Subject Librarian

Event planning and workshop preparation...


Image c/o Michael Cory on Flickr.

The summer should, in theory, be a quiet time for a subject librarian. Of course, it’s not at all as there are plenty of things to prepare before the next academic year. At present I am currently looking at ways I can adapt and improve my induction sessions. Last year I decided to pretty much go with the same approach as my predecessor. It was my first year as a subject librarian and, with everything else I had to get to grips with, I figured it was best not to put too much pressure on myself and just tweak the sessions that had already been created (sadly, they had been created using Prezi so I had to redo them into Powerpoint anyway). This year I am actually going to be more creative and deliver sessions that have more of my personal touch to them.

Many of my sessions are quite “heavy” in that they last for around 90mins or so and incorporate literature searching as well as an introduction to the library (for a whole host of reasons, it’s better this way). Last year they were quite lecture orientated with little in the way of interaction. I’m trying to resolve that this year by using more interactive tools (such as Mentimeter, which I will be using as a way to crowd source keywords). There are also some other tools that I plan on looking at as I try to revamp the way I deliver these sessions. I’m not particularly keen on the worksheets that are traditionally given out (nor am I that keen on tours if I am honest), so I’ll look at ways I can adapt and improve this aspect of the induction (as yet I’m not sure how).

But it’s not just planning for the new academic year. In my current place of employment, subject librarians are expected to run short training sessions for the staff on databases or anything else where they have expertise to share. Rather than focusing on my databases, I’m going to run a number of social  media orientated sessions. So far I am planning a general social media session, a Twitter for beginners session, a Twitter advanced session and a short session on blogging. Some of these are test runs for sessions that I intend on running with students throughout the upcoming academic year, so it’s an opportunity to run through them, spot things that need tweaking and then get them ready for delivering in the new academic year.

In terms of the sessions themselves, each one will reflect on the Visitor and Residents theory of White and Le Cornu. Ever since my preparation for the NAG conference last year, I’ve found this consideration of internet behaviours a really useful way to frame social media use. Various social media tools can, I would argue, meet the needs of different types of users and should therefore be utilised in such a way as to effectively tap into this. For example, Twitter and Instagram are good places for Residents to hang out as they encourage interaction between users. Tools such as Pinterest and blogs, on the other hand, can be structured in such a way as to benefit those who exhibit Visitor behaviours – ie people can quickly and efficiently get what they want to get without interacting with anyone. I think seeing “social media” in terms of the behaviours of those that use each tool is a helpful way to consider the most effective use of them. As with my NAG workshops, it’s this framing that I am planning to use in my sessions both with colleagues and students alike.

Of course the planning doesn’t end there. I am also currently involved in planning the upcoming Radical Librarians Collective (RLC) gathering in Huddersfield this coming Saturday. Each previous one I have been involved in has left me feeling enthused and invigorated by the discussions that take place, not to mention the actions that emerge as a result of these discussions. I’m very much hoping that the third such gathering meets up the high standards of the first two and that we continue to build a non-hierarchical movement within the profession that is firmly in touch with its roots and that rejects the growing marketisation of libraries. I have proposed one session for the gathering, and co-proposed another. The former is a proposal to discuss Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus theory (which curiously has made me go back to my Terry Eagleton Literary Theory book that was an essential text on my undergrad 20 years ago), particularly in terms of how libraries fit into this theory. The other session (with Sarah Arkle) will look at how individuals can establish small local groups that are associated with the positions of RLC.

Putting together these events is also a challenge, not least because of the need to stay true to the ideals that underpin them. We try to ensure that the venue is neutral and non-commercial wherever possible, that we do not accept any form of sponsorship and that contributions towards its staging are entirely voluntary. This creates its own difficulties, but I personally would prefer to have these kinds of problems rather than to provide a platform for a corporate entity. There are a lot of hurdles to navigate but, as I have found with previous such events, the feeling of having navigated these hurdles and put together a well-received and appreciated event makes the hard-work fade from memory. Until we start thinking about the next one…

If you are interested in coming to Radical Librarians Collective, Huddersfield, free tickets are still available here.

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One Response

  1. […] I mentioned in my previous post, I’m starting to look at adapting my literature searching workshops for the coming year so […]


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