Library Camp 2013

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the annual Library Camp unconference at the brand new Library of Birmingham. The new library has a very interesting layout and there are lots of unusual angles and different kinds of spaces, which I really liked and I could definitely imagine spending time studying there. My favourite visual element was the contrast between the futuristic bright blue glowing escalators and the central rotunda with its curved wall of books.

Library of Birmingham

For our library camp event, we had use of the studio theatre on the ground floor of the library in addition to several rooms on the first floor. The event began in traditional unconference fashion with a variety of homemade cakes being laid out upon the tables, followed by people queuing up to pitch ideas for sessions.

The first session that I attended was on social media and libraries, a topic which is of particular interest to me as I am currently responsible for managing my library’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. I worked on developing these accounts over the summer and we officially launched our social media presence at the start of the October semester. This means that we’re still in the early stages of building our online network, so I was hoping to pick up some tips and advice from other librarians as to how to increase student engagement.

There were lots of useful suggestions from people in the group. One person suggested that it was a good idea to target new students before they began their courses, such as by running competitions using social media during Fresher’s week. Another person suggested that Twitter could be used to share information or links that students would find useful, even if they weren’t directly related to the library. This is actually the approach that I am
taking with my library’s social media accounts, and I am trying to market them to students as a current awareness tool rather than just another way to keep up to date with library news and services.

Library of BirminghamHowever, I’ve found that some students don’t immediately understand how social media can be useful to them in this way, which has meant that it has been necessary to spend some time promoting social media itself, in addition to promoting the library’s own social media presence. We have tried to do this in various ways, such as by creating displays about the benefits and uses of social media, and by incorporating social media resources into all the subject guides that we produce. I would like to run a survey at some point in the future to gather more data about our students’ existing attitudes towards social media, as I think that this could help to inform further social media marketing initiatives in the library.

Another useful suggestion that was made in the social media and libraries session was to promote your social media accounts to other social media administrators within your institution. It was argued that this would increase the likelihood of your posts being shared or retweeted by other departments, thus increasing your capacity for reaching your target audience.

Other suggestions included using tools like Storify or Pinterest to combine information about the library with news about current happenings on campus, such as exams, in order to promote library resources and facilities within a wider context. It was also suggested that social media accounts which exhibited some form of personality would be more likely to gain responses than impersonal accounts which only published information – @OrkneyLibrary was seen to be a good example of the former.

One person pointed out that publishing images alongside your social media posts would increase the likelihood of people clicking on and reading your content, while someone else suggested that posting links to local relevant events could give users another reason to want to follow your accounts.

There were many other interesting suggestions, but I think that one of the main things that I took away from this session was that continual marketing of library social media accounts is key to sustaining their momentum, and that ensuring that your published content is interesting and relevant to your target audience is essential for ensuring long-term success.

Library Camp cupcakes

Library Camp cupcakes!

The second session that I attended was entitled Evidence-based Librarianship. One of the main arguments made in this session was that reading practitioner based research should be seen as especially important for librarians who were looking for new ways to enhance their library services. However, the point was made that not all librarians had
access to such research, particularly if they didn’t work in an academic library. It was noted that CILIP members were able to access a number of library journals via their membership subscription, and that Twitter could also be a useful resource for links to professional literature.

It was also noted that librarians often had to undertake such reading and research in their own time as there was limited time available for CPD and innovation on a day-to-day basis. One person argued that undertaking some work outside of normal working hours was inevitable if your intention was to keep up with issues within the profession and to research new ideas. This has certainly been true for me and I have found that setting some time aside for reflection is especially important if you want to come up with new innovations, because the daily tasks of running a library tend to fill up every moment of the working day.

The third session of the day for me was about librarians and teaching. The importance of training was one of the central issues raised and it was argued that at the very least a basic grounding in lesson planning and classroom behaviour management was key for librarians who found that teaching was a part of their remit. One person expressed concern about people taking on teaching responsibilities when they had no knowledge of pedagogy, as this could greatly reduce the effectiveness of their teaching. Many people in the group had taken PTLLS courses or similar qualifications and had found them to be very useful, although some had found it difficult to enrol on to a teaching course because they did not teach the requisite number of hours required in order to be eligible.

Fortunately for me, my college has recently started running an in-house teaching programme which I hope to enrol on next semester. Although it does not lead to a qualification, I think that it will be extremely useful for me and will help me to develop a basic understanding of teaching theory. At the moment I have a very limited amount of
teaching experience, but I have recently started teaching library information skills workshops as part of my role and so I am keen to develop my skills in this area.

There was some discussion in the group about how to create lesson plans which were challenging for all students regardless of differing ability. This was seen as a challenge for librarians as they would be less likely to have an idea of the differing ability levels of the students in their class. Someone argued that it was important to be able to pick up on cues from learners in terms of the ways that they responded to your teaching, as this would enable you to tailor your teaching to meet their needs. Designing lessons to have elements with varying levels of difficulty was also seen as a good way to ensure that all learners could be given something to challenge them.

In terms of getting students to attend library skills sessions, it was argued that such sessions could be marketed in a different way so that students did not assume that the classes were not relevant to them. Some people made the point that students often think that they already know how to search for information, and therefore that they don’t have anything to gain from information literacy classes, when this often isn’t the case. This will definitely be something to think about when I come to promoting our library workshops next semester.

Library of BirminghamFor my fourth session of the day, I decided to be brave and go for some speed networking as I’d never been to a session like this before. However, I didn’t have to be as brave as I’d thought, as we turned out to be a fairly small group. We decided to sit in a circle together and each share what we did and what our future career plans were, which I thought was a valuable way to spend the time and I enjoyed getting to know some new people.

For my final session of the day, I attended a session on demonstrating the value of college libraries. The discussion was mainly focussed on FE as opposed to HE college libraries, but I thought that I might find something of general relevance to me. One of my objectives for the next academic year is to find new ways to market my library’s services so I was interested to see how other people were doing this.

There was some discussion about the importance of measuring the impact of library services as this was seen as important when trying to demonstrate the value of the library to faculty members. However, it was noted that obtaining conclusive evidence of library impact was often tricky as student performance could be influenced by a variety of factors. It was agreed that students’ perceptions of their library could be heavily influenced by their lecturers, and this meant that it was extremely important to market library services to lecturers as well as to students.

Library of Birmingham at night

The Library of Birmingham at night.

Some people suggested that librarians needed to increase their own visibility by inviting themselves to relevant meetings and taking every opportunity to build relationships with academics, as this was another way to raise awareness of the library. Another suggestion was to host open-house events in the library for staff to come and learn about the resources and facilities offered, and someone else suggested that a regular publication to
market the library’s current projects and achievements could further help to raise the library’s profile among faculty.

I definitely took away a lot of useful ideas from this year’s Library Camp and I’m already thinking about how I might implement some of these ideas in my own library. Many thanks to the organisers, the bakers, and to the Library of Birmingham for hosting the event! :)

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CILIP Social Media Executive Briefing 2013

Social mediaLast week I was given the opportunity to attend CILIP’s event on the use of social media by libraries. This was a particularly useful event for me to go to because I am currently drafting up plans to create a social media presence for the library where I work. I was especially looking forward to hearing about other libraries’ experiences of communicating via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as these two platforms are the ones which I have initially chosen as a starting point for building my own library’s social media profile.

After registration and refreshments, the first presentation of the day was by CILIP President Phil Bradley who gave us a look back at 2012 and the major social media trends which occurred during that year. One of the most important trends was the big shift towards using mobile devices to access and use social media tools. Phil argued that we are now moving into a different kind of environment where apps rather than websites are becoming a more common way to access information on the internet. He pointed out, however, that content produced on social media platforms, such as tweets, could often be inaccurate and it was harder to check the accuracy of information produced via social media than it was to check the authority of information found in a book or on a website.

Phil argued that this had led to another trend in 2012 and this was the rise of the individual as expert on the web. He suggested that people are now more likely to check the validity of information that they find online by ascertaining whether the individual providing the information is a trusted creator of content. For example, if someone has a couple of million followers on Twitter, this might indicate that they are producing useful and valid information. However, as Phil pointed out, various celebrities are also often followed by high numbers on Twitter, and so discretion and judgement are always necessary when checking the validity of the data that we are presented with online. As librarians, Phil argued that it was our responsibility to be reliable creators of content and not simply to re-post information that we find online without checking its accuracy. He gave an example of a particular newspaper which had based a story on an inaccurate tweet, with the result that the story eventually had to be withdrawn. Phil argued therefore that instead of trusting the content produced by newspapers, we should choose our own trusted experts online in order to build ourselves a valuable network of people who could provide us with accurate information on topics that were relevant to us.

Another trend which Phil identified was that the web had become less about pages and more about people. He pointed out that Google was now including a lot more social media profiles and metrics in its search results and this meant that if you had chosen not to be involved in social media, you were increasingly likely to be invisible on the web. He argued that this should be a concern both for us as professionals and also for organisations who wanted to be visible to their customers.

Scoop It LogoOne final trend that Phil drew our attention to was the increasing role that curation tools are playing in the organisation of online content, including social media. He identified Pinterest as one of the most popular curation tools and pointed out that it is also a potentially useful tool for librarians as we can use it, for example, to pin images of books that we want to recommend to our users. Scoop It was also recommended as a useful source for information on a particular subject. Phil argued that the way to make best use of curation tools was to ensure that you had a large network within your chosen subject area, so that all new relevant information would be picked up and delivered to you. In this way, curation tools would help to minimise the time spent trawling various sites and platforms in order to keep yourself up to date.

Phil gave us a few predictions on the direction that social media would take in the near future. He pointed out that Twitter was the only proper real-time social media platform and he suggested that as such it would become an increasingly important media tool for companies engaging in customer service conversations. Twitter is also frequently playing a key role in large scale communication of live events, and because of this Phil predicted that physical events would increasingly be designed to be compatible with a social media environment.

At the end of the session, Phil gave us some humorous examples of social media disasters in order to highlight the importance that social media can now play in customer service and in making or breaking the reputation of a company. He pointed out that social media has given everyone a voice and that companies can no longer afford to ignore or dismiss angry customers. One example that Phil gave was of a musician who complained to United Airlines about the damage that his musical instruments had sustained at the hands of airline staff. When his complaint was not dealt with appropriately by the company, he wrote a song about his experiences and posted it on Youtube. The video received 500,000 hits in three days and resulted in United Airlines’ stock price plummeting by 10%.

Phil mentioned other social media disasters where the employee of an organisation had brought that organisation into disrepute by something posted via social media, and he argued that having a social media policy in place was highly important if companies, and libraries, wanted to avoid this type of problem. He argued that if employees were to be given the responsibility of posting content to a company’s social media profile, it was essential for that company to monitor all the published content in order to ensure that its social media updates were accurate and appropriate.

The second presentation of the day was from Adrian Wakeling from ACAS who discussed the risks and opportunities which might result from using social media in a workplace environment. He outlined the various typical managerial and employee perspectives on the use of social media during work hours and pointed out that if a company does not have clear guidelines on what employees are entitled to do, this may result in problems and disagreements.

Such problems could include inappropriate messages being posted by staff on social media sites, excessive use of social media by employees, or alternatively overly restrictive managers who prevent employees from using social media at all. Adrian pointed out that social media can potentially offer many positive opportunities within a workplace environment; for example, allowing staff to post social media content can give them a greater voice within the company and enable them to use their creativity. However, he argued that a clear written policy on the acceptable use of social media at work is essential in order for a company to protect itself against liability for the actions of its workers and to provide employees with guidelines about how social media should be used when at work.

Following Adrian’s talk was a case study presented by Eddie Byrne from Dublin City Libraries who discussed how his library body was currently implementing social media guidelines similar to the ones that Adrian had described. Dublin City Libraries has multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as a blog, and they also make use of other platforms such as Youtube, Vimeo, Slideshare, Netvibes and Flickr. They have a standard, minimalist, outward-facing social media policy which is clearly linked to from all their social media accounts, and in addition to this they also have internal guidelines aimed at staff.

Eddie explained that their approach was to moderate social media content only after it had been uploaded by staff as he argued that there needs to be a certain amount of trust when Hootsuite Logoit comes to allowing employees to post social media updates. He also explained that Dublin City Libraries’ staff don’t necessarily respond to every single question that they receive via social media, but rather they respond to the general themes which emerge from the comments that they receive. Monitoring and analysis of engagement statistics was undertaken using Hootsuite, which could also be used to schedule tweets so that pre-written updates would be sent out at regular intervals during the day.

Eddie explained that in addition to general usage guidelines, there was also a risk management element to their social media policy based on the fact that the libraries were relying on third party tools in order to create their social media presence. Due to the potential risk of losing data or services, back-ups were taken of important information, and alternative platforms, along with any associated data migration issues, were identified in order to ensure that the libraries’ social media presence could still be preserved if one of their chosen platforms ceased to operate in the future.

After a break for lunch, Sarah Hassan and Eileen Brock gave a presentation on how Norfolk County Council’s social media policy had been put into practice within Norfolk public libraries. Sarah explained that the library and the County Council were both trusted brands and that a key function of their social media policy was to support the preservation of this trust. Their policy therefore incorporated specific instructions about tone and conduct which staff were asked to consider before posting any social media message.

Staff were also asked to consider which medium was best for their message before posting it and to consult their in-house style guide to ensure that posts were made in plain English. An awareness of data protection regulations and knowledge of policies on information security, customer service and internet use were also essential for staff updating the social media accounts. Staff were also encouraged to think about their tone and conduct on their own personal social media profiles and to ensure that it was clear though the use of disclaimers whenever they were speaking just for themselves and not on behalf of the County Council.

Eileen explained that the posting of content on the library social media accounts was undertaken by staff who were designated ‘social media champions’. These staff members were trained in all the relevant policies and took it in turns to spend half an hour each morning creating and scheduling tweets and updates. Using Hootsuite, updates were set to be published during peak periods of the day when most of the libraries’ followers were likely to be online. A dedicated mailbox had also been set up to enable library staff from around the county to suggest content for the social media accounts and there was a central team which monitored and responded to enquiries received via social media. In addition, all community librarians across the county were required to attend courses on social media to enable them to support the social media courses and surgeries which Norfolk libraries offered to library users.

Klout LogoNorfolk libraries currently have approximately 2600 followers on Twitter and 870 fans on Facebook, as well as a successful blog and presences on Pinterest and Youtube. Eileen drew attention to the necessity of measuring the impact of your library’s social media presences, and in addition to counting follower numbers she recommended the use of Klout as a tool for measuring your library’s influence within social networks. Eileen also pointed out the importance of marketing for libraries that wanted their social media profiles to be successful. As such, she recommended that a library’s social media contact details should be added to all email signatures, flyers, posters, websites and business cards and that Twitter feeds should also be embedded on relevant websites where possible.

The final two sessions of the day were on social media marketing, presented by Nick Ellison, and the use of live video within Google+ Hangouts, presented by Mike Downes. Nick introduced us to the concept of the social graph, which is generated by all the data that we input into social media platforms such as Facebook and which marketing companies can potentially exploit in order to create targeted advertising. He pointed out that Facebook has recently developed a Graph Search which allows you to search via user data, such as likes and interests. Within the context of libraries, social graph searching could possibly be used as an advocacy tool in order to identify people who might be interested in particular library services and then target relevant advertising towards them.

After this session, Mike Downes introduced us to the various video-chat functions of Google+ Hangouts and explained how these could be utilised to publish live media broadcasts of conversations between people in different parts of the world without the need for specialist technical equipment. He gave us lots of different examples of when this had been done successfully. He explained that Google+ Hangouts could additionally be used for public or private video, text or phone conversations for up to ten people at a time and he drew our attention to Google’s ‘Hangouts on Air’ which enables users to broadcast their conversations to a wide audience for free. Mike argued that Google+ Hangouts could be used as a way for individuals or public services to engage with their communities.

I’m really glad that I was able to attend this event as there were some fascinating talks and I’ve come away with a lot of food for thought regarding the creation of my own library’s social media presence. There is clearly a lot more scope for creativity with social media than simply setting up a Twitter account and I’m looking forward to exploring all the different options and approaches. Many thanks to the speakers and organisers for such an interesting day!

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Library Camp London 2013

Library Camp London signA few weeks ago I went to Library Camp London at Senate House Library. For those who don’t already know, library camps are ‘unconference’ style events, which means that there is no set agenda and instead people pitch their ideas for sessions on the day. This was the third library camp event that I’d been to, so I was already familiar with the unconference style format and I was looking forward to some interesting discussions and also some networking with other like-minded library folk!

The first session of the day that I attended was entitled ‘Leadership without Portfolio’ and it was aimed at library workers who weren’t yet in a management role but who wanted to gain some experience in leadership. I attended the session despite being in a management role already because I wanted to learn more about the development of leadership skills. The session was run by Penny who was a current graduate trainee. She suggested that taking opportunities to volunteer for projects or committees could be a good way to develop leadership skills, in addition to participating in activities outside of work such as those associated with CILIP. Taking the initiative and suggesting new ideas at work was also seen to be a good way to develop experience in leadership.

One person in the group pointed out that managers might be wary of new initiatives suggested by trainees or library assistants as they often had concerns over the long-term sustainability of such initiatives. However, this didn’t necessarily mean that trainees should assume that all their ideas would be vetoed. Someone pointed out that in order to sell a new project to management, it would be important to demonstrate how the project would a) be beneficial to library users, b) not cost anything or even save money, and c) help to deliver the organisation’s overall strategy. With any new idea, it would also help to show that the work wouldn’t take up too much time and that the project would be sustainable. I found the discussion interesting because I am currently working on my own project to create a social media presence for my library, and so it was useful to hear people talk about their approaches to project work and how they pitched their ideas to management.

Library Camp Session Pitches

All the Library Camp session pitches for the day.

The second session that I attended was called ‘Design Your Own LIS Qualification’ and it was run by the #uklibchat team. One of the main topics of conversation in this session was whether current LIS qualifications were too theoretical in nature given that librarianship was a vocational discipline. Liz Jolly pointed out that there was a danger that library courses had become too academic and she argued that such courses should be focused on practice and should enable people to work in the real world. However, it was generally agreed that some theoretical unpinning was also important for LIS courses.

For those who had taken or who were currently taking a LIS qualification, there followed a discussion of which aspects of their courses had been the most useful. A number of people suggested that gaining a broader awareness of the library and information field had been more useful than any particular module or assignment on their course, while others said that specific practical elements like web design or cataloguing had helped them in their current roles. At the end of the session, people made suggestions as to what their ideal LIS qualification would include. Several people suggested that teaching should be a part of their course as many academic librarians had to teach information literacy skills workshops as part of their roles. Other people wanted a greater choice of modules and for the courses to be taught by library practitioners as well as by academics.

The third session that I attended was called “The Role of Library Assistants” and it was a discussion about the difficulties that some library assistants faced when they tried to accomplish professional development within their roles. Several people said that they felt that their library was quite hierarchical and that senior library staff looked down on library assistants and did not allow them to deal with more complex tasks. Many in the group felt that it was important for library assistants to be given a voice and to be allowed to make a contribution towards projects, rather than only being responsible for circulation and shelving. Someone pointed out that it was frustrating to have a manager who had qualified as a librarian 20 years ago and had never done any CPD since qualifying, as it was hard to persuade someone like this to help you to develop your own professional skills. One person pointed out that some library assistants may have had many years of experience and that this experience should be valued regardless of whether that person had a library qualification.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were a few people who felt that they had been asked to take on responsibilities which were above their pay grade and which they had subsequently found a bit overwhelming. They felt that it was unfair that they were expected to take on the work of a qualified librarian when they were not compensated accordingly. One person said that she felt unable to turn down these additional responsibilities as she was grateful for the experience, but she nonetheless felt that she had been thrown in at the deep end without any support.

It was pointed out that library assistants do essential and important work and that without them the library would not be able to function. There was a strong feeling in the group that the work of library assistants should be more highly valued. Given that I am now responsible for managing a small team of library assistants myself, I found it very useful to hear everyone’s different viewpoints and experiences.

Library Camp Folk

The marvellous Senate House Library – a fab venue for Library Camp!

The final session of the day that I attended was the ‘Librarians and Personality’ session, which turned out to be pretty popular. As an icebreaker, we were all asked to stand in a line in the order of most extroverted person to most introverted. The difference between extroversion and introversion was explained as follows: an extroverted person will feel energised by spending a whole day at a conference speaking to people, whereas an introverted person will feel drained and will need to recover by spending some quiet time alone. I was definitely on the introverted side of the scale! After this exercise we were split into four groups; two groups had to write down which personality traits a librarian was often believed to possess by people outside the profession, and two groups had to write down what traits librarians actually needed in order to do their jobs well. As might be expected, the first two groups came up with a lot of stereotypes about librarians being quiet or timid, as well as being knowledgeable and trustworthy. The other two groups pointed out that librarianship was a service-based profession and therefore librarians needed to be good communicators rather than shrinking violets. Dealing with information also meant that librarians had to be organised, logical and rational.

It was considered that a lot of librarian personality stereotypes came from a time when library roles were quite homogenous, but now that there were many different kinds of library role – from cataloguing to outreach to digitisation – there were also many different types of personality which would be suited to the profession. It was however generally agreed, within my discussion group at least, that empathy was a pretty essential trait for a profession that is all about helping people.

Overall, I really enjoyed this library camp event and thought that it was really well organised – and I liked the fact that the event had a savoury rather than a cakey theme as it meant that I wasn’t suffering from a massive sugar crash by the end of the day as is normally the case at library camp events! Many thanks to all the people who cooked and baked and to all the fab organisers for putting on this event :)

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Learning to be a Supervisor

Last week I went to a CPD25 training seminar on management and supervisory skills, which was led by Peter Williams who works as an Assistant Campus Library Manager at the University of East London. I was really looking forward to this session as I currently manage a team of library assistants as part of my new role as an Assistant Librarian, but supervising is still fairly new to me so I was hoping that this seminar would offer me some practical advice about staff management.

Peter began by outlining his career path and experience; he had worked at Senate House Library for six years, starting out as a shelver and then progressing to become a library assistant. He told us that he had never intended to become a librarian – at that time he was in a band and wanted to be a musician, and library work was just something he was doing in the short term. Peter made the point that as librarians and managers we should be aware that the people we supervise may not be as passionate about libraries and library work as we are. He pointed out that people who work as library assistants are often at different stages of their lives and are likely to have different attitudes towards their jobs depending on their priorities and interests. He admitted that he himself wasn’t always a model employee when he worked as a library assistant as he had poor timekeeping and was often off sick, and he said that he now wonders what he was like to supervise at that time!

In the end, Peter told us, his band didn’t get a record deal and so he decided to go for his Librarianship MA. After this he began working at UCL as the deputy supervisor of the Science Library issue desk, which was his first formal supervisory role. He was responsible for supervising several members of staff when they worked on the desk and he also had the opportunity to sit on recruitment panels.

He told us that at first he was quite self-conscious about the fact that he was now a supervisor and was slightly embarrassed about having to manage people. This resonated with me and I was glad to hear that someone else had felt this way.  One of my challenges as a new supervisor has been trying to balance my usual friendly, laid-back demeanour against having to ensure that people carry out my instructions, in addition to occasionally having to offer criticism. Although I always try to offer criticism in a friendly, constructive manner, I really don’t enjoying criticising others and would rather avoid it if I can.

Later in the seminar, Peter asked us to form groups to discuss the skills or traits that we thought a good supervisor should have. These are the ones which we identified:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Organised
  • Understanding of the pressures on team members
  • Good time management
  • Self-confident
  • Good listening skills (we thought that this ought to come under communication skills, but in practice often didn’t so was worth mentioning separately!)
  • Having an awareness of the work that your team members do
  • Approachable
  • Sense of humour
  • Negotiation and flexibility
  • Recognises and praises good work

Peter added that leadership, decisiveness and emotional intelligence were important in a good supervisor. He defined emotional intelligence as the ability to perceive and respond to emotions in others and in yourself and he referred us to Goleman’s five components of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Peter said that self-awareness in this case is about having a sense of your own strengths and weaknesses; for example, he mentioned that he disliked conflict and preferred to avoid it, but he recognised this trait in himself and didn’t let it impact on having to deal with difficult situations at work.  I can see from this that one of my weaknesses is the fact that I don’t like giving criticism, but I recognise that I need to be aware of this weakness and overcome it in order to be an effective supervisor.

Angry manager

An angry, grumpy manager who shouts at his/her employees is a bad manager!

In terms of the other elements of emotional intelligence, Peter explained that self-regulation is about keeping your temper and controlling your emotions – an angry, grumpy manager who shouts at his/her employees is a bad manager. Motivation is about your own commitment to and enthusiasm for the job, while empathy is of course about considering other people’s feelings and motives. Lastly, social skills are defined by Goleman as ‘friendliness with a purpose’ and these are important when persuading people to do things or to accept changes in their working practices.

Peter said that all of the above traits of emotional intelligence could be learned or developed, and that one of the most important things to remember was to look at things from other people’s point of view as well as your own and to adjust your approach if necessary.

Peter then went on to describe his own supervisory style. He pointed out that some supervisors could be quite easy-going, while others could be stricter, but that there was no one right way to approach supervision. He described his own approach as follows:

Be flexible – if people need to leave early, for example if they have childcare needs, allow them to take a shorter lunch break so that this is possible. This approach can be helpful for you too if you also need to leave early one day. However, offering flexibility like this will also depend to some extent on the culture of your organisation. Make sure that you are consistent in what you do and that people don’t take advantage of your flexibility, and obviously ensure that the level of flexibility that you offer does not affect the service provision. To some extent, flexibility also has to be earned – for example, new members of staff shouldn’t necessarily expect to be offered flexibility immediately as they may first need to prove that they’re a consistent and reliable worker.

Don’t micro-manage – encourage initiative and try not to check people’s work constantly throughout the day. Times when staff do need to be micro-managed are when they are new or when a new policy or procedure has been introduced. Not micro-managing doesn’t mean not taking an interest in the work that your staff are doing – their work may sometimes be routine but you should never take them for granted and should always treat them with respect. Staff often have their own ideas and opinions about the way that their work is done and they may be able to suggest helpful changes or improvements. If you don’t take an interest in their work, this can be demotivating for your staff.

Encourage discussion and new ideas – as above, invite feedback from staff as to how procedures could be improved, as this can encourage them to have a sense of ownership about their work and help to build a productive team spirit.

Lead by example – for instance, if you want your staff to offer a high level of service at the issue desk, make sure that you always go the extra mile when helping library users so that you act as a positive example of what you expect. Don’t regularly arrive late to work unless you want your staff to think that this is acceptable. Also, it can help to show that you are willing to do some of the unpopular jobs that your staff tend to avoid (such as enforcing library regulations!), as this will show them that it is everyone’s responsibility, including yours.

Learn from your mistakes – it is inevitable that you will get things wrong as a new supervisor, but try to see your mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve.

Pass on as much information as possible – as a supervisor, you’ll be privy to more information than your library assistants and it is important to share relevant, non-confidential information with your team. This can be tricky if the culture of your organisation is quite secretive when it comes to sharing information, but staff will always talk amongst themselves in organisations and so as far as possible it is best to be open and honest with the people that you supervise. This encourages trust and helps to keep your staff in the picture regarding changes and developments.

I found the above advice to be really useful and I think that it would have been beneficial to have been given such practical advice about staff management while I was still at library school. Much of what we were taught on the Management module during my MA was quite general and in retrospect I don’t feel that we really explored the reality of what it is like to manage people on a day-to-day basis. However, perhaps this is something that to some extent can only be learned from direct experience of staff management.

In the final part of the seminar, Peter talked about the issue of poor performance and how to deal with this as a supervisor. He listed the most common poor performance issues as:

  • Making mistakes
  • Not pulling their weight
  • Poor timekeeping
  • Personality clashes
  • Personal hygiene
  • Spending too much time on the Internet

He said that the first step to dealing with a problem is to collect evidence. With something like timekeeping, this is fairly easy as you can keep a record of when someone is late, but the issue of someone not pulling their weight can be more tricky because the evidence may be subjective.

Once you have gathered evidence, Peter said that you should speak informally and privately with the staff member in question – and face-to-face, not via email! First ask them if there is a problem – for example, if they are consistently late, it may be because they have childcare issues or other problems at home. Alternatively, if they’re not pulling their weight with a particular task, it may because they don’t fully understand what they need to do and they could benefit from some extra training.

If there are no problems such as the ones outlined above, Peter said that it is important to make clear your expectations and explain to them, in a friendly way, that you’ll be monitoring their performance going forward and that you’ll set a date to discuss progress after a certain period of time (perhaps two weeks or one month, depending on what is appropriate). Peter said that you should follow up this meeting with an email summarising what was discussed, to ensure that there is something recorded in writing.

After this, the staff member’s performance should be monitored for the agreed time period and a meeting should be held to review progress. Peter said that some people just need a nudge in order to improve, whereas others may show improvement in the short-term but then their performance may lapse again. If this happens, Peter said that this is when the difficult decision must be taken as to whether to have another informal chat with the staff member, or whether to refer the matter higher to your own manager. Peter advised us to be aware that if we referred the matter higher, the process might become more formal and might be taken out of our hands.

Peter advised that a poor performance issue should generally be referred higher for the following reasons:

  • If the staff member’s performance hasn’t improved
  • If there are serious issues, for example involving drink or drugs
  • If there is anything to do with bullying or a grievance
  • If the staff member has had a lot of sickness (he pointed out that our organisation might have a specific policy which required us to refer this type of issue)

Peter said that in his own personal experience, people not pulling their weight had been the most common issue that he had come across and he said that the most difficult thing is deciding when to act. He suggested that when a problem becomes persistent or starts to affect the team as a whole, this is when you need to address the situation using the guidelines given above. However, he advised us that we could always get informal advice from our own managers about how to handle a difficult situation, and he reiterated the importance of emotional intelligence when it comes to dealing with staff management issues.

Overall, I found the seminar to be extremely useful; I learned a lot about the practical aspects of supervision and I will definitely be attending more of the CPD25 seminars if the opportunity arises – many thanks to the organisers and to Peter Williams!

References
Goleman, D. (1998) What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, 76 (6), pp. 93-102.

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End of Year Reflections and Resolutions

Busy Bee2012 has been an important year for my burgeoning library career, because this year I have achieved the two key milestones of passing my MA degree and finding my first professional post. I think that I’ve been quite lucky to have moved so quickly and seamlessly from my graduate traineeship to becoming qualified and beginning work as a professional librarian, because it seems that this traditional route into librarianship is becoming more difficult each year for new people entering the profession. The number of graduate traineeships is shrinking, and the fees for postgraduate library courses are steadily being increased while funding opportunities are simultaneously being reduced.

I think that if I were beginning my career as a new trainee now, I’d have some serious doubts about whether taking the MA was a real possibility given the cost and the lack of funding; I certainly would have ruled out full-time study and would probably have plumped for a pay-as-you-go distance learning course instead so that I could work and study at the same time. I know some people who have taken this route into the profession and it’s hard work, although the chance to gain some extra library-related work experience while studying is definitely valuable. However, I know that if I had taken that route, it would have taken me much longer to reach the career stage where I am now, and so I feel grateful for the opportunities that have allowed me to arrive at this stage so soon.

At the moment I am continuing to settle into my new role and to make plans for the forthcoming new year. The college’s new Blackboard VLE is about to be launched and the Learning Resources Centre will have its own area within this, which means that I will soon be assisting in the design of online content such as subject guides and library tutorials. We have a new intake of students in February, which means that there is lots to do to prepare for our library inductions, and after Christmas I also hope to make a start on developing a social media presence for the LRC in order to communicate with our users and to promote our resources and services.

In addition to making plans for the new year, I have also been getting to grips with some of the more challenging aspects of my role. One of the key challenges is the fact that the college is split across two main campuses which are on opposite sides of London, which means that I can’t have the daily face-to-face contact with my library colleagues at the other campus that I would like. This is a potential issue when it comes to ensuring that we can deliver a joined-up, streamlined library service across both campuses. However, the issue has been mitigated somewhat by the fact that some library staff have been given days away from their main campus in order to visit staff at the other campus and to see what is being done with the library service there. These cross-campus visits have also enabled us to have meetings where we can discuss at length how we want to take new initiatives forward, such as our subject support services.  These planning and catch-up meetings have been really valuable and have definitely improved communication between the two campuses, and the plan is to continue with them in the new year.

Another key challenge for me so far has been the management aspect of my role. It has been a big change to go from only managing my own workload to managing the workload of others as well, but although supervising a small team is a pretty steep learning curve for me, I feel that I’m gaining new insights every day into how to be a more effective manager. I’ve been trying out a number of different approaches when it comes to organising our time and prioritising our tasks as a team, and my colleagues have been really helpful in terms of offering me feedback on what they feel works well and what doesn’t. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying the process and the experience that I’m getting is really invaluable.

As this will probably be my last blog post of 2012, I’ve made some new year’s library resolutions for 2013 which I hope will help me to progress in my new role:

Resolution 1
The college where I work specialises in business and management, a subject area in which I currently have very little knowledge or expertise. As such, my first resolution is to completely familiarise myself with our print collection and e-resources so that I can develop my subject knowledge and offer a more efficient service to our users. I will do this by spending more time exploring our databases and by learning our classification system, which is the London Classification of Business Studies.

Resolution 2
My second resolution is to spend more time getting to know the students and academics at the college so that I can develop a better understanding of their information needs and how the LRC can meet those needs. I’d like to start gathering feedback on our services and resources at some point in the near future so that we can use this to inform our plans about further developing the library service.

Resolution 3
My final resolution is to continue to build effective working relationships with my colleagues at both campuses in order to enable us to collaborate productively and to share good practice. This should hopefully enable us to develop a streamlined approach to running the library service.

In conclusion, for me this year has been one of transition from library school student into professional librarian, which is a big change but an exciting one. I still have a huge amount to learn but I’m looking forward to the experiences and challenges that the new year will bring and also to improving and developing my knowledge and skills within my new professional role.

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My First Professional Post

I am happy to report that just over three weeks ago, after a period of intense job-hunting, I was offered a new job in a HE college library and I am now working as an Assistant Librarian in my first professional post!

The Learning Resources Centre

Our brand new Learning Resources Centre

It’s a very interesting job because both the library (officially known as the Learning Resources Centre) and the campus are brand new, which means that I have an opportunity to help shape the service from its very beginnings – an exciting prospect! At this stage there are a number of new initiatives which we are keen to set up, including a programme of information literacy workshops for students, as well as subject liaison services for academics. I’m very excited about both of these initiatives as I’m keen to take on teaching and subject support responsibilities as part of my new role. My role also involves taking responsibility for the supervision and line management of three library assistants, which is a new experience for me but one which I’m really enjoying so far – everyone on my team is very friendly and supportive.

As you might expect with a brand new library service, there have been ups and downs over the past few weeks as we iron out the kinks with various pieces of equipment and IT processes. We have been fielding a lot of enquiries from new students and lecturers about computer passwords and printing procedures in particular, and last week we launched our new cashless printing system which inevitably created a new surge in enquiries and technical issues which needed to be sorted out. Luckily, the new IT walk-in centre has now opened next door to the LRC and this should make things a lot simpler next week when it comes to assisting students with their IT queries.

Floor Plan of the LRC

A floor plan of the Learning Resources Centre, created by one of our library assistants!

Next week should also see the launch of our three new iHubs, which are rooms containing large wall-mounted screens and equipment that the students can use to practice their presentations or do group work exercises. Because the students have a designated space in which to do this type of work, the rest of the LRC is split into quiet, silent or express zones, which is to ensure that everyone has access to the type of study space which suits their needs.

One of my priorities on Monday will be to check all the reading lists that arrived in my inbox towards the end of last week and then order any new books that we need for our collection. Our physical collection is not actually very large at the moment, partly because the college is only enrolling first year undergraduates and foundation students at the new campus at this stage, but also because our acquisitions strategy is to focus mainly on the expansion of our e-resource provision. From a collection management perspective, this will be a useful learning experience for me as I have never worked with a predominantly electronic collection before. It will be interesting to observe whether having a mainly electronic collection changes the way that students make use of the LRC space.

Although I clearly have more than enough to keep me busy at the moment(!), having a new job has meant that I’ve been thinking about possible new CPD objectives for the coming academic year. I’ve finally made the leap and become a member of CILIP, which has led me to consider the possibility of chartering at some point in the future. However, in the aftermath of the interesting UKLibChat session on careers which I attended last month at Library Camp, I’ve been wondering whether a teaching qualification might not be more immediately relevant to my new job and to my career aspirations. Of course, until I establish exactly how much teaching I will be doing in my new role, it’s hard to know whether such a qualification would be useful in the short-term, but it’s definitely something that I might consider doing in the future.

In the mean-time, my priority is to familiarise myself with my new role, get to know all my new colleagues, learn as much as I possibly can, and start assisting with the creation of an awesome new library service :)

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Library Camp 2012

Last weekend I travelled to Birmingham in order to attend my second annual Library Camp event. I attended the same event last year and found it really interesting and enjoyable, so I’d booked my tickets early for this one and was looking forward to some inspiring workshops and conversations with the 150 or so other information professionals who would also be attending.

For those who don’t know, Library Camp takes the form of an ‘unconference’, which means that there is no pre-arranged programme of presentations or workshops. Instead, anyone who wants to pitch an idea for a session does so on the day and then we each choose which ones we want to participate in. It’s much more spontaneous and informal than a traditional conference and this usually creates a lively atmosphere of debate and discussion.

Cake at Library Camp 2012

A small selection of the cake and other baked goods on offer.

One of the other traditions of Library Camp events is that there is always a large amount of cake on offer and this year’s event was no exception. I arrived at the venue at around 9am and immediately went to investigate the baked offerings that the attendees had brought with them. There were some absolutely gorgeous vegan chocolate brownies; I don’t know who baked them but they were probably the best brownies I’ve ever eaten!

After I’d sampled some cake and caught up with several of the librarians who I follow on Twitter, we all piled into the main room to hear the session pitches for the day. There were lots of interesting proposals and it was hard to decide which sessions to attend, but I have written some summaries below of the ones which I found most useful.


UKLibChat Live Session on Careers

This was probably my favourite session of the day. Hosted by the uklibchat team who run a regular monthly discussion of library-related issues on Twitter, this session was a simultaneous live chat and tweet-up which focused on the challenges of building a career within the library and information sector.

The first thing we discussed was how much scope there was for career progression within different kinds of libraries. One academic library worker felt that there wasn’t much scope within her own institution for career growth due to budget cuts, but that growth was possible if you were willing to move to another institution. Another person commented that career progression in the public libraries sector could be difficult for new professionals as they often needed to wait for older librarians to retire before they could move up to a managerial post. Someone else suggested that this was similar to the situation in corporate and special libraries, and that special librarians might have to consider changing sector if they wanted to move up to a higher position.

Next, we discussed the best ways to find out about career openings; various job-hunting websites and recruitment agencies were suggested by the group, a list of which can be found here. It was also suggested that job-hunters should keep an eye on the websites of particular institutions that they were interested in working for, as some institutions might only advertise on their own site in order to save on advertising costs.

After this, we considered the importance of having CILIP chartered status and whether this was something that was desired by employers. Many in the group commented that their employers did not see chartership as being an important prerequisite and that some employers did not actually know what it was. However, it was considered that going through the process of chartership could still be useful for those who were keen to engage in continuing professional development. One person commented that her employer was very supportive of her wish to attain chartership, although there was no real incentive for her to do so other than for CPD. Another person argued that attaining a PG Cert teaching qualification had been much more relevant for her than attaining chartership as she did a lot of teaching in her role, and others in the group agreed that the PG Cert was starting to become a more common qualification amongst HE librarians.

Lyle the Crocodile

The uklibchat session was also attended by Lyle the Crocodile, our Library Camp mascot who was brought along to the event by Linsey (@spoontragedy)!

Next, the group considered what types of skills were most wanted by employers and how these requirements might change in the future. Most people agreed that customer service skills were of high importance, and that within academic libraries this importance was likely to increase in view of the rise in tuition fees, which would lead to students having higher expectations of their academic library services. Also of importance was the ability to understand user needs and to help users to develop and improve their information literacy skills. It was agreed that technical skills like coding and web design could become more central to the role of librarians as more and more information would be delivered online in the future.

In the final part of the session, there was a general discussion about the mood of the people in the group and whether most people felt optimistic or pessimistic about being able to find a professional post in the library and information sector. Several people in the group admitted to feeling quite stressed about their job-hunt in the difficult economic climate and many felt that they would have to compromise either on hours or location in order to get a good job. One person expressed frustration about jobs which were advertised externally but for which the employer already had an internal candidate in mind, as this potentially made it more difficult for external applicants to be successful. Another person commented on the high amount of competition for each job and pointed out that qualified librarians were often applying for paraprofessional posts because there weren’t enough posts at the right level for them. From my own experience I’ve found that once you have completed the MA qualification, it can be more difficult to get a paraprofessional post because you may be seen as overqualified, but it can be equally hard to land your first professional post because you may not yet have many years of experience. It’s a difficult position for newly qualified librarians to be in as, at the moment, there is somewhat of a scarcity of entry-level professional posts.

However, despite the worry that many people in the group had about job-hunting, it was generally agreed that the challenges we faced were by no means unique to the library and information profession. One person commented that everyone had to fight for a job and that difficulties existed across all sectors. Someone pointed out that the skills possessed by librarians were widely applicable and relevant in today’s knowledge-based economy and that librarianship was a changing rather than a dying profession.

All in all, it was a very useful and thought-provoking session. For anyone who wants to take part in further #uklibchat discussions on Twitter, the next session is on Tuesday 6th November at 6.30pm UK time and the topic is ‘Supporting Offsite Users’.


Librarians Without Libraries

I found this session very interesting because we considered what librarians should be doing to promote their services to patrons in cases where the service was accessed remotely via telephone or email and where there was no physical library space. One person suggested that frequent users of the service could be encouraged to promote it more widely to their friends or colleagues, while another person pointed out that her organisation had a well developed staff intranet where she was able post information about the library service.

We also discussed the example of a corporate library which employees needed to use as part of their job and we considered whether such a service needed promotion and advocacy in the same way that other types of library did. It was agreed that even if a library service was essential to the organisation in which it was based, it was still important to ensure that patrons were aware of the service and what it could offer them, as well as what it couldn’t offer them. In terms of the latter, it was agreed that gaining user feedback about how the service could be improved was a useful way for corporate library staff to make a case to their organisation for further funding and development of the library service.

After this, we discussed the different ways that libraries based in corporate organisations were labelled. Some people felt that the word ‘library’ could have unhelpful associations in a corporate context, as employees might associate this label with books and traditional academic learning, rather than seeing it as an information service. It was also suggested that some people might automatically associate the word ‘library’ with a physical space, and that for this reason it was not an appropriate label for an email and phone based service. Other people argued that the word ‘library’ had positive connotations for most people and that it was a word which people understood, but it was also suggested that the term might not offer an effective description of the service and that in a corporate context ‘knowledge management’ or ‘information management’ could be more useful labels.


Issues in Academic Libraries

I chose to attend this session because this is the sector that I’ve chosen to work in, so it was highly relevant to me. As expected, the issue of increased student fees came up almost immediately and we discussed how best to manage higher student expectations within the context of the budget cuts that many academic libraries are facing. It was agreed that academic librarians had to demonstrate the value of their library services both to students and academics in order to protect themselves from cuts. Several people mentioned the fact that many students are unaware that the eresources they access online are provided and paid for by the library, and instead they believe that the resources are provided for free. We discussed whether we should make more effort to brand our information access pages to make it clearer that the library was responsible for providing the online content, but it was felt that this could have a negative impact on the user experience by making their access to online resources feel less seamless.

Also discussed was the problem that some academics and students didn’t feel that their University library had anything to offer them, but people in the group argued that this was because these users didn’t know how to find the resources that were most relevant to them. Someone made the important point that if academics were unaware of the wealth of information offered by the library, they would not communicate this to their students. This would mean that new undergraduates wouldn’t see the value in information literacy training because they would want to stick to the limited selection of books on the reading list provided to them by their lecturer. One person argued that librarians should actively seek out academics to explain how the library could benefit them and their students, as we couldn’t just expect them to come to us. It was suggested that librarians also needed to be more visible within institutions, and that one way to achieve this was to ensure that library staff were members of all the important institution committees.

It was generally agreed that senior management in HE institutions could sometimes view the library as a cost to the institution because it doesn’t directly generate income in the same way as fees or research grants. It was suggested that some managers had an outdated view of the services provided by academic libraries, and that this made it even more important to demonstrate the ways in which academic librarians work to support teaching and learning to enable students to improve their grades. One person drew our attention to the JISC Library Impact Data Project, which aims to demonstrate a ‘statistically significant correlation between library usage and student attainment’ by collecting and analysing library usage data from a number of HE institutions. The results from this project could provide valuable data in the future when it comes to demonstrating the worth of well-funded academic libraries.


Libraries and Volunteers

I had expected this session to raise some controversial issues and I wasn’t disappointed. The group discussed when it was appropriate to make use of volunteers to help deliver a library service and when this crossed a line and began to threaten the jobs of paid staff. One person argued that some library events and activities would no longer be possible without the help of volunteers and that volunteers in turn could gain enormous personal benefits from being able to participate in the running of their community library. However, it was also suggested that allowing volunteers to take over certain aspects of the service could give the impression to government officials that paid library staff were no longer necessary. One person argued that a library was not simply a room full of books, and that a volunteer-run community library should not be confused with a professional library service. She argued that the reason that some people see volunteer-run libraries as a viable alternative to a professional service is because they don’t understand what librarians do, and she pointed out that we need to keep fighting against the misconception that the main job of a professional librarian is to stamp out books.


Final Round-Up

As with last year’s Library Camp event I was pretty exhausted by the end of the day, but also full of lots of useful information (and cake!). I really enjoyed catching up with some of the people who I follow on Twitter, as well as meeting some new and interesting library professionals. Many thanks to this year’s organisers – I’m already making plans to attend Library Camp 2013!

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The End of Library School!

Runner finishing a raceWell, my time at library school has finally come to an end as I have at last managed to complete and submit my dissertation. It was a tough piece of work which demanded all of my time and concentration, which is why this blog has been a bit quiet for the past few months. There were times when I thought that I wasn’t going to get the thing done in time to meet the deadline, but I’ve since learned that this was a pretty common feeling amongst most people on the course. As far as I know, everyone who was panicking about getting it done still managed to submit it on time – it was a bit of a marathon for everyone, but we got there! I’m actually quite glad that we had the Olympic Games this year, as having the races on constantly in the background during my write-up period definitely inspired me to keep working towards my own personal finish line. The results won’t be out until November, of course, but fingers crossed everything has gone according to plan and I will soon be a qualified librarian!

My next big challenge is going to be securing a new job in an academic library. After considering all my options, I’ve decided that this is the best career direction for me as I’m still passionate about education, I want to support students with their research and information literacy skills, and I enjoy working in Universities and Colleges. I’m not too concerned at this stage about securing my first professional post, as I enjoy working as a library assistant and am happy to continue doing this. It will all depend on what opportunities present themselves. Job-hunting is inevitably going to be a little bit nerve-wracking as I’ve never job-hunted in a recession before so I’m unsure how difficult it is going to be, but I know that I’m not the only one in this boat and that makes me feel a bit better about it all. Whatever happens, I will endeavour to remain optimistic!

In the mean-time, I’m going to keep up with my CPD activities and my blogging, and I’m also going to take some time to relax and enjoy a well-earned break!

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CILIP New Professionals Day 2012

On Friday I attended the CILIP New Professionals Day which is a free event aimed at people who have recently entered the library and information profession. This was my second New Professionals Day as I also attended one in 2010 when I was a new graduate trainee. It was at the first of these events that I learned about the growing importance of social media within the information profession, and this was a message that was reiterated in many of the presentations that were delivered at the event this time around.

It was also at the 2010 event that I first learned about personal branding and about the importance of controlling your reputation by creating a positive online identity. This knowledge encouraged me to make myself more visible online by continuing to write posts for my fledgling blog and by building a larger network of fellow library professionals on Twitter. At this year’s event there was another presentation on personal branding, this time delivered by Ned Potter – but this year the message was slightly different. Ned explained that there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to personal branding and that the focus of our personal brand would depend on our own individual goals and ambitions. He said that none of us ought to feel the pressure to become ‘super-librarians’ and that although continuing professional development (CPD) could often be valuable for its own sake, it was even more so if it helped us to develop skills that would be relevant for our ideal future job.

Ned Potter's presentation

Ned Potter presenting on personal branding.

For me, this was a welcome message because I know that I’ve often felt under pressure to do as much CPD as possible in order to make myself a more attractive candidate for future job opportunities. However, despite this I think that part of me must have already realised that the most valuable CPD was that which related directly to my career ambitions. At the moment I’m really interested in working in a school library, but as I have limited experience of working with young people, I know that I have a skills gap which needs to be filled. This is why I’ve been volunteering for the last few months to run a school book club rather than investing my time in other CPD opportunities. I agree very much with Ned that although CPD can be valuable for its own sake, it doesn’t make sense to pour all your energies into, say, presenting at conferences or doing committee work if you’re not genuinely interested in doing so. As Ned suggested, your personal brand should be a by-product of doing whatever it is that you feel passionate about, and by pursuing your true interests in a public, networked way you can create a personal brand that is a genuine reflection of your identity, rather than one which is only the result of a strategic effort to make yourself appear more employable. I think that this was the most useful message that I took away from the New Professionals Day this year.

After Ned’s presentation in the morning we were all given a short break and then it was on to the day’s workshops. I was pleased to be able to attend my first choice workshop entitled ‘Moving Sectors: Practical Pathways to a Different Role’ because, as mentioned above, I’m interested in moving into the school sector after I graduate from my Masters. The session was facilitated by Adjoa K. Boateng who is the Collections Development Manager at the University of East London and who has worked in several different sectors throughout her career. During the session we were given job descriptions for positions in different sectors and asked to record any similarities between the skills that were required for each position. After this, we were told to identify the skills gaps between the positions and to suggest ways that these could be filled, such as, for example, by engaging in CPD activities. I found the session really useful and it was heartening to see that there were in fact many similarities between the skills required for library positions across the different sectors.

Library Blockbusters game

Megan’s library Blockbusters game.

After this I attended a workshop about working in careers information. This was not one of my first choice workshops but nevertheless I found it pretty interesting. The facilitator, Megan Wiley, explained that although many people working in this sector do not necessarily identify themselves as librarians, there was nevertheless a lot of overlap between careers information roles and more traditional library roles in terms of the skills that were required. Megan is an Information Specialist at the University of Bristol and she helped us to understand what her job entailed by quizzing us on what we thought her responsibilities were and then scoring our answers using a Blockbusters style game, which was quite fun! I think that a job in careers information would be quite rewarding because a lot of time is spent working directly with the students, and this is always the most enjoyable part of library work for me.

My final workshop of the day was also one that I didn’t choose because unfortunately the facilitator for the original workshop on developing professional skills was unable to attend. Instead I attended a session on ‘The Art of Reflection’ which was about the importance of recording and reflecting on our learning experiences to enable us to incorporate new insights into our daily working practice. The workshop reminded me of the blog post on reflective practice that I wrote for CPD23 and it reaffirmed my belief in the value of blogging as an exercise in reflection.

After the workshops were over, everyone gathered back together to hear two final presentations from Bethan Ruddock and CILIP President Phil Bradley. Bethan talked about the need for new information professionals to each assemble their own personal ‘New Professional’s Toolkit’ and she argued that the key elements of such a toolkit were a network, a mentor, resources, a plan and a voice. Bethan emphasised the fact that with these basic things in our toolkits, we would find it easier to carve out our own pathway in the information profession. There was a lot of useful advice and information in this presentation and it was certainly interesting to conceptualise my professional development as a toolkit as Bethan suggested.

Phil Bradley gave the final presentation of the day and he talked about the important role that social media would play in our future careers. He argued that social media was a vital resource for communication and information and that it was our responsibility as information professionals to understand it and use it effectively in our jobs. He argued that more and more information was being made available through social media rather than through traditional websites and that it was up to us to convince wary employers that social media sites were important professional tools that would enable us to help our library users more effectively. Phil suggested that this was an exciting time of change for the information profession.

I really enjoyed the New Professionals Day this year and I came away with lots of new ideas and things to think about. As ever, it was also a great opportunity to meet and chat with other new professionals and I had lots of interesting conversations throughout the day between the workshops and presentations. I hope that there will be another similarly inspiring event next year!

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My Second Term at Library School

It’s difficult to believe how quickly the time has gone, but I’ve already completed the taught element of my librarianship Masters degree. All I have left to do are a couple more assignments, an exam and my dissertation – so still quite a lot of work, but from this point onwards it will be all self-directed study with a few supervision sessions to attend as and when necessary.

My modules this term were Management, Information Sources and Retrieval, and Web Publishing. We had quite a few assignments to complete for the Management module, including a group work portfolio for which we had to produce a budget allocation plan, a staffing structure and a strategic plan for an imaginary library. This was an interesting exercise and it definitely got us thinking about how we might allocate our funds if we were ever put in charge of managing a library in the future. For this module we also had to produce an essay on legal issues in libraries; mine was mostly about copyright law and how this could affect both print and eresources in an academic library. We also had to produce a briefing report which proposed a change in a library service, and for this I opted to propose the introduction of an ebooks service in a public library.

Web Publishing was my optional module this term, and although some of the material we covered had already been covered in my compulsory Principles of Computing and Information Technology module, I found that I learned a lot more about accessibility issues and how these are important to consider when designing web pages. There was no course work for this module and instead we took an exam on the last day of term – we were given a website to evaluate and had to check the HTML code for errors and make recommendations for how the site’s accessibility could be improved.

The site we were given to evaluate was one that I happened to be already familiar with – The Women’s Library in London. Unfortunately, it has recently been announced that this library is under threat of closure, which is really bad news because the library’s collections are of outstanding national and international importance and it is a key resource for women’s history. There is a petition circulating at the moment to keep the library open, which is here for anyone who wishes to sign it.

The UCL Portico in the sunshine

The UCL Portico in the sunshine.

The final module which I took this term was Information Sources and Retrieval, and I am still currently working on the assignment for this module. We have to produce a resource guide for a subject of our choice which evaluates different kinds of information sources and identifies all the key resources for the subject. I’ve chosen to do mine on Jane Austen as I studied a module on her during my undergraduate degree and I’m already pretty familiar with some of the resources in this area.

In addition to taking the above modules, this was the term during which I also had to submit my dissertation proposal. This is still very much in the early stages, but I’m hoping to build my topic around the idea of measuring the impact of public libraries on communities. I thought that this would be a highly relevant topic to look at given the current climate of austerity which is causing library cuts and closures. I’ll aim to blog about this in a bit more detail once I start the writing process in earnest. In the meantime, my immediate priorities are to finish my resource guide and then start revising hard for my Professional Awareness exam in May – plenty to keep me busy!

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