missrachelsmith

Posts Tagged ‘Librarianship

New Year, new job

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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…

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Written by missrachelsmith

January 15, 2012 at 12:09

CPD23: Conferencething

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This week, I’m thinking about Thing 15 in the 23 Things for Professional Development programme: attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events. Actually, the reason why it jumped out at me when I looked down the possible CPD23 topics for this post is because I’ve been reading tweets and blog posts over the last couple of days about the Library Camp event at the weekend – it sounds amazing and I kind of wish I’d been there! Except I don’t, because I would now be even more tired than I already am. Which is pretty tired, post Freshers-madness last week.

Attending

I’ll tackle attending first, as that’s the one I have most experience of. I went to my first big conference last year – the UC&R and CoFHE 2010 conference – after I managed to wangle a sponsored place from UC&R Northern. As a Library Assistant, I didn’t feel like I could really ask to go to a big national conference like that (in my head, that’s the kind of event that the Subject Librarians might attend, or members of Senior Management Team). So I was really pleased to be offered the place and be able to attend. It was my first opportunity to meet people from libraries all over the country and I took away lots of ideas. Attending really broadened my horizons in terms of being able to evaluate what we’re doing well as a library and what’s not so great.

Since attending that first conference, I haven’t looked back in terms of going to conferences and events. You can read my thoughts about some of the events I’ve attended here, here and here

Presenting

As well as attending conferences, I’m now also exploring the possibility of presenting at them. I helped the library to win a CILIP Marketing Excellence award, and alongside a colleague gave a presentation to the 2010 PPRG conference about our winning Library 24/7 campaign. Earlier this year, I blogged about answering a call for papers for the first time and being unsuccessful.

What now? Well, I think I might feel ready to throw my hat in the ring again. The LILAC call for papers is out and there might be a good short paper in some of the work I’ve been doing recently, if I put my mind to it. Or if only I could find someone who is equally afraid of presenting a workshop on their own at the 2012 UC&R and CoFHE conference… (hint hint!).

Organising

The other Thing to think about for Thing 15 is organising events. That’s something I haven’t really got involved in outside of a work context. Have you been involved in organising conferences and seminars? Is it something I should start to consider?

I’ve certainly found this week’s Thing thought-provoking. And maybe something else will come out of it…

Written by missrachelsmith

October 11, 2011 at 10:05

Public libraries: 3 big changes

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Two weeks ago, I headed back to the town where I grew up on the south coast to spend three days working at a large public library. As a child, I used the library to take part in the summer reading challenge, and as a teenager, to revise for my GCSEs and A levels. I hadn’t been to the public library for a while, and as I woke up at my parents’ and walked to the library in the pouring rain on my first day of the placement, I wondered whether I would find it as I remembered it. There’s a lot of talk in the news and in the industry press about public library budget cuts and I was interested to find out how that was affecting the library and the services it offers. And I was intrigued to see what it was like to be behind a public library counter, rather than in front.

Whilst I was revisiting my old life, I found a library service which was changing and moving to new ways of working. These were the key points of change I picked up on during my time at the public library:

1. Budget

The budget the public library is operating on is massively and rapidly reducing. The county council library service had to make £1 million of savings in the last financial year and they’re looking at making the same cost saving this year as well. To do this, the library was attempting to save money where possible and had implemented lots of little income streams, such as asking people to pay to hire meeting rooms, selling greetings cards and auctioning rarer books for disposal. This was a difference between the public library and the university library, where I work, that I wasn’t expecting. Traditionally, libraries are seen as a ‘free’ service (although they’re not, of course. Customers pay for the public library service through their council tax and for the university library through their ever-increasing course fees). Beyond simply borrowing a book, there wasn’t much you could do in the public library which was free. This seemed a little sad from a customer perspective, but from the perspective of the public library’s tightening budget, necessary.

2. Staff and structure

The county council library service had recently undergone a major restructure in terms of staffing and structure. The public libraries throughout the county had been organised into tiers, determining their opening hours and levels of staffing. After the tiers came a major staffing restructure in March 2011. Collection management was centralised, whilst specialist roles such as the children’s librarians, reference librarians and community librarians were spread throughout the library service, working with a number of different branches. The remaining staff within the branches worked in front-line or management roles and were directly engaged with running the library they were based in.

It was interesting to talk to staff about the restructure and how it had impacted upon their jobs and the service that the library offered. I came away with the feeling that the staffing structure was becoming leaner, that several jobs had been lost, and that even visiting six months down the line, a few of the creases had yet to be ironed out. However, the public library staff seemed to be making the best of it and making it work. I was really impressed by the positive attitude demonstrated by all of the staff I met in the face of such big changes to their established ways of working.

3. Service

The public library is currently preparing for another big change – they’re moving to self-service and RFID in November. This will mean an entire new customer service desk layout in the entrance level to the library, which houses the circulating stock out on the open shelves. Transactions will be handled by RFID machines, which will allow customers to borrow and return items, as well as check their Library record and renew items. There will be a small visitor desk created which will handle library registrations and enquiries, but on a much reduced scale.

I’ve seen RFID in action at a public library in the North East, and it’s spangly technology – the way that the self-service machines recognise a stack of items is pretty magical. The new kit will certainly have the wow factor, but it will mean a shift in the way customers experience the library service. I think that the word ‘service’ implies a personal element, rather than a machine. The library I work in operates on a self-service model and I feel that although it works well in terms of handling the volume of customers we see, we’re constantly trying to get across to students that Library staff are approachable and that we’re (as one of our ‘identities’ says – we don’t call it a logo, otherwise Marketing are down our throats!) here to help. The public library is a public service; by moving towards using RFID, the human element will be reduced and I think that’s a really important part of what public libraries do.

Bearing the first big change that the public library is up against in mind, and the fact that the public library is looking to save a million pounds before the end of the financial year, the move to self-service also rings alarm bells. Will this decision make the impact of budget cuts upon staffing even more drastic?

Over the next year, I’m going to attempt to revisit the public library to see how self-service works in practice and how staff are adjusting to this. I’m also going to try to monitor what the local press is reporting about what’s going on at the public library.

It’s true that change is inevitable, but not all changes are necessarily for the better. It will be interesting to see what kind of changes lie ahead for the public library and what kind of challenges and opportunities they bring.

Written by missrachelsmith

October 7, 2011 at 15:50

In the clink

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Prison is one of those places I never thought I’d go to. I don’t really fancy life behind bars and I hope I’ll never have cause to visit any of my family or friends there either, you know? But some librarians work in Her Majesty’s Prisons around the UK. In fact, the closest library to the library where I work is a prison library. A Category B men’s prison, the jail serves the local courts and has a high prisoner turnover rate. I arranged to visit for the day to find out more about what prison libraries and librarians do…

Security

Perhaps it’s a bit obvious, but the biggest difference that struck me about my time at the prison library was the importance of security. In prison, everything revolves around it. Walking to the library, we travelled through pairs of locked doors every few metres around the prison buildings. Alongside the librarians, prison officers assigned to the library were present at all times to ensure the security of both library staff and prisoners. Due to their customer group, stealing of library property was an issue and prisoners are unable to access the internet, word processing software or printing facilities. Security issues also extended to the stock that the library offered. There are a number of banned items and subjects which you won’t find in the prison library’s collection, from the obvious – books about bombmaking, for example – to the ones you wouldn’t have thought of, like the Igguldens’ Dangerous Book for Boys.

Customer journey

This heightened awareness of security stretched to the customer experience of using the library. The customer journey begins when the prisoner fills out an application form, or ‘app’ to visit the library. Each wing has appointed times when library officers collect those who have filled out an app. The prison officer takes the men to the library for around half an hour and then the group are escorted back to their accommodation or their next activity. I found it interesting that the customer experience of using the prison library begins sometimes days before their visit. This had its own unique set of problems – sometimes when called to go to the library, the men are busy, for example. If prisoners forget to fill out a library app or are unavailable when the library officers come to collect them, they are unable to return their books on time. These were issues that library staff were debating on the day I visited and I hope they continue to investigate ways to resolve this.

Prison libraries and public libraries

Something that I found surprising was the close relationship between the prison libraries and the public libraries in the area. The library service, like the educational provision in the prison, is tendered out. The county council currently provides library services to the prison and the library staff are employed and managed by the council. Therefore, there were a number of crossover points – one of the part-time librarians working at the prison also works for the main public library in the city and the prison and public libraries use the same library card system. The prison libraries in the county use the same library management system as the public libraries and borrow books from there. This close relationship between the services means that data protection is paramount. Library Orderlies (prisoners who work within the prison library) can use the library management system, but can’t access any information on patrons within the public library network. Similarly, only very basic information – surname, current cell and prisoner number – is held on the library management system about the prison library’s customers.

Although I wasn’t aware that the two systems were so closely linked in my area, it appeared that this had a number of benefits – the library is able to provide access to a wide range of material, and there is continuity between the service provided within the prison and libraries within the local area.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I turned up at the prison gates, but I found the atmosphere within the prison to be calm and controlled, and the prisoners seemed to respect and value the service that the library offered.

I’m not sure that prison libraries are for me, but it’s not so bad in the clink.

Written by missrachelsmith

September 15, 2011 at 09:44

Library Day in the Life Round 7

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This week, I’ve been taking part in the seventh round of the Library Day in the Life Project, where librarians and information professionals around the world tweet and blog about what they do. As I’ve been stretched for time this week, both in work and out, I haven’t had enough time to blog properly, but here is a round up of my #libday7 tweets for your perusal…

Monday 25th July

Spent my first two hours of my day on the helpdesk, serving customers and ploughing through a history reading list #libday7
 
Sorting out attending North East Communications and Marketing Group meeting and ILM Award in Team Leading training in Oct/Nov #libday7
 
Amended designs this year’s induction freebies for Freshers Fair and emailed printing company for revised quotes #libday7
 
Investigated and followed up on user’s query about broken PDF links #libday7
 
Spent most of my afternoon scanning book chapters about Thatcher, urban decay and sex work. Not all in the same chapter! #libday7
 
Blitzed through a chemistry reading list in double quick time… #libday7
 
Just blogged: CPD23: Talkin’ about Things http://t.co/oDqvJ9F #libday7
 
Tuesday 26th July
 
Started my day by editing and sending off our news from member libraries submission for the next issue of SCONUL update #libday7
 
Proofed inserts for our handy guide wallets for new students #libday7
 
First attempt at using SwishMax to create slides for our new digital signage… now looking at opening hours guides for next year #libday7
 
Review meeting of our customer service training this afternoon – met with the other trainers to discuss and tailor sessions #libday7
 
Finishing my afternoon on the returns desk… and then home! #libday7
 
Wednesday 27th July
 
After quickly catching up with my emails, starting my day with a spot of scanning, dabbling in digitisation… #libday7
 
On the returns desk for an hour before lunch. Usually very quiet so I’ve brought an English reading list with me #libday7
 
So busy this afternoon that I forgot all about #libday7 tweeting! Sorted two Chartership visits/work experience placements…
 
Spent quite a bit of time mocking up a testimonials page for repository and attempting coding (badly) #libday7
 
And rounded off my working day by finishing draft of opening hours guides for 5 library sites and sent to library services manager #libday7
 
Thursday 28th July
 
Started my day dealing with quotes for wall planners, as well as raising a requisition for our door dial freebies for freshers fair #libday7
 
Just finished checking an English reading list, onto investigating using Google Calendar to manage our opening hours webpages #libday7
 
Quite a successful library treasure hunt planning meeting with @victoriahedley1, now time for tea! #libday7
 
Met with Library Services Manager to discuss instructions/publicity for new photocopiers, opening hours & the new reference library #libday7
 
Just blogged: CPD23: Organising opening hours http://bit.ly/qqGqQD and the end of my #libday7 Thursday!
 
Friday 29th July
 
Just edited webpages, wrote news story & blog post, updated social media and created & distributed notices about new photocopiers #libday7
 
@_froglette_ It’s Library Day in the Life Round 7 (or #libday7) – librarians around the world are tweeting/blogging about what they do!
 
Quickly proofed our A5 Handy Guide, which is just about to go to print #libday7
 
Followed up on actions from yesterday’s Treasure Hunt planning session #libday7
 
Spent two hours on the help and information desk, mainly fielding special collections questions, as the network is down! #libday7
 
Spent the last hour or so of my #libday7 tying up loose ends – re-editing opening hours guides, editing testimonials page, reading lists…
 
Followed up a missing book query from a customer earlier and wrote to do list for when I arrive back from my holiday #libday7
 
A busy week!

Written by missrachelsmith

July 29, 2011 at 17:05

CPD23: Working the net

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This week’s CPD23 Things are all about networking, online and off. I’m going to take a look at Thing 6 today, which is about social networks.

Social networking

My first real experience of social networking was possibly myspace. Although the renamed ‘my____’ now pitches itself at ‘a Gen Y audience’ of music types, it was once a veritable museum of awful amateur web design (my first flirtation with HTML). Next there was Facebook, which I signed up to during my Freshers week at university in 2006. Unlike myspace, I still have a Facebook account. I barely use it and the only reason I haven’t deleted my account is that I need it to check and update the library’s Facebook page every day.

In fact, I’m not sure I get the concept of a social network. Why? Because I find them a bit anti-social. I actually quite like seeing my friends, talking to my friends and writing to my friends without being limited to 140 characters. If you’re from my primary school, and I haven’t spoken to you in person since I was about 10, you’re not really my friend, are you? You’re not actually part of my actual, real life, social network at all. I can’t be bothered to pretend that I have 193 friends (the number of friends I have on Facebook) when that is blatantly, blatantly not true.

Online professional networking

Ok, Facebook rant over.

Social networking just doesn’t really work for me, I guess. But online networking does. I get quite a lot out of my professional online network. I was persuaded to use Twitter after attending the CILIP UC&R and CoFHE conference last year, where I found that everyone was talking about tweeting. I use my Twitter account to discuss professional issues and talk about things that are going on at work, and I follow people who do the same. The support and information I get from my peers on Twitter is really invaluable.

I’m also part of LISNPN, the network for new information professionals. You can take a look at my profile here if you so desire. This is a brilliant initiative and it’s particularly good for longer, in-depth discussions about professional issues.

New networks

And this week, thanks to CPD23, I’ve started to explore 2 new networks. I’ve finally had the push I needed take the plunge with LinkedIn. I’ve been putting off creating a LinkedIn profile for ages, but I’ve finally done it. Take a look, and let me know what you think!

I’ve also started exploring Google+. After my tirade against Facebook, you’re probably wondering why I’m even bothering. Actually, its not that I dislike Facebook in itself, as a platform. The reason why I don’t use my Facebook account is because it represents me back in 2007, rather than me today (which is very much my own fault, and I can’t help thinking that at some point I should give it another chance, a la Cheryl and Ashley). So why have I created a Google+ profile? Because I’m curious, that’s what. And if it ends up being a big player amongst the online networks, it’s kind of my job to know about that. I haven’t done much with it yet, but I’m interested to see how I might use it.

I think online networking is beginning to work for me.

Written by missrachelsmith

July 22, 2011 at 17:05

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CPD23: Feed me

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Ok, so I’m already slightly behind on the 23 Things for Professional Development programme, despite being only a few weeks in. And the theme for Week 3, somewhat ironically, is Current Awareness.

I think that one of the most useful things about social media is that it helps me to keep up to date. Now, I tend to find out about industry, national and international news first through the people I follow on Twitter – the 140 character posts can’t give me all the details, but often link to further information. Before newspapers and television came word of mouth, and I think it’s interesting that things seem to be coming full circle in terms of the way news circulates.

And I totally love RSS feeds – I’ve supported teaching sessions for academics on using RSS feeds to keep up to date with new research, so I’m pretty familiar with RSS technologies. Subscribing to blogs and news feeds means that I don’t have to go to lots of places to find out information, or repeat searches – instead I can sit back, and relax, and current awareness material comes straight to me.

BUT:

I’ll admit it, I’m just plain lazy with the way I manage my Twitter account and the RSS feeds I subscribe to. Are things in useful folders or lists to keep my different interests organised? No. Do I ever go through and weed my RSS feeds, or the people I follow on Twitter? Not really. Do I try and match up the Twitter accounts I follow to the blog RSS feeds I subscribe to? Nope, although it sometimes happens by accident. I’m like a kid in a sweet shop – I just gobble up all the information I can get my grubby mitts on.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realise that as an information professional, I sure could do more about organising all that current awareness material. I do not want to become the information equivalent of Audrey Junior (the man-eating plant from the Little Shop of Horrors).

So I’m going to use Thing 4 to:

  • Attempt to follow a few more organisations and other libraries on Twitter to keep up to date with current news
  • Investigate my Twitter followers and followees – do any of them have interesting blogs which I haven’t explored?
  • Audit my RSS feeds in Outlook. Which ones do I actually want to read every day alongside my work emails?
  • Look at my Google Reader account, which I rarely log in to. I’m going to try to use this to organise most of the RSS feeds I subscribe to. I also want to create folders so I can find things more easily.

Feed me, Seymour…

Written by missrachelsmith

July 11, 2011 at 13:45

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