Tag Archives: networking

Get Career Ready with NLPN and CILIP

Outside of my job, I’m involved in “the profession” in various ways. I follow and talk to other library/information people on Twitter, I go to events and conferences, and I’m also on the committee for CILIP Yorkshire and Humberside Member Network. On Saturday, I linked up all of these activities: in my capacity as Student Liaison for CILIP Y&H, I collaborated with NLPN to put on an event in Sheffield for students and new professionals entitled “Get Career Ready” – and I livetweeted most of the day as well! (See #nlpnyh for tweets from me and other attendees).

The day was a resounding success; our five presenters all gave really interesting and engaging talks, and there was lots of lively discussion throughout the day. Lots of people have said they came away feeling very positive about their careers and about the profession, which is always nice to hear. There was also a lot of homemade cake consumed, which always helps!

Here’s a brief recap of what happened during the event:

Lisa Jeskins was our first speaker, talking about how people can get involved in special interest groups and committees and use this experience to improve their own skills as well as helping the group or organisation. She talked about her own experience of organising conferences and events (such as the LILAC conference next month) and encouraged us all to think about gaps in our skillset and what opportunities there might be for us to fill them. The talk also sparked a discussion about “yes-itis” – the danger of agreeing to do too much, and not being able to give enough time to each commitment.

Next, three NLPN members gave short presentations which they’d submitted following our call for papers. Holly Singleton talked about her first management role, giving practical tips on how to get a job as a manager and how to cope once you’re in it! Lyn Denny shared her dissertation research about the reading preferences of young children (especially young boys), and explained how she’d applied her findings in a school library, with a bonus cute picture of her daughters and niece dressed as pirates and Spiderman! Katherine Stephan’s presentation was all about how she switched from public libraries to academic libraries, and how even though they can seem very different, your skills from one sector can be useful in another. All three of these short presentations were fantastic and, again, there were lots of questions and ideas being shared afterwards.

After lunch, Darren Flynn explained how he teaches information literacy skills in his school library. He used an app that was new to most people in the room to deliver his presentation – it’s called Nearpod and it allows the presenter to share the presentation onto people’s devices, do polls and collect feedback. Darren explained how he can use Nearpod’s poll feature to assess the current knowledge level of the students in his class, and adjust his teaching accordingly. His presentation was very informative about things like differentiation and accommodating the needs of learners who may (for whatever reason) be uncomfortable with group work, paired work or standing up and speaking in front of the class. What was great was that Darren was really clear about how his tips and techniques can be used across any sector – my friend (a legal librarian)  and I were both thinking of lots of ways in which we could apply what he was saying to our own teaching/training activities.

The last hour of the day was for “speed networking”, with the attendees split into five groups, each of which sat at a table with a speaker who explained their role and answered any questions people might have. After ten minutes the groups moved round and met the next speaker. I was a last-minute addition to the list of speakers, and the others included Darren as well as a health information specialist, a legal knowledge manager, and a media manager for the BBC. I hope the attendees found this useful – obviously my experience of this was a bit different as I didn’t get to hear about the other speakers’ jobs. I think it was a great idea though, and was certainly a good way of quickly meeting a lot of people and introducing your line of work to them!

Overall, the day was absolutely brilliant and I’m really proud to have had a hand in organising it. Massive thanks go to NLPN for their extensive events organisation know-how and all their hard work ensuring it went without a hitch, and of course to all the speakers for giving up their Saturdays to come to Sheffield and present to us! I came away with lots of ideas and enthusiasm for librarianship/info work and from what I’ve seen on Twitter I think a lot of the other attendees did as well.


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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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Enhancing Your Professional Profile: Job Hunting and Social Media

On Thursday I went up to the MMU Business School to attend an afternoon of talks as part of our regular training schedule. The theme this month was Job Hunting and Social Media, and there were three sessions over the course of the afternoon on different aspects of this topic.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aslanmedia_official/6292167103/The first session was entitled “Amazing Applications”, and was run by the University’s Careers Service. There were a couple of good points raised during this session, such as the importance of mirroring the employer’s language in your application (are they groovy and relaxed, like In nocent, or businesslike, like Barclays?) to show you’ll fit in with their culture and the need for clear structure in your answers. I liked the advice about using the STAR technique when giving evidence of competencies (list the Situation, Task, Action, and Result) as well. Apart from this, though, I felt that this was a session better suited to students than to us, as we already had to fill in an application form to get the GT job. I’ve written about applying to library school before, and the advice is pretty much exactly the same for applying for jobs: research the employer thoroughly, list all your skills and experiences before you start writing the application for easy reference, and give evidence for every single one of the competencies required, in the order they require them. I didn’t feel that this was the most helpful session I’ve ever been to, although it’s always good to refresh your knowledge.
The next session, run by @catmcmanamon and another librarian, was called “Your Professional Profile”, and was much more interesting. It was about how you can use your online identity to show potential employers your value to them as an employee. A good point that was raised was that social media is user-centred, and that this is something we should be exploiting in order to get ourselves out there and show ourselves in a good light. Essentially, you’re putting the best of yourself on show for everyone to judge. This of course means that you’ve got to engage responsibly; it’s no good putting yourself all over the internet if it’s not helping you out. Paris Brown is a good recent example of when your online presence hinders rather than helps your image.
Responsible engagement means occasionally biting your tongue – tweeting about a bad day can lose you your job! Many workplaces and universities have specific policies about what would happen if you were to bring them into disrepute with your actions. We saw several examples of students losing their places at university or being taken to court for writing inappropriate tweets, such as Joshua Cryer last year. If you want to check whether you’re at risk for being fired, there’s a website for that (which also shows some excellent examples of what not to do!) Remember that people have suffered serious repercussions for “joke” tweets before, so it’s definitely a case of “think before you tweet”.
“[S]ocial media is not a lesser form of communication; it is as worthy of a disciplinary hearing as anything said out loud.”Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
 But the real point of this session wasn’t to discourage us from using social media altogether, but rather to use it as a force for good. In order to show your best self online, you may need to do a bit of spring cleaning – hide or delete things that don’t paint you in the best light and make sure all your privacy settings are up to date. This is especially important on services like Facebook, who change their privacy policies and settings pages frequently. Another way of improving your online identity is to flood Google with impressive results that push down unwanted ones – after all, nobody really reads past the first page or so of Google search results. The trick is to have a managed, “PR-ready” profile on the accounts that Google ranks highly, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and Facebook.
In this digital age, employers are looking for people who are digitally literate, so using social media astutely can help you with this. It doesn’t have to be all dry and dusty, though; you can show your personality too, as long as it looks “professional”. Pinterest and Flickr are good ways of showing your hobbies and interests, for example. An interesting tool that I hadn’t heard of before is Vizify, which creates “graphical biographies”. We had a little play around with it during the session, and it’s really simple to set up your own Vizify page and populate it with the information that you want people to see – your education, employment history, hobbies, and anything else. It collects the information from the social media services you link to it, and you can pick and choose exactly what it displays. I had some fun creating mine – check it out here. (Among other things, it’s made me realize that I need to stop tweeting about how much I hate trains!)
You can also use social media to make great connections (obviously) and hunt for new opportunities. Start following updates on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or RSS from companies and brands who do the sort of work you’re looking for, and get yourself noticed by them. Interacting with the important people is easier online than it would be face-to-face, as social media isn’t hierarchical. A good tip is to use keywords in your profiles and bios so that you’re more easily searchable, as well as talking about your interests (professional and personal) and interacting with relevant people. It takes time to build up a good network of people who can help you get where you want, but there are plenty of success stories out there that show what can be achieved.
This session will be run for students during Employability Week here at MMU, and those students are in for a treat! I’ve been feeling quite inspired by this talk, and have been tweaking my “identity” all weekend. Next stop: a proper photo.
Finally, we had a short talk about job hunting in the LIS sector. It’s getting towards the time of year where I need to be thinking about getting some part-time work for the next academic year, so I was looking forward to picking up some tips. I’ve created a Google Doc here of the helpful job search websites we looked at during the session, which I would love for people to add to and share. Darren, who ran the session, recommended thinking about the job you want, not the sector you want to work in. If you like teaching infoskills sessions, there’s no point in applying for a cataloguing job just because it’s at an academic library, when there could be a more suitable role in a different organisation. He also pointed out that librarians aren’t just called librarians any more – they’re also information officers, data analysts and knowledge managers (here’s a large but not exhaustive list), so it can be a bit hit-and-miss when searching on job websites. Some websites have a drop-down list or selection of tick-boxes which help you narrow your search to a field, e.g. “library” or “information management” or similar, which can help prevent you from missing out on jobs with unusual titles.
Darren’s tips for job hunting are as follows:
  • Use RSS or email alerts for searches (where possible) so that you don’t have to keep going back to websites to run the same search.
  • do placements not volunteering
  • keep up on your current awareness
  • join a professional body (it’s cheap for students and GTs)
  • attend training courses and events (look out for the free and cheap ones)
  • join peer networks like the Manchester NLPN 
  • share job opportunities with friends and peers – they may well do the same in return!

Overall, this was a great afternoon and it’s certainly got me thinking about ways to get my personal brand shipshape and ready for the competitive jobs market that lies ahead.


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NLPN Spring Event: Part Two

This is the second part of my monster post reflecting on the Manchester NLPN Spring Event. The first part can be found here.

Manchester NLPN's logo, shamelessly nicked from their Twitter page

Manchester NLPN’s logo, shamelessly nicked from their Twitter page

After lunch we had a talk from Emily Hopkins, who works for an NHS Trust in Manchester. She explained that the library services in the NHS are as varied as the parts of the NHS itself. They typically provide any combination of the following: books and journals, infoskills training and critical appraisal, current awareness updates, literature searching, inter-library loans and document supply, and study space. The Trust Emily works for is a mental health Trust, and has thirty different locations, including hospitals, offices, clinics  and outreach centres. There is a phsyical library, but a lot of Emily’s work involves her going out to the different sites to work with the staff there. In terms of outreach and advocacy, Emily says that her strategy is to go where the users are – this might be team meetings, CPD events, or staff training days. To promote the library, she uses a website and social media, but also – and I think this is the best bit – freebies. I am now the proud owner of an NHS pen and notepad, with all the contact details for Emily’s library on there, which is really handy if you actually work for her Trust – you can keep it next to the phone, and you’ll always know how to contact the library.

We looked at case studies to get an idea of the sort of work Emily does to advertise her library. We saw that often, you’d only get a five-minute slot during a meeting to showcase the services the library offers, so you need to prioritise the services that are most relevant to the people you’re speaking to, and speak in their language – they’re not books, they’re the “evidence base”.
Like the school librarians, Emily has found that a great way of advocating for her library is to show the directorate how the library service aligns with the business objectives set out for the Trust – looking at stated aims, such as “using research to inform care” and showing that that’s exactly what the library is for.
The final talk of the day was from Alison Sharman, who is a librarian at the University of Huddersfield, and who set up a project called “the Roving Librarian”, to increase the visibility and accessibility of the library on campus. The basis of this project was research carried out by the university, which is documented here, and which showed that not only does the number of hours spent in the library strongly correlate with a student’s final grade, but also the type of resource used can have a big impact on a person’s grade. Students receiving Firsts and 2:1s were much more likely to have used e-resources than books, and vice versa for the students getting 2:2s and Thirds. The interesting result from the study was that the number of visits to the library is actually roughly equal across the board, meaning that people getting Firsts are getting a lot more out of each visit than those on Thirds. Other statistics included first-year students not borrowing any books, third-years relying on Google rather than specialist databases, and staff not recommending library resources to their students.
To combat these statistics and ensure that everyone got a fair shot at a good grade, the library staff decided to adopt a “bring the mountain to Mohammed” approach and take the librarians out of the library. They used tablets to go out and about and approach students around the campus, asking them if they had any problems or needed any help with their work. The project was evaluated and the results were published later on.
An important point Alison made was that the Roving Librarian service had to have a recognisable brand, to help it stand out and get noticed outside the library environment. They had a logo made up and used the branding for computer screens, social media, stickers and the Virtual Learning Environment. I have to say, I’m not a fan of the logo that was chosen, (while discussing with others, we agreed that we would prefer to use art or design students to work on the branding) but it certainly stands out.
During roving sessions, the rovers would give out freebies (again! I think I need to talk to MMU Libraries about this) as well as questionnaires to help assess the effectiveness of the project. One statistic that arose from these questionnaires was that 80% of students felt they would be more likely to use physical resources in the library after having spoken to a rover, which sounds like definite success to me.
Alison’s keys to being a successful rover are as follows:
  • engage students in friendly conversation
  • know your subject
  • make it personal
  • experiment
  • timing is essential – target busy times and busy places to be more visible
  • go out in pairs, so there’s a spare person if one’s busy
  • have freebies
  • try promoting a specific service – e.g. infoskills sessions or libguides
  • gather feedback
  • try roving with (wisely chosen) students
The project sounded very interesting, and I think it’s an inspired way to reach out to students, rather than just putting out posters or advertising on a website. Conducting a study like this also helps to prove the value of the library to senior management, as the data can be used easily to show the impact that the project is having on students’ academic performance.
All in all, the Spring Event was a roaring success, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, not only because I got to hear about some great projects, but also because they afforded an insight into types of librarianship that I haven’t had much contact with, which is helping me form a clearer picture of where I want my own career to go. Plus the cake selection was excellent! Thank you again to Catherine, Amy , Sian and Helen for organising the event, and to all the speakers. I’m looking forward to the next one!

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NLPN Spring Event: Part One

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Manchester NLPN Spring event. The theme of the day was Advocacy and Outreach and the lineup of speakers was very varied: Stewart Parsons from Get It Loud in Libraries; four librarians from the Manchester School Librarians Association; Emily Hopkins from the NHS and Alison Sharman from the University of Huddersfield. Each of them was there to give an overview of the advocacy or outreach (or both) that is part of their work as a librarian.



At the start of the event, I was most excited about hearing from Stewart Parsons, as I knew a little bit about what he does, and was interested to learn more about it. During his talk he explained to us how he had developed the Loud in Libraries scheme and what his plans were for the future.

Stewart was working at a music library when he first had the idea for Loud in Libraries. He realised that the resources that the library stocked weren’t very up-to-date and therefore weren’t attracting a very wide audience. In order to increase the membership of the library, Stewart first decided to restock the library with some newer music, but soon came up against a roadblock: to protect music sales, the BPI does not allow libraries to stock CDs until three months after release. Therefore, the library had no way to draw in young people, as they wouldn’t want to wait three months to hear the latest albums from their favourite artists. And so Loud in Libraries was born: a project where the library would put on gigs for up-and-coming artists, to promote the library’s services to a new audience.
Stewart made the point that as librarians, we should be at the forefront of culture, and the Loud in Libraries project has definitely helped with that. By getting in artists who weren’t (yet) well-known, Stewart could show that his library had its finger on the pulse. You may be surprised to hear it (I was) but in 2007 Adele played Lancaster Library for a fee of £75!
What has really worked for Loud in Libraries is the fact that it’s a youth-led project; Stewart enlisted young people from the local community and universities to help run every aspect of the scheme, from web design to front of house to merchandising. This made the project seem more appealing and more credible to the target audience, and also helped with getting the word out; peer-to-peer marketing among young people is a very powerful tool. The work that young people have done for the project has also supported their own academic success, providing material for photography or fashion portfolios, so it has had benefits for everyone involved.
Get It Loud in Libraries has had proven success; Stewart said that at each event, 60-80% of attendees have been new library users, which is an amazing statistic. The sustained success is down to a very clear vision – the project has to consistently produce high-quality events and keep innovating. In the near future the project will be rolled out across the North West, involving libraries in areas of low arts intake, and will be partnering with brands which have the resources and social conscience to help Stewart continue to exceed expectations. It’s a really inspiring project, and I expect to hear a lot more about it in the future.
I think what was really interesting for me about this talk was the whole notion of having to pull in an audience – my experience so far of academic libraries is that this isn’t really something that is given much thought, as we sort of have a captive audience. It was surprising (although maybe not that surprising) to find that not everyone at the music library was originally on board with the idea; I would have thought that any idea which gets more visitors to your library would be popular, but this is maybe a bit “out there” as far as ideas go!
I love the idea of getting involved with the local community in ways like this, as it is both advocating for libraries and reaching out to a potential new audience.
 The next session was about advocacy and outreach in school libraries in Manchester. School librarianship is something I know next to nothing about, so this session was really enlightening on that front. School libraries turn out to be as varied as the people who run them, and this session was a great example of just how varied that can be.
The first speaker was a librarian at a boys’ grammar school, which is very well-ranked academically. She said that her students have a great work ethic, and that the library is very well-used as a study space, but that the challenge for her is getting classes to come and engage with the library. She said that for school librarians especially, “advocacy underpins everything we do”. The first thing to do to get the library taken seriously is to target staff; if they’re not on board, then you’re struggling. They either need to bring classes in to the library or give messages out about it. To get noticed and on board with staff you’ve got to invite yourself along to everything – all meetings, INSET days, literacy groups and so on – and get the library involved in all cross-curricular events, for example Shakespeare Day or Earth Day. Being seen to be involved is important, as is being seen behaving professionally and positively. Getting to know new staff early on can often be the key to getting new projects and collaborations off the ground – and it can show other staff what the library can do for them.
After targetting staff, you need to target students. Your library needs to be a welcoming environment, whatever that means for your particular library. For this library it means regular music performances at lunchtimes, which gets those students involved who wouldn’t normally come into the library, and competitions themed around events, such as the Olympics (or Sports Day). All this adds up to a library service that’s involved in all aspects of the students’ school lives, so they can’t escape! Muah ha ha ha… No, but seriously, by seeing the library involved in various events and involving them in activities, the students (and staff) will appreciate it more, and hopefully utilise its services more.
The next librarian to speak was based at a coeducational compehensive school, which has recently had a new library built. The librarian has only been working there for a short time, but he has had the chance to set up and run the library exactly how he wants it. This, I think, would be one of the best parts of being a school librarian – although as the quote goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”, and I think it’s a challenge to sort out stuff you’d like to do from stuff that would be best for your library. This librarian certainly had some interesting ideas – a shoeless “learning lounge” with lots of soft seating and not much shelving. This is to encourage students to come in and use the space as a study or reading space, which is something that needs to be worked on here much more than in the previous school. I’m not convinced on the shoeless front myself, but whatever works, right?
The main point of this librarian’s talk was that he uses data an awful lot. He’s collected information about his students, such as how many Gifted and Talented or ESL kids there are, and used it to tailor activities and projects towards these sets of students. This has helped him advocate for the library service as he’s got data and statistics he can use to present for OFSTED inspections and other reports, to justify his budget and show how the library is addressing the school’s priorities.
The next school librarian’s talk focussed on her outreach projects. She is based at a large high school and is one of two professional librarians, which means she has more time to work on projects which take her away from the library, unlike some of the other school librarians. As her high school is near several others, the school needs to sells itself well to local primary schools in order to maintain its large intake numbers. This librarian helps with that by going into primary schools to run peer education programmes, which helps the younger students become familiar with the staff and students before they move into the larger school. One project involves gifted and talented students training up Year 6 children to be reading buddies for younger pupils, while another gives students the chance to share books they loved at age 10 with current Year 5 pupils (it sounded a bit like speed dating for books). There’s also a shared reading initiative, where pupils at primary schools read books in class and then go to the high school for a big session at the end of the book, to meet the author and get their books signed. These initiatives have been successful because the senior management at the high school were supportive and provided a budget to pay for books for the primary schools and for author visits, and they have benefited the school enormously as it is held in higher regard in the area.
The final school librarian’s talk was very short as it was almost lunchtime, but her main point was that self-advocacy is very important, and that you have to help yourself as much as possible. Being a solo librarian can be very insular, so CPD activities that get you involved with other librarians and organisations are a great idea. She also said that innovation is the key to success in school libraries – if you want to show how great the library is, you have to keep coming up with new ways of doing things so people will sit up and take notice.
At the (brief) Q&A session, an interesting point was raised – none of the librarians had mentioned using social media at all, which is unusual for us non-school librarians, as it seems to be increasingly important these days. The answer was that it’s not easy for school libraries to work with social media, due to the need for safeguarding of children. School internet access is a bit like a walled garden; you can only really get to half of it. One of the librarians said that she’d be afraid of looking ridiculous – but I don’t really think that’s a valid excuse. If you maintain a professional demeanour on social media and don’t try and get too “down with the kids”, it can be a really valuable tool. Lots of public libraries do this, as do school PTAs (at least in my bit of South Manchester they do!) and local community organisations. I reckon that a school library Twitter feed could be a great way of showing parents what sort of stuff the library is offering their kids, as well as potentially creating new connections and new partnerships with community groups, for example book festival organisers or local history groups.


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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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Day Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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