Friday, 14 November 2014

What if I'm not trying to be a librarian any more?

The River Ouse, York by vgm8383
I feel like this blog post has been a long time coming, and it’s taken me up until now to organise my thoughts and feel like I can put some kind of reflective, coherent post together. This is going to be my last post on this blog. Many things have changed in 2014 and, at this present moment and for the foreseeable future, I am no longer trying to be a librarian. I don’t even think I would class myself as an ‘information professional’ or any of those other titles that people in the sector adopt. To be honest, in my current role at the University of York, I don’t know what I would define myself as. My job title is ‘E-Learning Training and Support Assistant’. So perhaps I am an ‘E-Learning professional’, if that is a thing. Many people in the university refer to my team as the ‘VLE people’, so maybe that’s what I’ll be for now: a VLE person. (Although I should stress that our remit is not JUST the VLE ;) - this is a bone of contention at York it seems.)

It was quite difficult to make the decision to apply for my current role. Ever since I started my History degree back in 2008 I had ambitions of becoming an academic librarian in a university library. After graduating, I had an amazing time living and working in London but I was never able to break out of ‘library assistant’ or similar roles at that level. I started studying towards my postgraduate library qualification in January 2013 and I am now nearing the end of the PG Dip stage, where I will be finishing and not continuing to MSc level. It grieves me to say that I have not particularly enjoyed the course. I’d heard many different people say that the course is a ‘means to an end’ and the only way you can progress up the career ladder to avoid being a perpetual library assistant, but I just didn’t want to accept that this was the case. I really wanted to enjoy it and get a lot out of it. In hindsight, I was probably too excited and distracted by living in London to concentrate on the course when I first started, and studying alongside working full-time is very difficult and requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice. I haven’t found the course to be anywhere near as academically challenging or interesting as my undergraduate degree so I don’t think my head has ever really been fully ‘in it’.

In August 2013 I started a job in the E-Learning team at Middlesbrough College and became aware of lots of new things, learned new skills and got a lot of good experience. However, I spent a long time feeling like I needed to keep ‘in’ with the library stuff - going to events, subscribing to mailing lists etc. so I could still apply for the type of dream academic librarian job that had been my aim for so long. Plus, despite the excellent experience I was getting, it was not a professional role and I was still struggling away on a library assistant level salary and feeling like I wasn’t really progressing. At times, it felt quite difficult keeping up with all of the extra 'library' related stuff, especially when I became aware that organisations such as ALT may be more beneficial to me professionally than organisations like CILIP. Then, the best thing ever happened in the form of me winning an ECCA to attend the SLA annual conference in Vancouver in June 2014. It is, to date, my greatest professional achievement. I met so many interesting people and was able to attend loads of exciting sessions at the conference. I cannot thank SLA Europe and the Leadership and Management Division enough for that opportunity and I will never forget it.

When I was jolted back into reality, post-SLA conference, I became acutely aware of the lack of opportunities for the types of jobs I wanted to do in my beloved Teesside. I had applied for a few things and either heard nothing back, did not get shortlisted because I had not finished my library qualification or the organisation simply lost my application (this only happened once, but it was very disappointing). I had no real desire to much further away than Newcastle or York and I knew that if I was going to restrict myself geographically, I probably had to start being a bit more open minded about the types of jobs I applied for. This led me to this moment, right now: three weeks into my new post in the E-Learning Development Team at the University of York, which I am enjoying so far. Nobody in my team is a librarian, nobody in my wider office is a librarian. I am not a librarian. We are, however, based in the library building as interlopers - we’re not officially in their directorate, but it’s a nice building so hopefully they’ll let us stay.

What I’m basically trying to say through these reflections is that, for the first time in years, I honestly have no idea where my career is going to go after this point - but it feels quite liberating to have the freedom to learn and develop in this job without constantly striving for what is going to come next. A wise friend of mine once told me not to pigeonhole myself into a particular type of role and he was definitely right. I’d begun to feel inadequate and incapable of doing the type of library job I’d wanted to do for so long and I had a few months of feeling really low about how things were going to pan out. I’d spent so long building up an identity as a ‘librarian’ when, in reality, it had begun to feel like I didn't really fit in and I was aware that I might never get chance to be the type of librarian I wanted to be. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but I’m very grateful for this new start and that my current manager and colleagues felt able to take a chance on me by giving me this role. It’s kind of an ego boost to know that they think I’m capable of doing a good job. For anybody who is a bit unsure about where they want to go next - I would definitely recommend taking a chance on a job you might not have originally thought of doing.

In January I will have finished my PG Dip in Information and Library studies so theoretically could call myself a librarian, if I felt that way inclined. For now though, I think I’ll stick with being a ‘VLE person’ and see what happens. I have grand plans of developing a new online presence in the new year and this blog will serve as a relic of a former version of me. That’s probably a dramatic and hyperbolic statement, but I felt that I needed some kind of ‘closure’ on my librarian identity. Who knows, perhaps I’ll end up being a librarian eventually - I’d never rule it out. 

To all the amazing librarians I've met over the years - keep on fighting the good fight, you’re all incredible.

Peace xx

Sunday, 25 May 2014

SLA Countdown: 13 days to go!

I've got that feeling that I should be more organised and prepared than I actually am. In exactly 2 weeks time I will be at the Vancouver Convention Centre at the first day of the SLA Annual Conference. ARGH! For those who haven't got a clue what this means, see my previous post on winning an Early Career Conference Award (or ECCA for short). I still feel like it hasn't really sunk in, and it probably won't until I'm in the airport. I've got all my business cards ready though, which is the most important thing.

'Head on Vancouver' from

The SLA support network

One thing I've noticed already, before the conference has even begun, is how supportive a lot of the SLA members are. I've had so many good tips and pieces of advice from former ECCAs, my SLA Europe Mentor and other members of SLA who are regular attendees at the conference and all round stars for the amount of help and support they've given to me and my fellow ECCAs. Because of the level of support we've had so far, I feel confident that I won't feel lost or confused at the conference. Overwhelmed, definitely, but not lost or lonely!

Over the next few weeks, I'll no doubt be updating my blog with several reflective posts about Vancouver, as well as contributing to the SLA Europe blog and publications for the Leadership and Management Division. We're also going to be contributing to some podcasts, recording our impressions of the conference 'on the go' and I'm considering doing some kind of video diary, like the one Ned Potter did when he won the award in 2011. In the meantime, I'm just going to spend the time mentally preparing for the lack of sleep and sheer enormity of the conference. I'm also going to be spending a few days after the conference in Vancouver and I'm going to travel to Seattle for a few days too, so I'm making a proper holiday out of it. It's going to be an amazing, life changing experience and I absolutely cannot wait.

Watch this space for future updates about the conference and all the ECCA adventures. You'll also be able to follow the conference tweets using the hashtag #SLA2014. For now, I'll see you on the other side of the world!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

On taking advantage of opportunities, and also: I'M GOING TO VANCOUVER!

Back in December I attended an event ran by CILIP ARLG NorthEast called ‘Professional Development Never Sleeps’ and one of the main themes of the day was to take advantage of opportunities when they arise and make the most of them – they may not come around again. You can see my write up of that particular event here, but with the theme of taking advantage of opportunities in mind, I wanted to blog about some of my recent experiences.


At the end of this month I will be attending the LILACConference at Sheffield Hallam University, thanks once again to those kind folk at ARLG North East who were offering a sponsored place to somebody working in the North East who had never attended LILAC before. Either I am the only person applying for these opportunities offered by ARLG North East or I am absolutely excellent at writing a 200 word statement on why I should be awarded a sponsored place. Either way, I am getting to attend a great conference that will give me loads of extra knowledge about information literacy and associated things that will greatly benefit me at work and give me the opportunity to expand my professional network. Can’t be bad! I’ll be writing up the event both here and on the ARLG North East blog so watch this space.

SLA Annual Conference

Next, there is just the small thing of me GOING TO VANCOUVER! I have won one of SLA Europe’s Early Career Conference Award, or ECCA for short, and I am being co-sponsored by SLA Europe and SLA’s Leadership and Management Division to attend the SLA Annual Conference and INFO-EXPO in June this year. Without overreacting too much, it is DEFINITELY going to be the SINGLE BIGGEST THING TO HAPPEN IN MY CAREER SO FAR and I absolutely can’t believe it.

An example of how surprised I was when I found out I'd won an ECCA. Kindly borrowed from Benson Kua's Flickr. 

For those who are unaware of the ECCAs and SLA, very briefly; these awards have been running since 2007 and offer a number of places for young professionals who are either graduate trainees, LIS students or within five years of graduating from a library qualification. If you meet this criteria and there is a particular SLA division that is relevant to you offering an award next year or in years to come I can’t stress how much you should apply! More information about SLA Europe and the ECCAs can be found here. I’ll be blogging about the SLA Conference extensively over the summer, so I won’t go into much more detail just now, but again: watch this space!

Basically, what I am trying to say is that if you see something on Twitter, or JISCMail or anywhere else advertising a bursary or opportunity to attend an event or conference you like the sound of: APPLY! APPLY! APPLY! Don’t think: “Oh, I’ve got no chance of winning that, I won’t bother” or “maybe next time, now is not a convenient time”. I can promise you that if you think that once, there’ll always be something in the way next time. Work will always be busy, there’ll always be the initial stress of thinking that your employer might not let you go or you will talk yourself out of applying because you’ll think that you don’t have a chance. Well, I am here to tell you that you do have a chance and you have to put yourself out there to be able to grasp opportunities like this. As the North East saying goes: “Shy bairns get nowt!” If I can get the chance to attend two amazing conferences, one of them on the other side of the world, then other professionals have just as much chance as me. I'm pretty sure this would apply to anyone in any profession too, not just libraries and information. So go forth, aspiring new professionals!   

Monday, 2 December 2013

When did it become OK to be rude to each other?

This weekend I went to Library Camp at the brand new and very swish Library of Birmingham. I've been to a fair few of these unconference events in various parts of the country and it's always great to catch up with old friends, meet new contacts and put names (and Twitter handles) to faces. However, when reading over some of the tweets from the day, I began to reflect on something that has been bothering me about the profession for a while now: the fact that there is an undercurrent of passive-aggressiveness and, on occasion, downright nastiness and bullying in some librarians' tweets either to each other, or passive-aggressively aimed at something a particular person has said or done that they don't like or agree with. By no means are these tweets limited to Saturday's Library Camp, or even to the library and information profession generally as I think it's a human problem if I'm honest, but it does seem that it is now becoming acceptable to be very rude to each other via various forms of social media and internet communication and I hate it. How has this happened?

Don't get me wrong, I love Twitter and Facebook for communicating with others and (for those who 'follow' me or are 'friends' with me will know) I love a good debate. However, I like to think I stop short of making any debate into a personal attack on someone and would never dream of making personal comments towards people in a passive-aggressive or direct manner via Twitter or otherwise. I'm not perfect though, and I'm sure there are times when I've had a bit of a Facebook or Twitter rant. Perhaps this blog post is indeed a passive-aggressive rant too but, for the most part, I try to put across all of my social media exchanges in exactly the same way that I would behave in person. It just worries me that people seem to be getting ruder and ruder and the 'social' in social media is not really about being sociable at all. I'm not going to name any names or quote any tweets I've seen over the past few weeks/months, but I wonder if anyone reading this post will have seen similar tweets or perhaps even have had things passive-aggressively aimed at them? I know I have had it happen to me plenty of times, but in the words of Destiny's Child: "you know I'm not going to diss you on the internet, cause my mamma taught me better than that."

I didn't particularly enjoy Library Camp for a number of reasons. Many are to do with me and not the people who were there, plus I wasn't feeling 100% and wussed out of pitching a session, but I'm not going to go into all that in this post. I just wanted to blog about some things that do generally concern me about the profession and how people communicate with each other generally. It disheartened me to see a number of tweets from people bemoaning what someone was saying or whether someone was talking too much in a session. I wasn't in these particular sessions but I would be curious to know whether these people spoke up in the sessions and perhaps tried to create a debate or change the direction of the discussion if they were unhappy with it. Did they use the law of two feet to leave the session they were dissatisfied with? Or did they just take to Twitter to air their concerns? 

I remember being overwhelmed at my first ever 'proper' conference which was the CILIP New Professionals Day back in 2012. Since then, I've been to loads of conferences and Library Camps and met loads of fantastic librarians. I've done all the things everyone said you should be doing: networking on Twitter, having a blog, reflecting on my own professional development, starting the postgraduate qualification etc. etc. but lately I feel like there's something missing. At conferences and at Library Camps we all sit there staring into our smartphones/tablets/laptops tweeting into the ether, but for what? One reason is so that the people who aren't attending the events can read about the discussions that are taking place and I do think this is a good thing, but I also get the feeling that there is a slightly nastier undercurrent to some of these tweets that aren't necessarily for the benefit of those unable to attend the conference. What is it about Twitter and Facebook that makes us want to take to it straight away when we're outraged or disagree with something, rather than speaking directly to the person we disagree with? One of the more deplorable tweets I ever saw at a conference (again not naming names or events) was somebody making personal comments about a speaker's outfit. What has that got to do with anything and why did they feel entitled to comment? 

I find it too difficult to sit in a session at something like Library Camp and tweet, because I know I'm not giving the session my full attention if I do that. Why do we think it is a good thing to sit in a room looking at our phones rather than at the people who are speaking? Are we listening to the discussion properly? I think not. How can we really be there, in the moment when we can't even be bothered to look at the people in the room? We worry about being in an 'echo chamber' in the library and information world but in my opinion it's worse than that. We're no longer united and looking outward, using social media to advocate and generate more awareness of the challenges facing us. Instead, we are focusing inward and spending too much time bickering amongst ourselves and searching for gratification via how many people we can get to agree with our opinion on Twitter or Facebook. Perhaps this isn't a problem with just our profession, I do think it's people generally. We can hide behind the safety of phones, computers and tablets and say what we want, things which we would never say to somebody's face. It's everywhere, this hate: on Facebook, Twitter, people's blogs, comment sections on newspaper websites. Everywhere. I'm often outraged at just how hateful and rude people can be and it makes me sad. Presumably we all went to primary school and got taught to be nice to each other, presumably we don't speak to our family and friends this way, so why is it ok to be like this online? 

So much is missing when we can only communicate via the written word. We have no sense of tone or body language so people can easily hide behind their words and protest that they were 'only joking' or 'didn't mean it that way' if they are confronted about something they've said online. The thing that baffles me the most is that we have so much more control over what we're saying online than we do in real-time conversations. If anything, we have time to reflect and not just blurt things out, which is why it shocks me that there is so much anger and hate out there on the web. 

I'm definitely not saying anything new here, I'm fairly sure that psychologists and sociologists have been studying human interaction online for years, but I just wanted to reflect and blog about some of the genuine concerns I have. The way I've seen some librarians conduct themselves online appalls me. If that's the way they speak to other professionals online, how on Earth do they speak to their colleagues or library users? I certainly wouldn't want to go into their library.

I'd love to see a Library Camp where tweeting in a session was seen as rude. Where participants were encouraged to engage with those in the room rather than people elsewhere. Call me old fashioned, but if I ever pitch a session at another Library Camp in future I would like to see if it is possible for people to go for 45 minutes without looking at their smart phone. We need to remember that we are all people first, above all else, and we are letting technology ruin our relationships with each other. There are so many good things about the LIS profession and Twitter, such as #uklibchat which is a collaborative effort by some excellent librarians and the chats often create healthy and interesting debates. Similarly, I have met so many great people via Twitter and I really appreciate that they are out there for advice and tips and just general chit chat. However, I do sometimes feel that a lot of the good things about Twitter and Facebook are overshadowed by the negative things and lately, it's really been getting me down. I write this post to serve as a warning, just as much to myself as anyone else, than I do not let technology get in the way of me actually behaving like a decent human being. I wish others would heed this advice too.

Friday, 18 October 2013

But how hard can it be to write a CV?!

On Wednesday I went to a workshop organised by North East CILIP on CV writing, ran by Donald Lickley from Sue Hill Recruitment. The event took place at Northumbria University.

My current boss suggested the event to me (are they trying to get rid of me already?! Joking...) and since it was free and work would pay for the train travel I thought why not? I realised once I moved back up North and began job hunting in earnest that my CV was in a total mess. I'd gotten so adept at application forms and working on how to make them perfect that I'd neglected my CV for a long time. It's very rare that organisations ask for CVs these days, but when I did come across a job that asked for a CV I was completely stuck as to how I would tailor it to their requirements in the advertisement.

When I ran my session at Library Camp North East, somebody said that they use a skills based CV rather than a career based CV and I really wanted to know how I would go about making one of these. Donald's session was very informative and worthwhile and I'm glad I attended. Despite taking loads of advice from my uni careers office and taking advantage of examples and templates they had, Donald's session made me realise that I was making a lot of common mistakes that people make on CVs. For example, particularly in the library profession, we tend to focus a lot on the day-to-day processes at work and our CVs can end up looking like quite a mundane list of small jobs we do, rather than selling our skills to a potential employer.

With a skills based CV, it is easier to tailor your CV to a job application because you can link your skills and experience to a particular person specification. This obviously means that you may have to edit your CV considerably every time you apply for a job that asks for a CV, but from a personal perspective I would much rather do this and send off an excellent application rather than run the risk of not getting shortlisted because my CV is too generic. Another advantage of a skills-based CV is that your chronological list of jobs is kept very short and comes underneath the section where you list all of your skills. One of the reasons I thought my CV was messy is because up to now, there are three periods in my life when I have had two jobs at the same time. This made my CV quite lengthy and anybody just glancing at it and not paying any attention to the dates could make the assumption that I am a job-hopper or cannot hold down a job for very long.

The way you structure your information on a skills based CV would look something like this:

  • Name and contact information at the top
  • Short, personal profile. Think of it as an 'abstract' of the rest of the information on your CV. About 4-5 lines to keep it concise. I really struggle with writing these and find it's best to write it at the end once you have completed your CV.
  • Skills - if I were tailoring this to a particular specification for a particular job, I would probably borrow the terminology and headings from the employer's specification to make it as easy as possible for them to read. Be sure to give names of specific software/systems you use but avoid 'in house' jargon that only your workplace uses. Also, be aware that some of the people involved in the shortlisting process (such as HR professionals) may have no idea about libraries or about the particular skills you have so try not to assume that the employer will know all of the terminology you use.
  • Career/employment history - short, bullet points just detailing the organisation and your job title. It's recommended that you only list the jobs from the last 5-10 years of your career. Your skills section will be the part that proves you are right for the job, you don't have to say that you worked in a sweet shop when you were 16! (Unless you're only 18 and that is the last job you had, in which case carry on!)
  • Education/qualifications - most recent first. If you're a graduate or postgraduate there is no real reason to list all of your A Levels or GCSEs unless specified on the job advert. E.g. certain places may need you to prove you have a C or above in GCSE Maths and English. If anything like this is specified in the person spec, put it down!
  • Further information/hobbies/interests - Be careful with this section: only mention things that might be relevant to the job. E.g. perhaps you are involved in the running of a local choir/theatre group/morris dancing group etc. so have experience of managing the finances or something that has given you skills and experience that fit the job description you are applying for.

Another advantage of a skills-based CV is that you could even forego putting in dates that you got your qualifications so as to avoid potential age discrimination if people think you are 'too old' or perhaps even 'too young'. Of course this is not supposed to happen, and we never put our exact ages on CVs or application forms because of the equality act, but I've spoken to a few people that worry about the fact that the dates they were at school or university gives their age away. People's subconscious bias are at work when they are shortlisting and if you feel uncomfortable putting that you left school in 1978 or that you got your GCSEs in 2007 and you are worried they may think you're inexperienced because of your age, just leave the dates out. In some cases this is not always possible, particularly if you are applying for jobs that require safeguarding measures and need to know what you were doing and when, but for your CV you are well within your rights to be selective with the information you provide. If a potential employer did ask for this information further down the line though, you would have to provide it. The skills based approach may not work for everyone and you may prefer to stick to an original career based CV, but I am happy that there is another option out there that will suit my circumstances better.

Donald also advised that, with CVs, we are tempted to put full details about where we live etc. but this is not always necessary. As long as there is an email address and phone number this is sufficient for potential employers to be able to contact you. If they need a postal address they can phone you to ask for one. Again, this is not supposed to happen, but Donald mentioned that he has known of people not being shortlisted for jobs because employers have assumed that the applicant lives too far away and therefore might not be willing to travel. You would think that someone applying for a job in a different town or city from where they live would mean they are extra keen, but who knows what goes through the mind of those people shortlisting.

And that's half of the problem...if employers receive 100 CVs for one post and only have half a day to shortlist, how much attention do you think your CV is going to get? Probably less than 30 seconds according to Donald. For this reason, it has never been more crucial to fill your CV with the most relevant and up to date information about yourself and ensure that it is easy to read and that the key 'selling points' will stand out. Some further key tips:

  • Keep it concise - no more than two pages of A4. Three at an absolute push if you've had a particularly glittering career.
  • Font - use the same one throughout and don't go smaller than 10 or bigger than 12 when it comes to size. Use a font such as Arial or Times New Roman. NO COMIC SANS.
  • Format - keep it very simple and try not to mess on too much with margins or other fancy formatting in Word. It may mess up if you send it to somebody using a different version of Word or if you're on a Mac and they're on a PC. 
  • Don't include information such as date of birth, marital status or a photograph of yourself. Apparently the latter is common practice in a lot of countries in mainland Europe but it's not necessary in the UK.

It can be tempting to think: 'how hard is it to do a CV?' and up until I went to university, I would have been the same. However, since I started seeking help from various career advisers and attending CPD events through work, I've realised how crucial it is to stay up to date with things like this and ensure you're always learning from best practices when it comes to job hunting. In my lifetime the job market has never been more competitive and I always pick up at least one new tip or piece of advice when I attend sessions such as the one the other day. A big thank you to North East CILIP and Donald Lickley for running the session.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

First impressions

I'm two weeks into my new job and I'm really enjoying it so far. My first day was also my birthday and my new colleagues had bought me a cake and cards, which was very generous of them. I made sure I shared it with everyone during the afternoon tea break!

This post is going to be very short and sweet, since I only have my first impressions to go on, but I feel like I have learned a lot in a very short space of time. Currently, I'm making instructional videos that will be placed on Blackboard to teach staff at the college how to utilise all of Blackboard's features. This is part of what we call 'Blackboard Boot Camp' to give tutors the chance to train themselves up on Blackboard before the Blackboard audit later in the year. If a member of staff is not using Blackboard to even a basic standard by the time the audit takes place, they will have to undertake further training to 'upskill', since the college is placing more and more focus on e-learning and new technologies. I've learned how to use Camtasia Studio 7 to make these videos and discovered that trying to record voice narration over said videos is more stressful than you would think - especially when there's a lot of building work going on that gets picked up on the recordings! Having to listen to your own voice played back again and again is also a strange experience. I've not always been the most 'techy' of people and learning how to use new software sometimes feels a bit daunting to me, but I've really thrown myself into it. My manager and colleagues are very supportive and encouraging and I think we'll all learn from each other, especially since my role is fairly new. In a way, we're all learning as we go and nobody knows what the outcome will be in terms of the work we're doing this academic year, since it's never been done at the college before.

Students, inductions and self supported study

Once term starts again, I'll be delivering library inductions to students and working shifts in the LRC a few times a week. It's going to be busy and manic in September and October but I think I'm going to really enjoy the varied nature of the role. I'll also be working alongside another colleague to liaise with tutors and create online courses for Blackboard. The college wants at least 10% of Level 3 courses to be delivered solely online as part of a Self Supported Study (S3) initiative, so that students have to work through that particular module/topic independently of tutor-led classroom sessions and all of the content will be delivered through Blackboard. Being a distance learner myself, I think I'm going to find this part of my role very interesting and after reading the reports from the pilot online courses that were ran last year, I'm looking forward to seeing what the student response will be once they are completing these online courses 'for real'. I'll be blogging more about this side of my role once the work is underway and I have more to say.

Views of Middlesbrough College, taken by me!

The future of this blog

When I first moved back 'up north' I wasn't sure how long it would take me to find work, let alone a library related job, so I'd decided that the overall focus of my blog would be around job hunting and keeping my hand in all things library and information related if I didn't manage to get a job in that field straight away. The job at the college came up at exactly the right time, as well as my weekend job at the University of York, so I've been lucky that I have no gaps in my work experience. I am still going to keep blogging around the themes of job hunting and employment issues, studying towards a professional qualification and generally being a new professional. I'll also blog about e-learning and various aspects of my role at Middlesbrough College and also my opinions and experiences of the wider library and information profession. Watch this space!

Monday, 29 July 2013

New job!

It's been a while, and lots has happened. I've got a NEW JOB which I'm starting later this week. I'm going to be working as a LRC Digital Facilitator at Middlesbrough College and I can't wait to start. The role is fairly new and I'll be working with their VLE (Blackboard) and helping college tutors make the most of the resources available. I will still keep up my blog, since I am technically 'trying to be a librarian'. I'll still be studying towards my MSc and I'll be learning so many new things in my new job so I think I will benefit from being able to blog about my library related adventures.

For the purpose of this blog post, I thought I would blog about the interview for my new role. The most stressful interview experience I've ever been through!

The interview

The brief for the interview was to prepare a 10 minute presentation to demonstrate how I would utilise a VLE and other e-resources to deliver a course entirely online. The subject matter could be anything we wanted, so I decided to imagine that I was creating an online history module for an Access course and the topic was Britain in the 1980s. For those who know me well, this is my favourite period of history and the period I focused on for my undergraduate dissertation, so I already had an awareness of a lot of the e-resources that were out there containing material for this topic.

After I'd gotten over the initial panic of realising that I would have to deliver this presentation to actual people (I'd never had to do anything like that for an interview before) I got to work trying to learn as much as I could about VLEs. As always, the library community on Twitter was an invaluable resource for me and I was able to exchange emails with a few people who already work with VLEs who gave me some excellent advice and tips. I was directed to a website called CourseSites where I could sign up for free and create my own Blackboard modules and see what facilities were available on Blackboard. This was great, as I was able to create 'pretend' course information and then use screenshots in my presentation. I was able to use my experience from studying myself (particularly my distance learning course) and asked around people I knew who had completed Access courses to ask about their experience of VLEs and what could have been done better by their college.

I also got a lot of help from a friend of mine who teaches in FE and she helped me put my presentation in the context of an FE environment and link to the current learning objectives that FE colleges are looking for from their course content. Since I've never worked in an FE college before, I found this so helpful and I think having knowledge of what they expect from tutors really helped me sell myself in the interview.

I decided to use Prezi rather than PowerPoint to deliver my presentation as I HATE PowerPoint. I'd never used Prezi before, so having only a week to learn how to use it and prepare all the content was somewhat ambitious, but I figured that a job that is all about e-learning and new technologies involves learning about new stuff all the time. Some people advised me not to take on too much with trying to learn a new technology in such a short space of time, but after looking at various tutorials about Prezi made by people such as Ned Potter, and having seen Prezi in action several times, I knew it was the best tool to use for my presentation. I kept it simple, and actually found it fairly easy to use, which I think is the key with Prezi. Even a simple one is much more effective than a PowerPoint presentation in my opinion. For those who are interested, here is my Prezi!

One of the Padlet images in the presentation is taken from the following Prezi, I hope this is OK and I won't get in trouble! As you can see, copyright law is not my strong point. 

On the day, I was so nervous and had actually been ill for a couple of days beforehand, which didn't help. On my arrival at the college, I accidentally got taken to be interviewed for an A Level teaching position (argh!) but once that was cleared up, I was taken to the right place to deliver my presentation to the panel. This was then followed by an interview and the rest is history!

A new start

So after a long month of waiting for my DBS clearance and sorting out all of the documentation etc. I will be starting my job this week. I can't wait to start and I think I'm going to really enjoy working at the college. It'll be interesting to work in a different type of institution to what I'm used to and will be an excellent addition to my CV. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in.

I will blog more about my new role once I've settled in. In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone on Twitter who got in touch before my interview and gave me loads of good advice. I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for all of the great contacts I've made over the years and for anyone out there who is still job hunting, take advantage of the great resource out there in the Twittersphere. Those librarians love helping people, including each other!