Friday, 2 December 2011
Sunday, 25 September 2011
- and arrange for me to spend more time on the issue desk at work I would be happy - for a manager this may sound like a contradiction in terms and I am sure there are plenty who would say that the manager's role is not on the issue desk. But what a superb place to develop relationships with users! Granted we could do away with the issue desk altogether of course and introduce roving, or I could station myself in the social space in the Faculty. As it is my tactic is usually to potter strategically (no, I cannot describe my brisk walk as a potter - substitute potter for 'pass through the Faculty at a brisk pace' if you would) with coffee mug in hand entering into conversations with those I happen to bump into. Lets hope that those who have encountered me in the Faculty don't read this! The tactic does work very well actually but - just now and again the casual issue desk chat is equally productive in all sorts of different ways. Bring back issue desks I say.
- and give me more hours in a day this would be wonderful - perhaps this just sounds plain greedy or like someone who should go on a time management course or someone who just hasn't got the work/home balance sorted. I truly love my job though and I want us to be better and better at what we do and what I do. So could I have at least one day a week which is maybe 36 hours long?
- and arrange for the powers that be to understand the massive impact that personalising a library service can have. I have just paid a visit to a small specialist library where the context of who they serve and what they require is clearly understood. The services that have developed because understanding the context are personalised and yet community-based and just 'fit' the users - you get a sense of a favourite coat that fits really well and is practical and yet attractive, is yours and yet willingly lent out to another. In this library, the desk space can be booked and is yours, from one week to three years; the books from the library shelves that you have around you on the desk are yours, BUT others can borrow them from you if they leave a polite note. Your space is yours, but you empty the bin at your desk and you help the library staff with stockcheck; you re-shelve the books and you take a turn making tea for everyone. A personalised tailored service, based on understanding the context within which it sits but assumes that personalised also means there may be an element of a price to pay -your own contribution to the service. I loved the community feel and the sense that users look out for each other. The library does not have very many staff, but they have used their time wisely for the benefit of the users.
There is more that a fairy godmother could do for me, but lets not demand too much at one time!
(Photos courtesy of libatcam)
Monday, 15 August 2011
I was reminded of some of the key issues that were discussed in the seminar today following a conversation with two colleagues which touched on the inherent difficulties of people management.
Friday, 1 July 2011
Friday, 24 June 2011
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Challenged, as I was, by my deputy, about the fact that someone somewhere should write a little something about unique selling points and Cambridge libraries, here I am putting pen to paper (so to speak).
Actually I wasn't going to do this, as I am part cynical (yep - the powers that be will just rip the heart out of the service whatever I try and do), and part so passionate about the whole thing that I feared I would just rant and end up in a truly volcanic state. Those that know me well would suspect the latter would dominate the former.
But I decided to take up the challenge! Is it possible to be dispassionate and objective about how and why library services in Cambridge have USPs that should be valued, treasured and above all - recognised - in the face of the impending doom of financial cuts and economic cuts?
(The problem is that as soon as you start talking about USPs it's so hard NOT to be passionate! After all offering a 'unique' service is terribly attractive to me.)
"I would go first to a librarian in the English Faculty for support re: resources, referencing, finding books than ....other places"
"the little touches of the screen with the daily quotation, the merchandise, the effort made on special occasions like Valentine's Day create the most fantastic atmosphere: your passion and energy is evident and really admirable"
"staff go beyond the call of duty time and time again - far from just providing books, the faculty library is a powerhouse of resources and accumulated wisdom"
Selling our services in Cambridge is such an important thing to do - we should get stuck into advocacy, gather our Library champions around us and tell Cambridge applicants that they will get a better deal here from the Library services than anywhere else.
Friday, 22 April 2011
It was great to be able to attend all three days this year, and feel that as a result I could chart some of the themes that seemed to weave themselves in and out of many of the presentations much better than from just a one-day visit.
I was struck by the number of times that the LILAC conference presentations referred to the need to contextualise information literacy. The new SCONUL 7 pillars model suggests that different lenses are used to apply the framework – ie different user groups look and feel different. But it was almost as if this was all something new and revelatory. And yet, in one of the most traditional library structures known to UK librarians, this is exactly what we have been doing since....well, forever. I’m delighted to be able to say that the ‘lens’ that I can develop in my job is not just an ‘undergraduate’ lens but an ‘English Literature Studies undergraduate’ lens. This must surely be a distinct advantage for us in this staff-intensive, personalised service that we run?
A number of libraries in Cambridge have been working this way for a long time - Education, Business, Classics, Earth Sciences, Medical, Law to name but a few. One of the best things about Cambridge is that, as subject librarians, we can - and do - have an enormously variable approach to teaching ‘information literacy’. What we do from library to library won’t (and shouldn’t) look the same.The students will need our resources and services and the related skills to use them at different times and in different ways -depending on the subject, depending on the input from academics, depending on the style of teaching; depending on all sorts of things! Contextualising literacy training means spotting the needs and addressing them at the right time and in the right manner. To contextualise or personalise training so that we have buy in from our users is crucial. If it’s not relevant to them, I don’t think they care. We try to make them care by setting out to discover what buttons to push to get their attention. This involves knowledge; it involves knowing about them and the time frames that they work with; it means finding the context, tailoring the services, personalising content, embedding ourselves and our work in the heart of the specific part of the institution they – and we – are in.
One tangential thought I have had is the concern that I feel about how easy it is to patronise our students. The question is how to satisfactorily help (for argument’s sake) the 50% of the student body for whom some of the essentials of info lit might have eluded them in their secondary schooling, whilst maintaining the respect and appreciation of the other 50% who actually know and understand everything you are telling them and might resent being at a session in the middle of an extremely busy schedule. We don’t want to frighten off the first 50%, but neither do we want to alienate the second 50%.......Do we just assume that the second 50% have forgotten all they ever knew? . I definitely disagree with the suggestion that students forget all they ever knew in transferring from one part of the education system to another. Yes – the long summer holidays mean that primary school children often have to re-trace SOME steps at the beginning of a new term but I don’t think that there are very many who completely forget how to read and write! I digress! In an environment where you probably have one shot at doing something for all freshers I have in the past viewed the sessions (fortunately small and interactive) that we run as primarily about building relationships. I stand by this as being the most useful goal. The challenge is to have the icing on the cake where they all gain something more than this from the session – after all at the time they may not view building positive relationships with the library staff as the most important thing they could do with their time! It is possible that co-agency and community learning have a large part to play so that it’s not all about the content we include in a session but perhaps more about teaching methodology. In May we have a visit from colleagues from the University of Northampton and it will be useful to compare notes with them.
The term ‘information literacy’ was challenged at the conference. I’m not a strong advocate of it myself. We make all sorts of assumptions when we use it. We assume others who work with us know what it means. It’s on occasion used in a slightly odd one-up-man-ship type of activity between librarians. We use it to make academics think we know more than we do. We bandy it around as if ‘doing’ information literacy is the answer to all the problems our students have. Actually no! The very broad points that make up information literacy are bound up with other literacies and I was really pleased to be given a handout at one of the LILAC sessions demonstrating that ‘info lit’ is just one of many ‘literacies’ and that realistically it cannot just be librarians who are the answer to it all! Phew. In fact perhaps we should be promoting a ‘literacy’ curriculum – one that we have a role in? But even the word ‘literacy’ is fraught with interpretive issues. If you are invited to join a ‘literacy’ class, are we inferring that you (they) are ‘illiterate’? This was a point made at LILAC by Jesus Lau and it opened up all the problems in my mind that we frequently forget exist with library terminology! Ah well.....
This all inevitably bring me back to ‘boutique’ – the model, the themes, the book and so on....and even more inevitably to the fact that I really need to start working on my contribution.......
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Having spent some time at work these last two weeks talking about how we can improve our customer service - and talking incessantly at home about it - my husband quietly presented me with an article called 'Shopping with a smile? I'm not buying it'. Strapline comment - 'What works for Mary Portas does not necessarily work in a Poundshop in Preston.'
I'm not saying that a welcome smile and good eye contact for our users at the issue desk isn't important, but perhaps we underestimate that what we instinctively do already is providing a personlised service?