Tag Archives: library society

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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33%

We’ve just finished Week 7 and are about to start Week 8. This means that I’m roughly 33% of the way through the taught portion of the course already, which is a scary thought. It’s going so quickly! We handed in our first piece of assessed work, a literature review, in Week 6, and there are two other essays and a group presentation to do before Christmas. Eek! We also exhibited posters about information literacy during a module last week, which you can read about on our team blog. To say that we have lots of work to do would be an understatement. Despite the workload, though, I’m feeling really positive about life as a library student at the moment. I even had to boast about it on Twitter, I just couldn’t help myself (annoying, I know!).

Last week, as part of our Libraries, Information and Society module, we went to visit Chesterfield Library. It is a fantastic public library and is absolutely enormous! They’ve got tons of resources and space, and even put on free concerts on Saturday lunchtimes! I learned some interesting statistics on the trip as well – did you know that public libraries have more visitors per year than professional football? I certainly didn’t! Derbyshire Libraries apparently get more visitors per year than Manchester United, which is pretty impressive. All the facts and figures, plus the great tour of Chesterfield Library, contributed to a much brighter picture of public libraries than I had had previously. Here’s the obligatory “I visited Chesterfield and saw the wonky spire” picture:

Nice morning visit to Chesterfield.

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On Thursday I went to visit a librarian at a law firm. He showed me around the library area and explained about the sorts of things he does as part of his job, which was interesting because I don’t have a great amount of knowledge about what actually goes on in corporate libraries. Some of the tasks are similar to what an academic liaison librarian or a health librarian would do, for example running inductions for the trainee solicitors, finding legal information quickly for lawyers and getting documents from the British Library. There’s a catalogue, subscriptions to journals, and a physical collection of books, just like what I’m used to. The librarian and knowledge managers also contribute to regular bulletin emails, keeping the lawyers up-to-date on developments in their fields, which health librarians also often do for doctors, and which is similar to the sort of work I used  to do producing newsletters for academic staff. There are differences, though; in this company most of the “knowledge managers” are embedded within legal departments, rather than working in the library. The librarian is the only person who actually has an office next to the books and journals, which makes him quite isolated. Also, some of the materials are different, such as looseleaf services, which I have seen but not worked with before. The librarian also collaborates with the libraries in the firm’s overseas offices, sharing information and resources with them, which isn’t something I’ve seen much in the departments I’ve worked in. Overall, I feel much better informed about the mysterious world of corporate and legal libraries, and would definitely consider working in one if the opportunity arose, as the research aspect of library work is something I really enjoy.

Something else has happened in the last couple of weeks which I’m really proud of – I set up Library Society! It’s a University society for all Sheffield students who like libraries, whether they’re historians, architects, scientists, geographers, or anything else you can think of. We’re aiming to go on trips to unusual and beautiful libraries, as well as eating lots of cake and generally having a lovely time. I’ve got the Committee sorted now, so we’ve just got to decide where to go for our first ever trip, and what sorts of cake we like to eat. Oh, and we need to get some students involved. Easy! I’m really excited about Library Society as I think it’ll be a great way to get people thinking about (and hopefully using) libraries, which will hopefully translate into more people fighting to keep their local public libraries open and professionally staffed. Fingers crossed!

What with all these things and #libcampuk13 coming up soon, I’m having a great time with libraries at the moment, albeit an extremely busy one. It’s all very exciting and I feel like I’m doing a lot of things, and meeting a lot of people, which will all contribute to my future as a librarian (hopefully of the Roquefort variety!). Hooray for libraries!

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