In an earlier blog post I said I would start working on the WHY I had chosen the different areas for development. I have got that document roughly/approximately/bullet pointed within an inch of it’s life but I haven’t written about it yet because I haven’t had time. I have a lot going on at work and in regular life so I felt a little bit like I was drowning


I have finally come up for air and begun to plug the gaps in my Chartership. The first one I have tackled is: 5.3 Copyright, intellectual property and licensing

Now that’s a biggie for me, I have always been slightly terrified of copyright, intellectual property and licencing (C, IP & L) – I know they are important, like really important but I felt like I couldn’t possibly advise on these issues because they have legal implications. I know it is ridiculous, I am a law librarian after all, these things shouldn’t be scary but they are. I have decided to take the legal bull by the horns and kill 2 (or is that 3) birds with one stone. Alongside being better equipped to deal with C, IP & L, it will give me more experience in working with different legal documentation and regulations. Issues of copyright are coming up more and more at work and I feel by getting a better grounding in this area I can be more efficient when dealing with these queries. (< Ooh look there’s some ‘WHYs’ right there!)

So my first CPD action was to attend a copyright training day with Naomi Korn,  who with 20 years experience in dealing with all things copyright, knows just about everything you need to know about it. Take a look at her website there’s lots of information on there including FREE resources for you to use and adapt, she just requests that you attribute her and make the resources available with the same CC licence.

I am not going to describe the session as it was quite jammed packed and I probably wouldn’t explain it all very well so instead I am going to focus on my highlights:

  • Copyright law balances the need to reward creators as well as facilitate use/sharing/development.
  • Copyright & licences – working in HE has skewed my knowledge on copyright. So here’s a rough distinction. Licences allow educational (and others) establishments to do more than is allowed under standard copyright. I was so used to having CLA licences that I forgot what copyright law does and doesn’t allow. Here is the list of exceptions to copyright – i.e. stuff you can use copyrighted works for without having a licence.
  • this site is aimed at everyone but would be particularly useful for people creating/producing/developing new ideas and things. It also has lots of information around getting permission to use copryrighted works and there are a set of educational resources that can be used to introduce copyright into the classroom. I particularly like their FAQs.
  • Tracking image owner/creators – this is something I have never been very good at; it’s as got more difficult as most people save and use images without attributing them to their creators. But there a resource that can help, Tineye does a reverse search and check image provenance. Google reverse image search is also another way of tracking it down.
  • Negotiation – if you are wanting to use a copyrighted work and it is not covered by a licence or the exceptions you need to seek permission (see you’ll usually be charged. Make sure you negotiate if the price and terms don’t suit your budget or plans. Be honest (if it is way out of your budget tell them), try to play on the benefits for them (i.e. if it is for a public event then it will expose a lot of people to their work) and be ruthless and do not settle for their first offer.
  • At work (HE library) we have a CLA licence which allows students/staff to copy up to 10% or one chapter of a book (amongst other things), in the library we have the CLA signs with this information on next to all the printer/scanner/copies. We do also explain the rules to staff and students, but I wonder if this information really sinks in. I may look into running some training or creating some materials (re-purposing some that Naomi created) to reinforce this information.
  • Copyright is risk management – Naomi explained copyright in terms of risk management – can you risk not getting the correct permissions/licences? You need to make sure you have a ‘notice and take down policy’,  how you deal with any infringements is really important – the quicker you can deal with it the better. If you are told you have infringed copyright and you take ages to remedy it then you will receive higher penalties than if you deal with it straight away. I am going to request a copy of our policy from the university legal team so I can see a relevant example.

If you get the opportunity to go to training with Naomi Korn then make sure you go, it was an intense day but I learnt so much that is directly applicable to my role – I am now better equipped to deal with any copyright questions/issues. Thank you to CILIP Yorkshire & Humberside branch for organising the event.


Engaging with the professional community

I always worry that I am not “engaging” enough with the professional community or the wider issues affecting it. I often open up Twitter and want to close it immediately; there’s SO MANY THINGS I could be involved in and it gets a bit overwhelming. I feel stranded on a desert island, with just jealousy to keep me company; I see other LIS professionals who are managing to incorporate CPD into their lives and I’m sat struggling to find the time to do anything that doesn’t involve my day job, sleeping or eating.

desert island

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This is was one of the big reasons I decided to do the Chartership – I needed something to “force” me to get out of the work-sleep-eat cycle, to give me direction/focus and to exercise my mind.

So on Tuesday 2nd May I bravely (even if I do say so myself) dipped my toe in the CPD waters on Twitter. I took part in #uklibchat for the first time in a really long time; I have previously gone back to their Storifys and chat archives but my real time involvement has been minimal.

The topic was ‘SWOT in libraries’; all participants listed the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to libraries, in general and specific to their sector. I don’t want to go over everything that was discussed but I want to highlight a few things that really stood out to me:

  1. Communication – We need to get better at communicating what we’re good at/can help with; not just the stuff we have but the way we can support users. But this doesn’t mean we should just rush out and say ALL THE THINGS. It’s too much for users to remember and you end up becoming white noise. In my own experience (education, currently HE) giving people too much information is almost as bad as giving them none. Students are already bombarded with information from their smart phones, they don’t need 3 years worth of information in one go. We have to be more specific and MAKE IT RELEVANT to them and/or their current assignment. It is the same when engaging with academics which my colleagues and I have explored different ways of engaging with our service users and have published our experiences and findings.
  2. We need to be kinder to ourselves (person and profession) – As a profession we are really concerned about our future and that’s the same for a lot of industries/sectors that are under threat. I’ve found our naval gazing often turns negative, we very rarely recognise our own achievements. Proving our value is crucial, not just to support and validate our position but to give ourselves a confidence boost. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a gold star. I had these made for my law students and I quite often accidentally award one to myself. lawesome3. Don’t be scared of the future – Our profession will evolve we have to evolve with it, we’re a versatile bunch of people us librarians and we’re well equipped to ride the tides of change.

Although I appreciate that #uklibchat is just one small way of engaging with the professional community what I love about it is that it’s a great way of learning about other sectors without the need to go to expensive and time consuming events. You can meet and share views and ideas in an open way and it is not intimidating for newbies (or second time around newbies).

I’ve got the wind back in my sails now and I just need to make sure I build CPD into my life, not just to help with the Chartership process but to feed my curiosity.

Plotting a course

As mentioned in my previous post I was worried about selecting the gaps in my knowledge to improve upon. Many of the areas in the CILIP PKSB (find out more about it here) sounded really interesting and some (a lot!) were totally alien to me.  It reminded me just how diverse our profession is! Although it was tempting to go for the completely new ones I had to decide on which areas would benefit my career – now and in the future; I don’t want to fall into the “jack of all trades” trap.

During our first meeting my mentor helped me to see that it is a good idea to select a mix of areas, so I decided to pick some I know nothing about, some I know a bit about and some that are involved in my every day work. By doing this I can pick up new skills/knowledge, further current knowledge and improve skills I use regularly which will impact open and improve my everyday work. I was nervous about getting this bit “wrong” because I wanted to set a good foundation for my Chartership and the gap analysis doesn’t just need to contain what I need to work on but why I have chosen it and how I am going to build on it. It forms a development plan and I am hoping it will keep me focused and on course.

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I have used ‘The PKSB Gap Analysis’ document on the CILIP VLE to begin to map out the whats, whys and hows and so far I am pretty chuffed with it. At the moment it is a list of bullet points but they’ll help me navigate the rest of the journey. I have selected 9 areas to work on, although I appreciate this could change; I have tried to outline the WHY under each one but these are very brief and fairly obvious. I will add to them as I go on… (thanks to Jess Haigh @BookElfLeeds for pointing out that I don’t need all the WHY just yet – Twitter is such a great sounding board.

2.5 Knowledge transfer / organisational learning

  • Work in a large organisation
  • Important to share knowledge
  • Work with colleagues from other departments and services

3.2 Understanding information seeking behaviour

  • Important to understand our users in order to better support them
  • Information needs vary between subjects, year groups and individuals

5.3 Copyright, intellectual property and licensing

  • Help when providing ongoing support for students and academics e.g. understanding and applying regulations of our CLA licence
  • Changes to e-book licences – shifting modes of provision (1 User licences)
  • Helpful to get a bit more legal knowledge, to understand legal documentation due to work with law department

7.2 Collection development policy

  • Tighter restrictions on budgets
  • Subscription decisions are referred to management, would like to know more about how they make decisions/evaluate the collection

8.5 Frameworks and curricula for education and training

  • Teaching is a large part of my role
  • Interested in embedded learning – students want to see links between teaching and their assignments
  • Build on FHEA

8.6 Teaching and training skills

  • Teaching is a large part of my role
  • Better teaching = more skilled students
  • Build on FHEA

9.3 Advocacy

  • Sharing and collaboration – liaison part of role

10.9 Project management

  • Interested in PM
  • Build on ‘intro to PM’ course attended last year

11.2 Communicating with stakeholders 

  • Users need to know what’s available so they can take advantage
  • Various communication channels – what is effective?

So that’s them, the lucky 9. Over the next few weeks I hope to write up some of the WHYs which will help me plan how I am going to boost my skills. Hopefully then I can get a few CPD activities scheduled for this quieter summer period. Oh and I need to update my CV…eurgh.

I’ll keep updating this log book as I go so keep watch…





Chartership – boarding underway…

So right, yes, I am officially getting back on the CPD wagon (or should that be ship?!) as I have signed up for Chartership! I have been meaning to start it for a couple of years but other things always got in the way; work, life and fear.

sail ship

The idea of chartering has scared me every since I found out about it, I’d put it to the back of my mind thinking “oh I’ll look at it again after I get a few years of qualified librarian-ing under my belt”. Now four and a half years after qualifying I feel even more daunted by it. It’s not the work involved that’s making me queasy (although that is slightly intimidating) it’s the professional-ness of it. I mean it’s is a level of Professional Registration (it’s capitalised so it must be serious) with the professions’ professional body.


Yeah, I guess I am struggling with the P word and what it means to me and my career. I have always considered myself to be professional, anyone can be professional no matter what your career or educational achievements. And I guess now as I have been working in libraries for about six and a half years it is my profession, which makes me a professional (hello adulthood). Oooo-er get me!

Anyway so, I took the first steps quite confidently; I paid the fee, found a mentor, found a Chartership workshop to attend (in July but at least it’s local) and had my first meeting with my mentor. Then came the first tidal wave…the CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB). I managed read the Chartership handbook and the PKSB but I am still slightly (massively) terrified about identifying the gaps in my knowledge, OK so that bit might be easy – there’s a lot of gaps, but deciding on which 6-10 areas that I want to focus my professional development is really difficult…

My subsequent blog posts will plot my “journey” (erghhh how ‘life coach’ does that sound?!) through this Professional Registration process, hopefully giving me a platform to explain the whats, whens, whys and what nexts of this voyage.


Photo source:



Effing hell it’s Christmas!

I thought I written a post in summer but apparently it was December 2015 so …erm…oops.

So here I go reflecting on 12 months of work (seriously, 12 months when did that happen?!) and professional development.

Right so, ermmm *spends a good while looking back through work calendar*. I have actually done fuck-loads (yes, it’s an official unit of measurement, similar to – but less than – a fuck-ton) of stuff since January! I’m not going to bore you with a list, if you want one just ask (weirdo). Basically I have been involved with everything from organizing a TeachMeet to marketing to screen-casts to course committees to outreach to getting my FHEA to weeding (ugh!)…as well as ALL THE TEACHING and then some other stuff I have forgotten.

I often find there’s a bit of a myth when it comes to academic librarianship that the first semester is ten times busier than the rest of the year. Don’t get me wrong it IS the busiest semester for me, but I don’t think the workload difference between the semesters is as big as the myth perpetuates. The work is just DIFFERENT at various points throughout the year.

For the first half of the calendar year my diary consists of more of the “other work” and less teaching but that soon changes when summer comes and new academic year preparation begins. Everyone knows that September – December is very busy in academic libraries until the end of November, us library folks barely have any time at our desks. I don’t mind this because I love teaching, it’s the best part of my job, but we all know you get to a point in the busy term where you are desperate to have a rest. I am not really sure what happened over the past three months, my memory is all a blur.  I have some good feedback from staff and students though so I must have done something right.

Since the bulk of my teaching finished I have been trying to get a head start on the “other work” and have even started weeding (we’ll ignore the fact that I should have done it in the summer)!

So after reflecting I need to look forward to next year, and as is tradition at this time of year I have a few resolutions:

  1. Finish weeding the Economics collection
  2. Try to flip the classroom more with first year Law students – students were asked to do preparation before my sessions this year but there was very little uptake. I am going to see if we can tweak something on UniLearn so students cannot get assignment information until they have done the preparation for my teaching. It is a bit harsh but I know it’s worked elsewhere! [If this model works I might be able to introduce it into my other subject areas]
  3. Do more CPD stuff, although I have a few extra-curriculars I could have done more – I don’t want to stagnate. I might start Chartership – I’ve been putting this off but I think now might be the time.

Merry Christmas





2015 review

Whilst I was adding my most recent activities to my CPD diary I realized I have actually done ALL THE THINGS this year. Ok, so maybe not all the things, but I have done a heck of a lot.

Here’s my highlights:

  • Got published: Increasing the impact: building on the Library Impact Data Project 
  • Spoke/held workshop at 3 different events:
    • Outreach at the University of HuddersfieldSouthern Universities Network Training Day at University of Chichester (June)
    • ‘Subject Librarians as Service Ambassadors: Creative Outreach Practices at the University of Huddersfield’ Subject Librarians – Time for a fresh look at University of Hertfordshire (July). Delivered in collaboration with Jess Haigh (@BookElfLeeds)
    • ‘Wearing users’ shoes: engaging with the academic community’ workshop Relationship Management Conference at University of Stirling (November) Delivered in collaboration with Laura Woods (@Woodsiegirl)
  • New qualification – I was lucky enough to go on the ‘Pedagogy for Librarians‘ course at Northern College in the summer which resulted in a Level 3 certificate in education and training. The most valuable part was meeting the other attendees, sharing tips and building a professional network.
  • Picked up new/refreshed skills:
    • Camtasia
    • Articulate Storyline
    • Adobe Voice
    • Lesson planning – this is now embedded into my work practices
  • Paws4thought – managed to get dogs on campus for a bit of pet therapy.
  • Part of the team that won a silver award from CILIP PPRGroup for our marketing campaign for MyReading
  • Attended conferences/events (in addition to those above):
  • Increased optional support for staff and students:
    • desktop library visits for staff
    • more drop-in support sessions for Law students and started drop-ins for MSc Accountancy & Finance
  • New departments: my role has changed slightly, we have had a wee reshuffle and I have swapped Computing for Strategy, Marketing & Economics; therefore I know only work with Business School departments (my others are Law and Accountancy and Finance). It has been a lot of extra work but I think I am managing to rejig my approach to work to fit them in.
  • New departments = more teaching (like super amounts, I don’t even want to look at the stats). September, October & November were pretty mental for me, but it’ll just take a while for me to get used to the increase. Big thanks to all my colleagues who helped me out by covering sessions I couldn’t do.
  • Joined a CILIP Committee – finally beginning to reengage with CILIP activities I am now on the Yorkshire & Humberside ARLG committee.

Looking at all of those things makes me feel quite proud of myself, especially as I have dealt with all that and a bundle of stuff in my personal life. Some of that is chronicled here but most of it is not (I don’t like to air all my laundry in public). I know a lot of my friends and colleagues at other institutions have also had LOADS on this year; changes in roles, promotions, restructuring, redundancies and general life things so I think we all deserve a round of a applause.

applause_signimage credit:


Go on take a bow.



Relationship Management & me.

A few weeks ago I attended, and ran a workshop at, the first Relationship Management Conference in HE Libraries at the University of Stirling.

As I have mentioned previously I now try to reflect on my conference experiences rather than regurgitate what happened.

So here’s the top 3 things I have taken away from the conference:

  1.  What is RM? 

Sometimes (all the time) it is easy to forget that we use a lot of jargon in libraries; I think RM illustrates this perfectly. To most people “relationship management” would probably conjure up an image of couples therapy.

On the first day of the conference we had an activity where we had to highlight key features of RM (in libraries) and possibly come up with a sentence to “define” it. This was hard. We all have different views and experiences that have shaped them. We eventually settled (sort of) on a group of characteristics which led me to a very broad “definition”:

RM = using user-centred approaches to create a flexible framework in order to decvelop and support strong partnerships. 

An idea our group and I think a lot of other groups came to was that there is a difference between the concept of relationship management and having RM in your job title. Some of the discussions veered towards the “are liaison/subject librarians outdated?” area, I think we all agreed that we all “do” RM activities even if it isn’t in our job title or description.

Afterall, we are humans*, humans like to be near other humans and that means we have to manage our relationships with those humans; personally AND professionally/ [* well some of us]

We also talked about liaison vs RM – for me liaison is part of RM – as well as all the other areas of my job. The more I think about it the more I realize that relationship management IS my job.


Not all areas of my job are on here but I think you get the idea.

I think that everyone working in libraries (and probably a lot of other industries) has RM at the core of their work. Core to library work is engagement with users therefore, RM is built intrinsically into our role.

So if I “do” RM what’s the difference between me (as a subject librarian) and a Relationship Manager (or other job titles/descriptions of that ilk)? For me a Relationship Manager is the person who take strategic lead on developing and supporting relationships within an organisation.


Maps = strategy (apparently?!)

I realize I haven’t answered one of life’s great mysteries –  why are we here? are we alone in the universe?  is there another word for synonym? [answers welcomed] – and my answer is simplistic* but I wanted to share because I am a librarian and we’re like that.

2. Pro-activity is key to RM (& data helps) 

Well duh! If we take RM in its simplest sense (my favourite) – then of course pro-activity is essential. You can’t rest of your laurels and expect service users to continue to be satisfied with the support. Times change, technology changes, information changes, user needs change – we need to adapt and evolve.

Sometimes for HE libraries it is hard to get the message across about what we can (and can’t ) support. There are lots of different ways of increasing engagement. This was the focus of the workshop (Wearing users’ shoes: engaging with the academic community) I did with Lura Woods (@WoodsieGIrl). Following the Library Impact Data Project (LIDP) as University of Huddersfield we decided to target low users of the library via a variety of techniques: roving in departments, library desktop visits for academics, optional workshops (for staff, researchers, international students and other groups) and partnering with other support services e.g. Wellbeing for our Paws4Thought event – dog therapy for exam stress relief. Find out more here.

Other HE libraries (York, Teesside, Gloucester and many more) are using data (both statistical and anecdotal) to produce reports for departments informing them of how their students are using their service and what the library can do to help. Without the libraries proactively going to departments with this information it is very unlikely that they would ask for it, they may not even realize the library has this kind of data. By equipping departments with the library data, closer and stronger partnerships can be forged and maintained as the academics can get more involved in discussing and make more informed decisions about library support.

The right data in the right hands can be very powerful.

3. Roles are changing

As said above I see RM as central to my job. Roles in libraries have changed a lot over the last few years with a move to more functional groups rather than subject/department based roles. This is something that unnerves me slightly but I am still at the start of my career and I understand that things will change whether I like it or not. However, I know that as a librarian whatever my job title or description is, RM will be central to that role and that is something I am thankful for.


In my professional experience RM has not really been spoken about as a separate concept before, perhaps because it did not appear in job titles or descriptions until recently, but I found it really enlightening. It helped me reflect on my own role, what I actually do and what I could do differently and how I could develop as a professional. I definitely want to get involved in wider discussions about RM in HE libraries.

Finally, highly recommend this conference to others, there was a good mix of speakers (not just from libraries) and the topics were varied. The location and facilities were fantastic – bravo University of Stirling – and the evening entertainment was also brilliant.

There are probably LOADS of better and more information posts about the conference – you’ll probably find them on #rmlib2015

If you would like to find out more about Relationship Management in Libraries you could join the LinkedIn Group.


Robot librarians

Anyone who frequents to the BBC website will see that they have been running a Will a robot take your job? feature. There is also a Panorama special about it tonight (14th sept) on BBC 1 at 8pm.

Being a dutiful curious nosey person I decided to take part and according to the BBC’s incredibly scientific algorithms apparently there is a 52% chance that a robot will be doing my job in 20 years!

Although we all know the little BBC test is not a marker of future development it did get me thinking about the future of the role of a librarian.


Photo credit: 

Us library folks (and those who use libraries a lot) know about the changes we see and deal with them on a daily basis. We are no longer (solely) book stamping reading nerds with an over exercised shhhhh reflex! In the next 20 years I think the role of a librarian is probably going to change more than it did in the previous 20 years and I think this is exciting.

In previous rambling blog posts about libraries and education, namely my last one,  I discuss my views on the role of a librarian – give a man the information he needs and he’ll have that knowledge, teach him to find it for himself and he’ll be able to find anything they ever need. I still believe training and teaching library users about services (library or otherwise) and how to access them will be our core “business” in 2035 but the way we do it will be different.

A lot of discussions about the future and the use of robots centre around robots being humanoid constructions (god bless sci-fi) that mimic what a human would do in a particular situation. However, in my experience at work and in daily life, people much prefer to speak to a human and in the next two decades I do not think we are going to get robots who can fully interpret and respond to human expressions, meaning and emotions (I’ve probably jinxed it now!) So we won’t be having a fleet of robo-librarians sitting at our enquiry desks any time soon.

It may be that robots or machines will replace a lot of tasks that humans do not need to be “human” to do like shelving and retrieving – check out the British Library Newspaper archive. Granted these type of machines are only used for massive collections as the moment but with almost certain advances in technology over the next 20 years I am sure the systems will get smaller and more affordable. It may take another 20 years after then for these robots to appear in smaller collections e.g. universities or public libraries. Attitudes always take longer to change than technology does to evolve although some universities in America and Australia already have these.

Being a lazy librarian a had a quick Google of robots in libraries and the only other mentions were of using toy robots to help them teach child to code.Over the next 20 years the librarian role will evolve and this may mean certain tasks are done by robots or machines but that doesn’t bother me. It frees up my time to do the more “human” side of my job – supporting service users.

Who knows, in the next century we may have robots who can be “human” which is exciting but I envisage this happening towards the end of that century and I’ll be dead by then so meh!

Education, intelligence and skills…

From 1st – 5th June I was at Northern College studying for the Level 3 Education and Training qualification (formerly PTLLS) thanks to the lovely folks at CILIP Information Literacy Group

Side of Wentworth Castle on a gloomy day

Before I get to the focal point of this post I simply have to say if you ever get the chance to study at Northern College then grab it with both hands. It is part of Wenworth Castle near Barnsley which is a beautiful former stately house and gardens. The course was excellent, the content was interesting and the sessions were engaging. Jill Wilkens was our teacher and is probably one of the best teachers I have ever met, her enthusiasm for the course and in her teaching style was very inspiring. What was really useful about the week was that myself and the other students now have our own little network which we can draw upon for support and advice.

The beautiful victorian greenhouse in the sun

Central to the course was the concept of “Social Purpose in Education” broadly speaking it means that education needs to be based on more than just passing exams and getting qualifications. Education should develop well-rounded members of society not just CVs with skin.

Education for me was a series of stepping stones to the next qualification, and another and another. I was actually quite aware of this from about the age of 11 or 12 when our end of year 7 exams determined what sets we would be in for the following years. I was put in set one (top set) for most things but set two (middle set) for Maths; this never bothered me I had never ‘got on’ with numbers.

However, when I entered year 10 I was told that because I was in set two I could only be entered into the intermediate paper for my Maths GCSE which would cap my score at a B. At the time that was fine by me – I never expected to get any better, I was only aiming for a C. But looking back it seems strange that examination boards would ‘cap’ anyone’s potential. I do vaguely recollect a teacher saying to me that “it’s easier to get a B in the intermediate paper than it is a C in the higher paper’! Which seems very strange to me, but that’s our odd education system. FYI – I got a B in Maths in the end! I got 96% in my coursework but this was also capped at a B!

The stepping stone analogy really has underpinned my education. I can remember thinking “just get through these exams/coursework/essays so you can do A Levels/ go to uni/do your MA” – I think it’s the same for a lot of young people today. No wonder there are so many panicked graduates looking for work in these difficult times. If you have been told for most of your life that you just need to pass these exams etc and you’ll get a good job and then there isn’t one immediately available it causes you to doubt yourself.

Society at the moment is full of people working in jobs that they are over qualified for, they have achieved very highly in education but what does that actually mean in the context of the working world? I know a lot of people who were duped by the promise of a bright future if they got good grades, some purposefully didn’t get part time jobs growing up so they could focus on their studies. Needlessly to say they did excellently in their exams etc but they struggled to find work because of their lack of experience.

I grew up in a working class family and I still consider myself working class, both my parents are very intelligent despite only having what is considered to be a “basic education” i.e. they have O Levels. One of my dads favourite phrases is “education doesn’t mean intelligence” and he is right. If you look at today’s students (from secondary education up) they are trained to be exam and coursework clever, if you ask them to think outside the box they struggle. I think this is one of the reasons why there are so many unemployed graduates (or graduates working in non-graduate jobs) they have focused for so long on exams etc that they forgot (or didn’t have time) to expand their horizons; there is more to the world than what is on your exam paper.

Our education systems needs to focus on breeding inquisitive creative thought not exam passing robots. Although I still believe students should have to complete some form of examinations – I do not think they all have to be formal exams and coursework.Yes, this is a rather Utopian view on the matter but I am OK with that. One can dream. Also I know the government is trying to focus on employability, skills and work placements but in my opinion it is a half-arsed attempt; because they are currently in the process of removing assessment by coursework from GCSEs and A Levels – how can you demonstrate skills in a silent exam hall?

Our education system’s reliance on league tablets has crippled us, I do believe there is a need for monitoring schools and maintaining educational standards but it leaves teachers little scope for imaginative teaching practices or new topics because they have to stick so rigidly to the curriculum. I can’t remember where I read it but I think the attrition rate in teaching is one of the highest for any profession, having spoken to friends in teaching they often say they don’t enjoy it because they have no freedom. I don’t understand why the government won’t listen to the teaching unions and organisations – when the professionals say something needs to change then it needs to change.

The education system in the UK is seen as one of the best in the world, sometimes I struggle to see why. There is disparity between what the government thinks the education does and what the education system can actually achieve in the shackles the government has placed upon it…

Sorry, rant over.

#C8A2C8 2015

This year I got to go to #C8A2C8 or LILAC (there I have got the attempt at humour out of the way) for the first time!

In the past when I have attended conferences I have tried to tweet or write notes throughout all the talks and workshops I went too, which often led to me missing key points (because I was busy writing down the last thing). This year, in my first time at LILAC – I decided NOT to tweet and to only make minimal notes. I wanted to make sure I was taking everything in and I did not want to get too tired. I do not care what anyone says conferences are hard!

I did succeed (mostly) with those goals – I hardly tweeted throughout the day, and if I did it was very brief. Check out #lilac15 for all the tweets, and the CILIP Information Literacy Group’s slideshare for all the presentations from the whole conference. I did still make a lot of notes but not as many as I usually would, but one thing I did was to try to relate what was being talked about to my role, and how I could use the information practically.

So, in order not to regurgitate the conference talks I went to, I going to write about what I learnt from the conference as a whole and the thoughts it inspired:

1. Threshold Concepts – this was discussed in two of the keynote speakers: Ray Land and Barbara Fister. It was also mentioned in a few other talks. Without going into too much detail I will try to explain what they’re all about. Threshold Concepts have grown from discussions about the development of learners and the education system as a whole. Students are often unsettled when they move to university/college and are scared by not knowing “stuff”, they hold onto existing knowledge and often do not have the courage to “let go” of previous studies. I hadn’t really heard of HE being talked about in this context before so it really stuck out in my mind. I forgot how lost I felt when I first went to uni, I will try to keep this in mind when working with students in the future.

2. Education should not be a tick-box exercise – it is a conversation. All throughout the education system in the UK students are trained to pass exams, although this is a marker of understanding it is not enabling learners to develop fully. Students need to learn how to think like professionals in their chosen field of study, not just how to regurgitate facts, for example biology students will need to think like biologists and history students will need to think like historians. Information Literacy skills help students to develop their inquiring minds and support their studies but I have noticed that we (LIS professionals) are often drafted into sessions to talk about how to do something, we are very rarely given the opportunity to discuss why.

For example, I consider myself to be very lucky that I have four timetabled sessions with first year Law students in their first term. Each of these sessions is one hour long and I have to do this with six separate groups of first years – that’s twenty four hours in total! The sessions have to cover – an introduction to the library service as a whole and train the students how to use LexisLibrary, Westlaw UK and JustCite. Because of the volume of sessions I make good use of the trainers from the databases and try to organize it so they can deliver some of the sessions for me. As most library staff are just parachuted in for a session or two we have to focus on how to access information, we have no time for contextualisation. I have tried in some sessions to create more of a dialogue with students in the groups e.g. why legal information is so expensive and why they have to go via databases and not via Google. But the academic staff have a very firm stance on what I can cover and have told students that they are only in the sessions to learn how to access the information and the time is too limited. I think this is the reason why I get A LOT of emails from students puzzled as to why you have to take eleventy million steps to get to something.

In the next academic year I’ll aim to reformulate the way I approach the sessions to try to answer some of the common “why” questions before they are asked and I will create a “legal information FAQs” document for students. I have thought about “flipping the classroom” with these training workshops to give me more time to discuss scholarly process but it is something the Law lecturers are not keen on. However, creating more guiding materials (e.g. a workbook) for the database training will give the students more practical time and also the chance to ask wider questions.

3. Librarians are not gatekeepers they are tour guides – everyone knows that the days when libraries were only places for books are long gone. Training is a key part of all LIS roles, whether that is showing users how to use an OPAC or running an information skills session. An interesting question got raised in one of the events I attended, it related to the education sector but it could be transferred to any:

“Do we really want students to learn how to think like a librarian?”

My gut reaction was NO – I’LL BE UNEMPLOYED! But after a second I realized that I was getting into the territory of “we’ve always done it like that” which I think is the most dangerous phrase in the workplace. Equipping students with the tools to fulfil their enquring minds is what I believe my role to be, if that means that by their second or third year that they no longer require support that’s fantastic – job done. In the HE sector there will always be a fresh batch or students, researchers and lecturers to support, so I will always be involved in training. However if I can aim to train users more efficiently to help them become more independent learners quicker then that gives me more time to get involved with project work or to look forward to develop the support the library provides. We need to evolve with students needs, if not a little bit before. I think being in such an innovative, forward-looking profession is really exciting and inspiring.

4. Reflection: a skills selfie – I have and I will continue to bang on about reflection until the cows come home. In my opinion it is THE most important thing to do at work:

plan – do – reflect – improve – repeat

Pretty much all the talks I went to at LILAC referred to reflective practice even though it wasn’t the focus of the talk, it just goes to show how embedded it is in our practices; and back up my personal view about how important it is.

Recently, whilst at work I have had a few students come to the enquiry desk asking for support in finding items to help them with their reflective assignments, one student was very confused by the concept so I decided to try to help them understand. In a moment of sheer brilliance (read: madness) I said “reflection is just a skills selfie, how many times do you check a picture before you share it? You go through a mini review process right?”. As you can imagine the student looked baffled for a minute, but it then it just clicked – they got it, just like that! In this case the students work was all about their skills; obviously reflection is not just about skills but you can substitute that word for whatever you’re reflecting on e.g. “project selfie”. It might be a bit basic and juvenile but it works for me! You will be pleased to know that I still directed the student to the best (in my opinion) book on the subject: Reflective Practice by G. Bolton

5. Don’t overload yourself at conferences – even if you have signed up to go to a session in every slot, make sure you take a break. Three days at a conference is harder than three days at work for me. This year I picked a brilliant morning to take a break, I took a lovely stroll down to Newcastle Quayside and had an ice cream. I then returned to conference with a sunny disposition and slightly sticky hands. 


So that’s my (not so) brief look at my first LILAC experience.