My new job: what I actually do

Long time, no blog. For those of you not up to speed, I moved across the country and started a new job 3.5 months ago after a solid 2 years of being a subject librarian at a University. It had been a great first job as an Actual Librarian and I still thank my lucky stars for having such an easy walk into my career. Shout-out to my old team, you da bomb.

So, I wasn’t looking for a new job (I had a Five Year Plan to stay put). But a friend made a passing comment about this job that was up for grabs, and thus the seed was planted. I thought, “what the heck, I wonder if I could actually get a job like this??”. This led to an interview (a terrifying interview, might I add!), and the next day I got a phone call offering me the job. I don’t think I actually accepted it on the phone that day – it was somewhat assumed – I hadn’t firmly decided that I wanted to completely uproot my cushty life. But I went along with it anyway because that’s what I do, and here I am.

So my [new] job: Librarian and Customer Services Manager at a brand new Higher Education institution. Pretty cool, huh? It is entirely (mostly) different to anything I’ve done before. The librarian part: I am in charge of the library. Yep. I am the only librarian. I can do whatever I want, because I can say “it’s a librarian thing” and nobody knows any better. The part that makes the librarian in me die inside: my “library” is 16 bookcases located in the main atrium-type part of the campus building, and has a whole 2000 (nearly) books. Nowhere near as cool as it sounds, you see. But instead of just supporting one subject, I support them all *and* I control the entire collection. Acquisitions, inductions, laptops, study space, books, teaching, helpdesk. It’s all mine. And I don’t have to deal with negotiating our electronic resources because it’s done at our other site – PHEW, because the thought of doing that makes me shake at the knees. So yeah. The library aspect of my job is what I make of it. Awesome.

However, the bulk of my job is the Customer Service aspect. Not only do I have a library to run, I also run the helpdesk – the desk right at the front of the campus building. We are a one-stop shop, because we are the single place for students to come to when they have questions or problems with anything at all to do with the University. Do you have any idea how wide a remit that is? We deal with enquiries related to enrolment, UCAS, applications, open days, student finance, course fees, IT, the VLE, the library, assessments, facilities, absence, disability, academic problems, timetables, social events. The list goes on – and that’s just the enquiries from the students themselves, nevermind the stuff we get from staff and visitors!

I don’t personally spend too much time out on the helpdesk – that’s what my team is for – but I’d say 80% of my job is behind-the-scenes stuff to make the helpdesk happen. Quality standards, enquiry analysis, statistics, reports, training, liaison. Nothing I have ever done before, but I haven’t been fired yet!!

I also oversee various other odds and ends – for example, our VLE (Moodle) comes under my remit. I have a Learning Technologist whose job it is to manage the students’ online learning space, create digital content and support learning through technology. My team will also be acquiring a maths tutor and an English tutor next year – which means that as well as managing the library and customer services, I also manage the campus’ learning development team.

The office I’m located in is behind the helpdesk, and is home to myself and my team, the registry team, the wellbeing team and our line manager who oversees the lot. It is super interesting working alongside all these different teams and I’ve learnt an immense amount about how universities work in general – not just the libraries! Every day is different. Every day is interesting. In my old job, I didn’t have enough to do and I spent large parts of the day being bored. In this job, I go the entire day not looking at my phone and not realising where the time has gone. My job is tough because I’m out of my comfort zone and because politics are always at play, but the satisfaction levels when stuff goes right are way above anything I’ve experienced in the past.

My official objectives for the next 12 months have recently been set, and are:

  1. Create, plan and develop a learning development service
  2. Run our Clearing operation – yes, you did read that correctly, I have to run CLEARING.
  3. Work towards the ISO9001 standard and Customer Service Excellence accreditation
  4. Create a team charter and operations level agreements with all the other departments
  5. Something about the library. Oh yeah, make it good.

Wish me luck ūüėČ

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1.5 Years into my job

Hello, blog readers. It’s been a long time.

This blog started as a weekly diary during my graduate traineeship at Bradford University library. It progressed to a sporadic blog about my time as a Library School student at Loughborough. My last post detailed my successful job interview for my first professional post… and then I left you in the lurch.

Well, here I am. I have been in my new post as Information Specialist for Languages and Social Sciences for over a year and a half now – and I’m still here!

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My desk… very professional! ūüėČ

I’m hoping to blog about specific aspects of my job as time goes by (although who knows if this will ever materialise!) but to begin with, here is a list of things I’ve achieved during my time so far as a newly-qualified information specialist:

  • Taught lots of students. My first teaching session in post was a lecture in front of 200 first year undergraduates. As is typical for me, I was definitely thrown in at the deep end. Most of my teaching is actually workshops with much smaller groups of students, but it’s good to know that I can do Big Scary Things too. I’m now comfortable enough in my job that I’m creating my own teaching instead of recycling that of my predecessor, and I’ve also played around with splitting my big lectures into small classes. Success!
  • Managed a nice big books budget. Okay, so my budget is smaller than that of my colleagues, but it’s MINE. I’m a big fan of managing a budget much larger than my annual earnings. Since I manage the social sciences, I also find opportunities to expand the collection in areas that I feel are super important for people to include in their education (e.g. gender, sexuality, race, class). I haven’t had any complaints yet!
  • Weeded lots of books. Definitely my favourite part of the job. I wholeheartedly blame my time at Bradford for this.
  • Won a bursary to the CILIP Conference 2015. Thanks to the Community, Diversity and Equality group within CILIP who funded my trip, I was able to attend this *fantastic* conference up in Liverpool. It was fab. I would definitely recommend attending in the future if you can, no matter what sector you work in.
  • Kept things running smoothly. Okay, so I do a lot of little jobs that aren’t worth their own bulletpoint but group together to make up a lot of my job. Whether that be answering student enquiries, liaising with academics, widening online info and resources, or attending lots of meetings. I’ve had nothing but compliments about my work. And I’m starting to find new projects for myself – e.g. developing our social media presence.
  • Started a Midlands Languages Librarians Group and am the library’s representative at the newly-founded Mercian Disability Forum. Yay new things with lots of scope.
  • Studied for a PGCert in Learning & Teaching – passed with a distinction and attained Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. I was “encouraged” to do this course by my manager, and at times it was a hard slog. Particularly during a module based around module design, where I felt totally out of my depth. But I got consistently [stupidly] high marks for the whole course and it turned out to be incredibly satisfying. And I get even more letters after my name. Obviously.

All in all, it’s been very interesting. Things are slowing down for me this year now that I’ve finished my teaching for this academic year, so I’m starting to work on some new projects and taking on more responsibilities within the library.

I’ll see you all soon.

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The Interview

Hello, library folk. It’s been a very long time since I wrote anything here because not a lot has happened worth writing about for months. However, recently I have had a spot of luck that appears to be unheard of¬†amongst recent library graduates. Earlier this week I had¬†a job interview for the one and only Actual Real Librarian Job that I have ever applied for. And I got it!!! I haven’t even finished my masters yet!!!!! Exclamation mark! Whatever kind of magic or divine interference occurred, I am so horrendously grateful because I had envisioned a horrible future of reaching September, having to move back in with my parents, and signing on for a very long time. Alas, I have landed myself an extremely good job of subject librarian at a university. I feel anxious thinking about how inexperienced I am as I haven’t had to spend years working my way up to it, but I just have to keep telling myself that my new employers do know this. They know my job history and they know that I’m fresh [almost] out of uni. They’re not expecting me to come pre-packaged and ready-made. They know I’ll need training. I can do this. I *can* do this.

 

 

So, the interview. I had been asked to prepare a presentation on the relevance of information literacy to undergraduates. I’m fairly sure I kicked ass at this, because I’ve got a good track history of success with presentations. I find it weird that I’m so socially anxious and easily stressed, and yet presentations don’t really worry me all that much. Granted, I almost had a bit of a heart attack when I arrived and saw there were around 10 members of staff in there to watch, but I did good. I recycled parts of a presentation I’d had to do for my information literacy module at uni as well as coming up with some new stuff. When the presentation question time came, I think I did alright at that, too. One librarian asked how I would convince students to come to sessions, and another asked how I would convince students to use library resources instead of Google. I did a good job of the first question (I know this because there were lots of smiles and nods), and didn’t do too badly at the second, either. I couldn’t decide if the fact I was only asked two questions was a good or a bad thing!

 

 

So, the interview. In the space between these two events, I had to sit in a room with another candidate for an hour whilst the internal candidate had her interview. That was… odd. Small talk, which I hate with a passion, aplenty. There’s probably no moment more fake than wishing¬†your opposition the best of luck with their interview for the¬†job that you’re both there to get.

 

 

Alas, when the time came, it was scary. I was interviewed by the two library directors and a representative from the School I will be working with. They all looked very serious and grown up, and I felt a little like a child being sent to the headteacher’s office to discuss something bad. But it was okay. I do struggle with nerves a lot in interviews. As soon as¬†I start answering a question, I either forget what the question was or forget what I’ve already said. Usually¬†both. I’m often not sure if I’ve actually answered the question or not and eventually tail off when I’ve run out of¬†hesitant points to make. I did this a lot during this particular interview, so what they saw in me is anyone’s guess. Normally I bring a notepad in with me to jot down the question as it’s asked and keep me on track, but I¬†didn’t remember that it was in my¬†bag until after the first question and then didn’t want to look like a weirdo, so I made use without. It was hard. Interview amnesia (also known as blind panic) means that I don’t remember what I was asked afterwards, but I will try to remember now. It also means that when I get the opportunity to ask questions at the end, I have absolutely no idea what the answers are because I’m so busy trying to look like I’m listening that I don’t listen. Good work, brain.

 

 

The questions [that I remember]:

 

– What are the differences between my current job and this post? I outlined that the interview post is a career, but my current job is just something I do to keep my foot in the door, keep up to date with library developments, and support myself whilst I study. I said that, more significantly, my previous job as a graduate trainee had given me the opportunity to gain a holistic view of how an academic library works as a whole, in order to prepare me for working in a much more specific role such as this one.

 

РHow will the university change over the next 5 years, and what will this mean for this post? I rambled on about fees being higher and so the decision to come to university being an investment in the future that each student has to be more sure about than ever before. Therefore the service provided is expected to be of top quality. Specifically for this post it means maintaining an excellent service and making the most of the resources we have. And the cliché of keeping up with modern technology, obviously.

 

– There was a question about communication that threw me a bit because of the way they’d worded it. How will I communicate [effectively?], or something. Because I wasn’t entirely sure what they wanted from this question I talked about having good interpersonal skills and being approachable and friendly. I said that my language degree had equipped me with the skills to communicate effectively. One of the panel then prompted me about types of communication, so I talked about having good written skills for clear e-mails. Still not sure I gave them what they were looking for. Shrug.

 

– What is an example of when I have managed a budget? I said that in the library setting I have not had to manage a budget, but that I had shadowed subject librarians in my GT year and seen how they make decisions relating to their budget, and that the acquisitions department had shown me the figures. I then talked about having been president of a society when I was an undergraduate, and how I had to juggle two bank accounts – one for long-term investments, and one for short-term spending. I said that I had to apply for the budget at the beginning of the year and think about making it last the entire year, but also about not having any left at the end so that the same amount, or more, could be applied for the following year. I also said that because it was the LGBT society, I had to make sure that money was being spent on all four letters of the acronym instead of focusing on the L and the G, which would be easy to do. Let me just say that I *hate* coming out in interviews.¬†Makes me squirm every time (the worst was at an interivew when they didn’t know what LGBT stood for, so I had to sit there and¬†elaborate. Mortified.).¬†Alas, it was necessary in order to make my point, as spreading the budget across different subject¬†areas will be something I have to do¬†in this¬†job.

 

– Don’t entirely remember what the next question was exactly, but it was something along the lines of asking what technical problems I’ve encountered (am likely to encounter?) working¬†with ebooks. This one caught me off guard a bit and I can’t totally remember what I said. I think I started talking about students not being able to find them or not knowing what they actually are. I also talked about servers being down. A panel member prompted me to talk about authentification, which I wasn’t totally sure on, so I talked about confusions with Athens. I also mentioned that at Bradford when students contacted us with problems accessing ebooks off campus, it had been difficult for us to help, as us being on campus didn’t present us with the same barriers due to university¬†wi-fi recognition. I said we’d tried to solve this problem by setting up a laptop to give us the off-campus scenario. I closed my answer to this question by saying that because ebooks are hosted externally, when servers etc. go down communication is key, both between the library and the host, and between the library and students. Ta daaaa.

 

– How would I make decisions regarding downsizing journal subscriptions? This was probably my favourite question to answer because I actually had some knowledge on it! I talked about how I’d sat in on a lot of meetings regarding subscription decisions at Bradford. I talked about discussing¬†subscriptions with academics – finding out what they think the students¬†need and what the students actually use. I talked about weighing up the¬†pros and cons¬†of buying into a Big Deal or¬†paying¬†an extortionate amount of money for one big title.¬†I also mentioned usage statistics.

 

– The open access question. Still completely kicking myself for this one. I was asked how I would get academics on board with open access. Not a bloody clue! Open access is not something we ever really talked about at Bradford (unless we did and I was just asleep/not paying attention/out riding dragons¬†that day), and it hasn’t come up at all working at Loughborough or anywhere on my course, so I was completely stumped on this one. I started with a generic answer of bigging up the benefits. I was then asked what the benefits are. I rather feebly attempted to blag¬†it and¬†said something about saving money and opening information up to students, but was challenged on this. I then admitted defeat and said that I was sorry but I didn’t have the knowledge to answer the question. Oh, the shame!

 

– At the university, all teaching sessions are recorded and put online for students to view. Am I comfortable with this? Obviously I said yes (although added that it sounded daunting but I’d get over it, just to make it sound a bit more authentic and not like I was totally desperate for the job). Inside I was screaming PLEASE DEAR GOD NO DON’T MAKE ME. We’ll see how that goes…

 

 

There were a couple more questions which have completely left my mind and fallen into the abyss. I’m assuming they can’t have been too traumatic or too successful either, given they clearly didn’t stand out. Despite the feeling I had of having made it out alive but barely, I suppose I must have done something right because the crazy fools employed me! We’ll just have to wait and see what the future brings.

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Back to the World of Studenthood…

I admit, this blog post is *incredibly* overdue, I’ve not written here in months. This isn’t because I’ve been rushed off my feet, simply that I’m a lazy bugger who never *quite* gets around to doing things if I don’t have a deadline… Honestly, I have just had 3 weeks of for Christmas, I had a whole list of things I wanted to get done, and I didn’t even get through the first (an assignment that’s due in 5 days…). Alas, I am writing this post now because I’m on the enquiry desk at the library (I’ve managed to get an evenings/weekend library assistant job in the university library¬†) with nothing to do, and I did a lot of my blogging on the enquiry desk last year so it seems to be the right time to ramble.

SO! I have been a library student for an entire term, and it has been… an experience. Having had 2 years out from uni between courses, I can safely say that I am no longer cut out for student life and am most definitely looking forward to finishing, getting a job, and having some structure!!! I still miss Bradford probably more than I should – I actually dreamt about breaking into my old apartment not long ago. I’m far too grumpy to be living in student halls again. You know how there is always that weirdo on¬†every corridor who no one ever sees? Yeah. That’s me.

Coursewise, I know I’m on the right course for me. One of the reasons I had applied to Loughborough was because of a gender module they offered, which is no longer available because the academic moved to New Zealand, but despite that, the other modules are interesting enough. I had 3 modules on the go last term – Information Services & Libraries, Information Organisation & Retrieval, and Information Needs & Information Literacy.

The first was a very basic overview module where we looked at different types of libraries each week. If I’m honest, I didn’t really learn anything new in this module, as the tutor spent a lot of time just surfing the web in front of us so there wasn’t much to be gained. When I asked questions about public libraries he also kind of skirted around the answers, and when it came to clinical libraries I felt I knew most of it already from helping out the health studies librarian at Bradford last year. The session on academic libraries was probably the most interesting, as one of the staff members from the uni library came to talk to us about space management and learning environments, which is something I really¬†started to get¬†my teeth into last year. At the end of the module, we had to give presentations in pairs on common challenges across the library sectors, and myself and my partner focused on funding, technology, and advocacy. These really do seem to crop up absolutely everywhere we look – librarians are forced to fight for their existence and prove that they’re still relevant across all of the different sectors that we looked at – even in schools and hospitals. This module really did help us to realise just quite how misunderstood librarianship as a profession is, and it was, quite frankly, rather depressing. This got worse when I chose to write my assignment on the challenges faced by public libraries. I started with funding problems, and this took up the entire essay through the form of closures, volunteers, privatisation etc. It was super, super interesting whilst also being hideously sobering, but also confirmed my desire to get into this career. Cheesy as it sounds, I want to make a positive difference to people’s lives, and I think (hope!) that I can if I go into something like public libraries.

The next module, Information Organisation and Retrieval, has really appealed to my geek side. We were given an overview of various methods of cataloguing (tagging, AACR2, MARC) and classification (Dewey, LC, UDC). Whilst I already had some knowledge on most of these, it was interesting to get a brief history of them Рmy favourite fact is that Mr Dewey himself snuck women (who were forbidden) into a college to teach them how to be librarians! The assignments for this module were like a breath of fresh air compared to my other modules, as they were practical tasks instead of long essays. I particularly enjoyed using MARC tags, as I had done a *lot* of this in the acquisitions department at Bradford, so I felt I had a leg up already. When it came to classifying using DDC though, I felt the class was a bit too basic, as we were given a dumbed down copy of Dewey to work from РI had worked with the four volumes of it at Bradford, but here I had maybe 10 sides of a4, pretty disappointing! All in all, the module was good for a basic overview of what goes on in these areas, but it was nowhere near enough to be able to do these as a job.

My other weekly module was an incredibly dull way to spend my Thursday mornings indeed. Information Needs and Information Literacy. The topic itself had the potential to be very interesting, but the lecturer was the most boring and difficult-to-listen-to man, who was seriously lacking in teaching skills. Three hours every week of unadulterated boredom. Absolute doom. I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you much of what was taught, because I wasn’t paying attention… I’ve been trying my best to be a good student this year because I was so rubbish at it in my first degree, but not even I could stomach this module. I just know we were shown model after model after model of information behaviour, and then learning theories, and the lecture talked a lot about his own work and not much else. The assignments weren’t too bad, however. I wrote my first one on the information needs of prisoners and designed a service to cater for those needs. I picked the need to be kept up to date with information about the outside world (current affairs etc.) and designed a study/discussion/research scheme that could be run in a prison library. Prison libraries really interest me because I can see the potential in them to make changes to people’s lives and be creative in the job, although I’m aware there are many limits and constrains in reality. Being a prison librarian is definitely something that I’d like to try out in the future some time though, possibly because I’ve spent too much time watching prison dramas… The second assignment was to make a presentation in pairs designing an information literacy intervention. I once again paired with my friend who was also a GT last year, and we picked what I thought was the obvious choice (although no other groups did this, which I found odd) – information literacy for students. We drew on past experience from sessions we’d helped out with ourselves in the past, planning a session for students who were struggling to find relevant and reliable resources for an assignment. We got a 78, the highest mark I’ve ever had at university, so YAY!

I’ve had a couple of other ‘block’ modules this year too, which are all day every day for around a week, I’m not going to cover those now though as I think I’ve said enough.

Basically, I’m doing well on my course, applying myself [most of the time], and looking forward to what the future will bring.

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Reflective Log: The middle of the night in late October. Because I’m a student now.

Hello! Long time no speak! I ended my last post by saying I’d do a reflection of the year, and Master Procrastinator Kates has done an excellent job of putting it to the back of their mind.

So here I am, sitting in my tiny student room at gone midnight, feeling guilty for not having done anything productive this evening, so I’m making a start on this post. Not entirely sure what to put in it, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve got a folky band playing quietly like I used to when I had a really long mundane task to complete, so I’m feeling pretty nostalgic.

The last year. Well. Where do I start? What a great year! I was on a train back from Bradford after my interview when I got the phone call offering me the job, and I was so over the moon that the entire carriage knew about it. I vaguely remember that my Facebook status saying ‘I GOT THE JOB! I GOT THE JOB! I GOT THE F*CKING JOB’ is my most-liked status of all time (which says a lot if you have any idea quite how excessively I post…), and rightly so! The journey started that day – within a week I was back up finding a flat, and the following week I moved up from Essex and began work.

Actually, I know it’s poor form to change writing style mid-whatever, but I’m going to make lists instead. Otherwise this is going to turn into structureless drivel (as opposed to structured drivel…). Here goes.

Things I learnt over the year (not a comprehensive list, we’d be here forever)

  • I WANT TO BE A LIBRARIAN!!! Okay, so I already had a good idea that this career would probably suit me, but was in definite need of experience and confirmation before ‘committing’. The last year taught me that I have definitely found my future – I’ve not narrowed it down to specifics yet as I’ve got lots of different ideas of library directions that I could go, but I am excited to have chosen this path, and I will blog about my masters in due course.
  • Databases.¬†I now know what they are. God knows how I managed to get a first in my undergraduate dissertation, because I sure as hell didn’t do database searches (and have since found the perfect journal article that basically sums up the entire thing. Doh!). I am now clued up on searching techniques, how databases work, health databases!, finding good stuff, and how to teach this to students. Hurrah!
  • Referencing tools. I had no idea about the existence of these, although I’m glad I didn’t use them during my first degree because quite frankly, referencing is FUN. One of my favourite tasks in the year was proof-reading various referencing guides, and I took far too much enjoyment in those… I also think it’s important that students learn how to reference properly for themselves before ‘cheating’ with EndNote, but can see how it makes referencing massive documents a lot quicker and easier.
  • Publishers are evil. There. I said it. I have learnt all about the hideous cycles and catch-22s between publishers, libraries and academics over the course of the year. I was shocked over and over and over about journal prices, that libraries have no choice but to buy for their students, and how this is totally exploited by the publishers. I have continued to learn about how publishers are evil already on my masters course (a topic for another time, perhaps).
  • Misconceptions about what it is to be a librarian.¬†I experienced this throughout the year, experience it even more now as a library student, and will continue to experience it for the rest of my life. The pure shock that you need to be qualified to be a librarian. The lack of awareness of what a librarian actually is. The freaking stereotypes! I will undoubtedly write something on this topic at some point this year, probably when I finally flip at yet another suggestion that I’m getting a masters in wearing cardigans and shushing people.
  • I like tea.¬†Couldn’t resist but to put this after my stereotyping rant, but I discovered I like drinking tea. I had never drunk tea before starting at Bradford, but upon arrival I was offered it so often that I bit the bullet and it wasn’t bad after all.
  • I enjoy doing the hideously mundane and repetitive tasks that many others can’t stand.¬†Yep. As a GT I was given a lot of things to do that consisted of hours of repetition and not a lot of thought. And I was okay with this! Data entry, measuring kilometres of shelves in increments of 10 centimetres, all good fun. Probably won’t shout too loudly about this upon getting my next real job though.
  • Stuff gets thrown away! Something I’d never thought about before last year, but with the arrival of new stock, old stuff has to go. And no, it’s not ‘wrong’. It’s to help create a better library (and to make more space…). I actually think I might be a bit too pro-chucking after this year.
  • Cataloguing and classification. I know about these now (not in great detail, but a darn sight more than I did before). And they’re fun. MARC tags, subject headings, the inner workings of the DDC. I imagine it’s the same part of me that likes referencing that gains enjoyment from these. It’s like detective work, and I’ve also found it’s given me a leg-up in my masters, because no one else in the class has done any of these things before. I hope I get to do some cataloguing in my future career, although more than a couple of hours at any one time is probably too much!
  • Special Collections is interesting but not really for me.¬†I learnt a lot about what Special Collections is and what the librarians do (my previous knowledge was zilch), and I enjoyed having the chance to contribute to a couple of projects and to learn about preservation (again, I had a big leg-up in our preservation and disaster management lecture last week). But in reality, I just don’t have the wider knowledge needed and the enthusiasm to learn about special parts of and people in history. I’d rather be up and about in the rest of the library. Sorry Alison, but thanks for everything you taught me!
  • I have the ability to surprise myself and feel proud of my work.¬†Things like helping students with more advanced queries than I could ever have dealt with at the beginning of the year – and enjoying doing so! Things like giving 40-minute presentations to a room full of people and not dying halfway through.
  • The job is what you make it.¬†There were a lot of people with the same basic job title (i.e. subject librarian) but everyone had different interests and took on different roles within the library – whether it was through participating in a working group, seeing where something was missing or could be improved and creating the service (e.g. library on location), or creating an obscene number of spreadsheets just because you could. Even as a lowly GT, I still had a certain amount of autonomy – I was able to create my LGBT history month display upon requesting to do it, and I chose my own project (no matter how much I despised it by the end of the report…). I hope that I get a certain amount of autonomy in my future career.
  • I like librarians.¬†I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people. It’s a month today since my last day there and I don’t miss it any less. If I dwell on it for more than a few seconds, I get quite upset (definitely not crying as I write this…). I hope I made some lifelong friends, and if I’m honest, I’d love to go back and work there again. I genuinely felt like the people there were a family to me (I had about 15 mothers, a few siblings and a weird uncle or two) and I wouldn’t swap the last year for the world.

What else am I going to take away from the year? I need to continue to work on not letting my anxiety levels get the better of me – I won most of the time, but there were a few occasions when I could have tried harder. ¬†More generally, I need to stop constantly worrying about what other people think about me. This often got in the way – for example I would never contribute to a big group discussion – and I still find myself looking back and imagining I was incredibly immature/annoying at times, and consequently kicking myself for it. Finally (and rather relevantly),¬†I also need to try not to be so harsh on myself all of the time – I’m only human and shouldn’t expect to get everything perfect all the time.¬†If I slip up, there’s no need to dwell on it and bully myself, I just need to learn and move forwards.

There are lots and lots of other things I¬†learnt over the course of my traineeship, but that’s probably enough for now – you don’t need to hear about the time I spent over 5 minutes trying to figure out how to lock my office door.

If anyone from Bradford is reading this (I honestly have no idea who actually reads this blog), thank you for the last year.

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The Final Week! Reflective Log: Monday 23rd September 2013

Somehow it is my penultimate day here in the library, and I have no idea how this happened. I know it’s clich√©, but time really has flown. I’ve been here for almost 11 months, which is the longest I’ve stayed in any one location in 6 years, so I’d say I’ve done well to stick with this, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.

So, what did I get up to last week? I gave my presentation a couple more times and it went very well in each of them. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from them all, so this is extremely reassuring for when I take on similar tasks in the future. I helped out in a bunch of different induction sessions for a range of different librarians, which included finally giving my first tours for students around the library! On Tuesday the School of Health were trying out having an induction day for their new students, complete with stalls and sessions from across the university, and I spent the day manning the library stall. We had a bunch of promotional goodies from the Learner Development Unit on our table too, and free stuff really does bring students across!¬† I also helped out with some more Health Studies sessions for 2nd year students, which involved helping them to search databases for articles and use Endnote – the usual stuff really, but it was nice to get back into it after having had none of these sessions over the summer. I hadn’t used Endnote yet myself either, so I was totally blagging it when students asked for help, but all went well!

The other main thing I did last week was actually finish my project!! Having learnt how to use Endnote whilst showing students how to use it, I decided it’d be a good idea to utlilise it myself too, although Loughborough use RefWorks so I’ll most likely be shifting again anyway soon. It was very straightforward for most of the references I needed, but things like laws and various other sources I’d used needed some work, but I actually found it fun… guess this is a sign that I might be following the right career…?? Once referencing was sorted, I spent a while formatting the document (who knew that Word can create a contents page for you?! The things they didn’t teach me in school IT lessons…), so now it looks all pretty and shiny. Da daaaaa. Finishing it was a very satisfying moment.

And that sums up last week. This week I am only in work today and tomorrow, and then that’s it. I’m emptying my flat and going back down to Essex on Thursday, and moving up to Loughborough on Saturday. Things are getting real. It only really hit me yesterday that I’m going to be leaving behind a life that I’ve created totally from scratch over the last 11 months, and the excitement of moving is finally being brought back down a notch by the sadness of saying goodbye to people I love.

I will write up a summary of the year here at some point in the next week or two (Sarah – kick me if I don’t!), but right now I have to rush off for my exit meeting with my boss’ boss’ boss! See you soon ūüôā

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Reflective Log: Monday 16th September 2013

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything on here, mostly because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in project stuff. The two weeks before my presentation was pure panic to get my report written and presentation made, because: a. I had underestimated how much time I needed to write it as I am a slow writer and it turned out to be longer than I was expecting, and b. I have always struggled to get assignments written unless I am nearing a looming deadline. So I don’t regret not starting writing up the report any earlier because that’s my study style, but I am very pleased that the stress is over.

To get my report written, I hijacked a corner on the silent study floor because my office has too much noise and clutter for me to concentrate for long periods of time on written work. I hadn’t written anything remotely academic since my undergraduate dissertation over two years ago, so I found writing my report to be challenging to say the least, and am also now slightly nervous about getting back into assignments when I start my masters in a couple of weeks. Alas, quite a few late nights, a lot of cans of Relentless, and 15,000 words later and the thing is written. I just have my referencing to do now, which again is something I’ve been putting off because I haven’t done any since undergrad and I work in a library so I’m probably supposed to get that bit spot on!!

Not only did I have the report to write, but also – the part I’d been dreading – I had to make a presentation about it to give to¬† library staff. I’d always wanted to use Prezi before and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I found it to be very confusing at first and it took me a while to get used to, but it’s so pretty! Being a perfectionist, I had some issues with it because there is always something you could change or move, so I spent a good part of the weekend before my presentation was due jigging things around and trying to make the best presentation I could. I managed to get it made just in time, and then the thing I was scared about… giving the presentation!

The only presentation I’d given since being in *school* was a 10-minute one in my interview for this job. The presentation I’d made for this project, however, took a good 40 minutes to get through. How terrifying! The morning of the presentation I was very hopeful I’d wake up too ill to get into work, but unfortunately this did not happen, so I had to go and face my fears. I’d baked a cake the night before in an attempt to sweeten up my audience, and I was also wearing a nice smart dress (I had a deal with my line manager that if I wore a dress, she would too. This was most definitely worth it). When the time arrived, the room was far fuller than we had expected, with attendees not only from all across the library, but also from Disability Services, the Dean of Students, and some other people who we didn’t even know. I thought I was going to throw up in front of them but thankfully my bodily functions didn’t let me down.¬† I made my way through the presentation without stumbling on my words too much, and an interesting cross-departmental discussion took place afterwards. I’ve since had a lot of positive feedback both on the content and my use of Prezi, and apparently I didn’t look particularly nervous – so I am now considering a career change to acting.

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Wear-something-you-wouldn’t-normally-wear-to-work Day (aka the day of my presentation)

Since then, I’ve also given my presentation to some men in suits from Estates, who also found it interesting and have asked to have my report sent to them once I’ve finished it (should probably get to that, really…), and I am giving it again tomorrow to some people, including the head of the library, who couldn’t make it to the first one.

I’m not going to sit here and type out all of the findings of my report, as it appears I’m unable to do that without producing something that’s 50% longer than my undergraduate dissertation was, but I shall give you the link to my presentation, which has most of the key findings in it and I think gives a pretty good overview of what I’ve been up to:

http://prezi.com/j1wdbeyahvlf/the-accessibility-of-the-library-for-disabled-students/

SO. Things other than my project have been fairly non-existent since my last post here. I helped out with some cultural awareness training sessions that went really well (and not only because we supplied food) and led to some interesting discussions. I helped out with some library sessions for mature students last week, which didn’t go entirely as planned because we experienced a lot of technical difficulties. I also visited ULITA on Friday afternoon – it was pretty interesting to see how things that aren’t books are catalogued and stored, and the building was lovely! I’m sure there are a few other things that I must have done but my mind is failing me this morning.

I have one week left at work as of today, which is a bit scary, and I’m going to be super busy for the whole of it helping various librarians with their inductions and teaching sessions. I’m going to be very sad to leave as I’ve had a really great time here, but I’m excited to be moving on to the next chapter of my life ūüôā¬† (also, I won a ¬£1000 scholarship towards my tuition fees, so yay for that too)

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Reflective Log: Monday 19th August 2013

Good morning, people (or spambots…)!

It is bright and early on a Monday morning, and I am both completely knackered because I’ve been at a feminist conference all weekend, but also raring to go because I have just worked out that I only have 26 days actually in work left.

Last week was a busy and productive one, which I am glad about because I was feeling really shitty about the week before. The main things I did (I’m going to use bullet points for a change):

  • Project work – making contact! Over the course of the week I sent individual e-mails out to around 36 students who had filled in my questionnaire and said that they’d be happy to discuss it further. Rather disappointed that I’ve only had 6 replies so far (and unfortunately not really elaborating on their questionnaire responses, which was kind of the point…), because this is going to make the next stage of my project rather difficult. I also contacted the handful of students who had said they’d be happy to take part in a focus group in an attempt to figure out when it could take place. It’s now been a week since I contacted them and I’ve only heard back from 2, both of whom were very rigid about times that were totally different. So it’s looking like that will be a no-go too. Rather frustrating.
  • Project work – literature searching! It had been a while since I did a proper search for the limited literature relevant to my project, so I figured I should try again. I managed to find two extremely interesting and useful-looking books and a journal article that was only published last month, none of which we had copies of here at Bradford, so I had to ask the nice lady down in inter-library loans to get hold of them for me. The journal article was sent electronically and I was pretty amused when I managed, in classic student style, to mess up getting that downloaded and printed out (my computer just *had* to freeze when I asked it to print 2 copies, which is the maximum allowance and the file won’t let you do it again!). The books were both tricky to get hold of and have been ordered from Amazon to join our library stock. One arrived on Friday – ‘Crash course in library services to people with disabilities’ – which looks extremely useful and the disability support lady down in customer services is thrilled, so I think that’s a win for the library.
  • One of the librarians has asked me to do a literature search for her – a module tutor has asked her to find articles on a whole bunch of different health and nutrition-related topics for her students to look at in seminars. I spent a lot of time one day searching various databases for the type of articles that I think would be useful, but it’s incredibly difficult when you know nothing about the subject and don’t really know what you’re looking for because you know nothing about the course or the students either. I’ve gone for fairly basic-level because the topics are broad and the students aren’t Health Studies students, but still have some of that to get on with this week too. It’s been interesting to do something different nonetheless.
  • I helped out with another of the sessions for pre-sessional international students trying to improve their English and grasp how the University works before term starts (I helped with one of these the week before too but think I forgot to mention it). They had a very basic library session covering things like logging into their e-mail, searching the catalogue for and fetching a book, and a very basic introduction to searching for a journal article on a database. Some of the students managed okay, but a lot of them had problems with understanding what they were supposed to be doing, mainly because of language. With term starting in a month there must be an incredible amount of pressure on them to pick things up quickly, or they’re going to struggle!
  • I attended a session given by the acquisitions department on how they had reclassified all of the books in our main stock over the course of about 18 months (the library switched from UDC to DDC). I had known that it must’ve been a mammoth task, but I hadn’t really stopped to think about the logistics of it before – whilst the suppliers were able to help out with classmarks for a lot of the books, many more needed doing by our own department – too many to sit and do individually so a lot of things were done en masse. It seemed that the biggest problem for them was the spine-labelling. Producing 250,000 spine-labels manually wasn’t an option, so they had to figure out how to get Millennium to do it for them – a feature not built into the programme. It was pretty interesting, and props to them for getting the whole thing done.
  • I helped out one of the librarians by going through her library induction tests/quizzes/thingies that her first year pharmacy students have to do at the beginning of every year. This made me smile, because one of my first tasks when I arrived here in Bradford was to mark a big pile of these papers, and now here I was checking if it was still relevant for the next lot. I guess I’ve come full-circle (and it was mostly still correct, apart from some changes to catalogue records and an external website).
  • The health studies librarian had been asked to make a library quiz for new radiology students, but not containing questions about catalogue searches or classmarks or whatnot, just about the library generally. She passed this on to me, and I had good fun walking around the library trying to think of questions I could include. I then put the questions into some software that creates crosswords, and voila, a nice tidy exercise that doesn’t look too dull.
  • Finally, I spent an afternoon putting some content together for a library staff training session on working with international students. We’ve got hold of a training DVD called ‘Bridging our worlds’, which is made up of lots of small sections on different things from moving to a new country right up to learning style and plagiarism. My job was to watch the DVD and decide which clips are relevant and useful for our training sessions, and come up with some questions and exercises we can do between clips. It was an interesting job, and I don’t think I’ve made too much of a mess of it! The international group is meeting in a few minutes to go through what I’ve selected, so I should probably wrap this post up!

So there we go, a busy week last week, and hopefully more of the same this week too. Til next time!

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Reflective Log: Monday 12th August 2013

I’ve not really got a lot to write about last week – I was off sick on Weds and Thurs and not at my most productive on the other days either due to feeling unwell (I was having the highest anxiety levels I’ve had in a good few months so my head-space wasn’t great. Am feeling a lot more positive after the weekend though and looking forward to making up for lost time). The tasks I did last week were mostly more discards for the Health Studies librarian (she has a lot of them…) and getting on with my project some more – doing a bit more research, starting to think about how I’m going to write the beginning of it up, and planning what I’ll be e-mailing out to students who have said that they’re happy to discuss the questionnaire further.

In other news, I have now been in the post for over 9 months, and my last day here will be September 24th (I’m clinging on for as long as I can – in the 4 days following that I’ll be moving out of my flat in Bradford and back down to Essex, and then up to Loughborough straight afterwards!), which means I only have 6 and a bit weeks left. GOOD LORD! That is some scary shiz.

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Reflective Log: Monday 5th August 2013

I’m not going to do a point-by-point of everything I did last week, because I did quite a few small things filling gaps between big things (sorry, I’m also not making much sense this morning!)

Main things I did last week:

I created a guide of handy hints for communicating with international students for library staff. This will be used later in the year in conjunction with international training that we’re working on for staff in September. It was fun to make and looks relatively pretty as far as library handouts go. Everyone was very positive about it when we had an international group meeting later in the week.

I helped two colleagues with filming some international students talking about the library. I wasn’t expecting this to need 3 members of staff, but it really did. We asked them questions such as ‘what advice would you give to new international students?’, ‘what’s your favourite thing about the library?’ and ‘how is the library different to your library back at home?’. My job was to do the filming, and without a tripod or anything of a decent height to put the camera on, I had a terrifying time trying to keep the camera still (we had one student who talked for 20 minutes…!). At some point we will edit our footage to make a short video to sit on the front of our international students page on the library website. I was going to do this with Kirsty the next day, but haven’t been feeling amazingly healthy and wasn’t really up to the task when she’d scheduled it for, so that is yet to happen. I suck.

I also attended an induction group meeting, where we talked about updating the induction presentation that a lot of the subject librarians use when giving their inductions to new students. We discussed whether using pictures of a puppet sheep using the library was a bit outdated, but agreed that it was never in fashion in the first place so probably doesn’t matter. There’s also talk of putting together some self-guided tours, which sound like a good idea.

I attended some Excel training that Sarah had put together for ASG. It started out pretty basic which was good because my knowledge of Excel is very minimal. I’ve already used some of the things I learnt in the session since then, so this is pleasing. There are more exercises from the session that I didn’t get through at the time, so I’m hoping to work through those in my own time at some point this week.

The most time-consuming thing of the week this week was my project. It got sent out to all students registered as disabled at the University first thing Monday morning, and I have been thrilled with the response rate – when I had suggested to Sarah that I might get 50 results she had laughed at me, but a week on and I’m at 74. Which is brilliant given it’s not term time! I also sent out a survey to library staff, and have had 20 results so far. I’m hoping for a few more because it was fairly focused on customer service, and only 4 customer services people have responded. I may have to start nagging. I’ve also made a survey for University staff members who may have something to contribute either for themselves or on behalf of their students. I’m waiting for this morning’s staff briefing to be sent out so that I know it actually made it in! So yeah. Survey mad. The results are really interesting, and certainly the library staff one is confirming what I was expecting. I’m not going to give away anything until I’ve written my report up though. I have a lot of number crunching to do ūüôā

On Friday I ventured all the way to Sheffield to visit Sheffield Hallam’s Adsett Learning Centre (the library… I’m still not entirely sure why it isn’t called a library…). I went with the last remaining graduate trainee left in Leeds, and there were also a couple of Bradford staff there too. We were given a presentation on the learning centre and how they had done a heap of research when refurbishing it so that they could provide the most efficient learning space possible. It was good that they’d given us this presentation, because it helped us to understand the space as we walked around in the tour afterwards. One of the points that gave food for thought was that whilst they had been planning spaces for individual work and group work, their research had presented the idea of ‘alongside’ working, when people are at the library with a friend or two working on their own work but may want to confer – I remember I used to do this as a student sometimes but never managed to get anything done – but this brought a different type of learning style into the mix. The building was pretty shiny inside, and you could tell that they’d really given it a lot of thought when getting furniture designed and when laying everything out. There were a lot of different spaces for different levels of noise (which appeared to be working, from what we could see), and the thing that stuck out for me the most was the group study areas. There were a range of different rooms and booths, some of which were bookable, whilst others weren’t. They were laid out really well, and catered for different group sizes and different learning styles. I liked the booths a lot. I also liked the dedicated room for video games. I did nearly have a heart attack though when we were shown the self-service laptop cabinet – the students can literally take a laptop for use in the library without having to sign it out for put it on their card or anything. Apparently they have “only” had 2 go missing so far, but I’m not convinced on the idea personally… (always the pessimist!)

 

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