Good evening folks! Here, as promised, is the hotly-anticipated (ha!) second instalment of my Library Camp musings. (If it’s not quite as readable as part one, I apologise: I saw my favourite band ever last night so am on something of an emotional comedown today!)
The third session I attended was on Learning to Teach. As this has been a very big part of my first month and a half of Graduate Trainee-ing, this seemed an appropriate session. As librarians who work in schools, colleges and universities well know, teaching is a huge and very important part of the job, but doesn’t seem to be included on anybody’s MA course when they’re qualifying. Interestingly, when I spoke to my mum about this (Momma House qualified about thirty-five years ago!), she said there was concern about this when she was qualifying, so it would seem nothing has changed on that front for a long time!
I can’t help but think it would be a good idea. Teaching – or perhaps teaching well – is something that isn’t innate (in my case, anyway). One point well-made was that members of staff who teach need to be aware of differentiation, which is something I’d never even heard of! Also, that teaching needs to be engaging but not exclusionary – activities like role-play may be fine for some students, but for the other students like me who shrink from such things, classes need to include more learning options. In short, everyone has a different learning style and comes to a class with differing learning needs, and sessions need to be able to address most, if not all, of these. There is also an element of the learning process which means that the students need to be able to teach themselves. This made me think of a Health Studies session I helped out with recently – Donna (the Health Studies Librarian, who looks after lots of students!) had put together some activity cards to guide students through and get them to use some of the main Health Studies databases – EBSCO, PubMed and the like. So while we were there to help, the students were doing, rather than listening. I also stole a few of the sheets as health searches seem to be structured differently to the literature-based databases I’ve used in the past. If anyone needs help with searching for Charles Brockden Brown, I’m your girl, haha!
Another thing that came up was promotion of sessions. Often, as I have seen with my own eyes, students assume that as Library teaching sessions are not compulsory, they’re not necessary. Sessions need to be pitched at what the students actually need – there is some discussion about second semester workshops going on at Bradford at the moment! Perhaps by strengthening links with departmental staff, and asking lecturers to help get across the importance of information literacy skills (and therefore Library sessions and workshops) could help this.
There are, of course, professional teaching qualifications that can be done, or college courses (I know my brother did one while he was job-hunting), but it would depend on personal commitments. The best course of action seemed to be to help out with as many teaching sessions as you can, which is something I’m luckily not short of in my traineeship! I have now figured out exactly how to explain secondary referencing to first years in a coherent fashion: I think.
I also attended a session for the ‘Special Librarians’ – that is, librarians who don’t work in libraries. There were a few of us trainees and pre-MA people there, just to see what options there are outside academic or public libraries. The range of jobs was quite fascinating and very different! From corporate companies to the BBC, to museums, all of it sounded interesting. It’s good to know that the qualification won’t limit job opportunities (as much as I love it, I would definitely consider doing something outside academia). The most important thing I gathered was to expand search terms (‘information professional’ rather than ‘librarian’), and to be able to sell yourself to organisations. Another thing was having a keen awareness of who your users are, exactly what you do for them, and to be able to go out and meet those users rather than wait for them to come to you. This does happen at Bradford with the Library on Location slots the academic librarians organise, although I have yet to go out and meet the students in their non-Library habitat! Alison in Special Collections also does a great job of getting the collections recognition and promoting them online for users who may not be studying at the University.
I also managed to do a bit of networking on Momma H’s behalf in this session – someone mentioned prison libraries, so I went over and introduced myself and asked about what she’d like to find out about. Momma H is a long-qualified librarian (the only one left in our home county prison service, I think) and very experienced in working in prison libraries, so it was nice to enthuse about that, pass on her email address and explain a bit more about what she does. Never a dull moment in prison libraries as far as I can tell!
I’m afraid I snuck off for a walk round the Library of Birmingham. It is fantastic! Very busy, but as a building it just begs to be explored, there’s so many different sections and the snazzy escalators (especially when backed by shelves of old leather-bound volumes) were really cool! I went up on to the balcony thing, with the view over the Symphony Hall and ice rink, it was beautiful. Momma H tells me the music library is brilliant, but sadly I didn’t get time to go and have a look! I think we’re going to meet up there for a day at some point soon. There is also a very intriguing glass lift at the top of the building, but there was a massive queue to get in it – does anyone know where it goes?!
Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay for a pint after the winners of the cake competition were announced (I didn’t win, but all my cake got eaten, which I will take as a compliment!), as trains back to Leeds are only once an hour and take bloody ages. But I hope everyone had a lovely, well-deserved bevvy, and well done to the organisers of Library Camp! I’ll definitely be coming to the next one!