Google Power Searching

I’m starting Google’s Power Searcher MOOC. I believe I heard about this originally on the Yahoo School Library network and it sounded interesting and professionally relevant. The website blurb states that the MOOC is taught by Google Search experts and “will help you search smarter so you can find the information you need – even in the most challenging situations”. Sounds like this will tie in nicely with the information literacy material I’m developing at school, especially because Google is the tool of choice amongst students (and probably staff too). Though I’m not sure what “challenging situations” I will find myself in!? Thanks for reading, I will blog my experience as I go along.



IAML UK-Irl Annual Study Weekend 2014

A blow by blow account of last weekend when I attended the International Association of Music Libraries (UK & Ireland branch) Annual Study Weekend in Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

Gardens, Fitzwilliam College Cambridge

I found my third ASW equally as rewarding as the previous two and am grateful once again to the Music Libraries Trust for enabling me to attend. This year I attended the Academic Music Librarian Seminar on Friday afternoon since it was relevant to my work in a school library. Though the session was aimed at the conservatoire and HE sectors, it was still pertinent and interesting. Karen McAulay (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) gave a talk about a short course she is taking called ‘The Teaching Artist’. This was enlightening on many levels and everyone enjoyed learning the latest education buzzwords like ‘backwash’ and ‘scaffolding’. I hope to have a look at the books she mentioned as I am currently embarking on designing some information literacy skills training at school. Emma Greenwood (Trinity Laban) shared about using special collections to support research. As a historical performance nerd, this made total sense to me but it seems that getting non-HiP lecturers to utilise library resources is more difficult. This thread was picked up in other talks and during the round table discussion. Conservatoire librarians highlighted the difficulty with instrumental tutors who are part time and less available and think library resources are the same as they were 20 years ago when they were studying. Geoff Thomason’s (RNCM) presentation was another useful one and I will definitely try to incorporate some of his research skills teaching methods into my work such as splitting students into three groups, each of whom uses only a certain resource type to answer a research question.

The ASW proper started off with a lovely reception and the exhibitor’s presentations. I managed to win a freebie (guitar pick) from Rock’s Back Pages which will be useful at school! I enjoyed Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie’s (IAML president) report on RILM and the new search options within EBSCO. The first presentation concerned music hubs and was given by Matthew Gunn (Cambrideshire Music Hub). This was very informative and built on what we heard about the hubs last year. I plan to see what my own local music hub is up to now, particularly whether they link with schools. The evening recital by Francis Knights of music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book was the perfect end to the day.

Reading Room, University Library Cambridge

University Library, Cambridge

University Library, Cambridge

Saturday started with visits to various libraries in Cambridge. I toured the University Library. ‘Fortress’ was the first word that struck me to describe it but, inside it is actually quite warm, inviting and wood panelled, with a distinctive art deco charm.  We toured the closed access areas and various reading rooms. Their approach to space as a legal deposit library was certainly innovative: a ground floor courtyard was moved up one floor, plants and all, to allow for more storage space. Of course now I am thinking why didn’t I ask what was in the tower?? (see picture) Upon returning to college, we had a few sessions before lunch. Though I’m no pop music scholar, I always like to see what Academic Charts Online can do as demonstrated by Roger Press (Academic Rights Press) in his R&I session. Richard Chesser and Andrea Patterson (British Library) gave a whistle-stop tour of what’s happening with digital music at the BL. This was cutting edge stuff and included digitisation projects with Gale Cengage and the letters of Vaughan Williams. Various prizes were awarded on Saturday and this was a great moment to recognize excellent music services, music dissertations and music scholarship, which winners can then bring back to their home institutions to demonstrate what a fantastic job they are doing. Susi Woodhouse (Consultant) gave another delightful musicological talk on the Black Bear Music Club which was active in Cambridge in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. This talk ended with a group sing of one of the glees the club performed—and I think Susi was very pleased with our can-do attitude! Next was a new type of session that the conference committee dreamed up called ‘Quick-Fire Rounds’. I went to sessions by Graham Muncy (Vaughan Williams Society) on forging partnerships with music societies, Karen McAulay on social media and Helen Mason (Trinity Laban) on learner development/user education. These were all useful and informative, but very quick! Ideas I gained were using Diigo for storing and sharing online bookmarks and doing a treasure hunt type game (with chocolate!) to teach users where to find things in the library. Wrapping up Saturday was a presentation by staff from the National Jazz Archive that highlighted their collection not only as a treasure trove of jazz history, but also as a history of twentieth-century society and culture through the eyes of jazz.

Sunday began with a third R&I session. Rupert Ridgewell (British Library) gave us a sneak peak of the new Cecilia and Concert Programmes Project websites and we heard the latest from Library of Birmingham music library staff. Ros Edwards (Henry Watson Music Library) gave a fascinating presentation on Henry Watson, the man and his collection, and also about their new digs in the refurbished Manchester Central Library. Claire Kidwell (Trinity Laban) presented the latest copyright reforms—in understandable English—that were relevant to music librarians. Rachel Cowgill (Cardiff University) talked about her research into music clubs in World War I London, particularly one called Ciro’s near Trafalgar Square. Finally we heard about fundraising and grant writing from two successful grant writers, Ruth Walters (Westminster Music Library) and Ruth Curries (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). Their collaborative project in currently underway and is centred on WWI composers and music.

Other highlights of this year for me were seeing old and new faces. It was great catching up with people I’d met at previous ASWs. Similarly I enjoyed getting to know the first timers. The setting was also very special. The Fitzwilliam College gardens were stunning and being in such a picturesque, musically-rich city like Cambridge was a real treat. Thank you again to the Music Libraries Trust for supporting my attendance and to the IAML (UK & Irl) conference committee for organising another brilliant weekend.

Parterre Garden, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

IAML UK-Irl ASW 2014 (abstract)

University Library, Cambridge

For the long version of this see my blow by blow account in this post. In short, the International Association of Music Libraries (UK & Ireland branch) hold a fantastic conference every year which they call the ‘Annual Study Weekend’. This year it was held at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. It is a great chance to meet music librarians and those who work with music from around the country, hear about what’s going on in the field, learn about various relevant topics, and travel to neat places like Cambridge. I don’t like repeating myself so go read the other blog post if you want to hear more!

1/7(11)/32, or, How I Got a Job

Apologies, this post was obviously intended to be published much earlier (been in post 8 months now) but has been languishing in my drafts folder…

I recently was appointed to a one-year post as a school library assistant (and half-time music support teaching assistant). This offer culminated six months of job hunting and, as the blog title states, 7 interviews (out of 11 shortlistings) and 32 job applications. For my thoughts mid-search see this previous post. As I reflect on this whole process, I thought I’d share on my blog, especially for those still looking for a job, and perhaps for my future self when I at some point am back on the job hunt…Apologies for a long read.

  • Because of my personal situation, I had the luxury of being able to focus on a specific field (as opposed to applying for any job just to pay the bills). This was a useful strategy for actually reaching my goal of a library job, since I could focus my time and effort on jobs that were actually relevant to what I want to do. And despite what the media says, there are a LOT of positions out there, and you can easily get overwhelmed if you’re not focussed.
  • That being said, it’s worth looking for jobs slightly outside your target area which might offer transferable skills. I applied for a few arts administration jobs since I have experience in that area and, while not ideal for library work, would still offer some relevant skills (didn’t get any of those jobs though!).
  • I was continuously tailoring and tweaking my CV, application forms and cover letters. In my ‘Jobs’ folder on my computer, I’ve got 10 different cover letters and 19 versions of my CV! The more research I did, the more ideas I got about how to improve these integral parts of the job hunt. For example, advice I incorporated included: letting my personality come through in a cover letter, adding month/year to work experience entries on my CV, totally redesigning my CV after seeing an example I thought was in a clearer, more pleasing layout.
  • I built up my skills, experience and network through voluntary work while I job-hunted. Again this is dependent on if you can take time not working. If that’s not an option, join a professional associations, follow library folk on Twitter or take a free online course such as a MOOC. You can attend events, and many (like library camps) are usually on Saturdays.
  • In the end this particular job was the right fit. I read that somewhere on a blog about getting academic posts, and it seems to be true in my case. It also is the sort of organisation that, dare I use a CV cliche, ‘thinks outside the box’. After realizing I’m a music specialist, they decided not to put those skills to waste and basically created a position for me, split between the library and music department. I also got invited for two other interviews after getting this offer, but in the end decided that this job would best build up both my library and music experience, and develop many of the skills I’d seen on job descriptions for higher level roles. Which leads to my next point…
  • Think for the future!  (i.e. either your next job, dream job or library school) and compile a skills “to do list” while you are immersed in job descriptions and from your interview feedback. I’ve compiled a list of Skills I Have and Skills I Need, and hopefully will be gaining some of the latter. Another tidbit, someone suggested a ‘skills I have but can’t prove’.

So that’s how I got my job! Thanks for reading!

The ABC’s of Info Lit

I am working on a number of projects at work now, one of which is an information literacy programme. I recently proposed a framework and scheme of work to management and am developing the material now. The winds are favourable and hopefully this will move forward soon.

The project grew out observations of the wider library community and of my school. The wider library community, especially in university and school libraries, takes a big role in delivering information literacy skills training. Every school librarian I’ve talked to does something like this.  At my school I’ve talked with teachers and observed lessons in the library and information literacy is a big gap in the curriculum which no one at present is filling. So I see this an opportunity for me to better support teaching and learning and a natural expansion of my role.

My own experience of information literacy has been fairly extensive, the biggest example of which is probably my Masters dissertation on amateur musicians in Restoration London (2012). I joke that even though I am a trained researcher, I still can’t find stuff sometimes and use Google and Wikipedia all the time. But the point is I know where to start looking and how to evaluate information; this is not necessarily an intuitive skill…

Unfortunately all the reference books in the library were disposed of before my time, so I will be working mainly with online resources. I envision the IL skills to be a bookable resource where teachers book their class in for training related to a specific piece of work. These skills would then be transferable across the curriculum. Topics I’d live to cover include:

  • Beyond Google- how to search online
  • Referencing and the copy/paste culture
  • Evaluating sources for trustworthiness and credibility
  • Research skills for life (job hunting, careers, health, etc.)

A (real) example case in point:  a group of Year 11 science students had been sent in to work in the library. I went over to challenge them on some behaviour, and in the process I asked what they were working on. The project was researching the uses of ethanol and the worksheet gave various instances (ethanol in medicine, etc.) that they were supposed to fill in with information they’d found. They hadn’t gotten very far, so I asked why not? They said they didn’t know where to start looking for the information they needed.

This is why we need info lit- to be able to find and use the information we need. Talking with other school librarians tells me this will definitely be an uphill battle against ingrained habits, but I at least want to give it a shot! Will keep you posted.

Thanks to Darren Flynn and other school librarians for letting me re-use their material!