Thoughts at the beginning

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Starting a new job always brings excitement and anxiety for me. Excitement because it’s a new start, a new role and a new environment. Anxiety because I’m always wondering whether I’ll actually enjoy the role, if I will like the people, will this be the start of a new life for me or will I be going back to the drawing board.

Nevertheless, the experience that can be gained from any new role and/environment has proved priceless in the past. I’ve always found that even if there is something that I am displeased with (big or small) there is always something good to be taken away. Whether it is do with certain aspects of the role or making new friends.

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When I was working in retail, I really hated it. Customers were rude and there were all these annoying rules and regulations that kept changing. But I have met some of the greatest people from working there and I am still in touch with them now.

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In addition, the first few weeks of a job can hardly be used to determine its worth either. In particular, I had one job where I just didn’t understand why I was there and what I could do. But as the weeks went by and I became used to the role and the environment, I found my place within the organisation.

Even with all of these experiences in mind, I still find myself a little agitated when I have very little do. I begin to question everything about myself and what I can offer in a job when the things I can do are limited by time, experience and job role.It also doesn’t help that I still have no idea where I want to be in place or career. So finding an area to excel in becomes difficult when everything seems mundane or out of reach.

Patience is definitely a virtue and I’m working hard to embody the concept.I’m always being told not to rush and that things will come with time. It’s definitely true, as long as you work at it, but the journey can definitely be tedious at times.

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Resolution

I recently went through a period where I was unsure of whether I wanted to stay in libraries, of whether I had the skills to be an information professional or of whether I had the drive to really make it as an information professional. I started assessing my character and the things I was doing in my current role. This was especially as I frequently took note of what my colleagues were doing to help promote the service and the materials.

As I began sorting out different sections of the library, I realised there were a lot of things I wanted to do and achieve but found myself lacking in getting it done. Reasons included the fact that this was a temporary role and that I didn’t know if I had the skills or imagination to make it work. In addition, I was unsure of whether I had enough information about the materials and the target audience in order to effectively promote the library and its resources.

As I was thinking about these things, I came to realise how hesitant I am about doing things if I’m not sure I’m allowed to do them. Librarianship is new to me as a  concept and as a career. I have very little knowledge of the hierarchy and how much experience and knowledge it takes to move to a higher position. I am uncertain on how to develop my skills in a specific area and what that area should be.

However, I want to able to actively do things without hesitating and worrying about my position. I want to use the knowledge I have to provide the service I want to give, whether I am in a temporary or permanent role.

This is a resolution I hope to achieve this year, as this year is definitely the year where I hope to be setting myself up for the future.

Engaging with the Community: A Lewisham Library Example

So Christmas is around the corner (or right in front of us) and so ’tis the season to be jolly and merry and spread the joy. With this in mind, the library must not be an exception and must actively promote the spirit of the season in order to keep chrisanta2attracting patrons.

Thus it was great to witness my boss dressed up as Santa Claus giving presents to all the little boys and girls (although the little girl didn’t seem all that happy).

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I also took part in spreading the Christmas spirit by helping to decorate the front window. I decorated this white Christmas tree and made some paper snowflakes which were used as ballerina skirts.

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My colleagues have also put out displays that showcase books that directly relate to Christmas. In this way, patrons can have the opportunity to fully enjoy the Christmas season through literature.

As well as the library being available to the public to access the computers and use the materials, the library must fully engage with these individuals in order to continue to attract customers. Putting on events and creating displays allow people and staff to engage with their community, whilst discovering something new and different.

Was I born to be a librarian, or not?

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Ever since I began pursuing a career in librarianship, I started to notice that there were certain habits I had acquired that make being an information professional a job that completely fits my personality.

For example, I use Microsoft Access to record the different shows I’ve watched as well the number of episodes, dates I finished watching them and some other details. I even have different databases detailing what type of show is in which database. (Now thinking about it, I kind of want to indicate what genre each show is from).

I primarily use social media to keep track of useful information. For example, Google + has been like a miracle in technology to me as I get to create different collections. This means that if I’m looking for a certain piece of information I found months ago, I know exactly where I saved it.

However, although these things come naturally to me and kind of indicates that I like cataloguing and classifying things, I have sometimes wondered whether being a librarian is really what I want to be.

Looking at a lot of the job descriptions and having attended a few interviews, I have often thought: ‘This job seems boring.’ ‘Would I really enjoy working here?’ ‘Is this all that’s out there?’

I know that I like helping people find the materials they need, format their documents, use the internet and familiarise themselves with their technological devices. But the closet job I could think of was either being an ICT teacher or being a digital librarian.

A digital librarian requires you to have in-depth knowledge on how to use technology and the practical skills to go with it. This includes coding and familiarity with information systems that allows you to manipulate it so you can make it do what you want. In addition, it most likely requires more time working on the computer then helping people.

I don’t want to be a teacher, so being an ICT teacher is immediately a big fat no.

So what do I do?

For now, I’ve decided to just get as much experience as I can in libraries, taking an interest in the different facets of librarianship. I don’t have an answer as to whether I will stay in librarianship or if I will someday pursue some other career path. I just hope that one day soon, I will have an answer.

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As as newly qualified information professional, I really wanted to experience working in a variety of different libraries. I worked in an academic research law library and so was becoming familiar with how libraries cater to graduate students and the kinds of materials and resources that were made available to them.

However, I found myself wondering what it would be like to stray away from that kind of environment. I wondered whether  my skills would be better put to use somewhere else.

Luckily, I was able to obtain a temporary role at a public library. In addition to this, I began working at a time where they were restructuring. This meant that a lot of the staff were new to the library (although not new to the borough) and a lot of the operations that go on in a library had to be discussed and assigned to various individuals.

Thus, at first everything was really hectic. If it had been my first job in a library I don’t think I would have survived as well as I have. I was able to adapt really well because of my previous experience, but there were a lot of differences in how I should do things and the tasks that needed to be done compared to my previous experience. I was literally learning on the job and I am still learning.

One thing that really struck as me as being the most important when working in a library, are the procedures that we have to go through in order to make sure that everything is done properly. With proper and organised training, staff members can confidently and successfully perform a number of tasks. Without that, it’s like running in the dark with a torch. You don’t know where you’re going and what you’re missing.

However, it’s helpful when everyone is willing to help one another and is willing to actively encourage everyone to get involved. I’ve had no qualms about asking anyone questions or reporting any issues. Thus in a hectic environment where everyone is finding their place, it’s nice that no one is just looking out for themselves.

I definitely don’t think I would have gained this kind of experience if I had decided to stay in law or academic libraries. I do feel like I needed something dramatic and organised to happen for me to feel like I’m getting somewhere in deciding what information professional I want to be.

Although I don’t know where I will end up and what kind of career I’ll have, I do know that I like having a varied role, I like helping people with their different needs (whether it’s formatting a CV or how to use their iPAD) and I like simply getting on with what needs to be done.

I’m glad that I haven’t pigeonholed myself because I don’t think I would be enjoying myself this much and looking forward to the future.

 

2016 EDS Conference

As a new information professional, I feel that it’s really important that I get as much information about the changes and developments that are happening in the information profession. So I signed myself up to attend the 2016 EDS conference at Regent’s University.

I didn’t really know what EDS was or does, so I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about the software that is being used in libraries. In addition, it was free, which meant it was easily accessible to someone like me who is new to conferences.

I don’t think I knew what discovery systems were either. I understood that there were systems that allowed people to search a range of databases, simultaneously. However, maybe due to my lack of awareness, I didn’t know that were actually called discovery services.

I think this is partly due to the library I currently work in. Everything is separate – the OPAC and the different subscription databases have to be searched individually. In addition, I was unaware that I was using a discovery service when searching for information on my university’s library catalogue. So I went to this conference with a very open and ignorant mind. I didn’t know what to expect and I was happy to take anything on-board.

What I found was that a lot of universities are using EDS to make their resources more discoverable. And most importantly, many universities are actively evaluating how useful EDS has actually been in helping to discover information and what they can do, as librarians, to improve it using the features built into EDS.

Thus, one of the presentations that really got my attention was the ‘Did DISCOVER democratise journal usage?’. The presentation took us through a librarian’s journey of assessing whether EDS had actually made resources more discoverable and whether it was a good thing or not.

For example, the presenter remarked that not all journals are equal. Thus, whilst the service allows more articles to be discovered from lesser known journals and publishers, it could also mean that articles from the big journals/publishers may be put at the bottom of the pile.

Another aspect that I was pleased to learn about was the research that had gone into how students search for information – students’ information behaviour. I think that a lot of librarians believe that if they get the right package that makes searching super easy and looks and works similar to search engines like Google, students should love it and adopt it immediately. However, as the studies conducted by EDS and some librarians show, discovery services are not being fully utilised by students.

One reason is that students may not know how to use or want to use certain features. For example, the use of ‘limiters’ may cause students to think that they may over use this feature and miss out on important articles. Also, students aren’t utilising the save an article/book feature and are instead using tabs as a way of saving information they’ll want to look at later.

However, EDS are continuously trying to develop software that will be used by students to search for information.

For example, EDS pitched a new mobile/tablet application where a student could quickly search for information, send some relevant articles to their email and have a look at them later. The world in which we live now, numerous scenarios come up when thinking about how useful this application could be, some of which were recognised by the developer.

For example, if they were in a queue lining up for coffee, in a lecture or just out and about and wanted to look something up. It is a very simple application that caters for a certain kind of situation.

People don’t use phone and tablets the same way they use laptops and computers. Having a site that is used for in-depth research reduced down for a smaller screen wouldn’t be helpful to the user. EDS recognised this and thus developed this idea.

However, one librarian seemed to want EDS to further develop the mobile site of their existing platform, to help users find information using their mobile devices. It seemed like they didn’t understand the purpose of the application to acknowledge that one size does not fit all.

As a student and having worked in a library, I feel as though I understand both perspectives. An application like the one described above, seems simple and easy to use if I wanted to quickly find information. I don’t want to have to filter the results or look at what journal it’s from. I just want information. But as a librarian, you want to provide options and all the information that comes with the resource.

It is hard to create a balance between the two objectives and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. This includes developing the technology and the features as well as making sure that we as librarians understand the needs of the students and utilise that knowledge to create systems meant for them.

Employing discovery services is just one way in which librarians are trying to make information more accessible. And the EDS conference revealed a side of librarianship that was virtually unknown to me. The thought that goes into developing these systems is astounding and the work that librarians put in to making it work, by adapting it to fit their users, is amazing.

What especially interested me was that research into user experience, information behaviour and information literacy, amongst other things, are being utilised to develop these systems. As a student, I did wonder how this type of research was being used in the real world.

All in all I gained a lot from attending the conference. I was able to expand my knowledge base as well as learn about what librarians are doing for their students. It was also great to learn that librarians are conducting their own research on their own students and systems, which makes entering the profession even more exciting.

Being an information professional

When I first begun my journey as an information professional (IP), I too thought that it would be all about the books. I thought that any role I pursued would be about finding materials, using materials, checking in materials and not much else, apart from creating guides and having some online support available. However, from studying Library Science and working as a graduate trainee and library assistant, I have found that being an IP is not just about having access to the materials. It’s about what you can do as an IP to help your clients/patrons/students/customers, acquire the information they need, which is not limited to books and journals.

When working in a company, people may need information on how to better communicate with their peers or their clients or advice on how to run their business. In a university students need information on how to write their essays, applying for jobs or further education possibilities.There are so many roles attached to being an IP that don’t just involve showing people where to find information. We are the information. We are the materials.

I have often been told that we are a brand and that we need to promote ourselves. Thus we must actively be involved with the things that are important to our clients/patrons/students/customers. This includes being online using social media, offering services that will enable them to continue with their studies or businesses and thinking about how our own unique interests and talents can be used to showcase that information.

Becoming an IP seems fun and exciting, because I have the opportunity to get to really know the people I am there to help, in terms of what they would need from me and how they would prefer to have that information. In addition, I get to increase my knowledge base and build on my creative skills.