Some write to remember…

My thoughts on libraries, conferences, teaching and yes, random other things I find worth sharing


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Meet Megan, Julie and Leo – reflections on teaching LIS

Today, I want to write about the experience I had teaching about 100 first year library students last semester. I want to reflect on the different kinds of students I taught, on their strengths and weaknesses, and also on the fact that I found them to be a very diverse group of people.  I decided to write about them as personas that represent the profiles of quite a few of the students in my course:

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  • Straight out of school and into the degree – Megan M.

Megan loves reading and the idea of events, maker spaces and human libraries. Technology is not something she thinks about, she just uses it. She is not sure why cataloguing is still a thing, and is hoping for an exciting and ever changing job that does not get boring. She likes dealing with people and is not afraid of a bit of noise.

In terms of teaching the Megans in this world, I feel the need to encourage them to not discard ideas because they have been around for a while, to realise that they have to cater for all kinds of users as librarians, and to question all things new and shiny. It is always a pleasure to teach the Megans, because they are bubbly and enthusiastic and bouncing with energy, and I really really hope they are going to stick around the library world for a long time before they get excited about something else. Also, and this is very much a cliche,   Megans do have to be told repeatedly  that spelling and grammar are still important and will remain important.

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  • Second career librarians – mature age students – Julie H.

Julie has worked as a teacher for 15+ years, is well traveled and educated. She is hoping for a quiet career until she retires, with quiet meaning having a stable working environment where things don’t change all the time as well as literally quiet in terms of noise levels , interruption and general mayhem. Julie hopes that physical books will stay around (but is quietly concerned they may not), is ok with technology but does not like it advancing so quickly all the time – she feels she is always one step away from finally conquering it. Julie generally takes responsibility for her own learning and doesn’t expect to be entertained in the classroom; both of which are great.

Teaching the Julies reminds me of working with some library technicians in my former job. Lovely ladies and some gentlemen, whom I admired for their vast general knowledge and cultured minds. Every time I took the time to listen to them, I learned a huge amount as they had been there and done that, and were happy to share their wisdom as well as their failures. They are also people though who tell you they’d like a”quiet desk job please” where they don’t have to deal with clients too much and can go about their business in an organized and orderly fashion. I don’t like to be the one to tell them that they have come to the wrong course, so I try to wake them up gently…

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  • First or second degree, already working in a library – Leo B.

Leo is already working full time in a library and wants to finish his degree so he can finally have a say in his place of work. Harry brings a lot of “real life” examples to the course which enriches discussions and gets the others to think about matters more deeply. He shares his knowledge generously and helps others out which can be great, but he also tends to sound arrogant at times. Sometimes conversations with him have a flavor of “there is not much you can teach me, I am just here for that piece of paper”.

Teaching the Leos is interesting, because they often enrich the content of the course with their own experience, or let you be part of their learning journey by being quite open about the sort of things they will take from the course and incorporate into their places of work straight away, which gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. When they have their arrogant phases they can be a little more hard work, and make it difficult to get them on board and excited about the course and the content.

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I enjoyed creating these personas, writing and thinking about them. Profiling and using personas like these is used quite often in the marketing world to assess and improve customer services (see a good explanation of how to create personas here) and  – according to my husband – also in IT in creating user centered designs. Looking at my personas I can see how it would be useful to look at my course content and delivery, and making sure that I cater to the Megans, Julies and Leos alike.

But, it also has a lot of sticking people in a box and labeling them, and I am not so sure about that…

Anyway, teaching would not be as much fun as it is for me if there was not a good mix of different types and kinds of people in the course. It’s what makes it interesting, finding out what makes each student tick, trying to find out what excites them and then guiding them into the direction you think they should be heading, in order to be fulfilled and successful in their careers using their unique skills and personalities. When that happens, when you feel you have just shared with someone the right thing at the right time, or encouraged them at the right moment doing something they are passionate about, that’s when I love teaching the most.

 

 


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To all you frauds out there – watch this!

Hello you there, reading my blog!

So far, I have been enjoying blogging, for various reasons. Not so much yesterday though, when I took a long time to write my blog, got lost in various dot point lists, long (slightly Germanic sounding) sentences and worries that it all did not make a lot of sense, that I don’t really have anything useful to say and that people are going to realise that I am just making things up as I go along.

I then remembered that #blogjune is not just me sitting in a room talking to myself, but a conversation we are having with each other via our blogs. So I have finally taken the time to subscribe to a few more blogs, read a lot of posts, all in search of inspiration of what to write about next. I found Karen’s blog post on the imposter syndrome (and very funny bitstrip!), and remembered that last year that was one of the topics that various bloggers picked up and wrote about (for example Sam, Kate or Kathryn). If you are not sure what the imposter syndrome is, you can find a definition here or read an article about it on The Conversation.

Like everyone else, I felt and feel like a fraud from time to time:

  • At the moment (most definitely) I feel like a fraud when teaching – what were they thinking giving me a 3rd year unit?
  • From time to time imposter syndrome hits me when working on my PhD. My parents and family are from a deeply working class, blue collar background so maybe that has something to do with it. I still remember my aunt’s reaction when she found out I was going to uni for my first degree – “but we don’t do that sort of thing in our family…”. (but, others were more encouraging – you know who you are 🙂
  • When I was a new mum  I took a while bonding with my first son, and had the constant feeling that someone had just given me a baby to look after for a while. The baby was cute, but it felt like the whole thing had nothing to do with me . The same someone would eventually tap me on the shoulder, tell me that they did not really think I could look after him, and take him away. To be honest, the thought of him being taken from me was partly horrifying, but also partly a relief!

Anyway, there is one video that I immediately think of when I read posts on the topic of the imposter syndrome. It is absolutely fantastic, funny, very honest, and and I am sure will resonate as deeply with you as it did with me, if you ever felt like a fraud that is:


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Taking time to do “all the things”

Today I want to write about the things in life that I spend time on, the eternal questions of what to spend your time on and how to fit it all in when there are so many new and shiny things out there to do.

At the moment, my life is rather busy and I am trying to do a lot of things. There is work, studying,  a recent move to an older house, family and friends (partly overseas), there are two young boys, a husband and a dog, there are lots of interests, committees and projects. I realised and have accepted a while ago that I cannot possibly do all the things , do them well and still have time to sleep, so I have come up with a strategy that works well for me. I have identified which things are never allowed to fall off the list, these are the activities I am always aiming to make time for. All other things can fall off the list sometimes. It was also important for me to realise that you don’t have to plan which things fall off, as long as you rotate them around a bit it all seems to work out fine.

So, I try hard to always have enough time to do the following:

  • Work – goes without saying
  • My husband and kids: In the past I had a hard time drawing the line between work and being there for them (without having an eye on my email or Twitter feed), but I am a lot better at this now. When I am with them, I am with them, and I try very hard to say yes when they want to do something with me (and drop whatever it is I am doing). So yesterday, that meant I was helping to build the world’s largest lego boat (3yo) and assisted with sewing a tennis ball out of cotton balls (6yo, not sure why and how he came up with this idea. And no, it did not quite work, but we had fun trying  🙂 )
  • Looking after myself- For example, there have been days when I really really felt like working in the garden, and then I did, even if that meant we had McD for dinner. I have learned to not feel guilty about this!

Things that drop off the list from time to time:

  • Household: Initially I tried to come up with a plan because I like planning, but now different things don’t get done in different weeks, without any planning. Some weeks we all wear dark clothes because I have not done all the washing (and 6yo is encouraged to early morning running club because that means he does not have to wear his school uniform with the white shirt), some weeks we eat more pasta, eggs on toast and fast food than is good for us, and the cleanliness of the house varies too.
  • Family and friends overseas: they get ignored for stretches of time or encouraged to call back in a few days (“because I’m really busy at work”), but then I make an effort again and talk to all my family on the phone, update my Facebook with photos from the boys and start Whatsapp conversations that carry on for days. Or, for the friends and family here, invite them for a long Sunday lunch.
  • PhD: Fitting in the thesis is difficult, especially when working. I do try to have dedicated PhD days and do little bits here and there, but sometimes it does drop off the list for a little while. It’s still advancing though so all good I think.
  • Work related things: I have stopped trying to do all the PD activities there are and to stay on top of everything that happens in my field. Instead, I do this in little bursts of time – sometimes I don’t read a professional article or look at my Twitter feed for weeks, and then I spend a whole week doing a lot of it.

That’s it, my rather personal and simplified reflection on time management. Tell me, how do you fit in all the things? Or have you stopped trying?


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To blog or not to blog

The choices: watch the latest episode of “Follow the money” , drink a glass of milk and eat French chocolate caramel biscuits (the plan is to leave a few for tomorrow; but, if we cannot stop ourselves from eating the whole pack make sure to hide all evidence from kids) – or – to turn any of the 28 draft ideas siting in Evernote into something worth sharing with the world.

milk_biscuits

Hmmm what would you do?

 


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Libraries: Connecting the people [to the information] to the people

What I want to write about today is a very unfinished, not very well thought through idea that I have been thinking about for a while.

[disclaimer: I am not even sure, and have not checked extensively, if it is a new idea indeed. Maybe there are places out there that already do something similar to what I am going to write about].

The idea starts with thinking about what sort of things a user can have access to these days through a library catalogue. The idea of full library discovery is not a very new one; libraries all over index resources like information from the library’s website, LibGuides, even their own staff,  and make them discoverable through the library’s search interface. Lorcan Dempsey has a very good blog post on the topic, and also gives some good examples of where and how this is already happening in library land:

http://orweblog.oclc.org/full-library-discovery/

Although this approach has been around since new search interfaces appeared a few years ago (Discovery Layers, as they are referred to by vendors), it seems the idea has not been taken up by many institutions. I had a quick look, and none of the academic libraries in WA, for example, seem to provide access to anything other than “traditional” resources via their catalogues.

Apart from the fact that I think it would be a very good thing from a user’s perspective to be able to get information about opening hours or the Libguide relevant to the topic they are researching via the catalogue, I am more exited about the thought of cataloguing people. So the library’s role would expand from connecting people to information, to connecting people to information as well as to other people who have more information. I realise that we are probably talking about knowledge now; and not just information.

As mentioned above, this has been done in terms of library staff/subject librarians, and also in separate projects like the Human Library, but I am thinking about something bigger than that.

What if we had our search results displayed, bento box style (think about the way Trove displays their results for example) and there was a box for people.

So, a library catalogue could contain records for

  • Library staff
  • Current PhD and masters students studying at the university
  • Academics and their research profiles and areas of expertise
  • Student mentors
  • Other university staff – teaching coaches, counselors…

The records could include availability and preferred method of contact.

Now, I am not sure if the library catalogue is the best place for this connecting of people to information to people to happen. Also, I can hear your comments re: who would maintain the records, how would you assign “subject headings” etc. etc. But the fact is that with my PhD hat on and therefore from a user’s perspective, I think it would be amazing to have that additional service from my library. So when I am stuck with my research method, I can not only access more books and articles to read about it, but also find out there is an academic who is not only an expert in the method but also willing to chat to students every Tuesday, find that there are three current PhD students using the same method who are on campus regularly,  as well as finding a librarian who just wrote a whole LibGide about methodology. This is what it could look like:

OneSearch

This is my first blog post (!) – not counting the one yesterday that just said I am blogging now. Reading through it, I feel that I could spend hours making it sound better, sell the idea better, do more research on it and quote more people that talk about the same or a similar idea more eloquently, BUT this is me, this is a little idea that I have, this is my blog, and I am done with not sharing stuff because I think it’s not perfect.

Thanks for coming here and having a read 🙂

 


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Blogjune and first blog post!

I have decided to have a go at blogging for the following reasons:
  • A lot of people in the library world that I admire blog regularly.
  • I sometimes want to share ideas that cannot be expressed in 140 characters.
  • I would like to find out if I like blogging, if I don’t I can at least cross it off the list of things I would like to try.
  • I saw this quote a little while ago that sums up another reason: “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say” (quote from E.M Forster http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/E._M._Forster). I think a lot of the ideas in my mind  will profit from the forced clarity and structure that happens when things are written down.
Why I decided to sign up for blogjune
  • It’s always nice to start doing something as part of a group.
  • Although the idea of blogging every day sounds completely crazy to me I think it will force me to share thoughts and texts that might not be perfect. I might also post the occasional picture of one of my paintings as an easy post, something I have also wanted to do for an eternity.
  • There are one or two ideas that I have been thinking about for too long now – time to spread them around and see what happens!
That’s my first blog post. It was not as hard as I thought it would be! Thanks for encouragement btw, @infoventurer and @lgreenpd (though you might not even remember that you encouraged me – that’s how long it took me to get going. Oh well, better late than never 🙂 )