It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I have posted anything and it’s because there is so much going on that it’s been hard to really sit down and think about what to write. So I thought I’d just get everything out that I’ve been doing over the last couple of months, in this blog post.

Firstly, I’ve learnt so much about what it means to do efficient searches. Whilst I have been using specific databases to find relevant information, I have also had to utilise google’s global reach to find information. However, with google I have greatly taken advantage of the advanced settings. 

For example, I limit my search results to a particular date period and to a particular format (mostly PDF). I also take advantage of Boolean logic to make sure I receive results that contain the required search terms. 

In terms of the databases I use, I have to make sure I know what database to use for the information I’m looking for. With the number of databases I have access to, it can be tricky remembering what each of them do, especially the ones I don’t use often. I guess, over time that will change as I get used to the variety of requests that I get and the type of information I need to source. But, having been here for just over 2 months, my knowledge and my understanding of how my role and actions can contribute to my team and to the business, is steadily growing. 

Another key area I need to work on, is my knowledge of the different areas of the business. Things that are helping are, meeting people from different departments, going to presentations that have been put on by different teams and taking note of the kinds of enquiries people have made. 

Also, going to training sessions really help. For example, those run by the companies of the different databases can really help in terms of understanding more about the terms that are frequently used and understood by those within my industry and the kinds of things they are looking for. This is especially the case when others ask questions. I get to know what aspects are important to them when they are looking for information. 
In addition, going to training sessions that talk you through the industry itself would help, as I would further understand the mindset of individuals within this industry. 

My team has also been preparing for work experience and grad students. We are also working on enhancing our online presence and creating reports that dictate departmental information. This amounts to consolidating information so that we can create something that we can pass on to others in a concise and informative way. For me, this also means using my knowledge of the service and the data we have gathered so far, as well as making additions and improvements.

So, these past couple of months have been quite busy and it has been hard to pinpoint what I want to write about. But I’m definitely on a journey and I would still like to share it (hopefully someone out there might be interested).

Getting to know the business

Going into any new job can be difficult, as getting used to the work and the people can take time and patience. However, when you’re completely new to the sector, things can be much harder.


Currently my role requires me to understand a whole new language; a language I had purposely stayed clear of but found myself interested in as I began my career. Which means that on top of understanding what my job role is, I have to understand the industry, the acronyms and what the different departments within the industry do.


What has made this easier is the initiative that my team are carrying out in order to make our presence known within the company. We have decided to update and develop our online presence by providing useful links and information on our online page. To do this we’re going out and meeting people from different departments to find out what they do and advertising our services in the process. In this way, not only do I get to know about the different aspects of the business, but I am able to promote what we do and thus make more people aware of who we are so that they can use us in the future. 

In addition, we can provide ongoing help by finding out what people are interested in. For example, if there is a particular subject that they’re interested in, we can keep a eye out for anything we see in the news or randomly come across. This makes the job more exciting and can help to build a good relationship with people within the business.

 

What is the cost of using technology


(Image taken from http://scommerce.com/trials-for-new-technology/)

As always when I visit my friend’s university (which has actually only been twice) I became part of an interesting discussion where we discussed a real world issue. In this case it was technology and particularly the use of WhatsApp and social media.

When I use WhatsApp I understand that my data isn’t really private even though I assume I’m probably an anonymous entity. However the questions that had been put forward really made me think of the use of just a mess engine service in a different way. 

These were: 

  1. What are the environmental and economical implications of using WhatsApp?
  2. What does WhatsApp actually look like and where is it?
  3. Are we being controlled by the speed in which technology is progressing?
  4. For people who don’t have smartphones, are they being left out of the loop and should they be forced to go along with the flow?
  5. Are people addicted to using technology because it satisfies one of our basic needs, which is connecting with people?
  6. Will we all become robots as technology gets smarter and continues to tailor our news feeds and search results?
  7. What are the implications of using technology for those who are using smartphones and tablets from a very young age?
  8. Are we within a transition period where we are trying to figure out how our human selves can deal with new emerging technologies and will our our fears be for nought as the rapid pace in which technology is progressing forces us to give up trying to keep up?

These were only a few questions that came out of the discussion and they are very thought provoking as they are very BIG questions. Big questions that can’t be answered simply as they involve an array of complex networks that feed into who we are as humans and how we evolve in changing times. This includes are relationships with our family, friends and work colleagues etc., how we as individuals perceive and interact with the world and what we want to get out of life (in terms of accomplishments, money etc.).

For someone who loves technology and what it can do and has done for people around the world, I don’t want to believe that technology is ultimately bad and will completely change who we are as people. I believe that there is a place for everything in this world and it is hardly ever about choosing one thing over another. However it is important that we broach these questions and discuss the different possibilities.

Finding the best place for you

When I first started applying for jobs when I had completed my undergrad, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and was thus applying for anything that sounded ok. And so, when applying, it was just about getting the interview and trying my best to sound right for the job so that they would like me.

But as I have found the career I want to pursue, I started putting more thought into where I was applying to, who I would be working with and particularly, the role I would be taking on and what it would entail.

There are many jobs that have the same job title, but the roles themselves can have slight differences. This will be because of the size of the team and the kind of organisation it is (e.g. a university, law firm or business), which thus changes what tasks and duties you’d have.

I’ve had 4 different library assistant roles in 4 different places and each one has been different. In one, I solely dealt with enquiries and in another I just shelved. In one I dealt with enquiries on different floors but the range was quite broad (from finding a book to helping format documents). In the last, I dealt with enquiries so broad, some really had nothing to do with what normal libraries deal with. However, in only one of these was I allowed to be truly creative in developing ideas and resources for library users.

Having been in these positions, I realised how much I value certain things in a role. I love variety, I love dealing with quirky people and I love small teams. Also, my ideal job would allow me to be creative in developing ideas and allow me to have a say in any changes or developments that would be happening in the service.

My lastest role has proved to me that I can no longer be just a library assistant because I have so much to give. There’s so many things I want to do and so many many things I want to try. Within a library assistant role, there is no room for me to thrive and showcase my abilities.

That is why after looking at the job description and deciding ‘ok, this looks interesting’ and applying,  the interview is very important.

Interviews are a great and interesting way for you as an individual to get to know the organisation and for the interviewer to get to know you. The real you. You don’t want to be faking it from the get go, because if you get the job and you’re someone different, I’m sure you will encounter a lot of difficulties in the future that could definitely have been avoided. 

The interviewer(s) can give away so much about the role and the organisation if you’re really interested in paying attention. I found this out recently, which made me realise how much I was actually interested in the role and the people who I would be helping. 

Thus, the interview itself wasn’t boring and I found myself taking a way a lot more than I thought I would. In addition, I thought that even if I didn’t get that job, there was so much I learned from the engagement I had with the people of that organisation that I could take away with me. 

The best advice I ever received about attending interviews was don’t spend an excessive amount of time researching the company/organisation because the interviewer won’t be quizzing you on every aspect of the organisation. But do some research on yourself – who you are, what you can bring to the organisation and what you want to gain out of being there. In this way, you can find the perfect role and place for you specifically. Somewhere where you can really enjoy your work and the people you work with. Better now when you’re young but also so important when you’re not so young.

Are we really doing it for them, or for us?

aay2

Having been in my current post for a while and looking back at my previous positions, I have been wondering whether the things that my colleagues and I do to promote the resources and the way we go about doing it, is it for us or is it for our patrons? One particular area of concern is:

‘Are we fully understanding what it is the patrons want from us?’

I think that a lot of librarians and information professionals tend to assume that they know what is best for their patrons. But I don’t think that’s always case. For example, some patrons couldn’t care less about what each month represents, about using the various options (such as limiters, sharing and saving to folders) that are available (as most don’t even know that they’re there or how to use them), what the the discovery service is called or even what it is.  Most patrons just want the ability to find the information they need as quickly as possible and if the library is promoting something it has to be relevant to them and what they are studying/interested in.

In addition, is the way in which we promote information useful for our patrons? Do certain things need to be put in A4 guides, or could they be condensed to a sentence and a diagram? Are we utilising our online presence enough or are we using it too much by putting everything on there?

It has been proven that our attention span is a lot shorter and long paragraphs and essays don’t work. In order to grab a person’s attention, the information needs to be presented in a way that is eye-catching  and memorable.

I recently had to persuade my manager to make harvardguidehis guide more colourful instead of the normal black writing, white background with maybe a little grey for colour. It was good that I spoke up because the guide looks absolutely amazing (I hope they don’t mind that I’ve put it up :S).

Whether this is more helpful or not was shown by the amount of people who have picked up the guide. More copies have had to be produced, suggesting that the simplicity of this guide makes it easier to understand and does the job it is meant to do.

I have no right or wrong answer about how we should produce information, what format it should be in and where we put it as it should be considered on a case by case basis. The above example is good as a leaflet guide as it can just be handed out. But it could also do well if put onto one of the library pages as it could be easily accessed and copied and thus downloaded. But the reason it did well was because it was available to the patrons where they frequent everyday – the library.

Thus, I guess what I’m trying to say is that as long as the information is relevant, easy to understand and put in a place where patrons are most likely to take note of it, they will acknowledge it and use it.Having excessive amount of limiters, promoting a topic that is not relevant to the daily interests of the patrons and having information online that is hard to find (even if anyone knew it was there), amongst a whole host of other things, is not helpful or useful. Just because we understand, know how to use and/or find it, doesn’t mean that our patrons will.

Within this transition period where we as information professionals are taking more note of what our patrons want and how the online world can be extremely useful in sharing information (especially those libraries that are not traditional libraries which house print materials), we need to think more about how we do things and whether what we do is really for our own benefit or for them.

Welcoming Students to the Library

welcome

Due to the uniqueness of the university I am currently working at, we are coming up to ‘Induction Week’ which is equivalent to the fresher’s week universities usually have in September or October. In this induction week, we want to deliver something fun and creative as well as informative, in order to generate more interest in the library and its services and facilities.

engagelisteninteract

So, as I was brainstorming for ideas, I came across a few university libraries (University of Sheffield , Warwickshire College and University of Greenwich), that had put in a lot of effort into engaging with students during that important time of the year, where you want to draw in as many people as possible as early as possible.

Ideas ranged from having a theme, creating posters, having a treasure hunt, a spin the wheel game, a lucky dip and quizzes (including guessing how many sweets are in a jar or how many books are in the library).

I also came across a few ideas for what we could do continually throughout the year to make the library feel current and relevant. For example, Durham University Library put out chalk board signboards with a quote of the day and where to view their online activities.

promote

It amazed me that there were so many things that we could potentially do to make the library seem interesting and attractive. It also tied in with one of the things that really stuck with me when I completed the Library Science Msc, which was that we continually need to promote the library and the library’s services. We need to continually make sure that students know who we are, where we are and how we can help them. By getting involved in induction week we make ourselves present in the eyes of the student and therefore relevant to the student experience.

 

Producing a Current Awareness Board

rainbow

I was delighted when I was told that I would be getting involved in producing content for the current awareness boards in the library. It gave me something to strive for and a new project to get my teeth into. In addition, it gave me the motivation I’ve very much needed to do something creative as well as meaningful.

I would be allowed to utilise my research skills  as well as become more familiar with the library’s resources and with the material that the students are covering in their lectures. In this way I can become more informed of the kinds of issues and news that students are concerned/interested in and develop quality resources.

However, producing material that would help to promote topics that interest students is no mean feat for someone unfamiliar with subjects such as business, management and accountancy. I had purposely led a life where I had avoided learning anything about those kinds of topics, but I have now found myself working in a library that solely caters for those subjects.

To be honest, it has been fun and really interesting because I get to delve into a new subject area. In addition, I get to see how stories in the news can be seen differently depending on a person’s area of interest.

For example, in regards to LGBT month, issues on discrimination and the law, managing diversity in the worplace and marketing your business to people who identify themselves with the term LGBT, demonstrate the different ways in which we can think about LGBT and it’s relation to real world.

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(examples of materials that could be used)

In addition, I get to see how different news outlets cover a particular subject. For example, The Economist had a debate last year on whether businesses should work to advance the rights of LGBT in a broad sense. In addition, they recently reported on the views of Texans on transgender individuals.

economistlgbt

(http://debates.economist.com/debate/should-businesses-work-advance-lgbt-rights-broader-society-rather-just-their-own-employees; accessed 24/01/2017)

economisttesxaslgbt

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/01/toilet; accessed 25/01/2017)

People’s personal stories have also been covered by news outlets such as the BBC.

bbcnewslgbt

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38730291; accessed 25/01/2017)

Therefore, through looking at different kinds of media and materials, I was able to gather an assortment of information.

What is incredibly important about retrieving these materials and using different kinds of resources to produce an informed display, is that students will become acquainted with the different ways in which they can use the resources available to them. In addition, hopefully, students will be informed of the different ways in which news outlets, journal articles and print materials approach a particular subject.