Monday, 30 May 2011

Making the most of library school - after you've graduated

This is a blog post that I have been planning for a while, but was waiting for the most appropriate time to write it. I’ve decided to do so now, as a couple of weeks ago, some of my research was published in a peer-reviewed journal, Reference Services Review. This article was co-authored with my MA Librarianship dissertation supervisor and based on the work that I did for my dissertation. We started working on it a few days after I finished the MA last September, so I’ve waited a while to see my name in print! The whole process has been a great experience; I’ve had bits and bobs published before, but never in a peer-reviewed journal, and never a case study like this, so it was all new. It’s also been an exhausting one – finding the energy to return to my dissertation after spending all summer on it and working out how to turn it into an article, trying to finish the version to be submitted at the same time as moving to an unfamiliar city and beginning my first professional post, going back to it again to make the suggested revisions that came out of the peer review, and all the time, knowing that there’s a possibility it won’t even be accepted for publication in the end! It has all been worth it though, to see my work published, in the official journal format, in a journal I used a lot for my coursework and dissertation. It has also given me the research and writing bug: since finding out it had been accepted for publication, I’ve upped my blogging and, as I mentioned in my last blog post, successfully had a paper accepted for the New Professionals Conference (which includes some of my own, albeit very basic, research). I’ve also made getting published and presenting at conferences one of my objectives for my Chartership PPDP. So, hopefully, it is the start of something exciting!

Obviously, my attitude had a part to play in getting to this point. I worked hard on my dissertation, expressed an active interest in the possibility of publication, and then put in the effort when all I wanted to do was give my brain a rest, get back into a sensible sleeping pattern, and forget about research methods! But a lot of the credit has to go to my dissertation supervisor, not only for all of the work she put in as co-author, and sorting out the submission process, but for her continued support throughout the time she was my supervisor. She helped me formulate my ideas, gave me a kick up the bum when I was refusing to do my data analysis because it scared me, read through drafts of chapters, liaised with various people when I wasn’t getting anywhere with them, and suggested publishing the research. And that’s just the dissertation; there was of course the references for job applications, which were often requested from her at short notice, I’m sure, and the support and encouragement offered both when I failed to get jobs, and when I secured one. If not for her support, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to even attempt writing a journal article. If she is reading this, I hope she understands how much I appreciate what she has done for me, and continued to do after I finished the MA; her support did not end once I ceased to become her student, and that meant a lot to me.

At library school, if you do a dissertation, you get a chance to carry out your own research, to the extent that you might not get again, or at least not very often, in terms of time to carry out the research, access to people and resources, and, most importantly, the support of a supervisor who is an experienced researcher in your area, and who really knows their stuff. This is what I meant when I gave this blog post its title. If you are at all interested in writing for publication, or even just think you’ve discovered something that should be shared with the LIS world, I encourage you to suggest the possibility of co-authoring a piece with your supervisor, and to do it as soon as possible after you’ve submitted your dissertation, while you’re still in a writing and research frame of mind and it’s still fresh in your head.  It will be tiring, and may feel like the last thing you want to do, but I encourage you to make the effort; the final product will be worth it. I already know of at least one blog post and a couple of tweets which have engaged with my article, and that is just as rewarding as the actual publication, as it shows that we have made some kind of contribution to the LIS research and practitioner landscape. 

I’m sure there are other ways in which we can make the most of library school after we’ve graduated, and I may write further blog posts on this topic. I would also love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, I reiterate my encouragement to make the most of the opportunity to create something useful and/or original at library school.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Time and life management for a new professional, or why I haven't blogged in ages!

I have been neglecting my blog recently. I haven’t posted anything in ages and I’m not even checking my stats or comments. My excuse is that I have been extremely busy in the past few weeks. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have witnessed my whinging about moving house, which happened two weeks ago. Additionally, I have been working on finishing my Chartership PPDP and starting to collect evidence, and I have been lucky enough to have my paper proposal accepted for the CILIP New Professionals Conference on 20th June, meaning that I need to have my paper written by the end of this month. On top of all this, things have been busy at work, which is fairly demanding at the moment. Our campus is closing and transferring to the main campus next summer, so work has begun in earnest on the moving of the library, and I’m currently working on how we are going to transfer the journals, as well as the usual day-to-day work, which must continue while we are still here. As well as all of this, a colleague at my grade has just departed for a new role at the main campus, and will not be replaced, so her work needs to be covered; this means that the journals management aspect of my role is going to expand into a more general acquisitions management role, and, of course, there will be shared tasks such as enquiry desk work for which her contribution will need to be covered by those of us remaining. So you can perhaps forgive me for letting my blog slip down my to-do list!

Taking on the additional workload at work has made me think about time management, and how I am going to have to get really good at it in order to keep on top of things. At the same time, being generally busy has made me think about life management. I’ve realised that I am neglecting a lot of the non-library things that I used to enjoy. Hip-hop dancing makes me feel happy and relaxed, but I’ll admit that I haven’t tried very hard to find a class in Bristol since the one I did try got cancelled. I used to be quite a good trombone player, and loved playing in a jazz band and orchestras, but my trombone has become a piece of furniture that is shifted with each house move and placed in a corner. I was always an avid reader, but I’ve been on the same book for about a year now; not because I’m not enjoying it, but because I just struggle to find the time to read anything that isn’t a LIS journal or “Building your portfolio”. I used to write poetry, but that folder hasn’t been touched for years, even though with the life experience I’ve acquired since, I expect my ability to write good poems has improved.  That novel I’ve always planned to write remains non-existent. When I last worked full time, during my graduate traineeship, baking cakes on a Saturday afternoon was my chill-out activity of choice, but I don’t think I’ve done any baking since the yummy cherry and white chocolate muffins I made for my colleagues when I left that job nearly two years ago. I’ve started to make friends in Bristol, but have recently turned down a couple of social invitations due to wanting to get on with stuff at home. And luckily, my boyfriend is a librarian, otherwise I think he would have had enough of me and my constant talking about libraries/Chartership/paper-writing a long time ago (also, luckily for him, we are in a long-distance relationship, so he is only exposed to this in person about once a month!)!

I think I am going to make time management one of my objectives at work and in my Chartership PPDP. I’m already fairly good at it, I think. I use my Outlook calendar to block out time for tasks and make a to-do list. However, I think I’m going to have to get better at it, as my to-do list morphs into multiple to-do lists for the different areas in which I work, and the various to-do piles of things on my desk grow (my colleague leaving means there is now a spare desk opposite mine, but I don’t think spilling over/dumping things on a second desk is the most effective time management technique, as tempting as it is!). My line manager has suggested that it might be worth attending a time management course, which I am definitely going to do if possible; I think it’s good to get someone else’s perspective on what works and what doesn’t, and also  to discuss ideas with others. I’m also going to investigate online tools. I’ve signed up for Nirvana after reading Library Reflections’ blogpost about it, so I’ll see how I get on with that; I know that some other librarians have blogged about that and other similar tools as well, so I’ll search out those blogposts. I think I may just have to try lots of different methods and techniques for time management at work until I find something that works really well for me. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

General life management is a bit trickier. I don’t really want to be using that online time management tool to sort out my evenings and weekends too; “8pm-10pm – watch rubbishy TV” is a bit OTT! I think I just need to be sensible. I’ve been trying to do this since I moved house; in the past couple of flats in which I’ve lived, I’ve only unpacked the bare minimum, leaving the place looking a bit like a storage facility, but this time I really want to create a home in which I can take pleasure, so this week, I have been persuading myself to unpack in the evenings, rather than work on my paper. I’ve nearly finished now, and I think it will be worth the effort. With socialising, I think it was sensible to turn down the invitations recently, as I did have stuff that needed doing, but I don’t think I should turn down any in the near future, as it is important to have a break and spend time with people. I’m going to make more of an effort in this area, instigating the socialising rather than just accepting invitations from others, and I am definitely going to arrange a Bristol LISNPN meet-up soon. And with the other stuff; well, again, I think it’s a case of being sensible and realistic. I don’t currently have the time to become a competition-level hiphop dancer, become a great jazz trombonist, or create a prize-winning poetry collection, but I could make more of an effort, even if it’s just reading a book in bed at night, or making time one week to try another dance class. I need to remember that, as good as it is to be involved in and engaged with your profession, it’s also important that I remain a well-rounded person who my friends (particularly the non-library ones!) still want to spend time with.

I don’t want any of this to be interpreted as whinging. I love my life at the moment, and I wouldn’t change anything about my professional involvement; it’s exciting and I feel incredibly lucky. This time last year things looked a lot bleaker; I was struggling with my dissertation, there were no jobs available, and I couldn’t have imagined that I would be doing everything that I am now. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on time and life management. I would love to hear any suggestions/comments. And I will definitely arrange that Bristol LISNPN meet-up soon!