Thing 23: The Last Post

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So, here we are at the end of Rudaí23. This is the last blog post I will write for now so it feels appropriate to look back, reflect and then look forward. To begin this I went back to my first blog post to see what I had written about what I hoped to achieve. How much of it came true? Here’s what I wrote: “As part of this, I’m guessing that I will be writing about my career in libraries, my experiences, my thoughts on various aspects of the library profession and possibly various other bits and pieces that take my fancy along the way.” I can see that I thought I’d be looking up and around at the library profession as a whole. But… as a recent television  show posited, ‘Consciousness is a journey inward.’ Looking back over the blogs I have written through this, Rudaí23 has been much more about my own library practice, how I approach the work and how I utilise the tools available to me.

The first paragraph I wrote for Thing 2 was about my previous failures in keeping up this blog and hoping it wouldn’t happen again. I was well aware of the possibility of not finishing; indeed I had a serious lapse after Thing 10 and I didn’t write another post for two months. This meant I was way behind and I did seriously consider just finishing Section Two and leaving it at that. But I knew I’d feel bad if I didn’t finish the course and achieve what I had set out to do, so I dove in and swam frantically to reach the far shore. As with everything there benefits and costs to this. The more I did, the easier it was, but I could have done with spending longer on one or two sections. I have resolved to do that in the next few weeks. But I feel a real sense of achievement that I didn’t give up and that I came back to it after the absence to finish what I had started.

I also wanted to get back into writing and I definitely feel more comfortable now than I did back in September. The first posts were like pulling teeth and took me forever. I would write and delete and write and delete and still be unhappy with what I posted. But I knew that my writing muscles were rusty and that it would get better with time. I have enjoyed the writing more and more as the weeks passed and I think that it will only continue to improve. Funnily enough being delayed was a blessing in disguise as I wrote quite a lot over a short period and it really did help me to push me further.  I really want to keep writing so I’m going to make a special effort to keep going with this and who knows where that will lead. It has reminded of how much I love getting my thoughts down ‘on paper.’

Each section was a mixture of practical advice on different tools and software but they also often led me to an examination of how and why I approach things the way I do and how I could improve in certain areas. I never expected that aspect; it has opened up a lot of avenues for exploration and reminded me to push myself, particularly in terms of my professional presence. I’ve also been thinking about how I can help students with their learning. It has been a while since I’ve done a course myself and this was a gentle reminder to me to remember my students learning needs and challenges when giving them a lot of information.

Looking forward I have made a few promises to myself. As previously posted I hope to go to the A&SL conference next year and I also want to work towards my Associateship. I think if I try to blog without a clear plan, I’ll get overwhelmed, panic and stop so I’m going to look for a MOOC related to librarianship and try to complete that. All suggestions and ideas welcome! I’ve had an idea for research that’s been brewing for a long time now so I have also resolved to seriously start reading around the subject and take it from there. And if I do all of those things I shall be very proud!

There only remains to thank all of the Rudaí23 team for running this course. I got so much more out of it than I was expecting. Special thanks to Michelle Breen who was my supportive co-ordinator and Kristopher Meen on the Rudaí23 Facebook page. And to all you fellow Rudaí23ers out there, I hope you enjoyed it too. Thanks for sharing the journey.

 

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Thing 22: Engaged Professional Reflection

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It’s a sunny day here as I start my penultimate post for Rudaí 23, a reflection on the Engaged Professional section of this course. It seems that spring may have sprung; the temperature is above 10 degrees at least so I’m taking it as win. This section has got me thinking about how I engage as a professional out in the wider world. Sure I’m engaged in my job, but am I engaged in a wider sense with my profession? If not, why not and how can I improve? I think I got a clue to this answer when I looked at my professional brand back in Thing 11. In the course of that I discussed that I don’t have a wide professional presence online. While correlation does not always imply causation, in this instance it was certainly an indicator for me about my level of professional engagement. I was at a workshop at the weekend and one of the presenters mentioned ‘career inertia.’ It struck a nerve with me; I love, love my job but it can be all too easy to neglect some of the wider aspects. This section has made some of that clearer to me but more importantly, it offered solutions and ideas on how to improve.

Thing 19 was on podcasts which I loudly proclaimed my love for. I shall proclaim it again now. I decided not to do the practical task of setting up and recording a podcast for a number of reasons. One was quite simply time; I’m running behind on the course and I went for the easier and quicker option of rating and reviewing podcasts for the task. I spent a bit of time on these as I wanted to communicate what I liked about them and why without being waffly or gushing too much. I still may have gushed a bit. Another reason I didn’t record a podcast as I was trying to be practical about the sustainability of it. I know I won’t be able to keep it up, and part of the joy of podcasts is going back for more; they’re not a ‘one and done’ medium. However I have resolved to spend a few hours brushing up on Audacity and familiarise myself with other recording tools just in case the need arises to either use it or show others how to use it in the future. I also realised that in all of my podcasting, while I have listened to a few podcasts produced by libraries, I listen to no podcasts specifically about librarianship as a career or a profession. I have made up for that by starting to listen to Librarians Aloud by Laura Rooney Ferris. I’ve really enjoyed listening to other librarians talk about their career and their advice, so I’ll be working my way through the whole lot in the next while! I’m also hoping to seek out a few more and add them to my listening list.

Thing 20 was on Advocacy and Engagement and there were certainly a lot of tasks to do! I didn’t do them all, but I completed 7 out of the 9 so I was happy with that. As I mentioned I had done the Advocacy Unshushed course on EdX and it completely changed my thinking around the subject. This task served to reinforce what I learned and to consider things in another way too. I think the most important takeaway is that Advocacy needs to be inbuilt from the ground up. It is not something that should happen only when there is a crisis or a threat to the library or a service. Good advocacy is embedded into the strategic plan, it’s inherent in the vision that the library has for itself. It understands that we are be the best champions of our work; what we do and how we do it should be promoted and encouraged as a matter of course, not just when the budget comes around or when there’s a threat. CILIP’s My Library By Right campaign really captured my attention – I loved the central theme of positioning libraries as not just a benefit but a clear right for all users. I also took note of library strategic plans where smaller libraries had been incorporated into larger ones as this has happened to us and there were definite variations as to how they were mentioned. I was reminded anew to advocate for my own small lovely library and the qualities it can bring to the both the wider library service and the institution as whole.

Thing 21 was on Professional Groups and here I gave myself a bad mark. I know I haven’t been the best at engaging with my own Professional Body and although I joined CILIP last year as well, I haven’t taken much advantage of the benefits on offer there either. There’s no getting away from that but I’ll be a little kinder to myself on reflection. I do know about my professional body in Ireland and I’m a member. I’ve also done some wokshops and courses. I recognised the value of joining CILIP and I did so. I am also a member of the ALA community on LinkedIn and I do pay attention to what comes up. Perhaps what I need to do here is be more focused instead of being a bit scattershot in my approach. We work better when we convert abstract intentions into concrete goals. Rather than a vague plan to improve my CPD, I signed up to do Rudaí23. With that in mind I have resolved two things: to go to the Academic and Special Libraries Conference next year and also to work towards my Associateship in the LAI.

Overall this section has been a really good exercise in examining my wider engagement with my own career. Some issues have definitely cropped up, but I’ll look on the bright side and recognise that there are plenty of things I can do and indeed that I’m already doing. Funnily enough, it turns out that lifelong learning is… lifelong.

Thing 21: Professional Groups

Mea Maxima Culpa. Through my most grevious fault. I realised a few weeks ago that I had forgotten to renew my LAI membership this year and thus had let it lapse. How deeply embarrassing. Thankfully, the process to renew is very straightforward and it was done quickly. But it does add a bit of a frisson to this week’s post thinking about professional groups. I joined the LAI when I was doing my Masters and while I have been a member since (with one or two gaps), I’ll be honest and admit that truthfully I have been less engaged with the organisation than I could have been over the years. I think that’s why this quote from the blog really struck me: At its most basic, how can we expect others to value our own profession if we do not do so ourselves? So, so true. I can be passionate about libraries and my career and be annoyed at people who are dismissive of my job but if I’m not actively engaging with my own professional body, how can I expect others to

The section of the LAI that I am most familiar with has been the Career Development Group. It was formed not long after I finished college when I was unemployed, looking for jobs that weren’t there, and wondering how I’d get the experience so I could get the jobs that I needed the experience to get. You know the drill. It can be daunting starting out in your career and while there was plenty of advice to be had, sometimes it was hard to know where to start. Or what to do. Meeting people at events who felt the same way I did was a great help and we could have discussions on comparing interview tips, what jobs were coming up, our thoughts on internships and much more. The first Library Camp I went to was really interactive and dynamic and I liked all the practical suggestions and tips on offer. It was great to meet people who had started on their careers and hear all about where their profession was taking them.

However even though I was living in Dublin at the time and could have gone to more events, I never went to any of the LAI conferences. I wonder why that is? I think I may have been lacking in confidence and perhaps felt I didn’t belong at some events so early in my career. I wouldn’t know what to say to people or felt I had much to contribute. Of course I know now that I would have been entirely welcome and met some great people. Over the years I have met so many wonderful librarians who have given help and advice and support and reminded me again and again of the best of our profession of helping others with their needs. At present I don’t live in Dublin and as I mentioned before, getting cover is not an easy task. So unless an event is on a Saturday, or takes place outside the Academic calendar year I’m limited in my options for attending. It would be disingenuous however to lay all the blame at that door. The truth is there are plenty of other things I could be doing and I have not been the best at seeking those out or getting involved in ways that would work for me.

It’s not all bad. Last year I went to ‘Coding for Librarians’ which was a really practical and fun workshop on coding. I had done some coding before but it was limited and I wanted to brush up on my skills. Here’s hoping there’ll be a sequel. This year I went to the ‘On the Road to Success’ a CV and interview workshop. There were some great tips and advice for new graduates and people a bit further along in their careers and it was very informative. It was also a great opportunity to network with fellow colleagues and meet new ones as well. I have also resolved that I will do my best to go to the Academic and Special Libraries conference next year.

Overall, I have to admit I haven’t engaged with Professional groups and taken advantage of the benefits on offer. I joined CILIP last year and while I do read their publication as well as An Leabharlann, there is so much there that I haven’t utilised. I think it’s time for a change. Writing this post has really brought that home to me.   

Thing 20: Advocacy and Engagement

advocateGood lord this was a long haul! But really enjoyable for all that. I started the Library Advocacy Unshushed course on EdX when it first came out. I didn’t manage to finish it before the deadline, but it completely changed my thinking around advocacy and what I should be doing as a librarian to promote and demonstrate the value of my library. We can no longer subscribe to ‘build it and they will come.’ I didn’t do all the tasks on the list but I gave it a fair shot.

 

Exercise 1: Name three detrimental effects to a local community when a public library is closed

  • Loss of a community space. The public library is frequently the heart and hub of community activities, exhibitions, projects, book launches and more. The loss of such a space negatively impacts all of these.
  • Loss of civic space. Libraries are often the place to get information on local and national government organisations, how they function and where people can get advice. Losing that can reduce people’s ability to engage as citizens.
  • Loss of local history and local knowledge, particularly in smaller towns. Public libraries are brilliant at preserving the history of their own area and offer a wealth of materials to researchers, genealogists, students and more. Such information would not necessarily be preserved or viewed to be as important as it is without the local care given.

Exercise 2: Find a Library Strategic Plan in Ireland or beyond for a library of any size.  Identify three ways in which the strategic plan also advocates for the Library Service.

  • DCU’s library strategy core words are ‘relevant. visible. expert’ They understand the implicit value of the library and aim to position themselves as being the heart of the university learning and information experiences.
  • “Our spaces and collections are public and we will partner with the commercial
    and cultural heritage sectors to aid understanding and access to them.” Aware that libraries as public and cultural spaces can enhance the service by giving them attention and allowing them to grow.
  • “The student voice is critical to the success of our services and this will be constantly listened to and monitored formally and informally, including full student
    representation on the DCU Library Board.” Bringing the users into the decision-making process, promulgating services and supports from the ground up.

Also of note here is that DCU acknowledges and recognises the expansion of its library with the incorporation of St. Pat’s Drumcondra. It recognises the unique and special qualities of a smaller library within the wider organisation and the opportunities it can bring for the enhancement of the overall service. This was of particular interest to me as my library has been incorporated into a larger one in the last 18 months. Reminds me that I need to be  proactive in advocating our library’s value in the overall strategic library plan.

Exercise 3: Name three ways in which you can demonstrate the impact and value of the library service that you work in or use.

  • Recording and keeping statistics on footfall, subject guide viewings, database usage, borrowing statistics. Reporting on these at staff meetings.
  • The academic year can get so busy and I can get caught up in so many things and tasks that I worry I’m not getting anything done. Writing a report each May of everything that we’ve done in the library has really helped remind me that we have achieved goals that we had set. And in some cases I’ve done more than I realised! The progress and therefore impact is concrete.
  • Student surveys help to show what works, what needs improvement and offer suggestions for new ideas.

Exercise 4: Identify three key people (name their role) outside of the library in the wider organisation/community that you need to network with in order to advance the development of the Library Service.

  • Finn O’Murchu, Head of School Thurles Campus. Vital to maintain links with the head of school to promote ideas and get support.
  • Kieran Pearse, Head of IT, Limerick Campus. It’s not always about networking with the people at the very top. Sometimes it’s about knowing who provides the vital services and ensuring they know you as well.
  • Prof. Jim Deegan, Head of Graduate School, Limerick. If as is hoped, we will begin to offer postgraduate programmes on our Campus, it is important to ensure the library is a key part of developing good support for researchers and postgraduates.

Exercise 6: In your opinion what are the three best features of the My Library, By Right Campaign and why?

  • Being proactively involved from the beginning when there are proposed changes to library services. Advocating the whole way through, not just in a time of crisis.
  • The lovely short tips on steps to take action. Putting the time beside them shows how quick easy it can be to get involved.
  • Centering the campaign around the public’s statutory rights to a comprehensive and well run library service. Frames public libraries in the space they should be – not a privilege for the few but a right for all.

Exercise 7: In 200 words or less, describe a new area of librarianship that you are passionate about. How would you go about promoting it within the library that you work in and/or the wider library profession?

The presumption of digital literacy. With the younger generation growing up online and immersed in the digital world, the presumption exists that students don’t need to be taught digital literacy as it’s assumed they already have those skills. As one example, numerous students have told me ‘I hate computers.’ When it’s pointed out they all have mini computers in their hands every day, they say ‘that’s different.’ Why is there such a disconnect? Is this presumption a wider issuer and if so what can be done to remedy it? I’d like to research this further, and possibly present a paper on it. I think it could start a conversation that would go in interesting directions.

Exercise 8: Choose an area of library practice that you feels requires debate.

The debate on whether we should retire the terms librarians and libraries. When I’m feeling fancy I call myself an information professional. But I love my job and being a librarian; I don’t want to lose that name. One simple term can cover a multitude. Rather than renaming ourselves to fit in with the fast-moving times, maybe we just need to be better at articulating what we do. Librarians are great adapters, we just need to remember that and use those skills to forge the path instead of waiting for others to do it.

 

 

Thing 19: Podcasts

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Of all the wonderful things modern technology has given us, I think Podcasts might be up there as one of my favourites. I absolutely love them and I’m a subscriber to 10 or 12 regulars, along with other interesting episodes and shows I dip in and out of according to whatever takes my fancy. I listen to them in the morning getting ready, walking to and from work, cleaning the house, out and about, going for walks; I’m being entertained, informed and learning new things all the time. The great thing about Podcasts is that you can either go deeper on a subject you know very well or learn new information in an area you don’t know at all. I listen to a range of podcasts covering, history, science, film, soundtracks, true crime, music, current affairs, television, literature and a wealth more. Some I’ve discovered and others have been recommended. I’ve gone down the list offered on the blog and while I’m an old fan of many of them, I’ve added a few others to my list. Funnily enough I had not listened to any podcasts about librarians or libraries, but I downloaded the first few episodes of Librarians Aloud and I’ve really enjoyed the interviews that have been done. I’ll have to download the rest now!

As I have an Iphone I use the Podcast app on that, although I am considering changing. The update to iOS11 changed a fairly user-friendly, intuitive tool to a messy, clunky app that doesn’t look half as nice and takes twice as long to do stuff. The design was ‘streamlined’ with the net result of making things more complicated to use. I shouldn’t need to be looking up manuals to use this and I think it’s an illustration of the dangers of  designing something without considering the needs of the people who will be using it. Having said that, it is still perfectly usable and my desire for a new podcast app is only outweighed by my inability to get around to doing it.

One option for this task was to record a Podcast using Audacity or Soundcloud. I used Audacity before in another position so I’m familiar with the basics, but I really don’t think I’ll be recording a podcast any time soon. I don’t have the time in my position and to be honest I don’t know what subject I’d choose. However I am going to keep this information and know that I have a handy manual if I ever need it or if someone asks me for help.

I’m going to recommend two shows  – both about film, although coming at it from different angles. You Must Remember This narrated, written and researched by Karina Longworth is about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Longworth covers individual stories and ties others together in one narrative that lasts for multiple episodes. There’s a 16 part series on the Hollywood Blacklist, a 9 part series called ‘Star Wars’ focussing on actors experiences during wartime, and much, much more. The episodes are meticulously researched, full of detail and Karina Longworth’s voice is made to tell old stories. Her scripts are brilliantly done and she uses music and other voice actors  judiciously but effectively. If you like stories about Hollywood and its history, this show is the one for you.

The second podcast is a new one: The Soundtrack Show. It’s done by David W. Collins who has worked as a sound designer, editor and voice actor. The show proposes to take a deep dive into film scores and delves into how they’re put together, how they work and what they’re meant to do. The first few episodes have been about the mechanics of music, using melody as a tool to tell stories, but also how sound mix, design and effects all work together. I’m really enjoying this as Collins is informative but very accessible.As someone who loves film scores but wouldn’t be very knowledgeable about music, it’s been a really great introduction and when he did his first deep dive in to the Jaws soundtrack, I knew what the technical stuff meant when he mentioned it. I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes.

All I can say in the end is: dive in. And enjoy.

Thing 18: Critical Thinker Reflection

superhero-534120__340From taking over 2 months to complete one section to absolutely belting through the next! This has definitely been a rapid run through of Critical Thinker. But I was determined when I started Rudaí23 that I would see it through and while it might be easier for me to stop here, I do want to try to complete the entire course. It has been good for me to do this and I’m enjoying the process, even when it feels like I’ve started moving at warp speed! But for now I’m going to pause (just for a moment, mind) and reflect on Section Three.

The Critical Thinker section has felt like a time to stop and consider not just the ways we can use information, but how and why we do so. I feel like I spent a lot of time being a little more concerned about the amount of information that is available to and about us, how we can use it to our benefit, but also how to evaluate it and be objective. It also made me think about what that means with regards to my job as a librarian in an academic setting. I need to be able to help students negotiate the seas of information we currently swim in. Having lots of tools and resources in the arsenal is handy, but of greater importance is understanding when, where and how to use them that suits the user best.

Thing 14 was about personal information management. As mentioned, I am incurably disorganised, so having tools to help me organise myself seemed on the surface to be an eminently sensible idea. None of the tools were especially difficult to use, indeed they were very user-friendly. But in looking at them, I was reminded of the many, many hours I spent using highlighters and coloured pens to make beautiful notes and study timetables when I was in school and College. So much time spent on organising that actual studying was somewhat neglected! I was able to see how each of the tools would come in handy but I cannot see myself using them for now as I just don’t have any projects that are large enough. However I saw an immediate application for Pocket, and that is proving very useful.  But if I was to start a research project, I would know about a few more tools that can come in handy. and probably make the initial organising much easier on me.

 

Thing 15 on evaluating information was a lovely task to do. I really enjoyed the practical element of editing Wikipedia to make me think about what sources would be best to use and why. I’m also a big fan of Wikipedia in general, so I was especially pleased to see it being championed as not just a learning resource, but as a tool that can be used to learn about editing, citing and evaluating information. I’m already starting to consider ways I can incorporate it into future lessons on those subjects. I don’t know that I’ll have time to edit the site itself or do more citation, but if I can I will certainly try. The CRAAP test is also one of those lovely things that encompasses a multitude but is also easy to understand and explain. I have used it very recently and I know I’ll be returning to it many times. I’m also considering getting a poster made and putting it up in the library where it is in the students line of sight. The more ways to give them the information the better!

Thing 16 on Digital Footprints was written in the shadow of Cambridge Analytica and renewed debate on Big Data; what information we give out and how it can be used for both good and more nefarious purposes. I think if the scandal hadn’t happened I would have answered the questions confidently, knowing I’m pretty good at managing my digital footprint with a few areas that could be improved such as password management and reading T&C’s. There would have been a brief acknowledgement of issues surrounding privacy etc., but it would have been way more abstract and probably a bit generalised. Maybe even dismissive? Sometimes things just pull into focus more sharply when you’re confronted with them up close. It has hit home to me that even though I am generally privacy and security conscious, I have given away masses of information about myself without thinking too deeply about it. It would be very easy to go down the rabbit hole on this issue, but I do think we have to find ways to negotiate the balance we seek between being globally connected when we want and private when we don’t. I’m most certainly aware of my digital footprint in a way I haven’t been in some time.

Thing 17 was on Sharing Your Work. I did a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ and put up a presentation I gave yesterday at our Student Teacher Experience Day. But where I found this task most useful was for future planning. I’m hoping to set up a proper module on information literacy in the College, initially for First Years but then seeing if I could expand it. I do teach classes but they’re a little ad hoc and squeezed into the students free time. The cunning plan is to formalise it a little more and go from there. It’s one of those things that has a large amount of scope that looking at others resources can help a lot in terms of ideas etc. So Sandbox and Jisc will be very important to me in the future and I’ll hope to share some of my own work as well. I have no current plans to write a paper or anything, but I did restart this blog with a view to getting back to writing, practicing more, improving my professional presence and doing CPD. Thing 17 has been a great tool for showing me the options available when I want to venture further.

Thing 17: Sharing Your Work

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This was an interesting exercise. While I would have no problem sharing work that I have done, I have gotten out of the habit of sharing professionally in a public space. This blog has been the first time in a long time that I’m putting my thoughts out there beyond brief comments on Facebook and Twitter, so I was a bit nervous. While I am confident in what I do, there’s an element of ‘I hope you like it’ as well. Perhaps we’re all a bit like that though. In terms of the tools to be looked at, I have looked at Research Gate before but I have never published anything on it. I really don’t have anything even remotely close to a good enough article to be shared, indeed this blog is being used as a way of getting back to writing. Maybe in a few months time, I’ll have something. The second option is to share a presentation and in this I have in the best tradition used ‘something I made earlier’

Our College runs a Student Teacher Experience Day each year for students who are considering attending. It’s a bit like an Open Day but we also run Taster lectures and  microteaching to give them a flavour of what College and Third Level learning is like. This year I was asked to give a 5 minute taster on the library – a brief introduction, and an emphasis on how the library and its resources can be key to their learning. The presentation itself is only 5 slides – a brief reminder that learning in college is different to learning in school and that the library is there to help. I have also created an infographic using our old friend Canva on Things You Can Do in the Library. Then there’s a slide on information overload and using the CRAAP test to evaluate information; there’s an infographic to go with that as well. It’s very quick and aims just to give a flavour and impart some knowledge to students who will be confronting some of these challenges a few months from now.  The presentation is now available to view on Slideshare. Below are the infograhics the students will get to take with them.