IAML (UK & Irl) conference ’15 – short post

Two weekends ago I attended the IAML (UK & Irl) annual study weekend, which you may recall me plugging in my previous post about music libraries. I went to represent Leeds College of Music and the Music Libraries Trust. I also had more jobs to do this year, namely reading reports for the College and MLT and also meeting all the MLT bursary winners, of whom there were 10!


New Library of Birmingham

It was another great weekend with highlights including a tour of the new Library of Birmingham, updates on other new libraries (Birmingham University, The Hive, Manchester Central Library) and thinking about digital technologies – the impacts, opportunities and various projects. I will blog more in depth at some point but in the meantime you can read two posts I’ve done for the IAML (UK & Irl) blog and a multitude of others by various contributors!

Blog 1 on the Academic Music Librarians seminar

Blog 2 on the ‘New Libraries – what can we learn?’ sessions

Library A to Z

This week a great library advocacy campaign, the Library A to Z, is launching. As a backer of the project, I also wanted to do my bit by promoting it on my blog. The Libray A to Z is a simple concept really. They’ve created “a visual A to Z celebrating the wide range of services, resources and facilities that make libraries so fantastic.” This week a whole mess of important people and the media will be receiving the Library A to Z packs. Check out the website for more information and to access the materials which are available to share under a Creative Commons license. I’ve also got some spare postcards if you’d like one!

A is for access; advice; answers; archives; art; audio books…

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project www.libraryatoz.org by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project http://www.libraryatoz.org by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

Here are a few reasons (if you need any more) why I think libraries are fantastic, from my perspective as user and library staff.

  • ‘Third space’ – Working in a school library, I saw this aspect of libraries very clearly. The third space is somewhere that is not home or school where young people can go. The library while not exactly heaving after school still met a real need for students who needed somewhere to stay for various reasons and provided a safe and conducive place to do homework. Student groups would also use the meeting room space.
  • Literacy, especially digital literacy – No one would deny that libraries have a positive impact on literacy. Nowadays we talk about ‘digital literacy’ which includes online searching, digital know-how, and helping meet people’s information needs in today’s information society. It also covers issues such as authority/credibility and plagiarism. I’ve read about digital literacy in the news recently and in my studies. Research is showing that people struggle with digital literacy, yet it is highly desirable by employers. From first hand experience I can also attest that literacy is a huge focus in education now! The work that school (and other) librarians do in this area is brilliant, unmistakably needed and should be championed and expanded by leaders.
  • Facilitate and support knowledge and learning – This aspect of libraries has been so evident in my work in a conservatoire library. It is truly a living, breathing thing. Students come all the time to borrow sheet music to study and perform, books to support their learning in modules, CDs to inspire their creativity and to use the study spaces. We support many performances around the College by providing orchestral and choral sets, and even jazz vinyl for a guest DJ.
  • Place to save money! I love buying books, but it is nice to save some money by using my local library!
  • Place to discover new stories, authors, local news and events – My local library, as the local information hub, is a great place to browse new books and also learn about what’s going on locally.

But that’s enough from me, check out the Library A to Z, which puts this all together in a much more interesting and graphic way!


Thoughts on School Librarianship (so far)

I’ve been in my library job for nearly two months now, so I thought I’d share a bit about what I do (because it’s half term and I’ve got the time!).  This is my first library job ever, so I came with an open mind though I knew a fair amount about the field from job hunting, conferences, volunteering in archives and libraries and my own research.  My school has about 1,000 students and the library holds over 3,000 books (mainly fiction) and has 25 computers.  The library is open before and after school, during break and lunch and it’s also used as a classroom for reading lessons.  It’s considered a bookable resource so teachers can also book it for their lessons if they need a classroom.

I’m job sharing the library work with a colleague, but since she didn’t start until October I was on my own for the first month.  I’m responsible for general library duties including cataloguing, issues/returns, shelving, IT support and supervising students in the library.  I also handle room bookings for the library and two other meeting rooms within it.  I spend a lot of time checking students are reading on the right level, helping the reluctant ones choose books and generally policing behaviour in the library.  I’ve also had a few different systems to learn:  Alice (library management system), SIMs (school information management system used for timetables, attendance and logging behaviour), and also the Accelerated Reader scheme and all the various school rules I’m meant to enforce!  I enjoy helping out in the reading lessons, especially the Years 7s who are new to the school, the ‘proper’ library system where you have to check books out and the Accelerated Reader scheme.  The scheme is American (I actually did it when I was in elementary school in Louisiana) and helps measure student progress and ‘accelerate’ their reading/literacy skills.  Students take a test three times a year which gives them a reading age and range of book levels, they then choose a book at their level and take a quiz when they’ve finished which tests their comprehension of the book.  If they pass at 80% or higher they move up one level, if not they stay on the same level.  I like the scheme and it seems to be successful.  It certainly is a very clear way to show student progress since they record their progress in their reading journal at every fortnightly reading lesson.

In addition to my library work, I’m spending about two days a week doing support work in the music department.  Since I’m not a trained teacher (though I have music teaching experience) I don’t actually do any teaching but I support the Year 7-8 music lessons.  This has been fun, but also a big adjustment in terms of teaching method.  We use a new method called ‘Musical Futures’ that I’m growing to like more and more.  It’s very non-traditional and non-classical, where music theory, learning to read music and and learning an instrument are not emphasised much at all.  Basically it’s the opposite of how I learnt music!  The idea is to ‘hook’ kids in by making music very accessible where everyone can get involved and have fun making music.  Then later they can progress on to learning an instrument, reading sheet music etc.  So we use a lot of percussion, what I call ‘rock band’ instruments (guitar, piano, drum kit, bass) and learn various 4-chord pop songs and some basic musical elements such as pitch, tempo and dynamics.  Since music is compulsory for Year 7-8, Musical Futures seems to work well in engaging both the keen musicians and students who are just there because they have to be.

I’ve also been working  on a project on reading motivation which I hope to blog about soon and have another few projects brewing.  Thinking about my future and CPD, I want to work through the CILIP competency framework (aka the PKSB) and set some goals of things I want to accomplish this year in terms of librarianship skills.  It’s been great so far actually working in a library because a) I quite enjoy it, b) I’m earning money, c) I’m being challenged and d) it’s giving me the experience I need to get on a postgrad LIS course!


New Librarianship MOOC Week 3 wrap up

I’ve been putting in some serious effort to finish the  New Librarianship Masterclass before the deadline. This post wraps up the Week 3 material. We have stepped back a bit from last week’s practical nuts and bolts such as competencies of librarians, how to lead, and asset management, and moved to a wider angle view of libraries generally: their mission, why we need them and the challenges and opportunities they face. Some thoughts:

  • Expect more than books. Lankes shows that the current book-centric attitude of many libraries and the drive for comprehensive collections is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the early 1900s, there was information scarcity (information was hard/expensive to get) therefore libraries sought to collect lots of material for members. This drive coincided with books becoming cheaper to publish, hence we got bigger collections and libraries were fast becoming ‘book warehouses’. However now, in a digital age with Wikipedia et. al in our pockets, we no longer have information scarcity but time and attention scarcity. So more information in the form of libraries amassing larger, more comprehensive collections is exactly the opposite of what we need! Not to mention problems of space and resources. This of courses leads to issues such as information literacy/research skills, credibility/reliability and the librarian as information curator.
  • Importance of a mission statement. Most organisations these days have mission statements. They’re great. They help you orient yourself around a central purpose that reflects your values. Lankes critiques some examples and winners include characteristics such as:  succinctness, clarity and delineates boundaries of the community. Mission statements should be thought of as an invitation to the community to join in and not to just say what you do (‘we provide access to a wide range of digital and print materials’).
  • The Why Libraries? module spells out several justifications for libraries. These were all great and included, for example, the library as a collective buying agent, centre of learning and safety net. Another that people on the discussion boards mentioned which wasn’t explicitly included in the coursework (though implicit throughout) was the library as a social space. People mentioned the importance of the library as a neutral, public space where individuals (perhaps without other social networks such as stay-at-home moms and retirees) could come and be social. Several school librarians said how important the library was for their students since many didn’t have a ‘third space’, i.e. somewhere safe and fun to hang out with their friends other than home and school. As I embark on school librarianship myself, I’m keen to see if/how the school library is being used this way.
  • Think of the library as a platform, not as a service or collection. This concept is integral to New Librarianship and reflects all the values espoused in Weeks 1-2. The main points were that the library is a place to share expertise, share facilities and share interests. Rather than librarians controlling everything and delivering all the training, the community is free to bring its own resources and expertise and use the library as a platform to better the community (with the facilitation of the librarians).
  • The Grand Challenge to librarians, according to Lankes, is ‘how to coordinate a knowledge infrastructure (technology, people, sources, permissions) to unlock the potential and passions of Society’. But I’ll leave you to figure that out for yourself…

Note: Quotes are taken from R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011) and his course material for Syracuse University iSchool’s MOOC New Librarianship Master Class hosted on <http://www.coursesites.com&gt>.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 2 wrap up

A flurry of job applications and week away in August have set me slightly behind in the New Librarianship Masterclass MOOC. But I soldier on and am very grateful for the extension to complete it! This week’s material was great and narrowed down from the big picture ideas of Week 1.

The Communities Module

What Lankes calls ‘the pressure for participation’ is based in, to use marketing lingo, customer demand.  The Internet and social media have proven that users go to platforms where they can participate, have a voice and influence.  Librarians need to respond to this.

Lankes discusses various environments (public, academic, school libraries) but emphasises that their mission is the same whilst their communities can be radically different, with different conversations, and therefore library services will vary.  Still the facilitating model applies, that is, how the community can create knowledge (access, knowledge, environment and motivation). Lankes proposes a useful evaluation/assessment framework for determining the conversations happening in your community and how librarians can prioritise them.  I especially liked his notion of ’embedded librarians’.  Librarians who are out and about, learning about the conversations, about the community and, in the process, making themselves indispensable!

Improve Society Module

Some interesting conclusions from this module:

  • One of the values of new librarians is intellectual honesty, not being unbiased. Coming from academia this was a new but sensible point for me:  that I can never be totally unbiased but I do need to be honest about my conclusions and how I got to them.
  • You -yes you!- can be an innovator, leader and ‘radical change agent’! At least Lankes proposes that all librarians should be (and not just the young whippersnappers or those who present at conferences). This makes complete sense when you remember that librarians are out to improve society; that requires some leadership and innovative thinking.

Librarians Module

This module emphasised the skills and competencies of new librarians, where they are now, how they’re changing and how theory should be integrated with practice. It involved a large chunk of reading in the Atlas in which Lankes proposes -sometimes radically – transitions/changes/adaptations of current library practice and the training which librarians receive (both at library school and CPD throughout their careers).  A lot of the new approach is born of necessity as librarianship really is in a time of great transition (i.e. how do you train librarians to cope with the massive scale of information and data produced in the digital age?). Some ideas which were new to me:

  • The community as an integral part of your collection. The better we understand the community the better we can utilise resources like buildings, books and computers. This is again moving away from the artefact-centric approach of traditional librarianship.
  • Librarians need administration and management training. Again makes complete sense to have a grounding in these skills when you are running a library (no matter how small) or just part of it.
  • Circulating experts. Some libraries let you ‘check out’ an expert for an hour or so, say a businessman or lawyer or librarian. What a great idea!
  • Technological skills. This is a no-brainer nowadays, but Lankes says we keep up with IT to principally benefit the community, perhaps even learn it together…
  • Interestingly in his critique of the MLS (Master of Library Science) in the US, he proposes a new system whereby students would do a one-year Masters (as they do in the UK) but with a four-year Bachelors, after which you would be certified as a librarian. This sounds brilliant, but it’s not clear if your Bachelors is in librarianship or something completely unrelated…

The final module was on the Salzburg Curriculum, which basically summed up and reiterated a lot of New Librarianship in a concise, eloquent way. It is a high level curriculum that’s meant to apply to a librarian in any organisation (and also museum professionals). Check it out here.

Note: Quotes are taken from R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011) and his course material for Syracuse University iSchool’s MOOC New Librarianship Master Class hosted on <http://www.coursesites.com&gt>.