Tag Archives: libraries

The debrief… 6 weeks on

Overall students seem to love the look of the new office and the building we are in is a focal point on campus.

The Atrium consists of two zones: An open area filled with comfy seating and a “business” area where the services, libraries, and appointments happen. Archways lead from one to the other.

We and the students are learning how to use the two spaces effectively.

Easy wins

  • It’s easy for students to find, we don’t have to have lengthy conversations giving directions.
  • There are lots of lectures in the building and a large refectory so there is passing trade.
  • We have a display area on the ground floor for employer directories and guides – they go like hot cakes!


  • There is nothing on the outside of the building telling students we are here so we are still relying on students seeking us out.
  • Many students don’t need to use this building.
  • We are on the 1st floor so you need to be motivated to find us.


We have more involved conversations – the low desk and seating make it conducive for students to sit and chat to us.

The casual icebreaker conversations have disappeared. We no longer get masses of students coming in asking about part-time jobs and national insurance numbers.   It’s odd because we were not exactly on the main thoroughfare before (or so we thought) but it seems that casual conversations are not worth going up stairs.

We have swivel screens so we can now demonstrate the website and booking systems, it makes it so much easier to explain how to do things.

The future:

  • As the other services we share the Atrium with ramp up their offer and get into their peak seasons we are curious to see how much spin-off trade we get as a result of functional adjacency.
  • Conversations about signage both inside and outside the building are happening.  It will be interesting to see what happens if the signage is successful.  If more people on campus can see where we are, will they come?
  • We are looking at having staff on the ground floor in the information zone to tie the 2 areas together and encourage the transition upstairs or answer those passing questions that are not happening now.
  • Defining the purpose of the space – this will undoubtedly evolve over time as we try out activities and see if the open space works for group work or small workshops. In time we may even be able to book adjacent classrooms to run events.

It’s still a work in progress, learning and developing new systems and procedures but I think we have made good progress.  We are even talking about christmas decorations so looks like everyone is settling in!


Relocation, relocation, relocation

So we have finally moved into our new location on campus, the Atrium , 1st Floor University Place.

This is the careers area and library – shot past the pods used for interviews down to the careers desk. (avoiding students)

 shelving zone

As with any move these things are never simple, but we are getting there. Students seem quite impressed with our new snazzy furnishings, the word nightclub and disco keep getting used – not sure that was exactly what we were looking for, but hey!

signageCould it have something to do with the use of neon signs?

Our colour palette is black, white & grey with accent colours of blue , aqua, green and lime.  It’s actually quite tasteful.

It also lends itself to taking arty shots for fun!

cushions SONY DSCreflections

infozoneWe have also secured an information Zone on the ground floor near the welcome desk and visitors centre.

It will be interesting to see the interaction between the 2 areas.

I’ll let you know how usage and feedback is going when we have been in a bit and my back has recovered from heaving packing crates about!

It’s really happening, we are moving.

packingThe packing crates are here and we are filling them up and generally making a huge pile of boxes to go with us.

The movers come on Friday and we are aiming to open in our new space a week later so we will be working in an empty room for a week while half our staff start setting up in our new space. It’s a little scary given it’s Welcome Week  (AKA Freshers Week) next week which traditionally signals a deluge of students looking for part-time jobs.

We have a cunning plan to minimise disruption in case the builders run late (er), and are just hoping all our deliveries of guides and directories find us in our new building.

So its end of an era for us.

We have been in Crawford house since the early 1970’s and now the Information Team are flying the nest and going solo (and any other clichés you care to mention).

  • No more doing the post.
  • No more swipe barrier trying to chop people in half.
  • No more being the only ground floor office to help the lost souls on campus.
  • No more sub zero temperatures and huddling round fan heaters.

We are looking forward to:

  • A new bright airy space. (Hopefully at a temerature that sustains life!)
  • Working with new colleagues from other IAG services accross the University, a whole load of new water cooler conversations and biscuits in the kitchen emails.
  • Finding out the space works – we have absolutely no clue how students (and staff) are going to react to it.

Wish us luck!

Who moved my goal posts?

planningIn the wonderful world of Careers Information Management things are never the same 2 years running, it’s what makes it a great place to work. When it comes to making plans it can make it a little challenging!

So when we were told less than a year ago that we would be moving to a new location I never thought it would be easy.

We had a few expectations and assumptions

  1. We would not be consulted, the architect would do whatever they wanted and we would end up with an unusable space.
  2. We would not be trying to move at the busiest time of year – because that would be a bit silly.
  3. Once we had a plan it would be a simple matter of packing up and moving over.
  4. We wouldn’t move exactly as we are there would be some adaptations to make and a certain amount of slimming down of resources to fit a smaller space.
  5. We would have some say over basic things like shelving and display units.
  6. At least our information staff team have been here a while so the transition should be easier than having to train new staff.


  1. There has been loads of consultation, meetings coming out of my ears – great!
  2. We seem to have come to compromises on some things but have lost other battles. (We shall have to see how it pans out when we open.)
  3. Yes you guessed it, we are due to move around freshers week. So not busy at all !
  4. Packing is the least of our issues, we now need to rebrand, reformat and reprint over 40 publications with 1 month to go!
  5. We have had to make tough decisions on what resources to keep and how we will display them.
  6. We will have to see when we get in what shelving there is and order more if we need it, things are not set in stone and we can adapt as we go along.
  7. Two staff have left the team and we are now in the middle of recruiting for new staff with the clock ticking!

Learning outcomes

  • Get a sense of humour fast!   It’s not going to be plain sailing so just deal with it and laugh. (try not to laugh hysterically!)
  • Keep records of all correspondence so that you know who agreed to what and when.
  • It’s not going to be perfect immediately.
  • It’s not going to be like it was.
  • You are not going to please everyone.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Take small steps – you can’t do everything at once.
  • Stay positive and take your team on the journey with you.

Library Design and Space Planning for information professionals

Moving boxesSaw this event and thought i’d give it a plug.  I’d love to go but as we move into our new space that week I fear it may be a bit late! ( plus i’ll be up to my neck in cables and boxes!)

Library Design and Space Planning for information professionals

A half day event organised by the Career Development Group North Eastern Division. This event is aimed at library and information professionals from all sectors interested in library design and space planning projects. You will hear from professionals who will outline projects, cover strategic elements in re-developing library space and provide practical hints and tips to implement in the real world.

Date:     Tuesday 17th September 2013
Time:     9.30-13.05 (arrival, registration and networking from 9.30-10.00)
Cost:      £25 plus VAT = total £30

The Division is providing one free place to students, unwaged or members of CDG who live in the North East. Please see details at:

Venue: The event will be based in Room 152, Robinson Library, Newcastle University. There is good disabled access to the library and meeting room. (Access Codes – E, W, G). The Robinson Library is marked ’35’ on the campus map http://www.ncl.ac.uk/about/visit/maps.htm

Directions to Newcastle can be found at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/about/visit/travel/

The Robinson Library is 30 minutes’ walk from Newcastle Central Railway Station, or five minutes’ walk from Haymarket Metro.

Booking: To reserve a place, please email the completed details below to elaine.andrew@northumbria.ac.uk

Please book me …….  place(s) for this event.
Telephone number:
Please delete as appropriate: I would like to pay by cheque or please invoice:
Do you have any dietary requirements e.g. vegetarian, wheat free/gluten free?
Do you have any disability-related access requirements e.g. BSL Interpreter, large print etc.?

Library Design and Space Planning for information professionals

Event Programme                           Tuesday 17th September 2013

09:30 – 10:00      Arrival, registration and networking

10:00 – 10:45      Kathryn Armstrong – South Tyneside Council.

Kathryn is Libraries Manager for South Tyneside Library and Information Service. After completing her MA she moved to South Tyneside to be a Young People’s Services Librarian. After various restructures within the Council, Kathryn moved to being “Libraries Development Officer” and then Manager.

In this session Kathryn will highlight the challenges of planning for a new library in the current economic and political climate. She will outline the methods used so far in engaging a variety of stakeholders including work colleagues and the general public.

10.45-11.30                         Dr Richard Pears – Durham University

Richard works with the departments of History, Music and Law as an Academic Liaison Librarian at Durham University Library. He is the co-author of Palgrave Macmillan’s ‘Cite them Right: the Essential Referencing Guide’ and recently achieved a PhD from Newcastle University.

Richard will talk about the opportunities and challenges presented by the Bill Bryson Library’s £11 million East Wing extension, which opened in April 2012. He will also discuss the current two year refurbishment project which will improve the infrastructure in the older parts of the building.

11.30-11.45 Break including refreshments

11.45-13.00                         David Errington – Newcastle University

David Errington is Head of Learning Environment at the Robinson Library at Newcastle University.  In addition to his work in the Robinson Library, David has lectured in the Library School at Northumbria University and has been an active member of CILIP at Regional and National level for UCRG/ARLG. He has been involved in a variety of library refurbishments projects over the years. Although David’s role has a wide remit, his real interest is the changing use of space in the modern academic library.

David will be discussing the major Robinson Library 2011-12 refurbishment project as well as highlighting the important role of the Team Valley Research Reserve Storage Facility within their refurbishment project planning process. He will also address ways to engage stakeholders and ensure effect communication with users as well as colleagues in Estates Support Services sections.

13:00 – 13:05 Round up, final questions and close

13:05 – 13:25 Optional tours of the Robinson Library which includes recently refurbished Levels 3 and 4

Information Centre or Makerspace

Guest post from Darren Jones  @darrenmjones  

RIPThe Information Centre is dead.

Many services have reduced their files and books, or got rid of them altogether, and more emphasis is rightly being put on online resources. Yet we wonder why footfall has dropped? However, if we want students to come to the Centre for anything other than careers adviser appointments or events (or to use the PCs because it’s the quietest place on campus), we need to give them a reason. We need to reinvent the Information Centre.

Makerspaces have been getting a lot of attention in the library world over the last couple of years. I was reading Ellyssa Kroski’s A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources a few months ago and it occurred to me that there is a natural fit with careers centres too. A makerspace is an area where people can come together to create things, experiment and learn together. In libraries they often include 3D printers, tools, software/electronics and an array of physical things to help people make stuff. Creativity, learning together, engagement. These are all things that careers centres try to encourage in students. However, I often wonder how practical our encouragement is. Instead of career workshops, how about an actual workshop?

Think of the practical skills development we could actually be a part of. Also, it plays perfectly with the enterprise agenda that most services (I suspect) are engaging with now. Offering monetary support, getting entrepreneurs in to talk and providing encouragement is great. However, having a practical space for people to experiment and develop their ideas in a collaborative environment could provide a solid foundation for these other levels of support to build on. It could also help develop a student enterprise culture in a more organic way than we are doing at the moment. Careers centres should get in there now, and think about providing this space. Funding seems to be there for enterprise activities at the moment, so perhaps this isn’t too outlandish a possibility. It could be a chance to link up with departments on campus, too. Engineering, IT, Product Design or Fine Art? And maybe it’s time to be at the heart of something, rather than on the outskirts looking in.

Here’s another thought. Making things can be used as part of the career exploration process. In the Chaos Theory of Careers, Robert Prior & Jim Bright talk about collage and other arts-based techniques from the world of art therapy, as well as kinetic sculpture. I have also been reading the work of David Gauntlett, who developed ways to use LEGO as a social science research tool. Basically, getting people to build things out of LEGO to represent their ideas, feelings, experiences and to reflect on this and move on. To me this has always felt like an untapped area for careers centres to develop. The LEGO Group has developed LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as a way for organisations and businesses to use these methods. There is no reason why careers centres couldn’t develop similar approaches to help students navigate the careers thinking process in a physical way. And linking this to a careers makerspace would be a great way to do it.

Creativity, working together, developing skills and learning about yourself. Makerspaces are a great example of what careers services stand for. Why not put them at the centre of what we do? In the Centre…

The Information Centre is dead. Long live the careers makerspace!

Recruitment and selection for information and library staff, a recruiters guide.

iStock_000015337955Small Nervous interview queueI recently went on some recruitment and selection training at the university.  We need to keep it up to date to be allowed to be on recruitment and selection panels for recruiting new staff. Plus working with students at the information desk in a careers service it’s a great source of tips!

Information staff in careers, libraries and other settings have some things in common in terms of skills and attibutes. Although specific resource knowlege will be different the ability to research, structure and disseminate information is common for many areas of work.  So when many of us see an information/library job advertised it’s a quick skim through the advert to see what it’s about then a dive into the job description to find out more.  It can be quite annoying to see ambiguous job adverts and sketchy job descriptions it doesn’t fill you with confidence to apply.

I thought I’d pass on a few tips and a few thoughts.

We were given a wonderful flow chart of how the recruitment process works starting with the need for a staff member.  In practice things don’t seem to work quite in the order they should. Sometimes (and I suspect many times) you can’t recruit for what you need you can only recruit for what you have money for, so compromises need to be made and job descriptions must be appropriate for the grade.

Make the job description clear

Help the applicant understand how the job is performed so that they can assess if it is something that they are interested in. What are the aims of the organisation and this role or team. Clearly outline the duties and responsibilities and give some indication of the environment they will be working in.  Will they be on their own, in a team, on multiple sites? Is the work fast paced and subject to tight deadlines?  All these things help candidates decide if they want to work with you.

Writing a person specification

We all know about desirable and essential skills, knowledge, qualifications, experience and attributes.  Don’t forget essential means that without this they would be unable to do the job successfully. It’s not really optional!

There are some considerations around what you ask for and how that will get you a different pool of applicants.Recruitment selection form2

  1. How many applicants do you want?
  2. How specialist is the role? If the knowledge and skills you need are really niche and you say they are essential you may get only 2 or 3 who fit the bill. Is that enough?
  3. If you make the person spec. too generic you may be faced with 300 applicants none of whom can really express why they fit the bill.
  4. Use the desirables to sort the wheat from the chaff.  Make your essentials achievable but your desirables very specific if you need them to be.  It gives applicants the chance to self select and you should be able to cream off the best ones easily.

Remember you will be using these criteria for shortlisting at application and at interview so they need to be measurable, and specific.

Think about how you will test them.  Will it be via the application at interview or via tests?

Common recruitment pitfalls

  • Recruiting in your image.  Just because your highly effective team happen to all be graduates, do you need a degree for the job or would other experience be acceptable? (Your HR department may decide this for you based on the grade you are recruiting for)
  • The type of experience is important not the length.  Obviously some experience can only be gained after a time, but that will vary for individuals.  Some who have worked 5 years may not be at the same level as someone who has 2 years experience.
  • Discriminatory words. Those of you working in careers will know all this. Words like fresh, energetic & junior all imply youth and are a definite no no. Funily enough no-one seems to be kicking off about use of the word senior!
  • Bias in shortlisting – there should be at least 3 on a shortlisting panel to ensure that applications all get a fair viewing. TIP Start at different places in the pile so that the ones in the middle or end don’t get overlooked due to fatigue.
  • Don’t use interviews as your only method of selection.  As we know it is possible to teach someone how to give a good interview. Test out some of the requirements on the job description. Written tests, role plays, ability tests. Get them to meet your users or staff and get feedback from them – but make it clear that this is part of the assessment. I’m thinking of asking for evidence of writing style perhaps a blog post, and advice style perhaps an email to a student about a CV or cover letter.

The interview

  • You need a mix of male and female interviewers on your panel idealy a minimum of 3. Tricky in some organisations I must say!
  • All candidates internal & external MUST be asked the same opening questions but follow-up questions can vary.
  • We were told  – Don’t ask “why do you want to work here? or why do you want this job?”  If the interviewee says it’s because of the money or it’s shorter hours that may be truthful but it may rather prejudice the following conversation.  I would argue that a candidate who came out with that is really not trying but I suppose it depends on what grade you are recruiting for. Instead you should ask something like “What is your understanding of the work of an Information Assistant and why does that interest you?”
  • Be careful however of multi part questions. In an interview situation lengthy questions are hard for the candidate to remember. It might be better to break it up into “what is your understanding of the work of an Information Assistant?” followed up with “Why does that interest you?”
  • It really helps to elect a chair for the panel – someone who collects the candidates does the introductions and wraps things up at the end.  We were given a chairs check-list which is a really useful tool.

What to do about giving feedback?

The policy of my employer is to give feedback at application and at interview on request.

  • If someone rings up you don’t have to give it there and then.
  • Arrange a time to ring them back.
  • Make sure your shortlisting proformas are available, legible and in a fit state for a candidate to request.  Keep comments factual and brief.

Some random thoughts…

In an organisation like mine where jobs have to go through rounds of internal recruitment before external applications are permitted it takes some thinking to make recruitment process fair to all.  If you have team members applying you will know perfectly well what they are capable of but the tests must be fair and the same for everyone. definitely advisable to get someone who doesn’t work directly with your team to help with recruitment.

If your employer is a two ticks employer and offers a guaranteed interview scheme, candidates must still meet all the essential criteria.

There is some slightly naive thinking around in HR/ recruitment if they genuinely think that candidates will self select on the basis of having all the essentials and some of the desirables.  Last time we recruited we got around 200 applicants for 1 role and many met hardly any of the essentials. Next time i’ll be a little more specific (if i’m allowed!)