Post-script to Miss Moore thought otherwise…

Re-reading my blog posts, in the spirit of research and reflection, I realised I made an unforgivable error in the post ‘Miss Moore thought Otherwise’. I mentioned that I got my first library ‘card’ aged 5, completely forgetting that, at this point, libraries still operated the browne card issue method! So, I didnt get a ‘card’, I got a little brown envelope where the issue cards from the books were kept, that had my name on the front of it and lived in a little drawer in the main library desk. No bar codes in 1975! They looked a little bit like this: browne issue system

I was totally obsessed with these little cards and the drawers they lived in. So it’s no wonder that I became a Librarian, really. But it’s got me thinking about how much more there is to the profession, even then. I saw the Librarian at our little branch library as almost Godlike in her ability to know exactly where a particular book was, and if they didn’t have it, she could get it for me! I thought it was by magic, but now I know it was simply the reservation and Inter-Library Loan systems that produced the eagerly awaited volume. She had the power to make or destroy my day/week.

I distinctly remember the first ILL I ever had: it was a copy of ‘The Blue Lagoon’ by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. I had recently watched the film, aged about 12ish, and was determined to read the book about two children cast ashore on a desert island with no adults to tell them what to do (every 12 year old’s dream, I think)! As it was an old book, which I didn’t know until I spoke to the Librarian about it, we didn’t have a copy in the local library, but never you fear, young Karen, she got it for me!

By today’s standard, the investigation she would have to do to find a copy would simply be to type it into Copac and send off for the text in question. In 1982, the process was much more arduous. It would’ve involved microfilm, I daresay. I don’t think I ever expressed my gratitude properly to her, or her very well-trained staff, so, belatedly, thank you to all Bilston Library staff from 1970 to the present day! I wouldn’t be where I am today without you…

Well, where does that leave me? I hope that, in my customer service dealings, I give as much to my customers as I received from the Bilston Library staff. The profession has changed beyond what Mrs Morgan would recognise now (and I know she retired about 1994). But the ethos remains the same: we facilitate access to knowledge and information, we do it with a smile on our face and we have a dedication to our profession that most occupations will never see…I thank my lucky stars I have been allowed into such a great institution and have such enthusiastic, wonderful colleagues and compatriots! Hats off to all Librarians everywhere! 🙂

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Miss Moore Thought Otherwise…

Doing a bit of research for a job application (yes, another one!) and playing on Facebook at the same time, I came across this little gem, posted by my friend and fellow librarian at University of Sheffield Libraries: http://www.amightygirl.com/miss-moore-thought-otherwise

This woman campaigned for, and won, the right for a dedicated children’s library in the library where she worked. Now, to us modern types, this might not seem like such a big deal…but…she graduated from Library School in 1896, probably making her in a minority presence at the time. Thinking back just a mere 40 years (cough, cough), I wasnt allowed my own library card until the age of 5 (and not because I was a naughty monkey either: it was standard practice at that time) and I distinctly remember getting my first library card and being so proud of it! Scan forward a number of years until I am aged about 12 and I had voraciously devoured most of the local children’s library titles. By this time I was hankering for challenges and managed (somehow, still dont know how I did it!) to inveigle our librarian (yes, we had a qualified branch librarian in those days!) into letting me have some of the adult books out (which she proceeded to censor when I took them to the counter!). Can you imagine this happening now?

Thinking about the literature that I was reading as a 12 year old: Nina Bawden, Alan Garner, some of the Tolkien stuff (mainly the Hobbit!), Rosemary Sutcliffe to name a few…modern contemporary stories would have been firmly in the ‘adult’ library (Rowling, Collins, Cooper, Clare). All deal with fairly ‘adult’ themes, or themes that I would have been sheltered from in my formative years (bullying, racism, elitism, etc…). Maybe I just have a slightly skewed sense of what was normal at the time, but we were very firmly instructed that the children’s library was for children and, once you crossed that tantalising boundary into adulthood (16), there was a wealth of daring and forbidden literature on the other side…

All of this has got me thinking about how libraries and librarians have changed over the years…this wonderful woman would’ve been a cause champion in her day, probably lauded by both children and parents alike (who could send said children off to the library knowing they would be safe under the watchful eye of some equivalent of Miss Moore). Now, we champion freedom to information, skills development to enhance quality of life, the right to read (and be read, for you authors!), the right for every child to have access to quality literature to feed their minds and free their imagination (thanks, WMBC Mission Statement!). So have we changed really…? Only, for me, in that the photo of Miss Moore is probably where the stereotypical librarian image cam from. Now, where did I put the twinset…

MOOC(h)ing around in the Library!

It’s a big thing at the minute, the MOOC. My institution hasn’t yet jumped on the bandwagon, possibly due to a number of reasons around restructuring courses and so on. However, it’s a distinct possibility in the future and it’s something that all librarians are going to be thinking about regarding how we can get involved and support delivery of MOOCs.

Of course, it’s not just going to be Academic Librarians who are affected. Anyone can sign up for a MOOC – you dont have to be at University to do them, and lots of private companies are offering them too (http://www.educause.edu/library/massive-open-online-course-mooc). So, public sector and college librarians are also going to be affected, with possibly little or no knowledge of how to support the students! However, we librarians are nothing if not helpful and there are many resources and opportunities to develop skills and knowledge to support users.

Problems arising for librarians however, abound. How do we engage and support people participating in MOOCs? How do we get ourselves into a position in our institutions to show that we can be an asset to these courses? The courses themselves present problems: in a study of learning communities and online resources within the neurological module of the BSc Physiotherapy at the University of Birmingham, one of the key issues raised was the disparity of information literacy and IT skills (Davies, Ramsay, Lindfield and Couperthwaite ‘Building learning communities: foundations for good practice’ British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 36 No 4 2005 pp615–628).

Of course, as librarians, this is where we come in with the offer of teaching these skills. But how do we do this when the students are only learning online? Cue the VLE. Host podcasts and video training on your institution’s VLE (we use Moodle). Put links to these on all of the MOOC course sites. Embed them in the teaching modules. Use webinars and get them embedded in the MOOC as part of the course. 

So. How do we progress? In my opinion, libraries, as ever, are well-placed to support this development in learning and teaching and should be promoting themselves as viable partners. It may be scary; change ever is! But we’ve proved before we can rise to the challenge (PN, development of online learning, VLE’s etc) and will do so again! Watch this space…