Thing 13: Wiki-tastic!

25 07 2012

I get ridiculously and irrationally excited whenever I read, think or talk about wikis.  I LOVE wikis.  Perhaps a bit too much. 

I’ve been using wikis for a few years now (mainly PBWorks) to work on collaborative projects with colleagues across the North West.  After being part of a group who used one, I set up my own wiki a while later as part of another regional project and I’ve never looked back. 

Things I love about wikis:

1) I can develop the structure myself.  And, believe me, giving a librarian information to organise is quite possibly the nicest thing you can do for them. 

2) A wiki is a flexible friend.  They can be used in so many different ways; the possibilities are endless.  I’ve planned a workshop via a wiki, published a toolkit via a wiki and compiled (nearly) my Chartership portfolio via a wiki.

3) We can all contribute.  My colleagues can comment on my work, make changes, remove bits, add in their own information and create new pages.  It soon becomes a communal workspace.

4) I can show the world my wiki.  Once the content is ready, I can invite others to view my wiki online.  For my Chartership submission, I set up my wiki so that each time I added new content, my Chartership mentor was notified by email, maing it much easier to overcome geographical distance.

5) A wiki is a gift that keeps on giving.  A wiki is never finished and can always be updated.  This can be a disadvantage (it requires regular maintenance) but on the other hand it becomes a living, breathing document that (unlike a report, email or other publication) can be current and up to date.

I’ve used Google Docs in the past but must admit I’m unfamiliar with Dropbox, so that’s another new resource for me to investigate 🙂


Thing 12: Stepping stones into social media

20 07 2012

Since beginning CPD23 I’ve been using Twitter regularly and wondering why it took me this long to get started.  I’ve been trying to convert friends, family and colleagues into joining too.  I understand those people who are reluctant, but I was reluctant too, and now I can’t imagine life without it!  I feel a bit ashamed that I didn’t join Twitter when I first started Chartership, it would have been sooooooo useful.

I lurked for a while until I realised that I didn’t have any followers, and that the only way to get them was to start interacting.  At first it would take me a couple of hours to think up a suitable reply to a Tweet, or to think of something to say that other people would find interesting.  But gradually my use of Twitter has become more natural and now when I see something interesting on TV or discover a new website, one of my immediate thoughts is to share it on Twitter.  I get frustrated when I learn exciting stuff via Twitter and want to share it with people who don’t have Twitter accounts.  Twitter has far exceeded my expectations and I find it immensely useful for professional learning and networking.   However, I do find that when I’m going through a particularly busy time at work or at home, that I struggle to find the time to Tweet.

The one thing I’d love to do next is to meet in real life some of the professional contacts I’ve made via Twitter.  Watch this space…

Thing 11: Mentoring

12 07 2012

It wasn’t until I started in my current role that I really started to understand the importance of mentors.  When you become a Clinical Librarian, there’s no qualification or course that you can take to help you understand the intricacies of advanced literature searching, how to develop a rapport with potential and existing customers and how best to evaluate the impact of your service.  A lot of this learning is ‘on the job’, meaning that experience in the role is invaluable.

In the early days, I learned a lot from a close colleague who had previously worked in this role.  I remember listening to how she spoke with customers on the phone and aspiring to be able to speak so confidently and knowledgably with colleagues.  She was my first informal mentor.  When starting new projects I would always ask her advice and I’m not sure she ever knew how much I valued (and still do) her input.  As my confidence grew, I started to shake off that feeling of “I’ll never be as good as that” and started to think that, actually, sometimes I might do things differently, in my own way.

I’ve developed informal mentoring relationships with several colleagues (and I’m not sure they’re even aware that they’ve been doing it!) and I’ve certainly learned a lot from them.  I have a huge respect for library colleagues who have more experience than I have and I’m keen to learn from them, but that’s not necessarily to say that I’ll always agree with them.  One of my most powerful mentoring experiences has been with someone outside of libraries but who has mentored me through a lot of career-related decisions.  I’d argue that a mentoring relationship can be just as valuable when it’s with someone outside of librarianship.

My only formal mentoring relationship has been with my Chartership mentor, someone with a wealth of experience in libraries in a completely different sector.  This has been a hugely interesting experience for me since someone at a distance from my own role can challenge me in ways that someone within health libraries might not. 

I’d also say that I’ve been mentored by professional communities; there’s a really active and supportive regional Clinical Librarians group that I’m part of, that has inspired and coached me through several projects.  I also find that I am more inclined to seek out support for specific problems via online communities. 

So, I think I’m fairly lucky to have such a network of professional support.  When I encounter a problem or reach a dead end I can usually think of someone who might be able to offer advice, even if it’s just my Mum!

Thing 10: qualifications and chartership

5 07 2012

When I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree in English Literature, I visited the careers service to consider my options for the future.  I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do next and after three years of student life could not conceive of working in a ‘proper job’.  Looking back, my librarian tendencies were always there, and it was during a visit to my university library (the brilliant Lancaster University) that I made an aside to my friend, “Ooh, I’d love to work in a library”.  All of a sudden it seemed that there was no other conceivable career for me.

I went on to study a Masters in Information and Library Management at John Moores University and found myself as a library assistant in my local health library.  In hindsight, I wish I had only studied as far as diploma level, then returned to do my Masters at a later date.  I was naive to the world of work and had limited experience; I feel that doing my Masters later on in my career would have been more valuable.

However, I loved my job and found myself promoted to my first professional post after only 10 months in the job.  Two years later I was promoted again to Clinical Librarian and this is where I discovered my real passion for health information and librarianship.  I am passionate about the value that libraries can bring to the NHS, and feel that as librarians we are an untapped resource.  Libraries can improve patient care, contribute to cost savings and reduce knowledge-related risk.  Clinical and management decisions in healthcare should be based on the best quality evidence available, and librarians are perfectly positioned to provide this evidence to clinicians.  There should be a librarian attached to every board of directors in every NHS trust in the country.

It’s true to say I couldn’t do my job without my degree qualification.  However, nothing compares to the value of the experience that I’ve gained while working alongside more experienced and knowledgable colleagues.  After reading Sheila Webber’s CPD23 blog post, I look back and cringe at my own unconscious incompetence early on in my career.  And I’m not sure I’ll ever get to be unconscious competence because I still feel like I’ve got so much to learn.  In response to Sheila’s post, I’d like to encourage librarians who are later in their career to share as much as they can with less experienced colleagues.  When you leave the profession you’ll be taking a wealth of experience and wisdom with you.

I embarked on Chartership over two years ago and I’m just about ready to submit (nearly there!).  I’d love to undertake a formal teaching qualification at some point too, as I feel this is one of my weaknesses.  But let me get Chartership done and dusted first!

Thing 9: Evernote, ever-blocked by IT dept

5 07 2012

I would love to crack on with Thing 9, but as it stands my IT department have decided to block the Evernote website.  So this will remain ‘parked’ until I have time to have a look at home.  This probably won’t be for a while since I have a lively toddler to go home to every night and once he’s in bed I’m pretty much done for the day.  Gah.