Friday, 27 November 2009

One year down... how many to go?

It was my one year anniversary on Tuesday. It's funny to think that I've been here a year. It doesn't seem that long but it also does at the same time. Sometimes it feels like a lot longer. I can't say it's been a breeze because it hasn't. Long hours, lots of stress, moody teenagers, bizarre and often annoying colleagues (not my library staff though I hasten to add). It's been a huge learning curve and I know that I would not have gotten anywhere with my professional development without this job. I wouldn't have learnt half the stuff I know now.

There are however down sides. As I may have mentioned before I am not terribly happy with my salary. Having looked around at other schools and talked to my colleagues at other sixth forms, I now know that I am being grossly underpaid for what I do. Though I felt before I talked to others that I wasn't being paid enough, now I know that I am not. One of my mother's colleagues is doing the same degree as me and she is on £35k a year! While I would never ask for a pay increase of that much, I know that I can command that kind of salary if I was to go elsewhere. I spotted a job the other day at a girls school that wants a School Librarian for 38 weeks a year (36 term time and 2 weeks in the summer) and they are willing to pay a starting salary of £28k. That's 6 weeks less a year and less hours a week for 8k more a year than I'm on now. I must admit that it is tempting and really the only thing holding me back is my loyalty to my current employer and the fact that I am scared about having to possibly move somewhere new. It's all very confusing. I have had two glowing appraisals from my line manager but he has made it clear that it is unlikely that I will get anything more than one step up on the pay scale. It works out to an extra £750 a year BEFORE tax. That's nothing. He also mentioned the likelihood of a pay freeze starting from this coming May. It has really made me start to think about whether I should stay in my current job or not. In the end I guess I have to think about what's going to benefit me the most.

Any advice? I could really use some.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Joining the electronic age

I've finally done it! I've managed to buy some e-resources with the £5000 that the head of finance gave me. We are now subscribing to History Study Centre Online, Literature Online, Film and Sound Online, NewsFilm Online, Grove Art Online, Grove Music Online, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the American Chemical Legacy Archives. It's not a huge list but half of them are free and I'm looking for new ones all the time. I'm feeling very happy and I've been playing around with all of them so that I can teach people how to use them. It's nice to be able to make changes and upgrade the library service. I really feel like I've accomplished something.

Now, next challenge. Ask my line manager for a raise! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Realising I am not alone

I'm back at study school now after 18 months on my Msc course. It's been really good because I've been able to meet up with other people who are as slow as I am and who I met at my first study school in April 2008. I feel on reflection (they try to get you to do that a lot on this course) that I've learnt a lot from the last 18 months and I know now where I went wrong and how I can speed up my learning.

1. Just read the module hand book. You can only read so much and not all of it is necessary to pass.
2. Reading around the topic is overrated. Only read the chapters that relate to your assignment topics. You can always go back when you're finished and read the rest.
3. Don't panic. Other people are going at your pace too and really in the end it doesn't matter.
4. Just get on with it! 30 minutes a day is better than trying to cram in 3 hours on the weekend when you are not fucking interested! (thank you to my Irish friend Steph for her colourful language).

So the plan is that I now have to complete 60 credits by the end of July 2010 to qualify for the September study school. If I do one module by Christmas, the next by April and then the last buy the July batch date it is possible. If I can make the September school that only leaves my 20 credit optional module(s) and the Dissertation left to do.

It's all up from here!

Thursday, 3 September 2009


I am at this moment extremely pissed off. We had an all staff Staff Meeting on Tuesday morning and the Principal went through a list of people to thank for all the hard work they did over the summer in College. Were the library staff mentioned? No. Then the Vice Principal went through all the major works that had been done over the summer and did they mention the library refurbishment? No. At this precise moment I am starting to really want to look for a new job. My staff and I are totally unappreciated. In fact, most of the time I think that they think that we just sit on our asses all day and read books. I understand that life isn't always fair and that you will inevitably do things at work that no one will notice or care about but still! This was a major project that seems to have been totally overlooked. I have worked my ass off and I am starting to wonder why I bothered! I know why I did, I have pride in the job that I do and I care about my library and about the staff and students we support. Just once and a while it would be nice if somebody else noticed how hard we work.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Back at it again

I'm back at work again now. One of the classrooms that we were using to store the books has now been emptied and the books are living on the floor in the main library. I am slowly rebuilding the collection but it is incredibly boring and I am having trouble keeping focus. Doing manual labour on your own is one of the most boring jobs in the world. What's even worse is that the last Ashes match has started and I'm not at home glued to Sky TV watching it. Totally sucks. Anyway, the library won't be ready for the 1st September and I have told people this repeatedly but no one seems to be listening. It will be interesting to see what happens that first week when it's not done. Will I be in trouble? Who knows. I will take some pictures of the library today and post them for you all to see. It is a terrible mess. It can only get better :)

Friday, 31 July 2009

It finally ends!

I've finally finished my coursework for Information Sources and Services and I couldn't be more happy. The stress has completely left my body and now I can go off and relax and have a holiday. A week of playing cricket and then back to work to move all the books from the "Room of Books" back to the shelves. Oh joy! I guess I will worry about that when I get home. There's no point thinking about it when I am going away.

So, until I get back from holiday, take care all and have a lovely week :)


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Half way through...

The room of books

We had a pile them all in one of the small offices because there was no where else for them to go. It's going to be fun putting them all back again!

The walls have been painted a pale blue which is CONSIDERABLY more pleasant than the hideous yellow that was there before. Bob (head of estates) doesn't like it but I do and so does Abigail (one of the library staff). I think it makes the place feel calmer. The yellow always gave me a headache.

I think having seen the place yesterday (all the carpets have been ripped up), that it is unlikely that the library will be up and running in September. The staff don't start back until the first week in September and that's when Management want to use the library for registration etc. It's just not going to happen. I think I may have to email my line manager and tell him. That won't be a pleasant email. Anyway, I shall take more photos when I get back from holiday.

Adios until then! Hope you're all enjoying your summer.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Apologies for not writing in a while. What with work and studying and cricket I don't find much time to do anything else. But now that most of the students are gone and my days are filled with my proper work and less shushing I actually have some time to sit and get things done. Or at least I thought I would.

Really I brought this on myself so I shouldn't complain. But I'm going to anyway. I recently took a plan for minor redevelopment/refurbishment work to my line manager. After some toing and froing he came back to me and said that he agreed that the work was a good idea and that we could probably do it. Now knowing a bit about schools I figured I would have a year at least to plan cause nothing gets done straight away. Oh how I was wrong. It turns out the summer works plan is rather empty so they have decided to do all the work this summer. Well, it just so happens that in the intervening months between my predecessor leaving and me starting the girls in the library have worked so much overtime that they don't have to work this summer. This leaves the work force at 1..... me. I am at a point verging on a nervous breakdown as I am still trying to complete my coursework and I have to plan out all the work. All the books, tables, chairs, stuff on the walls, spinners, shelving units - basically everything that can't move, has to be taken out of the library. My head hurts just thinking about it.

My library pre-refurb

Friday, 12 June 2009

The end of year looms...

As the end of the academic year looms ever closer on the horizon, I feel good when I look back over everything that I've done since November. The library is progressing nicely and I am starting to pull up it's socks and give it the well deserved tuned up that it needs. I've got a meeting next week with my line manager Mark to talk about what we can do with little money or effort to improve the look and feel of the library without having to rip everything out and start again. I'm hoping that they will go for this as the library really needs a facelift and I know that it will be at least 4 years before they are willing to renovate drastically. We might as well do something small that will make a big impact and cost far less.

Anyway, enough rambling. Still miles behind on my coursework. Going to do some more work on it today.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Half Term how I love thee and coursework how I loath thee

I've had four days off so far and I can't even being to tell you how happy it's made me. Granted I've been trying to get my coursework done but it's just so nice not to be at work and have to worry about kids and orders and staff. Now I understand why you get so many holidays working at a school. The staff would all go mad without them.

I am at present still struggling with my Masters coursework. I am attempting to write a report on the reference collection in my library and not exactly failing miserably but it's not just not going the way that I want. I must admit that I wish I had a lecturer to talk to about my coursework. Emailing just isn't the same and it's often difficult to express exactly what problems I am having over the net. If I've not said so before I am dyslexic. That may explain a few things. I have difficultly expressing myself in words and more often than not I need to speak to people face to face in order to make myself understood. I also have difficulty reading and taking in information. I often have to read things aloud in order to understand it. This as you can imagine makes studying a long process. Not that I'm complaing. This is just the way it works. I do get frustrated at times though and I think that's one of the things that's slowing me down. I get discouraged easily and have a somewhat defeatest attitude. I try not to but I guess it's just a built in thing.

Anyway, I talked to my friend Nicole today and she was really supportive and we chatted about coursework and study school and gave each other a pep talk. Made me feel better about my work and it was just nice to talk to her again. I've not seen her in over a year but I do think about her often.

Well, I've still got around 500 words to write on my assignment so hopefully I should have it done tomorrow and then fully polished by monday. Then I can move on to number 2. Soon I shall be on my way to study school and I will get back on track.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The end of Ofsted

Well Ofsted seemed to go off without a hitch. Infact the inspectors didn't seem interested in the library at all. I'm not sure whether to be happy or offended. I had done all sorts of prep in case I had to meet with them. Oh well. I guess it's better to be prepared then not. We are awaiting the final verdict but I have heard on the grapevine that it went very well. As long as it's an improvement on the last one we can all be happy and my line manager will be less stressed and can stop drinking 10 cups of coffee a day! It will do his heart no end of good.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Coursework part 2

I didn't make it to cricket training last night although I wish I had. I stayed at home and managed to get some work done on my first assignment. I planned out what needed to be done, looked at the marking criteria and then flipped through my textbooks and found the chapters and pages that I would need to read in order to do the work. I also ordered some books from my uni library and wrote the introduction to the piece. I feel a bit better now that I've got that sorted and less stressed. Now I just have to deal with the shitty teenagers until 1pm and then go home and do some more work. No rest for the wicked. It really isn't easy balancing an 37 hour a week job with studying for a Masters. I some times wish that I had taken a year out to do it full time but I guess then I wouldn't have this awesome job.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


Since I started my job back in November I have been struggling with my coursework because of time constraints, stress and total exhuastion. I was supposed to attend a study school in April for my second year of my Masters but I was so behind that I couldn't attend. I have finally managed to get back to work but today I found out that I have to complete my coursework by July in order to qualify to attend the study school in September. I'm bricking it! I was nearly in tears this morning fromthe stress at the very thought of it. Then today has been a nightmare as the library is being used for exams (we have two small offices inside the library) and the students wouldn't shut up even though they had been told that there was an exam going on and that it was being recorded. They are a bunch of little shits some times! I kicked one group out after they ignored me twice when I told them to leave. They are arrogant little buggers some times and I wish I was able to discipline them. I think next time I will take their ID cards and then email their tutors and ban them from the library for a week. Anyway, I'm knackered and stressed and I want to sleep but I've got cricket tonight. SIGH!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Ofsted - The Impending Doom

We were informed last Monday that we will be having an Ofsted inspection in three weeks (two now!). Having never worked in a School before I have to admit that the whole process seems very alien and strange. I've been trying to think for the last week what I need to get ready and what information they might want to know about the library. I had a look at the last Ofsted report and the library gets a brief mention, all of which were good comments. However, that was in 2005 and it appears that the library hasn't progressed at all since then. I think that if they do come to look at it they won't be terribly happy. My hope though is that I can blind side them with all the reports and plans that I have been compiling so it makes us look good. We'll see what happens I guess.

Has anyone out there been through this before and if so do you have any good suggestions?

Monday, 30 March 2009

Discipline - the never ending struggle

Sometimes trying to maintain order and discipline feels like your bashing your head against a brick wall repeatedly. Often that brick wall also feels like it has glass sticking out of it. Not to sound superior or stuck up but I can't really empathise with the students in my college as I was never an unhappy teenager. I was quiet yes but I didn't experience the angst that I see here on a daily basis. Maybe not being able to understand them is one of the problems. But what else contributes to poor behaviour in the library. Well here's what I've got so far:

- Students don't see the library staff as figures of authority
- Students are often bored
- The library is too small to cope with the large numbers of students and we have to keep them quiet because the silent area isn't a seperate room.
- Hormones!
- Poor line of sight/poor library design
- Bad weather
- Students don't see the library as an extenstion of the classroom
- Library is unsure of it's function and the students react to this

Any other ideas?

My library - what is it's function?

I was just going over some of the material from the conference and remembering talking to some of the other Sixth Form librarians about the lack of identity that our sixth form libraries are experiencing. What I mean by that is we are not a school library but we're not a university library. We are in this gray area in between. We are dealing with students who really aren't adults yet as they still behave like children but our library is more geared towards more academic study than a school library. It's a difficult situation. Without a clear identity how can you expect students to know how to behave? So I thought I would jot down some ideas about our function:

- to provide learning resources to students and staff
- to promote learning
- to encourage students to read fiction as well as nonfiction
- to help develop good research skills
- to provide a constuctive environment in which students can study and learn

I think it's a good start. The next step is to figure out how to put this across to the students. I shall ponder on that over Easter I think.

Budgets or how to ask for more money

I've recently been doing some research into what other colleges in my consortium are spending on their online resources. My library currently has... well.... none. I've spent a lot of time looking for ones that are appropriate and that I can afford but so far I've not turned up any. Anyway - my colleagues at the other colleges seem to have rather healthy budgets, the highest so far being £30,000 to spend on online resources. That is, without stating figures, a darn sight more than I could ever hope for. In fact it dwarfs my entire library budget on its own!
I managed to catch our head of finance this morning to ask him a few questions. I wanted to know when the end of the budget year was, because at the conference last week lots of people were saying that their year end was in April. Slightly panicked me. Anyway, turns out that the budget is uber flexible and I can buy for next year starting in May if I want to. Took a weight off my mind. I was also assured that if I didn't spend it I wouldn't lose it which was also good to hear. I have a feeling though that I will spend it.
I'm trying to decide how to approach the matter of more money. The FD was very ameanable about the money for the new LMS but I wonder what will happen when I ask for £5 to 10k more for next year. I think I might ask for £8000 and see what I can wangle. I would like 10 but I think I will get more like 5. Which is understandable. I think it's also more realistic to start with a small figure and devot that to finding good resources then ask for lots of money and get totally lost. If my £5000 is well spent then it gives me good ammunition to ask for more the year after. I've asked for a meeting with the FD for after Easter so at least it gives me some time to prepare.

How to manage an outstanding Library

OK.... you're not going to find out how to do that through me. I'm still trying to figure it out myself. That was just the title of the course that I went on on Friday and Saturday in Oxford. I was .... very interesting. It was unfortunately more geared towards school libraries and didn't really deal with how to solve the problems at a Sixth form or College Library level. There were 7 workshops over the two days:

1. Creating an inclusive, appealing and high profile library

2. Computers vs. Books

3. Making exciting library presentations using PhotoStory, Voice Thread and Windows Movie Maker

4. Getting the Support you need to deliver an outstanding service

5. Modifying student behaviour

6. Using Web 2.0 technology

7. Maximising stock using free or low cost e-books and e-texts

Now they all sound great but of the seven really only two or three of them were really of any use to me. I'm not however going to tell my boss that as I don't want him to think that it was a waste of money. It wasn't. I learnt a lot and more importantly I got to meet lots of other people who are in the same position and we got the chance to talk about that. In terms of networking it was fantastic. In terms of content it was ok. Shame really as it could have been REALLY useful to me. I did get some good info about Web 2.0 technology and how to explain to kids about why books are good in terms of quality of information over the web. It will probably take me a while to go through all the information again and I may find that some stuff is more relevant than I thought but we'll see. I am going to post some links that I got from the course on here so take a look if you get the chance.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The things that lay us low

I've been very unlucky recently to have been laid low with a very nasty virus that has lasted for 7 weeks. It is now in stage three of it's mutation and has crossed the blood/brain barrier and gone into my head. Lovely huh? Anyway, I'm on lots of drugs and have spent the last three days in bed watching ruubbish tv and eating junk food. It's been nice. I really needed the rest. The problem is what happens when you feel well again. I struggled last night trying to decide whether to come back to work today or not. It's not the going that's the hard part but getting back into the right mind set. Knowing that when I walk in the door someone will come to me with a problem or a student will have been acting up and I will have to discipline them in some way - it's really not an incentive to come back to work. The longer you are away the harder it is to come back. I think that's why I've been ill for so long. A full week of sleeping and recovering and I would have been right as rain and this thing wouldn't have lingered for so long. But I was scared of not being at work and so I kept coming back too early and then I would get worse again.

Anyway, I managed to pluck up the courage and here I am back at work. I do feel better now though. Better than I've felt in 5 weeks which is amazing. I still can't hear very well but that will fix itself soon (fingers crossed). And yes, someone did come to me with a problem, and yes there were things I needed to sort out but that's my job. And there's no escaping it.

So.... heed my advice and if you get sick just get yourself well again. Though it seems hard to go back to work after a lengthly illness you are better off getting yourself well again then letting whatever it is linger. Especially if it's taken up residence in your brain.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A Short(ish) Introduction

I never intended to start a blog. I've heard that they are going out of fashion. But a few weeks ago, whilst talking to a librarian friend of mine she pointed out that I am in a fairly unique position that might be of interest to others. I shall explain.

I finished university in 2006 and found myself not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I moved back home and whilst job hunting came across an ad for an Information Assistant at the University across the road from where I lived. While at the time I had no intention of pursuing a career in libraries (my mother is a librarian and I swore I would never do what my parents did), the hours and pay were both good and I thought that it would at least give me some vauable work experience while I decided what I really wanted to do with my life. I was very fortunate that my job ended up being pretty great. The library was wonderful (university library - old school, silent, leather chairs - the works!) and the people I worked with were really nice. Slowly I began to get more and more involved in what was going on, learning about e-resources and the like and eventually I just got sucked in. Now I can't imagine doing anything else.

I worked in the university library for two years and managed to get accepted onto a Masters course at the Unversity of Wales. I didn't have the money to go back to school full time so I decided to do it by distance learning. Anyway, life was trundling along nicely, my job was going well (but not really going anywhere as there was no chance for promotion. People have to die in University libraries before you can move up the ladder) and I was plodding on with my course. Being distance learning the degree can take up to 5 years to complete and that had been on my mind a lot. I didn't want to wait until I was well over 30 to be able to start my career. Like a lot of women I want a family and kids and this was all looking a bit problematic. Luckily fate threw me a life line.

An old teacher of mine got in touch to say that there was a job going at my old Sixth Form for the position of College Librarian. The old librarian had retired in the summer and although they had got a replacement she had left after only two months (rumours run rampant but I won't go into that here). I thought to myself - what the hell. I'm not qualified but I know that I can do this job and really what did I have to lose? I could take this leap and make a huge step forward in my career. It would be such a great chance. So I applied thinking that I probably wouldn't get an interview but that it was at least worth a try.

Well, to cut a long story short, I did get an interview and I got the job. Some days I can still hardly believe it. So here I am. Since November 2008 I've been the head of a Sixth Form College Library, at the age of 25. It's kinda scary. I get so much wrong a lot of the time but I also get a lot right. That is essentially what this blog is about. It's about me, learning the ropes and trying to find my way and hoping that others might be interested.