Information Literacy in my Future Career

As part of my ‘Information Resources and Information Literacy’ module, we were asked to produce group posters on how information literacy would be relevant to our future careers, which were then displayed in an event which some of the Information School attended.

In my group there were four of us. Although we all wanted generally wanted to work in libraries, it was quite interesting to see how varied it was in the type of library we would prefer.

Our poster – click for larger image

For our poster we decided on the design I suggested (woo!), which was using the seven SCONUL Pillars of Information Literacy in an Acropolis style building, with ourselves standing atop, supported by information literacy. I must say, the poster was fantastic. Props to my team-mate Jen especially, who did a lot of work on it at home.

It was really interesting to see everyone else’s posters, and it was fascinating to see how different the career paths were for the class. 

One particular poster I was very impressed with looked at Information Literacy in relation to working as an Information Manager. I was gushing about this poster for ages after the event, because everything on it was so well thought out and meantsomething.

Team F's poster

The boxes along the side go into detail about what skills are relevant to the profession and how they would be used by an Information Manager. The Matrix style design in the background is used to represent how society is built on information in today’s world. In the characters, the words ‘Information Literacy’ is written in different languages.
The figure in the centre is wearing glasses and headphones to show how information is multi-sensory, and the Godfather style puppet strings in the corner are meant to convey how an Information Manager controls and manages information.
I really enjoyed this poster event. It came at just the right time, as I think everyone’s energy has been lagging this week – I definitely know mine has! Playing with colouring in, and talking about what we want to be when we grow up, was much nicer than a lecture!

Oh yes, I remember why I want to be a librarian!

This post is about a visit to two local libraries last week in the Sheffield area, as part of my masters. The visits were great, and really reminded me what great work libraries can do (hence the title).

I’m really sorry, but this post is quite hefty!

The first visit was to Chapeltown Library and Children’s Centre. The library is co-located with the Children’s Centre, and has a large community room for use by different groups, such as baby weighing, or breast-feeding advice. The library was really nice, and has aged well considering the building was erected in the 1980s. It had a feel very much like the public library I used to work at during Sixth Form College, as it was a similar size. The visit involved a quick look round, then a  discussion about the library and Sheffield libraries in general. The library has self issue machines which operate using RFID. These have proved a success, with very little complaint from the public. This was amazing to me, as I worked in Mersea Library when they implemented RFID, and the public, although on the whole please with it, were quite vocal when they disliked it. I also sympathised with the library staff, as I know how much work must have been involved, as I’ve been there myself!

After another look around, we got back on the coach and drove to the public library at Southey Owlerton, which is very new and impressive. It is part of the SOAR (Southey Owlerton Area Regeneration) project, and it is located in The Learning Centre. The building was lovely and bright, and the layout of the library really made good use of limited floor space. We were given a quick tour by the acting manager Daryl (who had amazing dreadlocks). The building has many great ‘green’ features, such as motion detecting lighting to save energy, and a ‘green roof’ which is a wildlife garden covered in wildflowers (currently covered in logs and dirt). The library has several schemes to get users involved through volunteering, for example children can help out adults at IT classes, and the building as a Learning Centre has several classrooms and an IT suite. It seems very much embedded in the area, and was built with a huge amount of consultation with the local community.

After our tour we went up to one of the rooms for tea and biscuits, and for a discussion with Daryl, the Head of Services and his soon-to-be replacement. I was really honoured that they took time out to take part in the day, and I really hope they all enjoyed it as much as I did!

This discussion was fantastic, and covered a huge range of topics. We covered the current economic climate and it’s impact on Sheffield libraries. It seems that they are doing better than most, but have still have to reduce staff numbers, and will have to reduce opening hours in the future.  We were also informed about the planning and building of the new library, and the consultation with the public. It was really interesting to hear that in the past changes to libraries were often done behind closed doors, and the public just had to deal with it. With this new library, the community were asked ‘what makes a good district library?’, and the ideas were stemmed from their opinions.

Another in-depth topic was the classification vs categorisation debate. Currently, Sheffield libraries categorise their fiction and non-fiction sections in community libraries. This is because their experience has been that users come to the library to browse, making the ritual of finding a shelf-mark on the catalogue and searching out that one particular book redundant. Instead, they can find a section they enjoy and books similar to it in the same area, i.e. Romance, Westerns, Science Fiction etc. However, the central library in Sheffield does use the Dewey Decimal System, because of the sheer size of stock.

Someone asked whether they felt there was a particular demographic they were not reaching, or were actively encouraging. The Learning Centre is a very new library, and as such they have been able to start from scratch. They are much busier than the previous local library in the area, and feel they have attracted a much larger demographic – success! However, a problem they felt was that there is quite a clear divide between different groups of users and the time of day. For example, during the day they get many adults in the library, but at 3.05, when the school just across the road lets out, the library is chocker with kids. This is absolutely fantastic, especially getting teenagers in, but it does mean adults are a little put off using the library at this time. The team are working to resolve this issue, though it does seem to be quite a small problem considering the successes they’ve had, in my opinion.

Ok, I really should stop there, or else I’ll be gushing about libraries and ‘dishy Daryl’ for weeks. I really enjoyed these visits, and they reminded me a lot of the visits on the traineeship at Oxford. I was particularly flattered that such senior members of the service came to meet us and discuss all things public libraries.

Let the librarians eat cake

I was not impressed when my alarm started buzzing at 4.55am. Especially since a few nights ago I was woken by a fire alarm at 6am. But as early as it was, I was excited to go to Library Camp.

The journey to Birmingham was fairly uneventful, and I even managed to find my way to the venue easily. I then double backed to a Cafe Nero for some much-needed caffeine. While I was waiting for my chai (yes folks, chai season is upon us), unexpectedly Kirsty, a former trainee too, and Sonja, who works in the Bod Law Library, walked in, so we had a nice catch up.

Library Camp followed the structure of an ‘unconference’ where “participants decide on the programme at the beginning of the event, working on the principle that the sum of the knowledge, experience and expertise of the people in the room is likely to be greater than that of those on the stage at traditional conferences”. This meant there wasn’t any set programme until we arrived and people pitched their ideas to the group. I’m not sure how successful this was, as it seemed to me that all the pitches got through (I was at the back so couldn’t see how many people there were with ideas vs how many spaces in the day there were!).

The sessions board

When we arrived at the venue, we were asked to write our names on sticky labels, as well as Twitter names if we wanted. We were also asked to write why we had come on a green paper foot, to go on display. I can’t remember what it was I wrote exactly, but it was along the lines of ‘to discuss interesting ideas and experience an unconference’. I then admired the vast amount of cake. They put my baking efforts to shame, and I’m glad I didn’t attempt anything for library camp, but did inspire me to make banana cake for my housemates the following day.

Everyone was called into a large room, and with a microphone someone went round every. single. person. asking who they were and why they were here. I didn’t catch most people’s responses because was too terrified by he prospect of speaking into a microphone. It was a bit long and unnecessary, but it was a good chance to introduce the organisers and the resident poet.

200 Swety cakes

The first session I attended was titled ‘Managing the Transition between School and University’, headed by Jo Alcock and Jean Allen. Apparently Jo and Jean didn’t know each other beforehand, but I couldn’t tell! I really enjoyed this talk, but unfortunately it was too short. This is because we ate up half our time going round the room introducing ourselves and why we were interested in the topic. There were a number of themes that came out of this discussion, including expectations and assumptions, induction classes, and intimidation by the physical library. We only really had time to tackle the first one, but you can follow the discussion on Twitter at #Sch2uni.

The next session was led by Maria Cotera, whose talk at the CILIP New Professionals Day I really enjoyed. This session was about the role of librarians as agents for social change. This is something that really interests me, especially as I am really missing my lovely sociology (my undergrad degree). The question we considered was what kinds of information we provide, or can provide, that facilitates social change. Some of the things we came up with were basic skills such as reading, computer literacy, health information, information about council services. We were also considering it in a global context, not just within the UK, though this is also important. We then talked about how we can let people, and other librarians, know that librarians are doing these things.

The third session I went to was a bit of a whim, as there were many good sessions and I couldn’t decide. It was concerning  legacies, and to be honest I’m not sure I really followed this one. I think my caffeine level was dipping, and I needed a bit more cake to perk me up. There was, however, and interesting discussion over classification vs categorisation, something which I will also mention in an upcoming blog post. At the end, there was also a call for everyone to harass Frank Skinner into becoming an official advocate for libraries, but once talk turned, jokingly, to a nude calendar featuring him, a la Men of the Stacks, I was less keen!

Definitely needed this session by this point

Next up, ‘The Embedded Librarian’. This was a discussion about librarians out fo the physical library setting, or librarians by other names, such as information specialists etc. The consensus was, in answer to the question ‘what’s in a name?’, was that it doesn’t matter, as long as it makes sense to people and they know what you do. This was the only session where we had to hold an object when we spoke, so that not everyone spoke at once. It was a small red ball, which cause much hilarity since it seems few librarians can throw or catch.

The final session concerned academic libraries and cross-sectoral collaboration. The 5am start was really taking its toll by this point, and I was really struggling to keep up. Also I was feeling a bit sick from too much cake. What I got from this session was that there are a few examples of collaboration, but generally not that many, and that it is more important to be clear on what libraries offer and what £9000 a year tuition fees gets students.

I actually found the most useful parts of the day were the breaks in between the sessions, where we got a chance to get to know each other. I found a librarian I chatted to while making tea knew two people on my course at Sheffield, who I don’t think knew each other before we started. It was also great to chat to people I know from Twitter, but not in real life! In fact, I have since sent Jennifer some resources to do with Information Literacy, which we may not have chatted about if not for the much-needed tea break before the day started.

I feel that I would’ve got a lot more from the day if I wasn’t so tired, as I would’ve contributed more myself. But I did have a very good time, and would definitely go along to Library Camp 2012.

The First Fortnight

I’ve finished my first two weeks on the MA Librarianship course!

I’ve actually been in Sheffield now for two & 1/2 weeks, but the title would no longer be alliterative. In any case, I’ve done two lots of my lectures.

Sadly I haven't seen Sean Bean around

Fresher’s week was really fun, though I am such a postgraduate. I steadfastly avoided any school disco nights, beach themes, or other such ‘let’s get wasted’ events, instead opting for lovely sounding coffee mornings and many films. Boring, right?! The freshers are all so young- I feel very old, I wonder if I look old to them?!

The first week of the course actually only took place over two, reasonably busy, days. I think this is to help part-time students so they don’t have to travel in too much. It means I’m very tired by the end of those days, but I can get on with work on my days ‘off’.

The modules seem interesting, to varying degrees. I am very much enjoying Libraries, Information and Society, because it is taught in a similar way to my Sociology undergrad, and covers similar topics. I am also enjoying Information Literacy & Information Resources. I had no idea what information literacy was before I started (essentially, being able to source, evaluate and present information), but it seems to be a fascinating area with lots of current research going on.

Management for Library and Information Services is actually more interesting than it sounds, though I must admit not my favourite module. One of the assignments is applying, short listing, and interviewing for a pretend job, which sounds a little daunting but a lot of fun. I am also studying Information Retrieval (search engines and digital libraries), which is quite techy, but I can see it is really useful to know about. I am enjoying learning about the ‘magic’ that happens when you run a search.

We have also been set a test essay. The question is the same across the Information School, but the question is very open to your own interpretation. It’s unassessed, but that hasn’t stopped us all panicking a bit.

At the moment the course seems a similar workload in terms of reading as my undergrad, but with a lot more assignments. I feel that every time I’ve got all my work done, we’re sent more! Hopefully careful time management and organisation will see me through.

Speaking of time management, I have signed up to way too many societies. But that’s what uni’s all about, right? I am a paid member of the Postgraduate Society, the Cooking Society, and the Sci-fi & Fantasy Society. I also considered the Socialist Students Society. They said “Are you interested in Socialism?” I couldn’t lie, I am, but I am not a very politically active person so I am only on the mailing list, and might attend particular events, but not everything.

The Botanical Gardens has a bear pit! (no real bears)

 I really like what I’ve seen of Sheffield so far. I am, however, struggling with cooking for one. I haven’t had to do it regularly for about three years, and all my meals so far have been able to comfortably feed two people. Thank God for Tupperware and plentiful freezer space.