Last Wednesday I went on a tour of the Guildhall library, as organised by CLSIG.  Although I have often walked past the Guildhall when I worked near Moorgate, I never even knew the Guildhall library existed, and I was even more surprised to find out that it is a public reference library. I assumed that it would be a private corporate library, as it is run by the City of London Corporation.

TourJeanie, the librarian who gave us the tour, was extremely knowledgeable about the long history of the library and its most precious collections, and she made the tour very enjoyable. By the way, if you would like to go on the tour yourself (which I highly recommend) there are scheduled public tours of the Guildhall library available via their website.

The first Guildhall library was opened as long ago as 1425, and was originally for students of theology – which is about as different an image as the current City of London Corporation as you can get! Unfortunately in 1549 the Duke of Somerset ordered for all of the Guildhall library books to be taken to his new palace on the Strand, and that was the end of the first Guildhall library. The current Guildhall library currently has only one known book from the original collection, which is a 13th century manuscript of the bible.

London collectionThe City of London Corporation opened the next Guildhall Library in 1828, which became a public library in 1973. Unfortunately, during the Blitz of WW2 the library stores were hit and 25,000 books were lost. Jeannie showed us some black and white photos of the aftermath, and it was devastating – the building had no roof and the floor was nowhere to be seen under the mountains of rubble.

The current Guildhall library was opened in 1974. It provides a modern business library with all of the key electronic databases, primarily aimed at helping those who wish to start up or develop their own business, as well as holding the largest library collection in the world devoted to the history of a single city (London).  Memorable picturesIt has over 7km of shelving in the bookstore, which was an absolute warren of bookcases so that I made sure to stay with the group and not get left behind to never find my way out again! Even the staff have trouble navigating the maze, and they have placed memorable pictures  on to the sides of bookcases to help themselves find their way around (trust me to spot a Disney picture!).

The Guildhall library specialised in London history and has some very special collections of bodies that used to, or still do, operate in the City of London; such as the Livery Company, the London Stock Exchange, organisations that specialised with gardening, clockmaking, archery, as well as anything to do with business history.  Due to its historical collection of trade body materials and directories it is also often used to trace family history, as well as by London historians.

Court of Exchange from 1698

Court of Exchange from 1698

Jeanie kindly showed us some special items from the historical collection, including the Court of the Exchange (or the first London stock exchange) from 1698 which only used to be published twice a week (and has items such as “pieces of eight” listed!), and a copy of a chained bible published in 1589 and previously owned by Tylers and Bricklayers’ company (see picture below).

The library obviously has an extremely varied user group from business entrepreneurs to historians, which was reflected in its modern technology and the latest online resources for business, as well as its archive of London materials and 13th century manuscripts. It was a really interesting library tour, and reminds me of how broad and varied our profession truly is.

Chained bible

Brighton Pier

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the annual BIALL conference as SLA Legal Division’s representative. Many professional associations invite delegates from other associations (and particularly international ones) to their conferences, and this certainly fitted in with the theme of this year’s conference – Collaboration, Cooperation and Connectivity.

Me on brighton beachAnd rather unexpectedly this theme came to life for me in the social interaction and niceties of the conference. Now, having a few conferences under my belt, contacts and friends in the profession, and some years’ professional experience, I absolutely loved and thrived on the social networking opportunities that the BIALL conference offered. I began the conference by attending the infamous Justis party held on Brighton Pier with the first (of many) offerings of fish and chips, which was so much fun and a great way to meet other people as it was a smaller, more intimate setting than the big formal events of the conference.

PrenaxThere was also the exhibition hall with vendors, who had many games and prizes to be won as well as copious amounts of cake and sweets to be eaten (the vendors had well and truly done their research on librarians!). BIALL also came up with a Magna Carta quiz to celebrate the 800th anniversary, which required you to visit each vendor in order to get an answer to the quiz. This was a great ice breaker to approach vendors with, and I really enjoyed speaking to them and learning of the new and upcoming products out there. It’s also good to put faces to names, when we have worked with vendors either by email or telephone but have never met in person – I feel it makes a huge difference to your working relationship.

Brighton MuseumAnd of course, when we talk of social networking we cannot leave the formal evening events out! The first night was held at the Brighton  Museum and Art Gallery, which was full of the weird and wonderful, and in some cases quite frankly disturbing. The exhibitions served as great talking points, as were the fish and chips served up in small individual bowls, which logistically proved difficult to eat while holding a gin cocktail at the same time (first world/librarian problems!).

The final evening was the formal President’s reception and annual dinner held at the Hilton itself (it was lovely only having to totter down the stairs in high heels and not to walk to a different venue), and this was the highlight of the conference for me.

Myself and Helen

Dancing the night away – Helen and I

Being the SLA rep meant that I had a place at the head table with BIALL committee members and some of the other international delegates. Some of the members I already knew and some I didn’t, so it was really lovely to get to know the individuals I had heard of but had never met in person, and to catch up with old friends. It was also particularly special to see my friend and fellow SLA member Anneli Sarkanen receive the Wildy Law Librarian of the Year Award, which was thoroughly deserved and was given to a very stunned and modest Anneli! The awards were followed by dancing the night away, and I was reminded of the SLA IT dance parties I have attended previously and the great community feel that it evokes. It’s just so nice that everyone celebrates the end of the conference by getting up, having a dance and singing loudly to well known classics. An evening which confirms in my mind that I am certainly in the right profession!

The third and final speaker for this event was Ian Hunter, from Shearman and Sterling, who spoke on information literacy in the work place, and in particular in a law firm. Obviously this session was of the most relevance to my work, but I also thought it provided a nice flow to the evening following Nancy’s talk on HE and considering how the information literacy needs of law graduates change from HE to becoming a trainee solicitor at a firm.

Ian Hunter presentingWhen a trainee joins a law firm they tend to undergo an extensive training programme, of which the library is usually a part. Ian reported that at his firm they still demonstrate Westlaw and Lexis Library (the 2 main legal databases used for UK case law and legislation) and a treasure hunt through the physical resources (which is very similar to what we do at my firm), but Ian is now also providing training on how to use Google and other business sources, with less emphasis on Westlaw and Lexis.

The marketing or business development teams, as well as junior lawyers, are increasingly asking the library for economic information, and Google is an important resource to conduct this search with. Ian has been offering training on Google and demonstrating the advanced search, which has been very well received. This also touches on something Nancy Graham mentioned in her presentation – if you know your users are more likely to be using Google (particularly the ‘Google generation’) rather than the authoritative subscriptions you promote to them, then you might as well work with their current way of searching and teach them how to best use Google and teach them to critically analyse the sources they find on Google. In the legal sector, there is a tendency for lawyers to simply Google for a piece of UK legislation, which they are most likely to find on legislation.gov.uk – but most of them will fail to realise that the legislation on this website is not kept up to date and cannot be relied on. That is why law firms subscribe to databases such as Westlaw and Lexis Library, which are updated daily and provide added value with analysis and links between related cases and legislation. However, if we provide training on how to use Google for business development information, then we can use the opportunity to highlight that for legal information they should be using primary sources that we subscribe to, and not Google.

PanelOne thing Ian reported as an issue for more senior lawyers is the information overload problem. Ian raised an interesting point that clients take it as a given that they are going to receive high quality legal advice; what they are really looking for are lawyers with an understanding of their business and the industry that they operate in, and so the research the library is increasingly being asked to undertake is business development rather than legal information. Furthermore, information retrieval is playing less of a role and the pushing out of business and industry information via alerts and updates is becoming more important. However, as a result, the number of alerts and emails can be overwhelming and information overload is a problem. There a number of third party services that offer solutions to this, combining numerous alerts in to one daily email.

Ian also touched upon knowledge management and how important it is in the legal sector. There are issues where younger layers expect the internal knowledge management system to behave like Google, and Ian wondered whether making lawyers use filters and tags to search for information rather than creating their own free text search is a good thing for information literacy – as a searching strategy it doesn’t help if they are looking for something obscure. Ian referred to an article published in the Law Society Gazette entitled “Net Surfing Lawyers Warned of Compliance Risk”, and how as a result BIALL published their Legal Information Literacy Statement which was picked up by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), who then launched an education and training review. Professional bodies may have a role to play in information literacy and providing reward or accreditation for attending information literacy sessions. Ian concluded by summarising that there is a lack of information literacy in the corporate world, and that teaching needs to focus more on the choice of sources rather than the mechanism of searches.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and engaging evening – there were lots of questions for the panel, and lots of drinks and nibbles for the networking afterwards. Myself and my colleague were already excitedly discussing offering Google training as we left the lcture theatre, hoping to offer it in team meetings and possibly introduce it to our trainee training too. If you have any thoughts or ideas about information literacy, whether in the legal sector or elsewhere I would love to hear them!

Nibbles and networking

Nibbles and networking

This is the second post in a series reporting on the evening event I attended on information literacy in the work place. The second speaker was Nancy Graham from the London School of Economics, who’s presentation was titled “It’s the (knowledge) economy, stupid”, which I thought was great. Nancy focused on how higher education (HE) libraries help to equip future graduates with high level skills for their future jobs.

Nancy introduced the topic by referring to the Leitch Report (2006) and the Wilson Review (2012), which both examine the move from a traditionally industrialist and manual work force to an increase in university students and an increasing high level workforce and ‘knowledge economy’. There is a pressure on universities to attract students by persuading them how the university will prepare them for work in such a way that they will be able to obtain good work easily. Libraries play an important part of this; obviously playing a central role in helping them research for their current studies, but also in how they can help students to become information literate for after they graduate for their future job roles. Nancy spoke of the balance between helping them to enjoy their studies and learning in the moment, and the need to prepare them for the world of work without turning them in to mini-librarians themselves. I am sympathetic to this, remembering how the last year of my degree I was very focused on finding a job and how I could improve my employability, and it did take away the enjoyment of purely studying philosophy and English for the joy of it. It is a fine balance to strike.Nancy Graham presenting

Nancy commented that improving the employability of students is a university wide collaboration, and as such the different university departments such as the careers department and the library should all work together to accomplish this. This is particularly successful when the information literacy becomes embedded in the course, with maybe 3 information literacy sessions a year being taught by librarians. However this requires the support of the teaching faculty, and some are more supportive than others! I found this a very interesting parallel, as this is very similar to the challenges we face in a law firm; trying to get the support of the leading partners of a department (e.g. Banking) so that we can attend their team meetings and offer refresher training and promote library services to encourage lawyers to make full use of our resources and to ensure they are conducting legal research in an efficient way. Their time is very valuable (lawyers tend to charge clients hourly), and so we have to demonstrate the return on investment for them if they give us half hour of their time to providethem with training, how much time (and consequently money) they will save in the future by searching more efficiently. And similarly to Nancy, and I am sure in all library settings, there will be some stakeholders that are more supportive than others, and it is a constant challenge to get everyone on board.

And this links back nicely to Stephane’s concluding point (see post 1) – we need to speak to stakeholders in a language they understand, in terms of a return on investment. For universities, it is how the library and information literacy education will improve the employability of students, which will as a result attract new potential students to attend their university. For lawyers, we need to speak in terms of time and money, and with regards to the choice of information sources, the quality of work that we provide to our clients.

Post 3 on Ian Hunter’s presentation to follow soon!

One of my work objectives for this year is to review our induction process to see if we can improve it in any way, and so I was thrilled to see SLA Europe and the Information Literacy group (ILG) co-host an event called  Information Literacy in the Workplace.

The structure of the event was 3 speakers each with a different focus, followed by a Q&A session with the panel and then networking with nibbles – hosted at the University of Liverpool on Finsbury Square in London. Since there were three separate presentations, I think it would be most useful to do 3 different posts in order to do each of the speakers and their presentations justice. So stay tuned for more posts to follow!

Information Literacy in the WorkplaceThe first speaker was Stephane Goldstein from InformAll, who spoke about the value of information literacy to employers. InformAll is an initiative to promote the value of information and research data literacy from within and beyond the higher education (HE) sector, and to try and work with the both the HE sector and employers. Stephane commented that information literacy is relevant to employment settings, even if employers do not recognise it explicitly, or recognise it but by another name (such as digital literacy). In the workplace, information literacy is important for information and knowledge management, the ability to make sound judgements regarding information and data sharing, as well as contributing to skills that employers value highly such as problem solving, critical thinking and research skills.

Stephane spoke on people being key information resources themselves, and being able to tap in to their expertise and accumulated knowledge of the organisation they work for is important for their colleagues. Stephane used the example of people working in the nuclear industry, but this is every much prevalent in the legal sector where knowledge management is incredibly important in saving the lawyers time, and consequently money. For example, if a lawyer needs a particular type of agreement, he or she will most likely search their firm’s knowledge management system for a precedent or an example of the agreement that has already been used by the firm before, rather than write one from scratch. But re-using and making the most of the knowledge of colleagues is important for employers and organisations from all sectors, but the existence of a formal knowledge management system to capture this information and make it discoverable is not necessary as widespread as it should be.

Finally, Stephane spoke of the importance of talking to employers in a language they understand – if they are more aware of the concept of digital literacy, rather than information literacy, then use that terminology instead. Explain how information literacy relates to factors important to them; such as by providing operational efficiency, providing them with competent and confident staff, and aiding their success in the marketplace by having accurate and timely information. I feel that this advice to demonstrate a return on investment and speak in their language in terms they understand and deem valuable is very important; whether you are trying to persuade a stakeholder of the value of information literacy or whether you are trying to obtain their support for something else. It was an interesting talk that certainly set up the next 2 speakers’ sessions very well, one of which spoke about information literacy of students before they enter the workplace, and one who spoke about information literacy within the corporate workplace, and specifically within a law firm.

Posts on these talks to follow soon!

Info Literacy in the Workplace

Calling all new professionals and library students! Apply for the SLA Europe ECCA award now! Winning the ECCA award was life changing, and certainly career changing. All applications must be received no later than Friday 20th February 2015, 23:59 GMT. Winners and unsuccessful applicants will be notified no later than Friday 27th March 2015.

See full details here for 2015: http://www.sla-europe.org/early-career-conference-award/


Guys, guys, the deadline for the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Awards 2014 is just before midnight on Valentine’s Day. Forget your lovers and apply.

@pennyb @pennyb

I have won other conference bursaries, because I am a lucky sod and I work hard on my applications, but this is the one.

This is what happened when I won: I met amazing people, I went to California (I’m very narrowly travelled, there’s never been the money for going to the US or similar), I hung out with my fellow ECCA crew, I fell in love with the SLA Europe guys (especially current SLA president Kate Arnold, who is awesome), I watched ridiculous ceremonies and ate a sandwich bigger than my head, I was confused beyond belief about legal knowledge management stuff, learned about amazing library roles and I made contacts on escalators.

SLA is the Glastonbury of conferences. It’s huge, it’s spangly…

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Wow – when I look back at my blog post a year ago to see if I stuck to any of my resolutions, I cannot believe it has already been a year! Yet at the same time, so much has happened since then.

Life, in it’s wonderfulness, is unpredictable. And as such, some of the objectives I set myself didn’t quite happen. On the other hand, 2014 was an absolutely brilliant year for me that may be difficult to top; I achieved my life-long ambition of winning an Irish Dancing Prelimiary Championship; I became Secretary for SLA Europe and I was generously awarded with a travel grant to help me attend the SLA conference in Vancouver, Canada; I went on holiday of a lifetime to Thailand; I achieved CILIP Chartership status and I also took a new exciting job opportunity.

New job

Last May, I made the very big decision of taking on a new role at Norton Rose Fulbright, and leaving a permanent position with a great team at Trowers & Hamlins to do so. I have been remiss in not comparing the two roles and what I have learnt in my new job, so I will make sure to do so in a separate blog post very soon. But as such, some of 2014’s work-related resolutions became irrelevant, and I now need to set some new ones!

SLA Europe members

SLA Europe members

SLA conference in Vancouver

Attending the SLA conference in Canada was absoluely fantastic. Vancouver is a place of breaktaking beauty with a constant backdrop of dramaic mountains. I am so pleased I had the opportunity to visit Canada for the first time as a tourist, as well as obviously attending my second annual conference; from which I learned much more by being a working professional with some experience, in contrast to my first SLA conference experience as a library school student .

I would like to set a resolution of attending at least one conference in 2015, but this may depend on finances later in the year. I would also love to attend SLA’s annual conference in 2016, but as I am trying to save for my first property, again, we will have to just wait and see.

Chartership certificateChartership

One of my biggest achievements in 2014 was obtaining CILIP chartership. It took me a year of working on my chartership portfolio every day on my lunch break, and many meetings with my amazing mentor Sam Wiggins, but I finally got there, and looking over my portfolio I am so proud of my work. I think the sense of achievement I have is due to the amount of work and time I put in to it, and it is well worth it! Being chartered means I am looking at my role and how I fit into the library service and the larger workpace different and more strategically, as well as constantly looking for professional development opportunities for myself.

As I had such a fantastic mentor, I am going to aim to become a mentor myself in 2015 so that I can help others through the process. I am also going to work on revalidating my chartership for the summer.

Public speaking

After presenting at the BIALL conference in 2013, I was afraid that if I didn’t present again in 2014 that I would lose this skill, which took me many long and pianful hours to hone! So I volunteered to present at the CLSIG, BIALL and SLA Graduate Open Day again in 2014. I intended to write a post on how this went, but sadly this never happened (due to conference and changing job, etc.) I used mostly the same presentation slides, and it went very smoothly. I think it was an improvement on the presentation that I gave the year before as I was more confident, I didn’t speak so quickly, and my jelly legs were gone (see my original post for full jelly legs symptoms!). I still had to practice my presentation in the mirror a few times before the real thing, and I still had some nerves on the day but I thought it went really well.

In my new job I am required to present an induction once a month to new joiners, so I hope that this will keep my presentation skills in practice.

Non-professional goals

I would like to attend a yoga class for the first time. When I pass the yoga classes in my gym, they are generally full of very fit-looking and flexible people, so I have always been too intimated to try it. However, I have heard so many positive things about it, and I have a bad back, so I have decided that 2015 is the year I need to get over it and at least try a class! I would also like to get fitter and healthier generally, and go to the gym more and eat better.

This year, I am going to try and save money so that in 2016-7 we can buy a property. This sadly means no big holidays this year. As a result, I am going to write a list of places I want to visit in the UK, and have a go at visiting at least some of them. Any suggestions of places to go would be very welcome.


I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2015!