Library School – Management Module

A much belated two-part series on modules I completed in Semester 1 (Autumn 2014) of library school. Here is my previous post explaining generally about the course.

I really enjoyed this module, called Management in the Information Environment. I came to it having zero management experience, so I definitely had a lot to learn. The module covered topics you’d expect like managing change, project management, HR and communications, marketing and finance. I think all of these could probably be a class all on their own, so we were getting more of an overview. It was useful to learn about how to assess external influences (using a PEST analysis), create strategy and the various types of organisational structures. The set text was Managing Information Services (3rd edition) by Jo Bryson. This was good and very thorough, but the lack of real world examples or case studies in the book was a major negative, especially for someone like me who was new to the whole subject. However I was also to get a hold of another recommended book, Charles Handy’s Understanding Organisations, which was in a more readable style and included many examples.

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of the module was the discussion board posts we were encouraged to write on certain topics. Many of the other students are/were in management positions, so it was interesting to hear their take on  topics such as the pros/cons of staff appraisals. For the project management bit, we had to complete a practical exercise using Microsoft Project, which I can see being useful for the future. The marketing section covered the essentials, the Four P’s, market segmentation, etc. The assignment was an analytical report assessing the organisation where you worked or one you were familiar with. I actually really enjoyed doing this assignment because it involved a lot of research and thinking critically about your workplace. Reading the literature gave you ideas which could then possibly be applied in real life because I spent time considering my organisation and what we’re doing. So it was quite a reflective piece of work and I think I learned and will retain more from completing the assignment than from the coursework itself.

Another LIS student’s (Carla Harwood @tribigild) experience of a management class in the USA was an interesting read. I like how their lecturer was a working senior manager herself and former ALA (American Library Association) president. Part of the weekly class was talking about her work week which seems like a great way to learn about management work day to day. I also appreciated the value of one of their assignments, a ‘management consultancy project,’ where the remit was to help a manager solve a real world management problem. As Carla writes, it was good because it was about much more than submitting a piece of work for the module. You were getting some real world experience solving a real world library problem.

My next post will be on the Hypermedia module and all things techy.

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My Annual Report

My husband was telling me a few months ago how a new requirement of his company’s parent company was to submit monthly progress reports. It’s a bit of extra work we said, but what a great way to track progress you’ve made, keep managers up to date with what you’re doing (and advocate for your work), and it would be valuable professionally to keep a record of what’s worked, what hasn’t and what you’ve learned. I thought “I wish I’d done this every month when starting my job last September”.

A few months later all the school librarians on the Yahoo School Library Network list-serve starting discussing putting together their annual reports, what people were including and sharing examples. I thought that even though I haven’t done monthly reports at least I can do an end of year report, and it seems to be normal practice amongst school librarians. Whether anyone will read it, who knows, but at least the record will be there!

So I set about putting together my report, and running various statistical reports on Alice, my library management system. It’s a pretty clunky piece of software so most of the reports I ran just to see what would come out the other end. I got some useful stats though and was pleasantly surprised to see that our total book loans were at nearly 12,000!

Vintage student report card. Phil Jern Flicker CC.

Vintage student report card. Source: Phil Jern, ‘report card 1944’, Flickr CC license.

In the report I included stats on borrowing by month, gender and Year group, and also some more topical sections. These covered highlights from Accelerated Reader (we had five ‘millionaire’ readers!), resources (adding of new book stock and regular uptake of the school laptops) and some issues we’ve had with usage of the library for events. In this document I was able to advocate for what the library and library staff contribute to teaching and learning in school by means of statistics and summarising our achievements. I was also able to highlight some issues we’ve faced, some of which had already been raised. I was proud of this bit of work and duly sent it to all members of the school Senior Leadership Team.

It got acknowledged by several members of SLT and all remarked on how useful it was and also that it was a good piece of evidence to show progress in our Ofsted ‘areas for improvement’ or AFIs. The stats on borrowing by gender were apparently surprising (boys borrowed more than girls). It was talked about at the SLT weekend away and they are considering whether it would be useful for me to do one every term. It also apparently spawned a photo op and news article featuring our AR millionaires in a local weekly newspaper.

So a piece of work I undertook solely on my own initiative which I thought might end up being most useful to only me, turned out to be quite handy in addressing school-wide issues such as Ofsted AFIs, giving a picture of reading and literacy across the school and it was actually read by possibly eleven people…well ten, excluding my husband 🙂

Radical Library Camp

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I attended Radical Library Camp in Bradford last month. The organizers were a mix of radicals from different library backgrounds, and the same could be said for the attendees! While I wouldn’t have considered myself ‘radical’ before, after going on the camp I think I am! There was a lively Twitter feed (#radlibcamp) on the day and I believe someone is archiving the tweets; in addition there is the Wiki for more information.

In the tradition of other library camps and un-conferences, the day was very chilled out and no frills. Everyone brought food to share and about 10 or so people gave pitches on sessions they wanted to run. All the sessions I went to were very much discussions rather than formal presentations. Yes, there was a bit of ranting about this or that institution or professional body, but discussions did come back to how to make a practical difference and impact on issues we cared about.

Here are some thoughts about the sessions I attended (apologies for the length!):

  • Library Spaces/Design

This session started with everyone creating their ideal library space on paper, either with pictures or words. A big discussion ensued when we were going around sharing what we’d put down:  the pros and cons of desks. The point was raised that users being forced to communicate with librarians sat behind desks reinforced inequality and outdated power relationships. It was suggested that users are loath to ‘interrupt’ a librarian working at a desk, and that the desk is seen as a barrier. A new ‘desk-less’ model that’s been adopted at a university library is the idea of ‘roving’ librarians. The librarians walk around and are (and are seen to be) accessible to students. They also carry iPads for searching the catalogue, etc. However in my school library, sitting behind the desk means I can look at the Year 7s at eye level, whereas standing up I loom over them…Clearly the roving solution isn’t for everyone, but it is good food for thought.

Another thread was the importance of consulting users when building or renovating a library space. And also, how you consult is important, i.e. types of questions asked has a big impact on results.

A final issue raised was future-proofing your library when you have a transient population (such as students) and when technology is constantly changing. Two solutions were offered:  investing in the basics (like desks) and investing in power and data (e.g. the cloud) is always worthwhile.

  • Radical Management

I went to this session because I’ve noticed that managing and managerial experience has been a theme throughout the library job world. There were only a handful of people there who were actually in managerial posts, but it was an interesting discussion nonetheless. Opening questions asked included: Can you become a manager without selling out? How do you make the leap to management?

Some of discussion points were:

You can effect change either from within an organisation or from the outside (and obviously managing allows you more opportunities to do that from inside).

One should have good management practice regardless of your politics.

Fairness is not about being liked.

Authentic leadership means staying true to your values, as much as you can whilst working within ‘the system’. Ideally you should work in an organisation whose mission and values match up with your own. However the point was raised that we need to eat, therefore might have to take a less than ideal job just to put food on the table…

The barrier between professional and non-professional staff and the idea of ‘selling out’ if you move up.

  • Copyright

The consensus beginning this session was that copyright law is broken, therefore the discussion began with asking what constuctive ways are open to us to challenge/protest copyright as librarians. The Creative Commons licensing scheme was mentioned and somehow the discussion became a bit of a rant against a certain professional body at which point, @Mariacotera kindly stood up and enlightened us as to the efforts that various organisations and government bodies are making to lobby for changes to copyright law.

The Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM) committee of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) is lobbying for the library community on this issue and working with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to get clarity on and change copyright law. They recently won a victory (and set legal precedent) with the Marrakesh Treaty, which addresses the rights of blind and print-disabled people.

The conclusion was that lobbying personally and supporting the lobbying efforts of bodies such as CLM and IFLA is an important way to effect change in copyright.

  • International Perspectives on Radical Librarianship

This session looked broadly at the organisation IFLA and a recent report they commissioned on trends in society. General awareness of IFLA and their work was slim at Radical Library Camp so this session was well worth it, though there was a small turn out (but all of us internationals at camp were there!). IFLA, in short, is the global voice for librarians. CILIP is an IFLA member, so if you’re a CILIP member then you also have member benefits with IFLA. The IFLA Trend Report  was commissioned in 2012 and the process culminated in the identification of five high level societal trends which impact the library and information world. This year is given over to discussion of the report amongst the library and information community and at the next IFLA conference policies will begin to be nailed down. The trends are:

  1. New technologies will both expand and limit who has access to information.
  2. Online education will democratise and disrupt global learning.
  3. The boundaries of privacy and data protection will be redefined.
  4. Hyper-connected societies will listen to and empower new voices and groups.
  5. The global information economy will be transformed by new technologies.

IFLA have published a short report called Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide? Insights from the IFLA Trend Report, which is the starter for digging deeper into the trends. I found the trends resonated with issues raised in the New Librarianship MOOC I completed recently, and also it is a great way of articulating the big information issues of today.

  • Wrap-up

A final plenary session wrapped up the day and revolved around how to take the Radical Library Camp idea further. The current social media platforms will be continued and there was definitely universal consensus for another camp. I found the day very useful, interesting and a launching pad for learning more about issues that interest me. It was great hearing non-mainstream opinions and views from library radicals, and seeing how others address problems and issues we’re all concerned about. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one!