A ‘professional’ visit to CILIP

The CILIP New Professionals Day 2015 was held on the 9th October at the CILIP headquarters in London. Whilst I wouldn’t really consider myself to be quite an information professional just yet, I thought it would be a good experience to go along. The conference was actually aimed at people just like me who are new to library or information careers, or who are studying towards a qualification in the field. As such, I imagined it would be a very supportive and friendly atmosphere, and I’m glad to say that I was not disappointed. Plus, there were also free sandwiches, tea and coffee all day so, really, what’s not to like about that?!

We started off with an introductory talk from Nick Poole, CILIP CEO, wherein he showed infectious enthusiasm for the role of library and information work in the wider world. He also made an interesting point about how difficult it can sometimes be to explain the importance and the nature of this work to the media, who more often want a simple, black and white narrative to fill a short time slot. It was a great introduction, and really set the mood for the day.

This was followed by some workshops on various subjects. Some were careers-oriented, which was very useful for tips on job searches, interviews, CVs and online profiles. By far the most interesting, however, were those about the experiences of working in real archives and libraries. Sarah McMahon from Penguin Random House gave a talk about the mammoth task of sorting and cataloguing a publisher’s archive which had fallen into disorder over the last 30 years. This was particularly intriguing for me, as for my Records Management assessment scenario I will soon need to grapple with problems like retention schedules, duplicated and scattered records, and lack of filing space. So, it’s good to know that there is a way through it all even if it looks daunting! The archive itself is worth a look, as they have many rare and unusual items, including manuscripts with original marginalia, and personal items which once belonged to famous authors.

A sample of Lyon's tea - actually disguising an anti-Nazi pamphlet inside. Photo by the Wiener Library.
A sample of Lyon’s tea – actually disguising an anti-Nazi pamphlet inside. Photo by the Wiener Library.

The last workshop I attended was also about a very interesting archive. Miriam Hardt gave us an overview of the origins and development of the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, which is now based in Russel Square in London. Founded by Dr Alfred Wiener in the 1920s to document the worrying rise of the Nazis, it was operated clandestinely throughout the war and beyond. It is now home to a hoard of rare information and original documents which go together to depict the events and effects of the Nazis, the Holocaust, and other genocides on real people living at the time. It’s still expanding even today, with many new documents being discovered in attics and cupboards all over Europe, and it has recently digitised many photos from the collection. It really was a fascinating glimpse into an archive which I had no idea existed until now!

Overall, I had a really good time at the New Professionals Day, and I actually got to meet many people who were studying their information degrees by distance learning, which I hadn’t anticipated. It seems to be more prevalent than I imagined, and it was good to chat about the pros and cons of studying whilst working. Many, who were lucky enough to already have a library or information job, found it to be a good way of combining hands-on experience with gaining knowledge of the theory behind it. There were also lots of people who were in their very first information role, and it was interesting to hear about the varied activities which they did day-to-day. It underlined the fact that information work really does cover a wide spectrum of jobs and roles.

So, my advice to you, if you’re considering whether to attend a gathering like this, is: do it! It seems a bit daunting at first, but once you’re there you’ll find that the day goes very quickly, so go along and enjoy it if you get the chance.

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