There probably isn’t an LIS person out there who doesn’t subscribe to Unshelved. It’s very public-library skewed but for the most part it picks up on stuff that affects us all in libraryland. It’s clever and oh so cynical – I love it.
Today’s Unshelved really spoke to me. Sometimes I feel like my role here at MPOW is as doorjamb. That is, I have my metaphorical foot wedged firmly in the ‘door to information’ to stop the students slamming it shut without a second glance. Much of what I do each day works on the principle of ‘if I build it will they come?’. If the gateway is wedged open, even just a little, I might get a few students who are interested enough to come in and find out what the library is all about (other than repeat borrowing of the text books because they can’t/won’t buy their own).
I am inspired to continue by a series of small victories (remembering we only have 250 students in total), such as:
- the student who spends the afternoon in here every Thursday studying his business law text so he can use the law dictionary that I bought and put on reference to help him navigate through a complex subject in his third language
- the two students who come in 2 mornings a week to sit and read the papers for half an hour. I encourage the students to do as much reading in English as they can so I’m really happy for them to bring coffee in and flick through the papers reading the sports pages.
- the lecturer who came and asked me for more information about a link I had sent the teaching staff to a business case studies website. As they never reply when I send stuff out to them I was unsure if any of them ever read any of my emails!
- the students who take the time and effort to understand (and follow) the very few library rules I have in place
- the students who have come in to tell me they’ve enjoyed some of the links I put on the library website (that have nothing to do with libraries and everything to do with engaging with students)
So, for those people, the doorjamb is there, firmly wedged in place. My brief when I started at MPOW was to get more students using the library and it’s services. I’m getting there.
I was doing some updating of my ALIA PD points today and it startled me to see that I have pretty much already accumulated the points I need for the 2011 year (it’s a financial year thing). I only joined the scheme in April 2010, realising that all the reading and learning I had been doing for my new job since starting here in February could also be counted as PD points. It then occurred to me that it’s probably time to update my CV with some of this learning and achievement and professional progress.
So this is a relective and slightly self indulgent post, a pause to look at what I’ve learned and managed to achieve since starting at MPOW (my first professional position and first full time job in 18 years) back in February 2010. I’m pretty pleased with this list. I have:
- joined the ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee (NGAC)
- learned how to participate in teleconferences
- developed a web site using Google sites and written and uploaded all the content myself
- developed and written library and academic skills modules for the college moodle
- implemented a monthly student newsletter (college wide, not just library news) that I now co-ordinate & edit
- learned how to conduct information literacy workshops (and learned that it’s different each and every time)
- learned how to use prezi (thanks @misssophiemac)
- learned how to use flickr (thanks @restructuregirl)
- learned how to use twitter (thanks tweeps!)
- established a Facebook presence for both the library and MPOW generally
- learned about Orkut as a social networking site
- participated in a blogging project (#blogeverydayinjune)
- written my first collaborative document as part of an NGAC task
- been to UTS to hear Heidi Julien talk about information literacy
- been to the ALIA Biennial conference in Brisbane and met lots of new people
- learned how to use the Libraries Australia database
- written my first article for InCite (as yet unpublished)
- discovered what a ‘personal learning network‘ is and how to develop and contribute to one
- participated in discussions about my experiences as a student as part of research into LIS education
- started planning for the library to move to another building and co-locate (finally!) with the computer lab
Some of this has been ‘just part of the job’ and some has been personal professional development that may or may not cross over into ‘the job’ but I believe (and fortunately, so does my employer) that it is all part of being an active participant in a learning profession and that ultimately that has benefits and payoffs for the employer beyond the ‘things that get done on the job’.
Probably the most valuable part of all of this to me has been the professional networking through twitter, NGAC and the conference. I had an example of this just today in a focus group discussion for the LIS research project – I was delighted to find another participant was someone I had met at the conference. Connecting and reconnecting is what helps build the profession. I’m not sure where all that will take me in the longer term career sense but I’m sure it’s going to be positive.
image: Ecliptic Star Trails by makelessnoise via flickr
MPOW is a small organisation so when a problem calls for a fix-it team it’s not unusual for just about anyone who can contribute to end up on that fix-it team regardless of one’s actual role in the organisation.
And so I find myself on a marketing team of all things. We are commencing a marketing blitz for the SMIPA program I blogged about a few weeks ago and because I came up with a few suggestions in a casual conversation I’m now a member of a team that has been hastily thrown together to take advantage of some changes to the student visa rules this month.
I have done so much reading, research and application of new ideas this year on marketing the library, working with web 2.0 technologies, reaching the students, promoting library services to staff etc etc that I have had the confidence to speak up and propose some ideas. More importantly, I possess the skills and knowledge needed to implement those ideas, when other (mostly teaching) staff are scratching their heads wondering how to go about it. What a long way we have come from the ‘shhhh’ stereotype.
image: talk shows on mute by katie tegtmeyer via flickr
This past couple of weeks has seen me working on a website for the library, within the Google Aps domain that we hold at MPOW. Google Sites is a wiki based ‘put the modules together’ platform and really easy to use (once you get the basics sorted out in your head!) While there are all sorts of limitations with this structure, it has been an ideal solution for me – the library desperately needed a web presence and our resident IT support (yes, there’s only one of him) is run off his feet with day to day stuff. With Google Sites, I have been able to construct a web site on my own that does the job and gets the information about the library services out there into the student’s preferred domain (and looks a bit snappy too).
Along the way, I have been able to play with lots of different learning objects – with varying forms of success. I have used Jing to create short video screen captures of different Google search functions (namely Wonder Wheel and Timeline) and link to these from my web site. In anticipation of a new intake of students in a few weeks, I have spent today putting together a short virtual library tour using Window’s Photo Story software (that I then uploaded to YouTube because Google sites has an automatic YouTube plug in and I don’t need to worry about html code embedding). Photo Story is a really simple little piece of software I came across while doing my practicum at TAFE last year (I did a virtual tour of the library as one of my projects). It doesn’t need any special equipment other than a camera and a microphone, so I whipped out the trusty iPhone, snapped a few pics of the library and surrounds, uploaded them to the computer, donned the headset/mic and away I went. Photo Story strings your pictures together in a kind of power point display, adds your narration and some funky background music and you have a little video without having worked with any kids or dogs.
While this ends up sounding like an infomercial for Google, the fact is that they are out there providing simple, low cost solutions to technology issues. MPOW has limited budget and resources, Google Aps allows us significantly improved collaboration and the ability to provide services to our customers (both staff and students).
image from Flickr Creative Commons user dullhunk
Yesterday I took myself on an excursion! The very kind librarian at the Australian Institute of Management invited me to visit and look around their newly refurbished ‘Knowledge Centre’. The knowledge centre combines the library and the organisation’s bookshop (I can see the obvious synergies between the two but have my concerns about how this will work in the long run). However, it was an interesting and informative visit. The knowledge centre is set up complete with a Business Lounge – a concept freely borrowed from airline lounges. Here, AIM members, staff and anyone attending an AIM course in the building can read the papers, flick through business and management journals, check email on any of half a dozen computers, charge their mobile phone, watch the television news, browse the two collections, plug into free wi-fi with their own computer, make coffee or obtain ice cold water.
Make no mistake, they have done a big budget design and overhaul and it looks fantastic. In fact, it is a librarian’s dream (I even love the colour scheme). However, much like flicking through a house and garden type magazine oohing and aahing at pictures of makeovers I can’t afford to do, the trick is picking out the various elements in the set up and applying them to MPOW.
image from : http://hscripts.com/freeimages/icons/
Today I’ve been focussing on marketing. A few weeks ago I developed a library user survey for the students using Survey Monkey. Due to a whole lot of technical issues we only managed to send the link out to our students today so I’ve yet to see how useful that is going to be. I am bribing encouraging them to participate with a draw for an iTunes voucher so I have my fingers crossed for at least SOME responses! The survey isn’t aiming for any in depth statistical information – I’m looking to elicit some feedback on services they may like to see the library offer (because at present we don’t offer very many, believe me) before I go putting together a business case to spend yet more money!
I’ve also plastered the library and computer lab with posters of my latest idea, the Website of the Week or WOW. You can see an example here (sorry if it looks a bit truncated, I cut off the identifying MPOW stuff from the bottom). The idea for this came from a webinar I attended last week, from Library Journal and Polaris Library Systems called Gadgets and Tools and Apps, Oh My! I found out about so many cool and useful websites that I just had to share them as many are relevant and useful for the students here. This week’s WOW is forvo, an online pronunciation tool – perfect for our 100% international student body.
The WOW posters join other ‘What’s new?’ and ‘Did you know’ posters on the library door and walls – in an attempt to keep the library and its services front and centre in the minds of students (and staff!).
I’m still waiting for the library’s online presence to get up and running – I’ll have my own course in the Moodle LMS when it gets up and running, but I’m also still hoping for a web page….
I read a blog recently (and I’m sorry, I can’t find it again to provide a link… I’ve now got Zotero installed to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore) about the importance of making time in your day to catch up on professional reading. I even commented on this blog post, as I am in the fortunate position of having time at work to keep up with professional development activities including reading – for the moment anyway.
My learning curve is very steep and as I’m an OPL I’ve got no-one handy to ask. I have turned to the various resources available to me, most notably professional literature and blogs of interest. Blogs in particular have sparked many happy hours of following an information trail as I attempt to track down information or resources that will assist me with my various projects at MPOW.
As each project starts to take shape, I am realising more and more that the sky is pretty much the limit with this job. Yes, we are a very small organisation – but there are plans to grow bigger and just because we are small doesn’t mean that what we offer can’t be great. The international student market in Australia is very competitive and our advantage is our small size – we are able to treat each student as an individual. I hope that if I can get services and systems in place that enhance that student experience, then the library can become part of the marketing package when we are out there selling ourselves to potential students.
There is of course a danger of becoming a jack of all trades and master of none – my day ranges across issues relating to ESL students, library instruction, records management, immigration and student visa policy, keeping up with subject specific material, collection development and maintenance, policy writing and money wrangling with the bean counters. I am the library manager and the untrained library assistant – a position I know is understood by all the other OPL’s out there!
I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot recently – a major university near my home has just announced a faculty librarian vacancy and I have always said I wanted to work there. Now, I have to decide if it’s really the right time for me. I think I’m better off staying here, building my resume, developing my projects and gaining valuable experience that will help me move on to a larger organisation when I am more confident in my skills and knowledge. As part of this decision making process, this weekend I’ll be spending time with ALIA’s Career Development kit (part of my PD obligations anyway) to see if that helps point the way.