Tag Archives: libraries

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!

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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.

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?

London LibTeachMeet 2012

19 May

Monday this week marked the occasion of two exciting ‘firsts’ for me: my first LibTeachMeet and my first attempt to live-tweet something. Two words of warning before I get started, I’m going to bravely attempt to write up my memories of the whole event so this might turn into a mammoth post…and there will be many mentions of the amazing cake.

For those who aren’t aware, a LibTeachMeets are an informal way for library and information professionals to share ideas, experiences and skills, whilst sampling [gorging themselves on] cake. I’d first heard about the concept from someone on a visit to Oxford and jumped at the opportunity to become ‘an enthusiastic audience member’ when I heard about this year’s London event.

The topic was Supporting Diverse Learners and to kick off the evening was a nice little networking activity showing the diversity of the attendants, making us talk about how we differed and what things we had in common. Then it was down to the real business of the night, a mixture of 5- and 2-minute speakers from a range of backgrounds:

Sue Merrick: Curating with students and teachers

Sue works in an international school library and spoke about using websites to guide students through project work and actually used one of the websites she recommends – Jog the web – for her presentation. It was a great whizz through online resources, some of which I’d heard of, like Scoop it, and others which were completely new to me, like Symbaloo.

Ka-Ming Pang (presenting on behalf of Carly Miller): How can public libraries engage with homeless people through outreach activity?

This talk explored the issues that homeless people face and how public libraries can provide support for them through access to computers, bibliotherapy, literacy training and providing free study spaces. There are barriers in some public libraries, such as needing a permanent address to borrow, or even use the IT facilities, but the Quaker Mobile Library was an innovative case study of how a library service can operate without excluding homeless users.

Adam Edwards: A game to teach less confident speakers about resources

The best way to tell us about the game that Adam thought up to improve literacy skills was to get us all to do a ‘speed-version’ of it. Groups of 4 were given mixed up sets of laminated cards, one set had the names of resources (e.g. non-fiction book, journal, website) and others had descriptions of them and what you might find in each. The game was very engaging and you could see how it was a great way to get everyone involved and thinking about the types of resources out there.

Kate Lomax: Teaching technical skills to non-technical types

Kate spoke about how library staff could learn technical skills and how the usual barriers to using e-learning where a lack of collaboration or understanding about how or why you need training. She gave cpd23 and the Code Year programme as examples of successful tools for learning technical skills, due to the community that has formed around them, providing support and feedback. Kate had an interesting suggestion that we need 23 more things for cpd with a more technie focus. (I’ll need to get this 23 done first!)

Anne Pietsch: Engaging diverse learners through audio technologies

Having learnt a bit about audio technologies when I visited the library at the RNIB, I was really interested in Anne’s talk. She spoke about the potential for using things like voice recognition software and text-to-speech for all students, not just those with physical or learning disabilities. Since everyone has different ways in which they best learn and work, it’s great to raise awareness about technologies like these.

Barbara Band: Start at the beginning – differentiated uses of covers and starts

I loved Barbara’s talk about the activities she uses to improve the levels of literacy and interest in younger pupils at secondary school and it really put some ideas in my head about wanting to work in a school library. Barbara scans a variety of book covers and prints them onto card to give out to groups (less intimidating than presenting them with a pile of books) and asks them to match the genres to the covers. She can vary the difficulty but asking them to assign more than one genre or giving them tricky covers to suss out. Another activity involved typing up the first page or paragraph (type instead of scan so you can choose where to end it, preferably on a cliffhanger!) and ask them to pick their favourite and explain why they think it’s good.

Suzanne Rush: Cultural awareness

Suzanne showed us an activity that she’s used to help front-line library staff working in a university with a high percentage of international students. Members of the audience were given one of three sets of cards which told them which planet they were from and their traditional greeting. They then had to go round the group, greeting everyone and finding other people from their planet. After a few moments of silliness and LOTS of handshaking, they were asked how the activity made them feel. The response was that it made them feel awkward and isolated, but then relief when they found someone from their ‘planet’. It was a really interesting method of helping counter staff empathise with international students.

Alison Chojna: Skills Days

This talk really got me excited (you can tell by the amount I tried to tweet during it) and I’d love to be able to take the ideas back to my library. Alison told us about the Skills Days that London South Bank University has started holding on topics such as referencing, searching techniques and plagiarism. Faced with issues of timetabling and non-attendance for skills training, they came up with the solution of holding all-day drop-in sessions with workbooks on the various topics for students to work through, ask for help when they needed it and take it away when they left. The monthly skills days were a success and the attendance numbers that Alison mentioned were pretty impressive. Although printing and staffing for the events were an issue, they were outweighed by the benefits that students gained by being able to see people face-to-face and take material away with them.

Julia Abell: Search preparation – reaching mixed users

Julia spoke about how information professionals can support a variety of users with limited searching skills with their research. She stressed how important it was to have a search strategy, regardless of the level/experience of the student, and that students could not restrict themselves to one medium any longer, they had to use all the resources available to them.

Phew, it’s fantastic how much information all the speakers got across in the limited time they had and I came away from the event absolutely buzzing with excitement and ideas. Overall there was a really welcoming, informal and positive feeling to the evening and there was a great variety of speakers. It was one of the most informative and interesting events that I’ve been to and I’ll certainly be looking forward to next years LibTeachMeet.

Finally, I’d like to thank the organisers: the event was extremely well run and the cakes and snacks there were amazing! I think I overdid it on the beautiful lemon cake during the break half-way through but it was completely worth it! More details on the talks should be added to the London LibTeachMeet website sometime soon.

Thing 2: …can’t…stop…reading…

17 May

I’ve really had to tear myself away in order to just write this – once you get started reading other people’s blogs, it’s really hard to stop.

I’ve been a longtime lurker around library blogs for a while now and had been reading blogs like the wikiman, Librarians on the Loose and Girl in the Moon but not interacting in any way because I didn’t feel like I had anything worthy to say. It still does feel a little bit strange and nosy to be poking around someone elses blog but in the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get a bit more social in the social media malarky, which is good because cpd23 Thing 2 is all about visiting and interacting with other blogs.

I’ve been going through the list of CPD23 participants on Delicious and finding so many fantastic blogs out there. Some great ones that I’ve found are Adventures in the LibrarySiobhan B in the library (I absolutely love her pictures), the Neon Librarian and Dewey Decibelle. I could spend all day following links and jumping from one blog to another and never stop reading and to me that’s very encouraging – the online community of librarians seems to be really interactive and lively.

In the past I’ve tended to think of blogging as a bit of an isolated activity where you broadcast and others read, but it’s much much more about sharing and communication. So I’ve been brave and posted a couple of tentative comments, hit the ‘follow’ button more than a few times and I’m really looking forward to getting more involved.

CILIP New Professionals Day 2012

16 May

I just wanted to commit some time to writing about my experience of the CILIP New Professionals Day 2012 that I attended last Friday. There are links to some excellent blog posts about the day handily gathered on the Ned Potter’s post about the day, so check those out for a more comprehensive overview of the day.

The New Professionals Day is a free event run by CILIP to give information, inspiration and advice to those us of taking (or thinking about taking) our first steps in the world of library and information management. The day had a great friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere and there was lots of networking to be done throughout.

The first presentation was from Ned Potter (@theREALwikiman) on branding and how new professionals can positively impact their personal brand. You can tell that this presentation had an effect on me, because look, here I am getting online. I’d been rather neglecting my twitter account of late but was motivated to get tweeting and start a blog after hearing Ned’s sensible advice on the matter. In the past I had been rather put off by social networking as professional development – it seemed like a lot of work for very little pay-0ff. But Ned’s motto of ‘dont panic’ and his helpful instructions of how to ease yourself into the online sphere made me think that it may well be worthwhile (and fun) to develop my personal brand online.

The key message was to do something; we didn’t have to be ‘super-librarians’ (damn, I wanted the cape) but we all have a brand that we can either let be decided for us or we can take steps to try and impact it positively. The great thing about Ned’s talk was the amount of options and practical ideas he gave us on influencing personal brand: from getting online, organising, publishing, sharing or presenting, there was something in there to suit everyones interests and strengths.

Having seen and heard a lot of the Wikiman on the web since I’ve become a new professional, it was great to finally attend an event where Ned was speaking. His presentation was engaging and informative and I’ll certainly be looking back to his Prezi on 5 ways to influence your brand in the future to help my professional development.

After this talk the new professionals split into three groups to take part in various workshops. My first one was Continuing Professional Development (CPD) adventures by Emma Illingworth (@wigglesweets). Emma was great at getting everyone involved and thinking about all the different CPD opportunities (to be fair, we nicked a few ideas from Ned’s presentation). We were given scenarios for information professionals with certain goals in mind and asked to suggest ways in which CPD could help. The result of this was a set of impressive lists of various CPD activities which I’ll try to keep in mind throughout my career.

The second workshop I attended was by Richard Hawkins (@usernametaken10) and Lisa Hutchins (@MyWeeklyBook) onCyberLibrarians: information management jobs in the digital age, which was a fascinating look into the more technology-based side of information management. It was great to hear that the skills that I use in my current job in a fairly traditional library could be used in roles like those of an information architect or website manager. I hadn’t ever considered this side of information management because I didn’t think I was “tech-y” enough, but Richard and Lisa were great at helping us realise how the things that they do weren’t all that far away from what a “traditional” librarian does. It’s all about helping users find the information they need easily.

After the second workshop we stopped for lunch, and at some point during this post it was bound to happen – I had to talk about the burritos. Lunch was amazing. Good call from the CILIP organisers! Food aside, there was plenty of networking to be done and when suitably stuffed, we headed on up to our final workshop of the day. Mine was Have you tried logging out and then in again? with Simon Barron ( @simonXIX) and Abby Barker (@abbybarker). I’m involved a little bit with e-resources in my current job but I was eager to find out what types of things a dedicated e-resources librarian gets up to. Abby and Simon talked us through their jobs and how they ended up working with e-resources, deliberate or not. They showed us that you don’t have to know all the technical bits and bobs, it’s all about understanding what the user is trying to do and how they’re trying to do it – more about people skills than being a computer-whizz.

With all the new professionals back together again after the workshops, the day was rounded off by presentations from Bethan Ruddock (@bethanar) and Phil Bradley (@PhilBradley). Bethan spoke on How to assemble your New Professionals Toolkit: tools needed were a network, a mentor, resources, a plan and a voice. As I listened, it was good to tick things off my mental ‘toolkit checklist’ and helped me identify what could help me further as a new professional.

Phil Bradley spoke about social media and your future career and I loved the uncompromising approach he took to the subject (yes, the rest of us DO have to get on Google+). It is vital for us all to engage with social media as a professional tool and it is our job to understand how to use it. Phil showed us how social media affected the results bought back by search engines and how social media allowed information relevant to you to be brought straight to your attention.

The day was a really useful and thought-provoking event and I took a lot away from it. It gave me a lot of ideas of how to get more involved, further my professional development and it led me to spend my weekend trawling through previously-unbeknownst-to-me social media!

All of the presentations from the day have been listed here on the CILIP website.

…Well, so much for keeping this post short!