Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015: Reflections and the year ahead

Well, what a difference a year makes. Looking back at my 2014 blogpost, I find it hard to believe I packed so much in while spending most of the year pregnant.

2015 was very different. It started off with me being almost two weeks overdue, followed by an emergency caesarean, my baby being treated for neonatal meningitis and me struggling to walk - in a hospital miles away from home for twelve days. It was a frightening, stressful and lonely experience.

F had dreadful reflux for seven months which meant no naps in the day at all and barely anything at night for either of us. We now generally average about three hours a night sleep, sometimes four, which is a vast improvement on how it used to be. There was a whole week in July where I got six hours every night - bliss!

I returned to work full time when he was almost seven months old and my husband now looks after him during the day, alongside his own evening & weekend job. Returning to work has been like starting a brand new job again, but with the expectation that you can easily pick up where you left off - alongside trying to find rooms suitable to express in and meeting tight deadlines fuelled only by willpower and chocolate.

In addition, I was trying to remember how to drive again (I'd barely had chance to practise since passing), as well as trying to remember everyone's names which suddenly seemed to have escaped me.

Needless to say, something had to give and I crashed my car, although luckily the only real injury was to my bank balance.

I had very few goals last year and they mainly consisted of submitting my Chartership Revalidation for 2014-15 and continuing with yoga.  I completed the first and doing the latter really helped save my sanity. I intend to continue as much as I can with this, even if it's just once a week.

There will be no more volunteering to be on committees for a while - I've spent the last five years on them for various professional organisations and I no longer have that much time to give. The same applies to long conferences - it will be day length and commutable for a little while longer. Professional development and involvement will increasingly have to take place from a PC, a couch or both!

This year, I've applied to start the process to gain FHEA accreditation and I'm looking forward to speaking to new Library and Information Studies students at UCL in March as part of their Management module. I'm still interested in the coaching and mentoring I've mentioned in previous posts but this will have to wait a little longer until I have more capacity. In the meantime,  I'm anticipating introducing my little one to lots more stories - he's already an avid user of our local library and received LOTS of books for Christmas.

Ultimately, I'll be glad to see the end of 2015 and have tentative hopes that 2016 will be less chaotic.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A festive UKSG Forum #UKSGforum15

Christmas trees and glittery chandeliers in the Grand Connaught Rooms provided a festive welcome to attendees of the UKSG Forum on Wednesday 18th November. I’d arrived early and managed to get a sneak peek of Covent Garden in before and while I managed to take a picture of the HUGE mistletoe balls and Christmas tree completely forgot to take any of the actual forum – oops! I’m blaming it on still being exhausted as my tiny person still sees sleep as an optional extra. 
This was my first event since becoming a mum and my first time at a UKSG event. The former meaning that I could not hang around for the usual drinks and networking after the event, which was a real shame, but also meant I had to try to pack in as much as I could in the time I had.  
The UKSG Forum is put on by a group of people who work within the scholarly and information community and is designed to be a networking event rather than a conference. All the sessions were very short, i.e. ten minutes or so long which, while it didn’t leave much time for detail, did cut out a lot of the unnecessary waffling which can happen in conference lectures. This also meant I was able to take some key messages away from the majority of the presenters: 
Don’t make things harder than they need to be.
One theme which linked the talks was to focus on making things easier for our users. I don’t think any of us go out of our way to make things difficult for them but sometimes we forget that we are used to how things work. We might have forgotten that it’s actually quite complicated, especially for a beginner. A few ways to do this included getting rid of captcha authentication (there was an audible hiss from the audience at the mention of this!), reducing the amount of choices open to users and making the language user friendly by using first person language e.g. ‘I want to see’ ‘show me’ etc. Additionally, stop using the word ‘submit’ due to its aggressive overtones! The audience were asked to consider how we can ensure students feel comfortable using our resources with no risk to themselves through either wasting time or by embarrassment when it doesn’t work out for them. I’m not sure many of have cracked this one yet. 
Don’t just listen, observe. 
A second theme that emerged from the sessions I attended was that, in addition to asking students or customers what they wanted, it would be wise to observe the students. David Sommer’s presentation on user interfaces, Andy Priestner’s talk on ethnography in libraries and Ken Chad’s lecture all raised this as something any organisation who wishes to understand their users should do. Examples of how this could be done ranged from analysing statistics and using user behaviour software, such as Crazy Egg, or actually getting out and about to observe and record students going about their daily business. Doing this will reduce the risk of librarians relying on assumptions and help them to piece together the bigger picture. 
Watch out for the culture clash. 
The third thread running through the talks was a reminder to acknowledge that times have changed since we were entering university for the first time. This may seem obvious; however. it can be easy to forget just how quickly time and technology move on - even the youngest attendee at UKSG will have left college several years ago. Students, we were told, are  now are used to information being in bite-size chunks at school and get a sudden sharp shock when they arrive at university and are faced with huge reading lists and several simultaneous deadlines. We sometimes don't truly understand what our students want and need even if we think we know what is best for them and the best way to do this is to start trying to get to know them and understand their day-to-day life. A small scale example of doing this is through the use of empathy maps. On a much larger scale is the absolutely amazing SpaceFinder project at Cambridge. 
Ultimately, it was lovely to get out and about again, learn something new, and meet up with some familiar faces. Thanks UKSG for organising it.
Slides from the day are all on the UGSG website