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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.

Visit to Leicester University

September 4th, 2008

David Wilson LibraryThis week has mostly been a thesis writing week: progress is slow, painful, but ongoing. However, I had a break on Wednesday for the CILIP UCR East Midlands Group AGM and library visit to the new David Wilson library at Leicester University. An email about the event just happened to hit my inbox as I was going back to the East Midlands prior to my course, I’m a member of both the UCR Group and East Midlands Branch, and our Librarian at Essex had recently walked us through the plan of the library in a meeting, so overall it seemed like fate was calling me there!

The AGM itself was reasonably brief, but it was good to go and hear about the kind of events they’d run during the year, most of which I was sad I’d missed out on (but unable to attend during my trainee post anyway). Then we hit the library for the tour.

The library has been built using the shell of the old library – the extension was added, then the library moved into the extension, then they renovated the old section, and joined the two, fairly seamlessly. It was a £35m job, and boy, did it show. Everything looks and smells new: especially the leather seating. There are fabulous facilities, like large and well equipped group rooms, and it has another of the exciting book sorting RFID machines I saw at UEA, only this time with the books going directly onto the trolleys!

Silent Reading areaEverywhere we went there seemed to be something new and exciting to see, from the graduate study lounge, available only with card access (oh, how I want one!) to the chair sponsored in honour of Engelbert Humperdinck! The only bit that isn’t super-sparkling, beautifully ventilated and light, and glamorously furnished is, of course, the staff area, but still, a lot better than most.

Do I actually think that this was money well spent? Well, the summertime is always a quiet time for libraries, but over above this the quality of the experience of using the library made the students appear extra-studious in their activities. Of course, it’s not possible to rebuild every 5 years, but I think a lot of libraries could benefit from a face lift every once in a while, to avoid a slide into mild grottiness. Also, it seems a rather mundane point, but as someone who’s worked in rather old library buildings, I can’t even imagine how great it would be to work in somewhere well-ventilated and temperature controlled. What a sad statement about librarianship! The downside? Well, of course, the staff offices were where the air conditioning didn’t work, but at least units were being installed! Lastly, the benefits of having enough space for all the books – a rarer luxury than I was aware before I entered the library world – can’t be underestimated.

I guess I’ve come away with library envy.

The end approaches

August 10th, 2008

I have received my supervisor’s comments on my chapter rewrite and it is time to make the final rewrite and submit – there’s a lot to do, so don’t hold your breath! In the meantime I’m also beginning to wind down at work. I finish my trainee post at the end of August and then I enter a limbo period until mid- to late September when my MA starts. Limbo period seems like a remarkably sedate way of describing what will probably be manic thesis writing!

Time perhaps, for some reflections on the past year? Well, I have no regrets about taking the traineeship. It’s been a long year to be away from home, but I’ve learnt a lot about librarianship and libraries. Certainly, I’ve got a much wider range of practical skills and experience than a year ago. In addition, the traineeship has raised as many questions as it’s answered, but they’ve been valuable questions to ask myself: ‘what kind of research librarian do I want to be?’, ‘what kind of research library do I want to work in?’, ‘how do we justify the expense of technological innovations?’ and ‘how can a library market itself to its patrons and paymasters?’. The job market may well aid me in answering questions about my ambitions, but they’re all useful questions to drive my activities in library school.

When it comes to my PhD, it’s exciting to see the end looming, but scary to think that it’s all down to the line now: even thinking pessimistically, it’ll soon be over one way or another! I’ve provisionally passed my ECDL (official confirmation still due), so at least I’ll be well qualified to launch myself back into the world of word processing to finish the thesis! Here’s hoping it’s finished before library school launches another academic load at me!

Learning to drive my computer

August 5th, 2008

My task for this week is to take the European Computer Driving Licence. I’ve had my ECDL book since quite early in my trainee year, and I was meaning to start taking exams once I’d settled back into my final four months in cataloguing. When I was moved into acquisitions, however, there were new procedures to learn, and I was sidetracked for some time. Finally, I had some trouble contacting the ECDL coordinator, and at that point I realised that the best time to take the test was during this week, giving me five days to go through the seven exams!

The good news is that I’m pretty good at driving a computer already. Since I was a child I’ve been confident in my ability to pick up new technologies – I’m a digital native, if you will, although I’m slightly too old to be one according to some definitions! Heck, a large part of my PhD took place within a computer science department. However, taking the ECDL is a good way of proving my competence with standard packages: I worked out it’s around 12 years since I touched Microsoft Access, and using Firefox and webmail has put me out of touch with Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook. It’s also the kind of qualification that seems to tick boxes for library employers, and shows a commitment to professional development. Lastly, I am picking up some stuff that I didn’t know by browsing through our training software. My learning point of today was that Powerpoint can create a folder with a presentation and a Powerpoint viewer to transfer presentations to a computer without the necessary software. I never knew this before, and given its somewhat bewildering name – Package to CD – wasn’t likely to find it in a hurry.

So far I’ve taken three modules (for which feedback from the examiner was positive) and I’ve got four more to go: communication and presentation software tomorrow; spreadsheets and databases on Thursday. At the moment I’m just hoping I don’t have to retake any exams – there’s only so many ECDL papers I can take before I’m going cross-eyed!

In other news, it’s looking like my PhD comments from my supervisors might turn up soon, and the reading list for my librarianship course has arrived. Perhaps it’s a good thing I’m taking the ECDL exams so quickly… only four weeks to go in the traineeship, and only seven weeks to go until the start of my new course!