Hanging around outside the gates

I was talking with a teacher and I mentioned I was studying an MA in English, to which she replied “Oh, do you want to be a teacher then?” Perhaps I am taking this completely the wrong way, but I don’t understand where that assumption could’ve come from. It was like she was suggesting that anyone who works in a school would do so because their true aspiration was to be a teacher, and that my role is supplementary or, indeed, inferior. Many of my closest friends are teachers, and I have enormous respect and admiration for their selflessness, their patience and their, frankly bonkers, work ethic. I highly value their profession – but do I think that is more valid than my own? No, I don’t.

I am not so blinkered to believe that what I do is in any way more admirable or critical than what a teacher does within the school because, let’s face it, it isn’t. As much as I would like to think that a school simply couldn’t function without a library (remembering that ‘couldn’t’ and ‘shouldn’t’ are quite different), the impact wouldn’t immediately be felt, even if they would suffer for it later on. I do, however, see myself as a teacher of some kind, even if I don’t stand at the front of the classroom delivering lessons. I see my role as supportive, physically and mentally, and facilitating the creation of a space which is welcoming and inclusive to students.

I have written before about my deliberations about becoming a teacher, and I’ve come to realise that I need to have more conviction in my own profession. I am afflicted by the same concerns as other school librarians. Am I doing enough? Am I valued? Does anyone really understand? These are difficult questions to answer. For me, the absolute worst thing about being a lone practitioner is that you are solely responsible for the viewpoint you create of your environment. It’s yours alone to face and, in my opinion, no amount of time spent digitally conversing with similar professionals is ever going to entirely fill that hole.

I think there is a straight choice – you either accept it, or you don’t. I’ve chosen, for now, to accept it. I won’t be able to fully utilise my qualifications and experience working in school libraries (I don’t see this as a problem which is particular to my employer – they have always been very supportive – but something which is prevalent in almost all schools) and that’s okay, I have learnt to deal with that because people have their own agendas and I don’t always fit in their boxes. What I don’t need to do is to ‘sell out’ on my own profession. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, plugging away, and hoping it’s enough.

I do think that some teachers need to look beyond themselves and see how their profession is not the aspiration that all the people they work with is aspiring to. I do not believe that there are many librarians, TAs, careers advisors, pastoral carers or IT professionals working within the walls of a school who are frustrated and desperate for the time when they can take those golden steps to the summit of Mount Qualified Teacher, finally fulfilling their true ambitions and life-long calling, but being kicked back by their own low intelligence and forced to take a menial job so they can hang about outside the gates. Excuse the cheesy metaphor, but I am on a different path.

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Final Chartership objectives

7.2 Collection development policy  

Providing a strategic framework for all decisions relating to stock management. This may include acquisitions, selection methods, collection organisation, development, management, preservation, review and disposal.

This was not something that was required particularly in any of the JDs I looked at, however this is something I would like to develop at work so I have included it for this reason.

 

8.2 Reading literacy and Reader Development

Understanding the importance of reading and the role of information professionals and information agencies in developing literacy, promoting reading and supporting learning across society. A particular aspect is Reader Development.

This is something that is important in my current role, and I would like to develop this in a more structured way. It’s also something that I am particularly passionate about. I’d also like to revisit some of the things I’d explored when I was doing my PgDip and build some of that into my role.

 

8.8 Virtual Learning Environments

Understand the use of VLEs and appreciate how they can be used for information literacy instruction and providing library/information services

I would like to build my skills in VLEs by creating an iTunes U course to help students improve their information literacy skills.

 

11.5 Customer service skills

Engaging with customers to promote resources and services in order to ensure that customers are aware of their accessibility, value and potential benefit. Mediating access to information for particular communities in specific contexts.

An essential aspect on all the JDs – something I need to revisit to ensure that my skills are up-to-date.

 

12.1 ICT skills

Using technologies from computing, electronics and telecommunications to process and distribute information in digital and other forms.

I don’t think I need to elaborate on the absolute necessity that excellent ICT skills are required in the LIS profession, perhaps even all professions. My particular weakness is in Excel and I am keen to improve my knowledge to be able to use Excel beyond simple calculations and spreadsheets.

 

12.4 Social Media and collaborative tools

Using internet-based applications, which allow the creation and exchange of user generated content. Technologies include magazines, Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, wikis, photos, networking sites, learning environments and podcasts.

When I was working toward Rudai 23 I learnt many new skills, which I would like to revisit, explore and develop. I would also like to look online for short tutorials and ideas I can work on to improve my knowledge.

 

12.6 Networking skills

Ability to communicate with and maintain good relationships wit a chain of interconnected people.

As a lone worker, it is important to remain part of a wider network of professionals, both inside the school library sector and beyond it, to be able to share knowledge and experience.

 

12.8 Language skills

Use and understand a foreign language/languages as appropriate to workplace environments.

Learning French is something I would like to personally work towards as I think it would be beneficial when assisting students in my workplace who are new to the UK. I have a GCSE in French and know the basics, but I would love to improve my conversational French, as well as my reading skills.

 

 

Open – NLPN Event

IMG_2388As someone who finds it quite cathartic to come clean about their past misdemeanours, I will admit that I have, in the past, purposely missed events and conferences because I either a) Couldn’t be mithered getting up early on a Saturday morning, b) Was too much of a scaredy cat to go and walk into a room of unknowns, or c) Actually didn’t care that much about improving my professional practice.

Thankfully, I have changed a lot since those days of, almost career level standard, indifference and fear. Now I am reasonably happy to go along to whatever is about, and I am all the better for it, because sometimes what can seem like a completely innocuous comment can completely alter my perception of a situation or a problem. I can think of something myself and 99% believe in it, but when someone else says what you’ve been thinking all along then, for me, it solidifies. Or, perhaps, someone will approach an idea from a completely different angle and you think to yourself, ‘Well, I’d never quite thought of it that way before’. That is what I find one of the best things about speaking to other professionals.

What did I learn from this event? Well, it led me to make some decisions. When I am work I am pretty decisive and I think people can waste an extraordinary amount of time umming and ahhing about what they should do about this or that. Not me, I like to keep meetings as short as possible. Away from that, particularly when in regards to making career decisions, I am constantly changing my mind. I am a natural over thinker – every single situation and scenario is run round my head over and over, including awful, terrible scenarios I probably best not mention. However, after Ned Potter’s highly engaging talk about Life, Librarianship and Everything, I felt a lot clearer in my mind about a few things (after taking some time to think, obviously).

I also enjoyed the honesty of Ned, and some of the other speakers, in terms of being open about ‘taboo’ things. I, like Ned, don’t actually find libraries all that interesting really in terms of the physical space. If I visit a beautiful library like Chetham’s or John Rylands I am obviously impressed, but I feel no more or less impressed about it because it is a library, only that it is a stunning building. My exception to this would be hyper-modern libraries because I think what they offer in terms of flexibility of space and improved facilities can, if done well, enhance the learning experience. Alan Gilbert Learning Commons is a good example of that. For me, I like the endeavour of librarians over the physical stock. I love books, I love the smell of books, I love the look and texture of books but I don’t feel the need to ‘protect’ books from the rise of the digital format. I’m interested in learning and I’m interested in information and, fundamentally, people having access to information as freely and easily as possible.

Ned made another confession that he didn’t think that librarians can change the world. Well, that is so right. I used to joke about with people that, because I was a librarian I literally knew everything and if I didn’t then I’d know how to find it. That’s bollocks, isn’t it? If I truly believed that we, as a profession, could answer all of life’s questions then I think I would become that off grid spoon whittler from the advert. Okay, I am being extreme here, but I do think we spend a lot of time (speaking generally here) bigging ourselves up as a profession and getting cross when people accuse us of ‘just stamping books all day’. Fine, that isn’t true, but we all generalise about careers in some way. People do not understand our profession. But neither do we really understand any other until we are inside it and learning about it. We need to waste less time venting off to each other that ‘boo hoo, people don’t appreciate me, I’m not being used to my full ability, they want to replace me with a volunteer/RFID machine/robot’. I did that, I’ve had a word with myself, and I’m doing something about it. Use the tools we have available and start doing something different to show your worth. I’m starting small – I’m finding my way in the profession and seeing where I fit. Then, after that, I’m going to save the world. Joke.

Ned asked that we do something different after the session, something that I wasn’t going to do anyway, and that is that I am not going to be frightened to change my path a little bit and upset the status quo to potentially achieve a better result. I think when you’re on a career path you’ve got to enjoy the journey, but I don’t think you should be content to have it all in comfort. I think it was quite telling when, after speaking to three groups about the realities of school librarianship, I asked if the other speakers they’d heard from had been positive about their sectors. They had, And I wasn’t. This is no criticism of my employer (who I have enjoyed hugely working with the last few years), or of other school librarians who do sterling work but a realisation that it’s not quite right for me at this time. I spoke in my last entry about how I’d thought of chucking it all in or being tempted to train as a teacher because I was trying to fit myself in a puzzle I don’t fit. Now I’ve realised that I can begin to move on.

Well, that was all very epic. I know I’ve spoken mainly about Ned and his talk but I’d like to thank all the other speakers for also giving me plenty of food for thought. Open Access is something I seem to find more and more interesting the more I learn about it, but I will save that for another day! Thank you to the ladies at NLPN for putting together another wonderful event, If you are local to the North West I would HIGHLY recommend attending one of their events. They’re free, they’re fabulous and they’re funky.

Until my next epiphany…

Where do all the librarians go?

I feel very troubled. I feel as if I’ve jumped on a sinking ship and I can’t get off again. What is bothering me? Well, the same thing that has been bothering me for about the last four years – the constant and steady reduction of librarian (and assistant) posts in UK libraries. I feel now it’s reaching cracking point, and reading this blog post did nothing to calm my nerves. It’s a sorry tale of woe, of dooms and gloom, destruction and decimation. The myths that people create around the profession can be very damaging, and the thought that the only people losing their jobs are little old ladies close to retirement (or worse…) is pretty far off the mark. Government departments are strapped for cash, and libraries are a pretty easy target in the short term. They can be total money pits and, well, libraries are dying aren’t they? Who needs librarians anyway?! There are many people, like myself, who are at the start of their career who started hurtling high speed down the track, who now realise they’re on a road to nowhere.

So where do all the librarians go? What I mean is – if this career is a mistake, that libraries are dead, that I’m better off chucking it all in now – what next? I think we are pretty lucky that many of the skills needed for working in library or information roles are transferable. That is great, but I don’t know if I really want to do anything else really, not in the same way that I decided I wanted to be a librarian. It was as if I finally found the right fit after years of mundane jobs – I could use the mundane stuff for good, not evil! But now I find myself at risk, undervalued and under-utilised. I feel like the uninvited guest at a party most of my professional life.

When I took my current role working in a school I always saw it as a temporary thing. I don’t mean really temporary like a month or something, but I saw it as a bridge over troubled waters. I’d worked in public libraries for a while, that didn’t really work out as the arse was falling out of it, and I wanted to do something kind of…between…working in a public library and a university library. Mainly this was because I was missing some managerial experience in public libs and it wasn’t likely I was going to get any either, what with everything kicking off with the cuts. So, I took this role whilst I was finishing my professional qualification. I have that now and I am still here. Now, I am mainly still here because I truly enjoy it – the kids make me laugh every single day, I have fantastic colleagues on the most part and I pretty much have complete say over how I want to manage my time. The snag? No promotion prospects. I could stay here forever technically but I’m also not going up anywhere. This really is it.

But there isn’t really anywhere else to go. Do I stay here, happy as I am, but have no prospect of a promotion or do I get knocked back for the (very few) other library jobs in universities that are out there, or do I take the third route? What is the third route? I already avoided the trap of becoming a teacher – I don’t want to find myself again almost wandering into something I actually don’t want to do.

This is something that is either going to need more thought or more patience. I have very little patience so I will add it the list of big thoughts I will need to have.

Hey, isn’t Chartership cathartic?!

The beginnings of Chartership

Wow! I literally cannot believe that I haven’t written a post since November. That is completely shameful.

The reason I have resurrected the blog is twofold, really, in that:

  1. I have started (I mean really started this time) my Chartership, and I would like to use this blog as my way of recording and reflecting.
  2. There are many, many things that have been going on in the library world which have stressed me off and I need a platform to moan away on. This is my home here – I feel safe to rant!

So, first things first, Chartership. I put off starting for many reasons – firstly because I was mentor-less, and then became mojo-less and, more recently, time starved. I was so overwhelmed by everything, not necessarily because I think the development journey will be tough, but mainly because I didn’t know where to start. I don’t want to start off by critiquing CILIP (that’s a total lie, I am) but I didn’t find the start-off process particularly user friendly. For an organisation that purports to assist the information sector it was, er, pretty hard to find information. Finding a mentor seems to be like looking inside a crystal ball and hoping to pull someone out. A list of potential victims was provided, and I spent rather a long time pouring over the (really, not that detailed) descriptions of possible mentors. It was like being on Take Me Out. I started cutting down potential mentor-suitors using a ridiculously haphazard method of elimination: too far away, job too obscure, job too similar, scary sounding job title… Then I picked a few and I sent them a, frankly, fantastic email saying how enthusiastic/great/sexy I am. Well – no-one replied. I felt rejected. I felt like the last fat girl left at the prom. It was horrible. So I did what any spurned lover does – I took to Twitter to publicly air my dirty laundry to everyone and, thankfully, a schoolmate who is now also a librarian took pity on me and hooked a lady up with a mentor. That’s enough relationship allusions now – I think this may be weird for her otherwise!

The next step was to try and smash down the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) into a more manageable chunk of about 6-10 sections. My mentor sent me this blog post which I found very useful to make sense of the whole sorry affair. The first time I looked at the PKSB I could’ve cried – there was so, so much on it that I didn’t know, or stuff I thought I knew about but when I really thought about it I probably didn’t. Anyway, the blog post was really good for giving me a strategy to begin from. I printed off some job descriptions for my current post, as well as some higher level university based roles, and I tried to match everything which was asked for in the person specification with sections of the PKSB. This could prove pretty tough at times because of the wording but I managed to get an idea of what kinds of things were most important. I then went through and graded myself against every section with my current score and what my ideal score would be. I then used a combination of this, the weighted job description sheet and my own personal wants to come up with a set of eight areas to work on:

  1. Collection development policy (7.2)  – not something that was required particularly in any of the JDs I looked at, however this is something I would like to develop at work so I have included it for this reason. 
  2. Reading literacy and Reader Development (8.2) – this is something that is important in my current role and I would like to develop this in a more structured way. It’s also something that I am particularly passionate about. 
  3. Advocacy (9.3) – I can hardly sit and complain about the state of libraries if I don’t do something about it myself! This is so, so important in the current climate to ensure we have a profession left to work in!
  4. Customer service skills (11.5) An essential aspect on all the JDs – something I need to revisit to ensure that my skills are up-to-date 
  5. ICT skills (12.1) – I don’t think I need to elaborate on the absolute necessity that excellent ICT skills are required in the LIS profession, perhaps even all professions. 
  6. Language skills (12.8) – Learning French is something I would like to personally work towards as I think it would be beneficial when assisting students in my workplace who are new to the UK. I have a GCSE in French and know the basics but I would love to improve my conversational French, as well as my reading skills. 
  7. People management (10.8) – Many of the jobs I envisage myself developing into in the future require some level of previous experience in people management. This isn’t something I am easily able to develop as I am a lone worker, but I do have student volunteers who assist me and I would like to be able to support them more fully and develop their skills, as this will be of great advantage to them when going into the world of work. 
  8. Networking skills (12.6) – Working alone can be a bit, well, lonely and it can be hard to keep afloat of all the current changes and opportunities. Good networking can help to minimise these issues.

So, I guess the next steps are to start working out how I am going to improve in each area and to start evidencing it all! I have a few things that I have already got planned in so it’s a case of actually getting down to it all now! I do, at least, now have a framework to work towards. The only thing I do think is that it would be good to know more exactly what the specific differences between, for example, a 2 and a 3 are on the PKSB. I know it is a self assessment but it would be useful to have a matrix, kind of like when you are writing an essay to be marked, that you can benchmark yourself against. Anyway, I guess I will have to trust my own judgement!

 

 

Rudai 23 – Thing 23 (!) Making it all Work Together

So, pulling it all together, well… I am not a big fan of Flipboard (I’ve mentioned that before) so I am going to have a fiddle around with Hootsuite. I have used this but no-one ever really spoke to me on Twitter so I didn’t really use it… but now… sometimes people do talk to me, ha!

I have just decided to include Twitter accounts in Hootsuite (I have rather a few) as I use the apps on my phone for the others but Twitter, being small snippets, works quite well in the Hootsuite format.

In the past I have found it tough to keep up with all my different social media accounts but I realised I am never going to be able to see everything and if it is that important I will chance upon it sometime. To help combat this problem I set some alerts for certain accounts I was most interested in and so no longer worry. I do find I forget a bit about Twitter when I find other things more interesting and it ends up getting neglected. Now I have realised this I am going to spend more time making connections and links with people.

I think this is the end..! I really enjoyed taking part in Rudai 23 as it has given me a lot to think about and acted as a good springboard for kicking off my chartership…wow, I really need to get on with that!

To those who organised the course – thank you so much for putting it together, it must’ve been mammoth!

 

Rudai 23 – Thing 22 Mobile Things

As my iPad is in my locker and I have had to abandon the library because of disruptive students (!) I will have to try the Gum app out later related to this task. It does look like a very interesting app though, and I can see how students could use it to find out how other people feel about their favourite books. I was slightly concerned about the lack of filtering though in terms of the comments users were able to publish.

An app we frequently use in school is Padlet which allows for real time collaboration through just a blank screen which you are free to do what you want with. Sometimes we pose the students a question such as ‘How many careers can you think of?’ and invite them, via the app or through a browser, to contribute. Students are then able to read the responses of their peers who has also contributed.  I think I will use this app when I am working with students in the reading group to talk about their ideas and opinions of the text. I will also be able to screenshot this information and share it with others.

In regards to using my mobile device for work – well I am supplied with an iPad Mini anyway as our who curriculum is based around the use of creative technologies. There was a call at first to keep the library as a technology free zone but I am beginning to introduce new things in a bid to inspire new users. It can be a bit of a minefield in terms of what you can and can’t do but, on the most part, it is a positive experience.

I was thinking about the idea of Beacon. I used to work at a very busy London public library and I think it would work so well there because of all the different events and activities we held each week. I’d see many users using their phones and tablets in the library and it would be a useful way of pushing out this information. Surely it is only intrusive if you let it be anyway? Perhaps I have misunderstood but I am sure you can disable this feature on your device. I think it would work well all over in bars, restaurants, gyms etc. and I also think it could work well in our school as well for sending out notices to students. Endless possibilities!