Thursday, 19 December 2013

ClickView intentions

Some things take time to achieve.
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Back in September  I started to oversee ClickView, the library’s online streaming service. Our subscription package allows us to record six Freeview channels twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for a rolling 14 days. There are some great programmes on TV which may be beneficial to learners and ClickView allows us to record and store these programmes. It works in a similar way to BBC iPlayer, except programmes do not automatically expire after a pre-defined period of time.

This academic year I have started looking at it from a management viewpoint.  After a term of finding my feet with the system I feel much more confident. It is a sound concept and can produce some excellent resources for learners to use. The main issue I find is the marketing of the service. In October I attended a drop-in session with the college marketing department and asked how to publicise ClickView.  Usage of the service could be higher and there is plenty of room for improvement.  The marketing department suggested various methods of raising the profile including one which had not been tried before – going into curriculum team meetings.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Staff Development Week

Just a relatively brief post to record this year’s staff development week...

In February 2013 the college in which I work formed a ‘
Federation’ with another college. Senior management are very clear that this move is the strongest way of securing a thriving fiture for the college considering the £260 million cut from FE by the government. The senior team is also very vocal that this is not a merger but a partnership which will save both colleges money due to shared services, procurements, vacancy management, financial bids and strategies etc (each college has since save £750,000). There is only one other FE Federation within the UK so the future is unknown for such a venture. As expected, this has generated a certain amount of uncertainty for staff and activities within the staff development week tackled this.

Monday, 22 July 2013

@VoicesLibrary curation

Last month I was luckily enough to be a weekly curator of the @Voices Library Twitter account. This is a project allows different library staff to take over the account for a week and post library-related tweets to approximately 1000 followers. I’ve followed it for a while and when I saw an invitation to apply I jumped at the chance!

I used my week to tweet about the role of a Systems Librarian and what it’s like to work in a further education college library. Initially, I was quite nervous apprehensive that none of the followers would interact with my curation. If I’m honest, I feared my tweets would bore people to sleep! I need not have worried – it was a great experience.

Monday, 17 June 2013

MyPC user group

Image by kerolic
Last month I attended a user group session for MyPC, held at Bournville College. I found the West Midlands user group session of 2012 (blogged here) to be very useful, and the same is to be said for the 2013 session. I left the session having made 6 pages of valuable notes and action points!

MyPC is a computer booking system, which allows optimal usage of computer resources. It allows learners to book in advance or drop-in, and runs reports outlining usage patterns. Several local colleges were represented and it was interesting to hear how we all use the software differently.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Two year anniversary

Image taken by Leo Reynolds
My boyfriend believes that blogging is mostly self-indulgent waffle-tosh of little value to anyone else. Usually I disagree with him on this topic, but I’m afraid this post may well prove him right…

 Last week marked the second anniversary in my current job. It gave me cause to ponder the last two years and all that has happened since I left my last post. I found redundancy to be a very traumatic experience and hope I never have to go through it again. It affected me in all manner of ways I didn’t think possible; the majority of these are too personal to share in a public blog, but I admit I found it distressing and fundamentally sad. I refused to take redundancy lying down and treated finding a new job like going to war – I was determined to succeed and go out fighting. I managed to secure a new post within 10 weeks but will long remember the feelings of sheer relief and utter elation. When I received the call telling me I was the successful candidate, I’m embarrassed to say I actually jumped with joy!

Friday, 24 May 2013


I’ve recently realised that I’ve not yet blogged about my attendance at the learning resources forum held by JISC West Midlands RegionalSupport Centre. It was hosted by Bournville College on 25th  March 2013 – so this post is somewhat late, but better late than never!

Image taken by C!...
The programme for the day looked quite exciting; the main draws for me were Jo Alcock (from BCU) speaking about mobile technologies and Liz Wyman (from Newcastle-under-Lyme College) speaking about sourcing accessible formats. In addition to this, library staff from the host college presented about establishing a rebrand of the service.

I made plenty of notes during the day and returned to work with plenty of ideas to explore. Some of the tools Jo demonstrated we already make use of in the library (Foursquare, and QR codes for example), but I developed an awareness of various online tools I hadn’t previously heard of. Poll Everywhere could be utilised during our user education sessions as a way of ascertaining immediate feedback, and my curiosity has been sparked about how library use augmented realities. This is something I know very little about but am keen to learn more. Jo also spoke of roving within the library using tablet devices. Whilst this is probably more applicable to multi-level university libraries than a single room FE college library, the team in which I work has spoken about how we could take the library elsewhere on site, possibly by setting up a portable helpdesk (of sorts) in the refectory.

Liz’s presentation related to something of which there was very little awareness of amongst delegates. The Publisher Lookup Database allows libraries to have electronic versions for individual learners who have specific needs. It sounds a wonderful service and I hope this is something we are able to offer in future. On a personal note, I feel our assistance towards learners with special needs is the library’s weakest area; I am sure there are plenty of unexplored ways in which we could offer more support and I think this would be an excellent start.
Bournville College's learning zone.
Last – but not least – was the presentation from the host library. Bournville College is a new build built on the site of the former Longbridge Rover plant. Amanda Braund took us through the considerations of establishing a new library environment and rebranding it the ‘learning zone’. It is always interesting to hear ‘behind the scenes’ tales of a different library service, and this was no exception. It warmed the cockles of my heart to know that we are not the only library environment to have had issues with learners misusing sofas!

The day ended with a section called ‘delegate show and tell’. We each had to discuss initiatives which had worked well and not so well. It was an informal way of sharing general ideas and thoughts (good practice and not so-good practice!). I spoke about the library’s annual report (which generated a few enquiries) and our registering for CoLRiC’s peer accreditation scheme.

This was the first RSC forum I’d been to, and I hope it won’t be the last. Not only did I learn a lot from the presentations, but I also left with a list of action points to explore. The day provided a networking opportunity as I met up with a few familiar faces I’d seen at other library events. I got so much out of this day and simply couldn’t believe the event was free! If, like me, you have previously thought ‘shall I go, shalln’t I go?’, you should definitely go – it’s a great opportunity for sharing good practice.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

CoLRiC peer accreditation: initial ponderings

Image taken from Pixabay
The library in which I work has recently registered for CoLRiC peer accreditation scheme. CoLRiC is the Council for Learning Resources in Colleges. It provides resources, guidance and benchmarking standards which focus specifically on FE libraries.

Whilst the library has been a member of CoLRiC for several years, we have never really been an active member, and when we announced our intention to undergo the peer accredition a number of the assistants were unaware of what this really meant. We have weekly team meetings and have since used this time to increase the assistants’ familiarity with CoLRiC and the process of peer accreditation. We said it’s a little like Ofsted for library staff instead of teachers, although I am keen to eliminate the high stress factor that comes alongside Ofsted inspections!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


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I recently heard the word ‘profersonal’, and I think this is the perfect description for my Twitter feed; partly work related comments, partly non-work related comments. Not too heavy, not too light. I tend to follow library-type folks on Twitter and my tweets usually make mention of library bits and bobs.
I’ve found it actually quite valuable for keeping up to date with the latest info in library-land. For example, it’s how I first heard of Library Camp, and how blog posts of note come to my attention. It’s nice to follow people and see how they get on in projects they’re working on, or perhaps feel that I am not alone in my library-related frustrations.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Pacific Institute

In December 2012 I attended a 3 day course entitled Investors in Excellence, run by Pacific Institute (PI). I had never heard of PI before, but it is compulsory training for all employees where I work. I’d heard lots about it from colleagues – positive and negative accounts – so I was a little apprehensive about what to expect, but I must say I needn’t have been…

My PI models
Investors in Excellence is a self-awareness psychology course, with the aim of promoting positive thinking. The belief is that if you think positively, you are a happier individual who is likely to achieve much more than if you don’t think positively. The course takes you through various steps to help you learn positive thought patterns, such as making affirmations and the power of self-talk. There were a number of practical activities to help you realise there are different ways of viewing a particular situation, and if you ‘think outside the box’ you may be able to increase your effectiveness. These ranged from simple paper-based puzzles to more physical group-based tasks. Several of them were quite fun and raised a smile. My favourite was being paired up with a partner and standing quite close, face to face for a minute. We then had to turn away and change something about our appearance before turning back and seeing if we could recognise the change. This was repeated 4 or 5 times (there was almost nothing left to change!). I took my earrings off and felt quite exposed; it’s a silly thing, but I am never ever without my earrings. The thinking behind this activity was to show how we are influenced by outward appearances, but do we actually see the whole picture? Another activity I enjoyed was making small figures from modelling clay. It was fun to be creative in a non-pressured environment. One model had to represent something important to us. (I created a heart to represent my boyfriend.) We then had to tell our partner why we had made this particular model and why it was important to us. We were then asked to crush our partners’ models – and even though it was just silly modelling clay, nobody in the group wanted to do it. I remember having strong feelings of guilt that I was about to crush my partner’s ‘son’. It was quite surprising, to be honest. I’ve kept my PI models on my desk at work, as a reminder of what I learnt.

I wanted to wait a while to gather my thoughts before blogging about this course. To start with, I was a little worried that I was being brainwashed, but then I realised that what the facilitators were describing was simply common sense: if you focus on negative aspects, your outlook on a situation will be different to if you focused on positive aspects. It’s something we all know, but sometimes we get so caught up in life we can easily forget, and it was nice to be reminded of this. On a personal note, I was intrigued to see how PI could help me as I sometimes do have pessimistic thoughts, and I’m pleased to say I think it did. I follow the PI Twitter feed, which shares positive comments, and I occasionally listen to the PI CDs in the car on the way home. Almost everyone in the library department has undergone PI training, and I do think it’s making a difference. Whenever a team member does the training we discuss it in our weekly team meeting, and it’s interesting to hear the different opinions and impressions. We remind ourselves of the importance of positive thinking, and overall I'd like to think we’re gradually moving towards that as the team’s natural state.

Since completing the PI programme, I've learnt that it's also rolled out for staff in a secondary school near where I live. I wonder which other establishments make use of it? It'd be interesting to know...

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Mini world tour

A while ago I had a few days off work and decided to drag my boyfriend along on what I called a ‘mini world tour’ of libraries. There are several libraries in the near-ish locality (West Mids) which had made headlines and being a library fan I wanted to explore them. I chose the following ones to visit because they each offer something different to the communities they serve.

Choice number one had to be the Hive, in Worcester city centre. It took about an hour to drive there and I fell in love as soon as I saw the place. My boyfriend (a dedicated non-fan of libraries) wasn’t very impressed with the exterior of the building, saying it looked almost silly, but I disagreed. A modern library has years of stereotypical images to fight against and what better way to start than to make the building look different? I thought it looked interesting and exciting and I was curious to see what would be different internally. I was not disappointed – it is amazing inside! I could ramble on about everything inside the building but I won’t, I’ll just say my favourite section was the local history floor. The gigantic tablet-like touchscreen table for viewing maps was fun, and I enjoyed walking under the sound domes to hear oral history recollections. It was also interesting to look at the book stock and see the way university collections and public collections were available to everyone but on different loaning terms. I think we'll see more combined public and academic libraries as times goes by.
The Hive, Worcester, Worcs
Next up on the ‘mini-world tour’ was Oldbury public library in Sandwell. Although this isn’t my local library I do live in Sandwell, so it was only a ten minute drive from home. The new building – Jack Judge House – is huge and very impressive with its purple, blue and whilte exterior, but I was slightly disappointed inside. The library only occupied part of the ground floor, the remainder of the building was dedicated to council offices. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – if libraries have to share buildings to survive in the current economic climate then so be it – but for some reason I presumed (hoped?) the whole building would be the library. But not to worry, inside it was cosy, friendly and attractive. Focussing mainly on fiction books, this library was in complete contrast to the Hive. Every inch of space was utilised, whereas the Hive was spacious with an almost minimalistic style foyer. Oldbury library was full of people, a real hub of activity, and it warmed the cockles of my heart to see it so.
Oldbury Library, Sandwell, West Mids
Our final stop on the ‘mini-world tour’ was in Belbroughton near Stourbridge. The decommissioned phone box library is run by the local history society and was purchased from BT for just £1. It is crammed full of books – biographies, children’s, fiction – all donated by members of the public. The phone box is unsupervised but open 24/7. People simply take away any books they fancy and leave behind any they no longer want. Technically, it’s more of a book exchange than a library, but it’s still a wonderful idea. It works well and is something the locals are quite rightly proud of. This library is positioned in a reasonably affluent area and it may not work so well in other areas where it may be abused, which would be a shame. Also, when I visited it was heavily raining and because the phone box was so full of books I couldn’t actually step inside. I had to browse from the pavement through the open door and, being the good librarian that I am, was concerned the books would get wet. That aside, this library phonebox is a hidden gem.
Book Exchange Library, Belbroughton, Worcs
All in all it was a lovely few days pottering round libraries, exploringtowns and reminding myself that size really doesn't matter - all libraries are beautiful. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

My desk buddies

Welcome to my ever-growing Lego family. I originally started to buy Lego mini-figures for my eldest nephew and they brought out the big kid in me. Wondering which Lego person is inside the sealed packet is exciting, and I found myself thinking some of them were just so cute I had to keep them.  Whenever there's a new Lego mini-figure series I can't wait to see which characters have been released. Series 1 included a clown with red curly hair. It sells for about £10+ on Ebay now - would love to adopt him into the Lego family, but dare I part with so much cash for a teeny tiny Lego man? I'd also really like to buy a customised librarian mini-figure from We'll see how long I can resist these Lego temptations...

They sit on the window ledge immediately above my desk and keep my company at work. They may not project the 'professional' image of a librarian in the traditional sense of the word, but this is my small step towards breaking down the stereotypical librarian image. My own little rebellion!

The Lego family helps with my work-life balance by raising a smile when things at work are a little hectic. A little bit of colour in life is never a bad thing I say. Also, they are a great conversation-starter - I've lost count of the number of people who come into the office and comment on them. Through these little figures, I've chatted to people from other departments I may not have spoken to as much otherwise, such as the college carpenter, chaplain and various lecturers. It seems everyone has a Lego story to share! The Lego family probably isn't to everyone's taste (I'm sure my boss hates them!), but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. I like to think the Lego family helps to break down barriers and make me a little more approachable, especially if I'm working with students at my desk. I'm all for showing your personality in your work, and if the Lego family helps students realise the 'boring' librarians aren't quite so boring after all that's no bad thing!

Saturday, 23 March 2013


On Thursday 7th February I attended a day event held by CILIP West Midlands branch. It was entitled ‘Promoting your service and the profession’ and was held at the Mary Seacole Library, Birmingham City University.

The event filled up within two days of the booking opening and there were approximately 50 delegates present. The agenda included the various activities:

  • Staff from Mary Seacole gave an introduction to the university library service
  • Gill Colbourne from Warwickshire library services spoke about how to promote a service which is part of a larger entity.
  • Barbara Band gave her first official presentation as CILIP Vice President. It focussed on how she uses her role as a school librarian to promote the profession to a wider audience.  
  • There was an overview of the changes being discussed relating to CILIP professional qualifications, given by Simon Edwards (Director of Professional Services at CILIP).
  • CILIP West Midlands Chair Roger Fairman gave a brief overview of what’s next for the branch.
  • There were also AGMs from CILIP West Midlands branch and two SIGs – CDG West Midlands and ARLG West Midlands.
  • A tour of the Mary Seacole library.
There was a lively Twitter conversation surrounding the day’s hashtag #cwmagm13. In the absence of a marketing officer, I tweeted on behalf of the branch and an archive of related tweets can be found here. I found this to be quite fun and hope to soon post about the experience of live tweeting from events.

I found the day really interesting, and - as always – it was nice to hear people speak who are passionate about the profession. In my current role, I find it frustrating that we are bound by ‘one-size-fits-all’ guidelines established by the college’s marketing department. In my previous role in a school I had much more freedom to whatever was best for the library, without having to get it ‘okay-ed’ by a separate department. However, despite this I understand the college must protect it's brand. It was interesting to realise that although we all work in different library sectors, we still face many similar issues regarding promotion of the service.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Revalidation on target

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Having pondered it long and hard, I finally decided to plump for a mentor to help through my chartership revalidation. Unlike with first-time chartership, it isn’t a necessary part of the process, and I blogged my musings about it here.

Last time, my mentor worked in a secondary school (just as I did then) and this time, my mentor works in a further education college (just as I do now). I know there are things to be learnt from working with a mentor from a different library sector, but personally I prefer them to have a direct feel for the role I am in and the challenges it may/may not include. Also, locality is an issue to consider; in my appraisal at the end of last year, my line manager agreed to allow me one afternoon per half term to meet with my mentor. Luckily, my mentor works in a college less than ten miles from the college in which I work. Although this is not a huge distance, the majority of our communications will be conducted via email, which suits us both. I am keen not to infringe too much upon my mentor’s working week, as I know she is based in a very busy library environment.

Friday, 8 March 2013

HUG WM 2013

HUG venue - Friends Meeting House, London
Earlier this week I attended the Heritage User Group(HUG) winter meeting. It was held at the Quakers’ Friends Meeting House,directly opposite Euston train station. I’ve been here for previous HUG eventsand I’m always struck by the excellence of the venue. It’s in a prime locationand has a beautiful little garden in front of the entrance – a tiny havenamidst the noise that is London.

Heritage is the LMS used by our library, but HUG is completely independent ofIS Oxford (the developers of Heritage). It is run by a committee of Heritageusers from throughout the country, and now that I am on a committee myself, Iappreciate the job they do organising sterling events such as this.