GIF Guff

Well, I had a right good time at the UKSG 2016 Conference – write up coming soon, maybe in a few months when I find my notes stuck to my pants like bubblegum. However, I did go a bit mad on Twitter, probs due to the free wine I was pouring down my neck and my use of GIFs was picked up a little bit, hence this quick blog post. Might be a bit wanky, I can’t tell…

I’ll just skip the bit where we all explain what a GIF is and how to pronounce it, because we’re not lame-os right..?


This is how I do it:

I either use GIFs on Twitter or on Facebook messenger, but you can (and I have) stick them anywhere really, like PowerPoint slides, Word docs, your butt etc.

I prefer to use pop culture references to TV shows and films, rather than random people/animals. Maybe it’s just me being picky but I find that it’s funnier and gets the point across more. For example, I tweeted this highly relevant and important cultural reference…

…rather than one of a pigeon getting trapped in a box or summat.

Make sure your GIF reflects the meaning of your tweet/slide/chat – the image has to build upon what you’re trying to say and should emphasize your message. GIFs make a stronger point and grab more attention than standalone text- use sparingly though; I’m guilty of going a bit mad.

Before these high-tech modern days, I used to see them on social media or Reddit and save them for later, but now there are GIF search engines you can use. I prefer the inbuilt GIF search tool on the Twitter app, GIPHY on my desktop and there is a GIF keyboard on Facebook messenger.

You can search by keyword, and I usually go for an emotion or a phrase – something like “horrified” or “mind blown” – but searching for a specific character or TV show can work well. For example, I searched for this Parks and Rec GIF with this particular scene in mind to go with my tweet:

It can be a bit hit and miss, so I often play around with key words until I find something suitable. Using the GIF search tool on the Twitter app, I’ve found their inbuilt popular suggestions to be quite useful if you’re looking for something in a hurry.

I’ve also tried to make my own GIFs with middling success…

You can do this by either clipping a longer video into a loop or adding a series of static images – and because I am just so lovely I have tried both for you, in PVA glue slightly shitty Blue Peter style.

My first attempt was for my work Twitter account, using some static images I had created and saved in PowerPoint. I used and then tried a few others when this went a bit tits up – if you Google it you can find loads of different websites but not many accept static images.

This is one of my many attempts – I tried a few different versions, file sizes/types and tools to stop it from changing in size but I couldn’t figure it out. Anyone know what to do?


I then tried using an app – so much easier! Like the difference between cutting your leg off with a piece of raw chicken and a blade-saw.

I used the snappily titled Video to Gif – Gif Maker which is available on iTunes for free, cos don’t pay for GIFs guys, save your money for pogs and chewits.

My first attempt was turning photos from my camera roll into a GIF:


I thought it worked really well – you just stack up the photos and then it saves to your phone. However, I’ve inserted it above and it’s behaving erratically/not looping, like it’s on dried frog pills, so the app might not be as good as I originally thought.


The only video I had on my phone was of some dodgems from the UKSG conference, so that’s what we have a GIF of. There is a slider that allows you to snip the section of video that you want to use, maybe I just have clodding flipper fingers but it was a bit tricky to get exactly how I wanted it.


This GIF doesn’t seem to loop either, but I am too lazy to figure out why.

However, it does work in a tweet, so if that’s all you want your homemade GIF for (just like momma used to make) then you’re sorted, easy…

Now that we all feel nauseous from the unending moving images, my work is done. If you have any other GIF tips then let me know on Twitter, email or via sandwich.

Get GIFfing!

Dedicated to Beth Tapster who thinks she’s dead old, even though she asked me how I used GIFs using her twitter app so can’t be that past it eh

giphy (2).gif


Oh Aye*

When I started this new job I was chucked Dorothy-like into the realm of Open Access. That was almost three months ago and to this day I’m cramming OA research and policies into my gaping face hole in the desperate hope that some of it might stick.

In an effort to make sense of it all, my original plan (oh how I laugh at naïve Jen of the past) was to write a single, sweary blog post about OA**, sling it on twitter and then merrily get on with other things like eating pies and sitting down.


Unfortunately, tackling OA is like fighting motherfucking Medusa.

(Please imagine wavy lines and a flashback harp at this point thankyouverymuch)

You enter carrying the mighty sword of coffee and google. OA Medusa is looking nasty af but you have the power of Wikipedia on your side.

You raise your sword and BAM, you’ve read the Finch report and think you know it all.

Oh no you don’t, two more heads have sprung up, better tackle the difference between Green and Gold. (Now might be the time to snick out those knives you have up your sleeves.)

Bam. Bam.

No you clunging well don’t, now there’s the Soprano-esque world of APCs and there’s Symplectic and there’s hundreds of academics asking about Symplectic and then a green paper comes out and threatens to get rid of HEFCE and in bed at night you’re dreaming about the REF and before long you start to think REF would be a great name for that dog you want but will never get because you’re too busy thinking about the REF.

Jesus. (got a wee bit too into that)

As you can see from the number of acronyms, hyperlinks and jargon, OA is as impenetrable as the shipping forecast only more sweary and less wet.

I may have possibly mentioned only in passing just that one time, I was a teensy bit unsatisfied with my library course. Open Access was never mentioned, not even in the most erroneously titled module, Information Futures.

Considering the implications this whole area is having on libraries and HE in general (as well as related areas such as altmetrics and research data management) and the work this is generating, newly minted librarians need to be equipped to take on this challenge.

I started this job equipped with only a vague idea of green and gold OA and to be honest, couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Here I am less than three months in and yes, reading about OA doesn’t help me understand its real world implications or the pisstake irregularities – but working in this field and learning on the job puts it into context and as a result it is super fun. Even more fun than reordering your friend’s frankly insanely ordered bookshelves (i.e. the second most fun thing to do whilst sober).

We are currently a one-and-a-half person team (Nick is the full grown adult and I’m the half cos I work part time in this role, not cos I’m short ok) and so, in spite of the steep learning curve, I’m really lucky to be gaining this experience and I’m certainly enjoying the challenges and all the different things I get to do. Said with utter sincerity I can assure you.

There are many far more erudite and engaging blogs and articles out there about OA in general, the current climate of epic struggle and what the future may hold*** – and so, in the spirit of being quite crap about these things, I am going to post about different areas, like APCs, and try to put them in a real world, probably slightly rude, context. Sorry.

Oh and if anyone asks, yes I have definitely read the whole Finch report.


*Alternative title – fuck you Elsevier

** Look I’m doing it NICK

*** General overview of OA theory by Pete Suber (OA Macdaddy), open-eyed post about the current HEFCE situation by the University of Cambridge, Martin Paul Eve’s book about OA and the humanities is published green OA and you can find info on scumbag Elsevier here, here, here and here.


Kahoot Hack

Is this a hack? Four words in and I am already questioning my assertion. In any case, it’s just a piddly thing we have been using in inductions that has made my life a wee bit easier.

I am far, far too lazy to extoll the benefits of Kahoot here. If you haven’t come across it then what are you waiting for? Sign up now and go absolutely bonkers creating free and interactive quizzes. That’s what it does you see.

In my first ever induction (It. Did. Not. Go. Well. ) I used Kahoot like you’re meant to – asking everyone to get out their phones and join in with the quiz. This has worked fine in staff training in the past or in sessions where you can use tablets, but the students in my induction either didn’t have a smartphone or didn’t want to use their data as they weren’t able to connect to the wifi yet. Out of about twenty students, I think only five joined in and the rest sat there looking miserable, as teenagers are wont to do.

So if there is a problem with your wifi, with your tablets or if people can’t use their smart phones (and I always feel bad asking, as it kind of assumes everyone should have one and makes those who don’t feel conspicuous) then you can use the beautiful, wondrous PREVIEW MODE.

Preview button

Dead easy, click on preview rather than play and a fake little phone will open in a new window alongside your quiz. You can ask them to choose a team name and use the fake phone to log into the quiz like normal. I then get our students to take it in turns to use the smartboard to tap the answer, which they generally love although it can be a ballache to get the ball rolling sometimes.

Look at that sexy bitch

Look at that sexy bitch

So you still get some interaction and the super duper good fun of using Kahoot. Maybe everyone is just using this feature anyway but if not, then I hope it’s useful. Any other Kahoot tips then please share – there’s no cash reward but you will get zillions of librarian points, redeemable in store.

Cool beans!

Illness and inductions yo

It’s October now and the mornings are cloaked in fog and scattered leaves, the air is plump with the scent of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and induction madness is in full swing. It would be a magical time of year if not for the virulent and drippy colds that have infected the entire city of Leeds and, specifically, me.

Pumpkin Patch by Grempz CC by 2.0

Pumpkin Patch by Grempz CC by 2.0

I have spent the long summer months creating a new induction programme for our students, imagining just what jolly good fun we will all have together in a twirlingly saccharine Maria von Trapp kind of way. I could also breathe through my nose, which I didn’t appreciate at the time as being really fucking great.

The new term – three weeks in and I’m knee deep in delivering up to six inductions a day to a varied mix of ages and abilities – all my summer dreams now a soggy lump of mush. Yes, like my face. Yes, I am ill and yes, I want to complain.

Drip by Adam Baker CC by 2.0

Drip by Adam Baker CC by 2.0

This morning when ich war mir die Zähne putzen*, a strange comparison came to me. Librarians conducting inductions are like Hagrid from Harry Potter.**

It might be the eldritch time of year, the prevalent pumpkins or the fact that I have started to play the HP Lego game, but bear with me and let’s see how far I can drag this one out. I was hoping to compare us all to Hermione but I am feeling far too pathetic to compare myself and the rest of us to such a badass bitch at the moment.

So lucky you, here are four ways in which induction librarians are like Hagrid – a.k.a. the blog post you never knew you needed until now. Broomsticks away!

  1. Non magicians in a magical world

I am currently working my last few weeks at the fab College of Building (which I love). It can take an extra cup of coffee to imagine this place as Hogwarts but for you I am willing to go the extra mile. Through this caffeinated glom the plumbers and the brickies have become young witches and wizards and the librarian (me) is Hagrid; a non-magician in a magical world.

During inductions I am often alone with a class full of students (well-behaved or not), who all treat me as a teacher, right down to calling me Miss. I love the buzz that comes from teaching and recognise that it is a vital part of what we do, but I have no training whatsoever (are you listening library MA courses?) and sometimes it feels like I am wrangling Cornish Pixies, expected to perform complex spells with only a broken umbrella.

But just like Hagrid be-tailing Dudley, we are capable of magic. It just takes a bit more work and an acceptance that we are not trained wizards or teachers, just badass gamekeepers flying by the seat of our pants. Also coffee, lots of coffee.

  1. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

Poor Hagrid, forced to live in a leaky hut without access to conditioner or wifi. When he gets that teaching job and brings out exciting new animals (Buckbeak!), some of the students react with excitement, whilst others bitch and moan. When he teaches them about those boring wormy things, they don’t like that either. This, in essence, is how I am finding inductions.

I think a lot of us will recognise that character trait of wanting to please everyone and do the best job possible, but with inductions I am quickly realising that it will never be perfect. This year we designed a new induction full of interactivity, bells and whistles – predictably some people love it and some really don’t. Learning not to take it personally is far harder than standing up in front of an unknown and begrumpled class – now I know there is no magical spell to make it perfect – all we can do, year on year, is refine and update and deliver.

  1. Mixed response from the faculty

Dumbledore and his posse all loved Hagrid and gave him support during his teaching career (although now I come to think of it, he did get accused a lot and slung into Azkahban…) whereas other faculty members were not so enthusiastic.

Doing inductions has brought me into contact with a lot of teaching staff, which has mostly been brilliant. I think when they see you standing in front of a class they see you more as a colleague and peer than a frumpy book wrangler, never a bad thing eh.

However, other staff members are perhaps more sceptical of the value of a library induction or assume we can tailor make a session for them without any notice. Grumble grumble grumble. Just gotta remember it’s (hopefully) nothing personal!

  1. Cake

Hagrid loves cake, librarians love cake – we all love cake. Nuff said.

Robbed this from

Robbed this from

In conclusion, inductions have been hard but highly enjoyable. I am so glad we tried something new and put a lot of effort into making something fun, interactive and different, even though we had a mixed reception. The most important thing I have learnt is that we can only do so much – it is just never going to be an ideal situation.

Coming into an unknown class for a brief period of time without any real teaching education is just a crapshoot. I am happy that our students will have hopefully got a positive impression of the library and feel at ease coming in and using our resources, even if they will still have to ask us if they can get a book out.

So even though I feel like big lumbering Hagrid, sticking out like a squib in Tranfiguration, it’s still worth it. Looking back through this blog from the highs of being a Graduate Trainee and the utter lows of the course, I am now a real librarian. Bring on the next adventure…

*why not a bit of german in the morning eh

** using a forced HP reference to shove in one of my favourite videos like an outdated saddo.


For someone whose dating highlight so far has been smacking a guy in the face with a Peach Lipton’s bottle (empty, I’m not a maniac), I am not particularly well placed to give out romantic advice. But let’s be devils shall we, as sordid dating anecdotes are far more interesting on a library blog than my planned piece on our summer stocktake project…

Over the past few months my personal and professional lives have come into conflict through online dating. Being too unhinged and muttering to find a man/woman/Romulan the old fashioned way*, I turned to the standard dating apps – but the free ones obviously because I’m not quite ready to fork over my pie money in exchange for dates.

As you may have heard or been unlucky enough to experience for yourself, the world of online dating is usually reminiscent of those sordid films they used to show on channel 5; fetid and suggestive but far removed from any actual pleasure. Here every greasy, bloated lizard man with internet access** can send you messages which for me, seem to focus primarily on my job and its relation to certain sexual fantasies these forever alone types have concocted.

For alongside secretary and nurse (so I am told), librarian seems to have become a sexy fantasy figure. From the poorly worded questions, suggestions and offers that clog up my inbox, the Sexy Librarian is both naughty (possibly by waiving fines..?) and a strict follower of the rules (shushing).

As well as the more explicit messages, some are interested in what has always seemed a quite tame uniform of cardigan, dresses and glasses, whilst others seem to take pleasure in berating me for either suggesting you need to be qualified to be a librarian or for going into a career that will surely be obsolete in a few years. I can only imagine that they think I will be so grateful for their mansplaining that my knickers will spontaneously explode. ***

One poor chap misguidedly asked for career advice and when I enthusiastically responded with websites, information and local opportunities, he told me that he hadn’t meant it and was shocked by my ‘brutal’ response to his romantic (?) message.

I have since learnt my lesson. Much like with shouty bus stop OAPs and charity hustlers in the high street, there is only one course of action you can take – DO NOT ENGAGE. Before I decided to delete my apps, I swiped far more to block than to the right.

Yes these messages were generally amusing and have provided me with some quality pub chat; favourites include being congratulated on my recent qualification and then invited to be the sexual companion to an older, more experienced gent (to put it far milder than he did), and the man who told me that he had had a hard life and it would make a great book – presumably I was meant to offer to write it, publish it and then stock it in the library? His naked profile picture certainly implied a hard life anyway…

I do not find anything particularly depraved in fetishizing a particular job and I’m sure between two consenting adults that it could be fun; it is the leering and obscene comments from strangers and the strange pleasure they must derive from insulting women on the internet and getting away with it, far too cowardly to do anything of the sort behind their anonymous profiles.

Perhaps I should just be grateful that none of my colleagues have seen me on these dating websites or had the common decency to pretend otherwise. I think for now I will stick with my love of swimming and pies 🙂

P.S For library geeks, I classified this as 306.734 (which is sexual relations> dating behaviour> courtship) but I am interested to know if anyone would go for something different, possibly 306.77[?]. Yes, I am cataloguing a lot of books this week and DDC is becoming an obsession.

*Your mam down the church of a Sunday asking about available sons with medical degrees and brylcreamed cowlicks

** Apart from a few not-so-greasy and attractive lizards, internet access optional

*** Little do they know that the only extreme bodily reaction one might get in a library is a particularly violent sneeze

Hot Shit

Today it is hot in the library. Noticeable – bum cheek – Mad Max – pizza oven – hot. We hear the air con has gone rogue and is pumping out 30 degree hot air rather than cold, rendering us greasy, jellied messes. Despite this, and the inane grin plastered on my face every time someone walks through the door and says “ooh hot in here eh,”* I would still rather be here than anywhere else.

Ice Cube by Pierre Rennes CC by 2.0

Ice Cube by Pierre Rennes CC by 2.0

The last post I wrote was full of frustration at my course and fear for the future. The frustration has fossilised into pure rage (as only librarians know how) but it is easier to cope with now that I have handed all my work in and got my PGDip. There is far, far more to say on the matter but I have appropriated a new sort of wanky Zen approach to life (it’s the heat) and fear if I wrote any sort of overview I would just end up running around Leeds screaming at people and foaming at the mouth, Manny style.

The fear for the future is still there too, as it is for many of us I’m sure. For now though, I can quite easily say that I love my job. Who knew eh, that being a librarian really was so great! (That’s one thing already that we never got taught…)

To my delight, when I rocked up on day one in my uber librarian cardigan/glasses combo (so professional dontcha know), I was told that my role would be split across the main library and a new library – and that because there were only two of us plus three library assistants, I would be at one library and my manager at the other.

We are definitely short staffed, but we rub along in a jolly hockey sticks kind of way. It is so delicious to have actual, real work to do and I can feel the visceral effect it is having on my mood.

When I arrived, the new library wasn’t open and so we have spent a fun few weeks opening boxes, designing posters and shelf labels and arranging furniture. Developing a new service is especially exciting and something I wouldn’t have got the chance to do in a larger team – plus I get to make all the posters, which appeals to my itchy brain.

Shelf labels

My babies

Over the summer I am also running a stocktake and therefore my relationship with Heritage has gone speedily from casual acquaintance to face-licking friends. It feels like proper librarian graft though, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself even when I am elbow deep in a pile of sticky plumbing textbooks.

My final main task so far is to remake our induction process. I don’t know about you but this is kind of a librarian dream come true. I walk around shiny-faced and enthusiastic, chattering away about interactivity and vines. A proper blog post about this will hopefully follow if I get my act together but for now it is just too freaking hot.

* “Too fucking right mate”

Apathy, salty food and 1D.

I have what not many people get in their whole life – a fresh start. Single, new job, new city, own flat, don’t really know a soul – it makes me giddy to think that in a couple of weeks this will be me.

A long way from the present day me:

Sat in a cardigan that (no word of a lie, ask my weeping mother) has not been washed since its purchase in 2011, eating pepperamis and olives and basically just cucumbers dipped in salt, and typing with bloody stumps in order to finish the five assignments that are annoyingly due during my first couple of weeks at work when I’ll be living in a hotel. Yup, good work on that front Jennifer.

Well today I wanted to talk to you about two things. One is serious (you will cry lololol) and the other is a tacked on jokey list so you don’t go away feeling like you hate me.

It’s hard to care anymore. About libraries (and pretty much everything else.)

Did you feel like that when assignment after assignment just lay ahead of you and there was actually no reason to leave the house and if there’s no reason to leave the house there’s no reason to get dressed and if you’re not getting dressed you’re not showering and then you’re basically living in your bed? Made all the worse by the guilt of not reeaaalllyy being excited by the new swish job that I’ve been wanting for the past three years – and everyone saying how great it will be in Leeds. I know it will be, it’s just the gap between me there and me here is so great and yawning that it seems like a totally different person. I just hope she’ll be feeling better than this one.

This lack of enthusiasm is weird. People are tweeting and blogging about LILAC and technology and conferences and funding and it just washes by. The election could hinge on how many libraries each party pledges to save and I wouldn’t know. Zayn could even be the new CILIP President (omg is he?)…

Where we are tour by Javierosh is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Dodgy paint job by me.

Where we are tour by Javierosh is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Dodgy paint job by me.

I guess I don’t really have a point here except that we only have a certain reserve of enthusiasm and interest and that it’s ok to just not give a shit. Right now I couldn’t give a toss about libraries, which is annoying as I still have to write thousands and thousands of words about them. It doesn’t mean that I never will and that I don’t want to kick ass in my new role. Just gotta recharge the batteries by crawling around the house in pjs and reloading reddit sixty three times a day.

Oh dear I promised a list didn’t I.

If I look back at my past few blog posts they are all moaning about my feeeelings and my lacklustre course rather than the ideas I think about and might get my motor running (gamification, sexism, interviews, digital natives, porn filtering, privacy, social media and FOOD). To cap off what I hope is the last in a blue period, here is a begrudging top five of the librarian lessons I have learnt since September.

  1. How to design and run user testing and why it means things aren’t as bad as they could be
  2. How Google works (in a wiggly hand eh kinda way)
  3. That Soft Systems Methodology is the true work of Satan and that anyone who claims to know what it is (including YOU Peter Checkland) is a minion of hell
  4. Teaching means variety and passion and yes, sometimes using those horrible large pieces of paper even though they make you want to die
  5. What the fuck metadata is*

One bit of relief is that the next post I write will be about working in a library again rather than dragging you all down to our collective student misery.

Thanks for reading.


* just don’t ask me please

P.S Just want to give a shout out to my super boss bitches and gossipy old lady friends who are a) awesome and b) have been knocking the jobs and interviews out of the park recently. I’m so proud of you guys and I think we should just drink £2 Font cocktails until we are qualified and then some ❤

Coursework Fatigue

Guys, I am absolutely wrecked by the six assignments I’ve done for this course so far. In all honesty, I’ve had a rough few months anyway and so writing 13,000 words plus a presentation plus the most hideous group project ever (it should probably be used as a replacement for prisons*), has reduced me to a sweaty-haired, shivering, gibbering, emotional bag of sick. Ridiculously, if I were working I would be doing so much more work than this; it’s the futile nature of the assignments that has really got to me and their almost complete irrelevance to real library work.

I'm so tired by Jannes Pockele is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’m so tired by Jannes Pockele is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For me, completing this coursework marks the halfway point. There is no way I am doing a dissertation (already written an earth-shattering 20,000 about animals in Middle Welsh that is basically the stuff of legend thankyouverymuch) so in a few months I’ll have my PGDip and the library will hopefully once again be my place of work and not the site of my daily emotional breakdown.

I’m not going to review the course just yet. It has been a disappointing few months but the second half looks far more promising – besides, I actually like some of my teachers here a lot and I don’t trust myself to write anything less than a total annihilation of every excruciating moment, which would actually be quite unfair.

I have found this unrelenting coursework, work that began in November and has only just ended now, ** to be the only thing that matters in this degree. All the hours spent in class, making notes and writing things on stupid fucking large pieces of paper*** don’t count towards anything, which is a shame because I just don’t have time to learn anything for myself and follow up my own interests. Instead I’m drawing an inane diagram about an imaginary antiques shop, which is about as far away from librarianship as my arse is from my brain.

So all in all, I’m at a bit of a low point. It feels as though I am paying £1400 to write nonsense about press censorship and intellectual property, just ticking boxes until I can get my very expensive piece of paper rather than actually engaging with the material and expanding my mind (ugh).

However, things are getting better. I have a pile of applications to write, which are lovely little pockets of hope that you send off into the world rather than shitty pockets of despair that you submit on the VLE. Indeed, the coursework for the second half of the term looks a bit better. I am relating everything I do to libraries, as far as it is possible, and to be honest I find it insane that everyone else on the library course isn’t doing the same. If I have to write a business plan you better bet your ass it’s going to be about a bid for something for an existing library service rather than a jolly little shop selling cakes or candles.

On a final note I just wanted to mention that I have been comparing this MA to the one I did a couple of years ago. For the first one, our coursework consisted of two essays per term (I only did two modules each time compared to the six on this course) plus some exams for my three language classes, which were just pass/fail. Overall, I will have written 20,000 words plus another 20,000 for the dissertation.

In comparison, for this course I am assuming each 50% assignment is worth 3,000 words, which comes out as 36,000 words for the first two terms alone. I know some of those words are actually contained within a blog or a presentation but the amount of work involved is far higher. Yet for the first degree I was reading a large amount of primary and secondary material – and y’know, thinking – whereas at MMU I am just doing coursework ALL THE TIME.

I have a long list of topics to blog about but right now I am seriously lacking the time and will to do anything library related. This course has seriously depleted my enthusiasm and naturally sunny outlook (lol) but to be honest, all I have to do is pop on Twitter, speak to my friends or read other blogs and I am reminded why I am going through this in the first place. Being a librarian is such a kick-ass, brilliant career that I would pretty much spend every day sticking pins in-between my toes whilst drinking pickled egg juice if that’s what it took. So what’s a bit of coursework in the end eh..?

* yeah cos it incarcerates your soul badumpschht

**I have a few weeks before the next lot of deadlines roll around and I’m just kidding myself right now that I can have a break and work on my blog rather than crawl back into my pit of empty Greggs bags, text books from the 1980s and the same unwashed coursework cardigan I have been sporting since 2007.

*** Let this blog serve as my solemn oath that I will never ever use marker pens and large flipchart paper as a tool in any sort of class or meeting – it is stinky and I hate it and yes I am a petulant toddler booooo

A conference guide for the socially awkward librarian

Who would want to be Spiderman?

The lycra-clad fool is always chucking himself around the city without consulting Google maps, his mask makes it difficult to speak intelligibly, he wears red and blue which is combination that suits nobody and (we’re all thinking it) he probably has a nasty case of thrush.

No, it’s much better to be Peter Parker. He’s quiet and unassuming and that’s no bad thing. He is also intelligent and well spoken, has a fancy newspaper job and an enduring love of science.

A month ago, the thought of attending my first library conference absolutely terrified me. I had been keen to attend a professional conference for a long time to expand my horizons, meet people from all over the world and hear passionate experts speak about exciting library things. But once I won the bursary I had so coveted, I couldn’t help but focus on the negative; two days spent with complete strangers, travelling alone across London and then dreaded networking – what was I thinking?

Shy Daisy by Tim & Selena Middleton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Shy Daisy by Tim & Selena Middleton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There is definitely a cliché that library people are a quiet and unassuming lot but just looking around my class at university, I can see a wide mix of people across the introvert and extrovert scale. I am writing this for those of us on the introvert end of things, whose native language is a mix of squeaks and whispers, who quakes at the thought of asking a question in a room full of strangers, who is sick of feeling like they need to change and become a super confident Spiderman – when all we really need is to accept and embrace our inner Peter Parker and have a great time!


Conferences are expensive – the tickets, travel and accommodation all add up to make them unfeasible for the average student or new professional. Luckily, most conferences offer bursaries themselves or a national/regional group might have a similar opportunity. Much like those times when you reach for the unlabelled tin can at the back of the cupboard and get peaches rather than corned beef, I saw a bursary offered by CILIP North West for the Internet Librarian International conference, threw caution to the wind and applied.

this ol' can by Waferboard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

this ol’ can by Waferboard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It also helps to follow lots of library people and associations on Twitter and sign up to newsletters. Try following your local branch of CILIP and reading the newsletters from your special interest groups – I’ve seen quite a few opportunities this way.

It can be difficult to write those dreaded application statements but I would recommend looking through the conference website and programme, perhaps reading up on the speakers you like the sound of and then thinking how their expertise or ideas would help you with your course or career. Be sure to mention what you have been up to at work, what areas of libraries you are interested in and whether or not you have received any funding or awards before.

If you feel like you have done nothing or been nowhere then, unless you are made of stone and stuck on a plinth somewhere, focus on something you have read/heard/seen recently that made you excited or annoyed and how this relates to the conference theme or speakers. Come on, librarians love a good moan.


I’m not going to tell you to be brave, talk to everyone and be the life and soul of the party because, let’s face it, that sounds utterly awful.* This is about getting the most out of your first conference – remember there will be plenty more in your future and these will be when you can dazzle everyone with your witty metadata anecdotes – but for now feel free to lurk in corners like a library boggart and follow these tips for maximising your experience without that crippling social anxiety.

  • Twitter is your friend. If you’re not on it, sign up right this second. I mean it – open another tab, log in and don’t continue reading until you’ve joined the club…
  • …Ah welcome back new/old Twitter user. There is almost a second conference happening online, parallel to the real thing. I found that it was a brilliant way to network without having to speak to real human beings and allowed me to really engage with all the presentations. I also met a few people online that I then felt able to approach, and it is really easy to break the ice when you have already tweeted something risqué about your over-enjoyment of a presenter’s bow tie. Leave the media grandstanding to Spiderman and be yourself.
  • In almost every presentation that I attended, I had a burning question that I never asked. Everyone else’s just seemed so much more thought out and I didn’t want to be shown up as a silly new professional. This is ok; you don’t have to ask questions like a Paxman maniac! You can approach the speaker afterwards, at another time during the conference – or just drop them an email or tweet. This is still networking and you can do it in your hotel room wearing your super cool Harry Potter pyjamas (thanks mum).
  • During lunch times and breaks I found it hard to constantly stand on my own and felt like I really should be ‘making the most’ of my experience and speak to all the lovely strangers. However, this is obviously mortally terrifying and whilst I did say hi to a few people that I had spoken to on Twitter or who were behind me in the cheesecake queue, I think that the pressure to Network turned me into a dribbling wreck. If this sounds familiar, I would advise sitting in the empty auditoriums. You can charge your phone/computer/brain, check your email and share an empathetic glace with quite a few fellow shy librarians. **
  • Prepare to be excited! The little synopses in the programme never do justice to the actual presentation. Sometimes I had no idea what any of the words meant (I don’t think we had got to that module in class) and felt I couldn’t keep up – but I still got an insight into the varied roles librarians have and the different possibilities for my future. I would advise writing down as much as possible, as I have been constantly checking my notes for that amazing new app or innovative project. Think Peter Parker, inquisitive and observational rather than Spiderman, who probably doesn’t even have a pocket to put his notebook in.


Congratulations you survived!

<Obligatory one-minute dance party>

I was so exhausted after the conference but I had a few hours to kill around London and if you have the chance, I would really recommend booking a later train so you can unwind and explore the area. The conference I attended was spent entirely in windowless rooms and so I really appreciated wandering aimlessly outside and taking some touristy photos.

I would recommend some sort of cathartic activity after your experience. I wrote an article for my local CILIP newsletter – you could write a blog post, spend a few minutes chatting to your colleagues/classmates or just run a bubble bath and kick back with your notes (might have to laminate them though…)

Upon reflection, those two days were emotionally intense and I felt completely wiped out from constantly thinking, writing, tweeting and squealing with excitement at new ideas and free flapjacks. But I came away with content for at least two blog posts, an idea for my coursework and loads of exciting new people to follow on Twitter.

I’m not one to get obsessed with things – the boy band infatuation totally passed me by and I could give or take most crazes be they Twilight, crochet or tennis – but I am gripped with conference fever and can’t wait for the next opportunity. So if you haven’t had chance to apply for funding, feel like you would be overwhelmed or pressurised to network like a mad Michael Flatley then I would really urge you to go for it anyway.

You don’t have to Face Your Fear or develop some sort of superhero mask of confidence bullshit. Next time I have set myself the goal of asking one question and joining one group for lunch; small steps but we have an entire career ahead of us and, unlike Peter Parker or Spiderman, there is no enraged Green Goblin or crazy mutant acting as our mortal enemy (at least I hope so).

*Unless you actually like that kind of thing you crazy kook

** You can also play my totally serious and professional conference bingo game. Points if you see or hear any of the following…

Student Horror

I don’t do scary things. If a PG film says it contains ‘mild peril’ then I’m reaching for a cushion to shield my eyes before the inevitable slaughter begins (I’m looking at you, Jumanji.). Some poor fool once gave me a Goosebumps book for my birthday – I can even remember it was called Say Cheese and Die – and the damn thing haunted me for years before I could finally burn it in a ceremonial cleansing bonfire. Yet I would happily sit through the entire Saw boxset rather than face my ultimate fear on Monday morning; being a student again.

Evil monkey from the film about the evil monkey that smiles awkwardly by Jason Scragz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Evil monkey from the film about the evil monkey that smiles awkwardly by Jason Scragz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Over the past year as a GT, I have heard far more bad words said about various library qualifications than I have about anything else. Which, for librarians, is quite impressive (sorry!)*

If you believe everything you hear, then they are a waste of time, boring, an expensive piece of paper, badly taught and outdated. The academic equivalent of Segways or Clarks shoes for adults. I’m going to save my criticisms or plaudits at least until I’ve had a few classes, but I do agree with many people that there needs to be an overhaul of the system. It is just frustrating that you need to go through the (expensive) system before you can try and change it.

Having helped a large number of students over the past year with their essays, research and studies, I am really not looking forward to going through that same pain from the other side of the desk. Even though I know how to look for books and do a literature search, the scary thing comes when I have to read the information and actually have an opinion or idea. The last opinion I had was that it is definitely worth buying name brand toothpaste because my Wilkinson’s stuff is like smearing your mouth in slightly damp, granulated, moth dust. Not exactly earth shattering.

Although I must say, it is proving very interesting to use the library as a student and to see how academics and departments discuss the library when librarians aren’t there (positive stuff guys!) Electronic reading lists seem to be pervasive across departments and universities, yet my LIBRARY course has only one for one module. The rest are regular paper lists, which are still useful but not exactly making use of the resources available.

As a GT, I thought our library was so friendly and welcoming but now as a student I’m actually quite scared to go inside. Not that anything has changed; it’s just now I don’t know where I’m going and it feels a bit intimidating to find a space or PC in such a large building. It’s just daunting to not have the authority of a staff member. I’m committing this feeling to the permanence of the internet so that when I am finally – hopefully – a librarian, I can use it to actually help people.

It is also weird being an older student. I currently work for Residential Services and so I am seeing a lot of new 18 year old students enjoying their Freshers Week to the fullest, whilst simultaneously feeling like the oldest duffer in town. Perhaps we could also do with some badges that say ‘old and boring’ to put off all the super keen club promoters and leafletters (devils), until the actual wrinkles and grey hair sets in.

So it is with trepidation that I begin my third round as a student. I am afraid to put myself out there in an academic rather than professional way, to face a less structured week, to read non-fiction books and articles, to have to reference (and even use End Note..!), to find out I am wasting my money, to find out I love it and want to do more, to learn theory when I just want to do practical work and to have to tell people I am doing my second Masters degree in Library and Information Management and watch their eyes glaze over from the blast of sheer boredom I have just emitted.

But hey, I least I get to play with lots and lots of stationary.

*For a positive outlook check out Emily Wheeler’s blog post, it has definitely been cheering me up!