Creating a 23 Research Things programme

Today is the launch of the 23 Research Things programme that I have been working on and developing for the past few months. A lot of work has gone into it and over the next few weeks I will blog about the various Things as and when they are released. But I also wanted to write about why I developed this programme. So read on!

When I started my sort-of-not-really-anymore new job as a Research Support Librarian, an immediate challenge struck me. There is only one of me. Let me unpack this seemingly obvious observation. I work for a library that used to cover just maths, a complex subject area in itself. But since the closure of the main science library in Cambridge which was then merged with aforementioned maths library, we suddenly found ourselves responsible for supporting the vast majority of STEM across the whole of the University of Cambridge.

Now for those of you that aren’t familiar with the *interesting* and *unique* library system at Cambridge, we don’t have one almighty library to rule them all. Oh no. Well we have the main University Library but that’s a bit of a red herring. We have generally speaking over 120 individual libraries. A good chunk of those are college libraries which are libraries based within colleges which are, in the Cambridge world, students’ homes. A student gets allocated a college which often has nothing to do with their subject. They THEN get access to their department library, whichever that might be and those department libraries make up the rest of the rather confusing array of library options open to students.

Don’t get me wrong, all those libraries are amazing and offer lots of great opportunities for students and staff alike. But it’s still a confusing system in comparison to most typical universities.

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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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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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