Friday, 29 July 2011

Thing 7: face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I've been a member of CILIP for over a year now. It's been great joining as a student because of the discount. Full membership is quite expensive, but I want to charter after I qualify so I intend to stay a member. As with many of these things, the more I put in the more I'm sure I will get out, so its value is really down to me. I went to the New Professionals Information Day last year which I thought was great. One of the sessions was about the value of getting involved by joining a committee or similar, and I think it's something I might like to do in the future. I like the opportunities that professional organisations offer for face-to-face networking, although I haven't been to many events. Sure, it can be nervewracking talking to strangers, but it's different from online networking and I think both are important. I think I also just like feeling part of a national organisation of like-minded people and feeling represented somehow - maybe not the most practical reason for being a member, but there you go.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Thing 6: online networks

Getting slightly behind with the things, and they're speeding up! Does doing my dissertation count as a valid excuse? I'm spending quite a bit of time on it at the moment as I'm very aware that the remaining five and a half weeks until it's due won't hang around.

But back to online networks. LinkedIn comes up a lot in Google searches for people which suggests it's pretty highly regarded. Having looked a bit closer, it also looks quite scary, in that it seems very formal and businessy and makes personal information available. As with all of these things, I'm wary of wading in without fully understanding what they're for and how they work, so I'm going to do a bit more investigation before I sign up - I'd rather not have anything on there rather than something half-finished or neglected. I think it could be a valuable thing to have at some point, particularly if I want to change jobs at some point in the future.

I'm not averse to the idea of using Facebook for professional networking, but on the whole I really see it as a social thing where I connect with friends about silly day-to-day stuff or for organising social gatherings. I'm a fan of things like Voices for the Library and it's a good way of getting updates, but I think there are probably better homes for professional networking, for me. LISNPN feels really friendly and more suited. I signed up when it started and have found the resources and forums useful. I appreciate a good old-fashioned forum where a conversation really develops. Liking the new design too. No doubt there's more I could get out of it (and put into it) though. I joined the LAT network around the same time I think, but need to go back and revisit that one, likewise CILIP communities (although I do subscribe to the whole blog landscape which is a great way of finding new blogs).

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Thing 5: reflective practice

Image courtesy of Bahman Farzad 
Reflection is one of the main reasons why I hope blogging will be useful to me. I first came across reflective practice as a concept when I started my current job as it comes up a lot in what the students do as part of their courses, particularly in subjects like teaching and health. I was struck by how much importance was placed on it, but really it makes total sense because without some evaluation it's easy to career from one thing to the next without ever reflecting on what we've learned and how that can improve what we do next. Blogging is one way of formalising that process a little and making you consider what you've done. I like the Borton model in wigglesweet's post as it's nice and circular - what? so what? now what?

I think objectivity might prove to be one of the hardest aspects of reflective practice because when you're thinking about your own experiences it can be hard to look at them objectively (although hopefully easier for professional issues than personal ones - I kept diaries as a teenager and there was very little objective reflection in those!). Talking to other people might be useful too. I find myself thinking about what I've done a lot, but putting it into action is obviously key. Looking forward to attempting to apply all of this to the rest of the things!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Thing 4: current awareness

RSS feeds

I've been using RSS feeds for a couple of years now I think. I came across Bloglines first shortly after I started reading a few blogs, so I used that until it was due to be closed. I believe it's still running after being bought, but in the meantime I switched to Google Reader, preferred it and stuck with it. Now, like many others, I couldn't live without it. It's great for current awareness and keeping up to date with what's going on in library world. (I mainly use it for library and information stuff, fearing complete information overload if I branched out into other areas. Ok, except for Lolcats which makes me smile, and was recommended by Phil Bradley at a workshop I went to, so counts as library related.)

Also like many others, I've learned to feel ok if I don't read everything that comes through. As Woodsiegirl commented in her post, it can feel obligatory to read everything to start with. I've found it's very much about scanning for what looks relevant and interesting to me, and leaving the rest. If it's really important, it will come up again through other discussions, even if I missed it first time. There just isn't enough time to read it all, unless you have a Hermione Granger-style time turner, or maybe a TARDIS (although that's generally less reliable). I try and keep it manageable so that it's a useful tool rather than a stress-inducing one.

Image courtesy of verbeeldingskr8


Ah, Twitter. Librarians love it. I am not yet on it. I say yet, because I think the day will come when I do join, but I'm not sure that today is that day. CPD23 is all about trying new things in a supportive network, and I am pretty convinced by the arguments for its worth in terms of being part of a network. I even try and explain to people how it's being used other than for celebrities and 'what I ate for breakfast', despite not having joined myself, which is rather hypocritical. Like Google Reader, I'm sure it will take time to get used to it and use it effectively, and I want to be able to devote enough time to it from the off. I may well change my mind as this programme progresses, but for now I'm going to stick with blogging and RSS feeds for current awareness.


I haven't come across Pushnote before. Before trying it out I read some lukewarm views of other cpd23ers, which hasn't made me very keen to use it. I'll try and give it a go soon though. We use IE at work so I wouldn't be able to use it there, but I do use Firefox at home. Who knows, I might love it.

Of pick and mix and cocktails

This week at work was mostly made up of staff development activities. The college organises several days of sessions a couple of times a year, run by college staff and external organisations. Although the library runs similar kinds of sessions throughout the year too it's a few days dedicated to staff development when academic staff in particular should hopefully have some free time and be in the mood for some professional development, so it's a good opportunity to show them new developments, or just go over the old stuff.

This year we called it 'Library Pick and Mix', and I think it worked really well. Instead of offering a few separate sessions over the period we did one 90 minute session, but the participants were offered a choice of what they wanted to cover. The first half hour was a general information session about the library in the form of a presentation which everyone attended, and included our homegrown 'higher/lower' quiz which some of the librarians use with students. (A statement involving a number goes up on the screen, such as 'the library offers access to 10,000 electronic journals', and participants hold up a 'higher' card or a 'lower' card depending on what they think the real figure is. Whoever gets the right answer first gets some exciting library stash (like a pencil or some post-it notes, woo!), and we give them a bit of detail about that topic. I think it's a fun way to cover fairly prosaic information and people usually seem to appreciate it.) It also involved real pick and mix - food usually goes down pretty well.

Then the participants could choose from about 12 options for the next two 30 minute slots (we asked them in advance for their choices so we could plan the sessions), such as subject resources, e-books, Harvard referencing, or a tour. I had two members of staff for an Engineering resources session, which I was really pleased by as it's the centre I find hardest to engage with in terms of providing appropriate resources. Having just two people meant I could focus the session on their particular interests. We only had six people for the whole session which may not seem like much, but we were pleased with the turn out. I'd happily do it for one person if it means they find out something useful they didn't know before. I haven't seen the evaluation forms yet, but they all seemed positive about the whole thing, so I'm feeling good about it.

There wasn't a departmental day this time, when we usually do something as a library team like develop a project, but I did attend one of the fun sessions, Introduction to Cocktails in our superb catering department. I may not be able to claim it as professional development, but it was definitely yummy!

Mojitos - the best kind of cpd

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Thing 3: consider your personal brand

I don't really have much of an online presence yet, but I did consider some of the things in Jo's post before I unleashed this blog. Like Jo it took me a long time to decide on a name for the blog because I wanted it to reflect something of myself professionally and be memorable. I have a nickname which I've used for a long time for my personal email and on forums and things like that, but I've gone for my real name here as I think it sounds better and I'd like people to know it's me straight off. I also went with a real photo of me, and yes, it was taken specially because I didn't have a decent recent photo of just me. In terms of consistency there's not much to be consistent with so far (the rest of the things will add to that), but I'm conscious of starting as I mean to go on. The whole personal/professional thing is interesting too. I haven't written much yet, but I'm hoping something of my personal identity will come across in writing about professional stuff. When I look at other people's blogs it's definitely a good thing when their personality is evident as it makes it much more interesting to read, and I think it's ok to mix a bit of personal with professional.

My name is pretty common, and searching for just my name on Google doesn't bring up anything at all about me. There's a British athlete called Gemma Bennett so she comes up quite a bit, along with other LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. Adding in 'library' does make me the first three results, in a different browser, which I was surprised by. The first is a page from our old library web pages which we don't use anymore, listing me as the adviser for Engineering. This is a bit annoying as I wouldn't actually want people to find this page as it's old information now. We use Sharepoint now within the college, so the homepage of our old website now just has general information and points college members towards the Portal. Obviously the old pages are still accessible through search engines though. I'll have to mention this at work and see what others think.

The second result is a presentation I made on the Prezi site to teach students about Harvard Referencing, and the third is the profile page for this blog, which is great. Not much so far, but things I'm happy for people to find. My Facebook profile doesn't appear in the first few pages of results. I'm not a heavy user of Facebook anyway, but I've definitely been aware of what I put on there and whether I'd be happy for others to see it (although my privacy settings are fairly locked down). The idea that nothing you put online ever truly disappears is a little scary, and one I'm not sure a lot of our students consider.

I'll be keeping an eye on this as the programme goes on and it will be interesting to see how searches change. That makes me sound vain, but I do think that online brand, or identity, is important and I want to know what's going on!