Thing 18: Jing/screen capture/podcasts (making and following them)

I’ve been putting this one off because screencasts and podcasts are not something I’m very familiar with, either in terms of making myself or following them, so I wasn’t sure where to start! They’re not something I would use in my current role, but I can see how they would be useful in various areas of library work. For example, screencasts could help students and  staff navigate electronic resources, and podcasts could be used to introduce learners at a distance to library services. I know our Faculty Liaison Librarians (FLLs) already use screencasts and such like in their work, particularly with students who aren’t based on campus, and have found them to be very helpful.

I tried out Screencast-o-matic at home, and it seems to work well, although my skills with it are not great at the moment. I think it would be a good tool to use if I ever did need to create a screencast, which I may well do one day, who knows!  I didn’t try Jing as I didn’t want to download it on to my computer at home if I wasn’t really going to use it. I didn’t even try downloading it at work!

I’ve never followed or listened to any podcasts before. I did download some podcasts of Mitch Benn reading A Christmas Carol last Christmas, but never got round to listening to them! Like screencasts, I think podcasts can be a useful means of conveying information to library users, particularly those at a distance, but also those who actually visit the library. For example, an audio ‘tour’ of the library could be recorded as a podcast, downloaded by students and they could then visit the library at a time of their choosing, for a podcasted library tour. I’m sure I’ve heard of this happening at some university libraries. Podcasts could also be used to help communicate information about the library to students and staff with visual impairments.

Although the FLLs in our institution use things like screencasts and podcasts, I think it would be good if other teams within the library also made use of them, or even did things like creating videos for YouTube and uploading them onto the library’s website/BlackBoard to show people how to use the self-service machines and move the dreaded compact shelving! (A few members of library staff did record a video to this end when we first moved into our new building, but were never allowed to do anything with it!). There’s a lot of technology out there that’s really useful, and it’s a shame we don’t do more with it to help students and other users of the library.

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Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

Oh dear, I haven’t been looking forward to this Thing. I feel like a terrible advocate for librarianship. I used to be someone who would wax lyrical about how important libraries and librarians are and I wrote one or two small pieces for CILIP about the image of the profession and tried to argue with Tim Coates (once) and things, but that was a long time ago, when I was young and enthusiastic. I still believe libraries are important and librarians are great (and important) and librarianship can be a brilliant (and important) profession to be a part of, but I’ve spent so much of my ‘professional’ life over the last few years trying not to keep my head above water and not go mad with frustration or stress or whatever that I haven’t given much thought to being an advocate for my profession, apart from knowing that I am a terrible advocate for librarianship. I already said that, didn’t I?

Anyway, moving on. I need to stop using my old job as an excuse for being rubbish.  I should try to be a better advocate for the profession and do more advocate-like things. I do tell people what librarians actually do all day, if asked. Does that count?

This one is going to be filed under Must Try Harder.

Thing 14: Referencing tools

I’ve only played a bit with online reference tools before – just saving a few references – but I know they’re very clever things. I thought that, rather than starting with one of the tools suggested for this Thing, I’d try and get to know RefWorks a bit better, as this is a tool we have in our e-Library (RefWorks 2.0), so it’s more likely that our students would use this than anything else (?).  The only thing I’d done with RefWorks before was to save some references, and I’d actually forgotten I’d done this, so it was a surprise when I logged in and found I had some references in there already!

I’m afraid I cheated, and decided to use the help sheet written by one of our FLLs to help me, as I didn’t find RefWorks particularly intuitive to use (but then again it was evening and I wasn’t very awake). I can see that it is a very useful tool for students and academics. I only wish it (or similar) had existed when I was a student!

Although I no longer do any academic writing as such, I do occasionally write articles for things like a heart patients’ association newsletter. Also, I still like to study things, even if I’m not writing essays about them, so I can use RefWorks to save references of journal articles I like the look of. In terms of my actual job (which is of course what I should be thinking about most), knowing something about RefWorks will hopefully help me to help any students or other library users if they ask me questions about it.

Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

Are there any other advantages to [online] social networking in the context of professional development than those already outlined above?

(Those advantages already mentioned were: better communication between individuals who may or may not have the chance to meet otherwise, creates a more collaborative working space as people are encouraged to share ideas, aids in building online communities, which can then turn into real-life communities, can provide easy access to other fields of the profession.The only thing I can think of is that online networking might help those who otherwise would not engage in networking, such as people who don’t feel very confident in face-to-face  social situations or who dislike real life networking.

Can you think of any disadvantages?

Only that people could use online networking as a replacement for face-to-face networking. Not sure this is necessarily a bad thing in all cases, but online networking is probably not appropriate for every situation. Sometimes you do just need to talk to people face-t0-face.

Has CPD23 helped you to make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally?

Yes, lots of people, especially on Twitter and blogs.  I think I even have more contact with people who work in my building via Twitter than in real life, which probably tells you all you need to know about communication in our workplace.

Did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?

Yes and yes.

In your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?

Well, I think it does – it’s certainly made me feel part of the wider library community,  but I also think it can do the opposite and lead to people feeling excluded, for example if they don’t feel confident in using social networking, or are latecomers to it, or just don’t understand it.  As with pretty much anything, social networking should be used with caution, and should not replace a normal diet of day-to-day, face-to-face interactions.

Thing 11: Mentoring

My only experience of ‘official’  mentoring was when I did my chartership. I never actually met my mentor, as she lived in a different county, and we usually communicated by email, and once on the phone. I think the distance between us made it difficult to form a good relationship, but I must also admit that I wasn’t great at keeping in touch with her.

As for  ‘unofficial’ mentors, there are people I’ve worked (and still work with) who I look up to and try to emulate, but I wouldn’t class these people as mentors as such. I can see how mentoring can work well, but  I’m not sure I would make good use of an ‘official’ mentor at this point in my career.

Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, Masters degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

For this ‘Thing’ we were asked to blog about our experiences as a librarian so far. I’m afraid I’m going to cheat, having written about this not all that long ago, and use the  post I wrote for the ‘Library Routes  project in 2010:

I thought I would join with other people in the library world and write about my library roots/routes for the The Library Routes Project. So, here I am, a library assistant in the shiny new library (I will have to stop calling it that one day, although it is still quite shiny at the moment). But how did I get here? Well, my career path hasn’t exactly gone the way I expected it to, but never mind…I’m not entirely sure why I wanted to become a librarian. I have fond memories of the local public library’s summer reading schemes for children, particularly one about the Aztecs, but I’m not sure that this influenced my choice of career at all! I think I probably went into librarianship because I couldn’t think of anything else I could do (!). Or, alternatively, because I had the privilege of access to education, books, information, reading and learning and I liked these things and thought they were important I wanted to help other people to access these things and like them and find them important, too. I still do.

I finished my degree in English and Religious Studies and then my Master’s in Theology (Jewish-Christian Relations), and decided to apply for a SCONUL graduate traineeship (now the CILIP Graduate Training Opportunities scheme). I think I had twelve interviews, or it may have been sixteen, and then I decided to give up for that year and got a job opening envelopes and processing magazine subscriptions. It was very dull, but we got tea breaks and the people were nice.In 2001, I did six weeks work experience at my local public library (the one with the Aztecs) and applied for a SCONUL traineeship again. After quite a few more interviews I got a job I hadn’t actually applied for, at theTaylor Institution Library in Oxford. I think I got this job because it was in a modern languages library and I’d done A Level German and they hadn’t found anyone suitable in the first round of interviews, so they added me to their list. [The way the Oxford traineeships worked was that you applied using one form, indicating which libraries you were most interested in working in. It looks like it’s different now, in that you don’t indicate your preference at all.”]I loved working at the Taylor Institution. It was a beautiful, old-fashioned library, with eccentric staff and even more eccentric readers (as were allowed to call them then).

 I met my husband during my year at Oxford – he was working at the Economics library, so we had training sessions together. These training sessions were really useful, giving us insights into aspects of librarianship that we may not have come across in our day-to-day work, and included visits to different types of libraries. The year confirmed for me that librarianship was the career I wanted to pursue, so I applied to do a Master’s in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth. I was lucky enough to get AHRB (now AHRC) funding.

I enjoyed the year at Aberystwyth, although I would question whether what I learned during that year has been any help to my in my various jobs – but that is a discussion to have another day! Having a postgraduate degree has helped me get jobs, but whether it has been of any practical use in any of the jobs is debatable. Anyway, I finished my course and applied for lots of jobs and had lots more interviews. Eventually, I was offered a job as a senior library assistant at an FE college, which I took because I was desperate. This was a mistake and I hated it almost immediately. My colleagues were lovely and I learned a lot, but the students were, with some exceptions, awful. Like my colleagues, my job involved a lot of ‘crowd control’ and taking abuse. So, I spent the next 18 months trying to leave. I applied for lots of jobs and had lots of interviews. On a more positive note, I started my chartership and my ECDL!

In July 2005, I got a job as assistant librarian for reader services in my current place of work – then known as the Library of Doom! Despite the library’s rather ominous nickname, I really enjoyed the job at first. It was my first experience of managing other people, which was a challenge, but not too bad at first. It got harder as time went on and my manager left…but I won’t go into all that because you can read about it elsewhere and this blog and on my old blog!

In 2008, I was seconded as a faculty liaison librarian for three months, which was really interesting and a very different role to my reader services post.

I completed my chartership* in 2009 – the highlight of my career to date! [I found it a really useful experience and it enabled me to feel more positive about my career, which was something I really needed at the time. You can read more about my experiences of chartering elsewhere on this blog.]

After almost five years of struggling on as an assistant librarian, I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore (well, it wasn’t quite that simple) and went down a few rungs of the career ladder to become a library assistant, assisting with periodicals and cataloguing – indulging my geeky side! I’m now the happiest I’ve been in my job for a long time.

I realise my routes might seem like they’ve gone the wrong way, but I have learned a massive amount about librarianship, work, career development, management, other people and myself over the last nine [now ten] years since I began my career as a library professional. My experiences may not all have been positive, but most of them have been worthwhile. I feel that I’m now being more helpful to people as a cataloguer-in-training than I was as an assistant librarian, so perhaps I’m where I originally set out to be after all – for the moment, anyway.

 *********

Postscript:
Since I wrote the above, I’ve started working as a senior library assistant, still doing cataloguing, and still enjoying it, for the most part.

Thing 9: Evernote

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I quite like Evernote. I signed up ages ago, and then didn’t use it because I started using Delicious instead, and now I also use Pinterest, so Evernote fell out of favour. However, from my point of view, the main advantage Evernote has over these other two  bookmarking services is that it’s available as a mobile app so I can sync it with my phone and therefore use it when I’m not sitting at a computer, which (obviously) makes it much handier for noting down things I have to remember, things I like the look of, books I might want to read, etc.

I’ve managed to install Evernote on my computer at work (which is surprising, as usually we can’t download/install anything!) and on my computer at home, and on my mobile phone. I think the fact I can now use Evernote on my phone will mean that I use it more than I would have done otherwise, but we will see how it goes. I’ve found it very easy to use so far and I particularly like the fact that you can just drag and drop files, photos, etc., into it. I think it will also be useful for looking at work files (i.e. the rota) without having to either email it to myself or try and access the VPN, which seems to not be working on my computer at the moment, having worked perfectly well before!

Thing 8: Google (and other) calendar(s)

Although I’m tempted to try Google calendar because I like playing with new toys, I don’t really need to use it  because we use Outlook shared calendars at work and I don’t have enough of a social life to need to use it out of work!

The Outlook shared calendars work quite well – we use them for general knowing-where-people-are purposes, and also for planning leave, to try and make sure there aren’t too many people off at the same time. Busy periods of term are highlighted, so we know there is a very limited number of people who can be on leave during these times.

I used to use a paper diary for work, when I had to create rotas, mainly because we didn’t have the shared leave calendar at that point and I needed somewhere I could record when people were away, as well as when pool staff were coming in. It was also useful to have a paper diary to take with me to meetings and so on. I don’t have to create rotas anymore, and I don’t go to very many meetings either, so I’ve given up using a paper diary for work, although I still have one for non-work things.

Thing 7: Face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I’m a chartered member of CILIP and  a member of the South Eastern branch (by default), but I’m afraid to say I’ve never been to any of their meetings. Perhaps this is something I should get more involved in. I’m also a member of the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing group and the Universities, Colleges and Research Group. I subscribe to the Cataloguing and Research Group’s blog, which gives me some good insight into what’s going on in the world of cataloguing. I flick through Update whenever it arrives and use LISJobnet for job hunting.  I  find reading Update and the weekly email digests from CILIP  helpful in my attempts to keep up to date with news related to the library and information profession. I’ve written articles for the (now extinct) CILIP Gazette in the past.

There aren’t many CILIP members in my organisation – in fact I think I only know two or three others (out of about 30 library staff) and sometimes I do wonder what the point of being a member of CILIP is. However, I do think that doing my chartership was good for me – it’s the only thing in my career I really feel proud of  -, so I will retain my CILIP membership so I can retain my chartered status and eventually re-validate, and, as I’ve said, I do find the communications from CILIP very helpful for current awareness.

I think being a CILIP member probably has a lot more potential for excitement and ‘value’  (if that’s what you want) than a lot of people (including me) give it credit for. Like most other things, you get out what you put in – at least to a certain extent.

Thing 6: Online networks

Like many other people on the planet, I use Facebook. I sometimes wonder why I use it, and whether I even like it, but it does have its uses. I’ve got back in touch with people I haven’t seen for years and would have no other way of contacting, and it’s useful for organising events, or at least attempting to. I don’t update my status every day, just when I can think of some suitably interesting or random to say, which is not really very often. I do check what everyone else is up to on quite a regular basis, though.

The only other network mentioned in the CPD23 blog post  that I’ve used is CILIP Communities, but I haven’t been active there for a long time. I can’t remember if I’ve ever actually posted anything, I think I just had a look at it once. Hmm, this probably doesn’t really count as using it, does it? Perhaps I’d better have a look at it again and update my profile, etc.

I’ve just joined the LIS New Professionals Network, as part of this Thing and to try and explore it a bit more. I’m not sure I’ll use it very much, but I can see that it could be a very useful tool in some situations and it’s definitely a good way for new professionals to connect with each other and more long-standing members of the LIS profession.

I’m a bit wary of joining LinkedIn or any other online networks, mainly because I have enough trouble keeping up with the ones I’m already on! I can see the benefits of LinkedIn, particularly if job-seeking or trying to connect and keep in touch with people you might meet in a professional context but wouldn’t necessarily want to be ‘friends’ with on Facebook, but I don’t think it’s really for me at this time.