It’s June already?!

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Hey everyone!

As ever, let me start with my “sorry for the delay” disclaimer! It’s weird to think that I’m now well over halfway through my trainee year! Not too long until I’ll be heading south for the autumn (and the next two years at least!). I’ve sorted out my leaving date, potentially somewhere to live, made contact with an agency, and saved up some cold, hard cash! So everything is in hand for the next phase!

Now things have calmed down a little, I’ll try and write more. I’ve made a start on doing my research project – I say a start, what that means is doing literature searches and going ‘How on earth do people collate all this into one document?!’ (Methinks I’ll be ringing my soon-to-be-doing-a-PhD social scientist brother on that one!) I’ve never written a document with that degree of synthesis in it: generally, with literature, you take one or two theorists/critics at a time as they become relevant, rather than doing a strategic overview of all the literature in the field! I imagine this is because if you tried to do a literature review of everything on, say, Henry James, it would be never-ending. Best to dive in and pick the bits that are relevant to you! (And also because literature isn’t always a particularly systematic endeavour, unless you go for word analytics and things. Feel free to argue with me on that point, haha!) Critical fields aside, though, it’s a totally new thing for me, but also a good thing: you only learn by doing!

I’ll also be doing some data analysis, which I am assured is Not Scary At All, but given how long it took and how methodical I had to be in counting shelves yesterday (there were 625), I’m still a little apprehensive! I am absolutely awful at maths, and when confronted with a sheet of numbers, they start to swim a little bit and it takes me a very long time to get to grips with things. I’m hoping that by playing more with numbers I’ll actually improve my numeracy – it’s something I’ve managed to put quite far down my list of priorities for a while, but I’m going to need to step it up!

I have a couple of pieces of proper blogging lined up for the near future, so there’ll be more in-depth things to read about what I’ve been doing: a piece about my traineeship for Library Trainee Network and hopefully a guest post about the work I’ve been doing for Special Collections here at Bradford. Exciting stuff!

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19th March – Another ‘Quick Update’…

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As ever, I’ll start with an apology. (Should I just stop now? Can we all take that as a given every time I post? Haha!) Anyway, things I’ve been up to/need to blog about:

 – Standing in front of a class of MSc students and not being heckled!

Wooo! Apparently I was clear, didn’t hurry, made good eye contact and was generally fine. Yay! I now have a great portfolio of my mentor meetings with Kirsty and the learning resources we’ve put together. It’s our final session of six next week so will be having more of a discussion, starting with plagiarism and going on to getting some feedback from the students about the whole group of sessions. I have also promised to make cake: if that doesn’t get them through the door, nothing will!

 – Visiting Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

It was a lovely afternoon! I wanted to stay forever. Sadly, didn’t manage to liberate any of Byron’s manuscripts, but I might go back and peruse when I have annual leave. Not only this, but apparently you can just go in and say ‘Oh hey, can I look at your first Folio?’ and they’ll say, ‘Yeah sure, just wait right there.’ They do supervise you, but WHAT?! I know the Folio at the John Rylands is in the ‘Red Vault’, which basically means you need a very, very good reason to see it. Not so at Leeds! Fabulous stuff. Was also shown some of their conservation and digitisation work areas, in which there was a genuine WWI biscuit just sitting there (I don’t think the biscuit was being digitised though!)… Sigh. One day…

– Teachmeet at Sheffield Hallam.

I didn’t have much to contribute I’m afraid, as I haven’t (or rather, hadn’t) taught anyone by then. My question was just ‘How do I not freak out in front of a class?!’ But some interesting ideas! I need to learn how to use Prezi, among other things. Might try this out for my project!

– A quick trip to London to be grilled by LIS professionals.

UCL interview, followed by a much-needed pint – you can probably imagine the trauma! Will report back as and when.

– Having outlined a slightly less fuzzy idea about my Trainee Project.

Yes! I’m keeping this one under my hat until it’s developed further, but rest assured, there is a chance that aside from banging my head on the table trying to write a real literature review (I did English, okay?), I will be pouncing on innocent patrons with a clipboard in hand, yelling ‘FEEDBACK! FEED BACK TO ME!’. All good fun!

– 6 month review fast approaching!

Oh dear. It’s weird to think I’m halfway through! The transient nature of a traineeship is strange, but I’m looking forward to the future! Not so much looking forward to giving my final presentation, however…

– Starting my block of time with Special Collections next week.

I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be up to, so I shall also have to report back on that as and when. Needless to say, I’m really excited! Alison submitted Bradford’s application for archives accreditation very recently too (congratulations are in order!), so that may be something I can investigate further in the coming months.

28th February – Teaching Success!

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Hello blog-world! Here I am again. I thought I’d try and get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) fairly swiftly after the second Engineering MSc teaching session I did with Kirsty this week, as it went really well.

We had already decided to try to get the students to do some group work, so they can get to know each other more as well as bounce ideas off each other. The first week was mostly Kirsty talking and then we were helping them one-to-one, so we thought if we mixed it up a bit it wouldn’t feel too much like they were being lectured. We also decided to try using a Padlet wall during the student discussion and feedback to bring together their ideas, as they happened, in a place where they can see the information easily, rather than referring them to pre-prepared resources or presentations that don’t accurately reflect their questions and responses (the main point of our sessions, of course, being finding out what the students want to know, as well as telling them what they should know – or at least trying to strike a balance between the two).

We designed a little activity where we gave them samples of different resources – including the standard books and journals, but also websites, newspapers, market research reports, patents and standards. This was a good idea because while most of these are available online, it’s often just text on a screen – it’s good to hold the source and see what it actually looks like, how it’s set out and where all the different sections are.

We had a question sheet with some prompts of ‘Things to think about’ – the basic question being ‘Why would you trust this source?’, but framing it with other questions: for example, who establishes a new British Standard? Who writes market research? Who are the intended audience? Where and what is the evidence for their claim? We also gave them some answer sheets to jot down ideas in their groups. It went really well I think – they were really open to discussion and thankfully were actually discussing the sources!

We brought it all together after about half an hour and Kirsty led the group discussion, and asked them to talk her through each source: what they knew about it, what they would look for and why. It was really informative actually, I myself learnt a lot – did you know members of the public can have a say in British engineering Standards? Or that market research includes data on all the major players in a certain field (say, mobile phone manufacturers), their products and market performance? Well, you probably did know that, but as I’ve spent my degrees buried in musty tomes, I didn’t!

Anyway, the students really engaged and were keen to give their opinion and ask questions. Kirsty also decided to give out prizes for the most devastatingly analytical answers, which went down really well – it would seem that introducing an element of friendly competition got the best out of that particular group! While the discussion was going on, I started putting together the Padlet page as we went along. It’s not the most detailed of documents, and there were a couple of things I missed while furiously typing and trying to listen at the same time (such as ‘Google is powered by money, not quality research!’ or similar), but here is a quick screenshot:

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Kirsty said she noticed they were all watching the Padlet during the discussion, pointing out things to add to it, noting down the address and, perhaps most importantly, taking photos of it on their phone to keep, which seems to be the norm now (I still use pen and paper!). Kirsty said it was the first time she’d seen it work as it should – largely, I think, because the room we were in had multiple screens showing the display on the computer I was using, which meant everyone could actually see what I was writing. I think using a Padlet wall on one large projector screen at the end of one of the bigger study rooms elsewhere in the building wouldn’t have worked as well because the students wouldn’t have been able to see. This is related, too, to the students being able to take their time reading text rather than frantically trying to keep up with someone while making their own notes. Either way, it worked really well!

We – or rather, Kirsty – ended with a quick demonstration of how to get to market research databases, standards and patents through the library catalogue, and then everyone dashed away! But we had a quick brew and de-brief and we both thought the session went well: the students were much more relaxed and chatty while remaining focused this week, and hopefully this will continue.

Next week, I might be talking through some of the referencing Powerpoint, as I’ve been largely passive on the ‘leading the session’ front. I feel more comfortable with this after the session this week, mainly because the students seemed that way too. So I will update on the next one after the event. I’m attending the ARLG Yorkshire & Humberside Teachmeet at Sheffield Hallam on Monday, so will hopefully be sharing some of what we’ve been up to there, and maybe getting some tips on how to relax while delivering things to a group of about thirty-five people… All in all, much to look forward to!

23rd February – A Busy Bee

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As ever, I apologise for my terrible blogging skills… perhaps I should just have a disclaimer somewhere on this page?! Work is just so busy that often when I get home I want to do nothing more than stuff my face with carbs and then collapse in front of BBC iplayer or similar. Haha! But, on with the news.

I feel as though I’ll be spending the next few weeks living out of a suitcase/on trains – three trips to London in four weeks, a couple to Sheffield and another home to Northampton within that time too! Most of these are work or uni related (UCL interview – yikes!), so I’m looking forward to scooting about England and spreading the Graduate Trainee word.

I finally met a fellow Bradford Grad Trainee the other week, after having exchanged emails for about three months! Her name is Melissa and she is a NHS Medical Library trainee, so her working day is totally different from mine. I think we both just wanted to hear what the other actually does! Melissa came to me first, so I tried to give her the best tour possible, but I have never before flexed my tour-guide muscles, so it probably wasn’t the best tour she’s ever been on, haha! But I showed her our different floors and collections, did a passable introduction to the Commonweal Collection that lives at Bradford – which I should probably blog about soon – and popped in to Special Collections for a chat too. Luckily, both Alison and Martin were there so Melissa got an actual introduction to what we have, rather than me going ‘J. B. Priestley! Jacquetta Hawkes! Mitrinović! THE RESOURCES!’ in a suitably excitable fashion. We rounded off the afternoon with an all-important cup of tea, and discussed uni thoughts as well as our Traineeships. We also chatted about our previous degrees as Melissa is a literature graduate too (there seem to be a great many of us in libraries!), so it was nice to find out more about her research interests and future plans.

I popped up to her library the following day, which is at Bradford Royal Infirmary. After a slightly fraught journey – I had no idea where I was going – I arrived just about on time! The library itself was gorgeous, it’s in a Victorian building, so it’s all panelled wood, painted ceilings and sweeping staircases. Melissa had warned me that it is a lot smaller than the uni library so the tour wouldn’t take long, but I didn’t mind! The library at the hospital serves the professionals in the area who are doing research as well as staff who are doing academic-ish work for their Professional Development modules and projects, which interested me as that’s where our libraries cross paths – lots of health professionals doing CPD stuff will come to the University too. Melissa apparently spends lots of time doing literature searches and teaching other people how to do them themselves, which I sympathise with. Searching healthcare databases is something I’ve had to learn quite quickly, and it’s totally different from doing an English or American literature search! And I imagine that if you’ve been qualified for twenty or thirty years, coming back to do something like a systematic review must be hard. Melissa said it’s really interesting though, as she gets to find out about all sorts of diseases and things, and occasionally there are gory photos… as I am a weakling when it comes to that sort of stuff, perhaps it’s better that I’m in an academic library for the moment!

I’ve also persuaded Melissa to join what is gradually becoming known (to me, anyway) as Library Club, as she lives in Leeds but is new to the city. It’s also really nice to socialise with people who understand my working day – a lot of my friends must think I just ‘Shhh!’ people and explain [badly] which shelf 607.89 is on!

Ooh, I almost forgot! We have decided what my Graduate Trainee project is to be on. I was, as usual, terrified that if I hadn’t already sketched out a detailed plan, Sarah would withhold my tea and biscuits, and then I really would be in trouble! Thankfully, it wasn’t too painful a discussion, and we’ve agreed that I’ll be looking further at performance and benchmarking strategies (like the customer journey mapping I blogged about previously). I’m not exactly sure how this will pan out yet, but there is still plenty of time.

I’m quite pleased about the choice because although it’s something I’m not overly familiar with, it’ll be really good for the library (and indeed the University) to do work looking at processes and customer satisfaction, so if I can help with that then that’s great! I think it will also stand me in good stead in the future, because any library job involves giving a high standard of service and having a framework by which to measure and implement it, so the fact I’ll have done a project on such things can only be another string to my bow.

I had a fruitful and interesting meeting with a lovely lady at Leeds Met about the aforementioned customer journey mapping in the context of Customer Service Excellence on Friday, so I’m feeling extra-positive about it at the moment! This meeting was followed by another meeting with Jennie, one of the subject librarians at Leeds Met who was also the GT at Bradford a while ago, and Cat, who is the current GT at Leeds Met. We naturally made a beeline for a lovely little tearoom opposite Leeds Uni, and so it was good to catch up with Cat and also to meet Jennie and exchange amusing stories about Bradford and libraries in general! It was a bit nostalgic for me being up that end of Leeds: I live the other side of the city centre now, so can’t pop into the Brotherton Library and stroke the dusty books (or something) on a whim as easily as I could!

That’s about all the big news for the moment, other than me learning to classify books, which I must say is actually quite hard! God bless Cataloguing in Publication data… It is interesting to learn about the organisation of knowledge though, and it feels a bit like doing detective work at times, which I seem to be actively enjoying. What did surprise me, though, is how subjective using Dewey could actually be. There was an occasion the other day when I totally disagreed with a classmark everyone else (via OCLC Classify) had given a book, so reclassified it myself, with apparent success! I put this down to strength of conviction (rather than ‘being pedantic’, haha), and did feel perhaps a little too smug, but it was my first solo effort without the Library of Congress to help. That being said, there has been lots of bashing-head-on-desk while wading through Dewey manuals and tables – my desk has mainly looked like this for the past week:

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Just looking at this makes me want to drink a medicinal cup of tea, so I think I will leave your eyes alone and report back with more news another day soon!

January 6th

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Happy New Year everybody!

I have returned after a lovely Christmas break with a particularly ill-timed cold (no pun intended). It was actually the first proper Christmas holiday I’ve had for five years due to doing bar work for what seems like an age, so I made sure to relax, eat a lot of cake and read plenty of books. It was also nice to be on the other side of the bar when I did venture out to the local watering-hole. My only resolution for this year, I think, is to blog more regularly! And perhaps to get a place at library school of some form.

Speaking of library school, and school in general, I graduated last month! So I am officially a Master of Arts, which is a bit scary as it seems like only three months ago since I started, and I suffer from constant ‘imposter syndrome’. Still, it was worth all the hard graft and lack of sleep! My degree was definitely the best Christmas present I received.

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Look, it’s me posing in my gown! No mortarboards at Leeds, sadly.

I managed to get my application to UCL in too, after much transcript and application portal stress. I was only informed of my final MA grade on November 27th, and graduation wasn’t until December 18th, so I was cutting it a little fine. It’s in now, though, so fingers crossed. (And on to the next ones!)

I’m actually excited to be back at work, although the 6am start this morning was a bit of a shock! I’ve finished my time with Acquisitions for now, and I almost got the hang of RDA cataloguing and processing orders. I’ll be back with them for a while this semester for more practise, as I kept being stolen for teaching sessions before Christmas, so that’ll be good – I can flex my cataloguing muscles once more! I have lots to be getting on with for a couple of weeks, and will be starting my time in Special Collections soon, which I’m very much looking forward to.

I will also be learning how to teach this semester! After the reflections at Library Camp about the lack of teaching preparation for LIS students, this is fortuitous indeed. Kirsty, the Engineering Librarian here at Bradford, is doing her Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy portfolio, and asked if I’d like to help her with teaching some of her MSc students. She’s set up an intensive six-week course for them to learn the necessary library skills for their independent research and assignments, and I shall be embarking on that quest with her. I’m not sure if I recall talk of me leading a session in the meeting, but the nagging feeling of abject terror tells me I may be correct! We’ll be having a prep meeting once a week until their course starts, so we have plenty of time to prepare and sort out materials and session content (more on these soon – I’ve left my notebook somewhere!), and we’ll also be making notes during our meetings so we have a record of me being mentored. I’ve not been mentored before, so I have no demands as such, but it’s going to be great experience for both of us and I’m sure once I get over the fear it’ll be fun!

I’m also trying to organise some visits to other libraries at the moment, to get more of a feel of the professional landscape. If anyone in the Yorkshire area would like to exchange visits, do let me know! So far I’ve been in touch with six libraries around Leeds, academic and otherwise, and everyone seems very friendly and helpful. I’m looking forward to getting out into the field, as it were!

I shall update very soon with more detailed news, but as I said, my notebook appears to still be on holiday, so intricate details and spur-of-the-moment thoughts I had are not by my side at the moment. Plus, as it’s the first day back, it’s definitely time for a cup of tea…

18th November

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Good morning world!

Well, what have I been up to? Last week was busy and seemed to pass in a flash.

I was allowed to go it alone on the enquiry desk on the first floor (where some of the books live), which is something that the subject librarians do throughout the week. When you’re on the desk, you’re a second port of call for help for the students, and questions can be varied in the extreme. As usual, I was slightly terrified about this! It proved to be fine though, as I had only to contend with ‘Do you have a stapler?’ and ‘Where can I find 005.336?’, so nothing too complex for my first solo effort!

I also attended a meeting about performance measurement and benchmarking on Monday morning. Basically, the Library is implementing new ways to measure how effective the service is for all the different kinds of students that come to the University, by way of mapping customer journeys. This involves (as far as I can gather, and in very simple terms), putting together a sort of timeline that involves what the students need and expect from the Library when they come here, and also what happens back-of-house to make sure these needs are met and that communication is effective. This seems like a marvellous idea to me, especially the communication part, as it can be unsettling when you come to university and have to learn new systems and library use policies (my school library was about the size of one the computer suites here at Bradford, so it was a step up!). Anyway, my role in this is to put together a literature review regarding how library users are usually segmented for such purposes. I’ve never done a literature review in the purest sense, being an English graduate, but my degrees have involved absorbing and presenting quite a wide range of critical and cultural material throughout, so I should be okay (fingers crossed!). Luckily – or perhaps unluckily for him – my brother is a sociologist so he’s very au fait with such things. No doubt I’ll be getting him to read over it for me!

I took part in another school session as well, which was quite fun, and once again actually managed to help the students out a bit. Upon being asked to find a book on the catalogue in relation to their research project, and then go and locate it in our library, one of the students managed to choose a text that had a classmark of something like 567.94857365 ART, which was impressive! Nothing like jumping in at the deep end, eh?

I also had a meeting with Martin, who works in Special Collections with Alison, which was fun! I have to say that Martin is the only person I’ve ever met who didn’t look at me blankly when I said I did my MA dissertation on ventriloquism and silence in Charles Brockden Brown, which was refreshing! Most people say, “Oh… who?”, listen politely, and then move the conversation on!  American literature aside, we talked a bit more about the collections, the art that Bradford holds and what working with these things entails (I’m still massively looking forward to it!). He also showed me a couple of projects he’s working on that I might be helping out with, and I got to learn a bit more about Isaac Holden (merchant and politician extraordinaire), whose letters I’ve had a peek at.

I have my one-month review tomorrow with my manager Sarah, who is absolutely lovely, so I’m hoping it goes well! I might bring in some biscuits to ease the terror. Will update on how that goes next week.

In non-Bradford-related news, I did indeed go to the Georgians Revealed exhibition at the British Library yesterday, which was lovely! I love being at the British Library anyway (especially the shop!), so an excellent time was had. They had some wonderful things there, and some of the books and playbills on display were amazing, such a privilege to be able to see them. The miniature children’s books were so gorgeous! I also noticed that there were some Georgian shoes all the way from the Shoe Museum in Northampton (somewhere I always drag first-time Northampton visitors to)! I was very proud to see my hometown’s heritage in a more national exhibition.

Anyhow, I shall stop rambling for now – I realise I need to do a 23 Things update, so I may try and slot that in slightly later in the week! I have joined LinkedIn, however, and my Twittering can be found below, but I need to get on with the slideshow/videocast stuff (don’t worry, there’ll be no videos of me talking about books, haha!).

15th November – a quick update!

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A quick update from me before the weekend – I have been a busy little bee outside of work, it would seem!

I’m having a go at 23 Things for Research (http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/23things/all-about-23-things/), although I am very behind for the moment! Might need to schedule it in alongside my usual CPD time somewhere. I’ve already got on with the things regarding Twitter (and LinkedIn, which is confusing to the uninitiated), but need to crack on with the rest! I did search my name to see what came up (in terms of my ‘personal brand’), but I didn’t seem to appear anywhere near the top of any Google search, if at all. I think this is because my surname is a very dull and oft-used word, rather than a name. I suspect this may also be because people seem to like calling their dogs and horses Maddie, and the internet prefers finding those! (Not sure if I should be offended…?!)

A ticket for Library Camp ’13 has also come up, so I shall be scooting off to Birmingham’s swanky new library at dawn on Saturday the 30th! I think it will be a lot of fun, and it’ll be good to meet other library bods and Graduate Trainees. However, it’s all about participation as well as the networking, so I need to think of something zeitgeist to talk about… argh! Will let the blog-o-sphere know.

I am also off to London this weekend to see a friend, and have booked us both tickets to see the Georgians Revealed exhibition at the British Library! I am very excited about this: not sure if Max will be, but he’s got a ticket now, haha!