Monday 16 July 2012

Thing 12

Putting the social into social media is this week's Thing and initially I wondered why we were repeating ourselves, having done online networks in Thing 5, but when I read the post on, I understood that this was more about putting our use of social media into practice and having a bit of time to reflect on how we use it, i.e. how we interact with social media, rather than just pushing information out.

This has really made me think about a Twitter account I set up just last Friday strangely enough.  Since becoming Assistant Head of Sixth Form last September, I have been considering ways in which we could improve interaction and levels of communication with the sixth formers; assemblies, messages via tutors and a message board in their common room only communicate so far.  The college uses My Big Campus as are our main VLE type resource, but after speaking to students about a sixth form specific area (including the sixth form council), I discovered that this was not something they wished to use and would prefer a more immediate form of communication such as Twitter or Facebook.  As I love Twitter and use it daily, hourly etc for my own PLN, I decided to set up a Twitter account for sixth form.

Having decided to follow users such as @UCAS_Online, @BBC Breaking News and @Apprenticeships, I initially saw it as a way of pushing information out to students; informing them of assemblies, trips, specific events such as UCAS registration etc as well as retweeting information from UCAs, National Apprenticeship Service and BBC News.  However the thought has now struck me how Twitter may also be used by the students to interact with me in return; when we want to gauge student opinion, telling us when they are going to be late, if they are ill, sharing of good news e.g. places at university, new jobs etc. If this happens, then it can only be a positive thing for the relationship between sixth form staff and students; more of a celebratory and moving forward than simply another means by which to nag them.  Social media really becoming social.

Friday 13 July 2012


Saturday 7th July 2012 saw the first ever Libcamp in the southwest; our very own little sister to the national Libcamp.  It was a wet and windy day (when isn't it?) and unfortunately some attendees were unable to come, being stuck in Honiton.  Fortunately there were only a few minor delays on the line from Cornwall so I arrived at the Xfi building at Exeter University with time to get my Ipad connected to their wifi and to ogle the amazing array of cakes which was steadily growing!

I had my first moment of panic when Claire (one of the organizers) announced that we were to each introduce ourselves to everybody else (first panic - speaking in front of people), then handed over the microphone (second panic.....).  Once all 40 odd librarians (and one non-librarian) had introduced themselves, it was time for pitching workshops.  I had already pitched an idea on the wiki,, but panic number 3 set in just as I bravely took the microphone again and nervously suggested that it would be good to talk about how libraries and librarians were using mobile devices - Ipads, tablets, smartphones etc.  That moment of pressure over, I then had the rest of the day to worry as to whether anybody would turn up to my proposed workshop as it was placed near the end of the day. 

Just for anybody who might be wondering why this didn't sound like a normal conference, let me show you what it was all about ....(from

"Library Camp SW will run as an “unconference” where participants decide on the programme at the beginning of the event, working on the principle that the sum of the knowledge, experience and expertise of the people in the room is likely to be greater than that of those on the stage at traditional conferences.

The idea is based on “Open Space Technology” (Harrison Owen) which has four main principles and one law:-

1. Whoever comes is the right people
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
3. Whenever it starts is the right time
4. When it’s over, it’s over

Law of two feet: If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds him or herself in any situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place."

The first session I chose was on looking at children's services, specifically that of public libraries, but the discussion soon morphed into more of a general consideration as to how do you reach young people in the first place, then get them through the door and finally keeping them!  It was also interesting to hear the views of public librarians who use schools as the medium for reaching young people, many positive stories, but a few frustrations especially in the secondary sector which I could empathise with; pressures of teachers to get results doesn't always mean they have the time to do all those other things they would like to do.  The second session was an informal chartership chat which was great as I found that everybody has the same problems as I do; trying to get your portfolio done whilst holding down your full time job is hard.  It was also interesting to have a mentor as part of this group as we were able to hear from their perspective, especially the different ways in how mentors mentor.  Assigning chilli levels to each mentor on the CILIP website denoting levels of strictness was suggested!  One great outcome of this session was a regular Plymouth Chartership meet up #chartershippub and I am looking forward to our first 'date' later this month.  Hopefully this will keep us all on the straight and narrow and not the scenic route!  Thank you @annetteearl, @calire and @claireStevens.  We just need to keep asking 'so what'?

After a fabulous lunch (Libcampsw was sponsored by SWRLS, CILIPSW, Arts Council and OCLC, wild boar sausages and more cake, I attended a session on engaging people who don't use our libraries.  Having refreshed my memory by taking a look at the #libcampsw tweets, there were some great ideas suggested from Plymouth Libraries introducing a monthly email bulletin and sending to all users (a good discussion came out of this on using our user data more wisely), to a 'tell a friend' schemes whereby promotional material is given to regular users who then pass it on to friends etc. We discussed Twitter and Facebook as a means of getting to your library users and keeping them updated; several libraries/authorities are well down this road by now.  I also was interested to hear about a cross sector library group which meets regularly in Exeter to share ideas etc and we all agreed that one of the biggest barriers to libraries is that people still don't actually realise they are free!  The final session I attended (not of the day - I had to leave a bit early to get my train), was the one I pitched on using mobile devices in libraries.  Extremely relieved to find people turned up as the session on your Dream Library was very popular, I began by sharing how I have been using Ipads, Kindles and tablets in my school library and the discussion was taken up by several HE Librarians who shared how they were using tablets, specifically Ipads, so as to be roving Librarians which meant that could be amongst their users on the 'shop floor' if you like, not stuck behind a desk and not having to return to a PC to answer queries.  We also discussed the digital divide, but that of staff; those staff who are experienced and confident enough to use technology and those staff who require additional support and training.  A Gadget Day was suggested for the south west enabling library staff to have a 'play' on different technologies, including social media therefore enabling good practice and expertise to be shared informally.  Using QR codes was a popular discussion as well; promoting author events, bookmarks in books linking to the online version etc.  One tweet which came out of the session asked whether mobile devices are a distraction in a learning environment and this really struck a chord with me in particular being in a school.  We also decided that it was now acceptable to tweet at meetings, conferences etc and discussed the changes in the way in which we view and use technology as a society; one person shared how a few years ago he would have begun any training session with the words 'please switch off your mobile phones' and how different it is nowadays with people even using their tweets as the basis of their note taking and using Storify for example to curate them afterwards.

Although I had to leave before the last session finished, I was really pleased to drop-in on a discussion on 'what's next for #libcampsw as everybody seemed to have really positive feedback on the day.  I really hope that there will be another library camp in the south west and in the meantime look forward to keeping in contact with new colleagues on Twitter.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Things 10 and 11

I am finally catching up with myself, however the real test will be making sure I keep up during the summer holidays when I plan to be extremely lazy for at least the first four weeks, until I have to be back in for A-Level and GCSE results and their accompanying work for an Assistant Head of Sixth Form!

I have been professionally qualified since 2004.  I initially did a BA Honours degree in English & History and then studied for my MSc in Information and Library Studies distance learning with Aberystywth, University of Wales.  I always said that the reason I did my professional qualification was because I wanted to explore librarianship at all levels and across different sectors and jobs.  I started as a part time library assistant in a Central Library Lending department, worked in branch libraries as a casual assistant, combined these with a part time role in the Central Library Reference department and eventually managed to gain a supervisory role in Lending until I left public libraries altogether and went into schools where I am lucky to say 'I have never looked back' such is the level of support I have received from the Principal and his team.  I do know however, that part of the reason that I have received so much support from my senior management is because they respect my degree level qualifications, expecting a certain level of work from me as a result.

This blog was set up last year to help me in my chartership which I eventually signed up for in 2011 after a bit of procrastinating, husband's prolonged stays in hospital from life threatening illnesses and a pregnancy.  I was always encouraged to do my chartership by my husband and my line manager (I will talk more about that relationship later), but working as a solo librarian in a school has always meant that any CPD that has come my way has been more towards the education/teaching side of my job and not my library side.  However my chartership seems to be progressing fairly well although it definitely needs to be speeded up a bit because I really do need to be putting my portfolio together now and not just amassing more and more evidence and although becoming chartered won't make a bit of difference to my job or salary, it will be personally satisfying for me and my continuing professional development.  Qualifications that I have considered which are outside of librarianship, include a Masters in Education and the Leading from the Middle qualification from the NCSL (National College for School Leadership) which look at five areas; leadership of innovation and change, understanding your role in leading teaching and learning, developing self confidence as a team leader, building teams of people and resources and self directed change.  I have tentatively discussed these with my line manager before, but definitely need to do that chartership first!  

Thing 11 is all about having a mentor.  Initially I saw this as my Chartership mentor who is by the way great!  Last Saturday at Libcampsw we held a Chartership session and it was generally decided that my mentor is the one to have.  Seriously, I have found both my Chartership mentors (see previous posts for why I have had two) to be excellent in their support, advice and guidance with two very different styles of mentoring.  My first mentor advocated very gentle encouragement, not causing me to panic and fall into a heap at the thought of all the ' extra work!' whilst my second mentor combines both understanding of the demands of a full time job with carefully thought out, but very firm targets so as to get the job done. When it comes to an informal mentor, this would be my line manager; the Vice Principal.  I have been incredibly lucky to have a line manager who has always been interested in my CPD with twice yearly performance management reviews, clearly stated learning outcomes which this year were co-constructed and whilst I might have been a little taken aback to have been told that I am 'prickly', I did eventually acknowledge that she was right in saying that I needed to improve my management and leadership skills.  In turn, having had such good mentors means that I should begin to consider developing my own skills as a mentor.  I have had a little experience at being a buddy of a new qualified teacher who had taken the same route as I had, i.e. been a member of support staff before moving over to the teaching side, but although I enjoyed 'chatting' with my buddy and offering a friendly ear and shoulder to collapse on, I would question what both of us really gained from it.  Something to consider for my performance management perhaps next term?

Thing 8 & 9

Before I start on these Things, just want to mention the fantastic Libcampsw which I went to on Saturday.  Held at Exeter University in the Xfi building (great place for a conference), it was so good to meet up with librarians from the south west from all sectors, including even a non librarian!  I even managed to pitch a session and people actually wanted to come to it!  I will blog about the day properly in another post, but just wanted to mention it here first.

So Things 8 and 9 - getting organised. I like to think I am pretty organised already, but I use very old fashioned organizational tools, like a calendar on the back of my kitchen door, a staff planner/diary at school and a great weekly desk pad with lots of different sections like Remember, Checklist, Urgent, Number Crunching, Doodle Space, Random Stuff and the one I use a lot - Do this, or else!  I don't actually have the desk pad itself, I saw it on a colleague's desk and borrowed a sheet to photocopy, sneaky I know, but it really is a blessing.

However I have been using Google Calendar this year to make communication and bookings easier for our Careers South West (CSW) Advisors and do we love it!  Let me explain.  As part of the Government's statutory requirement for schools to provide external (i.e. not employed by the school), impartial IAG (information, advice and guidance) to students age 13 - 19, we contract out to Careers South West (formerly Connexions) with whom we have a great relationship and history of working together to aspire and help our students achieve their potential.  Although some of the Personal Advisor's time in school is funded by the local authority, specifically focusing on those students with low resilence or high vulnerability, we as a school also think that all of our students should have access to impartial and high quality IAG.  Therefore we choose to purchase 'top up' days, 2 to be specific this year, so all students can have the opportunity of 1-1 IAG. 

As an information professional, I am employed as Careers Coordinator and Assistant Head of Sixth Form with responsibility for IAG and so I work very closely with our Personal Advisor from CSW to ensure that students are given appointments when requested, but not missing English, Maths and Science lessons in the case of Key Stage 4 (sixth form must use one of their study periods to have an appointment) and also to help both myself (representing the school) and the Personal Advisor to follow up any issues etc.  In the past we had operated a very hit and miss booking system which often meant that I didn't even know when the Advisors would actually be in school and this was ok when we were accessing a free service!  However now we are paying for 2 days a week, it became necessary for both the college and CSW to adopt a more robust system devising a whole school IAG referral policy, including IAG bookings as part of an administrative assistant's job role and all 3 of us (me, Personal Advisor and Admin Assistant) sharing a Google Calendar (I hold the calendar and then share it with them).  Students are highlighted in green (turned up) or red (not turned up) by the Personal Advisor which then alerts the Admin Assistant to chase up the students and make any additional appointments if required so as to continue supporting them with the necessary intervention. It also means we are are able to keep track of all appointments made, thereby ensuring that we are making full use of our paid for service.   Google Calendar has completely changed the way I work with CSW (for the better) and we are hoping to share this best practice around the city soon.  

Regarding Evernote, I am going to be very honest and say I don't think I want to use it.  I do use a PC (at work), Blackberry (on the go) and an Ipad (at home) and I have taken a look, both online and the apps and I can see the potential,, not at the moment.