Growth of a Librarian

October 9, 2011, 12:55 pm
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I am totally amazed by Prezi, never having seen it before, and preferring the interactive style to traditional slides.  Although I would love to say that I intend it immediately take it up, I have to admit that I have the sinking feeling that any presentation I attempted to desgin would be less than impressive.  I have a very linear mind, and am not sure I’d be able to set up a circular or webbed desgin that actually works.  That may be part of why I found the presentations (especially the first one) linked to the cpd23 blog so very impressive.  Definitely a style I would struggle to achieve.  But I am curious enough to want to try playing around with it.  As part of my dissertation I developed a series of training slides (traditional powerpoint) which I would be curious to see if I could improve with Prezi.  It would be a nice extension of the project to offer an online training format (although for reasons exhaustively discussed in said dissertation, in person training is far preferrable to online training in this case).

As for slideshare, I can immediately see the benefit of making presentations public.  It’s always nice to see what others have done (especially when it has been done well) when attempting to develop a new training or educational session, and I can definitely see myself making use of such a resource in the future.  It seems like a resource that would be quite useful to teachers in developing new lessons too, and I may have to spread the word to some of my education friends!  At the moment I have my dissertation on the brain, however, so I immediately saw the potential application of posting the training developed for that.  Librarians at institutions similar to the one considered in my dissertation have expressed interest in the results of my research, and I always think it is nice to be able to reinforce any training with materials that attendees can look over at home as reminders of the key aspects covered.  The application of slideshare for resumes, meanwhile, while inspiring and quite frankly more fun than writing a traditional paper resume, seems to me to still be a largely niche market.  If I was hiring someone as a consultant of some kind for technical or marketing issues then an online resume would definitely draw me in.  In a more traditional environment I doubt electronic resumes have reached the point of replacing their traditional counterparts, but they would presumably make a nice companion to add a memorable spark.


September 1, 2011, 7:33 pm
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Although advocacy is a hot topic right now in relation to public libraries (and justly so), librarians across all sectors seem to be struggling to justify and maintain the existence of their libraries.  Even the law librarians I have been interviewing from some very well-established libraries have talked about the need to constantly fight to remain open, funded, and retain their space.  That definitely drove home for me the realization of how far the uncertainty about any library’s existence has spread.

It strikes me as deeply unsettling that public librarians are in some cases not supposed to advocate for their own services – surely a librarian has more responsibility than anyone to champion his/her own organization?  If the librarians aren’t visibly out there proving that they think their service is worth saving, why should anyone else?

So far the only library advocacyI’m aware of having taken part in (and I wouldn’t usually even call it advocacy) is simply selling the service to users and potential users.  Reminding tax payers what they can (and should!) get out of the library, from information or entertainment to a pleasant interaction with a librarian, ensures that they view it as a useful service worthy of their tax dollars.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

One of my favorite advocacy efforts is probably banned book week.  It’s great to see school libraries, especially high school libraries, encourage books to teens by pointing out that they can be rebellious, edgy, and frowned upon by adults too!  The public libraries in my area always had displays and stickers and so on for banned book week too, and I definitely saw more people (again often kids) displaying paraphernalia with those slogans than standard-issue.  It just seems like a fun way to ‘sell’ libraries, and is a much milder approach than outright activism, which is a little too extroverted for me to thoroughly enjoy.

Attend, speak, organize
September 1, 2011, 6:55 pm
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My experience with conferences and professional events is extremely limited.  In fact it’s non-existent in terms of the information professional field.  I did attend one conference for teachers, as an undergraduate when I was studying education, and I found it useful and interesting overall.  I didn’t do much networking, although I chatted with a few other attendees over lunch, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of networking at the time.  Some of the speakers were really interesting and informative, while others were . . . less so.  My impression is that this is a fairly standard conference experience – although I’m sure I could have made even more of the experience if I’d known how and put the effort in.

Presenting a paper or otherwise speaking at a conference is certainly something I would be willing to do, although at the moment I’m not too sure what I would talk about, unless somehow the topic of my dissertation would suit the occasion for some reason!  Anyway, I may not be the world’s best public speaker, but I’ve had enough experience in teaching type roles to know how to stand in front of a group and say what needs to be said in a voice that can be heard at the back of the room.

At the moment I’m still interested in a range of topics, so would be interested in attending a wide variety of conferences/events in order to learn more about the field in general.  I would probably give classification and technology related topics a miss though, in favor of more service focused areas.  My dissertation is on information literacy skills training, for example, so obviously that is one field I have an interest in, but it is by no means the only one and at the moment I am still in that stage where I want to learn as much as I can.

August 30, 2011, 12:25 pm
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Although I didn’t have any previous experience with Zotero, Mendeley or Citeulike, I have tried to use EndNote before.  Since I am currently working on my dissertation, and trying to keep track of a seemingly endless amount of citations for articles and books, services like these should be hugely useful.  Notice the ‘should be’?  This is a  sore point with me, because unfortunately upon my first introduction to EndNote in one of my graduate classes, just after I had become totally enthused about it and was already feeling a certain relief as I realized how useful it could be for my dissertation, I was also informed that actually it doesn’t support the citation format that we are required to use for our coursework.  Despite having no less than three adaptations of citation formats specifically labelled with our University’s name, none of them were quite the form we are expected to employ in our department (a modified form of Harvard).  This seemed insane to me, surely as long as we are consistent within our own work it doesn’t matter what reference style we use?  A librarian from the University library even told me this would be the case, but our professors have made it clear that we are to use this particular citation format and no others.  I was used to MLA (Modern Language Association) citation, which I could probably use acurately in my sleep, after using it throughout my final years of high school and four years of undergraduate work.  This crept into my citations in my early graduate course work (it’s still a struggle to keep it out), but even though I was using certain citation rules from MLA consistently, in substitution for Harvard rules that for some reason my brain didn’t like or that I hadn’t been able to track down the appropriate format for, those deviations were always marked as incorrect.  Quite frankly on something as important as my dissertation I’m not willing to trust that internal consistency will suddenly trump the assigned citation style.

The point of all this is that although I thoroughly love the function of citation tools like those covered in Thing 14, unfortunately I can’t make much use of them at present.  After having a brief look at the three options, Mendeley looks like the one I would be most likely to use.  It appears to do everything I want a citation service to do, automatically gleaning the necessary information from electronic materials, automatically inserting citations into documents, and storing citations in an orderly way.  It also seems to be fairly user-friendly, which I appreciate, since there is something indefineable about the look and flow of EndNote that I don’t quite like.  This is definitely a tool worth keeping in mind for future use, even if I can’t use it right now.

Sharing documents
August 16, 2011, 12:08 pm
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This week I am already a big fan of one of the tools under discussion – Google docs.  This service was incredibly useful for group projects while working on my MA.  We were able to upload all our documents to a central location and allow everyone access without having to worry about writing over other people since you can actually see any modifications to a document in real time.  Google docs also automatically saves the newest version of a document, but keeps the older versions in back-up files for awhile so that on the occasions where a group member did somehow erase earlier modifications by another person old versions could still be accessed to fix the problem.

While working on my dissertation I have also used Google docs as a sort of back-up for my own documents, and simply not set them to share with anyone else.  This type of function seems to be what a service like Dropbox is ideal for, as well as allowing access from multiple computers.  I do wish that I had known about Dropbox while I was still taking classes, since I frequently ran into the problem that a file I needed was only saved on my home computer or a computer on campus when I was at the other location.  The problem, however, is that for Dropbox to function it has to be downloaded to the computer, which I would have been unable to do on campus anyway.  Evernote seems to provide a similar service, except it doesn’t function as a sharing platform, but at least it allowed for an entirely online option which for me is more useful.  My first impression is that if I could somehow combine Evernote and Dropbox it would create a tool that I would definitely use, but as they stand at the moment I will continue to use Google docs instead.

As for Wikis, these seem like a whole different type of tool, or at least useful in addressing a different type of problem.  They are more like websites or blogs, and at present I simply can’t see how I have any use for them.  It’s useful to know that they are out there, of course, in case I come across something in my work life that makes them more relevant.  In fact, in saying that, I believe someone mentioned a wiki that has been set up for staff at the library where I am doing my placement, the one where I will shortly be working, and a couple of others.  I will definitely have to check that out, and may have more of an opinion on and use for this particular tool after seeing it in action in the workplace.

Where I am and who helped me get there
August 9, 2011, 10:21 am
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As I have mentioned before, I am currently finishing off a Masters in Information Studies and looking forward to starting work in a law library in about a month.  How I got here is a bit more complicated.  I did my undergraduate degree in Education, but by my last year working on that was already wondering if this was really the field for me.  The program I was on required a Masters in order to be fully qualified to teach, and although I fully intended to complete this step, at the last moment I pulled out and decided not to pursue the degree.  I was living in Australia at the time, decided to stay, and after a series of temp jobs found full-time employment in a library.  I had considered working in libraries before (I have always loved books, reading, and libraries) and had even discussed the profession with an older friend of the family who was a librarian, so when the job opportunity came along I was thrilled to give it a try.  After my first day of work I came home and told my partner: “I found my people!”  It wasn’t long before I knew for sure that libraries were a much better fit for me than high schools.  This first library job may be the best library job I will ever have – I was working for an affluent council in a library where the staff were encouraged to get involved in all aspects of providing the library service, so I got a huge range of experience as well as a solid base in cataloguing.  All the staff I worked with were friendly, helpful, and informative.  Quite honestly I learned as much, if not more, in my year at that library as I did in my Master’s course.

Somewhat unfortunately my parter was unhappy in Australia, I was aware of being very far away from my family at a time when they needed me, and we made the decision to make an international move.  Things did not go as planned in the move, and I ended up at home in the US longer than I had expected.  Once it was clear I would be there for a while I got a part-time job at another public library for six months or so, and although I was doing the most basic entry-level work, it gave me a chance to experience a different style of library.  Once again I had some amazing colleagues who took the time to share their knowledge with me, so that I picked up more information and skills than were strictly in the job description.  The ultimate goal, however, was always to move to England to rejoin my partner and attend ‘library school’.  The same family friend had introduced me to CILIP and the list of accredited schools in the UK, so that I was able to compare from overseas and choose a programme that suited my needs.

Last year I finally made it to England and started my MA, which, as I mentioned in the beginning I am now completing.  Although my dream library job was one attached to a museum, I assumed that I would end up in a public or school library which I knew I would enjoy.  My dissertation happens to be set in a law library, however, (although it focuses on user training, which is why I picked it) and in the end another law library was so taken by this experience that they hired me.  Just one more unexpected twist, but I am looking forward to the new challenge, and know that I can always switch sectors in the future, if it turns out that law libraries are not quite my cup of tea.

Day by day
July 29, 2011, 10:55 am
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Luckily I already have some experience with Google Calendar, I’ve used it to plan trips before!  While I have been living overseas I’ve had the opportunity and responsibility of several trips home and several visits from family and friends in which everyone involved wanted to pack as much as possible into the time available.  My partner, being the brilliant organizer in the household, swiftly creates a Google Calendar for each trip so that we can all add ideas and notes for what to see and do.  By sloting in activities and commitments we’re able to map out a schedule that fits in as much as possible in the time allocated.

Although I’ve not used Google Calendar for work purposes, I can definitely see the appeal, since it is straightforward to use and keeps everyone in the loop.  Several group projects that I was involved in while working on my MA were absolutely saved by Google Docs, which had the similar advantage of allowing everyone in the group to add material and keep up-to-date in a central location.  And I’m a fan of calendars in general, whether they are standard paper ones (I have three!) or electronic ones which I use to chart a particular project (like a trip or currently, my dissertation!), so I’m immediately won over by the combination of a personalize-able calendar with the unique sharing advantages of Google Docs.