Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Thing 11: mentoring

I don't have a formal mentor, and I don't really have an informal one either. I do seek a lot of advice from my line manager, which is possibly a little too close to home to be a truly effective mentor relationship, but I certainly respect her and really appreciate her support at this early point of my career. She's great at helping me make sense of random ideas and generally helping me with stuff I don't have experience in. I think she appreciates my enthusiasm for things, so it works well. As I've mentioned, I'd like to start the chartership process after I graduate, and I know there's formal mentoring within that. I've looked at the list in the past and there was one locally, but we'll see what happens nearer the time.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Thing 10: routes into librarianship, or how I was always going to be a librarian

Considering this thing has made me realise that I've been working in libraries now for over ten years, which makes me feel pretty old! For six of those years it was a part-time job, for one it was temporary, but it's only really the last three that I could call a career choice. I actually intended not to work in libraries!

So how did I get here? When I was young both my parents worked in public libraries, my dad as a children's librarian and my mum as a library assistant, which is how they met, fell in love and had me. (I won a fancy dress competition dressed as a book, courtesy of my dad, when I was very small, and no, I don't have a photo to hand!) When I turned 16 I looked for an indoor part-time job after doing a paper round for a year, and started as a peak-relief assistant in my local branch library where my mum was working. I was a big library user as a child and teenager, also volunteering in my school library, and liked the idea of seeing behind the scenes, I think. I started working in different branches as well and worked evenings, weekends and holidays throughout sixth form, virtually full-time for half of my gap year, and during all my university holidays, sometimes in three different branches in one day depending on what hours were available! All for the money really.

I think I did always love it, and I got to do a lot of different stuff, but when I was thinking about what to do with my BA in English I just wanted to do something different from my parents, to make my own way in the world a bit. I was keen on the idea of publishing, and did a short course and got a few weeks' work experience, but nothing came of any of the graduate traineeships or jobs I applied for. My dad spotted my current job in an academic library, which was maternity cover at the time, in the local paper and suggested I apply. I was incredibly lucky to get it, and it wasn't long before I knew that I really did love working in libraries and was desperate to stay. I'd always liked helping people find the information they needed, which I get to do more of now, and generally trying to make sense of the world we're living in.

I got to stay, on the condition that I did my MA part-time, which I'm just coming to the end of. I'll write another post about that when I've finished though. I was a little worried when I started that I wouldn't have as much experience as people who had done a graduate traineeship, or at least not the same experiences, but that turned out to be ok as everyone could share what they knew and bring different ideas to the table. I plan to stay put for a bit now, partly because otherwise I have to pay back the money my employer put towards my course fees, but mainly because I think there's still more to learn and lots more I can do in my current position, and I'm really happy doing what I'm doing. I do want to charter though as I think it looks like a good challenge, and possibly do the PTLLS course (but no more degrees!)

It wasn't mentioned in the cpd23 post for thing 10, but if you haven't come across it before the Library Routes wiki is a great collection of blog posts on how people came to be in libraries - their roots and routes.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thing 9: Evernote

I haven't used Evernote before and have been having a play. I do like the idea of storing images with the notes - the look of a webpage might stick in my mind more than just a title or some text by itself, so it's good to have both. Plus the web can be so changeable, so it's a nice idea to have something saved permanently (assuming the permanence of Evernote itself, that is, which I suppose could disappear any day). I've played around with Diigo in the past, but I didn't actually end up using it much, even though I like the idea of it. One to revisit perhaps, and compare with Evernote. I've also recently started using Read it Later to save articles I want to come back to at a later date (funnily enough), which I quite like too.

I also like the way you can group notes together to keep multiple sources together according to a theme or event. The sync worked perfectly between the desktop version, web version, and the iphone app which I downloaded, and the web clipper extension for Firefox did what it was supposed to on my test notes. All pretty easy. I'll be playing around with this more I think to see how it could work for me. It appeals to my desire to organise stuff and remind myself of things to do (again to aid the worsening memory).

Monday, 1 August 2011

Thing 8: Google Calendar

I use my Outlook calendar to organise myself at work and, combined with the tasks feature, I wouldn't be very organised without it. I've used it since I started working here and definitely wouldn't go back to a paper one. It's brilliant for a visual representation of what each day holds, and I use colour coding for different types of things, so I can easily see when I have meetings, or am on the enquiry desk, or am at a different site, or whatever it is. I have it side by side with a shared calendar where we book in sessions or inductions in the teaching area, so all members of staff can see who needs it when and what's going on. We have a third shared calendar showing when staff are off which is really useful too.

So far, Google Calendar seems to do much of the same stuff, with options for reminders and adding descriptions, and much more no doubt that I could spend many hours fiddling with (you can't put a price on good organisation!) I can't see myself using it as my main work calendar though, because I'd just be duplicating everything from Outlook which I need to use to able to respond to invites etc.

I still use a little paper diary for personal stuff, totally contradicting everything I've just said! I might put something personal on my work calendar if I need to remind myself to go to the dentist after work or something, but generally I use them independently. I can see Google Calendar being useful as a mainly personal calendar potentially, particularly if I can use it on my phone which I haven't investigated yet. I find the iphone calendar a bit clunky which is why I've still stuck to paper, but I desperately need reminding of things because I have an appalling memory. If I forget to look in my diary, which is quite likely, I'm screwed! Switching to something like Google Calendar would mean not buying a pretty new diary annually in Paperchase though, which would be sad.

This year's Paperchase diary of choice

I can't see myself sharing my calendar with friends generally, but I can see the use of it for particular periods of time, like a trip involving several people, as suggested by Growth of a Librarian. I do like the idea of using it for library events. My library possibly doesn't have enough to warrant it, but it's a nice idea. Linking it to an LMS sounds complicated, and we've only just started using email for overdue books. I think as all our members are required to check their college email anyway that will probably do for now. I think it's definitely something I will play around with more though to explore all its potential.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Thing 7: face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I've been a member of CILIP for over a year now. It's been great joining as a student because of the discount. Full membership is quite expensive, but I want to charter after I qualify so I intend to stay a member. As with many of these things, the more I put in the more I'm sure I will get out, so its value is really down to me. I went to the New Professionals Information Day last year which I thought was great. One of the sessions was about the value of getting involved by joining a committee or similar, and I think it's something I might like to do in the future. I like the opportunities that professional organisations offer for face-to-face networking, although I haven't been to many events. Sure, it can be nervewracking talking to strangers, but it's different from online networking and I think both are important. I think I also just like feeling part of a national organisation of like-minded people and feeling represented somehow - maybe not the most practical reason for being a member, but there you go.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Thing 6: online networks

Getting slightly behind with the things, and they're speeding up! Does doing my dissertation count as a valid excuse? I'm spending quite a bit of time on it at the moment as I'm very aware that the remaining five and a half weeks until it's due won't hang around.

But back to online networks. LinkedIn comes up a lot in Google searches for people which suggests it's pretty highly regarded. Having looked a bit closer, it also looks quite scary, in that it seems very formal and businessy and makes personal information available. As with all of these things, I'm wary of wading in without fully understanding what they're for and how they work, so I'm going to do a bit more investigation before I sign up - I'd rather not have anything on there rather than something half-finished or neglected. I think it could be a valuable thing to have at some point, particularly if I want to change jobs at some point in the future.

I'm not averse to the idea of using Facebook for professional networking, but on the whole I really see it as a social thing where I connect with friends about silly day-to-day stuff or for organising social gatherings. I'm a fan of things like Voices for the Library and it's a good way of getting updates, but I think there are probably better homes for professional networking, for me. LISNPN feels really friendly and more suited. I signed up when it started and have found the resources and forums useful. I appreciate a good old-fashioned forum where a conversation really develops. Liking the new design too. No doubt there's more I could get out of it (and put into it) though. I joined the LAT network around the same time I think, but need to go back and revisit that one, likewise CILIP communities (although I do subscribe to the whole blog landscape which is a great way of finding new blogs).

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Thing 5: reflective practice

Image courtesy of Bahman Farzad 
Reflection is one of the main reasons why I hope blogging will be useful to me. I first came across reflective practice as a concept when I started my current job as it comes up a lot in what the students do as part of their courses, particularly in subjects like teaching and health. I was struck by how much importance was placed on it, but really it makes total sense because without some evaluation it's easy to career from one thing to the next without ever reflecting on what we've learned and how that can improve what we do next. Blogging is one way of formalising that process a little and making you consider what you've done. I like the Borton model in wigglesweet's post as it's nice and circular - what? so what? now what?

I think objectivity might prove to be one of the hardest aspects of reflective practice because when you're thinking about your own experiences it can be hard to look at them objectively (although hopefully easier for professional issues than personal ones - I kept diaries as a teenager and there was very little objective reflection in those!). Talking to other people might be useful too. I find myself thinking about what I've done a lot, but putting it into action is obviously key. Looking forward to attempting to apply all of this to the rest of the things!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Thing 4: current awareness

RSS feeds

I've been using RSS feeds for a couple of years now I think. I came across Bloglines first shortly after I started reading a few blogs, so I used that until it was due to be closed. I believe it's still running after being bought, but in the meantime I switched to Google Reader, preferred it and stuck with it. Now, like many others, I couldn't live without it. It's great for current awareness and keeping up to date with what's going on in library world. (I mainly use it for library and information stuff, fearing complete information overload if I branched out into other areas. Ok, except for Lolcats which makes me smile, and was recommended by Phil Bradley at a workshop I went to, so counts as library related.)

Also like many others, I've learned to feel ok if I don't read everything that comes through. As Woodsiegirl commented in her post, it can feel obligatory to read everything to start with. I've found it's very much about scanning for what looks relevant and interesting to me, and leaving the rest. If it's really important, it will come up again through other discussions, even if I missed it first time. There just isn't enough time to read it all, unless you have a Hermione Granger-style time turner, or maybe a TARDIS (although that's generally less reliable). I try and keep it manageable so that it's a useful tool rather than a stress-inducing one.

Image courtesy of verbeeldingskr8


Ah, Twitter. Librarians love it. I am not yet on it. I say yet, because I think the day will come when I do join, but I'm not sure that today is that day. CPD23 is all about trying new things in a supportive network, and I am pretty convinced by the arguments for its worth in terms of being part of a network. I even try and explain to people how it's being used other than for celebrities and 'what I ate for breakfast', despite not having joined myself, which is rather hypocritical. Like Google Reader, I'm sure it will take time to get used to it and use it effectively, and I want to be able to devote enough time to it from the off. I may well change my mind as this programme progresses, but for now I'm going to stick with blogging and RSS feeds for current awareness.


I haven't come across Pushnote before. Before trying it out I read some lukewarm views of other cpd23ers, which hasn't made me very keen to use it. I'll try and give it a go soon though. We use IE at work so I wouldn't be able to use it there, but I do use Firefox at home. Who knows, I might love it.

Of pick and mix and cocktails

This week at work was mostly made up of staff development activities. The college organises several days of sessions a couple of times a year, run by college staff and external organisations. Although the library runs similar kinds of sessions throughout the year too it's a few days dedicated to staff development when academic staff in particular should hopefully have some free time and be in the mood for some professional development, so it's a good opportunity to show them new developments, or just go over the old stuff.

This year we called it 'Library Pick and Mix', and I think it worked really well. Instead of offering a few separate sessions over the period we did one 90 minute session, but the participants were offered a choice of what they wanted to cover. The first half hour was a general information session about the library in the form of a presentation which everyone attended, and included our homegrown 'higher/lower' quiz which some of the librarians use with students. (A statement involving a number goes up on the screen, such as 'the library offers access to 10,000 electronic journals', and participants hold up a 'higher' card or a 'lower' card depending on what they think the real figure is. Whoever gets the right answer first gets some exciting library stash (like a pencil or some post-it notes, woo!), and we give them a bit of detail about that topic. I think it's a fun way to cover fairly prosaic information and people usually seem to appreciate it.) It also involved real pick and mix - food usually goes down pretty well.

Then the participants could choose from about 12 options for the next two 30 minute slots (we asked them in advance for their choices so we could plan the sessions), such as subject resources, e-books, Harvard referencing, or a tour. I had two members of staff for an Engineering resources session, which I was really pleased by as it's the centre I find hardest to engage with in terms of providing appropriate resources. Having just two people meant I could focus the session on their particular interests. We only had six people for the whole session which may not seem like much, but we were pleased with the turn out. I'd happily do it for one person if it means they find out something useful they didn't know before. I haven't seen the evaluation forms yet, but they all seemed positive about the whole thing, so I'm feeling good about it.

There wasn't a departmental day this time, when we usually do something as a library team like develop a project, but I did attend one of the fun sessions, Introduction to Cocktails in our superb catering department. I may not be able to claim it as professional development, but it was definitely yummy!

Mojitos - the best kind of cpd

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Thing 3: consider your personal brand

I don't really have much of an online presence yet, but I did consider some of the things in Jo's post before I unleashed this blog. Like Jo it took me a long time to decide on a name for the blog because I wanted it to reflect something of myself professionally and be memorable. I have a nickname which I've used for a long time for my personal email and on forums and things like that, but I've gone for my real name here as I think it sounds better and I'd like people to know it's me straight off. I also went with a real photo of me, and yes, it was taken specially because I didn't have a decent recent photo of just me. In terms of consistency there's not much to be consistent with so far (the rest of the things will add to that), but I'm conscious of starting as I mean to go on. The whole personal/professional thing is interesting too. I haven't written much yet, but I'm hoping something of my personal identity will come across in writing about professional stuff. When I look at other people's blogs it's definitely a good thing when their personality is evident as it makes it much more interesting to read, and I think it's ok to mix a bit of personal with professional.

My name is pretty common, and searching for just my name on Google doesn't bring up anything at all about me. There's a British athlete called Gemma Bennett so she comes up quite a bit, along with other LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. Adding in 'library' does make me the first three results, in a different browser, which I was surprised by. The first is a page from our old library web pages which we don't use anymore, listing me as the adviser for Engineering. This is a bit annoying as I wouldn't actually want people to find this page as it's old information now. We use Sharepoint now within the college, so the homepage of our old website now just has general information and points college members towards the Portal. Obviously the old pages are still accessible through search engines though. I'll have to mention this at work and see what others think.

The second result is a presentation I made on the Prezi site to teach students about Harvard Referencing, and the third is the profile page for this blog, which is great. Not much so far, but things I'm happy for people to find. My Facebook profile doesn't appear in the first few pages of results. I'm not a heavy user of Facebook anyway, but I've definitely been aware of what I put on there and whether I'd be happy for others to see it (although my privacy settings are fairly locked down). The idea that nothing you put online ever truly disappears is a little scary, and one I'm not sure a lot of our students consider.

I'll be keeping an eye on this as the programme goes on and it will be interesting to see how searches change. That makes me sound vain, but I do think that online brand, or identity, is important and I want to know what's going on! 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Thing 2: investigate some other blogs, or stop lurking and say something

So many new (and not so new) blogs to check out! The delicious list was a great way to easily find some people in my own sector. Whilst it's great to get views from people in all kinds of areas, it's also nice to see some other FE people out there and hopefully some good ideas will be shared.

It was also good to see other people with similar feelings about blogging. It seems lots of people have thought about it but never done it, and like me are a bit worried about what they can add to everything already going on in the blogosphere. I said 'hi' to a few people and left some comments, and got a few back which was lovely. Library people are great! I'm really looking forward to what everyone's got to say about the rest of the things, and other stuff too. The problem may be keeping up with everything now!

A picture to finish - I think we should send it out to students at this time of year, but I doubt the bosses would agree.

Image courtesy of

Monday, 20 June 2011

cpd23 thing 1: blogs and blogging

I've started this blog to take part in the cpd23 programme. I've heard about various 23 things programmes before but never taken part in one, and this one feels like it's come along at the perfect time. I'm starting to think about professional development more now than I'm coming to end of my MA which I've been doing part-time, so it feels like taking part in this programme will help launch me into life post-studying (if such a thing truly exists - it doesn't feel like it at the moment!).

This first thing, blogging, is the one I was most nervous about when I looked at the list. I've been reading lots of brilliant blogs for a while now and have found so much useful and inspiring stuff in them, but haven't had the confidence to start my own and join in (rubbish, I know). I'd like to get more involved, so this programme should be great for encouraging me to get stuck in and try new things. Doing it alongside lots of other people will be the support I need I think. I'd like to start the chartership process next year as well and I think the more practice I can get at reflecting on my progress the better, so looking forward to things 5 and 10 too.

Crack on!