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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.

Ticking along nicely

April 23rd, 2013

It’s all been quiet for a couple of weeks, but suddenly everything seems to be making good progress again.

Yesterday I received the applicants for the De Montfort Frontrunner placement who’s coming to help me gather data on use of DMU learning spaces on campus, starting next academic year. We’re going to shortlist for the post on Monday, but having had a brief flick through the applications I’m pretty happy with the state of the field so far. I was super excited when the applications landed in my inbox, much to the amusement of my team!

I’m also making some headway with organising a second focus group for our investigation into communication with PhD students. As we want to reach out to students from faculties that our first focus group didn’t cover, it’s allowing us to be a bit more targeted in recruitment, so hopefully that will pay off in the response rates and we’ll get a nice solid number.

Things should move pretty quickly on both projects from here. I’ll post back with updates as more happens.

Project Update

February 21st, 2013

About a month and a half into the new calendar year, and I’m definitely making better progress on my project work than during the autumn term.

The first big thing is that I’ve put together a proposal for a student Frontrunner to gather data on use of learning spaces around our campus. Frontrunners is a DMU employability initiative which recruits students to work on projects around the university (see the Frontrunners site). Fingers crossed that I’ll get the role approved: feedback on the application has been good so far. Either way, putting together the proposal has given me a much better overview of how the project will work, and putting together the role description and outline of skills which the student would learn was an interesting exercise, digging up some of my recruitment and selection skills from my old Occupational Psychology degree.

Our Library and Learning Services project on communication with PhD students is also moving along nicely: the focus groups are due to run over the next two weeks. I’m going to act as the notetaker for the first group, so I’ll get to see a colleague in the facilitator role. I’ve only ever acted as the facilitator before, so will be interesting to have a more detached perspective on the group. I’m sure I’ll be scribbling lots of notes! Next month we’re planning to go on some visits to other universities and see what we can learn from colleagues in the sector too.

This term has definitely seen me flip round from focusing on teaching, delivering a lot of sessions for the first time, to focusing on project work. However, the teaching hasn’t reduced much – I’ve just got a better portfolio of knowledge and resources to draw upon, and I’m delivering more familiar materials. It’s good to feel that everything’s starting to get a little bit easier, though!

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.