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Head above the parapet

Head above the parapet

Updated: 2018-03-05T17:16:17.184+00:00


I'm a Fellow: a story of meanders and the occasional ox-bow lake


Yesterday a beautiful certificate arrived in the post. It made me think a little about 'success' and what that means and, inevitably, what it doesn't mean.

A book that I have at work and fish out every so often and read snippets from, and which has made a significant impact on me, (in conjunction with attending one of his amazing lectures on how to be a successfully busy person) is 'The Heart of Success' by Rob Parsons - one of the most humble, but successful, people I have come across. Depends on your definition of success of course.........

If I had to point to the things that I consider to be 'real' successes in my professional life - the things that I remember instantly, without having to dredge my memory at length to find them - they are often small and rather insignificant. Here are a few:

  • working alongside someone and making a difference to them, and to their workflows
  • really useful conversations with academics when making a cup of tea, or by the photocopier
  • shelving books when it's not in my job description, but I can call anyone on it because it is a strategic activity (staff management, collection management, space management, I could go on)
  • making time as often as possible for a 30 minute walk at lunchtime
  • meeting close professional friends for regular sanity checks
  • taking the time to visit a contact where they work and knowing how useful that was to both of us
When I started to write my application that resulted in this rather beautiful certificate, I was a little unsure about whether it would be good enough. But when I started to plot the things that had happened over the last 10 years on a timeline, then I found more confidence. It made me realise that one of the keys to 'success' for me is stickability and commitment, but dovetailing that with an innovative style. If you constantly change too many parameters you never have time to truly reflect and evaluate. I created two sorts of timeline to help me unpick all of this - one for fun using tiki toki. The other I defined as:

 "Publications Bibliography: deliberately starting with early work, and progression to most recent work, in order to demonstrate the changes over time and how areas of writing and presentations were influenced by other factors, both internal and external to the workplace. A story of meanders and the occasional ox-bow lake."


Ultimately of course as I consider that in the foreseeable future I can happily give up work and devote myself to other (important) things, you realise that success at work is probably overrated (it's dead nice to have it while you're there, don't get me wrong).Trite though it may seem, 'you can't take it with you'! And chances are the minute you leave work the next person in will change a lot of what you have done. 

So bottom line - what's success about? I would probably say that it's about making 'work', work for you, it's about being confident of your skills and using them to help the people who most need it, and it's being confident that little tiny successes are sufficient! We don't need to conquer the world, just try and do our best.

But in any case, thanks to CILIP for being a professional body that encourages librarians to be successful!

How much of a difference does it make?


Attended another great ALISS event ('Doing more with less') yesterday and listened to a presentation on using the Inspiring Learning for All framework to set objectives and evaluate outcomes. The presentation was concerned with how setting objectives and evaluating them by using this framework ensured that you could demonstrate impact. It made me think.....The other presentations informed my thought processes:What if your team was cut in half overnight and you had to displense with all those lovely 'added value' things that we do. What would our final list of priority activities look like?What if you had a staff culture of being research practitioners - so that significant changes were underpinned by research (ideally disseminated research as a further 'test' of solidness).What if you constanly played with yet another new techie tool ...Bottom line - how much of a difference would these all make to a student? What, of all the things that we do - the workshops we run, the TLC we provide, the resources we make available, the study space we make available - actually have an impact? How much of a difference does it make and is it remotely possible that we could evaluate and measure this in such a way as to create the sort of impact that a senior administrator in a University could immeditately understand.So - currently my thinking goes a little bit like this.I reckon that we still don't have much of a clue about the enormous LACK of impact we have on students. They are wrapped up in their own worlds which, let's face it, doesn't put the Library anywhere near the top of the priority list.We need to disintangle those things that we hold dear from the service we offer, so that at the very least we focus on those (possibly few) things that make the most impact - although see the next point about being a bit canny about what this might be!There are some easy quick wins that we can do that really do work and are impactful. Lets be known as responsive and do away with the need to have things signed off in triplicate.Impact should be specific. If we are known to be friendly and approachable that is lovely and reassuirng. But we need to ask oursleves what that friendliness and appraochabliity means for our students/academics in terms of their teaching and research activities - that's the information that will make an impact on our managers and on the University.Many of us have not had to lose over half of our staff and decide what our priorities are - we have not really needed to consider what things are having the MOST impact, we carry on inventing new and better ways of doing things because we like doing it, we like playing and tweaking. How about if we stopped, asked ourselves a question about what we are doing first and then conducted a very short bit of reseach to INFORM our decision before jumping? (Yes - I shall now put the external book box return to one side until we can find out what impact it might have....)I implemented the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation recently for some training and found it very useful. It became much clearer what the impact of the training was (not all what I thought it would be) and I have used that to summarise the outcomes of the training when talking to senior management. So impact information should be shared. It's no point keeping it a secret.And then the real killer question to myself was - how could we actually demonstrate/document the possible impact on a student that attending a library workshop might have. And even if we can do that, do we ever weigh up the time and resources we put in to the workshop against the impact it has had. Questions that need some research!  So - as ususal too many questions but a great challenge to try and be smarter in what we do and how we do it.[...]

The Space Time Continuum


Some very cool new ideas for helping libraries to re-think their design of spaces were presented today. What totally appealed was the scalability of some of the ideas. The bare minimum for a low intensity work space was brilliant. We only need a lamp and a cushion and we're there. The high intensity option would be pretty impossible where I work, but I can see shades of grey and I get the point. I loved the idea that we need spaces which can be flexibly arranged so that more people can easily be packed in during exam revision time.I especially liked the use of terms like primary, secondary and tertiary to describe types of work. Despite my query at the presentation about the impact of disciplines on the space designs, I can really see how this classification is pertinent to all subjects.So there are several things that I wonder about. Given the size and complexity of the project it was going to be impossible to include other things alongside the space research, but I wonder how 'teaching and learning', the invisible library user and 'time' fit into all of this.1. Teaching and LearningDo subject librarians know enough about how their academics teach which impacts how their students study and learn, to then be able to translate that into relevant designs for space in their libraries. In Cambridge, I guess that we might. So I know that the Cambridge English degree is all about practical criticism; it's all about close reading of primary texts and an enormous part of the fresher induction is that teachers want to know ASAP what the student's 'voice' is - right from the start. What do THEY think?! Contrast that to my dim memories of a social science subject where theories had to be understood and learnt and applied in the right context - I don't suppose that it is massively different now. Academic teaching style in Cambridge differs - in English the 'singleton' supervision is much desired and fought for by college teachers as essential. For engineers or geographers, small groups are the norm. Do these types of things impact HOW someone studies and learns? What paraphernalia they need? Or do study needs ride above the wave of teaching differences? How should we be designing teaching spaces in libraries? The project definitely gives a nod towards how expertise is shared by library staff, though the glass box consultation room feels a bit too much 'on show'. I think that I would have to retreat to my relationship management mantra on this and say that library staff can teach 'on the hoof' wherever they are, but that it is knowing the user that is really important to enable that to happen. But many of us would advocate that some type of defined 'teaching space' is helpful.2. Which brings me to a second point expressed by the project team themselves. What about all those students who don't use any library space that we think they could or should or might? Does it matter if they don't? Are we in danger of designing for those who are already IN the library at the expense of those who are not? A crucial bit of UX work at EFL by Helen Murphy showed that one group of students come and use the library to gather resources, but will never write an essay there. They infinitely prefer their college room for this task. Is this a problem? No. Should our designs think about them? Yes - probably. They use the library to borrow books and that's ok? Does this justify the intense focus on study space in libraries by the project. Perhaps all we need is a 'landing zone' and all the collections easily available? Or perhaps we can just send all the items a user wants to their room and save them the trouble of needing any library space at all? I'm definitely not advocating one or the other, but designing library space must also always be about designing space for this type of functional activity.3. Finally a third point - one which might change the use of the study spaces for all sorts of reasons, and that is 'time'. In Cambridge we are woefully behind the HE library trend and for the most part do [...]

Rambling thoughts about communication


What do you do, when you don't know where to go or what to do next?Arriving in a country where English is not the primary language, fills me with a mild level of panic. I'm not entirely incapable, but I'm not one to relish the puzzle of figuring out what is being said to me in another language. I like to feel that I can identify a few key signposts that will smooth the transition from 'delayed flight ankst, tired and crabby mentality', to 'right, I know what to do next'. In an airport, you expect certain things to happen, and in a certain order. So when it doesn't, as was the case recently in Rome,.......I find myself left dithering and indecisive, casting around for clues to help; alternatively on one famous occasion in Denmark with Andy Priestner, we found ourselves collapsing with mild hysterics incapable of coherent thought, until gallantly rescued by a very kind person.So what does happen when people are thrown into a new environment and how do they react; this could be new, as in new to university; or new, as in new job; or simply new, as in something new is on the horizon in the work place. What do we do to orientate ourselves when confronting 'new' (I blame Rome airport for these musings). Not only that, but do we make the best choices when we communicate? Confronting a new situation - what to do next?: Scan the environment for clues - what/where/who are the signposts?Actively look for an information point/contact-us pointJoin a queue (a peculiarly British thing to do, but it works in an airport....except when you find yourself in the non-EU queue)Find a person (virtual or real) with a badge - they must belong to whatever it is I need to get to know and have useful informationFind someone ( a peer, someone in the same situation as you) and join forces and appear stupid together/or moan togetherLook for a map - where am I?Bury my head in a pillow in the hopes that it will go awayThink long and hard about what the right questions are, to maximise useful information and save timeOther variables that mess with our heads:How much do you love being in a new situation?Do I prefer virtual contact to real life contact?How likely are you to have prepped before you arrive in the new environment? Is it easy to prep?Are you going to be a 'visitor' (no, I don't need to learn Italian for a one week holiday, though the odd word might come in handy), or a 'resident' (ok I really do need A LOT more Italian than I have). See Ned Potter's post about the Visitor/Resident discussion relating to social media.What web tools do I have at my disposal?How do I engage with others? Or is Google my best friend - always.How much new information can I absorb at any one time? - how quickly does the unknown become familiar?Am I a spatial person, and/or a people person? How easily can I fix things to a place, a face, a thing? How good am I at remembering names......How much time do I have at my disposal? How time-poor are we?Talking to the right person - making life easy for yourself:I am convinced that we spend significant amounts of time talking to the wrong people and asking the wrong questions of those wrong people. Take the current 'student experience' current issue in UK HE. We have allowed students en masse to jump up and down and clamour for the things they say they deserve, with institutions poleaxed in terror at the prospect of saying 'no you can't have that, we know what's best for you'. We bow at the altar of the NSS which is driving our changes in policy. This is an interesting phenomena. It's a bit like a parent of a 4 year old giving way to the tantrum and allowing the child to throw themselves off a wall just because THEY thing it's the right thing to do. And we feed this by constantly searching for how to improve the student/user experience by talking to the students themselves (the 4 year olds in my analogy), forgetting all the time that the academics who teach the students should be the first ones we talk to. I suppose[...]

*That*, Detective, is the right question....


Or so it goes in the film 'I, Robot' with Will Smith asking questions of a hologram.Questions are tricky things - you may, or may not, be asking the right question, and you may, or may not, be asking the right whoever or whatever it is you use for answers. In the context of higher education, I have wondered whether a student would anticipate or expect that their questions  (which may not, of course, be the 'right' ones) could be answered by a library? It's probably no great surprise to find that a quick google search for 'library FAQs' reveals that there are hundreds of sites to go to. But do library FAQs include the right questions? Do they answer the questions that are being asked? Are they even close? Do students have the 'right' questions? Well, not always, but for them, they ARE the right questions. They're the ones which impact them NOW.  Examples: I need to urgently print my essay for my supervisor - how do I do that here? How do I use the copier?  How can I write a better essay? How can I improve the structure of my essay? What does this word mean? How can I read more quickly? How do I prioitise the books to read? Why isn't this book I want on the shelves?I'm not sure that we should be surprised when students don't ask library staff many in-depth important reference-enquiry style questions. That's not where they're at (even if they should be!). We may often give them information that doesn't register as useful. Perhaps we're not asked questions because a) students don't realise that the question they have is about 'something quite different'  and b) they don't realise that the 'something quite different' just might be library-related.So - do we try and train our students to ask right-er/better-er questions or do we accept that the questions they have are ok and work out how to put ourselves into the firing line of those questions?  I think we should spend time finding out what it is they want to know and manouvering ourselves into the right position and be the people that answer whatever queries they have. They just may come back for more. I've also been thinking about what people (me, you, students, academics, my children, my husband etc) DO when they have a question - about anything. What someone DOES probably depends on the urgency of the question or the need. A curious child's question of  'why does the grass grow?' (generally repeated endlessly despite the answers a patient parent gives) is different from 'how do I get hold of a taxi?' or 'how do I use this new can opener?' or 'where's AandE?!' The last three imply a need that would be useful to have fulfilled fairly quickly even if only the last one actually seems life-threatening. A student might want to know how on earth they get hold of some of the key books to read for an essay due in tomorrow. What would you do if you had these questions? Some options:use smartphone/ipad/computer to get to the internet, google maps, youtube video for a demo (I actually had to do that with the can-opener thingy I bought recently). It's pretty quick to type in the keywords 'cambridge' 'taxis' to get a phone number - like wise the hospital. Use google books for the internet? I'd find a person - anyone would do at all for the taxi and hospital, but a knowledgeable friend - or teacher, would do the job nicely for the grass growing question. A friend who had already DONE the essay would come in handy at this point. I'd work it out myself (muttering - I can do this, I am capable) for the can-opener. For the essay a student might be creative and submit a timed exam essay on their supervisor - 'I thought it would be useful to see what I could do in a timed situation rather than read widely'.Or email the supervisor for some top tips after explaining why you couldn't possibly get the essay done earlier.Find a book - ideally online, maybe already one at home in my bookshelves - or maybe browse the library[...]

More on tea@three


Just in case you hadn't had enough from me about tea@three - here I am trying to make it just a teensiest bit posher than it really is. But then the title is a bit of a give-away really: Ethno-thingy stuff: stories or stats?

That's all for now folks.

Did I cry at my daughter's wedding?


Actually, strictly speaking, no, although since I was asked this A LOT during the day itself, I have been thinking about why not! To be honest, yes I confess I did cry, but not at the wedding service, not when she came down the aisle, not at the first dance, but at odd quirky times.
Saying thanks and goodbye to the lovely ladies at Emily, the dress shop, was peculiarly emotional; likewise when picking the flowers up from Emma at Katie Peckett, and the final goodbye and thank you to Jennifer, the event manager at Millennium Galleries, brought tears to my eyes. My lovely brother, Jem, who allowed half his house to be taken over by Rach and me arranging all the flowers, and then let me leave an appalling mess behind at the end of the weekend, made me cry. I don't think I quite cried, but was awfully close to it, when thanking the most amazing Bakers who have loved, and cared for, and housed my daughter, and been the best Sheffield 'parents' to both Steph and Andy. My wonderful Cambridge friends, Wendy and Rosie and Steve, who were such a support, debriefing over cups of tea afterwards, helping clear the venue the next day - yes, you too brought tears to my eyes. And, of course, my super supportive best friend and husband - yes you made me cry!

Seeing Steph get married to Andy was just SO right, SO perfect, that it would have been illogical to cry; but crying about the amazing care and love of not just friends and family, but also, people who are basically strangers but with whom for a short period you've shared your life seems absolutely right and proper!

So there - I've thought it all out and worked it through and I'm pretty content with where I'm at.

Christmas stockings!


Have you ever left a Christmas stocking untouched? I thought not! What sacrilege that would be!Many, many people (perhaps including you), do not always appreciate librarianly advice - perhaps not even ASK for it. So, I know you haven't asked for this, but let me do the honours and 'unwrap' the contents of a virtual Christmas stocking - just for you, dear Engling. The collective wisdom of five library staff have put these stocking 'fillas' together...............I am sure that you will enjoy every one!Watch David Tennant, and others in 'Much Ado About Nothing' on Digital Theatre Plus (check here for login details)Read a Cambridge Companion online- just so easy to download a chapter onto your paperwhite Kindle paperwhite to take on that skiing trip you have planned Pinterest - our Library's newly purchased books and DVDs. You might even spot the perfect dissertation secondary crit book thereThink differently - read the 'Ragged-trousered philanthropists' (staff member recommendation)Mug  - bring to the first tea@three in the Library in Lent TermUbuWeb - what, you've never heard of it? Somewhere in the ether it says that: "UbuWeb was founded in response to the marginal distribution of crucial avant-garde material"London Underground Shakespeare map - a very very cool map for the visually minded and the RSC have been especially inventive in promoting it. Quick- you might get a tea towel for mum for Christmas.USB powered electric pencil sharpener - to use just before you go into the Manuscripts Room at the UL Bookfinder or AddAll are good sources for finding cheap copies of texts that you want to scribble in - highly recommended by library staff who get twitchy when you write in booksejournals@cambridge....hmmmm....the best evah site to find ALL the online journals Cambridge has - pleeeese don't just use JSTORAnd just in case all of this is not enough you could get some wonderful (occasionally useless, but fun all the same) 'stocking filla type' information by following us on Twitter or FacebookWell - we've dredged what's left of our collective brains and there's nothing left.......ENJOY your Christmas stocking and have a very good vacation.[...]

Tea@three: engaging students in focused conversation over a cuppa


What is our library service about? Well, I hope it’s not about us, or our collections, or our space, but about YOU! By ‘you’ I’m thinking of an actual, or possibly future, user of the library collections, space and services. If you want a fun introduction to what a local media company  - Tripos Productions (tweeting as @TriposMedia) thought our service was all about then look at this really short promo video of theLibrary that they made for us.And why are ‘you’ so important?  Bottom line, without you we have no mission, no purpose and no need to provide support for excellence in teaching and research. This very basic premise is what many of my colleagues in Cambridge, such as Andy Priestner have been trying to communicate within the institution and beyond, in the broader information landscape - ie that there really is no point in providing all of the above if they’re not needed or wanted or perceived to be useful. Librarians have typically given lip service to this issue over the last ten years or so, but have still held tightly onto their current roles and collections and……….without actually asking themselves what it is that students need. The danger in asking this is so obvious; which is why many of us don’t do it. Why dangerous? Well, you might have to change what you do every year, you might have to accept that some parts of your current library space, collections and services are actually useless, you might need to look at how to become more efficient to be more effective, you might need different skills; you might just have to change. So, at the English Faculty Library at the University of Cambridge, we try to address the above issues by thinking of different ways to engage with our students, so that we identify with their needs and change our service accordingly. The model we use is similar to the ethnographic approach frequently in use by library services exploring student behaviour and study habits. This is not to say that we are perfect or, indeed, overly strategic about this. Happy accidents happen too. Take the current example of our two ‘rooms’ that we will let students book, ostensibly for group discussions. In reality what is happening this year is that graduates, who take a teaching role here and supervise English Literature undergrads for one-to-one tutorials, are finding university rooms that might once have been free to book for tutorials, are no longer so. We have had more than 60 room bookings within 4 weeks of this term, compared to the same number of bookings for the whole of last academic year. I’m delighted that our Library is providing a much-needed service. And in any case, the students come to their supervisions and then, usually….borrow books. Win win.Tea@three is just one avenue for gathering ethnographic, qualitative style data. It started because I wanted to provide some TLC for hard pressed students in exam term, also because I wanted to get to know them better, and because, hand on heart, I wanted to find out how on earth an Arts student went about their work (I worked in a Science Library before this,  and have a Social Science background).The details:When: at 3.00 pm, varying times a week, more frequently during exam term than in other terms, lasting 30-60 mins depending on conversations etc. Sometimes I tailor tea@three for particular year groups, the grads or societies, Faculty student reps etc, or just to say thank you to particular student or academic groups. Where: usually in my office which is large and spacious and can take about 20 students at one time – at a push. Sometimes we move to the Faculty’s Social Space for all sorts of reasons, mostly because my office is not sound proof; communication between staff and students becomes less of a priority then.Outcomes: Students often say…..‘I’ve bee[...]

How I (sometimes) work


Challenged as I was by Georgina to answer the questions about how I work - I thought it rude not to do so..........but consider yourself warned - it ain't pretty. There is a plan - if only I could find it.Location: Cambridge (UK)Current gig: Faculty Librarian, English FacultyCurrent mobile device: iphone 4Current computer: Probably Dell (Uni has an agreement with them) with  - yes a very nice widescreen flat monitor. One word that best describes how you work: one word? eek? impossible - I will allow myself two: focused and forgetfulWhat apps/software/tools can’t you live without? GoodReader, Google calendar, facebook, Google maps (lapsed Geographer), Thunderbird (I love email)What’s your workspace like? Ah, depends when you look. Currently looks quite pretty with new chairs and a hand-made quilt wall hanging.......Mostly my desk is roughly akin to the many many layers of sedimentary rocks that you might see in the Grand Canyon. Yes, I've lost the odd thing, but mostly I know where everything is. Once the piles of paper start to topple then I might have a tidy up.What’s your best time-saving trick? Always go out at lunch break for a brisk walk. Saves making  a huge numbers of errors, and generally I've solved one of any number of problems by the time I get back.What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Google calendar is brilliant for a project management approach to a task, breaking it down into manageable chunks of stuff that must be done by x or y. When things are serious good old pencil and paper to-do lists.Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? ipadWhat everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Moving at the speed of light during a 5 minute conversation with staff from one subject to another, to another. We're all exhausted at the end. Also - sending emails with instructions. My logic is - send an email before I forget what I was thinking about. (see last point below) What are you currently reading? Trashy novels - can't even recall the current title. Though recently I have avidly read some 'Rough guides...' for Vancouver and Grand Canyon. (told you, I'm a lapsed Geographer.)What do you listen to while you work? My own voice muttering.Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Introvert definitely. Love my own office, can come out to play when I choose.What’s your sleep routine like? Well for someone who has 'done' kids the one thing I'm brilliant at is getting up early in the morning.Fill in the blank: I too would love to see Heather Lane answer these same questions. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Keep asking questionsIs there anything else you’d like to add? To deal with the two words up above: Focused - When stuck into working at something I don't need to switch off email etc etc to concentrate; I just don't notice anything else. Forgetful - it could be an age thing, or just there's too much in my head to keep it contained and I just cut swathes of conversations and information clean out of my head - hence the prolific emailing. Well - I told you it wasn't pretty.[...]

On how car rental experiences made me think........


Airport rental cars and libraries - anything in common? Well, they're a service, they have 'customers' who need a resource. What's not in common? I suppose the rental resource is very identifiable; a car is....a a car - right? Libraries – well they’re just more complex but still a service. An odd comparison you might think, but my very recent user experience of the one made me wonder about the other.    A centralised rental car system (such as in Phoenix) works as follows: As the consumer, I still have choice about who I book with. But I have no choice about where I physically go to deal with the booking on arrival; there is only one bus stop to find at the airport, one type of bus to look for to travel in and one place to pick the car up. With all rental car services under one roof, all the car servicing, checking, 'keys handing over' is dealt with completely separately to the booking-in system. One building means economies of scale, and so I have access to food, bathrooms, and lots of frequent buses getting me to and from the airport. What's not to like? I suppose there was that slight frisson of worry when the bus set out on what appeared to be a 3 hour long journey to the rental centre from Phoenix airport, with no information given out about how long it would take to get there. 'We must remember to allow plenty of time when we come back', we muttered to ourselves. For a customer, car rental services have certainly done their homework and worked out exactly what it is that people want. Customers clearly still want choice, they want a person looking after their needs on the other side of the 'Alamo' (in my case) desk, and someone to hold their hand as maps are explained in order to negotiate the hellish road system about to be confronted. But the process of getting to the centre, documentation vetted, through to picking up the car (two upgrades, and a free bottle of water to cope with 35 degree temps merely 10 mins later), and then the utter relief of how easy it was to return said car and get back to the airport in plenty of time for the return flight was brilliant. So why think of libraries? The car rental service was centralised and the process was beautifully efficient and effective. I assume it's cheaper to run it this way. But in our second airport they were in the middle of changing over from one system to another and I accosted the poor (yes, Alamo) lady at the service desk and asked her what the change to a new centralised system was like from her perspective. She was very kind and, though slightly shocked, gave me two answers that I thought rang all too true for the current library centralisation scheme I find myself in the middle of. •  Firstly, she didn't like change. Not rocket science at all, but it makes the clear point that many of us do not like change, especially change that we cannot understand especially well and, by definition, that change management is absolutely crucial to win over good people to a new system.  Just because one person thinks centralised is good certainly doesn’t mean that the next one will.•  Secondly she worried about the lack of control over the bus drivers: they would not belong to the company, Alamo, any more, but just be generic drivers employed to run buses for ALL the rental car services. Would they be loyal? Would the service desk people know the drivers' names? How easily could they deal with problems?  Would the service the bus drivers offered match their current standards. Wow! Familiar or what?! What good would a generic library assistant be at my issue desk wondering where the heck we had stashed the ... extra barcodes; the sellotape, the reservation keys, a spare pencil etc. I’ve experienced this – and it was BAD! She finished b[...]

Marketing Schmarketing?


So why go on a marketing course where you find that plenty of the content is familiar and you end up providing plenty of the right responses (at the right time)? This is, of course, an exaggeration, but not far off.  However before you think of me as unpleasantly arrogant, let me explain that the reason I went on this course was to learn, and learn I did. I find that it can be tempting to look around at training that is offered, from all sorts of quarters, and quickly dismiss something with a 'done that' attitude, not always considering what opportunities are missed and what the message this gives to those around us. Perhaps this IS slightly arrogant of us.So whydid I go to this course? Partly because I think there might be something to be gained by not just going to library-focused training, and mostly because I want to keep on learning, and I am willing to try other avenues. Although the course was on marketing, which I have considered previously in my Librarian role, and which my colleague, and co-editor, Andy Priestner, has written about, it looked to offer a different perspective (Business) and none of the other participants were librarians!  In fact I consciously made a point of selecting it from a series of modules that are part of a course I am dipping into at Loughborough Business School. What did I learn and come away with? Lots of snippets, some theory that I hadn't come across before, brilliant interaction and conversation with people working in such a variety of different jobs, new perspectives and some concrete plans of 'what to do next' in my own context. Oh yes, and an assignment that needs to be written by 11th September!! Ho hum.Here are a few thoughts that rang true for me. If you are reading the points below you may start saying 'yep I know all that', but of course you might not want to tell me that................. · How are we telling our customers what we provide?· Who are our influencers and how do we market what we do to them?· Don't skimp on the basics - it's so easy to get carried away with the fun of the next service or product that we forget to keep the books tidy on the shelves.· Analyse, choose, implement. Make sure the process is applied.· Stop trying to do everything for everyone and be targeted - otherwise we run the risk of under-performing.· It costs to exit from a strategy. Check the financial implications. · Don't always keep on doing new things - check that you are getting as much value from the products and services you already provide. Don't stop innovating but if the user is not bothered with some new thing don't persist to the nth degree!· Don't run out of things people want· If you find yourself telling a user 'we don't do this', make a note and investigate why you don't. · After sales care is vital. When things go wrong for a user - what do we do? And how do we deal with the customer?· Building relationships is all about creating a mutually beneficial relationship, but remember that the relationship is on their terms. Just because we wag our tails madly when we see them does not mean that they want to engage. It is important that we respect this. Some might even want to engage with us remotely. Banks do this all the time - it means more ways that we communicate but more ways we engage. · Market the 'value' of our services in order to get people to open their wallets. · Internal marketing - essential criteria are the ability to persuade, negotiate and recognise and use internal politics. CRUCIAL matrix - Power vs Interest. For LOW interest and HIGH power make sure that they are given a briefing every eg 3 months so that they know what is going on. These people are the change agents and we need to recognise their level of interest. If assume they[...]

Conference keynote and patchwork


The thing I love about making anything using patchwork is that each project is unique; the choice of fabrics changes everything, the way it's finished can be yours alone. Of course, you can buy a kit, follow a pattern and use the fabric chosen for you, but so much of the pleasure of the craft is taken away by doing this.

Having very recently completed the top side of a quilt, and having to invent my own system for finishing it off, I was reminded of the keynote that a colleague, Andy Priestner , and I very recently gave in Denmark at the Winter meeting of the Danish Research Librarians Group. Not perhaps the most obvious of connections from all sorts of points of view!

Patchwork essentials: you need fabric, an idea of a pattern (perhaps), a means of sewing bits of fabric together
Keynote essentials: you need a speaker or two, a message, a means of presenting the message

Keynotes tend towards the same style. Perhaps about an hour, often one presenter, usually based on a poweropint presentation. Given that we had 105 minutes to fill we had to be a bit more inventive, or risk boredom. We had been asked to speak about some of the content in 'the book' so from one perspective we knew our stuff. It takes very little, actually, to get us on our favourite hobby-horse - ie 'boutique' strategies for managing our libraries! How to present it engagingly was more complex and meant that we needed to re-think what a keynote should look like. Activities were introduced, including an excellent quiz that Andy conducted, together with several opportunities for delegates to engage with neighbours when discussing a particular question or issue. We both took turns in speaking, so that the style of talking and presenting varied including using different styles of powerpoint slides. And so on....
The point being - it was fun re-inventing what a keynote could look and feel like. Just like it's fun (for me!) in creating a piece of patchwork. It all comes down to creativitiy, imagination and the sort of content that inspires you, as presenter or patchworker to want to continue to engage with it yourself.

It helps that our keynote audience were recpetive and cooperative with our endeavours and that we left Denmark having made a number of helpful connections. Just like it is when I meet another patchwork addict..........

New Year Delights!


Sometimes things are just beneath your nose and you never notice them. Other times they are obvious - because they are the perfect solution.Here are a selection of resources and links that might just be the perfect solution to the current essay or dissertation or academic interest. Or they might be totally distracting........but worthy for all that!1. Gorgeous apps!(Oh and if you don't have an iPad, we now have one in the Library where you can try out any of these apps - and more)British Library apps for smartphones and tablets: Treasures. This includes the the original version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and medieval booksNineteenth Century books. This includes access to novels of the 18th and 19th Century eg Daniel Defoe's The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Fiction and Prose literature eg FrankensteinRoyal Manuscripts. This includes illuminated medieval and Renaissance manuscripts from the BL's exhibition.ebook treasures. More information available here. TouchPress with Faber brought out the (now) well-known version of The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot but have recently produced an app for Shakespeare's Sonnets. These productions take the meaning of a 'book' to a new level including a wonderful variety of performances, commentary, notes and images. Watch for Faber and Bloomsbury's new online resource for drama and if you want to request a trial contact Libby.2. Fascinating news from the University Library.Did you notice that during 2012 the UL's news diary had a number of literary items?Dame Margaret Drabble has deposited her literary archive at the ULPoet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has invited ten of the best UK poets writing today to take part in an unprecedented series of residencies at the University of CambridgeSiegfried Sassoon's Poems for 'Mamsy'      3. Digital Theatre Plus - no excuses for continuing to promote this resource. For login and password which you need either on or off campus email Libby and ask for it. Recently added to the list of full productions is Ibsen's A Doll's House.Much more available other than productions - including documentaries, interviews and learning resources.4. Time-saving devices and strategies.......always good to know about when putting your New year resolutions together! Some useful ones that we promote include:Zotero - for collecting references, creating bibliographies and citing works. Referencing - almost pain-free! Ask Libby or Niamh for more details. Look for the book by Jason Puckett in the catalogue and/or look at his website for more.Google Calendars - time management at its best, including links to when your books are due back in the Library (save yourself all those fines). Look here for instruction on setting up a feed. Just scroll down to 'Loans feeds'. 5. Coming new in 2013:Oxford Scholarly Editions OnlineOxford Bibliographies Online: British and Irish LiteratureENJOY![...]

Seasonal mulling...


I love mulled wine and this is definitely the season for it. This last term has been a 'mulling' sort of term, with slightly less on my plate than the previous months and opportunities to think and strategise.  I've found that it's possible to drink quite a lot of mulled wine without ill-effect; on the other hand I think that there may have been an over-indulgence in thinking.  Ingredients for mulled wine: (according to BBC Good Food website)1 bottle red wine (I never use my best wine - any old thing will do)You can't have mulled wine without the red wine -other ingredients may come and go but red wine is a pre-requisite. Vision is a pre-requisite for running a library, whatever the size. Unlike mulled wine any old thing simply won't do. But, just like mulled wine, the vision or strategy that you adopt may be very different to the one that your counterpart down the road adopts. Why? Because the population you serve is not the same as them. Why, for example, would you adopt the policies set up for an Engineering Library when you run an English Literature Library? 60g/2oz demerara sugar (a better flavour than white sugar I think)Sweetners do work a treat in mulled wine. One of the greatest sweetners in the workplace is communication. We all do it, we all fail at it, we all assume that we have used it, and we all need to think harder than ever about who, what, when, where and why in our communication efforts. Both with our colleagues and our users.  1 cinnamon stick (the best ingredient ever)This really hits the spot in mulled wine. In fact anything with cinnamon in it has my vote. It just adds an indefinable something to mulled wine.  It's useful having staff with that indefinable something! It may not be something that you can define - there is just something that 'clicks'. It might be their personality or skills, or a whole host of other things. But life would be worse without them!grated nutmeg (mmmmm)Spices - best grated. I'm thinking 'grated nerves' at this point which perhaps isn't the most encouraging thought. Libraries at the moment can create stress and tension. We don't earn our income in the way that we would like to. We are allocated income and despite managing it as well as we can, and providing as much impact data as we can to prove our worth, we still find ourselves cut - both in resources and staffing. We dare not say that we have been spoilt in the past by the size of our workforce or the apparent never-ending financial resources. Whatever the situation, we are not enjoying the level of tension that the process of whittling down our services is creating.1 orange, halved (nice big juicy orange is lovely)Fruit is good for you - you can get one of your five-a-day by drinking mulled wine! Work is good for us, but we really do need to take a closer look at what we do and why we do it. Which of our procedures are ones that we are just doing for the sake of it? Laura Woods wrote a great article in the recent Update and challenged readers to think about changing our procedures or shifting our processes to machinery ot other support workers. Lets critically evaluate what we do. It's good for us!1 dried bay leafDon't ususlly add this myself, but am willing to be persauded. Odd things do work in libraries - and sometimes the very best is the serendipitous application of 'a' to 'b' that suddenly works! I think of bay leaves as possibly a little serendipitous!60ml/2fl oz sloe or damson gin (optional but very nice)One of the very hardest things to do at the moment when there is so much going on professionally (and never before has there been so many ways to tell people everything you are doing!) is to stand back and opt not [...]

What can I possibly say....


...except that I'm delighted that the germ of an idea that Andy Priestner and I nattered about one sunny day has resulted (some three - or is it four? surely not!?) years later in a very attractive looking book. Andy was responsible for the jelly babies, from conference 'logo' to the book, and Ashgate did a great job of putting the jelly babies on the cover.

Thanks to all the wonderful contributors and also to those who helped in lots of little ways - all the staff at the English Faculty Library bore my sighing, my yee-haws and the regular meetings with a great deal of patience and supportive niceness!

It's an odd thing to write and edit a work like this, to hand it over to a publisher and then in effect move on, and only see the fruit of the workings some 6 months later. In one sense I feel that I have changed so much since the first article, and have the whole principle so ingrained in my way of working and thinking that I feel slightly incapable of getting excited about it. However, what I am very pleased about is the timing of the publication - just at the time that Cambridge is getting all worked up about affilitation of libraries, here is a call to look at library services from a different perspective. It is not about rejecting centralisation; it is not about insisting on devolution; it is above all about collaboration and cooperation, recognising what is beneficial about both systems and where the library user is CENTRAL to all that we do. Read it and see what you think............

Eg. Whin Sill


I like to learn by 'doing'. I refer you to stuff on experiential learning, constructivism or activist learning styles for more a professional understanding of the process. In the past I didn't understand my learning preferences as well as I do now and, in particular when I needed to revise and learn for an exam, I made use of photographic memory tools.  This was based on learning visual arrangements of words or keywords embedded in a very tight structural format with plenty of headings and sub headings etc, all designed to trigger the memory. The process was fairly lengthy but in effect I could regurgitate endless amounts of information during an exam. All well and good but not terribly inspiring! I was/still am (underneath all that librarianish stuff) a Geographer. One of the characteristics of learning geographical information for exams is that you often end up with endless lists of egs of landscape features to learn (a photographic memory isn't a bad thing to have with this type of learning!). Desert eg. Sahara, Gobi, Mongolian. Volcanoes eg Etna, Mount St. Helen's. Etc. You get the point. Without boring you entirely  - but relevant for this post so do keep with me - one particular feature that I recall learning about is where molten magma seeps up towards the earth's surface from the centre of the the earth through faults and fissures, and solidifies. Where it solidifies along a horizontal fault line, and when it is exposed many 1000s of years later, you get what is called a 'sill'. Eg Whin Sill. I probably learnt this example at 14, 16, 18 and even at university. A week or so ago I was in Northumberland determined to spend a day walking along Hadrian's Wall. (as well as 'doing' other touristy things)Somewhat by chance I ended up following the wall along the top of - yes indeed - Whin Sill. I was rather boringly excited about this realising that I was in a landscape that I had rote learnt about. Finding that it actually existed, and there I was walking on it, was an experience; those walking with me suffered from my exuberance! The actual experience was so much better than just the photographic memory.The visit to Whin Sill made me think about learning more generally. And how we ask our students to learn in the context of libraries!  What can we do to make the whole experience come alive for them, to the point where they leave the classroom excited (yes - why not?) and motivated? Have we ever been the participant in a session that is just like the ones we deliver ourselves and have we come away having had an 'experience' that we don't forget and where everything comes alive? Or, hand on heart, not....The 'experience' is really important, and in so many instances it will be one that makes an impact because it hits the spot - it's personal to that students, it's timely, it's relevant, it makes a difference. However, it should also be one that is backed up with an opportunity to reflect on how the experience has impacted and supported learning, and it is this that makes a difference. Beaty (2003) summarises the potential and value of this by saying:  'the challenge for modem higher education is not simply to train the next generation of academics, it is rather to tie learning from experience inextricably to academic study and vice versa in a strong lifelong process of learning which develops the person and society'.It strikes me that by ensuring that we consider both experience and reflection together we may be forced to re-examine what we do, how we do it, what impact it may ha[...]

Cut to the quick


"To cut to the quick" literally means to trim (cut) a fingernail down to the nailbed, the living tissue that bleeds - the "quick" is the living flesh.Today it was pointed out to me that Harvard is scrabbling around trying to rationalise its 73 libraries. On the one hand there was a slight sense of relief in me that it is not just the UK that is feeling the pinch in its academic libraries; on the other hand bemusement as I read about the process that they are undergoing. It was a bit of deja vu as, once again, communication skills seem in short supply, and it appears that the financial and administrative sectors of the university are of more importance in their considerations than their users or employees. I'm not overly convinced from what I have seen reported that the Harvard mangement know how to keep their employees on board.I started wondering about what might happen in the forseeable future when Cambridge libraries have all been affiliated and denuded of experienced library staff - I am guessing in the name of sensible re-structuring and saving money for those all important e-journals. I wondered what might be the impact of this on the Quickstart for Part 1 dissertation session that Isla and I taught this afternoon. 1. I guess it couldn't possibly have been given using two members of staff (irrespective of the unique contribution each brought to the table) 2. I suppose it probably wouldn't have been worth doing as the room wasn't full and it might have been deemed a waste of time3. A handout would have done - surely - after all they took away handouts summarising the key points (note I have been reading up about 'learning styles' and have understood that theorists and reflectors like stuff to take away with them...but on the other hand does doing away with a session like this help the activitists and pragmatists?)4. Surely we could just pop an online tutorial up on CamTools and they could all do that?5. The students would only have missed a vew vital things like the fact that MLA International Bibliography is very useful, that JSTOR is not the only store of online journals in the university, that managing your information, backing it up, making use of Zotero is sound advice, that Zetoc provided the life saver article for this week's essay, that they can now figure out when they have a journal title where to go to find print or online. Surely they could pick all this up somewhere else.......6. No face-to-face interactions with us  - this will probably mean that they wouldn't want to ask us, so they would just muddle by, ask their friends, their supervisor, their DoS, their Mum, Google. That'll be ok won't it?So - in the future what would happen to our Quickstart sessions - well, bottom line is I suspect that we couldn't possibly have run the session above. Which, to my mind is more than just a case of 'what a shame'! The impact of the Quickstart session we ran today on these students will be measured and I can guarantee that I will prove that it had a positive impact on their academic development. I cannot guarantee anything of the sort in the bright, shiny new future we face.When all the libraries similar to ours are reduced in size, amalgamated with other libraries, manned by a pool of people who know nothing about the subject, and can no longer help the students in similar ways to our Quickstart session, then the combined impact on student learning will be terrifying. I wonder if both Cambridge a[...]

Impact - 'In God we trust - all others must bring data' (Megan Oakleaf, LILAC keynote)


Just when I have been chewing my finger nails down to the quick about how to prove how much impact our library service has, two rather startling (even impactful) things occurred.And one further related coincidence. I could say that it was all down to the excellent presentations at the recent LILAC conference , but it wasn't quite.Impact 1. I was attracted to a blog post - and a related article on understanding what impact we have on learning which really made enormous sense to me. The gist of the article said that if we are trying to prove how impactful we are in libraries that one way of doing this is to consider the academic pinnacle of student achievement and consider whether the library, as resource and service, have had an impact on student learning goals. For me this means - forget information literacy, forget all the goals that WE make up and WE think the students need to know. Look instead at the actual learning aims and outcomes that our Faculty sets the students and find out from the students whether we have had any effect on them achieving those learning goals (that's what we're here for - right?). Impact 2. I heard an excellent keynote at LILAC by Megan Oakleaf. ( In many ways what was said was not revolutionary but the way it was presented created a wake-up-call 'oh I get it' type of reaction in me. Essentially it chimed with the article I had just read (above). She said - quite forcibly - look at what the institutional goals are for our students and work out whether the library service is having any impact on those goals (again this to me says it is not OUR goals, or information literacy goals, but our institution's goals that matter - which is a really important distinction). As put in her IFLA paper 2010: "Value is defined in terms of institutional, not library, goals. The purpose of this research is to help academic libraries demonstrate their value to the institutions in which they are embedded. Libraries need to identify institutional goals (e.g., increasing student retention and graduation rates; increasing student achievement; increasing faculty research output) in order to communicate value in terms that institutional administrators will appreciate." [Full article available here]Megan had two tangible ways of visualising all this - firstly a Library impact map, ( and secondly a grid which I'll be using in staff meetings for working out whether we have sufficient evidence to support our beliefs that we support institutional goals. My regular harping on institutional mission seems a valid 'harping'. By providing the institution with evidence of our impact on THEIR goals we are demonstrating our importance and usefulness.Coincidence no. 1. and impact 3. A book on quality of student learning in HE that I was dipping into had a word in the index that I would not have noticed, apart from the fact that it was mentioned in the article referred to in the blog post above. The authors talked of a student's 'capstone' experience which in my Faculty means the dissertation. It seemed a peculiar, though rather exciting coincidence.So what? Well, I am shocked that I have not done this before, but I have finally have in post-it notes all around my desk reminders of what it is that the Faculty expect our students to have achieved in writing a dissertation (it's not that what we want them to learn is unimportant, it's just no[...]



(image) Working this vac on Shakespeare? Have a look at some of the specific resources the Faculty Library provides to help you:
The Faculty Library's subject guide is available online or in print in the Library and includes many print and electronic resources
The Renaissance subject guide provides broader resource choices for the period
DVDs of Shakespeare plays including several copies of the BBC Shakespeare series are available on the first floor of the Library
Useful ebooks for the Renaissance period - includes Shakespeare secondary crit.
Make sure that you hav(image) e selected Style B in LibraryThing to view the comments field and the link to the ebooks.
Examples of ebooks available:
Shakespeare, Theory and Performance
Shakespeare’s political drama: the history plays and the Roman plays
Shakespeare's Festive Tragedy: The Ritual Foundations of Genre
Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds and Women (Feminist Readings of Shakespeare)
How To Do Things With Shakespeare: New Approaches, New Essays
Companion to Shakespeare's works: Volume I - IV
Digital Theatre have a number of Shakespeare productions available to view including Much Ado about Nothing with David Tennant and Catharine Tate. Login details available via Part 1 Paper 5 resources on the Library's CamTools site.
World Shakespeare Bibliography Online - subscribed for you to use on behalf of the Faculty Library.

Lego, online resources, people and creativity


What do online-only discussions, Lego, e-resources, processes and reading lists have in common? On the face of it very little. Practically speaking these were the core elements of my last week, and it was curious how in the end they all informed each other. Here's the Lego model which represents yours truly created (by myself and one other member of staff) as part of a lego workshop run by Andy Priestner for the EFL staff. Although this happened at the beginning of the week, it was a rather uncanny summary of the week to come. Incidentally EFL staff are still talking, a week on, about the workshop, and loving our little Lego presents from Andy! Some of the key issues of the week:1. Concerns over proposing e-only resources cannot be disregarded. Arguably concerns about reduced budgets mean we might need to go for what appears to be the cheaper option ie online, ( although please don't forget the 20%VAT!) but once we put the user into the equation, the whole thing gets turned on its head as we must realise that the cost to the library will likely be a loss of customers? Why? Becasue libraries are consistently failing to provide e-only at the speed that users expect. They will go to Google because Google satsifies their need for quick and easy access. They like print, but if it no longer exists for them in a library they will go to where they can get it quickly and cheaply ie Amazon, and if they want to use e-books they will use their Christmas present Kindles and download whatever they can get quickly and ideally for free from Amazon. Students are file sharing, which we may know is illegal, but users do what they can to get hold of what they want quickly and effectively. The cost to the library also increases if e-only is put in its proper context where discovery tools and related strategies and procedures must be in place to maintain ease of access to online. I don't see how e-only can be cheaper. 2. Understanding our own skills and that of our colleagues is essential for the processes and procedures that we have in place to work. The best procedure on paper will not always work in practice if staff do not play ball. Communication is of paramount importance. I have started to work on the assumption that I have never done quite enough in this area. When I have become complacent (and/or too busy), things fall apart. 3. Always always always put the user into the equation and work out what they want. A reading list that an academic has sweated over is useless if no one uses it. A database recommended by an individual Phd student or academic cannot possibly be purchased on the basis of that one recommendation. The user population at large should be consulted. Changes in management structures, whether driven primarily by finance issues or not, must have the user's needs at the heart. Senior management may claim to know what user's needs are. I sometimes wonder what the basis is for this assertion? I would challenge them to go and talk to their users and find out what they think and what they are doing. I like to think that I put users first, but there have been too many times when I have failed to consult before acting. I am learning the lesson that when I remember to talk to them, then services that emerge are targeted, personalised and much appreciated. 4. Finally summary point for the whole week - building in time for creativity is absolutely mind-blowingly essential for our roles in library services.[...]

Personalising services: snippets from the diary


Co-editor, Andy Priestner, and I very recently deliberated a tweak to the name of our forthcoming book to be published by Ashgate. The original title referred to personalised services but almost without realising it, Andy had started to use the word 'personalising' instead. This gives the process and concept a more active, and engaging feel to it. It made me think a little harder about what helps us to create a service that is 'personalised', but is also 'personalising'; where the established mindset of providing a 'personalised' service sits within a dynamic 'personalising' environment.The 'personalised' mindset in a library service means that we should be pre-disposed to acquire knowledge about our users, show a genuine interest in them, display empathy, and be flexible and adaptable, with library staff possessing a fair degree of autonomy in the decision making process.But I think that 'personalising' a service means more than this. It implies that in any given situation an individual student or library user should leave feeling that their visit was special (not just to them, but also to us) and that their specific needs and requirements have been addressed. Is this possible? I think that this is precisely why personalising services is an active, growing, organic 'thing'. Your first interaction with a student in a new job is likely to be less 'personalised' than one six months later. We are always gathering information and knowledge (or should be) about our users that we can use in our interactions with them. Just because all students have the same borrowing time frame doesn't prevent us personalising our service on a daily basis with them depending on our knowledge of their needs.Two really obvious snippets from my diary:1. I know that a particular elderly academic rarely reads email and so will not receive their system notice reminding them the book is due back. I pop the details in my diary and get in touch with them personally by phone to remind them it's due back and/or personally renew it for them. I would be unlikely to do this for the same reason for an undergraduate but that's because their needs are different. (Question for myself: what current procedures and process can we change so that we operate more like this?)2. I have a new resource coming out on trial. It may well be useful for a broad spectrum of people, but I know that there are two postgrads who specifically requested it some months ago. Their emails will be included in the general email list that they are a part of, but they also get a personal email from me letting them know about it. Their names went down in my diary some months ago for this purpose. (Question for myself: although I use my personal email address rather than any generic ones to send information out, many emails still go to student 'lists'. If email is still the preferred means of receiving information, the challenge is to become more personalised and targeted.)I'm sure that we all do this sort of thing but the challenge for me is to consider how much more we can do? And how much more can we afford to do? Conversely, how much more can we afford NOT to do!Not everyone wants the red carpet treatment - but it's our job to know who doesn't and to treat our users as individuals.[...]

Library Day in the Life Day 5


Checked and approved the final draft of the Literature Timeline Display boards before they get sent for printing. The boards are part of a six month project involving converting the old copier room into a diplsay gallery (great job by EMBS during Christmas vac). Annie Liggins, graphic designer, has designed four display boards with a literature timeline spanning 780-current day, making use of images from the library collections. Rachel Thorpe, alumnus, supplied all the text, some of which came from the Cambridge Authors site that she was involved with when an undergrad here a few years ago. Andy Cosgrove, currently in a final year studying furniture design at De Montfort, has been i/c the cabinet design and production. The display gallery will include a plasma screen with digital signage software enabling a more interactive display environment. Our first display planned for the end of February will be on Dickens.

Recently piloted a new reader service here - starting the inter library loans service. Many libraries in Cambridge already provide this service, so nothing new there. But it's new for us, so settling into the routine of this with new procedures in place.

Quickly slotting in a set of email requests and responses before first meeting of the day with Directors of Studies of the Faculty.

A lot of interactions with colleagues and staff today via phone, email and in person but especially enjoyed following the Guardian's Higher Education network discussion including a Cambridge colleague Andy Priestner. Looking forward to looking at the digest of comments soon.

This afternoon - ran tea@three for grads. Only a few came along but we had a great discussion about grad writing groups. The graduate research forum rep was there so we talked briefly about the session we're co-running with an academic on Zotero for grads.

I'm done - just a few invoices to approve and the weekend beckons. Only three of the library staff left standing at the end of the week, but we are ably supported by our great invigilator team who have rushed in to save the day (well actually several days!) and filled slots this week when most needed. Thanks to all the Library staff here at the English Faculty. Fabulous lot.

Library Day in the Life Day 4


Shelving first thing - too many trolleys of books left from last night to leave for long and only two of us in until 10.00 today; more illness amongst staff team.

Paper build-up on desk to deal with but prepping for teaching session needed first.

This is a trial session for a college group in their second term here. Probably closest in style to the scaffolding approach now used by some libraries for teaching, but most importantly is a trial for an activity that will a) fit in with proposed changes to teaching in the Faculty which include scope and space for the Library to put on extended classes as part of the range of teaching on offer b) allow students to explore resources, produce author bibliographies of primary and secondary works and evaluate them in the knowledge that their work will contribute to an interactive online literature timeline. Session went really well, students like the information display and especially the reading list links that we are trialling as well, so fund bidding here I come. Actually a brisk lunchtime walk and I have now widened this out so that all second year college groups will join in this programme - and it's getting quite exciting. Just need to work out exactly what funds I need for now and transmit the excitement upwards.

More staff calling in ill for afternoon and evening shifts so as Assistant Librarian is ill, the re-arranging and phoning for replacement staff falls to me. Staff who ARE in are extremely obliging and willing to help out. Fabulous team here!

Assist staff with peculiar issue desk queries today - realise now how wonderful the Assistant Librarian role is in the Library and that without them here I get all these odd things to deal with! Makes me think about the rules that are made in libraries. We were talking yesterday at the staff training event about how often situtations need a 'grey' response. If we're too black and white we fail to demonstrate empathy. Not alwasy easy the bigger the organisation though if I recall correctly John Lewis 'pay desk' staff are given responsibility for 'breaking the rules' depending on the situation if it improves the customer experience. Much more personalised. I digress - but definitely went for the grey response.

Colleague visits to talk about an aspect of the Library management system that I've been using for some time.

Library Day in the Life Day 3


Handouts loaded onto the VLE.

Joint staff meeting with Judge Business School on personalising our library services. This was a really nice relaxed time with English staff and Judge staff discussing how personalised our services should be. Amazing how we all view things slightly differently and how our assumptions about situations differ. Communication is similar as well. Just to give a small (but probably confusing) example.. I recall sometime ago sitting in on a meeting that I shouldn't have been at and acting as an observer. Person A said something, Person B minuted it, but when Person C read the minutes some days later, they commented that this wasn't what Person A said. Person A said it was. What was going on? Simply - an assumption had been made by C about what A had said, and the subsequent interpretation of it by C was different to the INTENDED point that person A had made. No big deal really but person C had acted on their interpretation of the comment rather than the actual comment that A had made. Interesting communication issues that go on all the time. How many times do we say something to a library user and ASSUME that we have been clear, when a different message was understood by them. Have we provided a personalised service then?

Ok - back to base and dealing with emails - way too many today again. Setting up meetings, reading papers for a meeting this afternoon, responding to a blog about a potential change in web interface, problems with mounting the paintings, REF impact information to absorb, and - oops need to go to the issue desk now for my lunch time stint.

Work experience pupil wants to come here in March so checking with staff - we usually take about 4 per year but it looks like we have our full quota in place so can't take any extras.

Long communication meeting this afternoon with pre and post meetings necessary to clarify issues.