Friday, 30 March 2012

FIL@BLDSC - British Library Update & Experience Sharing, 16th March 2012

I recently attended the Forum for Interlending (FIL) British LibraryUpdate & Experience Sharing Day at British Library Document Supply Centre (BLDSC) in Yorkshire. This was a great opportunity to meet other librarians working in interlending, find out how BLDSC works and learn how others carry out their inter-library loans (ILL) services.

ILDS 2011 (Chicago) Experience Report – Lucy Wilkins
Lucy received sponsorship to attend the ILDS 2011 conference in Chicago and her presentation focussed on her experience applying for the sponsorship and attending an international conference for the first time, including some lovely holiday snaps! Her application concentrated on how she would feed information from the conference back to a wide range of people. It was a global conference so had an international perspective. Other countries don’t have a facility like BLDSC, so it was interesting to hear about initiatives they undertake to fulfil ILL requests.

Talks that Lucy fed back on included RapidILL, which is an interlending initiative between 6 neighbouring US libraries that began after one library’s print journal holdings were completely wiped out by a flood. The conference also offered the opportunity to visit some libraries, such as the University of Chicago Mansueto Library, which has an automatic robot to pick books. The fetching time is an impressive 5 minutes.

Health Libraries and Interlending - Margaret Rowley
As someone with little knowledge of health libraries, it was interesting for me to hear the health library perspective. To give some context, Margaret explained why library services are needed in the NHS:
  • current emphasis on evidence based health care
  • healthcare professionals working on difficult cases need articles urgently
  • support nurses and junior doctors who are undertaking qualifications
  • CPD for all health staff
Services are provided in the library, via virtual services and workplace delivery. Available eresources include those that are taken nationally by the NHS on behalf of all health libraries, but libraries can also buy their own eresources.

Moving on to interlending, Margaret talked about the Worcestershire perspective. Herefordshire and Worcestershire health libraries share the same catalogue and interlend between themselves.  Margaret added that budget cuts mean taking fewer journals. They interlend within different networks – local, regional, national co-operative networks e.g. NULJ, and national e.g. British Library, BMA. As a last resort they email specialist lists.

Digital information is in different places, with different passwords. Busy, highly-paid clinicians shouldn’t have to keep up to date with where to find information, as library staff can do this for them. This is an interesting contrast to working in an academic library, where we tend to see our role as showing people how to find things, and helping them develop the skills to find information for themselves. Document delivery to the library’s users is increasing, and almost all document delivery is articles – there are hardly any book loans.

An NHS copyright licence allows interlending and scanning within the NHS, as all NHS libraries are counted as one unit. All requests are now scanned as it is quicker and cheaper than photocopying. However since they don’t charge for scans, their income is falling and does not cover costs. There has been a low take up of ebooks by health library users. This was interesting to hear as we have just taken a trial of some medical ebooks and had encouragingly high usage of the trial books from undergraduate medical and clinical students.

British Library update “The world is changing – part 2!”
Andy Appleyard, Head of Document Supply & Customer Services, began by recapping on “The world is changing” presentation from last year. The top information sources 2010 found search engines at no. 1 and books right down at the bottom. Creation of knowledge is shifting to other countries, for example China. With budget cuts, we no longer have the luxury of the ‘just in case’ model. Andy gave the example of an NHS Trust that is cancelling 57 journal subscriptions as the subscription cost of these journals was £21,000 while the cost of obtaining the articles needed via ILL was £2,000. The British Library’s customer survey showed that customers deemed e-content, light DRM and digital signatures to be important. British Library intends to be a niche supplier – not the first or last resort for document supply.

The new BLDSS system has a web interface that allows small organisations and individuals to order in an Amazon-esque experience. The new system has an online tracking process for orders. The changes are about efficiency in the BLDSC building as well as new systems.

Anthony Troman, Product Development Manager, outlined new projects in the pipeline:
  1. API – BL are working with main library system suppliers on links to other library systems e.g. when a user searches their own library’s catalogue they could see a link that says ‘can’t find what you want, try the British Library’. This link will provide real time information on availability and price. The idea is that real time information will replace the ARTEmail system of placing a request and waiting for a reply.
  2. Delivery to hand-held device, search and order via an app.
  3. DRM without the need for a plug-in (i.e. no additional software needed)
  4. E-signatures – this is in the very early stages and BL are investigating legal aspects
The online admin system will be available end of March 2012, and will allow libraries to report problems, cancel requests etc. The online ordering system will be available end of April 2012.

Positive and negative feedback from early adopters was highlighted.  Colour photocopies and scans were popular, along with the notification of download of SED documents and reminders when SED documents are about to expire. The main negative was ambiguity of reply codes, which will be improved in the next release. From the end of April, all requests will be migrated to the new system.

BLDSC tour
After a chance to eat lunch and talk to other attendees, it was time for a tour of the BLDSC. My group started on floor 5, where the new system requests are dealt with. Forms are printed every 15 minutes and are sorted into pigeonholes for fetching. Each form has a barcode, which is scanned when the book is fetched. This notifies the customer that the item is despatched. For scans, scanning the barcode on the form automatically emails the scan to the requestor. Next we visited the team who deal with urgent requests and requests that do not match on the shelf. We then visited Customer Services, with a chance to discuss issues. As books are now automatically renewed the day after they are due, one library has adjusted the loan periods they give their users by taking a week off the date due back to BL. However they feel this will be better overall as waiting list times will be reduced. The last stop on the tour was the despatch and packing area. Our guide showed us how the new system is more efficient. For example, items are now scanned back into the building and this notifies staff if a book is on a waiting list, so that it can be sent straight on to the next customer. This is much quicker than the old system where a book had to go back to the shelf first. The new sticky labels are much quicker than the old sellotaping method! We saw how items for the same customer are batched to save on postage costs.

Tips, tools and resources
We kicked off this workshop by discussing the resources that we use for interlending:
  • Catalogues such as COPAC, SUNCAT and Worldcat.
  • Some use special regional, medical or Scottish catalogues.
  • Google for checking references and whether they are available on open access.
  • Some use OCLC for overseas requests and find that US libraries are more likely to lend as they seem to be less strict about declining due to age of the item.
In an ideal world, someone suggested that a catalogue showing what cannot be lent due to legal deposit restrictions would be helpful. Some libraries have cancelled some print subscriptions as they find it cheaper to obtain articles on ILL. There is a sense of community in the ILL world, with colleagues sharing information and helping each other. Events like this one are useful ways of learning what others are doing.

Some libraries use electronic signatures, and one noticed a big increase in the number of requests placed once this was introduced. In order to meet restrictions, users need a unique login and to agree to a copyright statement. The requirement to keep data for 6 years was discussed. One library using Aleph noted that the data stays on the users record, however if the user record is deleted, the data is lost. Another library uses a specific email address that all e-signature requests are sent to. The emails can be kept in this email account without filling up staff own accounts.

E pub ahead of print articles were discussed. BL have access to some of these, so it is worth trying them. If not held at the BL, some libraries fail the request, some buy access for their reader and some reapply later when the article may be published.

Service visibility
Feedback after the workshops showed that group A and group B had different responses. In group B, most attendees felt their service had medium-low visibility within their institution. Most libraries charge their users for ILL requests, although one has a quota of 25 per year for free. One person suggested an approach similar to some commercial enterprises – the first 3 requests are free, to draw people in a give them a taster for the service.

We moved on to talk about promoting the ILL service and whether we should promote the service in this financial climate as charges don’t cover costs. Ideas for promotion included notes in the library catalogue giving different options, including ILL, if a search does not find what the user wants. Promotion could focus on the speed and convenience of secure electronic delivery (SED).

We looked at perceptions of ILL service among other library colleagues. The importance of the document supply clause in e-journal licences was mentioned – are our eresources colleagues aware of this when they negotiate licences? We can also raise service visibility by passing good feedback on to senior management.

There was a short session which fed back on workshop discussions to both groups, then the day drew to a close and we boarded the coach for our journey home, full of new knowledge and ideas.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Scott Polar Research Institute visit 9/2/12

A group of around 22 intrepid explorers met Heather Lane from the SPRI on a Thursday afternoon for a tour of the SPRI Library. The SPRI is an international hub for ice, snow and the polar regions, including ice on Mars and glaciers in the Himalayas. Equipment and clothing from Scott’s expedition formed the nucleus of the first research, and in 1926 the Institute was incorporated into University of Cambridge. 

The library contains over ¼ million printed documents. The collection is interdisciplinary and covers an impressive 79 languages, also including fiction, poetry and exercise books. 150,000 are catalogued electronically, and the rest are in the card catalogue. A big retrospective cataloguing project is planned, as well as moving from the in-house library system to Voyager. The Institute has MPhil, PhD, postdocs, visiting academics and the general public, but no undergraduate courses. The library is very outward-facing, with a focus on the polar scientists who are out in the field. 

Heather outlined some of the very varied work that goes on.
  • The library does analytical cataloguing, which means they catalogue individual journal articles and book chapters. Keywords and abstracts for all are put in the catalogue, which is immensely time-consuming. There are 4 part-time bibliographers to do this work, with different language and area specialities.
  • 3 times a year the Library produces Polar and Glacierology Abstracts.
  • The Library is a World Data Centre for glacierology.
  • Volunteers and paid staff are used for short stints to do specific projects, such as very specific bibliographies.
  •  Over 1 million manuscripts are held in two main collections: 19th century Arctic and opening up the North West passage, and 20th century British Antarctic.
  • One archivist looks after all of these, and supervises the archives reading area (3 reader spaces). Volunteers are used here as well.
  • Fundraising is a large part of Heather’s work. For example, for the retrospective cataloguing project, she needs to find funding for 4 full time staff for 4 years.
  • Heather’s role is varied, and includes usually 2-3 TV interviews per month.
Heather aims to raise the library’s profile. There has been a big critical reception for the new museum, which now receives 50,000 visitors per year, compared to less than 3,000 per year before its redevelopment. Heather would like the library to be more active for exhibition research. The library has 100,000 photographs which are ideal for exhibitions.

Built in the 1930s, the old library was intended to hold the entire world collection of material on the polar regions. Visiting scholars are given desks in the library, as the Institute does not have enough desks. Many like this, as they are within arm’s reach of much of the material they need. This can make people more likely to gift their own publications, which is helpful as the library is very dependent on donations. Heather showed us the desk where Ranulph Fiennes plans his expeditions using library resources and maps. The library has 25,000 maps which are borrowable, and borrowers can annotate them with new routes. During the cold war, scientists at SPRI kept in contact with their colleagues in Russian polar centres and US and Russian ice breakers met here as neutral ground to exchange information. Heather explained about the friendly, ‘everyone mucks in’ atmosphere in the SPRI. Those who go on polar expeditions are ‘can do’ people. The ships bell from the Terra Nova is kept on the library stairs, and 4pm it is rung for tea. Everyone in the building is invited to tea in the library, from the Director to the cleaners and any visitors. This aids communication, as library staff get to see their academic colleagues regularly.

The Shackleton Memorial Library was added in 1998. The Friends Room (named after the Friends of the SPRI) contains PCs, latest journals and atlases. Heather showed us the Endurance Spar above the door and told us Shackleton’s story. Paintings by the official artist on Shackleton’s expedition are around the room. Striking photos on the walls are some of the 109 ‘lost’ photos taken by Scott on his last expedition.
Next on the tour was the rotunda, which contains the most regularly used open shelf material on specific expeditions. The Universal Decimal Classification for polar libraries is maintained at SPRI Library, and is used for classifying the stock. This material is reference only. Users leave items on the desks for staff to reshelve, as the classification system can be confusing to users. A common issue for libraries is space, and SPRI library is no exception, as the amount of material produced on the polar regions grows. The Library is maintaining a bibliographic database of output from the 200+ projects from International Polar Year 2007-2008. 15 times more output is expected than the last International Year in 1957. The rotunda was intended to provide storage space for 25 years, but has been filled in less than 10 years. The upper floor contains material on biology and technology relating to polar regions and ice and snow. Heather explained that the SPRI works closely with British Antarctic Survey (BAS). BAS deal more with technical and current manuals, while SPRI have more historical material. 

We passed through the Wobold Room, which contains open shelf periodicals and pamphlets, as well as housing the MPhil students. This fascinating collection of pamphlets are classified as ephemeral, and are of particular use to arts and humanities and social science students looking at perceptions of polar regions etc. The extent and holdings of the pamphlets are not known, but they include non-standard material like museum programmes and leaflets, lecture notes. The Russian Gallery houses the biggest collection of Russian periodicals on the Russian North outside of Russia, and the SPRI is the only source that abstracts these.

My overall impression was of a library with much more varied material and projects than I had expected. I was struck by the community atmosphere, and how the library meets the needs of some extraordinary people in distant locations with some very interesting stories to report. For example, the library can provide e-access and support to those in the field via satellite phones, however scientists in the field have problems with batteries freezing, so often tape them to their body. Generally, people use the library more while in research bases in the polar regions. The library seems to me to be fairly unique in a few ways. Analytical cataloguing is one way, and the manuscript map material is another - most libraries don’t like their material to be annotated! The SPRI library is a fascinating place to see and I would recommend a visit to anyone who gets the opportunity.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Libraries@cambridge conference 2012 – Blue skies – thinking and working in the cloud

On 12th January I attended the Libraries@cambridge 2012 conference. It was an interesting day with some thought-provoking presentations and useful opportunities to talk to staff from other libraries in Cambridge, and meet some reps. Here's an overview of what I took from the day:
Anne Jarvis - Welcome
The day started off with a welcome from Anne Jarvis, University Librarian. She summarised some examples of working together in Cambridge and introduced the theme of the day, which is the new challenges and opportunities of the cloud. Anne described blue-sky thinking as being open-minded.
Deborah Shorley (Imperial College London) – Survival of the fittest in library land
Deborah gave a talk intending to shake things up a bit. She said that we need to provide what users need, therefore we must evolve fast or become obsolete. Using the theme of birds, which featured at various points in the presentation – we fly or we die!
The main idea I took away from this session is that we can’t just do what we do slightly differently. We need to do different things – if not others will come and do it for us. The point of libraries isn’t holding collections – it’s promoting them and making them accessible. Another of Deborah's points that struck me was that Imperial College London is 98% digital and they throw out the book as soon as it is available as an ebook. This is quite a contrast to Cambridge University Library!
Liz Waller (University of York) – Library chameleon
Liz’s presentation focussed on the library space, with many photos and examples to illustrate her points. Space needs are changing and there is a lot going on in UK academic libraries, where there is a pressure to meet or surpass student expectations.  Particular themes seem to be reconfigurable furniture to meet different student needs, plus a rise in the use of portable devices among students. I liked the look of Leicester University Library’s study booths for group work. These have plasma TV screens which up to 3 laptops can be connected to.
Liz showed examples of postgraduate study and research areas too, such as Leicester’s leather furniture including a sunlounger (lucky postgraduates!). Queen’s University Belfast's research area features the door from the Lion the witch and the wardrobe film, and a central circular table with a map of Narnia.  Innovative ideas at the Wolfson Research Centre at Warwick include magnetic walls, and seminars inside the seminar room are projected onto the wall for those within the research centre. Postgraduates want flexibility of movable furniture and screens to meet their needs, and spaces continue to evolve after a redevelopment.
Liz showed examples of the different types of seating and working spaces available to meet different needs, including popular beanbags, and ended with the most popular at York, called the haven.
Foundations Project Team (Grant Young, Huw Jones and Jenny Fletcher) – Laying the foundations of a new digital library
Grant introduced the Cambridge Digital Library, which launched with the Newton papers and received a lot of coverage, even making it on the national TV news in New Zealand. Genizah and Darwin projects are producing online resources. Material on the Digital Library is covered by a creative commons licence for reuse, and is enriched by linking it with research. Jennie explained the technology behind the Digital Library. The user interface was developed internally so that it is customisable, for example, menus are collapsible. Future plans for the Digital Library include further customisation, bookmarking, searching, extra support for kindle and ipad.
Huw talked about the British Longitude survey archive, which is forthcoming to the Digital Library. This was a government-sponsored competition in the eighteenth century to solve the longitude problem (i.e. how far east you are), which was a big problem for ships and explorers. Many submissions were received from all kinds of people, making this a useful resource for seeing ordinary people’s lives in their own voices from across society. Researchers are providing abstracts to link with the Digital Library.
Christy Henshaw (Wellcome Library) – Creating an online resource for medical archives at the Wellcome Library
The Wellcome Library focuses on medical history and is beginning a digital library pilot. This differs from Cambridge Digital Library as the items will be accessed via the library catalogue rather than a separate platform. Items to be digitised are archival collection and books from 1850-1990, which brings up some copyright issues. I was interested to hear that it will include documents like Medical Officer of Health reports for Greater London. The library is also part of the Early European Books Online (EEBO) project, and EEBO are digitising 5.5 million images.
Christy talked about the need to manage user expectations and the impact on people while digitisation work is underway, for example accessing items that are being digitised.
Sensitivity is an issue for the Wellcome Library’s project, as many items are personal papers or include personal data. They need to consider possible distress caused to a person’s family.
Promotion of the project is being undertaken via a PhD student seeding Wikipedia with links. Press publicity may be used for high profile items, and links with exhibitions will also promote the digital library.
The library user in a blue sky
This session featured presentations from library users (including a mixture of academics, researchers and students) talking about what they want from libraries. Some common themes I picked out included the popularity of open access among researchers, and the importance of the library as a space. Collaboration was another key theme - Dr Alexander from Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) saw her role as a potential collaborator with the library rather than as a library user, while Dr Scott-Warren, a Lecturer in English Faculty and Centre for Material Texts, pointed that that underused archives and special collections could be integrated into undergraduate courses. For Mark, a PhD student from Edinburgh University, the main thing that a library does is give him access to information.
Sylvia, a third year English student, noted the need for both digital and print information, pointing out that not everyone can afford a laptop, and found Kindles and similar devices great for reading for pleasure, but not for scholarly use. She added that librarians have a role in advising about copyright and quality of information, and teaching students how to use referencing software. Today’s university students may be digital natives but that doesn’t mean they know everything about the digital world.
Dr Scott-Warren noted the common phenomena of digital greed (wanting more, better and faster) and digital anxiety (do I know what I have access to?) The challenge for libraries is alerting people to what is on offer. Regarding digital libraries, Dr Scott-Warren noted that there is no standard between libraries, for image quality for example. Technology means there is a pressure for libraries to find out what they have got and publicise collections via the web, which can open up special collections.
Dr Wallach, Senior Lecturer in Materials Science, queried whether a librarian is more like a pterodactyl (obsolete) or a seshat (goddess of wisdom and knowledge). Agreeing with Sylvia’s point, librarians need to teach students about the skill of rejecting sites based on reliability and how to organise searching.
The conference ended with a drinks reception and a chance to look at posters and talk to poster presenters. I had produced a poster on QR codes and ebooks with my colleague Jayne Kelly. This was my first attempt at a poster and put into practice things I had learnt from Cam23 2.0 about QR codes. I didn’t get the chance to see all the other posters, but those that particularly caught my eye included the Judge Business School on using business cards as library ‘where to start’ cards (great idea) and Claire Sewell’s poster about the cpd23 programme.
Overall, it was an interesting day and I broadened my knowledge of what is happening in other libraries. For me, the main benefit from the day was that I came away feeling inspired and open-minded.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Library day in the life round 8

Library day in the life is a semi-annual event where librarians write about their day to day work for a week. This is the first time that I've taken part. I have two part-time roles in an academic research library. In the mornings I work in the ebooks team and in the afternoons I work on the enquiry desk in the Commonwealth Room, a specialist reading room for Official Publications and Inter-Library Loans (ILL). I love the variety these two roles give me and it means I am never bored!


I start each day by dealing with the email enquiries about ebooks. A quiet morning on enquiries - must be because my colleague was working Saturday and cleared all the emails then! Next on the agenda is amending links in ebook catalogue records so that the links will work for off campus users. As a result of a recent enquiry we discovered that many of the links in catalogue records for a package of over 400 titles don't work off campus so we are working through the list and amending where necessary. I am also cataloguing some ebooks that we don't currently have records for.  This involves downloading MARC records for these titles from OCLC and amending them to meet our library's needs. 

Each afternoon I receipt the incoming ILLs for our readers on our ILL system, and decide whether photocopying is allowed for each one.  A fairly busy afternoon on the enquiry desk, and one of those days where everyone seems to want help at once. I took several ILL requests from readers, checked that we didn't have them here and looked up locations that do hold them. Another job on the enquiry desk is taking fetching requests. Most of the official publications collection is in closed stacks, so readers have to fill out request slips and the department's Fetcher brings them to the room. There was a lot of fetching of acts today. I took some photocopying requests, and took payment from those collecting photocopying. We have a self-service photocopier in the room, but some readers ask for staff copying, and many inter-library loans can only be copied by staff. The Microform Reading Room is reached by some stairs within the Commonwealth Room and when the part-time Microform Reading Room superintendent leaves mid-afternoon, I also deal with any microform enquiries. Often, like today, people need to be shown how to use the microform readers or copying machines, as many people have never used microfilms or microfiche before.


I spent the morning continuing to amend the ebook links and cataloguing ebooks, plus dealing with the email enquiries that came in. I had to break the bad news to a student that their recommendation isn't available as an ebook. Luckily we have a print copy in the library, so at least the student can access the book somehow.

A quieter afternoon on the enquiry desk. As well as the usual loan receipting, photocopy requests, fetching etc, I responded to some ILL requests from other libraries that we couldn't satisfy. There are several jobs that I can do at quiet times on the desk, such as cataloguing official publications.  In the quiet periods today I dealt with the ephemeral material. This is typically leaflets or other ephemeral material from government departments that we don't catalogue individually. Instead we register each item received, only recording the title and the publication year for each item.

Every Tuesday evening I do a couple of hours work in the Rare Books Reading Room. It's useful to see what other reading rooms in the library do, and gain some experience working with rare books. At the end of the day it's time to lock up a section of the library and then home time!


Finished checking the ebooks links today, hurrah! As well as keeping on top of the enquiries, I updated our spreadsheet of available ebook titles with some new ebook acquisitions and uploaded this to our information for librarians website. This is useful for knowing what we have access to as not all our ebooks from all suppliers have records in the catalogue at the moment.

This afternoon involved the usual receipting of loans, dealing with fetching and photocopying requests, enquiries, plus more responding to requests from other libraries.


Some updates to the ebooks webpages. We recently signed up for ebook downloading from MyiLibrary. I put together some guidance for our users on this, based on some FAQs on the MyiLibrary site and my colleague's blog post that advertised it, and uploaded this to our ebooks website. I also added a new resource to our free ebooks pages which provide useful links to free ebooks.

A typical afternoon in the Commonwealth Room. Today there were quite a few ILL and microform enquiries. Sometimes what starts as an official publications or microform enquiry turns into an ILL enquiry when it becomes clear that we don't hold what the reader is looking for. Today for example a reader was looking for some Irish newspapers that she thought we might hold on microform. After establishing that we didn't have them here, I managed to find some libraries that do have them.


There were several ebook email enquiries waiting for me this morning. A couple of ebook recommendations from librarians, including one that is needed quite quickly. I've only been doing this job for a few months, and today I had some training on how to place ebooks orders, and put the purchase order information in the system.  

One of the things I like about enquiry work is that you never know what you will be asked next. Today for example, I helped a reader find information about poverty indicators, and another find an Irish census report in the parliamentary papers. Not all official publications are in the online catalogue, so I often need to show readers how to use our card catalogue to search for material published before 1999. For enquiry work, I find it is always helpful to know what online resources are available, both paid-for and free, as complex enquiries often need a mixture of print and online sources to solve. The detective work involved is interesting! Detective work is sometimes needed in ILL work too. Today I took some more ILL requests, and managed to find a couple of articles that were requested. It's always satisfying when I find that we already have something a reader wants to get on ILL as it saves them the £3 ILL fee and usually results in a happy reader! I entered some requests onto the ILL system, which sends them off to the library we wish to request them from. 

That's the end of another week. For anyone who's stuck with me til the end, sorry for the length of this, but that's what happens when trying to cover an entire week in one post!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Reflection and what next? #cpd23

Well here we are at thing 23! I've enjoyed the 23 things for professional development programme, and all the learning and reflecting that has come out of it, even if it has been a bit of a rush to the finish! There has been a nice mixture of new technology and tools to learn about, with other aspects of development covered too. I have appreciated the reflection weeks as a chance to reinforce learning, think about how things are going, and remind myself of what I have learnt so far.

Several months ago I put together a Personal Development Plan for chartership. This built on the personal development plan that my manager and I had discussed at work, which included goals that were directly relevant to my job. I then expanded this by thinking about what I would like to do that wasn't directly relevant to that role, and some areas that I thought I would need to develop in the future. I shared this with my chartership mentor, who was very good at getting me to think in terms of measurable and time-limited goals. My PDP has recently expanded since I started my second part-time library job almost three months ago, with new short-term achievable goals and learning outcomes added. I find a PDP a very useful exercise as it provides a structure for measuring progress against, and makes me step back and think about where I need to develop and what I want to do next.

So what next? I'll be working through the action points on my PDP, collecting evidence and reflecting as I go, and then eventually trying to put together my portfolio for chartership. I will put some of the things I have learnt from this programme into practice at work - perhaps a screencast will be next on the agenda. I aim to carry on with this blog for cpd to record some of my learning and reflections (although probably not quite as frequently as I have done over the last month!)

Before I end this post, I would just like to say thanks so much to the cpd23 team for all their hard work putting the programme together, answering questions, providing encouragement and everything else they have done.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Volunteering #cpd23

Careers advisers often recommend volunteering as a way of gaining experience, filling in gaps in your experience, learning new skills, demonstrating an interest in the field, and getting started in a career. While at university, I did some volunteering in the student-run history duplicates library, later becoming a committee member with responsibility for publicity to attract new volunteers and increase library usage, as well as supervising two volunteers. This gave me useful experience to talk about in my first interview for a library position, as well as showing an interest in and commitment to the profession when I hadn't yet had any employment in libraries. So for me volunteering at the beginning of my career was a positive way of gaining experience, skills, getting my foot in the door and all the benefits that careers advisers are always talking about!

My first job post-qualifying was part time, and there were no other part time library positions around at the time to make up full time hours, so I did consider volunteering. However instead I successfully applied for an interesting part time job in an HR department outside of the library sector. I enjoyed this position and gained an awareness of people management issues, plus useful transferable skills, such as minute taking and budget administration. I was about to write that I haven't done any volunteering since gaining my library qualification, but then I realised that I have! My position as a committee member on my regional branch of the Career Development Group is unpaid, and done mostly in my own time. I only joined recently, but so far it has given me the chance to meet new people in other library sectors and I'm sure it will be a beneficial experience for me, as well as being a chance to contribute to the profession.

Volunteering can benefit the profession by providing volunteers with experience of new sectors, and opportunities to learn, which can help them further their careers as information professionals. The question of whether volunteering devalues the profession is an interesting and tricky one. A friend of mine who is studying law recently did an unpaid internship, and competed with other talented people for the opportunity. While I have little knowledge of the legal profession, it seems to me that volunteering of this sort is quite common, without devaluing the profession. Could volunteering in libraries be carried out in the same way, with people applying to volunteer for a set period of time, perhaps to work on a specific project or to gain all-round experience of a particular library sector? Maybe not, I don't know. Many of us just can't afford to work for free, but volunteering can be mutually beneficial for the volunteer and the library.

Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview #cpd23

Part 1: Identifying your strengths; capitalising on your interests
I feel very lucky to have two part time jobs that I love in the same library, one in the mornings and the other in the afternoons. It may not be for everyone, but it suits me very well. I like variety in my work, and that is exactly what I get! I really enjoy enquiry work, both face to face and via email, and I get to do a lot of that. I enjoy the satisfaction of successfully troubleshooting an electronic resource, the detective work involved in tracking down that obscure book that someone wants to obtain on inter-library loan, or the government report that a user is having difficulty finding, and my jobs involve all these aspects. But it's also nice to have a break from dealing directly with customers to do some cataloguing, check ebook availability for ordering, or update the website and I get to do that too. I think two of my strengths are customer service and prioritising while dealing with multiple tasks, and I love to tick things off a to-do list!

40+251 Done-ish by bark, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  bark 

Part 2: Applying for a job
One of the most useful pieces of advice that my university careers centre gave me was to be very clear when demonstrating that you meet all the criteria when applying for a job. Employers may have lots of applications to sift through, so clearly spelling out that you meet each criteria rather than leaving it up to the employer to read between the lines will be helpful for them (and your application!). Also, if there is a criteria that you don't quite meet, you can at least show how you partially meet it or are working towards it, instead of just not mentioning it at all.

Part 3: Interviews
The CAR (context, action, results) structure for answering competency-based questions is a good one to remember, thanks cpd23! I often get nervous at interviews, so I try to remember that an interview can be a two-way thing - a chance for employers to find out if the candidate is suitable for the job, and for the candidate to find out if they would enjoy the job and working for that employer. Of course, preparation is key, so you can usually find out answers to most of your questions about the job and the employer before the interview (from their website or by speaking informally to the recruiting manager), but thinking of it as a two-way interview makes it much less nerve-wracking!