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…

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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 – I 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.

Third month as a trainee liaison librarian!

Well, it’s been a month of highs and lows!

I’ll start with the lows, then. I mentioned in my last blog post that I would be running three teaching sessions for students at the Modern Languages department. Because I was nervous about this, and wanted to make a good impression on the students, who I’d previously had little contact with, I spent quite a lot of time preparing for these teaching sessions. However, I unfortunately only had two students attend these sessions – in total. Needless to say it was a big disappointment! However, feedback from other sessions during Enhancement Week (a new thing at Reading) showed that attendance was poor overall. Next time, I won’t get my hopes up so high… and I’ll definitely do more to market my sessions beforehand!

Given this pretty abysmal showing during Enhancement Week, then, I was really surprised to receive a Celebrating Success award from the Head of the MLES department! Staff at the department have been pleased with the work that I have done for them in terms of supporting their teaching and research. I have to work harder to prove the value of the Library to the department’s students, though – have yet to receive a single enquiry from them! I’m still brainstorming ways to promote the value of my services as a liaison librarian to these students, and would eagerly welcome any suggestions.

Other things that I’ve been up to: figuring out how I can best support the learning and research of a visually impaired student, doing more teaching (a mixture of large groups, small groups, and one-to-one), and finally, getting started with Chartership. I’ve paid over my £50 and am now looking for a mentor. I’ve also signed up for the Academic Practice Programme here at Reading and that starts in a few weeks. So let’s see how it all goes!

Second month as a trainee liaison librarian

This month has been really busy! Since my last blog post, I have delivered additional induction sessions, as well as running three advanced searching workshops. The feedback for the workshops has been largely positive, which is such a relief! My colleague Rachel kindly sat through my first two sessions and gave me some tips on presentation style and worksheet layout, which has been really helpful.

Most of my teaching thus far has been with Education students. I will have my first sessions with the Modern Languages and European Studies department next week; this is a bit of a challenge for me, as I’m hoping to use this opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the Library and the department. I don’t get many enquiries from staff or students from MLES, which is something I’m hoping to change. I also don’t have much of a background in modern languages, so I’ve had to do some homework to ensure that I’m up to speed and confident with all the relevant databases and information resources. At this stage, preparing for these new sessions is taking up a substantial amount of my time, as I’m creating new materials and learning as I go along! Hopefully as I get more confident and begin running sessions repeatedly, this process will become more efficient.

A swan at the University of Reading Whiteknights campus - we have a lake!

A swan at the University of Reading Whiteknights campus – we have a lake!

I’ve also had quite a few one-to-one sessions with students over the past week – about seven hours in total! Because it’s half term, many of the Education students have been able to book one-to-one appointments, usually on reference management and databases. Teaching has definitely been a major theme this month; it’s something that I’ve discovered I really, really enjoy, and I’m hoping to develop my skills in this area, probably through reading around the subject and attending CPD courses. We had one or two sessions on this at Sheffield, as part of the Academic and Research Libraries module, but really nowhere near enough, considering how important teaching is to the job roles of so many information professionals today.

Besides teaching and teaching preparation, I’ve also been busy with book ordering and ensuring that course materials are made available to students via the VLE. Another new development over the past month has been my role as shelving team manager for the 4th floor in our library. I chaired a meeting for the first time this month, and am trying to figure out these new managerial responsibilities.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the next month takes me!

First month as a trainee liaison librarian

It’s been just over a month since I started my first professional role, and so much has happened!

We’ve just come to the end of Freshers’ Week. Some of my colleagues had warned me beforehand about how intense it can be, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the onslaught, when it came! I have been involved with a whole host of different Library induction events, and have enjoyed promoting our services to our enthusiastic new students.

Natalie and I on a promotional banner!

Natalie and I on a promotional banner!

The most nerve-wracking experience of the past week has been my solo induction sessions, delivered specifically to new students at the Institute of Education. I prepared for these by watching some sessions run by my colleague Rachel, and practicing repeatedly at home. The group sizes for these have been quite manageable so far – up to 25 students. I’ve found it really interesting how each cohort within the Institute of Education has quite a unique student body, with different interests and needs. First thing tomorrow I’ll be delivering a session for mostly international postgraduate students, so that will be a new experience. I’m trying something a little more interactive as well, so we’ll see how that goes! One of my sessions was observed by my line manager, Gordon, so I’m looking forward to getting some feedback from him next week. I’ve also been asking all the students to complete feedback sheets, so hopefully there’ll be some useful points there for me to work on in future.

I feel, at this point, that I largely know what I’m doing now! There are of course lots of things that are still new and I’m still always asking my colleagues about something or other, but by and large I feel that I can just get on with things, which is good. There were times in the first few weeks, before I’d been properly trained in everything, where I felt like a bit of a burden, or a bit rudderless, but now I feel like I can already make positive contributions to the team, and have specific goals to work towards.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to concentrate on building good relationships with academics, and getting a good grasp on my basic duties. I’ve already managed to get some new sessions booked in for ‘Enhancement Week’ in November, and I think this will be a really good opportunity to showcase to the (previously minimally engaged) department what the Library can do for its staff and students!

I’m really enjoying my job so far – it’s challenging, fun, and I get to work with some inspiring and lovely people 🙂