Braving the real world

lecture room

Imagine this room full of people… Now panic!

It’s the last day of my traineeship tomorrow so I thought this would be a good time to look at thing 15, as this is the only library job I’ve had yet where I’ve been lucky enough not only to be allowed to attend events, but to be actively encouraged to go.

Before I did this job, I worked in libraries but I had no idea that so many library-themed events existed. Yes, some are very expensive (particularly the huge conferences, where you would also most likely need accommodation) – but the Lis-Cilip-Reg mailing list advertises loads of cheaper events all over the country.

I’ve attended quite a few of these, and others that I came across on Twitter or via colleagues too. Although I am as yet quite inexperienced, and don’t always feel that I have enough to contribute, I find events really beneficial. Sometimes I have just been in awe of the knowledge and experience of the people around me, but every event I’ve been to has allowed me to take something valuable back to my job. Because I’m a graduate trainee, I haven’t always attended events that were directly applicable to my job – but I think an event is what you make it, and almost any piece of information can be tailored to apply to your role. But overall, I think the most important thing about events is meeting other people. I’ve often learned more from chatting to people during breaks or working in groups than I did from the official speakers. That’s why I also love impromptu ‘unconference’ events like library camp, where everyone gets an equal opportunity to give their opinion.

The only ‘events’ I’ve organised are within the University library and library visits for trainees. I guess you could say my incompetence in this field is matched only by my enthusiasm – although I’m not the most organised person in the world, and my events don’t always go quite according to plan, I absolutely love doing it!

In the library I ran an event for National Libraries day, where we encouraged students to tell us about their own libraries (we have a lot of International students here, so we got some great library stories from all over the world). I also ran a stall at our ‘re-freshers’ fair at the beginning of this term to gather student feedback about the library. I love working with our students, and it’s exciting to be engaging with them in a way that’s slightly more interesting than issuing their books. It gave me loads of confidence in my job and because Bradford is a fairly small University the students I spoke to remembered me and have been greeting me around campus ever since, which is just lovely.

However, this library-fame has come at a price, because now whenever I’m doing any other events outside the library (we are piloting a pop-up library service around campus) students think ‘ooh it’s feedback lady’ and start telling me how the toilet doors bang too loudly and that we need more PCs.

Today I stood up and gave a presentation about how we communicate with our students in front of all my colleagues. My previous job involved demonstrating and promoting a website to large rooms full of people. Somehow this never phased me – I just got on with it. But put me in a room full of people I know quite well and I fall to pieces. As soon as I tried to log in to the PC everything went wrong – I had to restart it to log in, my presentation wouldn’t load in Firefox, there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit comfortably. I panicked, ignored my carefully planned flash-cards and babbled on incoherently for half an hour. I also forgot to ask the essential ‘any questions?’ at the end and had to be prompted! Despite all this, I think I got away with it – people were so dazzled (or seasick) at my use of Prezi that my rambling paled in insignificance. I even got some complimentary comments!

I really want to make sure that I’m still able to attend relevant events and conferences in my new job. In fact I even asked about it in the interview. I’ve already seen loads on the mailing lists that I’d like to go to, but sadly most of them seem to be on the day I start my new job, which I guess would be slightly inappropriate! Eventually, when I have more experience to draw on, I’d really like to speak at an event. Weirdly, I actually quite enjoy getting up in front of people and talking. It takes me right out of my comfort zone which I guess is a bit of a buzz, and I feel a real sense of achievement afterwards.