Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Relaunching a library service



What do you do when you decide to do what is verging on library-based insanity, and basically scrap your current library service, and relaunch everything - physical layout, LMS, and classification system? In my case, spend a year, planning, developing, preparing….and then a frantic few weeks hauling stock!
The background to this apparent madness is this: when I took on this role I inherited a library using a layout that didn’t seem to make sense, a classification system I wasn’t familiar with, and an LMS that had been in place for 20 years but didn’t seem suited to our needs. As I was new to the library, a major part of the time I had available while settling in during my initial few months was dedicated to exploring how well these things were working, both for users, and library staff. I had the benefit of my colleague also being new to the library, only a few months after me, so together we looked at these issues with fresh eyes.We came to the following conclusions:

  1. The physical layout over the three floors was not intuitive, and separated core materials over multiple floors, which led to confusion for users and extra travel around the library.
  2. The classification scheme was more suitable for a large library in a common law jurisdiction than a medium sized one in Scotland. Materials on the same topic were split by jurisdiction into different locations in the library, which was confusing for users and did not allow users to browse easily.
  3. The LMS was more suited to a large institution than one the size of my library, and had accumulated too many errors in records to be regarded as reliable. It was also overly complex and difficult for library staff to use, and far more expensive than equivalent products with better functionality

So, what was my solution to these issues?

  1. I decided to change the way the library was physically laid out. This was linked to the classification scheme.
  2. I changed the classification scheme from Moys, to one developed in-house for Scottish law firms - this scheme allows far better browsability of the shelves, and is designed to incorporate the specific legal terms and issues unique to Scots law.
  3. I worked with Procurement to identify and implement a new LMS, which halved the ongoing costs of the system, and gave library staff a greater ability to manage materials effectively.

Well, those are the main points of my relaunch plan. The actual implementation takes a little bit more effort than that!

  • I needed to adapt the classification scheme I had chosen, and update it - it was developed in the 1990s and some of the terms used in it were very dated. It was also originally developed for use in a commercial law firm library, and therefore neglected most areas of criminal law - this whole area needed to be expanded massively.
  • I wanted to be sure the subject terms we would use would reflect current legal terms in use on standard legal databases. I downloaded a standard legal taxonomy from a large publisher, and went through it methodically, pulling out the terms I knew we would use, and adding in some Scottish-specific ones. This was imported into the new LMS and allows us to tag materials consistently, and in a way that users would recognise.
  • I’ve been working with the Assistant Librarians (there’s only one AL, but one is on maternity leave, and the cover librarian has picked up where the initial one had to stop) to import the records for all of our textbooks from COPAC, and catalogue them in the new system. We have at least 3,500 textbooks and 45,000* other items in a variety of locations (both in the library and in a multitude of sub-sites within this building and others), so our focus has been on getting the core textbooks onto the system. I made the decision that we would also be cataloguing the contents pages from the textbooks, to make sure that the books and their contents were findable through the LMS in a variety of ways.
  • The AL and I have manually added hundreds of staff/users on to the system, and monitor staff bulletins to ensure that new staff are added as soon as possible.
  • I measured every shelf in the library, and every law report series/run of primary and secondary legislation/journal volumes, to calculate how much shelf space they’ll take up, then drafted a detailed plan for exactly where they’d go on the ground floor in the new layout (I ran out of time to do the same for the other floors).
  • We decided on what items can be sent to our storage and archive rooms, to reduce duplication in the collection.
  • The three staff currently in the library spent many hours mapping the old classification system to the new one, to enable us to relocate the textbooks from their old shelfmark to their new one more efficiently .

Since last week, my colleagues and I (the excellent Assistant Librarian and a fabulous intern) have been working on the actual physical relocation of stock. We’ve now got the ground floor rearranged to its final layout, have moved half the stock from the mezzanine floor to new (temporary and permanent) locations, and we’re now ready to do the big shift of the textbook stock. This is where the users are going to see the biggest change, as almost everything on this floor will be changing its location.

We’re now in the quiet period for my workplace, and luckily we have had the extra help of that fabulous intern - having three people work on this has been so helpful, and we’ve got about half of the stock-moving done in a week. Since I estimate that we’ve moved about 8,000 volumes in the last few weeks, and we probably have the same to move again before we’re done. It’s physically demanding and exhausting, but it’s satisfying to see things taking shape.

Despite me having tried to explain what we were doing in the library and why to a variety of people in advance of this move, it’s only now that people can actually see for themselves how things have changed that they’re beginning to see what I’ve been talking about. Already we’ve had positive feedback, which is very good to hear - it’s been a LOT of work to do this, and knowing that users are happy with what’s been done is a great vindication!

It’s not finished yet either - once we have the bulk of our textbooks on the LMS we’ll be officially launching the new system to users, and training them on the new uses of the system - they can see their own account to check what they have on loan, see who has the items they want out on loan, request books of photocopies be sent to them, and all sorts of exciting new things that just weren’t possible before. The relaunching of the service continues...

So, what would I advise if you were planning to do something similar in your service, that on first glance seems to be verging on masochism?

  • A core part of this relaunch was the new LMS. Take the time to find out the detailed specifics of how you can buy a new or replacement service - despite trying to get this sorted out early, not having been involved in a public sector procurement process before I had no idea quite how long it would take - what is simple in the private sector (“this is the best product for our needs”) becomes an epic and labyrinthine process (“we need a new LMS...this is what an LMS is”). I had trialled a variety of LMS, expecting that I would be able to then select the most suitable one, only to find that all my efforts had to be scrapped and I had to start again, and work in a very convoluted structure. So - seek advice early! I did, but unfortunately, what I was told was incorrect, so - seek advice early, AND get a second opinion on that advice too!

  • Despite all my best efforts of measuring, and matching, and over-estimating, and allowing for expansion space….things haven’t gone quite as hoped with how materials fit on the shelves. This has meant making some ad-hoc decisions on temporary new locations, and will mean another phase of stock moving will have to come later. So - even if you think you’re giving plenty of space...give more.** And have a fallback plan in case of overspill of stock if the estimates don’t work out.

  • Things will always take longer than you think - I wanted the new LMS to in place and being catalogued onto by September 2015, but due to a variety of delays, it wasn’t partially ready until December 2015, properly useable/staff being trained until February 2016, and our old LMS went offline at the end of January 2016. This meant we had only a few weeks to try and get stock onto the new system before it went live and our old one became inaccessible. Needless to say, this was NOT ideal! It also pushed back our stock move plan from spring 2016 to summer 2016.

  • Don’t get distracted - the AL and I keep on finding things that need sorted as we look closely at the stock while moving it*** and have to keep reminding ourselves of our priorities - just get things moved, THEN you can fiddle with them.

  • Ask for more storage or disposal boxes than you think you need, because these sort of stock moves also include some informal stock reviewing - I’ve decided to send a variety of things for disposal (no, we didn’t need that partial third set of those law reports), and others to storage (SIs and SSIs are not something I expect to need regular access to). However, I had only requested enough crates for what I had already decided to send elsewhere, and additional items needing moved weren't accounted for. The lack of crates to put things in for these purposes means stock sitting temporarily on trolleys until we can get

  • We weren’t able to get internal physical help for this stock move (it would have been available to us), as so many of the move decisions were based on knowledge only I had in my head, and because we kept having to make ad-hoc decisions, it would take as long for me to instruct someone who was helping to do it, as to do it myself. I hate having to work like this - I try and share my knowledge with my colleagues as much as possible, so this was not a natural way for me to work. It also meant I needed to be constantly involved, which was difficult to balance with my normal demanding workload. If you have the time to plan something like this, try and factor in writing up detailed instructions/guidance for anyone who’s offered to/been instructed to help.


*To be honest, it’s probably actually far more items than that - we just keep finding more stock in random locations!

**How can something that took up 30 inches of shelf on one floor take up 40 inches on another floor?

*** Why were the loose parts from that volume from 1991 not sent for binding? Does this volume need a repair on the spine? Everything is so dusty, should we be cleaning these?

And now...time to get these empty bookshelves filled up!





Monday, June 13, 2016

When mentoring malfunctions

Mentoring's one of the standard activities that you'll come across in the information profession. We're very caring and sharing like that, wanting to support people in their professional development.

As you start your career as an information professional, you'll regularly hear the advice: get a mentor.
Or, as you advance in your career and seem to be doing well, you'll be advised to become a mentor.

This is fine: yes, both being mentored and being a mentor can be excellent relationships, and very useful for both parties involved. But.....mentoring relationships are like any other relationships: they can go wrong. And they can go wrong in a whole lot of ways.

I've heard of mentors and mentees whose relationships have malfunctioned due to mismanagement, wrong focus, disinterest, and inappropriate behaviour. Like any other relationship, bullying and abuse can happen in mentor/mentee arrangements, but it can be very difficult for the participants to escape the relationship.

However, this seems to be the side of mentoring that isn't ever discussed. There's plenty of guidance and information out there to help you with finding a mentor, or to help you to get involved as a mentor, and to tell you how positive a relationship it will be. But there seems to be no guidance for when either the mentor or mentee want to go their separate ways. There's also no discussion (other than in whispered asides, or confidential chats with trusted contacts) that identifies those participants in mentoring relationships who should really not be allowed to participate in any others due to their actions. This can leave those who're stuck in a bad relationship feeling that it's their fault that it's not working, as it seems to work well for everyone else.

So, what are your options if, as a mentor or mentee, your relationship isn't working? Well...you can confront the person causing the problems, and get the issues out into the open. That might work, but it might also blow up in your face, and cause all sorts of further problems. So it doesn't seem that direct confrontation is the best way to manage failing relationships. Additionally, if you're a mentee you're often in a position of vulnerability - your mentor is likely to be further advanced in their career, has a lot of professional contacts, and will be well respected. You might feel you won't be believed if you tell anyone about the issues. As a mentor, you may feel that others will think you've let down your mentee if the relationship isn't working, and it could impact on your professional standing.

I don't have a solution for this problem, but please feel free to leave comments and make suggestions of your own. Have you been in a bad mentoring relationship yourself? What would you suggest could help when problems arise? Do we need more involvement from professional mentoring scheme arrangers, maybe by creating compulsory review points during mentoring arrangements, when participants can step back from/leave the relationship, with no explanation needed? Should there be some professional penalty for abuse of mentoring schemes? Should there be a whistleblowing option for these schemes, so vulnerable participants can flag up the actions of the other participant, and trigger a review from the scheme arranger?

How can participants in mentoring relationships get out of them when they go wrong, and how can people who are acting inappropriately in a variety of ways in mentoring relationships be prevented from continuing to do damage?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

LinkedIn dating

After receiving yet another LinkedIn contact request from a complete stranger (with the accompanying over-eager email from LinkedIn a few days later, saying "hey, this connection request is still waiting!!), I asked friends on Twitter:

Why do people ask to connect on LinkedIn when they don't know you, and have never met you?

There was a variety of responses from people about their reaction to these requests, but the majority response was definitely one of annoyance. In the end, I came to the conclusion that interactions on LinkedIn are a lot like dating.

Now, having had my fair share of dates and dating-related interactions both online and in person, I thought I'd help out by giving a couple of etiquette tips for LinkedIn, and also for life generally (and dating).

  • If you want to get to know me, spend some time on it
So many times on LinkedIn, I get a generic "X wants to connect" request. No information about why they think they'd like to connect with me, and no clue about what it is that they think we should connect for. Now, on a dating site, that generic contact (in that case, usually a message that just says "hey", "hi" or hello") is a big red flag. It means you've looked at something superficial, and decided you want to have it. On dating sites, it's only my photo you've looked at. On LinkedIn, it's my job title. In either place, that type of no-content contact just gets immediately deleted rather than acted on, because you've given me no reason to pay you any more attention on first look at your request than you paid me when you looked at my profile...if you even went as far as looking at my full profile, rather than just the eye-catching bit of the photos/title. 

Moral: If you want to connect with me, tell me why.

  • Nobody wants to be part of a cult
One of the commonalities with these LinkedIn invites is that the person asking to connect with me usually seems to be just gathering numbers of connections in an attempt to look well-connected and important, often because they're job hunting, or "seeking new opportunities". The other people who like to gather lots of people to look important are...cult leaders. And I ain't willing to go live in a bunker. Or connect with people who just want to gather a lot of meaningless connections in an attempt to look import. Those connections don't actually translate into useful professional relationships, and are therefore pretty damn meaningless.

Moral: Develop some sort of relationship with your contacts, don't just gather them as if they were possessions.


Tenuous dating analogies aside, there is a point to this post. Honest!. 

The point is that if you're going to be using it, you really do need to be aware of what you're doing on LinkedIn, and understand what you want to get from it. Do you want to develop a network of proper, meaningful professional connections who're happy to be linked to you, or a sprawling and meaningless guddle of strangers and semi-strangers who won't ever assist you because they don't actually know you? LinkedIn itself says this about connection requests:

We strongly recommend that you only accept invitations to connect from people you know.

So by extension, if you shouldn't accept invitations from people you don't know, you shouldn't be sending them to people you don't know either!

In the Twitter discussions about our feelings about  LinkedIn requests received from complete strangers, one friend was an exception, and said that she was quite happy to be invited by random people to connect on LinkedIn. There's a good reason for this though - this friend manages an events venue and professional society, so she's happy to be able to expand her pool of contacts in this way, as each new contact could be for the potential benefit of her employer. However, myself and another librarian find these contacts from totally unknown people to be intrusive and timewasting - we have to spend time to try and figure out if we know the requester in real life, on social media (perhaps under a different name/username), or through other personal or professional contacts (both in real life, and checking by looking at the LinkedIn 1st and 2nd level connections visualisations), in order to make a decision on whether this is someone we're happy to connect with. As we work for a public sector body and a private commercial law firm, connecting with complete strangers is of no real benefit to us or our employer, and doing this checking just wastes our time. And timewasting means we get annoyed, refuse the request, and remember that the person asking to connect had been acting inappropriately. Making people annoyed with you, and remembering your name as someone who acts inappropriately online is not really a good thing!

Part of the problem here is the design of LinkedIn itself, which despite saying you should only connect with people if you know them, makes sure you can ask to connect with people that you don't know. It's unfortunately set up to make requesting connections with people to quick, easy and impersonal from certain parts of the site, e.g. at the point when you've just accepted a connection request, it loads a page that only requires you to click on a person's image when they're displayed as part of a "you might want to connect with these people" option in order to ask to connect with them. This means those people get a non-personalised, random email saying you want to connect. The only situation where it's ok to do this is when you do actually have some sort of connection to those people, at a level where they won't need you to explain who you are, and why you want to connect with them. You could justifiably use this option when connecting with a past or current work colleague, or other people you may know, if you already have some sort of contact or relationship with them.

Otherwise, if you want to use LinkedIn in an real, professional manner to develop your professional network, I'd suggest you avoid using that quick-and-easy-and-annoying connection request option to mass spam strangers, and restrict your connection requests to people you've already met in some form, whether in person or online. If nothing else, by doing that you'll at least avoid aggravating a lot of people you don't even know!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The legal forger


I'd never heard of the prolific forger "Antique" Smith before I saw the email notification about the talk on him from the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland. But I like archives, and history, and the fact there was a legal case that arose from it meant it sounded like an interesting outing. So last night I went along to the National Library of Scotland, where this talk was being hosted.


So, what did I learn? Mr Alexander Howland "Antique" Smith had quite a busy time of it between 1887 and 1893, churning out at least 500+ known (at a conservative estimate) forged manuscripts and letters attributed to a wide variety of well known people over all sorts of time periods. However, he seems to have had a particular liking for Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott....or maybe they were just more saleable items!

He was trained as a law clerk, in the firm of Thomas Henry Ferrier WS, and it seems that old legal documents stored in the firm may have been the early source for paper for his initial fakes. Apparently, the skills he would have learned in this role would also have been just what he needed to become a good forger - patience when drafting and copying lengthy documents, and attention to detail when drafting. Although he needed to pay a bit more attention to detail than he did in the end!

He was a very prolific forger, and used the flyleafs of period books bought secondhand as the basic material for his documents. He used various techniques to age them, including dipping them in weak tea, and rubbing dirt into creases to give the appearance of age, especially in areas where they would have been expected to be folded and refolded over the years. However, he was somewhat lacking on real attention to detail, and his forgeries were riddled with problems.

In the case of his forgeries of Scott's letters, it was noted that his way of folding the letters he made differed from the way Scott would have folded them. Letters were regularly noted as being from specific locations, often some time after the real writer had moved away, e.g. Robert Burns apparently wrote a letter from a home he'd left a year before. One person wrote a letter, despite having been mortally wounded in a famous battle the day before. Cromwell wrote while in another city to the people who were be in charge of Glasgow, telling them to maintain order...but at that time, he was in Glasgow himself. Written materials which would not normally be signed, e.g. memos, had signatures attached, purely because it would make the letter more valuable. The paper he was writing many of his fakes on had a bluish tint, like the paper used for legal documents, rather than normal writing paper. He used modern (in the 1880s) pens and ink, there was no attempt to try and match the writing materials of the appropriate time periods. He would work around wormholes in old paper, giving the impression that the worms must have been considerate animals indeed. And his attempts at actually matching the handwriting, although probably informed by having seen some samples of the real writer's style, were not hugely successful. Although in the case of Robert Burns, his own handwriting did vary with time...and drink!

Quite a catalogue of ineptitude!

Despite all this, he still managed to sell a lot of forgeries to a lot of people. There were a variety of wrangles prior to him being discovered as the creator of the forgeries. They related to manuscript collectors who had been defrauded, concerns about the honesty of the alleged document experts who had somehow vouched for the authenticity of these shoddy copies, charges brought in the Sheriff Court against Smith of theft/fraud (he was found not guilty), a case raised in the Court of Session in 1891 against a seller of some of the fake documents (the pursuer eventually instructed his law agents to drop the action, so it didn't progress), and requests to have the disputed documents assessed by staff at the Faculty of Advocates to check their authenticity (an offer which the document expert refused to take up), he was identified as the originator of the flood of fake documents which had suddenly appeared on the collector's market.

He was brought in front of the Court of Session in June 1893, on 4 charges relating to pretending to various booksellers and pawnbrokers that false documents were genuine. There were 98 examples of his work gathered as evidence against him, and together with the existence of his forgery hut/summerhouse (with its contents of pens, inks and books on copying handwriting) and the testimony of the many witnesses who had bought from him or seen him with a large volume of old documents, unsurprisingly he was found guilty on all charges. The recommendation from the jury was for leniency, so instead of penal servitude, he was sentenced to a year in prison. After he served this, he mostly drops out of history.

The irony is that, despite not being very good forgeries, Antique Smith's fakes are now collectable items in their own right. To this day, they're still being uncovered in archive collections around the world, have appeared listed as genuine in auction listings (although identified and removed from sale before the actual auction), and many more may lurk in the collections of notable families who kept quiet at the time of the trial, not wanting to admit that they'd been duped. However, if they were discovered now, the forgeries would be left physically untouched, with careful cataloguing demonstrating their provenance as forgeries. Unlike the examples we were shown from historic collections, which were gleefully marked repeatedly by some long-gone document manager with purple stamps saying "SPURIOUS"!

Outside, there were examples of original letters by Burns and Scott, and Antique Smith's forgeries of these two author's hands...I decided against testing my fake spotting skills though!

Your guess is as good as mine

Of course, what I want to do today is start looking in the Session Cases and see if it's a reported case....

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tips for the traumatised: surviving administration and mergers


Let me begin by confessing: I am not a law firm lucky charm. I’ve worked for 2 different firms over a period of 18 months, both of which went into administration or merged with another firm, which left me unemployed twice in a short period of time.

Unfortunately, my story isn’t unusual: changes in the legal market mean that these sort of events will happen more and more frequently, especially in the mid-sized law firms. My Nostradamus moment now is to predict that most mid-sized firms won’t exist within 5 years, as they get eaten up by the bigger firms, or split down into smaller, niche firms.

So if you’re working in a small or mid-sized firm: you’re in a very risky position right now. So what can you do to both plan for the potential experience of having a job that disappears, and to get through it successfully? I’m going to give you some tips on what to do, when, and how to get through this. And I’ll be honest: a lot of this is unpleasant, but you can get through to the other side intact.


Before changes

See the signs: You need to be plugged into the internal gossip machine, for your own benefit. People talk - it’s wise to listen, and look for the oddities that signal problems. Listen for fee-earner gossip: are junior staff in all sorts of departments complaining about not being able to meet their target for billable hours because there’s just not enough work being passed to them? Are partners hiding in their rooms or working from home, to avoid having to really speak to their teams? Watch out for those odd "partners from different departments who don't normally have anything to do with each other" meetings starting to happen. Secretaries being asked to block out many hours in diaries for people...with no client meetings or reasons given. Or the all partner, off-site meetings...that go on for two days. Librarians at other firms that may be merger partners will be noticing odd activities too, or may have been asked to research your firms finances. Make sure you’re open with your professional network about unusual activities at your firm, as it gives other information professionals the chance to volunteer information that they’ve gathered. There will also be a mysteriously delayed issuing of the annual accounts, with various “interesting” excuses being given, and getting more abrupt as the lateness increases. There will be firm denials in the press by management of there being any trouble internally. Credit checking companies will be red flagging you as a risk because you pay bills so late. Suppliers will not be being paid, but you will only find this out if you contact them directly to check, or they contact you to complain, because your Finance department will insist that they’ve been paid. Honest. Cross their heart.

Prepare for the worst: go through your work, and identify your useful/transferable work. Gather non-sensitive work you have produced/remove to cloud storage if possible. If you can't move it off your firms network by upload, try and get a record of it some other way: download, screenshot or photograph it. The administrators or merger managers are not interested in the work of support staff - it will be ignored during these processes, and holds no financial value for them. The only value it holds is for you, for the future, for generic activities such as training materials you've developed for educating internal users on subscription databases. ( Disclaimer one - Only you can make the decision on what materials it is legal for you to remove. Disclaimer two - some of these content tools might be blocked by your employer.). If you don’t have one already, get a "professional" email address (gmail is fine) - if your name/initials combination isn’t available, create one using information and knowledge-related terms. Move all account contacts to the new account: social media, mailing lists, LinkedIn etc. You can’t predict when your access to your work email will stop.

Prepare for the best: It may well be that any merger partner firm needs information staff, so there could be a place for you in a new structure. However, like any other employer, they’ll want you to be able to prove to them that you’re good at what you do, and your salary will take that into account. So now is a good time to gather statistics and evidence to show what you do, and what you can do. If you charge out for your time, gather the information that shows exactly what money you’ve brought in. Equip yourself with any facts or figures that help you to make a business case to demonstrate why you and/or your team are an asset.

Make yourself visible to the world: if you aren’t already using social media, now is the time to start. Create a Twitter profile, where you can show your awareness of relevant issues by tweeting links or discussing them with others. Most importantly, create a LinkedIn account, and make sure you organise it to show your best skills and achievements (LinkedIn content layout can be personalised). This is useful for both internal and external promotional purposes: if your firm is going into administration, other law firms need to be able to see immediately what your skills are, and why you’d be an asset. If you’re merging, you want to be able to easily give the takeover firm as much information about your usefulness as possible. They won’t know about the awesome projects you've been responsible for internally, they're highly unlikely to actually come to you to ask about your skills, so you need a place they can look at that hosts all your achievements, to be able to show them. Ask colleagues to endorse you for useful activities - people will be doing their best to help you, so agree the text in advance to ensure it shows your best skills in the best way.

Build up an application bank: create a variety of clear descriptions of your specialist and transferable skills. If you struggle with this, ask workmates to identify what they think your key skills and achievements are. Use these to help speed up the process when applying for jobs by tying these relevant phrases to frequently requested skills. Create a tailored base CV for each role type you're targeting, drawing out different elements of your skills as appropriate.

Expand your vocabulary: yes, right now you're a specialist librarian, but your skills are also incredibly wide-ranging and your employment prospects are too. You're experienced in doing targeted research: use those skills now on your own behalf - compile a list of search terms and work them on search engines! Develop a level of awareness of key potential employers, and start monitoring vacancies before you may think you’ll need to actually apply to anything - knowing how long jobs are advertised for, and how quickly after they appear they can disappear, can help focus you on being prepared and able to apply for jobs as quickly as possible after they’re advertised. Be organised about your applications: a spreadsheet helps manage and prioritise relevant jobs (and ensures you know when your submission deadlines are). It didn’t used to be easy, but it’s far more achievable now to move between a variety of sectors, as” information management” becomes more clearly recognised as a relevant skill, rather than being buried within the term “librarian”. Jobs I was interviewed for: Open Access Publications Assistant, eHealth Project Officer; Grants Officer; Awards Administrator; Research and Information Officer, Contracts Manager, Information Officer; Research and Information Specialist, Legal and Business Intelligence Analyst, and another Project Officer. And don’t rule out the Intelligence Services too - I won’t say how far I got in their application process, but let's just say your skills at assessing information sources and extracting relevant information from them are useful in all sorts of roles! ;)



During changes

Don’t be ignored: if your firm is merging, nobody will be sparing a thought for you, or about asking you to be involved in any discussions. This creates a huge risk that your department and team will be forgotten about in the frantic activity that goes on during the merger process. This is the point to start jumping up and down in front of the right people, with big signs pointing towards you that say “I’m wonderful!”. If you have a library partner, you can try and get them to ensure that you're involved in relevant discussions, but remember, you will never be their priority, they have a "core" team that they will be trying to ensure are safe first, before they can spare any time or energy to help you.

Focus your energy: In a merger I was involved in, we began the process of creating the business case for our retention in the new firm, but quickly decided to use our energy in looking for employment externally when we realised from discussions with the library staff on the other side that there was no intention of moving my team across.

Play nice: if your firm is merging/being taken over, make sure that the information professionals on the other side of the merger get all the information they need from you, as soon as possible. Spend any time needed to tidy up your materials, both physically and digitally - it's good manners and reflects well on you professionally, and at this point your professional reputation is one of your main assets. Contact your suppliers directly if you can: they will have questions about your subscriptions and services, and you can give them the appropriate information on who to contact, and a realistic assessment of the chances of them receiving payment or a subscription being continued. Again, being polite and helpful to people, especially when you don’t have to be, means that your professional reputation is enhanced with people who may be of use to you in future.



After changes

Professional support: this is the bad bit - there is none, in practical terms. You will watch as the lawyers are offered hardship funds and training support from their professional bodies and groups, and their professional bodies issue press releases to the media about how excellent they are, and how quickly they've all been re-employed, but there will be nothing equivalent for you from any of the professional bodies you may be a member of. Sympathy, yes, but no practical help. You’re on your own.

State support: the Job Centre staff will not be of any help. They do not know what to do with specialist librarians. Even your existence baffles them. Learn about the various rules, procedures, and entitlements available to you, but expect no actual, direct help: you're on your own. Again.

Network and talk: You will almost certainly feel traumatised by these processes, either insolvency or redundancy. Learn to separate your sense of worth from your employment - you are not responsible for what happened to you. Tell people what happened (while maintaining a professional "I don't blame anyone" front). Make people aware you need employment. Let them help you. Be active on LinkedIn (and be amused at the ridiculous amount of people who'll check out your profile during this period).



Now, this isn't a foolproof guide, just an attempt to give anyone facing what I've been through a bit of guidance, help, and support to know that it's survivable. Others who have been through similar situations have had input into this too, so hopefully, it's now as useful a collation of information as it can be.

And finally, just remember: illegitimi non carborundum.
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