A good send off

April 25, 2009

I finally posted off my chartership portfolios yesterday to CILIP. Yipee!  It is the culmination of two years hard work and I am pleased it has all come together. I hope the outcome will be good news for me.

However, my continuing professional development does not end here. This is an ongoing process and I will be intent on looking for opportunities to develop both professionally and personally in the future.

It is unlikely that I will continue this blog as I contribute to a team blog at my workplace and time constraints mean I can’t blog on both.  I hope for those of you who have been following my blog that you have enjoyed reading it and I wish you also good luck in gaining your chartership.


We are all different

April 25, 2009

Right-handed or left-handed? Have you worked for the university for 10 years or more, or less? Are you a morning or night person? This activity illustrates how we are all different and was part of a mandatory Equality and Diversity training course I attended at the university this last week.

The half day’s training had varied activities including a presentation, group discussion, watching a DVD clip, and some short quizzes to test what we had learnt. The DVD clip was thought-provoking and was about a non-disabled person attending a job interview and how he was treated disfavourably by disabled people he came across during this day.  This turns the more familiar scenario on its head of how disabled people can sometimes be treated disfavourably by society.

We also learnt about disability and completed an exercise suggesting how adjustments can be made to help disabled people.

A very interesting and useful day’s training on equality and diversity and some ideas I can take back to my workplace.

Web Editing on CDG web pages

April 8, 2009

I have got the CDG NE web pages up and running after we have moved over to the CMS (Content Management System to the uninitiated). The CDG web pages are small with 4 or 5 links and I learnt how to add newsletters to the Resource Manager and how to create links to newsletters. Adding content was nice and straightforward – you can just copy and paste from a Word document. You can even tweak the content using html – such as heading types associated with the style sheets – which I know a little about from previous jobs.

I think I will enjoy my role as Web Editor and embrace the challenge of having to continuously keep the web pages up to date!

Into the final lap!

March 11, 2009

This blog has been a bit quiet in recent months. I have been blogging on my team work blog, and time constraints have made it difficult to blog on both.

I am now in the final lap of putting my portfolio together. I’ve discovered the practical challenges of bringing together disparate documents like Word, pdf, and e-mail. You know, I’ve even found out that some pieces of evidence are only available on paper! Whatever happened to the new information age?

The quiet before the storm

September 10, 2008

I am just picking up my blog again after being off work on holiday for several weeks during the summer, if you can call it that with all the endless rain we have had.

Summertime is traditionally a quiet time for academic libraries with few students in the building, but this is when all the hectic preparation happens before the start of term. Some of the changes we have seen are the new Wyse terminals installed in the computer cluster. The new Zones4Learning flexible training suite is ready. We have had equipment training to help us use the variations of training equipment for student inductions, e.g. TeamMaster, laptop and projector projecting onto the Smartboard screen. I hope I can become competent using this equipment when we are ready to go! And of course, there have been numerous projects to complete, e.g. the online tutorials for Skills Plus.

Some of the early starters have arrived for their courses, e.g. St Georges students on a franchise course from the University of Grenada, studying biomedical sciences. I assisted one of the Subject Specialists with a St Georges induction. I learnt a lot about evaluating different medical-based websites, some credible, some not. Criteria such as having verifiable contact details, a recognised web address, which audience the web site is targeted it, whether the website contains peer-reviewed articles, helped with this exercise.

I also increased my knowledge on searching on one of the subject databases, namely Medline. I was able to assist students with their exercise, combining search terms, and placing limiters.

I have enjoyed this small respite during the summer before the deluge of student inductions start very soon now.

Palace Green Library, University of Durham: World Heritage Site (Tuesday 1 July 2008)

July 5, 2008

Revisiting the glory days of the British empire is not what you’d expect on a sunny day in July but a visit to the Palace Green library unearthed some real gems of British history. One of the gems was Ogilby’s Britannica, published in 1675, which was a series of road maps, depicting journeys from London to other towns. The Sudanese collection of letters, papers and photos covers the British empire at its height up to independence, and was part of an astonishing archive and special collections.

For a group of librarians more used to trundling around 1960’s concrete architecture, it was a real contrast to be allowed into a late 17th Century building, which houses:
• the Bamburgh library containing materials on 17th Century science and controversial literature and,
• the Routh Library holding titles covering the classics, church history, and 17th Century British history and politics.

Despite the historic setting, the Access & Learning Officer gave a dynamic presentation using an interactive whiteboard and enthused us about the projects she runs for school groups. A website with archive resources and interactive activities help bring the collections to life and can stimulate pupils to want to learn about British history. Subjects covered in these onsite sessions and outreach include history, citizenship, art, science and English. For more information on the 4schools project go to the following web address

With the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery last year, the Access & Learning Officer ran a project getting a group of pupils to lie down side by side to recreate the image of a slave ship. This makes understanding the crowded conditions in a slave ship more real than any dull book on slavery could ever do!

Another example was a project explaining to pupils what is history and introducing the concept of anachronisms, something that is out of time and order. A photo of two World War soldiers illustrates this concept and a few modern day items are slipped into the photo, such as a Harry Potter book, and a can of coke. Pupils are asked to spot the anachronisms in the photo. This stimulates pupils into thinking about the reliability of an historical source.

For those of us who attended the visit, we all agreed that it had been an engaging and stimulating day and that we had had the privilege of being shown around a beautiful historic building and of browsing a remarkable collection of archives.

Tour of 21st Century Library – Saturday 21 June 2008

June 22, 2008

On a cold, damp windswept day, a building site on Tyneside is not the place you’d expect to find 10 librarians and the Head of Newcastle City libraries! This is the heart of £40 million public library innovation for the 21st Century. We were here to see work in progress on a guided tour of the new Newcastle City Library. Tony Durcan, Head of Libraries, enthused about the new City Library, that is expected to open in the summer of 2009.

Despite being a building site, it was clear to see that this building would reflect inspirational modern library design from across Europe, notably Malmo in Sweden, the Black Diamond library in Copenhagen, in Denmark, and others.

On the ground floor the building opens up to a spectacular atrium and this floor will serve as a meet and greet space. At the cutting edge of modern library technology, the new library will use RFID and there will be self-issue and self-return points near the entrance, which visitors will be able to view.

One of the main design features is for the building to be functional with flexible areas to cater for the many different functions the building may be used for. Some of these functions include an exhibition space, a performance space, reading areas for story telling for different age groups, and a PC and Mac open access area. Needless to say, there will also be books!

One of the floors will be given over to Newcastle’s Heritage, and will house the local studies and family history centre. What gave me a real wow feeling was a viewing platform on the 5th floor which provides a spectacular panoramic view of Newcastle.

The new library will also feature public art in the form of drawings printed onto the glazed windows. The drawings represent the answers to four questions asked to a cross-section of one thousand people of the Newcastle public: What makes you happy? What would you change? What do you fear? What gives you hope? In this way, the public art piece contributes to making the library a monument to the people of Newcastle.

In an age of concern for the environment, the new library building will be sustainable with solar panels on the roof and rainwater will be recycled for flushing the toilets. Other materials have also been recycled from the old library building, e.g. some of the floor slates.

Tony Durcan, Head of Newcastle Libraries, said that the new library needs to be ‘visible so it can be seen from Greys Monument, and transparent so that people can see inside the building from outside’ and he hopes the building will ‘delight and inspire’ the visitors who come here.

I was excited by this opportunity to visit the new library building in its building phase. I am even more excited at the prospect of coming to visit the new library and will wait with bated breath for my invitation to the opening!

For more information on Newcastle Libraries, follow this link.

Hollywood Librarian – 2 June 2008

June 6, 2008

In this case, the title didn’t say it all. It wasn’t about a librarian working in Hollywood. If you were expecting a life story of someone at Universal Studios looking after the scripts, you’d be wrong.

The film, directed by Ann Seidl, was a concoction of film footage depicting libraries and librarians, interspersed with public librarians giving a rosy picture and saying how much they loved their jobs!

I felt there were too many film clips – in fact anything that had a librarian in it! There was great emphasis on the public and school library but hardly any mention of academic or corporate librarians, except for one enthusiastic Head Librarian from Hewlett Packard.

One of the most inspiring moments was a prison inmate who spoke of being saved by a public library project which had helped him with his reading and literacy skills.

The political aspect of libraries was touched upon when the film mentioned the bombing of the Iraq National Library, which led to indiscriminate and mercenary looting of library resources and museum objects. This is a sacrilege as most of this is likely never to be recovered.

The theme of budget cuts and fund raising was covered at length using the threatened closure of Salinas public library (CA) in the US as a case study. It was positive to see how community spirit can prove stronger than the powers-that-be and the locals triumphed in their fight to keep their library open!

The film did not miss out on the opportunity to make a political statement comparing the $250 million dollars the US Government spends on all types of library with the equivalent spending in Iraq and Afghanistan every day!

All in all, an enjoyable film, with a few reasons to raise a laugh. However, I felt that the film could have been put together better.

In jail!

May 27, 2008

The Career Development Group ended up in jail on Friday 23 May. But don’t worry: librarians on the rampage weren’t arrested. This was the Old Gaol in Hexham. We hadn’t been arrested; we were visitors. The gaol, purpose built between 1330 and 1333, covered 4 floors from the gaoler’s lodgings on the top floor to the miserable prisoners and rats in the dungeon.

Then followed a visit to the library housed in the old gaol building and located in the Charlton room. The library was refurbished in October 2005, and was closed to the public in 2003. Just under 180 boxes of materials were housed temporarily locally in Belsay Hall for 18 months. The library is a charity and receives no government funding but relies on grants, e.g. a grant from DEFRA during the foot and mouth crisis which provided a printer and scanner and some archival storage. The library is run by a volunteer Librarian and there are currently about 5 other volunteers.

The library stocks a collection of about 5,000 books, and in the last year received a generous donation of 2,000 books from a local historian which still needs to be catalogued. No chance of breaking in here as there are barred windows and secure storage with compact shelving. The collection is organised by a card catalogue and is currently classified using Dewey 19-21. The library also stocks a poetry collection, and information on family history of the region, in particular the notorious Border Reivers.

Why do people come to the library? Some to find out about their family history, discover local poetry, look up a reference and to make use of the free enquiry service. Some queries just cannot be answered, such as how many prisoners were held in the gaol at the same time, but we do know the appalling conditions the prisoners were held in. Other queries are referred to other local history information units in the area.

One highlight of the visit was the opportunity to see a photo of Jack Charlton, born locally in Ashington and hero of the victorious England winning team of the Football World Cup of 1966. The photo was on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London and is one of several photos on display in museums and venues across the North East.

Who wants to be a Millionaire?

May 23, 2008

I went on an in-house training course on Turning Point on Thursday 22 May. Turning Point is a piece of software that measures audience response to a set of multiple choice questions. A bit like ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ except that you don’t get a chance to go 50:50 or phone a friend although you may be able to discuss the answer to a question in pairs.

Turning Point displays the question on the screen and the audience uses a keypad handset to record their chosen answer. The presenter needs to allow the audience time to think and consider their answer. Once the polling closes, the results are displayed on screen in the form of a pie chart. Reports can also be created analysing the results.

I can see how we can use this Turning Point software in our information skills programme in the following ways.
– It could be used for evaluation of information skills sessions to monitor how useful students found the sessions etc.
– It could be used to assess a student’s prior knowledge of a topic before the session, e.g. what is the library catalogue used for
– It could be used to check understanding after the session to assess what the student has learnt/retained.

There could be, however, some practical drawbacks in using the technology. The timing of our information skills sessions is quite tight with sessions lasting about one hour. There could be some difficulty in incorporating Turning Point feedback into a one hour session.

The second drawback I can see is a logistical problem of ensuring the software is set up and works in any training room we would use and ensuring there are enough keypad handsets available. I can’t see this being feasible during busy induction periods but could be possible with a more structured information skills programme, when we tend to use the same two or three training rooms.

For further information on Turning Point, go to the Turning Point website.