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

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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.

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Welcoming Students to the Library

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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(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.

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(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.

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.