Feminist pedagogy in a library context

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This image is perfect but nowhere online seems to credit it right, please get in touch if you know the artist credit! ❤

I identify as an intersectional feminist who works in a library, so when I saw this e-course being run by Maria T. Accardi via the American Library Association (ALA) I felt like this could be really exciting and relevant to me.

I never studied these sorts of topics at university (besides one gendered geographies module I started before dropping out of my second year for other reasons) and so even though I am interested I felt like some directed reading and discussion could be something I would get a lot out of.

I have a history of struggling with e-courses, and not feeling like I can keep up with them, but so far the reading has not been too intense and 2 weeks in, all of it has been open access so far. In the second week there was a choice of reading so if you were really keen, or time rich, you could read all of it, which I did.

As I might be studying a Lis PgDip via distance learning, I felt that this course would be a good way to dip my toes in the waters of e-learning and make sure it is not in fact a terrible idea.

I have in the past felt that discussion didn’t really get off the ground in elearning spaces, but Maria sets us all specific people to respond to, and then also we can respond to other people that we want to. So we know when we post something we will definitely get a response which is heartening.

Anyway I will write more at the end of the course. If you are interested in reading more, there is an article linked below which was part of the first week’s homework. It’s exciting to be learning again!

Maria’s post on Choice 360: Feminist Pedagogy: Changing Lives, Libraries, and the World

I am hoping this course helps me feel more connected with feminism at work, and also with my work at Salford Zine Library which I plan on blogging about soon.

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Taking Part in a Twitter Journal Club with @ukmedlibs

One of my pieces of evidence for my Chartership is a PDF of a twitter chat, which I took part in back in March 2018. It was a journal club edition of the regular health library twitter chat #ukmedlibs. The full details of the chat including a transcript can be found here on their blog.

I must admit even though twitter library chats seem to be quite popular, I never really feel organised enough to remember them, or most of the time, I have plans outside of work. I do often dip in and out of them and enjoy reading people’s opinions but don’t often take part for the entirety of one. A journal club more focused to me, plus reminded me a bit of a book club, so I felt like this appealed more somehow!

Anyway the experience was a really positive one and I have reflected on it and uploaded it as evidence in the form of a word document of the transcript. I highlighted my tweets and added some reflective thoughts on it and then saved it as a PDF for uploading to the VLE.2018_07_05_16_58_30_Greenshot

The experience has made me feel like I would be interested in taking part in one in the future, especially after going back through it and reflecting on the experience more deeply as part of Chartership. Certainly if another journal club one came up I would absolutely give it a go, as I felt more confident contributing to a more focused discussion like that, rather than stating my opinions on a wider topic area, while I am still learning myself. Still I would definitely recommend it if you fancy getting involved in one. I know #uklibchat is a big one, and of course #ukmedlibs is the one for health librarians.

The next #ukmedlibs chat is on 17th July and is about Open Access so I might lurk around that one as I want to learn more on that topic.

Revisiting my Portfolio take two

It’s high time I updated about Chartership, isn’t it.

So when I left off last, I was about to have a look at my PKSB (professional knowledge and skills base). This was a massive stumbling block when I first started Chartership but after attending the local workshop at MMU I felt much more confident. It was suggested that you fill out the excel spreadsheet version of the form, and much to my relief, that you hide all the cells of things that you are not focusing on/are not relevant to your job. This made it feel much more of a manageable task as there is only so much you can achieve in this process and by my count, 96(!) elements that could be explored. They all come under the subheadings in the handy PKSB wheel below.

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image belongs to CILIP

These subheadings include things I feel a bit scared by and are not directly relevant to my role, including Contract Management, Legal Deposit, Preservation and… Information Architecture, whatever that is, it’s okay don’t comment I will google it.
Nevertheless one nice thing about the PKSB is that if there is an area of librarianship you know nothing about, or you don’t get the chance to explore at work, and want to improve your skills in, the chance is there to do so.

So even though the Excel version is apparently easier to use, you can fill in the questions nicely on the website which leads to a downloadable PDF. I looked at my printout and shock horror, I had filled it out on 26th May 2017, so it is high time I get the rest of this admin done, I mean look at the state of it!

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One cool thing they have on the website is a set of templates where you can see, based on your sector, where your skill level should be. So there is an example for an NHS Clinical/Outreach Librarian, which is pretty interesting as I can benchmark my own skills against that. Mind you it “provides an indication of the level of knowledge and skills you may need” and I don’t want to get too hung up on comparing myself to others when this is mostly about self-reflection, right? or DO I.

I can be really hard on myself and I think I have already mentioned in a previous blog about how I want to do ALL OF THE THINGS, so it is tempting to try and change/improve everything about myself, but actually I have been doing this for a year, and I don’t want to burn out. The Chartership workshop leader said that you shouldn’t try and fill it all out, so I didn’t.

So you basically have to rate yourself on various elements, using the below scale, and also give an ideal rating which can be more or less or the same as your own score.

0 – None

1 – Basic

2 – Good

3 – Comprehensive

 4 – Advanced

So a good example of this is my own score of 4, an advanced level of knowledge for 12.4 Social media and collaborative tools. I have a firm hold and am well-rehearsed in this area partly from using it for work, and researching it during my Museum Studies MA, which is relevant in my opinion, as many aims of museums are the same as what libraries try to achieve on social media… but also partly from my love of tweeting inanely about my life.

I feel that a score of 3, a comprehensive level of knowledge, is ideal for my role, so maybe I’m doing a little better than I need to on that front. Having said this I do think that there are apps and other tools out there I could be better informed about, so in hindsight maybe I should say I have 3? Okay I might actually change it to 3 and then explore these things and blog about them and then that can be a bit of evidence…. Anyway the last few sentences there are very much representative of my thought process throughout filling out the PKSB. I guess it’s important to value your skills but also give yourself room to grow and also don’t assume you do know everything.

I’ll do some more examples.

5.3 Copyright, intellectual property and licensing is an area I have a vague understanding of from day to day practice, so I rated my self as having 1 – a basic knowledge of it. It is not an area I feel I know the ins and outs of though, and I feel this would be useful in health libraries, so I gave that area an ideal score of 3, a comprehensive level of knowledge.

1.6 Thesauri – these come up in healthcare database searching and when I did my PKSB, remember this is something I filled out over a year ago now, I rated myself as having 0 or no knowledge of. Ideally I feel like I need to have a Good knowledge, a rating of 2, to excel in my role. So I have put that is one of my goals.

Below is one of the sections of the PKSB excel spreadsheet and it shows that I have made some notes in the end section, which is basically a brain dump of my own ideas for exploration. Also you’ll see that 6 of these rows I have decided not to fill out, so I will be hiding these rows and not worrying about them for the moment.

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All in all this didn’t take me that long to do, and it made me really think about how each part of my job fits into it. But it is very daunting and the possibilities are endless. I’m not sure I will ever feel satisfied with my skill level enough on something to rate it a 4, which means ‘Advanced’.

Anyway, it feels a bit fiddly at times but actually I did find this process to be valuable. I barely ever allow myself time to reflect on how far I have come and Chartership is forcing me to do that. I am very much the sort of person who continually charges on to the next thing and the next thing so hopefully this will allow me to think more carefully about areas for improvement and areas I am nailing. Go me.

Confession: I want to be great at my job, but the professionalism of it feels like a barrier to me.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in to workplaces even when I know I have the skills and the talents that they want. As a result I have moved jobs a lot, seeking a good fit. The NHS is the one place where I feel valued and part of a massive team. Libraries have always felt like a safe space. Perfect combination right? Even so NHS libraries can feel professionalised. I was following #HLG2018 on twitter and reading a lot of opinions on professional qualifications during the keynote address.

Having already done a ‘professional’ MA that did not lead to work in the sector (museums), I am reticent about doing the LIS MA and suspicious of the opportunities it claims to unlock. I am currently doing the CILIP Chartership (and trying to blog about it too, with varying degrees of success) and so far have realised that Chartership as a professional qualification has not taught me anything I didn’t already know, but I do know now how to talk about what I already knew. So is a professional qualification really going to add value to my CV?

What does a professional qualification really represent?

It can be something that is listed as essential or desirable on an application but honestly if they like you the most out of all the candidates regardless, they will recruit you, I know this for a fact. In which case, it becomes a barrier to people who want to apply but don’t have the qualification or the gumption to apply anyway. It also becomes a barrier when a candidate doesn’t have it, at what cost do they have to do one if offered the role? How will their workplace support them in this pursuit?

Professionalisation though, what is that? Sometimes I think sectors like to seem important and take back control because their skillset is becoming outdated, jobs less prevalent, underfunded or less understood, so they professionalise. It’s a lot of chatting to other people in the goldfish bowl of the same profession about how important what they do is, and how deep and meaningful their development is as professionals – at least  this is very much my experience of doing Chartership so far. Sometimes a professional qualification is a really useful way of bench-marking skillsets. But honestly when you work in a sector long enough and are committed to keeping up to date with developments, brushing up your skills and qualifications and getting to know your library users and what they really want, what exactly can a LIS MA give you. Especially in the UK we need to remind ourselves that education, particularly Postgraduate Education, is a business.

I came from a background where going to university was not expected, and being at university was a massive social challenge. At one point I dropped out and went back to repeat the year, because I found studying at university level incredibly inaccessible and there really was a lack of support, or at least a lack of communication about the support available. I think this experience was a massive impetus in me wanting to work in a role where I facilitate learning and make it more accessible and enjoyable to everyone. Thing is though, I am being faced with the dilemma of, do I need to a LIS qualification to be deemed ‘professional’ in my area. I mean I find that term problematic in this use anyway, because it indicates a person being a certain –level-/ having elevated status somehow. But surely all people who work in libraries are LIS professionals. The job title Librarian and the actual job description/person spec is not a set in stone template either so just because you are a ‘professional’ doesn’t mean you are a ‘librarian’ within these unspoken remits, and vice versa.

So what does professionalism do? I personally see it as a massive barrier, I have education, an MA even, I have worked hard, I care passionately about what I do, yet am I not seen as a professional because I don’t have a LIS MA? Even though that seems very wrong to me, I see it happening. I like to think of myself as being too dynamic and pragmatic to blindly do a qualification because a professional body recommends it. I am obviously not saying that LIS qualifications have no value. I have heard amazing things from people whose work I fully respect, about how their MA has given them so much insight. I have an offer of a PG Dip this September and do plan on trying to do it, but at the end of the day, I am human and I cannot afford to do it without some funding. I am not eligible for the postgrad student loans as I already have an MA, which I got into bank debt to do, and took 5 years to pay off. Should I have to put myself through that all over again for a job? Or should I keep trying without the qualification and see where that gets me. Will I be passed over because I don’t have the qualification even when I have everything else? If I don’t get the MA, does that make me not a professional? Also I don’t love how if you are not a professional you can be a para-professional, which feels quite derogatory, or maybe I am just unprofessional.

I have a lot of love for librarians and what they do, but professional qualifications feel like gatekeeping just like when we have to pay ridiculous fees to publishers to access journals. Do I not get to identify as a professional without paying £££ and giving up my evenings and weekends for two years (if I do it part time, which I have to!). Why is that? Is that because other librarians who have done professional qualifications feel that because they did it, everyone else must do it too? Rights of passage are outdated, my friends. Just because something has always been a certain way… wait aren’t librarians always trying to be innovative and dynamic in their work? Then why not in the entryways to becoming a librarian?

A lot of people who disagree with me seem to be people who have already done it. It’s like, they can’t see past their qualification and critique the system perhaps? Was your LIS MA worth it? Are you now a better person? Did it really make a difference or did you do it to tick a box? Do people who have LIS MA’s get to feel superior, what does the ‘Professional’ version of me look like? I know I did my Museum Studies MA because it felt like the last possible thing I hadn’t tried in my quest to work in museums, and because everywhere kept telling me, I had everything they wanted but the qualification. But what happens if getting the qualification crushes your spirit and passion for the area and ruins it for you? I certainly feel that my MA was transformative but I know if I could turn back time I would not repeat the experience. Masters courses can feel like a dangling golden carrot we offer people who want in to something.

I feel like I have often had to ‘come out’ at networking things as having not done the LIS MA and risk feeling like people may not take me seriously. How much emotional labour and work outside of work do I have to do to feel legit? If I don’t do one, will my peers judge me on the basis of not having one unfairly. Not having one can be for a lot of different reasons, many of which might come under the two ticks, many of which are just the sign of a person who isn’t privileged enough to access professional qualifications, for financial reasons, or lack of time, support, other life things. Do I undertake professional qualifications and become part of the system? Will doing one completely change my opinion of them and experience of the sector? I guess I will find out when I finish Chartership and if I do end up doing a PG Dip.

 

Revisiting my Portfolio Page

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This is not related but is an accurate representation of my progress so far. Also I love Spyro, does anyone else love Spyro?

 

I promised I would update here weekly to inform you of my ~progress~ with Chartership, so here I am. This week I bit the bullet and logged back in to my VLE. The CILIP website has changed a fair bit in the past 6 months, mostly for the better, but I did struggle to find my area with my portfolio and stuff.

For future reference for myself: you need to be signed in, then click on the ‘Quick Link’ to the VLE, then you need to click sign in again (?) then it is called CILIP portfolio – then it is the button at the bottom under ‘My Pages’.

When I did log in I was greeted with the shameful reality that it is now almost halfway through 2018 and my page was very out of date, but has now been renamed:

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After getting over the embarrassment of not having logged in for a good nine months, I had a little audit of what was on there, and added a bit more into the annotated JD which was essentially procrastination.

I also realised I had not uploaded my PKSB so was actually not as far ahead as I thought, and so had to hunt around for it on my computer.

My tasks for the next week:

Have another look at the PKSB and ramble on about that in my next blog post.

I also want to decide what bits of evidence I am going to use.

See you next time!

Chartership, or a longwinded tale of procrastination…

Disclaimer

Look I am no stranger to work blogs and I know that they don’t help you get jobs and no one really reads/cares about them, this sentiment can also be applied to Twitter and LinkedIn, in my experience!

I used to have a blog that was called ‘museumingrid’ and having pretty much given up on a museum/heritage career eight years later, I wonder if this is the first nail in the coffin on any future career in libraries too. My experience is all over the shop. I come out in a cold sweat during that first icebreaker question in a job interview when asked to summarise myself and why I applied to a job. Why? Because for a start my CV is not this logical path from going to uni to where I am today.

Also the minute I feel like my skillset, intentions or ‘career’ aspirations are pigeonholed or defined in any way, I feel a bit trapped. The fact is, I want to do EVERYTHING and I have already given it a good go, but right now I’m doing library and education events stuff in the NHS and I am enjoying it. As such I am currently trying to do CILIP Chartership and have been dragging my heels for 12 months or so and thought if I can go on about it on a blog, I might get it done. Let’s test that theory.

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Why CILIP Chartership? I guess firstly I should say why CILIP? I joined CILIP when I started my current post as an Enquiry Services Librarian in June 2016. I was delighted to be the selected candidate when I got the job because I hadn’t worked in libraries for over a year and hadn’t been in health libraries since 2012. I later found out that I was the only person shortlisted who did not have the library masters.

I do have an MA but it is in Museum Studies and when I started my current role I was in no way interested in doing another one. So yes, joining CILIP and doing the Chartership felt like a cheaper alternative when it came to choosing a recognised LIS qualification. Almost two years later and I have been paying my membership and not doing much else, which I do completely own, as it’s my own lack of energy or time, or ability to prioritise over other more exciting things. Mind you ‘working towards Chartership’ is something I can put on job applications without actually being a lie. Anyway when I got this job and was ‘back in the LIS game’ I thought okay ought to join CILIP as I had said in my application that I would.

So far my experience of Chartership is that it seems to require you to pay money to do your own administration to prove you can do what you already do. So far this is my experience anyway. But it’s one of those things that comes up as being ‘desirable’ so I’m jumping through the hoops aren’t I!

I must thank the Northwest branch of CILIP for their informative and hugely valuable training day (? I think I will refer to it as a workshop from now on) I attended at MMU many months ago. The CILIP regional reps were incredibly approachable, friendly and helpful, and made me feel so much more equipped to manage it and put things in the plain language I really needed.

Getting a Chartership Mentor was a frustrating process. The spreadsheet you get access to is pretty cool but in reality, was quite out of date as I awkwardly found out when I emailed people to see if they would be my mentor. Anyway when I attended the aforementioned workshop one of the facilitators recommended a few people they knew might be available and I lucked out with my first choice from that group (an experienced Public Library Manager) as they were able to mentor me and we have been able to meet IRL in a very convenient location which I appreciate because I think meeting in real life is much more motivating for me.

I think the mentor-mentee experience is what you make of it, I have met mine twice but at the end of the day, they aren’t going to make me do this! I have to do it myself.

It took me some time to navigate the VLE and again, attending the training/workshop day at MMU was so helpful. I don’t think I could have got this far without that. I have made my Chartership Portfolio page on the website, which is kind of like a Myspace page in that you can choose different layouts, and sections for bits and pieces.

The PKSB (Professional Knowledge & Skills Base?) was also a bit confusing, but in the workshop it was explained really well which I found much more accessible. There is a Health Library specific one as well which I have been using. I think the best thing was finding out that I don’t have to fill out every single thing in it particularly as there are loads of sections which are simply not relevant to what I do or I personally do not have the wherewithal to worry about them.

For me the best part so far has been annotating my CV and Job Description. I actually really enjoyed doing this and found it easy in that I liked the opportunity to be really analytical about my skills, my experience, and how the job plays out in reality compared to the job description. I am in a job share post which complicates things a bit and means that not every single thing in my JD is something I necessarily deal with. Me and the other member of staff who share my post both have different experiences and strengths so I was recruited for my strengths to make the team as a whole more well-rounded and it’s satisfying to see where I fit in to the team and what elements of the Job Description I found came naturally and other bits I have picked up along the way.

Now I need to be doing my evidence but something about this terrifies me, it feels very daunting even though I have actually done all the things in my day to day role. Writing about them and documenting them feels like a weird, uncomfortable process. Hello reflective writing process!

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Anyway that is where I am at. I will try and update at least once a week about what I am doing etc.