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.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

What I've been reading in October

Social Media

Phil Bradley, Should we outlaw 'social media'?

Phil Bradley, Personal reputation in a social media world


Lane Wilkinson, Beyond 'Beyond Literacy'

School Libraries

The Guardian, Library campaigners to meet MPs


Jo Alcock, Joeyanne McLip (one to come back to when I decide to attempt chartership!)

Events and Networking

Stephanie Taylor, #uklibchat in RL! (summary of the #uklibchat session at Library Camp 2012)

#uklibchat, Summary - 10th July 2012 - Conferences, events and networking


Publishers Weekly, Random House, Penguin Agree to Merge

Monday, 15 October 2012

#uklibchat at Library Camp 2012

On Saturday I went to my second Library Camp, an unconference event held in Birmingham. While I enjoyed the whole day (and will hopefully blog about it at some point this week), the highlight for me was the I helped to facilitate with other members of the uklibchat team on the topic of careers.

 After a delayed train and a half-an-hour scurry across Birmingham (I have short legs and was walking with some tall people!) I arrived at the venue in the middle of the session proposals. Luckily, Linsey and Lyle were on hand to propose the uklibchat session while I got my breath back. A post-it with our session name got stuck up on the timetable, and we were in!

Photo by Sarah Childs
We'd picked careers as it had been the most popular topic for uklibchat this year, and we hoped it would be something that plenty of people would want to talk about. Lots of people did turn up, and we had a good discussion which I was very happy about!

All the tweets are archived on Storify, and there is a post on the uklibchat blog which gathers together resources mentioned during the session, and posts from other blogs about the session.

Things that didn't go as planned:
  • Wifi. The venue's wifi was either broken or just not equipped to handle so many tweeting and blogging librarians! I wasn't able to get a connection at all, so our grand plans of a hybrid session had to be scaled back a bit. We'd been hoping to live tweet the session, take questions from Twitter as well as the room, and set up a projector with a #uklibchat twitter stream so everyone could see all the tweets. However I was able to tweet from my phone, and we did have several people participating remotely. We'll have to try again at another event in the future!
  • Sadly Ka-Ming missed her train and couldn't make it to Birmingham which was such a shame, but I thought Sarah and Linsey did a great job of introducing and facilitating the session without her. I was just desperately trying to keep up with the tweets as I'm pretty slow at typing on my phone!
Things which worked well:
  • There was a really good mix of sectors and experience among the people at the session, which was great for this topic.
  • People who couldn't make it to the session at the time were chipping in with their opinions on chartership, recruitment agencies etc. for the rest of the day on the #uklibchat hashtag.
  • In the first session of the morning a few people had pointed out that it was difficult to follow the different sessions simultaneously being tweeted about on the #libcampuk12 hashtag, so I decided to stick to the #uklibchat hashtag for our session (having tweeted a couple of times on #libcampuk12 to warn people that that's what I was doing). I think this made it much easier to follow the session as we were going along, and to archive it afterwards.
  • Lots of people took business cards at the end, woohoo!
Hopefully everyone who came to the session took something away from it. I found it an interesting discussion at least!

Photo by Sarah Childs