As part of what has been the best homework ever, we have been asked to read through a list of prizewinning children’s fiction for our Public and youth Libraries module. I started with ‘A Monster Calls’, written by Patrick Ness from the final idea of Siobhan Dowding “whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself”. It’s been a long while since I read any young adult fiction and this totally blew me away! It is an incredibly special and important story-one which is not only engaging, intelligent and beautifully written and illustrated, but one which also artfully covers some of the heaviest subject matter going (losing a parent, terminal illness, mental health, bullying, parenting issues etc) with the perfect balance of light and shade, and with imagination and honesty. Expect to be anything but patronised. There are no happy endings or false promises, but there is light and hope and strength. One of the points in the selection criteria for the Carnegie Medal describes “a real experience that is retained afterwards” and this is the quality for me which makes it stand out as a prize-winning book. If you have tissues at the ready, below is “the conversation”:
For our new module in Personal and Professional Development, we have been set some initial tasks to reflect on ‘where I am now and how did I get here?’so I played around with making a visual timeline…
I’m really excited to be doing such a useful module, and one which guides us in creating a portfolio to help us move on to the next stage of our careers. It also struck me when I was reflecting on my past experiences above, just how creativity and organisation can be so interconnected. Organisation was so central to all the creative writing projects and scripts I created, and creativity has been equally central to many of the organisation based tasks I have encountered in my workplace and on the course. Sometimes I wish I had followed a straighter path to librarianship or a more relevant course, but on reflection I can see how my unrelated courses are infact completely related, and an asset which enable me to bring something new to the profession!
Amidst the madness of December came the most amazing opportunity of being interviewed for a Trainee Liason Librarian post at Reading University! We were advised upon starting our course to find the ideal job role, to read the job description and specification and to use this as a compass point to aim towards throughout the course and I just so happened to pick this very job! Having followed the blog of Yi Wen during her time in the role at Reading, and having decided this was the ideal role for me, when I saw a post advertised in November I decided I had to go for it. I was so overjoyed at being offered an interview, and did my best to swot up and prepare. However, we were assigned the task of delivering a presentation and with just one week to go before the interview, and unfortunately, one week to go before my assignment was due in, I found myself trying to juggle both tasks and feeling I was unable to devote the time necessary to either.
The presentation brief was to present how we would approach teaching a group of second year undergraduate students about a library resource, and I was delighted to be able to put into use all the information I had learned about on the Information Literacy module, and also to be able to share the resource I made for Emerald Insight. But whilst I had prepared the content of the presentation itself and the resource I wanted to demonstrate, I had neglected to focus on and practice the actual presentation itself- instead squeezing in too much and attempting to reference teaching and learning theory in order to illustrate my awareness of it, rather than considering the experience of my audience and how to make the information engaging and interactive.
Sadly due to this, I didn’t get the job- however, I was given the most encouraging and positive feedback. In fact the whole experience was so positive, because it helped me to remember amongst all the assignments, what I am aiming for, the opportunities that await at the end of the course, the skills I am developing, and why librarianship is something I am so passionate about as a career path! I also had the opportunity to discuss my future and all kinds of fascinating issues with some really interesting people, and explore a beautiful library. I was kindly told I would be welcome to apply again, and with just one last term to go of the course, and lots of motivation to develop my presenting skills, I can’t wait to give it another shot!
Despite taking place in November last year, this event and the gems of inspiration from other attendees and the fantastic speakers have stayed at the forefront of my mind and helped me to implement some really effective changes in the college library!
Having handed in my last assignment of the term this week, after what has been the most hectic term of all, it feels incredible to devote some attention to all the things I’ve had to neglect in order to prioritise coursework- so please excuse these belated posts. Last term I had managed to stay really on top of the coursework and still have time to keep up with life and a few luxuries like drawing classes and writing the odd blog post, but this term it all went out the window and everything was coursework! It’s really interesting to reflect on why, from a teaching and learning perspective, and I think this was due to the nature of the assignments and tutors opting for a different method of delivery than that which we have become accustomed to.
For our Information Organisation module we produced a portfolio using PebblePad which we updated weekly with core tasks and optional extra tasks (for extra points) and learning reflections. The open ended nature of this wrecked havoc with my tendency for perfectionism and I struggled to know when to call it a day, and this combined with exploring a topic which I had very little background knowledge in (metadata, taxonomies etc), was a dangerous combination for time management. However, I was absolutely delighted to discover I had received my highest mark ever for my portfolio and a request from my tutor to use it as an example for next years students, making it all seem worthwhile! Our other assignment for the Information and Knowledge Management module involved a 3000 word essay exploring the differences and similarities and debates surrounding information management and knowledge management and applying them to our workplace, and at times myself and my fellow coursemates found this a slippery task, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing something more academic in style, and I feel like I learnt so much about the strengths and weaknesses of my organisation as a result.
My manager kindly let me take a day out to go along to the UKSG FE E-Resources day in London, where I had the opportunity to meet fellow FE Librarians from all over the UK, and to get some inspiration about accessing, promoting and making the most of E-Resources. Particularly inspiring were the iSkills modules demonstrated by Hannah and Lorna from Guildford College, and Simon Rice’s talk about ‘Moving upward and changing direction’, in which he shared with us how he had helped to transform Barnfield College library from a place where students go to eat and hang around, into a place where students go to learn.
Since the event I have focused on promoting E-Resources to our students, posting regularly on Moodle to raise awareness of what is available, creating E-Resources leaflets and guides for students, putting a physical catalogue of E-Resources out on the shelves for students to search physically, and putting up posters and signage. I’m really determined to focus on the information literacy aspects of making E-Resources accessible for students and using the quieter summer months to create some teaching resources for students ready for the next academic year.
But what was also incredible about the event, was that I won a ticket to the UKSG 40th Annual Conference and Exhibition, including accomodation, in Harrogate! Amazing!! Having applied for the student conference bursary to attend the event the previous year, it is wonderful to be attending this year, and I will also have the opportunity to do a write up of the event for the UKSG newsletter!
I went along to a life drawing class after feeling all inspired by my reading, and it was amazing!! I finally picked up those pencils again. These pecils were brought for me by my dear Dad who was the most incredible artist and who spent hours teaching me to draw and paint as a child, and who sadly passed away when I was 21. I haven’t even opened the tin since then, so to have my fingers covered in pencil lead like they used to be was magic, and whilst this rather shaky first attempt needs much improvement, putting pencil to paper has made me feel connected once again!
I was delighted to have a knock on the door from a Department of Media, Culture and Sport researcher, who notified me I’d been selected at random to represent the views and cultural habits of the public in my local area. I jumped at the opportunity to have my say, which of course involved emphasising the importance of public libraries at every available opportunity. I was asked to be on a panel which means I will be interviewed again next year, and sent regular online surveys in the meantime, so I will continue to embrace another outlet to share the library love!
There’s a chance to have your say too: Share and discuss your ideas on how culture and heritage can shape vibrant, healthy communities across the country! https://dcms.dialogue-app.com/places
You know when you REALLY enjoy a book, so much so that you start pacing yourself so it will last longer? This book (Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts) has over 900 pages, and I’m still treasuring each one! There is nothing I love more than a travel adventure and this book has gripped me in the way The Beach did, perhaps because of my own longings to see more of the world and in particular to build up the courage and motivation to make my dream voyage to Japan!
Another book I have been slowly working my way through this summer is ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron- something which was recommended to me by a tarot reader I visited in Brighton on a day trip with my best friend. I think the combination of entering a new decade, and having free time with no coursework all summer, has inspired me to get reflective and so I decided to cast aside any scepticism and follow the book to see where it would take me! The book is also described as a course which is a magic word for me, and makes me instantly motivated to learn and to complete something!
The book encourages you to “recover your creative self” and overcome any creative blocks by stressing the importance of getting into the habit of free-writing three pages every morning when you wake up, alongside a series of weekly tasks. Having made it to week eight, I have found myself back in the habit of writing again at long last, revisiting incomplete projects and noticing gems of inspiration everyday for new ideas! There’s three precious weeks left until the course starts back again, and the pace is picking up at work with the students back at college so I’m feeling determined to keep up my newly found good habits.
What could be better than free education? and education which is available 24/7 and accessible whenever you want it? I recently discovered the Future Learn site, and the range of fascinating courses available online, and have been working my way through the two courses below. I can’t recommend it enough!
Whilst the Psychology and Mental Health course has been incredibly stimulating and filled with discussion, fascinating lectures and readings which have enabled me to discover new perspectives and ideas and question my current thinking, the Mindfulness course has been equally fascinating with a strong practical element which helps you to develop mindful meditation practices and thinking patterns in your everyday life. The course content from each has complemented the other, and it’s been incredibly beneficial doing both alongside eachother! I can’t recommend enough checking out the range of courses available, and it’s also really interesting exploring the different methods each course uses to engage the learner through distance and online learning.
Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture
Psychological therapies and the work of clinical psychologists are now very popular. This free online course provides an introduction to how psychologists understand emotions, behaviours and thinking patterns, and how this helps clinical psychologists make sense of their clients’ problems.
Over six weeks, you will explore some of the current challenges and debates in the area of diagnosis and treatment, and discover new ways of thinking psychologically about mental health.
You will gain new perspectives on the “nature vs nurture” debate, and understand how we are affected by life experiences. You will also discuss new research, which promises to help us improve our own mental health and well-being.
Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance
This practical six-week course explores the science, practice and philosophy of mindfulness. You will learn how to incorporate mindfulness practices into your life to reduce stress, improve mental health, and enhance your personal and professional life.
You will understand formal mindfulness meditation practices, as well as the informal practice of being mindful in daily life to learn – to pay attention to the present moment instead of worrying, dwelling in the past or reacting to what is happening.
You will also develop an attitude of friendliness and compassion toward yourself, as opposed to self-criticism.
These mindfulness-based approaches have been found to improve executive functioning, learning and memory, performance, communication, empathy, and mental and physical health.
I recently took part in the International Librarians Network peer mentoring programme and was teamed up with my wonderful partner Nelly from Kenya, who also works in a college library.
We believe that innovation and inspiration can cross borders, and that spreading our networks beyond our home countries can make us better at what we do (ILN)
Overall, it’s been an amazingly positive experience! Not only did I discover that many of the issues I shared with Nelly were universal and things which he could also relate to, but we also shared very similar motivations for wanting to work in librarianship and education.
We spent a lot of time sharing details about our library spaces and services, and sharing methods of information literacy which we had found to be effective for our learners. Nelly’s details and descriptions of life and libraries in Kenya have been fascinating, and his aspiration to open a private library in the slums in Nairobi is something I would love to continue to learn more about and support.
“yes we have quite a number of public libraries in kenya, but during the holidays when schools have closed, they become sooo packed.i was thinking of starting a private library at some slums here in nairobi so that even those in marginalized areas can get acess to information,that is my vision.am still negotiating for space though…”
Even though the programme has come to an end now, we have decided to continue writing to each other, of which I am very glad indeed! I would really recommend the programme, and the next round starts in January 2017.
Or so I hope! It’s been a while (please forgive me) and so many amazing things have happened, not only did I pass year one of my LISM course, but I got to colour in the eyes of my daruma doll after getting my wish to have some adventures in Naples and Amsterdam, and I finished my first academic year in my new role- and recieved this little beauty….
A bit of glass has never meant so much!!! I’m sorry for being sentimental, but after making a tough decision about which path to follow and carrying around some guilt and uncertainty after suspending my PhD to pursue librarianship, this helped to silence any doubt that I had made the right decision. It’s been a busy year with studying and working, but what a feeling to make it to the end and feeling so certain I am doing what I love! I also happened to turn 30 last month, so it couldn’t have come at a more suitable time. If life begins at 30, this has been the best start!
In the library we now have our LMS ‘Heritage Cirqa’ up and running and have loads of new resources for the library for next term and are currently spending the summer months reorganising the layout and planning ahead, so it’s all looking positive!
Having no homework and quiet days at work without students over the summer has been like the greatest gift after having so little time, and I have been rediscovering all the joys of life like seeing family and friends, watching films and reading books (I just started Shantaram-it’s amazing!) and just to fulfill my geeky needs I have been doing some courses on Future Learn too. But best of all, I have finally managed to kick the roll-ups and have been trying to replace them with meditation and iyengar yoga classes which have made both my body and mind feel fantastic!!