Hi, my name is Jo and I'm a newly qualified librarian working in several academic libraries in Cambridge.

I originally created this blog as an electronic learning journal whilst participating in an extended shadowing programme prior to starting the MA in Information Services Management at London Metropolitan University.

The views expressed here are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Extended Shadowing Programme: Sessions Two and Three - User Education Session for Film Studies Students and Visit from Graduate Trainees

Yesterday afternoon, my shadowing slot was split into sessions. The first was spent assisting the Subject Librarian (Arts & Letters) in a user education session showing first year Film Studies students how to make the best use of the Library Catalogue and the Digital Library. For the second session I joined the ALL (Arts & Letters) and a group of Graduate Library Trainees for an overview of our library's website and digital resources and an informal discussion over refreshments.

User Education Session with First Year Film Studies Students
This session was included in my shadowing programme to fulfil my objective of learning more about the librarian's role in preparing and delivering user education sessions. I have assisted in several of these before for both undergraduate and graduate students, lead by various members of the Subject Team. This involved setting up the PCs with guest logins, passing round handouts, helping anyone who is having problems keeping up get back to the correct screen, answering basic queries and helping to close down the PCs and tidy up the room afterwards.

The content covered in this particular session was very similar to the others including: basic and advanced searches using the Library Catalogue; using e-books; accessing My Library Account online to renew books, make reservations and book study rooms; conducting quick searches and subject searches using the Digital Library; looking at useful websites. The librarian also talked about using different search terms to broaden or narrow searches and trying alternative search terms, e.g. cinema instead of film. She also warned the students that while popular sources such as the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) where fine for gaining an overview of a film and checking castlists, etc. they should not be relied on too heavily. Instead, they should be ensuring that they use good quality, authoritative sources such as academic journals and broadsheet newspapers as well as books in order to gain good grades.

Although this session was essentially the same as the others I have assisted with in the past, in some respects it was also quite different. Previous sessions have mostly been held in a larger room with between 15 and 25 students whereas this one was held in a much smaller room with only around 13 students. This gave it a more intimate feel which was also reflected in the librarian's slightly less formal style of delivery. Compared to the larger groups, this seemed to make the students more attentive and engaged with the session with fewer people surfing the net and checking their e-mails instead of following the demonstrations. The timing of the session was also slightly unusual. Given the content it would appear logical to run this session, as the others have been, either at the beginning of the academic year or in preparation for a particular assignment. However, these students had already completed their first essays. The ALL and Subject Librarian involved in designing the session explained that waiting until the students had completed an assignment without this training might allow them to better appreciate the relevance of what they were being taught and to identify those aspects of their information searching they find more problematic.

Although my role in this session was the same as it has been in others, I was much more focussed on analysing why and how it had been put together and delivered in a particular way. The intimacy of the surroundings also gave me the confidence to be more hands on in helping the students, particularly one girl who after the session asked me to help her conduct a subject search using the Digital Library. This helped me to put myself in the audience's shoes and to think about what their expectations might be and whether the design of the session had been effective in meeting those needs. It also allowed me to imagine myself in the librarian's role and to appreciate more fully that as an information professional I will need to develop a number of new and different skills sets, not least presentation and teaching skills. Rather than finding this daunting, it leaves me with a sense of excitement as the satisfaction of teaching and the potential variety of the librarian's role are the things that first attracted me to the profession.

Visit from the Graduate Library Trainees
Immediately after the user education session, I joined the group of about six visitors who are currently participating in a Graduate Library Trainee scheme at Cambridge University. They had already been given a tour of the library by the ALL (Arts & Letters) who was now showing them the website and digital resources available to our staff and students. They seemed particularly impressed by this as their own college libraries are still very traditional with the provision of electronic resources remaining the responsibility the main Cambridge Univeristy Library at West Road. Afterwards we went to the staff room with other members of library staff to chat over refreshments.

I initially felt a little initimidated by the Graduate Trainees as they were all working in some of the most prestigious university college libraries and were all young recent graduates who appeared much more confident and articulate than me! However, having recently been accepted on the MA Information Services Management course at London Metropolitan University, I was determined to find out if any of them had applied for the same course and whether they shared some of my apprehensions about returning to study. Most of them had applied and been accepted on the course at UCL or courses elsewhere so I was a little disappointed that I hadn't found any potential college buddies amongst the group. However, I was reassured that I wasn't alone in my anxieties about funding the course and the uncertainty of finding a job at the end of it.

I was also keen to find out how their experiences as Graduate Trainees compared with mine working as a Library Assistant. Many of them had been given specific projects to do, had participated in trips to other libraries and had attended regular training sessions together as well as working as library assistants. This helped to confirm my belief that although I have not undertaken a formal Graduate Traineeship, through my role working at the library, attending the library's regular Learning Hour sessions, participating in visits to other libraries, undertaking the shadowing programme and making the most of opportunities to get involved in special projects, I have had an equivalent experience. Meeting the Graduate Trainnees has therefore made me appreciate the value of my experience in this and previous roles and made me feel more confident about returning to study as a mature student.

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