I’m still alive!

Recently, I stumbled across Marie Cannon’s blog while doing some research for my course, and I found it such an interesting read that I thought I’d try and revive this blog. I found her posts really thought-provoking, and writing about my own experiences may help me to trace my own professional development – they might even be useful to someone else!

A lot has happened since I started here at Sheffield, and it would be silly to try and cover it all in one big catchup post. But here are some of the topics I’m hoping to address over the coming weeks:

  • The MA Librarianship course at Sheffield – has it been useful?
  • Module choices
  • My dissertation
  • The University of Sheffield Library Society, which I’ve been involved in this year as a committee member
  • Preparing for life post-qualification

I’m hoping to blog every other week, if possible.


Thing 23: What next?

I love learning new things and this has been an excellent experience for me. Although I sort of rushed through things towards the end of the course I still feel that I had the opportunity to really get to grips with a handful of new tools, and think about using tools I was already familiar with in different ways.

What do I want to do next? Whilst writing my personal statement for library school applications, I thought about this long and hard, and have decided that it would be wise not to pigeonhole myself at this early stage in my career. I want to keep all my options open, and equip myself with the necessary skills to ensure that I would be able to adapt to any potential role.

I would like to be in some kind of user education/information literacy role later on in my career (whether it’s in a law library, university, or even a prison library!) and so presentation skills are really quite essential. There’s a lib@cam conference coming up and I might volunteer to do a pecha-kucha presenting session – I’m terrified of this idea, but I think it would be a good learning experience.

I also think that I should do my utmost to keep abreast of the latest technology, and of developments in the information world. I can do this by being more disciplined and setting aside time to read more journal articles, instead of just relying on the blogosphere, CILIP Update and Twitter for my current awareness.

Having a personal development plan is really quite useful, and I will try my best to work on achieving my targets before the end of my traineeship in St John’s. I’m really lucky to have so many wonderful resources at my disposal, so I must make the most of them whilst I’m here.

Overall, I’m really grateful to the CPD23 organisers for putting this together; having a deadline has really made me get my act together. Now, I’ve just got to keep it up!

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview


As I think I’ve mentioned a few times, I am not very good at interviewing – I think I come across well on paper, and fill out application forms well, but am just quite bad at talking. This tends to surprise people, because I’m quite a chatty and friendly person, but I just find the formal interview setting quite difficult to deal with.

The most shameful moment in my life so far has to be bursting into tears at a PhD interview held by two academics I greatly respect and admire.

Well, what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, right? I may have had a slew of unsuccessful interviews, but I have always asked for feedback, and have worked hard to build on these comments – and it’s paid off, eventually!

I know this sounds silly, but when I get nervous I tend to make stupid jokes. This cost me the first job I applied for that I really, really wanted – at a law firm, where I had been a shortlisted candidate – they said that I wasn’t professional enough at the final interview. I would agree with them, and I’m still very cross at myself for this. I would never do this now, I have acquired more control and experience since then!

Another useful piece of feedback given to me (by a different interviewer) was that I needed to provide more examples from my experience when answering questions, so that’s something I’ve incorporated into my repertoire as well.

I now spend hours and hours preparing for interviews. I treat them like exams – they need mugging for, and I walk around in my room talking to myself, rehearsing my answers (this is to avoid the panic-and-make-a-joke scenario). It’s worth doing extra bits of research into the institution to see how they might be unique, and where your skills may fit in.

I’m planning on having a part-time library job whilst doing my librarianship MA, so there will be interviews coming up within the next 9 months… and I’ll be ready for them this time!

Thing 20: My Library Route

YiWen and Anura c1999My first experience behind the desk in a library was when I was appointed a school librarian, aged 9, at my Malaysian primary school. I still have the green tie and gold badge I’m wearing in this picture with my friend, Anura (she’s in blue because she was a prefect). My duties involved stamping out books for other students during recess, and issuing little borrowers’ cards.

I then moved to England to study at Wells Cathedral School at the age of 13. It was a bit of a culture shock, and I sometimes found it difficult to fit in; I used to hide in the school library during lunchtimes, curled up by the radiator with a book to escape the rain and cold. The school librarian, Mrs Evans, was absolutely lovely and was always ready to recommend me books and talk about the ones I’d read, even after I’d found my feet and was less frequently found in the library. I was appointed the Student Library Manager when I got to sixth form, and spent some lunchtime and after school hours looking after the library whilst Mrs Evans was out for lunch. I enjoyed talking to the littler students who came in then, remembering how reassuring it felt when Mrs Evans was kind to me.

Whilst studying at UCL, I was a member of the University of London Symphony Orchestra, and really enjoyed it there. When I got to 2nd year, I decided it would be a good idea to join the committee, and picked the Librarian post because I thought it would be something I was comfortable with. Well, I quickly discovered that orchestral librarianship is not very much at all like normal librarianship, and that musicians can be a difficult bunch to handle! I did get the chance to catalogue and organise some things though, which I enjoyed.

After UCL, I went to St Andrews, where I did Romantic and Victorian Studies. I have to say that the user education provided by the library there was fantastic. I had a Research Skills and Resources module, in which library professionals talked us through the various databases and research methods available to us. We also had a manuscripts class, and a rare books class. These classes were so interesting, they convinced me to volunteer with the university’s Special Collections, helping to log, prepare, box and transport materials for relocation. It was one of the librarians there who told me about library traineeships, and it was then that I started applying for various positions.

I didn’t manage to land anything by the time I finished my degree at St Andrews, so I moved to Glasgow where my boyfriend was based, and started job hunting in earnest whilst also volunteering at the Glasgow Women’s Library, and briefly at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Whittaker Library. I was appointed part-time Information Assistant at the Glasgow Caledonian University in December 2011, and Evening/Weekend Services Assistant at the University of Glasgow in February 2012. By February, I’d had 7 unsuccessful interviews for various traineeships, and I had come close to resigning myself to having to rely on my Information Assistant positions for the year of requisite work experience before applying for library school. There was one traineeship offer in September 2011 by a construction consultancy based in London, but they had just been restructured and were unable to secure the funding for my position.

I was lucky to get the job at St John’s, and I feel incredibly grateful to be where I am today, training at a fantastic library with so many wonderful resources at my disposal. I know I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of my library career, but I do feel that I’ve always been a librarian at heart. I feel that I can really make a positive impact (however small!) on other people’s lives and work by being a librarian, and that’s what I love best about my job. I can’t wait to see what the future brings, and which libraries I’ll end up in!

Thing 18: Jing / screen capture / podcasts

I’m planning to do Thing 17 (Prezi) in conjunction with Thing 5 (Reflective practice, which I skipped earlier) and Thing 22 (Volunteering) by producing a Prezi that reflects on my experience of volunteering, and because I’d like to do a good job of it, it’s taking a wee while to put together.

So, onwards to Thing 18!

I find it much easier to teach students how to search our catalogue or access ebooks through demonstration, and it seems to me that this method of learning is much more effective than producing leaflets.

Jing is a great piece of software because it’s so very user-friendly; a piece of cake to install and use. The option to add captions and other annotations is really good too, because students don’t always have earphones to hand in a library!

I’ll certainly be looking to use this in any user education programmes I might get to run in the future 🙂

Podcasts I’ve never really been a big fan of, although I know they are a popular form of communication. I think they’re great for things like lectures or discussions, but generally I prefer to have my information presented to me textually or visually. I would personally use podcasts more as a supplement to other ways of delivering information, so that all kinds of different learning styles are catered to.

Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

It’s made me really sad to read about public library closures up and down the country, especially as I lived in Brent for two years, and have a fondness for North London.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I haven’t really played a very active role at all in library advocacy so far, besides donating some money to various library causes (such as Save Kensal Rise). I suppose it was difficult at first, being up in Glasgow, and since I’ve moved to Cambridge I’ve been kept so busy by my traineeship that I haven’t really had a chance to do more.

I think the people running the Save Kensal Rise project have been wonderful. I admire their determination and persistence, as well as their excellent marketing and capability to rally people in support of their cause. If I was going to be a library advocate, I’d look to that project for inspiration.

In terms of projects that I’d like to get involved in and skills I’d like to build, what I’m really passionate about is outreach and education, and I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in some of this both here at St John’s College, Cambridge, and with my volunteering at the Glasgow Women’s Library. In the future, I would like to be able to develop more outreach programmes and perhaps widen access to our resources; I’d love to incorporate technology into our displays, and perhaps work on more appealing online exhibitions of our treasures. Having said that I’d like to work more on my presentation skills, I suppose I could also incorporate some presenting into these grandiose schemes!

Getting published

As has been evidenced by my lack of blogging, I’m not the most regular of writers, and I do find it difficult to write personally rather than academically. If I was to get published, it would probably be an academic article that does the trick! I love writing essays, and look forward to having the chance to do this when I embark on my postgraduate library studies.