Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Oodles of Moodle

Image from http://moodle.org/
This summer my main project has been creating the LRC's pages on our new Moodle 2 Student Portal.
Our previous web page had been created using Microsoft SharePoint so now, not only do I have the challenge of transferring content into a different topic structure, I also have the design limitations of Moodle to contend with.  For example, Moodle is designed as a student VLE and one of its primary features is to provide a course area with a list of topics or weeks.  Once you begin populating each topic or week you inevitably end up with a long, scrolling page.  My challenge here as been to organise our content so that scrolling is kept to a minimum, if needed at all.  I have been able to achieve this by creating buttons and inserting sub-pages.  The only areas which contain significant scrolling are our page advertising the different centres (which is a list) and our page listing the LRC eResources - for this I am going to investigate using bookmark links at the top of the page.

I am really enjoying this project as I have been 'let loose' in terms of creating the style of our pages.  Furthermore I am building up a bank of knowledge in terms of how best to display and organise content within Moodle.  The LRC has just taken over administration of Moodle so we shall be able to offer tutors a complete package of guidance from admin to creating content and offering advice on design and layout.

Friday, 19 August 2011

IS Oxford Open Day - 18th August 2011

Yesterday I got in a car, two trains and finally a taxi to arrive at the lovely chapel in Littlemore, Oxford, that is the home of the IS Oxford offices for their Open Day (unfortunatley the weather decided it wasn't going to be lovely!).  IS Oxford run the Library Management System Heritage.

The morning began with some good old mingling!  I spoke to a couple of librarians, both who singularly staff their service, so our conversation drifted into the differences between education provision on a small and large scale.  We also briefly discussed stock retention (it being A Levels results day I was asked how much of our overdue stock I thought would be returned by our A Level students), and I was interested to learn that one of the organisations had no security system in place, despite being single staffed.

At 10.30 we walked over to yet another grand building - the SAE Institute - for the main presentation.  Emma Duffield (Sales Manager) began by highlighting some of the interesting features of Heritage.  For example, using Enquiry Groups to provide different OPAC displays to different users; setting up search hints; and OPAC usage details for individual readers.  She was followed by Neville Jones (Development Manager) who demonstrated Heritage Cirqa - a new online version of Heritage that can be accessed anywhere.  IS Oxford also offer to host Heritage Cirqa for you so that your own IT department need never be involved again!  Neville showed us some of the improvements to Heritage that have been made as a result, such as the improved scheduler and catalogue record search, the ability to queue reports (which run super-fast!) and changes in the way report settings appear before running.  Eoin Garland (Support Services) finished the presentation with a very reassuring guide on how best to approach global changes and a quick look at managing user logins and audit logging for file areas.

The presentations gave me a lot to think about.  I like the impact that using Enquiry Groups to manage OPAC displays for different users can have, for example, our EFL/ESOL or Pathway students might benefit from a simpler view.  However, allocating students to particular enquiry group seems a very big job - possibly a global change job?! - and I'm not sure it's something we'd be that keen to implement.  However, I am keen to suggest setting up search hints to the rest of my team.  I think it could be a really easy and effective way of promoting other resources, particularly hidden resources.  For example, for a search that includes 'GCSE' or 'A Level' we could add a hint suggesting that the student may also be interested in the exam papers available and the online revision help in their e-resource Examstutor.  Or for a search that includes 'Biology' we could suggest the magazine 'Biological Sciences Review'.

I found the information about Heritage Cirqa very interesting.  The option for IS Oxford to host Heritage for you does sound very appealing I must admit!  Furthermore, after several recent instances of having to log on to another PC, access our Heritage server and run large, still quite slow reports from it, I also like the significant increase in speed which they seem to promise as well as the improvements to the reporting area.

I used the word "reassuring" when talking about Eoin's demonstration of global changes earlier, and it was.  I have never run a global change myself and the thought of doing so is very scary!  However, Eoin's suggestion of running a report to check how much data will be affected and having a practice run first on a copy of your data is very sensible and allows you to make mistakes safely!  I still don't think I'll feel comfortable doing anything in Heritage that involves the word 'global', but I'll be happier knowing I can have a trial stab at it first!

After the presentation we walked back to the Chapel for a good lunch and another chance to mingle as well as meet some of the support staff - it was good to be able to put some faces to names.  I spoke to some more librarians and gave some advice on how e-books work within Heritage.  Then at 2.00, those of us that had opted to, got on a coach and were taken into the centre of Oxford.  My group were dropped off outside Keble College where we walked into their Chapel and saw Holman Hunt's painting 'Light of the World'.  We then walked via Blackwell's Broad Street bookshop to the Ashmolean Museum.  I decided not to go in, but headed back to the train station to begin my journey home having soaked up some useful nuggets of information about Heritage as well as lots of rain!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

CPD23 Thing 11: what it means to be a mentor

I read Meg's Thing 11 post on mentoring with interest.  My experiences of mentoring have been thus:

1.  On beginning work in the LRC at Kingston College I was assigned a mentor who would monitor my training and be my go-to person with any questions and problems.  After a non-specified period of time, once settled, that relationship comes to an end.  I have also been a mentee to two new employees in the LRC but felt uncomfortable under that label.  I felt more like a 'buddy' just making sure that training was completed and they got settled in well and nowhere near experienced enough to be labelled as a 'mentor'.

2.  As part of chartership you are required to have a mentor to guide you through the process.  I found my mentor's help extremely valuable as she was able to suggest things for me to do, ensure I was writing evaluatively (see my earlier post!) and making sure I was generally on the right track.

I think a true mentor is hard to find.  You could say that a good line manager is a mentor as they help you by guiding your work, presenting opportunities and encouraging your development but I think a lot comes down to the personal relationship you have.  Meg used the word 'comfortable' to describe a relationship between mentor and mentee and I agree - I see a mentor as not only someone who can provide you with all that guidance and support but also some you're happy to sit down and have a cup of coffee with.

CPD23 Thing 10: "...and what do you want to be when you grow up?"

I didn't always know I wanted to work in a library.  During primary school I wanted to be a writer and, for a long while, an archaeologist (thanks Time Team!).  However, once I reached middle school I knew I wanted to work in a library.  At middle school the work I loved the most was when we were given a research project to do - we'd be given a topic, for example rainforests or the Tudors, and be expected to research it (I would use the school and public libraries as well as Encarta on our PC at home) and write it up.  Mine usually consisted of pages of writing (mostly plagiarised at that age!) and hand-drawn pictures held together with treasury tags and I loved it.  Also during my time at middle school I was one of a few students who were allowed to help out in the library at lunch times and oh, the excitement one day when we were allowed the afternoon off lessons to tidy up the shelves from beginning to end!

My love of libraries continued.  I would regularly borrow fiction from our public library.  At high school when we had to complete 2 weeks work experience I chose to work in Ipswich Public Library -the main one for the county.  During Sixth Form I volunteered in my local public library in Stowmarket on Wednesday afternoons.  My first job was running the Summer Reading Challenge on those afternoons then, when that came to an end, I worked on the help desk and shelving.  When the time came for my meeting with the Careers Advisor at school there was only one career option on my mind.

I applied to three universities: Brighton, UCE Birmingham and Manchester Metropolitan.  Brighton got the large seal of approval and I graduated in 2006 with a 2:1 BA degree in Library and Information Studies.  I then settled down into my first professional job.  Chartership was always at the back of my mind but it wasn't until 2009 that I decided to begin my application.  I have been a chartered librarian for a year and am not sure what to do now.  A couple of my colleagues have completed a PTTLS (teaching course) and a CMI (management) course and I am interested in the latter.  However, it would be interesting to know if there is anything else library-related that is recommended.

CPD23 Things 8-9: a helping hand in organisation

I really like the way some organisations have used the Google calendar as a way of communicating with their users, for example to manage opening hours.  It wouldn't be logical to implement one in my organisation, however - our OPAC (Heritage) has a built in calendar as does our student portal (Moodle) - and between staff we use Outlook for our personal calendars and for a shared LRC calendar.  One of the tools I really like on my Outlook calendar is the tasks.  I enter every job/task/bit of work I need to do on it, assign it a priority and a to be competed by date.  Previously I used to have a Word document containing my 'to do' list but I found that I was forgetting to update it.  Using Outlook means by task list is open all the time and I can easily manage it by amending the status to completed when a job is done.  The archive then allows me to record all my work for use in reviews - brilliant!

I also really like the idea of Evernote although I'm not sure it's a tool I would use very requently, maybe more for when I'm researching something.
UPDATE: just found a brilliant use for Evernote, albeit it not work-related at all - collating things I've seen for my wedding!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

CPD23 Things 5-7: reflecting, networking and professional organisations

I completed my chartership last year so became a dab hand at reflection.  However, as soon as I handed in my portfolio it seemed to fly out of the window.  It doesn't seem to come very naturally.  I'm pretty good at describing, but, in the words of the many school essays I had marked, I lack evaluation!  I really like the 1970 Borton model posted on the information for Thing 5 so my task now is to make sure I think 'So What?' and 'Now What?'.  Hopefully having a blog will help me to do this - I want to fill it with postings so I shall have to be reflective about something!

I like things simple.  Therefore I have a Facebook profile for my personal presence and a LinkedIn profile (thanks to CPD23) for my professional presence.  And I'm happy with that.  I may be tempted to join another network if it's for something specific, i.e. librarians or family historians, so I shall have a look at LISPN and CILIP Communities and see what I find!  I do however subscribe to some of JISC's mailing lists, for example LisLink and CoFHE.  These are a great way of networking with other librarians, getting help and sharing good practice.

I remember during my university course we had tutorial whereby CILIP came in to get us all to sign up there and then.  I can't remember if I did at the time or whether it was a little bit later but I have been a fully fledged CILIPer for a few years now.  What do I get out of it?  I find the training programme beneficial as not only a way of developing skills but a good networking tool.  Also, during my chartership year I attended most of the CoFHE LASEC meetings and got to meet other local College librarians.  I receive Update (although I do have to force myself to read through it) and have signed up to their blog and LISJOBNET alerts.  That's about it though.  I would be very interested to hear from anyone who finds other benefits from being a CILIP member.