Tag Archives: MA Librarianship

Teaching or training? My LILAC presentation

Last week I went to LILAC for the day. If you haven’t heard of LILAC before, I will briefly explain: it’s a conference about information literacy, and is mostly attended by librarians and researchers. It’s my favourite (in my very limited experience) of all the big events and conferences I’ve been to, because it’s got a very friendly atmosphere and there’s a real sense that everyone’s really happy to be there, and excited to share new things and learn from each other. I went last year as a volunteer for CILIP Y&H and loved it, so when I was accepted to present my own research there this year I was thrilled. Plus, the conference was at my alma mater Newcastle University this time round, so that made it extra special!

I’m going to talk exclusively about my presentation in this blog post, but I will also be writing one about all the other sessions I went to, so keep an eye out for that later this week.

My MA dissertation research is not something I really wrote much about on this blog, because I was stressing out about it way too much at the time. Now that a year has passed since I had to start thinking about it, I am able to talk about it with enthusiasm again! I wanted to do some research into how librarians think about themselves and their teaching. There’s loads of case studies out there about how librarians are implementing different teaching theories and techniques and devising cool new teaching interventions. “Teacher-librarians” seem to be a big thing! However, this didn’t always chime with what I was experiencing in my workplace – not all the librarians I met would call themselves teachers or say that what they were doing was teaching, let alone be doing all this innovation and stuff. I decided that I’d use my dissertation to find out more about how librarians viewed themselves and their roles within the institutions/environments they worked in.

I used phenomenographic interviews to collect the data for my research. Phenomenography is all about getting deeper into what people are saying about things, to try and uncover their conceptions of things. You end up with a collection of different ways in which people experience or think about a certain phenomenon – in this case, themselves as teachers (or not teachers), their teaching, and information literacy. I created four categories, each of which describes a conception, and which is different/distinct from the other three. The idea is that librarians might be able to identify which category they most closely match, and this might help them understand their approach to the teaching they do and possibly identify ways to help them approach it differently (for example, go to a training session about teaching, to help you feel more confident about calling yourself a teacher, to help you feel more like the equal of other teaching staff at your workplace, to help you have a more productive relationship with them).

After writing up and submitting my dissertation, my supervisor Pam encouraged me to think about publishing it or developing it further. Having been to last year’s LILAC, I really wanted to go back, and as my research is all about librarians who teach information literacy, it was a good fit. As is now obvious, my application was accepted and I was invited to give a 20 minute talk at this year’s conference. Hooray!

The talk went really well – about 50 people watched! – and I was delighted by the number of people who came up afterwards to tell me and Pam how interesting they thought it was. It’s nice to think that my work is actually interesting to other people and not just me!

Lots of people have asked whether they can read my research. My dissertation will be published on Sheffield’s archive at some point soon (not sure exactly when). We are also submitting an edited version to a journal, so if/when it is accepted and published I will share that online as well. In the meantime, if you’d like to get a copy of my dissertation, you are very welcome to contact me and ask for it. I’ve also put my presentation on Slideshare and embedded it at the end of this post; if you want to see what I said on the day, view the presentation notes on the Slideshare website here – just scroll down under the presentation and click notes (circled in red in the screenshot below). Enjoy!

slideshare notes

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Graduation

Well, I made it! On Wednesday this week I graduated from Sheffield University with an MA Librarianship (with distinction, no less!). It’s the culmination of a year of hard graft and not much sleep and it feels great to actually have my certificate and be able to say I am a qualified librarian!

 

Here’s me and the certificate: My graduation

 

I don’t remember exactly when I decided to pursue librarianship. It feels like a lifetime ago, although it will only have been in mid-2011. Since then I have had four library jobs, moved house three times, and notched up thousands of miles on the railway, commuting between Leeds and Sheffield for the MA course. Despite the last few years being difficult at times (waking up at 5am every day and spending four hours on trains is not my idea of fun) I am so pleased I had a chance thought one day along the lines of “maybe I could be a librarian!”, because it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned so much. I even enjoyed throwing books away for four months!


So what’s next? Well… chartership, I suppose. I’m holding off on starting the chartership process because I haven’t got a permanent or long-term contract in my current job, and I’d like to get a bit of stability before I get going with chartership. After the stress of summer 2014, where I tried to hold down a job, research and write a dissertation, and buy a house all at the same time, I’d quite like to have a quieter summer this year! Instead of pursuing another qualification or certificate, I’m going to do more informal things like going to networking events and one-off training sessions. I’ve been to a couple of seminars recently and it’s nice to dip into interesting topics without having to commit to lengthy or expensive courses. This week I’m going to a talk about technology-enhanced learning, which I’m really looking forward to. My first year as a qualified librarian is turning out quite nicely so far 🙂

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Well, I’m glad that’s over.

This summer has been a busy one for me, as I attempted to research and write my MA dissertation, work part-time in Sheffield and buy a house at the same time. Things like “sleep” and “social life” became alien concepts for three months while I concentrated on staying upright, alert and able to speak and write coherently. As is often the way when you’re doing lots of stressful things at once, they all ended up clashing horribly (and exhaustingly) over the same weekend. On the 29th of August I collected the keys to our new house and received an email inviting me to a job interview. On the 30th of August we moved house. And on the 31st of August I finished and submitted the most important piece of academic work I have ever produced.

 

On Monday the 1st of September I woke up feeling extremely happy and carefree!

 

I’m not convinced my dissertation is the world’s best essay (by a very long shot) but I think I made a good attempt at doing research of a topic I didn’t know much about, using techniques I had never used before. I think the stress of juggling so many life events at once might show up in the writing, especially one chapter which corrupted and had to be rewritten from scratch close to the deadline, but I’m pleased that I’ve produced a halfway decent piece of work. People keep asking me about how it went and, honestly, I can’t remember much about it any more (I think this is my brain protecting me from the trauma of the final weeks). I’m mainly glad that it’s all over and I can go to the pub without feeling guilty.

 

I’ve adjusted quite well to being a non-student again – it’s nice that all my spare time is my own and I can spend it watching the Apprentice or wandering around Leeds without thinking “I really should be doing some reading/literature searching/essay writing”. It also helps that my NUS discount card is still valid! For the moment, I’m enjoying a quiet time, without any courses or organised activities to do. I keep toying with the idea of signing up to a MOOC or teaching myself a new skill, but I think I need a bit of a breather before I get stuck in to something new.

 

As for that job interview I mentioned… I only went and got the job! I left Sheffield two weeks ago and have started my new job – my first “professional librarian” job – in Leeds. I’m going to write more about that soon, but suffice it to say I am enjoying it, especially the (much) shorter commute, and learning huge amounts.

As for right now? I’m going to have a cup of tea and watch the Apprentice.

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Thoughts on positive thinking

A little while ago I wrote a guest post for the Library Trainee Network, a new website which aims to curate people’s views and experiences of their traineeships, qualifications and first professional posts. My post, which is about my experience of the MA Librarianship course at Sheffield, just went live yesterday and you can read it here. It’s been getting quite a good reaction on Twitter and I think this might be because it’s an overwhelmingly positive post, which is (dare I say) a little bit unusual. A lot of the stuff I’ve read about the various LIS courses on offer in the UK has been a lot more negative and there seems to be a strong feeling out there that the qualification is “just a piece of paper” or “just a hoop to jump through”, with little in the way of redeeming qualities. I do understand where this feeling has come from – this is a qualification you have to get if you want to “unlock” the next level of job (I know there are other routes, but this seems to be the most-used one if you want your career to progress quickly), and so it can feel like it’s just something that needs to be ticked off a long list of qualifications, training and development on the journey to becoming a fully-fledged library/information professional.

 

However, I also believe that it’s far too easy to focus on the negatives and forget that there are any positives at all – and I don’t mean this just about your MA/MSc, but about all areas of life. It’s much easier to have a moan to your friends, whether it’s face-to-face, on social media or by other means, than it is to celebrate small positive points about life. I know it’s true for me, at least; I often find that when I get together with friends over coffee or food, our conversation will become a stream of gripes and complaints about work, study, home life, other friends, etc. It’s far more common for me to log on to Twitter to post a moany tweet about trains than it is to say something positive. Of course this can be useful and constructive – friends and Twitter followers can help you work out what to do about a problem, or see a different side of a story, or sympathise with you, or remind you that it’s not all that bad. They can just sit and agree with you as well, and that’s ok too. Getting stuff off your chest and letting off steam are things we all need to do, and should do. I’m not saying there’s no place for having a bit of a moan now and then, but I think it’s a shame if all anyone ever hears about a certain topic (e.g. the MA course) is its bad points.

 

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe that there’s anyone who gets to the end of their Masters course and honestly says, “well, that was a complete waste of time (and money)”. We all benefit in some way from choosing to study on this course – whether it be new knowledge, new opportunities, new skills or new friends. I know that it would have taken me a lot longer to build up the knowledge and abilities that I have now, if I hadn’t done the course. In just 20 weeks of teaching I’ve developed as a person and as a professional, and I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved. No, I haven’t learned everything there is to learn – but I’ve got the rest of my career to do that!

 

Of course there are some things I didn’t enjoy about the course. Of course there are! These courses are designed to fit a lot of very different people who all want slightly different things from the same set of modules, and you can’t please everyone all the time. I think that there’s something to be said for the whole “change the things you can change, accept the things you can’t” idea, though; when we were unhappy with how a module was going, we gave lots of feedback to the Information School, and they’re completely overhauling it for next year. Granted, this doesn’t affect my experience of that module, but it does (hopefully) mean that the people who come after me will have a better time of it. I’m pleased that as a year group and a community we didn’t just resort to complaining about it amongst ourselves, but actually did something about it and got things changed. Out of a negative experience came positive action.

 

I know that this all might come across as a bit moany in itself, and I do see the irony in that, but I’m going with the defence that this is something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while. It’s not directed at anyone specific, it’s just the result of hearing a lot of complaints about people’s courses during the last couple of years, and getting a little bit tired of the seemingly endless negativity (about all aspects of life) on Twitter. I don’t want to be controversial or to spark a huge debate about who exactly is too negative or bitchy or whatever. I’m just resolving to be a more positive person and to share more of the good stuff than the bad stuff about the course, about librarianship in general, and about life. (Cheesy!)

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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.

A post shared by Emily (@heliotropia) on

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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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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