Library School – Dissertationing

I have officially finished library school! I posted my Masters dissertation off to Newcastle on September 5th in an embarrassingly large padded envelope, drawing a line under formal academic study for the time being. It’s a huge relief to be done and I’ve now had a few weeks to take stock and reflect on the whole process.

My initial thought is how much I have learned since starting the dissertation in January, both theory and practice. There’s nothing like an assignment to force you to read around the literature and see what other people are doing. I can now tell you all about hybrid and digital libraries, collection development, user studies, music library user studies and user format preference studies. I can tell you a little about mixed methods research methodologies and data analysis. This process has also greatly boosted my confidence in undertaking workplace research and was (I think) a successful first foray for me into quantitative and qualitative research. This type of research is becoming more and more important for librarians, especially in the academic sector, so having completed a meaty research study already is great.

My next thought is, I’ve now (well almost) got the piece of paper, was it worth it? And, possibly more importantly, will it help advance my career? This is an ongoing debate in librarianship, and now having done the course I think the piece of paper is valuable. As a seasoned library professional recently told me, work experience is crucial but librarians need to at some point study the theory of librarianship and information science. I tend to agree but on the other hand, it was very expensive and I feel this is a major barrier, especially when you can learn so many aspects of the work on the job. As far as career advancement goes, nearly every professional library job requires this degree so it’s great to be able to meet this criteria now. However this debate will continue to rage I’m sure.

A few random tips I jotted down along the way:

  • Plan, plan, plan. A multi-pronged study like mine involving various partners and institutions only worked because of good planning and project management. Of course the plan went out the window after I had collected all my data but my Gantt chart was crucial up to that point.
  • Listen to your supervisor, mine gave good advice and also was marking it so I had to swallow my pride at some points and take the suggestions on board.
  • Take good notes and record citations as you go, it might be relevant later. I found this out when facing a major research challenge and re-read my notes out of desperation only to find a potential solution in a paper I’d read during my lit review.

New, very useful apps:

  • Zotero – Absolute life saver this! It’s a reference management app, similar to EndNote but it’s free and more user friendly and doesn’t require logging into a Desktop Anywhere-type thing (a real hassle on Mac). You can download extensions for your browser and Word and save citations online with one click and then cite in your document. It even formats your bibliography for you!
  • Picktochart – I used this when I couldn’t get Excel to do charts how I wanted. It’s an infographic website, very easy to use and helps to makes your data more visually appealing through its in-built design, colour schemes, icons, etc.
  • I never found a good app solution for organising my research notes. Twitter friends suggested Scrivener and Evernote, but I stuck with my epic-ly long Word doc in the end because it would have taken to long to convert the notes retrospectively. Scrivener looked really good but was a bit pricey. I already use Evernote for my blog and other things.

The dissertation journey is not quite done as I’ll be presenting my research at the upcoming LISDIS (Library and Information Science Dissertations) conference in November and the IAML (UK & Irl) conference next April. Last but not least I graduate in December with my MA Information and Library Management – assuming I pass!

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IFLA WLIC – Part 2

This is part 2 of my conference experience at IFLA WLIC last August. For Part 1 click here.* Again, it’s a long one but I blame that on their being too many fantastic sessions!

In addition to school library related sessions, the second thread I followed was the IFLA Trend Report. The Report was released at the 2013 WLIC and consists of five high-level, societal trends affecting the information environment. Information professionals devoted last year to discussion of the Report. This year’s Trend Report sessions were focussed on receiving feedback from the discussions across the world and thinking about how librarians and library associations will move forward into action and adapt to a changing information environment.

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The Cultural Evening was great fun. It was held in a former sugar warehouse, very ‘industrial chic’. Highlights were trying oysters for the first time and attempting group dances that were directed by an animated Medieval chicken/creature/thing on the big screen!

IFLA by its nature brings together globally prominent, intelligent people and I felt quite privileged to hear their ideas, especially on the Trends. The President’s Session included a Trend Report component focusing on e-participation for strong information societies. Speakers addressed the Trends as a whole from the perspective of their sector, including digital and information literacy, publishing, parliaments, policy advocates, think tanks and the EU justice system. Interesting points raised included that libraries are well-positioned to build capacity in digital and information literacy (Trend 1), a hyper-connected society means more voices but also more ‘noise’ (Trend 4) and that there is a pressing need for data protection reforms to address the alarming possibilities of Big Data (Trend 3).

Another session I attended on the Trends was entitled ‘What’s next? Moving on from the IFLA Trend Report’ and was sponsored by the Management of Library Associations Section and FAIFE Committee. Each speaker addressed one Trend in order and I took eight pages of notes! David Souter (ICT Development Associates) highlighted the growing ‘dataification’ of government and business and asked, where does information power reside? Access to this data is an important issue as it depends on factors such as access to analytical resources, computer processing capabilities, etc. He saw the role of libraries in this area as institutions who can increase diversity in information and access. Pierre Dillenbourg (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) spoke about online education and quipped that it will ‘democratise, maybe; disrupt, yes’. He saw potential in using MOOCs for teacher training and for training purposes in businesses. He proposed several theories on what the future holds:  that small universities could disappear, universities will lose the monopoly on higher education, and the future for open access is not looking rosy. He saw the role of librarians as resource managers in online education. David Greene (Electronic Frontiers Foundation) asserted that data protection was a human rights issue and described the alarming realities of digital life such as direct surveillance and the mass collection of data. He proposed that librarians should be advocates for privacy and data protection and libraries themselves should provide secure internet connections and use user data responsibly. Anniette Esterhuysen (Association for Progressive Communications) gave a fascinating talk on hyper-connected societies. Individuals have a voice now, but is there more noise online and who gets heard? She saw librarians as the ‘worriers’ for the public interest, agents for inclusion, facilitators of access and as challengers of power structures. In short librarians she said, echoing Souter’s talk, are human rights advocates. Finally Loida Gracia-Febo (IFLA Governing Board) talked about librarians facilitating knowledge exchange through new technologies. She saw librarians adapting to this trend by becoming experts on new technologies, connecting people, helping creators and contributing to sustainable development.

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Rose garden in the massive park next to the conference centre.

The final Trend Report session I attended was held by the IFLA President-Elect, Donna Scheeder. There were a series of lightening talks from speakers representing the regions of the world and then we had round-table discussions. It was interesting to hear varying responses and priorities from the different regions such as infrastructure and internet access being a big issue in Asia and Oceania, Dutch libraries exploring reconciling the physical and digital, the USA pushing for policy change and in Africa, prioritising inclusive digital literacy, access, and IP ownership and indigenous knowledge. For the round table, the discussion was all about action. We discussed the need for library design and infrastructure to cater to an increasingly tech-saturated culture, e.g. having lots of plug sockets, sufficient bandwidth and also considering the environment and sustainability in design. Accountability was another theme:  we need to show the ‘value add’ that libraries provide, and not just in terms of money; senior managers need to release talented staff to do great and creative work; we need a clear, simple message and/or metrics for effective advocacy. Change was a buzzword on the table. Librarians need to change their mind-set and we need more variety of qualifications within libraries to address the changing information environment. We also need to understand our users’ needs and everyone agreed this entails getting out from behind the desk and talking to people! New definitions of ‘library’ were batted around including intermediary to knowledge and information, facilitator of learning and helping people understand their ability to build capacity. We then talked about what problems and opportunities faced IFLA, our national association and our local region. My main personal takeaway from this was that I need to embed myself in my school by getting out of the library and talking to teachers about what they need and how the library can help meet that need, e.g. information and digital literacy skills.

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Collége La Tourrette, Lyon – this was their quad area.

On my final day I visited two libraries and several museums. I went on a tour of a local secondary school library at Collége La Tourrette. The school opened a year ago after an extensive refurbishment of the historic building. The library was spread across four rooms, which prompted a lot of questions about security of stock and staffing. The rooms were a mix of classrooms, IT rooms and the main library proper. I was interested in their set of tablets since we were looking into e-readers at my school at the time. The system they use is students have an ID which corresponds to a barcode on each tablet, but they cannot be taken out of school. I also visited the Bibliothéque Part Dieu, the main public library in the city. It was a busy place on a Saturday morning and I enjoyed their exhibition of ‘Trésors!’, showcasing treasures of the Lyon Municipal Library. I also got to visit the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation.

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French Harry Potter books at Collége La Tourrette library.

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Tablet storage trolley at Collége La Tourrette library.

I found this conference experience incredibly rewarding and want to thank the John Campbell Trust again for supporting my attendance.

*An adapted (and shorter!) version of these two posts appeared in CILIP Update October 2014.

Delivering training on Accelerated Reader

Term has finished so I’m catching up on my a few blog posts that have been brewing since oh, about May… At the end of April I delivered some training to staff on the Accelerated Reader scheme. I lobbied for the training because we’ve had a lot of staffing changes in library lessons, and the extent of some people’s understanding of it consisted of a 2-minute conversation sotto voce with me at the beginning of their first lesson! So I proposed that we do some training for all staff involved in AR, and since no one else volunteered to run it I planned and delivered the session myself.

I had 1.5 hours to work with since the training was taking place after school during one of our ‘twilight’ CPD sessions. Several members of SLT (senior leadership team) were slated to attend – what an advocacy opportunity! – but for various reasons could not make it. So I had about 13-14 members of teaching staff present. One thing I took away was to actually count how many people attend anything you do. Ah, metrics and stats, how we need you.

Since I had a fairly long chunk of time and this was coming at the end of the day midweek, I was at pains to break the session up into chunks, rather than having a long, dull lecture. So the first half covered the basics of Accelerated Reader, how it works and how we do it at our school. Then there was an activity/sneaky ploy to reinforce everything they just heard. I created an Accelerated Reader ‘Treasure Hunt’ which took participants around the library finding books at certain levels, figuring out what content level a book was, looking up a book online on the AR Bookfinder, etc. The first team to complete it first with all correct answers got a bag of sweets. To my pleasant surprise, it was a big success as there were a lot of competitive people in the session. I’m actually planning to adapt the game for use with the new Year 7s in the autumn because I think actually figuring out how it works for yourself or within a team helps information sink in better than listening to me give a long spiel.

The second half of the training covered common issues and problems with Accelerated Reader and some solutions. I also put in a couple slides to advocate for the library which I called ‘What I can do for you’ and ‘What the library can do for you’. This included handling IT issues in lesson, recommending books and the capabilities of the library space and resources available (laptops, etc.). Finally the last 15-20 minutes was questions and discussion amongst participants. This was brilliant as there were several individuals in the room who had significant experience with AR and so shared a lot of best practice with everyone else.

We’re planning some more training for the autumn and also getting in a remote training session from the AR people, so will report on that as and when it happens.

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