Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

I got my 23 Things certificate about a week ago. I really enjoyed the programme and am grateful to the cpd23 team for all their hard work.

On that note, Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Seven books that changed the way I see the world


A while ago I read blog posts by Rachel Bickley and StEvelin on Seven books that changed the way I see the world, originally inspired by Bobbi Newman’s post on the same topic. Now that 23 Things is over, I’ve been thinking about what my own choices would be. It was a tough decision, but I’ve finally come to a conclusion.


The Story of Holly and Ivy – Rumer Godden
I first read this book when I was about five and found it on the bookshelf in my infant school. It made such an impact on me that I tried to track it down on Amazon twenty years later, having still remembered the story after all this time.

The book is about a lonely orphan girl called Holly and how she wishes for a grandmother to love her and a doll of her own. Put on the train to a children’s home one Christmas, she ends up in the little village of Appleton, where Christmas doll Holly waits in the window of the toy shop hoping for a little girl to love. Meanwhile, Mrs. Jones prepares for Christmas, all the time feeling that Christmas is a time for children and wishing that she had a little girl of her own.

This is a lovely story about Christmas, magic and wishing. It strongly influenced my view of Christmas and the sort of books I liked to read afterwards – books with a bit of magic in them, even if it’s implicit.

The Doll in the Garden – Mary Downing Hahn
I came across this book while I was in primary school. Though I absolutely adored reading as a child I wasn’t incredibly adventurous – I read a lot of Enid Blyton for example – but took this book out of my local library as part of the Summer Reading Challenge.

The story is about a young girl called Ashley whose father has recently died. She and her mother move into a house next door to a rather unpleasant old woman, Miss Cooper. While exploring the garden, Ashley and her new friend Kristi find a doll buried in the soil, along with an apology note. Following a ghostly white cat that appears in the garden, Ashley travels back in time to the early 1900s and finds the owner of the doll, a young girl called Louisa, who is seriously ill with consumption. Back in the present day, Ashley and Kristi discover that their neighbour Miss Cooper is the person who stole the doll all those years ago and have to try to persuade her to return the doll to Louisa, hoping that this will help her get better.

This book is excellent in the way it explores grief, jealousy and relationships, dealing with adult themes in a way children can relate to. It made me think about all of these things in a way I hadn’t before, and the memory of it stayed with me all these years. As with The Story of Holly and Ivy, I managed to track down The Doll in the Garden on Amazon recently and enjoyed re-reading it from an adult point of view.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
This one’s probably a bit of a cliché but I first read this book when I was about eleven and really related to the heroine. I really admired Jane and tried to model myself on her. I think she is inspiring in the way she maintains her self-respect and determination even though she is completely alone in the world. I have to admit that I have never expected a Mr Rochester-like figure to turn up and carry me off, although I maintain that Edward Rochester could wipe the floor with Fitzwilliam Darcy.

His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman
I first read this trilogy when I was about fifteen, around the time the final book, The Amber Spyglass, was released, and absolutely loved it. As well as telling a fantastic story, the books tackle important subjects like religion, philosophy, quantum physics and the nature of the soul. One part that made an enormous impression on me was the part towards the end where Will and Lyra end up in the world of the dead. I loved the idea that when you die the most important thing is to have a story to tell – about something you’ve done or something you’ve learned – to show that you’ve lived. This genuinely influenced my outlook on life.

I can also thank The Amber Spyglass in particular for my interest in poetry. At the beginning of each chapter there is a quote from a poem or play and I took great pleasure in tracking down the ones I didn’t recognise, which in turn led me to a greater exploration and understanding of poetry.

Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
I absolutely love Thomas Hardy’s books, even though most people I know can’t stand him. In Jude the Obscure, the title character Jude Fawley faces a number of hardships including being unable to attend university owing to his working-class background, difficult relationships, and other tragedies I won’t go into in case I spoil the story for those who haven’t read it. Jude is my favourite of Hardy’s novels, though it’s also considered his most depressing. I think this is why I like it so much, although I’m not entirely sure if Hardy appeals to me because of my pessimistic nature or whether his books influenced my pessimism. In any case, I sometimes feel like I do have a bit of a fatalistic attitude to life which was probably shaped by his books, especially this one.

The Seagull – Anton Chekhov
The Seagull is a play not a book, but I’m including it anyway – I do actually have the text in book form, though I’ve also seen it performed three times. It is set on a Russian country estate and peopled with a rounded cast of characters. The younger characters have different ambitions and dreams. Konstantin wants to write plays, but his innovative work meets with bafflement. Nina wants to be an actress, but her family is opposed to the idea and she has to sneak out of the house in secret. The older characters have unfulfilled dreams and regrets of their own: Konstantin’s mother Irina is a fading actress, while Trigorin is a writer who is slightly scornful of his own middlebrow novels. Irina’s brother Sorin, meanwhile, spends much of the play lamenting the mistakes he made while young.

Love triangles and emotional undercurrents form the backbone of the play but it was the different reactions of the main characters to tragic events in their lives that really struck me. Konstantin and Nina in particular deal with things very differently and I found their actions and behaviour alternately saddening, inspiring and thought-provoking. I won’t say any more for the sake of those who haven’t read or seen the play, but it made me think about my own attitude to life and how I deal with things.

Antarctic Navigation – Elizabeth Arthur
I wasn’t sure whether to include this book or not, seeing as I only read it a few months ago. However I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I discovered it in a moment of serendipity – it caught my eye while I was browsing the shelves in my local library and I thought it looked interesting.

In short, Antarctic Navigation is about one woman’s mission to visit Antarctica and trek to the South Pole. However it is so much more than that. Covering the first thirty or so years of the heroine Morgan Lamont’s life, it is a kind of Bildungsroman in the tradition of the great Victorian novels. You learn about her childhood, the beginning of her interest in Antarctica, and her obsession with Robert Scott which eventually prompts her to try and recreate his doomed 1912 expedition. The descriptions of the harsh Antarctic landscape are vivid and the history and science of the area are woven into the story in a fascinating way. The story has quite a modern sensibility as it carries the awareness that the continent is under threat due to human activity and the fragility of nature. Antarctica itself also becomes a kind of symbol for the unknown, and the book’s title is a kind of metaphor for exploration both externally and inside of you – this is much more beautifully done in the book than my clumsy explanation suggests.

It’s a sign of a good book when you don’t want it to end and feel bereft when you close it for the last time – particularly when the book is eight hundred pages long. Before reading this novel, I had a passing albeit largely unexplored interest in Antarctica. Now, I have a wishlist of books about the place and really want to learn more.


These books are among my favourites, but I do have other favourite books which I wouldn’t necessarily put on this list. It’s interesting that I read four out of the seven while I was a child – I wonder if you are less likely to have your viewpoint challenged or shaped as an adult. Do we lose the capacity to be strongly influenced by literature as we get older?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Thing 23 - Reflection - What next?

I've finished!



I'm sorry the 23 Things programme has come to an end: I've really enjoyed completing it. I think the best thing about it was being able to engage with other librarians and information professionals. I hope people carry on blogging, and don't give up now that the programme is over!

I completed a SWOT analysis which I found very useful. I've just found out that my job has been extended to next autumn (it was originally due to end in February) which has given me a bit more breathing space as I figure out where to go from here.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Thing 22 – Volunteering to get experience

Volunteering has always been a controversial topic, but my own experience has been very positive. Before deciding on a career in librarianship I completed the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which requires a voluntary placement, and at university I volunteered in the Marketing department of York Theatre Royal. Therefore I already understood how volunteering can develop your skills and allow you to experience areas of work you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to.

When I decided to become a librarian, I worked full-time at my local council for a year and decided to try and get some library experience to support my graduate traineeship applications. I wrote to several libraries in the North East, ending up with a two-week work placement in the library of Beamish Museum, County Durham, and I was able to spend a few hours every other Saturday helping out at Chester-le-Street Library, also in Durham. Through these very different placements, I was able to gain experience cataloguing library and archival materials, conducting research for other members of staff in the museum, and assisting library users. Not only did these experiences confirm that librarianship was the right career path for me, I am certain that they assisted greatly when it came to applying for graduate traineeships, and helped me get the position at St John’s.

The High Street, Beamish Museum, County Durham
Beamish Museum - Thanks to Calotype46 on Flickr for the image

I was able to continue working full-time while undertaking these placements, as I used two weeks of annual leave to spend time at Beamish and my full-time job didn’t involve Saturday work. This was perfect as I certainly couldn’t afford not to work full-time. I suspect many people are in the same position. I did undertake further voluntary placements where time allowed: I spent a week at the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in Newcastle immediately after my graduate traineeship finished, and some time during my MA assisting in the archives of Sheffield Cathedral.

Overall, I think that a certain amount of volunteering is a Good Thing. It proves that you are committed to the profession and gives you a chance to gain experience and develop skills you might not be able to otherwise. However I would hate to see librarianship turn into the preserve of the wealthy or those with the right connections, who can afford to work for months without pay. I agree with Jo that volunteering should be mutually beneficial, and a complement to paid staff rather than a substitute for them. This has been the case in my experience, but with the Government’s calls for volunteers to run libraries, it is likely to become an issue in the future. While volunteering is a great way for potential librarians to develop their experience, if the profession is devalued through the excessive use of volunteers to make up for a lack of paid staff, there won’t be any jobs for these potential librarians to work up to (of course there are many other issues with using volunteers in place of paid staff in libraries, but this is the most relevant to this Thing).

If anyone reading this is thinking about trying to volunteer in libraries to gain experience, I recommend writing to as many libraries as you can. I wrote to lots of libraries in my area; most didn’t reply, and a few replied thanking me for my interest but stating that volunteer opportunities were unfortunately not offered. Only two said yes. Write to the most high-up person you can find: when I was writing to councils I directed my requests to the Head of Libraries where possible. I used both emails and traditional letters depending on the contact details available. I preferred to write a letter, as I feel it creates a good impression when you’ve gone to the effort of typing, printing out and posting a letter. This is just me though – others may prefer email as it shows you are capable of using technology.

Recently I’ve been involved in volunteering of a different kind – I’ve joined the committee of the Career Development Group in London. Hopefully I will be able to develop my skills further and get to know other librarians and information professionals in the process.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Thing 21 – Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview


Part 1: Identifying your strengths; capitalising on your interests
I think identifying your strengths, thinking long and hard about what you like and dislike, and thinking about what skills your interests have developed is a useful exercise and I would like to take some time to do this. I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of posting my thoughts here on a public blog, but I will certainly look into it in my own time.

Part 2: Applying for a job
I’m quite proud that, as a Very Organised Person (or else a person who once had far too much time on her hands), I already have a kind of CV database similar to the one Maria Giovanna describes which list everything I’ve done that could potentially go on a CV or an application form. It’s saved me hours of time over the years, as I can just copy and paste onto an application form. Of course I make changes afterwards, to tailor the form to the job, but this is a lot easier than starting from scratch each time. I also have another document listing contact details for all my referees, which is a lot easier than having to Google your last workplace each time you need to find the telephone number for your old boss.

Part 3: Interviews
I’ve had mixed experiences with interviews. When I was applying for graduate traineeships I was offered the second job I interviewed for, which was a surprise as I’d mentally prepared myself for months of rejection. On the other hand, when I graduated last year it took me six months and seven interviews before I got a job, whereas most of the librarians I know were offered jobs after one or two interviews (even if they found it hard to get those interviews in the first place). I must have been doing something wrong, but I was also confused. During my traineeship I was told that I’d come across as confident and knowledgeable in my interview, and as far as I could work out I was behaving in exactly the same way last year. However, this can’t have been the case: my interview record speaks for itself, and I was actively told by one interviewer in her feedback that I’d come across as very shy.

I was talking about this with a (non-librarian) friend a few weeks ago and she gave me a very useful piece of advice: basically, “It’s not you, it’s them”. She said that she had been interviewed for several jobs and been told by some interviewers that she was too shy and quiet, and by others that she was very confident. It’s all to do with how different people perceive you, and if you don’t fit with what they are looking for, or they don’t ‘get’ you, do you really want to be working for them? It’s probably better to find out earlier rather than later if you and a potential employer aren’t right for each other. This made me feel a bit better about the whole situation.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Dickens Journals Online - the online text correction project


I would like to interrupt my regular 23 Things blogging to talk about something else I’ve been involved in recently. Not long ago I found out about Dickens Journals Online, a project which aims to make Charles Dickens’ journals including Household Words and All the Year Round publicly accessible online. The site is due to be launched in March 2012 as part of the Dickens Bicentenary celebrations. This Guardian article explains more.


In order to make the journals available online, the journal pages have been scanned as image files, and optical character recognition software has been used to convert these pages into text files. However, this software isn’t 100% accurate and paper smudges, tears and unclear text mean that the text files do contain errors.

The team at DJO requested that members of the public offer their help to make these magazines accessible. I can’t remember where I originally heard about the project, but I thought it was a great idea and signed up. You simply select an uncorrected magazine and, using the scanned page as a guide, edit the text file to remove all errors. The work would suit someone with a pedantic nature and an eye for detail, as well as anyone with an interest in the Victorian era.

If it sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can find out more and sign up on the website. You can also follow DJO on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thing 20 – The Library Routes Project


A nice straightforward Thing this time. I’ve already blogged my Library Roots/Routes and added it to the wiki, so I had a look at some of the other entries and came to the conclusion that my route into the profession was fairly typical. I didn’t know I wanted to be a librarian when I was younger, in fact I didn’t know what I wanted to do at all; I studied a humanities degree, panicked when it ended, and ended up choosing librarianship after doing a bit of research and realising it was perfect for me.

I don’t really have any advice as such, but I would like to say that I’m glad I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was younger. Because I didn’t know, I ended up trying out a lot of different things, such as writing for the uni paper, marketing, EFL teaching and general customer service work, not to mention the skills and knowledge I developed during my History degree. I believe that all these skills and experiences have made me a better information professional, and I’ve gained a more rounded outlook than I might have done if I’d gone straight to university to study a BA in Librarianship when I was eighteen.

I’ve taken part in the Library Day in the Life project in the past, and posted the entry on my blog. I couldn’t take part last time as I was on holiday, but would like to next time if I can, particularly as I haven’t taken part yet while in my current job.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Thing 19 – Catch up week on integrating ‘Things’

I can’t believe how quickly 23 Things is going. It only seems two minutes ago that I was reflecting as part of the last catch up week. Inspired by what some other bloggers have done, I would like to choose a Top 5 Things that I think have been, or will be, most useful to me.

Ulsoor Lake reflections
Image courtesy of Swami Stream on Flickr

1.      Thing 9 – Evernote

As I mentioned in my original post, I had tried Evernote previously and hadn’t figured out a way to use it effectively. I’m so glad it was covered in 23 Things because I use it constantly now and wouldn’t be without it. I use it for professional things, such as writing my cpd23 posts and saving a copy of each Thing’s page for future reference. I also use it for personal things: recipes, quick notes, To Do lists, books to read, films to watch, my Christmas list (yes, I know it’s still September!)… I love it!

2.      Thing 18 – Jing / screen capture / podcasts

Many of the tools covered in 23 Things have been useful for my professional life in general, but Thing 18 looks as though it would be incredibly useful for my actual job. In particular, Jing and other forms of screen capture would be so handy for directing students to the right place on the VLE without actually being there in person.

3.      Thing 13 – Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

Though I had used Google Docs before, I feel I am much more aware of what this tool offers in the way of collaboration. I had never used Dropbox at all, but now I make use of it constantly. Looking at Wikis in a bit more detail has given me the confidence to examine them more closely should I need to in the future.

4.      Thing 16 – Advocacy

In the past, the concept of advocacy has sometimes made me a bit nervous. However, this Thing has made me feel more positive about the idea. After the programme has finished I’d like to have a think about how I can advocate for libraries in a way that fits in with my personality and my life.

5.      Thing 2 – Exploring other blogs

I decided when the programme started that I was going to make a real effort to keep up to date with other blogs, rather than just writing my own posts and ignoring what everyone else was doing. By and large I’ve been successful, and I’ve enjoyed the chance to see what other people think.

In addition to the above, 23 Things has helped me to clarify the way I use and feel about some of the tools I already use, such as Twitter, RSS feeds, reflective practice and online networks, which has been useful.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Thing 18 - Jing/screen capture/podcasts

I didn't have any previous experience with screen capture or podcast tools so it was interesting to explore them for this Thing.

1. Jing
 I got very excited trying out Jing because I can see that it would be really useful in my job. We get a lot of requests from users, particularly at this time of year, asking how to access particular documents, and it's often easier to send a screenshot rather than rely on a written explanation (we only deal with queries via email). Normally we make screenshots by using the Print Screen button, pasting the resulting image into Word and cropping it, but Jing would be so much more straightforward to use. I found it simple to download and incredibly easy to use. Here's a screenshot I created showing how to get to the Theatre Royal Haymarket from Piccadilly Circus Station, in preparation for my visit this Thursday to see The Tempest (starring Ralph Fiennes!).

The wonders of Google Maps

I also made a brief video, showing how I used Google to search for the map and find directions, which was also incredibly easy. I can see lots of potential in Jing - videos on our VLE homepage explaining how to access particular things could be really useful.

I can see myself using Jing for personal purposes too. The download sits unobtrusively on my computer and I can get rid of it if I need to.

I also had a quick look at Camtasia and saved the link for future reference.

2. Podcasting
Podcasting also seems like a really useful tool, especially to appeal to those students who prefer to learn through listening. My workplace makes podcasts available on the VLE for students to use but I am not involved in their creation. They are created by the Media department who record the i-Tutorials (used instead of lectures at the college) and convert the sound files from these into podcasts. They are ideal as many students here are part-time or distance learners and podcasts offer a lot of flexibility. I bookmarked the Podwhating? link for future reference in case I ever need to make a podcast.

I don't listen to podcasts myself - I'm a very visual person and much prefer to read or watch something. If I'm only listening to something I tend to forget that it's there and end up concentrating on something else instead (this happens a lot when I'm listening to music too!). However it's important to remember that everyone learns differently and some people will respond well to this kind of learning.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Thing 17 - Prezi and Slideshare


Prezi

I’d heard of Prezi, but I hadn’t explored it for myself, so I was interested to see what it was all about. I watched the presentations suggested in the Thing 17 blog post, and I can see that it could be very useful for presenting ideas in a non-linear fashion. However, I have some reservations. All the zooming in and out and moving around made me feel a bit sick, and I would worry that the bright colours and snazzy graphics of the presentation might overshadow any actual content. Also, just because Prezi looks impressive, it doesn’t mean it is the best medium for all content. Some information might be better presented this way, but some might still work best when displayed in a linear fashion. I won’t abandon PowerPoint just yet.

I had a look around some other cpd23 blogs and saw that several participants have had a go at making their own Prezis. I was particularly impressed by Infopromom's Prezi resume and Annie Johnson's adventures in Dublin. I was temporarily inspired to create my own presentation based on a recent holiday to Iceland, but I actually found Prezi quite difficult to use and didn’t want to spend hours on it for no real purpose. I don’t create presentations as part of my job, so this software isn’t necessary to me just yet. If I ever do need to create a presentation for whatever reason, I might go back to it and give it another try.


Slideshare
 
Again, I’d heard of Slideshare and in the past I’ve used it to view presentations from conferences. I’ll continue to do this as it’s very handy to be able to view these all in one place. I’ve never uploaded anything to Slideshare, and I don’t suppose I will until I am called on to create a presentation for work or some other career-related reason, but it’s good to know I have the option.

I’m not keen on the idea of posting a CV up here. I’d rather stick to the standard Word format in all honesty, and only send it to the people I want to see it – not stick it on Slideshare for all to see!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Thing 16 – Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

As far as advocacy goes, I agree that it’s very important for those in the profession to be able to explain, promote and publicise what they do. It certainly seems to be more common these days, with organisations like Voices for the Library taking the lead, and CILIP demonstrating a more proactive advocacy role than it has in the past.
Library advocacy comes in all forms

I’m glad a distinction has been drawn between advocacy and activism. I’m not an outgoing person, and wouldn’t be comfortable with public speaking and many of the other demands that being an activist makes. I really enjoyed Johanna Anderson’s blog post about the differences between the two, and it made me feel more comfortable with the idea of advocacy. I also gained a lot from Alice Halsey and Simon Barron’s workshop at the New Professionals Conference 2011 about activism for new professionals. It helped me realise that some of the things I do without really thinking about them, such as talking about libraries to friends and family and occasionally linking to library-related content on Facebook, could count as advocacy.

When I was a graduate trainee in Cambridge, the library did a fantastic job of promoting the college’s special collections to outside users, such as schools as part of an outreach programme and the general public as part of Cambridge Open Days. Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert talked about this in more detail as part of their NPC 2011 presentation. In a wider academic context, I would say that academic libraries are under less of an immediate threat than public libraries, but there are still issues with services being cut, and at a time when increased tuition fees mean students will likely expect an even better service without any extra money going to the library. Students may not even be aware of the services academic librarians offer – I know I wasn’t as an undergraduate.

As far as being published is concerned, I have already had an article published in Relay (the journal of the CILIP University, College and Research Group) on digital asset management. This was adapted from a Masters assignment and is largely thanks to the help and encouragement given to me by one of my tutors – it would never have occurred to me to try this by myself. I certainly feel much more comfortable writing than speaking or anything else, so I might try to pursue this further in the future.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Thing 15 – Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events


I don’t have a great deal of experience attending professional events, but I did attend the New Professionals Conference, both this year and last year. I enjoyed these conferences, particularly the most recent one, and came away feeling inspired and enthused. I feel intimidated by the idea of most conferences and events, but not the New Professionals Conference for some reason – I think because everyone’s in the same boat.

If you're nervous about attending an event, I recommend wearing something different or taking an unusual accessory in order to spark conversation. I took my teapot bag to the NPC this year and it worked - I got lots of comments!

I know I've posted this already, but it's so pretty...

I’m not really sure what else to write for this. Generally I would like to go to more events but I need to find the time and / or the money. I don’t actually work in a library at the moment so I’d feel a bit guilty asking for time off that wasn’t annual leave for an event that might not be directly related to my work.

As for speaking at an event, I hugely admire anyone with the courage to do this, but I could never get up in front of a massive audience and speak – the presentations I had to do as part of my MA were bad enough. Organising an event sounds more my thing – it would appeal to my personality and I’d prefer to take on a more ‘behind the scenes’ role. So this is something I might look into further.

Thing 14 - Organising references

Despite a first degree in History and a Masters in Librarianship, I’ve never used any referencing tools to help me with my work. I was introduced to Endnote last year during my MA as part of a computing skills module, but I found it quite difficult to use and never bothered with it further. This was partly because I didn’t have it on my laptop, and since I do almost all my work on there, this wasn’t much use.

When I was writing my Masters dissertation, like Isla, the author of Thing 14, I did all my referencing and compiled my bibliography myself. I didn’t find this too difficult – I’m very pedantic and trust myself to spot mistakes and follow a required style. Therefore I wasn’t sure if I would actually make use of any referencing tools. Also, I have no need of them at the moment. I’ve finished my MA and have no more essays to write. However, I decided to take a quick look at these tools, as they will be handy to know about if I ever get a job in an academic library and need to make students aware of them.

I’ve heard good things about Zotero but the fact that it needed a Firefox plugin put me off. I used to use Firefox but I switched to Chrome recently and didn’t want to go back to using a different browser just for this tool. However, I found out from Stephen Ayre’s blog that a beta version is now available as a standalone package (http://www.zotero.org/support/3.0) so this is reassuring.

I watched the introductory video and I have to say Zotero looks easy to use. I like how it updates over different locations so you can access your references wherever you are. I imagine this would appeal to students who do work on their home computer as well as at university. I also liked the function of adding notes and quotations to individual records. I used to write all my notes on random bits of paper and was then faced with the task of keeping them all in order, but this seems like a much more convenient way.

I watched the introductory video to Mendeley and liked the look of it too. I thought it seemed similar to Zotero in many ways. I’m not sure which one I would use – I think if I am ever in a position to use one of these tools I will investigate them both in a bit more detail before choosing one to download. I definitely want to pick one and stick with it rather than messing about with more than one.

I had a quick look at this and it seems interesting, but I already have a delicious account so don’t think I will bother with this.

I’m actually quite glad I had a look at these tools, as they do look quite useful and I would almost certainly use one of them in the future. Though they aren’t directly related to my life or work at the moment, they may well be in the future and at least I’ve got a bit of a head start.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thing 13 - Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

I was looking forward to this Thing as I’d heard of these tools but hadn’t explored them in any great detail. I’m forever emailing documents to myself so I hoped they would help me simplify the process of working on things from more than one computer. I'm a little late though as I've been spending a few days at home in the lovely North East.

Nice view of the Millennium Bridge, the Sage and the Baltic

Google Docs
I didn’t think I’d ever used Google Docs before, but when I logged in I found some documents there: a copy of my CV, a list of referees and a couple of other Word docs. I was briefly confused until I remembered that I’d uploaded them back in December when I was still looking for a job, so that I had access to them in different places. I prefer to keep Google Docs for professional use, as all my Google accounts are LIS related (I have a separate Hotmail account for personal email, for example) and will try to make more of an effort to store work-related information here, possibly including my Chartership portfolio, when I eventually get around to chartering. I haven’t actually converted any documents to Google Docs yet, and haven’t used the collaborative function either, but it seems easy enough to do and I can see that it might be useful in the future.

Dropbox
I’d heard of Dropbox but had never got around to exploring it properly. I found it easy to set up and straightforward to download, and the presentation was simple to understand. I had the usual problem with not being able to download it on my work computer, but this shouldn’t be a huge issue since I can download any individual item from the web. In any case, I’d probably want to use Google Docs for anything work-related.

Dropbox strikes me as an incredibly useful tool for backing up important files. Unfortunately the 2GB free limit means I couldn’t really store photos on there, although I have an external hard drive on which I can keep these. As a way to back up Word documents and similar it seems great.

Dropbox seems a bit like Evernote in some ways: both can be downloaded to your desktop and backed up on the web, although Dropbox seems more suitable for actual documents while Evernote appears better for web clippings, brief notes and lists. I really like the way that documents are stored on both your computer and the web: it seems much more reliable than straightforward cloud computing, since you can continue working on your documents without an Internet connection. When I’m spending three hours on the London to Newcastle train I don’t want to be unable to access my documents because I’m unwilling to pay for East Coast’s hugely expensive wifi.

I don’t think it’s likely I’ll want to share files or folders from Dropbox with other users, but it’s nice to know the function is there should I want it.

Wikis
Although I’m familiar with Wikipedia and have visited wikis before, I didn’t have any experience of creating or contributing to one. The benefits of Wikis seem many and varied but I just never had the opportunity or the need to manage one.

In order to practice editing a Wiki, I added my contribution to the Library Routes project by linking to my Thing 10 post. This was really simple to do and has given me confidence to explore wikis further should I need to in the future.

Uses in my job?
Although I think all of these things seem really useful, none of them are directly relevant to my current job. At work we have a shared drive and any files to be edited by more than one person are stored there. However, both Google Docs and Dropbox could be useful if I needed to work on a document at home. I will continue to use both of these tools, keeping Google Docs for documents relating to my career and working life, and Dropbox for more personal items. I can’t see that I’ll be using wikis any time in the near future, but I’m glad I now know how to contribute to one and set one up if I do ever need to.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Thing 12 - Putting the social into social media

Oh, we’re halfway there…

*Apologies for gratuitous Bon Jovi picture*

I am definitely a fan of social media, mainly for professional purposes although I use some sites for personal or ‘profersonal’ reasons. I found that my Twitter network started off very small but has grown considerably in the last year, and I’ve learned so much from fellow Tweeters, particularly from the blog posts and articles that are linked to. Twitter is my favourite social network but LinkedIn and forums such as LISNPN also have their part to play. A big advantage of social networking for me is an increased level of confidence when interacting with other professionals. Twitter in particular is an informal, non-intimidating environment and I feel reasonably happy about addressing random remarks to fellow Tweeters, which makes me a bit more confident in real life. However I sometimes feel that active participation in social networking can disadvantage those who don’t want or are unable to take part: perhaps they are too busy, relevant sites are blocked at work, or social networking just isn’t their thing. I don’t think people should feel obliged to use these sites and they shouldn’t be made to feel ‘out of the loop’ because of them. However, personally I have enjoyed using social networking sites and will continue to do so.

23 Things for Professional Development has been really helpful for me to make contact with different people. I’ve added several blogs to my Google Reader and try to make time for them, as well as dipping in and out of the cpd23 blog roll. It’s a perfect example of how social media can be used for professional development purposes.

I genuinely do believe social networking helps to foster a sense of community, and it’s great at enabling professionals to share ideas and items of note. However I think care needs to be taken not to exclude people, whether actively or by perception. I won’t go into details as Rachel Bickley and Lauren Smith have already written blog posts on the existence or otherwise of a ‘new professionals clique’, but I think it’s important that people don’t feel excluded, intentionally or unintentionally.

This week’s task was to add a new contact to a social network. I do make a conscious effort to add new Twitter contacts anyway, so I chose a blog to add to my Google Reader instead, ensuring I’ll always read their posts.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Thing 11 - Mentoring


I was interested to read the Thing 11 post on mentoring as it reminded me of Rachel Bickley’s presentation on establishing dialogues between new and experienced professionals at the New Professionals Conference 2011. Mentoring seems like a more individual, personal way of establishing a line of communication between a newer professional and a more experienced one.

I don’t have any experience of the mentoring process myself. The closest I came was earlier this year when I faced a huge dilemma over whether or not to apply for a particular job. I ended up emailing two of my friends explaining the situation and asking for their advice. Neither of them are librarians, but I’ve known them for a long time, they’re both successful in their own careers and I admire their outlook on life. In the end they both gave really good advice which I didn’t actually end up taking – but their advice was really valuable in the sense that it made me think about my priorities, what I wanted from a job and my life, and generally put things into perspective.

The coolest mentor ever?

I think the idea of having a mentor is a good one: benefiting from the knowledge and experience of someone more senior is helpful on a personal level as well as helping to facilitate the dialogue suggested by Rachel in her presentation. However, I personally wouldn’t know where to find one or where to start looking. I do hope to begin chartership in the next couple of years and since having a mentor is a formal requirement, I should be able to experience the process then.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Can anyone help with a copyright query?

My friend is in a brass band and they would like to promote themselves by posting films of them performing on YouTube. However the band performs a lot of popular and modern songs and some of the band members are worried they might be infringing copyright if they post videos of these.

If anyone can help or advise I'd really appreciate it!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Thing 10 - Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

I always meant to write about how I got into librarianship, and this Thing seems as good a time as any. Like many people, I didn’t want to be a librarian when I was younger. When I was at primary school, I was going to live on a farm with my friend Helen. She was going to be the farmer and I would look after the house. Realistically speaking, though I always wanted to go to university and knew from the age of about eleven that I wanted to study either English or History, I found it impossible to visualise a life after education.

In the end, I studied History at the University of York (2003-2006) which I loved. I briefly considered a few careers while I was there. I dismissed publishing and museum work because they were too competitive. I thought briefly about journalism and even wrote a couple of articles for one of the student newspapers, but didn’t pursue this. I volunteered in the Marketing department of York Theatre Royal and seriously considered a career in arts marketing, until I realised that it would probably require someone with a much more outgoing personality than I actually possessed. Ironically, I’ve now realised that librarianship is a. competitive and b. not ideal for the shy. If I’d known this at the time I would probably never have become a librarian, so it’s just as well I didn’t.

After university I went to St Petersburg, Russia, to teach English. I never had any intention of pursuing a career in teaching – it was simply a means to an end so that I could visit a country that interested me. I also wanted to experience going abroad, which I hadn’t been able to do much of previously – in fact when I got on that plane to Russia it was the first time I’d ever been on a plane in my life!


St Petersburg was lovely but I realised very quickly that teaching wasn’t my thing.
The adult classes weren’t too bad, in fact I came to enjoy them on occasion, but I was completely out of my depth when it came to the younger students. Also, I found having to stand in front of groups of people every day incredibly stressful. I left Russia after three months.


Back home, with no clear plan about the direction my life was supposed to be taking, I started temping and spent my spare time on the Internet looking for inspiration. Somehow I discovered CILIP, then the CATALOG website, and websites about other graduate traineeships. The more I read about librarianship, the more I felt it would suit me and the more I wondered that I’d never thought of it before. Not wanting to rush into anything, I decided not to apply for traineeships straight away, but wait for the next year’s round. I spent the next year working for my local council while volunteering at my local public library at the weekend, undertaking another work placement, and studying for the ECDL in my spare time while applying for every graduate traineeship on the CILIP website.

I ended up in Cambridge, as the Graduate Trainee at St John’s College (2008-2009). I loved the job, and was able to get experience in lots of different areas: reader services, cataloguing and classification, website design and archives and rare books, as well as visits to other libraries and training courses.

I wanted to study the Masters full-time so that I could get it over with. I applied for the MA in Librarianship at Sheffield (2009-2010) and was lucky enough to be accepted with AHRC funding. I really enjoyed the course, learned loads and met some lovely people. The practical experience vs formal qualification debate has been discussed before, but for me, the combination of both was ideal – I got so much out of both my traineeship and my MA and I honestly wouldn’t want to have missed out on either. During my course, I was Chair of the Library and Information Professionals Social Society (which chiefly involved trying to get my coursemates to the pub, with varying degrees of success), worked as a library assistant for a few hours per week and volunteered in Sheffield Cathedral Archives.

After the course, I couldn’t find a job straight away so ended up back home in the North East. I registered with an employment agency and a combination of my experience, qualifications and pure chance got me a temporary role as a Senior Information Assistant at Northumbria University, helping to administer the digital repository. I continued to apply for jobs in London, which is somewhere I’d wanted to live since I was a small child. Eventually I was successful and started working at the College of Law in February, helping to manage the VLE.

I would certainly like to charter at some point in the future, but not straight away. My current job is only a one-year contract, so I’d rather wait until I’m more settled before I get stuck in. Also, I feel that I’ll get more out of it if I wait a couple of years.

In the future, I’d like to work in an academic and/or research library; I would love to work with archives or rare books but I don’t know if this is a realistic option if I want to stay in London, which I certainly do. I’ll see what happens anyway!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thing 9 - Evernote

Dorothy Parker famously said that women and elephants never forget, but this woman certainly DOES forget, and on a regular basis – and that’s where the elephant comes in.

The incomparable Dorothy Parker - photo courtesy of Confetta on Flickr

That’s the idea, anyway. I’ve already had a brief flirtation with Evernote: after hearing good things about it, I downloaded it a few months ago, however I never really used it, and ended up deleting it once I discovered Diigo. Diigo is a bookmarking and note-making service, quite similar to Delicious. It’s very easy and simple to use, and you don’t need to download anything (except the optional Diigolet, a browser bookmarklet, which helps you quickly bookmark web pages and make notes – there is also a toolbar available). This means I can access Diigo from both home and work without having to download anything. I mainly use it for bookmarks, but also brief notes and to-do lists. Evernote does all this too, but it just seemed more complicated, and I never bothered.

I wrote at the beginning of 23 Things that I wanted to give Evernote another chance and investigate it properly. I reactivated my account, downloaded it to my computer and Android phone, and installed the Web Clipper to my Chrome browser. I don’t normally like things cluttering up my browser, but the little elephant doesn’t take up too much space.

I wasn’t permitted to download Evernote for Windows to my work computer, but was able to install the Firefox extension. In any case, it’s easy enough to use the online version and sync it later. For some reason, I was convinced that you couldn’t access it online and had to download it, which is one reason I abandoned it last time, as I thought I wouldn’t be able to use it at work. This will teach me to investigate things properly.

I decided to play around with Evernote by creating a notebook called cpd23. I saved the web page with the Thing 9 post, and was able to add notes and pictures so that I had everything to hand when it came to drafting my own Thing 9 post. I was impressed by how easy it was and how well everything worked, particularly how easy it was to click and drag images from the web to Evernote. This made it easier for me to write my post and is something I can repeat for future Things.


I tried using the Snapshot feature on Evernote for Android to take and upload a picture with my phone. Again this was very easy. I’m going to try out this feature some more this Saturday – I’m off to the Great British Beer Festival at Earl’s Court and will see if I can photograph some particularly appealing beers for future reference.

This time round, I feel like I’m getting the hang of Evernote and think it’s something I’ll continue to use in the future. I will still use Diigo as a bookmarking service – to me, Diigo is better for saving bookmarked web sites, while Evernote seems more suited to saving individual web pages with associated notes. Though I still find Diigo useful for quick notes, Evernote has more functionality and seems better suited to grouping notes of different kinds and bringing things together. As a compulsive list-maker, this is right up my street.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Thing 8 - Google Calendar

It’s somewhat ironic that I’m a week late for the ‘organising yourself’ Things. I had a lovely week in Portugal and have come back, I hope, refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things.

I used to be the sort of person who didn’t write things down, because I could remember them anyway. I’m not that sort of person any longer: whether this is down to my age, or the fact I have more going on these days, I’m not sure, but I certainly need to keep some kind of record of things coming up.

I prefer to keep a written diary, partly because I find that the act of writing something down helps me to remember it. Just after Christmas I bought this pretty Filofax. In all honesty, I tend to use it to keep a record of what I’m seeing at the theatre, rather than anything else.

Birds!

Having said that, I do like to have an electronic version of my calendar, as I don’t want to be carrying my Filofax everywhere I go. I’m familiar with Google Calendar as I have an Android phone which syncs my appointments, which means it’s easy to remind myself when my dentist appointment is or whether I’m going to the theatre on a particular evening.

However, before investigating this Thing, I hadn’t realised that you could get daily weather reports or add other calendars. So thank you for this! I’ve added the 23 Things calendar to my iGoogle page and synced it to my phone, which means I can instantly see what Things are coming up.

I don’t use Google Calendar for anything directly relating to my job, as we use the Groupwise email and calendar client at work and I need to be able to accept and view appointments using this. However, for everything else, I find it incredibly useful.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Thing 7 - Face-to-face Networks and Professional Organisations

So, from online networks to face-to-face organisations. I find face-to-face networking much more difficult to get on with. This is for two main reasons. One is time. Since I moved to London, I’ve been thoroughly indulging my obsession with theatre which takes up several evenings, including tonight which sadly means I’ll miss the cpd23 meet-up in London. Perhaps I’ll regret going to see Dr. Faustus at The Globe if, as is forecast, we get heavy rain.

Shakespeare's Globe - one of my favourite places in the world

The second reason is that I find it very difficult to talk to new people and I get incredibly nervous about going to things, particularly if I don’t know anyone. I enjoyed the New Professionals Conference, but then again I did know several people there already. Soon after I moved to London I forced myself to go to the joint CILIP London/Career Development Group London AGM and actually quite enjoyed myself. I got chatting to a couple of people (by which I mean, they started chatting to me – starting conversations with strangers isn’t my strong point) and one lovely lady even gave me her business card and said I was welcome to get in touch. I kept meaning to email her but it’s been months now and she would probably find it a bit strange if she suddenly got a message from me out of the blue. I won’t deny that the free wine certainly helped me cope with this event...

Necessary for networking? (Photo courtesy of yashima on Flickr)

I am a member of CILIP and have been since I started my graduate traineeship in 2008. Initially, this was largely out of obligation, but in the last year or so my opinion has changed and I feel membership is worth it, partly because of the increasingly visible advocacy work they are doing, and partly because of the networking opportunities such as the aforementioned New Professionals Conference. Not to mention that I want to charter at some point in the future.

When I moved to London I responded to a call from the Career Development Group for new committee members so I am now a member of the London division. I feel a bit of a fraud at the moment as I haven’t really done anything. Due to one thing and another I’ve only been able to attend one meeting and don’t feel I have enough experience to make a proper contribution. Hopefully I’ll be able to change this in the future.

A big issue for me surrounding professional networks is the cost. I’ve just received my CILIP renewal letter and the jump from student membership to full membership is a bit of a shock. This is one reason I’ve no current plans to investigate organisations like the Special Libraries Association even though I’ve heard lots of good things about many of them. Maybe in the future! I very recently discovered, thanks to Twitter, that CILIP membership offers automatic membership of IFLA, which is something I’d like to look into.

As I mentioned in my post for Thing 6, I am already a member of LISNPN but I’m racking my brains to remember if I have actually attended one of their events in person. This is something I should probably rectify.

I quite like the sound of LIKE (doh) but on the date of the next event – which does sound like fun – I will be sunning myself on a Portuguese beach. This may be something to look at when I get back.

So, to summarise, my aims are:
  • Play a more active role in CILIP CDG London
  • Investigate IFLA
  • Attend a LISNPN event
  • Check out LIKE

Plenty to keep me going I think!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Thing 6 - Online Networks

I like online networks, in theory at least. I find them much easier to use than face-to-face ones and they’re definitely more convenient. However, I don’t tend to use them to their full potential. I have a tendency to join something, use it frequently in an initial burst of enthusiasm, then forget all about it. I think the only exception to this is Twitter, which I’ve used continuously since joining. Nevertheless, I definitely understand that networks can help you to become better connected and more knowledgeable if only you make the most of them.

 

Picture courtesy of .mw on Flickr

I’ve gone through each of the networks mentioned in turn:

 

LinkedIn – As Helen says in the cpd23 post for this Thing, LinkedIn results do rise to the top in Google searches – I found this to my surprise during Thing 3 when after searching my name (plus ‘library’) my LinkedIn profile was result number one. Although I joined LinkedIn last year after being prompted by my MA lecturers, added some information and connected with several coursemates, I haven’t used it much. I find it rather intimidating to be honest as it is a much more professional environment than any other online network I’ve come across.

 

I checked out the sample profiles and was impressed as well as being slightly intimidated by everyone’s achievements. I think I need to tidy up my own profile and bring it up to date as I haven’t done much to it since moving to London.

 

I had a look at the How are people using LinkedIn? article and was interested by the comments, particularly the discussion on whether LinkedIn will replace the need for CVs in the future. I would tend to agree with the lady who stated she prefers to adjust her CV for each potential employer and LinkedIn does not allow this function. Personally, though I’m happy to add my basic job history to my profile, I certainly wouldn’t want to keep my entire CV on there. I find the whole CV-writing process incredibly cringeworthy – it’s basically bragging, and the fewer people who see my CV the better as far as I’m concerned. I have serious doubts as to whether LinkedIn will ever get me a job, but I can see its worth as a professional alternative to Facebook.

 

Facebook – I use Facebook purely as a way to connect with friends and old schoolmates, and have my profile locked down, so am reluctant to use it for professional networking. However, I ‘Liked’ the 23 Things for Professional Development page, which should give me something interesting to look at on my news feed besides the constant stream of ultrasound scan pictures and my younger brother’s thoughts on life (he recently bemoaned that he had opened his crisp packet upside down, and therefore the world was about to end. I’m inclined to agree – they just don’t taste the same.).

 

LISNPN – This is a prime example of a network which I joined and then forgot about. I found it very helpful and useful when I was doing my MA but then got out of the habit of checking it. I must change this! It really is friendly and there are some very interesting and relevant discussions on there.

 

Librarians as Teachers network – I had a quick look at this. I don’t currently teach as part of my role, but if I ever get a librarianship role in a university this could come in very handy.

CILIP Communities – although I am a CILIP member I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of the Communities page. I am going to bookmark this and go back to it in the future!

I’ve found this Thing very useful as I’ve had a chance to re-evaluate some networks I already use and be introduced to some new ones. I would definitely like to investigate CILIP Communities further, update my LinkedIn profile and connect with more people, and rekindle my interest in LISNPN.