University of Bergen Staff Mobility Week, Day 5

Hade – Goodbye

[Check out the rest of my week here]

The final day was actually quite emotional. No one could quite believe the week had come to an end already.

It started with a visit to the social sciences library to discuss information literacy teaching. It was an interesting and lively discussion. One of the group brought along an iPad, so we were able to compare how our libraries display our list of databases and get ideas for avoiding simply an A-Z list. Our website, for example, has an A-Z list, but also collates key databases into subject guides, along with other useful information such as relevant call numbers, useful websites and key resources.

Again I was struck by the subject knowledge held by the librarians at the University of Bergen, where librarians have postgraduate degrees in their liaison subjects, often PhDs. I’ve always held a good librarian can be a librarian for any subject, but often I’d like more subject knowledge at times!

After another lovely lunch (though strawberries on smoked salmon?!) the three groups converged on the Egg lecture theatre for summaries, a photo presentation and goodbyes.

The library group, somewhat infamous after the previous night’s shenanigans, had recorded a summary video, on top of Fløien. We hadn’t seen the video in full since recording it, so we were relieved when we all looked fairly sober and sensible. The video is lovely, each of us describing what we’ve gotten out of SMW. I hope to post it once it becomes publicly available.

The other two groups, health & safety and IT, also seemed to have had great experiences. After the presentations of certificates, including a photo of the library group for Britt-Inger our host, the end was here. It came so quickly! I had flashbacks of leaving university, no one wanting to be the first to leave.

We’ve kept in touch since, sharing photos and emails. I made friends at SMW, and I really hope to see them again soon.


The library group

I’d really like to thank the University of Bergen for hosting a fantastic week that I left feeling inspired and enthusiastic. Thank you, too, to the university’s library staff, who were so generous not just with the activities they laid on but also their time.

If you work in higher education and are interested in attending an Erasmus funded visit to a European university, speak with your international/study abroad office. Is a fantastic opportunity for cpd and developing networks, but also for getting an objective view on your own work practices – if you have to explain then to someone, out makes you see them from the outside.

University of Bergen Staff Mobility Week, Day 4

“I thought librarians were meant to be quiet?!”

[Check out days 1, 2 and 3]

The above quote refers to the Thursday’s evening dinner, where many a stereotype was smashed. (As were many a librarian – free wine!). The librarians table was raucous, and it was this night we became infamous.

But I am getting ahead of myself. First, we attended a discussion session from two librarians from the University’s Medical and Dental Library. In designing a new re-purposed space in the library, created from withdrawing superseded print journal backfiles, the library staff had implemented evidence-based practice (EBP) to ensure the space was perfectly suited to what the students wanted and needed.

Evidence-based medicine

Evidence-based medicine

Although the librarians had some ideas of what to do with the space, by employing EBP they could make sure the space was meeting the students’ actual needs. They collected evidence from their own experience: No more computers were needed. And they read the literature: There should be variety of study spaces with quiet areas and comfy seating. They also gathered student’s views: They wanted a quiet place, but also more space for group work.

The combination of these three factors created a strong basis for making decisions on how best to use the space. Using EBM seems common sense, but how many times do we do two of these things, and not the 3rd? for example, you might make a decision using your own experiences, and you might survey the users, but have you read around it to see what other libraries are doing? Or any combination of these three areas. I know I have definitely done this, so using EBM as a framework ensures you are as informed as possible, and the structure affords you a pathway to follow.

We spent our afternoon at the University’s Picture Collection, to better understand their digitised sources for research. Staff at the Picture Collection are building a database, with linked data to improve the end-user experience. We also had a tour, and saw some gems including glass plate negatives. The staff all have a background in some way in photography – indeed, staff with subject knowledge of their liaison areas is very common, and I think compulsory.

I'm not really miniature - I'm on a slope and between two tall people!

I’m not really miniature – I’m on a slope and between two tall people!

In the evening, it was back up Mount Fløien for a wonderful dinner at the Fløien Folkerestaurant. With stunning views, this was a perfect final SMW evening. The food was delicious – ham and hard goats cheese salad, baked cod with asparagus, and a beautiful traditional Norwegian dessert called Fløien’s farm girl veiled in Apple Syrup. My mouth is watering just remembering it all!

Most of the Library group were sat together at one table. We had really bonded over the days we spent together, so there was much laughter. Especially so a fellow Brit, a Pole and I completely failed to understand a joke about Finnish people. Seriously, they told it to us three times. It still baffles me now. We spent so long trying to decipher it, it became more and more funny to those around us!

It was so generous of UiB to provide the wonderful meal, and it was the social activities throughout the week which made my stay so memorable.

Unexpected careers advice

A budding librarian?

A budding librarian?

A few weeks ago I was asked to provide some ad hoc careers advice for a budding librarian. The chance to preach about the library and information profession, to perform my elevator pitch, is something I’ve dreamed of. I could just picture it: I’d be that cool, hip librarian with the funky style. The one who’d make them think ‘I thought librarians were old and grumpy, how wrong I was!’

I am not sure I achieved this aim. Instead, I’m fairly sure I overwhelmed her with my incoherent enthusiasm.

She was interested in working in a university library, so I ran through the various routes into academic libraries, both ‘traditional’ (“I was a graduate trainee…”) and non-traditional (“Don’t rule out library assistant posts…”). I explained a little about library and information management Masters. I told her about the favourite parts of my jobs; interaction with students, finding that perfect resource, making a difference to the research process.

I just hope she managed to pick out some nuggets of helpful advice from my string of “yes, be a librarian, libraries are amaze”. She was still smiling by the end of it, so perhaps some of my enthusiasm rubbed off on her. Perhaps we have a new recruit. I hope she will find the profession as welcoming as I have!

The art of engagement: PIC2013 session write-up

I attended the Perfect Information conference in May, where Linda Cockburn, facilitator and coach, imparted her wisdom on the art of engagement and effective presentations.

[You can read my overall impressions from the conference over at the SLA Europe blog]

Increasingly, presentations are important not just for doing a good job, but for articulating that you’re doing a good job. Good presentations matter, as they make best use of your audience’s time.

Both Marie and I found this session really valuable (in fact, all of the sessions were!). Marie had a big presentation coming up for the BIALL conference, and I do a lot of presenting as part of my job. We were both furiously scribbling notes and tips, and below are some of the points I found most interesting and pertinent.


The best presentations are stories

Authenticity is all

The best presentations are stories from the heart, something you’re passionate about. Turn your presentation into a story – The idea of telling a story is quite daunting, but idea of listening to a story is lovely.

Elements of a story:

  • It’s a journey: stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • Someone trying to achieve something.
  • A clear plot.

What’s your story, what’s the ‘big idea’? Say it out loud – this will help you visualise and realise in for your presentation. When structuring your story, start with the ending. Working backwards from the ending, create a clear path to it.

Think about who are your audience? What questions are the likely to ask?

Rule of 3s

Give your presentation three themes, three elements in the structure, three points to any sections. This structure of threes is clear, memorable, and easily digested. It’s also scalable – it will work for a five minute presentation, and a 50 minute presentation.

This rule of 3s is something I am trying to stick to with my own work. I don’t make the three sections necessarily equal, but what I am striving for is a clear start, middle and end (a story!). And speaking of endings; finish on strong point, rather than fizzle out. It’s a chance to return to your main message.

You’re information is probably very interesting… to you.

A list of statistics is all very well, but its not enough – where’s the story? How do you make those figures, stats, data, whatever, interesting to your audience? How do you make them care?

Linda used a TED talk to demonstrate her point that presentations should be stories:

A nervous nelly?

Linda also covered some techniques for managing your nerves, and asked for contributions from the audience. Some of these included:

  • Speak at half your usual speed and that’s probably about right
  • It’s good to be nervous as it shows you care
  • Remember that everybody in the audience wants you to do well

A calm exterior will have a calming effect – breathe, stay still, look at your audience. And know your stuff. Speak from heart, don’t pretend to be an expert if you’re not.

Say your presentation it in front of someone, and get them to repeat back your message. Often, what you’re saying isn’t what they’re interpreting. I’d love to try this one time, as I imagine it can be fascinating. 

Linda was a great presenter (as expected!). She was warm, and I found her tips to be practical and insightful. She finished on this hilarious video, which had us all laughing, and a few people dancing…