Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Future past: researching archives in the digital age

Last week I took part in this research symposium at the Institute of Historical Research in London. It was a great opportunity to find out what other archives are doing about digitization and born digital records, and how academic users of archives are finding their experience. It was a really interesting day, and my notes go on for pages, so I'm going to attempt to pull out some of the common themes that emerged. There were many opportunities during the day to ask questions, get feedback and talk to others, so my notes are a mixture of speakers and thoughts/ideas found from networking.

The hashtag was #digfuturepast and the symposium was recorded and should be available soon on the IHR website.

Barriers to using digital material

  • Paying for content. Digitization is expensive but academic users are used to having "free" access to collections (actually paid for by their institution). Yet, the digitization has to be paid for somehow, whether through institutions funding it themselves, grant funding or commercial companies providing a paid-for service (eg Ancestry) 
  • Making copies available. Gone are the days when a student or academic would come into an archive every day for a week or a month to do their research. Pressures of time mean they want to make the most of a single visit and be able to take copies away with them or download copies to use at home, yet it is impossible to digitize everything, and there are various reasons why copies may not be allowed at all, eg copyright, commercial sensitivity or preservation.
  • Poor documentation and/or OCR mean that researchers can't find what they're looking for. They may miss relevant items in a plethora of search results, or not get the result they need at all. A reliance on keyword searching misses the opportunity to search the collection more widely and loses the connection between archival sources.
  • Lack of a seamless user experience make it hard to use the material eg legacy systems, different systems for library/archive material, system not optimised for finding archival material.
  • Information literacy issues. We can't always assume that researchers will know how to search in our system, so we need to equip them with the tools to do this. We also need to address the common misconceptions found below.

  • Misconceptions about online access to archives

    • Any online resource is complete and comprehensive. Many only represent a tiny fraction of an archive's holdings, so how do we alert users to this and encourage them to look beyond the digital? It is impossible to digitize everything, due to copyright, staff and equipment resources, having metadata available, issues with storing electronic files etc.
    • Everything will be catalogued. No, digitizing is not the same as cataloguing. Most (all?!) archives have a cataloguing backlog, and, until the material is catalogued, there is no way to access it. This then gives rise to the question about whether it is better to spend resources digitizing some already catalogued material, or catalogue unlisted material that cannot be used at all yet.
    • Digitized version is just the same as the original. No, frequently this isn't the case and their are users who will still need to see the original. This is also one of the reasons why it is vital never to destroy the original.

    Educating researchers

    Time and again the need to educate researchers came up. It was agreed by all present that this is a vital part of training as a historian and that it should be done as early as possible in an academic career. I was pleased by this as we are already doing several of the suggested activities to encourage researchers to engage with our collections, including:

    Case studies

    • The archivist from Boots Heritage who explained how Boots had moved from an entirely internally-focussed business archive to one that was available to researchers thanks to funding from the Wellcome Trust to develop a new digital resource aimed at academic researchers. She had found that getting the right tools was essential so proper cataloguing software (CALM) had been acquired and material was catalogued to stringent standards to make it helpful and meaningful, including creating authority files to be a repository of information about buildings, brands and people. For many researchers this has turned out to be the entry point into the collections. Preservation issues affected the usability of some items and repackaging them into smaller units greatly improved this issue. Care had to be taken to protect Boots' interests, so images are watermarked and download prevented, and commercially sensitive information is not available.
    • Transport for London archives are aiming to collect the evidence that every journey matters, including the digital output of the organisation. They took the opportunity presented by needing to archive born digital material to overhaul and restructure their cataloguing. Although this was resource heavy it has created a more useable catalogue for staff and made it much more available to researchers.
    • Kathleen Chater talked about her research into black people in England in 18th century and how digitized records hadn't helped her solve research problems such as identifying where "black" didn't refer to a person, or to those instances where a black person was identified using another term. Keyword searches frequently produced unusable quantities of results. One of the more helpful things she did was spend three months going through 10000 Old Bailey records on microfilm, which also gave her the helpful context of many other cases (eg how common was it for anyone to be convicted of a particular crime). Although the Old Bailey records have now been digitized they are difficult to search because of OCR problems (the long s) and context is lost.
    • Jo Pugh, a digital development manager at The National Archives, discussed his PhD research in information journeys in archival collections. He related how the problem now isn't amassing information, but restricting what we see. His research had compared how enquiries are formulated on email, phone calls or Twitter and had looked at how the experts (archivists) worked with researchers to resolve archival queries. He had found that research guides could help to reduce uncertainty, eg by explaining how to get the best out of a search.
    • Tom Scott from Wellcome Collections explained how the context of their collections isn't just medical and so users don't know what's in the collections. Searching digitized collections meant items were isolated from their context "searchable but not understandable". They wanted to provide access by having a good reading experience, whether in person or online, so had tried to "encapsulate a librarian": a single domain model from a mix of systems for books, archives etc, extracting meaning of enquiries (eg cross references for TB/consumption/tuberculosis). He stressed that it is really important to record the metrics of what people are actually searching for.
    The symposium rounded up with a discussion of how we could futureproof our collections. My take aways from the day are:

    • Keep doing our existing work on educating researchers as early as possible, and look at how we can expand that with the resources we have.
    • "Futureproofing requires quality cataloguing" - making sure our cataloguing is up-to-scratch.
    • Assess any digitization project to ensure that high quality metadata is in place first and that it will support the needs of researchers wanting to use our collections.

    Wednesday, 3 May 2017

    Webinar: preparing to digitise your archives

    Long time no blog! I've been on maternity leave, and am planning to write some reflections on that and returning to work soon. But, in the meantime, here's my write up of a webinar I took part in last week from The National Archives. As with the previous webinar I've taken part in, on forward planning, this was a great opportunity to learn more about a topic in a free and easy format, as it only took an hour of my time at work and there was no need to even leave the building!

    It was clearly structured and covered the basics of planning a digitisation project. This is my summary of the contents:

    Scope your project
    • Spent time deciding what to include and exclude in your project. Digitisation is costly so avoid creating extra work by trying to digitise too much. Be focussed!
    • Start with a small pilot, digitise a small sample and run it through all of the digitisation processes.
    • Consider possible outputs. Tiff files are the most sensible format to capture for the master copy, with 300PPI for most paper originals and 400-600PPI for photographs. PDF is not recommended.
    In-house or outsourced?
    This decision depends on the size of the project, type, budget and internal capacities. The pros and cons are:
    Pros: Can be cheaper, technical knowledge isn't needed, less stress for staff, saves time  
    Cons: Less control over project, relocation of collection/providing access to the material, fragile or sensitive material, restrictions on rescoping the project once it is underway.
    Pros: More control, staff skill development, may save money in the long run, keeps collections in one place
    Cons: Lack of in-house skills, big investment in equipment needed, lack of suitable infrastructure, no in-house experience

    If considering outsourcing: shop around, get quotes and look at company's existing work. Visit their site and check their set up. Ask for samples early on in the project and have regular project catch ups. Make sure you have a contract.

    Document preparation
    Preservation/conservation: Assess condition of the collection and whether work by a conservator is needed in order to digitise without damaging the originals. Remove all metal pins, clips etc. Digitisation can take place through Melinex sleeves. How are you going to digitise books safely - unbind the volume, use a camera rather than a scanner etc?

    Consider capture and post-processing equipment
    There are pros and cons to using cameras and scanners.
    Document preservation: a camera provides more alternatives to capturing the image without causing damage
    Image quality: cameras tend to produce better results
    Price: bear in mind that equipment needs to be kept up-to-date (this should be factored into the cost of outsourcing). Depending on the size of the project, renting equipment may work out cheaper.
    Useability: scanners tend to be more straightforward to use with fewer settings. Cameras require colour calibration and that the lens be kept clean.
    Versatility: scanners work well with flat materials, but aren't suitable for digitising books. Cameras tend to offer more versatility.

    Post processing
    Images are usually captured in RAW format then need to be processed. RAW files are very large, so this needs to be considered when assessing file storage needs. Obviously the file format must be compatibile with the image processing and storage software being used.

    Metadata and storage
    Technical metadata is included at the capture stage, for instance camera settings, focal length, exposure. It may be embedded within the image and then shared in a spreadsheet.
    Descriptive metadata is the description of what the item is, such as names, dates and places so that the digitised image is discoverable. It can be captured by OCR (although this has severe limitations) or manually (time consuming and expensive).
    Storage ensure you have the the basics, such as a server large enough to store the files and a means of backing them up.

    What I've learnt and will take forward:
    Visit other archives/Special Collections to learn from their experiences.
    Keep it as simple as possible and only capture what is relevant. 
    Know what the outcomes of the project are before commencing image capture. 
    Never destroy the original after digitisation, unless they are acetate negatives.

    Monday, 21 September 2015

    RBSCG conference 2015: Hidden collections: revealed

    In the first week of September I attended one day of the CILIP RBSCG's conference, Hidden Collections: Revealed. The conference was split between Friends' House Library, Lambeth Palace Library and the Friday was at the British Library's conference centre.

    Where they have possibly the comfiest conference seats I have ever sat on.

    It can be a bit strange arriving towards the end of a conference, when it feels like everyone else has already been networking for a couple of days, but I think the different venues for each day made this a bit easier? The conference had been divided up into six sessions, and I was there for the final two.

    Session five was uncovering your collections - promotion
    The first speaker was Adrian Edwards, Head of Printed Heritage Collections at the British Library, who spoke about the work they had done with the BL's comic collections to bring them to a much wider audience. The initial problem was having a large collection of comics, but not all of them catalogued, many of them poorly catalogued (wrong end dates, missing issues, hardly anything before the 1930s referenced) and stored in three different locations, all of which made it very hard for all but the most determined researcher to use them.  When the library at Colindale closed and two comics experts approached the library wanting to celebrate British comics, the decision was taken to put on an exhibition. Now, any exhibition is a huge amount of work, and this one was no exception, as the objectives included getting all that cataloguing done and supporting a wider range of researchers in using the collection. The eventual exhibition, Comics unmasked: art and anarchy in British Comics was successful, containing 217 unique exhibits and attracting a lot of new users into the building. Achievements included:
    • Many comics catalogued for the first time
    • All comics available on one site for the first time
    • The material is now used more, including two doctoral students working on it.
    • Staff expertise in the subject has increased enormously
    • Selected rare material has been moved to a higher level of secure storage
    Adrian concluded by saying that the exhibition had been a good way of highlighting hidden collections, and a good way of getting management support to get the essential cataloguing and collection moves completed. It is important to seize opportunities such as this.

    Lara Haggerty from Innerpeffray Library then spoke about the difficulties in dealing with people's perception that it's just a load of old books. Her library is physically difficult to access, being five miles from the nearest town with only one bus a week. It is highly significant though, as it is the first public lending library in Scotland. The library had effectively become a museum but was doing very little promotion before she was appointed as a result of a business based forward plan. The key to success has been concentrating on the visitor experience and making it unique. They are too small to attract big tour groups on their own, but by working with other local organisations, have been able to increase the numbers.

    Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections at King's College London then spoke about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office library, which was transferred to KCL after two years of negotiations. The collection had been rather hidden at the FCO as their primary remit wasn't to run a library. The transfer to an academic institution meant it would be more accessible, but the initial problem was how to reveal and promote this collection? Initially there was no catalogue in a useable form, so the first task was to catalogue the books (this took eight years with 2 or 3 project cataloguers working at a time. About 30% of the collection is now catalogued) as having the items on the catalogue is the most important form of promotion you can do. The cataloguers became expert in the subject matter so were able to assist readers and answer enquiries, whilst student assistants were employed to do basic collection processing and download catalogue records for non-special collections material. The collections were then promoted via real and virtual exhibitions, and visitors have come from all over the world. Promotional activities have included:
    • Have a poster on the library gates, as many visitors spot it when walking past
    • Produce leaflets and guides on certain aspects/themes of collections
    • Bear in mind that many exhibition visitors will never make the transition to reader but will help to spread the word.
    • Foster teaching and research for academic users by developing teaching seminars using special collections material and introducing students to the material. Getting use of collections incorporated into teaching assessments is key.
    Katie also stated that she had found it easier to engage English academics with Special Collections, than History academics, which certainly echoes my own experience.

    Session six covered Beyond the library and first to speak was Katharine Hogg, Librarian at the Foundling Museum. This is a research library of c.10,000 items, and the first priority when the collection first arrived there was to create an online catalogue. Paintings and prints have been catalogued and digitized, and making sure items appear on external websites has been key for promotion, such as Your Paintings, Concert programmes database and the English Short Title catalogue.  Collaboration has worked well for conservation projects with West Dean College and Camberwell College of Arts.

    A PhD student, Hannah Manktelow, then spoke about discovering provincial Shakespeare with the British Library playbill collection. This collection had never been used for research as many of the playbills had been closed to public access. The key here was a digitization project which also captured a lot of metadata, including dates, keywords from bills and an indication of what would attract audiences. It was a really exciting project to work on as there is very little work on provincial theatre of this period, and the collection includes c. 75000 playbills. Her PhD has focussed in on case studies based on five provincial towns, although a major obstacle is that playbills of many performances won't have made it into collections.

    Finally, a rare books collector, Mark  Byford, talked about his collection focussed on Tudor and Jacobean books. He has c. 1000 books, and has no catalogue whatsoever, but welcomes people to come and see his collection, or takes them out himself to events. He also loans books to academics.

    I had a really interesting time at the conference. Not only did I find that others' experience echoed my own (for instance, that it is much easier to engage English depts. in Special Collections than History depts.), but it also emphasised the importance of cataloguing first and foremost in promoting collections. Repeatedly it was made clear that you can't choose what items to put on display without them being catalogued first. You can't plan outreach activities if you don't know what you have. No one will be able to find the item for their research, or do their PhD on your collection if it isn't catalogued.

    My thanks to the RBSCG for an interesting and enjoyable conference.

    Saturday, 5 September 2015

    CLAA conference 2015

    The theme for the 2015 Cathedral Libraries and Archives Association Conference was 'Placing the library and archive at the heart of the cathedral', which doesn't immediately appear to be connected to my current job! However, the theme could be applied to any institution and proved to be highly relevant to many working situations.

    Westminster Abbey
    The conference was held in the beautiful historic surroundings of Cheyneygates at Westminster Abbey. The first speaker was Ellie Jones, the Archivist from Exeter Cathedral Library & Archives, who spoke about the cathedral's highly successful HLF funded project to share their treasures more, which eventually also led to them becoming one of the first institutions to earn Archives Accreditation.  She outlined the improvements they had been able to make to their facilities, and how their increased outreach had made it possible for more people to experience their collections. This included a year 8 teacher who had seen one of their blog posts, leading to a project about Shakespeare. They have had a big push to make material more accessible online, partly via having an EOSweb catalogue, although there is currently no archive finding aid available online. Working with colleagues in the cathedral was very important, so they encouraged directors to bring their families in to visit to support more engagement with the collections.

    Emily Naish, from Salisbury Cathedral Library and Archives, then gave a talk on the dangers of encouraging collections to be for scholarly use only, as had happened at Salisbury from 1983 until recently. This had resulted in the library becoming invisible within the cathedral and attaining an almost mythical status, with the only catalogue one printed in 1880 and available in a few Oxbridge libraries. The big change in recent years had led to the creation of a number of policies covering access and collections. Collections have been consolidated, spotlight talks now take place in the cathedral, with improved information available on the website. They are also working with the Education Officer to encourage school groups to visit. Volunteers and cathedral staff now have dedicated drop in sessions twice a week, which has encouraged guides to know more about the library. It is important that the library is relevant to the cathedral rather than an historical curiosity - it has to be useful to staff and volunteers, and has to be useful to the fundraising department.

    General Synod chamber
    After a trip round the corner to Church House to see the Cathedral and Church Buildings Library, Synod chamber, an extremely good lunch and the CLAA AGM, we returned to Cheyneygates for the afternoon's speakers. First was Lisa di Tommaso, from Durham Cathedral, on the renewal of their collections. Durham had already supported scholarship and learning for 1000 years and are working to make their collections more accessible now. Lisa gave a brief overview of the history of the collections and the team working there, before explaining the "Open treasure" project, designed to bring the collections into the heart of Durham Cathedral's visitor experience. The project encompasses an exhibition space and a new specialist search room, along with outreach programmes. This includes developing reading groups with people who historically have had less contact with the cathedral, and 11 - 15 year olds will be able to have a go at curating an exhibition. Key activities have included taking a replica of the Lindisfarne Gospels to visit people who couldn't visit the physical exhibition and raising awareness of the collections by making exhibition loans.

    Finally Vicky Harrison, Collections Manager at York Minister, spoke about unlocking their collections. She gave an outline of York's successful HLF bid for "York Minster revealed". Communication with the rest of the cathedral, particularly Chapter, was key, and reports were structured into four sections as per the Accreditation standard, which helped to show that they were working to the future rather than concentrating on the past. The future will involve working together rather than as three separate disciplines (library, archive, collections). The key is to plan what you're doing, and to communicate this. And always have three top messages you want to get across at the forefront of your mind.

    Sunday, 26 July 2015

    CILIP Conference 2015

    At the beginning of July I spent a couple of days in Liverpool at CILIP Conference 2015, having been lucky enough to win a bursary from the ARLG London & South East region. I was keen to attend the conference, having worked in the area of Special Collections for well over ten years, so my conference attendance had tended to be restricted to those events that were closely connected to my specialist area. 

    Concert Hall, where the keynotes took place


    Perhaps what I most enjoyed about the conference were the keynote speakers. They included R. David Lankes, Erwin James, Cory Doctorow and Shami Chakrabarti. At previous conferences I’ve attended the keynotes have all been very connected to the specialist conference theme, and invariably given by someone from the library or archive world, so I had been interested to see in advance that this wasn’t so much the case with CILIP conference keynotes. It was great to see how engaged all the speakers were with the world of libraries and information, and brought an interesting perspective from the outside. Indeed, Erwin James’ account of the difference a prison library had made to his life after his conviction, what it had meant to his rehabilitation and then to his release had me almost in tears. R. David Lankes on ‘World domination through librarianship’ (you can’t beat a title like that!) was more controversial from a Special Collections perspective, as he talked about how collections are the demon, and how you may not have one to be a librarian, as often now they are leased or rented. But I could agree with him that librarians are educators, even if I am educating users about our special collections!

    Erwin James

    The sessions I attended were mostly in the ‘demonstrating value’ stream, and I found many of the workshops particularly useful. I found that it was helpful to have to think of real life examples, and we were encouraged to share our ideas and processes with someone sitting near us, which also helped break the ice. I enjoyed the practical elements of these workshops, which provided a nice contrast to the keynotes. I also took some time out from ‘demonstrating value’ to go to the ‘digital futures’ stream and a session on MOOCs and small-scale CPD for library and information professionals. I found this interesting, having participated in one MOOC so far, and working towards my second year of revalidation, always being on the lookout for different ways to do CPD.

    As I very rarely buy anything other than preservation supplies, I hadn’t been expecting to get much out of the exhibition, but, spurred on by a sheet to fill in with a sticker from each exhibitor, and the possibility of winning an iPad if this was completed, I spent some time on both days visiting each stand. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed meeting all the exhibitors and finding out about their products. Most of them also appeared to be interested to meet me, and I think it was a good way of finding out about new products and services, which I can always tell colleagues about, even if they aren’t so relevant to my own role. 

    Rather amazing surroundings for the exhibition


    Taking part in networking between sessions was one of my main reasons for wanting to attend the conference. It proved to be very different to networking at the smaller conference I have been used to attending, as with 600 people there and no delegate list in advance, it was hard to work out who I would like to meet with once there. I found that manning the ARLG stall during one of the breaks helped, as people then came up to talk to me and found out about ARLG, and I did manage to arrange to meet up with a few people by using social media in advance of the conference. I think this was something of a missed opportunity though, as with a delegate list in advance and people’s Twitter details, for instance, it would have been a lot easier to arrange a meet up. It was possible to register as an event attendee on the conference app in advance, which I did, but very few people did this.

    ARLG stand

    What now?

    So, what next? The conference was an intense couple of days, but I came away feeling like I’d got a better grasp of the ‘bigger picture’ in librarianship, as well as picking up some useful tips for demonstrating value. I’m hoping I’ll be able to put some of those into practice in my job over the next few months. I’ve provided feedback to CILIP on ways in which I think the conference was beneficial, as well as how it could be improved – particularly the venue, which really wasn’t very accessible with huge numbers of steps everywhere, but there were also issues with timekeeping and sessions running over. My thanks go to the ARLG London & South East for sponsoring my place.
    The speakers' presentations are now available on the conference website.

    Monday, 11 May 2015

    Out of the box: enabling access to archives

    The day after the charismatic connecting course, I went on a very different day. This was held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, and was themed around the issue of accessibility to archives. I'd thought we were doing OK on accessibility where I work (as a couple of people who use wheelchairs had been able to use our collections with no problem) until a dyslexic student with a looming coursework deadline had arrived needing help with some handwritten autobiographies and I didn't know where to start.

    This was a free day organised by THLHLA as part of the "out of the box" project, with support from The National Archives and a local disability arts organisation, Film pro. It started with seven 10 minute case studies (with a break halfway through!) from a range of organisations, demonstrating accessibility projects they had worked on. These included:
    • Out of the box project (Tower Hamlets)
    • Film pro
    • Royal Air Force Museum - which had won an Autism Access Award. Their information packs are available to download from their website.
    • Hackney Museum, which actively encourages people to say how the museum can be made more accessible.
    • Sara Griffiths from The National Archives talked about their There Be Monsters [pdf link], which built a permanent legacy in the grounds, and Prisoner 4099 projects.
    • Surrey Heritage about how they try to be accessible by having a guide on their website, working with groups to tailor a particular approach (e.g. they have records from asylums that have since closed, and they worked with Woking Mind to identify the places and people in photographs), have different mice and keyboards available, have a handling collection for use by people with visual impairments and produce tactile books based on stories from the archives. All the staff have been trained in being dementia-friendly and they are holding trial coffee mornings to try and help stimulate the memories of people with dementia.
    • Chris Haydon from Freewheelers Theatre talked about their work producing a series of films about the history of disability in Surrey and on the Epsom Cluster of mental health hospitals.

    A free (and very tasty) lunch was then provided, with plenty of time to talk to other participants about accessibility in their archives and special collections, plus an opportunity to look at the exhibition in the foyer area of the library.

    The afternoon kicked off with a poetry reading by one of the Out of the box participants, Sarah. Her poetry was very funny and gave a great insight into how she had felt about using archival collections. As with the There Be Monsters project at The National Archives, it was good to see different, creative, outlets for research in archives, rather than an academic article etc.

    The participants then divided into three groups to discuss topics of interest to them from a suggested three:
    a) Improving access to the archives searchroom and catalogues
    b) Access to collections for people with learning disabilities
    c) Use and promotion of archives as artistic/creative stimuli
    I opted for a), as I felt this was the most pertinent to my own situation. Ideas that came out of my discussion group included:
    • Having "creative enablers" around to help on targeted days, much like a "buddy" type system. The creative enabler can help to remove those barriers to research.
    • Implications of the Care Act 2014, which encourages co-production between health and social services, service users and providers. It may be that there are funding sources available from adult social care as the key is personalisation - that it's geared to the needs of the individual service user.
    • Have an "access group" with the aim of demystifying a visit to archives/special collections and building confidence to help get people through the door. This might suit a volunteer who is already a keen user of collections.
    • Running a new user induction session, which would apply to any user, not just someone who is disabled.
    We also talked about the problems of making archive catalogues accessible. Archives Hub is very clear and easy to use, but specific archive catalogues tend to be much less so. The catalogue at The Keep was recommended as particularly good though. We all agreed that one of the huge problems is lack of resources - everyone had a cataloguing backlog, which then makes it hard to justify spending time doing things like transcribing records.

    At the end of the day each group reported back to all of us. I really enjoyed my day on this workshop. There was a lot to think about, and I also made some useful contacts. My thanks to the organisers.

    Thursday, 7 May 2015

    Training: Charismatic connecting

    I'd spotted that our Staff Development department at work was running a day's training on networking skills, which I thought looked interesting and useful.  The day was led by Russell Wardrop from Kissing with Confidence, an organisation that offers training in public speaking, networking, coaching, influencing and negotiating.

    I had wondered in advance whether we were going to spend the day learning how to shake hands etc, and, whilst we did do a tiny bit of that, there was a whole lot more to it! The day was split into four chunks, and at the beginning we were each given a reflective sheet to fill in, to note specific skills we'd learnt each time, plus what we should start and stop doing, do more of and change. This helped me to think about what I'd learnt in each section and reflect on it.

    We started off by talking about self-confidence, where it comes from and how you can develop it. It is connected with both skills and self-awareness, so being aware of a skills deficit and taking action to acquire those skills, will help you to develop self-confidence. Simple preparatory measures, such as looking into who the other delegates are in advance of a conference and thinking about who you would like to talk to, all help.

    Then we worked our way through the seven principles:
    1. Self-awareness
    2. This covered self-regard and resilience, optimism, happiness and assertiveness. We looked at practical ways of building optimism and happiness.
    3. Accentuate the positive
    4. No one wants to hang around with someone negative, so think about your personal narrative and how you can focus on the positive.
    5. Be a chameleon
    6. A chameleon. From Wikimedia Commons
      When networking, you need to adapt to the other person's style. Every word they say is a clue to their lives and really good networkers really listen to what is being said. We then went on to discuss the different types of listening (active, passive, selective) and how to be a good active listener, which means making it obvious that you are listening. One of the great things about the day was the opportunity to keep practising what we'd been learning by engaging with the others on the course. At one point I had to be a deliberately very passive listener, which was actually quite hard!
    7. Be appropriately memorable
    8. I could think of so many ways to be inappropriately memorable... But that wasn't the point. We talked about dress, body language, small talk and knowledge and how, whilst you can show your personality, it's important to demonstrate respect for the other person and show that you have made an effort. Think about how you would like people to remember you after your meeting. We then did an exercise working on small talk and swopping partners as we added in different aspects to work on. It was helpful to try out different postures, and think about how each makes you come across. I also found this section useful as we had a diagram of a room at an event, with various people identified on it, and we discussed the pros and cons of approaching these people.
    9. Mastering modern manners
    10. This section started with us brainstorming in groups the top ten things that annoy us. A lot of the annoyances seemed to be about the appropriate use of mobile phones(!), but the general theme was behaviour that seems to indicate someone isn't thinking of others, such as poor timekeeping, being unreliable or failing to say please/thank you. Again, much food for thought, as the lists were individual to each of us, although with significant crossover, and it made us think about how we come across to others, and simple things to do to help people think well of you.
    11. Guard your reputation
    12. Related to this was guarding your reputation. Once people are thinking well of you, you want to it stay that way! We talked about what we'd like to be known for, including professionalism, discretion and knowledge of our specialism. We also talked about our three levels of network: our personal networks, which consist of our friends and maybe social activities/clubs we belong to, our operational networks, which are our colleagues at work, and our strategic networks, which are the people with the bigger picture, and include our coaches and mentors.
    13. Follow up
    14. Finally, we learnt about following up. How many times have you taken someone's card or email address at a conference and promised to be in touch, and then not followed through?! Yet, without follow up, there's no point doing all the previous six principles. We discussed being assertive in following up, how to end a conversation with a promise of a future meeting, and then how to go about arranging that. For example, you are far more likely to get someone to agree to spend 20/30 minutes meeting you for a coffee, than suggesting a lengthy meeting a long way from where they work.

    This is only a brief overview of the day's course, but I learnt a huge amount from it, plus a lot which I can hopefully put into practice at events I'm attending over the summer for work.