Friday, 26 August 2011

Thing 10: graduate traineeships, Masters degrees, Chartership

Thing 10 is all about how we got into the profession, what we have done so far and what we plan to do. I have already blogged about my route into librarianship on my main blog, for the Library Routes project.  It was written about eight months ago so is still fairly accurate. I won’t repeat it all in this post, but you can read it here if you want to know the full story of how I came to be doing what I am today (by accident, basically!).

Graduate traineeships
I first became interested in librarianship when I was working as a weekend shelver in the J.B. Morrell Library at the University of York, whilst studying for my undergraduate degree (English) there. I began to hear about the various interesting things that these people called academic liaison librarians were doing. I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career, but I felt like I would like to work in HE, although not as an academic, and, after doing a bit more research, academic librarianship started to sound like something I would enjoy. I was still undecided though, and when I graduated I just applied for any job that I liked the sound of. I had academic librarianship in the back of my mind, and applied for a graduate traineeship at Leeds Metropolitan University Library, but also thought I might want to go into social work, law, careers advice, retail management, or something entirely random that I had not yet discovered, so applied for loads of other things too. I very nearly became a contracts proofreader, but Leeds Met beat them to making a definite job offer, and so I decided to give this academic librarianship stuff a go.

To this day I am so relieved that my graduate traineeship was the first job I was offered! I had an amazing year at Leeds Met. I worked in all areas of the Library and was given so many opportunities, from participating in planning and delivering teaching sessions, to helping to project-manage a book-writing event. I gained valuable experience in teaching and enquiry desk work, amongst other things, which I believe helped me to get my current job. I thoroughly recommend doing a graduate traineeship. All library experience is valuable, but a graduate traineeship can offer you opportunities that you might not be able to get outside of a professional post otherwise, and can help to give you the edge when it comes to job-hunting after your Masters. 

Masters degrees
Continuing the theme of falling into this career by chance, I sort of ended up on the MA Librarianship at the University of Sheffield by accident (I originally planned to go somewhere else but for a number of reasons found myself applying for and accepting a place at Sheffield; it’s a long story!). Once again, though, I am so glad that this turn of events came about. The course was fantastic; I learnt so much. We had some compulsory modules - Library and Information Services Management, Information Literacy, Information Retrieval, Libraries, Information and Society, Research Methods, and, of course, the dissertation – and then were able to choose some others; I did Academic Libraries, Public Libraries, and Information Retrieval Research. For my dissertation, I investigated student perceptions of academic library staff (and was later able to turn it into a journal article co-authored with my supervisor). During my year at Sheffield (I took the course full-time) I also became involved with the CILIP Career Development Group (CDG) as a New Professionals Support Officer and joined the admin team for the LIS New Professionals Network (LISNPN), roles I continue with today. And I made some (hopefully) lifelong friends. Overall, it was a brilliant experience. If you’re choosing a Masters course, have a look at the anonymous reviews of various courses on LISNPN (and please do contribute one if you’ve done your Masters!).

After the MA
After handing in my dissertation in September 2010, I applied for any subject librarian role that came up, anywhere in the country. After multiple rejections without even an interview, and a few unsuccessful interviews, in November I luckily landed myself a position at one of the smaller campuses of the University of the West of England, in Bristol. I am a subject librarian, but, being in a small campus library, I also have responsibility for the AV collection, the journals collection, and some aspects of acquisitions, as well as line management responsibility for two members of staff, and contributing to general library management. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that this past nine months has been a massively steep learning curve! I learnt so much on my MA, but I can’t even quantify what I have learnt in my job.  It’s been a challenge, but I have (mostly!) enjoyed travelling the curve, and I have gained so much experience, and so much self-confidence from it. I’ve also thrown myself in at the deep end outside of work; I’ve presented a paper at the New Professionals Conference, had a journal article published and have another on the way, started blogging, started Chartership (more about that shortly!) and attended the Umbrella conference this year. I couldn’t have imagined this time last year that I would be at this point today. I feel incredibly lucky!

This word makes me shudder a little. Soon after starting my job, I decided to register for Chartership. Initially I was really enthusiastic; I enjoyed a “preparing for Chartership” course that I attended, found myself a mentor, and wrote a PPDP. My intention was to have submitted, or to be ready to submit, by the time my contract at work runs out next summer. Since then, I have stalled, and feel a bit stuck. I know that I am doing things to meet my PPDP objectives, but I just don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere with collecting evidence! Some colleagues have started a cross-campus Chartership group, and hopefully we will continue to meet and encourage each other to persevere. Recently, while watching #uklibchat on Twitter, I began to wonder whether anyone would be interested in a #chartershipchat. It may already have been tried, I don’t know, but if anyone thinks it would be helpful, do let me know! 

I still hope I might get my act together and have my portfolio ready by next summer, but I’m not sure I’ll manage it after all. However, so many jobs are temporary these days that lots of people I have come across have completed or are completing Chartership having changed jobs mid-way through, so it doesn’t seem too unusual.

What’s next?
What’s coming up next in my immediate future is my first September as a librarian! This means my first round of inductions, teaching and new students as a fully-fledged academic librarian. I’m a bit nervous, but mostly excited; I have enjoyed the teaching that I have done so far, and am looking forward to doing more.

Looking further ahead, I am on a fixed term contract at work which ends next July, so fairly soon I will need to start thinking about what my next move will be. I’ll probably be looking for another subject librarian post in an academic library, although I’d happily do another “hybrid” role like the one I have now. I’d consider moving pretty much anywhere in the UK or overseas, so I have no idea where I’ll end up; it’s quite exciting!

Outside of work, I intend to continue my CDG work, and will soon be taking on a larger role within LISNPN. I also want to carry out some more research, and publish and present further. I have a few other plans for myself too, but I am keeping those to myself for now; I don’t want to jinx them!

I honestly have no idea where I will be this time next year, or what else I will have achieved by then; I’m excited to find out though…

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Thing 9: Evernote

I hadn’t used Evernote before CPD23. I had heard of it, and vaguely knew that it was an organisational tool of some kind, but I had no idea what it could be used for. I’m really glad I’ve been introduced to it as I think it’s great! The more I play with it the more I see how it could be really useful for me both personally and professionally.

When I first downloaded it to my laptop and downloaded the smartphone app, I thought “excellent – I can create and update to-do lists on my computer and phone, this should help keep me organised.” I am indeed using Evernote for this purpose, and it’s really useful, but I’ve begun to realise how I could use it for much more.  The notes that you create are more dynamic than a word-processor document, with tags and the ability to easily add photographs (and search within photos – very cool!). My usual method of making sure that documents I need are available wherever I am is to email them to myself. Using Evernote is much better – particularly when accessing my documents on my phone – and makes things easier to organise and locate. 

In terms of my professional activity, I think one way in which I will use Evernote is to note bits of information at conferences and training events. As the CPD23 blog suggests, I could take photographs with my phone and turn them into a note, which I can then sync to my computer to refer to when I write up my notes and reflect after the event. Other ways might be simply to keep information organised and easily accessible for any writing that I am doing, or work in my CDG or LISNPN positions. I keep saying this, but I really like that there is a phone app which syncs with the downloaded version on my computer; I don’t tend to take my laptop with me to events, so I am always looking for ways in which I can make use of my phone instead.

I don’t think that I will use Evernote in my current job. Initially I thought I couldn’t anyway, as we are not allowed to download anything to our work computers, but it turns out there is a web version of Evernote (you can just sign in on the homepage), so I decided to try it out at work today. I needed to make some notes on how one of our databases has changed, in order to present it to my colleagues before the start of the academic year. Normally I would just create a Word document, but I decided to create an Evernote note instead. It looks much nicer than a boring old Word document, but I’m not sure if it really benefits from being in Evernote. I don’t need to use Evernote for access purposes at work – I can access my personal drive from any computer in the institution in which I work, and within the Library we have a shared drive and a Sharepoint site if I need to share anything with colleagues. I never work from home or anywhere outside of the university so I don’t need to be able to access my documents off-campus. Therefore, as lovely as it looks, I don’t think Evernote is suitable for use at work, at least not in my current role.

That said, I still think Evernote has loads of potential uses in my professional life, so I’m really glad I’ve had the chance to learn about it. I think it’s the first unfamiliar tool that CPD23 has introduced that I will continue to use. I look forward to hopefully discovering some more gems in the rest of the programme.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Thing 8: Google Calendar

I’ve been trying to work on my time management both in and outside of work recently, including looking for online tools which can help me to get organised, so I was interested to try out Google Calendar for Thing 8. When I was a student, I used a paper diary to keep track of all of my university, work and personal commitments, appointments and deadlines; since leaving education and working full-time, however, there has been more of a divide between my working and personal lives and so I haven’t done this. At work, my Outlook calendar runs my life. It is absolutely invaluable. I use it to keep track of meetings, appointments, leave, tasks, deadlines and events, and to organise my time and prioritise correctly. Being attached to my email, it is never more than a few clicks away, wherever I am. We can choose to share our calendars with colleagues, so I can see when my line manager or the people whom I line-manage are available if I’m looking to set up a meeting or grab them for a quick chat. We also have a shared Outlook calendar which everyone in the team can view and add to, which is really helpful for seeing what’s going on and managing leave and other absence. Having had a play with Google Calendar, I can’t see that it does anything that my Outlook calendar doesn’t, other than allowing me to share it with people outside of my institution, which I wouldn’t want or need to do. So, at work, I can’t see that I would use Google Calendar for organising myself.

Outside of work, I don’t think a calendar is what I need to get myself organised. My personal life isn’t anywhere near as structured as my work life. I don’t have multiple commitments, appointments and deadlines which have to take place at a certain time. I record things like doctor or hairdresser appointments in the calendar on my mobile phone. I write to-do lists or lists of things to pack for trips away if necessary. What would be far more helpful to me in my personal life would be a tool which helped me with lists, rather than a calendar. The ability to “invite” people to events in my Google Calendar could possibly be useful; I’m not sure I trust Facebook enough to make a “private” event that I create genuinely private! However, having a calendar which can be shared is not particularly important or useful to me; I don’t (and don’t wish to!) share enough of my life with anyone for them to need to see what I’m doing!

I can definitely see how Google Calendar could have its uses; for people who work multiple jobs, who combine work and study, who have a variety of commitments (could it potentially replace the family calendar hanging on the kitchen noticeboard where everyone records what they’re doing?), people who do freelance work, people who don’t want to or don’t have access to an Outlook calendar at work, or for anyone who wants to use shared calendars, to name a few. I can also see how we could use it in our library; some libraries are using it to display opening hours ,which, as is the case in many academic libraries, are not always straightforward in our library. However, for me personally, at this point in my life, I don’t think I need it. I think it would just be another thing I would forget to check! It’s good to find out what’s available though, so I have definitely learnt something from Thing 8.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

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

The only professional organisation of which I am a member is CILIP. I joined when I was doing my MA, mainly because I wanted to be a New Professionals Support Officer (NPSO) on my local CILIP Career Development Group (CDG) committee, for which I needed to be a member of CILIP and, within that, CDG. I also thought I should see what CILIP had to offer, whilst I could join on a much cheaper student membership fee. Finally, I thought that it would look good on job applications, demonstrating a commitment to the profession. I remain a member now for two reasons: 1) so that I can continue to serve on my local CDG committee and 2) so that I can Charter.  I’m not sure whether I would be a member otherwise. I feel that being a member of CILIP has offered me some opportunities which I wouldn’t otherwise have had, but I have quite a few gripes with CILIP and feel that they could do a lot better.

Benefits of CILIP membership
  • The opportunity to serve on a committee. I really enjoy being involved in CDG and meeting and working with people whom I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. I haven’t done that much yet as an NPSO, for various reasons, but over the coming year I have some plans for how I would like to engage with local new professionals on behalf of CDG, particularly the MSc students at UWE, and am really looking forward to hopefully putting some of them into action soon.
  • Bursaries and sponsored places at events. I was able to attend this year’s Umbrella conference because I got a full sponsored place from my local CILIP branch, for which I wouldn’t have been eligible were I not a CILIP member. All of the other sponsored places to Umbrella, and, earlier, to the New Professionals Conference, that I saw advertised, similarly required applicants to be members of a CILIP branch or special interest group. This is a really valuable aspect of CILIP membership for me, as I gained a lot from Umbrella and I wouldn’t have been able to go without a sponsored place.
Where CILIP lets me down
  • Membership fee categories. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; they’re just plain daft! The top membership fee band is for those earning £17k or more; so senior library assistants are paying the same membership fee as library directors. Not fair, and at such a large fee I expect more from CILIP than what I currently get. On a similar note, I am not impressed at having to pay £50 to register for Chartership and then £50 to submit my portfolio (that’s every time you submit; so if you fail it’s going to cost you another £50 to submit again). I haven’t compared this with the fees charged by chartering bodies in other professions, but it does feel extortionate. CILIP cannot, I feel, be an inclusive organisation when it charges fees like that, with little help for those who will struggle to pay.
  • The lack of online facilities. CILIP, why do I have to post you a paper renewal form and a cheque to renew my membership?! Why isn’t there a quick and easy way to do it online (without setting up a direct debit)? And while we’re on this topic, is it really necessary for me to submit three bound copies of my Chartership portfolio? I understand that they are hoping to accept one electronic copy with two bound copies from next year, but still, this is long overdue, I feel. For a profession that is supposed to be IT literate, CILIP falls behind.
I have some other criticisms of CILIP – lack of affordable training and lack of advocacy, for example – but I believe that these are things which are being addressed in the current and forthcoming plans for CILIP which have come out of the results of the survey put out to members last year. I look forward to seeing what is going to happen with CILIP; I hope that they really will genuinely address some of the issues that I and others have raised.

The face-to-face LISNPN meet-ups that take place around the country were mentioned in the instructions for Thing 7 as a face-to-face addition to an online network, and this is something that I find really valuable. It’s great to talk to people online, but I enjoy getting to know people in “real-life”, and consolidating contacts and maybe even friendships. There is another Bristol LISNPN meet-up coming up, being organised by World’s Deadliest Librarian, if anyone in the area wants to join in. And if you’re thinking of organising one in your area, it’s really easy; I’ve written some advice based on my experience of organising the first Bristol one.