Subject Librarian

Chairing meetings and other things...

For some time now, I’ve been chairing meetings of various descriptions in a variety of settings. Back in my retail days I chaired meetings with my teams and with other managers. In public libraries I chaired the weekly staff briefings, in academic libraries I’ve chaired various social media group meetings and I’ve chaired a number of less formal meetings in terms of my involvement in Voices for the Library. The thing is, after all these years, I have never actually attended any proper training in doing so, or had any kind of direction regarding the process. I’ve just kind of…done it. So, with that in mind, when the chance emerged at work, I signed up to attend a day long workshop on chairing meetings so that I could learn and develop this particular skill.

I won’t get into the detail of the workshop, but I did find it really useful. Learning how to bring people into the conversation, how to deal with inappropriate meeting behaviours, ensure that no hierarchies develop and that everyone at the meeting is valued equally and how to organise and prepare for a meeting. Perhaps the most useful bit was when we were asked to role play, create a meeting agenda and follow it through to a discussion that would be observed by others within at the workshop, who would then provide feedback on how it was chaired.

This bit was really helpful as not only was the “meeting” analysed from outside, but I also found myself analysing people’s behaviour, including the chair and identifying what worked, what didn’t and how to address any inappropriate meeting behaviours. Within our meeting, I decided to adopt the role of a non-contributing attendee, saying nothing until I was actively brought into the discussion. I think I did this almost too well. Not only did it take a while before I was brought into the conversation (one agenda item was ticked off by the time I was asked to contribute) but the trainer had also made a note questioning whether I was playing a role or genuinely not contributing, she simply couldn’t tell. Maybe a role in acting should the library gig not work out…

Anyway, the training was very interesting and will help greatly me greatly. I will certainly be more conscious of how I chair meetings in future.

This week I also ran a workshop on apps that students might find useful for their tablets. The tablets were given out to undergrads with their bursary and I’ve been keen to find ways for them to make greater use of them than just reading emails or ebooks. For some time I was considering running a session on using productivity type apps, but had never got round to it. Then, a few weeks ago,  I was approached by one of the lecturers in my School to provide an hour long session whereby I can talk them through some key apps. For the session, I decided to focus on Pocket, Feedly and Evernote (chosen because they each serve different purposes). I made it clear at the start of the session that whilst I would like them to download and use the apps during the session as I talked them through it, I understood if they did not want to sign up for accounts and they were under no obligation to do so. Furthermore, I emphasised concerns about data privacy issues and also advised that if they didn’t want to use the apps, to delete the accounts and remove the apps from their tablets.

After each app, I asked the students if they felt it would be useful (which pleasingly seemed to be the case) and I got the impression that they would certainly use the apps again (as we went through the session I was asked to what extent there were similarities between them and they noted ways in which the apps could work together). It seemed to go pretty well.

I also took the opportunity to trial some software I had been looking at and was planning on using in literature searching sessions. Mentimeter enables you to conduct live polls (for free!) with your audience. The free model enables unlimited votes/answers, but limits you to two questions in one session. I particularly liked it as it enables you to display answers in a variety of ways, including as a word cloud. I think this would be really useful in developing keywords to utilise in literature searching, getting students to come up with the keywords which are then visible for all to see, demonstrating the breadth of terms that can be used when developing a search strategy. I found it really good to use and will certainly use it again.

In terms of presenting, I still find this quite a stressful and exhausting experience. The build-up I always find particularly bad. The worry about whether what you have prepared meets the needs of the students. Whether they will be engaged and receptive. Whether, ultimately, I really know my topic well enough to talk to students for an hour. This tension in the lead up can be quite consuming. For most of this last week I’ve been worrying about my presentation, whether I have covered all the angles etc etc. And yet, when you are there talking to the students, it suddenly seems not quite as bad as you feared. They are engaged, they are interested and, though it seems hard to believe at times, you do know what you are talking about. And then, after the event, the relief washes over you and you feel your whole body relax and the tension ebb away.

It’s a strange roller-coaster of emotion, from tension, to a sense of “yes, they’re engaging” to a relief that you have (more or less) achieved what you wanted to achieve. It’s an exhausting process from creation to delivery to reflection, but it does feel so good when you have delivered. I’m not sure if the good feeling is because it was never as bad as you feared, whether you are glad it is out of the way, or whether it’s because you feel that the session met its objectives. Maybe it’s a complex mixture of all three. Either way, when you walk out at the end of the session, sit down and have a cup of tea whilst you reflect, the tension you felt beforehand can seem like a distant memory.

We’ve (the social media team) also been looking at how we can utilise social media in the coming months to help manage the busy period as students prepare for exams etc. Obviously this period creates huge pressures both on the students and on the library service, so we want to find ways to help students by providing hints and tips on how to make effective use of the service during this busy period. We’ve got a number of things planned to help with this in terms of our social media channels, so I’m quite excited about how it is going to pan out. Watch this space I guess!


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