Am I ready for the researcher of the future?

Well…am I? To answer this question I went along to an all-day seminar run by ALPSP whose name kept on being mentioned as if they were also a well known mountain range which was very confusing.

I normally don’t like the whole ‘future’ emphasis/descriptors that many training events use. I get that we need to plan ahead but all too often these sorts of things look beyond the present and the people that we’re trying to work with and support RIGHT. NOW. However, once I saw what was on the agenda, I was a little bit more reassured that this wouldn’t be too much of the blue skies thinking but more about real experiences and how we can tackle issues that come up in the research process. Which was nice. The whole day was primarily aimed at those working in publishing even though anyone who works with researchers was welcome. As a result of this perhaps, I was one of only two librarians (if you don’t count speakers) who attended which was actually quite refreshing because it meant we weren’t going to be in yet another librarian echo chamber. Always good to get out of those from time to time I find.

The day was roughly themed into two parts with the morning looking at the researcher experience and the afternoon looking at tools and services to help with the research process. While I got a lot of useful information on new tools that I was either familiar already but hadn’t used that much or ones that I had never heard of before and really should explore, I found the morning session with a panel of early career researchers to be the most valuable. Fair warning though, a lot was said…I wrote lots of notes…I won’t say who said what, mostly because I can’t remember and also because I don’t want to quote anyone in a way that they’re not happy with. So, summary it is!

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ARLG and social media policies

Mid-way through the Social Media Driving Licence, I hopped in to Meg Westbury‘s car and we drove down to the University of Sussex to give a workshop on Social Media Policies as part of the 2014 ARLG conference. For those of you not caught up with the heady array of acronyms in librarianship, ARLG is Academic and Research Libraries Group, part of CILIP (or Chartered Institute of Information Professionals).

I can’t claim any originality in this particular talk as Meg asked me if I would be interested and she was keen to co-present with me which was rather lovely.

So we spoke for a relatively short space of time about the importance of a good social media policy and how it can help when venturing in to the world of social media as a library.

We did some rather clean slides using the excellent Haiku Deck (which we then had to download as a PowerPoint because of technology fails) and got our teach on.

Meg spoke about what social media is and what it can offer to libraries and users. Social media, apart from any else, is free and we can get a lot from it with relatively little effort. She also highlighted how social media can humanise the library service, if done well. This is always a point that people find surprising about social media but it is also something that I find is often the most powerful part of using social media well.

Social media can help us connect with our user base, get feedback and show off what we can do, as well as promoting our brand. Now I realise that the word ‘brand’ often results in a sharp intake of breath but we all have brands to maintain. Sure, a lot of our services won’t have its own dedicated logo, catchy slogan or mascot but our services represent things: integrity, professionalism, open access to information. Those are all our brand and we can built on that through consistent messaging and campaigns.

Meg moved on to discuss fears and concerns with regards to social media. Most of these concerns were pretty typical ones: lack of time and training. Social media does not have to take that long if done well and systematically, and training can be done on the job especially if you have a good social media policy backing you up when you’re still getting to grips with stuff.

Meg then started explaining a bit more about what a good social media policy can offer, especially with regards to ensuring social media sustainability, consistency and basically making sure people understand what they’re doing and why.

It was then my turn to discuss the social media policy that we have at Cambridge Judge Business School Information and Library Services. Our policy is very service specific and what we try to achieve is rather different to other School departments, hence the need for specialised policies.

I spoke about our Facebookables and Tweetables, which are essentially examples of good content that we can use for each platform. As each service is subtly different, we create content differently. In addition, we consider our audiences to be different on different platforms so we tailor our messages accordingly.

I went on to talk about the benefit and importance of a good social media rota. We have a rota for the team which includes desk shifts, enquiries work and all the other typical day-to-day things that go into keeping a library service running. Social media is a part of that and so we all take it in turns to generate content and respond to our followers on our various platforms. If we didn’t have a rota, other stuff would get in the way and it wouldn’t get done. Simple. If you’re going to do social media, you need to take it seriously and put in systems to make sure that it happens regularly and consistently.

I then moved on to a practical exercise where I asked people to start thinking about the following few points, write down their answers and then discuss in groups. These points were:

  • Who is your audience? (very important to identify this early on)
  • Why be on social media? (don’t just do it for the sake of it…have a goal!)
  • How will you keep it human? (stock message about opening times and nothing else is not going to work!)
  • What will you be promoting? (your service? yourself? your collection?
  • How will you manage staffing? (this is an integral part of the process)

I prepared a worksheet which is available for reuse. Meg and I also put together a list of what we think are ‘pretty good’ social media policies from elsewhere.

Once everyone had had a chance to talk amongst themselves, I encouraged people to feed back their ideas to the room and we had some great discussions from everyone. The key thing to remember with social media policies is that everyone’s approach will be as different and specific as the place within which they’re working so everyone came at it from a completely different angle which made for a fun discussion.

We concluded the session by briefly talking about the importance of measuring impact (built-in stats are your friend!) and also benchmarking your social media provision against other similar services that are doing the same sorts of things as you.

Overall it was a really fun session and it was really only made that way because of the great contributions and energy that the participants brought to the session.

Social media doesn’t have to be scary and a good policy can help set your social media efforts free, rather than hindering them. Having a good framework means that everyone knows what they’re doing, what is expected of them and where they can look if they need to double-check that they’re still on target with what everyone else is doing.

Image credit: Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr

 

 

Social Media Driving Licence

So one of the main things that I did over the summer was co-teach the wonderful Social Media Driving Licence with my colleagues Andy and Ange. The main premise for the course was to teach and empower members of staff across Cambridge Judge Business School in their social media endeavours. We had a whole range of folk take part, from members of faculty to the head of HR, as well as course administrators and external affairs staff.

We ran a very packed programme over the course of eight weeks (end of May to mid July) and it was a lot of work, both for us as teachers but for those taking part as well.

A quick run-down of what we did looks something a bit like this:

Week 1: Framing the Licence

Week 2: Blogging: getting the word out

Week 3: Twitter: come fly with us

Week 4: Tweet-a-thon

Week 5: Twitter tools: curation, control and reach

Week 6: Google: more than just a search engine

Week 7: Sharing and caring: tools and citizenship

Week 8: Evaluating the Licence… with LEGO Serious Play

Underpinning the course was blogging, which was inspired by the excellent 23 Things programme that has run twice in Cambridge. Blogging allowed for participants to not only get used to using one social media platform (WordPress) but it also encouraged them to reflect and comment on their own learning experiences. Part of the assessment element of the course was to complete certain activities and write about them, which meant lots of reading spreadsheet-filling-in for Andy, Ange and me. However, because everyone was so engaged and were having fun with the course, reading what everyone was writing became less of a course administration-esque task, but more of a exciting look to see how everyone was progressing.

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Pushing back and branching out


I’ve just finished reading an editorial by Wendi Arant-Kasper and Wyoma vanDuinkerken from Texas A&M University from the Journal of Academic Librarianship called “Other duties as assigned: internal consultants in academic libraries”. (DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2013.10.015) and it got me thinking about something that has been bugging me on and off for the past few months. Librarians can be seen as a very traditional role type with a very specific set of skills. This perception is often not helped by some of the current professional qualification course material that is out there on offer.

I wrote a piece over at the new #UKAnthroLib blog (that I co-edit/admin) about an enthography seminar that I attended in London. Some of the speakers were trained anthropologists and not librarians at all. There were a few comments that alluded to the fact that this was a good thing and allowed some element of separation and special skill sets to be applied to the library environment. This triggered a few memories that I have had with various external consultants over the past year or so that have either been working for my institution (University of Cambridge) or in other capacities, where the idea of someone NOT being a librarian and being trained in other fields was a good thing.

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So what does a UX Librarian do anyway?

I’ve been in my new job as UX Librarian at Cambridge Judge Business School Information and Library Services for just over two months now so I thought it was high time I wrote about what I actually do.

The TL;DR version: lots!

I first heard about the UX job when Andy Priestner blogged about it, which instantly made me realise that this was a job like no other! So I applied, interviewed and was thrilled to be offered the role. Part of my interview involved a presentation on what I thought about UX in Libraries which I have included below.

I am mainly responsible for generating new initiatives and support that improve the effective and efficient delivery of services. What this actually means is a bit more complex. Also, as you’ll see from the above presentation, UX can mean different things to different people, especially if you’re coming at it from a design perspective or a computing angle.

Over the past few months I have:

  • Answered many complex enquiries from a wide range of students and staff
  • Offered specialist support to our Executive MBA students, a group that I have particular responsibility for
  • Overhauled the I&LS blog (on-going), reviewed our communications policy and pestered Facebook into changing our page name to fit the new School branding
  • Done lots of teaching and filmed a Youtube video on how to use LinkedIn effectively
  • Advised and collaborated on new ways of teaching research skills to remote students via VLE
  • Helped out with lots and lots and LOTS of promotional activities, ranging from social media plugs to postcard campaigns
  • Tried to get will.i.am to come to Cambridge
  • Conducted 1-2-1 career and interview prep sessions
  • Compiled profiles on various Chinese companies to support teaching
  • Presented about user services at the i2c2 in Manchester
  • Carried out extensive UX testing of the I&LS website
  • Developed further UX website testing with the aim of getting real people in to experiment with
  • Taken part in teaching space and building workshops
  • Developed content creation strategies and cohesive comms approaches
  • Constructed (with a team) an extensive Social Media Driving Licence training programme for staff
  • Taught fellow librarians about effective education and outreach
  • Started the planning stages of a UX conference
  • Advised Faculty on blogging tools and methods
  • Consulted on a new School-wide documentation retention and digital archiving project
  • …and much more!

This list isn’t an attempt to show off and toot my own horn, but I hope it shows the really wide range of work I’m engaged in, and just over the past two months! I still have loads of projects that are on-going and some that I haven’t even started yet.

Thomas Hawk via Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/205664675/

A really big part of my role is to do with applying research methods, such as ethnography, to the information service within which I work. I’m really looking forward to tackling this, as well as doing work to develop user personas and other research-heavy work which will allow for me to use the scientific method in a big way and hopefully develop new initiatives that not only work, but are also backed up by actual data rather than “gut feelings” which sometimes may be wrong!

I’m also supporting my immediate community with regards to effective Research Data Management and Open Access advice and I hope to built on this support and start engaging with researchers in a big way over the next few months.

My job is unusual in that I am part of the Information and Library Services team but I also sit slightly outside of that team too. I help with the day-to-day running of the service by doing enquiries work and occasionally staffing the enquiries desk, but a lot of my work is taken up with lots of strategy meetings, chats with other teams from around the school and trying to make new collaborative connections so I can work on new projects with people and really show off how our team can help people with their work and research.

The team that I work with is fantastic and everyone has their own skill sets and specialisms and now I’ve got used to knowing who to ask about what, I’m able to use all of that varied knowledge to push new ideas and test out if new ways of working will…well…work!

Credit: Ramnath Bhat (CC Flickr) http://www.flickr.com/photos/ramnath1971/11111089074/

A lot of my work is very creative and innovative so I have a lot of fun thinking up new ways of doing things and I am really supported by my boss, Andy, to push against the norm and to really think outside of the box. I hate that phrase but the library world can be a really restrictive “box”, so trying to think of new and creative ways to push against the more negative service approaches can be daunting but also really rewarding.

So, I will blog more about all the various projects I’m getting up to as time progresses. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Social Media Driving Licence works out as we are planning on running it as a staff CPD course over Summer 2014. I feel that social media can do great things if used effectively, and hopefully the course I’m helping design will not only encourage people to use social media but also give them the tools to use it really well, with minimal drain on their working days.

Disclaimer: Of course, my experience of being a UX Librarian and all the variety that it offers will probably be completely different to other UX roles. I’ve written purely from my own experience and this post does not summarise ALL UX work in libraries.

Image credits

1. Nathanael Boehm (CC Flickr)

2. Thomas Hawk (CC Flickr)

3. Ramnath Bhat (CC Flickr)

Innovating, inspiring, creating and disrupting: a report on the i2c2

On 5th March 2014, I headed up to Manchester with my lovely boss Andy to attend i2c2, a conference themed around Innovation, Inspiration and Creativity (‘conference’ is the second C) with the aim to use positive disruption to improve libraries. I am very fortunate to work where I do because I have been in libraries before that would have never have been able to send me on this conference due to budget constraints, but Cambridge Judge Business School takes staff development very seriously so I was able attend i2c2.

I know I often write up training sessions and conferences in a way that allows others to get a similar experience, even if they weren’t able to attend, but I fear this is impossible with i2c2 as it wasn’t like any other conference that I’ve ever been to. It was a very visual, engaging and collaborative conference with less sitting down and listening and more getting involved and networking. Instead I’ll give an overview of what I did and heard.

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Mini update

Apologies for my blog being a bit dormant since November 2013. The main reason for this is that I have a new job!

Since early January, I have been the User Experience Librarian at the Cambridge Judge Business School which is all exciting and new. I will blog about my role and what sort of work I’m doing because I find it really interesting and engaging, and I hope you will too.

I am also co-presenting a Librarians in Training (Cambridge-based peer-to-peer training programme) session on Librarians as Educators on Wednesday 12th February at St John’s College, which I will do a write up on and disseminate materials for those unable to attend. If you are thinking of coming along, there are just two spots left so book now! If you’ve got the Cambridge credentials, courses can be booked through the main UL website here: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/librarians/

I’m also involved with the ARLG Eastern committee, am going to lots of conferences over the next few months and have lots of other projects and exciting things planned so watch this space as I will share as much as I can as and when I get time to write.

Thanks for reading and I hope 2014 is as exciting for you as it is going to be for me!