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.

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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!

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 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…