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Archive for September, 2009

Reading through the Twitter stream recently I have been struck by the similarity of various posts. They come from librarians working in HE, FE and schools. They are all talking about the new academic year and its particular demands such as inductions, library tours and information literacy sessions. They comment on the level of work librarians in these sectors are expected to take in their stride at this time of year, often with little acknowledgement or appreciation from management, academics or students.

There is a recurring strand of thoughtless behaviour from academics. They send students to “tag-on” to another group’s induction session, ignoring the well advertised booking systems. They talk over the librarian. They push past groups to get resources for themselves. They call librarians receptionists. They say their students don’t need inductions as they won’t be using the library as they have “no need for books”. All of this sends a not so subtle message that librarians have no academic standing, are not deserving of common courtesy and are not to be taken seriously. Theseposts overshadow those about academics and other staff who fully understand the importance of the librarian in the learning process, treat them as colleagues of equal standing worthy of respect and acknowledge all that they have to offer for the development of skills that will last a lifetime through study, work and beyond.

All these often slightly-exasperated or wry and self-deprecatory comments have received sympathetic responses from colleagues in a similar position. But these are colleagues who may never meet each other. They may be working in isolation in a school library, or in a college where they are the only professional librarian in a team, or part of a larger academic support team. The point is, they have reached out to express their frustration, stress and sometimes even hurt at their situation and treatment. They love their jobs, they do them well but they at that point feel unappreciated and undervalued.

To be able to express these feelings, privately or semi-publicly,and receive immediate messages of empathy and understanding is cathartic and validating. The writer is made aware that they are not alone, they are not the only person with the problems, it is not their fault, and somebody cares. They may even be given useful advice on how to deal with a specific situation. Often, the stress levels are reduced and equanimity is restored by the chance to vent and communicate.

It probably isn’t only be librarians who use Twitter this way. Many organisations are putting more and more pressure on employees to do more for less, with the all too real spectre of redundancy or worse ever present. Stress levels have probably never been higher in the workplace. At a time when some organisations are banning the use of Twitter should they perhaps be taking a different viewpoint? Should Twitter be encouraged as one of the ways of addressing work related stress issues?  Surely it is better to lose a few minutes “work” time a day than have increasing sicknes levels due to overstretched and overpressured staff.

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Who am I?

The view at the top of my blog is of our front garden in spring time, taken from an upstairs window. As you can see it is an unusual shape. The idea to split it into the formal beds wasn’t mine, but as soon as it was suggested it was obviously the right thing to do. The planting of forget-me-nots and pink tulips was inspired by Monet’s garden at Giverny which I have seen once, in spring time. I am a very lax gardener, and I’m glad to say that this planting looks after itself and gives us year after year of beauty. Every time I look out of the window and see it I remember things, and my mind goes from memory to memory and idea to idea like the bees in the forget me nots.

I remember that fantastic weekend when we went to Paris and caught the bus to Giverny. We didn’t have much money and were worried we would blow it all on a day trip that would disappoint us by being over-commercialised. And maybe it was, but I don’t remember, all I remember are the wonderful gardens, the blue delft kitchen and the delight of finding things out I didn’t know before. So my impressions of Giverny are of colour, light and surprises.

We have no photos of Giverny, in fact I only recently started taking photos again after a break of many years. I tend to take photos of places, plants, animals and very few of people. I hate having my photo taken and assume everybody else does as well. Although I would like to have my portrait painted. Perhaps I expect the painter to see the “real” me, the essence. Not just the outside shell that a camera lens sees only too clearly.Maybe portrait painters do have the ability to see beyond the obvious. If so, how do they find it? Are they born with it or are they carefully trained to look beyond the obvious and immediate?  Is it a skill that can be taught?

Is it a type of information literacy? Do they learn to evaluate the information they are given, take everything into account (background, occupation, reasons for the portrait being comissioned) before they decide what to depict? I would love to know. Maybe I should find a portraitist and ask.

See, I did it again, couple of minutes looking at the picture and I have gone off  at a tangent and completely forgotten what I was supposed to be doing. Oh yes, telling you who I am. Well, I am a librarian (currently unemployed),  teacher, technophile, traveller, lifelong learner, arachnophobe,  (very amateur) photographer, dog-owner, wife, jam-maker, reader, RPG player, gardener of the idle variety, petrol-head, motorbike pillion, history lover, friend and lots of other things.

This blog is purely personal, and may or may not be about any of the above.

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I think first posts are very embarassing. You know the sort of thing “Hi, this is my first blog entry, mmm, not much to say really so will post something next time” or “Trying Twitter for the first time, not sure about the character limit because 140 isn’t very long really and I won’t be able to say very muc”. Most of us have done it. So, nothing profound at this time. Check back later.

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