A network for new and aspiring library professionals

Interview: Michael Cook – Public Health Evidence and Knowledge Specialist, Bolton Council

Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the library and information profession?

‘Librarian’ was never a career I had considered for myself even when I started on January 5th 2004 as resource assistant in a Health Promotion Unit/Primary Care Trust resource centre. My previous job before that was in pub management (The Old Three Crowns in Bolton town centre if anyone is interested – I can probably top almost any ‘problem customer’ stories!) so it was quite a departure from that – although my undergraduate degree was health-focused so that helped me gain a quick understanding of the health promotion fundamentals.
The short version between then and now – I got my first professional role at NHS Bolton in 2008 and in 2013 I became an embedded ‘Public Health Evidence and Knowledge Specialist’, which if nothing else shows the danger of letting people choose their own job title. Building a professional career from the ground up (and having the opportunity in a professional position before a professional qualification) is a very rare opportunity for which I am very grateful for and have always valued as it gave me a grounding in all aspects of the profession from counting leaflets in a mouldy basement to writing the library strategy and representing the profession on a wider scale. My current role is an embedded information specialist within a Public Health Intelligence Team in Bolton Council with some aspects of a public health specialist role mixed in.

You can make your own jokes about this one!

You can make your own jokes about this one!

You work as a Public Health Evidence and Knowledge Specialist, what transferrable skills have you brought to your role as Vice Chair of the CILIP NW member network?

I take great professional pleasure in enabling people to achieve something themselves, be it a user conducting a successful literature search or supporting a fellow professional to develop new skills and this is something I think is key for the role, both externally to the members but also internally within the steering group. I don’t like being part of autocratic group settings, either informally or formally and especially as chair. I like the concept of ‘leaders at all levels’ and hopefully that does come out in the work we are doing. It’s a bit of a non-brainer, but in my thirteen years in the profession, there isn’t a role or project that I have been involved in that I’ve not used my knowledge management or information skills in some way – and this is the same for my role as vice chair/incoming chair. It is about transfer of information in simple and more complex ways. I’ve also brought some of professional expertise into the role by undertaking a profiling the member network (with non-identifiable data of course!) to ensure that what we offer is as representative of the network as possible…and also marketed in the best possible way.

Please could you tell us about your involvement with CILIP North West? 

I have been a CILIP member since gaining a professional position in 2008. However, it was not until taking the vice chair role in late 2014 that I became active in the wider CILIP community. I had considered applying for a role within the Health Libraries Group – but instead chose the member network here in the North West. Although within health libraries in the north we have a very strong professional network (LIHNN), as a solo information professional, it can be quite easy to get cut-off from developments within the profession. Involvement with the professional network is an opportunity to stay informed across all sectors, whilst also serving the network, hopefully making positive contributions to the members of the network.

What does your current role in CILIP NW entail?

I am currently the Vice-Chair of the CILIP North West Member Network Steering Group and am the incoming chair for 2016/2017. Acknowledging that I am repeating myself a little bit, I think the role of chair is often to facilitate others rather than dictate – especially in something such as the member network where the other steering group members are voluntarily giving up time from their busy schedules. They are also professionals who are very capable with interest in the roles who don’t need, or I imagine appreciate, having their hand held. Another facet of the role is to be the link between CILIP central and both the steering group and member network as a whole to ensure messages and activities are communicated clearly. I also think it’s important for a chair of a group that represents such a wide range of people to be open and available (I don’t like the term figurehead, it seems pompous!) – so please get in touch if you have any comments or queries.

What can we look forward to from CILIP NW for 2016?

There is a lot of very excellent work that goes on in the network in both professional and more informal settings – just look at what you are doing here at NLPN – I feel an aspect of what CILIP North West does should do is to continue highlighting, enabling and supporting this alongside the professional development and professional registration events we’ve historically done here in the North West. So – if you have any events you want to shout about – let us know about it!

In April we have our Members Day which sounds very exciting. Our events team have been working very hard and have got a very interesting day planned. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on that later this year. Also we offer bursaries/financial support to events and conferences throughout. If you or anybody you know wants to attend anything in 2016 – get in touch!

What advice would you give to a new professional who is looking to gain CPD experience?

I think, as the NLPN team have shown, if you have a passion for a particular aspect or project (and if you can find likeminded individuals) just go for it! Manchester Girl Geeks are another brilliant example and I’m sure there are many more that I’ve not heard of. The days of professional development solely being a formal, top down approach are long, long gone (not to say it does not have its role). Another tip I would offer is that we, as a profession, have an incredible collection of transferable skills, and as such can be more flexible when looking at projects that can help us develop. Personally I’ve been involved in ‘non-library’ projects as varied as social prescribing and safe sleeping that have strengthened my skill set.


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This entry was posted on January 18, 2016 by in Interview and tagged , , .

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