Friday, 30 January 2015

15 - Mandy Powell, CILIP Cymru Wales

When Mandy wrote this post back in September, she was the CILIP Policy Officer for CILIP Cymru Wales, she has since been named as Head of CILIP Cymru Wales. Congratulations Mandy!

I’m the CILIP member of staff for Wales and I work with a great group of people who make up the CILIP Cymru Wales Committee. I’ve always been interested in learning and development and the power of continual professional development or CPD. I applied for my first library role just after leaving school at 18 but didn’t get the job. I was heartbroken at the time, but decided to get some experience of working with the public by working in an independent bookshop. I actually asked the owners if they would train me and in exchange I would work for free, but after the first day they started paying me, so I rather cheekily talked my way into a job that wasn’t there.

I used this opportunity to learn more about customer care and develop my knowledge of books and information sources and applied for another part time library assistant post and this time I got it. I worked part time in the bookshop and part time in a library and information centre in Monmouthshire while studying via distance learning with the Open University for my first degree in English Literature.

As soon as I finished my first degree I enrolled on a Masters Degree course in Information and Library Studies with Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, again via distance learning and during that time I got a full time assistant post in a bigger library. I looked for opportunities to develop at work and applied for a temporary promotion working on a library strategy for engaging with children and their families. I learned a lot from this and the combination of working for a library and information service in the day and studying in the evening and weekends, although full on, was a great way to combine theory and practice.

I got my first professional role working for Newport as their Reader Development Librarian and this is where I put together my Chartership portfolio and developed skills in training, recruitment and event origination.

I started work for CILIP in autumn 2007 and to be honest I still pinch myself that I got the role; I had wanted to work for the organisation since starting the Chartership process, wanting to use my knowledge and skills to help and support library and information staff.

My role is varied and covers many areas, and I’ve found it a great way to learn new skills. CILIP Cymru Wales supports members of CILIP based in Wales and advocates on behalf of the profession. I am based at home but spend a lot of my time meeting staff across the country. I’m very proud to work in and represent Wales, we have a good history of cross sector working and sharing best practice; with library and information staff in public libraries, HE and FE, health, schools, law and business all sharing knowledge and learning from each other.

L-R, Lori Havard, Carol Edwards (CILIP Cymru Wales Committee), John Griffiths AM, Mandy Powell, Barbara Band, CILIP President at the CILIP Cymru Wales conference May 2014

I organise the annual CILIP Cymru Wales conference, which is a major piece of project management and has given me opportunities to develop various business skills such as negotiating contracts with hotels and organising trade exhibitions.

In recent months I have compiled evidence for CILIP Cymru Wales to submit to the Public Library Inquiry and I gave evidence in person at the Senedd. I was very proud to represent the profession to the panel of politicians and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it was a golden opportunity to make sure decision makers continue to be aware of the importance of library and information services and the power they have to support and transform lives.

L-R, Mandy Powell, Carol Edwards, Chair, CILIP Cymru Wales, Jane Sellwood, Society of Chief Librarians, Wales giving evidence at the Senedd in February 2014

The most enjoyable part of my job is meeting wonderful library and information staff across Wales and the UK; I am continually impressed by their skills and passion for supporting others. Those who volunteer to work on the CILIP Cymru Wales Committee bring so much knowledge and enthusiasm to their roles; it is a constant reminder that for most of us, being a librarian is so much more than just a job.

Friday, 23 January 2015

14 - Jane Sellwood, Merthyr Tydfil

Our latest post from Jane at Merthyr Tydfil Public Libraries, illustrates what a constantly changing environment libraries can be.
I sort of fell into Librarianship, it certainly wasn’t a career path I had ever considered! I was 18 and had just had dreadful results on my A-Levels, although it wasn’t all bad as the Sixth Form was definitely the best years of my school life. We had a fantastic time, just forgot to do any real work associated with our courses.

I saw a part time and full time post advertised in the local newspaper and while I couldn’t face going back to school to re-sit, thought the local college would be a good option and if I did a bit of work along the way, I would have some money as well. This was a plan.
I turned up at the interview and to tame my then very long very curly hair had decided a bun was the best option, coupled with my glasses I am amazed no-one thought I was taking the mickey!! I had only ever set foot in a library once in my life before this interview although I was an avid reader (note to any people looking for library work – don’t say you love reading and want to write a book, we are all pretty much sick of hearing that! Tell us how you enjoying interacting with people, enjoy helping others gain new skills and more of that ilk).

The same day I had a call which offered me a part time post in Treharris Branch Library, to start as soon as possible. I was delighted, because part time would be so much better for me to keep up with my studies.

Needless to say I started work and never went back to college. I loved the Library which was a small but busy branch with the usual clientele. A table full of newspaper readers and a number of elderly users who babied me as the ‘new little girl’. It was a fantastic working environment, with great staff and lovely customers. It was this that drew me to taking on as much overtime as possible and forgetting all thoughts of going to re-sit my A Levels.
Two years later I got married, and the year after had my first child. An opportunity then came up for a full time position in the Central Library and I was on the move. Another baby came along and so did the opportunity for a promotion to a supervisory level. Staff management was a new concept but one I enjoyed.

Merthyr Central Library
Another two years later saw a fantastic opportunity come my way and I decided I would start to study for my degree via distance learning in Aberystwyth. By now I had two small children, five and almost three, a full time job, a home, husband and all the fun that comes with that! Possibly not the wisest time to start a degree.....

Three years later with the degree over had also seen me move into a trainee role, then once the degree had come through, a permanent position running the Central Library. Certainly a challenge but again another job I loved doing. Organising rotas, work patterns, building management, stock management, organising events, organising activities, Summer Reading Challenge, Story and Rhyme and so much more. Never a dull moment – in fact rarely a moment to catch a breath!
Two years later all change again, with another promotion and a change of role. Although for a while I covered two roles (and I thought I had been busy before...). I became a sort of second in command to the Head of Libraries, although my title was Customer Services Librarian, and then another two years later saw our Head of Libraries retire.
Absolutely the start of one of the most intense periods of my working life, as the offer on the table for retirement packages was very good, a number of staff who had many years of knowledge and expertise decided the time was right to leave. This meant a full re-organisation and for me culminated in my current role of Principal Librarian (no longer called the Head of Libraries role) and writing the first report for the Welsh Public LibraryStandards of my career.
Now my role is very different from the halcyon days in Treharris Library. During my time as Principal Librarian (or general dogsbody as the role is also known) we have had a turbulent time. The first three months saw a refurbishment bid to CyMAL for the Central Library to the tune of £350,000 and a closure of almost four months. On returning to re-inhabit the building the state of some of the collections was discovered with stock not catalogued, photographs in just one large muddle and many other issues. This is now in year three of a five year plan.....

Treharris Library
Next came a bid to refurbish another of the Libraries, one very close to my heart, in Treharris. Reserve list for this so rested back and thought we would have a bit of breathing space but no – suddenly offered the money and on to sorting that out. One evening at home during this time I mentioned to my husband the lack of provision of service in themed area of the valley. He happened at the time to be the manager of the leisure centre in Aberfan and there was born the idea of a new library. As so many things often are in Libraries, this was to be done on a shoestring with little funding available. The room was drab so a couple of coats of paint and some of the old shelving resurrected and myself and another member of staff had created a library – not a bad effort in a week, especially as we did all the painting ourselves!

Time passed in a whirlwind as I got to grips with the role I now do, but then we were knocked sideways by the massive cuts to Local Authority spending and we had nowhere to cut other than our mobile service and staffing. These were the hardest times I have been through as we went through a compulsory redundancy process and lost staff who I had worked with for many years. And now we are likely to move from the Local Authority to a newly formed Leisure and Culture Trust, so all change again.
One thing I can honestly say is that I have never been bored in my career, never had a lack of things to do, always been interested and never regretted a single day of being who I am and doing it the way I have.  So three marketing awards on, three library refurbishments under our belt and very good achievement against the Welsh Public Library Standards later I am looking forward to the next challenge. There definitely will be one, as I don’t think a year has gone by when Libraries and the services we offer haven’t changed in some way.

Friday, 16 January 2015

13 - Karl Drinkwater, Aberystwyth University

Our latest post is from Karl Drinkwater, Psychology Librarian at Aberystwyth University.

I'm one of those people who came to Aberystwyth to do a qualification – in my case an MSc in Information and Library Studies – then stayed, because it was easier than trying to catch a train out of the town. That was over fifteen years ago and I have been working as a librarian at Aberystwyth University ever since. My areas of specialism include information literacy; multimedia (e.g. video and screencasting); social media; electronic resources; resource discovery systems; and I am the librarian for the psychology department. For a few years I worked as an e-learning technologist for JISC RSC Wales on a secondment, which is where I gained a lot of my technology skills. I’d recommend secondments and job-shares to anyone.

Going back many years: I started working in public libraries while doing my A levels, and volunteered in a university philosophy library for a while. Words and books have been a constant in my life. As an undergraduate I studied joint honours Classics and English (First Class), both amazing subjects for giving broad overviews of the context for our culture. It saddens me that few universities now teach classics as a separate subject, since it was so interesting to be able to study language, art, architecture, history, literature, drama, poetry, philosophy, all on one course. I specialised in ancient Greek language and culture, since all that Roman history and Latin language was too modern for me.

Professionally, I used to be a member of CILIP but after a few years came to the conclusion that their values didn’t match mine; the introduction of periodic re-evaluation for chartership led me to cancel my application and focus instead on training and qualifications which felt more relevant to my role. I am now a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (a peer-reviewed form of professional recognition), and in June 2011 I was the first non-academic recipient of the Aberystwyth University Learning and Teaching Fellowship Award. Over the years I’ve given lots of talks at conferences, and had library articles printed in journals, though I haven’t got time for so much of that now since I only work as a librarian two days a week.

When not working for Aberystwyth University I write fiction, in more than one genre. It depends on what mood I'm in as to whether a piece will contain soppy romance or stumpy zombies. I also love exercise (especially running and cycling); computer or board games; being in natural places; and music. I have been vegan for 23 years. I'll chat with you in Welsh if you speak slowly.

As all librarians know, there is no such thing as an average day. Nonetheless, here’s what I got up to recently.

9am: A chance to catch up with urgent emails. I’m thinking about next year’s teaching for psychology students and planning a progression: meet and greet at the start; library induction; a short talk about academic materials; seminars about finding resources; and maybe support drop-ins within the department. We've increased the amount of teaching we do, and in the first few months of the last academic year I taught over 1000 students across a number of departments, not including all those I saw at induction! Information literacy is a big part of what we do, teaching people how to find, evaluate and use information ethically. Work with resources and liaison with departments make up other chunks of my subject librarian work.

9.30am: a meeting to discuss the induction process for this year. I had suggested a change in format, involving a shorter presentation but more hands-on opportunities, and a fun library bingo card to complete after the session. The next job is probably working on a more attractive presentation (I always favour Prezi).

10.15am: I was on the rota for answering queries to our team email address that staff and students can use for asking questions. I also monitored the Ask A Librarian live chat tool. We keep an eye on these while getting on with other work.

11am: Work editing together video and a screencast about using electronic resources in our new Aber Academy multimedia lab. I’m in the group managing the space so have been making sure I am one of the first to use everything and help iron out any teething problems.

1pm: A shift on the Hugh Owen Library enquiry desk. Surprisingly busy due to our summer university and Welsh language courses. I tracked some books down, gave directions, gave research advice, but didn’t get to say "Shhhhh".

3pm: A dissertation student needed help with finding material so I headed over to the psychology department and we used a PC there. The research revolved around news sources covering a famous legal case. We played with date ranges and sources in Infotrac, but the breakthrough was in focusing on the names of the victim (different papers used different names, so we focused on just the surname – with a limited date range it meant we could do that without getting false hits). I also demonstrated another news source, Nexis, and we replicated the same searches to make sure nothing was missed from the major newspapers the student was focusing on. We looked at other issues too, including drawing the newspaper article word counts on a graph over time (the articles got smaller after the initial sensational coverage, so that by the time of the trial outcome it was almost a footnote: that is quite revealing about how the media works). Everyone's research is different, and it’s always fascinating to see the range of what people are investigating.

4.15pm: Dealt with reports on new psychology items in stock – some of the lecturers will be pleased to know their books have arrived – and made decisions on a donation of psychology books.

4.45pm: A module approval form to work on, primarily considering what additional resources would be needed in order for the module to run.

And then the sun shone over the sea, seagulls did swirl in the cerulean sky, and it was the glorious end to another libraryland day.

Librarians make a difference.

Friday, 9 January 2015

12 - Julia Ziomek, Mountain Ash

After a short break we are back, and our first post is from Julia, Branch Librarian at Mountain Ash Library.

I read a lot as a child, and people would say “She’s going to be a librarian or a bookseller”, but upon considering a career, I was planning on doing accountancy and working in a bank. But when I found out it would take 6 years of study (!) to become an accountant, I changed my mind. When studying for my A-Levels, I got a Saturday job at my local library in Cwmbran, and also worked as holiday relief. This made my decision for me. I enjoyed my time there and chose to study Librarianship at Aberystwyth University. I was fortunate that the year I went to ‘Aber’ was the first year they were doing a single honours course in Library & Information Studies, so apart from some small ‘filler’ classes, almost all of my lectures focused on librarianship in some form or other.

On leaving university, I was unable to find a ‘proper’ job straightaway and took a temporary administrative post in the former Welsh Office. This was dull work (what was the point of filing all those reports that no-one would ever read?) and after 8 months, I was extremely happy to get the job of Branch Librarian in Mountain Ash public library. Mountain Ash is a typical ex-mining town in the Welsh Valleys. I’d never heard of the Cynon Valley until I got this job, but it is a beautiful part of Wales, with steep mountains of green, brown heather and thick forests. I tell you, walking up these steep streets has improved my fitness no end!

I’ve been in this post ever since, getting my Chartership and seeing the council go through various changes, including moving the library to another, newly constructed, building. That was a huge challenge – weeding out the stock (we had a lot of new items bought for the move); arranging the disposal of the old stock (via recycling firms and a mega sale, we even sold the chairs we were sat in!); and the actual moving day (which took 12 hours, I was worn out!). Another major challenge was the upgrade to a computer library system, we were previously on the old card system in the old building. May I suggest that you never move to new premises and begin a new library software at the same time…

I have been involved in various committees within Rhondda-Cynon-Taff libraries. Some years ago we were looking at updating our library software, and as someone who’d be using it on a daily basis, I was part of the group who visited various libraries around Wales and England to learn about and test their software. We also had a group that looked at marketing. This entailed regular meetings where we discussed various methods of promotion and publicity, whether through selling items or organising events. I enjoy being part of these groups, and being able to play a small role in making our service better. And the chance to see parts of the UK I’d never before been to, was a lovely treat.

My typical day will involve issuing and returning books; answering queries, which could be anything from providing an address or phone number to family history research (sometimes it’s Americans looking for a John Evans, miner!); assistance on our public access PCs, from writing CVs to retrieving lost documents; weeding our stock, keeping it relevant for our borrowers; local history (adding new items, writing up local histories, answering queries, etc); creating and organising displays by local artists; running a monthly book club & weekly craft group; organising events; administrative duties; managing staff; and ensuring building safety and security.

My job has expanded these last few years, as this building is no longer just a library, but has a small office where people can come to the council for any queries (we have become their receptionists), and just recently, the Citizens Advice Bureau has moved in upstairs. It can be quite challenging when someone comes in saying they have an appointment. It could be for the CAB, the council One4All, Want to Work, Bridges into Work, Gingerbread, or just to use one of our public access PCs!

Most days I love my job. It’s varied and each day provides new challenges and experiences. People make my job interesting, everyone has different needs and queries. Yes, not everyone is nice to deal with, and sometimes they can be a nuisance, but on the whole, life is good. My advice to anyone wanting to work in a public library is to be friendly and outgoing. Shy, retiring people need not apply! You must like being with and talking to people, to have a genuine wish to help others. Working in a library may not be as vital as being in the emergency services, being a nurse, or a carer. But in our way, we do help to make people’s lives a little bit better. And that, for me, is job satisfaction.