Monday, 28 September 2015


Rather than rewrite one of my previous blogs, I've decided to consider how I use reflective practice in my library and professional arena.

I must admit that most days are a whirlwind of activities and trying to keep on top of tasks whilst organising the next event, so there isn't a lot of time for reflection. I also think that being a solo librarian doesn't help; it's easier to reflect on something when you can discuss it with others.

But I can totally appreciate how reflection helps to inform the way you do things, to think about the benefits (both to you and the students), to consider better ways of working, to look more deeply at the task itself and the outcome. In school we use WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) with the students so I am already used to this type of thinking and it's only a short step to applying this to what I do.

I do try and be as reflective as possible, both for in-house and external activities. This means I am always revising my lessons, rearranging the library, doing things differently the next time - which can make life busy at times! Thus when I have a lesson to deliver on a familiar topic (that I may have given several times in the past), it's not a matter of simple printing it out or using the same presentation, I like to revisit it using any additional knowledge gained and past experiences to see if it can be improved. There is also an almost instantaneous reflection after the lesson, a quick discussion with the teacher to assess its success (or otherwise) and that will then inform any changes such as obtaining additional resources, using a different level of resources, revising their tasks, rearranging the lesson structure, etc.

One of the things that has made me more reflective is being a CILIP mentor. Mentees' portfolios need to be evaluative so I have had to think reflectively about my own performance as a librarian to guide them in their writing - I have used WWW and EBI with them to help in this. I have also just revalidated and, again, that has made me contemplate my own CPD, why I undertook it, what impact it has had, and whether it would input into any additional activities.

Another area where I have been using reflective practice is with joint ventures such as the Pupil Library Assistant Award. Last year was the inaugural award and, whilst it was extremely successful, the judging panel held an evaluative meeting after the event to reflect on how we could improve it and whether we needed to make any changes.

I'm hoping to register for Fellowship soon so this will help to ensure I continue to reflect on my professional activities.

Sunday, 27 September 2015


Like many others, I clicked on the link to the Google Doc for Thing 16 and wondered if I'd somehow managed to get onto the wrong document ... didn't mean a thing to me but I've read people's comments and left one of my own, as instructed!

I love collaboration tools and have used them for all sorts of things. Interestingly, I don't use them very much at work in the school library. We have an internal email system whereby we can contact staff though sometimes I'll use the old-fashion way and leave a note in their pigeon-hole or just go and see them ... I'm conscious of how many emails staff get and how busy they are so this is often easier. It also means I get an immediate answer - and often I'm waiting on that answer before I can get on with my work - so this method does make my life simpler and I waste less time. We also have a VLE whereby we can share things and this is used extensively in school ... I think if I tried to use Google Docs, many of the staff wouldn't have a clue as to how to access it!

But I've used Google Drive to share documents, forms and slides on many occasions. The most common use has been for collaborative projects involving other school librarians across the country. There have been many joint activities that I have helped to organise or been involved with (such as Twelve Words of Winter competition, Guinness World Record attempts) and Google Docs has been the easiest way to share guidelines, nomination forms, etc. both within a committee or panel or as a public document. However, I've also use it to share public documents via my blog or professional articles I've written.

I am currently on the judging panel for the Pupil Library Assistant of the year Award and we are using Google Docs to share the required forms with a link from the award website.Easy, convenient and accessible for everyone.

I have also used these collaborative tools in my CILIP role, again to share documents or to make organising meetings easier via Doodle (which I think is a fantastic tool and wish more people would use it - so much more efficient that a stream of emails going back and forth trying to arrange dates).

Monday, 21 September 2015


With all the library cuts and closures, advocacy is very much a buzzword of the moment. But it does mean different things to different people ... campaigning, lobbying, promoting, publicising, showing what you do, spreading the word ... all these and more are advocacy tools. If you are doing one of them then you're certainly advocating but it's not the whole picture.

For advocacy to be successful, you need a relationship with the people you are trying to engage with. If you already have that connection, then people will listen to what you are saying. It is also harder to ignore (or say no) to somebody you know and work with.

Professional organisations advocate at strategic levels, working with the decision-makers and influencers - the politicians, businesses and media - so that they can be "at the table" when issues are discussed. It's hard to influence anything if you're not there in the first place.

But we can all advocate on a personal level too. We can support our professional organisations in the media, spreading the messages they are promoting. We can also advocate within our own institutions, working collaboratively with colleagues, showing them by example the difference we can make to them, building up those one-to-one relationships; people that see your value and benefit will become your supporters.

When I first became a school librarian, promoting the library and my services within the school seemed natural to me. I saw where I could be of assistance so offered it. I picked up clues regarding how I could improve my service delivery and implemented changes. I realise it was easy for me to do this as I've got quite a bit of autonomy over my day-to-day work and other people may be constrained by the system. But I never really took this advocacy into the wider world.

Then libraries began to be hit by councils looking to cut costs. And school libraries didn't escape this ... as school budgets became smaller, Heads would see where they could reduce their outgoings and often this was in the library resulting in closures, staff being re-graded or having hours cut. And to me this was wrong. I saw (and still see) the benefits of a school library every day and believe every child should have access to these.

So I organised a Mass Lobby in support of School Libraries. This was sort of by accident as the idea of a lobby had been mooted on our school librarian forum (SLN) and even a date mentioned, and the following week I was on a school trip to the Houses of Parliament so thought it would be a great opportunity to find out how to organise one. I then found myself being booked into the parliamentary diary as the organiser!

Thus a group of librarians, parents, authors and students marched to parliament (with banners and T shirts with slogans), met with lots of MPs and the event even resulted in the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) Libraries being commissioned to write a report

However .... as is the way of so many of these reports, it is now gathering dust on a shelf somewhere and none of the recommendations have been instigated. But my advocacy has since been more outward looking.

So does advocacy work? Is it effective? I'm really not sure. There is now a large body of evidence as to the benefits and value of libraries - physical, social and economic - yet this is consistently ignored; we certainly don't seem to be feeding into the agendas of those who have the authority to keep libraries open. We certainly seem to have been arguing for libraries for a long time with our words falling on deaf ears. I guess if we're using the same arguments and the same tactics then we're going to get the same results (ie: nothing much) so perhaps it's time to change our advocacy strategies.

Saturday, 12 September 2015


Have to admit, when I saw the title of the next module, I wondered what it was going to be about as I didn't realise that these applications were called augmented reality!

I've seen these applications used quite a lot and have even used them myself. They're popular in exhibitions, you see QR codes on adverts all over the place, and the Summer Reading Challenge used them to great effect in public libraries. They add an element of immediacy and inter-activeness, involving the user and creating a sense of fun. And I can see how they could be used in many situations.

But ... my school has just introduced a no mobile phones policy which means that students cannot use their phones during the day. I can understand this to a certain extent; if you get your phone out to use it as a calculator, to take a photo of the whiteboard, to note down information ... then the temptation is to check your messages and social media sites. I'm probably as guilty as anyone in doing this and I can understand the lure for teenagers whose lives are so entwined online. Cyber bullying is also a big problem so perhaps part of the thinking behind this strategy is that it will help to stop that happening.

I'm not sure I really agree with this as technology is not going to disappear and the best way to deal with any problems is to teach students how to use it appropriately but I will go along with it as those are the current rules.

However, this means that it really isn't much point in me trying to incorporate augmented reality into my library.

I also feel that many school libraries don't have the means to use these new technologies, we tend to be bottom of the list when it comes to new IT equipment and software, and the school's senior management team don't seem to recognise how much we could apply them within a library setting, which means we are struggling to keep up with advances.

Have to admit though that sometimes using augmented reality can be taken to extremes. I am put in mind of a visit to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It was a beautiful day and the place was amazing. As I was walking around, I noticed a man holding an iPad in front of him and looking at it rather than the scene around him. Being curious (ie: a bit nosy) I crept quietly nearer so I could see the screen and realised that he was watching a sort of interactive tour of the Alhambra online and was viewing it through the images on the screen rather than enjoying the actual place in front of him!

Monday, 7 September 2015


I have been a member of CILIP for so long, I can't remember how I first became involved with the organisation. I think I probably joined when I started my LIS distance learning degree (it was the Library Association back then!), signing up for the School Libraries and Youth Libraries Groups but a young family and lack time prevented much participation. This was in the days before social media when everything was done in person.

Chartership followed and a new job, this time in another county - Berkshire. And my family were growing up which meant I had more time so I joined the School Libraries Group London & South East committee, helping to arrange courses and events, delivering workshops and eventually becoming Vice Chair. I also became a Chartership mentor.

I was also able to attend more meetings and the Surrey, Hampshire and Thames Valley branches were all within easy reach so I chose those that were more relevant or interested me. It was at a Thames Valley meeting in 2012 that Phil Bradley suggested I put myself forward for nomination as CILIP Vice President and thus found myself in that position in 2013. This was only meant to be for a year but the review of governance changes was delayed so I found myself as CILIP President in 2014 and am currently Immediate Past President. As you can imagine, this has had a tremendous impact on my involvement with the organisation!

I also belong to the School Library Association (SLA) and the move to the new school in Berkshire coincided with contributions to that as well. There was a local group of school librarians meeting regularly which became the SLA Central & East Berkshire branch; I was secretary at the time and then became Chair. I am still on the committee but have had to step back a bit due to my CILIP committments.

So ... what have been the benefits of belonging to my professional organisations?

I have had support for developing and sustaining my professional development, up to and beyond Chartership, as well as access to resources to support my work as a librarian. Newsletters and emails keep me up-to-date with developments enabling me to feed these into what I do, and courses and conferences provide, not only training, but also chances to network. As the use of social media has grown, so too have the opportunities for being able to participate actively and widely in all aspects of my profession. I have been able to develop my writing and presentation skills, as well as gaining experience in events managment and as a public speaker. I recognise that I'm in a slightly different position because being CILIP President has been a fantastic opportunity; I have attended several events and conferences, and have met people from all sectors of the library and information profession, both within the UK and internationally. The position has required me to read widely and to remain conversant with current issues affecting the library world.

I would recommend that people actively participate in their professional organisations. I know that everyone has different personal and work commitments, and that sometimes it's not possible to do very much, but even a small contribution will bring rewards.

Sunday, 6 September 2015


I love attending conferences - for all sorts of reasons. As a solo librarian, my job can be quite isolating and issues can get out of perspective. It's easy to start feeling you are the only person in the library world having to deal with such things. Talking to other staff you work with only helps up to a point because they don't quite have the same grasp of the situation; besides, they are often so busy dealing with their own problems and the school day is so pressured, that's there no time to really have a proper conversation. School librarians are very supportive and active online but there's only so much that can be conveyed or said in writing ... so much easier to sit late into the evening with a glass or two of wine and put the world to rights! So that actual physical meeting and networking amongst colleagues is a big plus.

Then there's the CPD aspect of a conference; the keynote speakers who fire you with enthusiasm, the workshops, even the informal talking about ideas and what other people do. Add to that, the exhibitors where you can see and discuss related products and forthcoming resources.

And for me, another factor is the chance to get away from the pressures of the job for a couple of days. That's not to say conferences are chilled occasions, they are usually extremely busy and I end up going home from them exhausted - fired with renewed motivated and my head full of ideas but exhausted! Probably because I never switch off at them, after all, they're full of librarians which means it's "shop talk" from breakfast until we part ways coming out of the lift at the end of the evening and I confess that when I've been on a three day (or longer conference) I've sneaked off to my room for a quiet hour to just sit and read, or to sort through all my papers and notes, and get my head in order.

There are a lot of conferences librarians can attend. I try and get to the School Library Association conference (held every year) and the CILIP School Libraries Group conference (held bi-annually). And I usually pay for myself ... school training budgets are so small these days and much of it happens in-house with teachers delivering the training that it's unlikely I would be given the money to go. I'm fortunate in that my school allow me the time off to attend as I know many librarians whose schools do not let them go to anything during term time; they even have problems getting out of school for a couple of hours to participate in local school library meetings. Very short-sighted but indicative of the attitude that all we do is sit behind our desks and issue books.

I have been extremely lucky during my time as CILIP President to be invited to speak at several conferences so took the opportunity to participate in them. These have included the CILIP Public and Mobile Libraries Group conference, Academic and Research Librarians conference and Youth Libraries Group conference, the ASCEL (Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians) conference as well as the CILIP conferences for the devolved nations. Slight conference overload! However, these have all been fantastic chances to meet people outside the arena of school librarianship and to discuss the issues that they face within their sectors. I have also been surprised at how many of the workshops were extremely relevant to school librarians and how much we have to deal with very similar concerns within our respective jobs. The wider focus of the exhibitors also added to the enjoyment of the event.

I'm not going to focus on just one conference for this blog. But I do tend to do the same thing for anything I attend. I like to be prepared so investigate any speakers and people delivering workshops (often before I make my choice as to which to attend). I research any topics that I'm unfamiliar with so I can make an informed choice although my final decision tends to be based on a combination of projects I'm working on at school as well as personal interests. What I do find though is that, usually by the time the conference arrives, my focus has often changed and different workshops suddenly have more appeal than the ones I've chosen! I make notes from the sessions and prefer to do this by hand, I find I concentrate more "on the moment" when I have got a screen in front of me. My notes also tend not to be linear but to have asterisks, arrows, under-linings, etc. all over them. I keep the conference papers and my notes in a file for future reference.

The final thing I try to do is to think of one activity that I can take from a conference and put into immediate effect. I always come back with way too many ideas, my head buzzing with stuff I want to do, projects I want to instigate ... and I know from experience that once you get back to the day job that tends to take over and all those great ideas get pushed onto the back burner. So my advice is to just choose one thing and do it. At least then you'll feel that you've achieved something from the conference and that it's made a difference.

Friday, 4 September 2015


It's strange, isn't it? How, during the summer holidays, when you'd think I'd have masses of time to do things, I get behind with my Rudai 23 modules and yet, now back at work (and the start of a new school year - always a (more) manic time for us librarians!), I'm catching up.

But I've noticed that this is how I work. When I haven't got deadlines to meet or I'm not involved in multiple projects, my brain sort of switches off and I take longer to do things. I procrastinate - over the simplest of decisions, I am easily distracted (well, let's say "more" easily distracted as it doesn't take much to set me off on a different path), I dither. And yet when my to-do list starts to look unmanageable, everything seems to click into gear and I'm active and decisive.

Thing 11 is a chance to catch up and reflect, and has asked questions of the participants. Are you up-to-date and have you skipped things? Why? What is holding you back? How do you manage your time?

Well, as thing 11 is dated 20 August and I am writing this on 4 September then the simple answer to the former question is no. I did consider skipping the last couple of activities but, to me, that would be cheating, I'd feel as if I hadn't done the course properly, so I wanted to do them but kept putting them off.

Why? Thinking about this, I realise it's because they were more technically based. They involved downloading and using software I was unfamiliar with - surely the whole point of this MOOC - but doing this on your personal computer and on your own is a bit daunting; as I mentioned before, I'm always concerned that I'll be met with the dreaded blue screen. Or manage to wipe out something important. Or my computer will start making a strange noise! I also know that, whilst I'm happy using computers all day long, I just want them to work, I'm not interested in the mechanics of how they do things. It's a bit like somebody loving to eat cakes but not being bothered about baking process that produced them.

When I do things, I like them to have a purpose. I love to knit yet one of the things I don't like doing is creating a tension square at the beginning. If I'm using a standard wool then I often don't bother but, as any knitter knows, getting the tension wrong is a disaster ... unless it doesn't matter what size the garment turns out to be. And I'm like this with learning about new applications. I'll be slightly interested in what they do but if I'm not going to use it either at home or at work, if it doesn't have an immediate use then I'll switch off. I would much rather learn at the point of use ... besides, things change so often in the IT world then it's likely anything I do know would soon be out-of-date. So all I really want for some things is a generic overview rather than a detailed how-to.

I've also been thinking about what else holds me back. Because I definitely don't get everything done on that list! Thing is, the list is probably too big to begin with, it's usually full of ideas for projects that I never seem to get around to. If I'm committed to something, then it will be done. But if it's just something vague, a possibility, then it gets pushed down lower and lower until it drops off the bottom. Or I realise that it would have worked when I first thought of the idea six months ago but now it's been overtaken by other events so it gets crossed off. Part of the reason why this happens is the quantity on the list and not enough time to do everything but I think a big influence is my need for something to be perfect before I let it loose. I need to accept that sometimes you have to go with "good enough".

As for time management, I'm quite good at that. I can prioritise, get things done by deadlines, manage my tasks - thinking about how I work through each of the Rudai 23 modules, I:
* Read the email and follow any links in it.
* Make notes (usually a list) about what I need to do to complete the module. This acts as a visual reminder.
* I also make notes for the blog as I do my readings, if appropriate or relevant.
* Then do the task and write the blog.

The next three modules are sitting in my inbox and looking at the titles, I'm think I'm going to enjoy these so don't anticipate any further "putting off"!


Another technical module! Although having successfully completed thing 9, I'm feeling a bit more confident about this one plus I've had some experience myself with live streaming so it's not completely new to me.

Looking at the tasks though, I've obviously missed the Rudai23 Hangout as it's been and gone, and I've decided that I'm not going to set up my own Hangout (time, getting other participants involved, etc.) so I've read through the module and explored the links.

Regarding my own experience, last year during the Carnegie Kate Greenaway Awards, my CILIP President's speech was live streamed, I've also participated in various panel discussions that were live streamed and have watched author talks with classes of students in the library.

My technical involvement with these, however, was minimal. Where I was a participant, all I had to do was think about what I was going to say and turn up but I do remember some of the feedback afterwards was that the recording wasn't very clear (it's also quite nerve-wracking although you do tend to forget that the camera id there once things get started). And I also know that some schools have been let down by technology when they've organised a class to watch a live question and answer author session.

So whilst live streaming can be incredible useful and exciting, adding an immediacy to the occasion, I think it's important to ensure that the technology being used is adequate and suitable, and this is often out of our hands. What's also interesting to consider is that once the "live" element is over, it then becomes a video recording that can be viewed on YouTube at any time - something that can be used time and again, and without the stress of wondering whether the link will work. And I know in a class setting with up to 30 students, I'd much rather have something that I can rely on.

Thursday, 3 September 2015


I have a digital SLR camera which I have used to record myself ... when I've needed to speak at conferences and not been able to be there, and I've also delivered a couple of sessions for a MOOC on advocacy. But I can't say I'm comfortable doing this.

I'm also constantly using my mobile to make recordings ... usually of my family but that's fine as I'm on the other side of the camera.

And the odd occasion where things have been more involved, then usually somebody else is dealing with the technical side of things, the live-streaming and recording which means all I have to do is worry about what I'm going to say and try not to get too carried away with emotional gesticulations (something I'm inclined to do when I start talking about books and libraries). And even if I do make the recording myself then it's been easy to just send a MP4 file.

But this is the first time I've ever created a YouTube video using a screencast.

I've been putting Thing 9 off a bit - for several reasons. I don't like downloading software onto my computer. I'm always convinced it will cause me major problems with using my regular applications even though it never does - and I live with a computer guru so he's always the one I call for if I get weird messages appear - but I wanted to do this on my own. I needed the time to sit and watch the tutorials properly; I'm the sort of person who tends to half read instructions and then get impatient with "wanting to get on with it" (and then wonder why it doesn't work properly!). I also was a bit stumped as to what topic to use - I prefer to spend my time doing something that is needed or will be used rather than creating something for the sake of it.

I finally decided to create a short screencast on the Heart of the School website. It's only a couple of minutes long and I've added speech bubbles rather than sound, partially because I wanted to sort out how to do that. The video isn't so much for instructional purposes but more as a channel for me to learn the tools and techniques in this module so it's not really going to be much use to many people ... unless you've never seen the website before in which case I thoroughly recommend it!

In the end, I quite enjoyed doing this! It was easier than I anticipated although the editing of the speech bubbles isn't very refined though I guess practise makes perfect.

I can certainly see how useful it would be, particularly after lessons as you could create a video of what was taught, with your comments, and put it onto the school's VLE for students to revisit. It would also be a good alternative in actual lessons occasionally as it would be something different for students to watch rather than listen to me. And they do seem to pay attention to anything on a screen.

I often use YouTube tutorials myself for all sorts of things and I know many other people do ... from crafts to car repairs to home decorating to cooking! You name it, there's probably a YouTube on it and being more of a visual learner it's my medium of choice.