Tag Archives: trainees

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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[throws book across counter in anger]

This is sort of a follow-on post from the previous one, as it concerns the afternoon of the same training day.

We started off by looking at Library policies and procedures using case studies. This was mainly interesting in a sort of gossipy way, as the case studies actually happened and the quotes were real. We split into small groups and were given six case studies to look at and decide what we would do in each scenario. They started off quite tame – a customer wants to take her child upstairs even though that’s not allowed – and built up to the one where a customer threw a book at a librarian because they’d only be able to take it out for a week. I mean, I knew dissertation time gets stressful, but throwing books?!

The upshot of the session is that there’s a policy for everything. We discussed ways of diffusing situations – if there’s a noisy person in a group room, speak to their group as a whole, rather than singling them out; suggest alternatives including e-books and journal searches when there are no copies left of a certain book; quote policies to students to back up what you’re saying. Perhaps these aren’t the most ground-breaking ideas, but they’re definitely good things to keep in mind.

One situation in particular caused some hot debate – a student caused a significant amount of damage to a number of books, and then got upset that even though they had paid for the damage, they could not then take the books home and keep them. Some staff were in favour of the student keeping the books – after all they can’t go back into circulation – and some staff were against it – they’ve paid for the damage, not the book, and if you let people “buy” the books it sends the message that they can do what they want to the book stock. The rules and regulations of the Library state that damaged items remain the property of the Library both before and after payment, and I think I would come down in favour of this – if we let people ruin the books and then buy them, we’d soon have no books left. It was interesting to see something that divides library staff so much being debated, and made me think about how difficult it must be to draw up policies and regulations, knowing that some of them will be quite controversial.

After this session we had two talks about alternative library careers. The first was from Bethan Ruddock, who is @bethanar on Twitter, and who was a GT at MMU herself. She was kind enough to share her slideshow on her blog, and it’s here if you’d like to see it yourself. She’s collected together paragraphs from various librarians and information professionals about what their jobs are all about, and it was really interesting to see the variety in job titles and responsibilities. Obviously certain aspects of library/information jobs are similar (they all involve working with information, duh), but the location, clients and day-to-day tasks can be wildly different. I think I’m still fairly set on getting into academic librarianship, but at least I now know that my future job title might be Knowledge Manager or Learning Resources Instructor, instead of Librarian. Bethan also raised some good points about job hunting, such as the importance of making sure you look good on Google – do your drunk Facebook photos come up first, or your LinkedIn profile, blog or Twitter account?

The other talk was from Nicola Siminson, who is the NoWAL Operations Officer. She spoke to us about her career path so far, which has been quite varied – she’s worked in lots of different types of organizations, and it was interesting to hear about the skills she gained from the different posts. Both Nicola’s and Bethan’s talks emphasised the importance of being willing to take certain risks with your career, and going for jobs that might not be the logical next step. Networking also seems to be a huge thing for librarians, and librarianship definitely seems to be a “who you know” profession. This would be great for us as trainees if anyone ever came to the networking drinks that are set up for us! At least we have each other…


Well, I’ve finally written up this training day, just in time for the next one. In mid-December we will be learning presentation skills and I can’t wait – I really like this sort of thing, so I’m feeling optimistic about it. Especially if I get to learn how to make a Prezi!

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First Day

I’ve now finished my first week as a Graduate Trainee at MMU and I’ve loved it so far. I intended to write a blog post each evening after work to document what I’ve been getting up to but things didn’t quite work out, so I’m writing them now instead. There’ll be a separate post for each day as otherwise this will get unreadably long! So here’s Day One…

It was my first day today and I think it went quite well. I arrived to find that I’m the only GT starting at my site, instead of one of a pair as I’d previously thought – the library is hiring a Senior Library Assistant instead so the other GT has moved to a different campus. Being the only new person was a bit nerve-racking at first but I was quickly made to feel welcome. I was given a timetable for the week which was jam-packed with different activities in order to let me see as much as possible of what goes on in the library. The first thing was a tour of the campus, which revealed how much of a maze the building is, but luckily the actual library area is quite straightforward and I’ve been able to get to grips with it quite easily. I was promised a ghost story about the third floor of the building, but have yet to actually hear it. I’ll let you know when I do…! I also was given a map of the library, which instantly intrigued me as I spotted “morgue” and “graveyard” on the top floor. Perhaps it tied in with the ghost story! (The actual explanation is a little more mundane and will be revealed in the post for Day Five.)

Next up was an introduction to print journals, which was also my first introduction to TALIS, the library management software. I was shown how to log in to the system and how to add new journals to the catalogue – my first taste of librarian work! I had a go at stamping the journals and adding stickers to them, which all passed without a hitch, reassuringly. All through the first few days I’ve had a terrible fear of doing something horrendously wrong, but it’s been unfounded so far (touch wood).

After lunch I had a chat with the deputy manager and learned about such things as annual leave, sickness and TOIL – fairly straightforward stuff, but it was good to have everything explained to me.

I was then introduced to the library catalogue and saw the different search options that can be used, as well as the reservation and renewals systems. Again, it was all quite simple and also quite familiar (most library catalogues being vaguely along the same lines), but it was a good opportunity to get familiar with the library resources and see what is available for customers.

The final task of the day was to print some helpsheets on coloured paper, which was my first experience of using the multi-function printers. They take a bit of getting used to! You can swipe your student/staff card and use them to print, copy and scan to email (which is quite impressive). I don’t have my ID card yet so had to borrow another librarian’s to do the job, and had to keep swiping it because the MFPs log you out if you’re too slow. I think it will take me a little while to become friends with the printers, but I’m gradually becoming accustomed to their quirks.
Hometime came a lot quicker than I was expecting, and I finished my first day with a good feeling about the rest of the week and indeed the rest of the year. The rest of the staff are really lovely to me and will put up with a lot of questions! I’m really looking forward to settling in and becoming more of a part of the team.

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The Big Day

Well, this is it. I’ve packed up all my stuff and in two hours’ time I’ll be leaving the family home, never to return (until Christmas). Of course, I did this every September during my time at university, but this time it’s a bit more final. Monday will be the first day of my new job and I’m excited but apprehensive about how it’s going to go. MMU has four libraries in Manchester and each library has one or two trainees, which means there’ll be six other people in my position on Monday. I’m glad that I won’t be the only new person in the library, as there will be another trainee at my site, and I’m looking forward to meeting the others and experiencing it all with them. This is my first real job since graduating (and in fact, it’s my first ever paid job apart from the couple of hours a week I spent tutoring Spanish teenagers in 2010) so I’m really very new to the whole thing – it feels like I’m taking my first steps into the adult world! On Tuesday we will have an induction day where I’m sure all my questions will be answered, and I’m looking forward to getting settled in. Wish me luck!

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