Tag Archives: graduate trainee

The final countdown

Firstly, I should mention my last post. I’ve never had as much traffic to my blog as I have over the last three days – maybe I should write semi-controversial things about CILIP more often! I was interested to see the various responses here and on Twitter from people at different stages in their careers. Bethan Ruddock has written a blog in response, explaining her reasoning for being a member of professional bodies. It’s a really good read, and it was good to see a different point of view on the matter. I should say that I’m absolutely not dead set against joining CILIP, and I think there are sound arguments for and against. I think the points I raised, while perhaps simplistic, are things that should be thought about and discussed, and I’ll be interested to see what happens with regard to the fees proposals at the AGM.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled blog post…

My GT year is very nearly over – sob! I’ve got 8 working days left (plus a week of annual leave) and then I’m outta here (said in cheesy American accent). I’m just going around work tying up loose ends, making sure I’m not leaving anything without telling someone what it is. I’m the sort of person who likes to be prepared well in advance (if you’d seen the amount of homework I did last-minute at school, you’d be very surprised to hear this) so I’ve already made a start on clearing my desk and other things that could probably wait until the last day. I’m also starting a few new things, such as writing guides on using databases and eBooks, and writing out book orders, and it’s a bit strange to know I won’t ever see the results of these things, but it’s nice to know that I’m doing things that will be put to good use in the upcoming year. It’s weird – I’m sort of well-prepared for leaving, but on the other hand it’s not really hit me yet that I’ll be (briefly) unemployed in three weeks’ time. What am I going to do with all my free time and no money?! I’m going to be very up-to-date on all things daytime-TV-related. Perhaps I shall take up knitting. Again. I’m planning to have a good go at getting through my to-read list as well.

Whatever I do, I know I’m going to miss the library. It’s a bit repetitive to say I’ve learned so much here, but I really have, and I’ve really enjoyed doing it, even the stuff that people think I’m weird to like (spreadsheets, bulk withdrawals, other data-entry-related things). I met my “replacement” the other day and I was trying to explain the sorts of things I’ve done this year, but realised it’d probably take all day! I really didn’t expect to do such a wide variety of things this year, from digitisation to teaching to stock editing and everything else in between. It’s been so interesting, all of it, and I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity. I’m excited to move on, too, and learn some of the theory behind the stuff I’ve done and seen this year (and more besides), as well as getting some experience of a new university, a new library and a new city. I’m also weirdly excited for the new batch of GTs, these people I’ve never actually met! I know what’s coming up for them in their GT year and it’s going to be really busy and really interesting. I sort of wish I was sticking around to see it all!

I saw this video yesterday from the University of Sheffield, which has made me even more excited about starting there:

 

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News round-up

Last week we finally finished off the stock take, having spent the last couple of weeks going round the shelves with lists of books that may or may not exist. A lot of chocolate was consumed in celebration! We were hoping for some kind of indoor fireworks display, perhaps even a mini Olympic closing ceremony, but the budget didn’t quite stretch to that. While this is great news in terms of the preparation for our move next year, it does mean that we have one less task to do, leaving big empty gaps all over my schedule.
The digitisation renewals are ticking over nicely, though; we’ve had responses from nearly all the academics, which is a far better result than I expected! We should have it all finished well before the deadline for archiving old material, which is good as it means there’ll be fewer loose ends for the next GT to have to pick up. I’ve left detailed instructions for her, so hopefully the transition will be smooth!
I went to a short training session the other day to find out more about our new search service, “Library Search”, which is powered by Summon. It’s a search engine that pulls in information from (nearly) all the library’s resources and subscriptions, including books, e-books, journals, e-journals, newspapers, Special Collections, the University Repository, images and more. It’s sort of like Google, but personalised to the library. There are tons of added extras that make it really functional and easy to use, and it looks really good. Even though I’ll have left before it’s properly rolled out, I was still interested to learn about it, as this new type of library search engine is going to be used more and more in the future. A similar system (not using Summon) has just been rolled out at the University of Sheffield, so I’ll have to get used to using it for my studies next year.
I’ve hesitated about writing about this next bit of news as I don’t think it’s appropriate to write about job interviews online until everything’s done and dusted – I wouldn’t want to prejudice anything – but seeing as it’s all over, I can now say that I applied for, and got, a job at the University of Sheffield Library as a Customer Services Assistant. The job runs for 9 months and is essentially a weekend job (with a few hours in the week), so it fits in perfectly with the course. I’m really excited to work at Sheffield as their libraries are a bit bigger and busier than I’m used to, so it’ll be a new challenge and lots of new experiences. They’ve just moved onto a new cloud-based library management system, so that’ll be something to get used to. It’ll also be interesting to work and study at the same place!
Not much else is happening at the moment; we’re just plodding along, keeping everything ticking over and getting ready for the new academic year. The term-time only staff finish tomorrow, after which we’ll be on the vacation rota and possibly feeling a little bit short-staffed. I’ll be using up my last days of annual leave and time off in lieu, so it’ll be quite a nice summer for me, with lots of long weekends to sort out all my stuff at home inpreparation for moving away.
I’ve been doing some detective work this week after finding a book that was filled with annotations in black pen. I went through its borrower history to check whether any of the borrowers had taken out any other books which now had annotations, and lo and behold, I found a serial offender! The scale of the damage is quite bad, so the borrower in question will probably end up with a fairly large fine. It’s quite satisfying to have worked methodically to uncover something like this, and finding more than one book means that we have a better case for chasing the borrower. I’m also pleased I’ve got a “story” under my belt – you hear people talking about these kinds of situations, but I hadn’t experienced it yet. Between this and the numerous “tough customers” we’ve had this year, I’ve got a nice list of stories built up now!
Today has been a surprisingly busy day! This seems to happen about once a week at the moment. We’ll suddenly have a huge uptick in the number of people coming in and out and requiring assistance. This week all the students seem to be doing the same research assignment, and they’ve needed quite a bit of help doing database searches, as well as making the usual enquiries about printing and so on. It’s quite nice to suddenly have a busy session, but it can catch you a bit off guard – I had thought I’d get quite a lot of work done in my counter session today, but instead I was in and out of my seat non-stop for two hours, relying on colleagues for back-up. I do enjoy helping people with this sort of thing, though, as it’s something where you can instantly judge how much you’ve helped someone and you can leave them knowing they’re satisfied with the results.
I’ve almost finished my last new books newsletter of the year, as well; all our e-books have now been received and almost all the print books have arrived, too. We got news the other day that there’s actually a bit of extra money to spend, so we’ve sent off a few extra book orders, but I doubt they’ll arrive before I leave.
I went on holiday to Northumberland recently and the weather was glorious. I spent the whole time taking pictures on my phone of the scenery. Here’s a shot to symbolise crossing over into the next stage of my career (just kidding, it’s just a cool bridge):

Bridge

A post shared by Emily (@heliotropia) on

I also found this at Barter Books, and I reckon it’s something we should implement at work, seeing as we’ve got so many books with bizarre titles:
It’s weird to think I’ve only got 8 weeks left at work – and actually, it’s only 6 weeks of work and two weeks of holiday. It’ll be strange when I’ve left and won’t have to get up early for a few weeks, but then the new adventure begins – my life as a commuter! I’m not sure I’m mentally ready yet for the train journey from Leeds to Sheffield and back three times a week, but at least it won’t be every day. I’m already planning the journey – flask, Kindle, music: sorted. I’ve already seen a reading list for the MA course and, seeing as we’ve got a few of the books here at MMU, I’ve had a look through some of them already to get back into the swing of things. That’s possibly a bit over-keen, but I like to be prepared. I’m determined to be a good, disciplined student this time round! We’ll see how long it lasts… I’ll be continuing to blog throughout the next year, documenting how I balance my studies and my job, and hopefully writing up a few events as well (I’m planning on going to LibraryCamp UK in the Autumn, for a start).

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Silence in the library

I’m getting worse at updating the blog – it’s not unexpected though, as less new and exciting stuff happens to me these days! However, I thought I should probably just do a quick update on what’s going on with library life at the moment.

Exams and dissertation season has been and gone, and blimey, that was busy. People were banging on the doors fifteen minutes before we open, so desperate were they to get their hands on our thesis collection, and the demand for laptops was so high we had to turn people away. What amused me were the “regulars” who would come in every day for two weeks and ask for the same three theses – why didn’t they just photocopy the relevant bits?! There was also one guy who would come in every day and ask for a laptop – it got to the point where it felt like I worked in a pub (“the usual?”). There was, of course, all the stress and frustration that comes with exam season – not for me, but for the students. We had printer problems, network problems, printing credits going missing and essays disappearing. It meant I got to use all my customer service and “dealing with difficult situations” skills from those training sessions earlier in the year! 

The past couple of weeks have been noticeably quieter – yesterday we probably had about 50 people come in during the day, and it’s only going to get quieter now that the majority of the students are finishing their year and going back home. We’ll still have some nursing students and postgraduates, though, so it’s not going to be completely dead, but it is noticeably different to the atmosphere a few weeks ago. It’s just so quiet! Term doesn’t finish for another three weeks, but after that we’ll be on summer vacation hours until the Autumn term starts (and I’ll be gone by then!) – three more late Wednesdays and then I’ll be on regular hours for the rest of my job. We had a team meeting the other day and it was the first time that anyone mentioned that I’ll be leaving quite soon – it was quite weird to hear that said out loud! I know that the new GTs have now been chosen, and I’m looking forward to getting put in touch with them quite soon (or at least I assume this will happen, as it did for us last year). 

 The other week I went to a public lecture on digital humanities, which I was expecting to be quite interesting – and it was, but not for the reasons I expected! It was about Doing things Differently: writing, academic journals and social media in the online world. It was presented by the editors of an online journal, and the blurb made mention of Open Access, which I wanted to learn more about. I’m interested in social media too, so this sounded really good. However, the actual event did not live up to expectations, and there were some mentions of “Creative Commons” which made all the library staff whistle through their teeth like builders. (Creative Commons doesn’t mean you can use any old thing off Google image search!!) It was interesting to hear about journals and OA from the perspective of two academics, but it was a bit of an eye-opener too, as I somewhat naively expected researchers (and editors of online journals) to be a lot more clued in on technology, resources and social media. It shows that there is a lot of work than can be done by libraries and information professionals to support researchers and improve their knowledge and skills when it comes to these areas.

Last week I had a surprise delivery of 120 new books – rather more than I usually get! It is nice to be able to tell the academic staff that we’ve bought all the books they wanted, though, and the monthly new books newsletter looked very impressive! We’ve used up all our budget for this year now, so the book deliveries will dry up until next term. That takes a big chunk of work out of my day, but there are other projects to be getting on with over the summer, so I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of things to do.

We’re currently running a Patron-Driven Acquisition exercise with e-books, which is where hundreds of titles get loaded onto the catalogue, and if a student clicks on one and reads it for more than five minutes it triggers the purchase of the book. Some of the titles are interesting, to say the least – we found one about Jungian theory in relation to sand. Bit odd! The purpose of the PDA is to provide more material online while the book stock at one of the site libraries is unavailable as it moves into the main library over the summer. The move is now underway and we are having to keep on the ball when it comes to sending books to other sites – books might say one thing on the system while actually needing to be sent somewhere else. Needless to say there’s a lot of signage around to keep everything straight!

Now that the academic year is coming to an end the big project is renewing all our digitised material for the next year. This is the first time we’re doing it with the new software, so it’s a big learning curve for everyone. My first task was to write out the instructions for the renewals process, which is easier said than done – we kept getting updates to the instructions as people tried them out and discovered bugs. We are now in the process of contacting all the academic staff to find out what they want us to keep – if all goes to plan then we can upload or delete the relevant files before September and get everything straightened out. This has involved two new spreadsheets so far and I’ve been using my newfound Excel skills to add fancy conditional formatting and other bells and whistles, which has been fun in a nerdy way. The whole process is just a bit weird for me though as although I’m setting up a lot of the work, chances are I won’t be able to complete it all before I leave (depending on the speed of responses from lecturers), so I won’t get the satisfaction of seeing this through to the end.

We’re coming towards the end of the stock take as well – we’ll finish scanning the shelves with the digital library assistant this week, and then it’s just a case of tying up the loose ends and getting everything to add up. It’ll be strange not having scanning to do as part of my daily tasks!

One last thing that’s happened recently is that I gained two new qualifications – I’m now a Microsoft Office Specialist in both Word and Excel. I had to sit an exam for each of them to prove I’ve got the skills, which meant a lot of quick learning of things I’d never really done before. It’s already come in handy as I have been able to “decorate” some  spreadsheets with special formatting to improve their functionality. It’s a handy thing to put on a CV too, especially seeing as I haven’t got the time or money to take the ECDL, which some job applications require.

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Well begun is half done

 

I’m officially halfway through my traineeship now – week 26 is over and done with. I thought I’d have a look back at some of the things I was most nervous about at the beginning, and see how things have changed now. I went through my first few blog posts and found loads of places where I said “I’m scared of X” or “I don’t really like Y”. Here are a few things that terrified me six months ago:

–          Having a job. As I’ve mentioned a few times, this is my first ever 9-5 real-world job, and so I was really nervous about what it actually would be like, and whether I’d fit in and actually like it. Luckily my fears about this were unfounded, as everyone’s really friendly and the work is (mostly) interesting and enjoyable (giant spreadsheets excluded).

–          Being the “new girl”. I’ve never liked being the centre of attention, so being the new person who everyone’s watching, and who’s being a bit of a nuisance because she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing, made me feel a bit uncomfortable at first. But again, as I got to know people and learned more, I felt less like a sore thumb and more like part of the team. When I started being able to do projects such as digitisation on my own, it helped me feel less like I was getting under people’s feet, which really helped.

–          Doing something wrong. I think this is a pretty normal fear, to be honest! I was deathly afraid of doing something so terribly wrong that I’d get fired on the spot – but even though I did make mistakes, they were easily fixable, and the world didn’t end. After I broke the photocopier by accidentally pulling its lid off, I think this fear was well and truly vanquished. Of course I still don’t want to make mistakes, but I’m able to acknowledge now that everyone will do so now and then, and I’m not so scared of the consequences any more.

–          Answering the phone. I am quite shy in social situations, which has meant in the past that I didn’t want to go to places like the bank or the post office, or generally put myself in situations where I’d have to talk to people I didn’t know. I’m slowly getting better at this, although I still have to rehearse conversations in my head before going to the bank. For the first few weeks here I was, understandably, quite wary of the phone – I knew I would be unable to help whoever was on the other end of it, so I tended to just run away from it instead. But these days I can answer the phone to pretty much anyone and know that I can deal with most queries unless they’re really unusual, which has helped me feel a lot more confident in myself in terms of social skills.

–          Dealing with customers. This is another “social skills” thing that I feel a lot better about these days. I’ve always been able to talk to people and explain things to them, but since working here and interacting with students and staff with all sorts of queries and complaints, I feel a lot more secure in how I deal with various situations. The training we had back before Christmas on dealing with difficult customers certainly helped as well, as I’ve had quite a few times where I’ve had to tell people about large fines or other problems. Obviously, for librarianship, customer service skills can be really important, so I’m really glad I’ve had so many opportunities to get better at this during the year.

–          Podcasting. This is something I’d never done before, but seeing as making a podcast involves a PowerPoint presentation and a spoken explanation of how to use something, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I’d imagined, and I’m now on to my third one.

I’ve definitely come a long way since the early days of my traineeship, but there’s a lot of stuff I still want to try out and become braver about. Next week is my first joint teaching session, which I’m looking forward to (and a bit nervous about). Hopefully I’ll have other opportunities to do this later on in the year, because even though I’m apprehensive, I think I’ll enjoy it.

I also want to attend some events on librarianship, so I’m starting off with Manchester NLPN’s Spring Event in April. After that I may even get brave enough to attend an unconference or Library Camp!

I want to get more involved in projects where I can test my skills and learn new things, for example the overhaul of our digitisation records, which I did before Christmas. Hopefully as we progress through this year and more preparations are made for the move in 2014, there’ll be opportunities for me to take on some responsibilities for things like this.

Finally, I want to do more networking. Generally, being a shy person has meant that I’ve shied away (geddit?) from interacting with people, either face-to-face or on social media, but I’m gradually getting more involved in online chats about library-related things. I’m a regular lurker on #uklibchat discussions on Twitter, but one day soon I might actually bite the bullet and join in – what’s the worst that can happen? I think attending events will also help with networking, as we don’t get many opportunities in our traineeship to meet people from outside MMU, and it’ll be interesting to meet people from other types of libraries at the MNLPN event in April.

The first six months of this job have flown by, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the warmer, sunnier half of my traineeship will bring. Here’s to the future!

 

(featured header image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ewestrum/4590703575/)

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Hello, prospective GT!

I’ve noticed that quite a few people find this blog by searching “manchester library graduate trainee” or variations of that, and I wanted to say that if that’s you – hello! I hope you find this blog interesting and helpful, and if you have any questions at all please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. Enjoy 🙂

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Blog post for Manchester NLPN

Manchester NLPN's logo, shamelessly nicked from their Twitter page

Manchester NLPN’s logo, shamelessly nicked from their Twitter page

I’ve contributed some thoughts on interviews for graduate traineeships to a blog post that’s all about being a graduate trainee, which you can read here on the Manchester New Library Professionals Network blog. You should read all their other stuff, too, by the way, it’s really good. And if you’re on Twitter, so are they! That’s here.

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February 22, 2013 · 9:39 am

A Tale of Two Interviews

After writing about my five top tips for interviews and interview prep for the Manchester NLPN, which will be on their blog very soon, I thought I’d write about my own interview experiences for Library Graduate Trainee positions. I found the application process initially pretty disheartening – the first few applications I sent off didn’t even get a reply, which isn’t great when you’ve set your heart on a career in librarianship. But after taking on board some good advice and tweaking my CV and applications, I managed to get two interviews within a week of each other, one for MMU, and the other for a library based in Oxford. Here’s how they went.

Interview One: I arrived at MMU with about an hour to kill, which was annoying – obviously being early is far better than being late, but when it’s so early that I’ve got time to get more nervous, it doesn’t feel great. I hung around in a café until it was a more acceptable time, and then headed in. There were two interview panels running at the same time, so I was sat outside the interview rooms with a couple of other applicants, and we all did that thing where you try not to stare at the competition too much. When eventually it was time to go in, I chatted a little bit about my journey and the weather with the woman who had come to collect me, who turned out to be one of the three interviewers. She instantly put me at ease and I was only feeling a little bit shaky when I sat down.

After the introductions, we got straight in to the interview. The first few questions were pretty standard – what do you do now, why do you want to work here, that sort of thing. They asked for more detail about some of the things on my application form, which I was prepared for. But then the questions veered off into unknown territory: “what is the best and worst thing about your university library?” I hadn’t anticipated this question at all, but luckily had recently spoken to one of the librarians at my uni and was able to talk about what I thought about the improvements that were planned there. They also asked me to explain how I would help someone who came to me with a query about searching on the library catalogue.

After these questions, it was my turn to ask some. I asked about who is responsible for the library’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, and a couple of other questions that I can’t for the life of me remember!

The whole interview probably took about 20 minutes or half an hour, but it felt really quick. I had felt quite relaxed and was aware that I had been speaking animatedly but not too quickly or nervously (or at least I hoped that was how it came across!). I was happy that it had felt more like a chat, and that I hadn’t run out of things to say. All in all, considering this was my first ever job interview (!), I thought it went rather well.

This led to quite high hopes about Interview Two, and maybe a tiny bit of complacency too. I was feeling like the Interview Queen after MMU, and so when the Oxford one did not quite go as well as expected, I was caught off guard.

Sweet Sorrow by Caro Wallis on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/carowallis1/4463478302/

Sweet Sorrow by Caro Wallis on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/carowallis1/4463478302/

 

Interview Two: On arriving at the library I was given a tour by the current GT, which I felt was a really nice touch, as I had the opportunity to hear about the job first-hand as well as seeing the library. I then went in for the interview. The room they’d chosen for this was quite a large, oak-panelled room, with the three interviewers sitting round a longish table in the middle and me at the end of the table, at a distance from them. This produced an entirely different atmosphere to the MMU interview, which was held in a small, cosy office, with us all sat around a small desk. Instead, I was in quite an imposing room, and felt more on edge.

The interview proceeded as normal, with the usual questions about why I wanted to work there and so on, but as I was not feeling as comfortable as before, I felt that I was having to force my enthusiasm a little bit, and was not getting much of a reaction from the interviewers, which was quite disconcerting. Then I was completely blindsided by a question that I should have been prepared for. They asked whether I had had any previous committee experience – something which would be important for this post, as part of it was to act as a secretary for the library committee. I went completely blank and ended up saying something not very convincing about how I was on the school council during secondary school (which is true, although we didn’t really have to do very much). I was taken completely by surprise by this question, even though I really shouldn’t have been, and I think it put me off my stride. I felt sort of defeated during the remainder of the interview and I just don’t think my heart was in it any more. I think at this stage in the interview I knew it was unlikely they’d offer me the job, but I also think I didn’t really mind too much. I don’t think I would have fitted in as well with the staff at that library and it wasn’t really my kind of place – it was a lovely building, but a larger team in a modern university library is more my thing,I think.

The story, of course, has a happy ending, because as you know I am now one of the Graduate Trainees at MMU. After leaving the second interview and walking through Oxford in the pouring rain, I got back to the house where I was staying and no sooner had I walked through the door than my phone rang – and it was one of my interviewers from MMU, calling to offer me the job. I was so relieved I cried! She said to me that I had been really personable and enthusiastic during the interview, which I was really pleased to hear. I accepted the job offer right then, and a week later I got the letter I had been expecting from Oxford letting me know I didn’t get the job there.

I find it quite interesting that I could tell straight away whether I’d done well at each of the interviews, and my colleagues have all got similar stories of interviews where they just knew either that they definitely had the job, or they’d definitely hate the job. Some places just don’t suit some people. I’m really glad that I was able to come across well in my MMU interview, and my first impressions of the people and the place turned out to be correct – I love working here!

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