Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Thing 23: Mind the gap

My goodness the CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base is a scary document isn't it!

Working through the CPD23 programme, I've felt myself building a confidence in my skills and my ability to learn new tools or absorb new information to extend my abilities, and to recognise the appropriateness of doing this - at which points it proves useful for my work and when it's not an efficient use of my time. I have to confess, looking at the CILIP PKSB I can feel that confidence sapping away slightly, as I realise I'm clearly not a real librarian, as I'm lacking in so many skills. To name but a few:
  • Cat & Class (yes, I know, but I've never had to do these things! I'm good at buying stuff though...)
  • Informetrics
  • Information Architecture
  • Database Design
  • Data Analytics
  • Information Assurance and Audit
  • Archiving and Web Continuity
  • Influencing Key Stakeholders
  • Business Planning and Asset Management
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Systems Design
  • Language Skills
Photo by Brett Holman on
Even 'Frameworks and Curricula for Education and Training' threw me a little - I've never studied Education  and while I've been very interested it in, my teaching is inspired by watching others, reading books by other librarians on the subject and watching presentations about teaching methods at conferences like LILAC. Actual 'Teacher Training' of any description has never come my way (although in my previous job I was very keen to undertake the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education). For my role I do think this is an undeveloped area in my skill set, and that by addressing it I may also open up more possibility for working more closely with the academic community in a teaching capacity.

Perhaps the gaps in my knowledge are far more gaping than I realised?! But what kind of Personal Development Plan could ever rectify this desperate state of affairs??? *deep breath*

Obviously I'm letting insanity take over a little bit here, because I'm employed in one role in the library, so I have a specific subset of skills that suit my role, and I can't do everything! Of the aspects I think are relevant to my role I think I have developed a good level of competency, and there are also clearly areas where I would like to develop my skills as well - such as support for researchers, bibliometrics & library research. One of the best aspects of completing the CDP23 programme has been the elements of reflection on my own practice - yes playing with lots of online tools and (finally!) setting up my own blog has been fun, but considering how to use these tools in an effective manner, and what I would want to achieve by utilising them is just as important.

Perhaps another aspect of this programme is the degree to which online tools are also deeply rooted in media and marketing. While many aspects of web 2.0 tools are social, and to a degree personal (e.g. blogs, Twitter) they are still broadcasting messages about the library - its tone, its relevance, its priorities - and while reaching students in a variety of ways is great, you also need to reach them using appropriate language and regarding issues they are actually interested in! I suspect marketing and outreach are two areas I'd be particularly keen to include in my Personal Development Plan going forwards, not least to build on everything I've learned through CPD23 about web tools and about myself.

So, my plan now is to think about ways of plugging the gaps, keep on blogging - sharing and reflecting on my experiences in the library (and possibly not in the library!) - and see where it takes me. Once more unto the breach, dear friends....

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


I wasn't sure how I was going to approach the issue of volunteering, as it seemed to me I had little experience of volunteering myself, and therefore no right to comment. But then I thought about it a bit, and changed my mind.

When I first left university I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was not the most pleasant time I've had. I was back living with my parents, away from all my uni friends, without structure or purpose and working in a temp job. In fairness, the job went on a while and was full time, so I at least had a little money, but I was stuck. What could I do?

Volunteering was the thing that saved me. I decided I wanted to go into stage management, and to do that I would need  a PGDip. I naively applied and went along to the interview full of chat about my resilience, organisational ability and transferable skills, and with absolutely no experience to speak of. They sent me away and basically told me to come back when I'd done my homework! I got involved with my local Amateur Dramatic Society and as it was the run-up to Christmas they were working toward their Christmas Panto. It didn't take too many rehearsals for me to figure out that I could organise these people, and I was soon backstage making lists and telling people where to go. I also met some people through that society who knew a stage manager on the West End, and arranged to go backstage for a performance of Mamma Mia. That was truly fantastic. Finally I joined another Amateur Dramatic Society (which was much bigger and more professionally run than my local one!) and did as much lifting, carrying, set painting, prop making and basic running about for them as I could. I kept my eyes and ears open, I asked lots of questions and I learned tremendous amounts. I went back to the college where I wanted to do my PGDip armed with evidence and experience and I got my place on the course.

Stage managers marking-up a stage
A mark-up really shouldn't need this many people...
I know volunteering in libraries has a lot more attached to it in the way of stigma now than the above story of my life indicates, but I still think, having reflected on my past, that volunteering has a vital role to play in the acquisition of skills and experiences you would just never get otherwise. And it also helps you understand more about the role you're trying to take on, about what suits you and what you like and dislike in the job role. In fact, I have done some elements of voluntary library work - I attended several library visits and courses during my traineeship which were not compulsory, but through which I learned. I've visited my friends at their libraries, just to know what their experience is like and how it compares to mine, and I've taken training opportunities that have cost me my own money in order to meet other librarians and network with them.

This is not the same as the idea of volunteer-run libraries, or of giving up your time and effort for no money at all to build a working systems for someone else, or conversely, wanting to do a little bit in a field without wanting to understand the whole and move on to a greater objective. Volunteering in this context is not standing behind a counter checking out books to people for a morning before going home for lunch over Murder She Wrote. But it is working hard on something because you know you are gaining the experience and knowledge you need to further your career, to take you on to the next step, to help you reach your goal. I do not think volunteers can ever replace qualified librarians. However, for a person who has volunteered in a library, worked hard because of a passion for what libraries can do and achieve, and who then wants to work in a paid  professional role in libraries without an MSc? Well - if they've got the skills, then absolutely yes! Learning through doing is just as valuable as the letters on a piece of paper you get through studying. And yes, volunteers of this calibre should not remain volunteers for long. They deserve to be paid.

Work confidence: talk that talk and walk that walk!

I like job interviews. I'm sure most people think I'm pretty weird for saying that, but I've done so many of them that I think my view and attitude toward them has changed from terror and insecurity to...well... understanding that an interview is actually more of a conversation - and it's just as important for the interviewee to engage with the interviewers, ask questions and get to know their ethos as it is for them to get to know the interviewee.

Job applications though...I hate them with a fiery passion. They take so long to write for one thing! For another they make you spend hours thinking about yourself and bigging yourself up, and that can be exhausting and difficult for a lot of people, me included. So I do agree with the idea that knowing your strengths and capitalising on them is a great way to start tackling job applications!

For me, I know that working with people is an extremely important part of my working life. I like to be a part of a team, I like to be able to share and discuss ideas, and I get de-motivated and tired if I work in isolation and silence for any long period of time. I know that I need to work in a role that adds value to the experience of others, so I know that when I'm working with students I can make a real difference to their studies and their experience of university. I find this very motivating and it also helps me isolate the areas of my job I most enjoy, which can really help me get through the other elements I enjoy less (administration for example). I know that I'm good at organisation and management which explains how I manage to pack so much into my weekends!

I dislike sleep deprivation, confrontation and negotiation  This means I have to make sure I work a job with manageable hours, don't exhaust myself in my free time, work in an environment in which I am comfortable and get on with most of the people around me, and remember to ask for help in situations where I feel I need a little reassurance, or a second voice on my side. I also dislike starting anything from scratch if I don't have to, so I always use an old job application, or the notes from my previous job interview to help me prepare and give me a basis to work from. This is my top tip really when it comes to interview preparation - reflect on your last job interview and how you think it went - what did they ask you and what were your answers? How would you answer them now? I always make sure I have the answer to why I want the job, what I think I can bring to the role and where I would like to being 5 years time, because I know they're going to ask me those things. Plus, if you've taken the time to think through those answers, you'll be able to relate those practically to the job opportunity you have in front of you, making your answers to the interview panel more thoughtful and engaging and making the whole experience more useful for you in deciding whether this job actually will take you where you want to be.

This 'thing' is intended as an opportunity to refresh my existing 'CV database', add-in any activities or interests I've not previously included or thought to use in a job-seeking context, and generally keep my bank of 'things I've done and can use again' up-to-date, so when I come to writing my next job application I'm not scratching around in my memory trying to dig up examples that demonstrate my ability. I did this in July when I applied for (and got) my new job, and interestingly, even though I know I've achieved a lot that is CV worthy, I am struggling to write them down here to share with the CPD23 community because it feels like boasting. Isn't that odd? Clearly being enthusiastic about my achievements is difficult to do at all times, not just when I'm staring at a job application asking myself if it's all really worth it. What this tells me is that, even if you're not comfortable talking about yourself in everyday life and struggle to believe in your achievements, putting it all together for a job interview is not the same thing - and you can learn to turn on that confidence, look at a job description and tell yourself you can do it, and then walk into the interview just as yourself, and tell the truth: you can do this job. It might be a version of yourself most people will never see, but it's the version of yourself that will make the panel sit up and take notice. Trust me.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Thing 20: My Library Route

Thing 20 asks us to contemplate why we entered the profession, how that compares to the route taken by other librarians, and blog about it for the Library Routes project. I blogged about my route into librarianship for Thing 10, but with a focus on undertaking my MSc in Information and Library Management and my view on the qualification. So here's my history with a focus on why I chose librarianship:

Growing up my entire focus was on getting through school and going to university. I didn't doubt my decision to study English Literature as it was by far the subject I most enjoyed, and I departed home for Cardiff University an enthusiastic and optimistic teenager. Three years later I was completely lost and in despair as to what I wanted to do, and I moved home and got a temp job. My decision to be a stage manager was made when leafing through a theatre programme one day, and seeing the words 'stage manager' under the list of people involved in the production. I'm not sure it's the best way of choosing what you want to do with your life, not least because I had to do a large amount of volunteer work, and take out a hefty loan just to qualify to get on the training course.

My decision to leave theatre and become a librarian was much easier, because (as so many other librarians have noted!) it felt like a light-bulb moment - a moment of clarity when I couldn't for the life of me understand how I hadn't thought of it before. Of course I wanted to be a librarian - it just fit! I could work with people, books, computers and organise and manage to my hearts content. I did a lot of research into the profession before I applied for graduate traineeships - by emailing other graduate trainees to find out about their experiences, reading the Oxford University Graduate Traineeship pages (the ones I read don't exist now, but their new pages are just as good) and looking into Masters programmes so I knew how the whole process would lead me into being a professional librarian.

Yes I know, I can be known to overdo it on the whole research and preparedness thing - but then again that might be one of the elements that makes me a librarian!

The route into being a librarian hasn't been all smooth sailing. Part of my decision to train as a librarian came from a strong desire to work in public libraries - they were a huge part of my childhood, and I felt like I wanted to contribute to that experience for others, works with the community and provide a useful and fulfilling service. In order to pursue this goal I worked part time as a library assistant while studying for my MSc, but earning very little money and having to drive a lot in order to work there - and all for a fixed term contract, which ended around the same time the coalition government came into power and careers in public libraries suddenly disappeared as the conservatives immediately lined them up for the chop.

So I had to re-evaluate my goal, and as jobs were scare I had to work as an administrative assistant for a while because I couldn't find a library job, but perseverance and hope meant that when a job finally came up I was ready to go for it, and I got it! I haven't looked back since.

I suspect my story correlates closely with the general theme experienced by the other librarians contributing to the library routes project, and outlined by Emma in her post: I didn't consider librarianship as a career until after I trained and started work in something else entirely, when I finally came to the idea of being a librarian it was because of a love of books, not because I had any understanding of the profession, and I'm so glad I finally realised that being a librarian is what suits me best!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Integrating 'things'...

It's funny of the reasons I like doing this blog is that I can reflect a lot on the tools I've already used in my work, but I'll be honest it's rare I have the time or inclination to actually try something new! I expect this is a common theme amongst librarians, the chime of "if only I had time I could do this". So what can I actually take from this blog and convert from an "If only..." into "I've done..."?

This blog has caused me to revisit my Google Drive and the usefulness of Google docs. In a recent teaching session, rather than handing out 80 handouts I decided to try and save trees by uploading the handout to Google docs and giving the link to students instead. I think this worked - at least all of the students were able to easily access the handout and bring it up on their screens. It's something I think I would choose to do again and it also means the handout is then accessible on the web at any time should the students want to come back to it.

I've kept my LinkedIn! Having been pretty disparaging about the interface and begrudgingly creating an account, I've both finished creating my profile and updated it. I can't ignore the fact it's a well used professional resource, and that it helps raise my profile as an information professional and create links with others who I could potentially work or collaborate with in the future. I considered deleting my profile, but realised that fighting against the tide in this manner when I'm perfectly capable of maintaining my profile is probably a futile gesture. Who knows how useful it could be in the future?

My RSS reader on the other hand, while it's full of interesting stuff, hardly ever gets looked at! One of the reasons is that I prefer to browse for my information - so rather than getting information through news feeds or blogs I like going to The Guardian and having a look around. But as I've mentioned before, my primary source of information 'pushed' to me on the web comes from Twitter. I remain addicted - It's a fantastic resource. I do sometimes show my RSS reader to students though, to demonstrate ways in which they can gather information that is sent to them in an efficient way - I'll be honest most students don't look all that thrilled by it. Perhaps they see that no matter whether their news feeds are gathered in one place or not, they'll still make them the lowest priority in their researcher lives.

The last blog post I made was regarding screencasts, although the 'thing' also included considering podcasting, which I basically ignored However, I think creating podcasts could be a very effective way of creating learning resources quickly and easily that can then be disseminated through the web and student blackboard sites. This is something I would like to keep as an idea ticking over, and give it a go as soon as I have time. Hey, we all need an 'if only..." to aspire towards!

Screencasting & learning to love the sound of your own voice

Ah screencasting....if you're anything like me you find recording screencasts a fairly unpleasant experience, where you have to talk out loud to a computer, feeling faintly ridiculous  and the only way to check your work is to then listen to the sounds of your own voice repeating over and over again. Not really my idea of fun!

But they're a great tool. I've created screencasts to demonstrate how to navigate databases and renew loans, and even in place of being able to attend a teaching session. I've used the free online tool Screencast-o-matic, which once uploaded to a Youtube channel you can then add annotations and a transcript, creating a very accessible resource. Here's an example of mine:

While I think screencasts of this kind are really useful resources I do think they have to be carefully planned, and videos of any significant length are never going to be useful to students - anything over three minutes can become very tedious very quickly (as perhaps the above video demonstrates? I'd be interested to know how many of the video viewers actually watched the whole thing). Interestingly, the video I created to demonstrate to students how to use their Microsoft Live Skydrive has received over 3000 hits, 10 times as many as my library screencasts - which probably goes to show the way in which students expect to learn: they expect IT information to come from the internet and is useful in video format. But library information - can students learn it effectively from videos? Will they understand the process and be able to transfer that learning to another searching need or just follow step-by-step? Will they even search for help in the format of videos or will they get sidetracked one they're on Youtube watching much more entertaining videos?

At the moment, my new role as a Faculty Librarian takes me away from the subject librarian role somewhat in that I don't currently have time to create subject-specific resources of the kind I would like to provide for students, including screencasts of using particular databases for specific subjects. While I don't know what kind of impact these videos actually have, I do believe that providing learning tools like these in as many formats as possible is great for meeting the different needs of students, and they're always a fantastic thing to have up your sleeve for those moments where you just can't bear to explain how to do a search one more time!

Friday, 21 September 2012

A few of my favourite things...

Ooooo Thing 17 is about SlideShare and Prezi. Well, if anyone hasn't even tried creating a Prezi, then you should. It's so much fun! You can see my Prezis here:

Interestingly, I've created a few of these because I love the way they create a visual 'path' than can link you from idea to idea, and are far more interesting then PowerPoint presentations. However, I very rarely use them in practice. Mostly they've been embedded in subject pages I've created online, and I've included the links to them in handouts and guides. I am wary of using them to present because of the way Prezi 'swings' between slides, which can definitely make you feel a little bit ill if you overdo it! It's also not always easy to move forward and back through your path, although I do like the ability to go 'home' and see the whole presentation and then select which bit you want to zoom in on (I'd love it if, once you've done this and then click forward it automatically takes you to that part of the path and moves you on from there, but it doesn't do this unfortunately). Also, using Prezi means you're relying on a functioning internet connection where you are delivering your presentation, which can be a gamble, but perhaps I should be braver and give it a proper go. I do so love making Prezis after all...

However, I am not a PowerPoint hater. I think PowerPoint is an extremely useful tool. It's exceptionally easy to knock-up a few ppt slides when you need to, it's a platform for delivering information that is easy to understand and follow, and it is certainly possible to use ppt well. As for SlideShare, I love it. I find it an invaluable tool for keeping up-to-date with professional practice - especially for things like accessing conference presentations which you were unable to attend. It's also a great place for getting inspiration for slides, although as I mentioned in Thing 15 I think watching how someone uses slides in their presentation delivery is probably the most useful way of learning best practice. Here are some of the presentations I've accessed on SlideShare recently:

I haven't started sharing my own material on SlideShare, even though I have an account.Sitting here now I wonder if this is because I feel my slides would be a voice amongst many, adding unnecessarily to the internet noise. Do I not have faith in the material I've created? Does part of me not believe my work is worthy of sharing (and if this is the case why was I happy to present it in the first place?) Also, my slides tend to be very image based, with little words, so do I just assume they wouldn't make sense or be useful to anyone? In fact, I hope that as my experience and confidence grows and I write more material to contribute to the profession, I'll start to feel sharing my work in this way is a natural part of the professional process. For now though, I've just uploaded the presentation on my MSc dissertation I gave to the AULIC group on Thursday 26th July 2012. Enjoy!

Speaking up/being heard

I wasn't really looking forward to this post, mainly because I feel I've done very little in terms of library advocacy, and this makes me feel guilt and inadequacy. But just how much should I feel obliged to advocate? Shouldn't it be something that comes naturally from a passion for libraries? And if I feel I should be doing more but I'm not, then what exactly are my passions? What would get me going?

Johanna's excellent post on advocacy and activism provoked a lot of thought in me. I am also an academic librarian; I believe I advocate for libraries in all sectors, especially public libraries. I am not an activist.

I don't know if anyone else out there feels like this, but in actual fact I think that just by being a librarian I'm constantly called to advocate for libraries. Much of my professional role revolves around considering how the library adds value, and then talking, writing and emphasising it constantly. Talking about my job with my friends or introducing myself to strangers involves speaking up and speaking out - convincing people that what I do is valuable because libraries are indispensable houses of information relied on by everyone, even if they don't know it. And the fight public libraries are now having to undergo just to continue to exist under this coalition government can make me feel slightly desolate, and also, occasionally tweet in anger! I feel that my role demands I work as hard as I can to convince my academic colleagues, lapsed public library users, Google-devoted students and anyone else I can influence that the library is a place for all and access to information a right and not a privilege of the rich.

And that's as much as I can do. I am also a very busy professional librarian, as we all are, with limited time and energy, and a balance to strike between my work life, and my home life, and while I'll happily chatter away about the value of libraries to whoever will listen at some point I have to NOT think about libraries, just for a bit, and be myself.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Mendeley and Zotero - let the games begin

A few days ago I sat down to start planning out my teaching sessions and started considering how I would recommend to our students they manage their information - not just by noting down the references of useful sources they find, but practical ways of saving and storing documents in a way that will enable the to find them again. I was reminded of this blog post by Patrick Dunleavy I read last week: 'I was an EndNote refusenik, but now I’m a Mendeley convert' and I decided it was about time I started exploring some online tools.

So, a few weeks ago when I was starting to think atbou Thing 15 I downloaded Zotero Standalone. and then forgot about it. I am not a firefox user, having been converted to Chrome a while back and discovering that using any other browser now seems just very clunky. Nevertheless, I thought I'd give Zotero a go, and see how far I got. Not very far is the answer. Unfortunately while on the university campus I am restricted as to the things I can download, and apparently add-ons into my browser aren't allowed, so I failed in my attempt to download the Zotero Connector. I began to feel the stirrings of frustration. Next I tried to import a document, which didn't work, and directed me to a singularly unhelpful help page. I started to play around with trying to manage pdfs and bibliographies and found myself very confused. At this point I gave up. Sorry Zotero.

I decided to turn to Mendeley and play with a different tool. Downloading Mendeley desktop was straightforward (as was downloading Zotero Standalone, to be fair). But the Mendeley interface seemed more intuitive, and the help far more abundant. It took me no time at all to find the 'watch folders' function, and suddenly all of the pdfs I'd named in a cryptic an inconsistent manner over the last 3 years, and then carefully stored in a selection of random folders, magically appeared in Mendeley - the majority of which with the correct metadata and all with the pdf attached. I was impressed. I then signed-in to Web Mendeley and the sync function meant the records for all my documents were there instantaneously  Impressed again.

It was about now I wanted to download the Web importer for my browser - but I knew I'd run into the same problems downloading it as I had before, so I went home to try this. Having felt a little guilty about being unfair to Zotero, I also downloaded the Zotero Connector to compare. I think the Zotero Connector works better - it'll pick up all of the records on a webpage and import them into Zotero Standalone very quickly. Mendeley Web Importer was more tricky, as you have to allow pop-ups for every separate site, and make sure you're logged in to Web Mendeley, You then get a list of all the records on a page, and select each one for downloading individually (although this was useful - a quick way of sifting through my results and only saving the records for the results I thought were most useful). As far as I can see I'd still need to download and save my pdfs though if I wanted them stored in Mendeley Desktop as well, so perhaps saving the pdf directly to my watched folder would be a better way of importing the information...and side-step pop-blocker issues with the Mendleey Web Importer.

By this time, as you can probably tell, I was sold on Mendeley. Installed at work and at home, with my documents quickly synced across both, and the watched folder option - yep, it's all working for me. The final thing to do was install the MS Word add-on to use Mendeley to create my citations and references in an actual document. This installs straight into the References ribbon in Word, and is straightforward to use. In fact, under the Add-ins tab, the Zotero reference management tools had appeared as well so I had a play with these. I'm not sure there's much to choose between them really. just as, if you have access to Endnote or Refworks, you'd be using those as well in much the same way. And I've never really used this sort of tool in my own work, as I find tinkering with the style to make sure it meets my needs time-consuming and frustrating. So I gave up at this point - these are my own prejudices effecting my judgement.

I suspect, for anyone needing to use a bibliographic reference tool, using either Zotero or Mendeley would be extremely helpful, and possibly more user-friendly than Endnote. Mendeley gets my vote though, just for how incredibly easy (and satisfying) it is to use. And I haven't even started exploring the collaborative/file-sharing functionality that's made Mendeley so successful...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Thing 12...and a little bit of catching up to do!

Hummmm, it appears I'm a little behind on this blog now...let's see if I can't get through a few 'things' in this post and get back on track!

Thing 12 'Social Media'
I suppose I have troughs and waves with social media and social networking. Sometimes I have plenty I want to say and comment on, sometimes I'm content just to read other people's contributions and sometimes I feel so overwhelmed and exhausted by the sheer amount of information out there I don't even want to look. I know I've made connections using Twitter I would never have made through networking in person, and I have certainly read really useful articles, papers and blog posts through links people have posted on Twitter, that I would not have come across without it. But I still think that I could get more out by putting more in both in terms of sharing and in making more connections. And this very belated blog post is an example of when so much change in my life had kept me away from the social web sphere for a while, and now I can feel that I am less confident contributing online than I have been in the past, so it's definitely one of those things you have to keep up as a discipline, as any other CPD activity I imagine!

Thing 13 'Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox'
ooooo I love Dropbox! I have used it extensively in the past for sharing files between computers, in shared folders for project work with colleagues and for sharing files between work and home.
Google Docs I have used to share resources I've created with students, in particular when I've needed to quickly and easily create help-sheets I've uploaded them to Google Docs and shared the link online. Quite often this hasn't been necessary because I've been teaching groups in collaboration with an academic on a particular module, so documents could be shared on their blackboard site. I created a FAQs sheet for Harvard referencing which I put the link to in my email signature, which turned out to be a very effective way of getting people to at least open the document!
I have never created a Wiki, or used one through work, and I'll own that I've never really considered how they could be useful in a professional capacity. Having said that, I haven't really worked collaboratively on a sizeable project yet, so this one may come in useful in the future...

Thing 14 'Zotero'
I'll come back to this in another post. I have just had a session on using Endnote, which I found very interesting as it seemed much more useful and applicable to me than RefWorks which I was using in my previous employment, so I've gone from a position of avoiding bibliographic management software to thinking perhaps it might be useful after all. Time to play!

Thing 15 'Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events'
One of the best things I've done so far in my professional career is attend LILAC (Librarian's Information Literacy Annual Conference) 2012. The conference was well organised, included a wide range of talks providing plenty of scope for focussing on particular interests or hearing about new things. The keynote speakers were engaging and relevant. There were plenty of opportunities for networking, including the conference dinner, and most importantly, the food was good!
So what did I get from attending?
  • Energy and inspiration
  • Lots of new ideas
  • Networking both in person and on twitter
  • Useful research papers to look up and read
  • A sense of common problems throughout the profession, as well as common goals and ways of working - really helps you feel less isolated!
I also gained experience of other people's presentation styles, which has helped me in developing my own presentation style, and also provided an insight into when PowerPoint slides work and when they don't. I have drawn on all these experience recently when presenting my Master's dissertation research at an AULIC conference in Bristol, which was a fantastic opportunity to present my own work to a small(ish) and friendly group of interested folk. I'd certainly encourage people to take part in conferences and take the opportunity to present if you can - it's such a good way of communicating with colleagues, gaining fresh insights and building confidence in your own work, ideas and projects. Plus if you can get your employer to support you (and I'm talking financially here) that's even better! For myself, I'm finding presenting to be more and more a key element of my professional work, not just a CPD exercise, so the more practice you get at it, the more comfortable you are presenting to large groups of people and talking confidently.

Right, well that's a few 'things' done at least. Better crack on with the next...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

In need of advice.

Thing 11 is about mentoring, which I think ties nicely into the themes of career progression and a lot of the professional development stuff I discussed in my last post.
So, following this theme...I am about to change my career-and life-in a pretty massive way!
Today is my penultimate day as Academic Liaison Librarian at the University of Worcester, and on Monday I'll be starting a new role as Faculty Librarian at the University of East Anglia. For anyone whose geography is as shaky as mine: yes, they are on separate sides of the country. I am thrilled to be joining the team at UEA, and looking forward to the (pretty steep!) learning curve and set of challenges ahead of me, but I'll admit to some trepidation about starting a new life in a new city - it's a lot to do all in one go!

So, I ask myself, if I had a mentor, how would this have shaped my career and choices so far, including the rather massive decision to uproot my life?

I'm not sure why I don't have a mentor. I'm familiar with the concept, and have met several professional colleagues over the years who I have admired greatly and listened carefully to their advice. Perhaps the fact that so far in my career I seem to have been moving around a lot is a factor in my deciding not to have a formal mentor? Or perhaps it's easier to keep my thoughts, fears, joys and apprehensions in my head rather than sharing them with someone who may have a different opinion? Or, worse of all, admit the possibility of establishing a relationship with someone who I could then potentially disappoint! 

Reading Meg's thoughtful and rather persuasive blog post I felt a sense of loss that I had not allowed the continuity of a more senior and experience voice to inform and reflect on my choices and decisions. It's not that I think I'd have done anything differently, but the idea of having someone to discuss my professional thoughts and choices with is actually very appealing when you stop and think about it. And I would love to think that one day in the future I'd be in a position to mentor someone else in the field.

So watch out Norwich, I'm on my way, and I may just be at a stage in my life to stop, think, reflect and ask for someone else's interest and input along the way. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

On library qualifications and career progression. Is it worth it?

Thing 10 asks us to consider qualifications that are relevant to the role of the librarian, including Master's qualifications and chartership. I have been putting off writing this post all week, thinking I'd feel very negative about the whole process, but actually I suspect my feelings are really a lot more mixed, and perhaps a lot more positive.

For me, the existence of Library Graduate Traineeships was an absolutely godsend. After I finished my undergrad degree I went on to train as a stage manager which required a PGDip and  months of lifting, carrying, climbing, shouting, consoling, crying and generally accruing the most impressive collection of bruises ever seen on a skinny girls legs. Yes, the theatre is all drama, on stage and off. I worked in theatre for three years altogether, and I loved many aspects of it, but it really wasn't long before I realised that I wouldn't be able to keep up the pace and meeting the workload with the statutory cheery disposition, so I started looking for another option.

It didn't take me long to start investigating being a librarian. My only search parameter for a new job was not being a teacher, but I wanted to work with books, and so being a librarian became an obvious choice. However, the thing I found online that made me really excited about the prospect, was all the information on the UWE website about the MSc Information and Library Management. It sounded great! Organising people, working in an environment that makes a really positive impact on its community, working with systems (yep, I'm one of those I'm afraid), and with the rapid technological developments librarianship seemed a dynamic and progressive field.

How to get into it though? I was searching late in the year, and so there weren't too many library traineeships about, but the idea sounded perfect - have a year to test the waters, meet other library trainees, learn a lot more about the profession and how I would fit into it, and then go on to the Master's if I wanted. I applied for the first traineeship that came up and I got it, and it was exactly what I needed. I met some absolutely fantastic people while I was there who are now amongst my closest friends, I learned loads, I still loved libraries at the end of it and I was enthused and ready to take on the Master's.

I do have one confession at this point - I was INCREDIBLY lucky, and was awarded a grant from AHRC to undertake the MSc at UWE. I could not of done the course without it (hell - I was still paying my career development loan off from the PGDip!) and had I not been awarded it I'm not sure where I would be now. Yes, that's me saying that my Master's was worth it. I gained my first professional post because I was doing the Master's course. Ok, the course was extremely broad, hardly touched on massive areas of librarianship like cataloguing and classification, and definitely overdid the management aspect BUT without it I couldn't have hoped to have the knowledge I needed to talk intelligently at interview about the challenges librarians face in integrating information literacy sessions in higher education, about the impact of online resources on traditional collection management, and the shifting nature of a university library's relationship with its students in a web 2.0 world. And you know what, geek that I am, I loved thinking and talking about this stuff!

Don't get me wrong. The Master's was a slog! Some modules I loved (unbelievably my favourite was the legal libraries module, even if a large part of it was devoted to discussing their imminent demise). Some modules were just painful, like research methods. But actually, as my undergrad degree was in English Literature with a focus on creative writing, I had never learned about researching in the social sciences and the different theories surrounding research methods, and knowing this has been invaluable now I find myself supporting a subject which has a heavy focus on quantitative research methods. And most importantly, I met some brilliant people who are now fantastic librarians and part of my professional network.

Ok, so I'll draw this very long post to a close now by saying that I don't have any substantial conclusions about the nature of the Master's and its ability to remain relevant in the profession going forward (and I don't have the energy to extend that thought to the relevance of chartership right now). But for me, the traineeship was exactly what I needed and was a fantastic introduction to the profession. The Master's was a mixed experience, but I learned so much, and I couldn't have moved on in my career without it. And so I'm forced to conclude that, for me, the master's was great, so I can only deplore the incredible expensive that causes problems for so many contemplating a Master's course, and hope that we can fight our inclination to be jaded about a qualification that actually, boring or no, has been fantastic for many and still has a place in career progression.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Organising things!

Google Calendar

I've had a Google Calendar for a while now, when I decided that buying paper diaries was too expensive and it was about time I went paperless. I have it synced with my iPhone, so I always add/edit from there as I'm usually consulting it when I'm out and about. I never login from an actual computer! Thinking about this now it seems a bit strange, as I'm constantly logged into Google on my home computer...odd huh?! I just opened the calendar for fun today and realised how much I've actually come to rely on it since chucking my paper diary. I also noticed that my group of graduate library trainees used a Google calendar to arrange our events, something I'd completely forgotten - I suspect Google calendar of being one of those really useful tools you forget about until you need it, and then it turns out to be pretty perfect.


Ok. This is one thing I've been really excited about since I started cpd23 as I'd never heard of it and it sounds like exactly the sort of thing I'd like very much, so I dived straight in. While it's obviously a great tool for organising your notes, photos etc. by theme or by project, I can't imagine I'd need to use it for this function particularly - as I have a dropbox for storing my documents for accessing from wherever I am and for sharing with others.
I downloaded the web clipper straight away and played with that function instead, because I think it's genius. Being able to highlight and clip text, save pages, pictures,'s brilliant! I often end up emailing links to myself which get lost in amongst all my other emails, whereas this provides a much more visual and handy way of storing the web tit-bits I come across. I also downloaded the app to my iPhone so I can create notes and access them from there too. Click here to link to a note I prepared earlier.
This is a tool I'm going to be using a lot more I imagine. Can't wait to get to work and download the web clipper there. Fun!

Real-life networks

Having little experience of real-life networks, and feeling as if there is quite a lot more I could, and probably will do, in my career, I thought I'd just write down a few random musings about my experiences in my (relatively short!) career so far...

I am a member of CILIP and have been since I enrolled on my MSc Information and Library Management. I found having Update magazine delivered to my door to be quite useful, and I also often make use of the access to LISA and SAGE journals online that you get. However, since the change in attitude toward public libraries when the coalition government came into power, and my getting a professional level job hiking my membership fees by a very large amount, I have questioned why I need to remain a member. For instance, to be a member of the CILIP information literacy group you don't have to have to be a member of CILIP - a marker of how many librarians feel that CILIP aren't providing the leadership or advocacy the profession needs. Me? I'm still undecided, and I'm still a member. I don't think I make the most out of my membership - I don't meet with my local group or with the CDG group in my area. I delete the emails I'm sent before I read them, and I don't participate in any CILIP communities or other events. So maybe this should be more of a two way thing? I suspect I'll try and give a bit more before I give up.

After reading the extremely extensive list of professional bodies on the 23 Things blog post for this 'Thing' I realised the Association of Librarians and Information Professionals In the Social Sciences (ALISS) was missing. Like most professional bodies ALISS organises events, publishes a journal and circulates e-newsletters with useful links to news, resource and papers. I'm not actually a member of ALISS, but this is mainly because my institution subscribes to ALISS quarterly so I get to read it as part of my at-work professional development time. However, as a librarian in the social sciences, I find a lot that is very useful in the information ALISS sends out, so I recommend them!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Thing 6: Online Networks

Another holiday, another week behind...I do actually go to work, I promise!

So Thing 6 is 'online networks', and we start off with LinkedIn...which I have just exclaimed out loud about in the office at work along the lines of "It's horrible! I hate it!".

I do in fact. For these reasons:

  • Yet another place I have to create an account, maintain a profile, share, comment, discuss...
  • It's so ugly! What an ugly website!
  • I am connected with my mother, my brother and some of my friends. be honest, I don't need LinkedIn to get in touch with those people
  • If I need a job, I'll send my CV out in response to job applications like a normal person...I don't think LinkedIn is going to help me much other than giving potential employers another way to spy on me.
  • Ok, so what about connecting with with other librarians you say - well, there are conferences, CILIP groups, twitter, emails, telephones, blogs, websites...many avenues in which I can do this if I wished. Do I need another?
  • There is SO MUCH information on there. Like, my entire life. I mean, that's a lot to put out there in the public domain. Do I really feel comfortable with people knowing so much about me?
Ok, so I'm going with my gut instinct on this one. I don't have the love to try and get into the social networking side of LinkedIn and I have other ways to connect with my peers and colleagues. Perhaps LinkedIn just isn't for me.

I've already mentioned I keep my Facebook page on lock down, as for me it's a purely social tool for sharing things like photos and birthday messages with my friends, and I don't want to use it to make new ones, and I certainly don't think it's an appropriate place for people to get a sense of who I am in a professional capacity.
Having said that...I DO use Facebook (as an administrator for the Information and Learning Services page for my work institution) to read and respond to student enquiries. So while for personal reasons I choose not to use Facebook to network, I do recognise it has many functions that can make it a very useful tools for libraries and librarians.

LISNPN I realised I joined last year - and then forgot! (Do you get the sense I'm not really into this online networking thing?). However, I like the idea of this network a lot more than LinkedIn, as it's not so large and overwhelming, and I stand a chance of connecting with people who I may get to meet and form actual working relationships with. I may give this one another go - or at least complete my profile!

LAT I didn't know existed, and I feel even more like this is a place I'd like to network than LISNPN...but I'm getting networking fatigue here...

CILIP Communities I've lurked on before, and I do like to read the blog posts and discussion forums that appear here when I get an idle moment, but I never really felt the need to contribute or comment. At this point I feel there are so many voices and opinions out there I'm exhausted with it, and even with myself for adding to them!

As far as professional networking online goes, Twitter is my tool of choice. Without a doubt. Perhaps as my confidence grows through doing this course and getting into the habit of commenting on other people's blogs, I'll feel more able to contribute to online communities like those of CILIP or LAT. But perhaps Twitter is enough! Why not?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Reflecting on reflecting

Adrift by Pascal B on Flickr 
As a chronic over-thinker with a natural inclination to scrutinize everything I do, you'd think I'd be looking forward to this 'thing', feeling that it's second nature to me.

Well no actually. I have many mental barriers that make me what to scribble over the words 'Reflective Practice' with a thick black pen. Firstly, thinking is tiring. No really, it is. And the idea that I need to do even more of thanks. Secondly, why should I have to form my thoughts into a coherent pattern? I've been thinking for nearly 28 years so I feel well practiced - so why do I suddenly need a framework for thinking? Finally, there are so many elements to professional development now that require a portfolio, keeping a record, compiling evidence...and to extend this to even my thoughts and the intensely personal nature of it all seems like a level of commitment and depth I'm not sure I feel immediately comfortable with. 

But despite these objections, I also think I'm wrong on all three points! Here's why:

  • The ability to reflect critically on experiences can be an extremely powerful tool for keeping an open mind, trying new experiences and responding positively to peer-observation. 
  • A framework for thinking actually helps take the strain out of reflective practice - it provides a way of documenting your experiences in a manner that constantly moves you forward. 
  • Emptying your head in a productive way is much healthier than letting thoughts swirl around with no outlet!
  • Keeping a journal, or blog, or record of your reflection provides a basis for professional dialogue on interesting issues, and can also surprise you when your feelings or opinions change.
When I started in my post as a liaison librarian, I used a Pebblepad journal to keep tabs on my thoughts and feelings with regard to my teaching practice. I used to write down what I had done, what I felt went well and what could have been improved, and then try and incorporate some positive changes into my next teaching event. After a while I stopped because the process became quite automatic for me, and actually writing it down took time that I didn't have. Ironically, I'm now in a position where I'm trying to package up my teaching sessions into a coherent programme for embedding into a first year undergraduate program, and I'm wishing I'd kept a record of some of the reflections that led me to change and progress my sessions in the way that I did!

So I feel like I'm actually just starting out as a reflective practitioner, and have a lot of learning and practice to do, both in terms of theory and in terms of what works best for me. Recently I've found this presentation on The Teaching Librarian in Education by Claire McGuinness very inspiring. I hope that this blog will become a space where I can reflect on my work, interact with others and keep a record of my development...we shall see! 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Hi, my name is Carly, and I'm a twitterholic

Yes, it's true, Twitter and I have been friends for a long time. Well, according to How Long Have I Been On Twitter 03 years 02 months 02 weeks 05 days 04 hours 36 minutes.

I am the librarian with my Twitter feed constantly open on my screen (actually I have it as a widget on my Netvibes dashboard, along with news feeds, email accounts and other stuff like, er, the weather). And I have to confess, there's a fine line to tread between current awareness, and constant distraction! Nevertheless I am a complete advocate of Twitter for professional networking, awareness and general library fun. While I do tweet boring tit-bits about my life (such as today's more than healthy obsession with #bbctorchcam) I do in fact use Twitter for current awareness more than anything else. It's great for following events (e.g. #librarieslobby) or participating in conference chat (#LILAC12). The more people you follow, the more you find really handy links and articles being retweeted, and sometimes it's just plain funny and cheers your day.

Storify I had never used before although I'd seen it used by other people, so I was quite keen to give it a go! Typically I chose a story that is both vital to the profession and didn't require reading many hilarious and inventive tweets at length...ahem...

Actually I am not really a fan of just using online tools for the sake of it, I like them to have a clear and direct application, so I can imagine I may use Storify from time to time to curate my own opinions of experiences of online events, but I'm not sure I'd be so good at the sharing aspect of this particular tool. Still, when I first joined Twitter I wasn't sure I'd feel like tweeting ever, or replying to other people's tweets! I suppose the key to using networks and tools like this is that the more involved you get, the more useful and relevant they can become.

RSS feeds I have been using far longer than Twitter, although I have an on/off relationship with my Google reader as I find it can be very overwhelming at times, when there are so many blogs to follow, to be selective in what I read and to unsubscribe to feeds that are not really relevant to me. Since starting #cpd23 I've been adding key feeds to my blogger account, rather than using my Google reader, and I've found this really helpful in cutting down the amount of time I spent wading through semi-interesting-not-really-grabbing-me type posts. Also, as a subject librarian, I like to keep tabs on relevant RSS feeds for news, blogs and developments in Sports Science, and I keep these organised using a Netvibes Dashboard that acts as the library subject webpages for my students:

Really and truly once you start with these things, it's hard to stop! You can have tools for tools, and tools for organising those tools and it can all get a bit won't find me switching of Twitter any time soon though. I can guarantee that.

Monday, 21 May 2012

I'm a brand? Really?

Well, I'm already a week behind on cpd23 due to being on holiday last week, although I have to admit I wasn't looking forward too much to thing 3 as I find the idea of my personal brand to be quite uncomfortable. Like many people I suppose I worry about mixing my personal online presence with my professional one, and in fact my personal inclination is to try and limit my exposure to, well, anyone I don't know. Luckily (well, perhaps) there is a Carly Sharples who is a Conservative politician with a very heavy online presence, so if you Google my name, you get an awful lot of results about her, and I fade delightfully into the background.

My Twitter feed is my first result (my name is @carlysharples - got in there before Miss Conservative lady clearly, hehehe), and I suppose my twitter feed, while personal, is a fair reflection of myself, my views and my interests. There's a fair number of library tweets on there that's for sure!

And what next? Oh yes, the YouTube video of myself I was required to make for work, designed to be shown to off-site and partner college students so they have a fair idea of what I look like and what I do.

I have no webpage, no LinkedIn, Facebook is not visible to anyone other than my very close friends....So I am a half hidden tweeting librarian who may, at first glance appear to be a Tory (I am not!) Definitely food for thought there I think. Delving a bit deeper and more sensibly, if you add 'Worcester' into the search you get a lovely handful of relevant results, all linked back to my work as a librarian at the University of Worcester (including a category for 'Liaison Librarians' on Zomobo...interesting!

So, after a week of considering this, what conclusions have I come to?

  • Branding and selling clearly aren't the same thing, but I feel like they are. Like many other people across all professions I imagine, I find the idea of constantly having to advocate for myself and my profession exhausting, but no one else is going to do my shouting for me, and developing a consistent online presence is something simple I can control.
  • I am actually pretty pleased with my online presence - I want to be discovered in my professional capacity, not my personal one.
  • I could do a lot more - for example, using the name 51st Century Librarian for this blog links in no way to any other aspect of my online presence, and unsurprisingly doesn't appear when I Google myself. My Twitter feed isn't personalised really, and I make no real attempt to have an online professional presence that is distinct from my employment. 
Just like starting this blog, I feel trepidation about 'owning' my brand online over and above the way I'm presented through my employment. But is that all I am? Or is there more to me? I guess you'll just have to watch this space...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Thing 2: Exploring the blogging world...

My travels through the blogosphere have made me realise just how much time it actually takes to explore and read other people's thoughts and experiences! It's been great to go through some of the other cpd23er's blogs, and realise that mostly people are feeling the same way as me - nervous about keeping a blog and about the time it will take to do the course, but hopeful it will enhance their own practice and build their confidence using web 2.0 tools. I did take the plunge and comment on some people's blogs as well, and thank you to those who commented on mine. I'm surprised by how quickly I'm starting to feel more confident with all this stuff!

As I already kept an eye on a few blogs I enjoy prior to starting cpd23, I thought I'd share a couple of my favourite blog posts with you:

  • The Wikiman's 'So you want to be a subject librarian' - really interesting thoughts on the role of the subject librarian, which I agree with in many respects. While I am the subject librarian for sport at my institution, my first degree was in English and I am not particualrly sporty! So yes, while I did need to do a bit of getting up to speed on the subject areas, courses and research specialisms of my department, I already had the skills I needed to perform the subject role effectively with little specific knowledge about, say biomechanics! I've also found that in general the students have the same age old problems of thinking creatively about keywords and referencingincorrcrly - both of which trasnced the barriers of subejct specifics.Most of all I was surprised by how much I enjoyed teaching and engaging with students, another aspect that was really nothing to do with the subject and more to do with having a positive impact on the students' university experience.
  • Ned Potter was also involved in the Guardian HE Network live chat on 'The evolving role of HE' which I followed with interest at the time, and it worth a read if you're at a loose end.
  • Alan Carbery's post 'An MLIS degree in 50 minutes: who are we trying to kid?' is a short comment on the way in which librarians approach information literacy teaching, and what we are trying to achieve, following on from the excellent keynote given by Megan Oakleaf at LILAC12. It resonated completely with me - as a librarian who generally gets 50 minutes with my students and then may never see them again in the entire course of their degree, I think I need to think really carefully about what I actually want to get across to the students in that time.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Thing 1!

So here I am writing my first (personal) blog post ever, having almost decided not to do cpd23 this year on account of feeling very self-conscious about what I write.

A strange reaction for a person who is more than happy to face a lecture hall full of bored looking students and enthuse at them about libraries until the cows come home.

So I changed my mind and decided to feel the fear and do it anyway.

The first major result of this decision was that I have logged into Google for the first time in AGES and opened my Google reader, only to be immediately and unavoidably sucked into the world of Unshelved for probably an unhealthy amount of work time. It is, of course, utterly wonderful and I'd recommend it to anyone who works in libraries, not just public libraries The second result was taking forever to make the agonising decision over the background and layout for my blog, which I'm still not sure I'm entirely satisfied with...

Actually, although I aspired to be a public librarian, I currently work as an Academic Liaison Librarian at the University of Worcester, a position I thoroughly enjoy, although it greatly saddens me that the coalition  is so keen on shutting down our public libraries, making it impossible for those library service to afford to employ profressional librarians, and diluting a vastly popular and effective public service that has certainly changed my life, if not the lives of most of my friends. Excitingly, the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council are about to open the first joint university and public library called 'The Hive', which will happily make me both an academic and public librarian - the place of dreams! (Well, strange librarian dreams at least).

In terms of 23 things - I have done most, if not all of the 'things' in my professional career so far, although I'm sure I will learn new things about them as I progress through the course. Mostly I anticipate this course will allow me to reflect on my own practice and learn from others' experiences, and perhaps encourage me to share my own practice and thoughts with the library community as well! Happy cpd23 everyone.