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.

My Library Routes / Roots

October 10th, 2009

Some excellent library bloggers have recently set up a project in which our kind blog both our routes into librarianship, and our roots in librarianship, and this is my contribution. I’ll leap straight in, but do check out the other fascinating entries at the Library Routes Wiki. My route into librarianship has been a meandering one, starting with an MSc in Occupational Psychology (the psychology of work and organisations). My roots in librarianship, which we’ll come to later, started a long time before that.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after my undergrad, but after a year of trying the world of work decided I’d return and study an area of my degree I’d particularly enjoyed, Occupational Psychology. My MSc dissertation focused on a centre in Sheffield offering work-related IT courses and I became interested in learning and technology. Looking for work afterwards, I discovered that the University of Nottingham were offering studentships at their new Learning Sciences Research Institute, so I applied. My topic ended up being homework: specifically I focused on how technologies could be embedded in the home, given family’s views on privacy, their interactions around homework technologies, and various other criteria. However, as I worked on my PhD I developed an interest in how the theories I was studying applied to my student / research role. How I and those around me used technologies to learn and search for information became a larger and larger interest.

With my PhD it would have been quite easy to move within fields to study this academically, but I was reluctant to continue an academic career path. I don’t know when I suddenly realised that librarianship contained people-focused and applied roles which encompassed many of my interests, but I do remember increasingly thinking about librarianship as a career. However, given previous multiple changes in direction, I wanted to try a spell in libraries to decide if they were right for me, so I applied for and got a part-time maternity cover job in the George Green Library at the University of Nottingham while I was writing up my PhD thesis.

The job at George Green gave me a broad experience of libraries, as I worked half of my shift alongside a librarian or library assistant, and got to hear all about their work, and was in sole charge of the service for the second half of the night. I liked the job. I could have applied for library school at this stage, but instead I decided to take the opportunity to get a broader background in librarianship, and applied for a number of graduate trainee posts. It was as I started the traineeship that I looked around for others who had blogged their experiences as trainees, and, unable to find anything, started this blog. The rest of the story is quite well documented here: from my traineeship to my MA and then my current academic librarian job supporting students and researchers at De Montfort, just like I wanted to do as a student and researcher. And my Occupational Psychology degree, the starting point of it all, helped me get a job as a subject librarian in Business.

Nice story, isn’t it? However, one of the theories I learnt in my MSc Occupational Psychology is that the ‘career’ as we understand it, can be seen as just a story, reflecting back on how we got to where we are, and editing out all the awkward bits that don’t fit. For those about to start on a librarianship career, I think it’s important to mention some of these roots, which weren’t part of my route, to show that we’re not all perfect, inevitable fits for a librarianship career, that stops and starts are involved.

For example, I did a week’s work experience in a public library as a 16 year old and in my National Record of Achievement it says “I am not sure I would like to continue to work in this field when I am older”. When I finished my undergraduate degree I was a day too late to apply for a graduate trainee post in the university library. And I also have a traditional ‘I was a bookish child’ story to tell, but was nearly put off librarianship because I was worried it was more about the quiet anti-social child I had been, than the more extroverted lover of knowledge I’ve become. It’s fascinating to look back on our routes and our roots, but I’ve learnt not to be too defined by what I’ve done. Who know where I’ll end up next?

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.

The dissertation process

August 19th, 2009

When I first started my dissertation I actually meant to blog about the process more, but it turned out to be quite hard to find an angle to come at this from. I’d imagined blogging findings as they emerged, but particularly with qualitative analysis of data there’s not many moments of revelation to be had: the analysis evolves over time.

There were two stages to the research, and three stages to the analysis. In stage one, interviews with staff involved in the Information Commons (IC) development were analysed using the Theory of Change approach to uncover the drivers, resources, activities, desirable outcomes and anticipated impact of the project – these are the five tubs of quotes visible in the photographs. In stage two, a thematic analysis of the student interviews looked at how students used the IC. Stage three, which I’m still finishing, involves looking at the desirable outcomes of the project related to student usage of the IC and the student experience, and asking if i) if there’s evidence for them in the student interviews and ii) if they seem to have occurred because of the activities identified by staff.

In stage three everything’s starting to come together quite nicely. I think the first two stages of the analysis are quite information-rich, but the process of evaluation draws them together quite well and should help me structure the key findings in the discussion and conclusion quite nicely.

At the moment I’m finishing off the literature review (currently bringing together the literature on information commons in general) and then I’m back into the analysis again. My supervisor is back from holiday on Monday, and we’ve arranged a meeting, so I hope to have a reasonable draft of the whole thing to show her by then. Compared to my PhD thesis this has all been a bit of a whirlwind: I’ve been reasonably ambitious with the scope of this project, and there’s not much time at all to think and reflect. However, I’m happy so far with what I’ve produced and hopefully will be able to knock it into shape before submission.