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…

 

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…

Teachmeet Triumph!

UPDATE: 26.6.18 – Part of this post went towards a blog post for our staff blog, to promote the Teachmeet to our wider audience within the SHU academic and professional team.

So, it has come to pass again. I have been remiss in keeping up on my blog, through no real fault of my own though…Life, as usual, has a habit of getting in the way and it’s got in the way quite a lot recently.

There have been a few camping trips (memorably at Easter when we nearly got snowed in at Kielder!) and some weekends away…and a broken hand. This was due to a complete lack of attention when exiting a route, a lack of anything resembling balance and co-ordination, a small red bug and only one hand on the bars…this happened to be the right hand, which promptly decided – without any apparent consultation with my higher faculties (which I give leave to doubt I have, after this debarcle!) – to pull the front brake. This precipitated flight over the handlebars, landing on the path and cartwheeling into a puddle. The visit to Wrexham A&E involved a nurse suggesting knitting might be a more salubrious pastime for someone of my obviously debilitating co-ordination skills, a large bandage and six weeks off my bike…let that be a lesson to you all. Dont let your right hand do your thinking for you!

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(Photo of muddy me, pre-breaking of hand. New helmet was required also. The bike is unscathed. Copyright K Dolman, 2018)

But I am now back at work and back at the Chartership. So having had a few things to pick up on, I decided that one of the things I would like to reflect on was being part of the organising team for our first Teachmeet at SHU.

None of the planning team has ever organised such an event. If you aren’t familiar with the Teachmeet ethos it’s a platform to share ideas and experience, in an informal way, with a few presenters and much audience participation – the idea is about sharing. I have attended quite a few in the last few years and invariably find them fonts of information. Also, I do struggle with formal networking and the Teachmeet ethos is helpful with this as it’s really very informal and so feels a bit more relaxed.

We have been planning the event since just after Xmas. Initially we had to decide on a theme and decided we would look at supporting students who study at a distance. This doesn’t just mean traditional distance learning: it can be commuter students (as I was), placement students, students on practice based learning courses and students who may not fit these models but, for whatever reason, struggle to access their course in the traditional, campus-based way.

My job on the team was admin: I am the only full-time member of the team and so my contact details were given out when we sent out the invites. I was also responsible for feeding information to presenters and delegates and collating all of their info back to the team. This was really quite easy to manage, since we used Eventbrite to manage the bookings (really good: if you are organising anything that you need to book people on to, I recommend using it. It will even allow you to print badges of your delegates, which I didn’t find out about until it was too late!). Now we are post-event, my job is to make sure that the resources are spread more widely. We’ve put all of the information and resources into a Libguide which I’ve shared to LIS networks in the wider profession.

One of the first things we discussed was who we would like to present at the Teachmeet. We didn’t just want it to be Librarians and Academic Skills advisors; we wanted to widen it out to staff and students and their experiences too. We didn’t manage to get any students but we did get one member of staff willing to share her methods of supporting distance learning. She happens to be one of my Radiotherapists and so I was tasked with organising her slot. When we met to discuss it, she kindly volunteered to do it remotely, from home, using the software she uses to video-conference with her students. This is a product called Zoom and it is remarkably easy to use! We had a couple of trial runs and then in the morning we did a test to ensure it was all working. As well as working with Sue on this, I had to make sure that the room we were in was suitable and had all the technology we needed. This was easily achieved by contacting IT and a helpful gentleman sorted out what I needed and showed me how to use it.

The presentation went really well and everyone was impressed with both the technology and how our staff use it. I’ve had lots of requests for more information about it from the delegates and Sue got lots of questions. I was very happy about this as she had kindly volunteered up her time during her busy marking period to do this for us. So I really wanted it to be valuable time for her too. The upshot of this is that I am now being asked to deliver info-lit sessions on her DL courses, as she had a conversation with her team about the fact that I was happy to become involved! So, from September, I will be a part of the DL courses in Radiotherapy and Oncology.

As part of the day I was also responsible for helping with twitter, and we asked one of our skills team, Kirsty, to tweet on the day for us. As we only have one twitter account, and normally our Management Services manage it, I hit upon the idea of asking them if we could take over for the day. I really didn’t expect them to be so happy for us to do it! So Kirsty and I organised this and we had a really good twitter response. I created the hashtag (#SHUTeachmeet) and emailed the networks the day before to try to get the conversation more widely exposed. We did get a few people involved but not many. I’m also trying to keep the conversation going by tweeting a few things to the hashtag (this post will be one of them!).

The upshot of hijacking the twitter feed has been that our Management Services asked for volunteers to form a ‘social media group’ which met for the first time in early June. I have volunteered to represent our team as this is something I used to do at MMU and also I have a great interest in social media. It may all change after the next restructure, but we are making a start at reappraising our game plan: looking at examples of good practice and trying not to be too dry in what we do.

Back to the Teachmeet though: the day was a complete success! We all really enjoyed it and the conversations were really good. Lots of good practice was shared: one of the great things was a structured table discussion after lunch where the planning team took a table each and directed discussions about how we support our learners and what approaches we take. These ranged from very simple resources-in-module-sites type approaches, to more extreme online methods of support, such as video conferencing. These have been collated and added to the Teachmeet Libguide in the sharing platter.

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(Photo of table discussion – me attempting to hide behind the water bottle, not successfully! Lots of good discussion going on.)

All in all, a great day. We had a fantastic experience both organising and executing it and we already have plans to run another one. We have a debrief session coming up, where, hopefully we will be beginning to think about where to go next. For me, this was a chance to utilise some dormant skills (organisation of resources, staff and management skills) and to help to facilitate sharing information on a subject that, with the fees conversation still ongoing and looking to stay that way, will no doubt become more of the norm for participating in HE. Watch this space…

 

Nice to know I’m doing something right…

This week has seen a roll of drop ins and workshops that I have been running for the students and staff. For the students I am engaged in dissertation support and I received some feedback from their module lead on Friday: “Dear Karen
Just thought you’d like to know that several students commented in tutorial sessions yesterday how helpful they’d found your sessions.
Best wishes”
[Module Lead]

It’s always good to know that the students find the sessions helpful and interesting! It’s balm for my soul as sometimes I wonder how I ended up doing this. I often question whether I am best placed to answer these questions so when someone finds something I have said or suggested useful, I feel a small sense of justification!

Another piece of feedback was from a member of staff after I had done a piece of work for her: “Hi Karen
That’s brilliant, thank you for taking the time to do this, it’s much appreciated
Best”
[Academic Staff Member]

So again I feel very happy that someone is finding what I do useful and that I have helped, in however small a way. This also shows my commitment to engaging with the academic staff and that I am always happy to help! Institutional context is important for Chartership and this piece of evidence, along with others in a similar vein, highlights that I don’t just sit at my desk, ordering books and stamping them. It shows just how valuable we are in our faculties and that we are appreciated and our job is important. It’s not always the case, but I am lucky in the area that I work in, that I’m not just seen as an add-on. I’m a valued member of the University and someone that the staff and students feel comfortable and happy to approach! There will probably be more on this subject; watch this space…

Reflections of a conference-goer part deux!

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(Little me, in the middle of the photo, standing next to David in his blue shirt!)

The other thing that happened recently is that I presented, with my line manager Alison, at the Northern Collaboration event on using TEL in our work (conference abstract: parallel session 3). There’s a few tweets about our presentation which can be found here and here: and the picture above, with little me in it, is kindly taken from the NC twitter feed.

Our presentation was on the use of Articulate Storyline to develop an online teaching tool for referencing. Our presentation was good, and we had quite a few attendees and questions too! (All a bit daunting, but we got there!). In the course of the previous presentation though, we found that some Universities have done with Articulate as they don’t find it useful. I must admit, learning to use it was a little arduous, but once you master the basics, it really is quite intuitive. And I am certainly not going down the road of one librarian and learning how to programme to do this sort of thing! 😦

The day was really good though: as well as presenting, there were many opportunities for collaboration and knowledge-exchange, as well as catching up with old friends and making new ones. I also bumped into the Mentor Co-ordinator for the NW and spoke with her about becoming a mentor once I am fully chartered myself. This stems from a desire to do some staff development which I always enjoyed as part of my management role. As I don’t line manage anyone any more, this seems like a good way of keeping my skills up to date, without the nasty PDR and sickness monitoring etc that comes with being a manager…I suppose it’s a bit like being a Grannie – you get to do the nice things and give them back when they do something icky…

The other upshot of the day is that I am now going on a knowledge exchange to MMU (you cant keep me away! :)) about reading for pleasure outside the academic texts. This has come from attending one workshop with a staff member from MMU who talked about their project working with Manchester Public Libraries to promote their collection and to get students to read for pleasure and mental wellbeing. Well, this struck a chord right away, what with me leading our bookgroup this year and the work I have been doing with our student wellbeing service in providing access to their books via the library catalogue! So Gopal has kindly invited me for a jolly over on the 15th November to speak with likeminded colleagues about this. It also gives me a chance to catch up with the MMU lot! I’m really looking forward to talking about something that is very close to my heart – the therapeutic benefit of reading for pleasure on mental wellbeing. More will definitely be coming on this subject so watch this space…

Update: 29.11.17: I went along to the knowledge exchange with Gopal – I had two hours to talk about how they are promoting reading for pleasure and to talk about my reading group. My reflection on this is contained in the blog post ‘Reading for Pleasure: it’s not just about academic books!’.

Shut up and write!

So, for many reasons my Chartership has had to take a bit of a back seat – mainly because of the manic teaching workload, but also because I suffered from Fresher’s Flu which then turned into Bronchitis, meaning I ended up having a week off at the busiest time of year. That’s never happened before and I don’t intend it to happen again, so next summer I will be dosing myself with zinc and Echinacea! Along with a few personal issues, this has meant that I’ve had to devote more time to work than I anticipated.

My last meeting with my mentor was very productive though, and she suggested I allocate ‘shut up and write’ time in my diary – which I intend to do as soon as I have time! 🙂

I’m really very nearly there, though. I need to redo my PKSB, and finish my reflective statement, then put the portfolio together. I’ve actually got enough evidence to support my application, so don’t need to do anything other than the three steps outlined, but these seem to be the hardest bit for me to do! (Particularly the evaluative reflection…). I’m also struggling to decide what to use – I need some evidence of positive feedback and have a few good emails from students/staff; I also need a lot to show development over the past year and that is going to be harder to cherry-pick.

DNzC79VVoAACtEF On a happier note, I have a new mountain bike and this weekend we got muddy together for the first time…(as the picture above shows!). Don’t let the shoes fool you – I had to take off my wet, muddy, smelly riding shoes before I did anything else!

So taking some time out for leisure activities this weekend was very therapeutic, particularly in view that I will be going into hibernation very shortly and will emerge, sometime in March, white and wobbly, but hopefully a fully Chartered Librarian! Watch this space…