Week 2

Last weeks long run didn’t happen on Sunday, we ended up doing the annual school uniform shop instead, a different sort of challenge, but still wore me out.

I did the 5 mile long run on Monday evening instead.  It was a warm and airless evening and the run felt quite hard work, although it was nice to run along the canal again.

On Tuesday I did a gentle three miles while youngest swam through a lovely country park which is hidden in the middle of Warrington by the Mersey.  Hot and sunny today.

Thursday morning I was up for early morning training and did 3 miles on the treadmill.  The plan said ‘tempo run’ so I warmed up for a mile, then did two at 6.2 mph which is quite fast for me at the moment, but felt OK.  Not sure what I’ll do when early morning training finishes for the summer!

I had great plans to do my first ever park run on Saturday and my eldest was going to join me too, but then I realised my daughter needed taking to a party for 10am and with the best will in the world I couldn’t fit in both.  Now we’re both registered we are definitely going to do next Saturday!

I have managed this week’s long run on the right day though!  I got up early and did 6 miles before 8am.  Very pleased with myself.  My phone, which I use as a stopwatch, has completely broken so I had to use my wrist watch for timing (not ideal as it doesn’t have minutes marked) and a slightly modified route as I needed to drop some keys off with a friend, but it meant I didn’t stress too much about time/distance.  Still very muggy and airless weather, but at least I won’t have to run in the midday sun now.


Evidence in Education – an opportunity for librarians?

Recently there has been a flurry of interest in improving the evidence base for classroom teaching.  Ben Goldacre was asked to investigate the use of evidence in education by Michael Gove (and whether the mention of Michael Gove and evidence in education in the same sentence raises your eyebrows or not) Ben Goldacre’s report raises some important issues.

Goldacre suggests the use of Randomised Controlled Trials, a technique which has been successfully used in medicine.   Marc Smith in the Guardian and teacher Andrew Old in his blog both ponder whether RCTs are the best way to conduct research in the classroom, but both agree that making teaching a more evidence based profession is a good thing.  Another Guardian piece, this time by school governor Jon Butterworth (who also happens to be a Professor of Physics) also commended a more evidence based approach to teaching.

All of this presents a huge challenge to teachers.  Teaching is hard.  Imagine how you feel before a major presentation, how much preparation you put in, how you feel before you walk before your audience.  That is what teaching is like, but you have 4 or 5 presentations every day.  And marking and assessments to do afterwards, before you plan the next day.  It doesn’t leave much time for planning or implementing research, or even reading about the research that others have done.  In my 10 years of teaching I don’t recall ever seeing an academic journal in the music office, or having research recommended to me.  Disappointingly I never went looking for the research myself either.

In teachers defence it is hard to get the research.  Academic journals are expensive and not all schools will pay for your subscription.  While you do your teacher training you have access to academic libraries, but as soon as you finish so does your access to academic libraries.  Until open access becomes a reality it is hard to be a research aware teacher.

I am now a librarian and recently at a conference I heard from a health librarian who is taking her health library resources out to the ward round to help doctors make evidence based decisions at the bedside (read more in my blog post or see more about her job on the hospital webpage).  It started me thinking, if we think doctors and nurses deserve access to specialist library resources to help them develop evidence based practice, why not teachers?

The issues with school libraries are well known.  It seems shocking to me that not all schools have libraries or librarians (it is a legal requirement for a prison to have a library, but not a school).  Where schools do have libraries, qualified librarians have to constantly justify their position and many schools replace skilled librarians with part-time TAs and see the school library as just an adjunct of the English department.  Evidence based practice could be a huge opportunity for school librarians to become more central to the school and provide services to teacher researchers alongside the hugely valuable services they already provide to pupils.  Alternatively is it an opportunity for academic librarians to extend their services to teachers after they leave the university?  Universities that offer teacher training are often keen to tie schools in to them so they will offer placements to their students.  Could use of academic libraries become part of the offer?

Or is there another way to engage teachers with the latest research material?  My husband is a Senior Lecturer in education.  The continuing engagement of teachers with professional development material has troubled him since at a teachers’ meeting he was shocked that many didn’t know about an iminent change to education.  He was also concerned that his current students had a limited connection to wider religious education issues.  He considered how he could connect with busy teachers and students and began to use twitter.  Tweeting as @PabloPedantic and using the hashtag #REatEH he began tweeting links to useful educational resources, research and articles. Through his own research he has been able to demonstrate an improved awareness amongst students.  His followers include former students and a wider community of teachers who also benefit from his tweets.

At the recent LILAC conference on Information Literacy a tweet from Steve Wheeler’s  presentation read “Alan Carbery @acarbery. @timbuckteeth says twitter has done more for his CPD than years of Grad SChool, formal education#lilac13“.  Perhaps twitter as a way of pushing forward the right information to people at the right time is the way forward, and there is an obvious role here for librarians.

If teaching is to become a more evidence based profession there needs to be a revolution in how teachers create, access, assess and use research.  As librarians we need to find how best we can develop our services to so that we become an integral part of facilititing this change.

CILIP North West Members’ Day

12th March was an exciting day for me as a new professional as I got to attend my first conference – the CILIP North West Members’ Day in Preston.

I travelled with a colleague from LiveWire libraries in Warrington and although our jobs have a lot of common ground (she is responsible for digital development and I am responsible for online information, amongst other things) we are both part-time and we work at different sites so the journey was a good time to catch up and talk a few ideas over.

Arriving in Preston over the scary, rickety bridge to the conference centre we were greeted by a lovely, friendly bunch of fellow professionals, one of the largest turnouts for the member’s day in recent years.  There were representatives from health, public, academic and charity libraries as well as a retired member.

The theme of the day this year was celebrating success.  A time to celebrate what libraries do well to inspire us all at what are often challenging times for our libraries.

The first speaker was Victoria Treadway @librarianpocket, a Clinical Librarian from Wirral University Teaching Hospital.  She spoke about a project she initiated to integrate a librarian into the ward round on the critical care ward to aid healthcare professionals in delivering evidence based care by providing access to the latest research and guidelines on treating the wide range of patients seen in critical care.

The success of the project, both in terms of patient outcomes and the growth of knowledge and confidence for the clinical team lead to Victoria and the consultant surgeon from the project being invited to present at a medical conference in India.

Victoria spoke not just about the visit, but about the range of skills she had gained in planning the trip and the conference presentation which had been useful to her as she worked towards chartership. As well as the expected skills in presenting and academic writing, Victoria had to develop advocacy and fundraising skills to persuade the NHS Trust of the value of attending the conference.  Part of this involved her working with IT and other agencies to produce a video about the project and it’s benefits which can be seen here http://www.whnt.nhs.uk/hrod/development/library_services/services/clinical_librarian_service.html.

This really was an inspiring story of how a librarian had embraced new technology to take her skills and expertise to the point where it was needed.  The project had helped change people’s perceptions of the hospital library from a place that people may possibly have liked to go to if they ever had time, to a key partner in delivering the best outcomes for patients and helping staff to be more confident in doing their jobs. It demonstrated that our skills as librarians are as relevent, needed and desired by people as ever, they just don’t necessarily want or aren’t able to visit the library.  It is up to us to get out there and show people what we can do and find ways to meet people at their point of need.

The second speaker was Stewart Parsons, Project Manager of Get It Loud in Libraries @Libraryfiend @LoudinLibraries.  This project to bring high quality music into libraries is probably well known to most librarians.  Stewart gave numerous examples of the success of the project and the stellar list of artists who have been featured as part of the project, Adele, Jessie J, Professor Green, The Wombats, Plan B, Florence and the Machine are just a few I can remember.

The projected started out of Stewart’s desire, as a music librarian in Lancashire Libraries to bring young people into the library by helping them engage with the culture and music they were consuming outside the library.  Stewart emphasised a libraries role as a place to encounter great culture and from the start the project had aimed to engage high quality musicians, generally people on the cusp of commercial success.

The project is lead and guided by young people and provides many opportunities for engaging with local schools and colleges.  Young people take on roles such as publicity, journalism, recording and photography as well as setting up associated fashion and art projects.  Many have used the experience gained volunteering with Get It Loud In Libraries to secure university places and jobs within the highly competitive world of music and media.

The project has grown and now delivers gigs around the country.  It has secured funding from a range of sources, including the Arts Council, and has gained lots of positive media coverage in media that appeals to young people such as the NME as well as more national press and TV.

Once again the message was we do not need to change our core aims.  Libraries have always been places to connect with great culture; what we need to do is see where great culture is and how people engage with it and adapt our services to serve their needs.

Before we were allowed out for lunch the AGM of the CILIP NW Branch was held.  While this was largely a formality, it afforded the many people gathered who are not part of the committee a chance to hear about the work the committee does to provide training and networking events for local members.  David Stewart, Branch Chair, outlined plans to merge the group with the NW Career Development Group, but also emphasised the need for librarians to support and join their professional organisation: How can we expect to be taken seriously as a profession if we do not have a professional body?

Lunch was a good chance to network. I was able to chat with friends from my course last year, as well as colleagues from other public libraries and colleagues from academic libraries who knew my husband via his Twitter stream!

After lunch Phil Bradley, CILIP President @CILIPPresident @Philbradley gave the keynote address on Librarians in a Social Media World.  Phil outlined how the world of search is changing as Google and other main search providers move further and further towards money making models.  Why should Google provide you the perfect result straight away if it’s main aim is to show you lots of adverts?  Search engines do not rate accuracy and slowly the public is beginning to realise this.  The established search engines also struggle to keep up with the range and amount of new and instant material being created on the web and the move the ‘real time’ business and news.

He noted the changing role of the ‘recommendation’ as the main way to find new websites rather than search.  With the increase of use of social media such as Twitter and Google+, as well as blogs and aggredation services such as Scoop It and Delicious people are more and more using recommendations by people they trust to discover information they can rely on.  The trusted people may not be people they know, but may have gained people’s trust by reputation, friends recommendation or celebrity.

The role for librarians here is clear.  We have always been seen as a trusted source of information and recent research found libarians were still second only to doctors as trusted sources of information.  There is a huge opportunity here for librarians to take a lead in becoming a trusted local source of information, if only we can convince the IT and other departments who see social media as nothing more than a threat.  Phil suggested changing the terms of reference of the debate away from ‘social media’ to ‘real time business’.

The final session of the day was from Margaret Robinson and Jayne Evans of Manchester Metropolitan University Library.  They outlined the process they had implemented over the last few years to achived Customer Service Excellence.  They emphasised how important getting staff on board with the process from the start.  They suggested the process could not have succeeded with out the positive support of both top level managers or frontline staff.  The goal of the prize of getting the CSE award was a key driver, but throughout the process the benefits had been seen to both the managers and the frontline staff.

The process had been driven by feedback from both users and staff.  They had found online comments forms and long surveys had not been well used.  Instead they used  informal coffee and biscuit ‘roadshows’ where small groups of staff could feed back customer service niggles and suggest solutions had produced a range of really useful suggestions, many of which were implemented.

For students they had stopped using long surveys, but instead used short ‘straw polls’ with three questions which were asked to everyone leaving the library.  This allowed the polls to be focussed on specific issues and resulted in a higher rate of completion.  Similar online polls were used after interactions with students via the website.

They noted that very often it was small things that were relatively cheaply and easily changed that really affected customer satisfaction. Although they had yet to find a way of satisfying everyone with regard to the temperature of the library!

Finally they talked about feedback and the importance of closing the loop by telling both staff and users how their comments and complaints had been acted on. They use both ‘you said we Fox’s posters and a changing display on the website which showed a random update from a list of five recent changes to website users.

Libraries are fortunate that our friendly helpful staff are often commented on in customer satisfaction surveys, but there are always things to improve and little things count. This was a useful presentation with several practical ideas in how to consult with both staff and public quickly in a way that produced meaningful results.

The day ended with votes of thanks to the speakers, committee and chair for a successful and inspiring day. I hope to be able to attend again next year.

Learn your scales!

As part of my MA course I had to produce a distance learning resource.  Mine was a teaching resource for Music Theory which teaches about scales and how they are constructed.  It’s desigened in powerpoint, and only really works if you download the file and view it as a powerpoint slideshow, but I’m also experimenting with embedding slide shows from the web for work, so I’m sharing this with the world now!  You need to download the powerpoint from Slideboom so that it works properly as it has lots of interactive links etc.  It is a bit odd if you just go through the slides in order, and all the musical links are missing.

Powerpoint Scales presentation in Slideboom

First proper day

We’ve had a big family party this weekend to mark my daughter’s confirmation.  40 people at our house afterwards for a buffet etc and I had to sort it all out as Paul was away with football on Saturday.  Youngest having a big swimming gala didn’t help.  Anyway it all went brilliantly and I had a lovely day, but drank too much wine and champagne which may not be an ideal preparation for the first day of a proper, serious uni course (but may of course be compulsary student behaviour!).

Part of the problem with getting the house and food ready for the party is I’ve done practically no pre-course reading (was it wrong to read a management textbook all the way through the swimming gala?).  I’ve read about half of one book ‘Understanding Organizations’ by Charles Handy as it was all there was in the town library where I work (and yes, I couldn’t find it on the catalogue because of the American spelling!).  It’s really interesting though and I’m boring Paul with it all the time.

One of the things it talks about is how we make snap judgements about people in order that we ‘know’ how to deal with them, and how important it is to give off the right signs and visual clues so that others will compartmentalise us correctly (as we see it) and treat us as we wish to be treated.  Which gave me a problem:  I have three roles to play today:  Rhymetime leader at the town library; professional MA student and bike communter.  The real spanner in the works is the biking bit as when I wear my helmet, trainers and flourescent jacket I can easily give off the signal of wimpy, push-over, mild mannered eco-warrior, and not strong, decisive, focussed student professional.  Also in rhymetime I need to consider the practicalities of sitting down and jumping around with toddlers.  A tricky sartorial conundrum!  And don’t even start me on what bag I should take….

My day starts with biking into the library for some paid work running Rhymetime for ten lovely toddlers and their carers.  I love doing it, but I’m glad when it’s over too!  Then it’s a quick bike across town to the station to catch a train to Manchester.  I get my ID card and now I’m an official student, with the official invoice for my course to prove it.  I decide to check out the library, but my card won’t work and I have to charm my way in.  I browse around the library section of the library then realise I don’t have the booklist with me, so head for the computers to find the booklist.  After ten minutes of looking I can’t find it so settle down to spend an hour or so working through the pre-course workbook for the Web Design bit of the course.  I think I’m really going to enjoy that course.

Then, it’s time, off to my first proper lecture in, oooh, far too many years (13?).  Management is probably the area of the course I feel most intimidated by but the lecture is interesting, but still a bit daunted by ‘reading around’ the subject.  Not sure where to start.

Then it’s off to Designing On-line Learning which I’m hoping, as a former teacher, will be very approachable.  Spent the lecture discussing learning styles, contexts and barriers.  Already have some ideas for my end of unit assessment, but need to give them a lot more thought.

Then train and bike home.  Eating my tea by 7pm and realising how much I’m putting my mum and Paul out dealing with the children when I’m home so late.  Utterly exhausted though so not giving it too much thought!