missrachelsmith

Posts Tagged ‘Work

Managing my time

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One of the training needs I identified in my initial Personal Professional Development Plan for CILIP Chartership was to ‘improve my time management’. I’ve looked at how I cope with lots of deadlines to meet in a short space of time before, but I thought it might be a good idea to think about how the ways in which I organise my time have developed over the last couple of years and whether there are things I can do to manage my time more effectively.

Time management

I’ve always had to manage my own time at work. As a Library Assistant in the Academic Liaison team, I spent 10 hours a week assisting customers on the Help and Information desk. For a while, I digitised resources for taught modules for one morning each week. But apart from that I was given a range of tasks and jobs to do and it was largely up to me when I chose to do them, as long as they were completed. So I organised this by putting all of the activities which had a scheduled time into my Outlook calendar.

Let’s have a look at my Outlook diary…

That was then – November 2010:

November 2010 calendar

And this is now – April 2012:

April 2012 calendar

The obvious change is that the balance of what I spend designated time slots on at work has definitely shifted. In 2010, the vast majority of appointments were the green and orange hours on the service desks. Fast forward to 2012, and there are very few service desks, but I’ve traded them in for lots of meetings, one off appointments like the Staff Information Fair, and regular visits to other sites.

The good thing about having less desk slots is that I can manage my time so that I can try to create longer blocks of ‘free’ time (Tuesday, Thursday afternoon and Friday morning look quite empty in April 2012!) so I’m able to concentrate on detailed tasks such as design work. My 2010 diary, in comparison, wasn’t massively efficient as I kept having to interrupt tasks to go out to the service desks, and then just when I was getting into the customer service tasks, head back to my desk to pick up where I left off.

And the times where there’s nothing in my diary? Well, when I started working towards Chartership, a lot of the things I was working on were long-term Library activities – processing records for the institutional repository, checking reading lists, administering our student book request service – so I just tried to spend a bit of time each day on them. That’s certainly different now, because although there are things I do regularly (such as updating the Library webpages, creating notices, putting things onto our digital displays, etc), most of my work is project-based or made up of small individual tasks.

And for those kind of jobs, I have a ‘to do’ list.

Here’s what my ‘to do’ lists look like:

To do list

I absolutely love ‘to do’ lists. That hasn’t changed, since I started Chartership back in 2010. But the thing is, when I started writing these lists as a Library Assistant, they were usually fairly short and contained. A 2010 ‘to do’ list would only have perhaps six or seven items, because there wouldn’t be that many unique tasks to do.

Now, as you can see, my to do lists have become really long. I usually fill almost the whole page before I even begin – enough to add only one or two more things before I need to start a back up list (sometimes I have two or even three going at once when I’m really busy).

Let’s have a look at this list in more detail: there are three ‘statuses’. Items which have a massive tick at the front of them, perhaps unsurprisingly, are the activities I’ve finished. Jobs which have a heavy dash after them (but don’t have a tick at the beginning) are jobs that I’m in the middle of, or I’m working on, but haven’t yet completed. And then things which don’t have a dash or a tick are things which are still ‘to do’. So far, so straightforward.

But there are some problems with my beloved ‘to do’ lists.

Firstly, I’m pretty much inseparable from these lists. If I go to another site for a morning and I don’t have my reporter’s notebook which contains the list, then I am pretty much lost (in fact, I regularly email myself a mini-list when I know I’ll be away from my normal desk to avoid this very problem). But I think there’s probably an argument to say that something that I could access online might be more effective there.

Next, there’s very little prioritisation of the tasks on my ‘to do’ list. They pretty much go down in whatever order I think of them in. So as you can see, I don’t necessarily do the things at the top of the list first. And the time required to complete the tasks that go onto the list is massively varied. Putting up a pull up banner, for example, will take me 5 minutes. All of the design work, however, will take a good few hours, and will require some time when I’m not likely to be interrupted as I need to be able to concentrate.

And the other problem is – and this is probably the biggest – that not all of the tasks I need to do go onto the list. Some of them live in my inbox as ‘tasks’ – I’ll flag emails if I need to do something with them, and then mark them as complete when I’m done. But worse still, some jobs just remain in my head and seem to come back to me in waves, so I’ll forget and then remember them again at odd times, usually when I’m not in a position to do anything about them (like at 3am in the morning).

I’d also like some way of knowing when I actually completed things. This would be really useful because then I could match up particular publicity activities with web analytics, visitor numbers, etc.

So what’s next?

I read Jo Alcock’s Getting Things Done column in this month’s issue of CILIP Update, so I’ll be following this with interest. I could probably use my work calendar more effectively by blocking out time for particular activities, so I might start trying to do this more! I also think I can’t continue to avoid ‘to do’ list software… does anyone have any recommendations?

And next up, I’ll be blogging about how my project management skills are shaping up…

Written by missrachelsmith

January 22, 2013 at 19:30

Posted in Chartership

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Why I haven’t blogged since March

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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…

 

Written by missrachelsmith

August 15, 2012 at 18:41

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…

Written by missrachelsmith

January 15, 2012 at 12:09

Adobe wan Kinobe

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This post has been hanging around in draft form for a while now, lost somewhere in the Tatooine desert that is my work desktop. IT skills is an area for development I identified on my original PPDP for CILIP Chartership, where I proposed to ‘learn to use Adobe Illustrator using online tutorials and information’ so that I could ‘take over the updating of Library floorplans’. So when I started playing with the Library floorplans back in May, I started writing this post. It’s now August, and since that point I’ve not only learnt how to manipulate Adobe Illustrator, I’ve also taught myself to use Adobe Premiere and I’m currently dabbling in Adobe Flash/SwishMax as well…

Adobe Premiere

Why did I use it?  I’m creating a testimonial video to promote our institutional repository, and I found screencasting and video editing software Camtasia Studio limited. Having created a first draft of the video in Camtasia, I used Adobe Premiere to create the final version of the video.

How did I learn it?  Mainly through using online video tutorials. I have the CS4 version of Adobe Premiere, so I watched a lot of the Getting Started guides on the Adobe website. I also consulted online forums when I had trouble exporting my video.

What worked?  I created a video from scratch, which I’m quite proud of. I was also able to adjust the brightness of the filming and use overlays using Adobe Premiere, which I couldn’t do using Camtasia.

What do I need to work on?  I need to try to remember to save regularly, as I got quite frustrated when I lost an hour’s work when using Adobe Premiere. Also, the video camera I used to film the footage, which was borrowed from our IT department, is pretty old and this means that the quality of the finished video isn’t great, despite my best efforts at editing it.

Adobe Illustrator

Why did I use it?  To update the Library floorplans, which were already in Illustrator format

How did I learn it?  When this responsibility was passed to me by my line manager around a year ago, he went through how to make basic changes to the floorplans using an older version of Adobe Illustrator. I already use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, and the menu structure of Adobe Illustrator is similar, so I mainly used trial and error to pick this package up. Although I was making fairly significant changes, I was also working to update a document which already existed, which made this task a lot easier.

What worked?  I managed to pick up the programme quite easily and created professional-looking maps for two of the University libraries which are undergoing major redevelopment work over the summer.

What do I need to work on?  I tend to try and find quick and efficient solutions to problems. However, in this case, it meant that when I was trying to ‘grey out’ unusually shaped staff areas, for example, I’d go for the primitive method of just colouring those areas in with a paint brush tool. This doesn’t affect the way the finished plan looks, but there’s every chance I’ll be using Illustrator for other projects in the future and I should take some time to pick up more advanced tools and features.

I’ve got to say, being able to add ‘familiar with the Adobe Creative Suite’ to my CV makes me feel like  a graphics Jedi. The force is strong in this one…

Written by missrachelsmith

August 8, 2011 at 17:27

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: Organising opening hours

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The problem:

I’ve mentioned this before – I’m not a big fan of the library’s opening hours pages. They’re not particularly user-friendly, from a customer perspective, and they are horribly difficult to update.

The problem-solver:

Could be Google Calendar, which is what Thing 8 of the 23 Things for Professional Development course is all about. Over the last week, I’ve been investigating using Google Calendar as a interim fix to our opening hours pages problem. I have a Google account, so I’ve set up my personal Google calendar as if it were the library’s opening hours calendar. I’ve inputted some data as if we were undergoing a time where opening hours were changing from vacation, to term, to 24/7 opening hours. And this is the result:

Having not used Google Calendar before, I found it quite simple to schedule appointments, and you can set events so that they repeat on certain days of the week, or for a certain length of time.

There are certain problems, however, when you’re using it less as a diary and more of an opening hours database. When I scheduled appointments to reflect the times the Library was open, they only displayed the start time on the final calendar, like this:

Which looked quite odd. I couldn’t really find a way to get around this, although it might be just a case of digging deeper into the calendar settings, so I ended up scheduling everything as an all day event, and then manually inputting the times, i.e.:

But then this also has some limitations, because Google Calendar wants to order all day events alphabetically. I ended up changing ‘Help and Information Desk Opening Hours’ to ‘Service Desk Opening Hours’ to make sure information about the times at which full library services were available followed the information about the library’s opening hours.

Anyway, I meddled a bit with the display settings, and then Google produced some code so I could embed it into a webpage.

So, it didn’t take any technical wizardry whatsoever – and it should hopefully be quite easy to embed this into the university’s Content Management System. However, if we decide to go down this route without any technical work by the library’s IT team, it will be a bit of a dirty fix and we’ll need to be careful about how we input the data.

It’s not perfect, but it could be a better way of organising this information, particularly if we can add in Library events as well. Watch this space.

Written by missrachelsmith

July 28, 2011 at 17:27

Posted in CPD23

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Training and development

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If there’s one thing you should learn about me, it’s that I don’t really do easy. And I don’t think that CILIP Chartership is an easy qualification, which is probably why I’m really enjoying it. Working towards Chartership is making me think, it’s making me reflect on what I do, and it’s making me take responsibility for my personal development as an information professional.

My Chartership journey is also challenging me to have a go at things I never thought I’d do. I can now add the words ‘accredited customer service trainer’ to my list of professional achievements. Flashy, isn’t it? But not at all easy. I want to use this post to reflect on my journey to becoming a customer service trainer for the library and what I’m learning from it.

The journey begins

Improving the customer experience of the library service is a key part of the library’s strategic plan for the next five years. As an organisation, we’re exploring various ways of doing this, including looking into Customer Service Excellence status and ensuring that all staff members undergo customer service training. Providing a great level of service to my customers is something I see as a priority in my role, so when the opportunity came up to become a customer service trainer and deliver training courses to my colleagues, I threw my hat in the ring…

Train the trainer

I was excited to hear that my head of service had chosen to put me forward for training and assessment to become a customer service trainer, along with three other colleagues. I hastily scrambled together a training-focused version of my CV, and went along to a ‘train the trainer’ session. At the time, I sketched out my thoughts about the day in my Chartership art journal (please excuse rubbish phone camera images!):

On the left hand page, the trainer, ‘Deborah’, discusses great and awful customer service, surrounded by the training materials we’d be using. I felt that there was a lot of information hurled at us during the 5 hour course, after which we would be left to deliver customer service training sessions to our colleagues. My confusion about conveying the course content is expressed on the right hand side of page one.

Page two, and it’s my turn. I’m in the spotlight, delivering the ‘Excellent Customer Service’ course to a faceless audience. And back in March, with the only training I was going to receive under my belt, I felt distinctly uneasy about that.

I didn’t feel that the train the trainer course was enough to thoroughly familiarise myself with the course materials, and actually, the course materials themselves weren’t all that relevant. The customer service training programme we’re providing was originally designed for the tourist industry – there are sections about increasing customer spending, the importance of tourism to the local and national economy, and so on. My workplace, a university library, doesn’t operate in the arena of tourism. We are not a commercial business. So there was a lot of preparatory work to be done between the trainer briefing and the first sessions, which were arranged for June, to ensure that the training we were going to deliver would be useful.

Be prepared

I met with the other three in-house trainers to organise the administration of the sessions and plan how we were going to deliver the training. It was decided that we would split down the day-long course into two half-day sessions. Two of my colleagues took the first half of the course, and I worked with another member of the academic liaison team to deliver the second session, which included providing information to customers, meeting specific needs and handling complaints.

What were the big challenges for me? Well, I actually found getting to grips with content I hadn’t written quite difficult. Normally, if I give a presentation or deliver a session, I’ve put the content and activities together. And I think that’s the way I learn and remember things – by creating and doing. It was important for me to look at the course content in quite some depth to really understand what I was trying to get across, and what I was asking the course participants to do.

Something that I’ve definitely taken from the experience is the importance of communicating with my colleagues. There were a lot of emails going back and forth between the trainers about what arrangements had been made, issues arising and adapting the course content. When I tailored activities to make them more relevant, or added in new slides to illustrate a point, I had to ensure that I kept my colleagues up to date and explained the rationale behind the changes I was making. Keeping up with the correspondence amidst one of my busiest periods in the academic year (the exam term, Library 24/7 and the start of the redevelopment work at the main library) was tricky, and next time round, I’d hope to improve on this.

And the session itself?

I’m never very good at accepting compliments, but the feedback from participants was positive. A number of participants highlighted the second session, and some of the sections that I led, as the parts they found most valuable about the course.

In terms of how I felt about the session; the course participants were a really nice bunch of people and were generally enthusiastic about thinking and talking about customer service. The session was quite relaxed – we presented sitting down, and there were lots of opportunities for discussion. I had been quite nervous about leading the training session, even with one of my colleagues by my side, and the participants’ attitude and the general atmosphere definitely made me feel more confident.

Next time…

We’ll be running a second set of sessions over the summer, and next time I’ll be concentrating on the first section that I’m presenting, which I feel was the weakest part of the material I delivered. This was partly due to ‘start of the training session’ nerves and also because I had spent less time looking at this section. We also slightly overran the three hours we’d allowed for the session, so my colleague and I also need to think about timings and whether we need to cover less material, or cut one or two activities.

Providing customer service training courses to my colleagues has also been an important training and development activity for me. I’m directly contributing to a key aspect of my organisation’s strategic goals, my increased knowledge of customer service is feeding back into my front-line duties, and on a personal level, it’s been a great opportunity for me to develop my communications skills in a range of ways.

So not easy, but I don’t do things because they’re easy.

Written by missrachelsmith

June 29, 2011 at 16:08