Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Thing 23: What next?

I have to admit I haven't put together a PPDP on the back of this programme, but that is only because I already have one as part of the Chartership process. I also have something very similar as part of the appraisal process at work and I don't feel that writing this down for the third time is really a very useful exercise. However, this programme has certainly made me think about the kinds of development needs I have included (or missed out) and how achievable it is. I think I focused far to much on 'traditional librarian skills' such as cataloguing without really thinking about how on earth I was going to fit it into a job that just doesn't require those skills from me. Given the huge opportunity my job provides to improve on skills in other areas, it seems silly to put pressure on myself to learn something like cataloguing. Previously I felt like this was something I really needed to know right now, but I think that this programme has opened my eyes to all the other aspects of librarianship. There are so many things that are within my reach that I can improve on or even learn from scratch that will be more useful to me right now. I'm not so worried now about having gaps in my knowledge. I'm content just to know that it is within my abilities to fill those gaps if need be. Gradually I will close those gaps, but for now, I will focus on those skills that are more achievable and more useful.
So I may not have written a new PPDP, but I will be adding to my current one and worrying less about those items that I'm just not getting to.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Thing 22: Volunteering to gain experience

Q: 'Have you considered working for free to gain experience?'
A: Yes. In fact this is still something I'd really like to do but unfortunately time constraints make this nearly impossible.
I see volunteering (in the right role) as a great opportunity to gain skills and get experience in sectors where I would be unlikely to get a paid job due to lack of experience. I am particularly attracted to the idea of project work and getting to create something tangible.
I have been keeping an eye out for a volunteering opportunity for some time now, as I know that in my current job (as is the case with every job)there will always be certain skills I won't have as much chance to develop as others. The only problem is that I work full time, and do an additional 2 hours a week paid work at another library. Add to that the fact that the days I work in my full time job are on a 2 week timetable, and so I don't have the same days off each week and it becomes virtually impossible to fit anything in!
For now I'll just keep my fingers crossed that I'll manage to find something.

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

This 'Thing' was really useful, as it came just at the time that I was updating my CV to include in my Chartership portfolio. There was some good advice on building a CV and preparing for job interviews and I especially liked the link to Open Cover Letters link. Writing cover letters has always been something I struggle with as I feel really uncomfortable "selling myself" but it is always so much easier when you can see how other people have done it.
In terms of offering advice myself, the one thing that always lets me down in interviews and that I therefore always try to prepare ahead for is the terrifying 'Do you have any questions you would like to ask us?' question. It's really important to use this opportunity but I can never think of anything to ask! I always used to go into an interview with several questions to ask and somehow these seem to get answered in the natural course of the interview, leaving me frantically trying to think of other questions to ask. Now I try to make sure to have a variety of questions up my sleeve and keep my fingers crossed that they will still be relevant at the end of the interview!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Thing 20: Library Routes

Well I already did this one in Thing 10 so I thought I'd had a little read through some other people's journeys and see how they compare to mine. I've always found when attending events and looking at other participants of things like CPD23 that preey much everyone else seem to be working in academic libraries, so I was thrilled to find that the first post I read was of a library assistant who had started out in public libraries before getting qualified, having previously toyed with the idea of publishing (just like me)! It was fascinating to read a story with so many similarities to mine.
Here's a few links to the stories I read:
Zoe Sharp, Library Assistant.
Penny Robertson, Assistant Librarian - Extended Hours, Oxford Brookes University.
Jennifer McParland, Deputy Music Librarian, Bodleian Libraries.
Nikki Herriott, Information Services Librarian.
Emma Cragg, Senior Information Librarian, University of Oxford.
I pretty much just picked random ones, but I was also drawn to anyone who mentioned Oxford in their description, since that's where I'm based.

Thing 19: Catch up week on integrating 'things'

So far, this programme has introduced me to many new things and made me try out a whole load of things I knew existed but just hadn't quite got round to playing with yet. So which has been the most useful?? There are a couple that come to mind, but the I think the thing that has had the most impact is definitely Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events. After reading this post I dragged myself to a CILIP Thames Valley event (having previously had a bad experience)and actually enjoyed myself. Granted it was Phil Bradley talking about social media which I was probably guaranteed to enjoy but still, it broke down a few barriers in my mind. The evening not only encouraged me to try and get out there a bit more, but it also in a very practical way introduced me to some new tools just like CPD23. The best of these has to be Zite which I have now use daily. It's a brilliant app/website that creates a personalised magazine for me that is constantly updated. You tell it what your interests are and it searches the web for articles and collects them all in one place for me. I find it is particularly helpful for keeping up to date with things going on in the library world as I can see so the headlines of so many articles from all over the place and pick out the ones that interest me most. Because the articles come from so many sources I am continually discovering things that I would never have otherwise found. And because I can give stuff a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' the content is gradually becoming more and more readable. So there we have it.. the most useful thing that has so far come out of CPD23 is Zite, so thanks to Phil Bradley, and thanks to Jo who wrote the post on Thing 15.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Thing 18: Jing / screen capture / podcasts (making and following them)

Argh! I keep meaning to do this one at home as I can't download Jing on my work computer but I keep forgetting. I want to press on and I don't like going from Thing 17 to Thing 19 - it just feels wrong! - so I'm writing a quick note to remind myself to do it this evening. I would like to use it to create a couple of guides to help people searching the public catalogue. We often get questions like "How can I see a list of DVDs you have in stock?" and it would be so useful to have a couple of videos showing how to set up a search to get this info. It's a bit difficult to explain in writing or over the phone so having something available to email or even put up on the website would be a massive improvement!

Thing 17: The Medium is the Message- Prezi and Slideshare

Well there's nothing like seeing other people's professional looking Prezi presentations to make you feel completely incompetent! I tried, I really did, but I am no good at this. I think I have difficulty visualising the bigger picture - because the templates are set up so you work on an area at a time I find it hard to imagine what it will look like when I'm finished. For me to be able to do this properly I think I would have to design on paper and then copy into Prezi which at the moment I just don't have time to do. I do have an idea of a presentation I would like to make, but it will just have to wait until I have a bit more time. And some better graphics. There would be nothing worse than a well made presentation peppered with clip art images!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

This week's Thing struck a chord with me. As a public librarian (a rare breed, it sometimes seems) I am well aware of the need for advocacy. In the period where the most news of libraries closing was reaching the public and during our own authority's consultation period I was in an interesting position. At various points during our consultation I have been: a library assistant in a village library at risk of closure; a student at library school, following the news about library closures from an academic and research perspective; a librarian at a busy city centre library, and at all times; a library user. At times it has felt a bit like being on the front lines - particularly in a village library. The response to the possibility of closure of the library was very interesting. People were obviously very upset and wanted to save the library, but the way in which they wanted to do it took me by surprise. Over and over again we heard the same mantra - "we'll take it over if we have to; we'll run it for free." This was a nice sentiment and was obviously well meaning - it showed just how much people cared, but as a member of staff it was a bit dismaying to say the least. It reinforced a feeling that I often get that many people don't really understand what it is that librarians and library assistants do. I remember a library campaigner coming to speak in one of my lectures who really annoyed everyone with his constant assertion that everyone had forgotten that libraries are about books, and his aggravation at the fact that CILIP "won't admit they are about books either". There is no doubt that libraries are about books, but they are about so much more than that: they are about people and getting people the information they want and need. The staff that are there to help are trained to do just that (and people would probably be surprised by the kinds of things we are asked to do every day)and if you take them away, or expect people to do it for free, then you run the risk of turning libraries into book depositories, where people can do no more that pick up and return books. When it comes to advocacy, my own personal crusade is probably less about the saving of libraries as about the saving of library professionals. I continually feel like I have to fight against people who, upon finding out what I do for a living assume that I have some kind of wonderful stress-free job. (It is wonderful, most of the time, but it's certainly not stress-free)! At one stage, the popular moneysavingexpert.com recommended that anyone wanting to make a little extra money might consider working in their local library as it is such a nice easy job. A quick look through the forums will reveal that there was such an uproar in response to this that it was removed from the site. I have to be honest and admit that I don't think I've done a great deal to try and change this image of library professionals, but I would certainly like to. I particularly liked the article what it takes to be a 21st century librarian. Building on what I said in Thing 15, perhaps this a possible topic for presentation at a conference?

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

I always like the idea of attending events more than I like actually going to them. To date I have been to the London Book Fair and the Online Information event. I also managed to get a funded place on the LIKE Ideas 2012: The Business of Social Media conference, but I was unable to go because of work. I think the problem is that I tend to go on my own and I'm not a particularly outgoing person, so I sort of drift around the areas that interest me and hope that someone else starts talking to me. This is definitely not a very good approach! Maybe actually speaking at one of these things would help me get over that barrier. I generally hate any kind of public speaking and have in the past made a complete fool of myself several times. Recently however I've been coerced into giving a library tour and induction to year 10 students; presenting a certificate in an adult learning class and holding a training session for volunteers. Each time it has gotten easier and I'm not quite as freaked out by the idea as I was. I think I need to get more organised, decide which events I want to attend and sort out time off, then work out the funding. And maybe sometime soon I will feel confident enough to find something to say to others. Some of the most valuable presentations I have seen tend to be people talking about their own experiences (and in the process sharing good ideas without really realising it), so maybe I have more to offer than I am aware of. Something to think about anyhow.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / CiteULike

Reference management systems are invaluable when you're writing essays or articles, and have probably saved me not only from incorrect referencing but also from accidental plagiarism! I only wish that, as a student, I had known there were so many alternatives available. During my undergrad degree the University had a subscription to Endnote, which to be honest completely baffled me. I don't know what it's like now, but I remember it being needlessly complicated and I was both too stupid and too proud to get myself to an information literacy session and learn how to use it. As a result, I of course needlessly and laboriously typed out every single reference one-by-one and wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent. By the time it came to the MSc I had learnt my lesson and a very useful session with the research methods librarian gave me a working knowledge of RefWorks. This definitely saved me a lot of time and mistakes but it still wasn't the easiest of tools to use. It may well have changed by now, but it was always a bit of a pain to log in to, as I had to remember the University's unique code.. and then when you did log in it wasn't exactly user friendly. It had one of those interfaces I've come to associate with incredibly useful databases: ugly looking and impenetrable at first glance, eventually becoming a mine of information only after lots of training; much losing of the will to live and a great deal of exclamations about the choice of font and graphics. It certainly did the job, but it was probably too good for my needs. What I really wanted was something simple with a user interface that didn't make me want to cry. CiteULike: I tried out CiteULike because it is the only one that doesn't require a download. As I'm sure I've mentioned many times before on this blog, anything that needs to be downloaded to the PC is pretty pointless at work as we all hot desk a lot so it would need to be installed on every PC. My first impressions are good - I like that you can just log in to the site and then post URLs but also that you can add a bookmarklet to your browser to make it quicker and easier. I am particularly a fan of the fact that you can copy articles from another user's library to your own. This could be really useful for collaborative working. I also think that it has applications in a public library. We get a lot of enquiries about certain topics and have been using either delicious or the favourites on our web browser to help us get to repeat information quickly. The problem with this is that we only add the homepage of websites due to the issue of changing URLs. Sometimes useful articles turn up in the most unlikely of places and so this isn't necessarily a good way to aid rediscovery at a later date. This would resolve this, and the article recommendations might come in useful too, although the nature of enquiries we receive may mean that the diversity of articles we choose to save throws CiteULike off the scent a little bit!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

This one was fun :) I've already used Dropbox and Wikis before - wikis and their potential uses in libraries got quite a write-up in my dissertation - so I decided to concentrate on Google Docs for this post. I can definitely see potential uses in the work place: as a team we often have to pick up enquiries not quite finished by the last person working on it and we often collaborate on projects. Currently we rely on saving drafts of emails in mailboxes we all have access to or leaving documents in the shared drive but this is very limited. For a start we have to be logged in to a PC under our own username (which takes about 15 minutes for the ancient things to load) and as we are often running about the building using PCs on public desks it really isn't possible a lot of the time to access this information. It would be fantastic to be able to use something which is in the cloud and so accessible from anywhere and which can be edited by anyone. I'm hopeful that we might make use of this, or if not a similar tool sometime in the future, but for now I had to make do with playing with it - sharing documents with my partner and each of us editing in turn. Under the guise of CPD, it made my work day quite enjoyable!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Thing 12: Putting the social in social media

I have been ousted! It's time for me to admit that despite professing that it is really important for libraries and information professionals to use social media, I myself am a bit of a lurker. I like to watch what other people are talking about, but I don;t ever get involved. It's one of the reasons why keeping this blog up to date has been so difficult for me: I'm just not used to actually participating. My workplace now has a Twitter account (at long last)! and at some point I am going to have to tweet rather than just leaving it to everyone else... But I really don't have anything interesting to say! Lots of work to be done here I think.

Thing 11: Mentoring

Oh dear I'm a bit behind again! I do already have a mentor, so there wasn't a great deal to do for this Thing, but I have put a little thought into the mentor-mentee relationship. I think there are lots of benefits to having a mentor and certainly mine is very good - the problem is that I think I'm a bit hopeless as a mentee! I don't feel that I'm really giving back in any way. Mostly this is because I have a mentor purely because I'm trying to complete Chartership, and as I currently don't have the time to do much on that front I very rarely have reason to contact my mentor. I can't help but feel that this is very bad of me - I know that she would make the time to respond to me if I were to contact her so I should definitley be making the effort myself...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Thing 10 - Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

Ok, so.. my route into librarianship. Well first off I completely missed out the whole graduate traineeship step because I couldn't bear to add another year to being a perpetually poor student. I was really lucky to get a job as a part time library assistant n a public library whilst I was finishing my undergrad (English and Economics - what the hell was I going to do with that?! and fell in love with the idea of being a librarian. I decided to hope that I would have enough experience to get on a masters course without a traineeship and I was accepted at City University London. So here I am 6 months after graduating with a librarian post in the very same library service I started out in and I can honestly say that I love it! Whilst I am still perpetually poor (let's face it, there's not much money in public libraries) I do appreciate how lucky I have been to get this job. Having seen the extremely tough competition people are up against when applying for even the most part time of library assistant jobs I thank my lucky stars that I was given that first post. Especially as I wasn't even the first choice but was fortunate enough that the woman who was originally offered the job declined it! If I hadn't ended up in that library I really don't know what career path I would have chosen. I have a sneaking suspicion that I might have foolhardedly decided that teaching would be a good back up, so for saving me from a career that I definitely would have loathed I have to say a big hooray for librarianship!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Thing 9: Evernote

Now this I like! Evernote does exactly what I want it to and does so with minimum fuss. I have a very annoying habit of stumbling accross things on the web that I want to come back to later but then immediately forget all about them. (I'm sure I'm not the only one)! I've tried a few solutions - Pinterest, social bookmarking (Delicious) and even simply keeping a kind of diary of URLs and links but none of these were quite right. What I particularly love about Evernote is that it is a kind of amalgamation of the best bits of all those options. So I can save URLs and annotate them to remind myself why I might like to look at it again and I can also just highlight bits of webpages and save them as images. This way, if the link dies or the page disappears I can still look back at it. Genious. The only problem I did come accross was that I don't have sufficient admin priviledges on any of the work PCs to download the full software. This is a bit annoying, but the Web Clipper seems to work well enough and I can use it at home, so this isn't a major issue. All in all, I think I'll use Evernote quite a bit, but I have to admit that I'm probably more iterested in how it will be useful to me personally rather than professionally. It would be interesting to know if there are any libraries/librarians out there using it though.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Thing 8: Google Calendar

Well if I've learnt one thing, it's that the word calendar starts to look really wrong if you stare at it for too long! Seriously though, as I already use both iCal and Outlook calendar I really don't want or need another. I have to confess therefore that I didn't go much further than changing my settings a bit on this one. I did find the link to the blog post really interesting reading. http://musingsaboutlibrarianship.blogspot.com/2010/04/libraries-and-google-calender.html It is a really good collection of examples of library use of Google Calendar including screen shots, 'how to' instructions and links to similar blog posts. This was a great source of inspiration and reassured me that libraries are indeed embracing the 21st Century.

Thing 7: Real Life Networking

This is - to be honest - not something I enjoy. At all. Add this to the fact that it is virtually impossible to find the time to attend any event and I think it's fair to say I'm not exactly a networking regular. I am a member of my local CILIP branch, but their regular meetings are in Reading and on my late night at work which is a bit tricky. I did however manage to attend their recent Chartership event in Oxford which was quite useful in finding out a bit more about the chartership process. On the other hand I can't say I really embraced it as a networking opportunity. I went with a few of my colleagues and we all came away feeling like we were more than a bit out of place as public librarians in what was clearly the domain of academic librarians. In hindsight I could have tried a bit harder to find commonalities with other attendees and try to speak to people a bit more. At the time though, I felt safer huddled in a corner with people I already knew! I think the info about networking for introverts on the CPD23 post could help with this. I'll make sure to read "Networking for people who hate networking" before I go to my next event!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Thing 6: Online Networks

Online networks make my head hurt! The problem is, they are all different - they all have the good points and their weak points and attract people for a whole number of reasons. This is great, because there is loads of choice and whatever your particular interest, you can probably find a social networking site that caters to it. The issue for me comes when you have more than one or two interests. I want to follow what is happening professionally in library circles, but also want to keep in touch with my friends. I am a new professional, and would like to network with others who are new to the profession, but I don't want to exclude the voices of experience. Ideally, I want to do all of this in one place, as I am simply too lazy to check the news feeds/tweets/discussion lists/forums etc etc of more than one site. Clearly, my expectations are not reasonable and I will just have to make the effort and be more proactive. The question is, which networks will I find the most helpful? After a bit of exploration of the suggested networks, this is what I came up with. Facebook I am already on Facebook and although I do not often post anything myself, I find it really useful for keeping up to speed with what everyone is up to. I have also in the past used it as a means of gathering info for my dissertation and still receive some residual posts in my news feeds from libraries. I quite like this, as the libraries involved are very sensible about their level of involvement, so I don't get bogged down by their updates but instead get an interesting little titbit every once in a while. It's nice to know what other libraries are up to. I feel like joining more groups on Facebook such as CILIP could provide me with a great source of information, but I am reluctant because I don't want to have to process the sheer amount of stuff that they seem to post! Perhaps some investigation into appropriate groups/pages is in order... LinkedIn I joined LinkedIn for this post, as I have been intending to for a while. I like how much it increases your visibility online and the way your profile can represent your working history and skills to potential employers. The groups that I have explored have also been really interesting, and although I haven't got involved in any discussions yet I have enjoyed reading others' opinions on up to the minute issues in the profession. This is definitely one to be explored further. It would be interesting to know what other people use!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Thing 5: Reflective Practice

As you can see, I didn't get very far with CPD23 last year but I thought I'd give it another go this time round and I'm picking up where I left off: with Thing 5. I'm hoping that I'll have a lot more motivation now, given that I've finished my degree and I'm working towards Chartership. With no dissertation to use as an excuse and Chartership as a driving force then maybe I'll manage to crack on with it. Anyway, enough rambling. It's time for some reflective practice. I think that the amount of time that has passed since I completed the first 4 'Things' probably somewhat degrades the usefulness of reflecting on the experience, but I think it will be a good way to recap what I have already learned and hopefully identify how I can motivate myself to carry on. Just reading through my last post has reminded me how useful Twitter and RSS feeds can be. After the initial burst of interest in using them my enthusiasm waned somewhat so it has been good to reignite that curiosity. Professionally both of these tools could be really useful, especially as one of the aims of my PPDP is to network with other members of the profession and build up some contacts. Twitter in particular could also be very useful in the workplace. We are in the process of setting up an account for the library at the moment and I want to have the experience of what works and what doesn't with my own account when it comes to posting on behalf of the library. It's funny that I haven't forgotten much of what I learned from Thing 4, I just lost enthusiasm. I think this reinforces what I already knew about my issues with self motivation. I'm just going to have to be very strict if I'm going to get this done. I can see now that ignoring my blog for weeks and then doing several posts all in one go is just not sensible. I didn't have the time to action everything I said I was going to and the longer I left it between posts the harder it became to find the time to catch up. So, what have I learned? That I'm lazy! How can I fix it? I guess I'm just going to have to set aside some time each week to write this blog and make sure I keep it up. I have no excuses.