Feminism & Libraries: Knowledge is our superpower

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*This was written by me and published as a blog piece on the Naitonal Libraries Day website*

The Feminist Library held its first salon of 2015 on Saturday 31st January. This year our salons are celebrating the library’s 40th anniversary with each monthly salon themed around a different section of our unique cataloguing system to highlight our collection.

My so-called secret identity

Will Brooker spoke about the original cool librarian – Batgirl!  The sexist representation of Batgirl, and women in general in mainstream comics, inspired Will Brooker, Sarah Zaidan and Suze Shore to produce My So Called Secret Identity (MSCSI).  MSCSI is based on thelife of Cat, a girl just like you and me, who happens to live in a city of super heroes.  However, Cat is the smartest girl in her city, but has been taught to keep herself to herself- perhaps they will take more notice of her in her costume!

Next on the itinerary was a discussion on feminism in the context of libraries.  We structured the discussion around 4 key questions.  This was an open discussion, led by a panel,but the audience were encouraged to contribute and ask questions at any time.  The panel was made up of volunteers from  the feminist library; Yasmin Ahmed, Eleanor Shaw and Emma Hughes, representatives from the Radical Librarians Collection- Anna Brynolf and Neasa Malone, Claire Hayward- a PhD at Kingston University and Will Brooker.

Feminism and libraries

We discussed what necessitates the need for a feminist library. Thoughts included the restrictions that might be placed on collection development if housed within another institution.  The Feminist Library houses a lot of self-published material which, if in a library covering many topic areas, we may not be able to collect. Access is also an important factor.  In order to be as inclusive as possible it is necessary to be autonomous from academic institutions, councils etc.

We also felt it was important that the library isn’t just about the collection, but the space and the people you meet through it.

Classification Systems

In 1979 the Feminist Library created its own classification system in response to the sexism displayed in other classification systems such as Dewey.  We discussed how all classification systems are products of their time and influenced by the cultural and social discourses that surround the makers and users of the system and therefore there may never be an all-inclusive classification system.  However, the structure of classification systems such as Library of Congress (LOC) are not aligned withfeminist values, for example, LOC has categories for ‘Women as Accountants’ but no ‘Men as Accountants’.  LGBT groups can be found segregated by gender or class, which would probably not be conducive to browsing in our library. This is why we felt it important to create our own. We also discussed the difficulties of updating a well-established classification system and why it is not always possible, but that you can avoid using the controversial categories!

What do you expect to see from the Feminist Library collection?

The feminist library was originally created during the 1970s and thus the core of its collection is heavily influenced by second wave feminism. However, we are slowly but surely updating the collection, but rely heavily on donations from individuals and publishers to do so.   We try to include all feminisms and act as a repository of knowledge with the library as a universal educator.  However, this was an opportunity for visitors new and old to tell us what they would like to see from the collection.  People expressed an interest in seeing more books addressing intersectionality and an expansion on foreign language books and we hope to include these areas in our expanding collection.  We are very lucky to have a very unique collection of periodicals which do reflect these areas well.

We were really pleased with the turn out and the stimulating discussion.  We hope that everyone had a good time and that those new to the Feminist Library will come back soon.  We are currently in a position of looking to move to a new building, due to a rent increases in our current location.  If anyone would like to donate, you can do so via our website.  If you cannot afford to donate to us, but would like to help out, we are always looking for new volunteers so if you are interested please contact us: admin@feministlibtary.co.uk

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CILIP London – copyright briefing

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CILIP London meeting – the first one I have been to.  I chose to go to this event as it was focussed on copyright.  Copyright is an area I’m familiar with, but I certainly don’t know all the ins and outs and as an information professional I think it’s something important to keep up with.  This session was mainly focussed on copyright issues in higher education, not an area I work in, but it was good to gain a better understanding of the current situation all the same.

The guest speaker was Kate __- from Middlesex University.  She started by going through all the developments in technology that have changed the way people receive and use information.  For example, gone from photocopying and scanning printed articles to being able to print in 3D!  Information is accessed and read from multiple devices from multiple locations. 

Published and rights owners have been trying to keep up with the changes and implement more and more measures,  For example, the EU Directive on copyright ownership has been increased from 50 years to 70 years. 

Distance learning and MOOCs come with various copyright issues.  Sharing information on a VLE to students, particularly those abroad, cause various copyright problems.  Academics enjoy the ease of uploading and sharing information with their students on the VLE and become frustrated when they are told they may not be able to do so due to copyright permissions.

Increasingly publishers are encouraging epublications  but these come with country dependent access problems and may incur additional costs to Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA).

Kate said that due to all the different publisher permissions and licensing requirements, often confusing to everyone (!) JISC have created an online database , Knowledge Base +, that lists of the permissions for all the publishers, organisations etc.   Apparently the CLA have promised a tool to manage reporting and license checking, but it has not surfaced yet.  Talis Aspire have also introduced a digital content tool, but Kate advised it was expensive and still in the early stages of development.

I hope that makes sense, as my knowledge of copyright and issues in academic settings isn’t great, there’s a risk it may not! 

I look forward to seeing what the next briefing focuses on.

Study school part 3

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So just over a month ago I had my final trip to Aberystwyth (as a student at least) and this time it was all about my biggest fear – the dissertation.

The dissertation is something that I have had in the back of my mind since I started the course.  I know quite a few people have decided not to do it, and I understand why.  But I like the idea of having my own individual topic to focus on – the fear I have is the size of it.  I’m one of those seemingly rare people who is always under the word count rather than over. My undergrad dissertation only had to be 8,000 so doing double that is slightly daunting!.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this trip.  I knew it was for the same period of time as previous study schools, but unlike before where you have mini lectures/introductions to upcoming modules, it was difficult to envisage what they were going to fill the time with.

When the timetable was released I saw the time would mainly be filled up with lessons on different research methods, for example quantitative and qualitative methods with one lesson set aside as an opportunity to discuss your dissertation idea with your peers.  I was slightly confused by the sight of research method type lessons as the one module you had to complete in order to attend this study school was Research Methods, so it is presumed everyone is read up on this already.  Though once the week progressed I found some of the lessons helpful (though others not so much).

My undergraduate saw me writing research type reports/ essays as well as theoretical essays so i guess I’m quite lucky in the fact that I am aware of the processes, but for some that have not had to conduct or write-up research before, it must be quite daunting.  And in this case, I think some of the lessons could have benefited from going into more detail or allowing time for questions.

I was hoping there might be quite a big chunk of time set aside for individual study time.  It would have been nice to have that time to make use of the library, something us distance learners don’t often have easy access to, and read through previous dissertations and research our ideas further before talking to a tutor.  Although we did get some time for this, it was mainly snatched opportunities in lunch breaks or when lessons finished early and I found this disappointing/

Another thing I found difficult about the experience was that, at the time of going, I did not have a clear idea for a dissertation topic.  I had some vague ideas but nothing properly formulated.  Though we had not been asked or expected to have a set idea, I think it would have helped as when it came to discussing with my peers and being assigned a tutor from there I was unprepared and therefore felt unproductive in the tutor one to one as I couldn’t properly discuss ideas and therefore the tutor couldn’t really give any advice.  However, I’m sure that when the time comes the tutor I am assigned to will be helpful.

This reads like a fairly negative experience, and I suppose really I was quite disappointed by the experience, but it did get me thinking a bit more about my dissertation and it must be quite difficult to organise such a week for people who are at all different stages.

On a more positive note I did enjoy going to Aberystwyth, the weather wasn’t too bad- only raining once(!) – and it was good to catch up with people from last year and have a week living the ‘student life’ ….apart from the halls, which leave little to be desired, especially given the fact that two of the days this time the lock to the bathroom was broken!

One of the Aber library lecturers, Lucy Tedd has just retired and during the week she gave a special lecture about her career.  She had quite the career full of amazing opportunities, I would really love to travel with my job as much as she did!

As much as I find can get frustrated by the disorganisation of the Aber study week, I can’t help but love the tutors and all the admin staff that help but together the week!

 

Library Camp 2012

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This is a long overdue blog about my experience of library camp, it was nearly a month ago now but life has been busy and luckily I did make some notes on the day to refresh my memory.  At the end of Library Camp I remember feeling so drained, not because it had been a long, boring day, quite the opposite; the day was so packed and my brain became a bit overwhelmed!  That coupled with an extremely early start and lots of cake consumed followed by a hard sugar come down!

I had heard so much about Library Camp 2011 I couldn’t miss the opportunity this year.  Personally, I wanted to go because I had never been to an ‘unconference’ before; it sounded fun not knowing exactly what you were going to learn about that day.  I saw it as a chance to meet more people in the information world (generally termed ‘networking’ but perhaps that is too formal for an unconference) and also a chance to learn more about what’s going on in other sectors.  Working in the third sector it is difficult for me to keep up with what is going on in public, academic sectors etc- the news and twitter can only tell you so much.

So I arrived (a little bit late due to train delays) and the proposals had already begun with a few interesting ones had already being pitched, I just hoped that there wouldn’t be any clashes in talks I wanted to go to.  Unfortunately there were clashes but with the power that is twitter I was able to see what was going on in the talks that I was missing whilst being present in the other ones!

The first talk I attended attempted to address the question, “What are libraries for?”.  This was hosted by people who did not appear to know everything about the library and information world (but then, does anyone really know everything about it?) but there was enough of us there to discuss the problem and highlight the different values and skills we all have.  It was refreshing that someone was there who wasn’t in the library and information sector but was looking for a librarian to run his new business – refreshing in the sense3 that someone realised the value and skills that a librarian has and felt he needed a librarian to run his particular business venture.  Somewhat oddly there was also a person who appeared to attend all unconferences going, no reason why not I suppose they are free for all to attend, but I wonder what you can actually gain from doing s?.   He seemed fascinated that most of us were making notes on pen and paper rather than via ipads, he wondered whether this reflected the nature of the librarian until the majority of us pointed out that this was down to the poor wifi network within the building leaving most of us unable to use electronic devices throughout the day.

The second session I attended was run by UKLibChat.  UKLibChat is something I try to participate in when I can but often don’t get the chance.  This session discussed the role of the information professional.  There were people there that I recognise from twitter who I’m sure also contribute to #uklibchat and I actually found it quite nice to have the discussion face to face in a room rather than online.

The session run by @libmichelle on working abroad was also interesting.  I have often wondered about working abroad, and what opportunities there are from a LIS point of view.  Michelle was really helpful in sharing her experiences and the additional costs and admin that are involved when working abroad.  Other people in the session were also interested in working abroad (though they have been far more proactive than me so far) and reminded me of LibEx which, although not ready to leave right now, may be something to look into in the future.

Looking back I’m not sure I got exactly what I expected from Library Camp.  It was a great opportunity to meet new people and discuss the library and information world whilst also catching up with peers you already know, but for me I still felt something was lacking.  I think it might be due to my rarer role in the information world; coming from a third sector charity organisation that does not have a physical library or traditional user base I felt I could not fully relate to many of the sessions or contribute due to my lack of understanding of the politics and regulations currently going on in other sectors (mainly public and academic) and therefore it was more of a learning opportunity for me rather than an interaction.  Due to this I would have liked to attend @theatregrad’s session on “Librarians without libraries” but unfortunately it clashed with another session.   This led me to conclude that should I ever find myself at an unconference again I would certainly make a pitch to explain my role and problems that we have within our sector.  I find learning about peoples roles in public and academic sectors interesting, and therefore hope people would be interested to hear about the third sector and less traditional roles as some people may not be aware of how far the ‘librarian’ role can extend.

Ta da – thing 23!

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Firstly, I am pleased I have actually completed 23 things this year.  Much more successful than last year’s attempt where I signed up and then never found the time to actually complete any of the things.

I have found the whole cpd23 experience a good practice opportunity to practice reflective writing, which I think will be doubly good experience if I ever decided to do a chartership in the future.

The things/ tools I have taken on board from this are Endnote and Dropbox, (both of which I now use on a daily basis) and Prezi.  I had already been using Prezi for a project at work; I am still working on the project and I noticed this week that Prezi has recently updated making it slightly more straightforward to use.  I need to find some time to get back to the other tools such as Mendeley and Linkedin to use them properly.

23 things has also been really good for reading other people’s blogs.  There is such a variety of LIS jobs out there, so it has been really interesting to read other people’s take on things from the perspective of their job roles.  Therefore I also found contributing to the Library Routes project extremely insightful  (perhaps I’m just nosey).  People have had so many different routes into the profession; though many, like myself, seemed to unexpectedly find themselves working in a library but everyone one had different causes and it’s so great that all of us felt that it was a path we wanted to continue down for the foreseeable future.  Writing my library route also made me realise that I have already worked in several different LIS jobs, all of them good in their differing ways and I’ve actually been in the LIS sector longer than it feels like – time flies when you’re having fun and all that! 

Thing 14

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I have to confess, I have still never used any sort of citation manager when doing academic work -which is absolutely ridiculous given I have been doing my masters for over a year now and therefore it would be highly beneficial for me to do so as the alternative is painstaking and prone to errors!

At work we use Reference Manager for our library content.  I mainly use it for adding content and searching for information rather than citation management in research work.  I know some people in the office use it in this way but have experienced some problems with it and therefore I have been hesitant to use it in this way.

For the purpose of this thing I decided to download Mendeley and have a go with that.

The layout looks quite similar to Endnote, which is a tool I already enjoy.  The ease of moving documents from several places onto Mendeley was really good and I particularly like that it takes all the citation information out itself.

I have downloaded it onto my work computer and for some reason it would not allow me to install the plug in on Word so I will have to try it on my home laptop.  From watching the demo videos on the website it looks pretty easy to use once it’s been installed.

I guess the true usefulness of Mendeley will not become apparent until I am using it in my work but it looks like it could save me a great deal of time and trouble.  Now all I need to do is start my next essay…great!

Thing 22 – Volunteering to gain experience

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I haven’t volunteered in the library sector but I have volunteered at festivals and I volunteered at a local Oxford museum for about a year.   I volunteered at the museum on Saturdays whilst working at 9-5 Monday – Friday.  I had tow reasons for doing this.  One being that I wanted to understand more about the workings of museums and gain some experience there.  I have previously considered working in museums, but and noticed that all job descriptions required experience and I thought in that case the only way to get experience is to volunteer!  I also just felt I should be doing something with my spare time and it was a museum I had always enjoyed visiting.

Whist volunteering at the museum I got to work with some really interesting people and did get to learn a lot about the ‘behind the scene  of the museum.   I was already in paid, full-time employment, but a lot of the volunteers there were otherwise unemployed or giving up their free time in retirement and I know the museum sent volunteers on courses etc where they could to build up their CVs and gain more skills.  I think this was really good for both volunteers and the museum.

I know a couple of people who have volunteered or done intern ships at the places and eventually been offered a job there, so I think it does go some way to opening up opportunities to people and is certainly something I would consider doing again.

Thing 21 – Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

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I always find it difficult identifying what I like doing….when it comes to job applications I mean.  This is mainly because I always think that what I really like doing isn’t necessarily related to the job.  I really like socialising with friends and other people, watching tv series such as the Wire, Lost and Breaking Bad and knitting.  I struggle to think of how some of these pleasures can extend to work!  However, one thing I do like doing that is completely relevant to the LIS world is helping people.   This was first properly made clear to me in my first library job – working in a health library assisting with training Drs and other health professionals how to search databases and the internet for information and seeing how impressed they were really made me feel like I had found a job that was worth while.

Outside of the LIS world I enjoy helping people by raising money for charity, I have previously done sponsored runs, steward at festivals and organised a music event.  The music event was hard because I knew I was setting myself a bit of a challenge outside of my comfort zone but by the night of the gig the hard work had paid off and I raised money for a good charity!  One day I’d like to think that I can combine my library and information skills and working with charities focussing on the developing world – for some reason I feel it’s something I would like to do one day.

I dislike having jobs with repetitive tasks day in and out, there is nothing more boring for me than doing exactly the same thing everyday (apart from a job where you have nothing to do – which I have also done and can feel like a complete waste of time for everyone!).

I haven’t had to do any job applications for over a year now (which has been very refreshing let me tell you!).   In that time I’ve just been in the one job but I’ve picked up so many new skills, attended conferences and started my masters than my CV really needs an update.

As the author of Thing 21 says, you really should tailor your CV and covering letters to each different job you are applying more.  Give evidence of the skills you have that match the job descriptions and person spec, obviously the more you have the better and the more you mention in the job application the more likely you are to get an interview.

Once you have been lucky enough to be offered an interview my key tips would be to research as much about the organisation as possible.  One job interview that I was unsuccessful in told me that one reason I didn’t get the job was because I didn’t appear to know much about the organization and the work they did.  Speaking of feedback, always ask for it. Though it’s never nice to hear criticism, it can be useful and prepares you better for next interview.

I think 99% of my interviewees have asked if I have any questions at the end of the interview.   Always have at least three questions prepared, for example “Do you socialise together outside of the office” (I like to think it shows your social side) “How will my progress be monitored/feedback be provided”  .  Ask as if you already have the job, it just seems to go down better.

I wouldn’t say I am a very confident person, but having been through quite a few interviews now I feel more prepared than I used to. Though always nervous, I have learnt that the only way is to sell yourself, don’t worry about sounding cocky – you’ve got to be in it to win it after all!

 

Thing 19 – Integrating

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Some things of cpd23 I had already been using, such as Prezi, Jing etc.  Other tools I haven’t even got round to testing yet, such as Zetro and podcasting.  However, some of the tools I have already fully integrated into my life.  Those being Dropbox, Evernote and Linkedin.

Dropbox:

After having a Dropbox account set up for me at work I have been using it ALL THE TIME!  It is so useful from the point of view that having Dropbox on my work machine and my laptop means that I can work on essays in the office and save them knowing that the latest version will be on my laptop when I get home without having to save it to a USB or email it to myself as I was doing before.  It has also been good for sharing photos and working on shared documents at work.  Really glad that this tool was brought to my attention as it has made life that tiny bit easier!

Evernote:

I find Evernote very useful in much the same way as I do Dropbox.  I mainly use it to ‘clip’ pages with useful articles on, recipes or attaching pdfs of journal articles or reports that I want to read at a later date.  This again means that these items will be available for me to retrieve later from either my work machine or personal laptop.  I haven’t used any of the sharing facilities yet, I’m not sure I will as I generally am using it for things of my own personal interest.

Linkedin:

I have started to use Linkedin more than I was previously.  However, I still haven’t fully got involved with it – I’ve made a few connections now, but only with colleagues at work, I need to be more proactive in seeking other peers.  But I can see its potential and will keep remembering to check in on it and build a better profile.

Thing 20 -My unexpected path into the information profession

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I came out of university in 2008 with a BSc in Philosophy and Psychology and really didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself.   I knew my degree wasn’t leading down a specific path, I didn’t want to pursue a career in psychology and philosophy is…well, it’s philosophy!

I had a part time job in retail and hated it, I was offered a full time job but knew I just couldn’t take it, I knew I had to leave.  I decided that I should do some temporary work until something that looked like it could be interesting came up.  It seems so long ago now that I can’t even remember what I thought might have been interesting!

So began what was to be long time of temping.  My first job was as receptionist for an outpatient clinic for an eye hospital.  Fairly quickly I knew this was not the kind of job I wanted to do, but it was money and I was picking up some ‘transferable’ skills.   That finished after a few months and my agent called me to tell me there was a temporary position at the hospital library, she informed me it would probably be “quite dull, stamping books etc”, despite that motivational comment, I took the job anyway.  I always went to libraries as a child, throughout school and university and have always enjoyed the environment, but like many of us, had never really considered it as a career move.  A friend of mine who I was living with at the time had just got a job as a graduate trainee in an Oxford University library and she was enjoying so I didn’t think it could be too bad.

Anyway, it soon became apparent that there was much more to librarian than I had previously thought.  And so my thirst to pursue librarianship as a career began.

Once I had declared my interest my manager was very encouraging and let me go to one day courses about librarianship and arranged visits to other libraries.  Unfortunately that job ended after a few months, but then began many, many, job applications for graduate trainee and library assistant jobs.

I lost count of how many I applied for but it took a whole year and several other miserable temp jobs before I landed my next job a part time library assistant at Oxford Brookes.  Though I generally didn’t enjoy my temp jobs, they did have advantages;

1. It was something better than nothing, financially at least

2. I picked up lots of admin skills that are useful for most jobs

3. I got less scared about starting new jobs

4. I learnt how to pick up new skills and learn how to use different computer programmes very quickly!

This was another good job, and an opportunity to work in an academic library rather than healthcare.  Whilst I got some good experience there, it was part time and term time only, so it wasn’t ideal from an income perspective.  I got a second part time job at a law firm and continued to look for other library work.

I also began my application for a masters courses.  I selected Aberystwyth distance learning course mainly because I knew I couldn’t afford to do a full time course and though my job was part time, it wouldn’t have allowed the time needed for a part time job.

I got onto the course at Aberystwyth to start September 2011.  Shortly after this I got an interview for a graduate trainee role that would go on to become my current job.  As it was a graduate trainee role I wasn’t confident I’d get the job as I had nearly two years experience already and would be starting my masters already.  However, I was wrong, I got the job and it has been great.  Work has been very supportive of my course and I have found it useful to apply to my work and vice versa. It has been yet again another eye opener to the variety of information jobs.  This information services department is online, with an e-library.  These is no customer service as our e-library is more of a gateway to public health information and freely available from our website.  We also do a lot of research which I have found really interesting and it is a continuously evolving environment compared to other places I have worked which is good.   I have also had the opportunity to do lots of other things, such as attend conference and become part of a taxonomy group in London.   My graduate trainee role came to an end and got extended for a further six months, so I am now an Information Officer.

The future…

I don’t know the future holds and to be honest I’m still not sure exactly what path I want to follow.  I know that I enjoy working in a health –based environment so would ideally like to stick to that.  I’m enjoying my job now, but know it could end shortly so soon I need to be considering what I might want to do next.  In the next year I should be finishing my masters, which I hope will open up more job application options should I find myself without a job.

As I said at the beginning, but beginning the library and information world were purely by chance.  Never before have I worked in a sector where there is so much networking and friendliness – it’s brilliant and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.