libraries like mine reflected in the pages of Cilip. As for 'why' special librarians aren't as visible within Cilip - I think that's another blog post...

Thing 6: Online Networks


I've had a LinkedIn profile for some time, but it was only recently that I realised I needed to make more of this resource by joining the groups. I've found these really useful for keeping up to date with conversations in the professional community. However, I'm still lurking and am yet to contribute and actually post a comment. There's time.


I've made quite a deliberate choice to keep my professional and personal life separate. Working in a specialist library where access to social media is very limited, I don't use this in a professional capacity to connect with my customers, and neither do I include in it work colleagues that I am friends with. For me, this is only about keeping in contact with family oversea's, and sharing photo's and snippets of news with people I rarely see in person.


I stumbled across this site via Twitter and am still very new to the community. I like the way it loosely brings together self-defined 'new information professionals' that may neither be 'new' or 'professional'. (I use the term 'professional' in quotes because I believe that although someone may not have a qualification or be chartered, they may still have a professional attitude towards their job - high quality work, professional ethics, specialist and technical skills, etc.). I wish I'd stumbled across it earlier in my career, as I can see it's value for sharing idea's and experiences. Reading through the forums, I found several forum discussions that related to my current concerns.

Following the demise of LISSPS (Library and Information Students and Prospective Students), an old List-serv that was hosted by UKOLN to support discussions among students, prospective students and recent graduates) this seems to provide a much more fluid and complete online environment in which to share experiences and ask questions. It's definitely on my list of sites to return to.

Cilip Communities

I gleefully signed up to Cilip Communities when it was initially launched and still in it's developmental stage. And then I hit a problem. When I had signed up to the Cilip site many years before, I'd used a login name that I shared with various other resources - some of them in a personal capacity. Cilip Communities then made that login my profile name. I was horrified. It had never intended to be a 'public username'. So, my input into Cilip Communities vanished. I stuck a toe in every now and then, but it seemed like a confusing place, with sections I didn't understand. It felt very formal, with many names I recognised from within the profession and I was hesitant to add my voice. For me, it felt like I didn't have a place. 

I revisited Cilip Communities as part of Thing 6. First step. Attempt to change my login name. Hurrah. Success. Now everyone can identify me by my full and correct birth name. Only my mother uses this. It's usually when I'm in trouble. I'd rather a half-way house, and  by able to chose my own name, rather than the formal name I provide Cilip on my membership form each year, but it will do. Having a look around, it still seems like quite a bewildering place. The home page is full of comments from an 'anonymous poster', linking to blogs that don't seem to reflect my interests, or even my locality, and the Cilip Members Landscape blog is just overwhelming. Is this really useful? Checking a few of the blogs from Cilip staff, it's fairly noticeable that some are more prolific than others - and some are clearly out of date. As if posting in a blog is something they only do three times a year when reminded.

That and I was just irritated by the american date standard. But maybe that's something I can change in my own settings. For now though, I've hastily retreated.

The forums didn't fare any better. Discussions seemed to have few replies. It didn't seem very active. I'm painfully aware that it's individuals like me that change that.

For me, I don't have space for Google+ right now. I'm part of it because it feels like I ought to know what it's about, how it works and to understand it's strengths and weaknesses. But I'm more and more bothered by Google monopolizing my online space, and my personal information. It already access to my search habits and my email. I'm just not sure it needs to know even more about me. Too many of my eggs in a Google basket.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Thing 4: Current Awareness - Pushnote & RSS

The first part of Thing 4 was an exploration of Twitter. I'm new to Twitter, but beginning to understand understand how I can get the most out of it. For me, Twitter is about engaging with my immediate community and interests. So I tend to follow people rather than 'things' and 'news'. Streams like @BBCnews or @huffintgonpost quickly cluttered up my feed and I realised I wasn't really going to interact with them. So I use RSS feeds to follow my favourite blogs and news sources. Teaching information literacy within the workplace I'm a big advocate for both Google Reader and Netvibes.

Pushnote was something I had heard of, but never explored.

Oh how I hated it from the moment I signed up. But attempted to leave my first impressions behind and give it a go.

It's available on Safari, Chrome and Firefox. Great for use at home, but I'm limited to Explorer at work. A quick check on the iTunes store reveals it doesn't have an application for iPhone. So it rules out it's use for me. If I can't access it at work, I'd need to be able to use it on my phone instead.

Having said that, I'm why I would ever want to use this in a work capacity. According to the front page, it enables me to 'keep track of all the best things you and your friends find online'. Signing up, it seems I am an early adopter, and no-one I know has been brave enough to sign up yet. That's OK. I can hunt around for some interesting people I know professionally, right? My search options were to use an email address, or find people with their Pushnote Username. I quickly hit a blank wall. I don't know about you, but I don't have Phil Bradley's email address. But I do value his opinion of online tools and search engines. What struck me was that I didn't have the option to search for keywords in people's profiles, or find people that I might not necessarily know, but may still have some shared professional interests with. It does seem however, that with the concept of 'neighbours', as you post, Pushnote learns what you like and automatically adds relevant feeds to your profile. So perhaps with further use, I'd identify relevant people to follow.

Compare this with Twitter, where it's relatively  easy to find streams through the use of lists, hashtags and full text search across tweets, as well as several standalone applications that have been especially created for the job.

Within seconds of signing up, Pushnote had added several followers to my feed. Most of whom are Pushnote developers, or had little to do with my interests. I may be judging a book by it's cover, but I doubt I'm interested in the same kind of websites as someone who describes themselves as a 'Texan Ukulele Fan'.

Strike one. Strike two came when I attempted to save a favourite link. It was simple to add a URL. But there was no way of naming the website. There was a description field, but I ran out of characters pretty quickly. Hit save. Realised I hadn't given it a star rating. Could find no way of going back to edit the entry.

Further frustration came when I realised I'd added the entry to my 'top faves'. But if I wanted to add it to a category of favourite 'books' or 'movies' I would need to drag it into a separate list.

I didn't even bother adding the browser add-on. I'd run out of patience.

I came to the conclusion that I just couldn't see the point of it. Even the facility to post to Twitter/Facebook didn't convince me. Why bother? Just share the link direct on Twitter. I have a well loved tool I use to manage my online information resources. Diigo is sophisticated information tool which enables me to save images, PDF files and website links with various ways of retrieving them again.

I scratched my head several times over this one. If I were being generous, perhaps there was a case for academic librarians to use it in order to engage their students in finding high quality resources online. But I won't be recommending it as part of a suite of tools in my own Information Literacy workshops.

It's in Beta. I think it needs to make a lot of improvements before take-up of this tool increases.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Thing 4: Current Awareness - Twitter

I'm splitting Thing 4 into several parts. This post is about Twitter.

I joined Twitter 2 years ago. Followed a few people I worked with. Refused to post anything, and then deleted the account 6 months later. I didn't want to make a public statement and didn't feel I had anything to contribute to the conversation.

I was encouraged recently to give it another go. It was like a light was suddenly switched on. I suddenly felt like I was engaged with the library community again. I compiled a list of Cilip-related groups and followed the one's that were relevant to me and my interests, found other relevant professional networking groups, and then used their followers to identify relevant profiles. Finding high profile information professionals also helped. Is there a librarian out there that doesn't follow @philbradley?

An attendance at a CPD networking event gave me the opportunity to put Twitter to the test, and I attempted to 'live tweet' the interesting discussions that were swirling around me. I'll admit I found this really difficult. I'm deaf, and need to look at people and concentrate hard in group situations in order to follow the conversation. Attempting to look at my phone, key in text, look at people to lip read and pay attention all at the same time just didn't work for me. Others were also live-tweeting from the same event, and I found I learned a lot from them about 'how to do it'.

There are some inspirational librarians out there. I wouldn't have heard their voices without Twitter. The only thing I've found is that there don't seem to be many tweeting about the government / specialist library sector. And I was intrigued recently to read an article on how to raise your profile as a librarian by someone that didn't appear to be on Twitter. I realised I've reached the point where I just expect everyone to be on it. I've been converted already.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Thing 3: Consider your personal brand

I've spent the morning contemplating my brand and considering 'who I am' in a professional sense.

In the past, I've made a conscious decision not to have an online presence as a librarian. Partly, this was a very personal choice. I've been careful to ensure that my Facebook presence is clearly separated  from my professional life. My real name is not used, and I've followed ScienceGrrl's debate on the right to pseudonyms to manage an online identity with interest. Although I set up a Google+ account, I've left it conspicuously empty. It's clearly linked to my personal account, and I've been hesitant to blend my personal and professional lives.

As librarians, most of us are highly skilled in finding information. An element of my work involves finding out about individuals. Searching newspapers, business directories, social media, slowly building a picture of a person. When Spokeo was released a few years back, I was horrified by the idea that all someone needed was an email address, and with it they could find out quite a lot about your online life, from your Amazon wish list through to your Hotmail account and an awful lot in between. I took note.

So with all that in mind, I didn't really need to Google myself to know what I would find. I'm well rehearsed! If you know my name, and know I'm a librarian, the first thing you find is my LinkedIn profile. And that's it. Phew.

But there's another side to this coin. I've spent an awful lot of effort suppressing information about myself appearing online. What if it could be managed instead? Curious searchers directed to the bits I want them to see? Jo Alock recently spoke at Oxford Social Media 2011, and the key piece of advice that stood out for me was the idea of claiming your online identity across different platforms. takes this a step further, allowing you to bring all the different facets of your online presence together.

You'll have spotted from the name of my blog it's not particularly original. I'll admit I know three other librarians who share my full name, one of whom was on the same course at me at university. I've yet to consider my Unique Selling Point and capture this in an image, a font, a colour. JoLibrariAnne was created in a hurry when setting up a Twitter account. At the time, I had no intention of posting, but I suddenly *got* the point of twitter. The blog name was set up to create some consistency for the purpose of 23 Things. Perhaps I've done it the wrong way round. Few companies create a blog, or a twitter account and then consider what they are going to market. It's on my list of things to do. I hope that soon, you'll spot the difference.

The name has grown on me a little, so I may keep it for now. You may even see JoLibrariAnne moving in on a few other social platforms.

Thing 3. I blame you.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Thing 2: Investigate some other blogs

Ah that blogosphere. All those voices twittering away. I knew they were there. I'd signed up to the trial in the early days of Cilip Communities. I followed 'Unshelved' comic strip. Heck, I even teach people how to search for relevant blogs, and keep track of RSS feeds using an RSS feed reader as part of our information skills course.

But other than reading the odd link highlighted in my weekly email from Cilip, I didn't read library-related blogs.

Partly this was because working in a governement library, I wasn't aware of any other librarians in my sector blogging. The scene is crowded with public librarians, academic librarians appear to be streaking ahead, school librarians raising thoughtful issues about censorship and labelling books with age-related guidance. And I'm all for cross-sectoral learning. But it seemed that I wasn't always reading about issues that I could relate to directly within my own workplace.

Add to that the issues of Twitter and Delicious both being blocked in the workplace, along with IE6 making most RSS feed readers redundant, it just seemed too difficult to find and discover good voices, keep up to date and manage all those links I'd collected. What do you mean I could have done it in my own time at home? Um...

What changed this for me was dipping into Twitter. At home. In my own time. I started off looking for professional associations that were tweeting, but soon found some inspirational voices, which lead me to their writings on blogs.

So now I have a large list of links tagged 'readthis'. So I'm one step closer. But I think I have a new goal. Which is to:

* Develop my own work-place blog - another 'information literacy' channel
* Continue to use this blog
* Engage with the wider profession through blogging, commenting and micro-blogging
* Put time aside each week to 'catchup' and actually 'readthis'

The list of 23Things participants has been helpful in identifying other librarians working in government/special libraries. So maybe those voices will get louder...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Thing 1: Create your own blog

This is Thing 1. Whilst the rest of the world is one 'Thing 203'. I am a little bit behind. It's not just procrastinating. I have a fear of blogging.
Which means for me, taking part in CPD23 was always going to be a bit of a challenge! And I normally like a challenge. Just perhaps not a challenge which forces me to reveal so much of myself. But it's time to take a deep breath and give it a shot.

I used to very confidently say that I was a librarian. An Information Professional. Now I feel like I'm holding on the to edges of the profession with the tips of my toes. I work in a government library-that's-no-longer-a-library. We call it 'Information Resources'. We provide access to information. We manage the corporate memory of the organisation. We dabble in Knowledge Management. We provide training in information literacy skills. But whilst I consider myself to be a professional, I am not qualified.

When I was at school, my careers advisor told me I'd make a great nurse. It was a career path that ran in the family. My aunt was a nurse. My grandmother was a nurse. Encouraging words meant that I threw myself into a health and social care qualification and started working with adults and children with learning disabilities. Five years later and I quit. I hated it. I was a terrible nurse. I loved the people but I found it frustrating, and always felt that I couldn't do enough, didn't make an impact, couldn't make things better.

I went back to the drawing board and scratched my head. I wasn't sure what to do next. Sat round the table for Sunday lunch, my mother said 'When you were little, you wanted to be a researcher for the BBC'. Yes, I did. I spent my childhood in my local library, my breaktimes at school in the school library. 'Dinner is ready' was always met by 'be there in a minute, I just want to finish this chapter'. I loved books. I loved finding things out. My treasured possession was an encyclopaedia given to me by my grandfather. But could I work in a library? I wasn't sure.

18 months later, I found myself in a public library reading picture books to five year olds. Helping people plan a trip to France. Teaching 'silver surfers' how to use the library catalogue. I loved it. I knew I wanted to do more. The job was only 12 hours a week. It was enough to convince me I'd made the right decision, and I didn't so much skip as run madly down the path. I progressed to a full time job as a library assistant in a university library. Applied for a place on a distance learning undergraduate course. And then a shot in the dark meant that I was offered a job I never really expected to get. It was working in a specialist government library.

The job was challenging and interesting. I was part of a newly created team to create a modern 'library without walls'. The work was still classed as 'para-professional', but there were plenty of specialists post and the opportunity to progress. A year later, I was offered a 'qualified position' on the understanding that I completed my studies. I was only a year a way.

And then life took over. I adopted a child. Returned to work to discover that the job I had left was no longer there. Restructuring meant that we were no longer a library, we were a 'Knowledge Management department'. The word 'library' was removed from our vocabulary. And then I hit a few obstacles. I lost my partner. Became homeless. Became depressed. Almost lost my job. I was forced to quit the degree and walked away with only a diploma.

Three years later, I'm still in the same job. And things have continued to evolve. A qualification is no longer required to work here. Cilip is not recognised as being relevant to the work of the team. Despite over ten years experience working in libraries, half of that working at a 'qualified' level, I'm not convinced that if I lost this job, I would be able to find another qualified position.

So I'm easing myself back into academic study. Starting off with Acilip whilst I consider my next move. I want to go back to university and complete a qualification. But I need to convince myself that I have the ability to work at that level. And the motivation to leap over the barriers.

For me 23 Things is about:

* reminding myself that skills in finding, using and managing information online are still relevant.
* ensuring that I stay up to date with innovative developments
* finding a 'professional voice'.
* regaining my confidence
...and quite evidence for my Acilip portfolio.

I'm not thrilled by the idea of blogging. I'm wary of having a online presence. Fearful of a public voice. And terrified of getting into arguments/discussions with people I have never met. Is it ironic that I've been campaigning for access to blogging tools at work for a while?

This has been the biggest hurdle for me. And the longest blog post! Apologies. Editing is not yet in my skill set, but I'll work on it. If you got this far - send me your address. I'll send you chocolate in return!