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!

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10th February

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It has been an AGE since I have blogged, so I apologise! As usual, the days seem to fly past – I can’t believe it’s February already.

I had my first MSc teaching session with Kirsty last week, which went well! I had been off sick for the two days beforehand, but managed to rally my body and mind for the big day. We began our mini-library-course with a session on ‘Finding Quality Journal Articles’, with Kirsty leading and me attempting to answer fairly complex questions about cellular beams and automotive engines… but I think I did okay! My name is on the Powerpoint too – I’m famous (ish)!

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We started by asking them a few questions about where they would look for resources, and how confident they felt about using the library and undertaking their research project. This was via the medium of a little questionnaire on Blackboard (thanks to Sarah, my line manager, who is a whizz at such things!). Our thinking was that we can run a similar questionnaire at the end and compare the responses to see what we’ve achieved, and will have qualitative and quantitative data to take back to the department.

We had lots of helpful leaflets and guides for them too. Personally, I love a good hand-out, as you can review it at home (and I prefer having things on paper!). It’s also helpful when students don’t speak English as their first language, so might miss something that’s said during a talk or demonstration – with written materials, they can go through it at their own pace. Kirsty showed them the main databases that they need to use, which does differ slightly across disciplines – but things like ScienceDirect and Web of Science are things all the Engineering students can use to their advantage. However, they need to be aware of databases that are abstract-only affairs, and ones that have everything in full-text. This is mainly why I try and talk people out of Google Scholar until everything else has been exhausted: it shows you lots of things that look extremely helpful that you end up not being able to access! The bane of my MA career!

We tried to get them to start exploring the world of electronic journal resources in more depth for their MSc dissertations, so all the questions were quite specific. I’m still not sure what a cellular beam is, but I did manage to help someone find a relevant full-text article from EBSCO, and got a low-five for my trouble! That was a nice moment, I felt proud to have genuinely helped!

I also sat in on one of Alison’s sessions last week, wherein she spoke to History students about using Special Collections and archives for their dissertations. I always jump at anything remotely Special Collections-related, so this was great! To be honest, I was a little jealous that they were given this opportunity and wished I was doing a project again. I did consider doing History and English for my undergrad degree, but decided one book-heavy discipline was probably enough… Alison’s session did make me think, though, that we weren’t really told to use archives, how one might go about using them, or even that they might be helpful. Sadly, I wasn’t able to fly to Princeton during my undergraduate degree to look at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ledger, either – woe is me! For my MA I relied heavily on Eighteenth Century Collections Online for my background research (which is totally fabulous, and I suggest everybody have a browse), as eighteenth-century American political tracts aren’t always easy to come by in their original form! That being said, there are so many things that are useful that are available to the students both in Bradford and other archives in the UK, and it’s great that Alison and Martin are so enthusiastic about helping people get the most out of them. I also had a good goggle at the materials they’d got out to show the students – always the best bit, it’s hard to pry me away from primary sources!

Speaking of Special Collections and things, I went to the John Rylands Library in Manchester on Saturday with some of the University of Sheffield Library Society. It was wonderful, and I didn’t want to leave! But as I have much more to say on that subject, I shall save it for another day. I stupidly left my phone in the lockers before our tour, so will probably have to appropriate some of their photos with all due credit. But I shall leave you with the one photo I managed to take outside as the rain began lashing down (it’s Manchester, I should have known) – I love some Victorian high drama!

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20th January – Part II (‘The Other Big Thing at Work’)

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Welcome to Part II (this makes me think of Hot Shots Part Deux)! I said I’d talk about the customer journey work we’ve started here at Bradford, which is quite exciting, and will stand the university in very good stead.

Customer journey mapping is:

…the process of tracking and describing all the experiences that customers have as they encounter a service or set of services, taking into account not only what happens to them, but also their responses to their experiences. Used well, it can reveal opportunities for improvement and innovation in that experience, acting as a strategic tool to ensure every interaction with the customer is as positive as it can be.

(http://www.customerserviceexcellence.uk.com/getDynamicContentAreaSection5255.html?id=9)

What you do is (physically) map a journey that a customer undertakes when, say, borrowing a laptop for the first time, or trying to find a hard copy of a journal. You need to include all the stages of that journey, and think about how they felt while undertaking it (frustrated, pleased, confused, and so on), in order to recognise points where processes can hopefully become more streamlined and easy-to-use for customers (is there enough signage? Are staff or guidance easily accessible?).

I finally circulated the literature review that I did with regards to customer segmentation (that is, I was looking at how other institutions split up their users into groups). As I concluded, ‘most of the literature reviewed mentioned customer journeys as a very effective way for libraries to measure how well their services accommodate the needs of their users, but none specifically mention how they split up their user base. That being said, the general consensus about how libraries might split up their users seems to be along the lines of where they are in their academic studies, how they are undertaking those (full-time, part-time or modular), and whether they are based at or near the university itself.’

The lit review, I must admit, was not a lit review in the classic sense of the word, as I’ve never done one and neglected to get a book out from the library telling me how to do one (oh, the irony!). So I spent most of that weekend tearing my hair out in front of my laptop, trying to collate all the disparate references I’d collected into something vaguely readable. Nevertheless, apparently my effort was helpful (for Alison, anyway)! We had had a meeting where we all brainstormed all the types of users we have here at Bradford (of which there are lots!) and then Ellie, one of the subject librarians, put together a list which we felt more or less covered most, if not all, the bases. My review supported the kinds of segments that we’d identified in the meeting.

The next stage was a staff training session involving as many of us as possible – both academic librarians and Customer Services staff. Ellie introduced what customer journey mapping is, why we’re doing it, and then invited us to split into groups and have a go at mapping our own journey so we could try out the process for ourselves. My group did ‘Printing work from a PC’. Relatively straightforward, one might think, but mapping the journey proved how many things can go wrong! You’ve got to find a PC, log on, format the work, send it to print [one-sided and double-spaced], find a printer, log on, make sure you have enough credit, then print. All the while there are break points – these are points where things could go either way. You might not know your PIN number to log on to the printer, or once you’ve done that you might not have enough credit, or the printer might have run out of paper… the list goes on! We decided not to include to many break points for the first go as we only had one side of A3 and about half an hour in which to complete our journey. Here’s what we managed to get down on paper (complete with smiley faces):

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Isn’t it pretty? Haha!

The best thing about this training session, I think, was the mix of departments that we had. It’s not often that you have a lot of Customer Services staff working with a lot of the academic librarians, and it was a good chance for us to communicate and to share the different kinds of questions we get asked (although there is a lot of crossover), and the different experiences of everybody.  It also helps us to find out more about what everybody else does within the library! And, although I hate to use the phrase, it was a good ‘team-building exercise’, haha!

I’ve arranged a meeting with a lady at Leeds Met to have a chat about their experiences of doing customer journeys, which will be nice! Hopefully I can pick up some pointers and some good advice as well as get to meet someone else in the profession, which is always nice. It’ll be strange being back there after two and a half years (I did my undergraduate degree there) as a Trainee!

There is quite a bit of library-themed stuff going on outside work too. I’m going to the Academic and Research Libraries Teachmeet at Sheffield Hallam on March 3rd. The Teachmeet is a chance for librarians to meet up, share successes and to support each other, which sounds wonderful! By then I will have been teaching information skills with Kirsty, so [in theory] will have lots to talk about! It’s preceded by the ARLG Yorkshire and Humber Committee AGM, too, which will be interesting although I’ll probably be quite quiet for that one! Best of all, apparently there’s free sandwiches – I’m there.

I’ve also organised to swap visits between myself and Melissa, the Graduate Trainee for Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust next month. I’m looking forward to meeting her as we’ve exchanged many emails trying to sort something out, and her experience will be different from mine! So it’ll be nice to see a different aspect of the profession, and of course to meet another Trainee! As well as this, I’ve managed to arrange a visit to the Special Collections at the University of Leeds, somewhere I stupidly never set foot during my time there (I did American Literature, that’s my pathetic excuse…). I’m also really excited for that! Let me loose in Special Collections, that’s the way to my heart!

Last but not least, tonight is the first Library Pizza Club meeting (Leeds cohort!). I am very excited! Pizza and sharing library thoughts is the best way to end a Monday! 🙂

20th January Part I – Teaching (‘The Big Thing at Work’)

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Good morning folks! It’s been a busy old week in Yorkshire, with much to report on. As ever, I’ll try not to waffle, so I think I’ll split this up into two parts! The first being ‘The Big Thing at Work’: teaching! I’ll make the second ‘The Other Big Thing at Work’: customer journey mapping for performance measurement and Customer Service Excellence, which is getting underway here in Bradford. Also, there’ll be more about me tootling around Yorkshire doing library-related things.

Firstly, the teaching! The aim of my mentorship with Kirsty is ‘to gain experience of preparing for and teaching library information skills to a large group of MSc Engineering students to prepare for their Advanced Research Skills module’ (eek!). It’s nice that we’re keeping records of each mentor/mentee meeting as it means we’ll both have a record of what we’ve achieved at the end, and it’ll be something I can put into portfolios or applications in the future.

So far, we’ve had a couple of prep meetings. I found out there’s SEVENTY FIVE OF THEM (the students, not the meetings!). I was under the impression there was only about fifteen. So naturally, I’m now even more terrified than usual.

The last meeting we had was really good though, lots of ideas were discussed! We had a look at some handouts and flow-charts and slideshows from other universities to see what other people had done, and if there was anything that could inspire us! Turned out there was plenty. We decided which bits of the information we wanted to use – or at least, the main points we wanted to get across.

The first aspect of the sessions is to get the students thinking about where they’re looking for information: what databases and resources are best for their course: whether they need to look at books, journals, things like market research or British and/or American Standards. The last two are totally alien to me, so I’m looking forward to learning more about them (from what I gather, there’s lots of information about concrete…)! The students will also need to think about their search strategy, and we’re meeting later today to create a hand-out with a little flow-chart to help them – what to do if you have too many results, too few results, or ‘just right’ (have you covered everything? Are you sure your results are relevant? Could anything be re-worded?).

As well as finding resources, the students need to evaluate them. I’d found some really good key points on a slideshow from the University of Leeds (ah, my alma mater), which were in turn adapted from the Open University’s SAFARI tutorial. However, since most of the students we’ll be teaching are international students who don’t speak English as a first language and may never have set foot in this country before, we felt some of the language on the Leeds materials might need changing to ease them into their research! One fine example is ‘Is the resource obsolete – has it been superseded?’ Our main points will be, in essence:

  • What kind of resource is it? Does it have bias? Is it a book, or a .com website?
  • Who (or which company) has written the resource? Are they qualified or experts in the field, already published, or part of an organisation?
  • When was it published? (This is really important for engineers as they need the most up-to-date information and legislation possible!)
  • Is there any evidence or other research mentioned in the resource? Is it referenced?
  • Is the information at the right level for you? Is it appropriate for your topic? (Does it also relate to the right country?)

Another problem we hit upon is getting the students to engage, with us and with each other. We thought about splitting them up into groups and getting them to evaluate one type of source in their group (journal, book, market research, website), and then feed their thoughts back to us so we can put responses on a Padlet page for them to come back to. It is a big group, but we thought it would be nicer for them to engage rather than being lectured and then working on an example in silence for two hours.

Finally, we decided to create a Powerpoint to help them with their referencing – just to point out where things like the edition, the publisher, year of publication, series title(if necessary), the author or editor can be found on a book, and where this information would go in their citation and reference. (I’m not sure if Bradford engineers use their own version of Harvard – mental note made to check!) We had a look at another institution’s Prezi slideshow, but decided to do our own as then we could tailor it to our own requirements, and then it would be in keeping with the language and style used in our other resources. We decided to do a Powerpoint rather than a Prezi mainly due to time constraints! Hopefully we’ll make that available on the University website after the teaching sessions have finished.

So! Lots to be done on that front – I’m meeting Kirsty later today to work on our little ‘keyword search’ flow-chart. Which, hopefully, won’t inspire any ‘How many library staff does it take to make a flow-chart?’ jokes! Kirsty’s also asked if I fancy coming along to meetings to introduce myself to some of the students we’ll be teaching, so I think I’ll try! It may lessen The Fear a little, haha!

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…

5th December – Library Camp Part Two

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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!

2nd December – Library Camp Part One

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So, it’s been an age since I updated! This will be formed, in part, of bulletpoints, as I have tucked myself up in bed at 8:25pm, like the true punk kid I am…

 

On Saturday I attended my first Library Camp, which was held at the Library of Birmingham. Despite the 6:30am wake-up call (on a Saturday? My 19 year old self would be surprised), I was at Leeds station, cake in hand and raring to go!

 

I attended sessions on social media in libraries, being an LIS student, Learning to Teach, Special Librarians (those who don’t work in libraries), and then snuck off for a quick wander around the library for the last hour.

 

The social media session was really interesting as it’s something that I’ve never been so encouraged to use in a professional sense – hence my terrible blogging skills and Twitterings. Anyway, the main points seemed to be that social media as a whole is a very powerful tool, yet requires some planning and careful usage. On the whole though, everyone was really enthusiastic about the potential of social media to become a fantastic promotion machine, as well as a great networking tool, and I agree! Some of the basic points covered were:

~ Social media should be about conversations and interactions with users/students/customers

~ It’s important for front-line staff to have input, as they see people every day

~ The use of multimedia becoming more prevalent (videos, slideshows)

~ Having an image, perhaps, or a face – something recognisable. Batgirl and Mr Potato Head were two very successful candidates (I think these were both patrons of public libraries and champions of children’s literature, though I may be mistaken!)

 

I managed to sort-of gatecrash the LIS student session – it wasn’t strictly for the trainees, but I thought it would be valuable to hear people talking about their courses, how they’re structured, what works and what doesn’t. There was mainly a strong Sheffield and UCL cohort there, which was helpful as I’m applying to both of those.

The most important thing I learnt was that I think I am most definitely not cut out for distance learning! Even being a part-time student during my MA upset me sometimes as I’d always be dashing off to go to work while all the social things, conferences and reading groups were going on. I think distance learning would be very, very hard for me, as I find having a support network of other students (not to mention the tutors!) paramount, and the whole experience of being at a bustling university makes me very happy indeed.

That being said, I wouldn’t fancy full-time either – I don’t know when anybody on my MA course [as a full-time student] ever slept, and the financial burden would be too heavy. Plus, I really enjoyed having more time to do my research and immerse myself more fully in one module at a time, and I got so much more than I expected out of my degree doing it that way. I also find working a welcome distraction at times, as studying can be a very lonely and wading-through-treacle-like experience. Part-time study does require time management (although I would argue no more than full-time study), but as I’ve explained to many folk, if I can hold down two jobs and finish an MA dissertation to the best of my ability, then I think I have that covered!

As I have so much more to say, I think I will leave the last two sessions until tomorrow, and spread the Library Camp joy a little further!

 

In other news, life is much the same at Bradford for me: busy as always! Lots of helping with teaching and exams last week too, and the front desks are noticeably busier as we draw closer to assignment deadlines. Things have calmed down a little in terms of my timetable as I’m with Acquisitions when not running around. I’m learning to do cataloguing, which is coming along slowly but surely – luckily my colleague Andy is also being trained on this so I have somebody to discuss (which really means argue) the finer points of punctuation and RDA content with!