Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Jobs and interviews...

OK - it's high time I stopped neglecting you, dear CPD23 blog and faced up to Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview (ugh!).

Image courtesy of

To get the hard bit out of the way first, interviews are not a favourite subject of mine, it's fair to say. I can see the need for them, of course; when recruiters advertise, they seek a person with just the right set of skills, character and experience to fit seamlessly into their organisation. It's not the sort of thing that can be done without meeting a candidate, scrutinising them and generally make them squirm! What I struggle with a bit is the performance element of it - the retelling of experiences I have learnt from in a way which has a clear beginning, middle and end. I prepare these in advance, naturally and the C.A.R. or "Context. Action. Results." formula is a useful one.  'Mr Library Dude' Joe Hardenbrook also has some top tips when it comes to interviews and particularly the awkward business of knowing what questions to ask. Over the years, I have practiced interviews with friends and family and have made the most of careers sessions offered my various workplaces, professional organisations like CILIP (of course!) and the Universities I attended (tip: it's really handy that many Universities will still offer Careers guidance long after graduation). Despite this, I still don't find interviews in any way easy but importantly have not let that put me off from applying. 

Something I would ask of anyone who conducts interviews who is reading this is to give genuine consideration in the feedback you give to candidates who are unsuccessful. There is no obligation too provide detailed feedback, it's true and this article goes so far as to suggest that it is those unsuccessful candidates who react badly when given feedback which greatly reduces the likelihood of employers being prepared to offer such feedback in future. The chances are, though that anyone who is serious about the job will have gone to great lengths to prepare for their interview and may have made significant sacrifices in the process. Those who have missed out tend to appreciate it more if those on the panel take time to offer honest feedback about specific areas where they did not do so well. Letting the candidate know how they can improve the next time around is infinitely more helpful than standardised platitudes to all candidates about just how marvelously well they did anyhow - or, worst of all, offering no feedback. 

I really enjoyed the musings of Library Wanderer (no relation) on job applications. I can definitely relate to the comments about having had to reformat my CV from an old version of Word when updating this and can attest to the fact that "A-levels and degrees are listed in orders unfathomable to the average human being" on many online application forms. Revisiting my CV after several years was something I did recently when starting to put my Chartership folder together. I got a lot of good advice about this from some of the Careers sources mentioned above (putting the work stuff before the education stuff, now that I have had a few years experience, as one example).

Thing 21 done and dusted, I continued my series of library visits around the East London area recentlyfocusing on mobile libraries this time:

 Paleys upon Pilers in Aldgate - created in celebration of Geoffrey Chaucer

To give a bit of context, mobile libraries in the UK are in decline, it has to be said and it is those in rural areas and the elderly who are being disadvantaged the most by this. There were around 700 bookmobiles in Britain in 1990 but by 2010 this figure had reduced to 430. It is estimated there are now around 120 fewer mobile libraries still in 2012. the UK's foremost authority on Mobile Libraries is a (now retired) librarian named Ian Stringer, the man who has, quite literally, written the book on the subject. I had the pleasure of attending an event a on behalf of the International Library and Information Group (ILIG) a couple of years ago. During his talk, Ian gave a brief overview of all the mobile libraries in existence, including donkey libraries, elephant libraries and even camel libraries – some of which are extraordinarily sophisticated, incorporating solar panels and satellite dishes for internet access. Ian also explained just what on Earth a Catepillar Library is and how he brought these to poor farming communities in South Africa. 
Some day, I would certainly like to go and visit the elephant libraries of Laos & Thailand or the Bangladeshi boat libraries. For now, though (with the busy academic term in full swing) I have been a bit limited in the time available for travel. Nevertheless, I did get to visit probably one of the most interesting mobile libraries available here in the UK, namely The Bicycle Library. This converted bus is now enjoying its second incarnation, having originally launched near London Fields, Hackney in September 2010. The bike bus is now based in the shadow of the Olympic Park, very near Hackney Wick station. It is primarily a bike hire service but the upper deck contains a growing selection of books, magazines, flyers and artwork on the subject of bicycles in their various forms (folding, minivelo, fixedgearsinglespeed, Utility, Cargo, Electric... you get the idea):

(Some of the library's books can be seen in the upper deck's windows)
The City of London's only mobile library was set up as a stop-gap solution following the closure of the Camomile Library: 

Inside the City of London's Mobile Library  - with colourful book reports on the walls!
The library would tour schools, hosting reading challenges and other fun activities for kids. Free reservations for collection from the bookmobile were offered as an incentive for former Camomile users and others in the City to join up. Staff working on the bus claim this has proved effective in the retention their users - as one staff member working on the bus put it, "once you lose library users, then they don't tend to ever come back". The importance of ensuring temporary measures are in place to prevent active memberships receding where library services are being transformed is, I feel, a lesson which many local authorities have yet to learn. For anyone wanting to visit this mobile library.. well sadly you have missed out, I'm afraid as it closed at the end of October. This is to enable preparation of a new permanent library to be opened next month in nearby Artizan Street. 
Picture courtesy of Artizan Street Library - City of London Libraries Facebook Page
...but that's not all so far as the CPD23 Things goes, just yet.. for me, anyhow.. and it's good to see plenty of others also still working their way through! 'Fraid my priorities have been elsewhere of late, not least with the SOS Brent Libraries project (more about that to follow in Thing 22) but I vow that I will get there in the end.* 

(*..before November 30, in fact, as I want my certificate!)

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog, I learn a lot about job interviews. I can used this in my Australian employment that I found in Jobstar. I hope that I can get a job on that country because they have a good payment jobs.