Friday, 9 November 2012

From Discoverablity to READ-ability

Enhancing records to aid discoverability

In my last blog post I was concerned with how users could discover the wealth of information that is contained in the huge variety of resources we have in our library, and suggested that the catalogue  - be that the library catalogue, the institutional repository, or the archive catalogue – could be the perfect discoverability tool!

This all lead me to thinking about what our cataloguers do and resulted in the READ-ability Initiative, which I launched at out last cataloguers’ meeting just before the Leicestershire schools half-term. This was positively received, and is now due for release at the Bib Services team meeting next week, before being presented at more senior level. I will explain more about the READ-ability Initiative in a future post, as this is not the topic of my blog post today!! 

Today I am focussing on a Tweet I posted a couple of days ago that said something like:

“Doing the desirables often makes it easier and quicker to do the essentials. This makes desirables often essentials.”

I can’t quite remember what sparked off this thought, but when I thought about it today, I realised it applied quite nicely to the READ-ability Initiative. So, having all our name headings authorised, having copious, authorised subject headings, are all desirables that we have not achieved (and, of course, probably never will because as soon as you authorise one heading a new one comes into your system!)

However, if we have a programme of retrospective work that includes spending time authorising name and subject headings in records for material we already hold, then this makes the process of cataloguing new stock coming in somewhat quicker and easier because the more authorised headings we have the more likely it is that the heading in that record for that new book/CD/DVD etc. that has just been received is already in our authority file, thus making the new stock cataloguing process quicker and more efficient.

Hence the idea that doing the desirables helps with the essentials and therefore desirables are actually essentials!!

Friday, 12 October 2012


Promotion is part of discoverability, but it is only a part!

Libraries are vast sources of information, contained in a variety of formats, shelved in a variety of ways and locations. So how do [potential] users find the information they need?

In our library we have many different locations, from collections housed in different buildings (including an off-site storage facility), through collections in the basement (hard-copy journals, media items, missing pages/offprints, the archive and the rolling stack) the ground floor (short loan items), the first floor (reference section and Dewey sequence 001-615) to the top floor (Dewey sequence 616-999, oversize items, pamphlets and vulnerable items in secure glass display cabinets). How on earth do we expect users to be able to navigate through our valuable information resources when we spread our stock throughout the buildings in jigsaw-like fashion? If you have the picture, it’s easy enough to do, but if don’t have that useful aid, what do users do, and how can we help them?

The online catalogue

The catalogue is a huge part of the library’s public face; it needs to be clear, accurate, easy to use and reflective of the information resources that are available. At collection level, some of our resources are discoverable through their site code on the online catalogue (e.g. Law Library, Short Loan Collection), whilst some through their sequence (e.g. Reference, Media, Special Collections), and most are discoverable by old-fashioned serendipity – walking the shelves, finding something that catches your eye and turns out to be relevant!!

But what of title-level discoverability, or content discoverability? This is where, I believe, lies the strengths and skills of the cataloguer. An online catalogue can only ever be as good as the cataloguers who got the information onto it in the first place! If that information is wrong, sloppy, or partial, or the access points are too few or badly assigned and aligned then that title/content discoverability will be compromised.

As cataloguers in my workplace, we all recognise the importance of access and consistency, but we know our catalogue is far from perfect, so we are working on cleaning up our data, thus helping to ensure successful discoverability for our users  

We currently have a couple of projects on the go to enhance the discoverability of our resources by ensuring that we have adequate/copious/excessive authorised subject headings in our records, and that all our name headings are consistent according to our chosen authority list. Our jury's still out on the value of the 505 and 520 fields (at least until we get an OPAC display we have more control over), but couple our enhancement work with cataloguers answering users’ questions when on frontline enquiry work, and you have a recipe for success, at least for the regular stuff – if you’ll pardon the expression!

Other collections

However, not all our collections are catalogued on our library management system, and therefore they don’t appear on our online catalogue. The institutional repository uses different software, but, as cataloguers are involved in helping to create entries, it is possible, to a certain extent, to ensure discoverability through naming conventions, use of consistent keywords etc., where possible using the same conventions that are used in our catalogue records which can help to make more things more easily discoverable. 

The other area where information discoverability can be enhanced is in our archive collection. Again, consistent naming conventions, keywords and classifications all help users to find the information they are seeking, and if these are consistent with records in our other systems then this can help to link disparate collections of resources and therefore information.

And that’s what we want to do! Help our users to access information held in our resources that will help them to achieve their degree, their postgraduate qualification, or keep up with developments in their chosen field.

As cataloguers, I get the feeling we do all this with little thanks and little recognition, from colleagues, of the skills, time and effort we put in. We may hide in the basement, and we may not shout out about our achievements, but our work is omnipresent.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Quick post about CIG12

CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group conference,
10-11 September 2012, Sheffield University

The value of cataloguing

The CIG conference this year was organised around a consideration of what was believed to be the value in cataloguing, and this, naturally, also covered the value of the cataloguer and his/her skills, and how these might be changing and developing. In these challenging economic times it was simply amazing to see over 100 cataloguers (a manifestation? Jardine) gather amongst friends, to consider their role.

The conference was a mixture of longer presentations and short, lightening talks, all on issues of interest to the cataloguing community. The four main themes in this 2-day conference were:

  1. Working with new standards
  2. Working co-operatively
  3. New challenges for cataloguers
  4. Developing working practices
Grouping talks into themes helped to ensure that a wide range of topics were covered. These included:

  • RDA;
  • cataloguing in times of change and in times of austerity;
  • institutional repositories;
  • collaborative working;
  • historical perspectives on cataloguing;
  • shelf-ready;
  • re-classification;
  • high visibility/marketing of cataloguing and cataloguers;
  • the changing role and the development of cataloguers;
  • special library work.  
As you might imagine, I have made copious notes and it is going to take me quite some time to work through them all, but I think it will be well worth me reminding myself of things that were said that, for me, ranged from being interesting, through useful, to vital!

So, really I suppose I’m using this particular blog post as a *note to self* and to serve as a reminder of the main things that struck a chord with me, and things I want to follow up. If I get time later, I will report back on selected talks in more detail. So, there are loads of things I want to read up about, there are hundreds of things I want to think about (see my previous blog post on my learning style: This will explain my need to procrastinate!), and there are some potential quick wins, things I think I can start to do more or less straight away.

My action points are to:

  • Read the JISC Impact Data blog (I should have done this already as we were a partner institution in Phase 1!)
  • Check our new books listing is working and appropriate
  • Investigate that stats course!
  • Make sure no.3 child uses the library before he goes to uni and it’s too late!
  • Decide whether or not to upgrade legacy records when convert to RDA (or maybe the LMS supplier will be able to affect this automatically?)
  • Refresh self by reading up on Cutter/Paris principles, FRBR
  • Consider the (hidden) cost of (not) implementing RDA
  • Consider the cataloguing axiom (discoverability rather than rules) and importance of cataloguer’s judgement
  • Investigate Google Refine, Web 3.0
  • Consider the rhizome!
  • Consider the weeding of videos (in relation to rarity)
  • Checkout membership of COPAC
  • Participate in the CIG RDA e-forum
  • Check progress of our order for toolkit, checkout the “essentials” webinars, the RDA website (LC training is available to us) and Lauren Bradley’s googledoc checklist
  • Look out for CILIP VLE, CIG NACO funnel, cat23 (take up that offer of podcasting training)
  • Discuss RDA with lots of different people (e.g. suppliers (records, shelf-ready, LMS and RDN), partners, colleagues and library management)
  • Checkout library typos of the day
  • Consider the idea that “Good enough isn’t good enough”
  • Investigate automatically getting our theses records from DORA to the library catalogue
  • Get our process instructions onto wiki/libguides etc.
  • Measure the “backlog” in book costs (£s)
  • Avoid smug tweaking of catalogue records
  • Consider the idea that global changes equal consistency
  • Consider turning our team delivery plan into a service-level agreement
  • Consider the idea of the “do something different day”
  • Remember that cataloguing is about increasing access and discoverability
  • Remember that implementing RDA is the first step on a road that will lead our data to “play nicely” with other data.
  • Checkout the LMS user groups/meetings
  • Re-investigate OCLC Classify
  • Think about inside-out cataloguing – promoting stuff that our institution produces
  • Gather usage stats for streamed videos
Maybe I'll have managed to do all this by the time of the next major CIG conference in 2014! See you there!

Post Script: Remember to check those useful RDA links!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A personal Belbin

What Belbin means to me

On returning from my first maternity leave all those years ago, I found myself wondering who I was, what I wanted, where I was going  - and all those other confusing feelings experienced by new mothers returning to work! Shortly after this return, the library merged with various departments within the university and a series of training courses was set up, with a view to networking members of the new Division of Learning Development and providing essential staff development sessions, and it was at one of these courses that I first encountered Belbin.

I’ve always been interested in personality type quizzes and was game for having a go at the Belbin quiz. Interested yes, but mostly they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about my personality! Belbin was different though, being less about personality and more about working styles. For years I despaired of myself in working situations – why would I sometimes have loads to say, other times nothing, why was I sometimes positive, other times negative, why did I sometimes take charge, other times hide in the corner? I’ve no idea how other people viewed me, but I certainly saw myself as a moody cow!  Till the day I did the Belbin quiz! It was so enlightening I remember rushing into the office after the course exclaiming that I’d finally found out the meaning of life, the universe and everything! Let me explain!

There are 8 [in 2012 there are now 9] basic Belbin types; if you get a high score for a type this represents your predominant style, while a low score indicates a type that you rarely use. So, like most people I was expecting to get a high score, a low score and lots in the middle, so that I could honestly say that I was one particular type. However, things just didn’t turn out like that! While other people doing the quiz revealed their scores to the group – highs, lows and lots in the middle – and usually found they agreed with the results, I was sitting re-calculating my scores, hoping they’d come out a different way, because I couldn’t quite work out why they’d gone wrong – except they hadn’t! My scores range from a massive 12 to a very low 4! (Just as a comparison, some of my team have done this quiz more recently and one member’s scores range from 0 up to 32!)

My score of 2 x 12s, 2 x 11s, 1 x 8, 2 x 6s and 1 x 4 had me perplexed. What was my dominant style? Interestingly, I don’t seem to have one – I could almost equally be any of the Belbin types (except perhaps for the type that scored 4). Great – so I’m a Jack of All Trades, and master of none! Wow – I’m a wishy-washy, fickle type who flits from one type to another! On the flip side – I’m versatile, I suppose. This explains how I can be so different in various situations – instinctively I will fill in the gap and be the missing type in a meeting, or, I will choose to be a particular type for that situation – not moody at all, just responding to the other types around me.

Of course, the dilemma is how do I improve my score of 4? As I see it the only way to increase that score is at the expense of some of the other scores, which, given that they are all so low, makes it a difficult decision – have I ever had the urge to be more extroverted, enthusiastic, curious or communicative – nah. Probably not worth it then!

As for the three clusters of types, my average scores suggest that I fall into the ACTION-oriented roles firstly (average score 11.5), followed by the CEREBRAL-oriented roles (average score 8.5) and finally the PEOPLE-oriented roles (average score 6). The typical features of my 2 x 11s is quite contradictory – highly strung, dynamic and outgoing, compared to sober, unemotional and prudent – as are some of my other close scores. Goodness me, no wonder I get confused sometimes!! And no wonder, also, that you never know quite what you’re going to get when you enter into a discussion with me!

At our recent team away day, we again looked at Belbin, and initially I was surprised to find that my scores had changed a bit! The range is greater: I now go from a 4 up to a 15. Nevertheless, the scoring is very similar to previously and again, they are all very close (4, 5, 7, 9, 3x10, 15) meaning I am still a jack-of-all-trades! Interestingly, now I think about it I think I can see that my 15 has increased because the person I work most closely with at work scored a 0; our styles are complementary, and as long as we both recognise this then we can work together harmoniously, with only the odd moment of despair!

Again, interestingly, I still fall firstly into the ACTION-oriented roles, although the average score dropped from 11.5 to 10.5. However, PEOPLE-oriented roles has moved from last to second place, its average score going from 6 to 8, and, therefore, CEREBRAL-oriented roles have moved to last place, the average having gone down from 8.5 to 7.5 These are not huge changes, but they are enough to make me reflect that these really are based on working styles and some of these I have adopted because of the way my role at work has developed and changed over the years.

For more info on Belbin team roles you could look at this website, for more on the categorisation of the roles, this summary is good, and for an update, the Belbin website is great, as is their comprehensive review, showing the latest thinking, and the actual questionnaire is also available from them (for a charge).

I'd be very interested to hear from you if you've know your team role preferences - especially if you're a cataloguer!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Reflections on reflection

If you happened upon my previous post about my personal thoughts on levels of competence, as discussed by Sheila Webber in her blog post on cpd23, then you will see where I am coming from with this post!!

Although I realise I lack confidence in my ability to do just about anything, this is really the only self-awareness that I have gained over the years! Rather pathetic really, because, if I was more self-aware then I’d be able to work on those areas where I’m not so good and become a better person.

Over the years, however, there have been illuminating moments where I have realised a bit more about myself. The first of these was when I did the Belbin team-working questionnaire and realised that I really had no preferred role and so was really a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades (I thought I'd blogged about this but can't seem to find it now, so perhaps I didn't!).

More recently, I have done another short questionnaire that has helped me to become a little bit more self-aware. Now, please don’t ask me why, given my lack of confidence, but I decided I’d like to investigate what it meant to be a mentor within the profession, and to that end I enrolled on the CILIP PTEG mentoring course. This was a day-long event that concentrated on the skills needed in order to mentor a CILIP chartership, or ACLIP candidate, and along the way we did a short questionnaire on learning styles.

I’ve done learning styles questionnaires before, but those were to do with whether you were an aural or a visual or a kinesthetic learner; the one we did on the mentoring course was along the lines of the Honey and Mumford one. Now, this was illuminating! Although, if I think about it hard enough, it shouldn’t have been illuminating, I should already have known what my preferred style was!

Anyway, in short, it turned out I was 4 parts reflective, 3 parts theorist, and 0 parts activist or pragmatist. I’m sure I’m not breaking any confidences if I say that the room was full of about half and half – that is half reflective/theorists and half activists/pragmatists, with one or two folk having a sole predominant style – and, knowing this, it was interesting to be more aware of how we all interacted.

As I said above, this was one of those light bulb moments for me! It helped to explain how and why I find it difficult to work with people who make snap decisions; I can feel wrong-footed, steam-rollered over, lacking in intelligence and unworthy. However, I now recognise that really I ought to work towards being less reflective/theoretical as sometimes it’s important to make decisions and take action rather more quickly than I do.

That led me onto thinking about change, and my attitude towards it. I’ve always said I don’t much like change, but actually, it’s probably more to do with being given enough time to think about the specific change and the implications/ramifications/consequences/impact the change might have on me, on my work, on my workplace, on my colleagues and on the users! If I feel I haven’t had enough time to reflect on it then I can feel threatened by it and overwhelmed. Trouble is, there isn’t always time to think too long and hard; some changes have to be made quickly, either in response to something or to pre-empt things. 

As with most things, I guess it’s all about balance, self-awareness, and not letting styles get in the way of working, and not letting styles become levels of unconscious competence that drift into levels of unconscious incompetence – meaning yes, it’s good to think and reflect, and yes, I’m quite good at it, but if I think too long I’ll miss the action and miss the chance to get things done!

Of course, I can always find something that vindicates the way I am! Clutterbuck (2004) said:

“people … have less and less time to stop and think deeply … Deep, reflective thinking is as essential to the effectiveness of our conscious brain as REM sleep is to our unconscious. In both cases we become dysfunctional if our minds do not carry out the essential task of analysing, structuring, organising and storing.”

Julian Baggini, in an interview on Radio 4’s Start the Week, is also an advocator of procrastination as a way to achieve things. Contrast this to Malcolm Gladwell and his Blink theories, and maybe somewhere in between is the perfect solution!


Clutterbuck, David. (2004). Everyone needs a mentor: fostering talent in your organisation. 4th ed. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Reflections on competence

Between Thing 9 and 10!

During her between Things post on cpd23, Sheila Webber talked about cpd in your later career, a topic that really grabbed my interest, not least because I’ve been in the profession a long time (31 years, if you must know!), and there have been many life events recently that have caused me not only to reminisce, but also to look forward!

Way back in the ‘70s when I started at university, for many of us this was the first opportunity to experience working with a computer. Actually, as I remember it, we were all terrified in our first couple of weeks when we had to do a test actually using the terminal (remember them? dumb terminals connected to a mainframe!) I’m not sure, but I got the feeling we were going to blow it up if we got the answers wrong!

Anyway, from those early days, the developments in IT have just kept on coming and coming and coming, as  - by a mixture of luck, judgement and training - have our capabilities to use it. However, I have always felt that there was something (well, actually, lots of things) that I didn’t know about but felt I should, but trying to identify what I didn’t know and get the training I needed to get to grips with these things has always been difficult. I’ve blogged in an earlier post about our team new technologies day, which went some way to providing some IT knowledge for team members, and I've blogged about why I took part in the original cdp23 programme, and it’s really for this reason, to keep up with IT developments, that I am keeping an eye on cpd23 2012.

Reading Sheila’s post, I was quite interested in the four levels of competence.

  1. unconscious incompetence - while I was sure I’d passed the first level (no realisation that I was not good at something),
  2. conscious incompetence - I thought I might have passed the second level (realisation that I was not good at something),
  3. conscious competence - and really hoped I’d got to the next level, which was stopping being not good at something if I really put my mind to it!
  4. unconscious competence - I quaked a bit when I read about “unconscious competence”; this suggests that one is brilliant at doing something without realising it, or having to think about it. Given my levels of confidence (i.e. complete lack of self-confidence) I thought it unlikely that I had reached this level of competence, but of course, I couldn’t help contemplating that maybe others thought that with the length of time I’ve been in the profession I really ought to have reached that level and therefore I needed to beware that I wasn’t slipping into competence level 1 in the eyes of others!
Taking Sheila’s advice, I should force myself out of any comfortable habits by self-evaluating, joining a peer-review scheme, or talking with critical friends, as well as setting up mechanisms to keep myself updated.

Sheila also wrote about the work of one of her PhD students, Eva Hornung, on how one’s view of cpd changes over time, and I am quite sure that I am in the stage that views cpd as lifelong learning! As far as I am concerned, life is one long life-long learning event, as my colleagues at mashdmu will confirm! Never a day goes by when I don’t learn something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am constantly reviewing what I’ve learned and putting it into action. If this were the case, I would spend so much time reflecting that actually, I’d never get anything done!!

Hmmm, now that’s made me think ... ! Reflections on reflection ...

Friday, 18 May 2012

ALCTS - eforums

I've discovered how to check and see if any of my blog posts are being read and whilst checking I've noticed that my post headed ALCTS-eforum seems to appear regularly in the list of posts consulted, but I have a feeling this may be for the wrong reasons, or at least, I haven't been specific enough in the heading of that post.

ALCTS hold regular eforums and that post was a report on the forum specifically devoted to looking into catalogue research, following research that had taken place in 2010 - the Year of Catalog Research.

Since then there have been several eforums on topics of great interest to me and I have found them to be very helpful in demystifying several issues. So, from now on, if I report back on any of these eforums, I will be a bit more specific in my headings and tags so you don't get here and feel short-changed.

cpd23 2012!

cpd23 is running again! How I wish I had time to do it all over again - technology is constantly changing and it would be so good to be able to keep up and be well-informed (and so able to make better decisions about its use).

If you didn't manage to do it last time round, or if you only got so far through it, do give it another go as it's a very rewarding way of learning!

If you've missed the link, here it is!

Good luck!

Training for cataloguing

I've been off-air for a little while as I've been busy with lots of things: Busy? I think I mean overwhelmed! Something that might be of interest to cataloguers out there is the work I've been doing to help some of our library staff achieve the NVQ level 3 Unit 5 Organising Information.

Now, don't get me wrong, people from the team have been involved in this before, but the training hasn't been documented, other than in the NVQ candidate's portfolio of evidence. So, me being me, and being very fond of written procedures etc., I've set out to compile some, what I hope will be, helpful notes.

I'm a great believer in having things written down (which doesn't necessarily mean printed out on bits of paper and put in a ring binder!) for several reasons:

  • It's an opportunity to compile a record of everything that needs to be shared with the learner 
  • It acts as an aide-memoir just in case I forget to mention something
  • It's a record of what information has been shared
  • It's a record of a programme that can be used again, or adapted
  • It's an aide-memoir for the learner too
  • It's a easy way of sharing useful web links
Having decided what information, skills, and knowledge needs to be shared it makes it so much easier to devise a timetable and to allocate specific staff to specific training sessions, especially when experts can be identified.

I'd like to share some of what I've done with you, but it's a bit lengthy for a blog post, so pop over to my cataloguers' wiki where you can see some of the documentation in full. Be warned, however, it is very basic, and may well miss whole swathes of stuff that you think is important!


Friday, 23 March 2012

In relation to thing21 - job hunting

In relation to thing 21 - job hunting

Job-hunting in the electronic age seems so much more difficult than in the era of pen, paper and snailmail. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the job market, but have recently been helping no. 1 son with a search for suitable employment. To date, we have been unsuccessful, so whilst some of the observations below might be worth reading, my singular lack of success could well lead you to dismiss my advice!

The job market today is frighteningly similar to that in 1981 when I graduated and found myself looking for a job. The Library Association Record Vacancies Supplement, as it was then, amounted to one side of an A4 sheet, and after six months, during which time I worked as a Christmas cashier in a high street newsagents, volunteered at my local tourist information centre, and ran a pilot community library one day a week in a local secondary school, I eventually found a cataloguing role funded by the Manpower Services Commission.

Job-hunting in the digital age
Given the similarity of our situations, and the fact that I sift through completed application forms as part of my job, I thought I knew what I was doing helping no.1 son hunt out a job, but, so much has changed in the intervening 30-odd years that my skills / knowledge are a bit out-of-date!

Of course, we regularly look in the local newspaper, the local shops, the local job centre, etc., but so much these days is online, which brings its own problems. There really are so many online job sites that it can get a bit overwhelming! Some of these sites are quite clever and have some good search facilities, which, if you take the time to explore properly, can save you a lot of time, and help you target your searches so you’re shown stuff that is mostly timely and relevant. Some of the ways you can refine your search include things like specifying and searching by:
  • Geographic location (down to town, area or region, and within a specific radius)
  • Salary expectations (quite helpful if you are just starting out on a career and not yet ready for that director position!)
  • Newly posted jobs (some even allow you to search for jobs posted in the last hour!!)
  • Specific job titles
Also, there are specialist job sites for different industries, so if you know you want to work in a specific trade or profession, or have qualifications for specific areas then searching these sites can be quite fruitful.

Problems with online job sites
But, online job sites can also present problems that can drive you to distraction. So you may find that:
  • Same job are posted numerous times on the same website, or on many different websites
  • Jobs are still posted even when the closing date has already passed
  • Jobs are re-advertised every week
  • Unreal jobs are advertised
  • Training courses are disguised as jobs
  • Jobs are advertised that you have to pay to take
  • Commission only jobs are advertised with salaries
  • Jobs are posted that are located “anywhere”
  • Jobs are posted that are located where you want – as well as dozens of other places – but often turn out to be unreal (meaning there are no specific vacancies available)
Organising your information and records
On top of the difficulties you might encounter with searching online job sites, I believe that in this digital age you have to be even more organised than ever before. In my day, you sent off for, or telephoned for an application form and further details and these arrived in the post some days later. Then, if like me you were not particularly confident, you’d get a sheet of A4 paper and write out and tweak your further information before copying it out for real on the application form. Then you’d file it away with the job details and the ad, all in the envelope that you received. Ok, that’s a bit long-winded, but at least that way you had a copy of what you’d written.

Nowadays, the application process is often online too, so you click on a link to get more details and a separate link to actually apply for the job. You type in your details and your further information and you click apply/send. Great. Job done. However, when you get that email that invites you for interview, you can’t remember what you wrote in the further information section, and you can’t check back to see what the job required because the online details are usually no longer there, as the closing date has passed! There are some sites, however, that do store your details so that you can re-use them when you apply for another job using the same site.

So, you have to be incredibly well-organised to ensure you are able to give of your best in the interview.

We haven’t quite got this right yet, but we’re getting there. At the very least, I’d suggest, that you need to save a copy of:
  • The job description
  • The person spec
  • Whatever information you provided in the further information section and the covering letter
  • The contact information, including the website you went through and the company details
Do this by either creating some easily identifiable folders on your pc, or using a USB dedicated to job applications, or even print everything out and store in a filing cabinet or paper folders, just like in the old days!

Another tip is to create your further information in a Word document and then copy and paste it into the application. This way you get the benefit of the automatic spellchecker (although, of course, you should never rely solely on this), you have something to hand that can easily be amended for the next application you do, and it’s easy to scroll up and down to check what you’ve written (so many online forms seem to give you a tiny box to write in that it’s hard to navigate and check). During the recruitment process I have seen many printed copies of online applications where sentences have accidentally been repeated, line breaks are in funny places, and numerous other little things, but now, seeing it from the other side of the fence, I can understand how this happens, and be more sympathetic!

A belt and braces approach to keeping track of where you are at and what you have applied for and written would also see you creating a spreadsheet in which you record details of each job application. We haven’t actually done this, but if we did it would include columns for things like:
  • Job title,
  • Company name,
  • Website where advert was found,
  • Date of application,
  • Name of file(s) where you have saved the job description, your further information etc.,
  • Closing date,
  • Published interview date
  • Contact details in case of a query
  • Outcomes (rejection, interview, job offer)
  • Feedback / notes (yours and theirs!)
I recently read of someone who had applied for over 1600 jobs. This makes job-hunting a fulltime occupation in itself. Indeed, if you are as highly organised as I think you need to be to find that elusive job, then you are well on the way to a career in office administration!

I don’t know why but rather than use the web browser’s favourites, or bookmarks, we have copied links for useful job searching sites (with our criteria saved) into a Word document and then opened this daily and clicked each link to check for new jobs. This means that we can annotate the list with the latest search date, just in case for some reason we don’t get to check every day.

Below I’ve listed some of the more general job searching sites that we’ve found useful when looking for any job we could possibly do!
  • Jobs through agencies, e.g. Reed
Examples of specialist job search sites:
  • lisjobnet - for jobs in the information profession
  • caterer – for jobs in catering and hospitality
And, finally, don’t forget to search all those local companies in your area, and all those national companies who have offices in your area and the professional press!

Good luck with your own job searching!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Classification - a bit of a rant!

A book classified is a book lost … if no-one understands the classification scheme!

When I started at university one of the first big words I heard was “serendipity”. At the time my understanding was that the lecturer concerned was referring to the joy people experienced on browsing among the bookstacks and happening upon some exciting book they weren’t looking for but were keen to read, now that they'd come across it.

Today we could equally well apply this browsing to the [online] library catalogue. There are so many opportunities for users to happen upon something of interest, through almost any search of the catalogue – author, keyword, related search etc..

I went into librarianship because I wanted to help people, but was bothered by the sight of blood and the smell of hospitals, was not comfortable with the formality of teaching, was ill-prepared for a career in social work, but wanted to do more than work in a shop. I didn’t enter the profession because I loved books! For me, the excitement was always in tracking a book down - and not often about reading it - and seeing library users go away happy!

Do you need to understand Dewey (or whatever classification scheme the library uses) to know where to find your books? I would argue that you don’t. As a cataloguer, however, I do need to understand Dewey so I can assign your books with a number that suitably reflects the subject of the book, so that when you are looking for books on that subject you will be able to find them. And, yes, it would be nice if all the books on your subject and related subjects were on the shelves together, but this is virtually impossible to achieve, whatever classification schedule the library chooses to use. This is because in some way all subjects are related, either through their discipline, their subject, or in your own mind! This is perhaps where the internet has lead us to false expectations: Yes, if you are reading an article on the web about one thing, it will have links to articles on related topics, which you can easily navigate to and read, and then return from whence you came. That’s because computers are built to store and retrieve things in a particular way, which just isn’t possible with tens of thousands of physical items – in this case, books.

So, books are ordered on the shelves according to a specialised classification scheme. This could be a sequence of numbers, or letters, or a combination of both, and to the untrained eye, could be seen to be random. A classification scheme is designed with a couple of things in mind: It helps to a certain degree to collocate related subjects and it helps you to find the one book among the thousands on the subject you are interested in.

But, if books are hidden in some, seemingly, peculiar order on the shelves, how do you unlock the secret of that order? Well, the way in is through the OPAC; OPAC is your finding tool. If the library has it, it will be listed on OPAC and by typing in anything you already know about a specific book, or about a specific subject you can find the location of any book in the library. Library staff at the enquiry desks are always able to help you use OPAC and find what you are looking for.

That’s the easy bit! Once you’ve found your classification number, knowing how the books are arranged on the shelves and being able to find the one you want can be rather difficult, if not daunting. And that’s why we have library staff roving the floors, and who can be called upon to help you find books on the shelves. They are expert at it; this is their job!

We also provide leaflets aimed at explaining to you how to find things on the shelves – written by experts, with you in mind! However, when those experts question the choice of classification scheme, I do begin to despair …

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Day in the life, Part 8, Day 3

Day 3 – Wednesday

Finally got to grips with the budget! Looked at it last night at home and made a plan of things to look into this morning. Made some decisions which I hope are right. Spent a welcome 30 mins or so discussing with the boss and making sure he agreed that it was now right, and the figures were as close as they could be!! Emailed my excel guru to let her know and thank her for her help.

Plans for today now include tidying my desk which is completely covered by budget printouts!

However, the best laid plans, as they say …

Had an extra meeting with boss to discuss way forward on a couple of projects. Spent a little while perusing MARC records that we had imported for a specific purpose. On closer scrutiny this leads me to believe I have misinterpreted some of the MARC rules – oooooops!

Had a quick look at the ordering figures to see if these might have had an impact on the size of the cataloguing backlog, which is now running out at about 18 shelves and is the most we’ve had for a couple of years. Sadly, we cannot blame the librarians ordering new books, as orders are actually a little bit down on last year.

Ohhhh, hang on I can hear someone shouting for help! …

Ah, shelf being loaded with new books has just collapsed, nearly on top of someone. Hmmmm, shelf and bracket seem to be bent. Off to search for new ones.

The understairs cupboard has yielded another couple of brackets, but one of those was also defective. With a bit of brute force and ignorance and a little help from my friends, I have now managed to put the shelving back together. These shelves are checked regularly as part of the health and safety inspection but obviously, as they are being continually emptied and re-filled they can be a bit more unreliable than the shelves in the library. How to cure this problem?

Anyway, it’s now time to go home and I still haven’t tidied my desk up. Ah well, Monday is another week! (I only work the beginning of the week.)

Post script

Waiting in car for child to finish band practice, I’ve been thinking about creating some notices to put up above the shelving. If I have different wording on different coloured notices and move them around regularly, there’s a possibility they might be read and that might help to prevent further near-misses or accidents. Will do this at home tonight.

That really is all from me this time round!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Day in the life - Part 8, Day 2

Day 2 – Tuesday

All night-time water drunk. Bad night. Really tired.

Didn’t bother trying to park on campus today. Enjoyed the walk, if a bit chilly!

Straight in to looking at the budget figures again! So engrossed forgot to collect the Duty Manager pager and go to a 10 o’clock meeting! Arrived late to interesting meeting about inter-library loans; much food for thought.

Had many plans for today, but this has turned into a most surreal day! Still fretting over budgets, but I think I may have worked it out.

Today everyone seems to want me to sign their leave card: Is it the sight of the cataloguing backlog that is putting them off, I wonder?

Have sent my congrats and what I consider to be some useful links to a newly promoted member of my team.

Hmmm, as Duty Manager this morning, I failed to resolve a dispute over fines: This is disappointing. Haven’t had to look into such a situation for literally years, so I’m sure I could have dealt with it better than I did. Usually, I get involved in breaches of security, or having to advise people who want to bring children into the building.

Hot on the heels of the fines dispute, I find myself listening to an upset member of the team. Probably didn’t do that justice either, as feeling pre-occupied with unsatisfactory fines discussion, niggling doubts about the budget figures and an overwhelming sense of having too much to do in the time available. Maybe just listening was enough.

Hadn’t realised how difficult it can be to take part in a new staff induction! Numerous emails floating back and forth, but eventually it’s sorted.

Oh, just received a nice floor plan from one of the library offices; apparently they’ve had some move arounds and thought we might like to know where everyone now sits! Bit more sophisticated than our own desk plan!

Oh, someone undertaking NVQ wants to do the cat/class option! It’s great to hear that people are still interested in technical services work!! Better find out what they need from us. Very conscious that the person who used to help people with these units has now retired; hopefully we can find enough time to do this properly.

Have now put all the data back into the budget spreadsheet and it’s looking ok, but will take it home and look at it with a different perspective! Oh dear, having to text child to report I’m running 30 minutes late so he’ll have to stand around in the freezing cold waiting for me!

Day in the life - Part 8, Day 1


Before work
Bedside glass of water untouched: Must have been a rare peaceful night – don’t know as didn’t wake up to find out! Unfortunately, news from the scales was not good.

Registered for Day in the life, round 8. Frustrated by not being able to use IE; had to resort to Chrome. Used tiny.url to create url for blog, but not entirely sure that’s what I was supposed to do, and perplexed as the link has come out in bold. Sighhhhhh.

Spent the journey to work listening to Radio 4, planning my work day and thinking about jobs I need to do after work (despite being a #latenightlibrarian).

Must check on the state of the cataloguing throughput. Must catch up with a member of the team. Have put all my revalidation documents onto my USB; they were scattered on my work computer, my home computer and my laptop! Now, didn’t I read about something in #cpd23 that helped with file organisation????!!!! Wondering if the boss has managed to catch up with the person we selected for a promotion last week.

Humph, no space in the work car park: I don’t usually bother trying, but ... Very cold walk to work has resulted in sciatica resurfacing on one side and hip pain returned on the other. You’d think I was 71 not 51. Sometimes resent paying for work car park when I rarely manage to get into it. Often arrive at work stressed and on the verge of tears – over car parking?? Golly, I’ve lost the plot a bit, haven’t I? Oh well, at least it’s been interesting to see the old Allied Carpets/MFI buildings knocked down and the land flattened, but not sure how I’m going to react to yet another supermarket going up in their place. Also interesting to follow the building progress of the university’s sports centre, after the demolition of the Bow String Bridge. Plans to pedestrianise the “main” road that runs through the centre of the “campus”, while a nice idea, will see me (and probably lots of other folk who come from north of the city) having to take a huge detour.

Tea made. Long chat with team member who was unexpectedly off last week. Chat with boss about one or two things. Cataloguing shelves checked. 18 ¼ shelves. Possibly partly due to one cataloguer being off on extended leave, one taking annual leave to work on personal course, and one being a bit ill. If I get a chance I’ll do some, but do bear in mind that I shall break all my rules and go for the multiple copies, not the interesting, more difficult stuff!

Going through emails. Amazing how many come through, but I get confused because I look at it at home and answer any that are either urgent, won’t take long to answer, or are quick to answer, which means that I sometimes don’t go back over them properly and so miss some of the others.

Ah, an e-book invoice; good, been waiting for some! Oh, hang on, the balance doesn’t look right. Must go and check. Oh, both the people I need to discuss this with are in [different] meetings.

A member of team can’t attend a mandatory course because it’s not being held during hours that match her working pattern: I need to check the availability and suitability of the online version.

Meeting now set up for tomorrow to discuss inter-library loans??? That’s interesting as I work in a cataloguing and acquisitions team!


Headache requires more tea. Arghhhh, now I remember why I never go in the staffroom at this time – too many people, not enough kettles, slow running cold tap, bumping into folk you’d rather avoid ... Bother, left last week’s [soya] milk in the fridge and just used that instead of this week’s. Luckily it looks and smells ok, but wonder what it will taste like? Have now eaten the filling from my sandwich, so it’s bread for lunch.


Oh, it’s now 1pm and I have spent the last 2 hours with one of our spreadsheet experts to see if we can find why I seem to have an extra couple of thousand pounds to spend! Now I have something to work with I’ll finish this off first, before going for lunch.


Now back at my desk doing a couple of odd jobs before I go up to the enquiry desk for a couple of hours of answering queries!


Steady stream of enquiries at the desk this afternoon. The usual problems with the photocopiers and other equipment. People having problems tracking down journal articles (or rather, more fundamentally, not realising it was journal articles they needed, not books). The usual confusion over which floor to go to for which books, misinterpretation of the information available on OPAC, and people not being able to find books on the shelves. Sighhhhhhh...


After a short tea break, I am now going to do some cataloguing! It’s a treat: I don’t get to do it very often, but I’ve had enough of spreadsheets for one day, and we do have a small backlog! Despite telling everyone to take their books for cataloguing in chronological order of receipt, I am going to take as many multiple copies as I think I can do, but shhhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone!


Have managed to get through a grand total of 14 books in 2 hours. 14 books in 2 hours????? That’s a rubbish amount of cataloguing, but I suppose that’s what happens when you don’t do it very often and have to keep checking the MARC manual, the LCSH file and webDewey!! Long gone are the days when I could get through 143 in 7 hours!!

So, hometime ...

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Mentoring post-cpd23

I've been thinking a lot about mentoring since I took part in cpd23, and various things that I've read have given me yet more food for thought.

I recently read an interesting comment about the outlook of people who are knowledgeable and experienced which seemed to imply that knowledge is the opposite of creativity, and experience is built on solutions to problems that are now old, and therefore neither were good qualities to have. However, in the context of mentoring, I think it is just this knowledge and experience that a mentor shares with a mentee that helps to develop the mentee, to help them work on solutions to problems and gain experience.

So, in order to be a mentor, surely you need to have some knowledge that is worth imparting? I don’t think I have (stemming from a complete lack of confidence, confidence that has been eroded over the years by various circumstances and various people), but having been put into the position of acting as a mentor I am now having to take a closer look at myself because I am trying to help someone else. This is hard for me. I’m sure most people would take this in their stride, and even if they were feeling a little unsure would hide this and plough on, but that’s not me; I need people to know where I’m coming from, but I do recognise that this isn’t always a good thing.

I’ve been reading around the topic just lately; I haven’t read enough yet to be able to mentor properly because almost everything I have read has said something profound which I’ve needed to take time to think about. Initially, I was struck by this comment:

“A good mentor can make a great difference in someone’s life. A good mentor helps, guides, shares knowledge, and enjoys doing it. Mentoring, when done right, benefits both the mentor and the mentee.”

No pressure there then! But, I am certainly beginning to realise that there are benefits to me, as the mentor, even though my poor mentee is probably not getting as much out of the relationship as they’d hoped, as I am also on a learning curve.

As with offering training to people, mentoring is one of those activities that helps you to remember or realise just how much you do actually know, and that just because you know something doesn’t mean that other people do. So, I guess, in a way it’s a confidence builder; the more I mentor the more I realise I know things, the more confident I will become.

However, I’ve also read that I should be careful that I don’t make this relationship into an ego-building exercise for me, rather than a confidence-building process for the mentee! In my case, I think my sense of self-worth is so low, any ego-building will only ever bring me up to the same level as any “normal” person, who’s done normal things in their working life!

So, moving on swiftly, I have also discovered that in order to be a good mentor, the mentee needs to have shared their goals with you; they need to know where they are going and where they want to be, so you, as the mentor can share relevant experience with them. As with most, if not all areas of life, if you don’t know what your goal is then you will never know when you’ve reached it and therefore risk remaining unfulfilled.

I was also struck by this comment:

“people become stagnant out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of success and fear of something different.” ( )

So, I need to be a supportive mentor (tautology!) and I should be encouraging my mentee, helping them to get over any self-doubt they may be experiencing. I was also struck by the idea that a mentor can help to motivate the mentee by building on their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses; so I need to make sure the mentee does a SWOT analysis so that we both know what they’re working with!

And then there’s the idea that the mentor/mentee relationship is not just about two people getting together and chatting; it’s about chatting with a purpose, usually focussed on the mentor helping the mentee with their development. It’s also important to remember that actually, the responsibility to develop lies with the mentee; provided the communication between the mentor/mentee is open, honest and transparent this will foster a large degree of mutual respect which will help the mentee fulfil that responsibility.

As a mentor it is also important that the mentee is my focus. If I share experiences, or the way I handled particular situations this can help the mentee to value my opinion and feel connected to me, and this is fine as long as I stick to experience that is relevant to the goals of the mentee.

Most of what I've written here is distilled from rather a lot of sources I've read. I don't think there is any one right answer to how to go about mentoring, so the points I've highlighted above are the ones that resonated with me, and seemed to make the most sense. I'm sure there are plenty of other good ideas around, but these are the ones that I shall be thinking of when I actually mentor.

What next? well, I am considering attending the CILIP mentoring course. Will let you know in a future blog post!