The final classwork reflection

It’s finally here.  We’ve come to the end of the second semester and all that’s left to complete before graduation is our capstone project.

As part of the tidy up of my blog I’ve been reviewing my posts from the first to the most recent.  It’s so strange to see how far I’ve come along since starting this class, and in fact since starting the entire MLIS course.

Back in October I was taking my first tentative steps towards carving out a new career for myself.  Armed with plenty of workplace experience, I had no idea that the months ahead would be so challenging, or so enjoyable.  I had of course hoped that both these things would be true, but you never really know until you start.

When I started the MLIS I had the usual office skills – a full European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), good customer service  ethos, several degrees and diplomas.   They stood me in good stead in financial services and I can see them being even more useful in an information services environment.  However, I think the skills I have acquired on this course have been incredible.   Over the college year I have worked with multiple open-source software packages – Omeka, Weebly, WordPress, Audacity.  I’ve used discussion platforms such as Piazza.   It has really opened my eyes to the resources which are on the web.

I have been very fortunate too to have worked with some incredible people during this year, both lecturers and students and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all.  I hope that the connections made now will strengthen as we all move further into our information careers.

Of course, a good proportion of my development this year has come in part from this blog.  Reflective writing is an excellent way to crystallise ideas, but the development of an e-portfolio and the opportunity (and encouragement) to meet librarians and information professionals from all fields has been really invigorating.   When I look back over the term, I can really appreciate everything that we have learned.   I like that I have a collection of all my work in one place.  It makes it easy not only to show family and friends what library school is all about, but also to show potential employers, so that they will have some sense of how I work and the skills I have.   Meanwhile it’s a great way of reminding myself of how much I can do and all the possibilities that lie before me.    I will keep blogging, so please keep reading…

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Teamwork is one of those skills that seems to crop up very frequently in job applications, so this page is all about my team experiences.    Both in my professional and in my college life, I have been involved on or with teams.  In my former work-life, I have managed a team as well being a member of various teams, not only projects, but the social committees too.  I’ve also worked alone or as direct project support for management, moving from one role to another as business needs dictated.  In college this year I’ve been involved on a series of group projects, with a variety of fellow students.

Photo: Winner alright!  First place for the team in the Business Houses League.

Outside of the work world, I run a book-club which I set up at the end of 2009, scheduling lunch meetings and sending out communication mails.  I don’t pick the books though.  We rotate each month so everyone gets a month where they choose.   I also  coordinate meetings for a second club  (I like to read – a lot!).

I’ve captained a bowling team for several years, playing in a league that runs from September to April.    I can’t claim it’s due to my bowling skills unfortunately.  I’ve been informed it’s because I’m an excellent organiser and can whip up rotas, juggle schedules and make sure the weekly reminders get out to the team.  I’m also good at coordinating the celebratory dinner!

I’m a member of the Kilmacud Musical Society and have taken part in a number of variety shows.  I also played Yente in last year’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, for which we won the Association of Irish Music Societies (AIMS) award for Best Chorus.  No, I will not be sharing that picture here!

In college this year, I’ve been a member of the InfoSoc Committee, and as you can see from the blog post about our table quiz,  it’s been quite enjoyable.

As team players go, I’m a good one!

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Artefact 5 – lesson plan

I developed this lesson plan as part of  one of my other classes, Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator.

The assignment was to develop an information literacy course of my choice.  I created a scenario where I was designing a programme for individuals who had been employed for 15 or more years with the same company but who were now being made redundant.   In this scenario, the individuals in question needed to be taught how to use social media to hunt for new jobs.

Sample lesson planThe lesson plan laid out the objectives and goals for the course, as well as a sample time schedule for a 90 minute class.   I found this an interesting challenge.  I had to determine what were the key pieces of information which would be required by the students, what the teacher would need to communicate, what the homework would be and the equipment which would be required in order to teach the class.

It was an engaging experience and I really enjoyed it.  In fact, it made me think that perhaps lecturing would be a potential career avenue.   I’ll certainly be doing some more research into the teaching side of things over the coming months.

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Artefact 4 – Class presentation

This is the first collaborative piece I’ve included in my artefacts.  The presentation you see here was for a class on Cost of Information and the Open Access debate.  The class was a collaboration between four students in my class – me, Amelie Serries, Sarah Kennedy and Siobhan McGuinness.

We each took separate sections of the project and researched that piece.  Sarah looked at Cost of Information, I looked at ways in which academic libraries can manage budgets, Siobhan and Amelie took the Green versus Gold debate in Open Access and each addressed part of that.

Researching my section of the material was very enjoyable.  I learned a huge amount about Irish libraries and the various joint ventures which are taking place to help reduce costs.  I found several articles by John Cox from NUI, Galway to be very helpful.

Once we had each done our research and prepared our slides we then got together and rehearsed it repeatedly to make sure we had our timing and our delivery right.  It must have paid off because everything went very smoothly on the day.

This was one of several group projects I’ve worked on this year and I was very fortunate that all my teammates were hard-working and dependable.  Everyone had their work completed on time for each deadline set and everyone was very supportive of each other.  I have no doubt that they will all succeed wonderfully in their new career paths.

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Artefact 3 – website

I always thought that building a website was a HTML filled job.  I spent several months this semester learning all about codes and the finer points of closed brackets.  However, I also used WordPress to build this site which was a lot easier than building code.  It still had limitations though.

weebly logoThen I discovered Weebly and life will never be the same again.  Weebly operates a simple drag-and-drop mechanism.   All the elements you need are laid out in toolbars.  Select a theme, then input the elements you want and away you go.   Contact forms, images, multimedia, revenue icons – all can be included with ease.

It took a little while to get comfortable with the menu tabs, but I do mean a little time, as in maybe about an hour.  Once I had figured out where everything was, it was plain sailing from there.

You can see my first Weebly website here.  Not bad for a few hours design work.  And most of that was choosing themes and layouts.   The ease of use of this site would make it my personal choice for website design in future.  Sorry WordPress, I may be moving…

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Elevator pitch

Hi, my name is Caroline Rowan.  I worked in financial services for 13 years in a variety of areas, acquiring customer service, project management, teamwork, communication and time management readywillingableskills along the way.  I recently went back to college to become a librarian.  My overall background is Legal and Compliance so I have strong research and analytical skills and a good eye for detail.    These skills also resulted in a role carrying out user experience tests and website reviews.  I have several qualifications as I enjoy learning and I believe that ongoing professional development is an important  part of any career.   Outside of work, I captain a bowling team, participate in a musical society and run a bookclub.

Image copyright – New Zealand Ministry of Education

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Artefact reflection 2 – Questionnaire

This reflection focuses on a questionnaire I developed for my Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator class.

I decided to use SurveyMonkey for this, as I had never created an online survey before and I know from completing other surveys which have been designed with SurveyMonkey that they are very easy to complete as an end-user.  Whether the same would be true as a survey creator I wasn’t sure…

??The purpose of the survey was identify, at a very high level, the social media expertise  of staff of a large organisation who are being made redundant.  It was a fictional programme for which I was able to select the parameters.    In this case the staff were all employed within the organisation for a minimum of 15 years.  Within the organisation, social media was not used and internet access was limited, if not completely restricted.

My intention was to design a simple, easy to complete survey, which could be sent to the staff prior to attending the course, without frightening them as to the course content.  For this reason the survey was limited to 6 questions; 5 related to computer and social media use.  Question 6 related to additional needs which a user might have in using computers.  This was to ensure that the trainer would be aware in advance of any special requirements such as speech amplifiers, screen filters etc.  I kept the survey to one page so that it would not be intimidating for users.

Creation of the survey was very straightforward as SurveyMonkey offers the choice of previously used templates, or to design  your own questionnaire.  I reviewed some of the samples on offer and then designed my own.   After a few previews of the final product, which allowed for changes to format and question order, the questionnaire was finished.   It was easy to do and I would be very happy using this software again to design any other questionnaires in future.

You can see the survey here

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The Open Access debate

One of the biggest debates taking place in academia these days is the issue of Open Access.  For those of you not familiar with the term Open Access it is, according to the overview created by Peter Suber of the Harvard Open Access Project,  literature which is “online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions”.   According to the European Union Survey on open access in FP7, Open Access refers to “the practice of granting free Internet access to research outputs”.

Mentioning Open Access to sponsors at the HSLG conference last week was like waving a red rag at a bull.  And why not?  Publishers make substantial amounts of money each year from the fact that academics want to have their articles published.  “Why shouldn’t publishers make money?” I hear you say.  Yes, absolutely, I support commercial enterprise.  I don’t begrudge coffee shops for charging me 3 euro for a coffee so why should I object to publishers charging me for the articles they have taken the time and effort to publish the articles I want to read?

Well, here’s the thing – the business model is skewed. It is completely weighted in favour of the publishers.   Assuming an authors works in a public service academic environment, then their salary is paid by the taxpayer.  They spend months or years researching an article.  Then they send it off to whatever subscription journal best suits their research.  It is then reviewed by peers and if accepted, is included for publication in the journal. In order to access that article, the institution which pays the author’s salary must purchase a subscription to that material, even though they already pay the author to carry out research as a member of staff.   In addition, unless the taxpayers (who are paying the salaries of all public servants, not just academics) are studying in an institution which subscribes to the journal in which the article is published, then they can’t access it (without paying significant charges) – despite having paid for the research by paying the taxes which pay the author’s salary!   Meanwhile the publishers charge the institutions which pay the researchers for access to the research.  It’s tantamount to Toyota paying an engineer to design a new car for them, then allowing the designer to hand over the blueprint to another business, which will then package the blueprint up with lots of other car blueprints and sell it back to Toyota to use to design a car!

I’m not denying that there are costs involved for the publishers.  However, when Elsevier’s operating profit margin was £724m on revenues of £2bn in 2010/2011 (according to the Guardian) at a time when universities in Ireland had their budgets cut by 10% and their staff numbers reduced while at the same time student fees were increased in an attempt to offset the cuts, then something is very wrong.

This brings us to the issue of Open Access.   Governments globally, as well as academic bodies, consumer rights groups and freedom of information activists have all debated whether research which is publicly funded should be freely available .   Since the overall agreement was that, yes, it should be, the debate then progressed to HOW this would be achieved.  This is where the Green versus Gold debate arises.

Green versus Gold refers to two specific models of Open Access.   Clearly it still costs money to publish an Open Access journal and there must be some way to fund them.   The Gold model  operates a pay-to-publish scheme whereby authors pay a fee to have their work published.  The fee covers the cost of peer reviews and subsidises the production costs of the  journal.  The Green model does not require any payment and operates on a data repository model, whereby authors deposit a copy of a work which has been peer-reviewed elsewhere.    Both of these models require that the authors own the copyright for their works and that they grant a licence to the Open Access publisher to distribute the articles under a Creative Commons type-licence.

According to the European Commission paper authors tend to be familiar with the commercial publishers and less so with Open Access publishers.  One way to address this is by profiling resources such as the Directory of Open Access Journals which currently has 8968 journals listed.    For anyone interested in publishing in relation to LIS, let me take this moment to plug OALIS which is a new Open Access journal being launched in January 2014.   For those interested in Open Access repositories, NUI Galway has the ARAN institutional repository.   Information can also be found on OpenDOAR, the Directory of Open Access Repositories.

Meanwhile the debate continues…

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Artefact reflection 1 – podcast

This week we have been asked to post and blog about one Course artefact that demonstrates competencies or experience we have acquired or developed.   According to the Chambers dictionary (online edition)  an artefact (or artifact) is:

noun 1 a handcrafted object, eg a tool, a cave painting, etc, especially one that is historically or archaeologically interesting. 2 anything that has been manipulated or self-consciously constructed for a specific purpose, especially if it is subsequently shown to be so • The statistical data was nothing but an election-rigging artefact3 something mass-produced and usually cheap • those nasty touristy artefacts
ETYMOLOGY: 19c: from Latin arte factum, from ars skill + facere to make.

podcast iconWell, I haven’t done any cave paintings lately but by comparison to some of my colleagues with computer science degrees, I do feel somewhat stone age in my creations.   Nonetheless, the whole point of learning is to find out how to do things we don’t already know how to do.   The readings for this week refer to the importance of showing your artefact as a teaching/learning resource.   When I was developing the artefacts in semester 1, it was the last thing on my mind to consider teaching someone else about these resources.  I was too busy struggling to make sense of it all myself.  Now of course I can see that my experience at that time has better enabled me to understand the learning problems which my students will face.  For example, the feelings of stress (and let’s face it, of inadequacy) which come when everyone else just seems to “get it”and you’re still trying to figure out what “it” is!  So with that in mind, I’ll move on to discuss my artefact, a podcast created last semester.   

Back in October 2012 I was completely new to the concept of open-source.  I had just finished work in a financial services environment where even proprietary software  had to be investigated and approved by a variety of departments (IT, Compliance, Legal) before it could be used, social media usage was frowned upon and internet access was a privilege of head office staff.   (All of this has to be taken in the context of the financial services environment of course.  Bear in mind that financial services institutions are handling your money and consequently are paranoid about fraud, hacking and unauthorised individuals gaining access to your bank accounts).     Add to that the fact that my background was in Legal and Compliance roles and consequently open-source software was a massive step outside my comfort zone.    Although, admittedly, putting a podcast on iTunes for the whole world to hear, was less traumatic because I assumed that no-one would ever find it (so far I have been right!)

So what did I learn while I was building my podcast?   From an materials point of view, I learned about multiple open-source  programmes.   I used Audacity to do the initial recording and then Podomatic to create the podcast, finally launching the podcast on iTunes.  I’m not going to go into the mechanics of how to use the software here except as an illustration of the problems it presented for me as a novice user.

My preferred mode of study is to be given reading materials or notes well in advance of a lecture so that in class I can focus on what the lecturer is saying, rather than having to write notes.   This allows me to formulate questions, or do further research where I do not understand a concept.   So, in developing a learning programme I would try to include as much material as possible for learners in advance.

I learn better when I am actually shown how to do something, rather than just being told to go off and figure out how to use it by myself.    That was one of the key challenges  when working with Audacity.  We received screencasts giving quick guidance on how to get started but actually translating that into personal interaction with the programme took somewhat longer.   Personally I prefer paper notes to screencasts because I can write on them and mark them up where something isn’t clear, something not available when watching a screencast.

I am comfortable enough with computers to know that I can’t break the internet but that doesn’t meant that I understand all the terminology which goes with it.  I was frequently frustrated by assumptions that I had an understanding of terminology which in reality I did not have.  Luckily, having a laptop meant I could Google the phrase or look at the website being referenced in order to get my head around what was being discussed. However, learning from that, I think a quick assessment of the level of technical and technological understanding of students would be beneficial for any class, so that additional explanations can be included as and when required.   It is often difficult for learners to admit openly (or even one-on-one to a lecturer) that they were left behind, or did not understand something that everyone else seems to be getting, so it can be helpful to include what might otherwise be considered as “obvious” explanations.

Returning to my podcast, I learned a lot from the actual experience of developing one from scratch.   As I wasn’t comfortable just talking for 5 minutes, I elected to use a poem as my starting point. I had to do some research to identify one which was out of copyright and finally elected to use Clement C. Moore’s “Twas the night before Christmas”.   I then overlaid this with music to create a suitably festive background and used a photograph I had taken of St. Stephen’s Green in 201o as the icon.  All of this means that I am now much more comfortable with using this type of programme.  It is a skill which I will be able to bring with me when I begin working in a library environment.  In addition, it brought open-source software to my attention and increased my willingness to experiment with it.  These are all attributes which will stand me in good stead as a I progress in my career and I look forward to continuing my learning journey.

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HSLG2013 – Day 2

Day 2 of the HSLG2013 conference opened with the HSLG Annual General Meeting.  The main theme of the AGM was the importance of member participation in working groups.   There is always a need for new people to participate in any of the groups or on the committee and as Brian Galvin pointed out, it is a wonderful career development opportunity.  Most of all however, in order for the HSLG to be able to continue to provide the range of member services it does, it needs members to step up and be the frontline.   This is particularly important for the CPD working group.

Having organised the carol-singing for Kilmacud Musical Society (KMS) for Christmas 2012, I now have a much greater sympathy for the committee members in any organisation.  It takes a lot of time and commitment to organise things and it isn’t fair to expect the same people to keep giving their time every year.  Or as our KMS chairperson put it; being a member doesn’t just mean you have rights, it means you have responsibilities.  The key responsibility is to participate in full and give some of your time to help make your club/group/society run as smoothly as possible.

Once the HSLG AGM closed, the day’s presentations started.  Dr Helga Sneddon took the lead, talking about how librarians can help practitioners to be more evidence informed.  The key ways in which we can help are by finding evidence that is relevant, by sourcing evidence which practitioners can understand and by managing their knowledge effectively.  Of course, getting the right evidence is only half the battle, the other half is getting it off the shelves and into practice.   As had been mentioned by previous speakers on Day 1, it is important to understand what the practitioner wants to do with the information in order to ensure we provide what they actually need.  Are they looking to change practice?  Influence policy?  Apply for a grant? Support an existing study?  Find stories/anecdotes to support an argument?   The last thing to consider is the terminology used.  Does it differ from team to team?  Or country to country?

Mairead Mullaney then followed Helga with a look at how we handle health information in our organisations.  Mairead was keen to stress that we cannot take for granted what people know or don’t know.   She went on to talk about setting up a shared drive within the Centre for Effective Services.  The first step was to set up subject categories and get everyone to use the same terminology, a task arguably best handled by a librarian.   In order to do this, it was necessary to engage with the subject matter experts to agree terminology and then to use that for any online or paper files.  Of course, a file management guide must be created in the first place so that people know exactly how to name their files and what acronyms to use.   This ensures that everyone manages their files in the same way and can be of great assistance in ensuring that knowledge is not lost when an individual moves to a new post or location.

Mairead distinguished between Information Management and Knowledge Management pointing out that Information Management is knowing that there are 10 files whereas Knowledge Management is knowing which of the 10 files to use to support your position.

A quick coffee break and time to talk with the sponsors was given before Michelle Dalton stepped up to talk to us about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics to support advocacy and service delivery.  There were actually two sections to her talk – the first was a discussion of why she set up metrics and the benefit to be derived from them, the second was about publishing her results.

Metrics, Michelle posited, provide the ability to justify the time you spend, or to assess the success (or failure) of a service you provide.  It can provide evidence to show how the library service impacts outcomes in your health organisation.   In Michelle’s case, she generated her metrics by appending a single question to the end of any clinical query response which she sent to a user.    Having only a single question made it much more likely that users would respond as a larger questionnaire would have been offputting, particularly for time-poor medical staff.

The decision to publish her findings was based on a desire to contribute to the evidence base for librarianship, to re-ignite her own curiousity and to develop new skills.   Michelle highlighted the importance of positioning your paper globally when talking about a local situation.  It is also important to consider who you are writing for.  Is it for medical staff?  Hospital management?  The wider LIS community?

The last piece of information which Michelle shared was that she is currently engaged in setting up an open access journal which will be called OALIS (  The journal will be launching in January 2014.   I have to say, I am in awe of how much energy Michelle has.  As well as launching the journal, she already runs the Libfocus blog, publishes papers, runs a monthly Twitterchat and presents at conferences.   In addition to holding down the day job of librarian at UL.

Following Michelle was Greg Sheaf, Midwifery and Nursing librarian at Trinity College Dublin, to talk about information literacy training for undergraduate midwives.   Greg was approached by Joan Lalor to review information literacy training following findings that entrants to a new direct entry midwifery degree were not performing as well as expected in researching.  This was in line with the CIBER report “Information behaviour in the researcher of the future” which countered the common assumption that the Google generation is most adept as using the web.  It also found that there is zero tolerance for any delay and an impatience in search and navigation common to all age-groups, not just the Google generation.

The new information literacy training which Greg put in place benefited from the presence of a lecturer in the training course (as they could confirm whether the information found was the most relevant).  It was also important that the training was carried out in a computer lab as the students were able to actively engage with the training.  In addition Greg was able to measure the success of the training by using Firefox to assess site searches carried out.   As well as improving student research behaviour, the programme  built a rapport between the midwifery students and the library with students showing a marked increase in drop-ins to the library to talk directly to Greg.   Greg co-authored a paper on his findings which was published in the “Nurse Education in Practice” journal (Volume 12, Issue 5, September 2012).

Joanne Callinan, librarian at the Milford Care Centre (MCC) then spoke about the bibliotherapy programme which was run at the MCC.   Bibliotherapy is the therapeutic use of reading material (and also writing in some cases writing).  It can involve prescription of a self-help book by a GP or may be incorporated by a trained counsellor into the treatment of an identified mental health concern.

Evaluation of the bibliotherapy programme was carried out using:

  • semi-structured interviews with social workers and volunteers
  • audit of borrowing from the collection
  • book comments sheets (e.g. Did you find this book useful? Would you recommend this book to someone who has had a loss?)

MCC provides palliative care and when evaluating the programme, it was found that in many cases photocopying sections of a book on bereavement, rather than lending the full book, was most useful.   Individuals who are grieving, either pre or post the death of a loved one, cannot necessarily focus on a large volume of material.   However, the bibliotherapy was extremely helpful people in reassuring them that what they were feeling was normal.  Having material to take away allowed people to read and process it their own time.

Anne Madden then got up and spoke about the mentoring programme which the HSLG was setting up.   The importance of mentoring was one of the key findings from the SHELLI report and Anne showed a quick taster video about what mentoring involves, asking for participants to consider acting as either mentor or mentee.   Further details will be available from for anyone who is interested.

The conference was then brought to a close.  It was a fascinating two days and I have learned a huge amount.  I hope that my blog has given you a taste of what was on offer.  Although the conference focused on health libraries, there was a huge amount that could be applied to multiple library settings and I would absolutely recommend attending next year’s conference to anyone.   A huge round of thanks is due to the committee for organising it and to the speakers who gave such excellent presentations.  I really enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing what’s on offer next year.

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