And the award goes to…

(This is a draft post from about two months ago)

I received a large envelope in the post last week, marked “Do Not Bend”. It was propped against my door as our letterbox is too small for it to have comfortably fitted. Inside was my Master’s Degree in Information Architecture.

It’s over, after four years of studying. I was confirmed as a student one day in November 2006, to commence in 2007, and the next day my doctor confirmed I was pregnant. Debating whether or not to continue, I decided to push on and complete it over a longer period than the three years allotted.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this had it not been for the fact it was a distance education course. The flexibility of distance learning/online learning meant for me I could fit my study around my family’s needs, and not have to worry about childcare to attend classes.

It was funny to see how the delivery of the educational materials evolved over my course. Initially the material was paper-based, with much of the forum discussions and submission of assignments the only online component. Halfway through, the delivery changed with notes online, examples on Youtube and a greater reliance on chat, wikis and Skype to communicate with my fellow classmates.

For the most part, the teachers were great. My teachers encompassed both IT and Library, and the mix was interesting :). I also enjoyed  the wonderful access to a huge range of databases, which was great for my professional development!

I remember a lot of late nights of finishing off  assignment to submit by the midnight deadline, reading on the train, snatching moments to study when the kids were asleep, and walking to ACU around the corner from my house for my exams. I remember the support I received from MPOW, my boss and my lovely friends.

In my heart I wanted to go to the conferral ceremony and finally meet the students with whom I had conversed in the online fora and via email over the years, and introduce myself to my teachers. However my head prevailed with the argument that the ceremony was in the middle of the week, it was in Wagga Wagga and it would have been a huge logistical nightmare balancing work, school and childcare just for me to go up by myself. And I would have really wanted to share it with the people who mattered the most, my little family.

Honestly I couldn’t have done it without their support. I know I tried Mr BG’s patience constantly, but he looked after the kids while I was at the library studying, getting up to the kids while I was still on the computer finishing off assignments and made me endless cups of tea. He was a saint.

So I had my own little graduation celebration the day my degree arrived at the house.  We all went to the local pub for a meal, the children behaved impeccably and we had a lovely time :).

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“Libraries Hire Learners, not the Learned”*

The head librarian at MPOW is very keen on professional development. We have a learning and development committee (of which I’m a part) which conducts an annual survey of our training needs. The committee encourages using inhouse expertise to facilitate training.

It was decided not to use the 23 things as a template , but some of the training does involve some Web 2.0 applications, primarily those which are deemed relevant to work. a The training then consists of presentations to staff. It’s all very informative and there is a lot of useful information which is imparted, but somehow I think we have missed the point. While our training is highly relevant, it’s also quite passive and reliant on someone imparting information. There are still a number of staff reluctant to take part. When the suggestion was made to upload the information onto our staff development wiki, one staff member baulked, claiming “I’ve already done it (meaning she had already presented) and don’t really want to re-visit it”.

The 23 things was a mixed blessing for libraries. What it did was encourage staff who were used to being consumers of information to being creators of information in order to understand the new array of technology. A side effect of this was a lot of really cool names and URLs for blogs were already taken when I started blogging, due to the success of 23 things. Unfortunately a lot of them did not last more than a couple of posts (grrr).

Stephen Abrams touches upon the 23 things in a recent blog post questioning its relevancy. While it was a great way to get up to speed with what our users are using, part of the point was to kick start an interest in self-directed learning and professional development. That is essentially what 23 things was about, not just developing skills, but developing an interest to keep on leanring new skills, and to make the time to do so. Another reason why I didn’t watch Masterchef 🙂

My next skill to learn however, is quite relevant to my other job and that is to make a passport for Master BG’s favourite toys Monkey and Woof-woof for our overseas trip. And more on that another time…

This week, I showed the AV librarian what I was doing with YouTube, uploading videos to be displayed on our website, and inserting captions. He found it  I also spoke to another staff member about using delicious to manage his plethora of bookmarks. He said he’d have a play.

Maybe the best approach is a less formalized, ad hoc approach, combined with good humoured nagging. This usually works with the little BGs :).

*Stephen Abrams July 19, 2010 1:56 pm in response to a comment

I don’t mind (really!)

I have a number of people express sympathy at the amount of time I spend in travelling to work- about 90 minutes one way. While I do sometimes harbour a fantasy of living in Richmond should I win tattslotto, in all honesty it’s not that bad. The country trains are comfortable, clean and you are  guaranteed a seat about 99% of the time. It is also time I can spend reading, listening to music, texting, studying, or simply looking out the window and pondering life and what it would be like to actually live in Richmond :).

Commuting distances is not new to me. I spent my uni years commuting from Geelong to Melbourne on the train and spent half of that time doing my homework (the other half was spent looking out the window).  When I was living in Melbourne and commuting to the CBD, 30 minutes was a breeze, and made all the more enjoyable for having a book handy or watching the world go by.

Latest books I have read while on the train include Dan Brown’s latest The Lost Symbol. My reaction was ‘meh’. It was a bit of a page turner at the end, but in all honesty it was a book I could pick up and put down without any pangs of remorse. Mr Bookgrrl noted this and asked why bother? My answer was I need to know how bad this is. It was ok- but his other books are better and he really should have retired Robert Langdon.

Apply within: tales of career sabotage by Michaela McGuire- much more readable than Dan Brown. It tells of the career experiences of a journalist in jobs in cafes, casino and as the electorate officer of a federal MP.  It made you ponder just how much work is actually done at work! Also shorter and easier to read on a train, as well as a good size to pop into a handbag.

Next two books involve project management and Perl- back to the studies *sigh*…

Tweet, Tweet!

A bit has happened since I last blogged about the joys of my existence:).

  • I finished my assignment- yay!
  • I started boot camp- yeah I know, I’m a glutton for punishment…
  • The library is thinking of using Twitter to reach out to our users.

There are concerns about how secure the Twitter feeds can be. The boss is keen to direct the service to clients rather than the general public. It could be done by protecting the feed and any requests for following have to be manually approved. It does however raise an interesting question. How far can a library market itself to its restricted clientele without attracting other people whom it doesn’t want?

As a former public librarian, I would be happy to provide information to all. Working in a ’boutique library’ (as my first boss here phrased it), means you are focusing a high level of service on a smaller client base. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by being TOO exclusive? The air of exclusivity does not endear us to other departments. Should we make  the public aware of the fact that our organisation does have a library, and no, it’s not just a pretty space with lots of gold on the walls and leather armchairs?

Hmmm… will have to ponder that for a while. Meanwhile on the virtual reference fron, things have taken a turn (a 90 degree turn I think). The virtual reference is to be deferred until our Lotus Notes is upgraded. The new version we will be progressing to has built in RSS feeds, which is what we were wanting to introduce, and a chat facility which we are hoping to use as our mode of delivery. So goodbye Meebo and hello Lotus Notes…

As a champion of Meebo for our service delivery I was vaguely disappointed that it didn’t work out for widgets on our webpages. But the advantages of using Lotus Notes is that

  • everyone uses email- not everyone uses the library
  • there will be more technical support from IT, as opposed to none for Meebo

Finally goodbye Patrick Swayze. You were great in The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing and Donnie Darko and I loved you in Ghost. All guys should see that movie just to realise it’s ok to say I love you.

So much fun to be had

I have an assignment for my web operations and publishing subject, in which I have to come up with a site proposal for a website. I have done this before, but largely focusing on the front-end, such as the design and information architecture. This is just as focused on the server, its directories, and any security issues. Pretty exciting! (yes, I am easily excited- you should see me when I get to sleep in until 8am on a Sunday…)

Initially it was to be for a special libraries’ association, but I didn’t really feel wedded to it. So I decided to re-do the first website I ever did, which was about 10 years ago, the site for Library Records. It is pretty much the same, as the owner hasn’t really added much. I can credit my job at the State Library to this site as my prospective employers wanted to know my web experience. One of the guys who looked at the site was impressed at the lineup of artists, which may have been the clincher for the job :). (That and the fact I didn’t like Ricky Martin…).

It is unlikely the new version will be seen by anyone other than my marker and my classmates, but I’m looking forward to doing some constructive work.

Homework

When I get home tonight, I will

1. Bake yet another cake for Miss BG- playgroup are coming to our house for fun, frivolity and lots of processed sugar.

2. Look through this list of User Experience Publications and resources from Nick Finck. His website is worth a look, if only to ooh and ahh over its nice white space, easy navigation and incredibly easy mode of subscribing to his RSS feed. (Not only am I a library nerd, I’m a usability freak as well…)

3. Spend some time with my family.

4. Figure out what to cook for tea (kids are done- it’s just the grownups I have to worry about)

5. Study and figure out config files for an Apache server

6. Sleep for more than five hours (a tad dicey owing to the kids)

Since I have it in writing, I’m hoping it will be accomplished 🙂

Good Vibrations

Today has been a day where I have been very aware of sound, in both good and bad ways. Being woken up by my the cries of my daughter at 5.45am (on a Saturday! Obviously not aware of sleep-ins) set the tone of the day. Apart from the high-pitched voices of the littlies, I have heard

  • the hum of the central heating
  • the whir of the pc
  • the hiss of the kettle boiling- a fave of mine 🙂
  • the siren at the local footy ground signalling the end of each quarter. Judging from the number of sirens, there must have been about three games played today.
  • The car horns of the spectators at the footy whenever a goal was scored during the seniors match- and it was a pretty high-scoring game too!
  • Mr Bookgrrl playing guitar- new songs and old;
  • silence at the library when I was there studying- combined with a sense of peace. Very comforting, and warm, like my daggy trakkies and cardigan;
  • silence of the children- not so comforting as they’re up to no good, which proved to be the case!

All in all, a typical Saturday in wintry Ballarat.

p.s. Some heartening news regarding French plans to halt piracy on the web thwarted by the Constitutional Council. ‘Les sages’ decreed that “free access to public communication services online” is a human right, and that tracking people’s internet activity was a breach of privacy. Vive la France!