Tag Archives: Manchester

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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February Training Session (finally)

A couple of weeks ago now I attended another training session – this time it was the annual staff updating session. This was a chance for library staff to learn about some of the recent developments that have gone on in the library, which is quite interesting for us at the “satellite” sites who don’t always get all the news filtered through from the main library. It was advertised as a hands-on session where we’d learn about new technologies, and the topics covered were going to be quite varied. In reality, there were maybe a few too many topics, as we did not manage to get through everything, but some of what we did hear about was quite interesting.

We started off with an overview of the developments at the main library, which has recently undergone a refurbishment on the ground floor, and will be undergoing more work to make it ready for extra stock to be moved in during the summer. The facts and figures were interesting – it costs a lot to refurbish a library, and there’s still a lot to be done on a fairly small budget before the other libraries start to move their stock in during the next 18 months.

We looked at the recent developments with the catalogue – we now have a lovely mobile version with all the functionality of the normal one, and there are neat little shortcuts you can use while searching that I didn’t know about, such as writing “Location:Gaskell” in front of your search terms to limit your results.

We then heard about the Customer Service Excellence award, which we are the only department of the university to hold, and had a short quiz on service level targets, which was interesting as some of them were not quite what we expected – although perhaps that’s down to our relative lack of experience.

The next topic was plagiarism and referencing, which started off with a short quiz on Harvard referencing, which I did quite well on despite never actually having used it before (I used another referencing system during my degree and it’s subtly different to Harvard). We also looked at the punishments for plagiarism offences, which again were quite surprising – who knew you could commit multiple plagiarism offences and still be allowed to stay on your course?!

We also looked a bit at podcasting/instructional videos; this is something that is a large part of my job, so I was quite interested by this section. We heard about the MMU Libraries YouTube page, which is being promoted more and more in an effort to raise awareness of the help and guidance we provide (and to increase the pageviews, which are quite low at the moment). We discussed the pros and cons of podcasts – pro: bitesize chunks of information, con: no opportunity for Q&A, etc – and also had a look at podcasts and videos produced by other libraries, to see what’s going on. Some of these were really good, such as this one or this one, but some of them made people cringe, such as the Librarians Do Gaga video. It’s interesting to see the range of styles and production values across library videos – some of them are really slick, while others… not so much. I like to think that ours at MMU are comfortably mid-range.

We then heard a little about informal learning, which is learning that doesn’t take place in formal settings such as classrooms. This was quite interesting to me, as I am often teaching myself new things in my spare time, exploring subjects and falling down Wikipedia holes. It was suggested that things like podcasts can help with informal learning, but the main point of this section was social learning, and how interacting in social media can be valuable in learning. We looked at some websites which analyse information on Twitter and other social media sites, and discussed whether we would actually use these. The websites I liked the look of were Topsy and SocialMention, both of which do real-time searches and provide various ways to analyse the results you get. I think I would mainly use websites like these for personal interest, like “how many people are watching Great British Bake Off right now?”, but can see value in them for people like journalists, who can use them to gauge reactions to major events. I’m not sure I could see myself using them for academic research, as I’m not sure they’d work as well for that sort of thing. I’m more than happy to be proved wrong if you’ve got evidence to the contrary though!

Disappointingly, we did not have time to talk about Open Access, which I understand is a big talking point at the moment for academic libraries. I don’t know very much about it at all, so I’m sad that I missed out on a chance to hear about what it is and how it affects us at the university. Hopefully during the rest of my year here, and my MA course, I can get to grips with it.

All in all, this was quite a mixed session, as I was already familiar with some of the topics, and the things I would have liked to know more about were passed over quite quickly or missed completely.  But I picked up some good tips and tricks as well as some inspiration for my podcasts, so it was useful in parts!

Our next session is on social media in libraries, which should be good, and it’s a NoWAL session, so there are networking opportunities to be had too. Stay tuned for a write-up of that!

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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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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.

Digitisation

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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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