There has been a lot of brilliant posts covering the entire day at the New Professionals Conference from Hulme Hall, Manchester on 20th June. Because of this, I thought I would focus on a few of the points that stood out for me from both the presentations and workshops. This topic came from the very excellent presentation from Rachel Bickley discussing establishing dialouge with more experienced professionals. When examining perceptions of new professionals by these more experienced, among all the positive feedback, there was the comment that new professionals seem to be ‘cliquey’ (apologies for the taking out of context to the nth degree).

Before I start I need to clarify 2 things:

  1.  This is by no means is attempting to be a complete piece of work, rather hopefully a discussion piece based upon my own opinion. People more coherent and lyrical than me, will be covering this in the upcoming days. It will be almost solely based upon my own personal anecdotal evidence. I have, where possible, hidden names as I don’t want to embarrass or fall out with people, as i may still work with some or do so in the future! It is not intended to be a spiteful piece as these experiences have in no way harmed me long-term, and upon reflection have made me stronger as a professional. If you do recognise yourself and want to rebalance the side please leave a comment and i will be happy to communicate.Or fight you at the bus stop after School. Which ever suits really.
  2. I honestly do not really view myself as a ‘new professional’ despite fitting into the description. I have worked full-time in Libraries for almost 8 years, the past 3 years as a service manager (and most senior ‘library’ person in the organisation). Before that for I performed many tasks that are associated with a clinical librarian role, in conjunction with more traditional ‘library assistant’ tasks.

Now once Rachel said that, my first impression was ‘that’s correct’ and thought about the NP ‘twitterati’ as well as those very few I have personally encountered. Very closed exclusive groups, not very open to new ideas, or especially new people. A text-book definition of a clique. However, behind that impression was a few thoughts:

There are always cliques within a workplace – be that inter-organisation or intra-organisational.It is by no means library specific:

  •  People being driven from a position (in fact two people, after one had replaced the other) purely because ‘they did not fit’. This was a healthcare position. These perpetrators were not ‘new’.
  • A  large, very ‘political’ office had to be re-arranged because of the different clique’s and the issues that this was bringing. Where genuine complaints were made because individuals were no longer sat near their friends! Again these were not new professionals.
  •  A library specific example – A group of library staff only operated between themselves. They ate together, sat together. mass-desicions, the same way without fail.On one very memorable occasion I was made to feel very uncomfortable at a meeting where it was basically this group and me. I made attempts, but was ignored. Sat on a table on my own drinking coffee before and at the break. These were not new professionals, these were senior and had made a decision to exclude me and others before and after me – without the excuse of being ‘new’. There were other ‘political’ reasons they excluded me. I still don’t believe I am viewed as an equal by those from the group that remain.

Though not entrenched within a new professional society or activity I have never heard of anything like even remotely close to these examples. I am also positive that these happen all over the library community and in different communities beyond that.

So why are new professionals (even by one person) viewed like this and why did I originally agree with the statement?

Is it because they are a close-knit group of friends? Does that mean they are a clique? If so, anybody who has partaken in the MA Library and Information Management course at MMU in the past 2 years (especially the 2nd year), should probably view me as a part of clique. I probably would. I saw groups/cliques within the full-timers. Us? A small group – always sat together, went out for lunch/socially together (and really never invited anyone), did group work together – made in-jokes, kept to ourselves. It wasn’t because we thought we were better than everyone else – we just had a similar approaches to the course, felt the same way about it (it was shite), in the same classes, no integration ever really took place etc. We were a peer support network.

New professionals may have met at Library School, or just maybe are experiencing similar things, dealing with similar issues and just prefer and have been drawn to those people within their support network. This is how you make friends in the real world. It can be difficult to approach someone who being an information professional aside, you have no connection to, especially if networking is not a strong suite. If they can find a support network, a comfort zone or just a bit of protectionism and reassurance from like-minded folk. is this wrong? Is it just strength in numbers? I think as long as you evolve that network as you develop I would not class it as cliquey. How much of the advocacy work going on in public libraries at a local level would happen without this network.

There is also the fact that if a group dynamic works, in a professional sense, why change it? Again within the region there are specific groups and when pieces of work come up – they have the prefered people to work with. Is that wrong? Is a sub-community of practice cliquey? Not all the time in my opinion. You can have this at any level, at anytime. If you find people who you work well with – good. Is that what a team is? As long as it is not at the detriment to overall purpose.

If you have gotten this far, thank you for reading, this really became a stream of consciousness! Overall I can understand why new professionals could be perceived that way, but as a kind-of outsider, I would not class them that way. Mean Girls we/they/us/them are not!

Let me know what you think – am I wrong, have I missed anything?

p.s. Buy the Bon Iver album!