Sunday, 30 December 2012

Musings of 2012

It's the end of a year once more, and I've taken a few minutes to look back over my blog posts, specifically Fingers crossed. When I review my aims for 2012, I see that life hasn't necessarily taken me in those directions, but I've still learnt a lot this year. You can make plans til the cows come home, but despite all your best intentions, sometimes you just end up on a different path. Not knowing what was to happen in life used to be a source of concern for me, but nowadays I find it one of the great joys of life; things happen which are out of your control, you roll with the punches and come out of it better for the experience. You never know what's around the corner and there is always a positive to be found, even in the darkest of times.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Team leadership

This is a retrospective post regarding a course I completed during the Summer. I didn’t blog about it at the time as I felt I needed space to distance myself from it and take time to digest and reflect upon the information I’d learnt.
In September 2011 I enrolled on an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) qualification in first line management. The sessions were delivered 6-9pm on Tuesday evenings for 30 weeks, and this is partly why I wanted to distance myself before blogging about it. I leave the house at 7.15am and after a full day at work followed by the course and a round trip commute of 65 miles, it’d be 10pm before I’d return home. I found it exhausting, and therefore wasn’t always in the best of mindsets where this course was concerned. I must admit this was the main factor in my decision not to enrol on any evening courses this year, despite feeling I would benefit from studying the course at the next level.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Systems integrations – ups and downs

Image by James Cridland
One of the achievements I am most proud of in my current role is the integration between the LMS and the computer booking system. As Systems Librarian, it is my responsibility to manage the systems we use in the library and earlier in the year these two main systems were integrated.

In March, I attended a MyPC user group session. Whilst there, I met Sue Walsgrove who works in the library at City of Wolverhampton College and operates an integrated Heritage and MyPC system. I arranged a visit and spent an afternoon grilling her about the nitty-gritty of integration. During the Easter half term break, I secured the services of an IT Technician and we set about linking these two systems. It took the best part of a week to complete, most of which was trial and error. We followed guidance from ISOxford and ITS; both covered the same steps but were incredibly different! After a necessary remote access session with ITS, all that was left was altering the settings to establish the access management limits we required.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Annual Report

Recently, the head librarian and I worked together on producing an annual report for the previous academic year. We feel it is important to speak up and show people what goes on behind the scenes here in the library.

Maintaining the library’s blog proves very useful when compiling an annual report. It can often be difficult looking back and trying to pinpoint key library activities over the previous 12 months. Regular postings on the blog make this process much easier.

This is the second year we have produced an annual report; we find it is a valuable marketing tool and a great way of taking the library outside the physical boundary of four walls. Sometimes, you have to push library activity under the noses of people before they see it (particularly those who don’t actually use the service), and this is our way of politely doing that. ‘X’ number of copies are sent to those in upper management positions within our institution and copies are also sent to the external partners we have worked with during the year. It is also available from the library blog. In addition to this, we have made the annual report visible via a wall display near the library photocopiers (a key area for sharing news!) and we often notice people browsing it whilst waiting for their printouts. We have received various feedback and it often forms the basis of conversations with people from other departments of the college.

In my previous role as a secondary school librarian I used to produce a similar report for the headteacher, and it was discussed in Head of Department meetings. However, this is where I felt the benefits of working in a team as opposed to working solo – there is always somebody with whom to discuss matters and bounce ideas around.

In a nutshell, I enjoy working on the annual report; it outlines the positive ways in which we help people, the ways in which we facilitate a useful service and how the department contributes to the college’s strategic aims. More generally, it reminds me of why I am proud to be a librarian!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Revalidation: random wonderings

Image by Xurble
Well, folks, I’ve registered as a revalidation candidate. Have been meaning to do it for ages and have finally gotten round to it. Can’t believe it’s coming up to three years since I first chartered. The time has flown by.

I’m quite unsure as to what a revalidation portfolio actually looks like. I’ve booked a place on a day course run by the Career Development Group (West Midlands division) entitled ‘Certification, chartership, revalidation and beyond’ and I’m hoping there will be some examples on display. I’m also hoping the day won’t only focus on certification/chartership. I may have gone through that process already, but I’m a first time revalidation candidate and - just as I did with chartership – feel uncertain of the whole thing.

I’m in different employment compared to three years ago, and I often feel as though I’m still learning. Is that okay for a revalidation candidate? Or am I supposed to feel completely confident and knowledgeable in everything I do? Is my portfolio meant to show that I’ve achieved lots and operate on a genius level basis? Is it normal to have these worries and concerns, or am I merely questioning everything unnecessarily?

I’m umming and ahhing about whether to find a mentor. If I remember correctly, it was a compulsory part of chartership, but it is only an optional part of revalidation. Having a mentor and working to agreed deadlines really helped me when chartering. Personally, I have a tendency to procrastinate and having a mentor might reduce the likelihood of this happening during revalidation. I’ve had a very quick glance at the mentor list on the CILIP website and not many of them mention revalidation specifically. Is having a mentor through revalidation the done thing? Will they think I’m incompetent if I request one? Would it strengthen or weaken my portfolio? It’s times like this I wish I knew someone who had gone through revalidation so I could bombard them with my random questions!

Questions, questions, questions! Fingers crossed, everything should become clearer after the day course…

Monday, 1 October 2012

Induction ponderings

Life is full of different paths to take.
Image taken by Andrea_44
It’s that time of year where the library gives inductions to new and returning learners. These subject specific sessions last between 30-45 minutes and cover topics such as searching the online catalogue, accessing e-books, e-resources and Boolean searching techniques. We also draw learners’ attention to the library website/blog, Moodle, ClickView and MyPC computer booking system. In addition to this, learners receive a tour of the library with useful resource areas pointed out.

The original idea was to facilitate inductions in September and then offer group referencing sessions in October. However, some learners are keen to get to grips with referencing and we are already delivering one-to-one referencing sessions as requested. I remember being an undergraduate student and stressing over referencing at university and would never have believed that one day I would advise and teach it!

There are 3 members of the library team who share the user education workload. Group sizes range from 5 to 25 and inductions have been delivered to foundation learners through to foundation degree courses, covering the majority of subjects taught at the college. Lessons are quite diverse in scope and in the 3 weeks since term began, I have so far delivered 32 sessions. Some have been more successful than others, and I’ve received some lovely feedback from observing teaching staff.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Goodbye Ed Panel

Image taken by Woodleywonderworks
An archived post on BtB outline my application and acceptance on the editorial panel for CILIP update with gazette magazine. This panel consisted of a number of CILIP members who provided feedback on the content of each issue (post-publication) via a closed forum on CILIP Communities.

A short while ago I received an email from CILIP informing me that the editorial panel was to be disbanded. The future includes the possible establishment of a new panel which provides feedback in terms of content ideas (pre-publication). This month, I received the first issue of the magazine without mention of the editorial panel on the contents page. For me, it was a sad day.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Study Visit Participation

A poster detailing the visit
During May, I spent a week in Warsaw, Poland, on a Transversal study visit. The visit was funded by the EU and focused on ‘new media in education and theprofessional development of librarians’. Each year, hundreds of places are offered on study visits through the Ecorys / Transversal programme. To qualify, participants must live within an EU country and work in adult education. On this particular visit, there were 13 participants from Iceland, Spain, Italy, France, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Aruba, Bulgaria, Romania and the UK. The types of libraries represented included college, university, medical, school, public and national.

I was thrilled to discover my application had been successful, but as the time grew nearer I became increasingly nervous; being very under-travelled, I was worried about travelling alone with a language barrier.  A member of the college Estates department is Polish and gave me a basic language lesson which helped put me at ease.
During the visit, each participant gave a 30 minute presentation outlining the educational system in their home countries, as well as the organisation of libraries services. It was interesting and reassuring to realise that, despite living in different countries and working in different types of libraries, librarians throughout Europe face the same issues. We were able to exchange elements of good practice and useful connections were made.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Event Organisation

This month, I dipped my toe in the water of event organisation. This is the first time I’ve been involved in any events since I moved jobs last year. In the school library (where I worked previously), I often organised events in the library such as books fairs, author visits, quizzes for visiting primary schools, or I’d take a bus load of students out to events. In my current job of Systems Librarian, events aren’t particularly part of my daily remit, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to do something I’m not generally involved with anymore.

The first event was a CILIP West Midlands branch visit to Sandwell Community History and Archives Service (CHAS). I did not conduct the tour, but helped with the logistics of the day. I represented the committee by greeting attendees and thanking our hosts afterwards. It was a relatively small scale visit with 8 attendees and 2 hosts, but the venue was fairly intimate in size so the group worked quite nicely. It’s been a while since I’d done anything like this so I was a little nervous, and was relieved when I found an attendee willing to write a piece about the visit for the branch newsletter (initially when I’d asked nobody volunteered). From the point of view of being a local resident, I found the behind the scenes tour very interesting, especially when we were able to see areas and artefacts which members of the public are not allowed access to.

The second event was a copyright workshop held in the college in which I work. The head librarian invited a member of the CLA education team to give a workshop on copyright for colleges, and I assisted with the logistics of it by organising refreshments and the room layout. I also made sure attendees knew where to go at the end of the workshop and filled in feedback forms. There were 19 people in attendance at the event with a lively question and answer session drawing it to a close.

Do I miss being in a position to fully organise events? If I’m being completely honest, I guess I do miss the buzz a little, but my daily job is so busy I haven’t given it any thought until now. There’s a definite sense of achievement after a successful event in knowing you had a small hand in it behind the scenes. I wonder if all event organisers get nervous beforehand, as I always have done? If I decide that event organisation is something I’d like to do more of, I know the opportunity is there to help out with CILIP WM committee.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

My First Anniversary

Image taken by nubobo
Last week was the one year anniversary of my starting work in my current job and the time seems right for a mini-reflection. Initially, I didn’t plan to stay very long in my current job - the commute is long and the petrol bill high - but I find myself liking the library, the college and the people.

Whilst I loved my previous job, it was no longer challenging. I wonder how long it will be before I start to see this role in the same way? At the moment I can’t ever imagine feeling that, even after a year I still feel as though I am learning how to do things. I can genuinely say that almost every day is a learning curve for me in one way or another and whilst that can be tiring, it’s also stimulating and enjoyable. Trying to narrow it down is quite tricky, but here are the main activities which I think have helped me develop the most over the past few months:*

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Just wanted to say sorry that I've not posted anything these past few weeks, and I'm afraid it'll probably be a few more weeks before I manage to whip up my next post.

Things are hectic at the moment and I feel snowed under a huge mountain of tasks, both in work and out of work. Ever feel as though you're running just to catch up? That's me right now. My time management skills have left and abandoned me! Have lots to blog about - study visit, evening course reflections, software integration project, one year anniversary in my job, starting up a book club, my CILIP WM role, Ofsted - the list goes on. So stick around, the posts will start arriving soon(ish), promise...
Photo taken by erix!
( I use this blog as a reflective diary and feel as though I've let myself down by breaking my third aim for 2012.)

Monday, 23 April 2012

World Book Night 2012

Today is a special day. Not only is it St. George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday, but it is also World Book Night (WBN). This day sees 20,000 people freely distribute 1 million books in order to share the joy of reading. I was lucky enough to be selected as a ‘giver’, just as I was last year.

On Saturday I went tomy local Carnegie library, Wednesbury Library, to collect my allotted 24 copies of the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. My plate is pretty full at the moment with a hefty software integration project at work and a 10,000 word assignment for my evening class, so (purely for convenience) I decided to give out the books at work. I left them unattended in the staff lounge and when I went to check just a couple of hours later, they’d all gone. Unfortunately, distributing the books in this way means that I didn’t personally hand them out and also they were probably all snapped up by people who are already established readers; both of these factors are not ideal, but I simply couldn’t manage to distribute them any other way at the moment. I did, however, make sure the giveaway was publicised on the library’s blog and also on the intranet notice board.

I must pay credit where credit is due. The postings I made about last year’s WBN were far from complimentary. They chronicle a frustrating lack of communication and a disappointingly poor delivery system. Despite this, I dearly believe in the ethos of WBN and wanted to be involved again. I am pleased to say that this year, everything progressed seamlessly from start to finish. The organisers of WBN have improved the system in every respect - the website maintained integrity, email communication was frequent, deliveries were on time, the book registration process was simplified. I have enjoyed a smooth involvement with World Book Night this year and hopefully I'll come across some other WBN books dotted about the landscape! 

Would love to hear how other givers distributed their books or if anyone 'out there' received a WBN book...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

025.431 DEW

Classification is like Marmite: you either hate it or love it. I am in the latter camp. I feel as though I’m working my way through a mystery by trying to deduce the classmark hidden in Dewey’s four weighty tomes.

This week I upgraded the library’s classification system from DDC22 to DDC23. Moving to DDC23 was something I’d both looked forward to and dreaded, but in the end it was painless. In our manuals there are hand-written annotations relating to various subjects and it took an entire day to transfer these over to the new manuals, checking that each note was still relevant on the catalogue. Doing this brought back memories of when I assisted with an upgrade from Dewey 17 to DDC 20. There were various problematic differences between these editions, but by upgrading to the next published edition we should avoid any such mishaps this time. I’ve worked in three different libraries and my journey down Memory Lane led me to think of the various editions I’ve used so far:

When I worked in a secondary school we used Abridged 12. I hadn't heard of the Abridged editions before but they are aimed specifically at libraries with less than 20,000 texts. Using this meant that classification was a far simplier process but I was worried I would forget how to use Dewey in any great depth. When I started my current role last year, masses and masses of classification awaited me (I think they'd been stock-piling it for my arrival!) but I needn't have worried and was soon in the swing of it. (I really ought to have more belief in my own abilities sometimes.)

Dewey is sometimes like wading through mud, so in order to improve the usability of the system I follow it only as much as it meets my needs. There is no Dewey Police Force to throw me in prison if I use an incorrect number so - as a classifier - I am free to adjust classmarks to suit our library. I allocate classmarks where the books are most likely to be found by the learners who need them, irrespective of the book’s ‘true’ classmark. I’ve often created my own classmarks too, if there hasn’t been one I’ve felt suited my needs, and I avoid creating overly long classmarks. What good would this do? Yes, it would demonstrate my superhuman ability to implement hardcore classification, but it would also confuse and complicate matters for the learners.

Am I alone in my thinking here? Does anybody rigorously keep to the manuals in order to implement a pure DDC system? Or does anyone do as I do and assign classmarks you feel suit your particular book stock? The key to a successful classification system is ease of use for learners, and that is the mantra I stick to, regardless of what Dewey tells me.

*Added this column to the table because I like to visualise the different manuals when writing about them.

Friday, 16 March 2012


Image by Jim Linwood
This week, the college in which I work has gone through an Ofsted inspection. I’ve gone through two inspections whilst working in secondary education but this was my first in further education and I was keen to see the differences...

The word 'Ofsted' provokes panic amongst teaching staff, and although this filters through to support staff, the emphasis is not placed directly on us. Pre-inspection, portfolios of evidence were collected and submitted. The library was asked to contribute to the portfolio representing the E-Services department, and I spent three days gathering as much as I could. Stats, minutes of meetings, e-safety work, leaflets, finance information, screen shots – you name it, I submitted it. I’ve only worked at the college nine months and I found the library blog and annual report invaluable tools in looking back at the department’s activity before this time. Reflectively, doing this helped me ascertain particular areas in which we could improve (SEN provision and computer statistics). It also reminded me of the things we do well - almost all the evidence I needed to provide was there waiting for me - and even made me think CoLRiC's peer accreditation scheme.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

MyPC User Group

In the library we make use of MyPC software, primarily for booking purposes. It allows greater utilisation during busy periods and ensures all learners can access an available computer when they need one. As systems librarian, this falls within my area of responsibilities, but as my knowledge of it is fairly limited I was pleased to learn about a MyPC user group meeting.

It was held at the City of Wolverhampton College last Friday and I found it very useful – am so glad I went along! It was facilitated by three staff members from ITS, the producers of MyPC, who were very keen to ascertain product feedback. I’ve only dealt with the company once before (over a licencing issue last summer) and felt it to be a faceless conglomerate. Having attended this session and met some of the team, I no longer think this; they were friendly and approachable and even held a prize draw, which was a nice surprise.

I learnt lots about the potential uses of the software and how different colleges utilise it in different ways. I came away having written a hefty action plan of things to explore; maintaining Heritage takes up a large chunk of my working week but after attending this session I realise I need to prioritise MyPC a little more. I’d like to familiarise myself with the reports functions and manual. I’d also like to look into the possibility of using MyPC to display computer availability on a large plasma screen. We already have one in a location which would be perfect for this purpose and is currently underused.

The hosting college have integrated MyPC with Heritage, and this is something I’ll be looking to tackle during the Easter half term break. I’m quite apprehensive about it and have been putting it off since October half term. I feel much more encouraged and confident having met someone who enthuses about it. It was great to make a connection with the librarian there (@AlisonPardoe) and we are in the process of arranging visits to each other’s colleges (I am interested in seeing the integrated systems in operation and she is interested in exploring our experiences of maintaining a library blog).

This was the first user group meeting in the Midlands since 2003 and I do so hope ITS continue to run sessions – I may even offer to host one if it'd encourage them! As a brief summary, I’d go so far to say this was an invaluable day - even the buffet was top notch!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Free hugs

Image by Jesslee Cuizon
Free hugs make everyone feel better...

The Heritage User Group is commonly known as HUG. It supports libraries that operate Heritage LMS, and runs two free meetings a year. Yesterday saw one of these events held at the Friends Meeting House directly opposite Euston train station.

The morning housed a technical session from Heritage mastermind Neville Jones. His knowledge is somewhat infamous amongst the IT Techies at work, so it was nice to finally see him in the flesh (as opposed to on the Marvin advice forums). He spoke about a new product called Cirqa, which will eventually replace Heritage. I have mixed feelings about this, but am trying to soak up as much info as I can.

In the afternoon there was a quick sticks AGM (no committee changes), followed by a presentation about the advanced booking module on Heritage. The final presentation covered library considerations when two colleges merge. This was very interesting and I could identify with this having recently worked through an amalgamation of two secondary schools.

Image by Jesslee Cuizon
As I don’t manage to get to as many events as I’d like, I enjoy reading people’s tweets which help to amplify event proceedings. Yesterday I thought I’d have a bash at this myself. There was no hashtag, so I don’t presume my tweets reached the people who would be interested in them, but it was fun to try anyway.

I get so much out of these HUG meetings. I pick up tips from the presentations as well as the other Heritage users present. My confidence increases and I leave buzzing with ideas. I like HUG and I like free events. Therefore, in Cara logic, I want more free hugs – they make me smile.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

New Build: Part 3

Amongst the shelves
Have been browsing the posts I’ve written on BtB and realised I’ve not provided an update on the college new build since it opened 6 months ago. Moving in and establishing a new library has been quite challenging, and there have been several ups and downs along the way.

Being situated on the ground floor directly next to reception and the entrance foyer, the library has a key location within the campus. The room itself is very attractive with comfortable furniture, a high ceiling and large windows. There are large inspirational quotes painted on the walls which are always a talking point with visitors. The room is smaller than we would have wanted, so the bookstock has had to be reduced accordingly with some books being sent to curriculum areas. Naturally, this has reduced the number of circulation loans, but the room is in constant use as a resource centre. The computers are in high demand, so much so that we have introduced a policy of loaning additional laptops for student usage. Being a dedicated arts campus, the MDFs are in permanent use for all manner of complex copy jobs, and the tables are used as workspace throughout the day. It is not unusual to find students in the library taking photos, designing (ie sneakily playing) computer games and building models. The number of impromptu musical jamming sessions I’ve attended has increased too, though we kindly as the stars of tomorrow to perform elsewhere. I spend the majority of my time at the main cross- curricular campus, so whenever I’m at the new arts campus I find it interesting to observe the differences in student behaviours and habits.
Comfy seating

As to be expected with any new build, there have been technical teething problems. We currently have issues with the heating system with the temperature varying from 14c – 29c. As a team, we have discovered that layers are the key to working comfortably in this campus!

Now that the campus has been open several months, things are starting to find their natural level. As time goes on, each department is adapting to suit the new environment, and the library is no different. We have conducted a student survey to ensure we are meeting their needs – which differ to the needs students had at the old campus – and things are coming together quite nicely. It takes a full academic year for things to embed and really settle down – so that’ll be my next new build post. It seems so far away, but I bet the time will fly past... 


Friday, 10 February 2012

Cilip WM Branch Meeting

Yesterday I went to a Cilip West Midlands branch meeting and thought I’d briefly share the experience. It was held in the library at Aston University (a place I hadn’t visited in over 10 years) and lasted a little over 2 hours long.

It was my first ‘official’ meeting as branch secretary. After a little uncertainty, it was decided that committee roles change with the calendar year, so I didn’t have to wait until the AGM to be voted in. This also saw the forthcoming Chairperson take charge, and Jo did a marvellous job of chairing a meeting without any advance notice. We had a brief agenda and discussed mainly committee roles and the arrangements for the forthcoming AGM.

There were nine of us present in total, including two other newbies. The committee is always looking for fresh blood and I’m glad I took the plunge. It all came about as a result of the online course CPD 23 Things, where I mentioned one day I hoped to join a committee. People commented and encouraged me to give it a try so in November I went along to observe one of the meetings. I often think committees are faceless cliques, but it isn’t so with Cilip WM branch. They were a jolly, welcoming bunch, and we even managed a few giggles. Over the past 18 months or so I’ve felt barriers were removed between the branch and the membership by its use of social media, and this played a large part in my feeling able to approach the committee. This also contributes to my feeling that as a member I get more from my local branch than I do from the larger organisation. There’s still some way to go, but I feel the committee is most definitely on the right track. Hopefully, Cilip WM branch will soon be enjoying a two-way love-in with all its members!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Day in the life (R8) part 4

Friday 3 February 2012
Today I am based at the Hinckley library all day. As I explained in yesterday’s blog post, it’s much quieter at this campus so I have more time to work on projects. Or at least, that was my plan...

Arrive at work 8.15am and discover the Heritage server is down. It means nobody can perform circulation duties or search the catalogue. Judging from the particular error messages, I know the server needs a reboot but I don’t have full access so I call upon the IT Technicians. Except it’s their team meeting, so we are without our LMS for almost 2 hours. Good start to the day. Surely it can only be onwards and upwards from here...?

While the system is down I take the chance to design new spine labels for our careers library, changing over to the Careers Resource Classification Index. I’m familiar with it having used it in my previous employment and introducing it here is something that should have happened years ago. Better late than never. 

When Heritage is back up I start work on two global changes. Although I’ve tackled global changes before it was with the help of an IT Technician and whenever I attempt them on my own I have less success. I spend far too long on this, and get absolutely nowhere. For the life of me I just cannot work out where I am going wrong. I want to add DVD as a keyword to the 1116 DVDs we house, and change the loan period on 1335 books. It’s time to hold my hands up and admit I’m stumped. I email Heritage Support for guidance and receive an email almost immediately. I’ll look at it again on Monday – for the third time. I get frustrated with myself when I fail to do something like this and I have to actively remind myself that I’m still learning.

Do a bit more work on tidying up the media files on the catalogue and have much better success with this – something actually goes right!

Whenever I have days like this, where things keeps going wrong, I look at my collection of Lego mini-figures; I wanted something fun on my desk that would make me smile, and these do just the job.


Friday, 3 February 2012

Day in the life (R8) part 3

Thursday 2 February 2012
Came in to work this morning to be greeted by a friendly note left on my desk by one of the assistants. It makes me smile and is definitely a good start to the day. Thank you Laura!

The college in which I work is multi-site and on Thursdays I work across the two larger of our libraries. I spend the morning at the Nuneaton site helping one of the library assistants prepare for the college volunteer fair. The library has a stall and we are hoping to snare a few hours each week from willing students but the uptake is slow. This is followed by a mini-stint on the enquiry counter where I show our graduate trainee the admin side of the library’s OPAC. We’re having a few problems at the moment and the automated transferring of indexes is the bane of my life!

Spend an hour classifying counselling books before heading out for a walk round the block during my lunch break. I’m hoping to introduce a new system for organising the careers books so I ponder this whilst pounding the streets.

After lunch (or to be more precise, during lunch) I drive over to our Hinckley site for the start of my evening cover. Things are much quieter at this site. It’s a dedicated arts library (opposed to the Nuneaton library which is cross-curricular) and it interests me the different ways in which the two libraries are used. Nuneaton serves a lot of Access students who have specific enquiries or require one-to-one sessions on referencing techniques. Hinckley is used more as a workroom, with students taking photos, building models on the tables, creating music on the computers etc. I find time for some classification until 5pm when things quieten down and the other library staff leave. I then use this time to log on to both computers on the enquiry desk; the one I use to perform the LMS housekeeping tasks and on the other I create a new media type (e-magazine). As Systems Librarian, I often do tasks which mean having to ask the rest of the team to log out of Heritage but I try to do these during my evening cover as much as possible. It’s a bit of a hassle doing a 12 hour shift, but I get much more done than I would during the standard working day. Plus I get an afternoon off in lieu for it too! Hurrah!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Day in the life (R8) part 2

Tuesday 31 January 2012
Today has been another non-typical day for me at work. After arriving at 8.15am, I amend the enquiry counter timetable as we are still a team member down due to illness. This, when coupled with various meetings, leaves us only a skeletal staff, so I’m out on the counter for 5 hours today.

In the morning I have a meeting with the college’s data integration manager, about the possibility of importing students on Heritage rather than the team having to manually input them. Despite failed attempts in the past, and his super-busy workload, he’s prepared to give it a go. Once he’s worked his magic and generated a spreadsheet, I’ll use the relevant instructions from Heritage and attempt to work mine. Yesterday, I calculated that the team spent 208 hours manually inputting new users last term alone. Fingers crossed it works, it would help remove waiting times and staff stress.

My lunch hour is quite relaxing today. Braving the wintery showers, I take a walk to the local post office, and then chill-out reading a magazine. Sometimes I like conversation during lunch, but depending on how my day has been sometimes I’ll prefer my own company. Today is definitely the latter.

Whilst on counter in the afternoon I finished off updating the subject headers for the shelves, a job which had been hanging round my neck since August last year. In the afternoon I had a confidential discussion with a team member, and helped another plan and create a display about the library for use at the college’s volunteer roadshow this Thursday.

Finish work at 5pm and have an hour to myself before my evening course. Nip to the petrol station to fill-up and eat my tea (home-made soup) in the workroom. I am studying a level 3 ILM qualification in first line management. The course is 6pm-9pm and I find Tuesdays very hard-going. I left the house at 7.15am and return home at 10pm. Almost immediately, I collapse into bed. Lights out. Goodnight.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Day in the life (R8) part 1

Monday 30 January 2012
Today is the beginning the Library day in the life round 8.This sees library staff from near and far record how they spend their working week. It’s a fun way of nosing into the lives of others and seeing what really goes on in libraries.

So, to start off with, a little about my job... I am Systems Librarian in a Further Education College in Warwickshire, UK. My main responsibilities are maintaining Heritage, the library’s management system, and the classification of stock. There are 11 of us in the team, we work across three different sites, and I have been in post 8 months - learning lots and enjoying it.  

It's good to mix things up occasionally...
Image by Annie Mole
At 7.30am this morning, I jump on the M6 and arrive a little after 8.30am. I’m a tad late but didn’t really notice until I pulled up on the carpark, I was too busy singing away to my favourite song on the radio*.

One of the assistants walks into the office with me to say someone has phoned in ill. We are already a little short staffed as an assistant is on annual leave, so I take a look at the enquiry counter timetable and alter it slightly. The easiest way of keeping the service flowing freely is if I take up the slack, so I spend the entire day on the counter, with the exception of 90 minutes. I had various tasks planned for today but being on the counter pushes them back to tomorrow.

The enquiry counter is frequently busy and those staffing it are often rushed off their feet with stationery sales, printing/copying queries, research enquiries, circulation duties, referencing help – the list goes on. During quiet moments at the counter, I printed out new subject signs for the shelves, and during my non-counter 90 minutes, I put them up. I managed a little preparation for a meeting tomorrow by creating an estimate of how much it costs (in terms of time/wages/resources) to manually add new users to Heritage and create the necessary reader records. Also found time to discuss with the head librarian the possibility of purchasing e-readers and their compatibility with our downloadable e-books.

I finish early on Mondays, so head out at 1.30pm to do a spot of shopping. Hurrah!

And that, in a nutshell, was the beginning of my week. Not at all typical of my standard day, but being part of a team environment means being flexible and I don’t mind doing whatever is needed of me to help the service run smoothly. It’s good to mix things up occasionally, but hopefully the rest of this week’s posts will portray more accurately the role of Systems Librarian.

*Just in case you’re wondering, it’s Take On Me by A-Ha. Classic.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Hello Kindy

Image by Accretion Disc
One of my aims for 2012 (which I blogged about here) was to make better use of my Kindle. Become buddies and improve our friendship. Last weekend I had a go at getting to know it better...

I had a pop at downloading various e-books. Mostly fiction with a few autobiogs thrown in for good measure. No other type of document, but that’s okay to start off with. I’m finding the whole e-book format thing a little tricky – for the life of me I can never remember which formats the Kindle can read. So, I took a look at Calibre software for the first time too. It’s open source and is used to help manage e-book collections by converting different file types etc. On first glance it looks fairly user-friendly and I’m looking forward to becoming familiar with it.

Feeling more confident, I dabbled with a .pdf document, but with less success. The Kindle accepts them, but something wasn’t quite right and usability was zilch. The text size couldn’t be altered and I’d have to scroll along to reach the end of a line. Will have to play around with these a bit more methinks.

There's still lots to find out with the Kindle (or Kindy, as I've nicknamed it), but so far one of the things I find quite fun is the selection of screensavers, and not knowing which will appear next. (Small pleasures and all that...)

At work, we are hoping to buy an e-reader for staff and student use. At Christmas we upgraded our e-book license to downloadable multi-users. However, our e-book platform providers inform us that our e-books are not compatible with Kindles so we are looking at alternative, reasonably-priced models. One of my tasks for this week is to research the Kobo devices. All in the name of work, honestly... it’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it...

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Two nights ago I took part in my first ever #uklibchat. It clashes with my evening shift at work and I’m usually too busy to check in at that time but Thursday night I was able to join in and I must say, I really enjoyed it. Questions are posted on Twitter and discussion is then generated by people’s responses. This session focused on libraries in the new year. The next chat on 26 January will centre around professional bodies.

I only hooked up for about 20 minutes or so, but flexibility is one of the strong points of #uklibchat in my point of view, especially the way you can dip in and out without missing anything. It’s a great example of using Twitter to facilitate professional discussions. And with replies limited to 140 characters I didn’t feel intimidated into thinking the conversation would be too high brow to be enjoyable.

It’s the first time I’ve really taken part in an organised Twitter conversation. Talking to people miles away and not knowing who’d reply next was exciting. A sub-conversation about chartership sprung up and became an impromptu sharing of basic info.

It’s nice to bounce ideas around with other library folk. I shall definitely find time to check in for the next #uklibchat. A big pat on the back for the @uklibchat team for such a simple yet genius brainwave!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Study Visit Seminar

A few weeks ago I blogged about being accepted on a study visit to Poland. Today, I attended a briefing seminar where necessary practical information was disseminated. I don’t feel as apprehensive now that I know what the next stages of the process will be*.

There are over 100 Transversal/Ecorys study visits this year with thousands of participants throughout the EU. Whilst at the UK briefing today, I was hoping to meet someone going on the same visit, my plan being to attach myself to them from now pretty much up until we reach the hotel. Out of the 144 UK participants, I am the only one attending the librarian visit. I know that makes me very lucky, but it also make me very scared. I’m an inexperienced flyer and it would have been comforting to have a companion. I have from now until May to lose this fear and embrace the challenge of being an international solo traveller.

Previous participants shared hints and tips with us, which I was quite grateful for, particularly as the following ones would probably have never occurred to me:
  • Take appreciation gifts for the host, other participants and any organisations you visit
  • Take business cards
  • Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ in advance
I don’t have an elevator pitch and I don’t have business cards. I don’t even have a firm handshake. And as for confidence? I could do with finding some of that before I go too. There is lots of preparation to do but the visit isn’t until May so there’s plenty of time. Which is just as well, I think I’ll spend most of it trawling the shops trying to find suitable appreciation gifts. Living near the Birmingham border, I’m initially thinking Cadburys chocolate. Whaddya reckon folks? Help me out here… pretty please?

*Sign contract, funds transfer, email from host organisation regarding schedule, delegate list & accommodation, book flights & accommodation, make contact with other participants, then finally… go, go, go!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Library Day in the Life (R8)

Logged in to my Hotmail account last night and the inbox was home to several emails informing me of updates to the PBWorks wiki. This could mean only one thing….

The next round of Library Day in the Life has been announced! First thing I did this morning when I got to work – logged on and signed up! WooHoo! Yeah, baby! (Can you tell I’m excited?! Maybe if I use a few more exclamation marks? !!!!!) My details are number 13 in the participant list.

I'm a big fan of this initiative – it’s so interesting being able to nosy into what people do every day at work, and it’s lovely when people take the time to comment on your own working week. Some of the comments BtB received during the previous round were from people employed in different library sectors, and it helped me to think about my job from different perspectives.

So, yup, I will be blogging about work from 30th Jan – 3rd Feb. May even post the occasional tweet too. Can’t wait to start reading about aspects of library work I’ve yet to experience, as well as those I can already relate to…

Bring it on!!!!!!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Fingers Crossed

Image by Discoodoni
Well, it seems that bloggers all over the universe are posting about what they hope to achieve in 2012. I’ve read several posts like this and have enjoyed them all (I’m far too nosey for my own good!). So, with this in mind, I’m taking a running jump on the bandwagon and doing the same.

1. Kindle: I had the new Kindle model for my birthday a few weeks ago. I’ve only used it to read fiction on, but would really like to utilise the other features it offers. I find it handy, portable and convenient, and by the end of the year I hope to be fully conversant with all aspects of the Kindle. Not a major resolution, but it takes me ages to get be comfy with new gadgets.

2. The work-related aim: As Systems Librarian, I administer and maintain Heritage LMS. However, at the moment I am unfamiliar with the majority of the modules. I’d really like to get to grips with the reports and stocktaking options. I’d feel much more confident with my Heritage knowledge (and performance at work) once I’ve got these nailed.