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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.

Public library promotion

August 26th, 2008

One final thread to tie up from the Essex job before I leave at the end of the week and that’s the public library display we were trying to set up as a part of the National Year of Reading – see this previous post. Our materials finally arrived and we put them up in the foyer of the library. As you can see on the left, it was a fairly basic display, just covering the services that the public libraries in the area offer that we felt didn’t overlap too much with our own: a wider range of fiction, CD / DVD rental, and bookable computers. It was important to us that we neither gave the impression that we wanted our patrons to leave us and use the public libraries instead, nor confused them by describing services that were too similar to ours. In fact a major consideration while making the display was to make sure that our circulation desk weren’t going to be inundated with queries about DVD lending services we didn’t offer. I just hope we made the PUBLIC LIBRARY bit prominent enough, or the staff will be cursing our names for months!

The response to the display among our library staff was really interesting – I’d say the instinctive reaction was to be slightly defensive about promoting a different library. However, when they saw that we’d focused on the things that made us different it reduced the element of competition. Lots of staff seemed interested in finding out more, and we even had a member of staff or two suggest they might check out some of the services! I think it’s a good idea to some kind of dialogue between different library services in this way: there is the potential for traffic to pass between academic and public services, and perhaps even a small gesture of friendship like this between the two might make us a little bit more likely to think of each other as comrades in arms!

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!