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.