Tag Archives: induction

First team-teaching session

I’m aware I haven’t updated the blog for a couple of weeks – I was struck down by a horrible flu and then went on a couple of weekend trips, and then Masterchef started, which all conspired to eat into precious blog-writing time. However, not much has happened in library life, so it’s not like anyone’s missed out on much.

The main thing that has happened is that I finally got to help teach an induction and infoskills session, trying out my presentation skills from our training back in December. I did the first part of the session on my own, which involved explaining the admin sort of stuff to the students, including usernames and passwords, printing and photocopying, and other thrilling IT-related things. I think I did quite well at this, although it’s quite hard to judge this when you’ve got a sea of blank faces staring at you. I said everything I wanted to say, and was able to answer the questions that were asked as well, so as far as that goes I’m happy with my performance. The only thing that I was unsure about was whether I was pitching the information at the right level. The thing about teaching, presenting and lecturing is that it’s not at all the same as having a conversation with someone; when you’re having a one-to-one conversation with another person, you’re getting simultaneous feedback – that’s all the nodding, “mm-hmm”, “yeah”, “right” sort of stuff that they’re doing while you’re talking. This helps you judge whether they’re understanding what you’re saying, and whether they’re still interested in hearing it or not. When you’re teaching or presenting to a roomful of people, it’s more than likely they’ll just sit still and listen without offering any of this feedback, which is part of why presenting can feel so disconcerting and scary. I found it really difficult to know whether I was going too fast or too slow and if I was explaining things in enough (or too much) detail. It’s something I think you just have to get used to, as there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. It was marginally useful to stop and ask “is that ok?” “are you ready to move on?” and other similar questions, but these were often met with silence anyway! I think the most useful thing we do here is to get students to fill in evaluation forms, so you do get feedback, albeit a little delayed.

For the rest of the session I was involved in the hands-on demonstrations, showing people how to use the catalogue, ebooks and databases. This is something I enjoy doing as I think it’s something I’m quite good at – I like explaining things and helping people to understand them, and it’s more instantly satisfying than giving a talk or presentation!

All in all, as a first taste of teaching and presenting to real live students, I think it went really well, and I’m definitely not put off by the experience. I’m itching to do some more, but opportunities are more limited at this end of the year. Fingers crossed…

 

Apart from the teaching, not a whole lot has happened recently at the library. We’ve just been plodding along! We had our busiest week last week, with over 1000 assignments due in, which meant students queueing up to use staplers, printers and laptops. It was only a tiny bit stressful in the end, as most of them were fairly well-prepared and hadn’t left everything until the very last minute. Of course, you always get one or two exceptions… This week is the start of the three-week Easter break for the majority of students (some run on a different calendar), so we’re getting about 30% of the visitors we had last week, and life on the issue counter is a bit more sedate. I’ve been working on a spreadsheet detailing our journals holdings (print and e-) and that’s been keeping me occupied for the last few weeks! The end is in sight, though, and I’m hoping I can get it finished before the long weekend, so I can start looking at some of the other stuff I want to do (more spreadsheets, mostly) next week. That’s about it for now, though – nothing super-exciting. I’m just looking forward to the Easter weekend – I really need the rest!

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I Got Skills, They’re Multiplyin’

Excuse the terrible title but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I’ve been doing some self-reflection lately, because it is a Thing Librarians Do, and it’s good for personal and professional development and stuff. Not that I’m a professional yet, but I like to get into habits early. So I thought I’d just write down some of the things I’ve achieved so far as a Graduate Trainee, so I’ve got a record of them for later on.

I think it’s amazing to look back at what I was like when I started this job and compare that to how I am now. I have always thought of myself as someone who is quite confident and self-sufficient, but obviously when you start a new job in a field you have no experience in, you’re not going to be relaxed and confident straight away. In fact I’d go as far as to say I experienced some “culture shock” – I’ve never worked in a library or indeed any kind of office environment before so there was a lot of adjusting to be done. The development from September to now is huge – I’m a lot better at dealing with customers and their enquiries, and that’s just the start of it. I think the most important thing that’s happened is that I’ve actually learned what it is that librarians do all day. I’m not talking about any of the stereotypical images here – they don’t just stamp books, or “shh” people, and they definitely don’t sit around behind the counter reading books all day. I’ve learnt about cataloguing, book ordering, budgeting, management, teaching, stock maintenance/editing, and much more. Here are some of my highlights from the last few months:

I made some instructional podcasts! One is here and there are two more waiting to go up.

I learned to digitise articles and chapters using online software, I reorganised the filing system and wrote an instruction manual detailing the digitisation process from start to finish. I also helped with a project to stamp all the copies of books that have had chapters digitised, and record the progress on a spreadsheet. Librarians love spreadsheets.

I wrote a helpsheet about accessing theses and articles online, which is available at the enquiry and issue desks for students to take. Sadly it’s not online for me to show it off to you (but the information is).

I’m still doing this mammoth withdrawals list. It’s really useful work (so I keep reminding myself) as we prepare the library stock for the move to All Saints in 2014, as when I’m finished, we will have an accurate count of how many books are in stock here. I’ve found a few that were “withdrawn” but still sitting on the shelf, so it’s a good way of creating space and keeping things tidy.

I’ve attended training sessions which are giving me a great insight on how the library works, including ones on policies and procedures, customer service skills, presenting, teaching InfoSkills, and Endnote. I’ve also been able to go behind the scenes at Library Support Services and Special Collections to hear about the work they do.

I’ve sat in on teaching sessions, both inductions and InfoSkills, and have helped out with hands-on sections in these sessions, helping students work through the tasks we set them. In March I’ll be team-teaching a session, which I’m really excited about.

I’ve done some networking – not much, admittedly, but I am part of some groups on Facebook, connecting with other library trainees, and I follow other people’s blogs and Twitter accounts. This is all helping me get an idea of what’s happening in the wider world of librarianship, with updates from established professionals, students and other GTs. I’ve also met some library people face-to-face!

I’ve learned the basics of Talis, the library management software, and can now issue and discharge books like a pro.

I’ve created and updated reading lists, keeping them up-to-date with new books that we get in stock.

I’ve learned to receipt new books, adding them to the system and checking that their details are correct.

I’ve helped people with enquiries, which can range from “how do I use the printer” to “how can I find articles on my really obscure dissertation topic” to “where is the nearest NHS walk-in centre”.

The other day I used the typewriter for the first time. I’ve never used a working typewriter before and I quite enjoyed it – even if my first go didn’t quite work properly! Here is my first ever attempt at making a spine label for a book with the typewriter. I had to do it again after I realised I hadn’t done the letters in capitals:

My first attempt at using the typewriter

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I’ve probably left loads of stuff off that list, but it’s long enough already for you to get an idea of how much I’ve learned in four and a half months. I think the main thing is that I’m a lot more confident in my abilities now – I don’t have to ask other people for confirmation that I’m doing the right thing as much any more (although I still ask about the really weird stuff!). I’ve also got over my fear of speaking to people on the phone, which is handy. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with my progress and am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year will bring.

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Days Three and Four

On Wednesday it was back to Gaskell library, my “home” library, for more training. First up was the opening routine, which is basically switching everything on and changing the date on the stamps and the wind-on calendar (which is sort of like this without the clock but the numbers are on a fabric scroll and you have to move them by hand). Next I put the float in the till and had to fill in all the paperwork ready to take to the finance office, which was made extra exciting by the discovery that one of the receipts was missing and nothing added up properly.

After that palaver I learned about invoices, which get sent to borrowers who’ve lost books. Apparently some people have received invoices for hundreds of pounds before! I wouldn’t like to be the person who has to explain that to the customer…

I then got the chance to get a bit more familiar with the layout of the library as it was time for straightening and shelving, which is exactly what it sounds like – making sure the books are on the shelves in the right order and that they’re standing up properly and not broken. Shelving was made a bit more complicated by the fact that the labels on the ends of the shelves telling you which books are on them are all wrong, thanks to the stock edit that’s been taking place. Cue a lot of wandering around peering at spines of books to find the elusive 616.475 or whatever it happened to be.

After this I had another go at journal acquisitions, and impressed with my neat sticker-work. It’s the small things that make the difference.

After lunch I sat at the issue counter for a while, but didn’t get the chance to actually issue any books as the library is very quiet at the moment. When term begins I am assured we will be a bit busier! We did put a lot of leaflets in a lot of wallets though, ready to hand out to new students at the start of term.

The last task of the day was to explore the various databases that are available online for students to use, and to get familiar with them in order to be able to explain them to customers. Eventually I will be creating a podcast which explains how to use one of them, which is slightly terrifying, so I need to get used to using it myself.

Thursday involved more of the same – I started with the opening routines, and got ink all over my fingers when I changed the date stamps, which is a great way to start the day. I’m terrified I’ll smear ink across my face one day and not notice for ages.

I then went up to the book stock to do the pickings list, which is a big list of all the books that have been reserved by people online. We have to find all the books on the shelf and bring them down, either to put on our reservations shelf ready for collection, or to send off to the other libraries for students to pick up there. The list on Thursday was 9 pages long but apparently during term time it can get to over 20!

Next up was a library student induction – minus the students. Mark showed me the presentation they have put together to introduce new students to the library, and it was good to have a look at what they get told about the library and what sort of questions might arise from the presentation. I was also quite impressed with the presentation because it is made with Prezi, which allows you to swoosh around from slide to slide. Apparently it’s quite difficult to set up, though, if the amount of complaining the other librarians do about it is anything to go by.

Afterwards I did some shelving, which I had to stop halfway through because I can’t actually reach the top shelf properly, and then sorted the cash receipts again. Thankfully everything was shipshape this time round.

Just before lunch I was shown a bit about digitisation, which is going to be one of my main jobs during the year, and was given my first job to do, which was copying an article ready to convert it to pdf.

After lunch the big boss came to show me everything that lives behind the enquiry desk – about ten folders’ worth of information, all of which I need to become familiar with. I’m going to start with the folder which is called “Library Staff Must-Knows” as that seems like a good thing to get under my belt first. During our chat a woman asked for help finding books, so I went up with her to the shelves to hunt for them. It was interesting because she’d reserved them even though they were available on the shelves, clearly expecting reservations to be a bit like an online shopping basket, where you can save books you want for later, rather than a system for ordering in books that are at other sites or currently on loan. This is something that a lot of students apparently don’t get, so I’m expecting to be wandering the shelves quite a bit during the year.

The last part of the day was spent at the counter, which was again quite quiet, and gave us the opportunity to have a chat about pretty much anything and everything.

All in all, a good two days, in which I learned a lot and got some more hands-on experience of librarianship. I’m feeling a bit more settled in already.

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Day Two

Day Two was exciting for two reasons: I was going to get to meet all the other GTs at MMU, and I didn’t have to be there until 10am. Result!

The libraries had planned a central graduate induction day, where we would find out more about our roles and the sorts of things we could expect to do and see during our year at MMU. We kicked off with the standard “I’m Emily and I’m from London” type stuff, as well as the “I wanted to be a librarian because…” and “I think I got the job because…” type stuff too. It was really interesting to hear how the other six trainees have ended up here; we’ve all come from different backgrounds and all have something different to bring to the role. (I’ll probably end up doing a post about my own motivations to become a librarian at some point, so watch this space.)

Next, the head of Library Services talked to us about the history of MMU, the libraries’ role in its history and the services they provide today, and the types of opportunities we will have this year, including presenting seminars, creating podcasts and (hopefully) visiting the BBC library in MediaCity (I hear there are Daleks!). It all sounded very exciting and the more I hear about the things I will have the chance to do, the more I am reassured that I’m in the right place and doing the right thing.

Then Mark, one of my new colleagues, gave a talk about the types of things we can expect when working on the issue desk. He emphasised the importance of providing excellent customer service, especially now that students are paying so much from their education and will expect our service to reflect that. As well as an overview of the tasks at the issue counter, Mark highlighted the skills that we will improve on when we’re there, including interpersonal skills and the ability to work under pressure, both of which are great on a CV.

Then a former GT, Darren, told us about his experience of the GT year, including the training, skills, courses and visits that have been available to him, as well as mentioning the “n-word” – networking. Although I agree with him that it’s a bit clunky when it’s a verb, I also agree that networking is a big part of starting out in a profession such as librarianship and so am looking forward to getting to know more of the other library staff at MMU and further afield at the various meet-ups throughout the year.

After Darren’s talk we broke for lunch, which was a huge selection of sandwiches and cake, along with a fruit selection which was sadly not on par with the fruit platters they used to provide at Newcastle University – I missed the watermelon and grapes! We then split up, and half of us were ferried over to Didsbury Library in the Vice Chancellor’s Mercedes (very fancy) to be trained on using the library management software.

I was relieved to find that the software is generally quite intuitive and straightforward, and haven’t yet had any major problems with it. I even managed to find myself on the system, which I was quite pleased about since my staff card hasn’t turned up from HR yet with all my details on it. We were also shown the self service machines, which are also really easy (especially seeing as I used to use them regularly at Newcastle), although they are a bone of contention with some librarians who are predicting that the students won’t use them correctly, which would cause all sorts of hassle.

After filling in a quiz to make sure I’d learned something during the day, it was home time at 4pm – a nice short day, but one which made me feel eager to get stuck in with library work. It was also really good to meet the different GTs and start getting to know them – hopefully we can build up a little GT network and have a great year together. If anyone would like to read about the GT year at MMU from a different perspective, one of my counterparts at Didsbury, Becky, has a blog here.

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