A network for new and aspiring library professionals

#NLPNWinter : write up

Many thanks to Carly Rowley for sharing her experience of NLPN Winter with us.

Despite the Stark’s warning of ‘Winter is coming’, library information enthusiasts were not deterred from once again meeting up at MadLab in Manchester for the NLPN Winter event, on Saturday 18 February 2017. The NLPN founders are 100% committed to helping new library professionals develop their skill base and this was the central focus of the Winter event, in particular how we can develop our negotiation skills and the place of these skills in the information services sector. So with brews and biscuits, we were ready to start.

First in the line-up was Liam Earney, ‎Director of Jisc Collections and Head of Library support services. Liam’s team negotiate sector-wide deals (for over 160 HE/Research institutions) between organisations and publishers. After describing the role and function of Jisc Liam proceeded to discuss the key skills that Jisc are looking for when it comes to recruitment:

  • Often negotiations can be protracted, and individuals wanting to work for Jisc have to have the patience to see this through.
  • It is possible that negotiations can become heated, and sometimes aggressive. Individuals should be prepared for this possibility and demonstrate their ability to remain calm.
  • Individuals must demonstrate their ability to be empathetic and to understand this variety of challenging situations.
  • Communication and the ability to collaborate/be collegial. Teams are built on their ability to support each other. Communicating effectively and working well within a team, maintaining a sense of a common goal are all important skills.
  • Public-spirited. A key part to working within organisations such as Jisc is the ability to be doing more with less.
  • An enthusiasm for a complex role is important.

Liam providing a background to Jisc

Liam’s session provided a valuable opportunity to hear more about Jisc’s aims for supporting institutions and services, as well as hearing what it’s like to work for Jisc.

Second in the day was Shona Thoma, who works at the Irish Research Library (IReL) with some interactive sessions on planning negotiations with publishers. Shona’s session highlighted the importance of not being scared when it comes to negotiation skills – making deals with people is something we all do on a daily basis. Whether it’s making a compromise on who washes up and who makes dinner, or even treating yourself for completing a task, this skill is key to our daily interactions. Shona’s activities got us working together in groups and thinking about a variety of factors, including the context of the negotiation, the values of the organisation(s) involved in a negotiation, the terms and conditions of licenses being discussed and doing data preparation (such as collating usage statistics for the product, etc.). Shona spoke of the importance of maintaining your bargaining position, and the necessity of always examining the small print. Shona also provided an excellent list of tips for preparing to negotiate:

  • Do your preparation
  • Anchor and maintain a position
  • Ask questions
  • See the bigger picture
  • Reciprocate
  • Know your limit
  • Reflect on the negotiation
  • Take MOOC (Massive Open Online) courses!

Shona’s session was very stimulating and encouraged us to appreciate and have confidence in our skill base, both those skills that we have learned as part of this sector and the skills we learn in daily life. Shona’s session demonstrated that we can view negotiation in a less intimidating way.

Shona's skills

Shona’s slide showing skills & qualities needed for negotation

After lunch, the day moved toward the environment of HE institutions and the associated challenges. Sarah Roughley, as well as being an Academic Liaison Librarian for Business at the University of Liverpool, is also involved in the UKSG (UK Serials Group). Whilst this group started off as being associated with serials specifically, UKSG now has a much wider base to support and train those from the information sector. Their webinars are particularly helpful. Moreover, UKSG aims to facilitate appreciation and understanding between institutions and publishers by providing a neutral environment. This alone makes their position in the information services sector instrumental.

In addition to introducing us to UKSG and discussing collection development at the University of Liverpool, Sarah’s session also encouraged us to work through exercises to discuss how we might reply to academic staff under certain situations. Instances such as academics overhearing that we have a trial to a particular source were discussed, as well as how decisions are made for collection management. Empathy was a big factor here: academics are pressed for time and will often relay information requests quickly. Discretion and understanding were key points in dealing sensitively with such situations. Sarah’s session was very insightful, demonstrating the wide range of skills that are involved in the Academic Liaison librarian role. Moreover, it was reassuring for the attendees to receive positive feedback on our suggestions for dealing with academic requests.

Sarah's scenario exercise

Sarah’s exercise

Last but not least was Ciaran Talbot, Library Systems Manager from the University of Manchester. Ciaran gave us a very insightful look into the development of systems in libraries through the decades, from filing cards to the newer cloud-based (fancy-pants) systems such as Alma, where different databases can interact more seamlessly with each other. Ciaran’s visuals really helped to demonstrate what a library system is and its three-tier structure of – from top to bottom – Presentation, Logic and Data. Ciaran spoke of the move toward cloud-based systems being multi-layered: whilst it undoubtedly helps in terms of maintenance and storage, it also changes the role of a systems expert. We had a rather thrilling quick-fire acronym round with chocolate bars for the winners (I was very pleased with my Double Decker).


Ciaran also showed us how the systems team at Manchester are using ‘KanBan’, a Japanese system of project management. This highly visual method of managing workloads and prioritisation is working well for the team at present. I enjoyed Ciaran’s session: there is a misconception of what is involved when it comes to managing library systems, but Ciaran showed this is a constantly changing area. That message, along with the Rick Astley on Ciaran’s playlist, made for an enjoyable close to the day.

Some key messages that I took away from the day are:

  • Information Services new professionals have a great deal to offer a wide range of roles, and people want those skills!
  • To have confidence in our ability to negotiate
  • To be aware of the competing priorities of those involved in information provision and to have empathy for others
  • To seek out further (online) training, to continue to network, and to engage with organisations such as UKSG who do so much for this sector
  • Digital skills are really coming to the fore: it is worth bearing this in mind when looking at further training/professional development

I have attended two of NLPN’s events so far, and am always really impressed by their organisation and flair for picking really interesting people to run sessions. It is great to attend an event that is dynamic, open and accommodating, with people that are willing to assist you in furthering your own career in information services. I can’t wait to see what will be on next time!

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2017 by in NLPN events and tagged , , , , , , .

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