Thursday, 12 July 2012

Things 7, 8, 9 - just count them

Oh boy, I am seriously behind so here is a speedy catch up post.  I am afraid I’m becoming more of a Luddite as this programme progresses.  I look at the things, make cooing noises and then convince myself I’ll never need/use said thing.  

7: Real life networks
I was always a bit scared by the prospect of networking in person, but turns out it’s really easy!  I speak from having attended my first CILIP branch event (Experiencing Chartership run by CILIP Thames Valley) and since everyone was there for the same reason and we already had a major thing in common, it was a lovely friendly atmosphere to get chatting.  I was able to put a faces to a bunch of Oxford tweeters and have a good discussion about Trainee Liaison Librarian posts with @ecschlackman, not to mention listen to some great speakers re: their chartership experiences.

Around the same time, @library_lizzie also organised an Oxford cpd23 Things meet up which was well attended and a good chance to hear how people were getting on and have a bit of a gossip.  Library school has also helped to cultivate some networking opportunities too and make some new chums who don’t mind talking about libraries, but would probably rather talk about something else during the break between lectures! 

8: Google calendar
As Google strives to take on Facebook as to who owns most of me online, I find that I have accidentally been using Google calendar for quite a while now.  I have an android phone and every time I put in any appointments and reminders they are added to my Google calendar.  It was quite a revelation as I find I can now check what might be going on in my life if my phone is not with me (most of every day at work).  However, obviously it depends on me remembering to put everything in – I am still wholly reliant on my little diary at the bottom of my handbag!  At work, our team is very small so we share an Outlook calendar which is easy and hassle-free since email is all Outlook too.  Socially, I don’t feel the need to share a calendar with my friends – it’s nothing a few text messages can’t keep on top of.

9: Evernote
I like the idea of Evernote but it seems to be a thing I will actively have to insert into my already well established routines rather than thinking of it instinctively.  Currently I seem to do a lot of copying and pasting of links into blank emails and saving them in my drafts with excitable subject headings, or just simply book-marking things - this is clearly unacceptable, if not actually a professional offence. Maybe Evernote can help me mend my ways.
From what others have said it appears also to be an excellent way to share things with a group though, if you can get people on board.  And it will no doubt come in handy at library school (ugh, if we can all get over BlackBoard’s own group working “tools”).  It would also be useful for potential research for my dissertation, when I have worked out exactly what that will be.  Ahem.  So there are a few ifs and buts but I will persevere!  Too many times I've found the perfect gift for someone or the ideal article/blog for assignments and just sort of nodded at my screen, thinking "this time I will defo remember!" I never, ever do.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Reflecting and Networking, things 5 & 6

A catch-up post for Things 5 and 6.

Thing 5 - Reflective Practice

I am quite a reflective person, I do spend a lot of time thinking over the things I do, have done and may do in the future.  I may even be a little too introspective for my own good.  I’m always the first to start a post mortem of a party or occasion where I may have made a total arse of myself and spend the following week stressing about it and what I can do (or not do!) the next time to prevent such feelings of stupidity.

I think I really started to reflect on my professional practice when I was midway through my Traineeship.  I was unlucky at interview and was called in when the original candidate quit after a month in the job.  This auspicious start to the year (or, my career) made me really conscious of my own abilities and skills, and other people’s perceptions of my work.  It wasn’t until I found my feet at Corpus and started to explore what other people were doing that I started to assess my own professional progress, as it were.  I wanted to get more involved to make the most of my Trainee year so I made sure to take up people on offers of visits and training opportunities.  I took part in OxLib Teach Meet where I delivered my Trainee presentation a day early and to real live professional Librarians!  I asked a lot of questions.  I read a lot of blogs.  I was always up for more tasks and responsibilities.  I think my Trainee year provided a brilliant springboard for library school and the Oxford library network – indeed I am still now at Corpus and studying part-time at UWE.  I am still using things I’ve learned from being a Trainee, notably the training sessions themselves fed in to some bits of coursework and readings.  I use the fact that I was a Trainee to connect with other library people in Oxford as most are interested to hear how you got on and then offer their own pearls of wisdom.

I tried to write a reflective piece about my first year atlibrary school, but it is very descriptive instead.  Library school is allowing me to think about what I am learning and applying it to my work and vice versa too.

As far as reflecting on CPD 23 Things goes though - I am not doing so well.  I know I am too focussed on my own progress and should be reading more and commenting more on other blogs.  With that in mind, as soon as I hit 'publish' I'm off to comment as I've never commented before..

Thing 6 – Online Networks

Over the last few months I’ve tried to make the most of being on Twitter, which I suppose is the main online network I follow.  I like finding out about key issues in the profession by reading the tweets that unite or divide.  It is also excellent for keeping on top of many jobs that are posted.  (I’m not seeking a new job, but it is useful to see how the job market is looking in my sector.)

Strictly personal and becoming evermore the burden I can’t see myself ever opening this up for professional networking.  Facebook is like the how-is-it-not-finished-yet party you can’t leave for fear of missing something hilarious. Or gross.  Or grossly hilarious, that you know everyone will be talking about for months and months and just why would you want to exclude yourself from All The Fun anyway, yo?  However, I do use it to keep up with and share photos/links/articles with my nearest and dearest who are all flung to the four corners of the globe.  For this Facebook is pretty good as everything is in the same place and just everyone is on it.

I don’t fully understand why I would need or want to join LinkedIn at the moment. It seems that a lot of what it offers can be found elsewhere.  I can’t face setting up a profile just for the sake of it as I know that I would forget to update it.  If anyone can tell me why I should definitely get on it, please comment below!  Are the groups worth it? Maybe I’ll change my mind and come to it when I am actively job hunting.  I take on board the point about Google searches which can’t be laughed off as it’s a given employers will be looking you up!

LISNPN/CILIP Communities
Now, these are two networks I should exploit more. I enjoy the guest blog posts for LISNPN and it does seem to be a very active network.  CILIP Communities is a tiny bit terrifying but I’m sure once I suck it up and start to explore I will make some great connections!  I don’t know if I am alone in finding the CILIP website quite hard to navigate and find things though? Don’t tell, like.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Library School -1 year down, 1 to go.

So this post has been brewing a little while, further inspired by this post by Ruth.  In May I finished the first year of my Library Masters, scary.

Library school has not entirely been what I was expecting.  I am studying the MSc Information and Library Management at the University of the West of England and it has so far been…underwhelming.  BUT I think this has much to do with the fact that I am studying part-time and just have not covered as much ground as many other people I know who are doing their courses full time or by distance.  Certainly the full-timers at UWE have been struggling over the year with a pretty relentless workload.  I’ll leave it up to them to explain the best bits of their experience though..!

I suppose I am left feeling slightly short-changed because I have yet to study any real nuts and bolts librarianship.  Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised since my course is not titled Librarianship (indeed, few are) but has so far been heavily management focused and after all, I have only just finished the first year, which is just four modules.  I would have liked to looked deeper into collections and the management thereof, e-resources and even the differing classification systems, rather than more than a cursory mention as has been the case so far.  To be fair though, our assessment specifications often forced us to undertake our own research on certain issues so you could really spend as much or as little reading up on it as you liked.  I need a bit more structure though!

The two options modules to choose from for this year were library-centric: Academic Libraries or Public Libraries. I chose Public Libraries since I have precisely zero working knowledge or experience in this area – apart from being a very grateful and regular user of my local one!  These options were the main modules where any sort of depth was plumbed and real current issues and practices were discussed.  

Our assessments for each module were 1 essay and 1 group presentation + additional individual mini-essay.  Here is a brief overview of the four modules:

Library and Information Services
A broad introductory-type of module which looked at things like copyright and data protection legislation, ethics and equality of service, introducing self-service (and the different types), Web 2.0 tools, virtual referencing tools and having a play on QuestionPoint during one session.  We chatted about collections and policies pertaining to these, very briefly.  This module was a pretty good start to the course as it covered a lot of ground but I would have liked to have gone into more depth on issues as censorship, legislation and the issues facing the profession.  This though was supposed to encourage our own investigation and research I think, and set us up for future modules.

Transferable Management Skills
This was another kind of sweeping module, featuring all the usual topics to do with general management – change management, staff attitudes, report writing, presenting skills, running meetings, information literacy.  OK that last one is VERY relevant to libraries, and several sessions were dedicated to it.  This was quite a tedious module, in that you think it is mostly common sense but you have no theory to back up why you think like this!  So theory ahoy!  Oh well, at least it will all be useful in practice. The module also encouraged reflective thinking and part of our presentation assessment was to submit a Reflective Log evaluating the process of writing and forming the group presentation.

Management of Information and Library Services
This module featured sessions from guest lecturers who were also LIS professionals, from some different sectors.  This was a sort of follow on module from TMS and focused entirely on Library and Information Services, which was good.  It tried to look at all sectors but obviously this is difficult as time was limited.  I said above that I was disappointed the course had yet to look at some nuts and bolts, but this module taught us all the other things that library managers have to do.  The stuff that you maybe don’t do as a library assistant, and that the public (and certain politicians)  don’t even realise qualified Librarians do, such as: staff management, budget planning and financial management, marketing, project planning (e.g. a library move), staff appraisals, service evaluations etc etc.  Although the management speak got a bit jargonistic at times, it was a very useful module that I did get a lot out of.  I was able to speak to my colleagues about a lot of the topics and get the Corpus spin on it too.  Working alongside studying has really been a blessing and a curse – I’ve been able to draw on loads of experience for coursework and seminars, but felt totally drained on time and energy levels!

Public Libraries with Services for Young People (Option module)
I think the biggest disappointment with the ILM course so far is that we had to choose between Public and Academic libraries.  I would really have enjoyed the Academic module as well but as I already work in one I thought I’d get out of my comfort zone and opt for Public Libraries.  I am really pleased I did as it was a lovely small class (just four of us!) and covered a lot of ground, such as: Public Libraries’ purpose and policy, reaching non-users, social justice, collections for families, children and young people, equitable service, reading development & literacy, managing staff, evaluating performance and working in partnerships.  I found it all fascinating and some sessions were just downright fun! I enjoyed discussing planning collections and literature for children and young people and we had an excellent talk from a secondary school librarian.  Most sessions included talks and presentations from professionals in the Bristol area, all really engaging and switched on.  My classmates were all public library assistants so I felt slightly behind but it didn’t matter as everyone was really happy to share stories and experiences as well as give tips and advice which work in any library and helped with coursework.
My main criticism of this module is that it hadn’t been updated enough in regards to the politics and economics of this coalition government.  That would have been worth a session in its own right – the fight that libraries are facing and the success stories, and the sad stories.  How libraries are adapting to the new legislation and cuts and showing the world: you still need us!  Much of the recommended reading was several years out of date and focused on standards, organisations and policies introduced by New Labour but then, as we all know, in 2010 the new government swiftly put the kibosh on all of that.

The UWE course seems to be one of the courses most geared towards people who are working at the same time - obvs not including the distance learning programmes.  My own circumstances meant I couldn’t afford to do it full-time and cut back on work so I chose part-time which is one day a week (Tuesdays) while I work slightly reduced hours at Corpus to fund myself.  When I started to think about applying for library school I got a lot of advice and pretty much everyone recommended doing the course part-time and working if that was a realistic situation for me.  Even full-time at UWE is only two days a week, so working a library job is totally doable (and expected I think) but like I say above, the workload can be pretty punishing so it wouldn’t be for me...  I also liked that much of the teaching is delivered by library professionals who are, crucially, still in the field.

After meeting my new course mates it became clear that we were all there for slightly different reasons.  Many people doing the LIS/ILM qualification (anywhere, not just UWE) are doing it in order to secure a job – perhaps even their existing one, such is the unstable nature of our sector at the moment.  I feel quite sheepish when I really think that actually I’m only there because I want to do more than be a library assistant for the rest of my life, I’d like to tackle more of the big stuff and get to make professional decisions using my professional knowledge and opinions.  I suppose we are all there because we want to be more employable and are ambitious enough to realise the library profession can benefit from our wicked skillz.  I am enjoying exploring and learning as much as I can and gradually finding out where it is I fit in all of it.  Having faffed about in so many awful and temporary jobs since leaving Aberdeen where I was an undergrad,  it was so brilliant when I had the light bulb moment and landed on libraries.  I got applying and was unsuccessful at every interview – hurrah!  The rest (and beginning) of that story probably deserve a whole other post, so moving on…

The course has done a lot for my confidence, in my own thoughts, knowledge and experience, as well as being conducive to doing a lot of networking as every librarian I meet loves to talk about library school!  I am able to take it in to work to discuss and find out what happens in practice.  It is helping me to ask all the right questions to steer me on some sort of career path.  (Although, I have to be realistic and say that when it’s all over, it basically comes down to what jobs are available. Sigh.)

At the heart of all this I do want to have a career in a profession that allows me to make the best of myself, continue learning and to help folk find the best and right things for their own learning and development.  The best thing is that there are a hundred and one routes for me to take and find one that suits me.  The Masters helps me reach the level I want to be at and make the most of myself, my skills and experience  gained as well as providing me with myriad other opportunities.  I just have to get through another year at UWE then the real adventure will begin!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Thing 4: Current Awareness

I have enjoyed this Thing as we’ve all been able to take so much from each other, such is the egalitarian nature of Twitter.  By being on it and using it nearly every day I’ve got to learn loads.  Even by simply lurking I have picked up rules of etiquette, tips and brilliant advice. (Maybe lurking is bad etiquette?!)  For the most part though, I adopted the Learn By Doing approach and just got on with it.  You’ll see my nonsense on Twitter most days now and it helped when I got my Smart phone a few months ago too.  However, Thing 4 has really helped me think about how I should be using it “properly”.

Last week, I took a look at this excellent blog post by @medievaljenga.  It holds some solid tips and advice and further tools to use to make the most of Twitter.  Will definitely be checking out Pocket.  Snap Bird was also a revelation to me as well, thanks to @walkyouhome.

At first, like many others who have already written about this Thing, it all seemed overwhelming and I limited the number of people I followed.  However, the more I explored the more interesting and funny and informative people I found so I wanted to follow to see what they had to say.  I have spent today so far sorting out many of these in to lists as suggested by Jen in her aforementioned excellent blog post.  I have to say though that Tweet Deck has yet to reveal itself to me properly, as the app I am using. That is, I am not sure how to use it the most efficiently to help myself.  I’m still experimenting as I didn’t really have much trouble on my own timeline catching things I was interested in or wanted to contribute to.  I will persevere though, to use Twitter in such a way as to exploit its many benefits.  

(The next thing I must learn: how to “mute” certain things, for example I am not interested in every single conference that people are going to, and sometimes up to ten people are live-tweeting such events and it is too much!  Even though I don’t read anywhere near every tweet on my timeline, it would be good to have some control.)

I’m keen to stick it out with Twitter as the more I use it the more I get out of it.  There are some brilliant people out there.  Good enough to get their tweets embroidered on samplers? I expect so. Although, maybe iced on a cake might be more fitting for these LIS gurus.

RSS feeds - have been using Google Reader intermittently for a couple of years.  I usually forget all about it to be honest despite my life being basically run by Google these days.  Now though I’ve subscribed to some really great blogs and being involved in cpd 23 things is making me want to keep up so for this it’s been awesome.  I love the RSS feed for all participants in the programme, really useful!  I really enjoyed @girlinthe’s post about how it all comes together - an interesting peer in the back door.

Storify looks spiffy. I love how it looks and it has enhanced many a presentation or news article.  I haven’t played with it myself, although have made baby steps and set up an account. I’ll come back to it when I have an actual cause to use it.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Thing 3 - Considering my personal brand

Quite the debate kicked off on Tuesday regarding brand.  However, I don’t want to dwell too much on what everyone else has been saying.  Three weeks into this project and I am guilty of doing this, becoming preoccupied with a debate and not how I actually feel about it.  I reckon this will pass as I get more confident and chatty on the blogging front, but for now I will just focus on the task in hand: Thing 3 – Personal Brand.

I am apprehensive of the term and concept of personal branding.  I don’t feel like I am a brand and certainly not a fully functional person who can be defined by the tweets I send, the blog posts I attempt (hello!) or the idiotic things I post on Facebook.  (Actually my Facebook is so idiotic it’s STRICTLY personal.)  It is slightly intimidating, as a new professional, to find yourself being judged almost on what you tweet about, how your blog looks or whether or not you can even see your face in your photo.  I am very much in awe of those LIS professionals out there who have a big online presence, or who have honed and impressive knowledge and opinions, or who know where they are or where they want to be.  I am still on a “journey” (HA, sorry couldn’t resist).  I know that there are things I don’t like about the sector I work in (specifically college libraries) but I don’t feel ready to shout about them online.  Because to me at the moment, there is a lot of noise on here and you do have to shout to be heard.

When I decided to do CPD23 Things I knew that I would have to really think about the way I come across online, and what I should and should not do.  I know that I have to stop thinking and start acting, and luckily being on Twitter and starting this blog is letting me do this by tentatively joining in on one massive, long and interesting conversation with many a tangent, tip and picture of cute kittens along the way.

So, when setting up my Twitter profile I just thought it would be easier to use my actual name.  I’m happy for it to be out there and I am quite awful at thinking up usernames for anything.  I used a photo of myself which is pretty old (2008) and is only the side of my face because I don’t think I own any good photos of myself.  Plus this photo was taken in Shibuya, Tokyo so every time I see it I remember that awesome 3 months in Japan.  I also used this photo on this blog for the same reasons, and I suppose it gives a bit of consistency so that people will remember me.

The title of my blog came from my Twitter bio as I thought it formed a nice link.  It is also a cunning reference to my place of work: Corpus Christi, Oxford which has quite a lovely connection to bees, with the founder likening the college to a beehive.  The college does still have a number of beehives too and a related dedication to local eco-friendly schemes.  How civilised. 

If I Google myself, the first few results are not me.  The first few results are other Hilarys on LinkedIn and Facebook, including a one-woman band from the US.  This is cool, but not me.  My Twitter page shows up quite far down the list, as does my very first blog post for the Oxford Libraries Graduate Trainee blog.  If I then add “library” and search again, the first four results are me!  My Twitter page, followed by the library contacts page from the college’s website, then my Trainee post, and then the Oxford Library Teach Meet where I gave a little presentation last summer (I’m really pleased that showed up).  On the whole, I am pretty happy with these results.  My Facebook doesn't appear immediately which I am glad about because it is not a professional thing at all.  Not that I have anything to hide from prospective employers or colleagues, I just have quite a strict personal Facebook "policy" and will really only be friends with someone on there if we are "real-life" friends, or actually hang-out and interact fairly frequently (online or in person), or are related. Anyway, that was a weird aside, apologies.

As far as the whole “profersonal” thing goes, I hope I am balanced.  That said, I tend not to tweet independently about libraries and issues that often, but will reply to others who do.  I tweet a lot of nonsense with other folk I know, both library and other friends so that side is very much personal.  I think I actually prefer to see a library professional tweet both personal (although, let’s be honest, no one wants intimate) and professional things.  This must just come down to nosiness!  No, really, I like seeing the types of people I share a profession with as often we have similar world viewpoints, things in common, the same typing quirks..  I’m not convinced my blog tells my readers who I am, because it is still very much in its infancy.  Backgrounds and layouts are kind of a side issue for me, I’d rather let my posts tell you all you need to know.  But no doubt one day I’ll want a big ol’ bumble bee banner or something.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Thing 2 - Exploring the blogosphere

I’ve read some fantastic posts and discovered some really interesting voices out there already and am only 2 things and 1 week into the programme!  Thanks to everyone who has made me laugh, agree, disagree, nod and enthuse – way too many to list here but I am gradually overcoming my fear and starting to get the hang of this.  Although starting off is hard!  I’m still learning how all the bits and bobbins of blogger and RSS feeds and Readers and such actually work but hey, that’s what we’re here to learn right?

I didn’t address the schedule in my first post but I am looking forward to the taking part-ness of physical networking – Thing 7 falls the week after I plan to attend my first CILIP branch event so that is good.  It will be good to put some faces to names/profiles and nice to physically feel part of a network.  I am such a quiet tweeter and have minimal online presence that at the moment I feel like I’m the one lost and wandering round out the back looking for somewhere to hang my coat and fix my hair before making an actual entrance.

It is really Things 15 onwards that fill me with a sort of dreadful enthusiasm.  I want to take them on but it will be scary!  I am aware of the bun fight that occurs when newly qualified Librarians start looking for all the jobs and the competition will be fierce but personally I need to make sure I don’t quit before I’ve even started.  These last few things will help to, I’m sure, instil confidence and help me to make the correct decisions and really get to know myself professionally.  Still scary as hell though!  Thing 20 will be good for some moral support and I love the Library Day in the Life project, having taken part when I was an Oxford Library Graduate Trainee!

Anyway, in the meantime I will continue to read your posts and comment where I can!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

First, break your eggs

Pretty stressful finding a name that wasn’t taken, but here I am!  Just signed up to this year’s CPD 23 Things!

I’m doing it this year because the re-launch this week coincided rather well with my last deadline for library school until September.  This means that I have the summer to make a good stab at this and hopefully by the start of the new term I will be so good at blogging that it will be a fairly normal part of my routine, ha.  

I have actually been toying with the idea of whether I should set up a blog for a while now as I’m halfway through my MSc and working at a nice place and generally having quite a lovely time so it would be good to challenge myself to really dive into my profession.  My main reason for not doing so though is the ever-present worry of does the world really need my ramblings on yet another library blog?  I’m worried I don’t have the “right” things to say and a lot of it comes down to old fashioned shyness!  I’m not comfortable with talking about myself in “real-life” but this programme is awesome and will encourage me to start reflecting and, I hope, help me find my niche, find the issues I’m interested in and feel better connected.  So CPD23 is giving me the impetus to ignore all these silly worries and just get on with it!

So, background.  Am halfway through the MSc ILM at UWE and working as part-time Senior Library Assistant in a college library in Oxford.  I’m really keen to get going and explore, learn some new things and maybe meet some new people along the way.  I’ve had quite a few nods and prods of recommendation so I’m hoping this just doesn’t fall off like that pair of Fairisle mittens I started and never finished because I screwed up my gauge and have one enormous mitten that I can’t bear to unravel and start again…anyway.  (Yeah, I knit too. Surprised?)