Monday 23 December 2013

An Early New Year Reflection

Before you go any further with this blog post there is a small disclaimer: yes, this is one of those annoying reflective posts that people tend to write at this time of year! I don't know if it's the emphasis on reflective practice inherent in the Chartership process or something else, but I've come to really value the importance of looking back on your achievements and thinking about how you could improve yourself.

I do a lot of extra-curricular activities that are library related but not specific to my job. I see things like attending conferences and webinars as important professional development tools and I don't mind doing them in my own time. Having said that, one important lesson that I've learnt this year is that it's important to really plan your CPD rather than just attending events because you think you should. If you attend everything you will burn out and grow to resent something you should be enjoying. When you see an event/course advertised ask yourself does it fit with your goals?, why do you want to attend? If you can't think of three solid reasons then it's probably best not to. Remember that not all attendance has to be physical. You can follow conferences on Twitter using hashtags or watch a recorded webinar at a time when you don't have as much going on.

One activity that I made a decision to pursue this year was joining the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group Committee, which I did in January. I've wanted to be involved in this group for a long time and I'm so glad I am as it has been a great experience. As the blog manager I was able to build a blog from scratch and have built up a lot of transferable skills. I hope to continue long into the future.

Public speaking is never going to be my favorite activity but I've learnt this year that I'm not as bad as I think I am. I spoke at the Libraries@Cambridge conference in January as well as presenting a poster, I gave a nano-presentation at ARLG Teachmeet and ran a session at LibCampEast. As the year has gone on I've been less terrified of trying something new and the thought of talking in public no longer brings me out in a cold sweat. I think diving in at the deep end with something you don't like can sometimes work out for the best. The first presentation I gave this year was in front of almost all the librarians in Cambridge which was absolutely panic-inducing. If something went wrong then everyone would know, not just at my own library but all over town. Luckily it didn't and I found subsequent presentations much easier. Librarians at these events are very supportive, especially of first-timers. Maybe it's not a bad thing to start off with the most terrifying thing, everything after it seems less awful in comparison!

I've also worked on my writing skills, producing two articles which have been published with another still to come. I don't claim that these articles are anything earth shattering in terms of content but it was nice to get some experience of formal writing that wasn't for my degree course. It also helps to make the CV look good! My advice to anyone concerned about writing for any sort of library publication, or even a blog, is to just go for it. If you have something to say then someone will be listening. The library community is a very engaged bunch and is always grateful to have a new point of view.

'Mentoring' is a word I've never been comfortable with, especially in relation to myself. I've never had the professional confidence to think that people would want to take my advice but this has changed over the course of 2013. I've helped out some people, both within my workplace and outside, with career advice and they seem to be doing well. I think the fact that I have the faith in myself to do this is one of the things that I am most proud of for this year. The other thing is the fact that in the summer I graduated with an MSc in Library and Information Studies from Aberystwyth University. It was a hard journey but worth it. To anyone currently working towards a degree I would say that there is light at the end of the tunnel and being able to call yourself a librarian officially at the end of it is a great feeling.

I promise that my self indulgence is over for another year! I'd like to thank everyone for reading this blog, it really does mean a lot to me and the comments and interactions I get through the blog and Twitter are probably the main reasons that my confidence has improved so much. I wish everyone a happy 2014 both personally and professionally, and encourage you to keep developing and reflecting in any way you can. It really is worth it, I promise!

photo credit: Denis Collette...!!! via photopin cc

Thursday 12 December 2013

Making Time for What's Important

This is a busy time of year for everyone, both personally and professionally. There are social and family commitments, professional activities, study and of course our normal work responsibilities. So when SLA announced their Time Hacks: Managing Day to Day and Long Term Projects webinar on time management I signed up. I'm as guilty as anyone of taking on too much sometimes so I thought that the webinar would be a good place to pick up some tips on how to stay sane!

I'm not involved in any formal project management as part of my current role but I have a lot of professional activities that I need to keep on top of (including Chartership, which I think these tips work really well for). Anything that we take on can be considered a project in that it needs to be worked through in stages and completed. I've outlined my main takeaways from the presentation below:
  • it's important to set goals when working on a project. The key is to focus on what you want to achieve and how you plan on getting there
  • don't underestimate the process of writing things down on paper as this can help you focus on what really needs to be done
  • use a calendar to schedule your time
  • identify your most productive time of day and make the most of it. If you're at your best in the morning then this is when you should work on the big projects. This is called 'putting yourself first' and may be easier said than done in the real world, but could still work some of the time
  • it's scientifically proven that people are more productive when writing if they work in small daily sessions rather than large chunks of spread out time. For example, schedule in thirty minutes a day to work on your writing rather than several hours over a weekend. This is something that I know people have tried with Chartership through things like #chapowrimo
  • find a way to manage your email. Use filters to direct certain messages away from your inbox. Be ruthless!
  • when managing projects use technology to make your life easier. Create a dynamic list of all current projects in a spreadsheet which lists things like the name of the project, its status and its importance. When a project has been completed move this to another spreadsheet. This keeps things clearer and provides a framework for end of year reports or reflection. Use Google Drive or Github to organise and share information with others
  • the human brain cannot concentrate fully for extended periods of time. Learn to balance tasks which need a lot of attention with those you can do in your sleep. This will give you a change of pace and ultimately make you more productive
  • distract yourself with shiny things to make mundane tasks more enjoyable. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a slight obsession with stationary and probably keep the local branch of Paperchase in business. Having a nice notebook and pen to do your work can trick your brain into thinking that the task is more fun than it is. Works for me anyway!

I think the thing that struck me most was the portion of the webinar about making time. The presenters were keen to stress that although everyone has demands on their time the key thing to do is to make time for what's important to you.

There was a real focus on the importance of reflection throughout the webinar which links to a lot of what I have been doing recently whilst working on Chartership. The presenters suggested doing a 'quick and dirty' inventory of your current activities to see what could be improved using five minute lists:

  1. What are you doing? - what takes up your time at the moment?
  2. How long is it taking? - don't be too precise, estimates are fine
  3. How important is it? - rate this on a scale of 1-5 (where 5 is the most important)
  4. Must it be done right now? - make some notes about what you need to accomplish
Use these answers to construct a table to reflect and improve. Mine is included below:

How’s it going?
Things to change/try
Set up library collection blog
Really enjoy this but it takes up a lot of time
Could let go a little and get some help to manage the blog
Write article
Good, just needs a final proof read
Learn to expect good enough rather than perfection!
Volunteer work
I love it but I find it hard to make time for everything I would like to be involved in
Maybe limit how many things I get involved with – three a year?

You can then use the table to decide what you do less of, more of, what you could ask for help with, do differently or relax about. I found this a really useful exercise which I think will help with my time management in the future as I try out new projects.

Remember that time is not the only impacting when things get done. If you feel burdened with something then it's likely that it will take you longer to complete than something you enjoy. Of course, there are some things we don't like that we can't avoid doing but maybe this should be a lesson in only undertaking the projects that are important to us in our own time. I think that this is the most important thing I'm going to take away from the webinar and it will certainly influence my choice of projects in the future.

Suggested reading:

The Truth About Getting More Done / Mark Fritz
Time Management for System Administrators / Thomas A. Limoncelli

photo credit: Tania Ho via photopin cc

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Tagging Library School Reading Lists in the Catalogue

I've recently been given the opportunity to develop and promote the Library Science collection at Cambridge University Library and I'm really enjoying the experience so far. I've been given a fairly broad remit which means that I've been able to try out a lot of initiatives that I've read about or studied (such as using Pinterest to promote the collection).

Another thing I've been quite keen to develop is access to material on the reading lists of various library courses. Luckily we're a Legal Deposit library which means that we hold many of the titles already, it's really a matter of making sure the last few make it into the collection. In order to make it easier for users to retrieve the items on their reading lists I've been experimenting with tagging books in the catalogue and adding them to lists. The UL uses LibrarySearch which provides tagging and list functions through it's My Discoveries tab. I decided to use course codes to tag the items as I thought this would cause the least confusion. At the moment I've only made lists according to university rather than individual course but this is something I can develop in the future is needed.

The outcome of this is a reading list which displays like this in the catalogue:

Hopefully this will make it easier for users to see at a glance whether the library holds the item that they want. One of the main benefits of this feature is that users don't need to know what the tag is. LibrarySearch allows you to create your own search URL which can then be used as a link. For example clicking on Robert Gordon University : The Digital Age should bring up the reading list shown above

One major disadvantage that I've found is that LibrarySearch doesn't allow you to tag certain items, which results in an incomplete list. I'm looking into a solution for this and will hopefully be able to find one. The plan is to launch a dedicated website for the collection through the University Library website which will include links to reading list materials. Fingers crossed I can make it work before then!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

The End of the Hyperlinked Library Journey

This week is the final week of the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and whilst I won't be sorry to have a bit more time to myself I will miss taking part. The creators of the MOOC have managed to create a really inclusive atmosphere and I hope that plans to continue some of the collaborations really happen.

The final assignment is a virtual learning symposium where participants are asked to summarise the highlights of the course in some way. I chose to produce an infographic as I thought this would be a good way to outline the main points and also give me some practice with the format:

I've been a big fan of this course and would really encourage others to take part if/when it runs again. I've learnt a lot and made some great connections which was pretty much the aim of the course for me!

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Online Professional Learning Network

I've very nearly completed the Hyperlinked Library MOOC, my final blog post and assignment will be completed at the weekend. It's been everything it promised to be and a really useful experience. One of the things that drew me to the MOOC was the assignments (yes, I'm that much of a geek). I thought they were practical and really made you think rather than just asking you to complete a random task for the sake of it.

One of the assignments was to compile an online professional learning network.  I thought this was really interesting and not totally unlike the Chartership experience. In the words of the assignment, the network is defined as:
The Online Professional Learning Network (OPLN) will stimulate you to begin curating online professional resources that will continue your learning outside of your formal learning experiences here an elsewhere. We define an OPLN in the broadest way possible: If a resource is online and it helps you to achieve your learning goals, it is a part of your learning network.

I've included my OPLN below to give people an idea of what was expected. Even if you're not working towards something like Chartership I still think it's a worthwhile exercise. As the assignment says, it's just normal web surfing but with a purpose!


Wednesday 6 November 2013

Promoting Your Collection With Pinterest

I'm probably late to the party but I've recently discovered Pinterest. It's very visual and also very popular at the moment. I've recently taken over the management of our library science collection and I've been looking for something to promote it via social media that didn't require too much upkeep (like a blog for example). I liked the look of Pinterest so I thought I'd give it a go.

For those that don't know it, Pinterest is basically an online pinboard where you can share discoveries from around the web. Users create boards on a theme and then add individual pins. This is a really simple process which I do via an add-on for my Google Chrome browser. You simply click the little Pinterest logo next to the toolbar and this brings up a page with all of the images present. You can then 'pin' whichever image you like.

One of the first things that drew me to the site was the fact that it's very visual so is something a little bit outside the norm. Pins can be easily liked or shared via re-pinning on another users board. Users can also follow your board and/or invite you to pin to their boards. I thought that using Pinterest would provide an interesting way to demonstrate new additions to the library science collection and by linking the pins to the catalogue record I was able to create a sort of visual reading list, something I know other libraries have done with great success.

Once you have installed the Pinterest widget this allows you to pin any image from a site. You can edit the details of the pin, in my example I changed the basic bibliographic details and added a classmark. This can be done by clicking on the little pen symbol in the top right of the pin.

You should then see a box like the one below where you can edit the details as needed. You can also change the board that you are pinning the picture to if you like. Editing doesn't have to be done at the time of pinning, the box can be called up at any time using the little pen symbol (see above).

The next step was to make sure that the pin linked back to the catalogue record so users could go straight to it. We use Library Search so it was important to make sure that the stable URL was used to avoid users seeing just the search screen. Once the URL had been copied I pasted it into my pin details and voila!

The finished product looks like this:

A small word about copyright, which is obviously at the forefront with images. You should always respect the copyright of others when pinning something, especially for professional purposes. If in doubt ask. Having said this Pinterest is essentially free advertising for the book, similar to the way that cover photos are included in our catalogue. As social media copyright was explained to me, if you're using the image to promote/discuss the item in some way then it's a valid use of the image. More details on the use of images, copyright and Pinterest can be found here.

I'm slightly stunned to report that the site has gained nearly 400 followers in a matter of hours! I think that this really shows the popularity of Pinterest. I have no idea if this popularity will last or whether it's just the fact that Pinterest is 'the' site to use at the moment. I guess time will tell...

Sunday 13 October 2013

Barriers to a Great User Experience?

I'm currently working on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and really loving it. The organisers have created a great community atmosphere and the material is really interesting and relevant.
I'm going to share my post this week over on this blog as I think it has a lot of relevance outside of the MOOC. This week we were asked to consider the user experience. The module was very interesting as the user should be at the heart of everything we do. I do believe though that sometimes in our quest to provide the best for our users we overthink things a little. Librarians have been guilty of this for a long time; it was certainly something I came across in my readings on social media use in libraries. My original post is below:
The issues explored in this weeks lectures and readings have caused some conflicting thoughts. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all as it’s not a clear cut issue.

Obviously libraries want to provide their users with the best experience possible in order to keep them coming back for more. There was a lot of focus this week on issues surrounding signs and desks and how they could be barriers to users. This is also something that has been discussed in depth in Cambridge libraries recently so it touched a bit of a nerve for me. I’m just going to come right out and say it:

Sometimes a sign is just a sign and a desk is just a desk!

Whilst I agree that you don’t want to put up a large amount of negative signage in your library as it’s just going to put people off, sometimes you do need to give them directions or remind them of rules. I liked the idea of having signs saying cell phones welcome here but sometimes you do just need a small reminder that they shouldn’t be used in other places. Otherwise, how will people know? Most people will respect others but not everyone. As much as I would love to have complete trust in everyones ability not to talk on their phones in a quiet study area I don’t see it happening any time soon. I think there is a growing trend against signage as it’s seen as a negative thing but we need to be careful not to take this to the opposite extreme. On a more positive note I did love the sign that asked users to disturb librarians. This is definitely something we should encourage more of!

As for the issue of desks as barriers … well you can certainly argue that. They do seperate the library staff from the users in physical terms but that’s not always a bad thing. At the end of the day WE are the staff and THEY are the users. That’s a barrier that we just won’t be able to get around. Sometimes though a desk is just a desk. It’s somewhere for a computer to sit, for people to lean on or work at, somewhere for the user to place their books ready for checkout. We shouldn’t overthink this so much!

I’m also not 100% convinced that users see signs and desks as barriers. Of course you can have an overkill on signs, as seen in some of the videos, but at the end of the day it’s important to remember that anything can be a barrier if you make it into one. The important thing to do it try to provide the best experience for your users without giving them what you think they want (or don’t want) rather than what they really need.

I’m not sure what reaction this post will get, but I think that debate is healthy. In my experience nothing gets people talking like a disagreement (still in that polite way that the library community has!) and at the end of the day this provides us with new ideas and shows that we are still very much engaged with trying to provide the best possible experience for our users.

This post is not aimed at anyone in particular who might have opposing views, each to their own and there are people out there with more experience of this than me. I've seen this issue come up a lot recently and this is just my small contribution to a much larger debate.

Monday 7 October 2013

CILIP New Professionals Day 2013

I've wanted to attend CILIP's annual New Professionals Day for a couple of years now but the timing has never been quite right for me. Luckily this year things worked out and I was able to attend. I always feel a bit funny describing myself as a new professional and I'm not sure I really fit the criteria laid down for the day - I've worked in libraries for eleven years now but I've only just completed my master's degree. I'm also not in a professional post as my job doesn't officially require a librarianship qualification. However this didn't seem to matter to anyone yesterday and I was pleased to see a mixed bunch of people of many ages and backgrounds in attendance. If nothing else I think I learnt to stop worrying so much about the new professional label!

The keynote speech was given by Barbara Band, school librarian and vice chair of CILIP. Barbara talked about the need for core librarianship skills no matter what sector we work in. It's essential that we meet the needs of our institution first and foremost but we must also remember the values of the profession. Barbara encouraged us to accept and use our traditional skills whilst also moving with the times. This may be easier said than done as we live in a time of such rapid change but it is possible. All these changes represent a chance for us to grow and learn if nothing else. Learning is something which I know many librarians are passionate about and I think one of the main reasons that the profession attracts so many enthusiastic people. It's certainly one of the best parts of librarianship for me - as evidenced by the title of this blog!  Barbara spoke about how librarians are often aware of emerging trends before our colleagues and so can be proactive rather than reactive, an enviable position to be in I think.

I was also glad to hear Barbara talk about the importance of continuing CPD. This is something which I've been thinking about a lot recently and based on the response to both this keynote and the session that I ran at LibCampEast on the topic, many others feel the same way. CPD doesn't have to be all about spending days on end at courses. Saying yes to opportunities and getting involved can provide many ways of developing and learning doesn't just happen on the job. There are many methods of CPD which you can fit in around your schedule, no matter how busy you are!

One last thing that Barbara stressed was that CPD is an important way to advocate for the profession. Every time we put ourselves out there, either in person or online, we are showing that we are part of an engaged profession. I think this is an important point that sometimes gets forgotten. The three main takeaways from the keynote were:
  1. grab opportunities
  2. keep learning
  3. advocate and promote
The rest of the day was filled with workshop sessions. Firstly I attended That Media Librarianship Gameshow with Laura Williams. Laura talked about her role as Media Logistics Coordinator at ITV. Although people might not think of this as a librarianship role it uses the core skills set of the information professional involving a lot of internal information management. It's important to remember that you will be applying against a much wider field for a career in media librarianship. There will be film students and those looking to get their foot in the door of the television business so it's important to remember the skill set you bring to the table as an information professional. Keeping up to date with the changing technology of the information world is a definite challenge but Laura was quick to point out the many rewards of a career in the media. She reminded us to look beyond the vast array of job titles as think about what we could offer with our backgrounds in librarianship.

Nick Stopforth talked about Modern Skills for Modern Public Libraries. He showed us that twenty-first century public libraries are responsive, accessible, transformative and rich in content. Most of this of course is in stark contrast to the perception that many people have of public libraries. Happily there are many in the profession working hard at altering this perception. Nick cautioned us that we should not expect to be doing the same things in two years that we do today, again echoing the theme of fast paced changes that kept coming up over the course of the day. If we are still doing the same thing then this means we haven't changed and as mentioned in the keynote, we should be proactive rather than reactive. The long term drivers for change in public libraries are the people that use them and new technologies. An example of this can be seen in the self-publishing phenomenon. Maybe the modern public library can have a role in the curation of self-published material? You never know when you might discover the next Fifty Shades of Grey...

After a lunch of burritos (which I can confirm live up to the hype!) we were back in workshop sessions. I attended Information Roles in Careers Services led by Megan Wiley, Victoria Stevenson and Matt Bedwell. The careers centre at the University of Bristol sees students at all stages of their academic career. The work involves information management, enquiry desk work, user training and current awareness activities. Resources have to be kept up to date and there is a great deal of judgement involved in the role. No formal 'reading lists' are provided so it's important to keep on top of the latest information on a wide range of careers. The team has to communicate to a lot of different users in a lot of different ways which keeps things interesting! The final workshop I attended was Mandy Powell's session about Developing Professional Skills. This session echoed a lot of what was mentioned in the keynote and so provided a nice way to bookend the day. Mandy stressed the importance of developing skills outside of your current role. This doesn't mean that you have to spend every evening and weekend doing CPD but it will make you CV stand out from the pile if you demonstrate that you have taken the initiative and done something unexpected. It's important to keep a record of your activities, even if you're not actively pursuing Chartership or job hunting at the moment. You never know when a portfolio of developments may come in handy!

I really enjoyed my first experience of New Professionals Day and I'm a little sad that I've never made it before. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about attending to go. It really is an inspiring and motivating day (and I'm not just talking about the post conference pub trip!).

photo credit: candy_gourlay via photopin cc

Friday 20 September 2013

Bibliography of Resources on Social Media Use in Libraries

The second most read post on this blog has been the results of the research I carried out for my master's dissertation on 'The impact of social media marketing in libraries'. It's nice to know that there are so many other people interested in the topic. It was a rewarding piece of research which I think demonstrates the importance of active social media use by libraries.

Since the post proved so popular I've decided to share my bibliography. This bibliography was completed just over a year ago and makes no claim to be definitive. I'm just sharing it in the hope that it will help others interested in finding out more about the topic, or maybe use it as a jumping off point for their own research. It covers social media, both generally and in libraries specifically, impact studies and marketing. I'd also be interested to know if anyone has other resources that they found useful - feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Happy reading! 

Thursday 12 September 2013

Creative CPD at LibCampEast

Last weekend I attended my first library camp at LibCampEast. Library camps are something I've heard a lot about but not had a chance to attend until now. Once I signed up I started thinking that it would be good practice for me to pitch a session. Since my blog post on CPD seemed to strike a chord with people and fit with the theme of the conference, I decided to pitch a session on creative methods of CPD. The format was a brain storming session in small groups after which participants fed their ideas back. The post below covers the results of this feedback and also serves as a follow up to my first CPD post.

Conferences provide lots of CPD but you don't always have to spend a lot of money to get the best out of them. You can follow along on Twitter using a hashtag or use the conference website to access the presentations. If you're lucky enough to attend it's worth following up on ideas or projects that presenters mention, as this is a great way to contextualise the experience. Volunteering to speak at or organise a conference was another method of CPD highlighted. Experience of public speaking and event organisation is always a great addition to a CV. TeachMeets were cited as a great example of this, especially for first time speakers or organisers.

The Internet provides lots of opportunity for CPD. ITunes U and other podcasts can often be downloaded for free and can be listened to/watched on the commute. There are a wide variety of podcasts available so you don't have to limit yourself to the library ones. You can even skip to the good bits! Other online suggestions included:

  • Webinars
  • SlideShare
  • 23Things programs
  • MOOCs
  • Librarian blogs
  • RSS feeds of relevant sites
  • Skype
  • Email lists
  • Email alerts for journals

There are also several low cost CPD methods in the real world. Exhibitions like the London  Book Fair are a way of speaking to vendors and some will even provide free training in using their products. Vendor events are also a great place to network with other librarians. Visiting other libraries is a way to get an insight into workplaces outside your sector. CILIP special interest groups often run tours to various libraries so it's worth keeping an eye out. 

Setting up or taking part in professional networks was another popular suggestion. The International Librarians Network provides a way to connect professionals across the globe but less formal local networks were also mentioned. If the idea of formal networking intimidates you then why not attend a library social event to get to know others in the sector? Some participants had organised coffee mornings in order to meet other staff in their organisation. Taking online relationships into the real world such as Twitter meet ups can work well. Participants will already have a common interest and it's a lot easier to talk to people you already 'know' online. Other suggestions for online groups included reading groups, journal club and organised chat such as #uklibchat.

Getting involved in a professional organisation like CILIP or SLA can be a great way to develop professionally. Committee work can give you experience of teamwork or budgeting and shows a commitment to the profession. These organisations also offer grants and bursaries to their members which can be used to fund CPD. 

Other methods discussed included:

  • Learning boxes - these started out as actual boxes but can also be used online. The basic idea is that you describe a situation, what you learnt and what you would do differently. You then come together to go through the box and learn from others experiences
  • CPD happy hours - taking an hour a week to work on your development. From reading blogs to learning how to use software these can be adapted to the individual. The important thing is to keep a log of your activities
  • Writing articles or book reviews 
  • Using outside interests such as working with youth groups to illustrate team work or organisational skills

Participants rounded up the session by sharing their general CPD tips. It's important to keep track of any training or other activities, whether for a formal program or just for your own use. Methods suggested included:

  • Keeping a diary
  • Reflective learning journals
  • Reporting back to your team on any activities such as conferences which might be useful for them to know about

Many people highlighted the crucial role that support has to play in CPD activities. This support can come from managers and other less formal sources, either online or in person. It's important to remember to ask for support, especially if you're undertaking a formal process like Chartership. Get together with a group of like-minded people or online friends and you will soon find yourself motivated.

A final point from the session was that it's OK to say something doesn't work for you. Not every method works for everyone and there's nothing wrong with that. The important thing is finding the method that works for you and I hope that the session gave people some ideas to take forward.

No-Nonsense Guide to Training in Libraries / Barbara Allan

Monday 2 September 2013

Getting the Job Done (or Just Getting the Job!)

Recently I've been giving some advice to colleagues who have been applying for jobs, both inside and outside the library sector. Together with my current work on Chartership this has led to me thinking a lot about transferable skills and the importance of knowing how to get a job. I've learnt a lot in the last few years about filling in job applications, conducting myself in interviews and the importance of building a professional online presence. Unfortunately for me most of these skills have been learnt the hard way which meant that I didn't always get the job that I was applying for. I'm just glad I can stop others from making the same mistakes!

The following webpage is geared towards an American audience but I think it offers valuable advice for anyone applying for a job. I don't know what goes on today but certainly when I was at school, and even university, career skills weren't really focused on. I remember visiting my university careers department only to be told to come back about a week before I needed a job!

Hopefully the article above is of use to people who are looking for a job or thinking about the next stage of their career. It's never too early to start planning....

Friday 30 August 2013

The Hyperlinked Library

So another week, another bit of CPD! I've been thinking about MOOCs for a while and even took part in the recent New Librarianship course offered by Syracuse. Way before this however I signed up for the Hyperlinked Library course and was lucky enough to be accepted. I was attracted to the theme of the course and I also liked the practical nature of the assignments (yes, there's homework!) as I thought that these could be applied to my real life career. The course will also give me a chance to interact with other information professionals around the world, something I've already started to do. One thing that has impressed me already is the fact that participants have been encouraged to get to know each other via tribes and badges before the course even starts. Hopefully this will help to make it a truly interactive learning experience. I'm not yet totally convinced about MOOCs as the future of education but I think the best way to make up my mind is to try some out and see what the experience is really like.

The course officially begins next week but I already have my course blog set up here for anyone who wants to follow my thoughts on the course. I'd also really like to hear from any readers who are taking part - it would be great to 'meet you' online over at the course site!

photo credit: Đ…olo via photopin cc

Wednesday 28 August 2013

CPD for Free!

I'm currently putting together my Chartership portfolio which has meant that I've spent a lot of time looking at my professional development activities. Whilst I understand that formal programmes like this aren't for everyone, I still think it's really important to keep up to date with the profession and try to fill in any gaps you might have in your knowledge.

Whilst all this sounds wonderful it can end up costing money. Courses and conference attendance don't come cheap and at the moment both employers and employees are feeling the strain. However there are a lot of ways of doing CPD for free or minimal cost. Whilst the list below focuses on online tools I've tried to include some offline tips as well. If you're unfamiliar with social media tools then this could be one area to develop! 

What is CPD?
Career and professional development is a way to fill gaps in your knowledge and give you experience of aspects of the profession you may not be part of in your current role. The important thing to remember is that it should be structured in some way. I know that at one point I used to go to any conference or workshop I could but not only was this extremely exhausting, I didn't think I was getting as much out of it as I could. Chartership has helped me to narrow my focus to specific areas that I want to develop and given me targeted ways of doing this.

Targeted CPD will obviously come in handy for situations like job interviews as you will be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the profession, but carefully chosen CPD activities can also be an excellent way of maintaining your personal motivation. No matter how much you love your job, doing the same thing day in and day out for years can wear you down.  Well planned CPD can help to keep you moving forward as a professional and increase your self esteem at the same time. Just remember to make sure that you are concentrating on developing the areas important to you.

Twitter is probably the online tool that I use most for my personal CPD. I often find out about news and events by having a quick scan through my feed. You can use #hashtags to follow specific conferences or events which isn't quite as good as being there but is better than nothing. You don't have to tweet anything yourself to benefit, you can just create an account and lurk. If you're new to Twitter I would suggest finding a list of library people that someone has set up and following that. You will probably then find that you're network will grow organically. And if you do decide to start posting then great! People on Twitter are a friendly bunch who are always happy to help.

Another way to follow conferences is to see if the presentations are made available on SlideShare or Prezi. There is often a short delay between the papers being delivered and the slides being made available but these sites are really valuable tools. They allow you to follow along with the presentation (albeit without the audio) and see the same slides that attendees saw. For more information on SlideShare see this excellent post from LibFocus.

23Things programmes
These are online programmes which started out providing a week-by-week introduction to a range of social media tools. Other people have taken this format and used it to cover new areas such as the CPD23 programme which I was part of. It's best to join a programme when it's actively running but sometimes real life gets in the way. Luckily most programmes leave their posts up so you can follow along as you like.

Or Massive Online Open Courses are one of the newer methods of CPD but they are gaining a loyal following. They are essentially online versions of taught courses that you can follow along with, usually with instructor support. Many also have a supportive user group which you can join to share thoughts and ideas about the course. Two recent library examples have been the New Librarianship Masterclass and the Hyperlinked Library MOOC. It's worth remembering that you don't have to participate in library specific MOOCs. Coursera has a range of courses which cover different areas such as accounting and technology which could help to fill a skill gap. It's worth remembering though that these courses DO require a commitment and you might want to think carefully and do your research before signing up.

These are a great way to attend presentations without leaving the comfort of the sofa. You can even attend in your pyjamas if you like (just make sure the webinar doesn't involve web cams!). I find webinars particularly useful as I can fit them in around my schedule. Some are paid for when live but often become free after a short period of time. If you're interested in webinars I would recommend keeping an eye on this list which showcases the best free webinars for librarians.

Zite is a site which helps to pull together content from around the web on topics of interest to you. It presents the content in a magazine type format which is easy to read. You can select the topics that it covers and add new ones as you go along. This type of site is useful as the information comes to you. Reading about a topic is a form of CPD which is often neglected but it's very valuable. Zite is only one example of this type of service (I'm only highlighting it since it's the one I use regularly). This site gives an overview of similar sites which you might want to experiment with.

Professional reading
As mentioned above, reading is something which often gets overlooked. Of course their are journals which you can access through your library or sometimes the Internet. There are also professional publications such as CILIP Update or the newsletters of the various special interest groups of CILIP (although you may have to a member to get full access). You could also arrange an interlibrary loan of any library specific books which are of interest to you. I would recommend taking a look at the Facet Publishing website to see what's out there. Why not try to form a small collection at your workplace? You might even persuade the boss to take it out of the budget!

Organised online chats
There are several online chats on various topics which can be a great way of doing some organised reading. Two that I know about are the Information Literacy Journal Club and the Library Leadership Reading Group but I'm sure there are many others out there. If there isn't one that suits your needs then why not consider starting one yourself?

Watching television
Seriously! There are many documentaries and informational programmes out there which you can make use of. One that I watch regularly is Click which covers the latest technological developments in an easily digestible format. One of the best things about television is that there are so many ways to watch it - you don't have to schedule your life around it any more. I'm sure people serious about CPD could spare the odd half-hour in front of the box (or DVR or tablet!)

Getting involved
Though not always strictly free (both in terms of time and money), getting involved is a great way to gain skills that you might not get in the workplace. Serving on a committee is a great way to show teamwork skills. If you take up an officer position such as treasurer this can help to give you financial experience, something which many job adverts ask for. Your involvement doesn't have to be library related though. I know many people who volunteer for Brownies and Guides and develop their organisational and teamwork skills that way. It's worth having a think about anything you currently do that might fit into this category or maybe something you've always wanted to get involved with. 

So now what?
It's important to remember to record your experiences in some way, even if just for yourself. Try keeping a Word or Excel document detailing what you did and what you got out of it. You could even blog about it (although you can make this private if you don't want to share it with anyone). If you keep a record of what your doing and why this will help when that job interview comes up or you have your annual review at work.

My best tip for recording your CPD is to use the 'Three Whats' method of reflection. Ask the questions what?, so what? and now what? You don't have to write an essay, just a short response to each question. This will help you to focus on the reasons why you did something and what you got out of it. More information about reflective practice can be found here.

 If anyone has any other tips on free CPD that they would like to share then feel free to use the comments section below. I'm always on the lookout for more ways to improve my CPD without depleting my bank balance!

photo credit: heath_bar via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Friday 16 August 2013

#Chartership Chat - 15/8/13

I've found the regular Chartership chats on Twitter really useful over the last couple of months as I start to put my portfolio together. They are usually held every other Thursday at 8pm and are a great way to talk to other people in a similar situation. I often find myself really motivated after one of these chats and I find that it's a really friendly and supportive way to talk about any issues that I might be having with it.

Last night I hosted the chat for the first time as our regular host unfortunately couldn't make it. I've used Storify to put together a write up of last night which I think highlighted a lot of issues that people have with Chartership. I hope others find it useful and remember that they are more than welcome to come and join us in future!

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Following the Leader!

I've been thinking a lot about leadership in recent weeks. What does it take to be a leader, what qualities to you need to have and is leadership something that can be learnt? This thinking (always dangerous!) probably started when I attended Stephen Abram’s recent talk about Leadership and Librarians. I’m not going to attempt to blog the full talk here so instead I’ll link to Niamh Tumelty’s write up.

So what is leadership? Well, leadership is NOT management. This is probably not news for a lot of people but it’s worth repeating. Like many I've always assumed that I would have to work in a management position before I did any leadership. There are many examples of people who aren't managers but are great leaders and there are also many managers in the world who don’t know a lot about true leadership! One of the main points that I took away from Stephen’s talk was that a leader is someone who sees an improvement to be made and tries to do something about it. Anyone can be a leader, even introverts like me. Stephen showed that a lot of people claim to be shy but really shyness is a condition which affects only a small percentage of the population. Most of these people are introverts which means they spend a lot of time thinking things through before they act, hopefully resulting in a well thought out decision.

Another reason that I've been thinking about leadership is that recently I've been giving a lot of advice to colleagues, about both work and career issues. Training people is part of my current role and something that I really enjoy, which surprised me at first. I’m very nervous about giving people advice in case I turn out to be wrong or say something completely stupid, but I've found that the more training I do the more I love it. There’s something about helping people learn something new or overcome a problem which is really satisfying and that's great in any job. People have also approached me about general career advice such as interview techniques. Although I've had more than my fair share of interviews over the years(!) this is an area I feel less confident in as it’s so important to get right. I’d like to think there’s a reason people are asking me about this though, so I’m trying to help in the best way I can. A willingness to help others is another leadership quality which I think that people often underestimate.

Being a leader means that you can’t please everyone all the time. This is something that I’ve struggled with since I’m a definite people pleaser at heart. There comes a time though when you have to do what you believe is right rather than just following along with someone else. Another thing that Stephen mentioned was that taking risks was fine as long as they were in context. I think this is tied into not pleasing everyone. In order to take risks the chances are you will upset someone who would rather just let things stay the same. Taking risks is an important part of change, which in turn is good for growth. If you have an idea which could work then give it a go – if it doesn’t work then at least you know what not to do next time!

One thing that I've learnt from my recent experiences is that it’s OK to admit that you’re good at your job – people wouldn't keep coming to you for help and advice if you weren't. I wasn't a massive fan of Sheryl Sandberg and the whole Lean-In craze but one thing that I did take away from the book was that if you don’t shout about your accomplishments then no one else will. It’s perfectly fine to admit that you have done well in something as long as you don’t venture into boasting.

Some people are natural born leaders but I think that many of the best leaders (and I’m by no means counting myself in that list!) develop the skills over time. For more thoughts on accidental leadership see this excellent blog post from Maria Giovanna De Simone.

Being a leader is something that I never really aspired to but I think that I have become one, at least in certain areas. I’m finding it a really fulfilling experience and I’m acquiring skills that I hope to have a lot more use for in the future. 

photo credit: Wesley Fryer via photopin cc

Friday 5 July 2013

House of Lords Library

It's not everyday that you get to visit the House of Lords so when CILIP CIG announced that they were organising a visit to the library there I jumped at the chance!

We began with an introduction to staff from both the House of Lords (HOL) Library and the House of Commons Library. Although the two libraries work in close contact with each other they essentially provide different services to different audiences. The HOL Library has a much wider focus, as dictated by the issues discussed by their users, whilst the House of Commons Library is focused on more regional and local issues.

Staff gave us a talk outlining their route to RDA. The HOL Library have always tried to keep up with the latest developments in cataloguing and so started to follow the progress of RDA quite early on. One of the main concerns for the library was whether their users would benefit from a transition to RDA, a choice that I'm sure is foremost in the minds of many libraries. The HOL is a small library with an internal catalogue not available to the general public, meaning that they wouldn't benefit from the way that RDA makes data more widely available. The majority of the research is carried out by library staff on behalf of their users, and obviously staff are well versed in how to search. In addition to this most of the resources that the library houses are print and so wouldn't benefit from many of the major benefits of RDA linked to electronic resources. Ultimately the library decided to make the transition. They felt that given their history of keeping up with the latest standards and the fact that many of the major research libraries were switching, they would be left behind if they didn't adopt RDA.

Since the HOL is a small specialist library they have made extensive use of the Internet for information and training, citing both eforums and Twitter as excellent sources of information. Working in a large library, access to training has'nt been a problem for me but I appreciate that this is not the situation a lot of people find themselves in. I was particularly gratified to see that the HOL Library has been using the CambridgeRDA website in their training and finding it really useful. The HOL have been able to share some of the costs with the House of Commons Library who, although not yet using RDA, are still keen to follow progress.

The HOL Library started using RDA in June 2013, although like many institutions they are still accepting AACR2 where nothing else is available. All original cataloguing is being done in RDA and it is hoped that as more institutions adopt the standard, RDA records will become the norm.

The main message that I took away from the visit (apart from how gorgeous the library was and how much I would love to work there!) was that it is important to remember that there are many smaller libraries for whom implementing RDA is a major challenge. At Cambridge there have been many challenges involved in implementing RDA but there was never too much question over whether to use it or not. Visiting the HOL Library has given me a broader perspective on this issue as well as an insight into life in what must be one of the most beautiful library's in the country.

Photo credits: UKParliament via Flickr

Monday 1 July 2013

Teaching myself some new tricks!

I've heard a lot of good things about TeachMeets but never managed to get to one. However I made an extra effort with the inaugural event of ARLG East and managed to attend my first TeachMeet. For anyone who hasn't heard, TeachMeets are a way of getting practitioners together to talk about what they do and exchange tips or tricks. They started off, as the name would suggest, in the teaching sector but library and information professionals have been quick to take on the idea. People sign up to give short talks of either three or seven minutes, which is just enough time to share a recent project or discovery. What appealed to me most about the TeachMeet was that it was less formal than a conference which really helped the creativity to flow. I even signed up to present, something which I usually dread! I'm happy to report though that my talk went well (at least no one threw anything so I took that as positive feedback!)

Apologies to Emma Coonan who gave the first presentation, immediately before my slot. I probably didn't listen as attentively as I should! Emma spoke about her job teaching digital literacy skills to students and how creating a visual guide has had much more of an impact. More information can be found on Emma's blog. Teaching of a different sort was the subject of Kathryn Wallis's presentation. Kathryn has recently completed a PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) course which has helped her to consolidate her teaching knowledge. She also spoke of how it had helped to strengthen her relationship with staff outside the library who were also taking the course. Libby Tilly followed this by talking about becoming a fellow of the Academy of Higher Education which is another way of consolidating teaching knowledge. Libby said that one of the major benefits for her as an academic librarian was that the fellowship helped to put her on a similar standing to academics in her institution, a least in their eyes.

Aidan Baker gave us an outline of Gliffy which is an online diagram tool. Aidan talked about the importance of designing a library space that people will want to use and showed how Gliffy can be used to plan this. He also showed us a plan of the library he had created which mapped the classification scheme to the floor plan - very useful for all those lost students! Anna Martin talked about the important but often neglected topic of first aid awareness, reminding us that everyone should have at least a basic knowledge in a job where we a constantly dealing with people.

Catherine Reid talked about hosting drop-in sessions for users. These were informal one to one sessions which usually focused on a specific topic such as ebooks. Hosting sessions like this helped to bring staff out from behind the library desk and aided interaction with users. This was a theme echoed by Jane Helgeson who talked about her 'Librarians Let Loose' project. This initiative saw roving librarians moving into student spaces to engage with them directly. One point that really stuck with me from Jane's presentation was the idea of taking the library out to spaces not owned by the library, something which can effectively target non-users. The project was a success and will be repeated in the future.

Charlotte Byrne and Ellen Dutton both gave great examples of how technology can be used in the library. Charlotte talked about using ISSU to digitise books and letters. ISSU is an online tool which puts together PDF files into the form of an online brochure that users can flick through. This is a simple to use and cost effective method of digitisation and sharing information on the library. Ellen uses videos to teach users about various aspects of the library, such as the classification system. Today's technology has made producing videos easy and cheap and there is lots of help available online. These videos are fun and make an excellent way to get the message across - having a huge impact on users.

Libby Tilly spoke about using LibCal to take bookings in her library. This has been a fairly recent development and covers both sessions that academics book for students and those that students book themselves. The system has several advantages over other options such as being able to show how many places are left on a course. Users find the system easy to use which lowers another barrier to library use. Sarah Elsegood talked about the challenges of teaching users about next generation library catalogues. The main problem is providing an interface which meets the high expectations of users. Users are no longer passively using the catalogue but interacting with it, using facilities such as user based tagging. The next generation catalogues offer flexibility and helps different types of user to do different types of searches.

I was pleased to hear the word 'impact' being mentioned by a number of presenters. This was the subject of my presentation and something that I think libraries need to work on measuring. It's a very powerful tool which can be used to win over even the most reluctant of stakeholders. If you can convince people that something is making a definite impact on users they will find that very hard to argue with.

I've included my presentation below. This was the first time I've used Prezi and I'm afraid that I'm still not a convert. My subject was 'Measuring the Impact of Social Media' and was based on my dissertation research.

I really enjoyed the day and wouldn't hesitate to recommend the TeachMeet format to anyone. Even though I hate public speaking I found it surprisingly easy to speak and even went over my allotted three minutes. Hopefully next time I will have the confidence to take on the seven minute slot so I can actually stick to my time limit!