In the Summertime, when the weather is fine…and other TEL adventures!

Margate in the sun

So, over the past few weeks I’ve had a bit of a hiatus as I’ve been away on holiday, as you can see from the photo above. It was so lovely to see one of the places I love best and have some incredibly happy memories from, come back to life after quite a long time in the doldrums. The regeneration of the SE coast seems to be going well and to see so many people enjoying the lovely weather and each others’ company brought back many happy memories of my childhood, youth and young womanhood that I was blown sideways a few times. Goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it…

However, it was back to work and the work still progresses as we are currently working on preparing teaching materials for the new Academic Year…particularly as we have changed our teaching offer to the faculty and are now working towards a more ‘flipped classroom’ model. I piloted this with two of my departments last year, with some success. Having the academics on board and reinforcing the need to do the prep work also helped!

My pilot involved turning our one hour introductory information skills lecture for the first year undergrads into two short videos that they needed to watch before coming to the sessions. On the whole, the students did this work and for this year I have suggested to my Radiotherapy lead that we include this in the induction sessions (waiting for a response, still). The technology I used to create the videos is called Camtasia, and I have to admit I struggled a little with it…however, that said, it does create very polished videos! Last year I merely sent the videos out as an mp4 link, but this year – after a bit of faff that included the dialogue going missing in transit –  we’ve uploaded it to youtube. So I am a youtube star! (Well, a little fame and all that…). You can view it in all its Brummie-sounding glory here:

So next week I am going to be using another TEL platform called Adobe Spark to create a couple of very quick videos for referencing and evaluating information. I’ve just come from a quick update with a colleague on how to use it and have to say that it is remarkably easier to use than Camtasia, and, as it isn’t a licensed product (yet…), I don’t have to use a special machine. I can simply find somewhere quiet to go and record it! 🙂

I’m really looking forward to doing these now, after putting it off and procrastinating because I thought I would have to fight with Camtasia again. Now that I have mastered the technology (I am as a god!), I just need some elocution lessons to sort the accent out. Watch this space…


Reflections on my job (part 1)

I was recently linked into a blog post on this site: through the Jisc email I subscribe to. The blogger, Virginia Power, was asking for volunteers to be featured on the site and, being a busy-body, I thought ‘why not’. (The other hook was that she mentioned the magic word ‘Chartership’!).

I had to submit a photo (yuk!), and answer a few questions, which gave me the opportunity to reflect on my career, choices, pathway and current position, which is really what I need. The structured approach to the questions allowed me to focus, where I usually find this difficult in the extreme!

So, here’re my answers. I’ll be linking to the blog post when Victoria does it, but wanted to also have a post here:
How did you first get into the information and library profession?
I began working in Libraries as a part-time Library Assistant with Wolverhampton MBC (as it was). I had been training in Accountancy and Finance with WMBC but fell pregnant I couldn’t go part-time in this job so I got a part-time job in the library service.(Can you imagine not being allowed to go part-time for childcare reasons now?!). It was going to be temporary until my son started full time school. That was 24 years ago!

After a few years I moved to Walsall MBC to take up the same post but on a higher scale. I stayed there for 13 years, moving around different areas of the library service, including Acquisitions, before I decided I really wanted to become a qualified librarian. This was quite ironic as I had told my manager in 1997, when he offered me the opportunity to do the BA day-release at Birmingham, that I didn’t want to be a librarian! Since then my career has been varied; working Local Studies and Heritage library roles, college and schools roles and finally moving into academic librarianship.

What qualifications did you take?
I got my Masters in Librarianship from the University of Sheffield in 2007. I uprooted my Black Country family to the wilds of the Peak District to get my qualification! Prior to this I took a career break and did a PGCE to enhance my career prospects. Even back then I could see that teaching was becoming a big part of my job.

I am currently pursuing my Chartership, as well as an FHEA qualification. I don’t believe in letting the grass grow!

What is your current job title?
I’m an IA, Information Adviser (Subject Librarian!) for the Health and Wellbeing Faculty at Sheffield Hallam University. I am responsible for Radiotherapy and Oncology and also for our Nursing courses, which I share with two other colleagues as the cohort is huge! It’s my dream job and I still can’t quite believe I got it!

What does your job involve?
I work with students and staff in the University, teaching information literacy showing users how to get the best from searching databases/library catalogue/etc, and providing resources. I do a lot of promotion work, liaison and PR for the library service, to staff and students as they are often unaware of the value we add to their studies. I don’t work on the frontline any more, but I do see both staff and students for class and individual sessions to either build on teaching I’ve done on their course, or to support them using some of our resources, such as our reading list technology.

I manage the physical and online collection for my area, making sure we have all and enough of the necessary resources to support the courses we provide. I make sure we have enough copies of texts for the amount of students we have and, where possible, I buy e-books, as we have a lot of distance and at-distance learners. So I do some acquisition work in buying in resources for the subject areas I cover (books and journal subs). I also support staff by advising when new resources and new copies of resources become available.

While we don’t work on frontline any more, we still have to provide back-up support for the helpdesk staff. This role is called ‘Duty Adviser’ and is basically ‘Ask A Librarian’! Any helpdesk enquiries that the helpdesk staff feel they should pass on will come to me. I will either deal with them if I can, or I will pass the enquirer on to the relevant person; ie if it is a specific subject enquiry I will log the query and this will then go to the IA for that subject. I will also check to see if there are any enquiries for me, such as students in my subject area requiring subject support.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day?
Ha! I don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘typical’ day in library and information work, although mine tends to involve quite a bit of tea-drinking!

Due to the nature of HE our work tends to be cyclical. Some times of the year (September and March) we are much busier than usual, due to the amount of teaching we have to do. At this time of the year (February) we are concentrating on purchasing and spending our budgets to enhance our collections and gearing up for the Mad March Teaching Chaos.

Currently then, my day involves answering a lot of emails, generally first thing in the morning. Then I will drink some tea and get to grips with the day. Today I have a teaching planning session with a colleague with whom I team-teach. Then I have two sessions with academic staff; one to do some teaching planning for her MSc students, then to help another colleague to put together a list of resources for a module which will then go into our reading list management system (RLO). I will help her do this too.

After lunch I will return to emails, check there is nothing I need to follow up, and then I am Duty Adviser for the rest of the afternoon. So I go into the ‘dungeon’ and wait for contact from the outside world…during this time I will check the queries system and allocate any outstanding enquiries! I may have to stay to deal with enquiries, as you would on a helpdesk, but if there aren’t any I will have some more tea and go home…

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional?
You have to be flexible in this job. The nature of library work is such that it is always seen as a soft target whenever budgets get cut, and if you are flexible, you make yourself indispensable by being prepared to try anything.

A certain ‘gung-ho’ attitude is also invaluable, in all areas of library work. I thought when I moved into academic librarianship I wouldn’t be asked to be everything to everybody, as is the case in public libraries, but I soon found out I was being naïve! One evening shift included a student coming to the helpdesk with a tin can stuck on his finger. He asked me for some scissors to cut it off, but I got security to come and sort him out, after which I commented to him that my five year old son had once done the same…so, be prepared to deal with anything and everything. It’s not just about books!

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management?
For new professionals I would say be prepared to do jobs you might not have envisioned doing when you decided to qualify. I had a really limited CV when I went to do my qualification so I decided to take on roles that were outside my experience and comfort zone. Working in the school and college library was certainly character-building! I took on short term roles as well, a strategy I know a number of friends have also adopted post-qualification. It worked for me, but you have to be prepared to have a certain amount of uncertainty, and gumption, to make it work.

Network! Get to know your colleagues and also other people working in libraries in your area. A good way of doing this is joining CILIP as you can participate in your local group. Also, get to as many training courses as you can; this is good for your CPD as well as networking opportunities. I wouldn’t have the job I now have if I hadn’t followed this advice!

Also, be prepared to be exhausted and frustrated some of the time, as you will sometimes find yourself in situations that you may find challenging!

BUT…it’s rewarding and gratifying work and I would never in a million years consider going back into Accountancy, even though it pays much better! I wouldn’t change my career decision for all the tea in China (or all the wine in Chile!)…

So, as I am constantly asked what I actually ‘do’, when I meet new people, here’s the answers! We’re going through a restructure soon, too, so my job will doubtless change again…watch this space.

CILIP Chartership Chat!

A while ago I went along to the lovely Edge Hill University, to attend a talk on Chartership and Registration. I was asked to do a presentation at this event, which I mentioned in a previous post, on my Chartership (#chartership) journey thus far. In the previous post, I suggested I would use this experience as a basis for reflection, as I have never been head-hunted to do anything like this before. While I believe I have good presentation skills, this was a chance to test them out on an unknown audience.

When I have given presentations at work to colleagues it’s always been very informal and relaxed and the topic has normally been one of my choosing. Either that or it’s been to groups of students and that’s very different when you are using the presentation medium to teach information literacy. In the CILIP presentation, I had to talk about a specific subject pre-defined…me! So, I went with the ‘try to be a bit formal and informal at the same time’ method. Not an easy ask…

My presentation slides are uploaded with this post. I went with a narrative style – a little theme running through the presentation – which provided the basis for a more discursive presentation. And this was a good choice as I found out when I got there the other speaker couldn’t make it and I would be leading the session pretty much on my own (but thanks to Lorna, who organises these things and was very stressed!).

Well. How did I cope? I think it went well; I got some very positive feedback and a lovely email from Lorna endorsing how I had managed the session and initiated some interesting discussions. I think the attendees found my presentation interesting: I told the funny story about my old boss and the conversation about not wanting to be a Librarian (in 1997 I didnt really know my calling!), which got a few chuckles. I felt very energised knowing I was leading on this and it’s given me a real confidence boost, both in my presentation skills and also in my ability to lead colleagues in such situations.

So, what now? (in the true spirit of reflection!). I fully intend to become more involved with CILIP – in the chat I had with a colleague last week, she suggested that the North West group were looking for members. This could be a good thing for me to become involved in, although life is a little topsy-turvy at the minute so I will wait until it settles to make any firm decisions. Watch this space…

NoWAL Chartership presentation

MOOC(ing) Around Again!

I’m doing a MOOC again, this time about Technology Enhanced Learning. I have to admit, we don’t do a lot of this at my institution; the focus is still on face-to-face or traditional lab learning. However, some colleagues have made inroads into webinar teaching, with varying results.
My impression of TEL is that it is very subjective to the area of study. For example, our A&D students (unless they are doing GD or some such course) probably won’t be using much in the way of technology as most of their stuff is still in printed form (I know this because, as manager of the serials collection they cause me some considerable headaches!). Whereas our tech students in Computing or Science, say, do engage more with the use of technology for learning.
So saying, I’m part of the Social Media Team and we are very aware that our students don’t use these platforms for studying. They will tweet if it’s too noisy in a study area, but generally if they have an information query they will come to the helpdesk to speak to someone. I’ve encountered very few information enquiries via twitter or FB, and these tend to be from overseas or distance students who are using these communication channels generally to be pointed in the direction of the relevant subject librarian.
One of the reflective questions this week is ‘[Am I] leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?’. The approaches to learning under discussion are ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’.
I’ve always been a strategic learner: maximum gain for minimum effort. So, I use knowledge already acquired and assimilate this into a strategy for expanding on this learning without too much effort! Ergo, this blog post! I know quite a bit about social media and learning and so I am reflecting on this bit of TEL; the use of social media as a learning tool (discussed a bit further down in the post The Joy of Facebook).
For the purposes of this MOOC, my approach is mostly strategic, with a bit of surface thrown in, as I havent got too much time to devote to it. Plus, I wont be graded on it, so I am not too worried about being top of the class, as that isn’t the point.
As to social media being a valid learning tool…well, again, I suppose this is completely subjective and moves into the area we will be exploring in more depth next week. Watch this space…

Reflective Practice Pt 1

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m working towards my Chartership and it’s now well underway! Allez! as we say in cycling!
I’ve just started to look at writing my reflective statement and, oh boy, this is going to be a toughie! My mentor has suggested that I look at portfolios on the VLE, but I havent quite got that far…I’m still in denial, I think!

However, as well as my blog, which is a great place to organise my thoughts (and espouse on topics that I am interested in/have a vague knowledge of/get right up my nose!) I’ve started keeping a reflective ‘diary’, in the form of some word documents in a folder. Not the best way of organising my material so I am going to do a bit of digging around to find out if there is a better way to do this! I work with a few folk who are really into Web 2.0 and, while I’m no Luddite myself (wouldn’t be doing this if I was!), they have their fingers more on the pulse than me…

This week has also seen me putting together my presentation for the CILIP Changes to Chartership event, at Edge Hill University, that I have been asked to speak at! First time I’ve been head-hunted for a particular event and I feel incredibly privileged and grateful to be doing it. I was suggested by one of our senior managers as a speaker as I initially looked at Chartering under the old regs and, for reasons unknown, never got off the ground with it. So, I’m going to speak a bit about me, why I’m doing it and the things I like/dislike about the Chartership process. My presentation is still a work in progress but, when I’ve done it, I will use it as an opportunity for reflection on how the event went. I’ll publish the presentation at that point, but it wont be surprising that there’s a little narrative running through it (guess, I dare you!).

So, reflective writing…at the minute, my writing is confined to specific instances, rather than a holistic reflection of my role/development etc…I’ve had a few ‘learning experiences’ recently and have been noting these down as instances to reflect on.

Recently I had one student, not from our Uni, being incredibly rude to me, even though I wasn’t in the wrong. When I offered to pass her on to a colleague who would tell her exactly the same thing I had, she hung up on me and didn’t call back. It’s the old library adage; users will ask many times of different staff members the same question in the hope that someone will tell them what they want to hear rather than the truth!

My learning I’ve taken from the above? I wont bother arguing the toss with someone in future who isn’t willing to listen, I will just offer to pass straight over to another colleague or to the duty manager to reinforce the message to the user!

So, off now to do some investigating into reflective organisation. I’m now going across the office to bug our resident Web 2.0 expert! Watch this space…

(What) to blog, or not to blog, that is the question…

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I am currently working towards Chartering and a part of the portfolio is a reflection of where you are at the beginning of the process and where you are at the end…now, I found out I’m not very good at this type of study while I was doing my teaching portfolio. I can write descriptively, but not particularly analytically. Part of the reason for this blog is to set down my thoughts on issues that affect/stimulate/annoy me, and to reflect on them – as I used to in my diary as a younger person (but without the wistful sentiments about a certain rock god, music and boys in general! )

So to help me with this, I’ve decided to start a reflective journal, as well as this blog. However, I immediately hit a stumbling block: what to transfer to my blog? If the idea is to be able to organise my thoughts for my blog, and to use that as a tool for reflection, what should I blog and what should I avoid?

The impetus for this musing was one of the issues I tackled in my reflective journal last week: a sensitive issue regarding a member of staff who I manage…so, having made the decision to stay away from such sensitive material, is this defeating the idea of my blog? Given that my posts go straight to my twitter and FB feeds, I think I must be very careful of what I transfer to my blog.

…and, as usual, this has sent me off on the tangent of how we teach information literacy to our students! We teach them how to construct effective search strategies, but it has only become apparent recently (after some high-profile cases in the media) that we need also to teach them how to use social media responsibly.

…and, also as usual, this task has fallen on the library profession (because we are innately responsible or because we are at the cutting edge in technology terms?). As mentioned before, we have problems getting our students engaged in social media for study, but we can turn it on its head and show them how to behave sensibly online. Recent research suggests that potential employers now look at our online presence before they even meet us and so giving a good impression very important.

BUT…this then leads to debate about freedom of speech, prejudice, etc. Should we really be so wary of stating our beliefs for fear of such reprisals? My initial answer is no, but I believe we can be honest about our values without compromising our online presence…something that’s just a bit alien to me is tact (on occasion!) but I know I can be true to myself and my values and opinions in a way that isn’t offensive and wont compromise my future career! Watch this space…

The Joy of Facebook…

This is going to be a really quick post, due to the fact that I am preparing for my interview on Thursday and so should be reading rather than playing on social media. But that’s just it. Social Media is as much a learning tool as anything else. If we look at it in the terms of a classroom it goes something like this: you post stuff (you are telling the digital world something you have knowledge of…albeit possibly only a little and maybe second hand); other people comment on it (classroom discussion of the topic in hand, maybe increasing your knowledge thereby); you reply (question and answer sessions); you ask for opinion (homework, possibly?); other people post stuff and you engage in the same process in reverse (you are the learner). If you follow the right people, subscribe to the right groups, get in on the right conversations you can learn a lot from something that doesn’t seem at all like a learning process!

I mention this because we have tried to engage our learners using social media, but it seems that they don’t use it for learning, perhaps for the very reason stated in the last sentence. But I strongly believe that we can work with this and, even if we only use it for very specific issues (such as finding that naughty journal that should be on the shelf but isn’t!) that’s still valid learning engagement.

Anyway, it’s turned into a not-so-short post, so here’s what I was actually doing on FB. I think you might like it! (Oh, and you can find me on FB by following the link at the side of this page).