The pandemic has forced a lot of companies to let go of some of the control they have of their colleagues through presenteeism. It has also forced them to acknowledge their colleagues are not robots and have lives be it children, pets, hobbies and other demands. Academic Libraries are no exception to this.
I have long believed that flexible working is essential to underpinning a service, gaining loyalty of colleagues through trust and understanding, ensuring things are fair and helping attract or retain good people who may otherwise be lost to the world of librarianship.
From a personal point of view I was first introduced to flexible working in my first role where the site manager created a culture of pure flexibility,if you worked over 37.5 hours you were entitled to claim it back as flexi. People could control their working day as long as they were present for shifts on desks, teaching, meetings etc In the 9 years I was there the desk was never unmanned and nobody missed anything. It was all negotiated like adults and nobody got preferential treatment (although one colleague who went through a phase of always having the gasman come on a Friday did find they were asked some interesting questions). Everybody had their turn with the Friday afternoon shift or Monday morning or whatever grotty shift fitted their permanent work pattern. There was no resentment because people with children got to be flexible whilst everyone else slogged out the 9-5. Everybody was flexible. There were people who needed certain predictable work patterns, some for childcare, one for horse care, and some for parental care but nobody stood out because although more formal agreements they were actually not noticeable to everyone else because everyone else had the opportunity to leave early some time or come in late or take a long lunch.
It was quite a rude awakening to discover most academic libraries weren’t so flexible or inclusive.
I am going to do a few posts on why flexibility is important, how to lead the change of culture as a manager and how it can work over the next week or so (baby wrangling permitting) but I will leave you with this from Liz Truss (yes that Liz Truss…) today.
“Our commitment to flexible working is based on our desire to open up employment opportunities to people regardless of their sex or location. The shift for many people to work from home during the pandemic has changed mindsets and now is a chance to seize the opportunity of making flexible working the norm, rather than something employees have to specially request.
“The fact is that for many jobs there are invisible restrictions that hold people back – like the need to live in high-cost accommodation close to the centre of cities or maintain working arrangements that are very hard to combine with family or other responsibilities.
“We now have the chance to break down these barriers and boost opportunities for everyone.”
I am lucky, I work for a university which puts it’s people first led by a VC who has shown amazing leadership this week. When I emailed my Student and Academic Services Director to say I wanted to close the service on Monday, the reply was “I agree but we just need to sort a few bits out (not least Halls)”. By Tuesday morning we were closing down all face to face Library and Archives Services by end of that day and every member of staff who was in on Tuesday was there voluntarily. (There are building issues meaning it wasn’t possible to close all spaces until 5pm Friday but more on that another time – the uni managed the close down amazingly well).
My amazing team have seamlessly moved online, the library hasn’t closed, we have moved online.
Since then I have been contacted by countless friends and acquaintances across Academic Libraryland of all levels, other heads of service and directors, Academic Liaison, Content, Information Assistants and frontline who want to close. In most cases there is a block higher up which is preventing the physical closure of space. There are people tirelessly taking themselves into work because of good intentions around the students or because they feel bullied into going in. Library people are good people but the cost of all this on their wellbeing both mentally and physically is going to be huge. The outcry over the Coventry University Library Tweet about business as usual just shows the level of disconnect between some institutions and their teams. It is not business as usual.
Now the buck has to stop with VCs if they are open then they are responsible for putting the health and wellbeing of every member of staff and every student not social distancing. People may well die as a direct result of these VCs actions.
There are different reasons why people are open (more below) but now the time has come to email or tweet (they will hate it being public) your VCs and COOs and use the following reasons to close (depending on your institutional culture).
If we don’t close the effect on our reputation will be impossible to repair. We won’t be able to recruit the best staff or the students if we are seen to have ignored the needs of our staff and students.
If we don’t close now we will have a team of staff who will be unwilling to return to work, who feel unvalued and won’t be motivated when we reopen.
If we don’t close we run the risk of being sued (especially if people don’t feel able to wash their hands or use sanitizer).
If we don’t close people will die as a direct result of us being open.
These are the most common reasons given for staying open
We have students who can’t get home.
Every single university faced this, including ones with huge careleaver, estranged and international students cohorts. They worked their socks off last week to do managed shut downs and provide solutions. In some cases colleagues are staying in halls. There are solutions, you just have to ask the people who have done it. They will have worked things through so you can do it quicker.
We don’t want staff who are idling at home
If this is your culture then you need to use this time to take a hard look at yourself. None of my team are idling, they feel valued and respected (I hope) and have gone above and beyond to minimise disruption for students. They are doing what they do brilliantly in physical spaces online.
We are the only place for students to go
Do I need to spell it out? Social Distancing means we don’t want students to go anywhere. What makes a huge library which can hold hundreds of students a sensible place to be open? You are just encouraging people to mix together which is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. One library I have heard of had 100 students in at 7pm. 100. In one space. More than they usually have.
The library is an essential service
It is and it isn’t. Yes students need access to resources and our expert teams but they can do that online. Our physical spaces now are dangerous, they are the opposite of essential. We were lucky – we had chat already going and a great online delivery anyway but all services have now had a week to sort this stuff out. Now is the time to demonstrate how essential library resources and expertise is not the just the spaces.
We have moved our other Student Centre helpdesks online and go live tomorrow – this took us a week on top of everything else. It is do-able but only if you have a team who know you have got their backs.
Contact the VCs
Remember now it is the VCs who need to be petitioned. Library Heads of Service and Directors need to make it clear to their colleagues that they would be closed and to call out the people stopping this happening.
Not a single academic library worker should be going into work on Monday fearful for their lives, they may not have told you they are but they are contacting me and tallking about it on social media to say they are.
In November 2015 I went back to work. My husband, Alan, stayed at home with our then 10 month old son to finish the year of parental leave. It was both the most amazing experience for all three of us and a steep learning curve but we would do it again in a shot. It was something we decided we would try fairly soon after we found out we were expecting. Alan wanted to do it and who was I to hog the baby? Then we had Evan and fell madly in love with him. Even if I had wanted to I don’t think Alan would have let me stay off instead of him.
For me 10 months was plenty of time off, I don’t think I could have gone back before 8/9 months but the last month of maternity leave I was chomping at the bit to get back. Alan was a little more nervous about being at home and “in charge” of our independently minded son but still very keen. Although his vision of building forts and playing all day quickly vanished.
What we learnt was that being a new dad on shared parental leave even when the baby is 10 months old and you think you have done lots of shared parenting isn’t that different to being a new mum but without the support of a team of health visitors and other new mums. It was a big change and not always as Alan expected it to be. Suddenly he had to do all Evan’s meals, get him to nap (particularly hard in the first few days when Daddy being home was far better than napping), shop, do washing and socialise. Even though we knew this would be the case it was a shock – partly because he tried to do things my way, rather than finding his way.
I had 2 things I did every week – Monday Playgroup and Baby Sensory. Both were with friends Alan knew and he did head off and do them. I think the first time he had to sit in a circle and sing “Evan’s here today, Evan’s here today, let’s all wave our hands, Evan’s here today” was so far out of his comfort zone it might as well have been on a different planet but he carried on going. Probably because of the scones. They bake nice scones at play group.
This is pretty much the scene –
Baby sensory was a more enjoyable experience. Probably because it was activity based so there was no awkward chatting to other parents and Evan loved it.
Both Baby sensory and playgroup were easier because he went with our friends, he wasn’t the only dad at play group but he was by far in the minority and the only one at Baby Sensory. Mums bond in the early days of babyhood with sharing intimate stories of birth, not sleeping and hormonal crying. Dads on parental leave join the party late, can’t really talk about stitches and pelvic floors and don’t have many other dads to talk to at the things set up for parents. This can only really be rectified when it becomes the norm and there are more new dads on leave, doing whatever suits them rather than trying to fit in with things that suit new mums. Saying that just having more dads at anything would help.
It was interesting the different comments Alan received compared with me. He was a novelty and nobody once asked him if he was going back to work. He was but he might not have been. Even our amazing health visitor who in all other regards was my rock in the early days reacted to Alan being off (she knew he was going to do it) as if it were a novelty at Evan’s one year check. I ended up crying telling her how unsupported we were in doing this. I suggested that health visitors should give any dads starting shared leave a call or even visit and treat them like the new parents they are. She was brilliant and said she hadn’t thought about it like that but would definitely take it on board and start to think what they could do to support new dads who are on leave.
For all the difficulties in adjusting Alan says he would do it all again in a shot. His bond with Evan is awesome, it has made us even more equal parents and it made my return to work easier. Until you have been off with a baby you really don’t know what it is like. It probably took 6 weeks to really settle into the rhythm of being at home and by then it was almost Christmas and it was almost over.
For Evan it was a great experience, he got 2 months of time with Alan which were different to time with me. The connection between them strengthened and we think it helped him when he went to nursery as he had already experienced a change of carer, albeit a less dramatic change than starting nursery.
We were lucky – we earn similar figures so financially it made little difference who was off but I know many couples find this the barrier to doing it. However I would say if you absolutely can do it then do – even if you don’t take the whole year to make it work. It gives the mum the chance to explore how she wants to go back – full time, part time or not at all and the dad the chance to be a dad.
We did learn some lessons and would do a few things differently next time –
Have a handover week or fortnight – we had had a few weekend days where Alan had been in charge of things like the changing bag and deciding when Evan needed to eat or sleep but weekends are different.
Alan would find his way of doing things. I never told him he had to do anything a particular way but he felt he should replicate my routines. I am an extrovert and multi-tasker. Alan is neither of these things and needed to find his way of doing things.
Do activity based things so baby is occupied but it doesn’t involve lots of talking about how amazing it is that he as a man has done this amazing thing. (This amazing thing which is exactly the same non-amazing thing I had been doing for months)
It isn’t just about us though, until it becomes the norm for people to share parental leave it will always be tricky, not least until people stop treating dads as a novelty and think before they say or do something “would I be saying this to the mum?” They also need to acknowledge it is hard and it is more supportive to encourage than to comment on how it must be because it is so unusual.
Employers also have to get behind it. Difficult in a time when we are still fighting discrimination against women on maternity leave but if all parents take time off would it help that fight? I hope so. We have a very long way to go as as society until we catch up with Sweden and their Latte Dads but if we want an equal society we have to aim for it. It takes the pressure off men to always be the one to carry on working and allows women to return to work sooner.
Let’s ignore the fact I haven’t blogged for almost 4 years. I have been busy – not least producing a tiny human. Which is what made me think about writing this blog post. A year ago today I returned from Maternity leave back to a job I love from another job I loved. The two jobs – shared a common factor. Both involved a lot of cake but otherwise being on maternity leave was quite different to being at work. My days were completely controlled by another human being, there was not a break from them, even at night they could call me to duty and sometimes I didn’t get a legally required lunch break after 6 hours. Saying that being Evan’s mum full time was also fun – baby sensory, long walks with friends and watching Hey Duggee (and every episode of Grey’s Anatomy). He is awesome.
Evan was almost 10 months on 2nd November 2015 when I headed back into work. I had been in for keeping in touch days about once a month from when Evan was 5 months. This is something I can’t recommend highly enough. I was also doing something a lot of women don’t get to do – I was sharing my parental leave and for 2 months Evan was at home with my husband. I might do another post on sharing parental leave but again I can’t recommend this enough either.
Before you wonder, yes I did go back full time. Now if you were wondering this can I ask – would you have wondered this if my husband was writing this? Something I have realised since going back is that until we change the assumption that if someone works part time it will be the mother we won’t get very far at increasing the number of women in work (We also need to get away from assuming either will have to be part time).
I have friends who work part time and love it, some are stay at home mums who love it or stay at home mums who hate it or working mums who love it or hate it – every mum has their own story and they don’t need to be asked about their decisions. They can also change their minds on their decisions.
For me I love working, I loved my job before I had Evan and I still love it. At first being back was a shock to the system. I had to get to know my job again, after it had been someone else’s for 8 months but getting in my car every day and being Helen Rimmer, Librarian rather than Evan’s mum felt good. I could make tea and drink it. I was connected with the world again – gossip and news coming to me through work and Twitter. I had a professional identity again. I also remembered I was quite good at my job. People asked me my opinion on things and listened, they trusted me and I work with brilliant people.
It hasn’t all been easy, some things had changed and some things not happened all of which I then needed to either live with or change. It probably has taken the year to really feel that my job is my job again but I have a supportive manager and a great team. These are two vital ingredients to successfully heading back because sometimes being a mum will be the priority. If Evan is ill that trumps anything else.
I’ll admit the hardest time was when Evan started nursery just before his 1st birthday but within 3 days he no longer cried when my husband dropped him off and clearly loved it. Last week twice when I picked him up he cried because he didn’t want to leave. He has done things there we would never have had the inclination to do with him – mainly the really messy things. He is also a lot tidier than either of us – this has to be down to nursery. He gets to eat a huge variety of food and generally wolves it down.
He gets time with us after work (and with my husband before work – I leave before he gets up). Generally almost 2 hours of undivided attention every evening, where we talk to him, play with him and sometimes when he lets us just cuddle him.
I am definitely a better mum for working, I am more patient with Evan and happier.
If you are a mum and reading this – whatever your decision work wise, make sure it is yours and it works for your family. You don’t have to go back to work, you don’t have to work full time or part time but you need to do what is right for you. Everyone who isn’t you needs to stop asking stupid questions about your decision and support it. We are in 2016 – it shouldn’t be a surprise that a mother works and is happy about it. Equally it shouldn’t be a surprise if a father stays at home or works part time.
By digital literacy we mean those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society: for example, the skills to use digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; as part of personal development planning; and as a way of showcasing achievements.
A couple of weeks ago I headed to LSE for one of their NetworkED seminars entitled “Putting digital and information literacies into practice.” It was delivered by Cathie Jackson, Janet Finlay and Joe Nichols from Cardiff University about their Digidol Project. It was one of those presentations where you come away inspired to do lots of things and also wondering where to begin.
Cardiff have a solid background in Information Literacy (IL), it has been part of the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy since the early part of this century with a view to it being fully embedded. They explained that they have had a good top down buy in to IL and in turn this is helping with Digital Literacy. Cathie made a few excellent points about embedding IL (something close to my heart):
Has to be embedded this is the only way it makes sense in academic context. It has to be entirely embedded and Not preserve of library but library provides support so academics can deliver IL.
Subject Librarians worked with academic staff on a course by course level.
Not too precise – what is comfortable for discipline.
She also mentioned the excellent Cardiff Information Literacy Resource bank which I myself have used and which academics can pull things from to use in their teaching. The items are deisgned so anybody anywhere could reuse them – worth pointing academics in our own institutions towards this resource.
Whilst IL is embedded in at least 66% of Cardiff’s courses DL is not massively widespread and embedded. Cardiff are bringing it all together, building on the strong IL foundation and blending digital literacies, academic literacies, information literacies together in the education strategy.
They have strong support from management. For example the Chief Operating Officer uses digital media incl blogs. This managerial involvement is seen as key to getting digital literacy on to the agenda. They are also involved in the central staff development programme.
One of the areas they have indentified as being an is issue is the communication gap between service providers and staff and students.
Taking Beetham and Sharpe’s 2009 model they have added another layer at the bottom for Awareness :
Cardiff found IL was stopping at skills and there was a need to look at how to apply it for example to produce a presentation. Different literacies mapped on to the pyramid from Beetham and Sharpe.
They came up with core tasks – building blocks for practices. I.e. find, manage, manipulate, producing, share.
They also identified practices – e.g. Giving presentation, Managing online presence, writing an essay
They also thought of the highest level and what do you want to see from a graduate in other words what you want to see at end of course.
They looked at different models including the SCONUL digital literacy lens and now have set of 5 core tasks and examples at higher levels. This has been critiqued by their subject librarians. One key point is that DL (and all literacies) flow round triangle, students don’t reach top and finish.
There are some pertinent points:
Difficult to talk about practices and attributes – core tasks tend to be combined.
Practices need to be disciplinary based I.e. science versus arts
Some disciplines expect a read paper.
Tools are changing every week – using concept mapping including external tools and how they match the core tasks but also important to understand what people do I.e. tasks maps back to services this allows new technologies to be mapped back.
It is all about conversation – need to talk to staff and students about what they use and get other services involved. Conversations can happen on social media which led on to thinking about what opportunities might social media provide?
They asked students “What do you think you would benefit from?”
“how could they use social media promote themselves”
So the answers to questions might not be what you expect but provide great opportunities for developing new areas of training. This echoed the skills gap they had observed. Service providers (including the library) might have tools to solve the problems and tasks of the staff and students but often the two don’t match up.
This is where developing learning literacies helps to enable the staff and students.
Connecting with other areas of the institution such as careers to bridge these gaps works well.
Putting digital and information in practice
Building on establishes iniatives
Detailed in university strategies and action plans
Not being a knitter I have no real idea what Lynne means but it sounds good! I also use it for recipes. This notebook contains them. What is absolutely brilliant about this is that you can search by ingredient. You might have chicken to use up, search your recipes and all the recipes with chicken are there. Brilliant.
Samanatha Halford takes it further and tags ones in cookbooks:
There is also a facility called Evernote clearly which strips away websites so you can see it clearer which has real educational advantages for people with some additional needs. Here is this blog’s home page:
This is a video about Evernote Clearly which shows a bit more about what it does:
Last Tuesday I went down to UWE in Bristol for a day all about Research Data Management (RDM) and academic librarians. It was a really interesting day on something which I personally hadn’t thought much about but luckily lots of other people have! To be fair one of the points made was that the majority of institutions feel we are working with other areas over and above RDM but it provides a real opportunity for librarians, especially those working in liaison roles.
One theme that did run through is that librarians are not necessarily the people leading on this (i.e. writing policy etc) but they can be instrumental in success and education of researchers because of the cross departmental nature of liaison work.
So first of all … what is Research Data and why are we thinking about it?
Research data is the data created when research is undertaken.
It is basically the next big area to be looked at in terms of research – how is it curated, how can it be accessed etc
1. Ability to advise on preserving research outputs (49% essential in 2–‐5 years; 10% now)
2.Knowledge to advise on data management and curation, including ingest, discovery, access, dissemination, preservation, and portability (48% essential in 2–‐5 years; 16% now)
3.Knowledge to support researchers in complying with the various mandates of funders, including open access requirements (40% essential in 2–‐5 years; 16% now)
4.Knowledge to advise on potential data manipulation tools used in the discipline/ subject (34% essential in 2–‐5 years; 7% now)
5.Knowledge to advise on data mining (33% essential in 2–‐5 years; 3% now)
6.Knowledge to advocate, and advise on, the use of metadata (29% essential in 2–‐5 years; 10% now)
7.Ability to advise on the preservation of project records (24% essential in 2–‐5 years; 3% now )
8.Knowledge of sources of research funding to assist researchers to identify potential funders (21% essential in 2–‐5 years; 8% now)
9.Skills to develop metadata schema, and advise on discipline/subject standards and practices, for individual research projects (16% essential in 2–‐5 years; 2% now)
The list fills me with a bit of dread but I can see how useful it is and also how important it is for future proofing the role of liaison librarians.
Luckily the afternoon introduced some tools to educate staff on Research Data Management.
I’m catching up with 23things myself. I have blogged in the past about social networking so don’t really want to repeat myself but I think Social Networking is important for libraries and librarians both for promotion and for networking. Personally my key professional network is Twitter.
When I started work on 23things RHUL I asked for tips from other people who had run it in the past – this request went out via Twitter and the responses came thick and fast. Some from participants of 23things as well as people who had run it. But this isn’t the least of the reasons to interact professionally with Twitter.
Why should you be on Twitter?
Learn about library – Find out what influential people in the library world are thinking and doing.
Networking – start conversations and get to know your peers.
Keeping up to date – often Twitter is the first place people find out about major news events. It is also very useful if you commute or have to travel at all as this post I did illustrates.
Get answers – if you are stuck with something ask Twitter and often the answer will appear. There are a lot of clever people on Twitter.
Entertainment – Twitter is full of jokes, funny videos and quick wit. Follow celebrities, especially comedians and you will laugh a lot.
Compliment / Complain – had great service? Tweet about it and let others know when a brand does well. Had bad service? Same applies. Also most companies take Twitter seriously so they will respond to complaints as they are public.
The week before Christmas we launched Royal Holloway’s 23 things programme (RHUL23). For those who don’t know – 23 Things is an online learning programme designed to introduce library staff at Royal Holloway to new media and technologies (more information is on the About page of the 23things blog)
I am a bit nervous about it – I know how brilliant it can be as a concept and I really want this to work as well as it did at City but as with anything you can’t tell until it is well underway how it is going.
I have to thank Emma Cragg, Laura Wilkinson and Rowena Macrae-Gibson for their advice and encouragement in getting this started – all their tips from their own experience was invaluable. I can only hope this goes as well as their iterations.
The first week concerned blogging and RSS feeds. I used to think blogging was an indulgent frippery, all navel gazing and self-importance but have found that it has become a more and more essential part of my working life. Sometime things can be a bit introspective but I have also found the use of reflection as a learning tool has helped me a lot.
I’ve blogged before about professional versus personal in social media and RSS Feeds both posts say much of what I would say now in reflection on week one of RHUL23 – blogging saved my sanity two years ago after major surgery and gave me a different perspective on blogs. Couple that with the fact this blogging has helped me find an outlet for my film reviews as well as interact with my profession and I really feel a place for blogging.
Professionally I also think that blogging is an important tool which helps maximise the library’s reach to our users as shown in my work on the Cass Library Blog – it works because it is part of a set of tools, including Twitter and Facebook (and Libguides). There is no point in only having one of these outlets in isolation – you might miss a whole swathe of your users but I shall blog about that next week when we do Social Networking …
The Vitae day on spaces for researchers was a really interesting event. The morning was spent hearing about the Hive at Sussex. This is a dedicated researcher space and one of the things it helped me understand is that it isn’t so much the space itself but what you do with it and the people involved in it. The Hive is swipe card access (swipe card access seems to be very important for these researcher spaces as it gives control and exclusivity) but otherwise is a fairly simple space with sofas, computers and laptop spaces. On the surface it doesn’t seem like anything special but the community that has built up around it, in no small part due the partnership with Sage, seems like a vital part of the researcher’s experience.
Sussex is working in partnership with Sage (who apparently want to adopt more universities …). Sussex get funding for things like the Hive Scholars and Sage in return get the opportunity for feedback from researchers far richer than anything they could get from surveys and other traditional research methods.
The Hive scholars are three researcher’s who receive a bursary for 6 hours work a week. They all work on things to promote the hive, utilising social media to great effect. Something they said echoed with what we did at Cass – using a variety of methods that interlink to get maximum liaison opportunities. The scholars reported how the Hive enriched the research community by providing a hub which allowed informal social events as well as more formal events to take place. These events then meant people who may have been doing similar research in different departments met and exchanged ideas. It is easy for researchers to be silo-ed but the library is a centre for all of them and therefore a sensible place for these hubs to be located.
A couple of great ideas they had were Shut up and write! (re
searchers meet in a cafe, have a chat then concentrate for a set period of time and then have another break) and advice written on the glass walls by more experienced researchers for new ones at the welcome event including “Read A lot”.
In the afternoon session we had a talk by Dawn Duke, Researcher Training and Development Officer, about the SPLASH area at Surrey and writing boot camps they set up to encourage researchers. One was a full on boot camp with people telling people off for not working and things, this was for full time Phd students because they identified a big problem with procrastination and that it usually had a cause. The bootcamp helped people identify causes, suppo
Finally we heard from Fiona Colligan, Warwick Research Exchange about how Warwick has introduced somethin
g akin to online dating for researchers called Research Match this built on similar set ups to the
Hive but has broken into some groups which didn’t interact so much with the physical space for examrt each other and break through the procrastination problem in spaces that suited them so if they needed quiet that was available but if they wanted to collaborate that was available. Surrey also identified a few issues about completion so they organised a retreat for part-time and distance students. This was more relaxed than the bootcamp. One thing the library did was source a collection of thesis so students who may not have seen a UK thesis before were able to see what this was. Two senior academics also stayed at the retreat for the whole weekend (students stayed on site for the weekend).
ple people in the hard sciences who have their own networks in labs etc but they have signed up to research match in large numbers. This sort of innovation really seems to come out of physical spaces.
By the end of the day I really felt encouraged to think beyond physical spaces for ideas that the library can be central to in the support of the researchers but also confirmed that a physical space dedicated to researchers, ideally controlled by swipe card, is a worthwhile idea but needs to be part of something bigger in terms of collaboration and student involvement. A room with a sofa and computers labelled “researcher’s space” isn’t enough.
I have stroyfied some of the tweets from the day below:
Hearing about the Sussex Hive, Surrey’s SPLASH and