Thursday, 18 October 2012

CILIP in London Meeting: The TUC Collections at London Metropolitan University

Last Monday I attended another CILIP in London meeting at The Square Wine Bar, Tolmers Square, near Euston. At this meeting there was a talk on The TUC (Trades Union Congress) Collections at London Metropolitan University, given by librarian Chris Coates.

The TUC Library Collections, like the Women’s Library (on which I have blogged previously), are located at London Metropolitan University. Unlike the women’s collection, however, the TUC materials are to remain at London Met thanks to a joint-funding initiative with the Trades Union Congress.

The Library was founded in 1922, uniting collections from the TUC Parliamentary Committee, the Labour Party Information Bureau and the Women’s Trade Union League, which contain materials dating back to 1868. The Collections moved to London Metropolitan University in 1996.

The Trades Union Congress has played a key role in the development of the welfare state, having assisted with the development of public health, education and social services. It established the Labour Party and continues to play an important role in the promotion and maintenance of employees’ legal rights.

The Collections
The TUC Collections offer a major resource for the study of trade unions, work and learning. They contain material in all kinds of forms, including books, pamphlets and periodicals. Among the resources included are the following:

  • Trade union and labour history journals
  • TUC publications
  • Trade union publications (including from overseas)
  • Documents on industrial relations, including strikes such as the 1926 General Strike
  • Items relating to political and labour history
  • Documents relating to other topics such as international affairs and women workers
  • Publications relating to the Labour Party

Archival documents also form part of the collections. The TUC Library contains the Workers’ Educational Association Library and Archive, a valuable resource for the study of adult and continuing education, as well as the papers of Marjorie Nicholson, who worked in the TUC International Department, and Gertrude Tuckwell, who was involved with the Women’s Trade Union League. In addition, the Labour Research Department Archive is located within the Collections and a number of press cuttings are also held. The Library also holds the manuscript of Robert Tressell’s novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Digitisation Programme
In her talk, Chris discussed the Collections’ digitisation programme, aimed at opening up the collections to a wider audience. The programme aims to inspire adult learners, inspiring an interest in social and labour history and encouraging the exploration of resources, as well as improving general IT skills. The scheme also helps to prevent damage to the original valuable archives.

One example of the digitisation programme can be found at, the location of The Union Makes Us Strong: TUC History Online. This site forms an online history of British trade union movement, and contains timelines, essays, video interviews and digitised images and documents, such as the 1888 register of the Match Workers Strike. These resources are valuable for the teaching of union history: they engage students and encourage them to examine and interpret primary sources.

Problems and Difficulties
Chris in her talk discussed some of the problems facing the digitisation programme and the collection as a whole. One key issue is the lack of funding. Any funding is sporadic, so only certain parts of the collection can be catalogued or digitised at any one time. Currently the majority of the collection is only listed on the card catalogue; only new acquisitions since 1999 and records for British trade union publications before 1980 are accessible via the London Met online library catalogue. This means users cannot access the information remotely, and makes it harder to find relevant sources.

Linked to the lack of funding is a lack of staff: only two full-time members of staff work in the Library, along with some occasional project staff when funds allow. There is a mixed level of IT skills, both among the target audience and Library staff, which make the digitisation projects and the maintenance of the website more challenging. Staff also have to compete with the mistaken belief that the library is closing: they have seen visitor numbers drop over the summer, but in fact the Library is well and truly open!

I really enjoyed this talk and I'm glad I attended. I'd never heard of the TUC Collections before finding out about this event, and I feel as though I've learned a lot.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Adobe Connect Training Session

Last week I took part in my first online training session. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. I’m not a natural when it comes to speaking in front of an audience, and though I had experience of face-to-face teaching and training before, I had no formal experience of delivering training online. Luckily I had experience of using an online lecture tool at Sheffield, so at least I had some idea of what to expect.

At work I help to manage the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): we use the Blackboard system. My workplace has eight different sites across the country, including – for example – York, Bristol and two in London. When students access the VLE they get access to a tab specific to the centre they are studying at, which contains information like student events, staff details and opening hours for their centre.

In the last few months I’ve been involved in a project to standardise the information contained on these centre tabs, so that the headings are the same for all centres and different kinds of information can be found in the same place for each centre. Subsequently we have handed back editing responsibilities to members of staff (usually Student Services or Careers) at each Centre, but since we have also upgraded to a new version of Blackboard during this period, they and we felt that training was necessary. We also wanted to ensure that the information policy and guidelines were followed as it would be a shame to standardise the tabs only to find a few months down the line that everything had been moved around again.

Because of the need to train several people, all in different locations across the country, it was thought it would be easier, cheaper and less time-consuming to run the training online. In addition, three different members of staff were delivering different aspects of the training, all of whom work in different locations. It was much simpler to use an online system rather than try and arrange for all of us to be in the same location.

The training was to be formed of three parts. The Head of Libraries and Information would begin by discussing the information policy, the marketing manager would advise on branding guidelines, and I would conclude by explaining how to actually make the changes on the system.

Adobe Connect Pro
To deliver the training we used Adobe Connect Pro, a ‘virtual meeting room’. My manager organised and facilitated the meeting, and she collated the PowerPoint slides created by all the presenters and uploaded them to the system. The system is easy to access: participants simply need to click on the weblink included in the emailed meeting invitation in order to access the space.

Screenshot of the 'meeting room' page

Presenters speak to the group using microphones, while participants can ask questions using a ‘chat’ box on the bottom right hand side of the screen. There are a number of useful icons that participants can use, including ‘raise hands’, ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’, ‘laugh’ and ‘applaud’. In general the participants in this meeting didn’t use many of these, not being used to the programme, but were able to act on instruction when my manager requested that they click the ‘raise hands’ icon to confirm they could hear.

It was decided that the presentation would be recorded and loaded onto the VLE for future reference.

How did I prepare?
Luckily I am familiar with PowerPoint, and it didn’t take me too long to prepare some slides along with some notes to ensure I said everything I wanted to. I made sure to read through these thoroughly beforehand, and ensured that I rehearsed my delivery.

I received some training on Adobe Connect Pro from my manager before the meeting. I thought it seemed relatively simple to use, but took some time to have a look around the system and familiarise myself with it.

The meeting was due to take place at 2pm, after I had a morning off work: perhaps this wasn’t ideal, but I actually felt that it gave me time to practise at home and was ‘fresh’ when I arrived into work. I normally get a bit of an afternoon slump so perhaps this was just as well!

How did it go?
As I said, I was very nervous about the meeting. I work in an open plan office and felt rather self-conscious at the thought of delivering a presentation within earshot of everyone. In the end I managed okay as once I got into the meeting I almost forgot about my surroundings. Also, it helped that the two other presenters were delivering their parts of the session first, so I had time to take a few deep breaths and familiarise myself with the situation. I was a bit nervous about presenting alongside one colleague I hardly know and another I have never met in person, but this wasn’t a problem either.

In general I thought the session went pretty well: I got across all the points I wanted to and found the software relatively straightforward to use. Informal feedback suggested that the participants found the session useful. I was pleased with the question-and-answer session, which I had been dreading: I hate being put on the spot, but I found that I was able to answer all of the questions asked at some level.

I feel generally positive about the session. I found to my surprise that I felt more comfortable with this kind of training than I do with presenting face-to-face: I hate using the telephone and thought that using a headset and speaking into a microphone would provoke the same sort of reaction in me. I liked having the screen in front of me as it gave me something to focus on, and I didn’t need to worry about having to make eye contact or speak at a loud volume as the microphone picked up my voice. I was also happy about the question-and-answer session at the end. It seems that if you know your topic well you shouldn’t have too much trouble with answering questions about it: on some level I knew this already but it helps that I have been able to put it into practice.

I think there were some things that I could have improved upon. My manager kindly offered to hear my presentation before the session, but I didn’t take her up on this. I would have felt more self-conscious presenting to just one person, even though it was a practice run, but perhaps I should have given it a go. I also feel that I would have had time to create better PowerPoint slides if I’d had more time – the slides I had weren’t bad, but I had a long weekend off work before the presentation and only had a limited amount of time to work on them. Still, I think it is a good thing that I am able to work under pressure.

As this was my first time using Adobe Connect Pro, I think I still need to get the hang of some of the tools. For instance, other participants can’t see your mouse pointer, you need to click on the arrow icon and drag it around the screen so that they can see what you are focusing on, but there were a few moments when I forgot this and had to quickly go back and drag the pointer over. I imagine this will improve with practice, however.

Next steps
I would like to learn more about Adobe Connect Pro and online training. I’d like to explore the program and make more use of the tools available, as I’m sure it has even more to offer. It would be good experience to lead a session rather than just be one presenter: perhaps this is something I could do in the future.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Visit to Lambeth Palace Library

After I'd finished studying the Librarianship MA at Sheffield, I ended up working in London at a law college - as did three other people from the course. Someone else from the course got a job in Lambeth Palace Library and was kind enough to organise for us to visit (in two separate groups, so that there would be someone left in the office!).

Lambeth Palace Library is in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, and has been described as the earliest public library in England. This is slightly misleading, however, as although anyone who wishes to can consult the collections - there is no need to be a member of a university, for instance - you can't just walk in off the street, you have to provide ID.

The Library holds over 120,000 books, as well as periodicals and pamphlets, mainly relating to the history of the Church of England. There are archival collections too - the records of the various Archbishops of Canterbury over the years are collected here. Collections are held in different storage rooms throughout the Library, and many archives are stored in the Tower, which also contains the in-house conservation department.

Emma and her colleague showed us over the Library, and kindly got some special items out to show us. These included a miniature Bible, an early printed book and a manuscript record. The special collections holdings at the Palace are amazing and I was rather jealous of the librarians who got to work with them! As well as the rooms in which the Library holdings are stored, we also got to see the Reading Room, in which Library users can work. There are over 2000 research visits each year from people wanting to make use of the collections.

Finally, we were shown the beautiful garden, complete with swing. I was really impressed by the Library and amazed by the incredible collections available here.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Career Development Group London & South East: Summer Social in Brighton

Last Wednesday I had the day off work to attend the CDG London & South East Summer Social in Brighton for the first time. Having never been to Brighton since my childhood, I was quite excited about it, despite the fact it was raining – luckily the rain stopped later in the day.

First of all there was the committee meeting to get through – this was dealt with in about an hour, and we then visited Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. This place was amazing: it had Egyptian artefacts, local history, furniture from the last 100 years or so, and a collection of rather bizarre pottery. We even had a quiz courtesy of Emma Illingworth, but I think I got a little overexcited and most of my answers were illegible. Oh well.

Afterwards we sat outside with a drink – the rain had cleared up by this time – and chatted about library and non-library things until it was time to catch the train.

Altogether a lovely day and I hope to join more socials in the future!

Library cards on display in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

CILIP Career Development Group National Conference 2012: Together We Are Stronger

Last month I attended the CILIP Career Development Group National Conference in Birmingham, held on 18th July at Austin Court. It’s taken me this long to get around to blogging about it – one of the reasons being that I was slightly underwhelmed by the experience. On reflection, I enjoyed the day, and feel I did get something out of it – but at the time I felt as though there was something missing.

I’ve attended the last two New Professionals conferences and in both cases came away feeling excited and inspired. This year, there was one conference for both new and established professionals. This was a good idea in theory – bringing together professionals at different stages of their careers – but I’m not sure it was marketed very well. There were comparatively few people there and the event lacked the buzz I experienced at previous events. I wasn’t alone as several people I spoke to felt the same.

Throughout the day a choice of two sessions were offered for most of the time, with a couple of exceptions, including the keynote address. The venue was lovely and the food was amazing (got to get my priorities right!): I loved the pastries for breakfast and there was a great range of vegetarian food at the lunchtime buffet.

The keynote address, Developing our community of practice: learning together for a stronger profession, was delivered by Liz Jolly. Liz was an engaging speaker and talked about developing a community of practice and the importance of learning together. She spoke about how we define what a profession is: via regulation, a code of ethics, a framework of qualifications and the existence of a professional community. Liz emphasised the importance of the professional body and suggested that if you don’t like something, it’s best to get involved and try to change it from the inside. Appropriate to this conference, she also talked about the different qualities that new and experienced professionals bring to the profession and how they can work together to create a ‘bi-directional knowledge flow”.

After the keynote address it was time for the parallel sessions on the theme of Sharing Knowledge and Experience. I chose to attend Karen Davies’ talk on Producing the evidence for effective evidence-based librarianship. She discussed the difficulties of applied research in a LIS context when qualitative research is more common and there is no right or wrong answer. She also gave research tips such as the importance of deciding what you need before you start and choosing your question carefully, as well as the necessity of critically evaluating your evidence and reviewing your outcomes. As a comparatively recent graduate I was familiar with most of the concepts she discussed but it was useful to have them reinforced and it made me wonder whether I’d be interested in undertaking research in the future.

I understand that parallel sessions on the theme of Wider Professional Outlook were planned, but one of the speakers dropped out so everyone attended Patricia Lacey and Emma Gibbs’ presentation on Developing your own skills network. They talked about a collaborative group set up to allow information professionals to learn from their peers and gain new skills. Participants have been able to engage in knowledge sharing, job shadowing and mentoring and gain benefits such as new skills to add to their CVs. Patricia and Emma gave tips such as the importance of planning and using diferent methods, such as email, to communicate in between face-to-face meetings and the importance of using feedback. The next theme of the day was Collaboration & Partnership and I attended Creating collaborative CPD opportunities delivered by Suzanne Tatham and Joseph Norwood. They spoke about their experience in a sub-branch of CILIP in Sussex, organising events such as a Brighton Library TeachMeet.

After lunch, Michael Martin from CILIP spoke on the Future Skills Project and discussed the new inclusive qualification framework. I had heard a bit about this but still found it interesting as it is highly relevant for me and for the profession as a whole. I was pleased to see that CILIP have taken on board feedback and the generic skills section is smaller than it was. Different skill areas are coloured differently on the wheel too which makes it easier to use. The new framework is due to be launched in September at the AGM.

Out of the two workshops on offer, I chose to attend the one on Career paths and networking led by Jeremy Clarke from Sue Hill Recruitment. The key concept I took away was the idea of finding security in your employability, rather than your employer. Jeremy made some useful suggestions including researching emerging skill requirements and recording, reflecting on and evaluating everything. He argued that to maintain enthusiasm and energy it is best to start the process when you are feeling particularly enthused, such as just after a really useful event.

Continuing the theme of Collaboration & Partnership, I attended Cross-sectoral staff development with CLIC by Kristine Chapman and Karen Pierce. CLIC stands for ‘Cardiff Libraries in Cooperation’ and it is run for all staff working in libraries in Cardiff. It runs mostly free, inclusive events including networking and 23 Things meetups. Finally, I attended Rebecca Dorsett’s presentation, Shelving together: collaborative working throughout different library environments, which had probably the best opening picture of the entire conference. Rebecca has worked in several different library sectors and in her talk she illustrated ways in which lessons could be learnt from one sector and applied to another: for example literacy schemes used in prison libraries could work in public libraries too, and work undertaken by many rare books and special collections staff to promote their collections and embark on digitisation projects could also be used in other libraries. Rebecca’s presentation was probably my favourite of the whole day: her enthusiasm really came across and I found what she had to say really interesting.

I do wish I'd written this earlier, as my memory is a bit hazy, and though I made notes, my handwriting is so dreadful that I had some difficulty deciphering them. Having said that, I do recall that generally, although my experience didn't compare to the previous New Professionals conferences I've attended, I did take away some useful points. All in all it was a worthwhile day and I enjoyed meeting up with old friends and people I’d previously only known on Twitter. I also spoke to a few new people, which I was pleased about. One thing at least hadn't changed from previous years: I was one of the last people in the pub at the end.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

CILIP in London Meeting: The Women's Library

Last week, I went to a CILIP in London meeting to hear a talk about the Women’s Library, held in The Square wine bar near Euston. The talk was given by Dianne Shepherd, Information Librarian.

I’d heard of the Women’s Library but had never visited or found out any more about it, so I thought the talk would be an interesting experience. The collection has been designated by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as being of outstanding national and international importance, and documents women's lives through the ages, from education, health and family through to suffrage and the feminist movement. The collection is primarily concerned with Britain, but contains some international material as well.

History of the Library
Dianne began by discussing the history of the Women's Library. It was founded in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women's Service, growing out of the women's suffrage movement. Initially it was a subscription library and it's collections came largely from donations. It was renamed the Fawcett Library in 1953 in honour of Millicent Fawcett, leader of the London women's suffrage organisation.

In 1977 the Library moved to City Polytechnic, now part of London Metropolitan University. It moved into a new purpose-built building in 2002 thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, giving it a visibility and a distinctive brand that it previously lacked.

The nature of the collection
Dianne explained that the collection was varied and consisted of a number of different types of items: books from as early as the sixteenth century, newspaper cuttings, personal archives from the nineteenth century onwards, and a museum collection of objects from the eighteenth century onwards. More recently, materials have included audiovisual items. The materials are interdisciplinary in nature and can be accessed by anyone – the general public as well as academic researchers.

One of the most intriguing items in the collection, according to a booklet passed around by Dianne during the talk, is woman's suffrage activist Emily Davison's return ticket to the Epsom Derby, which raises the question of whether her death under the King's horse was suicide or a tragic accident. Why buy a return ticket unless you intend to come back?

The importance of professional staffing
Dianne explained that when the new building first opened, five readers in one day seemed like a lot. Now, that would be a quiet day: there were 4161 visits and over 14,000 enquiries during 2011. A professional programme of outreach and development has helped to widen access to the collections, while curated exhibitions display older, more fragile material not generally accessible to readers. The existence of the professionally-staffed Library has allowed a reading room service to be offered to users and enabled more collections to be made accessible. The Library does make use of volunteers, and Dianne acknowledged the valuable contribution that they make: but emphasised that they are not intended to replace professional staff, rather they concentrate on more routine tasks that Library staff do not have the time to undertake.

The Library still relies heavily on donations, but a formal acquisitions policy is in place and team meetings discuss proposed donations and the most appropriate place for them - the library, archive or museum collection.

The Library under threat
A few months ago, London Metropolitan University, currently responsible for the Library, stated that it was seeking a new custodian. This is partly for financial reasons and partly because the Library no longer aligns with the aims of the University. I found this part of Dianne's talk, touching on the bids under way and maintaining morale in the face of the TUPE process, interesting as my workplace is currently going through that same process (although in a far less stressful, for me, context). A decision is due in the autumn and it is hoped that a suitable custodian will be found: after all the work of the past decade it would be such a shame if it was all for nothing.

I found the talk extremely interesting and learnt a lot about a library of which I had known little. I left convinced that the Women's Library is a hugely valuable resource which should be maintained for all users. I hope it succeeds in finding a suitable custodian and I hope to pay it a visit soon. Its predicament raises worrying issues about the priorities of universities in these financially challenging times, and I'm sure this won't be the last collection to come under threat.

On another note, I really enjoyed chatting to people before and after the meeting, and was very impressed with the food! This was the first CILIP in London meeting I'd attended, and I hope to go to another soon.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Visit to Latymer Upper School

Recently I helped to organise a CDG London & SE trip to a school library: Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, west London. Though school librarianship has never appealed to me – mainly because children and teenagers scare me – I thought it would be interesting to find out more about how a school library works.

The library is only a year or two old and occupies a new building in the school. In some ways it reminded me of a public library, particularly a modern refurbished one: it is large and airy, with bookshelves around the walls, an enquiry desk in the centre, and tables – most of which have computers – dotted around the room. In one corner there are some comfortable sofas next to huge windows which let in lots of light. Like most public libraries, it shelves fiction A-Z by author and uses Dewey to classify non-fiction. The school caters for over a thousand pupils aged 11-18, with around 350 in the sixth form, so the library has to meet the needs of a variety of students. The library is staffed by two professional librarians and two library assistants. Students aren’t allowed to take their bags into the library with them, but have to leave them on specially designed shelves.

The library plays a key role in the life of the school. It is used before and after school (it is open from 8 to 6) by the students for study and reading, and during the school day primarily by sixth-formers who have free periods. Break and lunch times are exceptionally busy. The library is just one of the spaces available to students - others include the group study room and common room - the library offers a quieter, more studious atmosphere and silence is enforced, unlike in other common areas. English lessons are timetabled to take place in the library every fortnight and students are able to choose a book they are interested in and read quietly on the sofas (which are very comfortable!). Teachers are encouraged to get involved with the library, for example by checking the collection of books on their subject. The library catalogue, Oliver, has a clever feature which allows staff to provide subject reading lists which students can use.

Some enthusiastic teachers have provided lists of recommended fiction: there was also a Carnegie shadowing scheme which took place in the run up to the award, with participants reading and discussing nominated books.

The day ended with tea and biscuits kindly provided by staff, and gave us a chance to look over some of the books taken off the shelves during weeding. A few of these have been kept behind the desk, purely for their amusement value. I particularly liked the early 90s volume about the dangers of heroin abuse!

I found the visit really interesting and enjoyed learning about the different services offered by the library. It really brought home to me how valuable a library with committed, qualified staff is to a school and it makes me sad that a service like this isn’t open to all young people. School libraries are not statutory but they clearly provide such a huge benefit.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Preserving a culture: scripts, digitisation and librarianship from Inner Mongolia

Last week I attended the International Library and Information Group (ILIG) Informal at CILIP headquarters, which took the form of a talk entitled Preserving a culture: scripts, digitisation and librarianship from Inner Mongolia. I’m not a member of ILIG and had never been to one of their events before, but this really appealed to me as it sounded so fascinating.

Professor Delger Borjigin, a Visiting Scholar at the Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia at SOAS, spoke on the history of Mongolia and the languages and scripts used by the Mongolian people, from the beginning of the Great Mongol Empire formed by Chinggis (‘Genghis’) Khan in 1206. He discussed the various scripts invented and used by scholars through the centuries, including phonetic scripts, classic Mongolian, and the Cyrillic script (still in use in Mongolia; the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region uses classic Mongolian script). His presentation was illustrated with several examples of written Mongolian script. As a history graduate, I enjoyed this part of his talk in its own right, but its purpose was to demonstrate how important the development of language and writing is in the study of Mongolian history and culture.

Professor Borjigin then spoke about the projects he has been involved in as Director of the Catalogue Database of Mongolian Books (in classical Mongolian), and the Digitizing Program of Mongolian Documents, at the Library of Inner Mongolia University. IMU joined the Million Project of the China-America Digital Academic Library (CADAC) in 2003 and has been digitising the ancient books of Mongolia and the modern books of China.

Staff on the project faced difficulties not generally faced by staff in Britain. Many older Mongolian books were produced on long scrolls: rather than scan sections separately like the pages of a typical Western book, the library imported a scanner from Japan which allowed them to scan the whole thing at once. Other books are produced differently from Western-style books with spines: some older books come in Sanskrit style sutra bindings which are folios of unbounded sheets. The catalogue and full text databases have been completed and the plan is to have digitised two thirds of the Mongolian ancient books of IMU within the next three years.

I was also interested to hear about the collaboration between the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Mongolia, in response to a question from a member of the audience. Professionals exchange visits each year to discuss ideas and share expertise: this works well as Inner Mongolia has greater knowledge of classic Mongolian script while Outer Mongolia has stronger expertise in Cyrillic script. Collaboration and co-operation are big in the UK so it was interesting to find that they are popular the world over.

Altogether I really enjoyed the evening and found it really fascinating, not only from a librarianship point of view but from a historical and cultural viewpoint as well.

Monday, 30 April 2012

CDG London and South East AGM and CILIP Future Skills Project

Last Tuesday (24th April) was the AGM for the Career Development Group, London and South East Division. It was held in the Weston Room of the Maughan Library, King’s College London – an absolutely beautiful room, a great setting for the meeting! I managed to chat to quite a few people too which was really nice.

After the usual business of the AGM was done and dusted we had a talk from Bethan Ruddock on the CILIP Future Skills Project. I found this really interesting as I hadn’t known a great deal about the project before. It is being implemented in order to recognise the varied skills of the library and information profession and establish a body of professional knowledge that is fit for purpose.

There is a diverse range of people involved in the project, including both CILIP and non-CILIP staff. Part one of the project has already been completed: this involved finding out what members actually wanted in a body of professional knowledge. The idea that it should be fit for purpose came up high on the list, as did the importance of the BPK meeting the needs of members. The BPK should be clear, relevant and comprehensive, be professional and clearly define relevant skills.

With that in mind, part two of the programme – the consultation – began. The draft Body of Professional Knowledge has been presented in the form of a wheel, which I found interesting. I liked that a section had been left with a question mark, indicating that the consultation isn’t yet complete, and is still open to suggestions.

The Future Skills Project will look at reviewing the qualifications framework, as well as looking at continuing professional development. There is a suggestion that CPD might become compulsory. Depending on how this is implemented I think this could be a good idea.

Bethan emphasised that the importance of reflecting and continuing professional development would remain. I was interested in what she had to say about Chartership as it is likely I will want to register within the next few years. It appears that either chartering now under the old system, or waiting and chartering under the new, will both be fine although any changes will take a few years to implement. Personally I am not in a hurry to charter so I think I will hang on and see what the changes will be. It might be the case that chartering would require the individual to set personal targets to improve within a particular range of skills. In terms of personal development this sounds brilliant, but it might cause problems for employers who would prefer Chartership to indicate a defined standard.

There were some interesting points raised during the question-and-answer session after the talk. In an attempt to involve those librarians and information professionals who aren’t CILIP members, those involved in the project will be talking to other organisations such as the SLA (Special Libraries Association). They will also be having discussions with employers to find out what they want and expect from LIS professionals. Another issue raised was that around half of the skills in the draft BPK were general transferable skills, such as communication and teamwork. Might someone look at the list and think “I have half the skills on that list – I could work in a library”? Personally, I’m not sure about this: all careers need generic skills as well as specialist ones, and I personally wouldn’t think that I could do any job just because I have those general skills. Having said that, I can understand this concern in the current climate and the very real issue of librarians being replaced by volunteers.

I found the talk really interesting, and I feel I know a bit more about the Future Skills project and what it’s trying to achieve. Thanks to Bethan for coming along and explaining it.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

World Book Night 2012

World Book Night 2012 took place yesterday, 23rd April: the supposed birth and death date of Shakespeare, and the death date of Spanish novelist Cervantes. After hearing about last year’s celebrations, I decided I wanted to be involved this year and signed up to be a book giver.

Book givers are sent twenty-four copies of a book, chosen from a list of popular titles, and give them away to others on World Book Night. I was lucky enough to get my first choice, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The idea is to get people reading and encourage them to discover new authors. I have always loved reading and was really excited about the chance to introduce new people to a book they have never read.

Why Rebecca?
I chose Rebecca, firstly because it was my favourite novel from the list: a hard decision, since other choices included Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. However I ultimately decided that I loved Rebecca the most. I also hoped to assist with changing the perception of Daphne du Maurier. Though she’s a popular and acclaimed author, I don’t feel that she’s given enough credit as an author of ‘proper literature’. She is often labelled as a romance novelist but there is so much more to her work.

Giving my books away
I thought of a few different ways I might give away my books, but ultimately decided to hand them out at my local London Underground station. Unimaginative it might be, but I knew I’d be sure of catching a lot of people, and I thought I might attract some non-readers. I headed off with my (rather heavy) bag of books and stood by the entrance to the tube, attempting to attract bleary-eyed commuters with my free books.

I managed to get rid of all my books in about five minutes. I attracted tons of suspicious looks – I find Londoners are generally distrustful of anything free, particularly on a Monday morning when brain function hasn’t kicked in properly. As a regular commuter myself, I can sympathise with this feeling! Many people walked by in a world of their own, but others made a beeline for me when they saw me waving my copies of Rebecca around.

I think I could have planned my giveaway better in all honesty – perhaps I could have printed out some bookmarks or got hold of a poster (though I don’t know how TfL staff would feel about that!) to better explain what was happening. Of course, those who picked up a copy of the book would have read the back and understood what World Book Night was but I bet many of the people who walked past me were wondering what on earth that crazy girl was doing giving out books. They probably thought I was distributing some bizarre religious tract. One man actually asked me if I had written it myself – he thought I was trying to flog my own book. In a way this was rather funny (why yes, I wrote Rebecca myself, certainly) but it does show that it wasn’t immediately obvious what was going on!

One thing I was pleased about was that at least half of the copies went to men. Maybe this is because men are more confident about picking up free stuff, but in any case I hope that these men read and enjoy Rebecca, proving that du Maurier isn’t just for women.

Overall I really enjoyed the experience and I hope I managed to brighten up the first day of the week for a few people. I certainly did this for myself – I can’t remember ever feeling that good on a Monday morning before! I definitely want to sign up to be a giver next year.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Blackboard Training

At work, my job involves helping to manage the Virtual Learning Environment, for which we use the Blackboard system. We are upgrading Blackboard this year and had a week-long training programme to get us up to speed on the new system. I’ve never done anything like this in a role before, so I thought I would reflect on the training in order to work out what I got out of it (beyond knowledge of the new system itself).

  • The first thing I would say was that just having the training was itself really important. Before that week I was tasked with going through the new system, having a look at what had changed, what had stayed the same, any new features and so on. I developed a familiarity with the system that definitely helped when we had the training, but even so, the training was absolutely essential as lots of things were pointed out that I had completely missed.
  • The second thing would probably apply to any training: I made minimal notes, preferring to watch as the trainer explained things and then try them out for myself. If I’d made too many notes I wouldn’t have concentrated on what he was telling us.
  • The training involved a lot of practical work which was very useful as it gave us practice in doing the things we would need to do on the new system (which we already did on the old).
  • There was a lot of discussion in the training which was really useful. We discussed problems and solutions and ways in which the new system features could help us. The discussions are ongoing and there is lots to think about, but it was really handy to have that space just to think about the implications of the changes.
  • Finally, biscuits always help! Our trainer was Dutch and brought us some caramel waffles (stroopwafels!) which were delicious and definitely helped the training along!