A little bit of what you fancy…

Well, having got this Chartership off the ground for round 3, I’m not doing very well with keeping my blog updated, am I?!! 😦 So, here’s what I have been up to over the past two months, bar holidays, Christmas, Birthday and life!

I decided that one course of action – having inherited new subjects last year – would be to better understand the areas I support and get better links with the department and, fundamentally, the students. So, I saw that the OTs have a book group, hosted in the library, which I promptly invited myself along to (being a great reader!). The book group looks at both fiction and non-fiction, through a mental health lens (so either the content is MH related, or we look at books as therapy). I’ve read some very strange stuff, in consequence, which is what I want to talk about here.

Our current text for January is ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt and considers PTSD in relation to the main character, Theo, losing both his parents at a quite young age. He staggers about in society, moving from place to place and is almost like a piece of flotsam, at the mercy of the state, institutions (like school) and people; his best friend Boris, for example. Initially, I felt quite sorry for him, but as the book has progressed, I’ve just now got an apathy to see what exactly is going to happen. Is this a bad thing? He doesn’t wallow in self-pity, but he also doesn’t really help himself either. As well as the PTSD (or in consequence of it) he is a drug-addict, semi-alcoholic and clinically depressed. On one level the book is a commentary on the system and how it can not help, sometimes, but on the other it’s just a little bit depressing.

The previous book I didn’t even finish – Paulo Coehlo’s ‘The Pilgrimage’ – because the main character irritated me so much! How, I wonder, is it that we can engage so with some texts, while others leave us so unconnected? There’s a wealth of literature out there (I know, I have a lit degree!) about author assumption, but I think we engage because it is familiar, and if it isn’t then we don’t (hence my disillusionment with Theo – I want to shake him up!).

So, as well as having read some interesting/not so interesting books, I have also met more of the team and the students, which has really helped. And hearing their stories about how they use reading as therapy with their clients is really great. It also prompts me to make a case for libraries and the value they hold for the population as a whole – MH issues aren’t the sole province of the disadvantaged – however, there’s a section of society for whom literature isn’t immediately accessible and this is what libraries do…

More to come on this subject…watch this space…

long time, no post…

Well, after putting this on hold for the past year, I’ve decided it’s finally time to take up the reins again and get back on the Chartership wagon. I had my first meeting with my new mentor last night and it was very positive. I’m happy to say that I now feel incredibly motivated and have tentatively suggested that in one year’s time I will be able to submit. Let’s see if I can do it third time around!

In terms of what I have been doing, though, I haven’t exactly been idle. We had a massive restructure at work, which saw me take ownership of all of our Allied Health courses, as well as retaining my responsibility for the post-grad Specialist Practice Nurses and some of our CPD courses. So I now have new areas to get to know (ODP, Para, OT and Physio) – liaising with the staff, committing to teaching, getting to know the different styles of studying…

It’s all very challenging and has sometimes pushed me way out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned not to automatically say yes to everything (which is my nature – I’m a librarian!), but to consider requests carefully and respond with the best possible solution for all. One example was very trying –  L6 lead wanted me to do four, two-hour sessions for the students, who had already had our L6 content at L5. Lead eventually acquiesced when I suggested that the students wouldn’t find a repeat useful and that I would provide a drop-in session for those who really needed help. I wasn’t saying no, I just didn’t think that this was a good use of mine and the students’ time.

On a professional note, the other reason this went on hold for some time is that I was encouraged to get my Fellowship of the HEA. I already do have a teaching qualification but it is for FE. SHU has a strategy that all staff involved in teaching should have a requisite qualification for HE teaching. Ergo, I had to do it. So, I did the Associate Fellowship route, as I don’t do any formative or summative assessments in my teaching. While I was going down this road though, I spoke to the lead for the Post-Grad Radiotherapy course, who said that she would be happy for me to be involved in the assessment side of her course. So now the dust has settled, I think that will be something I will pursue with her for next year…one of the elements I am looking at developing with this is my involvement in teaching. So, this is a good excuse!

I’ve also done a bit of cycling – did the Way of the Roses last summer over 4 days…181 miles up some very steep hills! I also fractured my shoulder 6 weeks before attempting this epic, after cycling into the back of my partner and not getting out of my clips quick enough to avoid hitting the deck at 20mph! Ouch. Learning point – got rid of clips. I’m obviously far too accident-prone and clumsy to cope! 🙂 Loads of cycling over this summer, including a few days in Lincoln, which we cycled to from home (and got lost!) and loads of tours of the Peak District!

So, what next? Watch this space…

Reflections on my job (part 1)

I was recently linked into a blog post on this site: https://23librariansengland.wordpress.com/2015/02/ 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.

Epic Blog Fail and Reflections on Bioscience Teaching

So, another epic blog fail…I blame being too busy, wine, Xmas, wine, family commitments, wine…ok, so it’s mainly (probably) wine’s fault! (Who is it, where do I find it and what can I do to stop it?!).

Actually, I have had a busy few months, jetting around the country (ok, so it was National Rail, not BA) attending training and conferences on this that and t’other, just generally being a busy librarian-bee! Add to this the heavy teaching load at work, and then lots of committee meetings and this adds up to me not being able to keep on top of reflecting on my experiences…

So, here are just a few musings on teaching on a subject that I have never covered before and is very different to how I teach now and in my last job…

Teaching on Bioscience isnt covered by our IL framework, and so the teaching methods are different. Also, there is different content to be delivered, owing to the module make up.

So I have been teaching content I have never taught before, which is very new to me as a teacher but obviously concepts I have encountered in my own research. The two sessions I have taught so far have been quite different: a one-hour session on journal critique and a one hour lecture on how to turn a presentation into an essay. The IA responsible for the subject put the material together; it was just up to me to deliver it with the proviso that I made it work for my own style and pace.

The first session, a one-hour session on journal critique (delivered twice), is something the level 5’s have to do for part of their assignment (500 words critiquing a particular journal). It’s very different to the information seeking skills I normally teach as it focuses on one particular journal article. I gave out three different types of journal (article, systematic review and review). They all covered the same content but with different methodologies and results (looking for inconsistencies). The session went well – I prepared a little and, although I was nervous to begin with, soon got into my stride.

The class were good for the main part, although one group had to keep having their attention bought back to the tasks in hand. However, they did the work and the evaluation at the end was positive. I believe they met the learning objectives set out at the beginning of the session.

The second session, how to turn your presentation into an essay included investigating authoritative material, mostly focusing on finding and using journal articles. There were activities included in the lecture, which is very different to anything I have done/encountered before, either in my work or as a student! They worked really well though and it was very interesting to deliver something that was so far removed from our traditional teaching. I feel I managed to acquit myself well – large lecture theatre, approximately 90 attendees who all congregated at the back (thank goodness for mikes!), no behaviour issues and they were very engaged. It was amazing how they all went immediately quiet when I began speaking, as I am used to having to quiet a noisy class of nurses/AHP’s who tend to be more active learners!

It was good also to show how this learning was relevant to the previous piece of work by making the students reflect on the research process for that assignment.

I always struggle with delivering material that I haven’t put together myself, so the second session went better than the first (in the first teaching activity). I learned how to pace myself as I ran over in the first session by 15 minutes; fortunately the students didn’t have anything afterwards and the room wasn’t booked! Also, I was more familiar with the material and had an idea of where the pinch-points for the students would be. I could then focus on those parts of the session that they struggled with, rather than worry about time.

With hindsight I think I needed to allow more prep time than I did. That said, it was an interesting session to deliver as it deviated away from the traditional lab sessions we run, with no work on the PC, no searching databases etc. With such a specific focus it was possible to talk through the content and relating it to students’ course work is always really good. I tried to reinforce this as often as possible.

I have some more sessions to teach for Bioscience in the near future. I think I will definitely prep more with not being familiar with the subject area. Also, there are things that I can take into my own teaching potentially (critical appraisal checklist? pointing out that conclusion can be positive or negative) to give more meaning to my sessions. After all, we show the students how to find the material; shouldn’t we also start them on the path to knowing what to actually do with it?Also, I will investigate whether any of my modules have this critical appraisal element in them and offer to do some support for that if necessary.

I really like the idea of embedding the learning in something they have already experienced as this is something I learned while doing my PGCE. This will definitely form part of my feedback in our teaching sessions as I can bring this experience of teaching something different into our team.

Epic Blog Fail…

Well. Here’s a turn-up…it’s been MONTHS! Feeling very guilty about not posting anything, but that’s because life got very busy for a time. We had holidays and then straight into major teaching. Over 3 weeks, I’ve taught 56 hours and seen near enough 600 students, so very busy indeed. But hugely enjoyable.

I’m now thinking about my Chartership again, and this Friday I’m going to the portfolio building event in Liverpool (get to see the lovely new library too…). So, probably will have a bit more oomph after that!

In the meantime, I will leave this post with another epic fail…I haven’t been on my bike for over a month, so it isn’t just Chartership that’s suffered!

Watch this space…

Postscript: Just done my stats and in 55 hours I taught 726 students (plus about another 20-ish as we didn’t have a tally for that class) adding up to a whopping 1,023:30 hours of teaching per person…whew!!

New Job

This is a really quick post (where’ve we heard that one before?!) to share an update. I’ve started my new job and it’s really enjoyable. Still a little uncertain about some things but my manager and I had a review of the first two weeks on Friday and she is happy about how I have done so far. It’s a very different environment and the way the library interacts with the faculty is different too. But I’ve been assured that this institution is unique in this respect and not to try and benchmark it against what I have experienced before.


Learning activities this week include: introducing myself to my new faculties, getting to grips with my programmes and a different way of teaching, learning how to use sharepoint (not something I’ve ever come across before but similar to googledrive), remembering people’s names!


I’ve a fair way to go yet, but am looking forward to the challenge. Need to get going on the chartership again but, having lost three weeks of my life to the TdF, it’s hard to get going again! Watch this space…

PS to ‘Tour de France fever’

So, I made a decision yesterday morning, to go and see the Tour at the bottom of Holme Moss where it meets the Woodhead Pass. And I am so glad I did. It was an amazing day!

We got to our spot at about 11.20am (local time), having cycled up. We knew we couldn’t drive, as the roads were closed, so my partner cycled with his brothers and I parked the car on the Hayfield Road, where the lovely lady who runs the food stall in the layby moved her chairs so I could park. It was already full when I got there at 10.45am! But I got in and continued the cycle with them. 8 miles, it was, but it was almost all up, except for the first run down into Glossop (which I realised I would have to cycle back UP on the way back! :(). Oh well.

There were hundreds of cyclists out on the roads and when we got past the point of no more traffic allowed (just outside Glossop) we were all free to take up the whole road. It was great! I even overtook a few people on some of the steeper sections! When we got to Woodhead, we quickly found an elevated space in a field, from which even the short person (me!) would be able to see the road and, as we were sitting on the edge of a ten foot drop, ensured no big person could stand in front of me and obscure my view (this happens a lot at gigs. I have a management strategy for this eventuality). There to wait for 3 and a half hours…

The caravan came through first, which was great, the only downside being I didnt manage to catch any of the goodies as we were too far from the road. Then we heard the helicopters and the Beebs chopper came into view…then we could hear the roar from further up Holme Moss, which meant the riders were descending…exciting! The first rider (Blel Kadri) appeared, then the chasers a couple of seconds later. Holme Moss had certainly separated the men from the boys! They were strung out in groups. The Sky train came through all together, although we had heard Richie Porte had had an accident at the other side. He and a team mate came through a good few minutes after the rest of them, but when we watched the highlights we found out he’d not only caught them up before they got to Sheffield but he’d also come in with the main bunch, at 21st position, 2 seconds behind the winner, Nibali! What a rider! And he’s only little too!

Anyway. It was a lovely day (apart from the brief shower which descended on us as we were heading back) but the Met Office got it wrong again, telling us it would be rainy all afternoon. In actual fact, the sun shone all day! So, we’d prepared for the wet and cold, not thinking about suntan cream, with the result that my legs now look a little like boiled lobster…thanks Met Office. Dont think I’ll be paying much heed to you in future.

Well, that’s my little postscript! It’s an afternoon I’ll never forget and I got some photos to remember it by too!