Tag Archives: training

Another LILAC blog post: workshop on Hunting Assumptions

So last week I went to LILAC for the day, to present my MA dissertation research to a roomful of enthusiastic librarians, which you can read more about here. I spent the rest of the day being an enthusiastic librarian instead! I went to lots of other parallel sessions during the day, as well as the keynote speech, but for this post I want to focus on just one session I enjoyed, because otherwise this would get far too long and unwieldy.

The session was called “Hunting Assumptions: encouraging creativity and critical reflection through collaboration”. This was a two-pronged workshop – on one hand, it was a fun space to learn about activities that other people use in their teaching, and to swap ideas about how you could use them in your own teaching. There was also a more theoretical and challenging side to the workshop – the “hunting assumptions” bit. This was based on Stephen Brookfield’s 1995 book Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, and was all about being aware of your own assumptions about yourself or your learners – stuff like “this activity is too childish for my learners” or “all adults are self-directed learners”, which can stop you from considering new ideas or different ways of doing things. Once you identify your own assumptions you can start to challenge them, perhaps in collaboration with others who can bring a different perspective to what you’re doing. This idea of being critical and challenging your assumptions is, for me, an extension of what we were taught at library school about being reflective practitioners, looking deeper into the reasons behind the decisions we make and the bubbles we exist in. I’ve taken out a book from the uni library for the first time since graduating and am really looking forward to familiarising myself with Stephen Brookfield’s ideas and hopefully applying them to my own practice.

The practical part of the session centred around an activity called Thought Bombs. The idea is similar to “sinking ship” or “hot air balloon that’s too heavy” questions – you’ve got a certain number of people but can only save one and must decide who to save/kill. In small groups, you get a short description of each person and have to make a snap decision about which one you want to save. The difference with the Thought Bomb exercise is that after you’ve made your decision, the thought bombs start arriving – plastic balls with a bit of paper inside, with a statement about one of the people in it. Look:

This statement might be something trivial, like “Jane had a salad for lunch today”, or it might be something that might have more of an effect on your decision to kill/save that person, like “Jane’s future child will grow up to be an evil dictator”. Once you’ve received a thought bomb and read it, you can throw it over to a different group, so there’s thought bombs flying all over the room. These are intended to spark discussion between participants and get them to argue the merits of saving different people. It’s easy to see how this can a) get people thinking around a topic and b) be adapted for lots of different scenarios. You could go off in all sorts of directions with it – the inclusion of irrelevant statements in the thought bombs is a good starting point for a lesson on evaluating information, for example. We saw one example in the session which was geared towards researchers – the three people were researchers at different stages of their careers, using different methods to share their research (e.g. paywalled journal, open access journal, blog). The thought bombs were things like “Jane was caught bribing peer reviewers”. With a bit of tweaking, you could use this activity to get people thinking about the perceived “value” of different types of scholarly communication, and the different ways to reach an audience and have an impact. You don’t have to save/kill the researchers either! You could ask “who would you choose as your PhD supervisor?” or “who would you ask to collaborate on your research project?”.I really liked this activity, and since seeing the research examples I’ve been thinking of ways to incorporate it, or something like it, into the new “developing your research profile” session we are designing for our PhD students, as we really want it to be a discussion-based session and I think an activity like this would facilitate that. I just need to work out the details so it fits in with the messages we’re trying to get across.

I was really glad I went to this session as (apart from being fun!) it dovetailed nicely with what I’m focusing on at work at the moment, and I’m definitely going to try and think more critically about what I’m doing and why.

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News round-up

Last week we finally finished off the stock take, having spent the last couple of weeks going round the shelves with lists of books that may or may not exist. A lot of chocolate was consumed in celebration! We were hoping for some kind of indoor fireworks display, perhaps even a mini Olympic closing ceremony, but the budget didn’t quite stretch to that. While this is great news in terms of the preparation for our move next year, it does mean that we have one less task to do, leaving big empty gaps all over my schedule.
The digitisation renewals are ticking over nicely, though; we’ve had responses from nearly all the academics, which is a far better result than I expected! We should have it all finished well before the deadline for archiving old material, which is good as it means there’ll be fewer loose ends for the next GT to have to pick up. I’ve left detailed instructions for her, so hopefully the transition will be smooth!
I went to a short training session the other day to find out more about our new search service, “Library Search”, which is powered by Summon. It’s a search engine that pulls in information from (nearly) all the library’s resources and subscriptions, including books, e-books, journals, e-journals, newspapers, Special Collections, the University Repository, images and more. It’s sort of like Google, but personalised to the library. There are tons of added extras that make it really functional and easy to use, and it looks really good. Even though I’ll have left before it’s properly rolled out, I was still interested to learn about it, as this new type of library search engine is going to be used more and more in the future. A similar system (not using Summon) has just been rolled out at the University of Sheffield, so I’ll have to get used to using it for my studies next year.
I’ve hesitated about writing about this next bit of news as I don’t think it’s appropriate to write about job interviews online until everything’s done and dusted – I wouldn’t want to prejudice anything – but seeing as it’s all over, I can now say that I applied for, and got, a job at the University of Sheffield Library as a Customer Services Assistant. The job runs for 9 months and is essentially a weekend job (with a few hours in the week), so it fits in perfectly with the course. I’m really excited to work at Sheffield as their libraries are a bit bigger and busier than I’m used to, so it’ll be a new challenge and lots of new experiences. They’ve just moved onto a new cloud-based library management system, so that’ll be something to get used to. It’ll also be interesting to work and study at the same place!
Not much else is happening at the moment; we’re just plodding along, keeping everything ticking over and getting ready for the new academic year. The term-time only staff finish tomorrow, after which we’ll be on the vacation rota and possibly feeling a little bit short-staffed. I’ll be using up my last days of annual leave and time off in lieu, so it’ll be quite a nice summer for me, with lots of long weekends to sort out all my stuff at home inpreparation for moving away.
I’ve been doing some detective work this week after finding a book that was filled with annotations in black pen. I went through its borrower history to check whether any of the borrowers had taken out any other books which now had annotations, and lo and behold, I found a serial offender! The scale of the damage is quite bad, so the borrower in question will probably end up with a fairly large fine. It’s quite satisfying to have worked methodically to uncover something like this, and finding more than one book means that we have a better case for chasing the borrower. I’m also pleased I’ve got a “story” under my belt – you hear people talking about these kinds of situations, but I hadn’t experienced it yet. Between this and the numerous “tough customers” we’ve had this year, I’ve got a nice list of stories built up now!
Today has been a surprisingly busy day! This seems to happen about once a week at the moment. We’ll suddenly have a huge uptick in the number of people coming in and out and requiring assistance. This week all the students seem to be doing the same research assignment, and they’ve needed quite a bit of help doing database searches, as well as making the usual enquiries about printing and so on. It’s quite nice to suddenly have a busy session, but it can catch you a bit off guard – I had thought I’d get quite a lot of work done in my counter session today, but instead I was in and out of my seat non-stop for two hours, relying on colleagues for back-up. I do enjoy helping people with this sort of thing, though, as it’s something where you can instantly judge how much you’ve helped someone and you can leave them knowing they’re satisfied with the results.
I’ve almost finished my last new books newsletter of the year, as well; all our e-books have now been received and almost all the print books have arrived, too. We got news the other day that there’s actually a bit of extra money to spend, so we’ve sent off a few extra book orders, but I doubt they’ll arrive before I leave.
I went on holiday to Northumberland recently and the weather was glorious. I spent the whole time taking pictures on my phone of the scenery. Here’s a shot to symbolise crossing over into the next stage of my career (just kidding, it’s just a cool bridge):

Bridge

A post shared by Emily (@heliotropia) on

I also found this at Barter Books, and I reckon it’s something we should implement at work, seeing as we’ve got so many books with bizarre titles:
It’s weird to think I’ve only got 8 weeks left at work – and actually, it’s only 6 weeks of work and two weeks of holiday. It’ll be strange when I’ve left and won’t have to get up early for a few weeks, but then the new adventure begins – my life as a commuter! I’m not sure I’m mentally ready yet for the train journey from Leeds to Sheffield and back three times a week, but at least it won’t be every day. I’m already planning the journey – flask, Kindle, music: sorted. I’ve already seen a reading list for the MA course and, seeing as we’ve got a few of the books here at MMU, I’ve had a look through some of them already to get back into the swing of things. That’s possibly a bit over-keen, but I like to be prepared. I’m determined to be a good, disciplined student this time round! We’ll see how long it lasts… I’ll be continuing to blog throughout the next year, documenting how I balance my studies and my job, and hopefully writing up a few events as well (I’m planning on going to LibraryCamp UK in the Autumn, for a start).

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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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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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December Training Session: Presentation Skills

I’ve just done a very brave thing. Well – not very brave, but still, it took some guts to do this, and I’ve never been brave enough to do it before. You may have already guessed that it’s something to do with presentation skills, and you’d be right – I just watched myself doing a presentation on camera. Like, probably, most people (everyone I’ve spoken to about it, anyway), I hate seeing or hearing recorded versions of myself. I never ever watched the DVDs they made of us doing our mock Spanish oral exams, because it would have just been unbearable. However, I watched this one. Why? Because I felt good giving this presentation. For possibly the first time ever, I felt relaxed and unpressured while talking, and I thought it’d be interesting to see what that looks like. Turns out it looks alright. I mean, it wasn’t perfect by a long shot, like, seriously, what was my hair doing?! And why can’t I stand upright properly? And I still went bright red. But the actual talking and giving people information bit, that was pretty good. And I think that’s partly down to the fact that we’d had a really good training the week before about giving good presentations, which I will now proceed to tell you about.

We turned up to the session having been told to bring a three-minute presentation about anything we wanted, and I’ll admit to being pretty nervous about this, because my preparation style is somewhat haphazard, and I’m a big fan of such concepts as “leaving things to the last minute” and “winging it”. So I had put some photos of tapas together on some slides the night before, done a rough scripty thing in my head, and just trusted myself that I’d remember who Alfonso the Wise was. When the time came for presenting to the group, we all did quite well, and gave each other some good feedback. I really enjoyed this part of the session as we’ve built up a good group atmosphere in our trainings that means we can feel comfortable with each other. It was really interesting watching everyone’s presentations and finding out about everyone’s specialist subjects, which ranged from Doctor Who to British cinema to Scarborough. The other interesting part was getting the feedback. It’s easy to be critical of yourself and so it was good to get other people’s perspectives. I was convinced I was speaking at about 100000 mph but everyone wrote that I was enthusiastic and energetic, so that made me feel better about being quite a “lively” speaker.

After this we had the theory part of the session, where we picked up some helpful tips from Paul the trainer, who seems to have had a hundred jobs and who knows a lot of useful people. Paul is a very engaging presenter, even once getting a room full of people excited about some old University buildings at our new staff induction session, so I think we all felt like we were getting some very reliable advice here. Paul had done some good research on what makes a good presenter, and according to him these qualities include competence, poise, commitment and dynamism. Apparently the more you like someone, the more receptive you will be to their message, so it’s important not to be a distant or closed-off presenter. We’ve all had those presentations where the speaker is talking to their shoes or the screen more than they’re engaging with you, and we all know how tedious and uncomfortable those presentations can get.

Paul’s tips for a good PowerPoint or similar presentation are: keep it simple. Clean text and not too much of it. A good rule is the 6×7 rule: no more than 6 lines per slide, and no more than 7 words per line. Make your visuals interesting – the “full bleed” picture option on PowerPoint is one of my new favourite things – and don’t go crazy with slide transitions.

As far as content goes, the lesson was that structure is very important. Have a beginning, middle and end. Use a “hook” and a “promise” at the beginning – the hook is something impactful, like a controversial statement, a statistic, or a question, followed by the promise, which has a handy acronym: INTRO. Interest your audience with the hook, then tell them why they Need to listen to you, give them a Title, outline the Range of key themes, and give them an Objective: “by the end of this presentation, …”. The key is to interest people with all types of learning styles, so you need to answer these four questions – Why am I here? What are you talking about? How will this work? What if…? This ensures that you’ve got planners, reflectors, and everyone else onside. The end of your presentation is the part that people will remember, so you’ve got to reinforce the message here. Revisit the promise and show how you’ve fulfilled it, then give the audience something like a summary statement or a “thank you” so that they know you’re finished.

The really interesting part of the session was when Paul shared the stuff he’d learned from teacher training and from a lecturer in acting. In teaching you are taught to stand by the door of the classroom to welcome the pupils in the morning, and this shows that you’re welcoming them into your environment. This is a technique you can use as a presenter – arrive early, and be in the room before the audience. Acknowledge them when they arrive so they know it’s your space they’re coming into. Moving a piece of furniture can show ownership of the space as well. A useful acting tip was on grounding yourself – a natural reaction to the pressure of presenting is for adrenaline to rush to your extremities (the fight or flight response), making you fidget with nervous energy. This can be distracting, so you should teach yourself to stay “grounded”, or rooted to the spot, by adopting a stance that is very balanced. Apparently actors stand on pencils to make themselves more aware of where their feet are!

There are loads of other things I could mention that we learned, but you get the general idea. The session was really informative and helpful, and we went away feeling a lot better about the next session, where we would be filmed giving another presentation. For this one I tried to take some of the lessons we’d learned on board, especially making the PowerPoint slides look pretty. Of course I didn’t do much more preparation than usual, but I did make sure I was informed enough to speak confidently about the topic (the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary, if you’re interested. It’s a really good story, especially the bits about William Chester Minor). Having now watched it back, I think I did a good job of it. I need to work on grounding myself still, and the ending was weak (this is definitely down to my off-the-cuff haven’t-thought-about-a-proper-ending preparation technique, which I’m willing to admit needs refining), but the speed and pacing were good, and I didn’t even sound like I was from the West Country (I’m not), unlike on my podcasts.

I’m really glad I got the chance to go to this training and to get some really great advice which I know will be indispensable in the future. My next go at presenting will be to real, live, actual students, when I get to team-teach a Library Induction session. I’m excited to present to strangers, as I haven’t done it much, and I love a challenge. Of course I’ll let you know how it goes!

One of my pretty slides from my OED presentation.

One of my pretty slides from my OED presentation.

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