Thing 16 – Advocacy

I know, I know… this is very very late. I could give many excuses (starting a new job, my LIS course…) but I’ll just get on with it!

As you may know (I’ve gone on about it lots!), I’ve fairly recently started a new job as a School Librarian(ish – still working on the MSc). Advocacy in school libraries is HUGE, and is a bit of a hot potato at the moment. I’m still getting my head around it really, so I decided to cheat a little and start small – advocating the library in my own school. Which essentially is the most important thing really, as the students and staff at the school are my library users after all!

October is International School Libraries Month, which gave me a great excuse to try a bit of self-promotion. Because I work with kids, I thought it would be essential to get them involved. This allowed me to (rather lazily I suppose) turn school library advocacy into a competition, and let the pupils do the promotion for me! I did think it was really important to get the user voice, and for me (as the new librarian) to hear what the students love about their library. Librarians can go on about how great libraries are until the cows come home, but it’s the user perspective that really matters.

So I created a display about International School Libraries Month and asked the students to write, draw or create something to represent why they love their school library. I’ve even added some jazzy colour photographs of my display and some of their responses below!

Library display

Library poster competition entries

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Collaboration tools

A dog on a beach

A photo of a small dog to brighten up an otherwise rather dull post.

Google Docs

I have Google Docs as I signed up when I got my Gmail account. However, I have to admit that I have not yet got around to using it. It’s not that I don’t collaborate with others on work – my current job requires me to do that a lot, and I often share my written work with others to get their opinions. Unfortunately, it just never occurs to me to use Google Docs for this. I guess by the time I’ve logged into Google Docs and created my work, I might as well have emailed it to them. I know, I know – it will save me time in the long run, but my mind works on impatience rather than forward-planning. I do think this tool will be really useful when I go back to Uni, as I am now doing the course Distance Learning (starting in September at RGU!), which will require me to share work remotely more often.

Dropbox

I downloaded Dropbox a while ago and have only just started using it properly. It’s a real godsend at the moment as I am working on my Graduate Trainee Project and it means I can access and update my research both at home and at work. It is great for working from home, which I have only done once so far but it went very well, because I could access all my work documents at home via Dropbox. It also serves as an excellent storage space when your flash drive is getting full (which mine always seems to be!)

Wikis

I have only contributed to one Wiki so far, the one for Library Camp Leeds, but I am fascinated by the idea that anyone can contribute (and say what they like)! As a soon-to-be-Library-School-student, I probably shouldn’t say this – but I love Wikipedia. I know it shouldn’t be used in an academic context, but if you just want an idea of what oleaginous means it’s great. It has also revolutionised the  idea of an encyclopedia.
In a work context, I think that wikis are a great way for staff to communicate changes to everyone who needs to know. At the University Library where I work, there is a divide between library Customer Services and Librarians, so a Wiki could be used to quickly update everyone on new procedures etc that might affect both services. But this of course relies on everyone contributing and checking the Wiki regularly, which many people may not have time to do.

The architecture of Librarianship

Reading roomSo yet again I am inadvertently lagging behind with 23 things…

This time however, not only do I have an almost legitimate excuse, but it has also saved me writing two posts about my career development plans. I did have a career development plan, albeit a rather rudimentary one (it was in my head, but it WAS a plan, okay?) – but more on that later.

I have spent this year doing my Graduate Traineeship, which was the best work-based experience I’ve ever had. I’ve had a go at a bit of everything I ever imagined libraries would involve and far more besides. From customer services to e-resources, my Traineeship has given me a brilliant taster of life as a Librarian – and most importantly, I haven’t gone running for the hills. In fact I have loved every minute and am more excited about having a career in Librarianship than ever before. I know it’s rich at this stage in my career for me to be giving anyone careers advice, but to anyone thinking of starting out in Librarianship, I think being a Graduate Trainee is essential.

It sounds like a tiny thing, but the one of most valuable assets my Traineeship has given me is contacts – Over the past 9 months I’ve met more new people and got more useful careers advice than ever before in my life.

I’m actually feeling ever so slightly tearful writing about my Traineeship now it’s so close to the end!

Back to the future….

In my ideal (purely internal) plan, I was going to find my perfect 4-day-a-week library job starting in September and go to Sheffield part time to study for my Masters. In fact my plan was so advanced that I’d even saved a considerable amount of money to do this.

Sadly, what I hadn’t factored into my plan was ‘real life’ – a place (in case you are as unfamiliar with this as I am) where perfect 4-day-a-week library jobs do not exist. Believe it or not ‘real life’ also happens to be a place where potential employers offering full time jobs do not like to be asked whether you can ‘have Mondays off for two years to go to Uni please’.

The (new improved) Master plan

So obviously, my advanced prototype needed to be altered, and modelled on something quite frankly a little more realistic. And then out of nowhere (as in all good novels) something wonderful, amazing and totally unexpected happened – I got offered not one but two School Librarian (School Library Manager, LRC Manager, whatever else I may get called) jobs!

So it turns out I will be working 5 days a week, from September (this was essential as I was very determined not to leave my Traineeship early), getting hugely varied experience and working with some of the most challenging (and hopefully rewarding) library users possible.

Now obviously this does not factor in the part of my plan that says I will do my Masters next year, but I’m coming to that…

Fortunately for me, I was in a strong enough position (having been offered two jobs) to ‘encourage’ (barter with) the School to offer me considerably more money than was initially proposed. This means that I can (hopefully) afford to save enough extra money to pay the substantially higher fees to do my Masters distance learning.

Distance learning is far from the ideal option for me, especially whilst working full time. But unfortunately I do not have the luxury of unlimited time and money, and I’m really keen to work alongside my studies so that I can put what I learn into practice (in my humble opinion Library School should be far more practical anyway, so here I get the best of both worlds). Any feedback from anyone who has done a distance learning course (good or bad please!) would be very much appreciated. I would also love to hear from anyone who is/has been a School Librarian.

Putting the new plan into action

So, in no particular order, here is a list of career development options I hope to pursue in the near future:

  • Certification
  • Masters in Librarianship/Library and Information Management
  • Getting more involved with the School Library Association in my new job (I have signed up but not pursued it yet)
  • Join the School Libraries Network
  • Eventually Chartership

So here’s to new beginnings!

The elephant in the room

Ode to Evernote

Just a short post today, to bear witness to my new found but undying love of Evernote.

Oh Evernote, where hast thou been all my life? I have long been searching for a tool like this, oft times resorting to emailing myself links to unearthed treasures. This is usually followed by confusion (normal people do not email themselves) and the resulting deletion of anything useful.

I am sad to say that I have not experienced the same lustful longings for Google Calendar. I am a user of so many different Google products that I’m becoming rather dispassionate about them. I have an online ‘work’ calendar via MeetingMaker, which is not the most exciting interface ever developed, but I have spent time adding all my comings and goings to my calendar, and have become quite attached to it. It can also be accessed at work or home, so I tend to use this for everything, and where is the sense in duplicating information?

Exploring the library landscape

wilderness

Lost in the Library wilderness…

Weaving a web-based network

Despite my apprehensions about social networking and promoting myself online on a personal level (the gory details of which can be read here), I am a member of many online ‘professional’ groups, mailing lists and forums. Since starting my traineeship, I’ve made a concerted effort to join and contribute to groups that are of particular interest – including LISNPN, Lis-International, Lis CILIP reg and numerous groups for specific events such as National Libraries Day.

This has had a beneficial impact on my ‘real life’ connections in a number of ways. I’ve met people who I first spoke to on LISNPN, I’ve been to a number of meet-ups and events first arranged or advertised on these networks, I’ve attended library visits organised by groups, and have had national feedback on work I was involved in via the mailing lists.

For some reason (unknown even to myself) I seem to shy away from networks with a more ‘social’ basis, where I am required to add personal details. I joined Twitter fairly recently, but have quickly become an avid user (where else would I catch such intriguing escapades as #tropicallibrarian?!). Twitter is extremely useful for keeping up to date – but so far I seem to use it more as a news feed than a social tool, which suits me just fine.

However, for me, Facebook is an entirely different beast. I do have a Facebook account, but I use it very rarely. The only function I still find useful on Facebook is the ability to publicise and invite people to events.  Having said that, I can definitely see how Facebook is a useful promotional tool for organisations and companies – The audience is already there and already engaged, so the scope for creative advertising is huge.

I haven’t yet set up a LinkedIn account, as I feel that I’m still too early on in my career to make proper use of it. There is also the danger that I would forget to update my profile when I changed jobs or gain qualifications.

venturing into the real library world…

Personally, I still get far more out of actually meeting people and speaking to them in person than I do from online communities. As previously mentioned, I mainly use the groups and lists that I am a member of to get involved with and initiate ‘real life’ meetings.

Recently I’ve been along to Library Camp Leeds, The Oxford trainee library visit and CDG’s Tackling social inclusion & disability issues event – all of which I found out about via my online connections.

However, I also try to arrange trips and events myself – such as the Leeds Library visit (which you can read about here).  Talking to people about their library experience and how they got there is always fascinating and encouraging, but I don’t feel like I could do that so easily online. It is much harder to approach someone you’ve never met before and start asking them personal questions about their job!

Like most people, I do feel apprehensive before meeting someone new,  particularly in a group situation – but I just sign up for everything I can and hope that I’ll have found the courage to do it by the time it comes round (and I always have so far!)

So basically, I use online networking to find out what’s going on, and then go out and do it!

Selling myself online (and other causes for anxiety)

Russian dolls

I have a confession to make – until about 3 weeks ago, I was conducting an experiment into how to be invisible online. Most people who know me in real life would say that I am outgoing and (possibly annoyingly) over enthusiastic, I am also an anthropologist at heart and am fascinated by other people – but in reality I am quite a private person. I live in the middle of nowhere, I have no real interest in popular culture (I don’t have a working TV) and (like most people) I am completely disillusioned with Facebook.

So for me, the concept of ‘branding’ myself is terrifying to the point of almost inducing a panic attack. In order to conquer my fear, I had a long and soul-searching conversation with my boyfriend, who works in advertising, and gave me lots of good advice which applies to branding a product, but not (I think), a person. I tried to think about this objectively, and turned to DDC 23, thinking a nice library-based approach might be to classify myself, like a book. This turned out to be impossible, seeing that my classification skills are limited at best. I struggle to classify photography books – I’m definitely not ready for people! And that, I think, is the essence of my issue with self-branding – the terms ‘personal’ and ‘brand’ are antithetical: a ‘brand’ is cold, carefully calculated and neatly packaged. a ‘person’ is unpredictable, changeable and psychologically complex. What is most intriguing about someone else are the subtle quirks that you can only uncover by really knowing a person, in real life. That’s why people make the effort to become friends, to get to know someone…

It was Ned Potter’s ‘You already have a brand…’ that marked the turning point for me. It made me realise that I’ve already jumped in with both feet by setting up this blog and my Twitter account – and that I might as well make sure that my online presence is telling people what I want them to hear! Reading other people’s ‘thing 3’ posts also taught me that being online is just an entry point – a short introduction to you (and hopefully one that makes people want to know more). So here goes: I will now commence a strategic analysis of my brand identity and market position…

When Googling myself incognito, none of the results on the first page refer to me at all. The first result that comes up is someone else’s Facebook. This Emily Corley appears to own a horse, which obviously makes me immediately jealous. The rest of the results appear to relate to people in America – LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, flickr and Formspring accounts and a sportswoman who shares the same name as me. Apparently ‘Corley’ is a more common surname in the US. My Twitter account (finally!) appears on the second page of results, and 4 pages in comes my Lisnpn profile (kindly pointing out that I have 0 friends!)  – but that’s about it.

When adding ‘library’ to my name, a lot more hits actually relate to me – my Twitter profile is top, followed by a post on University of Bradford’s special collections blog, and my account on the National Libraries Day website. This blog doesn’t come up, which I imagine is down to my sub-standard self branding skills, as I don’t think my full name is attached to this at all. This wasn’t initially intentional, but I think I will leave it that way for now – I’m still testing the waters.

The name of my blog

I have not used my own name in the url of this blog. This is because I am not a strong enough ‘brand’ yet for people to have heard of me by name, so instead I chose to use a pseudonym which I think reflects both my childlike curiosity for most things, and the fact that I am just starting out (and therefore still exploring the world of librarianship).

My photograph

The photograph I have used is me – in the distance on my very old and much loved bike. I like this photo (and the ones I’ve used as a background and header) because they were taken with my brownie camera, which I guess reflects yet another of my personal interests – analogue photography. I also used this image as I do not enjoy having my photo taken, and I couldn’t find any suitable ‘close-up’ shots of myself.

On Twitter, I don’t have a photograph of me at all. I don’t see this as a hurdle – I want to introduce myself at meetings and conferences –  I don’t want people to assume they ‘know’ me already and therefore not talk to me.

Profersonal?

I think that finding the perfect balance is key here. I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve got that balance right? I think (hope) that in general I am a friendly and very approachable person, and I want to come across that way. But I’m not quite sure my ‘professional’ side is so evident…

My visual brand

I have to admit, I spent an awful lot of time agonising over the aesthetics of this blog. I am a perfectionist about how things ‘look’ – I know this is shallow, but my previous job was writing publicity material, which taught me that if something doesn’t look enticing, no-one will bother reading it. Having said that, as a writer I do honestly believe that what is written is the most important thing. How often do you hear people saying ‘I read somewhere that…’, but describing a visual image so that it has real meaning is much more difficult. I do not believe that a picture speaks a thousand words.

I deliberately chose not to have any images that involved books or libraries. This is because I want my blog to express other aspects of my personality too. And also because I am contrary – I always have to do things a little bit differently. I know this is not a good quality, but hey-ho.

I realise I’ve gone on and on here – but they say never to start writing until you have too much to say!

So now it’s over to you – any thoughts? Any comments on what you think my personal brand is would be useful and/or amusing! It would be especially nice to hear thoughts from people who’ve never met me in real life.