Documenting your learning

Used with permission - Guudmorning - FlickrThe tagline of my blog is ‘perspectives of a newbie to the library world’ and so today I thought I’d share with you something that I believe is useful for those new to the profession and maybe even for those who have been in the profession for awhile but want to keep track of their CPD.

I have just completed a Jobbridge internship and I am one of the lucky people who had a very positive experience and gained a lot from the 6 months I spent working as a library intern. One of the things I wanted to share about my experience that I think is useful for anyone starting out is the process of keeping a learning log.

As part of the internship we were required to have weekly meetings with our mentor and keep a note of everything we were learning in a monthly learning log. I found this process very helpful and rewarding and it will be something that I hope to continue into the next part of my career.

For the internship the learning log asked the following:

  1. What are the key skills/learning areas you developed this month?
  2. How will you be able to apply what you have learnt?
  3. What areas would you like to develop?

I found that this process was very rewarding for several reasons, the most important being that when it came to writing up my CV I had all the relevant experience and training already written down. This meant the CV was easier to compile and it was less likely that I would forget or omit anything important.

The section that required us to think about the ways we can apply what we learnt helped to identify transferable skills and aspects of the job that you might otherwise overlook. It also got me thinking creatively about how I could apply my skills in various roles and this will be extremely useful when it comes to answering interview questions.

I also enjoyed reflecting on the areas I wanted to develop because these sections make it easy for me to identify areas for CPD so that I can focus my learning in the areas I feel are important or interesting. Also, because I had a very supportive mentor I was allowed to develop my skills in areas that weren’t necessarily part of my original job spec (e.g. I received training in the use of CALM software and in how to catalogue to archival standards because I asked my mentor if this would be possible).

For those doing Jobbridge the LAI offers accreditation (see here) and this requires a 2 page reflective report. Having learning logs available to you will certainly help in writing up this type of report.

In fact, learning logs and keeping an up to date log of your CPD will be very useful should you wish to apply for Associateship or Fellowship of LAI further down the line.

I would encourage people interested in doing something like this to be quite reflective during the process rather than just listing very simple factual information. While it is useful to have a list of skills it is even more useful to put thought into how you can use these skills in different ways and perhaps evaluate your learning to acknowledge what was useful and what wasn’t, or perhaps how you could improve your learning. There is the possibility that this might help you to identify a useful MOOC or other course that will fill a gap in your knowledge.

CPD diagramFor those beginning an internship or CPD it might even be a good idea to write down what you think you will learn before you begin and compare this to the outcomes at the end.

As I have said I was very lucky with my internship and actually had another great internship experience before this one, both experiences were made great by fantastic mentors who were willing to provide me with training in areas I wanted. In other words it wasn’t a one way street.  By having a good idea from the outset about what you think you are going to gain from the internship this might give you more confidence to discuss your ideas and what you want to gain from the internship with the host organisation. The point of an internship should be to gain experience and to learn and if this isn’t happening for you then you should definitely consider other options.

I was delighted to see CPD certificates being given to attendees of the recent A&SL Annual Seminar and I think this will also help to encourage me to put together a file that keeps track of my learning and CPD. Keeping track of everything you do makes it easier to apply for jobs (and prep for interviews), be confident that you are keeping up to date, to be creative in your thinking and see patterns and trends that might be developing either in terms of your own interests or in terms of what is happening in the profession.

Social Media: A blessing or curse for librarians and libraries?

Last week I tweeted a link to an infographic which looked at the role of social media in the recruitment process, particularly employer’s use of social media to screen potential candidates.

The tweet got a fairly big response with various attitudes towards the subject matter expressed.

Some felt that social media would take over from CVs, others felt that social media should be outside the realm of the professional and that it was intrusive of employers to ‘google’ employees. However, despite the infographic claiming that 43% of employer’s used social media as a reason NOT to hire versus 19% using as a reason to hire, the majority felt that social media offered opportunities rather than problems as long as people take the right approach.

I suppose the biggest issue in terms of social media is that you might say something inappropriate or offensive or post pictures of yourself that aren’t seen as being professional. Social media is something which has huge potential in terms of showing different sides of yourself to the rest of the world. I think the biggest piece of advice I could give is to decide the audience for each of your social platforms and then consider the implications.

The reasons employers gave for not hiring candidates were:

Inappropriate content posted online

Information about the candidate drinking or doing drugs

Bad mouthing a previous employer

Poor communication skills

Discriminatory comments

Lied about qualifications

Although you might hope that people would be aware enough not to post this kind of content (or lie in the first place) I understand there could be slip-ups when you might say something about a bad day at the office that might FBbe taken the wrong way.  Or, take for example, you are of the opinion that your Facebook is social and for friends and family only, you post pictures and make jokes that taken out of context could be off-putting to a potential employer. Or, perhaps your friends have a tendency to write silly comments or tag you in images. Employers realise people have a life outside of work but if they are looking for reasons NOT to hire then it is probably best that you keep you private life just that, private. There is an easy solution to ensure this does not happen and that is to make your Facebook private. There are plenty of how to guides on doing just that and there is even a feature that lets you see how your Facebook looks to the general public.

Twitter is a tfacebook.twitter button (1)rickier one as people may want to use it as a way to bring their opinions to a bigger audience using hashtags etc. Some keep their Twitter private but change settings in order to get involved in chats and for conferences etc. However, a good rule for Twitter if you don’t want to use privacy settings all the time would be this – if you wouldn’t shout it out in a crowded room filled with a mix of friends, family, employers and strangers, then don’t shout it out on Twitter. Essentially without privacy on Twitter you are talking to the approximately 241 million monthly active users. Any one of those users could be your boss, your colleague, the person you are about to meet at interview. Be smart!

There is the option of using a more anonymous handle and avatar but this means that all the great things you say won’t be attributed to you.

Facebook and Twitter are just two examples I have used because they are the most well known. These and other social media platforms have amazing potential to showcase why you are the perfect candidate. You can highlight your ability and your interest by the things you share and the discussions you are involved in. Being involved on social media also means you know how social media works; more and more libraries and other organisations are using social media for public engagement and engagement with their users, being able to use it well means that you have another skill employers will be able to utilise. On a personal note I have found social media to be extremely beneficial in terms of getting to know other librarians and in keeping up to date with hot topics and trends. I know many solo librarians who feel that it has really enhanced their job by allowing them to be a solo librarian but still have a sense of community and a network to engage with and pose questions to.

Libraries, including my current place of work, have been able to market their services to a wider audience and communicate in a quicker and easier way since they have started using social media. Yes, there has to be policies in place and procedures about how to use the platforms but as far as I can tell the benefits far outweigh any negatives.

Personally I think that libraries have a great opportunity to engage with users about social media. A lot of librarians use social media to network and keep on top of trends and have good knowledge about the area. Libraries could assist researchers in finding and sharing information through social media, perhaps look at the copyright issues that are becoming more of an issue because there is such ease in sharing information, help soon-to-be graduates to make the best of their social media profiles in order to impress potential employers and generally help students to be a little bit smarter when it comes to the big wide world of social media. There has been study after study in recent years about how digital natives aren’t necessarily as digitally savvy as you might think and you just have to have a quick look online to figure that out.

Some libraries have already gotten in on the action:

University of Leicester has information on keeping up to date using social media

University of York has a section on how to become a networked researcher

The LAI HSLG group have a link to a great guide to using Twitter for academics on their website. Created by the LSE Public Policy group but definitely adaptable for libraries.

Queen’s Library, New York have put together a Slideshare for those using social media as part of their job hunt – very relevant to students nearing graduation.

There is huge potential for libraries to get involved. Libraries have already taken the step of using social media to communicate and market so there is every reason they can get involved and help users use social media to its full potential both socially and professionally.

social media

I know a great deal more could be said about social media and its effects on our lives but I hope my thoughts are in some way useful and show how librarians can use social media effectively and without fear that the social will get mixed up with the professional parts of life.

New Professionals Day 2014

On Saturday the 1st of March I attended the New Professionals Day 2014 event in the John Paul II Library in NUI Maynooth. The day was broken into workshops and then ended with a very informative tour of the beautiful Russell Library. Many remarked at how serious we must be about cataloguing to give up our Saturday and I have to say it was most certainly worth the time and the journey to Maynooth.

In my current role I am involved in cataloguing older books, from as far back as the 1500’s, up to more recent books in our reference collection. When I began as a librarian I didn’t realise I would enjoy cataloguing as much as I do. There is something very cathartic in having such an ordered and logical approach, as is required when cataloguing, in order to maintain attention to detail. I wanted to attend the workshops to learn a bit more about other forms of cataloguing and I wasn’t disappointed because presentations by Grace Toland in the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Brid Dooley from RTE Archives were very enlightening in terms of cataloguing items that are not books. The presentations are well worth a look and are available on the NPD site here

I think people get the impression that cataloguing, be it books or other items, can be a boring and monotonous task but in fact there is a lot more to cataloguing than meets the eye. I have found that while cataloguing you have to be able to take on and manage various different things:

  • Language (Google translate can be a godsend when cataloguing books in Latin, German, Italian etc. etc. all in one day)
  • Data protection V Freedom of Information – This was highlighted very nicely by Captain Claire Mortimer’s workshop. More of an issue in archives than in libraries but I think it is good that she made the attendees aware of this. I have come across this in my current role where we deal with patient information and it is something that is of huge importance.
  • Preservation while allowing public access – This is especially important for older materials. The more information that you can give about an item in a catalogue record the more likely it is that members of the public can identify whether or not it is the item they need and this prevents the materials from being handled and moved if it is not necessary.
  • Time management – This leads on well from the previous point because you have to make as detailed a record as possible but be aware that there are constraints on your time, you have to find balance.
  • Indexing – At the end of the day it is about the user being able to find the information that they need to you need to use something that is relevant and understandable for the user.

There is a lot to think about and I’m sure others could add to this list.

I really enjoyed the final workshop of the day which dealt with rare books because I feel like it filled a gap in my knowledge. I still think that UCD should bring back a rare books module and possibly deal with the issues of digitisation and rare materials, but if groups like NPD continue to hold fantastic events and enlist such knowledgeable speakers then this becomes less of an issue, which is extremely helpful. Barbara McCormack, who led this workshop, then brought us on a tour of the Russell Library which gave us a great opportunity to see the items she had spoken about. For many people learning is a very practical and visual thing so incorporating this was a great approach.

Russell Library

Russell Library

Another notable part of the day was a tour around the new library in Maynooth. The building is a brilliant example of a library responding to the wishes of its users. The ground floor is open and collaborative with the addition of the bean-bag room where groups can work and discuss projects and ideas without the fear of the dreaded ‘shushing’. As you go upstairs the library becomes quieter with silent study areas on the top floor. This is a fantastic way of catering for all students and the different styles of learning.

The students wanted more power but less waste and the library has delivered by utilising green initiatives in an attempt to create a sense of balance.

There are full windows and planting that bring the outdoors into the students and this creates a great atmosphere in the building. My only gripe being that I haven’t had the opportunity to study there. Many thanks to Hugh Murphy for the tour.

A big thank you to all the presenters, Jane Burns (the wonderful MC) and all the organisers and helpers for what was a really informative day.

Unfortunately, my Twitter wasn’t working with me during the event but a fellow Class of 2012/2013 MLISer Shona has also written a great blog and added her Storify of the events.