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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.

Library visits to Anglia Ruskin and Colchester Sixth Form

July 11th, 2008

Summer time means the opportunity for a wealth of library visits, and we’ve been to both Anglia Ruskin University (Chelmsford branch) and Colchester Sixth Form College to see their libraries in the last week.

Anglia Ruskin University Library, Chelmsford seems rather modern in comparison to the more traditional university library where I do my graduate traineeship. One of the major takeaway points of the visit was how the differences between the two libraries reflect the differences in our studentship. For example, Anglia Ruskin has a lot of distance learners, in comparison to the large number of international students we actually have living on campus here, and our large number of postgraduate students mean that we need a much larger legacy collection than them, which even affects the cataloguing – they get in books already classified, whereas ours have to be altered to fit a legacy system. Anglia Ruskin are a lot larger in terms of the number of students, and this means they also have a much larger number of staff, with faculty and subject librarians across the two campuses. Overall, their set up made them feel more vibrant and efficient, but our library feels more learned and home-y. Each has its place, I guess. Interestingly, they used many of the same technology providers as we used when I was at Nottingham University Libraries – such as LMS, digital library, RFID scanners – I wonder if there’s any connection there.

Colchester Sixth Form Library was also very interesting. I’ll admit that I hadn’t really considered working in what I’d deemed to be ‘school libraries’. However, the sixth form college seemed far from school life, and while the library was small, it had a really nice atmosphere. Because of the small librarian staff I felt quite envious of the range of tasks that were involved in work there. The College Librarian had a fantastic job involving everything from cataloguing and classification, to information literacy training, to maintenance of the Virtual Learning Environment. The small team seemed to mean much more variety, and she was able to use a wide range of internet services to present and provide information to students. I guess without the corporate image of a University to support, it’s a lot easier to mix and match and be a bit more 2.0! Universities are still where my heart lies, but I’ve got to say I’m tempted!

Apologies for the lack of photographs – rain and a lack of good vistas prevented it. A hectic time and reduced internet access (house moves etc.) mean that this blog hasn’t been updated to my usual targets, but hopefully I’m back on the wagon now!

Visits to Essex Libraries

April 14th, 2008

Easter break has meant a more relaxed time at the library, and to celebrate this (or at least, as a consequence of this) we went on some trips to other libraries as the region as part of our training scheme. This involved Colchester Institute Library – the local vocational college – Essex Public Library Headquarters and Chelmsford Public Library. This was a pretty mixed bag of places to go, but here’s my initial thoughts.

Colchester Institute, while it’s broadly in the same game of academic librarianship, is quite a different cup of tea to a university library. The staff were keen to talk about making their library as welcome as possible for their students, and one of the ways they did this was to make their library as appealing and welcoming as possible – along the lines, in fact, of a public library. It feels weird to admit that the place you work at isn’t that welcoming, but I guess it makes sense for a university to have a more weighty academy-of-learning feeling to it than a place that offers vocational courses. Interestingly, Colchester Institute does have a staff with a large proportion of subject librarians (although on a much smaller scale than here), and it certainly made me think more about the range of academic library posts that were on offer to see it.

Essex Public Library Headquarters made me think in a different way about public libraries. On one hand it was fairly inspirational to see the range of activities supported across the county. The number of books that were passing through were simply phenomenal, and there were lots of interesting projects underway, such as one to provide picture books to nursery schools across the county, various tie-ins with the Essex Book Festival and Year of Reading, and it was staggering to see the sheer number of books that pass through its system. On the other hand, it felt a little under-funded and under-staffed: leavers did not seem to have been replaced, and it really highlighted the budget crunches that this sector has faced.

Chelmsford Public Library on the other hand seemed to be thriving on the changing world of librarianship. It housed a number of services which tied into the library ethos, such as a Learn Direct centre promoting skills acquisition and the county’s Answers Direct service, a phone service which answered complex library queries from across Essex. The Answers Direct offices also included a homework help instant messaging service, which was particularly interesting for me, given my PhD topic of homework technologies.

All in all, then, these were valuable experiences, and a great way to get a picture of the range of library careers that are available to me. However, I’m yet to be convinced away from a career in university libraries: I think they’re where I’m most useful and where I feel most at home.