Wednesday 31 December 2014

2014 In Review

It's that time of year again when I write a short reflection on the last twelve months. 2014 has certainly been a busy one! 

I've been involved in organizing a number of projects this year, the biggest of which was the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group Conference. It was a very hectic summer finalizing plans for the September conference but I learnt a lot from the experience and it has definitely honed my organisation skills. I was also involved in organizing the 2014 Libraries@Cambridge conference where I was responsible for setting up a workshop session on professional development which got some really positive feedback. Cambridge librarians are a busy bunch and this year I've helped with two major projects - Cambridge Ten Days of Twitter (an online Twitter course for librarians) and Library Help (the Cambridge version of Library DIY). Being involved in these was a great experience and illustrates the good things that can happen when librarians get together as both projects were born out of online discussions. Another online discussion I've had a lot of involvement in this year has been the regular Chartership chats on Twitter.  I found these really helpful when I was chartering so I'm glad that I found a way to pay them back a little. The event I'm most proud of this year has to be CaKE - the Cambridge Knowledge Exchange. My colleague and I created this event in response to a need among library staff to learn about conferences and events attended by their peers. I'm really happy to report that the event was a success and we're planning the second event as we speak! 

I'm not sure I'll ever conquer my fear of public speaking but I can at least do it without running from the room now! I gave a presentation on Pinterest at CILIP CIG which was terrifying (especially as a vital slide was missing!!) but gave me the confidence to take on new presentation challenges such as speaking at a Chartership and Certification event. As well as formal presentations I've worked on my public speaking skills in other ways. I now regularly lead tours on my workplace such as orientations and open day tours. Although this involves a predetermined route I do have to think on my feet which is a challenge. No one has run away from a tour yet so I must be doing something right. In October I volunteered to help out at our Freshers' Fair which was certainly an interesting experience. I think we did a good job of promoting libraries - even though we were next to the Cambridge Union Society who were advertising Robert Downey Jnr...  

2014 has also provided plenty of chances for me to practice my writing skills. As well as this blog I've written articles on the Chartership process and social media for Catalogue and Index and several book reviews. I was also asked to write an article on mobile technology for SLA Information Outlook which was very flattering and allowed me to write for an international audience. This article came about after something I tweeted during a Twitter chat which goes to show the power of Twitter!

Everything else!
One of my major achievements this year was receiving CILIP Chartership in May. I worked hard on my portfolio and was delighted when it passed. Now I have revalidation to look forward to. The other big news from this year is that I got a new job. I've moved from cataloguing to front of house as Deputy Team Leader, Reader Services Desk. I now spend my day dealing with user enquiries, admissions procedures and being the public face of one of the worlds biggest research libraries! Although this promotion is only temporary I plan to take advantage of every minute and hope that it leads to bigger things in 2015 and beyond...


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Monday 15 December 2014

The MOOC Library Degree

I'm a fan of continuing professional education (hence the title of this blog!) and I often look to courses to fill gaps in my knowledge or give me a taste of something new. MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are one way to take courses that fit around my normal work schedule and in the past I've been something of a MOOC addict. Although they do have their downsides I think they also have many benefits if both the institution and the participant are prepared to put in the commitment needed.

Whilst flipping through a magazine I came across an article about Laurie Pickard who has created her own MBA course from MOOCS as she doesn't have access to the 'regular' course. She has documented her experiences on a blog - No Pay MBA. Whatever your opinion of the value of MOOCs her experiment certainly shows that she's able to think creatively about her continuing education.

There's been quite a lot of discussion about the value of the traditional library degree in recent years, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. Laurie's blog has inspired me to have a go at putting together my own Library Science degree from available online courses. It covers some of the areas I think we could do with more of on library courses but I was limited to the MOOCs I could find. I should add that I've not taken all of these courses, this is just as experiment to see what I could come up with. It's also worth nothing that some of the courses below incur a charge, especially if you want a verified certificate of completion.

So below I present my version of the MOOC Library Degree:

Library specific courses
I figured that this would be a good place to start. Most of the MOOCs I've taken in the past have been directly related to library and information studies as this is closely linked to my job. The best of these was The Hyperlinked Library which looked at emerging trends in the provision of library services. The New Librarianship Master Class also looked at the future of modern librarianship whilst Library Advocacy Unshushed looked at ways in which information professionals could advocate for their services (increasingly important with the threat of budget cuts). Finally Copyright for Educators and Librarians provides a useful background to copyright legislation (with an acknowledged US bias).

Management and leadership
Management studies are a traditional part of most library courses and there are plenty of MOOCs available to help you get started. Learn the basics of people management with Managing People: Engaging Your Workforce which helps introduce you to ways to develop those you are responsible for. Entrepreneurship 101 and 102 help to develop skills around strategic thinking for leadership whilst Becoming a Successful Leader provides a way to put leadership skills into context. You can learn the art of negotiation with Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills and also brush up on your Project Management skills. General financial MOOCs are a little thin on the ground but I did find Financial Analysis and Decision Making and An Introduction to Corporate Finance. Finally an Introduction to Psychology course helps with the management of both staff and service users.

This is a very useful skill, especially for services which often need their own unique marketing approach.  An Introduction to Marketing provides a basic introduction whilst Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights looks at the increase in online marketing. Information services need to develop a brand like any other service - The Secret Power of Brands explains the psychology of brands and brand management and Projecting Your Brand Through New Media shows how to use this online.

Teaching skills are frequently asked for in job specifications. These skills are best developed in practical ways but courses provide useful theory and background. There are courses specifically about teaching such as The Virtual Teacher Program and The Art of Teaching as well as those which focus on associated skills such as Introduction to Public Speaking. Design and Development of Education Technology links to this by providing an insight into the new technologies used to deliver user education.

Technological skills
The role of the information professional is changing rapidly and part of this involves keeping up with technology. Programming skills are much in demand and this is reflected in the number of MOOCs available on the topic. Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game, Introduction to Programming with Java and A Taste of Python Programming all help to fill the gap. Building Mobile Experiences talks participants through creating an app, increasingly important as more and more people are accessing information services on smartphones and tablets. The use of data is also a popular MOOC subject with Coursera devoting a specialization to Data Science.

Job application skills
Finally any degree course should prepare you to get a job upon completion. Whilst not library specific I found the How to Succeed courses from the University of Sheffield useful for picking up tips on both Writing Applications and Interviews.

I'm not sure when people would find the time to take all of those courses but I hope I've at least given readers something to think about. The main point of this post is not to encourage people to ditch the traditional degree but to illustrate that there are many ways to fill gaps in your knowledge or develop a new skill. Thanks to Laurie Pickard and her No Pay MBA idea for inspiring this post and encouraging me to learn about some new MOOCs which I can use to plug my own knowledge gaps.

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