Finally…

 

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Serene sands at Shell Island. Photo Karen Dolman, 2019

This post is a bit retrospective as it’s a bit late. I actually pressed the submit button three weeks ago, but have been so busy with life, holidays and work that I havent had a chance to do this! (And not that I have been procrastinating, perish the thought!).

So. I. Did. It. I pressed the button. There was much faff that day, but it was worth the rechecking as, somewhere along the line, somehow, I had managed to lose my CV. Poof. Disappeared. Gone. Where??? I have no clue. But fortunately, rather than my usual laissez faire attitude, I decided to do one last, thorough, check…good job. THE crucial piece of evidence, MIA. Or missing, presumed fed, to quote my idol.

I managed eventually to find the latest version in an email to my mentor, fortunately, and re-uploaded it, much to my relief. Everything else was in order, so it was time…I paid the fee, which was accepted, and there was no more messing. “Just push the button”, said my colleague, who had put up with me mithering and dithering for most of the day. So, I did. And I have to admit, the feelings that washed over me where…unexpected. First there was accomplishment: I had done it! Finally! After all this time, effort and procrastination, I had submitted. Then, the fall. What will I do now? What’s next…? At this point, I felt like bursting into tears (blame my age…if you dont value your life…), which I hadnt expected at all. It was as if I had lost some vital part of my life, life-changing in fact…

So, I am now waiting to hear from CILIP as to whether my submission has been successful. I got the acceptance email the following day, which was a relief, so I know they have it. I just have to wait, but am filling my time with other stuff (such as holidays) to keep my mind off it (I’ve just seen an email pop up about buying books from a colleague: we’ve been given some money to spend on Books on Prescription and Mood Boosting Books so that is what we are spending today doing – or writing blog posts. Sorry…).

But I keep thinking that I have invested such a huge amount of effort and life into this process and now they are making me wait? It’s a killer, I tell you. Is it worth it, I think…?

Yes, it was all worth it, every last bit of it, is the answer. All the worry, doubt, screaming habdabs, the lot. It’s all going to be worth it for my career, my job satisfaction, my sense of personal accomplishment. And it was worth it for one absolutely crucial thing that needed to happen…

Yes, we were going to the pub! 🙂

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Nearly there…

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Photo credit: K Dolman 2019 UPDATE 27.6.19: what I got in to this morning at work…

So, after quite a long while, lots of wine and not a few re-writes of the evaluative statement, this week sees the Chartership journey come to a (potential) end. I am about to press the BUTTON! (Cue: drum roll, dry ice from the ground, glitter from the sky, et al. You get the picture…).

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, to be honest. On the one hand, I am feeling quite excited at the prospect, slightly nervous and hollow-bellied, but happy to be finally in a position where I have been able to send the promised email to my colleagues about a well-earned drink on Friday evening (pressing the submit button is just an aside to this 🙂 ).

On the other hand…I feel like a child who’s had her favourite toy taken away, or my 20 year old self receiving tickets to the panto, rather than to the Bon Jovi concert: as if my life has moved sideways somewhat and isnt following the designated course it is meant to follow…sounds ridiculous, right? (To set the record straight: I did enjoy the panto, but would’ve enjoyed Bon Jovi more, particularly as I was dressed for the latter, rather than the former 🙂 ).

But when I reflect on the journey that has brought me to this point (reflect, moi, kidding, right?), I realise that I have invested a huge amount of effort into this process; much more than probably anything I have ever done before, apart from being a Mum and maybe my Undergrad degree (which took me six years: procrastination at its best). When I think of all the training I’ve done, the conference attendances, the negotiating, the resources designed and delivered, that have all contributed to being able to submit this application, my mind boggles. And I haven’t included all of it, just the bits that were relevant. And this is without having to gather the evidence, organise and order it (which I should be good at!), write the evaluative statement amid the struggles I have with being reflective, blog posting (ok, not been exceptionally brilliant at keeping this dialogue going: my bad), networking and getting to grips with the portfolio platform (sorry, CILIP, it’s not the best…) that I have also had to do to get to this point! I don’t even want to imagine how many hours it has likely taken me. I should really have kept a spreadsheet but I think that the sheer numbers would’ve made me run to the hills (see what I did there? I’ll get my coat…).

That said, I need to make a shout out to a fair number of people who have supported me during this time, and that’s the reason for this blog post (and not to whinge about the amount of work I’ve had to do: I made my bed…). Cue Oscar acceptance speech…

First and foremost, my mentor, without whom I wouldn’t be at this point and who has put up with me and supported me through an incredibly hard part of my life. Submission has been dogged with family issues, illness, accidents, weather, holidays and just my complete incompetence at times (Me “I’ve done my re-evaluation of PKSB”. Mentor “I cant see the changes” – four hours of work not saved…). Throughout the process, my mentor has been steadfast in supporting me and I am incredibly grateful and humbled by the dedication I have been shown. I am keeping this anonymous, but you know who you are. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Also to my managers, past and present, who have also supported, encouraged, cajoled (and occasionally threatened 🙂 ) me into getting this far. Without you allowing me time, space and training budget, I definitely wouldn’t be here. Again, you know who you are and I thank you.

And not forgetting my long-suffering work colleagues, family and friends, who have all put up with my whining, prevaricating and repeated announcements that ‘this is the week!’ for the duration of this process. A combination of encouragement and ‘tough love’ has been available for me from various sources during this journey and again, part of this is down to you lot. Deal with it. 🙂

Lastly, to my lovely partner who has shared this with me, much in the way that I shared his PhD write-up all those years ago (although he hasn’t checked my referencing). I told you it would be pay-back time, at some point, Just think of the money…

So. Nearly there. I’m signing off (as they do in those weird sci-fi films where the aliens/fungus/suspicious buggers in long coats have eaten the rest of the crew/humanity/the planet) with some words of wisdom. Watch this space…

 

Long time, no post…again!

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(Collegiate Library Wellbeing Walk – April 2019. Photo courtesy of Lisa Glossop 2019).

Well, this is just a quick updating post on the subject of Chartership. Yes, it’s still going, no, I havent pressed the button yet. 😦 Lots of things have been not exactly getting in the way, but stifling progress somewhat, including several holidays all together and a job interview (which I didnt get, but am happy with my performance).

The above photo is not one of the reasons for lack of progress, but it is meant to illustrate that, no matter how much we strive, we still need time to play. Our recent Collegiate Library Wellbeing Walk (which we try to do on at least a monthly basis) took us past a children’s playground (not inhabited at time of wandering) and we couldnt resist having a little play, particularly, as you see, on the ropes. Well, and why not? My climbing experience stood me in good stead in this activity, although it does actually look like I am a lot further off the floor than I actually was (me, shorty!).

Anyway, we had great fun and are planning to relive the experience in the next few weeks – just got to find somewhere to have a walk to (possibly an allotment!). So that’s progress.

Back to the Chartership. I keep getting asked when I am pushing the button, for, I suspect, the sole reason of a visit to the local watering establishment. My plan is to finish off the little nitty bitty jobs that need doing this week (ie tomorrow) and then get one last look from my mentor, fill in the mentor completion form and then press the button next week! Given that I have an almost-full diary, this could be somewhat tricky…but I shall make a Herculean effort to ensure I do it!

I’ve also got a visit to that Brum to look forward to next week, oh joy…but for a nice reason. A teachmeet at Aston Uni on Wellbeing activities in Libraries. So that’ll be nice and I might get some inspirations for our own Teachmeets too.

So, there’s the plan. Make sure I stick to it and this time next week…watch this space…

The Intelligent Library – some thoughts and reflections on AI and the future Library

 

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(Image of Radcliffe Camera, on a wall in Oxford. Copyright Karen Dolman, 2018).

Recently, at home, we signed up for the Hive system for our heating. As part of the deal, we now have an ‘Alexa’ device, which has been a bit of an eye-opener for us both. My partner is very techy, but not very digital, and I’ve had to have a few ‘Librarian’ moments with him in terms of using it correctly (for example, he asked her to ‘play Peatbog Faeries’ and she didn’t understand. I asked her to ‘play music by the Peatbog Faeries’ and she understood, rewarding us with some very good tracks!).

So, this little issue made me think about how this technology will impact on how we teach students and also how it will impact on how they access information – we already have issues when trying to explain how to use key terms and words; how much more difficult will this be when we have to try to explain how to get the best from an AI system? As Librarians, we are used to the language of key terms, concepts, controlled vocabulary and, in Health and Medicine, MeSH Headings. However, this is something that not everyone will understand or develop and this leads me to wonder how we can develop these skills to make sure our students, and the populace at large, are accessing correct, relevant and appropriate information?

I saw a conference advertised a while ago, at which one of the presentations was ‘Skills for the future academic library‘. I couldn’t attend due to staffing demands, but my manager went and said this was a very interesting presentation. I immediately followed up with this and realised that, apart from being a future consideration, AI in libraries is already here. The presentation highlights that such systems as ‘Deakin Genie’, ‘Revision Assistant (Turnitin)’ and chatbots are already in use and becoming accepted as a way of communicating and disseminating information.

At Hallam, we don’t have any automated systems as yet, but we have recently introduced a new portal, MyHallam, which has a knowledge-base for students to search. The idea is that they should be able to find answers to their queries within this system, only coming to seek help should they not find an answer within the system. The knowledge-base will grow with enquiries that come in, and, eventually, students should find answers to all of their questions, as well as interacting with us via this portal. It’s not really AI, but I envision that we wont be long in subscribing to one of the above-mentioned systems. We already have access to an online 24 hour academic feedback service, so we are definitely moving in that direction.

Returning to the research issue: one comment is particularly telling in the presentation. A researcher points out that AI may make journal publications obsolete as a way of communicating research as, rather than subscribing to many different journals, researchers could just subscribe to a filtering service which will tailor their research strategies to personal need and the algorithms will do all the work for them. Hmmm, interesting.

For me, this begs the question: how do you know you are getting the best results? I may be being naïve here, but the elephant has to be grasped by the trunk. When I construct a research strategy and apply it to the database, I can be flexible enough to have the opportunity to do the initial scanning of articles myself, in order to eliminate any that may not be peer-reviewed or of appropriate provenance etc…I am not sure, given the rigid nature of algorithms, that a filtering service would allow this flexibility and also that it would give me the best results every time, with this in mind. A conversation with a colleague about this also raised the issue that algorithms are constructed by people and therefore could reflect the biases and opinions of those people – ie white, middle-class and male. This is another issue that I think affects the validity of such systems and which is exactly why they are unreliable in my view. People make mistakes.

Look at Facebook: it works on algorithms, the same as any other system, but at certain points it seems to get stuck in a loop – I regularly have to go in and change my settings to make it do what I want. And I only see consistently the results that I interact with, which generates more of the same results, which I interact with, and so on. Applying this to a research methodology – how can I be sure that this isn’t also happening with a filtering service? Given that, when conducting research, the idea (especially in my areas) is that we need to find as much of the body of literature that is available as possible, then select the most appropriate using screening methods and evaluation tools. How can a filtering system manage that, given these algorithmic limitations? Indeed, one of the issues raised about the use of AI in the presentation is that of accuracy and validity.

However, I also realise that a lot of these systems are ‘learning’ systems (heuristics, for example), but I still beg leave to doubt, as there are questions about whether these still will give the best results. The possibilities inherent in these systems are infinite, but I think, for me, there needs to be more evidence of their effectiveness before I subscribe wholeheartedly. We need to make sure our students (and staff!) understand the value of good research techniques, as well as the systems out there designed to help them find the appropriate resources and how to use them effectively, and their place in the research process. As a Librarian, I am all about saving the time of the user, but there is a definite ‘cutting corners’ feel to these systems that I am rather wary of. Watch this space…

Back to the original subject however, Alexa has proved to be a hit in our home, although we still can’t make her talk to the heating system…I’ll leave that to the technician in the family.

References:

Cox A, Pinfield, S & Rutter, S. (2018). Skills for the intelligent library. CILIP Briefing: Skills for the future academic library. London: CILIP

A nice thing happened on the way to Chartership…

So the Chartership process is almost coming to a close, after all this time; I have spent the past few weeks updating my evidence, working on my evaluative statement and slowly but surely compiling my portfolio. I have written several entries for my journal reflections and managed to finalise my CPD log also. One thing I havent managed to do is keep my blog up to date. Which I intend to rectify now.

However, rather than starting where I left off, I thought I would jump in where I am now and work backwards to September…because that’s logical, right?

Yes. So, a lovely thing happened to me yesterday. Last year we had a graduate intern (X) in our team who took a secondment from her post on the library helpdesk team to gain skills and experience in working in our role. While she was with us, she was given lots of opportunities to do different things, one of which was to have input into the teaching we do. She already has a qualification and significant experience in teaching, but in a school environment, which is very different from what we do. For me, I was very happy to support her development in this and, after she had observed me in a couple of sessions (both as our intern and also previously when she had asked to shadow sessions as part of her appraisal), I was happy to let her take the helm herself. We agreed a couple of shorter first year classes that she would take, and also agreed that I would sit in, in case of need. But after the first one, I didnt think I needed to and so let her have free reign. It all went swimmingly.

Needless to say, at the end of the year we were all sad to see her leave us to return to her substantive post. But, as I said, yesterday something really lovely happened. She asked me if I would be willing to be her ‘buddy’ in our team, to help her to keep in touch and to not lose all of the experience and skills she had gained in her year with us. I can honestly say that I am deeply moved that she has chosen me for this (and fairly gobsmacked!). Having been in a management role for so long, but not for the last four years, I can say quite honestly that I do sometimes miss it. Being X’s buddy will give me the ideal opportunity to dip a toe back in the water in an informal manner. It will also give me an idea as to whether I really do want to become a CILIP mentor once I have my Chartership…Next steps are to have a meeting, where we will discuss what she needs from me and how we will manage the process, there being no formal policy in the University structure for this type of relationship (just to note: this has been agreed to by both of our line managers also).

I’m really looking forward to embarking on this journey with her. I have always enjoyed seeing people fulfil their potential and being able to contribute to the process is rewarding and satisfying in the extreme for me. We cultivated a very good working relationship whilst she was with us (and have continued to do so) and so I am very pleased that she is entrusting me with this opportunity to help her progress.

Now, working backwards from this week; a few key points…

  • The Chartership application has a little more work to be done (revise PKSB, couple of reflections in journal entries on CPD actvities, tidy up evaluative statement and have a critical friend read it – I have already sounded a Chartered colleague out for this who has kindly agreed – add extra evidence, etc) so I am hoping to submit in the next few weeks.
  • I’ve survived this years’ manic teaching schedule which has quietened down now, but will explode again after the Xmas break with the MSc programmes beginning.
  • We have had initial meetings to plan our reading project for next year, which is still in the initial phase (however, we didnt get any funding for it so we are on our own – more power to make it a success, if you ask me!!). I have been researching both the literature on reading and social isolation and other institutions’ promotions and also contributing my own experience of running the Feeling Fiction group (which is going to be incorporated now into the wider promoting reading agenda).
  • On the subject of Feeling Fiction – I have abandoned trying to get an organised meet and have moved the discussion onto our Facebook and Yammer pages. Each month I post a book and invite comments around the themes. Most of the discussion takes place on the Yammer site, though, which is only accessible by SHU staff…not ideal but at least there is a discussion occurring…
  • we have had an initial meeting to begin planning our next teachmeet for May 2019. This year’s theme will be ‘Promoting Reading’ which we can align with our own experiences of organising one, and also gain valuable insight into other institutions’ experiences of organising/promoting reading activities. Being part of both teams will be very useful.

The other thing that has recently happened is the creation of a library induction group, which I agreed to be a part of, to look at our current induction materials. We had an initial meeting last week, at which I suggested we could ask what students would have liked to know when they began University, about the library. This came about from my thinking that we think we know what students need to know but, in the face of a very rapidly changing and diverse student population, we may not be giving them what they really need. Sure, they need to know how to take a book out, but what else? Is the rest of what we tell them relevant? So rather than us directing the process, let’s give it over to the students! Ask them what they would’ve wanted to know…I’ve just come back from a staff/student committee meeting (captive audience!), where the suggestions came in thick and fast! Sometimes, it could be a case of be careful what you ‘ask’ for…one of the suggestions was a library tour, which I had to demur to. We dont have the staffing to support it and we cannot traipse large cohorts of 80+ students around the library in one go. However, I had a bit of a brainwave, which I will posit at the next meeting, about organising sign-up tours for students, in the way that we organise drop-in referencing sessions…we’ll see how that goes…

There’s been a lot of things happening up to the point I am at now, but it is going quieter over the next few weeks. Only three weeks until we break for Christmas and so the focus has turned toward the impending festivities. Unfortunately I cant make the team Christmas meal this year…but we are having a ‘Donut Day’ at Collegiate on the last Thursday before we break up (which I will participate in, but not eat the donuts – yuk!!) and we are possibly going for a drink after work, with our erstwhile intern too (we have another intern starting shortly, but we havent met her yet).

I also tried to gather some enthusiasm for #TShirtday (BBC 6 Music, wear your old band tshirt day) this year, but only a few colleagues participated. I wore my 30 year old Bon Jovi 1988 tour tshirt this year…and posted it on twitter (because Librarians rock)! But here it is in the flesh (and it’s still too big – I am quite tiny)…

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Very much looking forward to winding down now and having a drink with colleagues, then having a break from it all to recharge. And, of course, pressing the all important ‘submit’ button. On a sadder note, however, for us, we also found out this week that a colleague is leaving in March to take up a new post elsewhere. I wont say more here as doubtless there will be more in the weeks to come. Our loss is their gain, but we will all be very sad to see her go…watch this space…

 

Conference Reflections and summery fun…

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(Waiting for the keynote. Little me, top left right at the back, hand on my chin, on me tod. Larger image here. Image courtesy of HLG Conference)

This year, I have been privileged to attend not one, not even two, but THREE conferences, almost back to back. They have all been Health Library focused, and identified on last year’s PDR (Performance and Development Review – more on that in a later blog post). As this is going to be a long post, I’m going to concentrate on the first conference, which was the bi-annual Health Libraries Group conference, held this year in the lovely environs of Keele University. For the very first time in my professional career, this conferences was a stay-over, so I had the very great pleasure of honouring the Holiday Inn with my presence for one night only…and a very pleasurable stay it was.

I cant possibly go through every session in detail in this post: two full-on days of innovative practice and engaging, interactive discourse is very difficult to disseminate. So I will say that the main themes of the conference were demonstrating impact, raising awareness of libraries and librarians, their work, their problem-solving and their innovative ways of engaging service users and collecting feedback. To try to give a flavour and some reflection, I have picked out some photos from the conference (with me in them, mostly the back of my head!) and given a brief precis of the session. In no particular order…

  • HLG Conference saw the launch of the CILIP Health Hub
  • Keynote 1: Nick talked about the boundaries between study and work blurring and about the changing work and study environments: online, personalised, flipped. And about digital exclusion, the proliferation of social media, diversity and culture and about how librarians make the links between all of the above. We must change as a profession to keep abreast and ahead of these developments.
    • I am currently part of a team developing a project (to be approved) around reading for pleasure supporting wellbeing, diversity and belonging. We are looking at developing a ‘Big Read’ for Hallam. I have searched the literature to find evidence on how reading for pleasure supports these issues, to show that it has impact for our project manifesto. I got involved in this project via my work with Feeling Fiction book group, and something I have a long-standing interest in an interest in: reading for pleasure and mental health. My MA dissertation investigated the impact on literacy development by engaging in reading for pleasure – and by association, building self-confidence, promoting better education and raising aspirations, all of which help towards promoting belonging, mental wellbeing and understanding diversity.
  • Keynote 2: Dr Mark Taylor delivered a keynote on why clinicians need to use evidence-informed practice. There was a lot about communicating health decisions to patients and how this is done. Language, lenses, financial and political concerns. And fake news, misinformation and manipulated content and how we need to debunk this for the public. I thought this would go over my head but actually it made a lot of sense!
    • It’s important for me to know about how clinicians and health professionals do this, as my students learn a lot about communicating health decisions and so I can use this as further evidence of how important good quality research, and the skills needed to find it, are. I tend to also promote ‘Behind the Headlines‘ to students, as a good place to look for debunking those amazingly manipulated health headlines, such as the Telegraph reporting, ‘Middle aged drinking may reduce dementia risk, new study finds‘. Behind the Headlines debunk this in an easy to read and understandable way.
  • Playing the Communication Game! And the team behind the games. A fun-filled first session with board games aimed at transferring knowledge and skills through play. It was really difficult to do; like Pictionary but with words! My team won.
  • Listening to Jane Falconer report on quality of reporting of lit searches in systematic reviews – some very unnerving stats!
    • After doing the SCHARR training (more in another post) earlier this year, this was a good session to remind me to reinforce why reporting your search strategy is really important in health research! I now talk authoritatively (and enthusiastically!) to students about why reporting your research strategy is important to the methodology and transparency of their research, and also about meta-analysis and narrative synthesis. Before the training, I would have backed off from this, but now feel very confident in addressing these issues with students. I’ve also been previously asked to help with systematic reviews and have declined, but, as a result of the training, I would now feel confident in taking part.
  • Talking about barriers to research in Gillian’s session Dont use anecdotes, use research!’ Collaboration is what we do: barriers to research such as time, opportunity and value mean we learn from others, rather than looking for it ourselves. Librarians can help!
  • The very engaging Shirley Yearwood-Jackman speaking my language about developing evidence based practitioners! ‘Yes, you do know this, I told you in the last session!’.
    • We had a good chat after the session about how students say things like ‘I wish I’d known this in the first year’ when we see them in the first year and tell them! It’s so frustrating some times as I feel that I am either not communicating effectively, or I am just wasting my time. But I do feel very happy when it just clicks for some people and others do eventually get there.
  • Helen and I, on the left of the photo, listening to the findings of a report on the impact clinical librarians have on patient care. Helen is another friend and ex-colleague from Uni. She is a clinical librarian also, so it was good to have her views on what was being reported too. The upshot: librarians make a difference!

Full album of HLG Conference photos here Conference presentations here

This conference had a few surprises up its sleeve for me. I learned a lot of things of course, and I have taken a lot away from it. But I also met a very old friend and ex-colleague whom I haven’t seen for many years since we both worked at Walsall Mobile and Home Library ServiceDavid Laws! We managed a very quick catch up during the first session, but had a longer one a bit later on, on Facebook. The impact of this isnt just re-engaging with a friend (which was lovely in its own right): he is now Library Services Manager for the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and a member of the HLG Board, and so therefore ideally placed to be an information source and a critical friend for work – wider professional knowledge as defined in the Chartership criteria. I am currently about to contact him about the new funding structure and student access to NHS resources, something which we have struggled to get a definitive answer to.

As this conference is very expensive, we share the attendance alternately between the Health Librarians at Hallam, which now means that Simon gets to go to one, then me the next…Now, when Simon went in 2016, he got to go for a seaside jolly up to Scarborough, home also to his passion for cricket. I got to go to Stoke. Not that this is a really bad thing (the seaside would’ve been better, though!); it’s only that I am originally from quite close to Wolverhampton and – as the footballers amongst my readers will know – there is a long-standing ridicule of both environs on the part of the other. Basically, we dont like Stoke!…however, I wasnt tarred and feathered, and Keele really is a beautiful part of the world. Coupled with that, my parents only live 30 miles away, so I forewent the conference dinner in order to pay them a surprise visit on the eve of their Golden Wedding Anniversary. I was forgiven by my fellow conference attendees on this merit.

The conference wasnt all about Librarians though. There were lots of opportunities to give things a go and one of the sessions that interested me was the ‘Laughter for Healthcare’ session. This comprised of an exercise called Laughing Yoga’ (I am in the middle of the photo, next to the lady with the green and white striped jumper. And, yes, I really am that short). Laughing is apparently a great form of therapy and one we do not do enough of. I felt a bit silly in this session, but actually it was a great relaxer after a quite full-on morning. Typically, I havent really revisited this since, but once I have a bit of spare time it’s definitely something I will be looking into. Who knows, I may even suggest it for our next team away-day! 🙂

So I am enthused, motivated and all conferenced out, now! I am looking forward to disseminating this to my fellow Learning & Teaching Team members at some point in the future (probably the next away day, which this post will be useful for – reflecting back!). I’ll do another post on the other two conferences which, while by no means less interesting and exciting (there was a little escapade on the Tube…), were slightly shorter and therefore can be summarised more effectively.

But it hasnt all been work. This summer, as previously indicated, has been full of fun, frolics and other frivolity beginning with letters other than ‘F’. We’ve had heatwave madness, in the form of short trips out to the East coast – Filey (oops, F!), Cleethorpes and Skeggy (lots of Podling-paddling happening!); to the West – Aberystwyth (nope, in charge of Lemmy the Whippet and he was having none of this paddling malarkey, thank-you-never-so-much!); and a nostalgic return to some youthful haunts in the south Mids. There was also, last weekend, a return to the outdoor climbing scene for the first time in years, in a visit to Birchens Edge. My knees are covered in bruises from a fight up a chimney…

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(Image taken at Deal, Kent. Podling-paddling in the sea! Copyright K Dolman, 2018)

Death Cafe Reflections…

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(Image taken from Margate Sands, June 20th 2018 – day before the Solstice. Copyright K Dolman, 2018).

Every year, Sheffield Hallam University hosts an event as part of ‘Dying Matters Awareness Week‘. The Death Café event, held at the Heart of the Campus at Collegiate Campus, takes place in May and the Palliative Care Team encourages us to have a library stall at the event. I’ve been involved since 2015 when they approached us to have a stall, and I gained the honour owing to my working with the team as part of the Radiotherapy & Oncology (RONC) department.

Themes for the event have varied over the years, but a stand out one was on ‘Digital Legacy’, something I am very interested in as I spend a lot of time on social media (for development purposes, of course!). This one was interesting to explore as it came at a time when this subject was gaining media attention (Facebook introducing commemorative pages, David Bowie’s swansong Blackstar, etc). Owing to my interest in this topic and having a good knowledge of the environment and the issues concerned, I was able to make a few suggestions of my own, which were met with approval by the team.

I’m responsible for organising our physical presence at the event and normally get someone to help on the day. We do the usual; taking along the banner and pamphlets, plus the usual assorted library giveaway goodies, etc. I also take a couple of laptops to demo resources and to have our promo videos showing on a loop. And as well as organising the physical stall I also put together a list of resources for the event. This resource list is always linked into the promo website for the event and I use our reading list software to produce it.

The event has been open to the public and so providing resources as a University Library is a little challenging. Initial planning revealed that we had to make sure that the resources the staff suggested were either open access or freely available and ensuring the staff were aware of the policies around use of material and copyright. This entailed quite a bit of work for me – and also was a learning curve – as I am by no means an expert on these issues!

To the event itself: although it is always well attended, in the initial years we struggled to get people to come and talk to us. So we had to do some thinking about how we could improve this and hit upon the idea of cake, being the great Leveller that it is (no pun intended!). Therefore, at the initial planning meeting in January 2017, I asked if there were plans to have break-outs this time. Indeed there are, was the reply. Well, said I, if we were to have our stall in the break out area with, possibly, some cake, it might encourage people to speak to us. My wing-person was also engaged with the idea of cake (I am odd – I don’t like cake!). The planning team thought this was a good idea too. We’ll see, I thought…

And it worked! This year we had many more people come to speak with us and we got through all of our own cake and then some. We had students signing up to drop in sessions on topics such as referencing, etc, and promoted some new resources to both staff and students. And, best of all, I got to meet some of the students on our collaborative and work-based learning course whom I would never meet otherwise!

This year’s event is currently in the initial planning stages and I am very much aiming to repeat the success of last year. I may even include biscuits this time…watch this space…