Friday, 27 February 2015

18 - Kara Orford, Denbighshire Libraries

This week we hear from Kara on her role as a Community Librarian in Denbighshire.

My career in libraries began quite accidentally when I applied for a Saturday Assistant’s post in a local public library to help pay the bills while studying for my MA in American Literature. What a revelation that was! I have always loved reading but had never really used public libraries. This is something that I constantly harangue my mum about now! How on earth did you not think to take a child that loves reading to the library? Anyway, I digress… I distinctly remember thinking ‘I love this job and would still do it even if they didn’t pay me.’ That can’t be a bad thing surely? My MA soon finished and I thought that seeing as though I was so happy with my job, I would start applying for full time library assistant posts.

I was very lucky as Manchester Libraries were advertising a whole host of posts across the city and I was offered a full time post in the Miles Platting group, working across 4 libraries. It was during my time in Manchester that I had my first opportunity to help out with class visits and story time and I absolutely loved the experience. From then on, I was hooked and knew that working with children was something that I really wanted to develop as my career progressed.

I moved from Manchester back to Doncaster, where I was Assistant in Charge of my very own library. Management was a new challenge for me and, at only 23, I felt pretty overwhelmed at the time. Blocked toilets? Staff sickness? Leaking roofs? These had always been someone else’s problem and all of a sudden they were mine. To say this was a steep learning curve would be an understatement, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! I was thriving and learning so much! It was whilst working in this post that I decided l was in libraries for the long haul.

I combined my mid 20s travelling itch with library work and worked as a Children’s Library Assistant for the rather beautifully named ‘Petticoat Creek Library’ in Ontario, Canada before returning to the UK and working as a School Librarian in a Yorkshire comprehensive. After a brief spell as a Community Librarian in East Yorkshire I made the move to the North West and have been in post here in Denbighshire for four and a half years now. I was awarded Chartership status via Pathway 2 back in 2012.

My role as Community Librarian for Prestatyn and St Asaph is extremely varied and no two days are the same. I make up part of our county’s Library Management Team, so attending those meetings ensures that wider, strategic aspects of the service are fed down and actioned in our libraries. As Community Librarian I am responsible for line management of our team of library and one-stop-shop assistants across both sites and the associated admin that comes with that. Appraisals, annual leave, buildings matters and e-mails seem to take up a significant chunk of my week but I can’t say that they are the thing that I most love about my job. They’re very necessary though that’s for sure!

The inspiring stuff? The things that still make me happy every morning to get out of bed and drive to work? Children’s stock purchasing for the county is one area of my responsibility, as is the programming of community reading groups in the libraries that I manage. We have several reading groups, a Chatterbooks group and a Carnegie Medal focussed reading group that I run at the nearby high school. If ever I am having a bad day, an hour spent with any of those groups will soon turn my mood around and remind me why I love my job. I schedule and lead class visits to the library on a regular basis (a real boost to issues and membership that I spend a lot of my time pursuing) I am also often found visiting school assemblies or classes to promote our service and try to instil that all important love of reading for pleasure.

Organising, promoting and delivering special events for World Book Night, National Libraries Day and one-off author events provides me with another opportunity to engage with readers and excite them about what their library can offer. I am also very lucky in that both Prestatyn & St Asaph libraries have recently undergone refurbishment (following the St Asaph floods and relocation in the case of Prestatyn). Having modern and attractive libraries that I want to shout about and keep well used has been very motivating. I could fill an entire blog entry with the trials and tribulations of those projects but I won’t bore you with woes of hard hats and missing shelving!  We got there in the end!

Of course, it isn’t all sunshine at present, we are all well aware of the cuts facing library services (I’m sorry, I really struggle to euphemise them as ‘efficiencies’, we all know what they are!) and it can be easy to get weighed down with the despair that comes from feeling that your profession and everything that you stand for is under threat. At times like this, I feel branching out, and getting involved in wider professional groups and working parties has been a godsend. I attend and contribute to the All Wales Marketing Team meetings, I am on the Wales Youth Libraries Group Committee and I am also involved in the Estyn Allan project across North Wales. Getting together with colleagues and undertaking work in addition to and alongside my role in Denbighshire has really contributed to my professional development and re-instilled that drive and belief that what librarians do is both important and relevant! I can’t speak highly enough of Wales Youth Libraries Group. Becoming a committee member has given me the opportunity to be involved in arranging training days for fellow professionals, meeting and working with colleagues from across several counties and perhaps most exciting of all, the opportunity to act as Wales YLG’s current Carnegie and Greenaway Medal judge. Such a variety of opportunities have come about from this professional working party and I would encourage any librarians working in Wales to get involved if they can.

Will I work in public libraries forever? After a decade of loving my work, it is hard coming to terms with the fact that progression is less and less likely as each year passes. Posts are deleted and jobs just aren’t advertised anymore. This can be frustrating when I see friends from university working in the private sector who are on the up and up. One thing’s for sure, nobody is a librarian because they want to be rich. We do it because we love it and we believe fervently in what we do. If I can’t work in libraries forever, I know one thing for certain, I won’t regret a second of the time I have spent in them!

Friday, 13 February 2015

17 - Suzanne Fisher, University of Wales Trinity St David

We've already had a post from Philippa at UWTSD Swansea, so now it's the turn of Suzy at the Carmarthen campus to describe a typical day from September 2014.

My name is Suzy Fisher and I work as a Periodicals Librarian on the Carmarthen campus of University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Whenever I mention to folk that I work in a library, I can see the images of twinsets and date stamps swirling into their heads. But what does librarianship really involve? Well, my role involves managing all of the print subscriptions for the Carmarthen and Lampeter libraries and the inevitable problems and conundrums that crop up along the way. It can involve spending long periods in dusty archives getting dirty in a search for a particular volume that has gone astray. It involves a lot of IT work – something I was not aware of when I started this post! It is about as far from the twin-set image as you can get! My journey to the library is a long and slightly convoluted one that leads me through working in a Faculty Office in Bristol and looking after Social Work students in Pembrokeshire. But when I finally did land here in the library in Carmarthen, I realised that being surrounded by the quest for knowledge and helping people navigate that journey was my natural home! I had always loved libraries from childhood right through university and learning to research on my Masters in Cardiff and into adulthood. Why wouldn’t I be working in a library?

I am currently a Distance Learning student at Aberystwyth University studying towards the MSc in Library and Information Studies. The first year of my course was CyMAL funded which was a great opportunity to discover whether the course is the right one for you before making the decision to work towards the qualification whether at diploma or Masters level. This week I put to bed another module – only 3 more to complete until I am faced with the dreaded dissertation! I can be found most lunchtimes at my desk poring over some reading or other, it really is a degree of stolen moments! Once I reach the next study school in April 2015, I really will feel like the end is in sight. With all assignment deadlines being set by the individual student, this course requires a steely sense of self-discipline and can feel like a battle between work and family. Sometimes I am amazed I manage to get anything done! It’s a wonderful learning opportunity though and studying whilst working is beneficial on both sides. 

It’s a hectic time of year to be writing a blog post in an academic library, we are awaiting a new influx of students here next week. At UWTSD Carmarthen we have already welcomed our International students as well as the Art & Design students from our partner college next door. All across the campus there is an air of anticipation as last minute preparations are being hastily made for the new arrivals. Desks have been moved around within the library to make more study space, the collections have been moved around to increase accessibility, we are implementing a single sign-on to our electronic resources. While all of these are positive changes, it is likely to cause much confusion in the coming weeks as returning students adapt to the changes. Although difficult and challenging, these scenarios reflect what is going on in libraries in many sectors as we try to do our best with what little we have, keeping our service relevant and up-to-date while budgets don’t quite match our ambitions.

We are also going head-on with our Social Media marketing campaign this year. Having just tipped 300 likes on Facebook and introducing a Pinterest page – we are using techniques such as quizzes and prizes to raise awareness of our services and, hopefully, bring more people through the door. Having recently attended a CyMAL funded workshop on Digital Marketing we are really keen to expand upon this avenue and use it to its full potential. This year the University has employed a number of student ambassadors to increase the social media presence of the University, especially in the run up to clearing and registration, and following these has been so informative. It really is useful to see things through the students’ eyes, and will definitely freshen up our approach and the way we formulate our own presence on Social Media.

As a merged institution, we are currently working hard to harmonise the libraries across all campuses so that they offer a parity of experience for all students. This is not straightforward as we have a number of local practices to consider and it requires a lot of give and take on both sides which can be challenging for all involved. While we want to offer an equal experience across all campuses, we don’t want to lose the individual identity of each library. Currently we are awaiting news of the shared all-Wales LMS, this will allow us to finally merge our records across all libraries. Once in place, we will consider ourselves to be properly merged!

So, as you can see, libraries never sit still. They are a vibrant, lively place to work, even when we encourage silence! What is all boils down to is that sense of satisfaction you get from someone approaching you not knowing how to access/find something and taking the time with that person until they learn that skill. That is what makes the job rewarding and no two days are ever the same!

Friday, 6 February 2015

16 - Vashti Zarach, Bangor University

Our latest post is from Vashti Zarach, Academic Support Librarian for the College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University. This post is in Welsh, please scroll down for the English version.

Rwyf yn mwynhau gweithio gyda llyfrau a phobl. Mae'n hen ystrydeb erbyn hyn, ond dyna'r rheswm yr wyf yn mwynhau gweithio mewn llyfrgelloedd. Nid oeddwn wedi bwriadu bod yn llyfrgellydd pan oeddwn yn blentyn, roeddwn eisiau bod yn nofelydd neu'n westai enwog ar y Muppet Show. Ond roeddwn yn caru llyfrau gymaint roeddwn eisiau gwneud fy mhrofiad gwaith pan oeddwn yn yr ysgol yn llyfrgell y brifysgol leol ac yn awr, dros ugain mlynedd yn ddiweddarach, rwyf yn gweithio yn yr union un llyfrgell ym Mangor.

© Lucy Devereux

Mae llyfrgellyddiaeth wedi newid llawer yn yr ugain mlynedd ddiwethaf, er bod pobl yn dal i ofyn i mi ddweud "Shhhh" pan rwy'n dweud wrthynt fy mod yn llyfrgellydd. Yn y tri mis diwethaf ers i dymor newydd y brifysgol ddechrau, rwyf wedi bod yn rhoi cyflwyniadau dysgu a chynnal gweithdai cyfrifiaduron i fyfyrwyr, wedi cyflwyno systemau rhestrau darllen electronig newydd i academyddion, rhoi cyflwyniad ar ein project Adnoddau Addysgol mewn cyfarfod yng Nghaerdydd, wedi cynnal sesiynau cymorth un i un, ateb ymholiadau e-bost, wedi bod mewn llawer o gyfarfodydd mewnol, ac wedi gwneud ffilm arddangos fer gan ddefnyddio pypedau...

Astudiais Archaeoleg ac Anthropoleg yn y brifysgol ac mae gennyf ddiddordeb o hyd mewn safleoedd treftadaeth, diwylliannau byd-eang a phynciau cysylltiedig, ond dechreuais ogwyddo at yrfa llyfrgellydd ar ôl i mi fynd i'r llyfrgell yn fy ngholeg yng Nghaergrawnt mewn ymateb i hysbyseb am weithwyr i stocio silffoedd.  Yn ystod yr ugain mlynedd ddiwethaf rwyf wedi gweithio mewn pedair llyfrgell wahanol.

Roedd fy swydd swyddogol gyntaf yn llyfrgell King's College yng Nghaergrawnt, llyfrgell fechan gyda chasgliad gwych o lyfrau i wasanaethu cymuned y coleg, ynghyd ag archifau'r coleg, a fy holl le sef casgliad  eclectig o lyfrau a roddwyd gan gyn aelodau o'r coleg yn cynnwys popeth o weithiau academaidd i'r llyfrau gwych o luniau gan Jan Pienkowski.

Darllenfa Shankland, Prifysgol Bangor

Ar ôl dychwelyd adref i ogledd Cymru ar ôl treulio sawl blwyddyn yng Nghaergrawnt, gweithiais am flwyddyn mewn llyfrgell coleg addysg bellach yng Ngholeg Menai lle cefais fy ysbrydoli'n arbennig gan fyfyrwyr yn dychwelyd i ddysgu ar ôl seibiannau hir. Trwy gydol fy ngyrfa fel llyfrgellydd, rwyf bob amser wedi mwynhau helpu pobl i chwilio am adnoddau a gwybodaeth perthnasol yn y llyfrgell, ac rwyf yn mwynhau gweithio gyda myfyrwyr yn arbennig sy'n gweld y maes hwn yn anodd i ddechrau ac yna'n gweld eu hyder a'u sgiliau'n tyfu. Yn fy swydd bresennol, mae gennyf ddiddordeb o hyd mewn sicrhau bod y gymuned leol yn gwybod y gallant ddefnyddio ein llyfrgell.

Astudiais ôl-radd mewn Rheoli Gwybodaeth yn Brighton a oedd yn canolbwyntio ar faterion fel y gymdeithas wybodaeth, cyhoeddi electronig a dylunio gwybodaeth, yn hytrach na dim ond y sgiliau llyfrgell mwy traddodiadol fel catalogio yr oeddwn eisoes wedi eu dysgu. Cefais swydd dros gyfnod mamolaeth ym Mhrifysgol Sussex, yn cyflenwi'r Llyfrgellydd Cynorthwyol yn y British Library of Development Studies a oedd yn gorgyffwrdd â fy niddordebau anthropolegol. Roedd Brighton yn lle gwych i dreulio amser, a bûm hefyd yn gwirfoddoli gyda sefydliad celf gymunedol a oedd yn trefnu gorymdeithiau ond stori arall yw honno..

Bûm yn gweithio wedyn am rai blynyddoedd mewn e-ddysgu, trefnu grŵp diddordeb arbennig i sefydliad o'r enw CETIS, a threfnu cyfarfodydd chwarterol i staff addysg uwch ac addysg bellach y DU a oedd yn gweithio ar gyfuno systemau. Bu'r cam hwn yn fy ngyrfa yn werthfawr iawn o ran datblygu fy niddordeb a fy mhrofiad mewn meysydd fel anabledd a hygyrchedd, cyfryngau cymdeithasol a thechnoleg dysgu, sydd wedi bod yn ddefnyddiol yn fy swydd bresennol, yn gweithio fel llyfrgellydd cefnogaeth i'r Gwyddorau Naturiol ym Mhrifysgol Bangor.

Rwyf yn cefnogi coleg gwych yma ym Mangor, ac unwaith eto rwyf wedi cyfarfod â llawer o bobl wych sy'n gwneud ymchwil diddorol iawn. Mae'n swydd heriol, nid dim ond oherwydd bod y dechnoleg a'r byd academaidd yn newid drwy'r amser, ond oherwydd bod gennyf ddau o blant bach, yn gweithio'n rhan amser ac yn dechrau dod drwy'r niwl o amddifadedd cwsg!

© Katy Moyers

Mae'r sgiliau allweddol presennol yn ymwneud â blaenoriaethu, cadw ar y blaen gyda newidiadau, bod yn barod i gymryd rhan mewn meysydd newydd a dysgu pynciau newydd, cael cydbwysedd rhwng anghenion y llyfrgell a'r coleg yn ogystal â chymryd rhan mewn mentrau a phrojectau allanol.  Ond wrth wraidd hyn i gyd, mae'r llyfrau (a'r e-lyfrau, e-gyfnodolion, cronfeydd data ac yn y blaen) a'r bobl (boed yno'n gorfforol neu angen cefnogaeth ar-lein), cyn belled â bod craidd y gwaith yn canolbwyntio ar gysylltu pobl gydag adnoddau'r llyfrgell, mae'n dal i fod yn llyfrgellyddiaeth ac rwyf yn dal i'w fwynhau. Ond os ydych yn castio ar gyfer y ffilm Muppet nesaf, mae croeso i chi gysylltu â mi.

I enjoy working with books and people. It’s a well worn cliché, but still the reason I enjoy working in libraries. I never planned to be a librarian as a child, I wanted to be a novelist or a guest star in the Muppet Show. However, I loved books enough that I asked to do my school work experience in the local university library, and now, over two decades later, I work in the very same library, in Bangor, North Wales.

© Lucy Devereux

Librarianship has changed a great deal in the last twenty years, even though when I tell people I’m a librarian, they still ask me to say “Shhhh”. In the last three months since the new university term began, I have given teaching presentations and run computer workshop sessions for students, introduced the new electronic reading lists system to academics, given a presentation on our open Educational Resource project at a meeting in Cardiff, done one to one help sessions, answered email enquiries, attended lots of internal meetings, and made a short demo film using puppets…

I originally studied Archaeology and Anthropology at university, and am still very interested in heritage sites, global cultures, and related topics, but ended up gravitating into a library career after I called into my Cambridge college library in response to an advert looking for book shelvers. During the following two decades I have worked in four different libraries.

My first official post was in the above mentioned Kings’ College Library in Cambridge, a small library with a wonderful book collection to serve the college community, plus a College Archives, and my favourite area, an eclectic assortment of books donated by former college members, containing everything from academic works to the fabulous picture books of Jan Pienkowski.

Shankland Reading Room, Bangor University

On returning to my homeland of North Wales after several years in Cambridge, I worked for a year in an FE college library at Coleg Menai, where I was particularly inspired by students returning to learning after long breaks. Throughout my library career, I have always enjoyed helping people hunt for relevant library resources and information, but particularly enjoy working with students who initially feel challenged by this area, and watching their confidence and skills grow. In my current role, I still take an interest in ensuring the local community know they can use our library.

I did a postgraduate degree in Information Management in Brighton which focused on issues such as the information society, electronic publishing and information design, rather than just the more traditional library skills such as cataloguing which I had already covered in some of my roles. I did a maternity leave cover post in Sussex University, covering the Assistant Librarian at the British Library of Development Studies, which overlapped with my anthropological interests. Brighton was a wonderful place to spend time, and I also volunteered with a community arts organization who organized parades but that’s another story…

I then worked for a few years in e-learning, organizing a special interest group for an organization called CETIS, and arranging quarterly meetings for UK FE and HE staff working on systems integration. This sideways step proved very beneficial in developing my interest and experience in areas such as disability and accessibility, social media and learning technology, which I have carried with me into my current role, working as support librarian for Natural Sciences at Bangor University.

I support a fantastic College here at Bangor, and have again met a lot of great people doing some really interesting research. It’s a challenging role, not just because technology and academia are ever changing, but also because I have two young children, work part-time, and am only just slowly emerging from the fog of sleep deprivation!

© Katy Moyers

The key skills these days are all about juggling priorities, keeping ahead of changes, being ready to participate in new areas and teach new subjects, and balancing the needs of the library and my College as well as participating in external initiatives and projects. At the heart of this however, there are still the books (and the e-books, e-journals, databases, and so forth) and the people (whether physically present or requiring online support), and as long as the core of the work centres on connecting the people with the library resources, it’s still librarianship and I still like it. However, if you’re casting the next Muppet film, don’t hesitate to give me a call.