Solution-focussed conversations: a workshop

Yesterday, I attended an internal development workshop led by Carole Pemberton. A big part of my new role involves meeting and having conversations with people. Sometimes this is just to get to know them and find out what they do and what sorts of research-related things are going on in the faculty/school, but sometimes (quite often) we talk to try and find out how I can help them. Even if the conversation doesn’t start out as a ‘problem-solving’ conversation it can often turn into one, particularly once people start talking about things they don’t like, or would like to change (which happens quite a lot!). I think I’m probably an introvert (no kidding),  so this aspect of my work can be challenging and sometimes scary.

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Image by Joe Wolf via Flickr (CC-BY-ND 2.0)

However, on the whole, it’s very interesting and I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to get out and about on campus and meet new people and feel like I’m becoming more involved and at home in the wider university, if only in small ways for now.

My role is to support people with research/scholarly communications so I need to be solutions-focussed in my conversations with them. There’s always a danger of a lot of complaining about things but not much being done to sort them out – in general, higher education institutions tend to be great at talking about problems but not very good at actually solving them. I learned yesterday that this is because we (HE staff) tend to be content (information)-focussed – we like information and asking questions and gathering more information because it makes us feel clever [idea that knowledge=power?] – because we are clever (apparently).

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And of course it’s often easier to talk about problems than it is to deal with them – information gathering during a conversation is really just another form of procrastination! [Another interesting things I learned yesterday was that people who are grandiose and talk down to people they consider to be ‘beneath’ them are doing this out of anxiety – their place in the (possibly perceived) hierarchy is their safe space.]

So what is a solutions-focussed conversation? Mainly, it comes down to good listening and asking the right questions. These should be ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ questions, but, interestingly, not ‘why’. Again as ‘clever’ people, we like to know why, but knowing why something is happening/has happened doesn’t actually help to find a solution to the problem. In a solutions-focussed conversation it’s not about exploring feelings about the problem, but finding a solution to it. This was quite difficult for me get to grips with, because I’m used to counselling conversations, where people are always asking ‘how does this make you feel’ (which I hate, btw). [Another interesting point, if you want to find out how someone who doesn’t like talking about their feelings feels about something you should ask them what they think about it instead].

Questions should only be asked to help the other person’s thinking not to feed your curiosity

Here are some examples of good questions to use in solutions-focussed conversations:

  • What is important to you in your work right now?
  • How often does this problem happen?
  • What have you done to improve things?
  • What is the biggest obstacle you are facing?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • So what?
  • What would be the most useful thing you/we could do?
  • Who else can help?
  • How have you solved problems like this before?
  • What are you going to do about it in the next week?
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Not Listening by LadyJillybean via Flickr (CC-BY-ND 2.0)

What is good listening? Well, things like good (appropriate) eye contact, making supporting noises/actions so the person knows you’re listening (must be genuine!), repeating information back to make sure you’ve understood it, and also:

  • Using the other person’s language (e.g. if they say it’s a nightmare, say it’s a nightmare, not that it’s bad)
  • Remove distractions
  • Look involved
  • Slow down so you can pay proper attention
  • Be aware of the other person’s changing emotions during the conversation – when do they become more animated/excited/sad/bored
  • Removing yourself – i.e. not thinking about yourself and what you’re going to say next

Good listening is getting yourself out of the way

At the end of the conversation, you should have some sort of plan of how to tackle the problem. You don’t need to have a plan to totally solve it, but you should have at least the first step in mind. As with many things (e.g. cake) it is easier to tackle problems in small stages.

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Cake by Josh Lowesohn via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

For example, you might not be able go straight in to having a conversation with someone you don’t like, but you might be able to go in and say hello or even just try to think about them in a more positive light. One (more) thing I found useful (although thankfully it doesn’t really apply to me) was the idea that if you really can’t get on with someone in any other way you can still agree on some common ground, even if it’s very general (e.g. you want to make things better for students).

As well as the actual conversation part of solution-focussed conversations, we talked about ‘peripheral’ but essential and very relevant things like ‘presence’. It sounds airy-fairy, but how you present yourself in terms of your physical presence can have a big effect on people’s attitudes towards you – and also on how you perceive yourself. Think of peacocks. We discussed this TED talk by Amy Cuddy:

It may not be as scientific as she claims, but we tried it in the workshop and just the fact that it makes you stand up straighter and therefore breathe more easily must be of some benefit, I would have thought. Perhaps it’s just psychosomatic, but I’m not sure that matters if it works for people.

In summary, solution-focussed conversations follow the coaching cycle:

  1. Defining the topic/goal
  2. Listening, asking the right questions, finding options
  3. Agreeing actions (must be willing to actually do them), even very small things.
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A symbolic picture of an acorn by knitsteel via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Copyright is hard: the CILIP Copyright Conference 2017

Yes, it’s official, read all about it, etc.; copyright is hard. Like we didn’t know! But it seems to be one of those things people secretly know but dare not admit, especially not at a copyright conference…until now! I think this was my favourite moment of the conference: when Ronan Deazley said these words. And then lots of people said them! And I realised I was not alone, which was good in one way, and then not so good in others, because I thought everyone else knew what they were doing! It’s OK, they actually do – knowing something is difficult is not the same as not knowing how to deal with it.

My other favourite moments of the conference were during Jane Secker and Chris Morrison’s presentation when (1) we wrote down how copyright makes us feel on a paper aeroplane and flew them across the room (or not, in my case) (2) we had to admit to copyright crimes. I had only committed one (of the ones they asked about). I’d better not tell you what it was.

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The conference mid-confession of copyright crimes

Even apart from these revelations, the conference was much more interesting than I expected it to be. I didn’t understand absolutely everything, but I understood more than I expected to, and learned a lot.

The programme and presentations from the conference are available on the CILIP website.

Technology, digital capabilities and the language of change

This talk by David Walker, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Sussex, was the first in our series of Learning and Research Support (LRS) Seminars.

The premise of David’s talk was that the language we use to describe, implement and travel through change does not reflect the (difficult) reality of how it feels (and is) to go through change. Therefore, language becomes a barrier to successful change.

Embrace the unruly

(Donna Lanclos)

Alongside this is a long-held belief that (new) systems will make everything better, when actually what we really need is to have difficult, “messy”, conversations and deal with what is already going on.

People are taught to want transformational change, but actually, in the Higher Education (HE) sector, change tends to be developmental rather than transformational [n.b. I don’t think transformational is a word, I think the word should be transformative. WordPress doesn’t think that’s a word either, though].  I.e. a shiny new library management system is not going to make everything better in one fell swoop. Well, we think we know this, but the idea that a new LMS is the answer to everything is still a prevalent myth within the library world  – perpetuated by the producers of such systems, of course.

The next big thing

(Dylan Williams)

Or rather the seductive temptation of the next big thing: we look for this amazing new thing that’s going to fix all our problems but actually we should just be getting on and doing things to improve the situation.

The nature of terms associated with change can breed uncertainty and resistance, says David. Let’s take a look at some of those terms (as we did in the seminar):

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Hands up who gets turned off by those words? *puts up hand*

Resistance is [not] futile

(David Walker)

It’s really not. I’ve been there (and I am there, currently going through a departmental restructure, and I can tell you that resistance to change is always going to be there, whether those in charge believe or know it or not. I sometimes think that the people who are responsible for implementing change (I know everyone is responsible for implementing change to some degree, but you know what I mean) don’t really believe that people are going to be resistant to it. There is still this idea that people will just to what they’re told and when this doesn’t happen the people in charge don’t know what to do. This is probably partly because, as David said, change is a complex process – it is not just about the actual change (which is enough) but also the ‘ripple effect’ of emotions and consequences for people’s lives and the service in the long term; things which will feed in to the resistance. As David also said, there is quite often a  failure to explain the rationale for change [in a way which is helpful to those most affected by it].

Resistance is a primary cause of failure of change. In my experience, it’s not a failure in terms of the change literally not happening, but rather to make the change a positive experience (if that is possible) or to run smoothly. If nothing else, resistance makes the change process longer, which is usually the last thing people need.

Higher education is dominated by

de-humanising language

This was a bit of a shocker (surely HE should be the epitome of liberal, humanistic thought?), but when I heard David say it, I already knew it was true, I just hadn’t thought about it properly before. I’ve thought a lot about how HE is now a market, using the language of the market and business and commerce (e.g. students are now customers), but I hadn’t made that leap to actually seeing it as being de-humanising. But, arguably, by seeing HE as a market is almost automatically envisages those whose lives are involved with HE less than human – currency, transactions – and the philosophy of HE seems to be no longer about education and thought but about the market: Universities don’t seek after truth or knowledge but rather the top ranking on the leader board, to be market-leading, world-beating, transformative, innovative, leading, leading, leading. In what? It’s not really about people, except as numbers or survey results, FTEs, cohorts. I feel tired just thinking about it.

At this point, one of my colleagues made a good point: people are so used to hearing these words [see word cloud above] that we don’t even hear them anymore – we are word blind (deaf?).

Another one of my colleagues also said, (I paraphrase) this is all bit toxic isn’t it?

“Transformative” makes people feel bad

(Brookfield)

Was what we were doing so bad that we have to do something entirely new and never be able to go back to what we did before?

What can we do?

  • Talk about improvement rather than change
  • Promote dialogue – legitimise everyone’s voices
  • Recognise that change impacts on culture and is an emotional process
  • Acknowledge concerns and give feedback
  • Change/improvement should be a sustained process – it takes time and is not a one off event
  • Use partnerships as an approach to engagement, including external partnerships across the HE sector – work with others, share expertise and experience instead of duplicating work and working against one another
  • Share a common language – learn to understand different professional languages (e.g. technical terms). This does not mean everyone has to do “management speak”
  • Gain an HE teaching qualification to improve knowledge of teaching practices and educational theories
  • Gain some other qualifications (e.g. PRINCE2 (project management), IT qualifications) to support meaningful discussion with colleagues in other departments

Myth busting makes me feel good

The idea of ‘digital natives’ is a myth. Just because most young people can operate a mobile phone or send an email or watch dodgy YouTube videos this does not mean they have digital capabilities that are “fit for living, learning and working in a digital society”. The skills they have are not transferable to (e.g.) an educational context – we  can make all the search boxes on our library management systems look like Google but this isn’t going to help people find the resources they really need or learn how to assess them or write a good essay or save their work safely or create a webpage or program something or print something out or turn the computer on (or off).

As David said, we need academic staff who are skilled in using technologies so they can pass these skills on to their students, or at least model them.

An avalanche is coming…

(Barber et al)

…and people generally don’t have the skills to deal with it. David argued that we need to increase focus on “maker pedagogies” – students (and us) as creators and researchers – students as producers. Although I think I understand what he’s trying to say (we need creative people for jobs in creative industries, the idea of students as producers seems again to be part of the language of commerce. Of course it’s good if students (and academics) produce work and research outputs but is it not OK to study for the action/work of studying  and learning and the improvement of knowledge as an end in itself? I think once we lose the idea of ‘study for pleasure’ it’s only a matter of time before reading for pleasure and visiting galleries for pleasure and listening to music for pleasure go out of the window as well. But I may be overreacting.

We do need people to be creative, but I’m not sure that HE is a very creative place anymore. Producing does not necessarily mean being creative in the wider sense of the word.

“Up-skilling” is killing me

Not literally. It just saps my soul every time I hear it. It is meaningless. Just say ‘learning new skills’. It’s a bit like my other pet-hate phrase, “going forward”. What happened to “in the future”?

Moving on…

Support staff are the best

Not surprisingly, support staff are needed to enable technology enhanced learning (TEL), in other words to help people use technology effectively when they’re studying, learning and/or teaching. A good thing which came out of the session with David was that we all recognised the need for us in the library to work together with people in IT and LTEU (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit) to provide effective support to people. At the moment it’s a bit confusing for people – who should they go to for help? It would be good to sit down with colleagues in other department and have a nice chat about what we all do  and how we can help each other (and students and staff) out. I wonder if that’s possible?

Pedagogy and practice

Pedagogy:  The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept. (Oxford Dictionaries)

The Learning and Research Services team (of which I’m now a part) held our first ‘Pedagogy and Practice’ (P & P) session last week. As Sam Gamgee almost said in The Fellowship of the Ring (at least in the film version): “Now, there [was] an eye opener and no mistake!

Although I’ve taught a lot of people a lot of things over the years I’ve never really thought of myself as ‘doing teaching’ – bad syntax I know, sorry. I used to make ‘lesson’ plans, very early on my career when I was young and keen and encouraged to do so; but then my career path took me away from delivering training/information skills sessions and into user services, where, although I did help out with inductions and things this was quite rare, and the actual planning and pedagogy side of it was left to someone else (usually someone from the Academic Services (now LRS) team.

So, to say I was daunted by last week’s session might be an understatement. In the event, of course, it wasn’t that bad, although I did feel that I had a lot less to contribute than the rest of the team. I found the  mini ‘teach meet‘ part of the session particularly difficult, partly because of the subject matter – innovation or good practice in our own work – I couldn’t think of anything to talk about! In the end I talked about the drop-in sessions we’ve been holding (of which more in another post).

I have a lot of catching up to do, in terms of both theoretical knowledge and teaching practice. My’teaching’ at the moment is me standing in front of a PowerPoint telling people things about repositories and Open Access and questions at the end if we have time. Interaction is minimal (unless it’s a hands on session using the repository) – but I think that’s partly due to the nature of the beast – I’m imparting information rather than skills, most of the time…but having said that, I’m sure there must be more interesting ways to go about this, and I’m hoping the  P & P sessions will help me to learn some new techniques in this area. Another issue with the teaching AH and I do is that we’re mainly teaching researchers and academic staff, as opposed to undergraduates who are the majority ‘audience’ for the rest of the LRS team, and sometimes its hard to pitch the session at the right level or sufficiently engage people, among other things. Again, I’m hoping these are subjects we can talk about at a future P & P session.

It was fascinating to listen to everyone else and hear about what innovations they’ve made and their experience and knowledge of both pedagogy and teaching in pratice. I think I learned more about it all in those two hours than in my past 10 years as a librarian! I’m very much looking forward to future sessions and hoping I can contribute more as the time goes on, as well as putting into practice some of what I learn.

The big deal with big data

The university has been discussing big data, which is defined as…well, it depends who you ask. Forbes magazine lists 12 different definitions, including the best one I’ve seen so far:

(#10) The merger of Madame Olympe Maxime and Lieutenant Commander Data.

Ho-hum. I’m afraid, in the absence of anything better, I’m going to go with Wikipedia’s definition, as this seems to be the one that fits with what we understood as ‘big data’ at last week’s conference:

Big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate.

Having said that, it wasn’t always entirely clear how big data was being defined at the conference, and a lot of what was talked about could have applied to data in general, not just massive data sets. It was interesting to hear what was said in the light of having attending the CPD25 event on engaging and supporting researchers, where Glenn Cumiskey from the British Museum talked about digital preservation. He mentioned the 5 Vs of data, which were also part of Maria Kalli‘s paper on big data and the undergraduate curriculum. She defined big data as:

a data set with characteristics that for a particular process at a given point in time cannot be effectively [perused] using traditional [analysis methods]

Which is interesting in that she doesn’t mention the size of the data set at all only that it has problematic characteristics.

Dr Ali Swanson from the Zooniverse citizen science project run by the University of Oxford kicked off the show with a fascinating and engaging talk about the work of Zooniverse, where scientists enlist members of the public to help with the gathering or analysis of very large datasets. There are some amazing projects going on, including Penguin Watch, which I heard several people say they were going to take a look at after the conference!

PENGUIN CUTENESS KLAXON!

Dr Swanson was keen to emphasise that these methods are not to do with education and engagement, but are a research tool (although people are educated and engaged as a result of participating as researchers). It was interesting to learn about how the scientists check that data is correct. This is done by aggregating data into “consensus” using algorithms – using this method it has been shown that ‘the public’ are correct 97% of the time when compared to answers given by experts, which is pretty good as far as I can tell.

And now for a little break to look at informationisbeautiful.net

That’s what we should all be doing with big data – making it into lovely graphics!

But back to reality. Maria Kalli was up next, as well as trying to define big data, she made a good case for the inclusion of statistics and data being at the heart of science-based undergraduate curricula, particularly as there are currently (and likely to be in the future) lots of jobs in big data. She also talked about the importance of students being able to extract and filter information, something very relevant to the work of library services – perhaps this is an area in which we can become more involved in the Business School curriculum? (I realise Maria was probably talking about mathematical and statistical information but the principles are similar – it might be a way of ‘selling’ information literacy to business students?).

Dr Kalli was followed by Mr Jonny Greatrex, a Proper Northerner, who spoke about participatory journalism – asking people what they want to know about. This style of journalism has been pioneered by (e.g.) Jennifer Brandel of Hearken fame. Interesting, yet counter-intuitive; it consists of asking the audience to suggest  questions they want answering, then asking them to vote on which question they want answered, and then involving the person who asked the question in the reporting process. ‘News’ content produced using this approach generates more page views and greater engagement time.

I thought that this sort of approach could be really useful in terms of our engagement with library users – it could/should help us give them the services they actually need, rather than those we think they need. It’s not just a question of asking them, it’s also engaging them in the process of deciding upon and even in the implementation and/or delivery of those services.

Dr Dan Donoghue spoke about principle components analysis as an approach to handling big data, followed by Professor Jim Griffin, from the University of Kent with his paper on big data and statistics. He argued that (usually) the more data you have the better data modelling you can do, and the shorter the interval between observations the more information you have overall, but the increases in information become smaller the shorter the interval. My example of this [so if you think it’s wrong don’t blame Professor Griffin] is that if you watch the news once a day you will see less news than if you watch it every 5 minutes but the information you gain will be about the same [unless something massive happens when you’re not watching]. The more data you have, the more complicated the structure of your analysis….is what I think he said, but  it was getting towards lunchtime and statistics are not my strong point.

After lunch, I took a break to do some work and then went back to the conference for the panel discussion at the end of the afternoon. It was very interesting to hear the questions that had been sent in, and of course the responses from the panel, which showed a mix of views about data (big and otherwise), what it is and how it could be used across the university. This is definitely something we as library staff need to get involved in, if only to ensure that those in charge know what services we offer and the kinds of knowledge and skills we can contribute – and of course to enhance the services provided to students and staff across the university.

I was particularly thinking about research data and the possible implementation of a CRIS (Current Research Information System) at some point in the mid-future, but this wasn’t specifically mentioned at the conference. I would think that we will have to think seriously about what to do with our research data at some point soon(ish) and it will be interesting to see what part library services has to play in this (if any). Hopefully, it will be something we can contribute to, if only in terms of the CRIS’s relationship with the repository.

All in all, it was a worthwhile, if slightly brain-tiring day. If only we agreed on what big data actually is…

And remember:

But that’s a whole other blog post.

Leadership for librarians

Yesterday, I attending ‘Leadership for Librarians’ a training workshop presented by Andy Priestner at the University of Kent, part of CILIP in Kent’s programme of events.

We started with the easy bit: thinking about absence of leadership (i.e. bad leaders). Sadly, examples of these came to mind quite easily for all of us! Then we thought about great leaders – I chose my cardiologist because she is ace, and we recognised that leaders are not only people in positions of authority.

The key to successful leadership today is influence not authority. – Ken Blanchard

I’ve seen this truth borne out plenty of time during my working life – library assistants often make the best leaders! This quotation was also the one I identified with most of those that were stuck on the seminar room wall (one of our tasks was to guess who said each quotation).  As I suspected:

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else through hard work. That’s the price we have to pay to achieve that goal or any goal. – Vince Lombardi

We then went on to look at the differences between managers and leaders, and had to try and identify attributes of management and attributes of leadership. This was harder than I expected and led to some interesting team displays of team dynamics!

Management is doing thing right, leadership is doing the right things. – Peter F. Drucker

We followed this up by asking the (obviously rhetorical) question:

Do libraries need leaders?

Of course! Not least because there are many specific leadership challenges facing libraries, e.g.:

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And not so many (good) leaders – at least in the experience of those in the room. We talked a bit about why this might be. Various reasons were given, such as the natural temperament of librarians (which I personally think should be, err…shelved as an idea in 2016. We are way past that). I think partly it’s because we have a lot of managers who have come up through libraries and been promoted to management positions without having the qualities really necessary to be good leaders. They may (or may not) be good managers, but leadership is a different kettle of fish. It’s interesting that nowadays a lot of library leaders have come in without a library background – you don’t need library experience (or indeed a library qualification) to be a good leader. Leadership is more transferable across fields, whereas managers probably will need more specialised knowledge of their working areas.

Then we took a good hard look at ourselves though the medium of post-it notes.

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By Photoforia via Flickr

It turns out I value my family more than I thought I did. Which sounds wrong. I suppose it wasn’t really all that surprising – I’m always longing for home, whatever form that might take – literal or otherwise. I like the German concept of Heimat, for which there is no English equivalent, although for me it is most poignant in it not being its opposite – alienation, and it’s not to do with geography or nationalism in my case; more wanting to be a Hobbit.

To finish the morning off we looked at what qualities we respect most in leaders – time for more post-its!

We followed this with a discussion about leadership styles (including our own) – authoritarian, democratic or laissez-faire (there are others). I scored most highly for democratic – I’m not sure if this is because I value other people’s opinions or because I can’t make decisions on my own (probably both). We talked a bit about situational leadership, which sounds like a good idea – having the most appropriate leadership style for the situation you’re in at the time. As we said, people have a tendency to want to label themselves, but it may not always be appropriate (or true) to say (e.g.) ‘I am an authoritarian leader’ because we’re probably not just one thing all the time, and if we are this is likely to be a mistake because we need to be sensitive to situations and respond appropriately.

After lunch (I think), we watched this video:

Not all of it, I hasten to add. Six minutes was more than enough for me. I totally got the concept, but I found Mr Sinek a bit irritating. To save you watching the video, the idea behind starting with why is that instead of telling people what and how you do things (like we tend to do a lot in libraries) we should instead tell people why we do them – this way they are more likely to engage with us and our services. The reason this works is because ‘the why’ speaks to our emotions, rather than our reason….as demonstrated by our next example of leadership…

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By Findntake via Flickr

In case you’re interested, @andytraining thinks Steve Jobs’ leadership style was a mixture of charismatic, autocratic and transformational. I’m sure Steve was a great leader, but I have a bit of a problem with him saying all those things he said about how Apple could change the world for the better and then allowing his phones to be made by people working and living in terrible conditions. Anyhow…

Now we were on to the really hard bit, assessing our own leadership (or lack of it). Actually completing the leadership challenge assessment wasn’t too bad, although people like me who are not currently in leadership roles found it harder to score highly because of lack of experience (even though you don’t have to be in a ‘leadership role’ to be a leader). I found that, in line with my democratic leadership style, I am allegedly good at enabling others to act (yay!) not so good at “encouraging the heart” (alas). I used to be better at encouraging people, I think – perhaps I have become more selfish over the years…I found it interesting to think back over my career, such as it is, specifically about how I used to manage people and I think, really, I tried to manage people with love (I know, yuck) which was (fairly obviously to anyone with sense) a mistake – I was an extreme teddy bear and wanted to keep everyone happy all the time, which, amongst other things (including other people’s poor management and leadership), led me to the edge of a nervous breakdown. This might be a form of servant leadership, but I’m not sure I was as selfless as all that. But we must move on….

To the personal leadership development plan. I was feeling quite positive about the day before I filled this in (lucky it was at the end!). I just didn’t know how I could practically do things to meet the leadership challenges I needed to meet. Perhaps I was just tired, but I was also thinking about my performance over the day. I am very concious of how I behave in groups, monitoring myself all the time. This is partly because I have got into trouble before for ‘misbehaving’ (e.g. being too negative) in group settings before and I know I can say things without thinking them through properly and end up sounding/being rude to people or making a fool of myself, or being ‘rebellious’ (which is often frowned upon in the workplace). A lot of workplace stuff makes me quite angry – partly because of my experiences at work (see above) and I do have a tendency towards negativity sometimes. Also, I can get bored quite quickly, which also leads me to ‘misbehave’, I fear. And then there are irritating people whose opinions I feel I must question. And so it goes on. Also (and so) I am very insecure and did I mention socially awkward and anxious?

Anyway, I thought I’d been rude to someone (by accident) so I was thinking ‘oh no, I’ve done it again, everyone’s going to think I’m rude, Andy is going to think I’m rude’, also I felt like I’d talked to much throughout the day and people would think I was overbearing, etc. I used to be so shy I wouldn’t speak in groups so now I think I say a lot because I might miss my chance if I don’t say it RIGHT NOW! I feel that I lack some kind of knowledge/instinct about what is good social behaviour – I may of course have behaved perfectly well all day, but the problem is I don’t think I did. I hate that uncertainty – I’m an adult, I should know these things.

So my filling in of the plan did not go well. I will have to look at it again and see if I can do better when I’m in a more positive frame of mind! However, I am generally feeling positive about leadership and what I could do with it, as it were. We are going through big changes at work at the moment, particularly (so far) in terms of management and leadership culture, so I’m hoping what we learnt on Tuesday will be of help in working through the changes, getting to know our new leaders and seeing how we can also lead within the library. I think, also, we can really use the idea of ‘starting with why’ in our relationships with our users. We need to tell them why we do what we do. Here’s a bit of Andy’s ‘why’ for libraries:

We work in libraries because we passionately believe in uniting people with the information they need when they need it so they can successfully educate themselves and learn more about the world around them…ultimately we are seeking to help you be the best that [you] can be.

Sounds good to me.

CPD25: Researchers and repositories

On Wednesday (11th May) I attended two events hosted by CPD25: Engaging and Supporting Researchers and Open Access and Repositories.

Engaging and Supporting Researchers

Although both the talks at this event were very interesting and informative, they weren’t quite what I was expecting – which was how to engage and support researchers from a library perspective in a higher education institution (i.e. what I’m trying to do as part of my current role). The first talk was by Glenn Cumiskey from the British Museum, about digital preservation at the British Museum. This was really fascinating – digital preservation is not an area I’m very familiar with, although it turned out that lots of what he had to say is quite relevant to my work with the institutional repository. It was also thought-provoking from an archives perspective (which also comes into my current role, albeit in a minor part), and also my other role as a cataloguer/metadata person. As I managed to write down his ‘five Vs’ – things to be taken into consideration when dealing with data – I will share them with you:

  • Volume (of data)
  • Velocity (the rate at which data is created)
  • Veracity (of metadata – can be inaccurate, go what is good enough for now [interestingly different from the ‘traditional’ view of cataloguing]
  • Value (of the data – we should not keep data that is not of value to the organisation)
  • Variety (of formats – issues such as software/hardware dependence, small publishers that may not be here in 1o years’ time, etc.)

Glenn finished his presentation by talking about what data should evoke, using the Lampedusa Cross as an example.

Next up: Mahendra Mahey. He spoke about British Library Labs, and about the weird and wonderful things people have done with British Library data sets and online collections. His slides are available on SlideShare.

Open Access and Repositories

The afternoon started with Andy Tattersall talking about altmetrics –  alternative measures of  the impact/influence/engagement of/with research, using social media rather than traditional methods such as citations and journal impact factors. It was great to learn about something I’d previously only had a vague awareness of. I think we definitely need to look at how we could use altmetrics with the repository – maybe looking at engagement with the library research Twitter feed (which includes a feed of new items on the repository). I also wrote down five points Andy made about the value of altmetrics, so here they are:

  • Altmetrics complement, not replace, traditional metrics
  • They help people understand how research is being received and used, and by who(m)
  • Almetrics are not intended as an indicator of quality
  • They can help provide further evidence of engagement and societal impact
  • They give credit for research outputs other than articles

You can see altmetrics in action, as it were, on many journal articles, wherever you see the altmetrics ‘donut’.

Andy has written a lot about this subject, including a blog post on the CILIP website. This video might also be useful if you want to find out more:

 

Stuart Lawson was next, with an overview of Open Access, which I do know a bit about. Although I didn’t know about Sci-Hub. I was sort of shocked by it(s existence), but then I have led a (mainly) quiet and innocent life. I was also quite impressed. Anyway, possibly the less said about that the better…I enjoyed Stuart’s talk and obvious enthusiasm for his subject…and now I know it’s possible to do a PhD about Open Access!

Christina Emery from Knowledge Unlatched spoke next. I’m afraid I didn’t make many notes, partially because I’d read a lot about Knowledge Unlatched for one of my appraisal objectives! It is a good idea, I think. Here is a handy video to explain what KU is all about:

Finally, Lara Speicher presented about UCL Press, the UK’s first fully Open Access university press. I learned a new concept/acronym/word: BOOC – book as open online content. I’m quite interested in this because (a) its relationship to Open Access monographs, which I’ve been researching for one of my appraisal objectives, and (b) because I’m interested in books and can be done with them in terms of different formats, arty stuff, their meaning and how humans related to them as physical (or not) objects, and their relationship to the electronic world.

There is a Storify of the tweets from the Open Access and Repositories sessions and you can follow the tweets from the Engaging Researchers sessions using .

A short and very belated report about Open Access Week

This Open Access Week (October 24-30, 2015 – yes this post is very belated), the repository team decided to try to make more contact with academic staff by running some drop-in sessions on the use of our institutional repository. These took place during lunchtimes in the staff common room. We put up posters about Open Access (OA) (produced by the research centre), handed out flyers about OA and how it works within the University (especially with reference to the REF and the repository) and set up a table with a laptop so that people could ask us questions about OA and the repository if they wanted to.

Sadly, we didn’t get very many takers, but at least we raised awareness a little bit, and I did have some conversations about the repository with staff I wouldn’t normally have contact with. It was nice to be on the main campus for a bit as well, and feel more integrated with the University for a couple of hours (the library building is not on the campus). Although we had limited success in terms of conversations with people I think it was a useful exercise in terms of ‘showing our faces’ and the opportunity to raise awareness of OA through being able to put posters and flyers where academic staff should see them. It was also good to work in liaison with the research centre and meet members of staff I had not spoken to before.

“Open Access Monographs and Publishing Models: Collaborative Ways Forward”

Last Monday (19th October) I attended a panel discussion held at Goldsmiths to hear a panel of experts share thoughts and ideas as part of a discussion about open access monographs (OAMs). I attended as part of my research into collaborative models for the publication of OAMs, which is one of my appraisal objectives.  This event was part of International Open Access Week 2015 and was partly a response to the  HEFCE report on Monographs and Open Access (January 2015) – this year’s theme was “Open for Collaboration”. This report (also known as the Crossick report) came out of research led by Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The report found that:

“There is no single dominant emerging business model for supporting open-access publishing of monographs; a range of approaches will coexist for some time and it is unlikely that any single model will emerge as dominant. Policies will therefore need to be flexible.”

The panel comprised  Martin Eve, Senior Lecturer in Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck University of London; Alison Jones, Managing  Editor, Open Access, Oxford University PressSarah Kember, Professor of New Technologies of Communications, Goldsmiths University of London and Goldsmiths PressJoanna Zylinska, Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London and Radical Open Access Group. Professor Mark d’Inverno, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise at Goldsmiths hosted the discussion and it was chaired by Professor Simon McVeigh,  Goldsmiths’ Academic Lead on Open Access and Practice Research.

The event abstract sums up the main directions of the discussion:

“What is often forgotten is that, alongside transparency of public expenditure, the impetus for open access is the ethical and appropriate sharing of valuable knowledge for the betterment of society.

The proposed panel seeks to discuss the potential of the open access monograph format to contribute to this process of ethical knowledge dissemination, whilst highlighting the challenges presently faced by the publishing industry to make this a viable and financially sustainable reality.

The discussion will involve a group of speakers who hold contrasting perspectives on how this transition to open access monograph publishing should be managed and how it may support or disadvantage their particular professional sector and ethical goals.

Ambitiously and in keeping with this year’s open access theme of collaboration, this panel seeks to encourage the development of collaborative thinking between various kinds of publishers and the academe, in order to promote the ethical sharing of knowledge.”

It was a really interesting discussion, and there was a lot of information to take in. I have made copious notes, which I won’t write out here. If you want to read a pretty good summary of what was said you could have a look at Jeremy Barraud, Caroline Lloyd and Goldsmiths Research‘s tweets (scroll down a bit and look for the hashtag #OAweek).

I suppose the main thing I took away from the evening was that not everyone thinks open access is wonderful! As someone who works on a repository and is supposed to promote open access I think I’d been living in a happy open access ‘bubble’ where nobody ever talked about the potential downsides (or dark, neoliberal, sides) of OA. I still think OA is a good idea, but listening to the panel and the discussion has definitely made me think more about its potential effects on academics and their freedoms and made me realising I have a lot more reading and research to do!

Further reading/listening:

Monographs and open access (HEFCE report)

Open Access, HEFCE, REF and the threat to academic freedom

Opening out from open access: writing  and publishing in response to neoliberalism

The Open Access debate: challenges, threats and promises (podcast)

OAPenUK

Open Access and monographs