First Masters presentation

Yesterday was the first proper presentation I have had to do for my Masters. The topic was about Open Access from the point of view of academic researchers (each group were assigned a different POV). Although that’s an interesting topic, I’ll be reflecting on the presentation itself  in this post, and the preparation that went into it.

In terms of the presentation itself, all members of the group presented a section each. I was a bit dubious about this method at first, but it turned out that the other presentation groups had also done this, so we weren’t the odd ones out. My section was the final couple of slides on future trends and conclusions. I’m not sure if going last made me more or less nervous!

I have had some training on presentation skills and public speaking during my traineeship. Although it was a bit hit and miss, some of the techniques did help me control my nerves, keep my voice steady, and relax my body. You can read a full account of the session here at fellow ex-trainee Clare’s blog.

One of the things I remembered to do from this session was relaxing my face. Obviously it would look a bit strange to be gurning in front of my classmates, but I did make sure to rub my cheeks and swallow to relax my throat muscles.

I also tried to bear in mind some points about what I was actually saying. Practice, as they say, is key. It really was for me, and especially not just memorizing a script, but knowing the message you are trying to gt across. By relying on a fully written-out script, one can sometimes get hung up on saying things perfectly. However, spoken word sounds nothing like written English, and its important to be able to sound natural. I find using cue cards, rather than the whole thing written out, really helps me with this.

The presentation lasted approximately 20 minutes, and we invited questions once we had finished. It’s hard to prepare for questions beforehand, as obviously if you have spotted gaps in your coverage, you would amend that in your presentation. However, I feel we as a group fielded the questions well, and I really think our research and preparation showed in our responses. Especially that we could offer some references off the top of our head that might address a questioner’s issue.

So I do feel learning some relaxation skills and practice can really help with nerves (also remembering your nerves are something you control, don’t let them control you). If you can, try to identify areas your audience might question you on, and prepare some rough ideas for answers beforehand. If you can’t, knowing your subject well, and knowing more than what you have put into the presentation, can really help.

Reader Development, and My Own Reasons for Reading

Yesterday for the Public Libraries module we had a class on Reader Development, and the promotion of reading for pleasure. Of course libraries aren’t just about books, but they do play an important role in developing readers.

What is Reader Development?

“the self-chosen process of wishing to develop your own reading, to get more out of reading and to use it for personal development.” (Opening The Book)

There is an importance placed on intervention, increasing choices for readers, shared activity between readers, reader-centred promotion, and recognising the creative role of the reader – readers need writers, but writers need readers!

Librarians often can recommend non-fiction, without having read it, but it’s not so easy with fiction. We tend to be nervous about it, and fall back on personal taste. The criteria for judgement is different; non-fiction is good if it is up-to-date and accurate, for example. But, it was argued in class, we should celebrate the fact everyone reads differently, so there is a wealth of knowledge about different genres within library staff.

Some of the things we discussed in class were why do you read?, and think of your own reasons for reading, at different times.

Why do I read?

I am definitely in the reading for pleasure camp. Always have been. Reading, for me, is escapism. I guess this is especially reflected in the fact I read a lot of science fiction and dystopia.

My reasons for reading at different times

When I was a kid, I had a very active imagination. Reading was a way to foster and nurture my imagination, and transport me to a different world.

A lot of my current reading is for my masters. This can mean I’m often all read out by the time I get to read something for pleasure! However, I always try to make time to read before bed. I don’t like to go straight from computer to pillow. I need to wind down, and reading is a way for me to do this (except when it’s too exciting and you end up staying up way too late!).

An important part of reader development is shared activity between readers – talking to people about the books you’ve read, making recommendations. Most of the discussion about books I tend to have with my sisters and my boyfriend. I often read books on my older sister’s suggestions, though she always recommends books that are heart-wrenchingly sad (His Dark materials, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Hunger Games, the list goes on). Recently, I also discuss reading with some course mates, partly because it’s related to my dissertation, and also to get ideas and share opinions and thoughts.

My own recommendations

These are a selection of books I’ve read recently, and books I’ve read in the past, and really enjoyed. I could, of course, go on for days, so bear in mind this is a heavily edited list! (All images from Amazon UK)

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

I read this a few months ago. I find Wyndham’s writing to be very accessible, and that’s the main reason why I’m recommending his work. ‘Triffids is particularly excellent, and really quite scary! What I love about Wyndham’s novels is that they could happen, and the reactions of the characters are very realistic and true-to-life.

I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

Another recent read. NOTHING LIKE THE FILM. The protagonist in no way resembles Will Smith.

This is very much a story of one man, slowly going mad from loneliness and despair. The best vampire book I’ve ever read. In fact, it’s so different it doesn’t really even compare.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Oh God, I have never felt so raw and emotional after a book as with The Road. The story of a man and his son, travelling across post-nuclear apocalypse America, to find safety, and escape constant and escalating danger. Incredible sad, incredible evocative, incredible moving.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Young adult dystopia. You may have seen/heard about the film due out 23rd March. In post-apocalyptic America, now called Panem, children are sleected to fight to the death, for the entertainment of the Capitol, and to keep the population under control after unsuccessful revolutions years before. Fast-paced, and moving.


I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why you read, and of course your recommendations!

Volunteering in Sheffield

After hearing about the Conversation Club on Tuesday, I decided to go along to the session on the following Friday. I am not a spontaneous person, so this was very much out of my comfort zone, especially as I knew it would involve communicating with people of varying levels of English. However, I was brave, and it’s always rewarding to do things that challenge you.

I arrived quite early, so I was feeling a bit awkward, but actually it gave me time to sit down with one of the organisers and find out a bit more about the club, the English lessons they provide, and the charity ASSIST who run it. This prepared me for when the rest of the club arrived, as it was very noisy and busy. Everyone was very welcoming, which is probably to be expected since it’s organised around chatting!

I chatted for a short while with one man, though I didn’t find out where he was originally from, about cycling and painting. When he went into the English class, I chatted with a lovely man from Saudi Arabia. An older lady from North Africa chatted with us, which was quite useful as they both spoke Arabic, so if there were any difficulties in communication we could work it out! I then listened to her read out loud, helping out with pronunciation and any words she did not understand. After this I realise how difficult it is to describe English words. Things like “such a…”, or “really”. And of course, trying to explain librarianship is difficult! Luckily, most of the people had heard of or used libraries, so ‘library’ was a word they could understand.

I am currently writing an essay on public library services for UK ethnic minorities. Although the Conversation Club isn’t run by the library, Burngreave Library advertises it, and there is a library drop-in session on the Conversation Club’s Wednesday event. One of the organisers told me about the 3 Book Challenge sessions she runs in Burngreave Library, and I’d love to help out but it’s unfortunately when I have a class. Perhaps I’ll be a bit more flexible next term when I’m doing my dissertation. I hope to go to the Conversation Club again, though it’ll be sporadic as my Fridays are looking pretty full. They didn’t seem to mind though, as most people come and go anyway.

I felt really good afterwards, feeling I had been brave and spontaneous!

Public Lending Right – it’s not often the Government gives AWAY money!

This week, for the Public Libraries class, we were given an introduction to Public Lending Right, by Jim Parker.

I had no idea what PLR was until this week, so it was a fantastic insight into something that’s not necessarily library-related, but very interesting and I’m glad I now know about.

Authors can claim 6.05 pence per library loan. Image Credit: Spotty Hippo, Flickr

Public Lending Right comes under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and is the right for authors, and other contributors to books such as illustrators, to receive payment from the Government for use of their works in libraries. Basically, authors receive a sum for each library loan, data for which PLR collects from library authorities.

Around 40 countries have some kind of PLR set up, and it became an EU Directive in 1992. This means that all EU countries muct have a PLR system, and those countries that wish to join the EU must either set one up or have it set up. PLR in the UK has been around since 1979, after authors campaigned for the right to payment, though it was Denmark who were the first, setting theirs up in 1946.

Jim gave us some statistics, which highlight the fact that libraries are making a wide range of books available, and that the public are borrowing a range of books. There are 40,000 authors registered, 24,000 of which receive payment, and 211 of whom receive the maximum payment amount.  The rate per loan is 6.05 pence, which is down from 6.25 pence last year.

Through the collection of library loans data, PLR also collect a lot of information about what it is people are reading. For example, most borrowed authors, most borrowed titles, and loans by category.

After the presentation, we had an opportunity to ask questions. Someone raised the issue of ghost writers, and whether they receive any payments. It’s tricky because their name isn’t on the title page, and the ‘author’ has to vote them in. For example, Michael Cain did, and they went 50/50, which is lovely.

We were also asked to keep an eye on the PLR website this month, as a public consultation will be taking place regarding the location of the PLR. The service will continue, but the current office is being abolished, and it looks likely to move to the British Library if not voted for no change.

I really enjoyed this class, as it was something a little bit different. It’s always great to hear from other complementary services and professions, and presentations like this open my eyes to the social and political context in which libraries are situated. Plus, authors have to register for PLR, so the more people who know about it, the better!