Applying to study library science CPD25 November 8th 2013 : Alex Giles

What better way to cheer yourself up on  a wet day in November, nursing a cold as I was, than to spend it in the company of some wise  and inspiring individuals generously sharing their passion and expertise with some keen but naive young acolytes…. No, not an episode of The Karate Kid – none of us were quite as cool as Jaden Smith (hey, we’re aspiring librarians…), or as young – but  the Applying to study Library Science day run by CPD25.
We were taken on a journey - it’s always a journey, isn’t it? - from a wide-ranging overview of where the profession is right now, with all its challenges and opportunities incisively explained by Stephen Pinfield from Sheffield iSchool, to individual students’ experiences of current courses and recent employment. Along the way we heard from Vanda Broughton of UCL about what to expect from a Masters course in library science and some top tips on how to apply for one, and Bethan Ruddock who, as author of “The New Professional’s Toolkit”, was expertly placed to point us in the right direction of developing our skills and confidence, as well as promoting  a myriad of groups for us to contribute to; exhorting us to speak out loud and proud as Library advocates! Of course we didn’t have to join everything , and we were allowed to say “no”-  but was that a bit feeble? Not strict enough? Shameful even? 
  Just as some of us were beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed, and distinctly worried that entering the cult of the champion librarian was going to take up rather more time (and stamina...) than  we’d planned, the lunch gong sounded and we dived into some first –rate sandwiches, juice etc.  This was an opportunity to find out more about some of the various programmes on offer in the UK from the informal “course fair” and their “stallholders”, and make some new friends as Bethan had suggested; network, but not in a nasty  way...
In the afternoon we heard experiences from recent graduates and those still studying, which made the morning session that much more specific and concrete for us. Alexandra Burton, who has just started as an Assistant Librarian at University College School, recently completed a Post-Grad Diploma at UCL; just stopping short of writing the dissertation and gaining the traditional Master’s, but still ably qualified. This was an option I hadn’t heard of before, and one that provided much food for thought and debate.
 Ian Clark, now employed as a Library Systems Officer at Canterbury Christ  Church  University , shared the benefits of  a modular  study programme within distance learning (Aberystwyth) , and there were other experiences of part-time study whilst working full-time. A lot of the discussion centred around finding a course that suited your aspirations, and your pocket...With fees increasing at an alarming rate, and little help available, the cost of funding a library course proved a major issue in the Q & A, and subsequent chat in the pub....
As I wended my way to my part-time evening job I reflected on what I’d learnt, and what I hadn’t learnt (always useful...), and mused that rather than being daunted by the monastic commitment  to professional development ,or the array of choices before me, I  would remember what Vanda had said: “We don’t expect you to do all of it, just some  of it...” Right then... Now, where to start? Join CILIP?

Many thanks to Samantha Halford  and  Helen Williamson of the CPD25 for organising not just a very interesting and useful day, but also for creating such a warm and comfortable atmosphere; very conducive...

Canada Water Library Visit 19th November 2013

Image copyright 2013
Nestling close to the water of the old dockyards, above the underground station is the rather imposing bronze ‘inverted pyramid’ of Canada Water public library. We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour behind the scenes of this ‘super library’. Set for a huge regeneration plan  Southwark council started, perhaps surprisingly, with commissioning a new library to be the centrepiece of the community they are building. Certainly one can see the current transition all around with the quaint wooden bridge across the water starkly contrasting with the crumbling architecture beyond. A few years from now it is planned that even more modern flat blocks will have been built and shopping centre expanded so it will need a central place for its new residents to gather; in this case it is hoped to be the library and the (currently empty) plaza it occupies.
Richard took us on a tour of the building which, on such a sunny day, benefits hugely from the light pouring in through large windows gazing out on the water. The central staircase creates a sense of occasion when entering the library; echoing the awe inspired by grand older libraries. We went up into the main reading room where it was children’s Rhyme Time then onto the second floor mezzanine where many readers were escaping the noise with laptops and headphones. We were lucky enough to go out onto the roof where there were some incredible views out across the London skyline. 
Photos by Alex Giles

The Green Roof

Intentionally built into the ground floor is a performance space with capacity for an audience of 150. Management of this space has been outsourced to The Albany group who organise productions throughout the year. It also gives the library a place to hold book launches and related events away from the main collection negating the need traditional libraries face of hastily rearranging the bookcases. In addition to the performance space, there are several meeting rooms of various sizes leading off the top gallery of the library. These are open to bookings from anyone leading to a diverse spectrum of activities (Yogameister anyone?). The performance space and the meeting rooms are great examples of how purpose-built new libraries can fulfil all of the changing roles of libraries within modern society. Thankfully books remain prominent, but it is also important to have other spaces which the community can utilise for other ends. In enabling this Canada Water library has placed itself at the centre of the community which is rapidly growing up around it ensuring its use and survival. Additionally revenue created by private bookings and ticket sales can go back into the library resources.
Membership is free and which includes use of the free wifi and pcs scattered about the library and the building is fully accessible to everyone. The collection itself comprises of 40,000 volumes ranging from children’s books and general fiction to reference materials on local history. Designed as a community library rather than an academic one their acquisitions policy focuses strongly on what will be popular among their readers which seems to have led to a rather large Manga collection. On the ground floor there is an independently run café, several computers and some book displays containing either new or popular books and themed displays suggesting related works people might enjoy (while we were there the theme was time travel). There are also self-service check-out machines enabling people to borrow books incredibly quickly if their schedule doesn’t allow for browsing. There is also a selection of audio-visual materials allowing users to borrow new films and cds etc. at a small cost. With many of the rental giants collapsing  it is sometimes easy to forget that there are still many people in the UK without internet access and therefore unable to access new popular services such as Netflix. This allows people to pop into the library (handily located above the tube station) on their way home and select something to watch/read. Furthermore the small fee charged by the library again allows them to make this process sustainable.

Top of the spiral staircase in the main reading room

It was quite refreshing to hear that Southwark do not (unlike many libraries) require that their staff are fully qualified before hiring them. Instead they interview people and hire them based upon whether or not they are suited to the job, which can at times differ radically to traditional library practises. Considering the competitive nature of librarianship at present and the rising costs of University fees it is always reassuring to know that there will be further opportunities for work beyond our traineeships even if we cannot go forward with a library course at present. Or indeed, if we decide to pursue one part time or even distance-based. It is a further comfort to see that, with constant threats of library closures, with a little innovation even new libraries can still thrive.
Thanks again to Linda and Richard for arranging such a great visit for us!

Alex Giles: Grad Trainee at City Uni.
Hi fellow trainees,
  Just wanted to let you know that there is an open evening at City Uni this Wednesday eve (20th November) for their post-grad library and information courses. I went last year, and really enjoyed it - there were some good intro talks by the course leaders, and lots of past and present students to quiz  - oh, and wine too... Check it out:

Trainee profiles 2013-2014

Institute of Classical Studies
Kate Symonds (again...)

Hello! I’m still here... much the same as last year if a little more wizened. Having the opportunity lengthen my traineeship has allowed me to get started on the first year of my distance based course in Digital Libraries and Information Services at The University of Borås.  It’s also allowing me to fine-tune some of my training based around the aspects of librarianship I now know I want to focus on which is great. I’m looking forward to the next year to compare with last in order to see what aspects of the job and trainee scheme change and which remain constant; not to mention another twelve months of new books!