Monday, 13 August 2018

New Skills, New Challenges: CPD in the Information Profession

Readers of this blog will know that I have always been interested in professional development for library staff. Recently I was asked to put together a special virtual online edition of the New Review of Academic Librarianship looking at the way CPD has evolved over the years, as reported in the literature. The result can now be found online here with all articles made openly available for a limited time. As part of this exercise I also wrote an introductory editorial on New Skills, New Challenges: CPD in the Information Profession which can be found with the articlesBut don't worry if you don't get a chance to read it now - there is also a version of my editorial available in the Cambridge repository. Currently under an embargo it will be available to read early next year. 

Putting together this editorial was an interesting exercise. I've never been a big fan of literature reviews and even choosing publications from a defined list was hard. It was also difficult to get the balance and tone of the actual editorial right but I think I managed it in the end. It really helped me to focus and gave me a new perspective on some of the other writing projects I'm working on.

I've written a lot in the past about librarians getting involved in the publication process and I can recommend literature reviews as a route to try. They are often more helpful to readers than the original articles as all the hard work has been done for them! 

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

All the Acronyms: LILAC, ICEPOPS and IFTTT

The last few weeks have been busy for me conference wise. Perhaps the biggest event I have attended was LILAC 2018 and its satellite event ICEPOPS

For those who don't know, LILAC is one of the larger conferences in the library calendar with a special focus on information literacy. As usual there was a great selection of speakers and the keynotes can now be viewed online (I especially recommend watching David White's talk on Posthuman Literacies). The first ICEPOPS - International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars - was held the day before LILAC and provided a chance for those interested in learning more about copyright education to get together and learn about different approaches. Both events were really useful and I ended up tweeting so much that Twitter thought I was a bot and briefly suspended my account!

I usually write a reflective blog post on events I attend but this time I decided to try something different - sharing my notes and tweet archive from the conference. Partly this is in the spirit of openness and ensuring that those who couldn't attend the event got a chance to see what was said and partly this helps me to justify to myself the huge amount of money I recently spent on a MacBook Air! In all seriousness I thought it would be good to share the full picture that I took away from the events. Usually when I blog I end up leaving a lot out as otherwise posts would be about eight pages long. This way you can see everything that I thought worth writing down (although it is of course my own personal interpretation of what was noteworthy). People seemed to enjoy reading these during the conference itself so I've collected them together here as a record. 

I also shared my collected tweets from both events. Setting up a personal archive of tweets is something I try to do from most events I attend as I use Twitter as a form of note taking and find this an easier way to go back through my own notes.

A few people have since asked me how I created these archives so I've included the instructions below. I find it a really useful way of keeping notes but I'd be interested to learn about the different methods other people use.

Setting up a tweet archive with IFTT
  1. Create an account on IFTTT
  2. Connect your Twitter and Google Drive accounts
  3. Go to My Applets - New Applet
  4. Under IF select Twitter
  5. Select New tweet by you with hashtag 
  6. Specify the hashtag of the event when prompted then select Create trigger
  7. Under Then that select Google Sheets
  8. Select Add row to spreadsheet. At this point you will be prompted to select an existing spreadsheet or set up a new one. You can also alter the way that the tweet is collected at this stage (IFTTT will guide you through it)
  9. Select Create action and you're ready to go. The applet will run automatically
IFTTT is quite an intuitive site which guides you through the process of automating things quickly and easily. Remember that these archives only work if they are set up in advance as they collect information as it happens rather than retrospectively. If anyone knows a way of creating an archive retrospectively then I'm open to hearing about it! 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Inclusivity, Technology and Assessment : CCTL Teaching Forum 2018

For the last few years a highlight of the spring at Cambridge has been the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning Forum. It provides a chance for all those with teaching responsibilities (at any level) to learn about best practice, new techniques and how we can improve our offer to our students. The 2018 event was held on a sunny day at Murray Edwards College with the highest number of attendees ever (including many librarians). I've picked out a few of my key themes of the day below: 

The opening panel focused on how to make teaching more inclusive. It pointed out that the term inclusivity is an easy one to use but it requires careful unpacking into its many different facets. Like any other university Cambridge caters to many students with disabilities. The panel focused on moving away from a model where changes are made to accommodate someone with additional needs and towards an affirmative model where changes can be made for the good of all. Lecture capture was cited as an example of this - it can hugely benefit students with certain learning issues but can be used to great advantage by all (more on lecture capture later).

There was also talk of decolonizing or decentralizing the curriculum. This is again an issue that many universities face but perhaps the pressure is more intense at an institution like Cambridge. As well as looking at what we teach (which topics are covered and which readings are assigned) we were encouraged to think about why we teach the way we do. Most teachers used their own teachers as models of good practice because that's what they know but is this just perpetuating the problem? We need to think about what influences our decisions to teach they way we do by asking ourselves some hard questions. This is something I know I need to think about as I reflect on my own teaching practice so this was one of my top takeaways from the day.

Lecture capture
The issue of lecture capture was one of the big themes of the day and cropped up in multiple sessions. he process involves recording a live lecture and then making that recording available to students on the course. At the moment this has been done as an opt-in pilot project at Cambridge but it has been very popular with students. Formal permission was sought from lecturers to record their sessions and students were made aware that any contributions or questions from them could be edited out of the recording (although to date no one has taken up this offer). 

There were several concerns raised about capturing lectures:
  • copyright - part of the formal permission sought from lecturers included a copyright statement asking them to agree to sharing their presentation. Personally I would have liked more information on the copyright issues brought up by the content of the presentation as this is the most common issue I deal with. Something for me to investigate further I think!
  • attendance at lectures - several people were understandably concerned that having a recording of the lecture would mean students were less likely to attend the live session. Evidence from the pilot project and its student survey actually suggests the opposite, with only a tiny percentage unlikely to attend 
  • use of material - some lecturers were concerned about the possibility that students would upload lecture captured content to online platforms such as YouTube. Students specifically agree not to do this when accessing the video but many pointed out that if they really wanted to there was little to stop them. Lecturers also worried that something they said during a lecture could be taken out of context and posted online - possibly leading to embarrassing repercussions. They wondered if this would impact their presentation style and lead to a level of self-censorship which could do a disservice to the students in the room
Some advantages of lecture capture were also highlighted:
  • catching up - students who are forced to miss the live session due to illness or other commitments used the recordings to make sure they hadn't missed important content
  • revision tool - many students were using the recordings as a revision tool before assessments. Some event attended the lectures just to listen and then watched the recordings to take notes
  • reduced stress - levels of stress and anxiety were reduced among all students as they knew that they would have the opportunity to review the material
  • questions - one slightly unexpected outcome was that students were spending less time asking their lecturers trivial questions about the content as these could be answered through the recordings. Instead they were able to use their tutorial time more effectively by exploring deeper questions around the content
The theme that technology doesn't need to be a foreign thing was echoed in other presentations, including a very entertaining session from Dr Hugh Hunt from the Department of Engineering which showcased a marvelous bit of kit called a visualizer which lets you project what you are doing on the screen - ideal for conducting experiments and bringing in outside experts over Skype!

The final theme was the issue of assessment - how do we ensure that students have learnt what they need to know? Many presenters made the point that assessment should be less about measuring performance and more about making sure that students are reaching their potential. There was also a lot of discussion about the authenticity of assessment. We need to make sure that we use assessment methods show students are prepared for whatever they do next. At the moment we are great at assessing their ability to write an essay in exam conditions but what about skills they will use in the workplace such as writing reports or making a great presentation? Do we even need two different streams of assessment depending on the next steps the student will take - one for those going on to employment and another for those pursuing further study?

There were also calls for greater levels of assessment literacy. We need to inform our students what they will be working towards before they start so that they know what is expected of them, for example what knowledge and skills are they expected to develop in order to earn a first or a 2:1?

I think one of the most important messages on assessment for me was that we need to move away from learning objectives and instead focus on learning outcomes by focusing less on what we want to teach but on what our students need to learn to operate effectively. This is something that I will be thinking about as I plan the 2018 run of the Research Support Ambassador Programme at Cambridge.

Overall the day was really inspiring and gave me a lot to take away and think about - I'm already looking forward to the 2019 Teaching Forum! 

Monday, 9 April 2018

The Unexpected Side of Working in Research Support - CILIP Careers Day

Last week I traveled what is starting to become a familiar route down to London to speak at the CILIP Careers Day. This annual one day event started in 2017 as a way to reach out to those who have been working in the information profession for a while and were looking for a way to take the next step or refresh their career. The sessions included both talks and practical workshops from people working in a variety of different sectors. We also heard about valuable techniques such as networking, reading a job advertisement and how to move on if you are stuck in a career rut.

I was asked to speak about working in research support, an area which is becoming increasingly important in libraries as evidenced by the number of job advertisements that keep cropping up in this area. Librarians sometimes get nervous about the language that is used in these adverts and worry that because they are not experts in areas such as Open Access and Research Data Management that they shouldn't apply for these roles. However, if you actually look at the skills that are being asked for then hopefully it should become apparent that librarians know a lot about this area already:
  • We are used to dealing with and describing data in order to open it up to a wider audience
  • Librarians tend to be very adaptable and good and problem solving - ideal for dealing with publishers who change their policies (and consequently your department workflows) at a moments notice
  • We know about different methods of publishing and the differences between them - for example that journals often appear in print/online faster than books. This is the kind of advice we can pass on to our users
  • We are accustomed to explaining sometimes complex procedures and rules to our users in a way that makes sense to them which comes in handy when trying to explain various Open Access policies!
The point that I (hopefully) made on the day was that librarians often expect to be baffled by research support roles but once they start digging a bit deeper then they realise that they know more than they think. As with any librarian role the subject knowledge can be learnt, it is much harder to be the sort of person who has the aptitude to work in research support but I think librarians have all of the necessary traits already.

Every day working in research support is different, even if the tasks can sometimes seem a little bit routine. In my own department there is always something to make the day go faster - like the time that someone uploaded multiple images of penguin guano as the data supporting their publication, the day my office crashed the Cambridge University server by publishing Dr Stephen Hawking's thesis or the fact that I have a Krispy Kreme loyalty card for work purposes! 

As well as getting to meet a great bunch of people (and hopefully not putting them off a career in research support!) I learnt a lot from the other sessions. I've always been a bit nervous of networking but the excellent session by Jo Wood and Michael Jones helped to boost my confidence so will probably be my top takeaway.

For those interested in either working in research support or what colour penguin guano is, my slides are available below:

Monday, 26 March 2018

Skills in Scholarly Communication – Needs & Development

This post is reblogged from Unlocking Research, the blog of the Office of Scholarly Communication, Cambridge.

This blog post is part of the write-up of an investigation into the background of people working in scholarly communication, with a specific focus on skills.
Library staff need to have a wide range of skills in order to undertake their roles. Whatever type of library they work in and whatever their individual role there is a range of both generic and specialist skills which staff need to acquire over the course of their career. In the Office of Scholarly Communication our focus is on making sure library staff are equipped to work in research support roles but we also have a wider interest in who makes up the global scholarly communication workforce.
In late 2016 we conducted a survey to find out more about this issue. We were slightly overwhelmed by the popularity of the survey which gathered over 500 responses from people who self-identified as working in scholarly communication which we defined as:
The process by which academics, scholars and researchers share and publish their research findings with the wider academic community and beyond. This includes, but is not limited to, areas such as open access and open data, copyright, institutional repositories and research data management.
You can read a summary of some of the findings from this research here but we wanted to delve a little deeper and look at which skills scholarly communication staff felt they needed and how they developed them. This blog post looks at that question.
Which skills?
Rather than come up with yet another list of skills that staff should or could have we made the decision to use an existing list from UKeIG – the UK eInformation Group of CILIP. This list is comprehensive in its coverage and we felt that it would provide a good basis for future comparisons as well as providing a list with which the community would be familiar. The list is of course not exhaustive and respondents were invited to add any additional skills which they felt were relevant to their roles.
Respondents were asked to highlight the skills which they used in their current roles. Their responses are summarised in Figure 1 (all figures can be viewed at higher resolution by clicking on them).

FIG 1: Skills used in current roles

Institutional repository (management/curation) (72%) and Copyright (63%) were the skills most used, closely followed by Open Access – content discovery (59%) and Understanding metrics (55%).

Some skills were used with much less frequency such as Resource Description and Access (RDA) (10%), Post-cancellation access and archiving (9%) and Mobile technology (8%). Under the option Other skills specified by respondents included knowledge of open educational resources, educating faculty and students about how to get published and electronic theses.

Skills for future roles

Respondents were also asked to select the skills they felt would be important for the future of the profession. The results are summarised in Figure 2:

FIG 2: Skills of importance to the future of the profession

The top four selections had a similar number of responses: Innovations in academic publishing (51%), Research data management (50%), Understanding the user experience (47%) and Copyright (46%). It is interesting to note that Copyright is the only skill to appear in the top five of both current and future skills.

The other end of the scale again included RDA (6%) and Post-cancellation access (7%) as well as working with standards (6%). Under the option Other skills included instruction and education, developing strategic partnerships and gumption!

Developing these skills

What we really wanted to know was how people working in scholarly communication developed these skills – through their formal education, on the job training or self-directed learning. Survey respondents were asked how they had developed the skills included on the UKeIG list, and their responses can be seen in Figure 3 below:

FIG 3: How did you develop your knowledge about the following areas?

Almost all of the respondents had some level of either undergraduate or postgraduate education, with 71% either holding or working towards a postgraduate qualification in library and information science. Given this, it is surprising to note that so few felt that they had developed the skills they needed for their role through formal education. This gap could perhaps be attributed to the fact that 74% of respondents have held their qualifications for a significant amount of time and so these subjects were not offered at the time. They would have had little choice but to learn these skills on the job or in their own time as it was unlikely to be practical to return to formal education.

Generic skills on the list scored much higher with participants for formal education, perhaps because library school courses are designed to produce well-rounded information professionals able to work in a variety of sectors and so cover the skills that are most likely to be of use in a broad career.

Looking at the results in more detail we can see that a potential skills gap is being created. Looking at the top five skills respondents’ have identified as using in their current role we can see that the levels of formal learning for each are low (Figure 4).

FIG 4: Current needs: How are these skills being addressed?

There is evidence that this skills gap could continue into the future. Figure 5 shows the top five skills respondents think will be of most importance to the future of the profession. Again the numbers developing these skills through formal education are low, showing that those working in scholarly communication are having to rely on either on the job or self-directed learning to develop the skills they identify as being important to the future of the profession.

FIG 5: Future needs: How are these skills being addressed?

Next steps

We will continue to analyse the results of the survey to find out more about how those working in scholarly communication have developed their skill sets and how they see future offerings being delivered. In the meantime the OSC is part of a group which is looking to tackle the provision of dedicated scholarly communication in the UK. As well as sharing our discussions on this blog you can talk to us at various events. We have already visited RLUK and are scheduled to present at LILAC and CILIP Careers Day so do come and chat to us if you have a chance!

Originally published: Unlocking Research, March 23rd 2018

Friday, 23 February 2018

Cool Cartoons

One of my biggest achievements of 2017 was having my first peer reviewed article published in the New Review of Academic Librarianship. It was an intense experience and I learnt a lot - not least to cut our research community a bit of slack. I was only writing one article - they write several! 

I was thrilled to learn at the end of the year that the article was being turned into a cartoon abstract. These are cartoon versions of the usual textual abstract that goes with the article. They come in a variety of formats depending on the interpretation of that particular artist(s). Cartoon abstracts are also a really good way to make an instant impact with your article. The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is true - the casual reader's attention is caught more by a an image than a paragraph of text that they have to read through. It also great to see someone else's interpretation of my work (particularly as I'm not artistic myself). Plus, it's kind of cool!

You can see the cartoon abstract by clicking below and you can read the accompanying article here (OA).

The Research Support Ambassador Programme

Monday, 5 February 2018

Dealing with the Green-Eyed Monster

This is one of those posts that I probably shouldn't write but it's been niggling me for a while and perhaps the only way to make it go away is to write it. It's not intended to get sympathy or beg for reassuring comments, more just something I need to put down on (digital) paper. 

I want to talk about professional jealousy. We all experience it - that feeling of irrational rage when someone else has done something you wish you had, achieved a goal that seems out of your reach or has just done something better than you. It's natural to feel jealous in this sort of situation and it can be a good motivator to work harder or get out of your comfort zone. I know that I wouldn't be in the role I'm in today if I wasn't occasionally jealous of the success of my colleagues and pushed myself that bit harder. This is the positive side to jealousy but what about the negative? At the extreme it can lead to people making nasty comments and you becoming the outsider. Unfortunately this is something I've experienced quite a lot recently, both in my day job and in the other professional commitments that I have. Things have been going well with work, both for me and my wider department but with that success comes the flip side. It can range from flippant comments such as people telling me I shouldn't complain about being tired because it's my own fault for taking on too much, through to more 'organised' moaning that gets back to you through the local grapevine. 

This isn't really a new feeling for me. I've always been something of an overachiever - doing more work than necessary and taking on too much. When I was at school I was often referred to as a swot and was bullied for it. Typical kid stuff that we all go through and that has fueled the plots of some great 80s high school movies. The thing it, I'd sort of hoped that as we got older, left school and moved into jobs which turned into careers, the taunting would stop. Or at least people would get the sense to keep their comments to themselves. Sadly it seems that this isn't the case and recently I've been feeling that I've gone back about twenty years. I still tend to take on too much and get involved in a lot of projects (in a similar way to many other information professionals I know!). In the beginning I did this in a bid to impress my then-bosses into giving me a permanent job and then afterwards because I found that I enjoyed getting involved. And maybe I'm a bit addicted to that nice feeling of knowing people like something I've done. I certainly like helping people and get a lot of satisfaction this way from both my job and my extra curricular activities. It doesn't stop the jealousy getting wearing though, especially when you have a lot on your plate.

So how do you deal with the green-eyed monster? If you are one of those experiencing jealousy then remember that it's natural. As I've said above it can be a great motivator if used correctly and can really help to push you to achieve something. If you are jealous of a colleague then stop and think about how they've got what it is you want. You could even use it to start a conversation with them and learn about the steps they've taken to get where they are. If they're anything like most people in this profession they will be more than happy to help you with a bit of friendly advice. You may even have to do a bit of introspection and acknowledge that it's your problem rather than theirs. The bottom line is be a grown up and remember that no matter how you intend your comments, they can get lost in translation and get back to the other person. And if you're on the receiving end? Then try and see it for the pettiness it is and let it pass you by. It's easier said than done I know, and sometimes it can build up and really wear you down. If people aren't saying these things to your face and you hear about them second hand it's probably because they know they're in the wrong. In the same way that bullies will put you down because it makes them feel better, the irrationally jealous will know on some level that they're being juvenile. If they had a genuine comment to make that could be backed up with logical argument they would start a conversation with you rather than whispering when they think you can't hear them. But think of it like this - you must have done something right for these people to be jealous of you. Keep focusing on that and doing what you're doing and hopefully that will be enough to get you - and me - through!