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Lunchtime lecture: Bringing ghost data back from the dead

How do we protect the corporate memory within an organisation? How do we turn hindsight into foresight? What corporate knowledge gap has been created as a result of digitisation? How can we prevent this happening again? And do we really understand the scale and impact of this issue?

These questions formed a lecture and discussion on Friday afternoon last week at the Open Data Institute for their Friday lunchtime lecture series #ODIFridays. Today’s session – Bringing Ghost Data back from the Dead. The lecture was given to us by Michael Weatherburn of Imperial College, who also works as a consultant with clients to unlock and optimise high-value corporate knowledge.

It’s hard to argue that we don’t live in an increasingly digital world but it is worth remembering that most organisations started digitising back in 2005, so many of them don’t know what they were doing beyond 10 years ago. If you think that 2005 wasn’t that long ago to put it into context, this time 12 years ago George W Bush and Tony Blair were in power, London was awarded the Olympic Games, YouTube was founded, the annoying, yet incredibly catchy Crazy Frog spent four weeks at number 1 in the charts, President Donald Trump married his current wife Melania and I was in Year 9 at secondary school…

Considering the changes we have experienced since then it might not come as a shock to think that the technology used to digitise back then isn’t as useful as it once was. Michael made an excellent point that technology has changed so much since that there has been a degradation of data which has led to real problems. Such as, CDs are no longer widely used and only have a lifespan of 10 years roughly, PDFs and other programmes are updating so frequently that older files can’t be accessed. More needs to be done to preserve this data for the corporate memory. And what about that information from 15, 20, 30 years plus- where is that? This leads to data incompleteness. And how do we access it when so many people are only taught how to research using digital and online methods?

One particular quote from Friday which stuck with me was “If it’s not on the internet it doesn’t exist”. Whilst not strictly true, how many of us can honestly say we would know where else to look and if we did, would we really bother? Thinking about the difficulty this can cause organisations looking for data pre-2005 is very interesting. This is where the importance of paper records comes in and access to pre-digital records from the British Library and Bodleian Library and the importance of archivists, records managers, librarians and knowledge professionals in preserving data, making it accessible and helping to avoid a knowledge gap.

During an equally fascinating questions section, the conversation covered legislation, data protection, open data formats, XML and the importance of keeping some paper records- or as someone pointed out carving it in stone like the Egyptians- still the most effective way to preserve information.

The #ODIFridays lecture gave me so much to think about that I’m in danger of writing an essay rather than a blog post… but don’t take my word for it, the seminar was live-streamed on twitter and can be found here: http://theodi.org/lunchtime-lectures/friday-lunchtime-lecture-bringing-ghost-data-back-from-the-dead

As we were talking about #makingdatagreatagain (hat-tip to Michael for an outstanding opening line!) on the walk back to the office, something that came to mind was the preservation of social media and the digital history of the Obama administration. How timely that this piece was tweeted  by The White House, providing a really nice insight into how we might start preserving data like this: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2017/01/05/new-lenses-first-social-media-presidency .

Out with the old, in with the new, or How to find a job in 2017

For some 2016 has been a stellar year, a year to be proud of. For others 2016 has been a year to forget. Wherever you fall on this continuum is irrelevant for what happens next, because a new year means new challenges and new possibilities. For all of us the focus should be 2017, a new year. What will that mean for you?

If 2017 means a new job then start things off on the right track. Begin early, don’t prevaricate, don’t find yourself with an hour to go before the deadline for your dream job and a CV which you haven’t looked at in years.

Here’s my advice:

Review

What have you done? What skills do you have? Why are you looking for a change?

Direction

Once you know where you’ve been and why you’re looking, you can work out what you are aiming for.

Plan

Once your direction is set and course laid out, you can engage (sorry I couldn’t resist a Star Trek homage when I saw one). What must you do to get where you want to go? What skills, experience and qualifications are you lacking? What connections do you need to make or, perhaps, refresh through some active networking? Also consider the nuts and bolts: how regularly does the type of job you want come up? Where are the jobs advertised? How and when will you carve out the time to look for them?

Prepare

This part is specific to you: do you need a new qualification, to join a group, to engage with your network, to update your CV? Whatever your planning told you to do next, work out when and how this can be done. Allot time for it. Book courses or events, and manage the process effectively.

All that is left is to start. Embrace the process, be positive, be rigorous, but most importantly be true to yourself and your aspirations.

Good luck and have a great 2017!

Who’s on the cover? Or, the sinfulness of cover letters

Recently a colleague asked me for my thoughts on cover letters and what I thought the pitfalls or Big Sins are when drafting one. This phrase struck me as odd because in my mind there is just one sin when it comes to cover letters and that is the mistake of assuming that one size fits all. It doesn’t! Then I thought, why are we approaching this subject so negatively, so instead of talking about bad practice relating to cover letters, and believe me I have seen many examples, let’s instead focus on how to write a good cover letter.

First of all, follow instructions. If you have been asked to write a cover letter to accompany your application are there any more instructions such as ‘explain why you have applied for this job’, or ‘in no more than 30 words …’, or ‘state where you saw the job advertised’? If there aren’t then no problem, but give yourself the best chance of success by following instructions.

Secondly, unless instructed otherwise, keep it to one page. The intention is to demonstrate that you can identify and deliver key information succinctly and effectively, so don’t cheat by reducing the font size and increasing your margins. Make it as easy as possible for the reader to pull out the details they are looking for, so work out what those are likely to be and then trust your judgement, rather than taking a kitchen sink approach.

This leads us to the question, what should I say? Unless instructed to the contrary, it is good practice to pick something like three key dimensions of the job you are applying for then write a separate paragraph summarising (again resist the kitchen sink) your relevant experience. You could do this by giving an example of a situation or a specific achievement highlighting your skills and expertise.

The cover letter is also a good opportunity to demonstrate a little of what you know about the organisation you are applying to, as well as to give a sense of what drives you by explaining briefly why you have applied for the job. For instance ‘I am drawn to working in a training-oriented role within an organisation that values effective user engagement, as your Student Satisfaction Survey suggests you do so well.’ This shows not only that you have done your research (brownie points), but also what a good match you are with the organisation’s broader values.

And that’s it. Don’t get caught up in the detail, write no more extensively than I have done here.

Yours sincerely,
Jeremy Clarke

First Salary Survey for the UK Market Research industry

The first complete salary survey specifically targeting the UK Market Research industry has been released by Sue Hill Recruitment (SHR), a market leading recruitment consultancy.

We’re delighted  to be able to release the first complete salary survey for the industry. As a leading recruitment specialist in this space SHR is ideally placed to conduct a salary survey on this scale. We are often asked for our advice on salaries, by both employers and candidates, and we hope this will prove to be a useful resource for market research professionals across the board.

The survey covers the full range of agency and client-side roles across all sectors and enables the benchmarking of salaries by location. This is the first time this information has been collated and presented together in the UK for the market research, insight and analysis industry.

Download the salary survey here!

Or request a hard copy by contacting me on charlotte.arab@suehill.com or 020 7378 5469.

Showing off some lovely libraries

You may have noticed that we have a bit of a new-look on the homepage this week. We’ve changed some of our main images to show off some of the lovely libraries we work with.

We’d like to say a big thank you to the The Library of Birmingham and photographer Christian Richters for the image of their RIBA award-winning library.

An equally big thank you goes to King’s College, London for the use of the image of the splendid Maughan Library (which will always have a special place in my heart as it opened the same year I started my undergraduate degree there).

If you’d like see to see your library (or archive, or other exciting workplace) on our homepage, we’re happy to take requests. Just send the details over to me (gemma.wood@suehill.com) and let us know who to credit the image to.

Sue Hill and TFPL Salary Survey 2016-17

2016 has been quite an eventful year so far and early indications are that 2017 will bring more of the same. It’s an interesting time to be releasing a salary survey, poised as we are on the brink of what will probably be some major changes to the UK economy in the post-Brexit world. With so much uncertainty in the air, it will be the knowledge and information professionals we’ll turn to for answers.

Once again, our salary survey covers information-related roles across all sectors and enables salary bench-marking by discipline and location as well as sector. We’ve made a few improvements since last year in response to your feedback – please let us know what you think by emailing jobs@suehill.com.

Download the 2016-17 salary survey here!

Introducing – 95 Aldwych

Our new address looks rather good we think.
We think our new address looks rather good.

September is traditionally the start of the academic year – and despite having been out of full time education for more years than I care to admit, I still think of it as a time to buy stationery, crack out a new notebook and pen and head to the library.

This year, I’ve got that urge even more than usual as SHR, TFPL and ILX Recruitment have left Borough Towers behind and moved into 95 Aldwych, just over the road from my alma mater King’s College, London. In fact, I very nearly went into the university instead of work this morning. If I remember rightly it was metaphysics at 10am on a Monday (though the timetable may have changed).

Fortunately I recollected myself and joined the rest of the team in time to claim my desk. We’re all looking forward to getting out to visit our candidates and clients here and getting to know the area a bit better – do feel free to share any local recommendations with us!

We’re hoping to be able to invite you all over for a ‘housewarming’ at some point soon – but for the moment we’re still busy assembling furniture and rediscovering things in boxes.

A day to celebrate reading

National Days sometimes seem to get a little out of hand. One day last week, for example, was National Watermelon Day – good only for the sharing of the Dirty Dancing “I carried a watermelon” quote. But today is one of which we most heartily approve. It is National Book Lovers Day, according to Twitter at least.

It’s never too early to start encouraging a love of books and for that we say a big than

Read - the BFG Dream Jar by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall
Read – the BFG Dream Jar by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall

k you to all the public libraries that don’t blink an eyelid when children’s books are returned with soggy, chewed corners and ripped pages. Books should look lived in and loved. Then comes school and the hard task of learning to read, which does rather remove the fun of it for some little people – you can see the real physical effort that goes in to reading a whole sentence and the pride that comes with it. One of my god-daughters, aged 10 (where does the time go?), is a huge Roald Dahl fan and we spent the weekend exploring the fantastic BFG Dream Jars trails across London. This one, Read, is by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and was the one we really wanted to see. The Duchess is an active advocate of reading and literacy, becoming Patron of Roald Dahl 100 (https://www.royal.uk/duchess-cornwall-becomes-patron-roald-dahl-100) and of wonderful organisations such as the National Literacy Trust and Book Trust (http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/features/literacy).

Everything that encourages young people to read is to be applauded wildly and loudly and librarians are a huge part of that. And when those wonderful, kind-hearted library professionals turn into authors… Ok, disclaimer time, the person I’m about to mention is my cousin. I hope you’ll forgive me. I think it’s fair to say that library and information professionals are big advocates of continuing professional development, of pushing themselves to do more, learn more and be even more helpful, all in pursuit of helping their library users. Imagine writing a book that will magically appear on your own library shelves and having a wonderful time visiting schools and public libraries to talk about writing and about reading and about magic. James Nicol (http://www.jamesnicolbooks.com/) has done just that – he works for Cambridgeshire Libraries as Development Manager, having worked as Adult Stock and Promotions Manager too, and has published his first book, The Apprentice Witch, which is delighting children and adults alike. I think he must have magical powers to fit everything in to his day. But librarians are magical people…

IRMS Conference 2016 – My Spider-Sense is tingling

IRMS pic“Holy Conference aftermath Batman! What are we going to do now?” – A week on from the 2016 IRMS Conference and this is the question occupying my thoughts.

We were back to Brighton this year, after 2015’s sojourn in South Wales, and the sun shone for us through what was a terrific conference. This year’s theme of Information Superheroes was an inspired choice, and one that was warmly embraced by many, speakers and delegates alike. I certainly wasn’t expecting to look up from the buffet cart to find Mr Spock staring back at me, or retreating from a handshake with Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, to find a pair of IRMS cufflinks in my palm. At times it felt more like Comic Con than IRMS16.

It wasn’t all fun and japes though as we bid farewell to Scott Sammons as the IRMS Treasurer and to Meic Pierce Owen as Chair after two good years at the helm. But on the flipside Scott is not going far, as he was hailed in as the new IRMS Chair. Those that saw Scott’s talk on Data Guardians of the Galaxy will be looking forward to hearing more of his ideas (and his soundtrack) as Chair. While we’re on the subject of new roles, here’s a big shout out to Ren Leming who took over as Conference Director this year, Ren, it felt like you’d been doing it for years, well done to you and everyone else at the IRMS.

My highlights, in no particular order, were:

Paul Duller’s imaginative talk; How do you become an Information Superhero? (… lessons learnt from 80 years of comic books and films). We already knew Paul was a Dr, an expert witness, and an expert in the world of oil and gas, but what most of us probably didn’t know until last week was that he is also a flourishing film director and quiz show host. Paul’s talk was not only fun but really got to the beating superhero heart of this year’s theme, underlining how info pros in all sectors champion the values of our superhero idles in their everyday working lives.

Another winner for me was Alison Marshall, who’s Keynote on Tuesday painted a picture of the information management environment in Jersey. In her on-the-nose tour of how to do it right, and how to do it oh-so-wrong, I was left thinking, ‘who knew there were so many flooded records stores?’

I also greatly enjoyed listening to Lesley Holmes and Bilal Ghafoor deliver provocative and interactive talks as part of the Job Market and Recruitment Café on Tuesday. Lesley eloquently pinpointed some interesting recruitment trends that I’ve been noticing in recent months and Bilal weighed in with some great advice (and terrific anecdotes) on how to approach your job hunt, from start to finish.

That was by no means the end of the great speakers, but I’m sure everyone will appreciate the need to leave some space for our excellent after dinner speaker following Monday’s Gala Dinner. He started out in life as a coal-miner, then entertained us all as King Richard IV, Prince Vultan and Grampy Rabbit, and then reached new heights by climbing Mount Everest (three times) and has his gaze firmly fixed on outer space. He was of course, the one and only …

… Brian Blessed. And what a show he gave us. But between the laughs and the incredible acting snippets, Brian’s great success on Monday night was to remind us again of our conference theme. Brian is a force of nature, someone who won’t be told something can’t be done, and for this he should be a role model for us all. Throughout the conference many people spoke of the resilience of superheroes.  Well, superheroes are not the only ones who must show resolve in the face of adversity.

So from me, thank you Brian, thank you IRMS and thank you to all those who attended and shared their ideas, questions, opinions and experiences! My only reservation, not nearly enough Bonnie Tyler references? I’m off to look for the street-wise Hercules.

Careers, Aberdeen and sunshine

It is a smidge over 500 miles from SHR & TFPL Towers to RGU in Aberdeen so I declined the option to walk…instead opting for a handy little flight out of London City Airport. And so it was that I found myself very far north in glorious sunshine to take part in CILIP Scotland’s careers event hosted by the lovely Keith Fraser at Robert Gordon University. I arrived just in time for the last session before lunch. Helen Berry, Development Officer at CILIP, and Claire Johnson, Chair of IRMS Scotland Group, encouraged delegates to get involved in professional associations and make the most of membership benefits to enhance their careers and to get networking. After lunch we heard from Robert Ruthven, Director of Library Services at Glasgow Caledonian University and Joe Chapman, Information Management at Aberdeenshire Council and IRMS Communications Officer – both of whom talked us through their respective careers and how and why they chose their career paths. It’s always interesting and, I think, reassuring, to hear people’s motivations for taking and leaving jobs. There was a real emphasis on transferable skills and on identifying differences and similarities in sectors in order to market yourself to prospective employers. It was also incredibly motivating to everyone in the room to hear from Robert about his experience of recruiting library staff and how encouraging he is of transferable skills.

After some honest discussion and sharing of experiences, I stepped up to the front to finish off the day talking about using social media to enhance your professional profile. My top tips are to check out our TFPL blog for advice on preparing your LinkedIn profile and then to hop over to Twitter and follow @suehillrec, @tfpl_ltd@CILIPScotland and, of course, @orkneylibrary. This should sort you out nicely.

Thank you, Sean McNamara and CILIP Scotland, for asking me to be part of the day. I hope to be back in Scotland again soon!

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