Tag Archives: Sheffield

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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All change

It’s the summer!

I’ve made it almost all the way through my MA Librarianship course now. All the teaching and assignments are out of the way, and the dissertation is the only thing left. I’m supposed to be doing the literature review at the moment but can’t quite muster up the enthusiasm for it yet. I know I’ll be much happier about doing the project when I get to move on to the more exciting bits, but while I still have the lit review to get on with I’ve been pulling faces at anyone who asks “so… how’s the dissertation going?”. It’s been really nice to do fun stuff for a bit, only going to Sheffield three days a week instead of five or seven, but I do need to buckle down and get on with it.

This week I’m starting a new job! Today is my last day as a Weekend Customer Services Assistant, and from tomorrow I will be a Capacity Management Assistant instead. I’m not actually allowed to work tomorrow (you can’t do seven days in a row at work) so my first day will be Tuesday. I’m looking forward to this job mainly because I get to work a normal pattern – it’s Monday to Friday mornings, rather than every other weekend plus four hours in the week. I get my weekends back! Weekend working has been the worst thing about this year – I love the actual job and the student interaction and so forth, but public transport is RUBBISH on weekends when you live where I do. The trains don’t start out of my village until 10am – not very useful when I need to be in Sheffield at 10.30!

The routine of the new job will, I hope, help me get on with my dissertation and have a properly scheduled life. Work all morning, go home, do the dissertation all afternoon. I love a routine, so I’m hoping that with a bit of commitment I can be the highly motivated and organised person I always knew I could be…

Capacity Management is a totally different type of library job to what I’m doing now. At Sheffield there are well over 1 million books and other materials, and they’re organised into several different collections, most of which are buried in the lower floors of Western Bank Library. Every so often these collections need to be reorganised or moved, and older books move out of the main collection to the “store” collections downstairs, so that new books can come in. It’s Capacity Management’s job to work out where to put stuff, measuring how much extra space is needed for the books joining store collections, and rearranging everything so it all fits. The library is also part of the UK Research Reserve, which is a group of libraries across the UK who coordinate their journal collections jointly, agreeing that one library will hold a certain journal and all the other libraries can get rid of their copies. This is done for journals with especially low usage – you don’t really need a journal that nobody ever uses taking up space on your shelves, and if one day someone does need it, they can ask another library to send it over. One of my main tasks at Capacity Management will be to go around the shelves with a list of journals we don’t need to keep, finding them, taking them off the shelf, and disposing of them. All this might not sound like a very nice thing to do – I know a lot of people get upset at the thought of throwing away books – but there are always good reasons for doing it, and at libraries like Sheffield we are rapidly running out of space. If we don’t need to keep something, and someone else has a copy of it, then why should we? We’re not an archive (and even archives don’t keep everything).

Although Capacity Management is not exactly the sort of area I want to end up in, I’m glad to have the chance to do it. In Customer Services it sometimes feels like I don’t really know what’s happening behind the scenes, and only ever hear about things that directly affect customers. Working down in the depths of Western Bank with the books rather than the people will, I hope, give me a different perspective on processes and procedures, and provide a new piece of the jigsaw. If I ever manage to become a subject librarian I would expect to have a say in stock management – buying new stuff and deciding about what we don’t need any more – so having spent some time actually moving stock around and disposing of it will give me a bit more knowledge about the mechanics of the whole thing. As I’m still assistant level I won’t be making any judgements myself, but I will be a bit closer to the process.

I’ve really enjoyed being in Customer Services, and it’s helped me realise how much I do know and how capable I can be of answering all sorts of enquiries. I’ve discovered over the last two years that I’m much more of a “people person” than teenage me would ever have predicted, and I’ve really loved interacting with students and staff and helping them solve their problems. But equally, I’m looking forward to a new department and the chance to use the other side of me, the side that loves spreadsheets and repetitive tasks and finding stuff on shelves, and I’m especially looking forward to getting to do it all during normal office hours. Here’s to new challenges!

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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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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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I’m Back!

New academic year, new start for Letters from the Library. I’m writing this in Sheffield’s very shiny Information Commons, one of my new homes this year.

I’ve now started both my MA course and my new job, and it’s safe to say I’m going to be pretty busy from here on in!

Last week was Freshers’ Week, which was quite hectic as not only did I attend several welcome meetings and registration events as a student, but also had to attend a training day as a new member of staff. Add to this the faff of getting university admin sorted, and it was a fairly non-stop week for me. It seems to all be settling down into a routine now, which is good at least.

So, first things first – the course. I’m taking four modules this semester, which cover “libraries, information and society”, management, information retrieval and information literacy. I’ve already had an introductory lecture for each of them, so have an idea of which ones I’m going to like and which ones are going to be more difficult! The management module is the one that’s grabbed my attention (surprisingly), as during the first lecture we were shown a job advertisement and told “this module will help you hit each point on the Person Specification”. That’s exactly why I’m doing this course – to get a professional post – so that was quite exciting. I think the module I will struggle with the most this semester is the one about information literacy. While I am interested in information literacy after my practical experiences of it as a GT, the first lecture was quite theory-intensive and dry, so I was not as engaged as I’d hoped. Perhaps it’ll pick up a bit as we go through the term.

I’ve already got quite a lot of work to do – lots of reading and preparation for next week’s lectures, plus a test essay (!) due in a couple of weeks’ time, which I need to research and write. It’s already becoming clear to me how focused I’ll need to be this year in order to stay on top of the workload, as I don’t have very much time in which to get everything done.

I’ve also started work at the University Library – I worked both days at the weekend as overtime (bit keen!) and then worked on Wednesday afternoon as part of my weekday hours requirement. The job is arranged slightly differently to how I thought – I thought you worked one day each weekend and then four hours during the week. It turns out you work both days every other weekend and four hours each week, apart from the first six weeks where I’ll be working eight hours during the week to help me get used to procedures at both library sites. It’s a bit complicated, but I think it’s worked out a bit better as now I can have some weekends to arrange trips, catch up on sleep (and TV) and do some uni work.

My first weekend at work was quite intense – it was definitely a case of going in at the deep end! On Saturday I was based at the Western Bank Library, and after a morning of picking books off the shelf to satisfy reservations, I was posted to the Welcome Desk and then the Issue Counter for the rest of the day. Having never worked at the library before, this meant there was a fair bit of thinking on my feet to be done in order to answer enquiries from people coming in! Luckily nothing was overly complicated and a lot of the things I was asked were quite general enquiries, so I didn’t feel too out of my depth. On Sunday I worked at the Information Commons, which was a completely different experience. I divided my time between the back office, satisfying reservations, and the Welcome Desk, where I mainly showed people how to use the sef-service machines and the printers. The IC is a lot busier than Western Bank (even on a Sunday afternoon), so the three hours I spent as front-of-house were quite full-on. It did mean that the day didn’t drag, though!

The weekday hours I did at the IC on Wednesday surprised me again – after thinking that it was busy on Sunday afternoon, I had to quickly re-evaluate that when faced with the Wednesday afternoon “rush”. I spent part of the afternoon at the Welcome Desk with a colleague, and there was constantly a queue of people waiting for our help. It was never this busy at MMU (at Gaskell, at least), even during dissertation season, so I was a little unprepared for just how busy I would be.

I’m really looking forward to this term – I’ve got some library-related trips planned (Manchester NLPN’s Autumn Event and Library Camp) as well as some trips as part of the MA, which should all be a lot of fun. I’m excited about the stuff we’re going to be learning on the various modules, too, and work is looking very promising. The only problem will be finding the time to fit everything in!

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Looking to the Future

On Wednesday I went to the University of Sheffield’s Postgraduate Open Day to see the place I’d applied to and get a feel for the course. Of course, as with all open days I’ve ever been to, the weather was atrocious, but I think this can be a good thing – after all, if you like the place when it’s grey and miserable, you’ll definitely like it when it’s sunny and warm. I’d never been to Sheffield before but I liked what little I saw of it.

My first stop was to the main exhibition, where they had stands from all sorts of University services. I picked up a ton of leaflets and three pens, so it was quite a success. There was also supposed to be a welcome talk, but I couldn’t find that. No matter though, as I was straight off to the Information Commons for a tour. The IC is Sheffield’s main library, and it’s very shiny and exciting. It’s quite similar to the All Saints library here at MMU, what with its 24-hour opening and self-service issue, returns and reservations. However, there are some parts of it that are quite exciting and different, including the “flexispace” where all the furniture is on wheels so you can design your own group study space, and the private study rooms with whiteboard walls. I can see why they were top of the table for university libraries in 2011.

Sheffield University Information Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/paolomargari/786017449/

Afterwards, I wandered down towards my next appointment, stopping off at a University café for some beef goulash which was very tasty and affordable. Another point to Sheffield! I then attended a talk which was not really what was advertised (or maybe I just got the wrong end of the stick) – it was sort of a “why should you do postgraduate taught study” session aimed at people who hadn’t made up their minds yet, rather than a session for people who knew what they were doing and wanted some more specific information. The speaker, an Economics lecturer, was engaging though, so it was still a fairly interesting half-hour, even if I didn’t learn anything new (perhaps this just means I’ve done good research already though!).

I then looked around another of Sheffield’s libraries, the St George’s Library, which the librarians at the main exhibition had said was the subject library for library and information students. I don’t think it is any more, but it was still interesting to get a look at a different library. This one was a lot smaller, and felt more like Elizabeth Gaskell Library. It was nice, although not nearly as shiny and exciting as the Information Commons!

After this, it was time to go to the Information School for a meeting with a senior lecturer. I was instantly impressed with the iSchool because they’d laid on Party Rings for us – that’s the best biscuit I’ve ever been given by a university. These are the things that matter. There were two other people there who were looking at the MA Librarianship, although I didn’t chat much with them as we were met by Sheila Webber, the senior lecturer, quite quickly. She took us to her office and gave us an overview of the course and the different modules, and the sorts of opportunities we would get. There’s something called Essential Computing Skills which sounds like it’ll be great on my CV, as well as some really interesting modules to choose from in the second semester. There was also a handy part of her presentation which set out what they were looking for from potential students – most useful what with the interview I was going to the next day!

After visiting the iSchool and being thoroughly impressed with it and the course, I left, to go and prepare myself for the interview the next day. I applied to the course at Sheffield a couple of weeks ago and got an invite to an interview with them about three days later – not bad going at all. I had a bit of a look on Google to see if anyone had written about their Sheffield interview experience, and lo and behold, a few people had, because if there is any group of people that likes to write about things and post it on the internet, it’s librarians. Librarians have got self-reflection down to a T, and it’s really useful for times like this. Everyone seemed to say that the interview was quite relaxed and informal, so I wasn’t too nervous going in, although I had to stop myself from getting too complacent – I still had to prove my worth!

The interview was with Sheila Webber, who I’d met (and questioned rather a lot) the day before, so I was instantly at ease. We talked about why I wanted to come to Sheffield, and why I wanted to study on the course. These were questions I was prepared for, so that was ok. Then we got on to the future of librarianship and I’d handily been following some stuff on Twitter the night before about how Croydon Council has put the library service out to tender, so I could speak a bit about my thoughts on the financial situation, and the public (and political) opinions on what libraries are for and how they should be run. It was all very easy and comfortable, and I asked some questions about some of the modules and dissertations, and then Sheila said “well, we’ll definitely be offering you a place” and I was so happy I sort of got stuck and said thank you about 50 times. And then after I left and went to get the tram back to the train station, this happened:

So that was good.

Anyway, I’m going to Sheffield! As long as I can get some money together to pay for it, of course.  I’m going to send off the AHRC funding application this week and keep all my fingers crossed that they’ll like me enough to give me lots of money. Back up plans at the ready!

 

 

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