My Chartership Experience

A few weeks ago I found out that I had been accepted as a Chartered member of CILIP (hurrah! Officially a librarian, perhaps). After almost 2 years (from registration to outcome – far too long) of hard work, procrastination, teeth-grinding, and a bit more procrastination, and I’m in the habit of reflection, I wanted to share what I learned from the process. So, for what it’s worth, here are my top tips for Chartership:

1.       Write the PPDP with the assessment criteria in mind: I just wrote things I wanted or needed to develop without fully thinking how I would relate the evidence to the criteria. Then, when I came to review my PPDP at about 6 months in, it became clear that I had an imbalance between the criteria so I added new goals to even this out. In some ways it seems logical to organise evidence in the portfolio by criteria, especially if this if the structure you use for your evaluative statement. However, due to the approach I took I organised my evidence by PPDP area, which still worked quite well as some of my evidence met more than one of the criteria.
2.       Be a good mentee: due to major procrastination I was spectacularly bad at keeping my mentor up to date with my progress. Remember that the onus is on you to keep in touch and to ensure the mentoring process works for you so it is worth knowing how you want this to work from the start. For me, a formal mentoring relationship was a new concept so I wasn’t really sure how I wanted or needed it to work. In a way, although I felt like I was getting it wrong, my mentor relationship worked out quite well in that I got the support I needed at the start of the process – guidance on planning, writing the PPDP, ideas for development opportunities, and ways to present evidence – so I was able to work quite independently on my portfolio from then on. This suits my personality and learning style.
3.       Don’t procrastinate: About 75% of my time was spent procrastinating about Chartership, rather than just getting on with Chartership. I would do things in fits and starts which often meant that there were long gaps where I didn’t get anything done. I am very target driven so I would do the thing I had set for myself, e.g. writing a book review, or completing the PTLLS course, without then pulling the relevant evidence out of that for my portfolio. It’s so much easier to reflect and organise evidence as you go along.
4.       It’s not as hard as it seems: in some ways Chartership can seem quite vague as it is self-directed. However, I found a few ways of making the process a little easier:

  • Go to a reflective writing course (your local Career Development Group division might organise one of these) or at least read up on reflective writing (the CPD23 blog has a post useful on this).
  • Choose development activities that suit your learning style. As I tend to prefer a more formal learning environment the PTLLS course really suited me. And, whilst contributing towards my Chartership it also enabled me to add a useful qualification to my CV.
  • Reflect on and gather evidence from things that you do at work. Chartership doesn’t just have to be about extra-curricular CPD activities. Projects and other parts of your work all contribute to your personal development – specifically to meet the criteria about service performance – so you can use some of this as evidence for your portfolio.
  • Write reflective accounts of some of the development activities you are doing to use as evidence in your portfolio. This is both a way of getting more reflection into your portfolio and it helps massively when it comes to writing your evaluative statement.

5.       If submitting electronically, format evidence as you go: the submission guidelines changed during the time I was working on Chartership so when I was ready to submit I decided to do it electronically. This meant getting all of my evidence into one Word document that I could then convert to PDF. Doing this all in one go was a rather time-consuming and I spent a good few days scanning and faffing with margins. It’s definitely worth getting all your evidence into the right format as you going along if you intend to submit electronically.
6.       And finally, STOP!: it’s so easy to let Chartership drag on for too long so it’s really important to set yourself a deadline to get it completed by, or at least to stop gathering evidence by. Even if you decide at this point that there is more to do it is a good way of reviewing what you have so far. I found that I had too much evidence – my portfolio would’ve been huge if I’d put everything in – so had to be selective and just choose the best pieces of evidence I had.

I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Chartership; enjoying the development activities I chose to do, but finding it difficult to put together the evidence for my portfolio. This is very much to do with my learning style and the most important thing I took from the whole experience is a better appreciation of this and how to use it get the most out of my CPD.

Of course, this blog post has limited use as CILIP are changing Chartership (and their other qualification) soon, which I think will be a very good thing for future candidates. The improvements to CILIP qualifications are a welcome change and I’m actually looking forward to Revalidation. And I never thought I’d say that!

Categories: Chartership Tags: , ,

Reflecting and planning: goals for 2013

At this time last year I looked back on my achievements of the past year and made some plans for 2012. This was a useful exercise in focusing my goals so I thought I’d try again this year. It’ll also be interesting to, for the first time, look back on what I planned to do and see how much I was able to achieve.

So last year I wrote that I hoped to:

Complete CPD23 – and I did. In February. Though of course it should have been done in October 2011. I’m pleased I made the effort and finished it, though in reality only a few of the ‘things’ have truly stuck (Dropbox, RSS, and reflective practice to name three)
Manage my time and commitments better – despite my tardiness at finished CPD23 and the fact that Chartership (see below) took a lot longer than originally intended I think I’m finally starting to get on top of this. I just take on a bit too much at times that it’s hard to find the balance. It’s all about prioritisation though and this is a skill I’m getting better at. Inevitably this will always be a work in progress.
Get a professional post – so this is one thing I haven’t achieved. But I do think I’m getting closer. My applications are getting shortlisted more often and I’ve had some good, constructive interview feedback so I’m sure it’ll happen soon. It’s all useful experience to help me to focus my job search in the right areas.
Submit Chartership application – hopefully by the end of the summer – so I was a little late in this one, mainly as I found it difficult to juggle the job hunt with the portfolio building and other distractions that had to come first, but I finally got my portfolio in a shape I was happy with and submitted it in December. Now I just have to wait and see. Keeping fingers (and toes) crossed for a positive outcome.
• Attend more LIS events – although I didn’t attend more events I did attend the ARLG conference which was my first experience of a conference on this scale. An excellent opportunity to expand my knowledge.

I don’t think I did too badly really. So what of 2013?

Get a professional post! – This has to be my main goal for this year. If all goes well with my Chartership application I’ll be able to focus all my energies on the job search for a bit.
Blog more – I’ve rather neglected this blog in recent months and would like to either post more regularly, or make the decision to stop it completely. Ideally I’d like to keep it going but move the focus away from reflection for my own purposes (now that Chartership is, hopefully, done and dusted) and write posts that are more useful to fellow professionals. I’m not going to set myself targets of when to post but if I can average one a month I’d be happy.
Keep the CPD momentum going – one of the things I enjoyed most about Chartership was that I was making sure I was actually benefitting from my CPD activity. I also discovered a lot about my personal learning style; I definitely prefer fairly formal structured learning activities over informal, self-guided CPD, so I am now more aware of what opportunities I’ll get the most out of in future.

I think that’s a nice amount for now. I want to stay fairly open-minded as I know my priorities and goals are likely to change over the course of the year. It’ll be interesting to look back and see what I’ve achieved this time next year.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

You get what you pay for, Or, some thoughts on customer service in the academic library

So, it’s finally here, our new students are the first cohort to pay £9,000 (or thereabouts) per year for tuition fees and it feels like we’ve been talking about it for so long. I’ve lost count of the number of conferences I’ve been to and presentations I’ve seen discussing the need to manage the expectations of our students, especially in light of the increased fees burden they will be taking on. Inevitably this leads us on to the debate over the concept of the student as a customer, which, of course, they are not in the wider context of their student life, but it is nevertheless a loaded term in HE generally these days. As I wrote previously, students are not consumers of the education they receive – that is very much a two way transaction – but they are customers in relation to many of the other services and facilities that the university, in particular the library, offers.

But what does this mean for the academic library…?

I’m yet to be convinced that this new cohort of students will be any more demanding than their predecessors – give it till the end of the semester and I might have changed my mind – but that isn’t to say that I don’t think they will be demanding, just that students already were, always have been. Students have every right to expect a high standard of customer service – we are providing them with a service after all. I really enjoy the customer-facing aspect of working in an academic library; supporting students at that first point of contact which is vital in contributing to a positive experience of the library, and of the University as a whole. We are supporting learning and an important part of this is delivering a high quality service and a positive experience for the customer/student/user (or whatever term you prefer).

The importance of delivering a high level of customer service in academic libraries is evident in my workplace which has been awarded the Government’s Customer Service Excellence Standard. So I thought it’d be worth looking at the 5 main criteria to see how they fit in with the service offered by academic libraries and with my own approach to providing a good customer service.

Customer Insight

It is important for academic libraries to identify specific, distinct user groups and develop services that meet the needs of these users. For example, at my institution we have a postal loan service for distance learning students, we liaise with colleagues in the Student Support & Wellbeing team to meet the needs of disabled students, and provide induction tours for international students. Personally, I am perhaps lacking in knowledge and expertise required to support disabled students as well as I’d like to be able to, specifically in relation to accessibility requirements for those with dyslexia and knowledge of specialist software (and its compatibility with library resources). This is an area I need to develop further over time.  I work at a small campus of the university where it is easier to get to know the students and gain an understanding of the demographics in place which definitely helps me to feel I have a good insight of the main customers of the library. One of the most important aspects of customer insight in my view is having the ability and good judgement to assess the needs of customers on an individual basis, in response to a specific enquiry.

Organisational Culture

Applying for, and successfully achieving, the CSE accreditation suggests a customer-focused culture exists within an organisation. I must admit that during the assessment process it is easy for staff not directly involved to feel detached from the whole thing but without the commitment to customer service from all staff it would be difficult to be successful at all. In an academic library almost everything we do – whether it is direct contact with users at a service point, or processing new books in a back office – all contribute to the customer experience.

Information and Access

This aspect of the standard relates to providing an effective communications to customers. At my organisation we use a range of channels for delivering information to customers; including webpages, online help guides and tutorials, printed leaflets and guides, information literacy workshops, induction sessions, and a presence at freshers’ events. We also have a number of means for receiving enquiries: face to face, email and phone. And we now have a social media presence using both Twitter and Facebook as a way to communicate with customers. Information can be accessed via a range of means so customers can find the best means for them. In terms of making effective use of social media for communication with customers my organisation has a little way to go – other academic libraries are way ahead.

Of course we need to be wary of ‘spoon-feeding’ students in order to fulfil our role in the development of information literacy skills and supporting lifelong learning. For example, when dealing with enquiries I might give a link or pdf but will also explain or demonstrate how to get to the information so as to hopefully equip that student with the skills to find information in future. Although not a simple customer transaction this does still fit in with the information and access part of the CSE standard. And, in my experience, most students want to know how to do stuff for themselves anyway.

Delivery

This element refers specifically to using feedback and comments (or complaints) from customers to develop services. This is an area in which my library (and I would imagine most others) is especially strong. There is a positive culture in relation to the use of feedback, from both staff and students, to inform service development. Formal feedback mechanisms are very much in use – surveys, workshops evaluation forms, feedback postcards, comment cards, and a web form – and we also have the rather quirky feedback “Pod” (think Big Brother diary room chair style) for students to give feedback via video. There’s a lot of potential for using Twitter and Facebook for gathering feedback from customers so this is an area I’d like to see my library develop in future.

Timeliness and Quality of Service

This criterion identifies the need to have a balance between giving a prompt response and ensuring a high quality service for customers. We have set service standards to ensure timeliness so, for example, we must ensure a response is sent to an email enquiry within a specific timescale. If an enquiry is complex and will take more time to resolve, an acknowledgement will be sent as an initial response. The use of email templates with answers to common enquiries enables a prompt reply to be given in many cases. In order to ensure a quality service the response should be tailored to the individual enquiry as necessary.

Now what…?

I’ve always thought that my customer service skills were strong and I’m pleased that I could see areas within the criteria where I feel I do provide a good service. By looking at the CSE standard in more detail I have also been able to identify areas where I need to develop further.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Day We Caught The Train, Or, CDG NE Summer Visit to York

Last Monday I took a trip to York to visit three libraries with the Career Development Group. We visited York Minster Library and Archives, York Explore (the central public library), and Search Engine – the library and archive centre at the National Railway Museum. Although they are three very different types of library there were some common issues that recurred throughout the day; mainly in relation to partnership working, public access to collections and services, and the use of volunteers.

York Minster Library and Archives

The Minster library is run as a partnership between the Dean & Chapter (who own the collections and the buildings) and the University of York (who provide the catalogue and IT infrastructure). Access to the library is free for staff and students of the University of York but anyone can pay for external membership so the collection is accessible to the public. Exhibitions showing some of the Old Library collection are also organised, giving the public an opportunity to view some of the rarer items. Volunteer staff are employed to supervise the library reading rooms and exhibitions, supplementing rather than replacing the work of paid staff.

Interestingly the books are not organised by any classification system as they are simply placed on the shelves where they fit. They are catalogued however and the catalogue record shows the location details as bay number, shelf number, position on shelf. I just hope nothing is ever misshelved! As the library receives a lot of donations they are currently devising a collection development policy – at the moment it is non-existent – to determine criteria for what they can accept in future. As ever, space is a major issue so any policy will need to be rigorous.

York Explore

The visit to York’s central public library was the highlight of the day for me – and not just because of the excitement of the police (and sniffer dog!) presence in preparation for the royal visit later that day. With all that was happening that day it way really good of the head of service to take the time to show us around. Having worked in public libraries in a former life, I’m always very interested in hearing how this sector is developing, particularly in light of the much publicised cuts. Although it was acknowledged that it is a difficult time, the library service in York are being proactive to ensure that they can survive, meeting the financial challenges head on. One example of this is that the cafe in the library is run, and staffed, by library staff, generating income to feed back into the provision of the library service and encouraging people to come in and use the library. An exciting development is the new Rowntree Park Reading Cafe, which opened on July 14th. I will definitely be popping in for a look next time I’m in York. The library has strong partnerships with other services, including adult education who have offices and run courses within the library, and they are always looking for opportunities to link up with other services. For example, they are hoping to have a presence in the new Community Stadium. The role of public libraries at the heart of the community was really evident in York.

With all the bad news about the public library service in the UK at the moment it was reassuring to hear of the positive approach in York, admittedly because of the support of the local authority who are committed to keeping all libraries open. Libraries are not being closed, the book fund is never cut, they don’t charge for computer use (“we don’t charge for information”), and libraries are not being handed over to the community – there is a place for the use of volunteers in libraries but not for volunteer-run libraries. If only other local authorities shared these views…

Looking around the space it was interesting to see many similarities with academic libraries, in particular the move away from a fixed enquiry desk to having more library staff roving to help customers at the point of need and the range of different spaces available to offer different environments for library users.

Search Engine – National Railway Museum

The final visit of the day was to the library and archive centre at the National Railway Museum – Search Engine. After a quick break to wander round the museum to see the Flying Scotsman and the Hogwart’s Express of course! They have a partnership with the University of York who provide the library management system. Since opening in a new, more visible location within the museum the centre has seen usage increase, both from members of the public and museum collections team, broadening from traditional rail enthusiasts to business and engineering uses, and social, design and family history research. The commitment to making the collection more open to the public was evident: customer service skills were the most important factor when recruiting staff for the opening of the library in 2008 and they have created an atmosphere for self-directed reading that is welcoming to all, including a collection of rail-related children’s books. The space is zoned, similar to many public and academic libraries, and moves from exhibition space, to comfortable seating, to areas for more in-depth research including separate reading rooms for consulting original archive material.

The most interesting thing for me was the use of volunteer staff; some are employed to staff the main welcome point at the entrance to the library, others to conduct more in-depth research in response to enquiries. This latter role seems to be more suited to paid staff so it was interesting that volunteers could be utilised in this way. It was explained that the recruitment process for these roles is quite stringent to ensure volunteers, who are often looking for experience prior to studying for a librarianship qualification, have the requisite skills.

image

Overall, this day provided a great opportunity to get an insight into different types of library work whilst also highlighting some of the similarities across them all.

Categories: CPD Tags:

Libraries, lightning and Lego – CILIP ARLG 2012

Earlier this week I attended the CILIP ARLG (Academic and Research Libraries Group) Conference in Newcastle. To save boring anyone with a write up of the whole thing, this post is just some general reflections and highlights. I will be writing a more detailed report of the event for the newsletter of North East CILIP who kindly sponsored my place at the conference.

As expected from a conference entitled ‘Great Expectations: what do students want and how do we deliver?’ there was much discussion in the keynotes of the concept of the student as a customer. Ever since the higher tuition fees were announced this issue has been a hot topic for academic libraries. As many of the speakers stated, students are not consumers, getting a good degree in return for handing over £9000 per year; they are partners in their education. However, in some ways they are our customers. From the library’s perspective there are certain services that we provide our students with and it is only right that, as our customers, they should expect certain standards.  In his keynote Paul Abernethy (the president of the Students’ Union at Liverpool John Moores University) emphasised the importance of getting the fundamentals right in order to meet student expectations. This could be anything from making sure the printers and PCs are reliable (a problem in every institution it seems) to stocking sufficient core texts to providing good quality subject support – all are part of our service to the students. These are basic reasonable expectations with or without the increased fees but while the demands may not change drastically in September, students will be more vocal about it if this service isn’t up to scratch. Of course, students don’t have the right to a good degree, they have to earn it. Institutions have to provide the best possible support to enable them to achieve this.

In the first keynote John Hogan (Registrar at Newcastle University) concluded that in order to meet student expectations “a great, personal service is key”. This view was echoed in many of the workshops which demonstrated the importance of meeting the needs of a diverse student population. A particular highlight for me was the session facilitated by Andy Priestner, Libby Tilly, and Laura Wilkinson – ‘Building blocks for personalised library services: an interactive workshop utilising the LEGO® Serious Play® Methodology’ – and not just because it involved playing with Lego! The workshop involved using Lego to represent different aspects of library services and perceptions of our library users. It was a very engaging and effective workshop – definitely the one that made me think the most – and, above all, it was also good fun! Every participant in my group had a slightly different interpretation which proved the importance of developing personalised library services.

Lego librarian?

As a conference first-timer I was a bit nervous about the networking but as it turned out I didn’t need to worry too much. Librarians are generally a friendly bunch! It is so important to make the most of the opportunity to speak to others at events like this so I would definitely not be quite so intimidated in future. I was pleased to get the opportunity to speak to Paul Abernethy about the convergence of services at Liverpool John Moores University. At Northumbria we are currently moving towards a similar model, bringing student support and careers services into the library, and it was reassuring to hear how much students at LJMU value this converged service. Hopefully, it’ll be worth all the pain in the end!

Finally, I must mention the lightning session from Demco. Paul Jackson’s rendition of Hallelujah was a tough act for any of the other exhibitors to follow and certainly made a presentation about a library interiors supplier a lot more memorable!

Above all, I have definitely come away from the conference full of inspiration and new ideas that I can’t wait to use back at work.

Preparing to Teach

What?

At the end of last year I completed a 12 week City & Guilds course at a local college in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector. This was recommended by my Chartership mentor because one of my main areas for development on my PPDP is to get more teaching experience. My current job doesn’t involve any teaching but this is something hope to move into in the future. I currently work in an academic library, staffing the library enquiry desk for a large chunk of my time, and I’d like to progress in this area of library work in the future. The course is perhaps more appropriate to those wanting to go into a teaching role, rather than a role that involves a teaching element like many teaching librarian jobs, but I still found many aspects of it very useful.

This course can be the first stage of 3 leading to a diploma in teaching in lifelong learning. Doing this first part provided a good introduction to teaching which was sufficient for my needs, offering a good grounding in how to plan a teaching session and to build a short programme of sessions within the context of my particular subject area. Over the 12 weeks we considered all aspects of teaching including assessment, equality and diversity, and differentiation of teaching activities. I also got an opportunity to have a go at actually delivering a teaching session in a 30 minute ‘microteach’. Although purely theoretical at this stage we all linked the work to our own specific subject area – which meant the microteach sessions were interesting as I learnt some new skills (mainly how to paint my nails properly!).

So What?

As I’d had no prior experience of developing and delivering teaching sessions this course was really useful for giving me an overview of the key elements needed when developing a teaching session and for enabling me to consider my own approaches to teaching information literacy and library skills. It’s easy to continue to re-use the same materials without looking for new ways of doing the same session so I tried to come up with my own ideas rather than looking at how this is already done in my place of work.

The main learning points from the course for me were:

  • Creating a teaching session is a holistic process where all of the elements are interconnected following a cycle from planning → delivery → assessment → feedback, and so on as the feedback given should inform the planning of the next session.
  • Use of differentiation is essential in order to vary learning activities and cater for a range of learning styles and needs, accounting for equality and diversity
  • It is important to engage learners through the use of varied, student-led activities
  • Bloom’s taxonomy should be used to write targeted learning outcomes which build learners’ knowledge from lower to higher order thinking skills. This also allows for differing levels of ability among learners.

Although some of this seems quite prescriptive it is good way to give structure to a teaching session and ensure learning outcomes are realistic and guide what students will be doing in the session.

I’d be interested to know of innovative ways others have used to engage students in information literacy teaching…

One of the key things I learned about myself whilst doing this course was that I would need to build my confidence in delivering teaching sessions (apparently I’m very good on paper…) as I didn’t come across as confident in the microteach. This sounds like a huge barrier but it’s one that I’m still hoping to be able to overcome. I think the main reason I came across like this was more to do with me being very aware of the false nature of the microteach situation and that I was delivering a session to a mixed group of people who had no use for the information I was giving them. I hope that in a real life situation I would do much better.

I also learned that I am very target-driven and work better when I have set tasks to complete. I much prefer this way of working – perhaps the reason I am making Chartership much harder for myself than it really needs to be!

Now What?

I have been getting some experience of supporting a range of teaching sessions at work so the next step for me would be to have a go at actually planning and delivering a session myself. This might not be possible in my current role but at least now I’ve gained some valuable skills and knowledge (in theory anyway!) that would put me in a better position when going for new jobs. One thing to work on is my confidence and voice projection. Hopefully these things will come with time and experience.

Categories: Chartership Tags: , ,

CPD23 – Thing 23: Reflection…what next?

Finally, I’ve come to the end of CPD23. It took a lot longer than I intended but I got there. I don’t like to leave a task unfinished so I persevered with it. I do wonder what I’ll have got out of it having taken so long over it.

There were two types of ‘thing’ in the programme: the theoretical, ‘thinky’ things and the more practical, trying out new tools and applications things. I enjoyed both but found that the more theoretical things suited me better at this time; helping me to evaluate my career at the moment which is really useful practice for the reflective thinking I need to be doing for Chartership.  Although I am interested in trying out new tools I found it difficult to fit in the time to try out some of the things, especially without a real purpose for using them – I find it difficult to use practical things in a hypothetical situation. However, doing CPD23 has highlighted some new tools for me to go back and try out more at some time in the future when a genuine need arises.

I already have a personal development plan in the form of my PPDP for Chartership and wrote a SWOT analysis for this. Now I’m halfway through Chartership I should perhaps redo this as a way of re-evaluating my skills at this point. I’m not sure I’d be ready to share these publicly however! I found the process of writing the PPDP for Chartership quite difficult, more as I was unsure of how I would be able to get the opportunities to develop the skills I need due to limited funding for CPD. Doing CPD23 has made me realise how important it is to take the initiative and find inventive ways of developing professionally for free (Katy’s recent blog post on this subject has some really great ideas for this). Using a SWOT analysis to identify skills gaps was certainly a good way to identify key development needs for my PPDP.

And so, my CPD23 experience in 6 words….?

 “Finally finished. Better late than never!”

Categories: CPD, CPD23 Tags: , , ,
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