Photo of Katie Fraser

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.

Library Day in the Life — Day 1 — 25/01/10

January 25th, 2010

I am participating for the first time in the Library Day in the Life project in which library workers all around the world blog or otherwise record their working days for a week. Check out the Library Day in the Life wiki for further details. For those new to the blog I am currently working as an academic librarian, supporting Business and Accounting, in the UK.

I’ve been away from the library for six working days with my MA Librarianship graduation and a week’s annual leave. I’m approaching the end of my contract as academic liaison librarian for business at De Montfort University so was using up the annual leave I had left. I came back from holiday to have a familiar panic that I was supposed to be on the help desk first thing (I always have Friday afternoons off, and often miss the rota coming round) but didn’t have any shifts today. I seem to be getting better at avoiding a last minute dash!

On the train in the morning I was occupied with reading my notes for the presentation I was giving at lunchtime. This was on my MA dissertation project, and consisted of talks I’d given to a visiting group from UCR Wales in the Information Commons at the University of Sheffield (on which my dissertation focused) and at the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE) Annual Conference. I’d presented both parts (the findings and theory) separately before, so once at work I just produced my handouts and then started wading through my accrued email from the previous week.

I’d reduced my emails to one page by the time I had to head to the Academic and Professional Development Unit, where I was presenting. The two talks seemed to gel together quite well, and I was pleased to get some practice presenting. I’m going to be giving regular lectures in my new job starting in February (as part-time academic liaison librarian for science at Leicester University). The questions after the talk were really interesting, and we had a great discussion about how students can be encouraged to use learning spaces in new ways. Plus, free sandwiches.

After a quick break for a walk I went to see Nathan (the normal business librarian, who is seconded into another post) deliver a lecture I’d written for him on library resources as part of a module on Professional Skills for Accountants. The talk seemed to go well – I liked the way he fleshed out my slides with lots of live searches as examples – but some students at the back talked all the way through, which was a shame. Last week I went to a staff-student committee in which students complained about other students talking in lectures (I heard some students shh-ing in this lecture too), and it’s making me consider whether to address this kind of behaviour more actively: it’s nerve-wracking, but I can see the benefits.

In the afternoon I caught up with a few more tasks. There are some which never seem to end, and two of my old faithful eternal projects (setting up a complex database, and a book I’m ordering through non-standard channels) came back to haunt me. I’m pleased to say that I made a bit of progress with both before hometime… maybe they’ll be finished before my contract ends!

Picture taken in Lincoln in October 2009, on the way to a comedy festival. Moving into librarianship seems to have given me an uncontrollable desire to photograph things with the word ‘library’ on them.

Information Commons dissertation presentations

September 12th, 2009

This was my first week at work at De Montfort: it’s been enjoyable, but as I’m still finding my feet, I’ll wait before blogging it. Instead I’m going to talk about an event I attended during the week. I presented the findings of my dissertation at a couple of events in CILASS, alongside my supervisor, and CILASS director, Professor Philippa Levy: one on Wednesday 9th to a group from UC&R Wales and one on Thursday 10th as part of the SRHE Student Experience Network. I’ll talk about the SRHE event as I was able to stay the whole day and see the other sessions.

The day started with a talk from Kath O’Donovan, Associate Director of Library Services at Sheffield. She talked a little bit about the background to the IC project – a lot of which was familiar from my interviews with staff – and gave a good introduction to the IC.

Kath was followed by a presentation by Krishan Mistry about his IC-related video IC Girls. It’s worth following the link to see this playful take on the IC. I must admit, I have always found the video / song lacking on the feminist front, but it was interesting to hear about how the idea for the video had developed: Krishan’s explained that the lyrics of of the song were intended to mock one womanising friend’s tales of the IC, which made me a little more comfortable with it. There’s all sorts of interesting discussions about viral marketing and student ownership of university spaces triggered by this video, and it was interesting that Krishan had been accused of developing it in partnership with the University – he assured us that he had been avoiding staff during the filming!

Next, Phil and I presented the findings of my dissertation, and I took everyone on a tour of the building ‘through students’ eyes’: specifically focusing on how individual areas in the IC can be meaningful to individual students. I had 30 minutes, but overcompensated for touring 40 researchers / librarians around the building, and only took 15, so we had time for some interesting discussion afterwards.

After lunch, Matthew Cheeseman, the convenor of the event, talked about his Folklore PhD looking at students in Higher Education. He talked about how the nighttime economy – the economy of bars, clubs and alcohol in which mainstream students participate – fitted with the idea of a 24 hour library. I have enjoyed his work a lot, and would recommend checking out his 2008 paper – The impact of a 24 hour library on the student experience at Sheffield.

Finally, IC Manager Alex Hunt wrapped up the event with some tips on managing a facility like the IC. One of my favourite facts from her is that cleaning a 24 hour library is more like cleaning an international airport than cleaning a library – it’s never shut, and you’re always having to clean around the people!

It was a good event, and I particularly enjoyed the range of perspectives from the speakers – from Kath’s focus on the development of the building, to Krishan’s personal student experience, to my relatively study-focused findings on how students used the building, to Matthew’s understanding of the IC as a social phenomenon, through to Alex’s experiences of running it. The event really emphasised to me the different views of the Information Commons (and libraries in general) we have, and how much we can learn from stopping and thinking about these facilities from the perspectives of other stakeholders and users. A big thanks to Matthew for organising the event!

Note: Photographs are views of the IC from one of the higher floors, and of the CILASS space within the IC.

Next steps

September 4th, 2009

I can’t quite believe that the course is over! I completed my dissertation and handed it in at the end of last week. I’m happy with it (although I’ve spotted a few things I’d change in retrospect: bound to happen) and looking forward to finding out the final results. My work on the Information Commons is complete, but I’m heading back to the IC at least two more times to give a couple of presentations on my study next week, for a CILIP UC&R Wales visit and an SRHE seminar.

On top of that, next week I’m starting my new job! It’s a temporary post at De Montfort University, and I’m going to be an assistant librarian, working with the Business School. I have an MSc in Occupational Psychology, which is the study of business from a psychological perspective, which should give me a good start in the topic. I’m looking forward to starting, although a little nervous! This week has been a semi-break between course and job, although I’ve been tying up some loose ends and preparing for the presentations next week, so it’s not all been holiday.

Obtaining my first professional post has made me reflect on this blog a little. I’m really happy I’ve kept it going throughout my graduate traineeship and my library course to my first job. I started the blog because I couldn’t find any which documented that journey, and I hope it proves useful to people about to start librarian training. At the very least it’s entertaining to me to look back at what I’ve been doing for the last two years, and a great record of all the things I’ve done. I’d recommend the process to anyone else too!

Note: Photograph is a view from the Information Commons, with the infamous comfy seating.