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Libraries of the Future

July 20, 2009

I became aware of the JISC Libraries of the Future campaign in April when the issue was discussed at a conference in Oxford. In the past week JISC have published a brochure and this video on the topic.

I enjoyed watching this video keeping an eye out for familiar Oxford locations and hearing what Sarah Thomas, the director of the library service I work for, had to say. The key point in her speech for me was that of Google being our partner. I fear too many librarians still see Google as “the enemy” but I think it’s pointless trying to fight against the fact that our users may go to Google to find information before they come to the library. Instead we need to be teaching them how to evaluate the information they find there and how they can access additional content, paid for by their library, through Google Scholar. Just as the library of the future will be different from today so will the role of the librarian.

I’ve not got around to it yet but my next step is to watch the video of the debate held in Oxford in April.

CILIP New Professionals’ Conference

July 15, 2009

It’s over a week since I attended the New Professionals’ conference jointly run by CILIP’s Career Development Group and the Diversity Group. Waiting a week to blog was a good plan because Laura has done the hard work blogging on the whole conference in 3 excellent posts over on Organising Chaos. I’m not going to try and match that so here are just a few of my observations from the day.

First up was Katie Hill talking about the consumer generation. The consumer generation knows what it wants and how to get it as well as what standards and services it expects. It is important to note that both library users and library staff are part of the consumer generation and this has a great impact on the service. We have to adapt to meet the new demands of our users. Katie gave an example from the University of York where the Lending Services team has been renamed Customer Services. This reflects a change in focus from the stock or resources to the users/customers. To sum this all up Katie used this great phrase:

“Librarians are no longer gatekeepers of information but gateways to information.”

Ned Potter followed on from Katie with a presentation on librarian stereotypes. First he looked at the different types of stereotype presented in Maura Seale’s article Old Maids, Policeman and Social Rejects. I’ve not really been confronted by the stereotypes but I often find that when I tell someone I’m a librarian they have nothing to say after that because they have no idea what being a librarian means these days. Ned’s talk was entertaining but I don’t think it really got us anywhere except that we all know that the stereotypical librarian is a myth.

Ned’s best contribution to the conference for me was his discussion of the idea that we’re only as good as our last customer interaction. Based on the old addage that a sportsman is only as good as his last game. He suggested that every time we engage with a user we should imagine that the whole service will be judged on our standard of service. This is something I am trying to employ when staffing the information desk – are you?

The stereotypical librarian?

After lunch we got on to the topic of marketing. I’m not sure how Kath Aitken’s talk on the skills a professional librarian can bring to public libraries fitted in here but it was thought provoking none the less. She began by looking at the value of a professional qualification in a public library from the perspective of someone who had started out as a library assistant then returned to work for the same employer post qualification. I found it intriguing to hear someone else’s perspective on this as someone who has also held both a non-professional and a professional post in the same library. The talk of the value of the library qualification has been brought up again this week at Umbrella. I’ve seen lots of tweets suggesting that library qualifications are only desirable, not essential in most sectors. This is something that clearly needs more discussion.

The last presentation I want to mention was given by Jo Alcock on marketing yourself using online tools. She focused on three areas, social networking, blogging and microblogging and rounded her presentation off with ten top tips for marketing yourself online. As someone who already uses tools like Twitter and also maintains a blog it’s always great to hear them being promoted. I find having an active professional presence online makes me feel so much more connected to the profession and other librarians and really inspires me to continue to develop my skills and interests.

Credits: image by bookgrl

BBSLG on leadership and the future

July 12, 2009

I’ve been back from Dublin and the BBSLG conference for over a week now and have fully digested what I heard. From the first day two quotes have stuck in my mind and I’m going to use them to muse upon the themes of the first two keynotes.

“If the future is uncertain there must be more than one future”
— Anon.

The first keynote was given by the futurist Oliver Freeman who focused on what librarians need to consider when planning for the future. I’m not going to delve in to the details of what he said (when I get the slides up I’ll link to them here) but more my observations on the theme. In contrast to most of the presentations at the conference this dealt with big ideas rather than focusing on specific examples or experiences. I was immediately drawn in to the thought that there is more than one future and when making plans for the future of our library service we must consider that depending on the influencing factors there is more than one possible outcome. What I found difficult however was how to take this away and apply it.

Uncertain futures Freeman gave a good example from a project he’s currently working on with public libraries in Australia. Basically, you take two factors, e.g. the value of libraries and the future of the internet, and compare them against each other. By doing so you are presented with four futures which should all be considered possible realities when planning for the future. I found drawing this helped me understand it better.

“What counts cannot always be counted; what can be counted doesn’t always count”
— Albert Einstein

The second keynote was given by Nicholas Janni from Olivier Mythodrama who gave us some leadership lessons as inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry v. The key links to Henry V can be found on their website. For my liking there wasn’t enough focus on the Shakespeare, the main issues facing Henry as a leader were presented but I didn’t really feel that how they were dealt with was considered. Having said that I did enjoy the session and the discussion of positive and negative leadership potentials. This basically puts you in to one of fours categories based on your leadership style: Good King (ordered, logical), Warrior (task focused, inspiring), Medicine Woman (creative, visionary) or Great Mother (nurturing, empathetic).

The point of the quote above is that we too often focus on what can be measured, but whether you’re a good leader is not just about outcomes or what you know, it’s about authenticity and the relationships you build.

BBSLG Members’ Forum – Twitter demo

July 8, 2009
How not to use Twitter

How not to use Twitter

As I mentioned in my previous post, I did a quick demo of Twitter during the Members’ Forum at the BBSLG conference last week – the few slides I used can be found on Slideshare.

At the beginning of the session a show of hands indicated that around 20 (approximately half of the group) people already had Twitter accounts. Of those about 10 tweeted once a week and only 2 or 3 tweeted once a day or more. This had been my suspicion and so I angled my talk to focus on why you should give Twitter another try.

The session seemed to go down well – it’s always encouraging to see lots of nods from the audience. And I’m pleased to see at the last count 6 new BBSLG followers – hopefully they’ll be more to come.

As ever immediately after I sat down I though of a million and one other things I could have said to help people get started. So, inspired by Jo Alcock’s presentation at the New Professionals’ conference, here are my top tips for anyone about to get started on Twitter:

  1. Upload a picture – show us you’re human. It doesn’t have to be a photo of you, although it is nice, but just something that shows a bit of your personality.
  2. Write a bio – for the same reason as before really. Prospective followers will want to learn a bit about you first.
  3. Follow, follow, follow – to get the most out of Twitter right from the word go you need to find people to follow and lots of them. As I mentioned in my talk find a few at first and then use their follower lists to find more like minded people.
  4. Share – this not only goes for what you’re doing but what you’re reading, viewing, thinking. Vary your tweets. Link to blog posts and articles you’ve found interesting and tell your followers why.
  5. Engage – it’s easy to be passive but you’ll get more out of Twitter if you get involved. If someone asks a question answer it. If someone posts something of interest to you retweet it. Make yourself visible and get involved. It goes back to that old saying you get out what you put in.

BBSLG Conference 2009

July 5, 2009

For the past few days I’ve been in Dublin for the BBSLG (British Business Schools’ Librarians’ Group) annual conference. This was my first conference but as a newbie I was in the enviable position of also being a member of the organising committee which I think helped to make the experience a little less daunting. I had a great time and I hope that all the other delegates did too.

I’m going to write a few more detailed posts on some of the individual sessions but I just wanted to write a quick summary first.

The theme of the event was “Focus on the Future” a topic that was kicked of nicely with an opening keynote from futurist Oliver Freeman. Following presentations covered a look at leadership, the impact of technology and user perceptions of libraries and librarians. The key elements of the conference for me however were the member’s sharing sessions and director’s chairs. These gave a real snapshot of how libraries and librarians are evolving as the experiences and expectations of our users change.

The first two days of the conference were tightly structured and there was a lot of information to take in. There was a great opportunity on the last day to reflect on the theme of the conference in the Members’ Forum. Which worked really well as a debrief before we all went our separate ways. As part of this I also had the opportunity to demonstrate Twitter and its uses in libraries and for librarians.

The biggest news of the conference is that at the AGM the members voted on a name change for the group. From this point forward we are no longer the BBSLG but the BLA – Business Librarians Association. The change was necessary to reflect the fact that the group is not just limited to Britain, but Ireland too and what better place to acknowledge that than at the Dublin conference.

Newcastle City Library

June 14, 2009
View from the top

View from the top

As I was leaving Newcastle in September 2006 the City Library closed its doors to begin a 3 year renovation. Since I’ve left I make an annual pilgimage to my adopted home and I was lucky enough that my latest visit coinsided with the Library’s grand re-opening on Sunday 7th June.

Entering from New Bridge Street West into a hive of activity my first impression was of awe. There were staff everywhere on hand to register new users, help people navigate the new layout, operate the new systems or just to say hi and have a chat about what you thought. I cannot tell you how much the physical space has changed. The old library was demolished and this new one built in its place but there are elements of the space – how it fits between the surrounding buildings that bring back memories of what was here before. The feel of it however is so vastly different – the new library is light, open and even though it covers the same floor space feels so much bigger.

The new layout seems logical giving major sections such as local history a floor to themselves and dividing multiple sections on one floor with the use of colour. The colours carry across to the signage which on first glance can be a little confusing but I think is backed up by the use of the colours in multiple places. Each floor also has a variety of seating so that whatever you’re in the library for there’s an appropriate style of chair.

Enquiries Desk

Enquiries Desk

I imagine the main change for the user is the removal of the loans desk which has been replaced by a bank of self issue/return terminals. There is now no division between staff and the public with traditional enquiry desk being replaced by a number of enquiry points. This makes interaction with the staff a much more equal, friendly and collaborative feeling. During my visit I think I spoke to at least three different members of staff in no more than an hour. One of those conversations led to my registration even though I live over 200 miles away.

There are many other features of the new City Library which deserve comment but I think if I gave them all equal space this post could take you a day to read so here are a few of the other highlights:

  • a training and meeting room
  • a new programme of courses
  • a special collections display
  • the 24 hour library, accessible from the street
  • the display of community art projects

And last but not least, a personal favourite, the feature displays:

Books with bite

Books with bite

You can see more of my photos of the libraryon Flickr.

Who is responsible for my CPD?

June 2, 2009

Laura has just started a new job as Deputy Manager of Staff Development at OULS (Oxford University Library Services). Listening to her talk about her new role has started me wondering who is responsible for my continuing professional development (CPD)?

It would be easy to say that the responsibility lies with staff development and leave it at that but I think it’s more complicated than this. For me there are at least two elements to continuing professional development.

The first is firmly in my own hands: it’s about engaging with the wider community, sharing and learning from each other’s experience. I do this by reading library blogs, following librarians on Twitter and keeping up to date with what seems to be an endless stream of literature on developments in education and the future of libraries.

The second relies much more on the efforts of the staff development team at my institution. They have a role to play in making my CPD possible by organising training in-house and providing funding for me to attend external events.

So ultimately I think the responsibility to engage and participate is my own and that my employer simply has a responsibility to act as a facilitator.

I’m just starting out in my career and I know that CPD is vitally important not only for my progression but also for my peace of mind. I feel with both elements of CPD that I mentioned above it really is true that you get back what you give. It seems to me that there quite a few people out there who enter a job full of enthusiasm but after a few years begin to stagnate feeling that they are going nowhere and learning nothing new. I wonder perhaps whether they need to take back the responsibility for their CPD and see how this can reinvigorate their work.

To check out Laura’s thoughts about her new role see the Oxford Staff Development blog