What an amazing BOBCATSSS 2012 conference! The organizing teams from Amsterdam, Groningen, and Stuttgart worked very professionally and turned this anniversary edition into one of the best that we had so far! Also, the beautiful city of Amsterdam set a marvelous scene for the gathering of over 400 New Professionals from all over the world.
NPSIG had the pleasure to welcome some of these bright people to its workshop “The Spirit of New Professionals – How to boost your early career through international involvement“. This time, our group was represented by NPSIG activists Chiara, Dace, Dierk, Sanita, and Sebastian.
To get started, we introduced the audience to the work of NPSIG, its open infrastructure that makes participation quite easy, and its position within a huge international association like IFLA. We also presented the various online and on-site activities of the group and highlighted the benefits of getting involved internationally…
Aim of the workshop
workshop introduction video
One of the main goals of the workshop was to make the participants think about their role and position in the LIS field as New Professionals. For this purpose, we divided the audience into six groups and asked them to identify and discuss:
- the Top 5 of unique strengths of New Professionals,
- a list of possible weaknesses of New Professionals,
- the Top 5 of the most important areas in LIS that New Professionals need to be good at.
After 45 minutes of intense brainstorming and discussions, every group had successfully accomplished the task and came up with a creative visualization of their findings which they boldly presented to their peers.
Results of the workshop
Hands on with group 1
group 1 presentation video
results group 1
The strong tree of group 2
group 2 presentation video
results group 2
Star Trekking with group 3
group 3 presentation video
results group 3
The world is round with group 4
group 4 presentation video
results group 4
Cycling for New Professionals with group 5
group 5 presentation video
results group 5
A cloudy day for group 6
group 6 presentation video
results group 6
Based on the raw data we condensed some interesting overall insights and surprising revelations. First of all, here is an overview on the strenghts, weaknesses, and LIS areas that appeared most often in all six groups.
- up-to-date knowledge (5x)
- enthusiasm (5x)
- flexibility (4x)
- openness (3x)
- understanding user perspectives / people skill / user centered (3x)
- lack of experience (5x)
- lack of trust / courage (3x)
- arrogance (2x)
Side note: One of the groups identified a lack of financing, time, and influence as three weaknesses of New Professionals. Depending on each other, these factors indeed constitute ongoing serious issues for lots of people in their early careers. For NPSIG one answer to this challenge lies in video coverage
, online conferences
. On the other hand, you cannot retain the major benefits of conferences, namely networking and face-to-face interaction, when going online. For this reason, it is as important to lobby for the needs of New Professionals and to support all efforts and existing initiatives that help enable access to conferences as early in your career and easy as possible!
important areas in LIS:
- networking / collaboration (6x)
- technology / ICT (5x)
- marketing / PR (4x)
- dealing with users / psychology (4x)
- information literacy (3x)
- management (3x)
- innovation (3x)
- The vast majority of categories does not belong to a discipline-specific knowledge. Instead, they rather highlight generic capabilities such as management, marketing, collaboration etc. What is the reason for this choice of the workshop participants? Partly, you could refer to the huge pressure on libraries due to the economic crisis. Faced with budget cuts and huge financial pressure, the well-being of your library depends on efficient management of the resources, creative marketing campaigns, collaboration with other institutions etc. The fact that our group of New Professionals came up with these kinds of categories, might also be prove for their educational background. In recent years, concepts of marketing, management etc. play a more and more important role in the coursework of many BA / MA programs in LIS. So it would only feel reasonable for students and new graduates to handle these areas as important parts of LIS.
- It also appeared a lot of the fields above are so broad that we cannot put them under one definite area. When talking about promotion, for example, is it about highlighting the library services in particular or the library profession as a whole? In a multinational group like our workshop participants, everyone has slightly different views here, shaped by his or her educational and cultural background.
- A surprise might be that social media was mentioned just two times, digital services even only once. Does this mean these two fields play no significant role in the eyes of the workshop participants? Probably it only shows the very opposite: Digital services and even more social media constitute an integral part of lots of New Professionals in their professional and private life. Therefore, there might be a tendency of taking them for granted. Btw: Of course, one could also argue that technology / ICT as second winning category very well includes social media and digital services.
Taking a step back, here are some general observations across the three categories that caught our attention:
- All groups decided to go for a visualization of their findings. Especially the tree (group 2) and the bicycle (group 5) very nicely show the close intertwining and dependence between the strengths, weaknesses, and the important LIS areas. The tree needs strong roots (LIS areas) to grow and to bloom (unique strengths). The bycicle only runs with two wheels – you don’t only have to know your strengths but also be aware of your weaknesses to keep moving (succeeding) and avoid the risk of falling.
- Strengths and weaknesses are not mutually exclusive. In fact, most of them have an ambivalent nature. Some groups found that “courage” was a specific strength of New Professionals, whereas others listed “lack of courage” or “being afraid of proposing your ideas” as one weakness. The same goes with “multitasking” versus “information overload” / “distraction from…”. We also overheard discussions of groups which had hard times to decide whether a lack of experience and being idealistic rather belong to strengths or weaknesses of New Professionals.
- The two winning categories for strengths and weaknesses are mutually dependent somehow: As a New Professional you are probably lacking experience in the field. On the other hand, your rich up-to-date knowledge makes you very valuable for the working force.
Of course, the above group findings cannot simply be generalized. However, they represent a very interesting snapshot of perceptions and experiences of a multinational group of new librarians in early 2012. Moreover, a lot of the findings of the workshop participants do impressively fit with outcomes of similar events we organized in recent years (see the results at Bobcatsss 2010
, for example)!
Finally, you are all invited to share your individual views on this topic! Based on your experience, do you agree or disagree with some of the statements above? Is there something to add to the list of strengths, weaknesses, and important LIS areas? What do you think about the workshop concept? We are looking forward to hearing from you and to going on with the discussion!