Saturday, 20 August 2011

2 for 1 catch-up

Two Things, from two different weeks and therefore from two different themes, all in one blog article! How is that for an offer?!

Thing 11 is about mentoring.
I could say I have had two informal mentors so far. The first person I have ever considered and affectionately called my "mentor" (though not in her presence!) was my manager when I first started working at Newcastle Libraries. She's the one I would ask about libraries in the UK, the profession, the organisations, etc., as well as being the one with whom I would spend time poring over the AACR2! Unfortunately, I now very rarely see her as we have moved on to working in different teams, with different work patterns. But whenever I do see her, she still kindly asks me how I am doing and whether I have applied to any jobs recently!
The professional librarians in my current team (i.e. my managers) are very nice and supportive and do not seem too bothered by me asking questions!
I have not asked anyone formally to be my mentor yet (though I might... I don't know, I don't dare - what if they say no, they don't have time, they already have more interesting mentees, they can't be bothered? Argh) My part as a mentee, I am afraid, consists of asking a lot of questions about my mentor's job - as in: "Oh, you're working on that? What's the plan? How much does it cost the library? You've decided to do it like this? Why? What are the options? How is it going to integrate with that? What happens next?" - and also about my own professional development - e.g. "Should I go to Umbrella?"...

Thing 12 is entitled "Putting the social into social media" - wait, wasn't this supposed to be catch-up week? Oh, never mind...
I was already using Twitter for professional purposes before starting CPD23. Through the programme, I joined LinkedIn and LISNPN. On LinkedIn, I have connected with people I knew in the profession, and found it great to be able to send them a message that's longer than 140 characters! However, I have not participated in the discussions in either network, and I only skim through the LinkedIn digest e-mails... I just cannot keep up with the social side of those two networks, considering I already use Facebook and Twitter regularly, and err, I have a job, and a life!
I have been thinking about the last question listed in the Thing 12 article: "In your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?" All I can say is that, personally, being on Twitter has helped me a lot to be aware of the UK library community, who was who, who was active in what field(s). Has it made me feel part of it? I do not feel completely integrated yet, but at least a little bit, yes, by connecting with persons met at Umbrella, or individuals influential in the CILIP groups I am a member of. But what about those who are part of the community and yet do not use social networking?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Story of my life

Thing 10 is about "routes into librarianship". Is this where I tell you the story of my life? Oh dear... I hope you're sitting comfortably!!

I am French, and did my degree in France. The education system is obviously slightly different than the UK one: as far as I am aware, there is no straight 3-years librarianship degree. But there are ways to get there! So, right after my "A levels", I did a Diplôme Universitaire Technologique (DUT) [lots more words in French in exact degree title] specialising in libraries. This is a 2-year degree, which included modules on communication, management, classification, cataloguing, event organisation, etc. and work placements, that made me a qualified librarian. I then did a 1-year degree, called licence professionnelle, to get the 3-years equivalent to a bachelor's degree in the UK.
In France, each village or town or city has (or not, if it is really tiny) its own library service. The smaller ones are supported by the Bibliothèques Départementales de Prêt (BDP) which have a département-wide (equivalent to a British county) remit. Unless they work in a firm, librarians in France are fonctionnaires, which can be compared to the civil servant status. A fonctionnaire has a greater security of employment and usually good work conditions compared to someone working in the private sector. However, to become a fonctionnaire, one has to sit a sort of exam called concours. The problem is, especially for library positions, there are far too many applicants for too few posts, and therefore few people succeed (e.g. latest ones my French friends attended had a ratio of 200 applicants for less than 8 posts) - this is partly due to the fact that the library concours are usually open to anyone who is degree-educated, even if they have never worked in a library before. Once one has passed this test, they will work either for a local authority or for the state, depending on which concours they got. If a librarian does not have the concours, their contract in a public library, a university library or at the National Library can only be short-term. Only the fonctionnaires working in these organisations are permanent.
I hope that makes sense... and that you can see why I am glad I moved to the UK!

As part of my licence professionnelle, I had the opportunity to spend a semester at Northumbria University as an exchange student and to do my work placement with Newcastle Libraries. I got a job as a Library and Information Assistant at Newcastle Libraries right after I finished my degree, and I am still there! I was lucky to arrive a year before the new City Library opened, and therefore saw and participated in many different things. However, I feel that my library assistant shoes are getting a bit tight: I would like to do more! I have a library degree, I can do more than what I am currently doing, and I would love to have more responsibilities and learn about new things... That's why I joined CILIP: to progress in my career. And as soon as I have been a member for a year, I will be looking into registering for Chartership.

An elephant in the corner

After a few weeks break, I am now trying to catch up and get back into library things... So, where were we up to ? Ah, Thing 8: Google Calendar. Actually, I'm going to skip that! I already know how to use an online calendar, and I have no use of Google's... Which brings us to Thing 9: Evernote, and its little elephant logo.

I had never heard of Evernote before, but I am really impressed! It is a great tool... I already use an RSS feed reader, but it is not worth adding a whole blog if you are really only interested in one page or article. I used to add single pages or online PDFs to my "favourite bookmarks" in my browser, but I do not like doing that too much: it makes my favourites look messy (!) and I usually forget the pages are in there and end up never reading them... Evernote seems a great solution to this: I can keep all webpages and PDFs together, neatly organised in folders, along with my little comments as well. Just to have a go, I started gathering notes about search engines: a little list of ones I had found interesting but am afraid to forget about, Phil Bradley's selection straight from his blog, etc.
I connected my Evernote and Twitter accounts to be able to save tweets. I think this is going to be useful, as I tend to retweet things I found interesting more than tweet myself, and by sending these tweets to Evernote at the same time, I will be able to keep a trace of them. I haven't tried logging into my Evernote account from my mobile or a different computer, but being able to access documents anywhere is definitely an interesting functionality. Maybe one I'll be using in the future?