I’m back! Moving into NHS librarianship

It’s been an awfully long time since my last update, so I’m just going to do a quick summary of what I’ve been up to since my last post!

In November 2015 I took up the post of Liaison Support Librarian at St George’s, University of London. This is a medical school in Tooting, South London, which works closely with St George’s NHS Foundation Trust. My job move was primarily for personal reasons as I wanted to move to London to be with my partner. However professionally it was also a great opportunity to move into a new sector as a healthcare librarian. My role primarily involved providing training to lots of healthcare professionals studying for CPD qualifications alongside their busy day jobs. It was a challenge dealing with users who were often lacked confidence in IT skills, but such a rewarding experience showing them how easy it could be to find high quality evidence for their work, and providing lots of support and encouragement.¬†Additionally I was also given the opportunity to run literature searches for NHS staff, this was a very valuable skill and one that is very specific to health librarianship. Other things that I did there included helping with marketing/promotion of the library, providing RefWorks training and support, and general enquiry desk duties.
I felt I wanted more of a professional challenge after about 4 months, and in May 2016 I started as the Knowledge Resources Manager for the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. It’s been 10 months in this job and the time has absolutely flown by, I asked for a professional challenge and boy did I get one!! The library team consists of myself and a library assistant so I have had so much to learn – I think I will do a separate post about being a solo librarian. We provide training and support for students taking courses at the Royal Marsden School; I have had library/information skills sessions embedded into 90% of the 20 or so modules that we have run so far this academic year. In addition to this, we provide library support for all staff working at the Royal Marsden; this involves running literature searches, sourcing books/journals, managing access to online resources, and answering enquiries… among other things! Luckily we are a smaller trust than most as we are a specialist cancer hospital, so it is just about doable with a small team.
So that’s just a quick snapshot of where I’m at at the moment! I am hoping to bring this blog back to life as it is a useful place to keep track of my professional development. Also, others have mentioned that they have found it useful ūüôā

Chartership portfolio submitted!

There are lots of changes happening in my life at the moment, which is why this blog has gone quiet in recent days! Yesterday, I finally submitted my chartership portfolio – hurrah! It’s been pedal to the metal with chartership over the past two months, as I wanted to submit before beginning my new job next week (more on this in a future blog post!).

Step 1: CILIP chartership event

I found the chartership process quite easy and straightforward. I kicked things off first and foremost by attending a CILIP ‘getting started with chartership’ event in London. This event was really useful because we were able to ask experts our fiddly¬†questions, and had the opportunity to look at different example portfolios. I also felt reassured that there were lots of other people in the same boat as I was, and I came away from the session feeling more confident about the process as a whole. I wouldn’t say the event was essential, but it was helpful.

Step 2: PKSB 

I then went away and worked on my PKSB. I was really anxious about this – it’s a horrible document that’s just far too long, with confusing terminology and lots of the points overlap anyway! Luckily I was reassured by the fact that at the chartership event, it was clarified that we only really needed to focus on 6-10 points, and that it was ok to be totally clueless about areas outside our own experience. The Excel spreadsheet version of the PKSB is infinitely more useful and manageable to use than the unwieldy PDF.

Step 3: Mentor

I found it difficult to locate a mentor outside my sector that was close to me geographically, so I decided to widen the net a little and found the lovely and helpful Alison Millis, who is based in Tunbridge Wells – about 2.5 hours away! We got in touch via email and I did visit her once, but beyond that all our communication was done via email. I found the online portfolio system really lends itself to distance mentoring as Alison was able to track changes in my portfolio and offer her comments without too much hassle. Alison helped me to put together an action plan for my chartership and was very responsive and helpful throughout.

Step 4: Professional Development activities (and gathering evidence along the way)

I am quite lucky in that my (soon to be former) workplace is excellent at providing training and CPD opportunities. Senior management gave us¬†2 hours a month dedicated to chartership discussions, as well as our own training budget. What I found especially useful was the opportunity to participate in the University of Reading’s FLAIR teaching scheme for new academics, which has meant that I am now an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and feel like less of a fraud when delivering teaching and training! I didn’t really have to do a whole lot specifically for chartership – lots of the activities that I used for evidence just came from all the things that I did as part of my job.

Step 5: Putting it all together

I started writing my evaluative statement almost from the very beginning – a really useful piece of advice given to me by Alison. Having the structure outlined, organised according to the evaluative criteria and the PKSB skills I wanted to evidence, was really useful in helping me keep focused in my writing. Also, I am lucky to have had practice with reflective writing during my MA course at Sheffield – thank you Barbara! The VLE is very clunky and not the nicest to use, but I was able to figure my way around it reasonably easily, doing most of my writing in Word and copying things over to the VLE when I’d finished. I didn’t personally need any help but I’ve seen from various forum notifications that the CILIP team are very responsive and helpful, if you do encounter problems.

Anyway, it’s in the hands of the assessors now… fingers crossed!

Lovely wildflowers at the Horniman Museum

Lovely wildflowers at the Horniman Museum

Social media for teaching and learning

Earlier this week I attended a University of Reading workshop on using social media for teaching and learning. A storify summary of the day is available here.

I thought the day was very useful overall, although there were lots of things discussed (such as Padlet¬†and Quizizz)¬†that I would consider more ‘online tools’ than social media, really. There were lots of examples of good practice, but some of the key points that I took away were:

  • Privacy is a real issue of concern for many academics and students. Facebook offers a greater degree of ‘distance’ than Twitter (you don’t have to be ‘friends’ to be in the same group and communicate, groups can be kept private). Some academics were also concerned about potential problems arising from more informal modes of communication with their students and were worried that they might get in trouble with the university for not following established protocols. I suppose the key here is for the university to publish clearer guidelines on acceptable social media use for professional and educational purposes.
  • Cultural differences affect social media choices! Facebook isn’t big with Chinese students, for example. So this is important to bear in mind when selecting the right platform to use with your students
  • It’s better to back web-based tools rather than programs which need to be downloaded (often university machines are locked down and any new programs and updates need IT departments to get involved).
  • Lack of confidence amongst academics is a key barrier as well. I think there is such an opportunity here for us to get involved, as there is a clear demand for more training and expertise sharing!¬†I know many librarians already run social media workshops for staff and students (Judge Business School Library, for example), and as professionals experienced in providing training on new technologies and ways of managing and navigating information, we already have many of the necessary skills.
London skyline

London looking lovely on a summer’s evening

I would like to incorporate social media into my own teaching practices but I’m not sure how well this would work, particularly given the way in which I often only see students for one or two isolated sessions throughout their academic careers, rather than having a sustained relationship with them over time. The web tools, however, are easier to apply in the sessions that I teach, and I will definitely try them out in some of the induction sessions I’m running in October!

Overall the day was a brilliant learning experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing ideas and opportunities with academics from across the university, finding out what works, and what doesn’t.

Preparing for my first conference paper

In January, I submitted my MA dissertation abstract to¬†the¬†i3 conference. I didn’t really expect much to come from it, but I thought it might be an interesting experience, and it was something to do with my dissertation, anyway. It took ages for them to reply, so I forgot all about it. Then, in March, I received an email telling me that I’d been accepted to present!¬†I was very excited and jumped around the office for a bit, but then I didn’t hear anything for months and I almost forgot all about it again, getting caught up instead with chartership and work-related activities.

The¬†conference programme was recently finalised, and it was a bit of a surprise to see my name there in black and white. I’ve now booked my accommodation and travel and registered for the conference, so it looks like it’s finally official. It seems like a bit of a shock, from my initial stab in the dark! My topic is ‘Representations of privacy in the context of care.data: conflicts of interest between government, newspaper and public discourses’.

Beautiful evening sky in Reading

Beautiful evening sky in Reading

Although I am comfortable with presenting to fellow librarians and students, I can’t help but feel that a conference paper is going to be a different kettle of fish altogether. I feel out of my depth – I’m not an expert in privacy studies, or in information behaviour, or social media interactions! What questions will they ask? Do I know my material well enough? I’m just a puny little MA student amongst the research postgraduates and established academics…

Luckily, the two anonymous reviewers of my abstract have provided some useful and constructive feedback, which I will apply to my presentation. I have also been looking up tips on presenting at conferences; there are lots of reassuring blog posts written by early career academics and professionals. I also have to do lots of reading to catch up on the way in which the field has evolved since I wrote my dissertation – July 2014 seems like a lifetime ago now! Time to get busy – I’m away for two weeks in June, so have to do most of the preparation in what’s left of this month…

CPD25 event: Introduction to Marketing within Academic Libraries

The Weiner Library¬†for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide¬†is a fascinating place – such a treasure trove of unique material, although both physically and emotionally daunting, I think. Anyway, that’s where the CPD25 event I attended last week was held, in a room that was definitely too small to accommodate the number of participants attending!

The session was two hours long and there was a lot of material covered during this time. Samantha Halford, who facilitated the session, has put together a helpful storify outlining the key points we discussed.

We began with an icebreaker activity¬†in which we were asked to match celebrities to the brands/products that they endorsed. There were some really obscure ones there, which sort of undermined the point that ‘we subconsciously absorb marketing information all the time’ because clearly in these cases… we hadn’t! It was fun, however, and it’s certainly a useful activity to bear in mind if ever I run a session on marketing…

We then ran through a quick overview of what marketing actually is (building relationships with users), and what it isn’t (just promotion, advertising, or branding). I feel like I already have a good grounding in this area thanks to a session on this topic during my MA in Librarianship at Sheffield. However, it was good to go over the basics; remembering to focus on the reasons¬†why you are running a particular marketing activity was my main takeaway point from this first half of the session. Ned Potter’s book was also plugged during the session; I’ve found it a really useful and accessible introduction to library marketing and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in this topic.

Mam Tor, in Yorkshire

Mam Tor, in Yorkshire

There was then an interesting group activity in which we discussed the different ways in which we would target different user groups within our libraries. This has been echoed somewhat with a session I’ve just had today at my EDMAP1 teaching day, on how ‘minorities’ are now the ‘majority’ of our users, and how we need to think about the ways in which we communicate with and cater to the unique needs of our heterogeneous user base.

The most useful part of the session was, for me, Jacqui Gaul’s top 7 tips for marketing in academic libraries. These were really practical:

  1. work with a marketing department if you have one
  2. create a visual identity for your service
  3. use a planner to map out your activities throughout the year
  4. always remember what the¬†purpose is underlying your marketing initiatives and keep this at the forefront at all times – don’t just do something because it seems like a good idea!
  5. highlight benefits, not features
  6. think like a user
  7. use ‘AIDCA’ to underpin your messages

Looking at my own current practice at my organisation I can see that there is plenty that we can do to improve the ways in which we build relationships with our users. To some extent I do feel limited because I am in a junior role within my organisation with few opportunities to really make any decisions; however, I still think within my own departments I certainly will be able to put some of the tips explored into practice.

I think that over the next few months, I will use these marketing tips to try and improve my relationship with the MLES department, which as I mentioned awhile ago is one of those that I have had little engagement with (in terms of with the student body; the staff are great!). I will particularly work on the planner idea, trying to match my communications with students so that they are timely and in sync with what’s going on in their academic lives. I will also try to improve the email communications that I send out to them by highlighting benefits and using AIDCA, while putting on a ‘user’ hat to ensure that any confusing terminology or presumed knowledge is left out.

Here’s hoping this will help increase the number of enquiries/interactions I have with students – one of the few KPIs that I have at my disposal!

CPD projects this year

This year I have two big CPD projects to complete, which are different but related:

1. The EDMAP1 module at the University of Reading.

This is part of the University’s wider initiative to get more of its teaching staff accredited with the HEA. There are four taught sessions in total; I completed one in December and have another to look forward to in a few weeks. I’ll also have a piece of assessed coursework to complete later in the year.

I have found this course really useful so far, even though I’m only halfway through! Meeting members of staff and discussing best practice has been valuable, and I also enjoy having the theory there to ground what I’m doing in the classroom. If I pass the assessment I will become an Associate Fellow of the HEA. There is a very specific deadline for this, which helps.

2. Chartership

I recently attended a portfolio building workshop in London, at CILIP HQ. I think Chartership is going to be a really valuable way of examining my skills and experience in a critical way, identifying gaps and hopefully addressing these! My current job contract is only for three years, so I will need to start thinking about where I might head to from 2016 onwards, and what I’ll need to be able to do in order to move forwards in my career.

UCL looking lovely in the sun

UCL looking lovely in the sun

If I do manage to complete both of these CPD activities this year, I will have a ridiculous number of letters after my name! Obviously this isn’t really the point, however. The point is that I think both of these qualifications are going to be useful in helping me to settle into my role as a professional librarian. I’m still feeling uncertain and unsure of myself in many ways, and having some theory and evidence to back up my professional practice might help provide some confidence. It should also hopefully improve my credibility with the academics¬†that I support.

New year!

Looking back at my first full term as a professional librarian, I can confidently say that I have achieved quite a lot! I’m really enjoying my current role and have really felt challenged and inspired. My personal highlights have been: the Celebrating Success award from the Head of one of my departments, and becoming used to delivering teaching sessions. Also, it’s always so nice to receive positive feedback and thanks from library users I have helped, that’s what drew me to librarianship in the first place!

YiWen's MA Librarianship certificate

My MA certificate!

My MA certificate just arrived in the post a few days ago! I have seen other librarians debate the value of a postgraduate qualification in librarianship and I have to say that I think my degree has been really useful in helping to prepare me for the responsibilities of my current role. When filling out the PKSB for Chartership, I was also struck by how many aspects were covered during the Librarianship course. I would highly recommend the MA at Sheffield РI had a great experience there.

I’m meeting my Chartership mentor this week for the first time. One of my big resolutions for this year is to get the chartership portfolio submitted by December! I know this is quite a tough ask but I think I can do it. I’d rather get it done sooner rather than later and am strongly motivated by deadlines, which helps.

Other exciting activities in the next few months include an observed teaching session for the Academic Practice Programme at work, which is nervewracking, and continuing my work with trying to engage with students at the MLES department. My resolutions are to pass the EDMAP1 module for this APP programme with distinction, and also to increase the number of enquiries I receive from MLES students.

In non-library related news, I’ve also resolved to run a half-marathon in under two hours, and practice cello once a week. I’ve signed up for the Reading Half Marathon, which is in 8 weeks, so training has really been ramped up for that recently!

It’s going to be a busy and¬†exciting year.