Regression to the mean

You connect facts and experiences, you create pattern in the world around you and in the reality none of them are correlated. In few words this is the explanation of the regression to the mean (in a day-to-day life).

Did I ever mention that I love cognitive illusions? Pure love!

One of the things I love the most of being a medical librarian is that I am gaining an incredible insight into medicine: how science works, the importance of facts and evidence and how we are “repeatedly bombarded with sciencey-sounding claims” (Goldacre, 2008). The best part is that the more I learn about the health-business the more I see things in a different way.

I am reading Bad Science and my attention is captured by a new concept: the regression to the mean. I am not interested in the statistical aspect (more info here) but how this concept has silently blinded me in many situations.

As Goldacre explains, if I have a cold I will try things to get better. I would stay at home, drink water, eat a chicken soup and take an ibuprofen = my body is at the very worst and I try remedies to cure my illness. In the best scenario I will be up and running the following day. Now, it is because of the ibuprofen or because of the delicate chicken soup prepared by my husband or because my body simply needs a rest.

In my mind I think it’s because all of three, however Goldacre argues that because it worked that last time, now my brain has created a cognitive illusion that demands me to take an ibuprofen, ask my hubby to prepare a chicken soup and have a rest.

Now on I will look at a common cold in a different way. I know for sure that having a rest is a good idea, not sure about the ibuprofen at this point. Using my rational part of the brain I know that the chicken soup homemade by my hubby is not miraculous, but it works! Shall we do a trial?

We connect facts and we rely on this cognitive illusion. Natural history plays an important factor. My point is that rather that blindly believing in magic and quick solutions I will accept the natural cycle of the illness (but I still demand my homemade chicken soup!).



Goldacre, B. (2008). Bad Science. London: HarperCollins.


How to deliver a memorable library induction

I attended a two-day course that explored the golden principles and the dynamics of any presentation or induction of library services.

During the first day we examined and investigated the basics of a good presentation. On the last day we had to create and deliver a presentation in front of our group in order to get feedback and comments.

Library inductions have usually common characteristics: librarians have a maximum of 10 minutes space; they need to compress all the services/resources in that given time; they need to impress a very mixed audience (senior staff, new qualified staff, clinical staff, non-clinical staff etc); they need to attract new users.

That is a big task!

However what I learnt from this course is that a good library induction should follow these principles:

  • Be benefit-led (as opposed to service-led). It’s useless to list endless e-resources without showing real benefit. We need to demonstrate the true value of a service.
  • Less is more. Just forget fully text slides and endless bullet points. Keep it simple: one or two concepts on each slide.
  • Stick to 3 key concepts. It so tempting to compress EVERY SINGLE SERVICE that the library can offer on a presentation, but this structure simply does not work. We need to select a maximum of 3 concepts. If we focus on these people will remember them.
  • Use images / graphics. Visual aids can be a very powerful tool to enhance the impact of your induction. Have you ever heard about the ‘dual coding’ theory? If we synchronise verbal associations and visual imagery you become really persuasive.


    Video / Audio – Photo CC by Florian Pitcher

  • Tell a story! I love this point. Instead of listing facts we should attract people with a story, in this way  we can bring our message alive for our audience. I discovered there are 8 classic storytelling techniques.
    • Do you have to state facts? Put them in a booklet!
    • Use quotations or feedback your library received. People will listen to them.
  • Connect with the audience. Induction day is a very busy and fast-pace time. Try to think how people feel and what they expect. They are now working with new people, in a new place, facing new responsibilities. Show respect for these emotions and offer your support. A simple but persuasive message could relief this stressing time: the library is here for you.

These are great concepts, stick with them and you will win any audience. Need inspirations? Watch some Teds talks.

On the second day I presented my presentation in front of my group: How to use the Royal Marsden Manual.

Second study school

AberystwythMy attendance at the second study school is finished.

It was nice being sorrounded by people in my same situations. Time costraints, study/work balance, lack of confidence are really common problems.

What do I take back home? I feel re-energised and I have more confidence. There is still a study year in front of me but I am determined to finish this course.

Notes? I’ve noticed that compared to my colleagues I have matured experience in specific activities, like cataloguing and classification. I was one of few people in the classroom knowing how to catalogue using AACR2 or assign a class mark using Dewey. This made me think about how it is important to experience some activities rather than just study them.

In my pragmatic view a certification is important but I really think that gaining experience is certainly more important.

I found people that are simply postponing any attempt to progress in their career AFTER the degree.  It’s like delegating a special power to a degree title. Is it the truth? I am not sure… But this is my vision. Maybe it’s because I met so many talented professionals that are genuinely good in their professions regardless their study titles.

Anyway, happy to have spent time in Averystwyth, the weather was fabolous!

I found a way

Turning badgesSitting on the grass at Llanbadarn campus I reflect on my last year not only academically but also professionally. Just few things happened: I moved from Surrey to West yorkshire, I got a new job, adopted a cat and I am now buying my first house. Gladly I managed to find time to complete the first year assignments.

Last September I was working in a cozy academic library environment. I had few responsabilities and my academic journey was at the very begininning (again). In my mind I was framing a career in the information retrieval sector, let’s say about cataloguing and acquisition.

One year later, I still hope to work in an art sector but I am actually working in the health library sector as Services Librarian. I am now in charge of a small team and I regularly serve clinicians helping them retrieving evidences. Terms like evidence-based approach, critical appraisal, literature search and quantitative research are now part of my everyday vocabulary.

How did I end up working in a health library? I have been simply offered and accepted a job. My first three months have been really taxing, not only because I had to recalibrate my focus on the health sector but at the same time I had to consider the fact that there was a team relying on my decisions. I had to assimilate quite quickly new procedures, familiarise with new medical databases and specific information needs. On the top of that I had to adapt to a new LSM, I moved in fact from SirsiDinyx to Heritage.

Do I regret it? Absolotely no. In just few months I drastically expanded my knowledge and I can now compare two similar but different environments: the academic library and the healthcare one.

New unlocked experiences/skills: managing a team (!!!), teaching to 1:1 or to groups, depth knowledge of health databases, liason with consultants, budgeting (!!!), managing subscriptions, cataloguing using the Wessex scheme, planning social media content, editing current awareness bulletins and sorting my mail box.

I feel being on a very steep learning curve and I’ve never expected working in a hospital. What’s next?

Management: Theory VS Reality

Congratulations to me on being promoted to manager! I am now (and for the first time) responsible for a team of three library assistants. By accepting this responsability I agreed three simply objectives:

  • to become a professional manager
  • to get people of diverse backgrounds and skills to fulfill their individual and team library objectives
  • to create a spirit of teamwork within the health library

In theory they seem so easy to achieve, but I realised how arduous and how much energy I have to spend in order to achieve them.

During the last months I thought a long about the reason why everyday I felt so exhausted and tired at the end of my working day. The simple answer is that before this job I used to manage only one person: myself. In this limited managerial function, only my passions and efforts determined my success. Although I have been good at what I was doing, I now realise that those skills that were once rewarded are not what I get paid for now.

I now get paid:

  • to create a library team in which all feel motivated to be the best they can be
  • to encourage my team to cooperate and achieve library’s objectives
  • to ensure that my team abides by ideals and standards

I think the main ingredient for being a good manager is creating a healthy manager-employee relationships where employees feel that the library belongs to them as well as to me and my manager. That feeling will motivate people to work better and increase the productivity.

My team is composed by people of diverse abilities, personalities (!!!) and backgrounds however I am working diligently to develop and grow full potential of my team. The actual reality is not easy but with perseverance and good examples I will improve the team. I’ve just chosen my battle.

Homo semper aliud, fortuna aliud cogitat

When I resigned from my previous job I said to myself: “It’s fine, now take it easy, take your time to find a new job, spend time with friends, study, relax and bla bla”. Let’s say that I gave to myself a month to find a new job and take time to settle in the new city I moved in just a couple of days ago.

Instead by the end of this month I am starting a new temporary job as Assistant Librarian in a brand new sector for me: health care libraries. How exciting! I went for my interview literally yesterday. It was absolutely fine: nice questions and a test in which I had to perform a medical literature search using ProQuest. My background is primarly about Humanities and Arts and it’s going to be interesting the fact that I have to master specific knowledge in order to support healthcare professionals. Let’s face a new learning curve.

“Homo semper aliud, fortuna aliud cogitat” (Publilius Syrus) means “A man always plans one thing, and Fortune plans something else”…so true.16549085713_f4653e6596_z

It’s not you, it’s me

Now that I am “temporaly” unemployed I am thinking about writing about my experience as job seeker in the library/heritage/information sector.

Despite the outcome of a job interview, requesting feedback is the key thing. I normally request it and it’s  so interesting, in the post-match analysis, to realise what the panel was really looking for (unfortunaly too late). At the end it’s a learning process.

Feedback could be sent via email or phone call. This is my personal experience:

  • Feedback via phone.

GREAT! I love hearing directly from a panel member the reasons why I was not selected. This happened to me last month and I rated the call five stars. After the usually sugar-coated intro, like “you were a strong candidate but on this occasion, you have not been successful” comes the interesting part. Initially it’s hard to accept real-time constructive feedback, for example “you did not show enough experience in handling academics’ requests” or “you need more experience in managing a team”, but in a couple of hours I realised that she was absolutely right. This is were the magic happen: I discovered that, as she highlighted, in my previous jobs I did not cultivate enough relationships with academics or supervise experience and they are now key things I have to work on as part of my CPD.

  • Feedback via email.

I am not generally satisfied because feedback sent via email is usually written in a polite but general tone that do not investigate in depth the actual answers I gave and the reasons behind a decision. The title of this post is connected with one of my latest feedback I received. Please read that with me…

An excellent job application covering all essential and desirable criteria. You gave a fabulous interview and were very engaging. It was very clear that you had researched the post and the University beforehand. You supported most of your answers with examples and overall it was a very difficult decision. We would like to wish you all the best for the future.

It’s sounds like it’s not you, it’s me. Wait a second…are you breaking up with me?

My job hunting goes on…jobhunting