Monday, 14 November 2011

Thing 23 - What next?

Have finally reached thing 23 and the end of the CPD23 programme. I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself for sticking to it, and having got an awful lot out of it, would recommend it to anyone who wants to expand their horizons and get a bit excited again about library work. Not that I don't find it exciting (!), but as I mentioned in my first blog, way back in June, I think that I felt a little stuck in a rut, and this has been just the refresher I needed.

Thing 23's challenge was to reflect upon the whole process, and come up with some goals based upon it. I took a look at the suggested PDP template, and may think of using something like this in the future.  Though it may sound odd, I found it interesting to consider a personal development plan for personal goals! My employer has an appraisal scheme which includes goal-setting, but these are generally very workplace orientated. It would be good to try one just for myself that is 'employer-neutral', and really focuses on my priorities for personal development.

So, what are my priorities? For now, I have come up with a list of things I would like to pursue further:
  • Finish a CV - so that I don't feel this is a barrier to my taking on new challenges. I like the idea of having an ongoing CV bank that I can dip into and adapt for the situation as appropriate
  • Look into voluntary work - I need to establish just how much time I have to spare, and then identify what opportunities are out there that would suit my skills and interests, and finally approach some organizations
  • Continue to use and explore the tools that I have discovered and found worthwhile during CDP23- the exploring bit is just as important here, so that I really get the best out of them, and make most efficient use of my time
  • Finally, keep more up to date with future web tools - perhaps I need to find some blogs to follow that keep up to date with these things for me! Then I can spend my time using those that will really make a difference to my online life
As to whether my blog will continue, we shall see. I have enjoyed the experience, but it is quite time-consuming. I will try to keep posting if I'm feeling inspired - hopefully the next goals I have set myself should provide plenty of inspiration!

Thing 22 - Volunteering

I have been thinking a lot about volunteering lately - perhaps it is the talk of the big society that has brought it to mind. There are lots of ideas about the rights and wrongs of having professional librarians and experienced paid library staff in public libraries replaced by volunteers, and really this just makes me very sad and worried for the future of library provision in Britain, as it seems to me an indicator not just of the lack of value placed on librarianship skills, but also ambivalence towards the existence of libraries at all, as I cannot see that the models suggested are sustainable in the long-term.  But I have considered volunteering for private organizations/charities that may otherwise not be able to have a library service, as this would be a good way of gaining valuable experience of a different type of environment/work to that which I am paid to do. It might also be a way for me to keep up some practical cataloguing skills, which is a thing I love doing, but get less time to do in my day job now. Or alternatively, voluntary work outside the profession, to just help broaden my horizons and gain new skills.
I recently missed out on investigating a voluntary work position, as it asked for a CV to be sent, and I was so far off being able to put anything together that I couldn't apply in time. But as thing 21 has made me think afresh about this, I hope to have something in place soon that I can use, and am also thinking of approaching local organizations to see what opportunities they might have.  A short post, for this penultimate thing, but lots to think about and plan!

Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications/interviews

It's been a long time since I dipped my toe in the job market, even within my current organization. Throughout this course, though, I've developed a growing awareness that I should be doing things like getting my CV up to date, even if I have no current plans to move on.
Whilst I may not have moved from my post, I know that my skills have moved on a lot since I last applied for a job, so I have to address this - an up to date CV 'bank' can be useful for personal development issues in general, to identify areas that I'm doing well in and those I need to work on a little more. This involves reviewing the work I have done and enjoyed, as this is probably where my skills are strongest.
When I look back at my work, and think about what I like to do, a few things stand out - I like best those projects which involve investigating and resolving a problem, and anything which involves codes, precision and logic! For example, I really loved working on the data conversion from our old LMS to the new one - researching and relentlessly logging detail, with the knowledge that it was the quality of this detail that would make the project a success, as well as thinking around the area to anticipate problems, therefore either avoiding them altogether, or already being on the way to solving them when they occurred. It was nice to have the feeling of presenting the converted data as a fait accompli to the system users; the large majority of data checking after the move didn't raise much that we didn't already know about.
I also like helping people, which sounds a little trite, but there is great feeling of satisfaction from showing people something they didn't know already which can really help them in the future. This applies to staff as well as library users - it's great to share knowledge to enable people to have the confidence to work more independently too. For me, I think that this can come from skills built up through long experience of working with MARC, AACR and an attention to detail that, e.g.,  makes me really want to 'know' a system rather than just being a basic user of it. I think that I have pretty good implementation skills - I like sorting out the nitty gritty from the strategic ideas and getting working on something that will have an outcome. I suppose if I have any dislikes, it is being held back from reaching this stage in a project.
This has definitely been a useful exercise. On the back of this task, I have started to create a new CV, which is still a work in progress, but a start at least! Finally - my interview tip - make sure you sit comfortably and don't freeze like a musical statue - I had a great interview once which was marred only by my standing to shake hands at the end followed by a John Cleese funny walk from the office as I tried to get my pins and needles filled foot to work again!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Thing 20 - Library routes

Like many others, I feel like I have already addressed this thing in thing 10, so took the advice of the CPD blog and took a look at other's pages which describe people's paths into librarianship, to compare to my own. I suspected I probably was fairly typical and indeed found a number of posts which described someone with a background of liking books, visiting libraries as a child and occasionally an English Lit degree, who had somehow 'fallen' into librarianship - hmm, sounds vaguely familiar... So, yes, typical maybe, but it was heartening to find that I'm not alone! Of course, that doesn't mean that everyone who seeks to work in libraries is the same, but it is great that a group of people with these similar interests can find an aspect of work to appeal to their particular talent - there are a wide and varied range of skills that fall under the umbrella 'librarian'.
As I said before, though, I'm not too sure where my route takes me from here. There are lots of things that I would like to do - when I finished my Masters, I would have loved to continue to a PhD, but it wasn't to be at the time. Perhaps one day, but the longer that I have stayed away from academia, the harder it feels to consider returning. I liked the idea on someone's blog (can't remember who, sorry!) that cataloguing is a 'gift' that you either have or you don't. I knew from early on in my library career that this would be my preferred area - I think it comes from having a very logical way of thinking. It's this love of logic that makes me wonder if I were to move that I might enjoy expanding into the IT side of things, though it is hard to know how to develop these skills independently in order to make that move. I suppose that one thing I really took from reading other people's stories is not to be afraid of making a move into a different style of library work (sometimes completely away from the 'back-room' work)- if you can get past other people pigeon-holing you, you may find that you flourish in other areas as well.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Thing 19 - Integrating the things

I have been picking up speed with the posts, so it's probably about time for a breather, with this catch-up task. The task this week is to think of what I have encountered so far, and which 'things' have applications going forward. I have done so much that to be honest, I can hardly remember all of the tools and software I have looked at, so this was a good opportunity to look back over past posts and pick out some highlights.
I think that I will really need to put some effort into identifying and evaluating which will actually be of benefit, as when work time is limited, I don't want to be adopting new technologies just for the sake of it (though it's nice to have the opportunity to try things out).
Some 'things' I have taken on board already, and am trying to keep in mind on a day to day basis, e.g. personal branding, reflective practice etc. I've also confirmed the importance of keeping in touch/up to date with the library world at large. I already did this to a certain extent, through RSS feeds etc, but I probably should interact more too.
In practical terms, a few of the tools I've tried have stood out for me. Google Docs has already become a part of my daily routine, and has transformed my paper to do lists, making them much easier to handle in an integrated online form. Prezi also seems a valuable tool - I will need to work hard to get to grips with it, but I think it would be worth it in the long-run. Recent changes to Delicious will make me look again at Evernote and Pushnote and evaluate them to see if it would be worth making the move to a new bookmarking system, although the new owners of Delicious  do seem to gradually be working their way through the long list of faults they have created, so I'll keep an eye of their progress too!
There are probably lots more things I'll revisit in the future, too, but these are the stand-outs for me.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Jing, Screen capture and Podcasts

Thing 18 was a relatively quick task for me - really more just a peek to see what is possible!

Jing is interesting. I didn't realize that you could do something like create a screen capture video on your PC - I thought you needed all kinds of specialist bits and pieces for this.  I downloaded Jing fine at work; the screen capturing was really easy and I liked the fact that you can switch the yellow icon on and off quite easily - I thought it was going to be yet another thing that would be there in perpetuity on my screen.  I like the idea of videos for internal training, such as LMS systems instruction, particularly for when you have to train to a range of people on different sites/locations. I can see it would also be great for user training - perhaps a series of   short videos with tips for searching or something similar.
I'm already a Podcast addict, and do most of my radio listening via my iPod rather than live streaming. I'm not too sure about making a podcast myself, though - first I would have to have something I thought worth broadcasting! However, I will take a look for some library related ones to download, as this hadn't really occurred to me before.

Thing 16 - Advocacy

Whoops, have stepped a little out of order here, and got my posts mixed up, so I'm going back in time to thing 16 before moving on.
Advocacy is becoming increasingly high profile in UK libraries at the moment, and rightly so. These are worrying times. I must admit that I find the idea of a lot of the things involved in advocacy a little scary and in the public eye, but I would hope that on a smaller, more personal scale, I advocate for libraries when I can. One area I would like to work on, though, is to do more to let people (at a personal, organizational or professional level) know the value of the professional area I am involved in - cataloguing and knowledge organization.
It is an area whose results can be taken for granted, and the skills that are involved are not always recognized. This is definitely one of the areas that I'm most passionate about, which seems to be a good starting point for advocacy. The added value that good quality metadata can provide in information retrieval is crucial to the user experience - it's just not always that obvious to the user that behind their search success lies a well-structured set of consistently applied data.  I think one of the keys to advocacy is having a good range of examples to hand, so this is something I need to arm myself with - it's all very well saying and knowing that your work is important, but you need to be able to demonstrate it persuasively in order to really make an impact.