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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Things 8 and 9 or Trying To Be Organised


I really can’t afford to be dismissive about these organisational tools since now that I am several weeks behind on the CPD23 programme it is obvious that I could do with using a thing or probably several things to ensure that I am better organised. 

Although others extol the virtues of Google Calendar and its usefulness I have not persevered with it despite a couple of attempts to use it properly. Sadly as regards diaries and calendars I have been a good old fashioned pen and paper girl until very recently. In a way this surprises me as I have embraced other on-line tools and technological gizmos with enthusiasm.  Although I now use the diary app on my smartphone for personal use I haven’t been able to rid myself of the habit of duplicating entries on the calendar on the kitchen wall too. This is probably just as well as family life would probably disintegrate if I didn’t. At work we use the calendar on Outlook plus a whole school diary on the intranet but as a confirmed worrier I tend to also write little notes to myself and leave a trail of post it notes on computers, desks etc.  Now suitably shamed I am going to give Google Calendar another go and hope that with a fresh start at the beginning of a new school year in September I will be able to use it effectively.

Early on this year I downloaded the Evernote app for my smartphone and have had a couple of half- hearted attempts at collecting information on it that I think will be useful to me. The problem is that I already use other systems to collect this type of thing which means that Evernote has become yet one more thing I have to remember to check and consequently it has rather slipped down to the bottom of my list of useful tools. I have been using Delicious for more than two years to store and share websites with colleagues and by effectively tagging them I have so far been able to find things when I need them. Anything useful I discover on Twitter I favourite and check later transferring to Delicious if it looks as though it may be used on a regular basis.  If colleagues were using Evernote too I can see that there would be advantages and the ability to add photos and notes from other sources sounds appealing too. This interesting article from Teaching News has persuaded me that it would be very useful for organising a specific project so I won’t dismiss this particular tool completely and will make time to investigate it further.   

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

CPD23 Things 6 & 7 -Networking and support systems – Both on-line and face to face


As I am falling behind with this programme I have lumped together Things 6 & 7 in a somewhat desperate attempt to catch up.  However, since I think that there is an overlap between the two I hope to get away with it. Networking can mean different things to different people. For some it means developing contacts to exchange information and further your career and for others it means forming a group of people who exchange information and experience, for professional purposes, in order to create a support group. My own experience of networking is most definitely the latter and for this reason I find some of the tools mentioned more useful than others.

LinkedIn

Although I have an account this is because I was invited by a friend and I did not wish to be rude and say no. However I think that this particular network is only of real value if you are actively seeking new employment. I have joined some of the groups; CPD23, School Librarians and CILIP but am not sure what to do next! The discussions and information tend to duplicate what I am learning on Twitter or elsewhere already and the School Librarians Group particularly is very USA biased in content. The etiquette for connecting with others is also a bit bewildering. At the moment I am connected to colleagues or friends so am not really gaining anything from my LinkedIn account at present. LinkedIn is something that I will put on the back burner for now.

Facebook

I am not a huge fan of Facebook partly due to the privacy issues and rarely post on it myself using it mainly to keep in touch with relatives in other parts of the country. Ironically I signed up initially for professional reasons to keep in touch with book review, education and school library information but now use it extremely rarely for this purpose. All of this I now find on Twitter and that has become my first port of call for all professional information of late.

LISPN and LAT

Both of these were new to me and I think that as a school librarian the Librarians as Teachers Network could in theory be very useful indeed. Although it looks a bit inactive at the moment I think I will sign up and try to participate in future.

CILIP Communities

Having been a member of CILIP for ten years I did not renew my membership last year so am not able to access this particular network at the moment. Unfortunately I had felt that the cost of membership was too expensive for what I gained in return. However, I have started using the web site more regularly recently and particularly like the blogs. The Shout about School Libraries campaign is a positive move too so I am now considering re-joining CILIP and if so will start to use the communities network again.

Other On-Line Networks

For several years the on-line network that I have found the most useful is the Yahoo Group The School Librarians Network (SLN).  Even though I rarely post comments myself the knowledge and support that I have gained from other school librarians has been invaluable. I also belong to Librarians in Independent Prep Schools in South East England (LIPSEE) http://mrpartis.wordpress.com/ and although it is not possible for me to attend meetings the regular newsletter and the e-mail contact is a terrific support system. As there are so few school librarians working with this age group this is particularly helpful.

Twitter is my favourite on-line network and I have already blogged about my conversion to it here  This has resulted in my using the other on-line networks less and less although both SLN and LIPSEE are still valuable to me.

Face to Face Networks
 

Ever since I transferred from public to school libraries in 2000 I have been a member of the School Library Association and it has helped keep me sane for a number of reasons. Initially I used their comprehensive and helpful publications to help me set up a new school library and then very tentatively I started attending the local branch meetings. Twelve years on and now I am on the committee of our local branch, attend meetings every term and have gained so much from it. As school librarians are usually solo workers I think there is a real need for the SLA and particularly the local branches. It is so very helpful to be able pick the brains of experienced and knowledgeable librarians in the same field. I have heard speakers such as Aidan Chambers and Julia Eccleshare, learnt about everything from how to create displays with the wow factor to using Animoto and QR codes. The revamped web site is useful too with a range of resources to download and information on key issues in the area of school librarianship. Over the last twelve years I have also attended several SLA training days and these too have been extremely valuable covering topics such as teaching skills for librarians, promoting reading for pleasure and developing an information skills toolkit for primary school children.

There is a bit of a cross-over with all the networks I use: I have met librarians from LIPSEE at the SLA conference; some who I follow on Twitter are also SLA members; I have heard librarians who post on SLN speak at meetings.  As a solo worker I think this is wonderful as it makes me feel part of a wider network and this provides both professional and personal support. Without this support my job would be very much harder.




Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Thing 5 – Time for some R & R…reflecting and responding


So we reach the point when we may stop and reflect on our progress so far and sadly I am already starting to fall behind a little on the “things”. Any other year and this week of reflection would have tied in with the half term break and I would have coped. I blame the Jubilee!  This is much easier than admitting that I am badly organised. However, that for me is the chief problem with reflective practice; lack of time makes it difficult to do this properly. Also, spending valuable time reflecting rather than doing can feel a bit self-indulgent. But having read the very useful guidance provided for Thing 5 on the CPD23 blog I am starting to appreciate that this is not true. I particularly like the Botton model – What? – So What? – Now What? and will try to use that in future.

The CPD23 programme is an excellent tool for reflective practice, I think, and I believe that I am already learning and gaining from the experience. Having to blog about progress on a regular basis, even though I still feel uncomfortable with the idea of blogging, helps me to focus my thoughts too. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the course for me is reading about how other participants are coping with it and also learning about their different library experience. As a solo school librarian it is fascinating to read about librarians in so many different fields. In the UK at present there is much in the media about the precarious position of both school librarians and those working in public libraries and it would be easy to feel very gloomy about the situation. It is so cheering to discover that there are so many newly qualified, enthusiastic librarians in both this country and elsewhere determined to make a valuable contribution in their workplaces. 

With regard to the tools that we have been introduced to so far I am finding Twitter the most useful.  I am starting to get to grips with Google Reader too. Initially I followed too many feeds and felt a little overwhelmed but I have now reduced the number of blogs that I read and it is much more manageable. Although I liked the look of Storify I did not think I would use it as a school librarian.  However the CILIP Carnegie Greenaway Medals Storify by @CazApr1 http://cazapr1.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/cpd23-thing-4.html has made me change my mind.  I will have to have another look at this I think!

There are many interesting and informative blogs by other participants that I have enjoyed reading and in future I hope to increase my participation by commenting on their posts more.  At first I followed a few other school librarians but have gradually added to the list. I found it impossible to resist a blog called http://teaandscone.wordpress.com/ .  On the subject of food and drink someone somewhere could carry out a fascinating research project on why so many librarians enjoy gin and cake! Perhaps it is because any intelligent person enjoys gin and cake…?

So now I should move on to Thing 6 before the half term-break finishes, although it is tempting to reflect further on the role of the school librarian before I start looking at online networks.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Thing 4 – Current Awareness - Twitter, RSS Feeds and Storify – to tweet or not to tweet?


So, here we are on week 3 and the fourth thing, although it has sneakily managed to be three things. Luckily I was already slightly acquainted with two of them so have managed to keep up. Just!  Perhaps it would be best to deal with these “things” one at a time.

Twitter            

I am a very recent convert to Twitter and like any new convert I am bordering on becoming positively evangelical in my enthusiasm for it. At first the whole Twitter business left me cold. However, I was persuaded to give it a try by an article in the Guardian about the uses of Twitter in education. http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/mar/31/power-of-twitter

At first the world of Twitter was frankly terrifying and like any sensible librarian I lurked for a bit. It doesn’t take long to get the feel of things and gradually I started to follow interesting librarians/authors/teachers/book-bloggers etc.  Less than two months later and I’m becoming dangerously addicted to it.  I have found it to be the best source of up to date information on so much that I’m interested in. It can be entertaining, thought provoking and an excellent personal learning network tool.

Twitter etiquette was a bit worrying at first; it felt a bit like being at a social gathering where you don’t know anyone and don’t want to make some dreadful gaffe. A school librarian, @Cotham_Library, posted a guide to Twitter from @Edudemic that I found invaluable: http://edudemic.com/2012/04/my-5-biggest-twitter-tips/

Already I can see that I am going to have to organise my Twitter feed in some way as it would be easy to feel deluged by the vast amount of information I receive. Realistically it is not possible to read each tweet and I think that I will need to review those that I follow regularly which sounds a bit ruthless but will be necessary to avoid me drowning in a flood of tweets. I have started using Hootsuite and hope that this will help me to organise things more effectively. One other aspect is that in order to get the maximum benefit out of Twitter I think it is important to be able to keep up with it on a mobile device of some sort. One of the main advantages of Twitter is its immediacy and having to wait until you can access a computer would reduce this.

There are still aspects of Twitter I don’t even pretend to understand. Yesterday on my list of suggested people to follow were Cheryl Cole and Al Gore…how it came up with that particular combination is one of life’s great mysteries!

 
RSS Feeds

I had played about with RSS feeds before but had never used them properly nor known that it stood for Really Simple Syndication. It was easy to set myself up with a Google Reader account and off I went adding the list of the blogs suggested by the CPD23 blog.  These are all really useful blogs but I have found that there is now some duplication in my sources of information as I already follow some of these through Twitter e.g. The Wikiman and some of the CPD23 participants.

The potential use for work is extensive but I am going to have to work out a system to make the best use of this potential. At the moment I could easily feel as though I have too many information sources to check on a daily basis and begin to feel a bit overloaded by it all. I regularly check a number of school library and children’s book sites and subscribing to their RSS feeds would keep them all together in one place. However I am already checking Twitter and SLN (the school librarian network on Yahoo) daily so lack of time is an issue. This is something that I have earmarked to look at properly as soon as possible.

Storify

Storify is new to me and I first heard of it last month on Twitter when it was used by @MsTick68 to collate an on-line discussion on children’s books: http://storify.com/AliB68/fedbkgrp-chat-war-stories  As a new user of Twitter I had missed some of the conversation so this was really useful. The one put together by Annie for CPD23 is also very impressive. I can see that it would be of use for training sessions, conferences and similar but at the moment I am not clear how I could use it to good effect at work. As there are so many different Web tools available and I am trying to select the ones that will be of the most use to me and the staff and pupils at our school I am tempted to leave Storify for now.  

Phew! Thing 4 completed and blogged about by the end of week 3 so still on schedule, something that I wasn’t confident of achieving at the start of this programme. Looking forward now to a bit of reflecting in the sunshine!



Friday, 18 May 2012

Thing Three...Branding...personal and otherwise...

A few months ago if you had asked me to consider my personal brand I would have laughed.  It makes me feel like a commodity.  Would I be Tesco or Waitrose?  However now I have started to get into the CPD 23 Things I am starting to realise what is meant by branding and personal brand.  Thinking about it on a broader level perhaps the threat to librarians nationally, both in public and school libraries, is linked to the branding of librarians as a profession.  Our image, sadly, is very outdated in the eyes of many. The stereotype of the forbidding librarian in twinset and pearls “just stamping books” is still with us in 2012. So perhaps it is more important than I first thought that I should take some time to look at my personal brand.

As suggested I started with a search using both Google and Bing and as I have such a common name the first hit is not until the second page where my Twitter account appears.  If I search for my name plus library my Linkedin profile is the first hit with my Twitter account appearing three places down the list.  This was a surprise as I don’t use Linkedin on a regular basis and my profile is not updated.  Up to now I had not really considered Linkedin important to me but as it is included in Thing 5 maybe I will be persuaded otherwise.Generally my on-line “face” is my professional one. Although I do have a Facebook account that is personal for family and friends I use it very rarely.  Also my privacy settings are such that only friends can see posts or photos. I am a very recent convert to Twitter and this is rapidly becoming the focal point of my personal learning network with posts generally on library, education or book related matters.  However there is a personal feel to some of the conversations which I enjoy.  As my name is such a common one registering a user name is always tricky so on both Twitter and this blog I use the name given to me by the little ones in our school nursery which is both apt and easy to remember. My real name is included on both too.  
 
Although I have a photo on Facebook I don’t on Linkedin or Twitter. Perhaps I should do as I know that I like it when I can picture the person I am talking to online.  To be honest this is partly due to the fact that I think people may have preconceived ideas of my views and attitudes because I am closer to retirement than school age.  This is probably nonsense but has affected my decision.  My Twitter account has the standard default background but I quite like it as it’s easy to look at and is not distracting. For this blog I opted for the bookshelves as so many of us have.  Maybe I should alter this to something more original. Perhaps the look of both Twitter and my blog should be the same?  I am not convinced that it is of great importance though.  However, some of the other participants on this course have very impressive and professional looking blogs which put me to shame

As a school librarian I also maintain accounts in the name of the school library: Delicious, Twitter and Jog the Web, and these are all given the same abbreviated form of the school name plus a photo of the school badge or the school itself. 

Overall I think my “brand” is more of a professional one, geared to my life as a school librarian, than a personal one but nonetheless it is the real me.  There would be no point in pretending to be something that I am not nor would I want to put anything on the internet that I would not wish either my employer or a friend to see.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Thing 2 - Being brave with blogs...

Exploring other CPD23 participants' blogs has been a revelation. I've discovered that many people, just like me, are approaching the programme with some trepidation and wondering if they will manage to complete the course. Many people are also new to blogging, again just like me. Reading other posts over the last couple of days has reassured me that I am not the only person to feel a little nervous about not only making posts of my own, but commenting on others too. There is something unnerving about the thought of the whole wide world reading my ramblings. My previous experience of blogs had been those belonging to professional speakers such as Michael Rosen or book review blogs which I always found both helpful and interesting but something that I never would consider doing myself. But, here I am, both blogging and commenting!

The feeling of being part of a community of librarians all trying to do much the same as I am: discover new things, explore different approaches to work and learn from each other is very encouraging.  I hope that I continue to feel the same way as the weeks pass by!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Thing 1 continued - Blogs and blogging

Why am I taking part in CPD23 2012? I entered librarianship relatively late, after my two children had started school, via a couple of years as a part-time library assistant with Surrey Libraries. In 2000 I started at my present job, a school librarian in an independent prep school in Surrey, and decided I needed both further training and a formal qualification so studied for a BSc. in Information and Library Studies as a distance learner with Aberystwyth University. This was hard work but fun and made me realise the value of networking with other librarians in different fields from all over the country.

For various reasons I have never completed the chartership process but with the constant developments in both education and libraries I think it is important that I pursue as much further training as possible and work at improving the service that I provide. Also it doesn't do any harm to keep the little grey cells active!  I am a member of the School Library Association and on the committee of the local branch. Although I have tried to keep up to date with Web 2.0 the speed with which tools etc.are added makes this quite difficult. In theory completing CPD23 this year should mean that I gain a working knowledge of at least some of them.

It will be interesting to look at the blogs of other participants and I hope to learn lots of valuable tips. The biggest challenge is going to be making sure that I manage to complete the course at the required pace. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

CPD23 - The First Thing

Last year I was full of good intentions to sign up for CPD23 but never actually managed to bite the bullet. One of the things that put me off was the need to have a blog. Although I read other people's blogs and enjoy any book related ones very much, I was reluctant to create my own. But, as it's the first "thing" on the list it appears that I can no longer be a shrinking violet.

Anyway, I can happily tick (or maybe half tick) Thing 1 now. The description of the course says that "The 23 Things" will be taken at a slightly slower pace this year which suits me fine. I am hoping that I will be able to fit it in around my job as a school librarian. As the course starts tomorrow I have just made it in time this year!

Looking forward to finding out what happens next...