Thursday, 21 July 2011

Two Library Visits

Doing CPD23 and Cam23 2.0 is great, but it's taking up lots of my blogging energy! Therefore I'm afraid to say I'm going to lump two really interesting library visits into one post.

Cambridge Careers Service Library
At the New Professionals Conference, one of the papers I found really interesting was Megan Wiley's on the challenges of being a librarian in Careers Services. I'd not heard much about this area of librarianship before, or really considered it at all. I'm not sure why, since a couple of people have suggested in the past that I'd be a good careers advisor! After the conference I was interested to learn more, so when I got back to Cambridge I asked Maria Giovanna, Information Assistant at the Cambridge Careers Library, if I could come and have a look round her library. So last month (I told you I was behind on normal blogging!) I headed over to Mill Lane to the Careers Centre, and was given a lovely tour of the library there.

The resources in the library are arranged by a specialist class system for careers libraries AGCAS, organising the resources in a kind of chronological way, so as students go through the process of deciding what area they'd be suited to working in, then researching specific jobs and companies, and then reading about interview technique etc., they resources are laid out in a logical way. The upper floor of the library has these resources with plenty of work space for students to sit and read. Downstairs is an area with computers.

In Megan's paper she talked about the challenges of working alongside non-librarians who might not know what the library staff do, and therefore their information skills are being undervalued or ignored. I asked Maria Giovanna about this and she said communication can sometimes be an issue for them in Cambridge as well. I think in any library it's important to know what colleagues are working on, but I'd imagine this can be especially difficult when the people you are working with aren't librarians themselves! We also talked about communicating with students. Like @NewnhamLibrary, the careers library have recently started tweeting as @camcareerslib, so it was great to compare notes on our experiences!

It was really interesting to look around the library and chat with Maria Giovanna, and especially to see that while it's a different type of library to my own, with a different purpose, a lot of the challenges we have are the same.

Libraries@Cambridge have got a set of photos of the Careers Service Library up on their Flickr page, here.

Sir Harry Smith Community College Library
This week Jen and I took a road trip to Whittlesey, guided by her Darth Vader sat nav! ("I sense an exit coming up." "In 800 yards turn left. Do not break formation.""You have reached your destination....but you are not a Jedi yet." etc.) We were going to meet James Curtis, who will be on the UCL course with us next year. He'd kindly agreed to show us round the library where he works, in a secondary school.

Again, this is a type of library I'd not visited before. We've seen lots of academic libraries, but all have been in universities, so I'd been looking forward to seeing a school library. It's certainly different! Teaching was another career path I considered, but rejected because realistically I would never be able to deal with a class full of 30 kids if they chose to riot! I think I'd have the same problem if I was a librarian in a school. Crowd control's not my bag, baby! (Obviously when I end up applying for a school librarian post in a few year's time I'll delete this post and replace it with a link to my new book: "Crowd Control and me: this sort of thing is my bag, baby!"

What I found most interesting about James's job was the fact that his role includes quite a lot of stuff outside of the library, including primary-to-secondary transition. Since the library has close links with the English department he gets to take school trips to the theatre too! The librarian is also the careers advisor for the school so there was a careers section in the library.

Something I would really enjoy about being a school librarian is shadowing awards such as the Carnegie with students. (I really enjoyed going through Carnegie lists with my librarian as a student in fact!) I would also love to have the budgetary freedom James has!

It sounds a bit silly, obviously I've been in school libraries when I was at school, but I have to admit I didn't think too much about the librarians and what they were doing besides keeping a seat warm and yelling at us periodically! So it was good to look around a school library from a librarian's perspective - and it was great to get to know one of our fellow UCL-ers a bit more!

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