Tuesday 16 October 2012

Thing 23 - What Next?

Ok - Thing 23 - where do I go from here?
I am not in the mood for a PDP as this is already a part of my Chartership and I have just updated the original one I sent to CILIP at the beginning with an Outcomes column so I can see exactly when and how I achieved/didn't quite achieve those things I set out to do.  Therefore I thought I'd try a SWOT analysis instead


PLN – keeping up to date

Excellent LRC staff

Support of professional body

Lots of Things to do/try

Freedom to use initiative

Creative & Innovative

Linking to teaching & learning




Sixth Form role taking too much time

Being new at the job

My 'prickly' nature

Balancing work/life

Actually implementing Things – finding the time

Lurking too much online and being in my own bubble

Fear and personal insecurity

Sixth Form role


Ideal environment to try some Things out with students/staff

Web 2.0 & new technologies actually in new job description

City wide Librarian development

Pop Up Library Idea

New English Bac qualification


Sixth Form role

Economic climate affect on school funding

Demands/use of LRC due to timetabling/rooming/size of school

Fear of stagnating – been in role/school too long

New English Bac qualification 

My biggest aim is to complete my Chartership and I have set myself the end of this academic year (July 2013) as my final, final date, although I would love to get it done before then.  After that, I don't honestly know.  Chartering has been on my horizon since 2005 (OFSTED, husband in hospital for almost a year in total, having a baby, being on maternity leave, procrastination) and I haven't really looked further than that.  My experiences with my ever increasing virtual network is beginning to show me that there is more to life than my LRC/Library, but just exactly what, I am not sure.  I was only saying yesterday that I never thought I would be in the same organization for this long, but what could be out there, I honestly don't know.   My interest is also piqued by the fact that my sixth form role appears in three out of the four boxes and not the Strength one so this is a definite place to start.

Finally to finish:- six word stories to describe my experience of CPD23:
  • Cannot believe I have finished it
  • Oh my goodness, what an achievement
  • Finish chartership next or die trying
  • Didn't think I would finish it
  • Learned a lot, now to do/use/try/explore
Oh, and I will continue blogging because it really is a great tool to get my thoughts in order and I have learned so much from other peoples' blogs in the last few years. 

Monday 15 October 2012

Thing 22 - Volunteering

Hmm - volunteering - bit of a thorny issue perhaps.  Personally I have never volunteered in libraries.  I don't think this has been a conscious decision however, more a fact that when I have needed experience the opportunities have been there to be paid.  As recorded in previous Things, when I wanted to get into libraries I was lucky enough to be offered a position as a Casual in my city Lending Library, grabbing any hours which came my way.  Again, when I needed experience outside of the lending library (having got a contract for 14 hours a week) I was able to pick up extra hours at various branch libraries.  I then managed to get a temporary job in the City Reference Library which again gave me valuable experience, indeed the only volunteering I can really think I did was ostensibly for my MSc dissertation which I was originally going to do on the People's Network and I offered to take the minutes so I could sit in on the SMT's meetings.  However this didn't last long as I moved into school librarianship and so changed the focus of my dissertation to something more relevant. 
I have however given others the opportunity to volunteer.  In about 2005 I received a request from a lady who had just left the Armed Forces, asking if she could volunteer in the LRC; she was anxious to move into libraries and so was trying to get as much different library experience as she could.  She worked with me for two weeks in total and I think it was a fairly positive experience for her as she ended up applying for a school librarian post in the city and getting it.  I recall the Principal of the school ringing me up to have a chat about her and the work she did with me and 7 years later she is still there and doing great work.  On a personal note, I would just not be able to find the time.  Everytime I visit my daughter's school I make a beeline for the library to 'check' it out and wish that I had the time to 'volunteer' in there.  The librarian in me aches to sort and weed the non-fiction (Dewey), to create some book displays and to just generally give it a tidy, but a) I am too scared I would be treading on a TA's toes and b) I work full time in a school so getting in there would be nigh on impossible.  
Having reflected on my personal volunteering history (practically nil), I am going to consider the very thorny issue of volunteers in libraries which has come about recently because of many councils looking to replace qualified and/or experienced library staff with unpaid volunteers so as to cut costs.  They will say it is so local communities can run their libraries in the best way to serve the needs of that area and who is more equipped to do this than the people who live in that area; if this is true and such a vital service, then surely these people should be reimbursed for their time and expertise just like......oh, lets see, librarians.  Typing volunteers in libraries into Google brings up hit after hit of public library services asking for volunteers and I was interested to see one authority make clear the difference between volunteers and their proposed community run libraries which will be run by volunteers with support and guidance from part time paid members of staff (no mention of any professional qualifications however) and it is at this point where I want to stand up for the profession.
I have nothing against people volunteering in libraries WHEN it is alongside paid professional and/or experienced staff.  Using volunteers INSTEAD of paid professional/and or experienced staff is demeaning for both the profession and the library users.  I have worked extremely hard to achieve my professional qualification and in the various library roles and responsibilities I have held, to believe that someone with no experience can just come in and do my job.  Regarding the library users, fulfilling their needs (whether it be information, a book to read, access to the Internet, just a friendly smile) is so much more than just stamping a book.  Placing it in the context of my school LRC; the LRC Manager and Assistant are currently working on a variety of projects under my leadership including building genre lists on our VLE, working with a pilot group of students to begin tagging fiction books with reviews as part of the OPAC record, collating data on usage of staff pedagogy books, implementing Goodreads with a pilot post 16 group AS WELL as planning activities for National Non-Fiction Day, answering enquiries, supervising students etc etc etc.  I should also add that the LRC Manager has got 10 years experience of library work, albeit all under my leadership and management and the LRC Assistant has years of working for Waterstones including as a store manager.  Whilst I accept that volunteers are great for front desk work, I think that there should always be paid, professional staff to do that behind the scenes stuff.  Who, for example, buys the books based on borrowing figures, local demographics, supply and demand statistics; who keeps the website up to date and keeps the library in touch with its users through Facebook, Twitter; who maintains the database with details of local community groups; who plans, delivers and evaluates sessions on how to use the Internet/email/social media..... I could go on, but would be here forever. 
As part of this Thing, I read Phil Bradley's (CILIP President) blog post (1)  on Volunteers in Public Libraries (this sector  is mainly where the furore is coming from) from May 2012 in which he defended CILIP's 2010 policy and a subsequent 2012 version on volunteers in libraries.  First of all I believe wholeheartedly Phil's statement that  "a library without a librarian isn’t a library, it’s a collection of books" and I applaud him for coming out in support of the profession so firmly.  For me it is the statement found within the policy (2) itself  "In order to optimise the value of that contribution, [use of volunteers] should form part of a professionally managed public library service that has at its core sufficient paid staff to ensure the direction, development and quality of the service provided.”  Volunteers are great in libraries which/should be at the heart of every community, whether it be on a university campus, within a school, in a town centre, a prison to name a few, but only when working alongside paid staff whose responsibility it is to maintain the level of service.  Many community groups, (Girls & Boys Brigade, Scouts, Guides, choirs, toddler groups, Not so Nimble clubs etc) only survive because of the generosity of volunteers who give their time and labour for free and such is the current state of Britain in the recession, it may well be the case that some libraries will only survive if we bring in volunteers.  Now volunteers can be as passionate about libraries as any paid professional/experienced library staff, but the level of service cannot be maintained, developed, improved upon without those professional and/or experienced library staff who have the knowledge, backed up by degrees, CPD, CILIP membership etc, AND the passion.
I understand the argument in the current economic climate about a library being better than no library, but those run by volunteers can be no more than a book exchanging service and as I truly believe that libraries are far more than that, I cannot in my heart of hearts support the idea that volunteers, however well meaning and passionate they are about the service, can run a library (who would ensure that the budget is spent fairly and equitably, based on a thorough understanding of the community's needs) and that is even before we get onto the nitty gritty such as what happens if the volunteers are ill, want a holiday, want a lie-in?  I applaud CILIP for saying that they (on my behalf) will not provide training for volunteers where it is apparent that they are replacing "qualified, trained and paid library and information workers"  (3) and I feel quite proud when it clearly says that
"high quality information services are vital to people’s lives, and local communities, learners, workers and businesses need the support of a trained and skilled workforce to thrive". (4), because libraries are high quality, information services and more than just a book repository.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Thing 21

When I saw this Thing, my first thought was that this doesn't apply to me.  I have worked in the same institution for 11 years and although my role has changed, none of the changes required me to apply for them or have an interview.  With regards to the Careers Coordinator role, I did put together a proposal detailing why I was the right person for the job, but the Assistant Head of Sixth Form role was offered to me in light of how my original role had subsumed some of the duties naturally.  I do however need a CV for my Chartership portfolio, so I will be returning to that part of the task at a later date, so for now I am going to think about 'me': what I like to do, my hobbies, interests and what I like about my job. Having had a chance to think about this, I can see why this is a useful thing to do.  It goes back to my original reason for wanting to be a librarian and part of Thing 20; when asked what it was about my BA in English and History that I really liked, I replied "the reading and the research". I loved finding out about things; researching; using multiple sources; knowing I had 'done' a source, i.e. got all the information I needed from it.  

So many years down the line, here is what I like doing now for fun in no particular order:
  • Reading mainly children's older literature: Enid Blyton, Elinor Brent Dyer, Antonia Forrest, Lorna Hill, Elsie Oxenham, Malcolm Saville and Arthur Ransome  I also like historical fiction, especially Plantagenet and Tudor times as well as Bernard Knight's Crowner John series. 
  • Keeping a clean and tidy house - this also extends rather obsessively to a clean LRC
  • Disney films
  • Eating out
  • Shopping
  • Being with my daughter and husband
  • My Christian faith - going to church, being a Sunday School teacher
Now what about my job?
  • Working with the students
  • My LRC - it will always be my LRC deep down, even though I may not be the one with day to day responsibility anymore. However I took it on when the Public Library service had just pulled out meaning that it was no longer a dual use library.  How it looks today is because of me (I am honestly not showing off at this point.  For ages I was a virtual solo librarian)
  • Being part of an organisation with a really clear purpose; the education of young people.  I like that there is a clear goal to work for such as preparing students for their GCSEs, A-Levels, university etc
  • Convenience - my husband works in the same school
  • Satisfaction of knowing I play an important part in matching students up to the right courses for them, whether it be GCSEs, A -levels, degrees, apprenticeships etc.  This year I was involved in setting up my institution's first ever apprenticeship, doing the initial research for the Business Manager and then supporting the student with his application to the National Apprenticeship Service
  • Trying out new ideas in the LRC like Web 2.0 technologies, finding new resources, learning how they work, best ways to promote them to students and staff
  • Buying books still!
  • Planning research based lessons.  I loved working with Science this year helping them deliver the case study coursework element to the students
Making this list has only really confirmed what I really knew and have been 'fighting' for recently as my new job description is written.  I want to be a librarian and although I may have digressed a bit with the Careers and Sixth Form role, if I should leave it will have to be for an information professional role, preferably in education as that will give me that feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment.  I have always made sure that the main aspects of my role are information based; I still have strategic management responsibility for the LRC and my sixth form responsibility is predominantly IAG (information, advice and guidance); signposting students to relevant resources regarding their future aspirations, responding to their requests for advice and support with which courses to take, apprenticeships to apply for etc and coordinating with the external careers service we buy in as a school so as to ensure that the students can access impartial advice and guidance as well.  Nevertheless there are times when I wish I could still 'be' in the LRC all day every day which suggests to me that libraries are what really does it for me.

As far as interviews are concerned, the most recent advice I was ever given was from a headteacher who was also a university admissions tutor and who had come to visit my Year 13 students to give them some advice with their personal statements as part of their UCAS application.  He said that 'body language' tells us volumes about an applicant, whether they smile, gesticulate, are animated about why they want to study a particular degree etc.  It might be one of the most nerve wracking times of your life, being interviewed, but you have to look as if you are enjoying it.  I suppose that if you really want something (a job, a place on a degree), then your passion will shine through. 

Sunday 7 October 2012

Thing 20 - Library Roots

Ok, I'm on a bit of a roll here, getting started on another Thing in the same Sunday afternoon, but it is cold and windy outside, my husband has the football on and my five year old daughter is cuddled up asleep and a chance to think about why I went into the library profession. 
Before I started I took a look at the blog 'A Desk Set of One' by Ruthie Saylor and can honestly say, much of what she wrote I can really empathise with and say 'So did I' or 'That's so me'.  I adored reading as a child, still do of course and have passed down my love of books to my daughter who this week at the age of 5 and four weeks into Year 1, became a free reader, meaning she has worked her way through the set books (Biff & Kipper etc) and can now read what she likes (within reason of course).  I loved Enid Blyton (so does she - it is Amelia Jane for her at the moment), Lorna Hill, Antonia Forrest, Elinor Brent Dyer, Anne Digby, Ruby Ferguson and I still do love them, preferring to reread these more than ever.  I also loved my local public library, doing BookTrack at least twice, but I never thought about being a librarian.  My experiences of librarians were mostly good, but there are a few memories which really stick in my mind and now make me determined that I won't be like that.  One was a library assistant in my public library who sneered/criticised my choice of reading at the tender age of 11 when I was into the Sweet Dreams series of books; an American, sweetly romantic series of books in which girls of 16 always got the boy of their dreams, even if they didn't know it at first.  The other memory is really a lack of one, in that I cannot remember much about my school librarian and my school library except it was a place to hide from the popular kids in about Year 8 or 9 and where you spent your free periods in the sixth form.  There was nothing else; no Information Literacy lessons, dedicated study support, library inductions.  I can't even remember their being any book displays or anything. 
After A-Levels, I went to university and studied a BA Honours degree in English and Contemporary History, combining my two great loves - reading and reading about history.  Strangely enough my favourite part of both my two university libraries (Rolle College in Exmouth, part of Plymouth University and Aberystwyth) were the children's sections aimed at those students training to be teachers as I was transported back to those books I had loved in my childhood which possibly tells you why I ended up where I am now.  It was only after I graduated with my BA 2:1, that I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do as a career; up till now I had just wanted to go to university and read English.  I was really stuck in a dead end job which I hated (working in a clothes shop), when my then boyfriend asked me 'but what did you enjoy best about university?  To which, I replied naturally 'reading and finding out about things'.  Suffice it to say, that was it.  I applied for several jobs in my local public library service, getting turned down for two in the Resources & Technical Services Unit before being offered a casual position in the Central Lending Library.  I then managed to get a permanent position for 14 hours a week, desperately picking up as many cover hours as possible anywhere - branch libraries, reference, mobile - to make as near a full time job as I could manage.
Once I had been at the Central Library a year, I began to ask 'what now....?'  I wasn't sure if just issuing and discharging books was what I wanted to do forever.  I began to ask questions as to: How do you get promotion?  What other jobs were there that I could do?  How did you get to choose which books to buy?  I was then put in touch with another member of staff who was doing her BA in ILS distance learning with Aberystwyth and by September 1999, about 15 months after starting as a casual, I had begun my MSc in Information & Library Studies.  During the first three years of my PG Diploma in ILS, I continued to get as much library experience as possible, including a temporary position in the Central Reference Library and then becoming Central Lending Library Coordinator; a non professional position, managing about 15 members of staff.  Unfortunately this was not what I or some of the other staff had hoped for and for a few awkward months I suffered a degree of resentment from some people who felt I had usurped them, still being a comparative newcomer to the profession.  
Which is why I ended up going for a post as a School Librarian and where I still am today, although in a very different role from what I originally took.  It wasn't a promotion as the original position was on a pro-rata salary, but it was a professional post and although I wasn't to qualify for my MSc for two years, the Principal employed me providing I completed my professional qualification.  My role at the school has changed dramatically in 11 years from Librarian, to LRC Manager and Careers Coordinator in 2003, to Learning Resource Coordinator with whole school responsibility in 2005 and then Assistant Head of Sixth Form, 11 - 19 CEIAG AND Learning Resource Coordinator.  My staffing has changed too as I now line manage a full time LRC Manager and a part-time LRC Assistant which leaves me as a middle manager to strategically manage the LRC, considering its place and development within the curriculum. 
Am I happy?  I think so, although there are occasions when I worry that my sixth form  responsibilities overwhelm the library side of my job.  Although I have always been careful to keep my job based in information; my role for sixth form and careers is very much IAG (information, advice and guidance) focused which draws on my professional background all the time, the very nature of a large and busy sixth form means that I can get distracted easily.  Nevertheless my chartership is very much ongoing - this blog is a record of that and I really need to get back on track with that so I can charter by the end of the school year.  What are my job prospects outside of schools?  I am not sure, but I think that my new job description retains enough library and information based work to ensure that I keep up my professionalism. 

Thing 18 and 19

Still playing catch up and a bit daunted by Thing 18 as I haven't really used much screen capture software e.g. Jing or podcasts, but I have looked briefly at Screen-cast-a-matic and Goanimate as ways to interact more fully with the students at school and to engage them a bit more with the LRC and its resources.  The concept of the 'flipped classroom' is one which I am focusing on at the moment, particularly for post 16 students as this ties in with my Assistant Head of Sixth Form role as well.  The idea behind the flipped classroom is that teachers or educators are now using technology to 'lecture' or teach the content to the students at home which then frees them up to do the real learning at school with the teacher.  In the past the lesson would have consisted of the teacher delivering the content with the student then doing the work at home unsupervised and with no support from either the teacher or their fellow students.  

The first way I thought about using screen capture software was as an LRC Induction.  Often when we have done inductions in the past I have felt that I have wasted precious time on Dewey, opening hours and everyday minatue like how many books can be borrowed.  For the past several years, we have used question dice to get the students to ask the questions they want to know about the LRC, a more cooperative version of Cephalonian Method? which makes the Librarian more of the Meddler in the Middle role and not the Sage on the Stage.  So this year we experimented briefly with Goanimate; making an animated video of cartoon characters 'discussing the LRC' which could then be put onto YouTube with a link from our Oliver homepage. I had seen some really good  uses of Goanimate by our Head of English who had created some fantastic revision videos of texts studied at GCSES and had gained a very large following of students across the country with some of his videos having half a million hits in the run up to exams.  Once we had got over our giggles at our first attempt, our characters were just that bit too stilted, we decided that Goanimate would be something we would return to in more earnest and definitely create a video which would serve as a reminder of the induction lesson and reinforce the more boring, but necessary side of the LRC.  

The other piece of technology that I have taken a look at recently and which is (I think) quite similar to Jing is Screen-cast-o-matic which allows you to capture each screen at a time so you can create a video showing a particular process, e.g. how to use a piece of software etc.  In the past I, and many many others, have created Word documents with screenshots to demonstrate a particular process through a piece of software, but Screen-cast-o-matic does this, but in video form which again can be put on Youtube with a link from your library's website etc.  My immediate thought again was how I could create this 'flipped classroom' concept by creating videos showing students how to access and use some of the resources that the LRC offers.  We have recently purchased online access to the Philip Allan Review periodicals including the archives so as to provide post 16 students with some really pertinant information, written by the exam boards themselves.  We have purchased the magazines themselves for about 11 years, but providing online access to the archives is definitely a step forward, particularly for the teachers themselves who are really pleased!  Using Screen-cast-o-matic, I hope, will make the resources seem that bit more relevant to the students and ensure that they can access and use them appropriately so as to make good use of them. 

As far as Jing goes, I think the two I have already mentioned are good enough replacements for me to pursue, however I did find a good example of how Jing is being used in the flipped classroom at  http://www.techsmith.com/flipped-classroom.html where a teacher encourages her students to take screenshots of themselves solving maths problems both in and out of the classroom.  As far as Thing 19 is concerned, this was all about looking back at how we might have integrated some of the previous 'Things' into our working habits.  For me, it has really been the reflective nature of CPD23 which has made a difference to me and how I hope will in turn, become part of my chartership portfolio.  That, and how it has opened me up to new bloggers and blogs and my blog to others in return.  I also didn't really see how reading about graduate traineeships, LISPN - the new professionals network set up by Ned Potter etc (Thing 10) was really relevant to me at this stage of my career, but a week or so ago I was asked to meet up with  a recent graduate of Egyptology, who was considering moving into libraries and I was able to use the information gained from Thing 10 to guide and 'persuade' her!  I now just have to get to the end of CPD23!