Tuesday, 28 September 2010

TeachMeet and the LAT Network

Well the night came at last, the first Cambridge (lib)TeachMeet has been and gone and quite well I think - I hope the attendees agree!  There was a great mix of content, from the Cephalonian Method and resource blogs to Prezi presentations and Flashmeeting software.

I spoke for two minutes to introduce the LAT Network, a new site for librarians who teach.  This network was established by Johanna Anderson following an enthusiastic response to her blog post on the subject.  She's now looking for ideas for its future development in terms of content (resources? blog posts? advice?) and for volunteers to help with looking after the site itself.  If anyone's interested post a comment below or visit the forum section of the site.


We're pulling presentations and posts about the TeachMeet together on the wiki, through a Delicious feed and on Twitter so visit any of these sites to find out more.  We're also planning a bigger and better event early next year so watch this space!

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Librarianship Qualification

This is a difficult one (following from discussions here, here and here).  As mentioned before, my first full-time library job was as Music Information Officer at a specialist music library, doing all of the things a 'proper' librarian would have been doing - if there had been one there - and I think I did a good job at it too.  They did recognise the value of the qualification, encouraged me to go for it and have appointed people that were already qualified to the position since then, but in a lot of ways the fact that I had a strong music background was more important to the post than the librarianship qualification would have been.  I remember feeling frustrated that I was doing so much in that post but couldn't get the job I was already doing elsewhere without getting this 'piece of paper'.  Luckily, I love learning so was more than happy to do a Masters.  I looked into the options and went with Aberystwyth - a distance learning programme that even had an optional module on music librarianship.

I'm now about to head to my last study school in preparation for the dissertation and I've come around to the value of the qualification as more than just a way to open doors.  Our course included the theory, but a lot of the assignments encouraged practical application - business plans for new services, reports for collection management, analyses of information retrieval systems, a journal article for actual potential publication, an entire module on Studies in Management - and we did have the option to specialise in areas such as music, archives, health, schools and knowledge management.  We didn't spend lots of time actually cataloguing or classifying, but then, that's the kind of thing that's best learned on the job.  I think the balance between the practical and the theory was perfect, although I would love to be able to take more of the other optional modules.  (Please let us do them as CPD when we're finished the Masters!)

Do I think a Masters is essential to be a good librarian? No.  I know I did a good job without it, and in fact a postgraduate diploma is the norm in Ireland, not the full Masters.

Do I think I would do things differently if I was back at CMC now, with what I've learned from the Masters?  Absolutely.  I have a much better understanding of approaches to collection management.  I have thought through the issues involved in deciding between electronic and print.  I've done some research on what's done differently in other Music Information Centres.  I've realised the importance of evidence-based learning and feeding my experiences back into the literature.

So, do I think you should have to have a postgraduate qualification in librarianship? It was valuable, it did prepare me for working in all sorts of libraries, it taught me to think beyond the here and now and look for better ways of doing things.  I don't think someone with years of experience should be overlooked because they don't hold that piece of paper already - their practical experience might be worth more than the qualification.  Isn't that why CILIP allows Associate members that are working in what is essentially a librarian role to apply for chartership, even without the qualification, provided they can prove that they are working at that level already?
I think the real point is that any applicant for a job as Librarian should be able to prove that they have the skills and knowledge required for the position.  The piece of paper is a useful short-cut, but it's not enough.  Experience is needed as well, and more than a certain amount of experience should be enough to be called for interview, even without the qualification.  If someone can stand up against other candidates that have a Masters, then they should get the job.  I think the best-placed applicants will always be the ones with qualification and the experience, and even sometimes additional qualifications that are relevant to the job, such as a background in the subject area.  If there's a glut of people with a Masters, it's always going to be more difficult for the people without it to prove that they can do just as well, but if they can prove it, they should have that chance.  I'm grateful to the English Faculty Library for taking me on even though I'm still working on it!

Just my thoughts...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Library Routes and Roots

I've been aware of the Library Routes project since its inception but have put off participating until now.  First I had no blog, then I was only working a few hours a week so it didn't seem to be the best time to do it.  Now, with the #aberils dissertation school next week and a new job around the corner, it seems like a good time to add myself to the wiki.

My background is in music (NUI Maynooth) and education (Trinity College, Dublin).  Fortunately / unfortunately there weren't many full-time jobs for music teachers at the time, so I found myself teaching part-time and working part-time as a library assistant at the Contemporary Music Centre (CMC).  This first library job involved lots of photocopying and binding of musical scores, with a few general library duties thrown in.

A year later there were still very few music teaching jobs coming up, so when the position of Music Information Officer opened up at CMC I applied and I got the job!  This was a fantastic place to start with libraries, because there were two of us working full-time in the library and I got to do a bit of everything - acquisitions, cataloguing, creating content for the web / other publications and lots of user support.  I attended one of the IAML study weekends, realised that I actually preferred library work to teaching and applied for the MSc Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth.

My next position was as Senior Library Assistant on the Changing Libraries team at An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The Library Council).  This position gave me more line management and training experience and I was involved in projects such as the redesign of the Ask About Ireland website and a book digitisation project, among others.  I took a career break from this position earlier this year and moved to the UK.
Ask About Ireland website

Since March, I've been working a few hours a week as a library invigilator at the medical library in Cambridge and working on my librarianship qualification.  I've been making the most of the time available and opportunities that came up, attending CILIP events, doing the 23 Things programmes and helping to organise the first (lib)TeachMeet (limited places still available, sign up here!)

I'm now at a bit of a turning point in my career.  Next week I'm off to Aberystwyth for my third and final study school, and the week after that I'll be starting as Assistant Librarian at the English Faculty Library, Cambridge. I'm very excited about this job - I have an interest in the educational role of librarians and think a faculty library is probably the best place to be for this side of things.  I've met most of the team and am really looking forward to working with them, and from what I've read and heard, this library always has lots going on.

I have to say, I feel really lucky to have had the broader early experiences from CMC and the Library Council while I was studying.  By working while studying, I've managed to avoid the Experience Catch-22 that Bronagh talked about at the New Professionals Conference, and I've been able to draw on this work experience in completing assignments throughout my course.  It's been a long slog, but I don't regret taking the distance learning route to qualification.  Roll on the dissertation, chartership and future opportunities!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Customer Journey Mapping

Flicking through CILIP's Gazette this evening (while, of course, reminscing about my Friday nights), I had one of those "of course!" moments.  In it Erika Gavillet outlines the idea of Customer Journey Mapping.  The idea is that you ask users (or staff acting as users) to go through the process of doing something, for example using a new service or finding a book, perhaps using a comments sheet for feedback, and revising the format/signage/facilities accordingly.

It's not rocket science and there's nothing new about it really, in fact, we've done a bit of it recently as part of the Follow that... programme at the medical library.  It's just one of those blindingly obvious things that we sometimes need people to spell out for us.  It's a simple form of evaluation that we have used before, but I will certainly use more consciously in the future.