Sunday, 18 October 2015

Friendships made from studying a distance learning masters.

Ok, so I have finished my masters. Apart from being very happy this week what has changed? I no longer have to come home from work and study, I have my Saturday and Sunday afternoons to myself but what difference does that really make? This afternoon for the first time in 2 years I have no studying to do and I am lost, its Sunday afternoon and the routine for my family has not changed but mine has. My husband, after cooking the Sunday dinner (I know I am very lucky!) still wants to lay on the settee and snooze because that is what he always does after the trials of cooking the dinner and a long hard week. My son, the only one left at home now, still wants to go and play on his game machine and then do his homework. For them nothing has changed but it has for me. Yesterday I enjoyed finishing off my book without feeling guilty for reading something enjoyable instead of studying, but I have timed it badly and now have nothing that I want to read at home (there are several half read books by my bedside but non of them are saying you really want to read me). So what am I doing, I m in my study trying to decide what to do with my blog. There are 2 ideas; one, write about what I have learnt from studying my masters. I will do this but not yet, that would feel too much like studying still. The second is about my journey from starting my masters to who I met not the way and where I am today. That sounds more fun so here it is. 

Why did I decide to start a masters? Three years ago I knew I had the opportunity to become Head of Schools' Library Service when the current Head retired and after a conversation about what would stop me highlighted the fact that I would need a masters. Work agreed that if I wanted to do this distance learning they would pay for it and all I had to do was give my time. I had studies for my degree the same way qualifying in 2003 so knew what I was letting myself in for. The only difference this time was my four children were significantly older. My fourth was born just 5 months before I started studying last time and was only 3 when I finished. If I could do it then it was definitely going to be a lot easier this time. I also felt that it would be good for my youngest, who was then 13, to see me studying too as my third child was leaving for university that year and number four would be at home on his own. 

So after signing up, once again I found myself heading to Aberystwyth University on that long train journey, to do my first study school for my masters. I was nervous but felt strangely at home when I got off the train. I could not say that I knew Aber very well but it felt familiar and these feelings continued when I went to register and found Marianne waiting for me. Amazingly she seemed to remember me from last time and I was greeted like an old friend. I was not a newbie after all I was one of the old hands who knew what was about to come. 

What is really important about my story is that there were 150 students starting their masters on that study week but only 4 of us had signed up for the management of library and information services course. We were spilt off into separate groups in order to do the particular modules for that course. Here I met the two people that were going to get me through this course with the comradeship that can only be felt by those going through the same experience as yourself. Laetitia and Carol have become two of my best friends and I feel blessed that I started this journey with them and they were both still there at the end. This picture was taken at our second study school that we managed to all get to together.

What is great about our story is that not only did we help each other along with our course but learnt about each others lives and families enough to to a road trip to go to our second study school. Laetitia is from South Africa and wanted to see some of the country before and after the study school and asked if Carol and I would like to come along for the ride. So after spending time with these two women for only four day a year previously I found myself agreeing to spend a week with them driving through the English and Welsh countryside. If I had as much fun with them as I had had at study school we were going to have a blast. 

Coming soon, the road trip...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Studying for a masters whilst working full time - its been a blast!

Well just over 2 years ago I started on a distance learning course with Aberystwyth University to gain my masters in Management of Library and Information Services. On Monday I submitted my dissertation and after studying nearly every night for the last 2 years I have nothing to do. How do I feel? Elated, relieved and tired but most strange of all I feel as if I miss it, that can't possibly be. As I sat night after night longing to be finished here I am not wanting it to be finished. As hard as it was to make myself study for a couple of hours every night it was just part of the routine, and for most of it I actually quite enjoyed it. So now what? I am not the person to watch TV every night, hence that I am writing this blog. So what do I do with my time? Well here are my thoughts:-

  1. I have always wanted to have a go at pottery or making a stained glass window. Unfortunately I think that the night classes have already started so this might have to wait until next year.
  2. buy an adult colouring book, it seems to be the in thing at the moment and I always liked colouring as a child. 
  3. look at my 'to read' books and decide what next. 
  4. make time for my friends who have had to put up with me virtually ignoring them for the last couple of years. 
  5. blog more and make it count. 

 This all seems a little futile at the moment and I know these feeling will pass as I did my first degree the same way and it took me 10 years to face more studying. I only hope that in another 10 years that there is not a Phd on the horizon.

The next post will be better and more focused I hope :)

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Reading and traditional school #libraries

What is more important, keeping a traditional school library or putting books into the hands of the children?

This is not as simple as it seems. Which librarian would want to keep a room full of unused books if they had the opportunity to give those books to children who do not have the opportunity to have access to books anywhere else? Why in this instance would you demand that the Dewey system was the best way forward?

I have read many articles including this one on " why I won't ditch Dewey" and I wholeheartedly agree with all of them. We should teach the children to use the library properly, but what if that is not possible now and getting the books into children's hands is? I have also read Successful school libraries which demonstrates good practice but what if all this is still not possible. 

We help support all school libraries in our area, and up till now they have all had traditional library spaces. We have one small primary school that is really focused on improving literacy in the school and has an infant and junior library. They are asking us to change the 'traditional' set up of infant library resources and this is my dilemma. 

The infant library is tiny and in a corridor and there is nowhere else to put it. It is not very accessible and cannot be used for class visits. We have discussed a redesign that would allow it to be more open but financially that is not possible. Last summer they asked us to split the library up and put bits of it into each infant classroom making the resources available to the children in the classrooms but we were not keen to encourage this as it would reduce the amount of access each child had to all the books. We also felt that a tiny library is better than no library at all!

As I have already said they have a wonderful reading scheme for the infants that is used heavily, children are given a colour banding and encouraged to swap books within that band, there are both fiction and non-fiction books in this scheme. These books are in the library and the children are used to going and choosing books from there. This is done before school, usually with their parents but they are never encouraged to choose from the library stock. There are several reasons for this but mainly they are difficult to access when a lot of children are in the small space and the parents know if their child had been given a red colour banding that if they choose it from that box they are doing the right thing and its easy. 

I have therefore suggested that we add the library books into the reading scheme so that the children get more selection and the library books are just not sitting on shelves. In order for this to work we need to ensure that any teacher who did use non-fiction books from the library as a resource within a topic is encouraged to issued these books to themselves and take them to the classroom. This will need to be monitored as it depends on how many there are as we still may have to store them in the library space. This is could be a better solution anyway as the children will see the teachers using the library too. 

I am not sure if I have agreed to do the right thing. On one level this seems right. By putting them into the reading scheme we are giving more choice and there will be a chance that the books are read. On the other hand this is not a 'traditional' library and it will be impossible to run library skills lessons, if we ever get the chance to do this, as nothing will be in traditional order therefore really difficult to find. Banding them will just mean that on the catalogue they will just be in the 'red' section. At this point in time we are a long way off from teaching basic library skills lessons to these infants. 

The positive of this is that the school has agreed to do transition library lessons from yr2 to yr3 so that in the juniors they will learn what a traditional library is like and have the skills taught then. This can be built on and feels very positive. 

I'm not sure if any of this makes sense but your comments would be appreciated. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Guernsey's Book Week: friendships, laughter and plans

Alex Scarrow
Ann Bryant
Kathryn Cave

Over the last 16 years Guernsey's Schools' Library Service (new website coming soon!) has hosted Book Week. Once a year we spend the week taking 3 authors around to our schools and every year they see nearly 5,000 children. I have met some really interesting, inspiring, sometimes unusual and extraordinary authors but all have brought something special to the children of Guernsey.

This is the first year that, although I did not arrange it from the beginning, as I took over from my predecessor half way through, that I had the opportunity to make some decisions. Now I was very lucky as the stage was set and all I had to do was follow the plan. The three authors that were booked this year, Kathryn Cave Alex Scarrow and Ann Bryant were a collective choice by my colleagues from SLS. We usually put some names forward and the Head of Services sees what she can book. I can't remember an unsuccessful week but we have had weeks where not all the authors got on with each other which was interesting and very funny looking back on it. Rather difficult at the time, though. There is always an element of the unknown bringing together three people that don't know each other and expecting them to spend a week with each other. The authors are busy during the day but are left to their own devices in the evenings.Luckily all three authors this year were lovely and got on really well with each other. 

Kathryn went to the infant schools, Ann to the Junior and Alex to the Secondary. All three are very different but equally entertaining in their own way. It is a full on week for them, 3 sessions a day for 5 days but they have access to a librarian who drives them from school to school and there is the occasional site seeing trip if there is time. We do it this way so that throughout the week all our librarians get to meet the authors and see them perform but also getting around Guernsey can be a little tricky so taking them from place to place allows them a relatively stress free week.

The extra that I added this year was asking the authors to come to the children's library at the Guille-Alles public Library to do a 'meet the author' session. They all did an hour at the end of the day and some children really benefited from getting up close to the authors. All were happy to give it a go but there was not a huge amount of interest. I will be prepared for it next time and my marketing strategy will be much better. I now realise that I needed to be more pro-active. Also the infant author was relying on the parents to come down after school when it was probably their teatime and it can be a bad time of day for little ones.  It was easier for the junior and secondary authors as they could encourage children who were listening to their talks to ask their parents to bring them to the library and being a little older it didn't matter. 

A lot of interesting conversations were had this year about what to do next and I really hope that some of it comes to fruition. Knowing the characters involved I see that none if us are going to let our plans slide if we can help it.

I really look forward to working with these three amazing authors again soon.

Here are some photo's taken on the Thursday evening event Thanks Rachel!

This is me and Laura Milligan who is Chief Librarian of the Guille-Alles Library

Jodie, Tiffany Library Assistants for SLS  and Alpha from the Press Book Shop

Alex Scarrow doing his thing!

Kathryn Cave with one of her many fans!

Alex with his fans too :)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Why I want to get back to blogging

I have spent a lot of time thinking why I like blogging, so here is my #1 reason for liking it.:-
  1. I can write how I talk and it does not have to be formal
But why don't I do it more? Time!

I read a post yesterday on the reasons for stopping blogging, well when I say read I skimmed to see if I could fine Time and yes it was number 2 on the list. When I read it I should have saved it so I could share the link, but I was busy and forgot to save it and now can't find it again (I am always telling my students to save what they find and write the reference so they can find it again! Some example I am!).  The main message was that if you enjoy something you find time. Now I'm sorry that I did not save it but it has got me started again thinking about what I feel about blogging. 

Why did I do it and what was in it for me?

  • I enjoyed writing my thoughts down. 
  • It makes things easier to process. 
  • I liked to see what kind of response a blog post got. 
Did I stop because I was not getting much response?
  • No, not really, though there are some blogs that get a huge response and I did wonder why mine didn't.
Maybe I was not saying anything that anyone wanted to read. Did that matter? Yes, what is the point of writing your thoughts on a blog if no-one reads it, I might as well write in a diary. 

So why bother?
  • I can see that since I started that quite a few people have visited my blog and I have 4 follower...thanks guys :) 
  • I have had the odd comment.
  • I have also had someone tell me they enjoyed reading my blog, so people are reading it but not commenting. 
  • I read a lot of blogs myself and how often do I comment myself, not often!
But ultimately does it matter if no-one comments? NO. Why not?

I enjoy it and that is all that matters.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Plagiarism warning

I was at a dinner party this weekend and I sat next to a man whom I had never met before. After talking for a while about the usual stuff like holidays we got round to talking about what we did for a living. I'm a librarian and he it turned out was a lecturer at Birkbeck university. We did digress to talking about the perils of plagiarism and he told me something that I want to share.

A student of his wrote an essay that was put through Turnitin. A standard procedure for the majority of universities these days. This essay came back as 62% plagiarised. When my dinner party acquaintance checked it out it turned out that in reality the student had only plagiarised one source. Why was the statistic so high then? It turned out that the source that the student had chosen to steal from had itself plagiarised from someone else who had also plagiarised from its original source. The chosen source had been plagiarised itself 3 times!

I love this story as it is a perfect reason to tell your students why it is really important to understand where your information is coming from.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Training ideas for library services - Social Media for Marketing

In our office we have decided to run in house training sessions once every half term. This started last half term where we shared our information literacy programme CWICER that we have adapted from New York  Department of Education. We have had a amazing response from the teachers to this framework as it has allowed us to talk to the teachers in their own language at last. The staff enjoyed the training and sharing ideas so we decided to run another session this morning on social media.

This months DIY training is on Social Media for Marketing

We have decided to start using social media to promote our service but you can't do that properly unless you understand what the social media can do. I talked through twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and as tools that I use on a regular basis.  There is still a lot of misunderstanding about what these resources are used for. Many of the staff still believe that twitter is about famous people or people telling you what they had for dinner. I tried to explain that my twitter page is purely for work. I follow librarians, authors, IT experts and anyone else that I think will make my life easier at work. My reasons for using twitter were:-
  • My own CPD
  • Gaining information to use in teaching
  • Ask questions from those that know more than me
  • Finding great articles for my MLIS
Why do all the hard work when someone else has already done it. Sharing is amazing and it has worked for me. Here is my twitter link @Elizabethutch and Pinterest are great sources of information that I curate. I explained that I don't spend ages looking through the internet to find useful article but use these tools to do it for me. I use resources that others have shared and scoop them or pin them to my own pages so others can benefit from what I have found. I find that saving suggested links from twitter to my page is a better   way of keeping what is useful and makes it easier to search. Have a look at my page see what you think. Here is my link to my Pinterest page I really enjoy keeping these pages full of information that is useful to me but find it fascinating that you can make connections with others who are interested in the same things as me.

I also use these tools to help me with my own study research for my MLIS. I enjoy using this as it not only is very useful to me but I can also demonstrate it's potential to the students I teach. I have always believed that in order to understand something you must use it. When Facebook first came out I was worried about my children using it as I did not understand how it worked I decided that using it was the only way to learn

Finally I do believe that you should have some social life on social media so I have a personal Facebook page that I keep private for friends and family. I do have a couple of  library groups that I am linked to but it is generally a fun tool.

I have challenged my colleagues to start using these resources before September so that we can consider using them as marketing tools for work in future. My worry at the moment is that if we were to start now I would have to organised it all myself as no one else really understands it's potential. I look forward to seeing where this will all lead.

I was just about to post this blog when my email pinged. I have set up Google alerts for 'social media' and amazingly this blog popped up David is saying, much better than me what we should be doing as librarians. The wonder of the internet! Having read his post I feel much better that I write as if I am talking as that seems to be the way to do this. What I have learnt from his post is that I need to spend time on my pictures. Will do that next time.

Finally, a colleague asked how I managed my time on social media. I had to be honest and say that I was addicted instantly and at first it was very difficult to not keep checking to see if anyone had read what I had written or commented on it. I still struggle to switch off between home and work life but I really enjoy it so does that matter so much? I will never be that person who can look for 30mins a day as it does not seem to work that way for me. I choose what I respond to when I am at home. What I have more of a problem with it allowing myself time to look when I am at work when it is for work purposes and not feel guilty about it.

I wonder what others have done to encourage others to use social media within the work place.

Next term we are looking at promoting reading for pleasure.