Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’
It might seem an obvious title, but that’s the subject of this post in a nutshell. Alternatively, I could have gone for ‘Why I’ll be blogging more regularly over the next few months’, but we’ll come to that in a bit. I will start instead by answering my first question by making a range of true statements with a few fairly lame excuses thrown in about why I have written precisely one blog post in the last six months (which goes against all of my own very good advice as a so called communications professional, but hey ho).
Why, Rachel, why?
- My new job as the Communications and Marketing Officer for the Library and Heritage Collections has been pretty hectic. I would liken it to spinning many many plates with one hand and juggling kittens in the other (yay, kittens!). I generally blog about work + I don’t have any spare moments at work these days to speak of + and I also don’t really want to be thinking about work when I’m not there because that would drive me bonkers = no blog posts.
- I bought a piano which I quite enjoy playing.
- I have been spending time writing things which are not blog posts. I’ve edited my children’s book and started to send it to agents and publishers. I also started writing book number two.
- I organised my first Brownies sleepover at which I got pretty much zero sleep.
- I have basically spent all my personal and professional development time on personally and professionally developing (rather than reflecting on them here on this blog. It’s not like I’ve been doing nothing, honest!).
- I have been fairly preoccupied with the series of unfortunate events which I have continued to find myself in on a personal level.
- I was progressing well in terms of my CILIP Chartership work, so I felt like I could afford to slow down with it for a bit.
- I spent two weeks completely glued to the Olympics.
- I just couldn’t really be bothered.
There you go, you have my reasons, for what they’re worth. And the reason why I’ll be blogging more regularly until the end of the year? Well, you know, it would be a bit weird to completely ignore my 2012 development activities in my Chartership application. And from October I will have officially completed the two year period of work experience since I registered for Chartership, which means that I can actually submit my application. It won’t be October, because I will be spending most of my time running round like a headless chicken with the arrival of all the new students, but I’m aiming to get it cracked by Christmas.
So watch this space…
So it’s been a while. You know how it is – life takes over. Blogging and Chartership work haven’t really been at the top of my to do list. Outside of work, there’s a lot of family drama unfolding. I’m pleased to say though that things are looking much more positive as far as work’s concerned. Back in November, I had an interview for the post of Communications and Marketing Officer for Durham University Library and Heritage Collections. And I got the job!
My new role is to continue and develop Durham University Library’s communications processes. I am responsible for ensuring that we deliver clear, consistent and effective information about Library and Heritage Collection resources, services and developments to internal and external audiences. Planning, managing and developing promotional campaigns, publicity materials and events from initial concept to final production are part of my duties. I’m going to be advising and supporting our Web Steering Group and scoping potential mobile applications. I will be heading up collecting feedback, evaluating how effective our services are at meeting customer needs and responding to the National Students Survey results. I also have some responsibility for internal communications.
That’s what the job description says.
I’ve come back to work after Christmas to a series of introductory meetings and I’m using January to review, plan and prioritise. And at the very start of this process, what I’m already starting to realise is that it’s a big job. I’m managing marketing and communications for 5 libraries, one of which is just about to open a £10 million pound extension in April. So far, so at least kind of within my comfort zone. I’ve worked in the Library for two years and I’ve been involved in all of our major campaigns and publicity activities. I have been a student at the University. I know what we offer as a library service, I know our main customer group and I’m confident I can promote what the Library does to our different audiences.
But as well as the libraries, I’m responsible for effectively marketing our archives and special collections. There’s also the small matter of our growing special collections gallery space, which will be hosting the Lindisfarne Gospels in 2013. And then there’s the two university museums. And all of the outreach work that goes with this.
I’m really excited to have been offered the promotion. It’s definitely going to be a challenge and a job that I can hopefully do some really interesting things with. It’s my first ‘professional’ level post, and my first ‘graduate’ job. And I’ve managed to get it without postgraduate qualifications in either librarianship or marketing. I feel massively lucky that my colleagues have recognised that I work hard, that the standard of work I produce is good and that I’m capable at handling whatever’s thrown at me.
But with the very serious concerns I have for my family, who are falling apart over 300 miles away, I can’t help but feel that a lot is being thrown at me right now.
2012 is certainly going to be interesting…
I have mainly one thing to say about Thing 5 of the 23 Things for Professional Development programme, which is all about reflective practice. And that is read my blog. This whole CILIP Chartership thing means I’m all over it. Oh yeah.
Ok, gloating over. I thought I’d use this Thing to briefly reflect on what I’m getting out of CPD23, and what I need to concentrate on in order to get the most out of the rest of the professional development Things coming up over the coming weeks.
So far, CPD23 has prompted me to revisit and review how I’m using particular online tools for personal and professional development. I’ve been trying to look at my online presence objectively and I’ve come up with some actions to help me get the most out of blogging, Twitter and RSS feeds, amongst other things. It’s also exciting to explore new tools, like Pushnote and later this week, LinkedIn, and I’m hoping by the end of the programme, I’ll be starting to use some of these.
The other positive about doing this is that lots of other people are trying these tools out at the same time. I’m enjoying reading about what other people think of online professional networking, and what’s working for them!
What I really need to do now is use these reflections to inform my actions and interactions, and get on and do the stuff I’m suggesting. The most difficult bit of the CPD23 programme for me is just keeping up, because the weeks and Things seem to move really quickly. However, I’ve subscribed to the single feed of all the CPD23 blogs set up by Shannon Robalino (I want her surname), and it looks like I’m not the only one out there who gets a bit behind from time to time, which is reassuring! And the way I see it, I can always look back over my posts after the CPD23 course finishes and spend some more time on some of the Things at my leisure.
The other thing I’m slightly concerned about is progressing with my Chartership work at the same time as taking part in CPD23. There’s definitely professional development activities I’ve been doing over the last few weeks that I need to spend some time reflecting on. Work and life doesn’t stop, after all!
CPD evidently now stands for Cake & Professional Development. Image courtesy of M i x y on Flickr
Last week, I celebrated one year of tweeting using my missrachelsmith Twitter account! I’ve also just reached the 6 month mark with the missrachelsmith blog. The turning of a year is often a good time to reflect on the year past and think about the year ahead, so week 2 of 23 Things for Professional Development, and Thing 3: Consider your personal brand are quite timely for me.
Now, communications and marketing is kind of my bag, baby, so in theory, this personal branding Thing should be a piece of (tweetanniversary) cake. But for me, using social media for professional development was kind of an organic thing which just happened. I never really planned or structured my personal online ‘brand’. So what do my current professional social media profiles say about me?
What I think
Well, I think that I present myself in quite a straightforward way. Both my blog and my Twitter account are named after me and I also proudly display friendly mugshots of myself (although the photo I’m currently using, taken during the Toon (lib)TeachMeet, maybe isn’t the most obvious).
I write about what I’m doing at work, about professional development activities and about ideas I have about libraries and information. I don’t go into a huge amount of detail about out of work stuff, but I don’t divorce my work life and my personal life entirely, as it tends to creep in. And I write quite honestly; the whole point of my CILIP Chartership work is to be reflective, and that means telling you how I feel about the things I’m doing, as well as what I think about them.
I definitely think that there’s room for improvement, however. Visually, my blog and Twitter account don’t look all that enticing and a strong online visual identity could be easily achieved through using consistent headers and backgrounds. I’ve also been keeping an eye on my blog stats in recent weeks, and a lot of people seem to find their way to my About page, which currently tells you very little about me. These are things that I need to look into and would be quick improvements to my personal online brand.
What my colleagues think
I decided to be brave and go for the optional extra activity, so I asked a couple of colleagues for their opinions on my blog. My colleague Vicki called it (and I quote) ’the most professional blog I’ve ever read’. I’m guessing this is because there are other people at my workplace who blog – see Helen’s Bright Inside, a blog about interior design, or Ben’s bloggin’ bones, subtitled ‘musings of unremarkable idiot’, for example - and don’t write about professional stuff at all. But still, as I’m blogging about work, professional is kind of what I’m aiming at, so I was fairly pleased with that response.
What Google thinks
I’ve learnt that I’m not amazingly easy to find or ‘googleable’ - I blame this mainly on having the world’s most common name. I did consider changing my surname as a teenager, to something a bit more exciting and glamorous, but my mother was quite offended when I suggested it. Actually, if you search ‘Rachel Smith’ on Google, you mainly come up with results relating to an American beauty queen (don’t be fooled – if I looked like that I wouldn’t be doing this job).
Can I improve my Google result rankings? Well, I’m sure there’s a few SEO-type rabbits I could pull out of my library marketing hat, but I don’t think I can improve my visibility that much, without changing names. I’m planning to use the missrachelsmith ‘brand’ for at least the course of Chartering, but maybe I should rethink this further down the line, as and when my blog and twitter activities have a change in purpose/emphasis.
And lastly, what do you think? I’d love to know.
Image courtesy of ladybugbkt on Flickr
I just couldn’t help starting out my 23 Things for Professional Development journey with a Cat in the Hat reference. Plus all librarians love cake. Fact.
23 Things for Professional Development, or CPD23, is an online course starting this week which aims to introduce librarians and information professionals to a range of online and offline professional development tools. As you’re reading my blog, I’d hazard a guess that you might be the sort of person who’s probably heard about CPD23, and possibly you’re even taking part, but if you want to find out more about the programme, take a look at the blurb on the CPD23 website.
Thing 1 asks partipants to set up a blog and think about what they want to get out of the programme. I set up my blog back in January as a professional development tool to help me record my progress towards CILIP Chartership, so I’m feeling just a little bit ahead of the game as far as Thing 1 is concerned. However, there are other Things in the programme that I’m not at all familiar with and I’m interested to learn about. Like Pushnote (Thing 4) and LinkedIn (Thing 6), for example. And some of the Things are things to think about, like Thing 3: Consider your personal brand. It’s around a year since I started using Twitter, and around 6 months since I started my blog. What do they say about me? I’m hoping that CPD23 will help me to reflect on what I currently do, and encourage me to explore some new professional development tools along the way.
So that’s Thing 1. And Thing 2? Well, I’d like your help for Thing 2: Investigate some other blogs. I already subscribe to a number of blogs, but I’m going to use Thing 2 to investigate some new blogs I haven’t looked at before. I’ve already started by looking at the blogs of the people who commented on my post about the New Professionals Conference earlier this week to see what they’re blogging about. And I want to read your blog too. You’re reading mine, so it’s only fair. Leave me a comment and tell me who you are, and where your blog is!
And don’t tell me you don’t like cake.
Today, I’ve had a well-deserved pyjama day (apart from the fact that at about lunchtime, I decided getting showered and dressed might make me feel slightly more productive!). Having the luxury of a few hours to play with, for once, I’ve finally got around to making some small improvements to this blog. When I started the missrachelsmith blog up back in January, I was really keen to get on and post about all the things I was doing. So I picked a theme, added one or two important widgets and got my head around using WordPress (a new platform for me), and started to write.
But now I’m a few months and a few posts into blogging, I thought it was about time I at least got the presentation of my blog up to a good basic standard, rather than just the bare bones. The marketer in me would love to play around with the style and format of these webpages, and I think at some point this would be a brilliant development activity in terms of web design. However, the librarian in me knows that the information I’m trying to convey, and making this information more accessible and visible, is the most important thing. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do today.
One liners #2: Improvements I have made to my blog today
Photo: Having named my blog after myself, I thought it might be nice for you to put a face to the name.
Menu: Under my photo, there is now a menu in the sidebar for you to navigate through some of my…
… Pages: I’ve created two new pages, to provide a bit more information about who I am and what I do.
About page: A short bio, a statement about the views expressed in my blog.
Publications page: A page which I’ll regularly update, about my writing for publication.
Categories: I’ve started using categories, to give you another way to find posts on particular subjects.
CILIP Blogger?: As my blog mainly describes my Chartership activities, I’ve asked to become a CILIP Blogger.
What do you think of the new and improved missrachelsmith blog? What other features or information would be useful? I’d love to know your thoughts and comments.
One thing I’m learning from the Chartership process is that writing reflectively is really quite difficult.
Now, I’d say I’m fairly good at writing. I can write in a range of genres, formats and registers – I’m equally comfortable with constructing a notice, putting together web content, creating my infamous Mills and Boon attempt or writing an academic essay. In fact, I would go as far as saying I talk the talk a lot better on paper than I do in person. But I don’t think I’m necessarily very good (yet) at reflective writing.
Why is that? It’s obviously not the writing itself which I find difficult. It’s what I’m writing about. I can describe a professional development experience competently, and I could shape this nicely into a set of notes or a report, no problem. But reflecting upon an experience? Tricky. I’ve been trying (and you can see some of my attempts elsewhere on this blog; e.g. here, or here) and I don’t think I’ve been entirely unsuccessful, but I’ve been starting to feel like this in itself is a skill I need to develop.
So – I thought I would try and find some information to help me out. Decided I’d start with a book hunt in the Library and I managed to find a couple of books which I’m rattling through in my spare minutes. I had a quick Google search for ‘reflective writing’, which came up with some useful PDF guides from other UK academic institutions. I’m also thinking that a bit of database/e-journal searching, particularly for articles to do with reflective writing and librarianship, might be the next step.
But what I really wanted to talk about today is one of the books I found on my ‘I need to improve my reflective writing’ mission, and my BIG IDEA. I’ve just been looking at Winter, Buck and Sobiechowska’s 1999 book ‘Professional Experience & the Investigative Imagination: The ART of reflective writing’ (strange mix of cases used in the title, but hey ho). I’m not going to provide any sort of close critique of this publication, but the general idea is that your typical report-style reflective piece isn’t the only way to go. In fact (disclaimer here: Winter et al. don’t go as far as stating this in their book, so this is only my opinion) I find that generally the times where you find yourself writing reflectively in a professional context can have a number of other constraints and influences. When I fill out evaluation forms for the training events I attend through work, I generally lean towards the positive, because I’d like to be able to attend such events in future; when I look back over my year in my annual appraisal, I want to make sure that particular areas are covered, so I concentrate on these. Given this precedent for reflecting upon development activities and personal performance, it’s no wonder I find it difficult to write reflectively.
Back to ‘Professional Experience and the Investigative Imagination’: Winter et al. put forward the idea that another way to reflect upon professional experiences is by writing creatively. And this is when I had my new BIG IDEA. I would say that I am a creative type – in fact, I’d say that my creativity is one of my strengths. And I get quite a lot out of exploring things in a creative way. So although some of the things Winter and his colleagues put forward didn’t quite work for me, I could totally see why taking a different approach to reflecting on professional issues and activities might be something to consider. And I have considered it. And I think it’s a good idea.
So – alongside my blog, writing for publication and the various reflective avenues I have at work, I am going to start a Chartership art journal. An art journal is kind of like a scrapbook, and often includes writing, images and collage – have a look at some Flickr examples if you’ve never come across them before. I’m choosing to create an art journal, rather than any other kind of creative medium, as it combines both words and pictures, both of which are representative (rather than abstract) ways of communicating. I bought a sketchbook at the weekend, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to start using this soon – I’ve already got some ideas. And I’ll post my work here when I have something worth sharing!
This week I have been having a MAJOR READING LIST BLITZ. So major, it deserves block capitals. I actually quite like processing reading lists, when you get into a bit of a rhythm – there is a comfort to be found in routine and I get some satisfaction from doing quite technical tasks accurately. However, when I sat down to write a blog post this lunchtime, which was going to be about the Learning Resources Centre (LRC) at a local FE/HE college I visited last week and how they handled reading lists and academic liaison, I could see it was quickly turning into an essay. Evidently, I need slightly more mental simulation for seven hours of the day than reading lists provide. But I am noticing a pattern recurring – when I start to write a blog post about something, it turns into hundreds and hundreds of words on my chosen subject of the day (tips, anyone?).
Anyway, to avoid this, I’ve decided that I’m going to confine myself to one-liners for the remainder of this post. I’m not going to focus in depth on liaison and reading lists, but instead I’m going to tell you about lots of different things I noticed during my time at the LRC, in no particular order. Rules of the game: I’m only allowed one line of the Word document I’m writing this on per topic (I don’t trust WordPress not to eat my posts). And GO…
One liners: interesting things I learnt about the Learning Resource Centre
LMS: The LRC uses Heritage, which seems really user-friendly and is used by many FE colleges.
Fines: Are much lower at the LRC than the University Library, and staff aren’t charged fines (!).
Stock selection: Resources are chosen by academics and signed off by their head of department.
Acquisitions: Orders recorded by the LRC, but all purchases managed by College purchasing office.
Print journals: are all reference only and classified at the same Dewey number as the book stock.
Cataloguing: All LRC resources are catalogued from scratch – they don’t import MARC records.
Access: Visitors sign in at reception; the LRC has moved away from ID cards to biometrics.
Teaching space: 5 computer clusters in the e-learning area are available for teaching bookings.
Website: No LRC website; patrons access information through the VLE or via the web OPAC.
OPAC: Front page easy to customise, but resets to original whenever there’s a Heritage upgrade.
Grouping resources on the OPAC: can be done by adding piece of code into web OPAC URL of items.
Social media: the LRC contributes to the College Facebook page, but Facebook is banned in College.
Branding: Blue and white used (College colours); the LRC has its own logo.
Marketing: The LRC mainly use traditional print media, but are soon to get a plasmascreen.
Information skills: Staff member based in the HE building offers HE information skills programme.
Inter-library loans: The LRC group isn’t part of a lending group and only use the British Library.
Reading lists: Formal process is launching this year; academics will use LRC template to submit lists.
Induction: In 2010, 2524 new students went to 184 LRC induction sessions (seriously impressive).
Why write an essay, when you can write it in a sentence?
This blog post is so entitled because I feel like that is exactly what I’m doing at the moment. I recently had a week off, due to a horrible cold/flu/chest infection, and on arriving back in work this week I’m finding that there’s a lot going on and my brain is still slightly like mush. So as I can’t quite keep up with all the things I’ve missed, the things I’m in the middle of and the things I’m organising for CILIP Chartership, I thought I’d write a sort of ‘this is where I am’ post to get myself up to date.
The few weeks before I was ill were really positive in terms of progressing with my Chartership work. I had my first meeting with my Chartership mentor, Jackie, where we talked through my draft Personal Professional Development Plan and discussed how I was going to monitor and record all the actions I’m taking in working towards Chartership. Following this meeting, I submitted my initial PPDP to CILIP, and I also sent the document to my line manager and the head of the library service. We had a meeting to discuss the activities I had proposed, and I found that the Librarian was happy to support pretty much all of my development aims, suggested some ideas, and committed to supporting my training activities both from a financial perspective and in terms of work time. This left me feeling secure in the knowledge that my employers were behind my professional development, and was a fantastic outcome to the meeting.
A few days later, however, and I had to take sick leave. I’d just started a blog post reflecting on some of the training activities I’ve already undertaken – I’ll attempt to finish it soon and get it up. I also started writing a letter to my MP in support of Save our Libraries day, but again this fell by the wayside. While I was off, I missed a couple of quite important sessions: I was due to go on a Mentoring training course, run by the University, which would mean I could mentor new staff during their first weeks and months of working at the Library. It’s not the end of the world, as there will be another session organised sometime later in the year, but it would have been a good thing to cross off this month. I also missed out on interviewing candidates for the employability award run by the University’s careers service, which would have fed nicely into my Chartership work on management skills and University strategy.
Whilst I was away, the Library Services manager contacted me to confirm a work experience placement student was coming in at the beginning of March. I’m going to act as the supervisor for the placement during the student’s week with us – this is a fantastic opportunity and will fulfil part of my Chartership training aims. However, it’s a challenge to arrive back in work with a flu hangover, to be faced with catching up on all the work that was dropped while I was away, and think about organising an appropriate and interesting timetable for the student – but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
The other thing that’s happened in the past few weeks is that I’ve confirmed the work experience placement that I’m going to undertake at a local FE/sixth form college in late March, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of what it is like to work in another sector of librarianship. I’ve also got some work to pull together for the placement, because as well as learning about how their library operates, I’m also going to present sessions to the college library staff about how our reading list process works and what we do in terms of student support.
So that’s what I’ve been up to, and not been up to – and it feels much better to see it all written down and not floating around in my cotton-wool brain!
So… blogging. As those of you who follow my missrachelsmith twitter account will know, my attempt at microblogging is not always entirely successful. I say this because there will often be days, sometimes weeks, without a twitter update, particularly when library life is busy (which is most of the time). And even when I do post something, I often feel like I don’t say anything particularly enlightening.
Given my inconsistent background in online professional networking, you might question whether a blog is really for me. I’m not sure quite yet, I’ve got to say – I guess we’ll see! But these are some of my reasons for giving it a go:
- I’m much better at writing in big. I am slightly in awe of people who can condense complex ideas and discussions into teeny mini posts. Unfortunately, however, I find that having a lot to say and liking proper sentences is tricky in less than 150 characters.
- I subscribe to a number of blogs and I enjoy reading them! So maybe this is a sign that I will get on well with writing one.
- I don’t have time to write lots of posts every day, really, but I do have time to put something together every now and again. So I think the combination of twitter and blog might work for me.
I also have a specific purpose for my shiny new blog – that of attempting to document my professional development activities as I work towards CILIP Chartership (more about the background to this in post two, hopefully!). I want to use this blog to record what I’m doing in order to achieve Chartered status, to reflect on my developmental activities and discuss what I’m learning with other people who might be interested. As Chartership is all about developing professionally in quite a wide sense, I’ll also use posts to touch upon broader issues and things I find interesting about libraries and information.
Wish me luck!