Danny Boy

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Last week, it was all quiet on the twitter/blog/email front. In fact, it was a busy week both in and out of work. Home was busy with dentist appointments, selling the car, Brownies meetings… and work? Well, my working week was busy because of Danny. Who’s Danny? Danny’s the work experience student I supervised last week. It was the first time I’ve supervised a work experience placement, and it was quite an experience for me too…

Before the placement, I hadn’t been too well and I was trying to catch up with work deadlines, so I only had time to sit down and think about Danny’s visit a few days beforehand. The Library Services Manager, who coordinates all of the library’s work experience placements, talked me through what she expected from me as Danny’s supervisor during his week with us, and the procedures that needed to be in place before the placement started. We also talked about the sort of tasks that might be appropriate for Danny and I scouted out other colleagues who have supervised work experience students to ask their advice.

I’d met Danny briefly at a preliminary meeting, so I’d tried to get an idea of what he expected from his time at the library, and the sort of level I should pitch his tasks at. I planned a timetable including some daily duties, such as shelving, processing new books requests and working alongside me on the returns desk. I scheduled in scanning book chapters for the digitisation project, working on our Easter vacation publicity and a visit to the new special collections gallery. I also roped in the Collection Services team to supervise Danny marking up items for relegation whilst I attended a couple of meetingsand the Library Services team to provide some back up tasks, just in case.

During the placement, I got to know Danny and tried to gauge both where his strengths were and the areas in which he needed more support. I soon realised that he was hardworking, quick to pick up tasks and very good with technology, for example. This meant that he finished the new books requests I’d hoped he might get through in a week by Wednesday, and he seemed to particularly enjoy working on digitisation. I tried to ensure that I was flexible enough to play to his strengths – when he finished some tasks quicker than I had anticipated, I had other tasks for him to do and when a gap came up on his timetable, I offered Danny the option to do some more scanning work. On the other hand, Danny sometimes found spelling difficult – this meant that whilst I expected him to be able to check a list of potential donations against the library catalogue, I provided all of the text for the posters he helped to design.

When I introduced a new task, I tried to provide Danny with some context so that he understood why he was being asked to each activity and how that fitted in to the work of the library. When I explained what I wanted him to do, I broke down complex tasks into a number of stages (we began working on the Easter marketing materials by choosing the graphics and colours for the campaign, for example, before I set him off designing posters, screensavers and plasmascreen slides) and I tried to set clear boundaries so that he knew what I was expecting from him. I also tried to give him feedback as the week went along, so that he knew how he was doing.

Danny worked really hard during his time at the library – he was enthusiastic about all of the tasks I set for him (even the slightly more tedious ones!), he used his initiative where necessary but asked questions where he wasn’t sure about something, and he communicated effectively to staff and students. Throughout his placement, Danny received glowing reports from all of the staff who worked with him, which I made sure was reflected in the report I wrote for his portfolio.

After the placement, it’s a lot quieter without Danny around and I’m catching up with some of my more complicated work (I have an e-resources benchmarking report that is looming ominously). But there is a key question remaining for me personally: how did I get on as Danny’s supervisor during his placement?

I think the timetable I planned for Danny was strong, with everyday tasks that would build up his confidence and allow him some independence from me, but enough variety to keep Danny motivated and give him a broad experience of the work that we do here. Although I was pleased with the planning I did, I think I should have put more thought into the preparation of activities – on the first day, I found myself noting down instructions for some of the tasks I was introducing as I went along. This was a bit of an oversight on my part, mainly due to the fact that most of the tasks I was giving Danny were the sort of things I do without really thinking, but after this point I made sure that the rest of the week’s activities were prepared in advance.

I think I was quite a supportive supervisor during Danny’s work experience placement – I did try hard to look after Danny, as I knew he wouldn’t really get a chance to get to know many people in the short time he was working at the Library. I also feel that I was responsive in the way I managed his time and workload, adjusting tasks to suit his working pace, preferences and ability. This helped us to get the best out of Danny during his placement and I hope this enhanced his experience. He certainly said that he had found working at the library more interesting than he thought it might be, and that he hadn’t expected to be working on things like e-resources and marketing.

What areas could I improve on if I were to supervise another placement? Well, I’ve already identified that I need to think more about the preparation of tasks and think about this from a ‘new to the library’ perspective. Another area for improvement is that although I was a supportive and responsive supervisor, I possibly need to work on being authoritative when necessary. Danny was efficient and motivated to complete tasks accurately, but I think if I had been supervising someone less enthusiastic, I might have found it difficult to manage them effectively.

It’s actually been a little bit strange starting this week without Danny working alongside me. I’d got sort of used to having him here.


Written by missrachelsmith

March 8, 2011 at 13:20

Posted in Chartership

Tagged with ,

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