Friday, 4 July 2014

Having my CaKE and eating it too

Books and cats, librarian cake?
Photo by AngelinaCupcake on Flickr
Earlier this week I attended the first Cambridge Knowledge Exchange event (which has the pleasing acronym of CaKE). CaKE is the brainchild of Claire Sewell and Celine Carty, who had the idea for a local forum where Cambridge librairans could share knowledge and ideas gained from conferences. There were 8 presenters at the event speaking about different conferences they had attended in the last few months. The presentations are going up on the CaKE blog, Claire's storify of tweets from the event is here, and my personal tweets are storified here.

I am fortunate that my workplace is very supportive of my professional development (I will be going to ARCLIB next week) but conferences are expensive and it is impossible to go to everything you are interested in. At this event I learnt a lot of relevant stuff from several different conferences, all in one afternoon without leaving Cambridge.

Another of the good things about this event was hearing presentations about conferences that I wouldn't have thought were that relevant to me, but turned out to be very interesting. I will keep an eye on ELAG in the future for example.

Claire Sewell giving us the low-down on MOOCs
It was particularly useful when the presenters pulled out things from the conferences that they had been able to apply in their own library. Our libraries across the University are very different in lots of ways, but we generally have similar aims and pressures, and it makes sense to share this kind of learning. I have observed a trend recently towards greater collaboration in Cambridge libraries - for example a bunch of us are working on a central FAQs page similar to Portland State's Library DIY, and at the last meeting of the Cambridge Colleges Libraries Forum we spent some time brainstorming ways that CCLF could help individual colleges more, and ways that we could work together with other groups. I'm very hopeful that this trend will continue.

I hadn't originally been planning to tweet during the event, but I ended up doing so (the hashtag was #camcake). Quite a few people were following and commenting from afar (all jealous that Claire's delicious gin cake could not be fed down the intertubes!) and it was interesting to get input from people in America and Ireland. Niamh Tumelty mentioned joint vendor & librarian sessions, with the librarians giving their honest experience of using the product. I thought this was a great idea, however Tracy Maleef from the US was surprised that this was a novel concept in the UK. Really, it makes so much sense that I don't know why it isn't done here! This is one of the reasons I like using Twitter at events and conferences - it quite often leads to interesting back-channel discussion, and opens up the conversation beyond the people physically at the event.

Some key points I noted down to follow up later were:
  • Look into Project Information Literacy and the LSE SADL project
  • Learn more about action research
  • Use the questions "what should we start doing/what should we stop doing" as an exercise
  • Look up the presentations from ELAG.
  • Keep an eye out for the Hyperlinked Library MOOC in case it runs again

Monday, 2 June 2014

First adventures in Chartership

I have taken the plunge and signed up for Chartership. Eek! Chartering has been a vague aim for a while now, something I've mentioned in job interviews when I've been asked where I see myself in X years time. But now I've paid my registration fee, found a mentor, and it is time to actually get on with it!

I had my first meeting with my mentor last week. Sheila is an information scientist managing bibliographic databases and search services for the specialist engineering firm TWI. I know that finding a mentor can be a difficult process, especially when trying to find someone in a different field from your own. I was very lucky to find a mentor quite quickly, and to find someone working in such a different role. I found my mentor through the CILIP East Mentor/Mentee Matchmaking group on Facebook which was the brainchild of Maria Giovanna, CILIP East's Candidate Support Officer.

After chatting for a while about what I wanted to get out of Chartership and going through the mentoring agreement form, Sheila gave me a tour of the library. The library at TWI provides information resources for a range of different user groups, including onsite staff, those studying for PhDs, and offsite users from many different companies. As a lot of the reports and so on in the library are confidential to some level or other, it is important to identify the user and determine whether they should be able to access the resource in question. While we have policies in the College library about who can register to borrow books, and different loan periods for different types of user, there are no restrictions on reference use - we don't have any classified information!

For offsite users, electronic copies and physical books are sent out by library staff. The online database has an 'add to cart' button for each article. Orders are sent to the library and then copies are made and sent out. The database uses a specialist thesaurus of welding-related terms. Sheila goes to an annual international conference where new terms are suggested and debated. During my Cat & Class II module at UCL I had to create my own thesaurus on a subject of my choice which I found one of the most enjoyable pieces of coursework (and not just because my subject was Harry Potter...) I haven't used that skill since my MA, so it was interesting to see this kind of work being carried out.

Cataloguing a new article for the TWI database involves a lot of work. Keywords are assigned from the thesaurus (if the topic isn't accurately covered then a free-text keyword is added - this is where Sheila looks when taking new suggestions to the annual conference). TWI information staff write their own abstracts for each article, as author-provided abstracts don't usually provide the necessary detail required by TWI employees about the types of material, techniques etc. being discussed. Journals, reports etc. are acquired from all over the world in many languages, so abstracting and keywording is a considerable task!

On my visit I saw the TWI library in its temporary home, as a new building is currently under construction. At Magdalene we are planning a new library building, so I jumped at the chance to look at site plans etc. and hear more about the process. TWI are much further along in the process than us, they will be in the new building in a matter of months whereas our new building is still several years away. When building work begins we will hopefully not have to move into temporary accomodation as, unlike at TWI, the current College Library is not being demolished to make room for the new building, but the idea is to repurpose the space afterwards and turn it into some kind of visitors centre/exhibition space for the Pepys Library.

Welded swimsuits
Before I left, Sheila showed me the exhibition space in the reception area which displays the wide range of welding techniques used, and the variety of industries supported by TWI - from communications technology to medical equipment, and even clothing. Sheila had mentioned earlier in the afternoon that some prospective mentees were put off as her role is far removed from that of e.g. an academic or public librarian, which surprised me as I found the difference in our roles fascinating.

The next steps for me are to do the PKSB gap analysis to identify which areas I'm going to focus on improving, and to spend some time playing around with the virtual learning environment on the CILIP website. My target is to complete my portfolio in a year so I better get cracking!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Academic Skills Session: Research Survival Guide

Our second session in the Academic Skills Programme was called 'Research Survival Guide: Mastering Your Dissertation or Project' (side-note, I think in hindsight that 'Surviving Your Dissertation' would have been a snappier title, but oh well...!)

As with the last session, I've adapted the content into three posts on the library blog:
I made a screencast of Zotero in action to show how the cite-while-you-write and bibliography export features work, now uploaded to YouTube with voiceover.

We also had a couple of handouts for this session - a Literature Search Plan worksheet to get the students thinking about the search terms they were going to use, and a Reference Template to take away and use to record their references if they favoured the pen-and-paper approach. The reference template was adapted from Meriel Royal's version, thank you Meriel for the idea!

Academic Skills Session: Navigating the Information Jungle

Liz Osman and I did two sessions earlier this month as part of the college's Academic Skills Programme. Our first session 'Navigating the Information Jungle' was aimed at first years, and was a kind of 'you've found your feet, where do you go from here?' session.

I've adapted the content of the session into three posts on our library blog:

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Libraries@Cambridge conference 2014

I have been to four Libraries@Cambridge conferences now, and when I compare the conference to others I've been to (thinking about Umbrella and CILIP New Professionals Conference mainly) I think Libraries@Cambridge is as good or better in lots of ways. It's free, organised in a relatively short time frame by Cambridge librarians, with most of the speakers working in Cambridge libraries, so it's usually very relevant to me. I think it's great hearing from the newest graduate trainees alongside the Bodleian's Head of Assessment and the UL's Head of Innovation.

I thought that the keynote presentation by Frankie Wilson was particularly good. A few bits that resonated with me: 
  • It's easy to change rules but harder to change the underlying culture – conscious and unconscious behaviour, values and climate.
  • Every time someone asks at the enquiry desk ‘how do I do…?’ that is feedback, and there may be something you could make more intuitive.
  • Do you pay enough attention to feedback, and do you take action? It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying that first year undergraduates for example just needs to learn ‘how it works'.
  • Are all staff (from student shelvers up) empowered to share their ideas for innovations? I consider myself lucky that I've always felt that I could share my ideas, both at Newnham and Homerton. However Frankie's mention of student shelvers has prompted me to make sure that our shelving team know that they can make suggestions.
  • "If you do the same thing every time, you’ll get the same results every time." This sparked a conversation in the Twitter backchannel with Sarah Burton, Ned Potter and Jo Alcock. We came to the conclusions that if something already works okay it probably won’t get changed, but it could potentially be better. However just because something fails once doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work another time in different circumstances.
  • Different groups/types of users will have different needs, so watch out for unintended consequences of your changes – what's better for one type of user may be worse for another.

Ben Outhwaite
Liz and I both went to the parallel session on Special Collections thinking that there may be something we could apply to Homerton's special collections (the annuals and Alice in Wonderland collection in particular for me). This session was split into three mini presentations - Ben Outhwaite from the UL's Genizah Research Unit, Suzanne Paul from the Manuscripts Department at the UL, and Camillo Formigatti and Daniele Cuneo from the Sanskrit Project, also at the UL.

Both the Genizah project and the Sanskrit project involved academics working with library staff on special collections to catalogue and digitise. Ben Outhwaite said that as well as benefitting from the academics' expertise, having academics working on special collections has led to events, funding etc. which wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. I think our special collections at Homerton have scope for collaboration with academics, something to think about more in the future.

Suzanne Paul worked with Emma Dillon from King's College London to put on a programme for Emma's students – each student was given photographs of a fragment, they then learnt palaeography, notation and so on in class, and then at the end of the term they came to the UL to see their fragment, learn about how they were stored etc. and worked on a catalogue record for the item. While this was a lot of work to put on, it benefitted both the library and the students. 

After the lunch my second parallel session was 'Quality for Who?' by Paul-Jervis Heath. I had volunteered to live-blog this session for the conference blog, so you can read the whole thing there.

The project that Paul and his design team have been working on has been to study students and academics and come up with 'personas' or sets of motivations and behaviours which are present in everyone at different levels. For example these are the three student personas in brief (there is a lot more detail in this PDF)
  • David is at Cambridge in order to get a job at a top firm. He's kind of interested in his subject, but targets what he does in order to build a network and find a job later. He 'hacks' the system by dividing the reading lists with his friends, and they then swap notes on the books they have read. 
  • Mattias is here to enjoy the things that university has to offer. He wants to do well, but he wants to make friends and have fun. 
  • Katrina is reading every single book on her reading list and is really feeling the pressure. She isn't sure she's on the right track, and is working well into the night and all weekend.
Paul students like David are setting things up on their own such as Facebook groups to share notes on books. Would it help if librarians were to set up an official version of this? Perhaps then students like Katrina would be helped because they wouldn't feel like sharing was cutting corners. However I was wondering as Paul said this whether or not we should be trying so hard to make things easier for students? I'm not saying that we need to set an artificial difficulty level, but it would feel a bit wrong to me if the library was encouraging students not to go through their reading list thoroughly! I'd be interested in what other people think about this though as I do recognise 'Katrina' in quite a few of our students. We have been coming up with ways at Homerton to encourage students to take regular breaks, and we occasionally liaise with personal tutors if it appears a student is struggling or putting a lot of pressure on themselves.

I was interested by Paul's explanation of Kano categories for service features, which I had not heard of before.

Graduate trainees' presentation
The final session was made up of lots of mini presentations by speakers from across the University including this year's graduate trainees, Isla Kuhn from the Medical School Library, Georgina Cronin from SPRI, and the team from Christ's College (Lucy Woolhouse is the graduate trainee at Christ's, so she was working extra hard during this session!)

As always, a lot of the valuable stuff at a conference comes over pastries at break time or over a glass of wine at the end! I had a good catch up with some friends, and met a couple of lovely new people, including on the bus ride back to the station!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Blowing away the cobwebs

I know this kind of post is such a cliche at this time of year, but a combination of the New Year and the Libraries@Cambridge conference have reminded me that I've neglected my blog for far too long!

My last post was over a year ago, and so much has happened since then. Rory and I bought a house earlier in the year and we got married in October (see photographic evidence below). We also now have guinea pigs! Basically we did All The Things in one year and now will relax for the next 5 years :D

Work has also been pretty exciting. Over the summer I was involved in hiring a new member of staff, including being part of the interview panel. The Children's Literature Collection that I manage is growing very quickly, as we've acquired a donation of 150+ versions of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and a very large donation of 7,000ish children's annuals (which promptly went into storage and will stay there until we work out where they are going to go!) Liz and I are going to be presenting two academic skills sessions in February, so I'm putting that together now. I'll hopefully blog about some of these things at some point, especially about being on an interview panel, as that was a fascinating experience.

I was lucky enough last year to get a bursary from CILIP East which enabled me to get to my first Umbrella conference, and I also went to two regional library camps. At the Libraries@Cambridge conference yesterday I live-blogged Paul-Jervis Heath's session 'Quality for Who?' on the Libraries@Cambridge blog, but I've got a bunch of other notes and I'm going to blog some of my thoughts on the rest of the conference later this week.