Saturday, 27 December 2014

Brighton, baby! ARLG 2014 conference

Earlier this year I was successful in applying for the 2014 AlisonNorthover Bursary, awarded by ARLG. I used the award to fund my attendance at the 2014 ARLG conference, entitled ‘The final frontier: to boldly go where youhave never gone before’. This was the second CILIP ARLG study conference and was held at the University of Sussex, near Brighton, between 23rd-25th June.

I have pondered long and hard how to best record and reflect upon my attendance at the conference, and even now – several months later – I’m still not sure of the best way to approach it. The conference offered a very full schedule of talks and workshops, and I came away with a wealth of knowledge. I met new people, learned new things about myself and had an amazing time. Attempting to put the entire experience into words is a tall order! It may not be the most innovative method, but I shall tackle it in the form of a daily diary, leading to a final post summarising my overall thoughts. I make no promises, but shall attempt to keep the entries relatively short, to prevent them from becoming overly descriptive, tedious reads.

And so, dear reader, settle down on the sofa with a warm drink as I take you back to the summer of 2014…

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

2014: Ups and downs

Hanging in there!
Image by SvartaBaskern
The end of 2014 is fast approaching and this leads me to reflect on any new skills and competencies I’ve developed this year. ..

  • The college in which I work has undergone mass restructuring this Summer, and a new staffing structure has been implemented in the library. (I didn't add any posts to BtB during this time of uncertainty as I feared they may be wholly negative in tone.) In order to maintain a balanced equilibrium, I have focussed on how I adapt to change. Regarding this, I found ‘Who moved my cheese?’ by Spencer Johnson to be a useful and light-hearted book. It made me realise that change is a normal part of life and it is our attitude which determines if it is a positive or negative change. I have also revisited the Pacific Institute course I undertook on positive self-awareness psychology.

  • My job is now a shared role between two colleges. This is not without challenges, and I find organisational and prioritising skills are crucial if I am to successfully tackle the increased workload. I was interviewed for my own job and although this is not unheard of these days, I found it quite worrying at the time. The two libraries have very different cultures and adjusting to this is quite the balancing act!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Tour: Library of Birmingham

The queue to enter the library during its
opening weekend
At the end of each academic year, the college in which I work holds a staff development day for all staff. This year, the library team visited the new Library of Birmingham for a tour. 

The Library of Birmingham is fairly local to where I live so I had visited it before as a user and also for the 2013 CILIP AGM. However, the majority of people in the library team had not visited before as they live outside of the West Midlands area. It was nice being able to share their enthusiasm of experiencing it for the first time. All eleven of us were present, which is an achievement in itself! Due to part time hours, term-time only working and being multi-site, we are often ships that pass in the night. One of us pointed out that the new library had brought us all together and it takes a rare thing to do that!

Tickets for the tour were £5 for non-members and a reduced rate for members. I must say it was well worth the money! The tour lasted almost two hours and we learned so much more than if we had simply been browsing the library as users. Our guide was knowledgeable and answered all our questions about the service provided and the building itself. We visited each terrace and balcony, the archive room and the Shakespeare Memorial Room. I particularly liked the BFI programme booths and spent quite some time here on a previous visit. I also noted that it has a licenced bar! A unique selling point of the library is the beautiful view – a wonderful source of inspiration for those with creative minds. I love seeing the building in the Birmingham skyline. As a member of the local community I feel proud of it. I first visited it the weekend it opened and queued for 15 minutes to get it. A queue for a library – who would have believed it in this day and age?!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

CILIP Update article

*Be warned – this is quite a self-indulgent blog post, sorry folks*

CILIP Update, July 2014

I first joined CILIP as a student while I was doing an MSc in information and library management. I can’t quite remember the exact year I joined, but it must be about 10 years ago.  Since then, the magazine would routinely drop on my doormat and make its way to my reading pile. Some months I’d devour it, some months I’d quickly scan it, other months I’d hardly open it at all. Despite my ever-changing reading habit, I’ve always had the same secret ambition, and this year I achieved it; to have an article published in the CILIP Update magazine.

I’d been leading a project at work which saw us migrate to a new authentication provider for our off-site resources. My line manager asked if I’d consider writing a brief piece for publication in a newsletter, and I did so during my Easter annual leave. By the time I’d finished, the piece contained 2,000 words and was far too long for inclusion in a short newsletter. I was surprised by how much I’d written, but the project couldn’t be outlined in any less. Pondering what to do with it, I sent it to CILIP Update on the off-chance and they replied in the positive!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

NVQ reflections

Do you ever say to yourself ‘that’s it, I’m never studying another course’? I’ve noticed I say that to myself every time I finish a course, but I always seem to start another reasonably soon afterwards. I enjoy learning and the act of absorbing knowledge. Does that make me a philomath? Or a glutten for punishment?!

Anyway, I digress. In 2012 I completed a line management course (which I blogged about here) and the following year I pursued this interest with another management course. I found the first course valuable and realised this was a development need of mine. I have a masters’ degree in library and information management, but I don’t feel such courses adequately address the logistics of leading a team - which, of course, is something many librarians do.  I enrolled on a level 5 NVQ and finished it this summer after almost 18 months. I decided on the level 5 NVQ rather than the level 5 taught course because of the evening times the classes were held. The traditional course would probably have been my preferred option, but I couldn’t make the time of the class so opted for the NVQ instead. I've studied an NVQ before (level 2 IT back in 2002), but I’d forgotten how differently structured they are compared to classroom-based courses.

Flexibility was a great strength of the NVQ and it fitted quite nicely into my life. Regular sessions were arranged with my tutor at a day and time to suit me, whereas with the taught course I would have to fit in with the class timetable. My job is quite busy and I am a long distance commuter, so this flexibility made a huge difference to my daily life. I was also able to personally select modules and study those that were most applicable to my current role and working environment.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Upcycling old library stock

One of the displays of folded book art
Folded book art

Our discarded library books are routinely given to BetterWorld Books, but this year we held on to several and instead used them to create a display. We felt the college’s annual Green Week initiative was the ideal time to demonstrate ways in which old books can be reused. Two members of the library team (Fran Heap and myself) turned once-loved books into creative book sculptures. Permission was sought to position displays in the reception areas of the college’s two largest campuses, and almost 50 individual pieces were created.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Alison Northover Bursary 2014

I'm all smiles!
Image by Ben Smith
This time next week, I will have arrived at the University of Sussex in Brighton, ready to attend my very first conference. Conferences are something I’ve always had an interest in attending, but due to the cost of tickets it is has never been plausible. Until now…

Towards the end of last year I decided to apply for bursaries with the hope of securing a sponsored place to a conference. Whenever a bursary was advertised I considered applying for it, and in the end I applied for three. All three were to attend CILIP’s Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG) conference, entitled ‘Academic libraries: the final frontier’. One of my applications was rejected as I fell outside the geographical boarder for applications, but my other two applications were both successful. Both bodies contacted me to say I’d been successful within a week of each other, and I accepted the bursary with the more substantial financial package. I was incredibly flattered and humbled to win both. I won’t name the bursary I turned down out of respect for the person it was then offered to, but I am both surprised and pleased to be the 2014 recipient of ARLG’s Alison Northover Bursary.

Friday, 13 June 2014


A quick look back to September 2013…

It was several months ago now and my
recollections are now a little hazy, but back in September I attended the 2013 CILIP AGM. I've had this post written for a long time but wasn't really sure it was worth publishing. It's just a brief personal reflection, but as that's the main purpose of my blog, I've recently decided to publish it. So here it is!

The AGM was held in the new Library of Birmingham and as I live within the region it was too good an opportunity to miss. I had never before attended a CILIP AGM and was keen to experience such an event. This year’s AGM is in Bristol – quite far – so I’m glad I went to the last one.

One of my main recollections of the day was how many people attended. There was a sizeable queue for the venue and it was a good chance to meet new people – I queued with a retired librarian from Leicester and sat next to a clinical librarian from Cardiff. Having never attended a library conference, this was the largest number of librarians in one room I’ve ever seen! (Is there a specific noun for a collection of librarians?!) There were lots of people live-tweeting from the event which made for interesting an online discussion. I love the way library folk utilise Twitter!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Learning Space Review

One of our campus libraries
During February, we volunteered to undergo a Learning Space Review. This is a service offered by our local JISC Regional Support Centre (West Midlands). It is a way of ascertaining unbiased opinions regarding use of the library space, with the aim of positive recommendations being made. The review focuses on the use of the physical space, rather than the library service as a whole.

Two JISC RSC representatives spent half a day with us, during which time they observed the operation of the library, made notes, interviewed staff etc. Being observed is quite nerve-wracking but they did their best to put us at ease and explain what they were looking at.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A day in the life of a Systems Librarian

Hello! Here I am at the library helpdesk
In recent years I enjoyed taking part in the Library day in the life project. This ran from 2008-2012 and saw library staff from all disciplines across the world record and upload their daily diaries for a week. I found it invaluable and really interesting, and was quite sad when the person who organised it announced there would be no more. You can read my participating blog posts here.

The library in which I work has a very active blog and this year I decided to introduce a series of posts based on the idea of a daily diary. There are 11 of us in the team and we each blogged about our day at work; these posts were uploaded once a week over a period of 11 weeks.  We publicised it within college as the chance to see what goes on behind-the-scenes in a library. Whenever a new post was published we would highlight it on the staff intranet and the library's social media profiles. They were by far the most viewed posts on our blog! It was mentioned at regional JISC events and we even had another FE library say they enjoyed reading the series so much they were planning a similar one for their blog. A huge compliment!

As a rule, I tend not to link this blog to my workplace blog, but on this occasion I'll make an exception. If anyone fancies reading about a day in the life of an FE systems librarian, here's the link to my post. Enjoy!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Interviewer versus interviewee

It was several months ago now, but at the start of this academic year we needed to appoint an evening-only assistant to replace someone who had resigned. Just as we did the previous year when appointing a library apprentice, the college librarian and I both went through the applications. Eighteen people applied and using a generic matrix procedure from HR, we shortlisted five candidates who were then invited for interview.

Within the college, job interviews are conducted by a member from HR and the head of the appointing department (plus a member of the senior management team if necessary). However, the college librarian personally knew one of the shortlisted candidates; in order to ensure fairness in the selection process he withdrew from the interview panel. This meant that I was offered a position on the interview panel. Although I have been involved in the competency testing part of interview days, I had never before been on an interview panel.