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

Advertisements

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 – 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!

First week as a trainee liaison librarian

I’ve survived my first week of work as a trainee liaison librarian! So much has happened – I’ve met many people, been told many things, and am starting to get my head around the things I’m meant to be doing. I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt so far, and what I need to work on.

The first few days of my job were largely spent absorbing information. Monday was used to sort out administrative things, like where things are, a staff card and IT permissions, whilst on Tuesday and Wednesday several members of staff kindly took time out of their busy days to talk me through various Library processes and procedures. By Wednesday afternoon, I felt that I had a good understanding of my roles and responsibilities, although I hadn’t actually done very much myself beyond checking reading lists for the availability of recommended books in our Library.

My staff card

By Thursday afternoon, I was able to order some of these books and ebooks for the use of students in my department – initially with the guidance of my supervisor, Gordon, but later on independently! This was really satisfying as it was my first opportunity to actually perform some of my liaison librarian duties, including making decisions about how many copies to purchase, or whether print or electronic versions would be more appropriate. It was great to be able to put the theory I’d learned over the first few days into practice. On Friday, I booked in some of my first subject-specific induction sessions, and emailed members of academic staff. Real liaison librarian activities!

The 4th Floor of the Library is currently being renovated, so it has been difficult to get a real feel for where I’ll be working and where things are. Also as a result of this, I’ve been unable to assume my management responsibilities, which should cover shelvers on this floor. I’m actually quite grateful for this as it has meant that I will be able to ease in to my responsibilities slowly, taking them on gradually over the coming weeks.

Another challenge that I’ve faced so far is understanding the Library and how things work. One of the unique things about the staff structure here is that (unlike all my places of previous employment) individuals are only rarely given strictly functional roles, and most people have a range of responsibilities across different parts of the Library. For example, one Library Assistant could primary have cataloguing responsibilities, but also have certain hours of their day allocated towards shelving, and others towards liaison assistance in a particular department. This is great and I can see how this would be a really positive thing for the Library overall, but it makes learning who people are and what they do trickier!

Over the next week, I hope to be able to gain a better understanding of my department and its unique information needs, and begin building relationships with academic and administrative staff. I think I’ll investigate other university libraries’ libguides for my subject areas. I should also learn more about my Modern Languages responsibilities, as a key member of staff will have returned from annual leave. I’ll try harder to learn people’s names and responsibilities, particularly Library Assistants and fellow Liaison Librarians – the website and intranet will be useful for this. I could also start thinking about my teaching responsibilities, and how I will approach them.

Overall, I’m relieved to have reached the end of my first week without breaking anything! My colleagues have been really patient and supportive, and I’m really looking forward to learning more from and working with them over the coming weeks. There are times when I still feel really nervous and unprepared for everything I’m meant to be doing, but I’ve just got to stay positive, build on my professional experience, and remember that there are people there to support me.

PS: here is my staff page!