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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

University and College Union strike today

March 24th, 2011

University and College Union Logo

University and College Union logo taken from

I’m on strike today as part of the University and College Union protest about changes to pensions and pay. There’s a leaflet on the UCU website which explains the background to the pensions element of the strike much more succinctly than I would be able to: please do go and read it.

Although the UCU is primarily thought of as academic staff – see, for example, the BBC’s coverage of the event – workers on specific academic-related contracts are also eligible to join. As I work in an academic liaison role, in partnership with academic colleagues, and also have significant teaching within my role I think that being part of the same union makes a lot of sense. Plus, rather pertinently for today, I’m on the same pension scheme!

A Stealth Librarianship Manifesto: Some thoughts

February 14th, 2011

Blue skies over the library

Blue skies over the library. Maybe I should have had a shot of one of the departments here instead!

John Dupuis, author of the Confessions of a Science Librarian blog, recently wrote a fascinating post entitled A Stealth Librarian’s Manifesto (please do go and read it) talking about the need for academic librarians to insinuate their way into the communities they serve. There’s also comments on the blog about how this manifesto applies to other sectors. I was halfway through commenting on his post, when I realised that I had one of my own brewing.

The stealth librarian’s manifesto had me nodding most of the way through. We should become part of our users’ landscape. We should be integrated into research and teaching and we should be collaborative. With all these I agree. However, I baulked slightly at the separation from the information profession the manifesto encouraged in parts: “We must stop going to librarian conferences” and “We must stop joining librarian associations”? Yikes!

On reflection I think this reaction is partly about my background. As an ex-academic (at the PhD student level) and relatively new librarian (I graduated from my librarianship course just over a year ago) I’m very conscious of what I’ve learnt from the knowledge and expertise of other librarians. I’m wary of the danger of ‘going native’ – a concept from anthropological ethnographic research, where those studying a culture can come to identify with it so strongly that they become estranged from their own culture. I still think that there’s a lot I have to learn from other information professionals, and I don’t want to lose sight of the new ways of seeing the world I’ve learnt as a librarian.

However, this reservation isn’t meant to be a cutting critique of the manifesto. I can see how those who are more established librarians already feel confident within the profession, and see progress as pushing the other way and focusing more on the community they don’t yet know. There’s a perfect balance where librarians are embedded in both communities, participating in the lives of the groups that they support, yet secure of their own identity as professionals, secure of their own expertise.

I think maybe I’m getting to the stage where I’m secure enough as a librarian to start pushing the stealth angle a little harder. I’ve taken some steps towards becoming involved in the communities I serve, particularly in terms of conferences and social networks, which is where I’m comfortable. One of my next big aims in the role is to increase how embedded I am in the on-campus scientific community, where my liaison so far has been a little too reactive (as opposed to proactive) for either the manifesto or for my own preference. There’s other constraints here – I have found it more challenging to become a part of both library and departmental communities in my current part-time role – but that’s all the more reason to invest my effort in this area, and develop some stealth librarian skills.

Library Day in the Life — Day 1 — 24/01/11

January 24th, 2011


Leicester's New Walk in snow

Leicester's New Walk in snow

This is my third set of posts as part of the Library Day in the Life project, although it’s the sixth round of the project as a whole, which aims to record typical (and atypical) days of library workers around the world. You can find all of my posts within this project under the librarydayinthelife tag. For those new to this blog, I am an academic librarian, providing scientific subject support at a UK university.

A slightly strange day for me: usually I work on Tuesday, Wednesday and on Friday morning, but this week I moved my Friday morning to Monday afternoon so I could attend a talk in Leicester’s new ‘Intrepid Researcher’ series.

As usual on a half day, one event sucks away all time except that I have to wade through my emails and ‘must do’ work items, sorting out immediate problems – such as a workshop arranged for a day I’m not in next week. Then I headed off for the talk.

The seminar was Ray Land, talking about the educational implications of ‘Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge’ (more on Threshold Concepts here). It’s a topic I know a little about as I produced an annotated bibliography and short literature review on it in an exercise during my MA Librarianship course. I was particularly interested in attending because I’m reflecting on my teaching in my chartership, and because most of the sessions I am teaching this year are new to me, so I’m curious to identify topics students struggle with (find ‘troublesome’. Jo Webb informs me that Moria Bent has looked into applying this theory in the context of information literacy, as evidenced by a brief mention in their joint presentation together here – I’ll update if I can find anything with more detail. Critical analysis is one idea Ray mentioned which I have particularly identified students struggling with in my classes.

Often my days (especially my half days!) offer little chance for reflection, so I always try to take the chance to go to a session like this, which offers some structured space to think about how I do what I do. However, it meant that this, a little constructive chat with other attendees, and email checking was practically the sum of my day!