Wednesday, 22 June 2011

First time for everything!

Black Diamond, Copenhagen

I am having a week of firsts - first zumba class, first time attending the South London Choir (due to Glee withdrawal), and my first TeachMeet (which I'd helped organise, so think that may be the first professional event I've been involved with at that level).

My involvement in the London Librarian TeachMeet started with a message from Lynne Meehan on the Librarians as Teachers Network forum. I'd read with envy about all the TeachMeets that were happening around the country so was keen to help organise one in London town. While Lynne sorted out a website and Twitter account, I offered to find a suitable room at the University of Westminster. I had the perfect room in mind and was delighted to be told we could use it on the date Lynne and I had chosen (20 June). As TeachMeets are free events, I began thinking how we were going to cater for the 40 - 50 attendees, so I applied for sponsorship from the Information Literacy Group. Luckily, they approved my application. Lynne and I also encouraged attendees to make some cakes, as we'd noticed this was a popular feature of other TeachMeets.

A few weeks before the TM, Lynne and I met for the first time, along with my colleague Sara Goddard (who already knew Lynne). We discussed logistics for the event. Sara offered to hold up cards to show speakers how much time they had left.

So, over three months after Lynne posted her message, the day for the London TeachMeet finally arrived. After some refreshments and a welcome from my manager, Fiona O'Brien, the series of short presentations began. Hannah Wood (who has nearly the same name as my niece!) talked about the effectiveness of storytelling in teaching. This doesn't mean reciting Little Red Riding Hood but using real life examples from past sessions in future ones. Students like hearing what their peers have said and done, it makes them more engaged with what you are teaching. So, next time you're delivering a training session and a student does an interesting search or says something insightful about a resource, jot it down!

Next, Daphne Chalk-Birdsall introduced us to the Archigram Archival Project database. I am embarrassed to admit that this was the first I'd heard about this, even though it's run by an architectural research group at the University of Westminster! It looks like an excellent resource for architecture librarians.

Alice Cann then posed the hardest question of the day - when you only have one session with students, should you try to show them everything, or just a few select resources? By showing them everything, you risk confusion or scaring them off by the sheer volume of resources available. By showing them just a few resources, you risk them only using those and never exploring beyond, when a resource you missed could be the one they really need at some point. I tend to compromise by showing them the main ones and providing a handout listing other possibilities. As Alice pointed out, a better solution would be to have more than one session with students, but this is not always possible.

Sian Aynsley gave us a tour of the CLIST website, a resource for clinical librarians. Things then sped up somewhat, with the timings of talks reduced from five to two minutes. Appropriately, Deborah Lee began by talking about using the quick quiz for staff training at the Courtauld - closed questions and a few trick ones at the end to check trainees have been paying attention. Stephen Johnson then gave the last talk before the tea and cake break, which was about the importance of education to improve information assurance in central government.

The second half of presentations kicked off with Zoe Thomas and Angela Young talking about a form for trainers to use to reflect on what has worked well or not so well in sessions. This is something we should be doing all the time but often it gets forgotten, particularly at busy times. Also, if you've had a session that didn't go so well, the temptation is to forget about it. However, bad experiences are often the ones you can learn the most from, which is why this form is such a good idea.

Paula Funnell and Roddy Lander spoke about changing from more formal information skills sessions to drop-ins. These have proved popular with students and staff. We run drop-ins at Westminster but interest varies. Some days, I just sit in the training room by myself for an hour, which can be frustrating. We then heard from Rowena Macrae-Gibson about City's Upgrade website. Having missed this year's LILAC, it was nice to have an opportunity to hear about this resource.

Chocolate: a near guarantee to grab most people's attention, which is why at Imperial they use it to lure students into enjoying (rather than enduring) their library induction. Ruth Harrison told us about Imperial's treasure hunt induction, with chocolates on offer for all participants, and a whole box for winners. Fabulous idea but I wonder about those who don't eat chocolate for whatever reason. Is an alternative incentive on offer? I ran a treasure hunt when encouraging staff at CILT, the National Centre for Languages (my last workplace which now sadly doesn't exist) to use the library. It was great to see the enthusiasm generated by the competition to win a box of chocolates. Once, I organised an easter egg hunt around the library - staff had to look up a particular book on the catalogue and by finding it on the shelf they would also find a mini creme egg (or similar). We kept finding the eggs on the shelves for ages afterwards. I had to smile when I returned to sort out the remaining books in the library and came across an egg - must have been hidden for over two years!

Back to the nano-presentations, Edith Speller (from Trininty Laban) told us why we should do more exercises (quizzes, treasure hunts, etc.). The final talk was by Hannah Bennett who asked students "what kind of LRC user are you?", an idea inspired by Facebook to find out how much they already know about the library.

All in all, a very inspiring afternoon. Before writing this post, I was worried I hadn't taken anything in, as I was so caught up in making sure everything ran smoothly. However, judging by how much I've written, I appear to have taken in quite a lot!

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