Monday, 10 September 2012


I don’t know how much I’ve got to say on this one. I’ll have to get a mentor if and when I go for my chartership, though I’ll have to look very carefully into exactly how to choose one. I think I’ve been mentored by a few people informally in my time in libraries so far, especially a few of my ex-managers at MMU, one of whom I learnt a lot from and I was sad when she left.

I’ve also been an informal mentor, for someone on the same MMU shift about a year later. She was keen and eager to learn, constantly came to me for help and advice (which I loved) and asked me a lot about getting on the MA course, which I helped her with as much as I could. She was accepted onto the course about a year ago, and I feel like she would have gone far if her life hadn’t been cut short by DVT (she was 25). I attended her funeral nearly a year ago. That said, I’d love to be an informal mentor for someone else.

Sorry I went morbid, but her death really affected me. I’ll hopefully be back to normal for the next post.

Graduate Traineeships, Masters degrees, Chartership and Accreditation

Firstly, I’ll apologise to regular readers (which I think I may be gaining! Wow!) for falling so far behind in these posts. That’s the problem with having a job as well – it distracts you from the important stuff in life, like writing (these blog posts, my diary and my stories for me)…

Anyway, my current role is Community Outreach Librarian. I work for the NHS, and I’m employed basically to provide information and library services to healthcare professionals and medical students who work in community settings (eg GPs and other practice staff, physiotherapists, podiatrists and nurses, to name just a few).

To get there, I went a quite roundabout route. I did an undergrad degree in Biological Sciences, then floundered for several years because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I spent several years in retail, building up my customer service experience whilst simultaneously trying to keep my soul from being destroyed by the mind-numbingness of it and the managers whose sole purpose was apparently to reduce morale at all costs.

Having worked as a shelver in my university library for many years (I was asked to continue even after my degree had finished, which I eagerly accepted because I loved the work and the pay was good), I realised I had a passion for libraries, and after consulting with my mum, a (now retired) library manager, I decided to try for a library career, starting with gaining the basic ECDL in my own time.

And here is where the stuff in the title finally starts: I became a Graduate Library Assistant for the University of Liverpool at the age of 27, where my experience of libraries (as a shelver) and my customer service experience (one of the few good things retail work did for me) were essential. I loved this job, and after a year I applied to MMU for the MA in Library and Information management and was given an unconditional offer, to my delight. I also emailed my old contact at MMU, and she very graciously gave me an interview for a library assistant/shelver role, which I passed with flyer colours. Where the hell does that phrase come from? Oh well…

Now that I’ve passed my MA and have a decent job, I’m thinking about becoming chartered. One of my managers is pressing for me to do so as well, and I think it would be good for my career, but I’m worried because my MA dissertation was such a major stress that I don’t want a repeat. I get the feeling my wife might leave me if I had another stress like that…

One thing I have noticed about library qualifications and working in libraries is that while the qualification counts for more in terms of career progression, it’s the experience you get from working that’s actually more important in my opinion. Not least because I haven’t used half the stuff I learnt on my MA. However, I know that the piece of paper is needed, if only to prove you have the determination to see things through, and this is what I’m hoping to use when I finally start my chartership.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


Once again, this looks like a good piece of software, very useful and functional, especially for people like me who are prone to forget things, especially the more mundane things. Once again, we’re back to the same old problem of it not being available on my Trust network. They have a ban on online storage systems, which I remember from the fight I had to get my Skydrive unblocked.  I may just have to use it at my other trust site, which is far more open about what you can log into, or even access. However, this kind of takes away the point of having Evernote! I suppose I could use it to remember things for when I get home without having to send myself masses of emails and clogging up my inbox, though. I’d just have to remember to check it when I go home each day.

Having used it a little bit more now, I can immediately see its uses. I’m now bemoaning even more my inability to reach a lot of stuff online because of Trust rules. It could be very useful for reminding me to do things between sites, as well as reaching information from home and even sending information from home to work. I wonder if I could build up a business case to get it unblocked, to be used alongside my Skydrive?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Google calendar

This is a bit of an easy one for me, because I use Google Calendar at work anyway. However, I didn’t set it up myself; it was already in use at one of my library sites, so I just linked my newly-created work-based Google account to it and hey presto! I could probably set one up for my own personal use at home, but it would be a question of how much I’d use it.  My wife keeps me organised at home (for which I’ll be eternally grateful), so I’m wondering just how much use I’d get out of it.

One thing I have done, though, is to add the calendar gadget to my iGoogle page. I’ve been quite bad at using the calendar at work recently, so hopefully this’ll help me get back into the habit. While it lasts, that is: iGoogle itself is being withdrawn in less than a year and a half, apparently. Google is withdrawing it because there just isn’t any need for it in this time of handheld devices that can do the same functions, that everyone has. In case you weren’t sure, that’s sarcasm. I don’t have one of these devices, partly because I can’t afford one, and partly because I’m not sure how much I either need or would use one. Perhaps if I got one, though, I’d change my mind rapidly?

Real life networks

I’m a member of CILIP, and have been since I became a graduate student. It’s a good way to keep up with libraries in other sectors, as well as providing interesting articles and news and (used to be, before economic meltdown) a good source of job possibilities. I’m also planning to charter eventually, though that depends on when I can find the money to pay for it. I’d like to attend a meet-up at some point, but it’d have to be close-by to me, because travelling is very expensive nowadays.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that they do a sliding scale for membership rates, and I’m not impressed by this. Well, I like the idea, but the bands are quite narrow in terms of pay, and quite wide in terms of membership fee for each. I can’t help feeling that it would be more fair to extend the bands further up the pay scale (the current upper limit is at around £20,000 pa, which is the starting wage for a new professional) to make it more reflective of different levels of professional pay. I daresay those earning more than me would disagree with this, though!

I also joined LIHNN when I started my current job, which has provided me with plenty of training and CPD opportunities, for which I’m extremely grateful.

I’ve actually mainly networked by going to training events and conferences, where I’ve met a good variety of people. It’s nice to see familiar faces, and meeting those people means I can meet more people through them. This is the best way I've found to network in person!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Online networks

I like getting to know new people, so you'd think networking would be easy for me. No. I get shy. I prefer others to make the first move, though once they have (especially in person), I'm usually easy to talk to. I prefer getting to know people in person, rather than impersonally online, but sometimes, needs must.

I’ve been using social networks now for many years – I first joined Facebook back in 2006 – but I’ve only recently been thinking about how I can use them professionally. I must say, I have to agree with Reid Hoffman (check the Thing 6 blog) in that LinkedIn is the office, Facebook is the barbecue in the back garden. In which case, I’ve only just started working in an office.

I really can’t see many people using Facebook for professional networking. In my own mind, it’s for keeping up with friends, for outside-of-work stuff, and I don’t know many people who’d use it in a professional capacity (I certainly wouldn’t want to like too much stuff that links with my job, but then I try to keep my work and home lives as separate as possible). Granted I’ve made friends there from previous work places, but once again it’s meant to be in a social way, not a work way.

We’re also back to the old problem of access to the sites. I have joined LinkedIn and LISNPN (though I don’t actually remember doing that one), but I’m unable to access them from one of my work sites due to social network restrictions. My other site is more lax, so I can update things as and when I remember, but that’s the crux: I’ve got to remember to do it. On the other hand, given that I have joined them, please feel free to find me and join my circle on LinkedIn (or whatever you call it). Regular readers of my blog will know my real name from Thing 3. For everyone else, and I’m assuming that’s everyone else in the entire world except for me, it’s Steve Collman. Or you might try searching for Community Outreach Librarian.

Now that I’ve got a Google+ account, I tried to search for people that might be good for networking purposes. However, once again I keep forgetting to check, so the one person I’ve put feelers out for, I don’t even know if he’s responded. And I don’t know if it really matters, because he’s been a Facebook friend of mine for about a year or two now, and if he’s got anything interesting to say, he usually links to it from there. There’s also the problem with Google+ that it just isn’t very widely used, as far as I know (it was marketed as the main competition to Facebook, but it hasn’t quite turned out like that). Again, if you want to find and add me, please do so!

I haven’t really tried joining any other networks so far. Mainly because I tend to forget when I’m at the one work site I can get to them (and obviously I don’t bother at the other one), and I just forget when I’m at home. I’ve got far more important things to do, such as play games, and try to finish the novel I’m working on. It’ll come, one day.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Reflective practice

The hardest part about this Thing for me is trying to decide what to reflect on in the first place. There are several possibilities, but I don’t feel I can evaluate any of them as fully as I’d like to. However, I’m guessing one of the tricks of reflective practice is to learn how to do so with situations that, at first thought, you can’t think of anything to write about. Maybe with practice an experienced reflective practitioner can write something about any given situation, and this is what I should aspire to. Sounds good in theory. Let’s give it a go.

The most obvious situation to try writing about is a meeting I attended recently, where I was introducing myself to potential users of my services. I had to impress upon them why it was a good idea to use me as a resource (a source of medical information that could be called upon to meet them and discuss their needs, them being GP practice managers and their staff).

I learnt that they have another source of information they can tap into so I had to quickly think of reasons why they should use me as well. Thinking on your feet can be essential in this job, and I’m beginning to discover.

I enjoyed meeting with them. They were all really nice people, and part of my job is going out and meeting people. A large part of my job is going out and meeting people for various reasons, and while I don’t like using the telephone, meeting people in person is one of my great strengths, I’ve found. As is modesty, apparently.

What worked well – NHS staff all have access to large amounts of information online, if they so wish, but they have to register to access it, and a lot of people don’t even know about it. When trying to get them to take up registration, I pointed out some of the resources that they could get access to, which interested them.

What went wrong – this links in to the thinking on my feet bit above. They told me they already had access to an information source they could draw on, and I didn’t even know about it, which I probably should have.

I don’t think I’d change anything about that particular meeting – it seemed to go very well, and the only down points were over things I couldn’t really have done anything about. However, there have been many other occasions, during meetings, training sessions and so on, where I would have changed a lot of things!

The potential impact could be quite big – this is possibly a good source of work for me, and so it could add to my workload greatly (which it’s supposed to!), plus the fact that I may have gleaned another contact from the meeting so as to expand even further!

I’ve already taken action: I took the contact detail from the last point and emailed this new person. I’m hoping to hear back by next week – if I don’t I may have to call to try and set up a meeting.

As I was writing this, I noticed that it’s stuff I tend to do anyway after meetings, training or other work. I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my working, so I tend to ask for advice on what I did badly, what I did well and how I could improve whatever I did from the people I work with.