Tag Archives: libraries

Library links – new blog

I’ve just discovered a new blog which publishes a weekly round-up of library-related news and blogs from various areas of librarianship including library theory, library tech, academic libraries and public libraries (to name a few). It is appropriately titled “Latest Library Links” and you can find it on WordPress here. It’s only been running for a couple of weeks but there are already loads of interesting stories to read. (I have to admit to only noticing it because it’s got a link this week to my EndNote Tips post, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it every week from now on!)

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January 23, 2015 · 1:05 pm

Back to the (enjoyable) grindstone

Wow – what a change this week’s been from last week! Lectures started again on Monday, and it’s been all systems go since then. Getting used to commuting again has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve been so tired getting home every day this week that I’ve just sat on the sofa and stayed there until bedtime. The good news is that I’m enjoying everything that’s going on this week, which helps!

I’ve had two new lectures so far and will have two more new ones tomorrow. The dissertation lecture on Monday was quite good, but also a bit scary – I’ve got to move quite quickly on defining a topic and finding a supervisor. Luckily I’ve already got an idea, and am in the process of setting up a meeting with a potential supervisor, so everything should go fairly smoothly on this. We had a lecture on Open Access publishing today which was also really good, and although there was not a huge amount of new information for me I enjoyed the discussion and left feeling quite energetic and enthused about the whole thing. Tomorrow I’ve got Information Governance as well as Healthcare Information, and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to both of those. All in all, the academic side of things is going well and I’m feeling very positive about the choices I’ve made, module-wise.

The other big thing I’ve been doing this week is keeping Library Society going, in many different ways! On Saturday we had our first ever trip, which was to Manchester to see the John Rylands Library and the University of Manchester’s Learning Commons. This was a fantastic day! Although I’d been to the John Rylands before, I’d never had a guided tour, and it surpassed my expectations. We got to go all over the place behind the scenes, which was really interesting, and heard about the history of the building and the stories behind all the various parts. Seeing the Learning Commons was great too – at Sheffield we have an Information Commons, and I wanted to know what the difference is between the two. Turns out there’s quite a big difference! The Learning Commons doesn’t have any book stock in it, unlike the IC, so it’s got a very different atmosphere – very peaceful and serene, with people coming in and staying for a long time, rather than just passing through to pick up some books. It was interesting that even though group working was encouraged, the overall volume levels at the Learning Commons were much lower than the group areas at the IC! My favourite thing about the LC has to be their furniture – they had a huge furniture budget and spent it on sofas with plug sockets in the arms, big armchairs and flexible laptop tables, to name a few things. Everything is portable, and apparently the students really enjoy moving tables, chairs and even sofas between floors! There’s a “reset” once a month where everything gets put back to where it should be, but students basically have free rein to design their own study spaces. I loved it!

John Rylands Library
Books at the John Rylands

Yesterday I had my first experience of running a stand at a freshers’ fair, rather than just being a punter. It was the “Ultimate Fair”, run by the Students’ Union at the start of the second semester to pick up any students who didn’t get round to joining any societies in September. As a new society this was a great opportunity for us to get noticed and find potential new members, so we set up shop in the Union for the day with leaflets, bookmarks and the all-important sweets! It was a very tiring day but ultimately really rewarding – we got 20 new names on our mailing list, which is impressive for a fairly “niche” society! I’m really pleased that we did this and looking forward to getting to know all the new students at the pub on Monday.

I’ve just got back from the Students’ Union Council meeting where our proposal for a Union Policy supporting public libraries was heard. I got the opportunity to speak to the council about the reasons for putting forward this policy, and I think it went really well. Some of the council members said that they were happy to see this policy being suggested, which is really encouraging, and I’m reasonably confident that the vote in two weeks’ time will have a positive result. Fingers crossed!

The final thing I did this week (told you I’ve been busy!) was to pop to Manchester on Tuesday night for a talk about emerging trends in technology, with Martin Bryant from The Next Web, a (really famous) technology news website that I’ve somehow never heard of before despite living on the internet. Martin showed us some of the new apps, websites and gadgets that have the potential to be really big, such as the Narrative Clip, Whisper and smartwatches. I really liked hearing about “contextual” technology, such as Google Now, because I think it’s got a lot of potential to be really useful (while also being a bit sinister, just how I like my technology!). As machine learning improves, contextual stuff’s going to get more and more sophisticated, and I’m looking forward to that, so that stuff like this happens less often:

All in all, it was a great event, and it was nice to go to a “librarians and technology” event that didn’t mention Evernote, Padlet or other productivity apps that I’ve seen hundreds of times already.

So as you can see, I’m pretty busy at the moment, but I’m having a great time, which makes the tiredness all worthwhile! Next week might be a bit quieter, which will be nice. But now I’m off to bed…

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New Year, Same Old Resolutions

I can’t believe it’s practically mid-January already. Time is flying on this course! I’ve been terrible at updating the blog thanks to all the other stuff I’ve been trying to keep on top of, but (as is tradition round these parts) I’ve resolved to do a better job of blogging this year. It’s helpful for me to take some time to think back over what I’ve been doing and what I’ve learned recently, so I’m going to make more of an effort to write about what’s going on more often than every two months!

What’s been happening? Well, loads of stuff.

1) The Course

We’ve finished the first semester of lectures and have handed in all the coursework bar one piece. This got a little bit stressful before Christmas, what with two deadlines falling in the same week (and a group presentation the week before), but it was good to get everything done and out of the way. I got a pretty good mark on the assignment we handed in in Week 6, and we got a great mark on our group presentation, so I’m pleased with how everything’s going so far. I know I won’t have failed any of the first semester modules, which is good enough for me! Aiming for a Distinction, while it would be lovely, would be one stress too many, I think. I’m happy just to get the qualification at all.

2) The Job

Going back to work was a bit of a wake-up call (literally) after Christmas – I got out of the habit of being a commuter incredibly quickly over the holidays, and leaving the house before 8am felt pretty terrible. The actual job is going fine, though; it’s nice working across two sites with such different atmospheres, and I do enjoy talking to students and solving their problems. I don’t have to do weekday shifts until February, which I’m happy about – the less time I have to spend on trains, the better!

3) Library Society

Library Society is doing really well! Our first event was a huge success and I was really pleased to see students from other degree programmes and not just Librarianship there. We held a Christmas Do at a bar in Sheffield which was pretty well-attended for the last week of term, and people had a great time. We’re currently planning our first trip of the year, to Manchester in February, and I’m feeling really optimistic about how the Society is going so far.

4) Campaigning

Part of the Society’s aim is to campaign for local libraries in Sheffield, which are under threat of closure. We’ve been in talks with officers at the Students’ Union about getting them to make supporting libraries an official policy, and hopefully this will be in place soon, meaning there will be more money available for the campaign, and a stronger voice. Yesterday we attended a protest outside the Town Hall before going to a City Council meeting where libraries were on the agenda. You can read the Library Society report here. It was great to see over 250 people demonstrating their support for their local libraries, and the questions and petitions put to the Council during the meeting were well-argued. It’s a shame that the councillors were more interested in laying blame on each other’s political parties for the cuts, than in finding appropriate and agreeable solutions to the problems. I’ve never enjoyed watching political debates in Parliament, and this was a similar experience – lots of sneering and snide remarks focusing on who spent what and whose MP was worse (Nick Clegg took a bit of a beating), with councillors shouting each other down and jeering while people were trying to speak. It was not a pretty sight. I wanted to tell them that nobody cares who got us into this mess and we’d all like to hear about what we’re going to do to get out of it, but you’re not allowed to speak from the public gallery. Hopefully the Council will recognise the strength of feeling of Sheffielders about libraries and work with them to find a better way of making savings.

I think that’s everything that’s been happening recently. I’m enjoying having a bit of a quieter month than the last one, and hopefully I will arrive at the start of the new term feeling refreshed and ready to start again!

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Being a student: week 4

I’m already a third of the way in to this term – that’s one sixth of the way through the taught part of the whole course – and everything’s moving very quickly. The deadline for our first essay (unassessed) was yesterday – although thanks to my action-packed life (ha ha) I actually submitted mine last Thursday. We’ve already got instructions for our first few bits of assessed work, so life is about to get even more hectic as I’ve got to learn how to do a literature review then do one, as well as a group presentation, some reflective writing and a team blog. I’ve got to-do lists as long as your arm and I’m having to write down most of my thoughts so I won’t forget them. It sounds hectic but I’m actually really enjoying myself – I think I function quite well when I’m really busy, as I can plan out and structure my days rather than just floating about the house wondering if I should be doing something important.

It really helps that everyone on the course is really friendly – we’ve really clicked as a group and have gone on a couple of pub trips already. We’ve been having great discussions in lectures (and in the pub) and I’m feeling great about the whole thing.

Aside from the course, my other life is going well too – I’m settling in at work and am feeling more confident about answering enquiries – although I’ve regressed to being quite rubbish on the phone, and I haven’t learned any of the weekday staff’s names yet. I’ve had some stressful journeys to work (trains! argh!) but on the whole things are running fairly smoothly. I think the hardest thing to get used to is cross-site working – some procedures are done in different ways at different sites, and it’s been a challenge to remember the “right” thing to do at each place. Generally, though, I’m doing work that I enjoy, and it’s all good experience!

Last weekend I attended Manchester NLPN’s Autumn Event, and I’ll do a full write-up of the event later in the week. It was a great day, full of interesting talks and tasty baked goods! More to come on that later.

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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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CILIP: To join or not to join?

I started (and never finished) a blog post the other day about the CILIP name change and how what really needs to happen is an image overhaul and positive publicity for the profession to show people the value of libraries and library (and information) professionals. However, that’s pretty much my entire opinion on the matter in that sentence, which is why that post never got finished. I haven’t really got the inclination to get involved in all the confrontational back-and-forth and besides, loads of people have written and tweeted about it with a lot more insight than I could.

What I do want to write about, though, is CILIP’s membership fees structure. Now there’s a nice lighthearted topic! It’s relevant to me at the moment, though, as I’m starting the MA course soon and feel like it would be a good time to join the professional body. However, I’m not really sure if it’s worth me joining CILIP – now or indeed ever. And here’s why: it’s expensive, and it’s not fair.

It’s not expensive straight away, not for students – it’s only £38 a year for students – but if I got a grade 3 job at MMU after graduating, which is a Senior Library Assistant, I’d have to pay £160. In fact, even if I stayed at the same level as I am now (grade 2 at MMU), I’d have to pay £160. And if I got a job paying more than £17,501, which would be a grade 4 Principal Library Assistant at MMU, I’d have to pay the top membership rate of £194. I haven’t even looked at salaries for professional jobs (i.e. jobs that require the PGDip or MA) and we’ve already reached the top of the membership fees scale.

This strikes me as more than a bit unfair. If, as I hope, I graduate from the MA and get my first professional post, I might expect to earn somewhere around £20,000. The Head of Library Services here earns three times as much as that, and yet we would both pay the same CILIP membership fees.

Another problem I have with the whole thing is that this profession is not especially well-paid. When you look at the equivalent professional bodies for people such as architects and engineers, you find that they charge membership fees around the same level as CILIP’s, despite average salaries for these professions being higher.

So, what do you get for your money? The CILIP website lists the benefits of membership as follows: Advice and support; Advocacy and Campaigns; Monthly magazine, journals and ebulletins; Networking and community; Special deals and discounts.

To be honest with you, I’m not convinced this is a fair return for my money, especially when you consider that you can get most of these things elsewhere without being a CILIP member. And when you add on the price of events (could be £5, could be £30, could be over £300), I’m really not sure I can afford to invest.

The saying goes that if you put more in to CILIP, you get more out. But not everyone has the time, transport or money to get involved in committees, special interest groups, conferences and so on, which means that through no fault of their own they’re not benefiting nearly as much from their membership fee – they’re essentially getting a very expensive magazine subscription.

CILIP are considering making student membership free, which I think is a good start, and will possibly encourage more people in my situation to join. However, I think the jump from “free” to up to £200, dependent on salary after graduation, will still count against CILIP, and I’m not sure how much of a difference it’ll make. The proposal mentions e-only communication and making sure people get value for money, which is encouraging, but I do think there’s more that can be done before I’d be convinced to join up.

My suggestions are as follows:

  • Make it free or very cheap for students, and then have a fees structure that increases steadily, perhaps loosely following pay grades for library staff. I know salary scales vary by employer, but it can’t be too hard to have very generalised bands, e.g. £0-£4,999; £5,000-£9,999; £10,000-£14,999 etc. And don’t stop at £17,501!
  • Don’t waste money on print stuff. E-communication, e-journals, e-whatever are the way forward, especially for the information professions. Printing and postage costs are huge these days, and it’s quite an easy way to make savings that could be reflected in reduced fees.
  • Give more support for students and new professionals. I think a special interest group for these people, offering networking and cheap training sessions, as well as advice and support tailored to new  and aspiring professionals, would encourage uptake of membership. Having cheap/free student membership as well as this might require creative budgeting, but I think it’d pay off by increasing the retention rate for new members.
  • Be more visible (in a good way). I don’t want the only time I read about CILIP in the papers to be about squabbling over name changes. Being seen to be taking positive action and advocating for libraries, rather than staying in the background a bit, can only serve to increase people’s inclination to join in.
  • Provide more stuff. This is coming, in the form of a Virtual Learning Environment as well as a Professional Knowledge and Skills base, but really, the more benefits of membership, the better. Club membership and cheap breakdown cover on my (non-existent) car aren’t really doing it for me.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels like this, and I reckon CILIP needs to think seriously about what it’s offering people like me (and what its image is like to people like me) as, if students and new professionals don’t feel inclined to sign up, then the membership will continue to dwindle. Hopefully some positive news will come out of the upcoming AGM, where the free student membership is being proposed, which might lead to me taking the plunge and signing up.

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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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