Library School, here I come…

My applications to Library School are all finished, so I decided to write up and share the process. I will be going to the University of Sheffield in September, and since I don’t know the city it is both very exciting and a little scary!

The application process begun around October, when the other graduate trainees and I attended a training session entitled ‘Career Craft’. Past trainees shared their experiences of library school, and we had a very informative discussion with a member of the teaching staff at UWE in Bristol. I think the biggest thing people took away was the looming UCL deadline. 

This prompted me to start my applications. I wasn’t too fussed about living in London, but I knew UCL was a prestigious university both for this course but others too. I also had a look at the CILIP website, which lists all accredited courses in library and information studies. This helped narrow my choices down, as they are also listed geographically, so I could count out locations I didn’t fancy, i.e. Aberdeen. I decided on three possible choices; UCL, Sheffield University, and Manchester Metropolitan.

University College London, photo stevecadman (Flickr)

The UCL application took priority, as it was the only one with an official deadline, and I was offered an interview. A lot of universities interview for this course, which seemed unusual to me until I discovered it was to find out a bit more about the people who intended to apply for AHRC funding. I was really nervous for the interview, since I had no idea what to expect. I had no clue what an academic interview might involve. I did some research on the internet about commonly asked interview questions and the key, for me, was to know the course really well and to be clear on not just why they would want me, but why I had chosen them.

I started my application to Sheffield University, and during that time I received an offer from UCL. I kept the letter safe, and concentrated on my application. I had an interview for Sheffield, which was exciting as it was the first time I’d been to the city. I had a lot of time to prepare for the interview, so naturally I left it until the last minute! Luckily, the UCL interview had set me up with plenty of practice questions to work on.

Sheffield Information Commons, photo Three-Legged-Cat (Flickr)

The interview was very informal and friendly. It was a half day of a presentation, lunch, then individual interview sessions. I was expecting plenty of people to compete with, but there were only two of us! We were informed that we were the second-to-last batch of interviews before the funding deadline of 31st March. The informal presentation over sandwiches put me at ease (especially so when my interviewer urged me to take some chocolate mini-rolls for the journey home!), and the interview was a great chance to chat about libraries, the city, accommodation, and funding (The AHRC website is notoriously difficult to navigate, so it was great to talk everything through).

I was offered a place at Sheffield during the interview, which was unexpected! This was to allow me a bit more time to decide, accept and apply for funding. Because of this, I decided against applying to Manchester Met, since I was viewing it as a back-up from the beginning anyway. Then came a long decision; I wrote up a pros and cons list for each, though unfortunately the pros of one are cons of another, so that didn’t help much! I also visited UCL again with my boyfriend, which validated a lot of the thoughts going through my mind. We talked it over, and I decided that Sheffield was a better match for me, and I would enjoy the student lifestyle more than commuting from Oxford to London four days a week. It will be tough moving away from him, but we’ll survive (I’m sure he’ll enjoy the peace and quiet!).

After accepting their offer, I completed my funding application. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, and has changed recently; it was 30 pages, now just a short online form. I was accepted for AHRC funding, which is a huge weight off my mind and for which I am extremely grateful, and I am now looking into halls of residence in Sheffield. This might be a bit difficult because I don’t know Sheffield well, but I am excited to get to know a new city and meet new people.

Thing 14: LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social networking site, but for connecting with other people in a professional context.
 
 
Explore http://learn.linkedin.com/ and sign up for LinkedIn
 
Signing up to LinkedIn follows a similar process to most social networking sites – Name, email, password etc, so that was pretty straightforward.
 
You can add various bits of information to your profile, including your current and past employment and education, as well as links to your website/blog and Twitter profile. Essentially the idea is an interactive CV hosted online.
 
An interesting box on the profile is the Contact Settings, where you can let other users know what you want from the site:  career opportunities, job inquiries, reference requests, getting back in touch, etc.
 
I have added a few details to my profile, and here’s how it looks so far:
 
 
It’s kind of ugly with ads down the right hand side, and especially since I don’t have any contacts!
 
I don’t particularly like LinkedIn, but I can’t quite pin down why. I think I’m uncomfortable with my details being on the site, when I won’t be using it to find a job or network.
 
 
Facebook and LinkedIn
 
It’s strange that I should feel uncomfortable with this site, since it’s designed to be professional, whereas I’m happy to announce on Facebook everything from my current mood to what I happen to be tucking into for dinner. That being said, I am careful what I choose to post to Facebook, and I also keep my privacy settings quite high.
 
A person could easily have accounts on both sites, which are intended for very different reasons. Many people have separate Twitter accounts for this very reason – a personal and a professional account. It’s important to keep social and work life separate, especially on the internet where you have no idea who might be viewing your profile.
 
Today, most job vacancies are posted on the internet, and I guess it makes sense to host a CV there too. However, it being for professional eyes, it is vital to keep it up to date. Not using LinkedIn before, I doubt I would do that. It’s an interesting concept, but I don’t think I’ll be using it in future, and will probably delete my profile shortly after the 23 Things are over.

Thing 13: how libraries can use Facebook to connect with their users

Libraries on Facebook 

This subject is quite relevant to me at the moment, as Lauren and I set up the SSL’s Facebook page last year.


It’s been going since October 2010, and as I write the page has 95 fans. It was quite an accomplishment when the number of ‘real’ fans overtook the fans that were SSL staff!

Since Lauren and I were already on Facebook, we were both pretty familiar with setting up a ‘page’. Since it’s been going a little while now, I have a clearer idea of the pros and cons of a Facebook page for a library, and why a library might decide on this tool over (or along with) other web technologies to connect with their readers.

Pros

  • When an admin posts on the library page, that post appears in their followers’ news feed.  In this way, the information goes TO the person, rather than them seeking out the information, for example by going to the website. You are engaging with the reader on a level they are already familiar with and using very frequently.
  • Facebook is especially useful for academic libraries, since, in my experience, it is mostly students who use Facebook.
  • Posting on a page, you are given the option to post a status, photo, link or video, which gives a multi-media platform on which to engage with users. Some of the things I have posted about on the SSL page include links to e-resources, posters of upcoming events, or just quick general information, e.g. changes to opening hours.

 
Cons

  • One thing we have experienced since setting up the SSL page, and have gotten frustrated with, is the way Facebook often changes its layout. It can be hard to keep up to date with the site if you don’t have someone who uses it regularly working on it. We found this when we had just completed the staff manual entry, when Facebook announced pages were to become more like personal profiles.
  • A worry is that library Facebook pages may be intrusive. I use Facebook myself, but for keeping in touch with friends and for frittering away time when I’m meant to be doing other important things. No one wants to be reminded to do work when they’re intentionally avoiding that looming essay, nor do they want to remember that shocking fine when they are at home relaxing. It’s a fine line between engaging users in their own environment, and intruding in their personal domain.
  • What to post?! Never mind intruding if you haven’t a thing to post! We often struggle to come up with exciting posts, and to keep them upbeat. It’s all too easy to start posting about negative things, which will just make people ‘unlike’ your page.

There are of course many more of both categories, but those sprang to mind from my own experience.

Some libraries probably do make the most of Facebook to engage with their users, but it is difficult to say whether it is best placed to do so. I have enjoyed setting up the SSL page, and do think it is a good idea to have one in the ether, simply as another way to find our information on a platform that is highly used by our readers.