Sunday, 2 December 2012

November Book Reviews

Bluebell's 13th Summer is one she will always remember but that's because she has someone helping her to make the right choices... herself!
A birthday wish ends up with a future Bluebell "Red" tagging along for the Summer as Bluebell meets new friends and enjoying the Summer of a lifetime. Pacey with an extraordinary twist at the end... this story will resonate with young teens and those in the early double figures as Bluebell explores friendships, love and family dynamics... 9+

A touching coming of age story about first love, lust and the heartache that follows. This was my first foray into LGBT fiction and I enjoyed it. It was very easy to forget it was LGBT and think of it as just another teen love story apart from a couple of pages when Sean was unsure how to approach the subject of his sexuality with his loved ones.. these pages spoke outand could have been read separately from the book as a how to. Setting it in a small town gave the author the chance to show the diversity of a small population but he needed an outsider from the big city to re-assure Sean that everything was going to be ok... This Summer changes everything

 I've tried to read The Hobbit and it didn't stick but with the film coming out later this month I thought I'd try it in simpler chunks... Wenzel's adaption and illustrations help move the story along... we meet the dwarves and the elves and the wonderful Gandalf... beautifully illustrated I think I've got the basic plot down!

"Echoing Tess of the D'urbevilles"... the dust jacket is incribed with and I can see the comparison.

Mary is a fifteen year old farm girl in 1830... the youngest of 4 daughters to a vicious father and a complacent mother she is sent to live and work with the local vicar and his sickly wife.
Outspoken Mary does not fit into domestic life but the vicar's wife finds her entertaining and indispensible as she grows ill. The vicar finds her in need of help and teaches her to read and write but things are not all as they seem... anyone who reads the classics or has read Tess will be able to tell how this ends but with the unusual style of writing and the unique voice this is a gem to read

One of my favourite authors of all time. I was so excited when I found he had a new book. This story focuses on the significance of time and how it affects everything we do as humans. Such a large subject is handled deftly through the stories of three individuals; 17yr old Sarah, terminally ill Victor and Dor the inventor of Time. Albom's words are contagious, you can't stop reading and I'm still thinking about it now. Beautifully written and happily devoured

The fourth instalment in the enemy series... Children live in the buildings of London hiding from the sickos, the oppos, the zombies, the adults that have taken over the city. But the zombies are getting organised, they are being called to the centre of the city whilst the children arejust trying to survive... recurring characters Dognut, Sarah, David, Ed and Kyle move the plot along and we learn more about Sam and the Kid and the shadowman introduced at the end of the fear. Another gripping instalment but how much longer can it go on for?

When Chris' best friend dies unexpectedly it affects him in ways he didn't realise it could..Chris becomes mute whilst he tries to come to terms with Declan's death, how he feels about Declan's supportive grlfriend and the new boy at school who reminds him so much of Dec. Well written concerning sensitive issues

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A Day in Exeter...

This week I took part in a trip to the Devon and Exeter Institution and Exeter Cathedral Library and Archive organised by SWRLS and CILIPSW.

In a row of houses that make up Cathedral Close, sits a small white unassuming building, previously the home of the Courtenay family, the Earls of Devon... but behind those doors is a beautiful collection spanning two hundred years of arts, sciences and humanities and articles of local importance. The library was established in 1813 by local gentry of Exeter who began the collection with £4000 of books – a significant sum at this time in history. The Institution is everything that you’d expect from an old, established library. There are two main rooms to the library which are walled floor to ceiling with leather bound tomes. This is a library from another time, the card catalogues are still well used and many members came in during the morning to read the daily paper whilst sitting in the comfort of a cosy armchair. You could very easily have believed yourself in an Austen novel... maybe walking the library of Mansfield Park or Pemberley.

The chief librarian, Roger Brien, spent some time talking to us about the history of the building from its establishment as a library to the present day and it’s now charity status. He also spent some time sharing anecdotes of some of the Institution’s librarians and more interesting benefactors.

After a brilliant lunch we strolled around the cathedral gardens to the new home of the Exeter Cathedral Library and Archive where Librarian Peter Thomas and Archivist Ellie Jones showed us some of their precious collection. This collection includes records and artefacts from as early back as 800 AD including the Exeter Book, which is part of the Domesday records.  The Library holds items from the cathedral’s history and collections of interest from patrons and benefactors of the cathedral which include an extensive collection of medical books from as far back as the Tudor period.

It was a very interesting day and an eye opener to the world of special libraries. As a public librarian it isn’t very often that I get to see older collections and I can’t imagine getting much work done if I worked in either of these locations. A recurring theme in both locations was making the issue of making the public aware of the collections held in these places. As a public librarian we are also having this problem of preaching to the converted. With social media so prevalent you would think it would be easier to publicise services but how do you reach those groups who could benefit from your resources and help?

I would like to thank Clive and Lynne for organising the day and if you are intrigued by what you’ve read here there is another visit planned for the 6th February so keep an eye out on the message boards.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Newcastle Central Library

During a weekend jaunt up north I took an hour out to visit the new Newcastle Central Library... I say new, it has been open since 2009! This is part of the new generation of public library and the thing that always hits me about these buildings is how they look and adopt the layout of academic libraries reminding me of Sheffield University’s Information Commons. It was also interesting to compare it with Swindon Central Library and Wiltshire’s new Trowbridge Library (housed within County Hall, Wiltshire Council’s headquarters).

The central library is over six levels with space for exhibitions, meeting rooms, a computer suite, cafe, crèche and all the normal things a library holds including BOOKS! I particularly liked the express zone on level one with different themed displays for quick choice but was thrown that the fiction is housed on level three. Instead the non-fiction is located on level one and adds to the feeling of it being an academic as oppose to public library. I should explain that there are two entrances to the library but in some ways it’s more like walking into a shopping centre than a library (modern design is funny like that!). It would take too long and you would be asleep by the time I’d finished so I'm just going to pull out a few interesting and what I think are key points.

  • All library staff are roving in the central library and were easy to point out but became few and further between the further you went up. There are enquiry points but none of the more traditional counters for memberships and queries.
  • For the size of the library there are only two bays of horror fiction although there is a very prominent blood-thirsty display but I wonder what will happen to this once the genre dies down.
  • The size of the children’s library struck me as odd in proportion to the size of the library but I imagine that children are not the main catchment for the central library. It takes up a third of the floor space on level three along with what you would expect in a standard public library (fiction, DVDs, music, large print and talking books). Whilst we were there this space was also being used for a gaming afternoon which livened the atmosphere and brings an often reluctant demographic into the library.
  • Newspapers and magazines were spread out across all levels of the library which could be confusing to first time users. 

The library’s wide variety of services include the normal eBooks, author events, home delivery service but also other initiatives which I believe work in these urban environments such as work clubs, business workshops, Internet taster sessions and law in the library which sees solicitors from Northumbria University School of Law give free legal advice to users. There is a similar programme in Wiltshire not with the law but with health which sees local nurses hold drop in sessions in libraries which has proven very successful over the last two years.

One last point I would like to raise which is along the same lines is the  promotion of a collection called “From Words to Wellbeing” which is much like Wiltshire’s “Books on Prescription” in that local GPs can ‘prescribe’ books that help you manage your wellbeing. In Newcastle Central this collection is kept together and under signage which makes it obvious to all what a person is looking at... the advantage of this is that members of the public can find it themselves and help themselves if they are too shy to ask. In Wiltshire libraries these books are kept in with the normal run of non-fiction and people have to come to the counter... it would be interesting to compare these two services and see whether users are comfortable with one way over the other.

Below are a few photos of interesting displays and initiatives set up in the library. Living in such a rural county it is interesting to see how more urban areas are dealing with the challenges of twenty first century public services including libraries. Newcastle impressed me and there are small changes I can make in my libraries which may prove successful. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

October Book Reviews

A stunning emotional debut by Laura Harrington... Alice Bliss and her family are thrown into unknown territory when her father is called up to fight in Afghanistan. When he leaves the family try to carry on as normal but cracks start to appear almost immediately... an already fraught relationship between Alice and her mother doesn't get any better, boundaries shift, life changes and 15yr old Alice is just trying to keep up

I read Engelby a few years a go which is a very twisted novel and I've always meant to go back to Faulks... Charlotte Gray seemed like an obvious choice and easier as I knew the story due to the film... little did I know it's completely different! Charlotte is an independent young woman ahead of her time in many ways who wants to help in the War effort. She is snapped up by G unit and sent to France in a matter of months where the truths of War unfold and Charlotte learns what it is she's fighting for.... Love is ever present as a purpose for her actions and we follow many characters through their individual battles.

A hard slog but I'm glad I made it through... characters

made by Faulks will haunt you for years after

 A wonderfully seductive and easy read with the complicated lives of a small group of friends Amber, Greg, Jen and Matt. With a group of close friends who have known each other for years they are always going to be secrets, old and new. The chocolate run embeds us into Amber's life as she traverses life, love and the brilliant relaxing qualities of chocolate in a modern world. An easy read whilst ill and a beauty from an author I've been meaning to read for a while... I'm glad I took the time!

Another of the never-ending dsytopian teen novels. This for me was lacking something although I can't put my finger on what.
Cal is just a normal kid, goes to school, comes home, does his homework but then the cracks start appearing, voices are in his head, seeing things in the shadows... and then he is woken from the coma that has been induced in him for 12 years. What ensues is a need for truth, discovery of a new world and the need to find a family you don't remember.

For those that like a bit of quirky with their novels... If you enjoyed the Jasper Fforde Thursday Next novels this will be right up your alley... PC Grant is coming to the end of probation and working out where to go next when he gets sent to DC Nightingale and the magic law unit... what ensues is a case of murder and magic, gods, goddesses, ghosts all in the setting of the multicultural capital... slow to start but picked up pace and now I can't wait for the next installment!

The 2012 Orange prize Winner.. a debut by Miller focusing on the life time relationship of Achilles and all ancient greek history the Gods aren't quiet for long and we follow the twists and turns of a unique relationship in the time of the siege of Troy... written in a easier style not losing the poetry of ancient greek tradition... easily read with a balance of action and emotion to keep you reading

After following a £10 note around for a weekend Steve Boggan went to the next step and followed a $10 around the USA for a month... with no input or influence Boggan follows the noted from the centre of America in Kansas to Illinois. As much a story of travel around USA what stays with you is the people Boggan meets along the way and the trials they face in modern day America... the kindness of strangers is abundant.. an interesting perspective and a quirky way of viewing modern american society.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Reflections on Shadowing

As part of my Chartership journey I have been taking the opportunity to shadow various member of the Wiltshire Library Service, to see what skills I will need to develop in order to progress on my professional path.

There is always an air of mystery wrapped around managerial positions and being able to shadow these roles gives a human angle which makes it all seem less scary for want of a better word. I have been very lucky to spend time with colleagues and question them about their own professional experiences, their time in the service and how they feel their jobs have changed over the last few years and where they may be in ten or twenty years time.

I have recently spent days shadowing a Community Librarian (the next rung) and our Library Operations Manager who amongst multiple responsibilities holds a managerial role over the stock and budgets for the county and reader development (areas that I am particularly interested in). Both colleagues were happy to give up a day to have me tag along and question them incessantly about present roles and challenges but I also found it very interesting to get their views on where they feel Wiltshire’s library service and public library services in general are heading.

For example, 5 years ago each library service would have a dedicated reader development librarian who would be responsible for reading promotions such as the six book challenge, quick reads, author talks and library reading groups along with regional and national programmes such as the National year of Reading in 2008. In the present climate this very important role for libraries has been intertwined with other responsibilities and does not seem to have a dedicated post anymore, more and more it seem it is folded into stock unit positions, outreach librarian roles and in some cases given as added responsibilities to library assistants and general librarians. When speaking to our operations manager about this he pointed out that not having dedicated roles for reader development meant that implementing national strategy can be very difficult. As reader development roles are spread over different layers of staff being able to attend meetings, conferences and committing to programmes becomes harder. Where some staff have control over budget and capacity to green light projects straight away others have to go back to their authority and sell an idea, this makes regional and national projects harder to get off the ground as you are unlikely to get a unanimous verdict on any given day for multiple authorities.

In my opinion shadowing provides a brilliant opportunity to understand colleagues various roles and the chance to talk about the service; it’s past, present and future. Being able to spend time with colleagues I would not normally interact with is also helpful on a personal level, to put faces to names and understand better how you can work together. Shadowing is an inexpensive and  yet valuable form of CPD and I feel it has helped me understand more about the services core goals and the future that we face. It is a worthwhile and educational experience and above all showed me what skills I need to develop to rise to these positions in the future.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Events, Conferences and Advocacy (Things 15 and 16)

Events and Conferences

I have been in the library profession for nearly three years now and have had the chance to attend a number of professional events and conferences. I know it is stupid to say but here it goes anyway... I am always taken aback by the friendliness and welcoming atmosphere at conferences. There always seem to be two cliques though... professional conference goers/organisers and those that get to attend a conference a year. I’m not in anyway surprised by the welcoming atmosphere and I love the opportunity it gives for me to network and put Twitter names to faces but I also feel somewhat like an outsider twice over, as a professional who doesn’t get to attend very many conferences and as a public library Librarian. In regard to the latter it is more often than not at conferences I attend that I am the only delegate from the public sector. This may be partly due to the climate we find ourselves in at the moment but I also feel that many conferences are aimed at the academic/private sector.

Then why I hear you say don’t you speak at one of these conferences or events? And the answer comes back... lack of self confidence, time and resources. I know it’s an excuse but it’s the one that I’m using for the moment. Not to say that the conferences I’ve attended have not been informative, helpful and educational but a balanced delegate list would help to advance networks and the sharing of best practice. These conferences and events are also helpful with keeping up with current awareness and building on my knowledge of the wider profession.

The idea of presenting at a conference or event scares the living death out of me I’m not going to lie but I think I would relish the chance to present a view of the public library sector at the moment. Unconferences such as Library Camps go some way to helping those like myself who aren’t gifted public speakers but the other side of the coin is working out whether you have something to contribute which is valuable to the profession or whether I’d just be filling time in a programme but I think that’s an issue I need to get over rather than a professional opinion.

When I was a student I was a representative of the North East CDG. With two student representatives and members of the committee we organised a careers event for that year’s librarianship intake. This included guest speakers from alumni and staff sharing their experience of the job market. I was also in that year part of the librarianship social society and so this helped me understand the organisation behind events in terms of finding a viable venue, and organising a programme attractive to your target audience. This event was attended by approx 25 students who gave excellent feedback and was a brilliant first step into networking and establishing professional relationships which are still helping me today.


I was lucky enough to be published in the Pubic Libraries Journal (PLJ) before it’s cessation in 2010 and have also written pieces for group newsletters regarding events and visits attended. This blog is also a perfect advocacy tool and I like to think people learn a little bit more about modern librarianship by reading it. The Internet and Twitter have become amazing advocacy tools over the last few years and the media are focusing a lot on libraries in the present climate and yet I still have people come into the library to sign up that are astounded when I tell them there is no charge.

This is why I believe events such as National Libraries day are so important to promote the versatility and breadth of the modern library service.  Now more than ever advocating our profession is essential, not only educating the world at large but those users who have only scraped the surface of our services.

I have not been a part of any national advocacy at large but have taken part in some on a local scale and getting out into the public whether it be a street stall or a school assembly and setting right some of the myths surrounding public libraries. These events needs to be well organised and publicised but are well worth the effort. It is something I would be very interested in pursuing given the chance and time.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

September Book Reviews

Beautifully written coming of age story about first love. River and Flynn are from different schools, but when they come together to perform Romeo and Juliet sparks definitely fly. But as the star crossed lovers become closer not everything is always at it seems.

An amazingly thought provoking story with one liners that will stay with you long after you've finished the book. Eddie has had a humdrum life but as he dies and is made to look back he realises just how much of an effect you have on those around you without realising.

An excellent kids story set in the wonderous Whippet Hotel. This isn't just any hotel though... set between the floors are hidden rooms, mysteries and tunnels that lead into the beyond. Leo the maintenance man's son and employee of the Whippet has two days to find out just what mysteries are to be discovered with the help of Remi (the doorboy) and Betty (the duck!). A brilliantly magical story for 7-11 yrs.

This can be seen as along the same lines as Split Second - a situation seen from may different perspectives. A child murderer and the resulting consequences on his family and the family of his solicitor. The question is not innocent or guilty but at what cost do you follow principles and how far are you willing to go to protect those you love

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Future for OA in Academic Libraries?

The movement towards OA has always been a point of interest for me since I studied the Green and Gold roads during my MA year in Sheffield.

 For those who may not know OA (open access) is exactly that – a move toward access for everyone to academic papers and publications via either the gold road (funded by authors, institutions or funded for the author) or green road (published in institutional repositories, OA journals or hybrid journals where some articles are author paid and others are traditionally published). An acknowledged definition is

“free availability on the public internet permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable for giving access to the internet itself”.
                The Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002).

The implications for the access and dissemination of research through OA are staggering but like anything there are pros and cons. The work contributed by academics and researchers and the models put forward for OA by publishers and librarians are making institutional repositories more and more valuable. Therefore I was very interested to see the news in Update regarding the SAGE commissioned report that came out of a round table on OA attended by academic publishers and librarians earlier this year. This report Moving towards an open access future: the role of academic libraries focuses on the next steps of OA, still in its relative infancy, and how Academic Libraries factor into it. ( )

Reading through the report I was struck by a few things – mainly the global reach and potential of OA and whilst those in attendance at the round table believe that there could be a growth in OA papers of between 20-50% in the next ten years it is a far cry from the Horizon analysis of OA that predicted that by 2015:

                “Digital anything, anywhere, anytime, and anyhow will be the expectation.”
ARL Digital Repository Issue Taskforce (2009: 32).

And there is still a discrepancy between what is published by OA routes in different subjects. There is no doubt that OA is seen as more transparent than subscriptions and there are benefits for students to collaborate on a global scale, not to mention partnerships with affiliated institutions over the world.

Reading this report there is no doubt that the growth and success of OA can be influenced by Academic Librarians. They play a key role in information access and as OA grows it will be Academic Librarians who will be looking at collection development, promotion of materials and the budgets allotted. It will also be Librarians that help in the teaching of the information found in these OA articles and Information Literacy will play a big role. One point made, a con of OA, I’m going to put in simple terms, is what’s to stop students bypassing the library if articles they require are OA, freely available via Google or links on Wikipedia. One answer to this taken from the report is

 ‘We’ve collected materials so people can read them. The challenge is to make unique materials widely available in the digital world’.

Librarians work in a dynamic and evolving society and part of our job is to evolve with technology and culture. This can be seen with the introduction of RFID technology, the changing role of information and access and the need to advocate our unique selling points.

For OA to thrive there will need to be closer working between publishers and librarians and there may be issues of budget to overcome but OA is definitely a player in the future of research and therefore has implications for academic librarians the world over. I am glad that this is an area which is thriving and getting the advocacy and focus it deserves.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Catch Up Time... Online Tools (Things 12, 13 and 14)

Back to the library stuff! Needed a bit of a catch up on my 23 things so am being cheeky and rolling social media, Google docs etc and referencing all in one!

Thing 12 – Social Media

The first question how social am I on social media... yes I have IDs on the main social networking sites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and am getting more familiar with LISNPN but I do feel like I’m still a bit of a lurker in a professional capacity. I’ve caught up on a couple of #UKLibchats after they’ve happened and had a brief foray into #chartership chats but never gone further than this. It may be the English in me but there seems to me something strange and slightly rude in just randomly picking a twitter “friend” and striking up a conversation. Yes, I have colleagues who I have bumped into once or twice at conferences and work shops but these “relationships” are small talk at best. There’s a fine balance in a working relationship and I suppose I haven’t found that yet, mixing the social with the professional for whatever reason it may be but this thing has given me a push to try and start becoming more involved in the online community whether it be through forums, Twitter chats or the odd email back and forth. I suppose what I’m saying is I may have to get over myself slightly!

Thing 13 – Google Docs, Dropbox and Wikis

I have had brief experience with each of the above through different projects I have been involved in whether that be inter-organisation or on a CILIP or networking level. Google Docs is very often used for #uklibchat agendas and I can see the advantage in this when you have a large group using and working on the same document. This, if I had thought about it, would have come in very handy a few months ago on a project that I was working on with colleagues at different sites in Wiltshire but the issue I have with a lot of these new resources is the downloading of different packages, applications etc and this isn’t always possible at work with the nature of our corporate firewalls and security. When you are working on a network that is accessible from anywhere it negates the need for things such as Dropbox and Google Docs but I can understand that in the future when I may be working with different authorities on regional issues that these applications will come in very handy.

My first experience with contributing to Wikis has been very recent when I was involved in LibcampSW. Again, this is an excellent tool which leads to multi-agency working and is a great aid in collaborative working. This would have also been very helpful when at university for societies and project working. Unfortunately just a few years too late but I look forward to finding a way to use this tool in the future.

Thing 14 – Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike

These are all referencing tools and in all honesty since my dissertation I have thankfully not had a need to use them although I will revisit them when compiling my Chartership portfolio. When writing my MA dissertation I used Endnote as it was championed by teachers and students and I was given the program for FREE! (Probably not the best reason I know!) I found it very easy to get to grips with after initial struggles but I suppose in my techno-phobic ways I have never felt the need to use it again or explore it’s further attributes.
Whilst in my current role I can honestly say I’ve never been asked for referencing tools but taking part in programs such as CPD23 helps to keep my awareness up and I imagine if I changed sector the information learnt here would hold me in good stead for interviews and day-to-day enquiries.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Morning Sun

Ok, this is something a bit different and more personal... part of the beyond! I haven't written anything in a while and had this idea to warm up again by using paintings to create my scene and then imagine the situation, the characters etc... this a big thing for me to share so please be kind but at the same time I don't mind a bit of constructive criticism. More than anything I hope you enjoy it...

Morning Sun Edward Hopper (1952)

She sat on the bed, the morning sun a spotlight on her natural form. Accentuating the tone of her skin, the line of her curved legs as she lost herself in the cityscape framed in the window. She could spend hours watching the skyline, industry and nature intertwined as she watched the birds soaring on the wind above the buildings, negotiating the wires and aerials of modern society. She moved only to reach for a cigarette from the bedside table, her nightdress rising above her thighs almost translucent in the sunlight.

As he watched from the shadow of the doorway he contemplated her thoughts. She seemed so comfortable, so at peace, framed by the sunlight. At that moment his heart swelled full of love for her and yet he could hear that voice telling him it wouldn’t last. He was not enough for her. It is true she had been distracted recently; she had been working long hours and bringing it home with her. When he asked what was wrong work was the go to answer but he couldn’t help feeling it was more than that. She didn’t laugh like she used to, no topic of conversation could engage her fully and he could not get passed the fortress she had constructed. Whilst watching her, a mug of steaming coffee in his hand, all his concerns fell away and he let himself become immersed in her. For a moment she was how he remembered her; simple, elegant, beautiful in the morning sun and yet he couldn’t help thinking she looked sad.

She knew he was at the door, standing his post. She could feel his eyes upon her. Thinking about it she could not remember a time when she had turned around and he had not been there, looking over her shoulder, checking up on her, acting more like a concerned parent than a lover. Most of the time she enjoyed the comfort that came with his proximity, the security and protection but there could be such a thing as too much time together.

She knew she’d been distracted lately. She knew he didn’t deserve the way she was treating him and yet she could not find the words to make it right so instead she let him watch her knowing that it calmed him. This was her compromise she realised as the smoke of her cigarette passed out through the window enjoying the freedom she longed for.

“Where are you right now?” His voice cut through the silence, woke her from the nothingness and enveloped her in a warmth that she had forgotten she could feel. It surprised her that after so many years he could still have this affect on her and yet it took all her energy just to turn her head and give a twitch of her mouth in recognition to his voice. It was enough; he took it as an invitation and slowly made his way from the gloom moving into the light choosing to rest against the wall by the window, extending his cup of coffee as a silent truce. She accepted and as she sipped at the warming drink their eyes found each other, explored each other as strangers are wont to do in those first moments of attraction.

He could have stayed there for the rest of the day. As he stood gazing at her his thoughts moved to days spent in that room; the days when they hadn’t left the bed, the midnight conversations, the arguments, the making up. So many memories... a lifetime in just one room. In that moment he realised there could never be anyone else.

“Now you’ve disappeared too.” She said and for a brief second the sparkle in her eye returned.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Half year(ish) review

As you can probably tell I had planned to do this a bit earlier in the year but just hadn’t got round to it! It’s been a busy year so far and it doesn’t show any chance of stopping... but having recently had a personal appraisal I thought I’d take the chance to reflect on everything that’s happened over the last year and build on this.

Obviously the routine work continues, weeding, post natal talks, rhyme times, maintaining our home library service but with a year of celebration in Wiltshire there has been lots of opportunities to take part in organising and running events... my personal achievements this year include:
  • A dramatic reading afternoon to promote Dicken’s Day in partnership with the local am dram society in Corsham
  • A well attended quiz night to celebrate World Book Night 2012 in Chippenham
  • Drop in sessions in Calne for the Olympic torch relay
  • Creative writing “Story Lab” workshops as part of the Summer Reading Challenge celebrations
  • The installation and training of a new stock management program in libraries in my area, handing responsibility to library assistants

It has also been another successful year promoting and running the Summer Reading Challenge in Wiltshire. This year for the first time I managed to visit every school in the Calne area to promote this wonderful scheme to keep children’s literacy levels and love of reading high over the Summer holidays. This has resulted in nearly 2000 registered Story Lab participants in the Chippenham Area alone. This time of year is probably my favourite as the libraries buzz with children and laughter and there is a real sense of community within the library including the coming together of volunteers to help in the effort. The atmosphere is electric and it is wonderful seeing the library at the heart of these communities.

Obviously these achievements would not have been possible without the support of my line manager, senior staff and the amazing teams I work with in each library and at a time when libraries are still very much in the media spotlight I feel it is important to once again advocate for the unique services library staff provide.
The year is far from over and there are plans afoot to build on the success of the year, these include:
  • running an Autumnal dramatic reading session
  • organising a young writers club
  • Beginning an adult reading book group

We are also looking forward to the opening of a new library in Wiltshire and with the opening of New Trowbridge I am sure all hands will be on deck. There’s some lay out issues to overcome in Chippenham and a chance to get more involved with volunteer libraries in my area. Autumn and Winter may be a traditionally quieter time of year in public libraries but I don’t see the fun ending any time soon!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Qualifications and mentors (Things 10 and 11)

I suppose when it comes to my library career (all 2 ½ years of it!), it has been pretty average in terms of the path I took. Maybe it’s time for a little bit of my education history. I have a BA in Comparative Literary Studies and English and American Literature. I then went on to undertake an MA in Librarianship and 6 months later landed my job in Wiltshire. My first ever job was in the children’s department of Ottakar’s book store in Bromley; it’s where I did my work experience and I didn’t look back. I think this job cemented the idea that I wanted to work with books and working in a book shop isn’t a million miles away from working in a public library. This is where I’m going to admit I went into Librarianship thinking it would all be about books... yes I was one of those naive and silly people but I’m glad to say my eyes have been opened and although I still firmly believe book stock is our bread and butter I also enjoy the chances I have to promote information literacy, reader development and community involvement.

I realised I wanted to go to Library School quite late in the academic year and tried first to apply for a traineeship with very little luck. When I turned up in Sheffield for my MA studies I did worry that I would be out of my depth and do still feel that a traineeship would have given me invaluable work experience but I learn quick thankfully and made up for it with some work experience both during my studies and whilst I was looking for employment after. Whilst studying I worked a day a week at Hull Local Studies Library and after Sheffield spent time working in Catford Public Library. This helped me to put my theory into practice and learn a few things you don’t get taught at library school.

I loved my year at Sheffield, it gave me the chance to find out what I wanted both personally and professionally, I built up a great network of social and professional contacts and I came out with a pretty awesome qualification. Whilst saying this it was also probably the hardest, most intense year of my life to date and is not a qualification people should enter into lightly. You need to do your research (like any good librarian!) to understand what you want from the profession and make sure you choose the degree that gives you what you want. There are those programmes which are more traditional than others, for instance I know very little about cat and class and there were no modules on it in the Sheffield MA. But you also need to look at the difference between straight librarianship degrees and information management.

I understand the importance of CPD, especially in a profession which is so dynamic and ever evolving but I am not an eat, drink, sleep librarian. Don’t get me wrong I love my job and wouldn’t change it for the world (despite the odd moan) and I know it’s not excuse but life just seems to get in the way! I have begun work for my chartership portfolio... but like most people (I hope!) after a full week at work, or even busy day sometimes, I lack the determination and energy to sit in front of a lap top all night reflecting on my progress... notice how most of my blog post are Sundays!!! The argument here is if it’s important enough (which chartership surely is) it will get done!

As I mentioned, being quite new to this profession I have had ample opportunities to learn new skills and every day brings new lessons. In this way I feel that I daily add to my CPD and this is when mentors come in! I have my chartership mentor obviously and he is an amazing support for me, sounding board and font of knowledge. I also feel that I have many unofficial mentors in my colleagues. People who have been in the profession for 5-10 years more than me, who have already gone through a mountain of change and development and are a great source of not only organisational knowledge but also confidantes and supporters of my career as a whole. In particular my line manager who gives me the chance to explore new opportunities and is always there to help when I get stuck!

I understand the need for CPD and further qualifications but I do sometimes find myself asking when is enough enough. I already sit on quite a mound of student loan debt and I went to university at the time when a degree, if it was good enough, would get you a decent job. Now it would seem you need an undergrad and postgrad degree... what will it be like in fifty years time and do people understand the importance of the librarian profession to fight through and become qualified when they realise the work involved.
This has been quite a babbly post but as you can see I can’t quite make my mind up about qualifications.. yes CPD is essential but when is enough?

The more astute of you will realise that I have missed out 9 and 10 – it’s not that I haven’t looked at them it’s just that I’m not sure how they can be applied to where I am at the moment but it is good to know these items exist and may be used in the future. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Just goes to show that libraries are much more than books... but of course we already knew that! Swindon Central Library part 2

The more I think about what I wrote over the weekend, the more I realised what I’d missed out about Swindon Central Library; the diversity of services and range of borrowers reached.

The buzz and the layout of the library remind me more of an FE/HE library with computers in easy accessible location. Along with 4 express terminals on the ground floor, computers line the gangways and staircase of each floor, along with a learning zone on the first floor which can be divided off echoing back to a group study zone at an academic library. It feels very much that computers are the forefront.

 Spaces, such as the learning zone and the reading zone on the top floor where periodicals can be found, are used for library events and community outreach in a number of ways. There is not that much free space on the library floor and a majority of free space is used for book displays but the areas set aside for the community are flexible spaces that can be opened up for large audiences whilst still feeling intimate. They also lend themselves to technology, having space in the reading zone for a projector. It is also interesting to note that it is here, in the reading zone, the more traditional part of the central library if you like, that the reference collection can be found. I did question the fact that you have to walk two flights of stairs or go up two floors in a lift for a look at the daily paper but the area set aside is quiet with an interesting view of the Swindon skyline! I wonder if the papers are located there due to the ever present problem of items going “walkies”. This may also reflect the change in use of libraries over the last decade.

The learning zone which I mentioned above is hidden away on the first floor but has a set of ten public network computers along with an interactive whiteboard. This area is used by the community in partnership with the Job Centre and the public are helped with job searching, e-application and email set ups amongst other basic I.T. skills. Just another example of partnership working, bringing those who may not necessarily think the library has anything to offer them, and showing them the library of the modern age.

The library has the benefit of being attached to the old town hall which used to hold the local studies collection but can now be used for large events; anything from local studies meet ups to dance classes. This again helps the library to reach those hard to reach groups who may not necessarily view the library as a place for them but will be brought through the doors to see what the library offers, making the central library a hub of activity and the heart of the community.

Just goes to show that libraries are much more than books... but of course we already knew that!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Swindon Central Library - 21st Century Library

Yesterday I attended a CDG organised visit to Swindon Central Public Library... I work in the neighbouring county and it isn’t very often that there are visits set up to other public libraries and this provided an opportunity to see how another authority operates, a chance to pick up fresh ideas. The borough has 15 libraries which serve 200, 000 people. Swindon Central has been open since 2008 with a budget of £10 million and walking into it 4 years later it still feels like a new library.

Swindon libraries differ in one obvious way to Wiltshire’s in that there layouts are approached differently. Walking into Swindon Central is like walking into a bookshop whereas Wiltshire libraries still have a stereotypical library look. This is by no way a criticism to either authority; the bottom floor of Swindon Central is a buzz of activity, there are express choices and fast backs (1 week loans on bestsellers), express public network terminals plus newly arrived Tourist Information and all sorts of merchandise on sale. They have a busy cafe on the bottom floor and the Children’s Library is easily accessible. The ground floor acts as an express zone, with the front part of the library staying open 24hours. This is definitely a 21st century library. One observation that surprised me was the number of computers in the Children’s Library (ten in total) which can only be accessed by child tickets and the majority of which are the opposite end to staff counters. It would be interesting to look at the usage statistics for these to see whether they were all necessary.

The first and second floors hold all adult book stock which is categorised into zones; fiction and popular non fiction on the first and the rest of the non fiction on the second along with an extensive local studies collection.  There is also a selection of popular non fiction, gardening and cookery on the bottom floor... I wouldn’t want to try and find shelf checks. The non fiction has been grouped into zones as aforementioned with each zone having their own colour. I can see that this makes stock more browse-able, for example travel guides, travel writing and language courses are found in the same zone but it must take a while to get used to and it is a different type of thought process to find stock than using good old Dewey.

Each floor has public conveniences and a help point in the same place but there is no counter as such on the upper floors. It is planned for these help points to be taken out in the future and for all enquiries to be dealt with at the bottom floor counter with library assistants and information assistants roving around the building. Current practice is that initial enquiries taken on the ground floor are passed up to the first and second floors dependent on their subject and that complaints are sent up to the help points. If I was a frustrated customer I would not want to then have to walk up a flight of stairs to explain my complaint again to another member of staff. The solution they are planning to implement should work theoretically but I’d like to go back on a busy Saturday afternoon and see whether staff have the time to floor walk and how long a queue there is at the ground floor counter.

In the same vein there are only two issues machines and two returns machines for the entire library which can be found on the ground floor. There is an additional exterior book drop machine for when the library is closed. For a building of this size I would have expected machines on each of the floors but when asked staff commented that it is very rare people have to wait to use a machine. The whole library has a feel of an HE or FE library rather than public use.

After a general tour of the building we had two talks; one a very passionate talk about the promotion and collection of local studies, the second regarding Swindon’s RFID machines. The latter covered the basic operation of the machines. Swindon borough has four different versions of RFID machines throughout their branches which I would find very confusing as a customer. There seems to be a machine for everything... one for issues, one for returns, another for releasing public network prints and a general photocopier. I can’t help but think new customers must be quite overwhelmed on an initial visit. The local studies talk was given by an animated member of staff who was obviously passionate about his role and gave me hope for librarianship as a profession. Yes i know it sounds corny but this was a young professional who was passionate about his role, about promoting the collection and making lasting relationships with local history contacts and you can only hope that every library has at least one staff member like this.

This is the first time I’ve been on a visit to a public library as a professional (obviously with the exception of having a snoop when you’re on holiday) and I surprised myself with how much I picked up, how many ideas I left with and the chance to make connections with other public librarians who understand the every day workings of public libraries.

I want to thank CDG for another brilliant visit and all the staff at Swindon Central Library for giving up their time on a Friday afternoon... lots to mull over! There's still a lot I want to say about this but I need to get it straight in my head first... and I need a glass of wine so may muse more tomorrow!