Event Report: From Cataloguer to Manager

We started this month with a seminar led by Helen Williams (LSE Library) on making the move From Cataloguer to Manager. Harriet Notman has written this event report summarising some key points.

Helen Williams, Metadata Manager at LSE Library, recounted her career journey from public libraries, to business research, to working in higher education and specialising in metadata, to becoming a manager. The seminar was broken down into three parts. Helen’s background, how she moved into a management role, and how the role changed over time. Helen ended her seminar with a look at strategic focus in her department.

Background

Helen started her career working in public libraries in her local area. After her degree in English Literature, she worked for small charities and then studied for her library qualification. Her first professional post was at the Institute of Directors, having been offered the job due to her research skills. Broken down this job was approximately 80% business research and 20% acquisitions and cataloguing. Even though cataloguing was only a small area of focus for this research role it gave her enough experience to draw upon to move into a more specialised role in metadata.

Helen worked for the Institute of Directors for 3 years and then applied for a position as an Assistant Librarian for LSE’s bibliographic services, which she remained in for a number of years. Helen had found her niche in cataloguing and metadata. She instilled in her talk that metadata is a fast-paced area of librarianship. There are constant changes in this field and this allows those who work in this field to build up their skills.

Moving Into Management

In 2014 Helen applied for a Metadata Manager role at LSE. At this point in the seminar Helen gave some great advice on job applications. Her main message was to apply for jobs that you are interested in even if you don’t meet the full skillset. She emphasised that doing this works well for moving up the ladder. No one may apply who has the full skills listed in a job description. Helen also highlighted that employers may be open to training and development for areas that you are lacking in as an applicant. She also mentioned the importance of transferable skills and to be honest in your interview, but to draw on comparable experiences. For example, Helen hadn’t managed in a library environment before, but had at a children’s holiday club. She drew upon this experience and it paid off.

Helen was successful in her application and became the Metadata Manager. An internal move was good for Helen as it meant already knowing the place and the people, but of course she was now in a different role with different responsibilities. It wasn’t only metadata that she managed, but people too. Helen explained the layers of her role from running a vital part of the library, to advocating for her team, alongside focusing on the wider remit and institutional strategy. Building an external support network, Helen found, was extremely useful for moving into a management role. Having others to bounce ideas off, talk to about new challenges, and ask for advice, was very important. 

People managing is one of Helen’s biggest joys. An important part of management is knowing your strengths and weaknesses and being aware of these whilst managing. Also, in moving to management Helen not only had line manager responsibilities, but multi-layered managerial responsibilities. Managing people who also managed other people. One aspect Helen emphasised was how important communication is. Even things as simple or as small as letting your team know there’s no new developments in an area you’re working on is vital to ensure your team know that you still have oversight of a project. Again, something as simple as making sure your team can see your calendar and know where you are is lets your team be aware of where you are and so they can find times to contact and talk to you. Making time for your team is something Helen makes sure she does frequently. Not just in terms of work, but also getting to know people personally. Helen promoted that being interested in your colleagues led to a feeling of being more valued and engaged.

Alongside being a metadata manager Helen advised us to take full advantage of exciting opportunities that present themselves. This also helps grow your network and support group. Helen has managed to gain some fantastic opportunities in the library world, including sitting on the Cataloguing and Indexing Group (now Metadata and Discivery Group) committee and writing peer-reviewed articles. Recently, she found herself to speaking at a research library conference for Latin America in Chile (from the comfort of home) with an audience of 750 attendees.

How the role changes

In terms of how the role changed over time it was fascinating to see Helen’s growth in responsibilities as her career moved forwards. Before being in a managerial role cataloguing was a large part of what she did at LSE. For example, creating records from scratch and being very hands on with systems. With the move into a management role there came with it a broader view of department and more of a focus on horizon scanning and developing projects. Helen no longer created metadata records and did a lot less with the metadata collection. She did, however, allow others the space and support to develop as experts in their area. Helen knew she had to let go of aspects from her previous role to allocate her time and progress as a manager.

She grew her managerial skills by being able to have an overall view of her team and leave the team to be experts of specific areas themselves. Helen covers a lot in her role and explained to us some of the new areas she was working on in light of the pandemic, including looking at the library’s capacity for occupancy. Being in a managerial role can allow you to get involved with lots of different areas and usually at a wider, more institutional level.

Helen ended her presentation by explaining her Strategic Focus for her team. Having a strategic focus is about having an eye on the horizon and when to make appropriate changes, Helen explained. Metadata encompasses more areas than physical resource metadata, but for the LSE team links to research metadata, the REF, working with datasets, DOIs, and working with the digital library team. I came away from this seminar understanding Helen’s metadata expertise, and those of her team, is adaptable and can be applied to many different areas. Also, the importance of having a base of knowledge in an area and how that relates to managing a team and the skills to develop. Following Helen’s varied career showed just what career opportunities can be available.

Following the interest in Helen’s purpose tree that she shared during this seminar, Beginning Cataloguing is working with her and previous speaker Emma Booth (University of Manchester) as well as Jennie-Claire Crate (University of Kent) to develop a workshop on Demonstrating the Value of Your Metadata. Watch this space, our newsletter, Instagram and Twitter for further details when we have them.


Event report: Katharine Schopflin on Organisational Knowledge

Our General Seminars aim to provide cataloguers and other interested information workers with insights from colleagues working in metadata and beyond.

In this event report, Dr Veronica Pizzarotti (University of Manchester) shares some thoughts on Dr Katharine Schopflin’s recent seminar on organisational knowledge.

I found the Organisational Knowledge seminar delivered by Dr Katharine Schopflin in February very useful and informative. From the very beginning of her presentation I realised very clearly that I did not really have an accurate idea of what Knowledge Management is.

Katharine’s presentation was very engaging and applicable to every organisation as, using her words, Knowledge Management is everywhere. It is centred on people and goes above and beyond the organisation of information.  As the event summary on the Beginning Cataloguing blog puts it, “Knowledge Management claims to be the art of making organisations perform better by finding and exploiting employee knowledge and expertise and controlling the information they produce”.

A few examples where Knowledge Management is employed in an organisation are websites, directories, company drives. It is helped by technology, but technology alone is not sufficient for an effective Knowledge Management policy and engagement.

Katharine explained why it is important to manage knowledge. Effective Knowledge Management enables employees of an institution or company to find out the processes underpinning every aspect of their organisation. This is very effective in combating the ‘silo effect’: in today’s organisations people tend to focus on their own job and do not necessarily have the resources and time to engage with different departments, leading to individuals not having a clear idea of what other employees do and, in a similar way, people at the top of the managerial hierarchy do not necessarily know the details of what their departments do. The implementation of robust and effective Knowledge Management policies requires a culture change that will not happen quickly and can only happen if people in leadership start it by leading by example.

Katharine explained that it is common for organisations to employ knowledge managers but at the same time she stressed the importance of collective responsibility and how everybody can be a knowledge manager in their place of work. How to be a Knowledge Manager? Katharine provided examples of knowledge management activities that everybody is probably already doing without realising it.  A few of these quick wins are: knowledge sharing in the workplace, projects showcases, clear links between activities and organisational priorities, and events.

Katharine concluded her presentation with a few aspirations that I re-write here as a takeaway for myself and the readers of the blog: an intranet, new starters process, projects follow up and transfer, active communities of practice, knowledge tools to help people work. These examples portray really well the interdependence between technology and peoples’ behaviours that was a recurrent theme throughout the whole presentation. I used the examples and tips provided to reflect on my role as an information professional and within my organisation, how I relate to colleagues in my team and in the rest of the library, my own knowledge sharing practices and how to make them more effective.  Katharine’s talk also made me see some interactions with colleagues in a different light and has been extremely useful in making me more proactive bringing forward new ideas. This process of self-reflection has also highlighted some areas (in both my personal and professional life) I’d like to work on, and suggested ways to do so. Thank you, Katharine, for giving me so much food for thought!

The next in the General Seminar series is also led by one of our Associates: in ‘Creative Digital Experiments with Collections’ on 21 April, Ash Green will share a variety of inspiring examples and highlight how online mapping and narrative tools can provide visitors with a new digital route into your collections. Do join us if you can.

Event Report: German Bookbinders in London

As with all our seminars, this one was live-only, and this event report highlights some things that struck me from Karen’s wide-ranging and detailed presentation. If you have a chance to hear her speak on the topic, please do – this blog post is no substitute for the information she shared in her talk.

From the point of view of librarians at the coal face of cataloguing book collections, one of the most important messages came in response to a question about identifying bookbinders. The British Library’s online database, https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/Default.aspx, is a fantastic free resource, but sometimes there is no substitute for inspecting a binding in real life. Karen reminded us that the British Library has a collection of rubbings of bookbindings that its staff can access, and so encouraged us to contact them if we have tried all the online resources and come up empty. It’s certainly true that this is an area of Bibliography and Book History in which there is no substitute for seeing many, many examples in order to be able to make an identification with any level of confidence.

Karen herself has studied bindings over a long career, and those she presented today were mainly from her work on the Grenville Library at the British Library. This provided her the opportunity to see first hand the range of luxury bindings produced by German nationals in London for Grenville, and sparked an interest that took her to explore those in the libraries of other well-known collectors.

Famous binders for whose work we should look out include Johann Andreas Linde, Johann Ernst Baumgarten, Christian Samuel Kalthoeber, Charles Hering, and, of course, Charles Lewis. The last of these was responsible for many of the bindings in Grenville’s collection and became the pre-eminent bookbinder of his day.

If attending her seminar or reading this short event report has whetted your appetite to know more about bookbinding, Karen is teaching the Rare Book School’s online Introduction to Bookbinding this summer.

Event Report: Print Making Techniques in Book Illustration

After the winter holiday, Yvonne Lewis shares what she learned at Krystle Attard Trevisan‘s Book History Seminar in December.

Curiosity about the holdings of the National Museum of Malta aroused my interest in this seminar. I’ve been to many talks on print techniques over the years, so was expecting to come away as baffled as ever about how the ink ended up on the paper in most cases. It is very difficult taking someone’s spoken or written description and turning it into images of how the processes work in your head. Letterpress I can imagine, but it gets more complicated when the speaker is trying to describe the various different offset techniques.

I was pleasantly surprised to come away feeling much more enlightened. As background introduction, Krystle took us clearly, but rapidly, through the many centuries of printing history, from Chinese woodblocks, through the various hand-presses, to modern photographic printmaking. Each phase was accompanied by close-up images of the finished product, plus supporting material on individual techniques. Both were extremely useful in showing the difference between copperplate and intaglio for example.

In her day job, Krystle is in the process of cataloguing c. 4,500 prints. As she demonstrated, use of a microscope or the zoom feature on a modern phone allows her to investigate the images more closely in order to identify the technique used. This must be invaluable as many of us have struggled in the past to be confident in our assessment of images when the maker has been a master of their technique. I do hope that Krystle will do more talks or seminars on printmaking techniques. Although images of her slides are imprinted on my brain, I’m sure a refresher will be required at a future date. One day, perhaps, a good excuse to visit Malta.

Yvonne Lewis

The Unwritten Book (General Seminar)

Yesterday, Yvonne Lewis shared the story of ‘The Unwritten Book’ – the evidence William John Bankes left behind him of his travels, and, in particular, a set of lithography stones intended for publication in a book that was never printed in the end.

There are many reasons that these stones are both interesting and mysterious, but the greatest mystery is why they exist in the first place. Lithography was invented in Munich in 1798 by Alois Senefelder, and as Michael Twyman points out in his core text on the topic, “the lithographed book is almost as old as lithography itself” (p. 15). One of its leading proponents in Britain, Charles Hullmandel, set up his press in 1819, and so Bankes’s travels (circa 1815-17) coincided with the very earliest period of English lithography. Hullmandel’s marks appear on the back of the stones, and, as Twyman asserted in a paper he gave in 2016, “Hullmandel can be linked with the stones now at Kingston Lacy in several ways. First and foremost he owned them all, at least initially. Secondly, he made the drawings on some of them himself. And, thirdly, wherever a printer’s imprint appears on a stone it is his.”

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Beginning Bibliography Scholarship Winner

The Library building, St Peter's Churchyard, Maldon

We are delighted that Dr Helen Kemp has been awarded the scholarship for Beginning Bibliography this year. Helen is the Librarian of ILA member Thomas Plume’s Library.

She is also a Community Fellow in the Department of History at The University of Essex, Special Collections Champion at the Albert Sloman Library, and Maddock Research Fellow 2019-2020 at Marsh’s Library, Dublin

Thomas Plume’s Library, in Maldon, Essex, was founded in 1704, and holds over 8,000 early printed books and pamphlets. Helen writes,

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