Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Reflecting on reflecting

Adrift by Pascal B on Flickr 
As a chronic over-thinker with a natural inclination to scrutinize everything I do, you'd think I'd be looking forward to this 'thing', feeling that it's second nature to me.

Well no actually. I have many mental barriers that make me what to scribble over the words 'Reflective Practice' with a thick black pen. Firstly, thinking is tiring. No really, it is. And the idea that I need to do even more of it...no thanks. Secondly, why should I have to form my thoughts into a coherent pattern? I've been thinking for nearly 28 years so I feel well practiced - so why do I suddenly need a framework for thinking? Finally, there are so many elements to professional development now that require a portfolio, keeping a record, compiling evidence...and to extend this to even my thoughts and the intensely personal nature of it all seems like a level of commitment and depth I'm not sure I feel immediately comfortable with. 

But despite these objections, I also think I'm wrong on all three points! Here's why:

  • The ability to reflect critically on experiences can be an extremely powerful tool for keeping an open mind, trying new experiences and responding positively to peer-observation. 
  • A framework for thinking actually helps take the strain out of reflective practice - it provides a way of documenting your experiences in a manner that constantly moves you forward. 
  • Emptying your head in a productive way is much healthier than letting thoughts swirl around with no outlet!
  • Keeping a journal, or blog, or record of your reflection provides a basis for professional dialogue on interesting issues, and can also surprise you when your feelings or opinions change.
When I started in my post as a liaison librarian, I used a Pebblepad journal to keep tabs on my thoughts and feelings with regard to my teaching practice. I used to write down what I had done, what I felt went well and what could have been improved, and then try and incorporate some positive changes into my next teaching event. After a while I stopped because the process became quite automatic for me, and actually writing it down took time that I didn't have. Ironically, I'm now in a position where I'm trying to package up my teaching sessions into a coherent programme for embedding into a first year undergraduate program, and I'm wishing I'd kept a record of some of the reflections that led me to change and progress my sessions in the way that I did!

So I feel like I'm actually just starting out as a reflective practitioner, and have a lot of learning and practice to do, both in terms of theory and in terms of what works best for me. Recently I've found this presentation on The Teaching Librarian in Education by Claire McGuinness very inspiring. I hope that this blog will become a space where I can reflect on my work, interact with others and keep a record of my development...we shall see! 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Hi, my name is Carly, and I'm a twitterholic

Yes, it's true, Twitter and I have been friends for a long time. Well, according to How Long Have I Been On Twitter 03 years 02 months 02 weeks 05 days 04 hours 36 minutes.

I am the librarian with my Twitter feed constantly open on my screen (actually I have it as a widget on my Netvibes dashboard, along with news feeds, email accounts and other stuff like, er, the weather). And I have to confess, there's a fine line to tread between current awareness, and constant distraction! Nevertheless I am a complete advocate of Twitter for professional networking, awareness and general library fun. While I do tweet boring tit-bits about my life (such as today's more than healthy obsession with #bbctorchcam) I do in fact use Twitter for current awareness more than anything else. It's great for following events (e.g. #librarieslobby) or participating in conference chat (#LILAC12). The more people you follow, the more you find really handy links and articles being retweeted, and sometimes it's just plain funny and cheers your day.

Storify I had never used before although I'd seen it used by other people, so I was quite keen to give it a go! Typically I chose a story that is both vital to the profession and didn't require reading many hilarious and inventive tweets at length...ahem...

Actually I am not really a fan of just using online tools for the sake of it, I like them to have a clear and direct application, so I can imagine I may use Storify from time to time to curate my own opinions of experiences of online events, but I'm not sure I'd be so good at the sharing aspect of this particular tool. Still, when I first joined Twitter I wasn't sure I'd feel like tweeting ever, or replying to other people's tweets! I suppose the key to using networks and tools like this is that the more involved you get, the more useful and relevant they can become.

RSS feeds I have been using far longer than Twitter, although I have an on/off relationship with my Google reader as I find it can be very overwhelming at times, when there are so many blogs to follow, to be selective in what I read and to unsubscribe to feeds that are not really relevant to me. Since starting #cpd23 I've been adding key feeds to my blogger account, rather than using my Google reader, and I've found this really helpful in cutting down the amount of time I spent wading through semi-interesting-not-really-grabbing-me type posts. Also, as a subject librarian, I like to keep tabs on relevant RSS feeds for news, blogs and developments in Sports Science, and I keep these organised using a Netvibes Dashboard that acts as the library subject webpages for my students: http://www.netvibes.com/ises_resources

Really and truly once you start with these things, it's hard to stop! You can have tools for tools, and tools for organising those tools and it can all get a bit much...you won't find me switching of Twitter any time soon though. I can guarantee that.

Monday, 21 May 2012

I'm a brand? Really?

Well, I'm already a week behind on cpd23 due to being on holiday last week, although I have to admit I wasn't looking forward too much to thing 3 as I find the idea of my personal brand to be quite uncomfortable. Like many people I suppose I worry about mixing my personal online presence with my professional one, and in fact my personal inclination is to try and limit my exposure to, well, anyone I don't know. Luckily (well, perhaps) there is a Carly Sharples who is a Conservative politician with a very heavy online presence, so if you Google my name, you get an awful lot of results about her, and I fade delightfully into the background.

My Twitter feed is my first result (my name is @carlysharples - got in there before Miss Conservative lady clearly, hehehe), and I suppose my twitter feed, while personal, is a fair reflection of myself, my views and my interests. There's a fair number of library tweets on there that's for sure!

And what next? Oh yes, the YouTube video of myself I was required to make for work, designed to be shown to off-site and partner college students so they have a fair idea of what I look like and what I do.

I have no webpage, no LinkedIn, Facebook is not visible to anyone other than my very close friends....So I am a half hidden tweeting librarian who may, at first glance appear to be a Tory (I am not!) Definitely food for thought there I think. Delving a bit deeper and more sensibly, if you add 'Worcester' into the search you get a lovely handful of relevant results, all linked back to my work as a librarian at the University of Worcester (including a category for 'Liaison Librarians' on Zomobo...interesting! http://zomobo.net/Liaison-Librarians).

So, after a week of considering this, what conclusions have I come to?

  • Branding and selling clearly aren't the same thing, but I feel like they are. Like many other people across all professions I imagine, I find the idea of constantly having to advocate for myself and my profession exhausting, but no one else is going to do my shouting for me, and developing a consistent online presence is something simple I can control.
  • I am actually pretty pleased with my online presence - I want to be discovered in my professional capacity, not my personal one.
  • I could do a lot more - for example, using the name 51st Century Librarian for this blog links in no way to any other aspect of my online presence, and unsurprisingly doesn't appear when I Google myself. My Twitter feed isn't personalised really, and I make no real attempt to have an online professional presence that is distinct from my employment. 
Just like starting this blog, I feel trepidation about 'owning' my brand online over and above the way I'm presented through my employment. But is that all I am? Or is there more to me? I guess you'll just have to watch this space...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Thing 2: Exploring the blogging world...

My travels through the blogosphere have made me realise just how much time it actually takes to explore and read other people's thoughts and experiences! It's been great to go through some of the other cpd23er's blogs, and realise that mostly people are feeling the same way as me - nervous about keeping a blog and about the time it will take to do the course, but hopeful it will enhance their own practice and build their confidence using web 2.0 tools. I did take the plunge and comment on some people's blogs as well, and thank you to those who commented on mine. I'm surprised by how quickly I'm starting to feel more confident with all this stuff!

As I already kept an eye on a few blogs I enjoy prior to starting cpd23, I thought I'd share a couple of my favourite blog posts with you:

  • The Wikiman's 'So you want to be a subject librarian' - really interesting thoughts on the role of the subject librarian, which I agree with in many respects. While I am the subject librarian for sport at my institution, my first degree was in English and I am not particualrly sporty! So yes, while I did need to do a bit of getting up to speed on the subject areas, courses and research specialisms of my department, I already had the skills I needed to perform the subject role effectively with little specific knowledge about, say biomechanics! I've also found that in general the students have the same age old problems of thinking creatively about keywords and referencingincorrcrly - both of which trasnced the barriers of subejct specifics.Most of all I was surprised by how much I enjoyed teaching and engaging with students, another aspect that was really nothing to do with the subject and more to do with having a positive impact on the students' university experience.
  • Ned Potter was also involved in the Guardian HE Network live chat on 'The evolving role of HE' which I followed with interest at the time, and it worth a read if you're at a loose end.
  • Alan Carbery's post 'An MLIS degree in 50 minutes: who are we trying to kid?' is a short comment on the way in which librarians approach information literacy teaching, and what we are trying to achieve, following on from the excellent keynote given by Megan Oakleaf at LILAC12. It resonated completely with me - as a librarian who generally gets 50 minutes with my students and then may never see them again in the entire course of their degree, I think I need to think really carefully about what I actually want to get across to the students in that time.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Thing 1!

So here I am writing my first (personal) blog post ever, having almost decided not to do cpd23 this year on account of feeling very self-conscious about what I write.

A strange reaction for a person who is more than happy to face a lecture hall full of bored looking students and enthuse at them about libraries until the cows come home.

So I changed my mind and decided to feel the fear and do it anyway.

The first major result of this decision was that I have logged into Google for the first time in AGES and opened my Google reader, only to be immediately and unavoidably sucked into the world of Unshelved for probably an unhealthy amount of work time. It is, of course, utterly wonderful and I'd recommend it to anyone who works in libraries, not just public libraries http://www.unshelved.com/. The second result was taking forever to make the agonising decision over the background and layout for my blog, which I'm still not sure I'm entirely satisfied with...

Actually, although I aspired to be a public librarian, I currently work as an Academic Liaison Librarian at the University of Worcester, a position I thoroughly enjoy, although it greatly saddens me that the coalition  is so keen on shutting down our public libraries, making it impossible for those library service to afford to employ profressional librarians, and diluting a vastly popular and effective public service that has certainly changed my life, if not the lives of most of my friends. Excitingly, the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council are about to open the first joint university and public library called 'The Hive', which will happily make me both an academic and public librarian - the place of dreams! (Well, strange librarian dreams at least).

In terms of 23 things - I have done most, if not all of the 'things' in my professional career so far, although I'm sure I will learn new things about them as I progress through the course. Mostly I anticipate this course will allow me to reflect on my own practice and learn from others' experiences, and perhaps encourage me to share my own practice and thoughts with the library community as well! Happy cpd23 everyone.