Monday, 17 September 2012

Thing 14 - Reference Management Systems

I was airily going to skip over Thing 14 with a smug “I don’t need a reference management system”, but then I read The Green Stone Librarian’s blog and had a lightbulb moment. Yes, I could use a reference management system to keep track of articles I want to read and those that I have read and want to re-read.
But, with Freshers only days away, I’m not going to spend a lot of time downloading and comparing products. 51st Century Librarian has done a good job of that. I have downloaded Mendeley on to my computer, and for now will just keep in the back of my mind to put any articles/documents in here for safekeeping. I may even revisit this task in order to record if I’ve used Mendeley, and if so, how I’ve used it. But don’t hold your breath!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Thing 15, Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events

Much earlier in my career, I loved conferences. I just couldn't believe that I could go and stay in nice hotels (some had swimming pools!) and my employer would pay. I thought of it as a perk – a day or sometimes even more, off work and would happily go to everything possible. Later I worked for RSC Wales where attending conferences, seminars and other events happened all too frequently. I was also involved in organising lots of training and events for Welsh Video Network, so by the time I came to my present post, I was a bit burnt out from all the organising, travelling, presenting etc. I know that I tend to blame my children for all kinds of things, but they really do put a spoke in the wheels when I want to try and go away for a night or two. What I'm trying to building up to is the shameful admission that I have all but given up on conferences and events recently in the last few years.

However, I have made the effort recently to attend one event which was out of my usual comfort zone (all 3 hours out of it), because through this CPD23 lark, I realised that I needed to make more efforts to network with colleagues. And, of course, I really enjoyed it, and got a huge amount out of the day. So while I don't think I'll ever go back to those days when I was the first to volunteer to attend any kind of event, I am committed to attending at least one event a year. And now that I've stated that publicly here, I'm going to have to keep to it.

My main advice to anyone attending a conference is to talk to people. Don't stick to people from your own institution but mix it up with anyone and everyone. Think about issues at work you find difficult to solve, or would like to know more about in other institutions, and ask people about them.

Organising events can be great fun but also pretty stressful. Getting the technology right is one of the major stresses – make sure you have at least half an hour to test beforehand if you're in an unfamiliar place, and ensure that technical help to is at hand. Get presentations before the day and make sure they're on the computer ready to go. Try also to have someone to help you problem-solve. Often as an organiser, you're in demand to meet and greet, introduce people to each other, and make sure presenters have all they need. Having someone else available to find out why the tea and coffee haven't arrived, or to figure out how the fancy new light switches work, is a huge help.

There are so many events that look interesting that I can't pinpoint any that I think would be especially useful except maybe the UC&R conference. If I'm dealing with a specific issue at work, then anything that addresses, for example measuring impact, will be of interest at that particular time.

Are there any subjects on which I feel I could speak? I work in Customer Services, so anything on the student experience, managing a front-line service (combined IT and library), how to measure CS – though suspect anyone who's done Customer Service Excellence would have far more to say on this than I do; also jobsharing – how it works in real-life (keep meaning to write a blog post on this one). BUT, “could” speak is one thing, “would” speak is quite another.

If you have a burning idea for a great event, now would probably be a good time to talk about it!

One thing that has been churning at the back of my mind for a while now is holding a small, informal conference here in Aberystwyth for library staff in all sectors. While Aberystwyth may be small, you can't go anywhere without falling over librarians – the town is crawling with them. Not only do we have the university and the public libraries, but also the National Library of Wales, Bronglais Hospital Library and one of the university's departments is the Department of Information Studies. We also have CYMAL just down the hill. And of course, we never get together. So I've had it in mind to suggest a day where we invite staff from each institution to come together and present – probably on a common theme such as marketing and advocacy. Its on my "to do" list as something to explore when I have the time.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Back to school and CPD23 - Thing 13

I was doing so well, until school holidays interfered. It’s been hard to shake off that holiday feeling, but with Freshers just round the corner now, and work pressure piling up, I’m definitely getting back into the groove. However I’m so behind on 23 Things that I've been avoiding looking at the website and other people's blogs because it just makes me feel bad. Because of that, I’m going to ever so slightly skim quickly over the next few things to try and catch up just a bit.

So, Thing 13. Google Docs, Dropbox and Wikis.
Because we use sharepoint at work, I don’t have much experience of using the first 2 tools in any kind of professional capacity. Documents are kept on Sharepoint and we can control who has access to various areas. We can also give people either read only or editing rights. I now tend to keep most of my documents on sharepoint for the following reasons:
  • ·         I can access them from anywhere – no more emailing documents to myself
  • ·         Sharing with other people – I’ll email people the link to sharepoint, rather than emailing the document. It means that if it gets edited, everyone sees the changes.
  • ·         Security – if my computer crashes, the document is safe. Our clever computer people can also retrieve old copies of the document so if someone accidentally deletes information, I can revert to the previous copy.
  • ·         Collaborating – people can collaborate on a document and it’s much easier than sending the document around and then trying to incorporate everyone’s changes.

I have used Google Docs for keeping documents related to the local Cylch Meithrin (Welsh playgroup). As the committee running the local playgroup changed every couple of years (or sooner) this was an easy and convenient way to share documents between committee members. I found it easy enough to use – I wonder if they still use it or are back to 3 huge box files?

I have used Dropbox once to access a file. Someone sent me a link and I just followed it – didn’t need a password. I haven’t explored it further as I don’t see a need for it at present, and also I don’t want to download something I don’t need on to my computer.

I don’t use, and don’t see the need for it. Only ever used Wikipedia (of course).  

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Thing 12 - reflections on social media

Having been congratulating myself on being up-to-date with all things CPD23, I now find myself falling behind once more. I'm off on holiday next week so busy this week getting everything ready. That means no time to look at things 13, 14 or 15 - and by the time I come back from holiday I really should be on 16!

I did make a few notes on thing 12 - reflection on social media, and felt really smug about it, seeing as it was supposed to be a free week. Ah well, pride comes before a fall and all that ...

Well, having got this far, what’s changed for me?
If I’m really, really honest, then this blog is the only big change. I’m hoping to be able to keep it going after 23 Things, but having a topic set every week is giving me an impetus that will not be there once 23 Things has finished. A big dose of self-discipline will be required to continue regularly.
Social media can lead to better communication.
Yes, but only if people participate. The huge majority (including myself) seem to prefer lurking in the shadows – happy enough to read other people’s ideas and comments but unwilling to share themselves. Twitter seems to be dominated by a small number of librarians, and also librarians who already know each other and have created their own groups within Twitter. It’s difficult sometimes to know when is appropriate to comment, and when not, especially when the professional and the personal meet.
It creates a more collaborative working space where people are encouraged to share their ideas
Not yet for me, but I can see that for projects, groups, etc, it would be useful. I'm hoping to join a project with other institutions and it will be interesting to see how much use we make of collaborative working space.
It aids in building online communities
I’ve blogged about this before, but for me, the main online community is still lis-link (or other mailing lists). The response rate is far better than Twitter or comments on my blog. I’ve also found that one of the big pluses of following CPD23 is renewing contacts with people who I’ve either already met or know of, and I’ve really enjoyed following the blogs of Alyson Tyler and Sam Oakley. I haven’t really made contact with people I’ve never met before. This probably means that I’m not being proactive enough in commenting on other people’s blogs and responding to Tweets.
Social networking can also provide easy access to other areas of the profession.
Yes it can, but I think that to get a clearer idea of other areas of the profession, then visits to other sites is invaluable.

Since beginning 23 Things, I use Twitter a lot more, but am not sure of the benefits. I'm a lot more aware of how I need to improve my networking, and face-to-face works a lot better initially to build relationships - maybe I can then use Twitter etc to keep in touch with people.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Thing 11 - Mentoring

Hmm, not quite sure what’s required here, as I’ve never had a mentor or been a mentor to someone.

Do I think I’ve missed out by not having a mentor? Not really. I suppose it does depend a lot on the person who is the mentor, and the relationship you have with them, but I’ve always been very happy with discussing issues with colleagues. I was very fortunate in my first job to be working with people who supported me brilliantly. In my second job, I was a solo librarian in a city where I knew no-one. Yet the network of librarians there was great and before very long I was spending at least 2 lunch-hours a week with other librarians on campus to discuss issues. The University where I work now has a mentoring programme that I could access, but at present, I don’t feel the need for this. Since I job-share, I already have someone on hand to discuss problems, to reflect on issues, and to support (or sometimes to argue against) any decisions I might make.

I would be more than happy to be a mentor if I was asked. We do have a mentoring scheme at the university, and training is provided for mentors, which I expect would be useful not just for official mentors, but anyone who has a role in supporting and/or managing other members of staff.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thing 10 - CPD and other things

I'm warning you now, this is a bit of a monster post
It's 17 years (gulp!) since I qualified as a librarian. I fell into it completely by accident. I'd just graduated in Welsh and had applied unsuccessfully for a number of jobs – one of which was in a library. In the interview I was told about the MLib (as it was then) course at DILS (now DIS) at Aberystwyth University, and since I seemed to be virtually unemployable as I was, I persuaded my poor parents to put me through yet another year in Higher Education.

I remember very little of the course by now. A quarter of it was dedicated to management, a quarter to reference tools, and I remember one session on teaching us to use card catalogues. How useful was it? Well, I've hardly used a card catalogue in my life, and for the first 5-6 years in my profession, the information on management was completely superfluous. My first job was on a reference desk, so that bit came in slightly useful, but I think I learnt more in a month on the job than I did in a year of studying it at masters level. I also managed to submit my dissertation within the year.

Of course, the course would have offered me so much more if I'd worked in a library for a period of six months to a year beforehand. I'm envious of our library graduate trainees as they get an unique opportunity to explore nearly all aspects of library work, and gain a far greater understanding of the workflows and the interactions between teams in the library. To be fair, the year I studied seemed to be a year of transition from paper-based materials to huge computerised databases, and the year I started working was when the institution I worked in suscribed to their first bibliographic database – remember BIDS? - but it did mean that lots of what I'd learnt about were out-of-date almost immediately.

I did finally get a job where I spent morning in a sectional library and afternoons on the reference desk in the main university library. This was great as I got the opportunity to learn to do a little of everything in the sectional library, while I really enjoyed (and still do) working on the reference desk.

Opportunities for promotion or advancement were few and far between where I was, so I moved to Leeds and ran the Education Library at the School of Education, University of Leeds. I've never wanted to be pigeonholed in library work – I never wanted to be just a cataloguer or reference librarian or desk manager, but rather have opportunities to do different things, and being a Solo Librarian at the School of Education Library provided me again with this. The library was part of the academic department, rather than the University Library, so this gave me an insight into how academic departments worked, especially as I was kindly invited onto all the Advisory Groups covering policy, research and teaching. I also got a gentle introduction into management, as I was mentored by one of the lecturers and also received a great deal of support and advice from other librarians on the campus.

After a few years I joined RSC Wales – no, not a Shakespearean acting troupe but the JISC Regional Support Centre for FE. My work here was to support library staff, and later teaching staff, in FE in using ILT. Again this was extremely varied, and challenging. However it was also a fabulous opportunity and all the RSC staff were expected to attend various national conferences and training events, as well as our own events.

Family life interrupted and after 4 years I gave up my job. That lasted 12 months, before I went back to work part-time for the Welsh Video Network as a Learning and Teaching Advisor. After the RSC, it was a relief to be only working with one technology, and by working alongside an ex-PGCE lecturer, I learnt a huge amount about creating effective lesson plans and reinforcing learning. We also had lots of fun arranging events – my favorite was probably a “Question Time” type event involving 4 AMs (Assembly Members in Welsh Senate) and a number of FE Colleges.

The travelling was getting too much with 3 small children (Oh, the irony, when I was promoting videoconferencing!) so when a full-time job came up as Customer Services Manager in the University Library I jumped at the opportunity, but only after persuading a colleague to apply with me as a job-share. We fortunately were offered the post and nearly 5 years later, we're still here.

During those years I'd done quite a bit of CPD, from a translating diploma, to a LeTTOL course, and attended a huge number (during my RSC time especially) of conferences. In my present role, I need to focus far more on generic management skills. The JISC infoNet resources and courses have been really useful, and if you haven't seen them, then they are worth a look. I would find the management aspect of my MLib course of far more interest and value now then I did at the time.
Apart from formal qualifications and courses, I should make far more of an effort to keep up with current literature, and attend more conferences – but again, it's hard to fit everything in.

I can see from looking back at the CPD23 post that my route has not been straightforward. I did start an attempt at Chartering but only half-heartedly as I was never convinced of the benefits, and I can honestly say that not Chartering has never hindered me.
I believe the benefits of a good Graduate Trainee programme are unsurpassed for a thorough grounding in all (or at least most) aspects of library work, and can see that it would have helped me enormously over the years.
As for formal masters or undergraduate degrees in librarianship – I'm not convinved that my degree gave me the best skills for the job, but I don't know how things have changed over the years. I do know that these academic departments don't seem to be concentrating their research on issues that I find all important in librarianship these days – impact being one of the main ones, and if anyone wants to prove me wrong and point me in the direction of research in impact or value of academic libraries, I'd be grateful.

It's been a bit of a ramble, so if you've got this far, thanks for reading. I'll try not to be so long-winded next time.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Thing 9 - Evernote

Thing 9
I like the idea of Evernote, and from looking at other people's posts, I can see that there's a lot of good reviews. I've downloaded it now onto my computer, and will do so on my phone as well. I can see where being able to save anything from my computer, phone or any other device will be useful for me, but I haven't used it yet, and feel that I need some time to play with it before I can use it effectively. In reality, this time will never happen, so either I won't use it, or I'll start using it haphazardly and take a very long time to get to grips with it. Maybe I'll try and find someone who works with me who uses it, and sit down with them to look at it in more detail.
Although, since I spend so much of my time trying to organise myself, maybe I should prioritise anything that might help

Christine Sexton has written on "Think before you post" on her blog "From a Distance..." which is, as usual, very interesting and informative.