Thing 8: Google Calendar

2 Jul

Now that I’ve had a look, I’m quite surprised that I haven’t been using Google Calendar already. At work we use the calendar on MS Outlook as a team: arranging meetings, saying when you’ll be at an external event, etc. I think it is probably the best tool in this situation – we all have Outlook up anyway for our work email and have access to our own plus a group calendar for the library, it’s easy to use, sends reminders and we can access it from any computer using webmail. The only problem we’ve come across is that it doesn’t say who has added an event and when they did it (that usually doesn’t matter but it has caused issues in the past).

Switching to Google Calendar wouldn’t be useful to this library but after having a look around online I’ve seen lots of great examples of it in use by other libraries, especially those that run a lot of events. There are some really interesting ideas on this blog post: Musings about librarianship. I particularly like the suggestion of linking the library management system to Google Calendar to allow users to be alerted on things like due dates.

I have decided that I should start using Google Calendar to keep track of what I’m up to. It wouldn’t be using the tool to it’s full potential but I’ve had real difficulty sticking to using electronic calendars unless it’s solely for work. I generally find it too time-consuming to enter in each event and don’t keep up with it. At the moment I organise my time with a combination of the work Outlook calendar, a physical diary and occasionally the calendar on my smart phone aaand sometimes things fall through the gaps. So we’ll see how I get on with Google!

Thing 7: real-life networks

20 Jun

CC image courtesy of Aidan Jones on Flickr.

Throughout my traineeship I’ve been lucky to have been given lots of opportunities to go out and meet other professionals in the field. The first proper “networking” activities that I was part of was with the London Research Libraries Trainee Programme. The graduate trainees of the various libraries of the University of London take part in visits and events to help them understand how different libraries run and the roles within them. The first event, a welcome party at the start of the year, taught me a couple of things about networking events: 1) that I will attempt to eat as much free food as possible and 2) that I freeze up whenever I’m told to “network”.

This is something I’ve consistently encountered with each event I go to. Socialising informally – fine, but when it’s timetabled in as “networking opportunity”, I get all awkward and begin to panic. What this “thing” has brought to my attention though is that, thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Joeyanne Libraryanne’s great blog post on networking for introverts has really been insightful and hopefully I can use the tips that she highlights from “Networking for people who hate networking” to take some of the pressure off next time I’m faced with the dreaded networking opportunity. But what’s really important for me is to not look at it as a structured activity but just as free time when I can chat to other people who are in the same place for similar reasons.

Though I feel like I’ve become more comfortable networking in real life as time goes on, there are a couple of things that I’ve found impact on what I get out of it: firstly, going to an event with someone that I already know. Though this is very nice, I do have the tendency to talk to only them for the whole time and personally, being on my own forces me to push past the awkward-barrier and have a chat to other people. Secondly, I’ve been finding that sometimes I’m just not “in the mood” for networking. I think I have a mixture of introvert and extrovert characteristics, and presumably this is the more introverted side of me that sometimes just wants to be alone or with people that I know and are comfortable with. For me, the only way around this is to just fight through the unwilling thoughts and get stuck in.

I became a member of both CILIP and ARLIS this year to take advantage of the fact that graduate trainees are charged at student rates (otherwise membership would be a really tricky decision as it is quite expensive). I enjoy being a member and getting the publications sent to me and I think I have been to quite a few events with both organisations. Admittedly I don’t have much of an excuse as I’m in London where most things are happening and I have lovely employers who encourage me to go to workshops, visits, conferences.

With ARLIS (the Arts Libraries Society), I’ve been to a workshop on art and design reference resources, an event on art librarianship as a career and a visit to the National Maritime Museum. All these events have been fantastically helpful and interesting in their own way and because it’s all about arts libraries everything is directed very much the way I’d like my career to go.

CILIP events are obviously much broader and I’ve really enjoyed getting a sense of other tempting routes of librarianship. The New Professionals Day held fairly recently was a fantastic opportunity and there was lots of time in between sessions and at breaks to network.

I’ve also been to a couple of things run by cpd25  including a visit to the Wellcome Library and a one-day conference on applying to library school. I’d recommend keeping an eye on their events page to anyone working in an academic library in London as they do arrange really interesting things.

These have, for the most part, been paid events but there are still a wealth of networking (and professional development) events that you can attend without paying a penny. The London LibTeachMeet is probably the best event that I’ve been to, for networking and for information. It had a great atmosphere and there was an opportunity to meet all kinds of librarians and information professionals. I’ve found that at London events, it’s often hard to meet someone not working at an academic library, so for me it was a chance to speak to people in other sectors. I’ve also attended visits and meet-ups organised online. LISNPN is a great one for organising nice pub meetups and, thanks to Rosie, I went on a visit to various libraries in Oxford which was organised through the forum.

Thing 6: online networking

14 Jun

 

LinkedIn

CC image courtesy of BlogMama on Flickr

I want to like it, I really do. But every time I get motivated enough to go on LinkedIn, I find that there are suddenly much more pressing things to do like making a cup of tea or staring out of the window. Let’s face it, it’s not the most exciting interface and the people on it aren’t posting amusing or terribly interesting things. It’s all very professional, which is – to be fair – why I want to use it.

It’s just that LinkedIn is not really doing anything for me right now. My fairly minimal profile hangs around in cyber space and serves the purpose of popping up as a pretty neutral top result when I google myself (see Thing 3).

In an effort to get more out of LinkedIn I added a photo and… well,  that’s about it. The information on it isn’t out of date but neither is it putting everything that I do out there – I feel a bit uneasy about basically having my CV up for the world to see. Things that I have done though are to join groups, so I’m now going to make an effort to keep up with what’s going on in the library groups.

 

Facebook

I point-blank refuse to use Facebook for professional networking. My profile has got the privacy settings ramped up as far as they go and I use it solely on a personal basis. I signed up in 2006 I think when it was fairly new and you could only join if you had a university email address. Since then it’s scary how big it’s grown. I use it for contacting friends and sharing photos. There are better mediums for doing both out there but everyone seems to be on Facebook so it’s just easier.

Although I’m not going to use Facebook for any sort of professional medium, I do see the merit in libraries having institute Facebook pages. It’s a great way to interact with users because, as I say, everyone seems to be on it.

 

LISNPN

I found out about the LIS New Professionals Network when I first started my traineeship and it’s been really useful. I’ve used it to connect with other graduate trainees and new professionals and a few months ago I visited Oxford and it’s libraries, an event organised totally on LISNPN.

There’s a lot of great information and it’s really good to have a community of well-wishing professionals that will help with any questions. It moves at a slower pace than Twitter and there’s no character limit so I’ve had some really helpful, detailed responses to queries that I’ve posted.

 

As for the Librarians as Teachers Network and CILIP communities, these are networks that I’ve been lurking around for a while and may continue to lurk for a little bit. And I guess some time in the future something may take my fancy and I’ll get involved.

Thing 5: reflective practice

11 Jun

I’m afraid to say I’ve been putting this ‘Thing’ off for a little while. I also took some time off last week and went back home to beautiful Bath so I haven’t had my library hat on as much recently.

I’m very new to this concept of reflection as it’s not something I’ve come across in previous jobs and have only just started to hear the term bandied about at different training/professional development events. My first impression was that it seems pretty integral to getting chartered which caused me to dismiss it, as chartership is a long way off for me. But the more I read around the subject, the more I realised that reflective practice was something I could and should be getting in the habit of doing now.

Throughout my traineeship I’ve been fortunate enough to be encouraged to go to external training events. For the first couple I took a notebook and made the most meticulous notes for every talk…and didn’t do anything with them afterwards. I definitely wasn’t getting the most out of these events. I was simply writing down what was being said at the time, which gave me no time to think about how what was being said was relevant to me.

In December I attended the ARLIS workshop “An Introduction to Art & Design Reference Resources” and volunteered to write up the event for the ARLIS newssheet and Students & Trainees blog. This was my first venture into doing anything of the sort and I agonized over the write-up for the week after the event. Although I was trying to give an objective overview of the day, going back over my notes and putting them into a readable piece made me think about what I was getting out of events like that.

Since then I’ve been trying to blog about conferences, workshops and visits I’ve been going to, first on the London Research Libraries Trainee blog and now here. I’ve found it much more useful to have my own blog rather than contributing to others because I feel more justified in talking about MY experiences.

At the moment I feel like my reflective practice is very much casual. Like everything I’m doing at the moment, I’m getting to grips with the idea and hopefully it’ll come with time. Yes ok, my model for reflective practice is more like this…:

 

Laurenson, 2012

 …than any of these…:

Kolb, 1984

 

Borton, 1970

…but I feel like this ‘Thing’ has really made me think about how I can make the most out of every experience I have. Pretty soon I’ll be having to look back on my graduate trainee year and by recalling and evaluating (what I’ve learnt, enjoyed, was good at, was bad at), I can look forward and plan my future accordingly.

 

Masters schmasters? Rising fees, methods of learning and general confusion

31 May

CC image courtesy of wwarby via Flickr

As May draws to a close, it’s a scary thought that I’ll be out of a job in 3 months time. My graduate trainee year so far has been an incredible experience that has given me so many professional skills and got me really buzzing for a future career in libraries. So the next step is a masters degree in library and information science…right?

That’s the plan, in fact that’s on the job specification for most graduate trainee job posts – the intention to study for a postgraduate qualification in librarianship. A standard route into the career is by following this plan: graduate trainee year…masters…first professional post and Bob’s your uncle, you’re a librarian! But with some LIS Masters fees rising dramatically in the last year, I find myself asking whether this is still a realistic career path for most people?

When I started applying for library school before Christmas, I (like a completely sane person with absolutely no predilection for Excel whatsoever) created a spreadsheet comparing fees. I’ve now updated this to include most 2012/13 fees for CILIP accredited LIS courses. Please bear in mind this is for guidance only and by no means can I claim it to be exhaustive or even 100% accurate. The figures are the fees for UK students listed on the universities own webpages and I’ve just brought them together with a terrible colour scheme.

What’s interesting is the disparity in costs that some universtities are charging. Courses range from around £4,000 right up to £9,000 for the full-time year, and while some fees have almost doubled since last 2011/12, others have not changed. Why is this? Am I meant to infer that by paying more, I’ll get a better standard of masters? Over the last year I’ve talked to a range of professionals that all emphasised that all that matters is the professional qualification, not where you got it from and how, and every course has its pros and cons.

With fees rising to up to nine grand, this puts the masters way out of the grasp of a lot of people. Funding has been slashed in most cases and instances of employers sponsoring young professionals through qualifying are much rarer than they used to be. Career Development Loans go up to £10,000 (and paying that back would be fairly crippling) but say if I wanted to stay in London to study next year, living in my fairly cheap little room in zone 3, it would cost me around £20,000 for tuition and living expenses. And that’s a pretty conservative estimate. Even studying with a part-time job puts this out of my reach.

I haven’t quite worked out what I’m going to do next year, but a Masters course is beginning to feel like a very expensive hoop to jump through if I want to proceed with my career. I’ve met a number of other graduate trainees over the last 9 months and out of them, only a handful are going to library school next year. Others have already secured plans on different career paths or are putting the Masters off for a few years.

Whilst in some ways I can see why this is might not be a terrible thing – during a recession when jobs are few and far between and the number of applicants for each vacancy is astronomical, the last thing that’s needed is getting a whole bunch of new professionals qualified and fighting for those same jobs. But where does it stop? The problem with fee rises is that once they’re up, they’re not coming down. Are we looking at a future of librarianship where many have been put off becoming professionally qualified and graduate trainees leave the sector because there’s nowhere for them to go?

The great thing about LIS courses is many universities have made a real effort to accomodate all kinds of students by offering part-time and distance learning options. These will almost certainly be what I end up doing (hopefully) and I think it’s great for a student doing a vocational qualification to study and work simultaneously. In my opinion, the future of the postgraduate qualification is going to be just that, a huge drop in the number of full-time students but hopefully those who are really committed to librarianship, with the help of flexible and understanding university courses, can find a way to make it work for them.

Lost and found

29 May

In my job, you sometimes come across strange things hidden away in books or in a box of donations to the library. I’m a bit of a hoarder and don’t like to throw anything away, so over the last 8 months my desk and the surrounding area has become a bit of a treasure trove for tat, some of which I thought were too good to keep to myself.

 

This little ‘gem’ was found in amongst a pile of books donated to the library. Yes, those are little stones stuck to a naff painting and yes, it now is displayed proudly next to my desk. Noone’s ever asked me about it so perhaps they think that’s the kind of thing I’m into…

 

This scares me a little bit. I think it’s the strange man-with-parrot-sticking-out-of-his-head part that freaks me out the most. Fortunately my colleague who found it has given it pride of place on her notice board.  I wish I could attribute this piece but alas, artist unknown.

 

This is definitely my favourite of the bunch. I love that someone went to the effort to get their typewriter out and commit this charming little ‘Eyeku’ to a piece of scrap paper. And then fold that paper up and hide it in a library book.

Other less fantastic finds have included a 12-year old receipt from Marks and Spencer and some spookily blurry photographs of paintings, along with all the usual stuff like long-forgotten notes and bookmarks. 

So, what weird and wonderful finds have you unearthed in your library?

Thing 4: getting to grips with Twitter, RSS and Storify

24 May

This weeks Thing is about exploring online tools that can be used to keep up with all the exciting things happening in the library universe. While I’ve been using Twitter and RSS feeds for some time, I really don’t think I’m getting the most out of them and I had heard of Storify but not yet had a play around with it.

CC Image courtesy of toolmantim on Flickr

Twitter

I signed up to Twitter in August 2010, the motivating factor being that it was a form of social media that wasn’t blocked at my then-job at a contact centre. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and it was no use to me whatsoever – all of my friends were on Facebook and I wasn’t in a job that I wanted to pursue as a career.

It wasn’t until I start my graduate traineeship that I started to realise the potential that Twitter held for me. Over the last few months I’ve been trying (with mixed success) to use it for networking and sharing ideas. But there are a couple of issues that I’ve still yet to get over:

  • Twitter is all a bit scary. In between the RTs, MTs, DMs, etc. it’s hard to know what you’re looking at and who said it. With hashtags and links all over the shop, some tweets can be plain bewildering.
  • Most people I follow on Twitter, I don’t actually know in real life, so it is intimidating to address them directly. My problem is that I tweet as if I’m talking to myself – I find it hard to get involved in conversations and shy away from “interrupting” other people’s Twitter dicussions.
  • Everything moves so fast on Twitter. A couple of hours ago seems like ancient history on the Twitter timeline. The immediacy of it is great if you want a question answered quickly but it can often leave me feeling like I’ve missed an opportunity. Take the other night, I scrolled right down on my timeline and saw lots of fun tweets for #replaceonewordwithlibrarian. Scroll back up and it appeared I had missed the party. Although I’m sure noone would have been too offended if I joined in a little late, I felt too shy to.

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is a fantastic tool and all of the worries I have about it are actually its strengths: it’s brief, fast and effective. I need to get over my own false perceptions and issues and get stuck in, start conversations and get involved. I’m so scared of breaking some kind of ‘twitiquette’ that I operate in an isolated little bubble and I’m not getting the most out of the medium.

Even though it’s aimed at using Twitter for libaries not librarians, I found this slide-deck by LibMarketing really useful in highlighting common mistakes. Also, Phil Bradley has a list of resources on Twitter for librarians , some of which are a bit dated, but I’ve found incredibly helpful to jump in and out of.

RSS

 I’ve dabbled in RSS in the past, I had a nice feed going for news a year or so ago, but again it’s something that I’m not using to it’s full potential. First stop in my efforts to get a handle on RSS feeds is to Google Reader and I’m already signed in with my Google account so I just click the orange ‘Subscribe’  button and start searching for blogs that I read regularly. Once I’m up and running, I can add the feed to my Firefox bookmarks toolbar and just click on it to have all the latest posts from sites I’m subscribed to.

Since I’m using WordPress for this blog I’ve been following others that way and using the WordPress reader. RSS seems like a more universal way of bringing the things I’m interested in together. I’ll certainly be using this much more in future.

Storify

This is something I’ve heard mentioned and seen briefly but not actually played around with myself. As a little test, I signed up and created this here Storify about the #replaceonewordwithlibrarian game on Twitter I mentioned earlier. Obviously because I was searching for something that only happened on Twitter, this isn’t a particularly good example of how to get the most out of this tool as you can bring in stories from a wide range of sources. I did find an article on the Huffington Post website and a Facebook link related to the story though (check out the amazing photos on the Greene County Public Libraries Facebook page, what a great idea!).

One thing that I have learnt from this little experiment is that you can only search 150 of the most recent related tweets. Since I was making it this morning, I missed out on a lot of Tweets from when the game was in full swing. Other than that, Storify was really easy to use. Hopefully I’ll have something meaningful to make a Storify about in the future.

I didn’t got around to playing with Scoop.it  or Paper.li but those are some more social media tools I hope to get to grips with soon.