Sunday, 19 August 2012

Thing 12 - Putting the Social Into Social Media

Just a quickie as I continue to play catch up...

Reflecting on my progress with social media over the last couple of months, its been mixed.  I still haven't gotten round to signing up for LinkedIn - a combination of time constrainsts and it seems like the least pertinent of the 'new media' I've looked at.  I am, however, fairly addicted to Twitter.  I am trying to lurk less and contribute more - grasping the fact that someone out there just might be interested in my mild ramblings.  This is good timing as one of my objectives is to set up and run a twitter account for the LRC when I go back in September.  With that in mind I have been following a number of school library accounts (rather than simply librarians as I usually do) to see what is tweeted.  It is very interesting to see what different libraries retweet and push towards their students.  But I my main aim is to strike the note between pertinent and fun.  Watch this space to see how it goes...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Thing 11 - Mentoring

My initial reaction to this topic was that I'm relatively new to mentoring - having recently had my first meeting with my Chartership mentor.  But as I read the recommended articles for this topic I have realised that I have had previous mentors, I just never gave them that title.  Even within the category of informal mentor I can think of a couple of different experiences. 

In the first case I almost 'fell' into what I now recognise as a mentoring relationship.  This happened when I moved from the corporate world to my first qualified post in public libraries.  I worked with many people with lots more experience than I had.  But the crucial point with this particular person, was that she was as predisposed to share that knowledge and experience with me, as I was to soak it up.  With hindsight, we can chalk it up to good personality matches and good timing.  But it worked - I learnt so much and was a better public librarian for it.  We remain very good friends despite my move away from Kent.

My second example of an informal mentor fits Pricilla Shontz's suggestion of a 'pro-active protege': "surround yourself with positive people who are generally upbeat and have a positive, proactive attitude".  A major incentive for my application to my current position was the opportunity to work with, and learn from a school library professional of whom I was already aware and who's work I respected.  Having met through our local SLA branch and SLS meetings, I was ready to 'visit' in order to glean ideas and see her in action.  However, before I could arrange that, a position working directly with her became available.  I can honestly say that the I have learnt more in the last year than during the three years at my previous school.  The key, perhaps, being to have enough confidence to to just try things out and have a go.  She has been my fiercest supporter as I struggled to find an 'official' chartership mentor and has kept me 'ticking over' with all chartership entails in the meantime. 

Having finally found my 'official' mentor for chartership, I can look back at what I was expecting a year ago.  The title mentor was big and scary, the concept felt new and unknown.  But this task has really brought home to me that mentoring relationships can happen much more naturally whenever and wherever those that are eager to learn manage to collide with those who are willing to share.  Surely that should be everywhere?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Thing 10: Librarianship training options

I'm going to attempt to not make this post the story of 'how I got where I am today'.  Rather, I am going to try to reflect on the training options out there, with a hint of personal experience thrown in.

Graduate traineeships can be an excellent route into any profession.  The 'try before you buy' element allows you to dip your foot into a career with committing to the time and expense of further training - I did in fact replace someone who did his year and decided it wasn't for him.  However, this generalisation should of course be qualified that everyone's traineeship is different; and given the hugely varied nature of the library/information profession, it is not surprising that training schemes would vary massively.  In my own experience - a large commercial law firm - as an information trainee I was given a well-rounded and multi-departmental experience, whilst the library trainees always seemed to be tied to the photocopier.

I was lucky enough to get sponsored for my part-time MSc in Information Science whilst continuing to work.  With hindsight I have to ponder on the relevance of the course and whether we are encouraged along this route in order to be raise the status of the profession - although the teachers I work with are often surprised that you need a post-graduate qualification to be a 'qualified librarian'.  I learnt more on the 4 days at work than could be crammed into the very long day at City University.  Ultimately, I wasn't able to complete the Masters and came away with a lesser award.  However, when applying for jobs, both with public libraries and schools, this has not held me back. 

I am currently working towards chartership.  I have come across a lot of different attitudes to it during the last 13 years working in the profession.  At the law firm no one ever contemplated it - the Masters was everything.  In public libraries, a few had done it, but they tended to work in prison libraries where it was required???  There was no support or cpd geared towards mentoring - in fact my line manager once told me to save my money and not bother renewing my CILIP membership?  It is only now, working in school libraries, that I have done anything about it.  I suspect that the infrastructure of schools - being very focused on cpd for teachers - is more amenable to the concept for other professional staff. 

As far as routes to librarianship are concerned, they are many and varied.  No two librarians seem to have the same background.  It is perhaps one of the greatest things about the profession.  Lots of different, interesting and experienced people coming together - some through the traditional routes, others through experience.  No one would suggest that professional development isn't a good idea, but I think its more helpful to see the above options as just that...options which can be dipped into as is appropriate.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Organising Yourself: Things 8 & 9

I like to think I'm fairly organised, inspite of a hectic family life (my husband uses other phrases to describe me).  But we can all use a little help from time to time...

I'll admit it, I haven't tried Google Calendar.  That's not to say I have anything against it.  But like many others who have posted on this topic, I already have an electronic calendar that I'm happy with.  As a concept, I think a shared calendar is great.  For my service (with part-time staff, working different shifts) the team calendar on the VLE was an invaluable tool - along with the task list and discussion forum.  (It was, perhaps, the best part of a very difficult system).  It's use was so ingrained as part of our daily work patterns, that when the decision was made to scrap the VLE (immediately) and get working on a new system (9-12 months away) my first reaction was to panic "what will we use for organising the team?"  In the end we decided to go with MS Outlook as we already had a group email account that we all had access to.  In addition it allowed us of overlay individual, team and school calendars so you can compare at a glance.  I suspect it won't be the most versatile of systems, but for the short-term it has been the least work.  Fingers crossed that the replacement VLE will include adequate organisational tools - it was certainly on my wishlist.

In terms of home calendars, I tend to go the hard copy route - a family calendar showing the kids' very busy social life and the parents' work and taxi commitments.  This works best for us in terms of ease of access and making sure everyone knows what's happening and when.  There is, however, one part of my life in which I might try Google Calendar.  I am a governor for my kids' junior school.  Committee meetings get chopped and changed or dates are buried deep in meeting minutes.  A shared calendar would make finding these and other details much easier.  I might trial it with a couple of colleagues and see what they think?

I have been using Evernote for about 9 months and I love it.  No matter where I am, or what device I'm using I can save it, tag it and make notes on it.  I follow a lot of library school feeds on Twitter and when an article is tweeted or a useful link is posted I might add it to my Evernote account if (a) having read it, I think it could be useful or (b) I don't have time to read it in detail but want to find it easily at some later date.  For me, the key to both these elements is the ease with which you can tag notes.  I add notes, tagging as I go, and when I need to consider an issue or do some research, I check what I've added on that topic.  It's been particularly useful as I read around the issue of eBooks in school libraries and try to makes informed decisions for the LRC.  I tag for relevant year groups, collating things which might be fun to share with particular year groups as well as useful resources that might help pupils with their work. 

In addition to tagging, I have set up notebooks for a couple of specific areas such as YA authors, Chartership, Information Literacy.  In the Chartership notebook, I use of a number of tags which corespond to the themes of my PPDP, allowing me to create an organised electronic record of my wider reading as I go.  I know it's not the only method of doing this,  but I'm using it anyway and it works well for me.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Thing 7: Real Life Networking

Despite having fallen massively behind, I am determinded not to give up on CPD23, so here we go with my very tardy take on Thing 7: Real Life Networking.

I have already discussed (several times) the sense of isolation I felt in my first school library post.  On reflection, the situation might have been made more acute given that I was coming from a very busy, public library district, with a team of 40-50 to just myself and a part-time assistant.  As a result, however, I cannot stress how vital networking is to the school librarian.  Whether it be via CILIP or the SLA or just a group of local colleagues in contact via email, it made a huge difference to my first few years to have someone to turn to to ask the silly questions, compare services and even to have the occaisonal gripe with.  That said, with hindsight, I should have given more time and engery to networking whilst in the former role within a large team, as well.  It is as easy to become stuck in the same routine, asking the same people over and over.  I rarely felt the need to seek out anyone new or innovative. 

I am a member of a couple CILIP groups, the SLA and follow JISC mail and SLN to keep abreast of the latest developments and opportunities.  However, during the last year I have been lucky enough to really amp up the amount of real life networking I do.  I have begun to attend my SLA branch meetings (previous I was only in email contact) a CILIP CDG portfolio building course and a meeting of the ISLG, as my new employers positively encourage me to engage with the wider profession. Similarly, I have attended a number of courses  and workshops where the opportunity to meet and discuss relevant topics with like-minded colleagues is as important as the handouts and knowledge I can take from the speakers.  In addition, I attended my first library conference this year (Lighting the Future).  I heard some amazing speakers and attended several informative workshops.  However, once again it was the conversations during the unplanned times - at breakfast, over coffee and whilst digesting what had been presented - that really helped to put everything into context.  Sharing what we all do helps spark ideas.  Comparing experiences enables innovation.  So no matter how scary it is (even as a grown up) to walk up to a table of unknown people and ask if you can join them, it has been worth it every single time.  I came away knowing more than I did before and enriched because of that.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Playing catch up with Thing 6

Online networks... a subject I thought I was comfortable with, but then realised I had only scratched the surface.

I have been using Facebook for a couple of years and I am quite attached to it as a way of (a) keeping up to date with friends and (b) reconnecting with friends I haven't seen for a while.  It has been particularly useful as my family and I moved from Kent to Berkshire about 3 years ago (how time flies).  However, despite being a fan of Facebook, it is something I keep very definitely in the realm of the personal, rather than anything work related.  I do have colleagues I am friends with, but our interaction is informal and rarely mentions work.

I haven't tried LinkedIn at all (although I will admit to having a nose around when my husband logged in).  I can definitely see the benefit of it, in his industry (HR) where contacts are everything - he has even found contracts which were only advertised through LinkedIn.  However, if I'm honest, I have felt that it wasn't really relevant to school librarians, who tend to work in relatively small networks.  But the guidance for this 'thing' has made me take stock and reconsider this notion.  In my  thirteen years as an information professional, I have already worked in three sectors (commercial law, public libraries, schools) and where else can I bring together the contacts I have made across all three?  Having seen the suggested examples, I think it is time to have a go - a project for the summer holiday maybe? 

As for the other suggested online networks, I have engaged with a few via Twitter, but others I need to investigate further.  Pininterest, for example, I hadn't really twigged what it was, but when I looked at the site I realised I have seen it used to group images together like an electronic mood board.  Again something I might try out over the summer - maybe as online extension of our displays. 

Overall, I am a fan of online networking.  I think it opens us up to so many more opportunities than we could hope to be part of without them; and I think Reid Hoffman's "Facebook is the backyard BBQ; LinkedIn is the office" quote is a brilliant way explain the differnce between the range of sites available.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Thing 5 - Reflective Practice

Still behind, but I've reached the thing I was most worried about... Reflection. 

I've mentioned previously that starting the Chartership process has made me realise that I need to work smarter and I can see reflection is a vital part of that.  But despite that lip service, I don't think I have truly reflected in any useful way... until CPD23.  From Thing 1 onwards I have been directed to all those 'things' I knew I should be doing, but never got around to; to those things I started using, but never went back to.  Over the last 5 weeks I have started to engage more and lurk less.  I suspect this is due to the idea that there are other librarians out their dipping their toes in as hesitantly as I am - there's safety in numbers!  Each week the CPD23 guidance has very effectively taken a scary unknown and demystified it. 

And our CPD23 gurus have done it again with Thing 5.  They provided a very succinct, not too academic outline of the basics of reflective practice, that even I can understand.  I've even explored some of the further reading???  Katrina Malone's post for Thing 5 (Get Chartered) also gave a very clear outline of the benefits of reflective practice - the key point being that it gives you a better understanding of your work. 

I can see now, that so far my blogging has only really been reflection in a very casual, informal way - I essentially sit in front of a PC and spill my thoughts onto the screen.  However, to make that reflection more effective, I now need to become more structured and apply it to my professional life.  So now I need to put it practice.  Having spent the weekend at the joint SLA/SLG/YLG conference, attending some very interesting workshops and thought-provoking key-note speeches, I have the perfect opportunity to sit back and consider what I got out of the sessions and what I can use 'back at the ranch' to improve upon my service delivery.

As always, the biggest challenge seems to be time.  As I sat and listened to various speakers this weekend share their wisdom and experience, I often came away from the session thinking "Wow, brilliant...but how do they find the time to do all that?" And I know I wasn't alone in that thought.  So surely part of the reflective process has to be having a realistic view of what is managable or relevent for my service or situation.