Thing 22 – volunteering

For Thing 22, we’re being asked to discuss the idea of volunteering, and whether we have ever done this in a professional capacity.

I have to admit that, since qualifying, I’ve not actually done anything in the way of volunteering in libraries, but it was probably my volunteering in a library that got me onto my library course in the first place.

After realising during my uni course that science was not going to be the career for me, and locating a postgrad course that looked interesting, and local (Scotland is not exactly swamped with universities that run library postgrad courses), I bumbled my way through my undergrad, and got ready to apply for a course that I had heard had far more applications than available places. So I needed to convince the organisers that I was committed to the idea of being a librarian, and that they should let me on the course. Due to the “interesting” approach of my uni and personal advisor (i.e. they didn’t manage or advise in any way, and I foolishly trusted them as trained advisors to know what I needed to do better than me), nobody pointed out I’d be half a credit short to graduate after 3 years, so I ended up doing an extra semester in order to make up that half credit. I decided to make good use of this time, and volunteer in a library, to get myself some experience before applying for the postgrad course. My friend was a trainee teacher, and had recently had a placement in a local secondary school, and she put me in touch with the librarian there, who was lovely, and very happy to have some help for a day or so every week.

So, I ended up volunteering in the school for a good few months, continuing to come in and help even when I moved an hour away: it just meant that I had to sleep on my friends floor (alternating between 2 friends) for one or two nights a week. I got to do the things that the very busy librarian just didn’t have time to do, like compiling the card catalogue records that came into the library with the books purchased and catalogued by an external service into a proper card catalogue, a task which the kids who liked to help out in the library also enjoyed helping with, under my supervision! Or fitting plastic-film jackets to the books, in order to get them out onto the shelves and useable, as cutting the film to size and fitting it was time consuming and would always be pushed down the to-do list by more urgent tasks. I was shelving the books that churned through the library, and helping to weed material that was obviously dated. And teaching pupils how to analyse the entry requirements and aims of a national poster display competition, encouraging them to consider what sort of material the commercial sponsor behind it would be interested in them creating, and showing them how to use paper and electronic resources in an appropriate way (it all paid off – their entry came 4th!). Staffing the library during lunchtime and breaks, to allow the Librarian a proper time away from her desk/in her office, while still allowing the pupils to access the library during their break time….and also maintaining discipline with the pupils during those breaks…I perfected a great Librarian Stare, which took a few kids who hadn’t spotted me by surprise, when they were running around, thinking they were getting away with being rowdy and I materialised silently behind them (or in one case, when they’d thrown themselves on the ground, above them). Staring. Silently. With the Dead Face. It’s very satisfying 🙂

It was a great experience, and I firmly believe that my commitment to volunteering in that school library, and the enthusiasm I left with for a possible career in school libraries, was a big element in securing me a place on that postgrad course. Who knows where I might have ended up working, if it hadn’t been for a first part-time job in a legal library?

So yes, for me, volunteering has been a great way to further my career. Would I volunteer again? Yes, if I was thinking of changing sectors, I think volunteering is a great way to get some current, hands-on experience of tasks and duties I would be unlikely to have knowledge of from my current role.

Coming of age – Thing 21

Key
Image credit

Whatever happened to 21 being a big deal? You don’t get anything exciting when you turn 21, other than, for some reason, a lot of cards with a key on them. It’s a bit of a cheat, really – all the good stuff happened at 16, or 18. Hopefully, Thing 21 won’t be like that.

Oh. It’s about promoting myself. I hate that. I think I’d rather have a card with a key on it, to be honest…

Anyhoo, I’m meant to be compiling a list of my interests, my strengths, and examples of when I’ve done things demonstrating a skill that stemmed from an interest. And then update my CV database with those. And share interview tips or experience I’ve had in my career.

Well, it’s been a long time since I was last interviewed and (fingers crossed), I’m not planning to need to be interviewed in the near future, so any tips or experiences are in the distant past. Although the HR manager who kept accidentally playing footsie with me under the table whenever he stretched to relieve the boredom for him of sitting in an interview for a position in a department he obviously had no understanding of, or interest in, that was a…highlight…of when I was last doing the rounds of interviews. All he could tell me about the role was how much my next of kin would receive if I died while employed by the organisation. Cheery!

So, my interview top tip – make sure you’re being interviewed by someone who knows why you’re there, and what the job would entail!

And it’s been over 6 years since I applied for any position, so my CV has become somewhat dated…but this is where the Revalidation process has been very handy. Lovely Beth has been working with me via our wiki, to give me impartial feedback on updating my tired old CV, and incorporating some of my professional achievements into. Being traditionally British, I’m not very good at this, but when I got going, I found I had enough to make it tricky to stick to the 2 page, self-imposed limit! The wiki also helped, as I’ve been using it to dump lots of info on things I’ve done over the last few years onto, and this allowed me to easily see exactly what I’d been up to, and meant I wasn’t forgetting any relevant activities. So I now have a swishy CV that makes me look awesome. Which is, obviously, cos I am 😉

So, although I have no recent interviewing or job application experiences, the Revalidation process has actually prompted me overhaul my CV and professional achievements, so if needed, I can now demonstrate exactly how busy I’ve been on the professional front, and exactly what I have experience and skills in.
Which was nice.

Thing 20 – getting back to my roots

For this Thing, I’m meant to be blogging or thinking about my Library Route/Root, or the path that brought me to librarianship, back in the Good Old Days. However, I was involved in the discussions that kicked off the creation of the wiki, and have blogged both my library route, and my root previously, so if anyone was particularly excited to find out, they can have a look at those – there’s been no major changes since I wrote them.

I haven’t however had a look at many of the other entries since the wiki was established in 2009, so I went over to poke about in some of the newer entries. From reading a good few of those, it seems that librarian career paths can mostly be summed up as:

  • I didn’t ever consciously think of libraries as a career, but ended up in them by accident, and it was a happy accident.
  • I started off as/qualified in something else, but I realised eventually that libraries were for me.
  • I always knew I wanted to be a librarian.
It seems that “I always wanted to be a librarian” posts are hugely outnumbered by the “I never knew it was a career, but now I’m in it, I love it” ones. Perhaps the always-wanted posts are so few because of the problems the profession has with negative and outdated stereotypes – I can’t imagine that if you asked a kid “do you want to be a librarian?” that they’d say “yes: where so I sign up?!?!”. Mainly because “librarian” to kids are the Frumpy Stereotype (well, for the younger ones anyway – give them a few years, then they’ll move onto the Repressed Sex Beast stereotype), and that’s a long established one. It’s not really something that’s likely to change soon (unless anyone has developed mind bleach for an entire population), but it would be nice if librarian/researcher/information retrieval specialist was a bit more of a visible careers option. I’m not involved in the academic sector, so I’m not sure how the Careers Service ties in, but how well informed are careers advisors on the information profession? 
Hopefully, a bit better than my one in the early 1990s, who cheerfully advised me not to go into working in libraries (despite it being an equal first on my careers choices, tied with science, and…erm…landscape gardening or something similar in close second!), as “it’ll all be done by computers in the future”.
Well done, careers advisor. I AM that computer who’s doing it in the future: I’m a librarian.

I am a mirror, so I’d watch where you’re pointing that laser gun, kiddo

Ok, I’m caught up (ish)! I shall hold back on the firing of glitter guns, and the triumphal music, while I sit quietly, and Think About What I’ve Done for Thing 19. This is the type of Thinking About What I’ve Done that’s good, unlike when as a child I would be sent up to my room, to Think About What I’ve Done. That was bad. And usually involved climbing a wall/tree/building I wasn’t supposed to.

Anyway, what have I done with the Things I’ve looked at? And what have I used that’s new? Well, to be totally honest…I’ve done everything, and use nothing new, mainly becuase I’m either already using the tools anyway, or they’re not relevant to my current role.
I blog, and have done for years; I subscribe to the RSS feeds of blog that interest me; I manage my online presence reasonably actively; I use RSS for current awareness daily;  I’m active in my professional groups; I organise myself the way that works best for me; I’m qualified, Chartered, and preparing for Revalidation; I’m informally mentoring and soon to be trained to formally mentor others, I use social media daily; I use the filesharing and collaboration tools that are appropriate for the situation I want to use them for; I don’t need a citation organiser tool; I attend, present at (if forced!) and organise professional events; my advocacy is focussed on my own service; I don’t need to use presentation software, and the screencast software I’d like to use isn’t accessible in work.

So, what’s happened so far is that I’ve confirmed that I’m happy with the tools I’m using, and that they fit the jobs I need them to do best. I’ve had a look at other tools as we went along, but decided that they are either answering a need I don’t have, or that they are unavailable in my workplace, and so not currently useful to me.

Thing 18 – Jings, crivvens, and help ma boab!

I wonder if the makers of Jing are secretly Scottish…or perhaps Oor Wullie fans? Because Jing’s name is awwfy like wan o’ Wullie’s favourite wurds…

Anyhoo – Thing 18, one which looks at a tool for recording your actions on your computer, in order to let others see exactly what you’re doing on your computer, rather than have to explain things in a convoluted way. A screencast! Lovely! This is actually something my boss and I have been discussing on and off for a while – the ability to have a recorded version of how to find/use the things that new staff are most going to want to use on their computers, that we have responsibility for. To have that sort of information available to them at any point (after they’ve recovered from the induction process information bombardment from every department) would be quite handy. The sound recording aspect would be redundant, as we have open plan offices, and sound disabled on the computers, so an ability to tag things with a text box would be best. It looks like Jing would do this nicely.

Unfortunately, as the blog post predicted, I didn’t have the necessary administration privileges to enable me to install it on my work pc, so that’s kicked that one into the long grass.But, the other option, Screencast-O-Matic doesn’t need any install, and works from the browser, so bypasses those problems.

Well, it would, if it didn’t actually need Java installed. Which I don’t have the necessary Administrator privileges to do. Hmmm.

So, for the moment, there’s not really much I can do with these two tools in work, and I don’t have the time just now to faff about with Camtasia or Lightshot, so this plan is going to have to be relegated to the “Something to look at at home, when I have time” category.

Prezi and Slideshare – the presentation sorta Things

So, I’m so late that I can incorporate the delayed Thing 17 on Prezi and Slideshare into the correct numerical order of Things. Which makes me happy, in a perhaps-abnormal way. I knew there was another reason I hadn’t blogged CPD23 topics for a while…honest.

Unfortunately, this is going to be another Thing that I’m going to skip merrily over (although not without thoguht, or explaining why). These tools are aimed at those giving presentations or teaching substantial groups, which is not something we really do. We don’t have to give presentations using Powerpoint or similar to senior internal management, and our inductions for new library users are either in small groups (new trainee intakes) or one-on-one sessions (new employees at any other time). The training we give each group or person is hands-on, and tailored to their experience level, and specialist interest area – there is no “standard” training given, and the resources we refer to for each person and specialism are different.
We also provide trouble-shooting, informal one-on-one hands-on training sessions on any resources when requested by users, so the content of these sessions couldn’t be standardised either.

So, for now, I’m not going to go poking about in Prezi or Slideshare, although if we do find a need for these tools, I’ll be back 🙂

Thing 16 – Advocacy (apparently, not advocaat, nor for drinking)

You may well have seen my grumpy-day post earlier on advocacy and activism, so Thing 16 is going to be a meandering thing around some of those points.

I still don’t feel comfortable with telling people how fabulous libraries are, just because I’m a librarian. I have no more expertise on whether a local public library is useful for anyone than I do about the local Council gym – I don’t use either one, so I’m not going to tell anyone that they should be using either one of them, as I am not informed or knowledgeable. Nor do I have any motivation to use either service myself – they just do not have anything to offer me.

I don’t keep this blog in order to show my employers what work I’m doing. In fact, keeping a blog when working in a special library can be quite difficult, and I very rarely refer to specifics of the the work I do on the blog, unless it’s to illustrate a wider principle, I am very careful not to refer to anyone or anything that goes on in my workplace, or anything that could be seen as in any way commercially sensitive. So it’s not really a great tool for advocating my good work to my employers, since it doesn’t actually involve me blogging about my work!
I suppose what it may do is demonstrate to them that I am aware of the wider issues in my profession, and am involved in them, and hence show my own professionalism, but that doesn’t do much in terms of getting the enquiries dealt with!

My advocacy for my own service comes from being involved, helpful, and anticipating the needs of the service users. There is no need to go cartwheeling around in front of staff, with a “We Have A Library!” banner, as they already know we do, and they use it a lot. I learn about the needs and special interest areas of users, keep an eye out for materials or even events I think they would be interested in, and send it those things on to them. I go to external events when I can, to pick up tips on things that might help improve the library service we’re providing, aspects of Scots law, and also just to improve my own knowledge of tools and resources we use or have access to. Like this upcoming Scran event – I’d like to go along, as old photos can sometimes be useful in determining historical uses of land for planning issues. It’s not part of my job to attend out-of-hours events like this, on my own time, but I do it because it increases my knowledge and skills, in order to improve the service.

I also have pretty much the same feelings as Tina regarding the To Do options for this Thing – none of those activities appeal to me. As Tina says, I’m not being deliberately negative, but I just don’t have any urge to get further involved in any sort of advocacy than I currently am.