Monday, 13 August 2012

Thing 13 - Wikis

I have used Dropbox in a personal capacity in the past (but only for a specific project) and found no need of it once that was completed. It is a useful tool when you need it - and easy to pick up again when a new need arises.

Editing wikis is new to me - we all know Wikipedia of course, but I have never been tempted to contribute to this particular resource. I find I am slowly finding my feet in my new post and my new organisation, and I have discovered that they have had two wiki's in the past. One is now defunct, and the second is currently being set up in its place. The aim behind both of the them (they held/hold the same information) was to be a "how to " guide for staff working in the two resource centres; in other words a procedures file that would assist new staff and remind existing staff how to do tasks that they don't carry out regularly. The old one became defunct because of changes to the computer systems used, and the "new" one contains the information for the old one, just re-entered as is.

The cons: 

The information was transferred over without any editing taking place, which means a number of the entries contain out of date information.

However up to the minute the software used to host the wiki is, if the data it contains is out of date or has been superseded then it is of little value to the user.

Information in the wiki needs to be edited and kept current, just as the information would need to be in any other format (e.g. paper file, index cards etc.)

Changes to company computer systems may mean moving to another wiki space in the future.

The Pros: 

A central resource accessible to all staff on whichever campus they may be, is held electronically, with no need to produce paper printouts to file.

Can be kept secure so only authorised staff can access it (so access to sensitive data can be more easily controlled).

Offers a central information point but one which can be edited by all staff from any campus, so should be quicker to keep current, and hence less of that "enormous task" feeling that updating procedures often is.


I feel the advantages outweigh the negatives here - often overhauling procedures is a mammoth task involving much consultation and thought, ultimately producing a paper file (maybe in multiple copies) which soon becomes outdated, tattered and with handwritten amendments in one copy, that are hard to transfer to other physical copies in other locations. An electronic system held centrally has enormous benefits for a multi-site set up, as does the ability to enable all staff to edit the wiki - a task shared is task halved (or quartered etc!)


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Mentoring - Thing 11

Three weeks into my new post, and I have my first meeting with my mentor. All new employees above a certain grade are assigned a mentor by the head of the Training and Professional Development department, who also came along to the first meeting, to introduce himself and outline the aims of the mentoring scheme.

As was pointed out, the recruitment of a new member of staff takes considerable investment in both time and money, so the aim of the mentoring scheme is to help new staff members settle into their new environment and new role quickly - so they become effective faster, and also to help guide them through protocols etc that may be new to them.

Mentors are assigned from outside your own department, and they are usually at the same level or above. So to that extent, the new member of staff takes "pot-luck" with who they are assigned to. Having said that, I think I drew the trump card with my mentor. Our initial meeting lasted 2 hours - I found her easy to talk to; she listened but also willingly shared her own experiences, and although our departments are very different, we found we had certain similarities in both our working and our private lives too - and I think any common ground helps.

Whilst my mentor is from outside the library world, I am very happy that I have found someone I can rely on to guide my through my first 6 months (may be longer if we both agree) and I know that I have many library colleagues I can turn to for advice on professional matters too. For now though, I am happy to spend 6 months learning the processes and procedures of this new organisation, and discussing my new role with my assigned mentor. She has been at this organisation for 14 years and still occasionally meets her own mentor from all those years ago "for a good gossip" which I think is easier to do with someone completely removed from your immediate working world - and sometimes you just have to let off steam - don't you!?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Thing 10 - Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation.

I have only recently successfully Chartered. I did my degree in Librarianship more than 20 years ago at Aberystwyth (then one of only 4 universities in the UK at which you could study the subject). I did a joint degree with History (and a little Education thrown in too!) and I did enjoy the course. I am interested to see that now the majority of folk seem do do a Masters after completing a degree in another subject first.

My degree did stand me in good sted - I worked as a Librarian for a number of years before moving into the world of LIS systems with a computer company. That saw me designing, writing and delivering training courses to customers on how to use the LIS the company developed.

I then took a career break (quite a long one) and returned to work running the library in an FE College. This was quite challenging on a number of fronts - student behaviour; teaching staff unwilling to use books  and journals; budget cuts; staffing levels slashed leading to reduced opening hours. During my time there I decided to Charter (it was not seen as a "necessary" by the College, but my line manager of the time was encouraging).

I was surprised to find that my original Librarianship degree was not approved by CILIP. It had been approved shortly after I Graduated (bad timing!) This meant I had to follow the longer two year route - not an issue for me as it turned out.

I did not find the Chartership process easy to understand. I wanted to get a picture in my mind of what the end product would look like - but originally only saw Portfolio examples that had followed the previous specifications, which I just found confusing. However, once I had a picture in my mind, it was quite straight forward - once you got the hand of reflecting on what you were doing / visits made / training attended etc.

Having recently changed jobs, my immediate challenge is to get to grips with the daily routines and processes currently in place. But I have been asked to make changes to increase the promotion of the resources offered and encourage people to use more the skills of the staff. This involves making presentations to those studying at my new employers and these students are more used to making high powered presentation themselves, not receiving them!

The one area I lack formal training in (as I have always "learnt on the job") is in running training courses. I have learnt over the years what tends to work well and be well received, and what tends to switch off an audience, but I would feel far more comfortable planing and making these sort of training sessions with some credible training under my belt. Luckily, my employers are great believers in investing in training for their staff, and this is something they are supporting me with.

I wonder to what extent, if any, any library training at any level includes an element of training in teaching techniques. This is such a key part of our job these days, whether it is done informally or formally in a classroom or workshop setting, that I think it should be considered a key part of any course.

I'd be interested to know what you think?
CPD in your later career.

I must thank Shelia Webber for her interesting post, and those that commented on it.

I too am an "Old Thing" and am doing 23 Things for exactly that reason. I believe CPD is important for all no matter the age /stage of career or length of time as an LIS professional. I felt that some of the newer technology was leaving me behind. I am somewhat encouraged however to realise that lots of "Young Things" must think that too to get involved in such numbers!

So is CPD in your later career necessary? Absolutely!

I whole-heartedly agree with Shelia's comment that we often find ourselves needing CPD in areas we did not expect. I know that more than 20 years ago when I started out, I did not expect to be where I am today - but then surely few of us in our first job set out to follow a rigid path we could clearly see before us?

I am continually saying (no doubt to the annoyance of those around me) that I love it when I learn something new, and I too was very taken with the notion of (un)conscious /(in)competence which I have been mulling over (something I think us "Old Things" like to do) all day!

I am two weeks into a new job, with all the challenges that that brings - new faces, new buildings, new procedures -  let alone getting to grips with tackling the ever growing list of tasks! Changing jobs always brings new challenges, (not the least of which, for me, will be continuing with 23 Things whilst "finding my feet" ) but continuing professional development is a key part of this, sometimes in areas that are completely new to me.

Good luck to all us Oldies - I am sure all we are learning will reap benefits - much like Sheila's beautiful harvest photos!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Real life networks - do I have too?

Much to ponder in Thing 7 - Professional organisations and real life networks. I am a member of a few CILIP subject groups and a regional group, but have attended few meetings. I have attended some, but not enough or regularly enough to become known amongst them. Why do I not attend more? It's hard to convince line managers to release me for working-day meetings (been a sole operator for a year now so cover is problematic). I've youngish kids so evening meetings are also hard - that is often the busiest time of my day acting as chauffeur to their very active social lives. Hence my own is on the back burner. I do think these evening meetings seem to be populated by young professionals (no carer responsibilities) or older professional (whose young have "fledged" so to speak). I look forward to being one of the latter. These are genuine reasons, but if I'm honest, attending meetings can also be daunting - its hard to enter established groups - we all know that from our school days, don't we? Gosh, I hope no one's actually reading this!?

I have noticed the appearance of technology used at some meetings to allow members to attend remotely. This will hopefully become more widespread and enable folks like me to participate more regularly.

I appreciated the links to items on networking for introverts. These were both fascinating and encouraging.

And, yet again, 23 Things has brought to my attention an organisation I knew nothing off before this day - The Higher Education Academy. Having explored their site and looked at some of their reviews and resources, I can see myself making use of this site in the future.

I love it when I learn something new. Sincere thanks to the many brains behind the whole "23 Things" thing.

Online networks

I had hoped I would have a small head start on this topic, as I had already joined and used both Linked In and Facebook, but once again, I discovered my knowledge left much to be desired.

I joined Facebook a few months back, reluctantly, because my teenage daughter wanted an account. So I joined up first, researched all the privacy settings and explored it, only for Facebook to change everything 2 days later! Whilst my daughter is an avid user, I must admit I struggle to see the benefit bar sharing photos, and I am still wary of it, fearing its potential for harm.

Linked In I also joined months ago but only recently fully completed my profile.  I feel more comfortable in the world of Linked In - perhaps because it is much more on a working life not social life basis. I followed Linked In's advice when completing my profile, and almost word for word uploaded my CV. I found the links to other people's profiles in Thing 6 very useful as it reassured me that I was operating on the same or similar lines to other professionals in the library world. Thanks for sharing and reassuring. I had not really properly explored Linked In's groups before, so found that feature  useful to know about. Equally, I had not been aware of Facebook groups either so took a brief look at some of those mentioned. I was delighted to see the British Library had a sizeable number of "Likes" and Voices for the Library also had vocal supporters campaigning in favour of Public Libraries. In comparison the number of "Likes" for CILIP seemed tiny, which seemed to support my decision that I will keep these two online networks separate. I have decided to use Linked In in a processional capacity and my Facebook (which I use very infrequently anyway) for my personal life.

I did not know about the Librarians as Teachers network before and I am delighted to have discovered it. I have not joined as yet - but I am due to start a new role soon, where it may prove useful to me, so once again, discovering a new resource has been a great benefit of 23 Things.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Thing 4

I must admit to finding it hard to keep up with 23 Things. If you take this Thing 4 as an example, whilst I was slightly aware of Twitter, I was not aware of RSS feeds for "library world" or Storify, so learning about 3 things for one week I found a challenge.

I am one of those people who likes to learn about something that is new to me, go away and ponder it for a while, read about others experiences of it, then play with it myself before deciding to what extent it is a Thing for me.

I have spent more time learning about Twitter. I had read tweets and tweeted my own a couple of times, but I have taken this basic use further by investigating how to attach a photo to a  tweet and how to link into a  website too. Whilst I have not attended a conference where Twitter has been used I have read that others have found this valuable, whether they have been at the conference or not, and I can see their point. So you could say I am now a fully paid up Twitter convert.

RSS feeds in terms of the Library world were new to me. I am ashamed to say this really. I know about their value for news, politics, sport etc, so there's no reason I should not have realised library folks create them too - I just did not. So that has been a valuable addition to my now crowded desktop. Now I just need to make the time to monitor them. I think I will have to learn to be ruthless about the ones I actually read in depth though.

Storify remains a bit of a mystery. I think maybe it is one Thing too far for this week. I'm going to settle for knowing it exists, and I may come back to that another time...............

I suppose that means you could argue that I have not really finished Thing 4, but I have gained much from it, and for the time being, that is good enough for me.