Monday, 9 May 2016

CPD DIY - Maguire e-Training: Project Management Essentials

CPD DIY is where I review quick, cheap, and accessible training courses and resources for school librarians. We are expected to keep up with the latest developments in libraries and keep our skills sharp with no time, no budget and no peace!

Maguire e-Training recently partnered with CILIP to offer discount training to library and information professionals so they are a good place to start when you're looking for some easy access, low cost, guided CPD. Maguire modules usually clock in at around £25 a pop, but if you're a CILIP member your first one is free and you can get a discount on later modules bringing them down to around £20.

Besides the cost, one of the great assets of Maguire's courses is that they are entirely online from teaching to testing meaning that they can be fitted around quiet times in your library – because god forbid we ever leave right?

Now to the meat of the thing:

Project Management Essentials is taught in a series of videos and info sheets, which I've got to admit I watched a couple of times over whilst doing other things, which though adorably 'home made' at times were really informative and helped my at least put names to some of the concepts I'd already employed running projects before. The teacher/seminar leader/ lecturer is pretty clear and concise and generally linked things together well – so long as you were paying close attention. While the info sheets ran through ideas in more detail and really helped to bring home some of the concepts.

I've got to admit here and now this course is very basic and the exam at the end wasn't exactly taxing, but as an easy and accessibly way of getting your head round a new topic it hits the spot, and it has certainly given me some new ideas of how to handle large and group projects more efficiently in the future.

More importantly in terms of how school libraries work - in my experience anyway - it also gave me a bit of sneaky insight into how to handle talking to management and 'stake holder groups', and just how to present things to get ideas through to these groups. How to present the 'cost/benefit ratios' of what you are proposing – like how yes a D.E.A.R might eat 10 minutes into lesson time, but the relative improvement seen in the results of students who read for 10 minutes a week is X grades. I think, having done this training, that this kind of presentation of data is possibly what we as librarians sometimes do worst, we talk ephemera to bean counters and expect them to become invested in our projects… something to think about anyway.

All in all, with Maguire you get what you pay for, it wouldn't be fair to expect more from this course at £25, but I can't say I feel gypped by what I did get out of it. Its a good solid run down of the essentials of project management, enough to get your head round the concepts and probably enough to help us manage any projects we'll be undertaking in a school setting.

Overall pretty good for the price and a good place to start for a total beginner.

KonMari and Tidying Your Library - Library Signage

For a start for anyone who hasn't heard - which will probably be very few of you because I was kind of late to the part with this trend - Marie Kondo is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and the internet spent a good part of last year obsessed with KonMaring their homes and their lives. She works by one primary principle which (very simplified) is: if an item  doesn't have any purpose and doesn't 'spark joy' in you when you look at it or hold it, say goodbye to it and get rid!

Last year, using this approach, I took a serious look at my library's signage, and it is unbelievable the difference it made not only to look of the room but to the behaviour of students. I figure I must have saved about twice the time I spent on doing this simply in students being not needing help to navigate and not having to shout at people for eating and drinking. 

Now stop a minute and go stand outside your library like right outside the door and really take a look at what you are presenting to the world - no seriously we'll wait go look. 

I can almost guarantee there are two-three posters for cake sales (that probably happened last term), maybes a tatty poster with your library's no-nos on it, that consequences poster they had you put up when they were pushing discipline last year, perhaps your opening times and about a total of 3 million different fonts and colours. 

This, this is your users right now:

Do you think I watch too much Supernatural, I think I watch too much Supernatural...

And that is just the start, now go back out and do a walk through of your library, beginning to end. How many old posters put up by the kids are there? How many lingering shelf markers for sections that have long since moved? Posters for events long past?After school clubs? That thing about travel passes or signing up for free school lunches someone asked you to put up in September? Those literacy posters that had to go in every classroom once upon a time? Perhaps an English marking scheme one of the teachers snuck up during Library lesson one day? A few READ posters with glasses and a mustache drawn on them? All in a different state of decay.

We had 3 different no eating signs scattered all over the place, because one day someone told a bored Library Monitor they could just go make a new one and put them up. We had posters inviting student to audition for plays that had already happened that students and teachers had put in obscure corners without asking. We had a million cake sale posters, hell I found a poster for an RNIB Alice in Wonderland fundraiser we hosted in 2012 for christsake - and I was the one to put those up, you think at least I could keep track of where. But that is the point, isn't it, it becomes just so easy to look through things as we get used to them.  

That poster you just put up.

Now this is where Marie Kondo comes in. Pull it all down - keep it don't trash anything just yet unless you are super sure you don't want it - just clear the walls, the doors, the shelf tops and ends, the front of the issue desk, the lot. There shouldn't be a scrap of (non-permanent) signage left anywhere. Its really therapeutic and even if you don't think you've got time for these shenanigans I promise you the end game is soooooo worth it, trust me.

Take a moment to bask in your utterly empty wall space, it'll probably look a little creepy and maybe just a little sad, but its also a thing of beauty - a fresh start. 

Now its time to take a look at your pile of signs and do some sorting. Ask yourself Marie Kondo's key question, does it have a purpose or does it spark any joy? 

I ended up separating mine into about 6 piles:

Community - Anything current about what's going on in the school community, that includes cake sales, plays, fundraiser, study groups, events, oyster card posters, school nurse's hours, so on and so forth.  

Literacy - All the 'PREPARE To Pass' acronym posters, essay writing guides and English marking schemes.

Real posters - the kind properly printed or those you've paid for READ, scholastic, book posters etc. 

Pretty - (I'll explain in a minute)

Behavior - We had recently revamped our whole discipline system so every room had to display the new sanctions. You might not have this (it's worth checking with the appropriate member of SLT if you're not sure), but it wouldn't be a terrible thing to make up your own library version, you know 'Offense: Eating the Library | Penalty: 50 lashes', that sort of thing ;).

Library Signage - No Talking, No Phones, No Food, Computers This Way, Magazines Here, shelfmarks, that sort of thing.


Bin - this pile got everything tatty and/or out of date. Everything not even a mother could love.

Now take a look at that pile of Library signage, how many fonts can you see right now? How many different colours? Art styles? Is any of it dyslexic friendly? Does it have the Library or School logo on it? 

Depressing isn't it. 

Now comes the real hard part, but the bit that is going to make your life so much easier in the end. 

Stop, sit down with your department, and your inclusions team, and your manager if you need to, and choose your "corporate style", make it dyslexic friendly  - there's no excuse not to, fonts like Open Dyslexic are free and open source, and I'm sure you can scrounge up some off white paper - make it clear to read. If you're using images pick a style that has all the ones you need icons of phones, food, drink cans, books, computers etc. And, most importantly from now on stick to it, ALL of it. Every sign you make should use your new "style", whether its a one off like 'The Library Will Closed on **/**/****' or the perpetual 'Our Opening Hours are....'.

And one thing - laminate everything, make it a policy 'if a sign is expected to be up in the library for  more than X weeks it must be laminated'. Yes it can be pricey but if that poster or sign is staying up for more than... 2 weeks say... it get laminated! It'll last and look neat for a few years,saving you from having to print it up again and again (plus its wipe clean if someone draws on it!).

Style sorted? Now take a look at what signs you need, and remember to make them clear, uniform and concise - if you need ideas or don't have the time to come up with your own here are some I have made:

Start at your front door. What do you actually need here? Do you have opening hours? Get them up there. No food and drink in the Library, no phones? Get it on the front door nice and clear so students know where they stand when they walk in. Anything else anyone needs to know about your service before they get inside? Add it, just make sure you have room for everything you really need

Inside, make sure you have your 'No XYZs' and your rules visible from everywhere in the library, there shouldn't be one place in the whole shebang you cannot stand and point to those rules. If you can, put them at eye height for students, especially on the front door. Same goes for anything from your behaviour pile if you have one.

For your shelfmarks, if you can, make them moveable (blue-tac or cheaper-end double sided tape are great depending on how often and how much our stock shifts) so you can keep up with your stock as it shifts. 

Once you have all the absolutely necessary information up on your walls...

Take a look at your room and find somewhere to earmark as your community and literacy areas. I think literacy is good to keep near any seating or classroom area and community works best near the doors since its a high traffic area. Now use your "style" and print and laminate a couple of signs to designate these areas before you put anything from your community and literacy piles back up. These areas will be the new home for these materials, so while they might change your sign shouldn't need to for a while. And don't forget to let staff and students know that there is now a designated space for all their junk :)

Now the "Pretty Pile": these are those things that give you joy when you see them. In my library we had accumulated a huge collection of cool quotes about reading and interesting posters among other generally pro-literacy bits and bobs. Take any professional 'real' posters that have got mixed in with this off to the side for the last step in your epic tidy up, and take a look at what you've got. Personally, I started a "Pinterest Board" near our entrance for the items in this pile, because I think there is huge benefit in just showing children that other people love books and love to read "teenager see, teenager do" and you can read more about how to do that here ('cos this post is waaay too long already). 

True story, I had more than one student, when I put this up on our board, stop, read it, and then walk up to me at the desk and just say 'Yeh'. 

Ok so only posters left, take a look at your space and see what you want to put up. Just because you own it does not mean it has to go up now. You didn't go through all this just to make the place look cluttered again. Put up only what you think looks good, and makes sense in the space you have - or covers up the missing bits of plaster on the walls (been there, done that, turns out tacky-backed cardboard makes a decent substitute for missing chunks of ceiling...). Store whatever you have left over and you can change it up once in a while.

Bodda-bing bodda-boom awesome fresh, new looking Library. Next challenge is keeping it that way....