SLA ‘New To School Libraries’ Webinar

Earlier this month, I attended an online webinar for new school librarians, hosted by the School Libraries Association (SLA). On the whole, I think it was pretty useful: it gave me cool ideas for how to use social media to promote the library; info on the different kinds of documents (policies, reports and plans) that a school library should have; suggestions for clubs and events the school library could run (I quite liked the sound of a graphic novels club); information on arranging the library layout (display spinners are your friend!); and advice on eBook providers, unions, stock weeding, and using book and publisher fairs to pick up library goodies like bookmarks and posters. But the flashiest idea I’ve worked into my library so far was inspired by a demonstration of how to make short showcase videos to let students and staff know what items the library has in its collection.

As a specialist music school, Chetham’s has a lot of international boarders and so the school celebrates Chinese New Year. About a month ago we were asked to see if we could do anything to contribute to the celebration, so I picked out a few China-themed books, with the intention of making a library display. However, since most of the students are studying from home at the moment, and haven’t seen the Burns display yet, I decided to instead make a video showcase that they could watch on Twitter. The webinar presenter suggested using the free software Animoto, but I used Movavi pro, which I already owned and which up to now I had mostly been using to make fan music videos for the Cats (1998) musical. Click on that link at your own risk(!).

We had plenty of relevant non-fiction books, but I was a little surprised by how few fiction books I could find set in or about China, or even just featuring Chinese characters. I think my difficulty can partly be attributed to my still being pretty unfamiliar with the library stock and partly to the shallow descriptions in our library catalogue entries (which I am slowly working to improve), so I am sure that I missed some potentially suitable items. But I still found it odd that the collection was so sparce, especially seeing as the school does have quite a lot of Chinese students.

I was doing a fiction shop anyway, because Scholastic had a sale of 10 My Story books for £6.99 (what a bargain, amirite?), so I purchased a few books to boost the China collection, including a very nice picture book about the Chinese Zodiac story. I added them to the Chinese-themed books, music and DVD that I had already set aside, and took photos of them dotted around the stacks. I then edited the photos into a slideshow with public domain music. I downloaded a Chinese New Year resource pack to make the video fancier and more coherent. I even edited the music a little because I only realised after I’d already created the jump-cut section with the non-fiction books that there should probably be some kind of introduction.

Overall, I’d say for my first library video the showcase worked out okay, and I had fun making it. It took roughly the same amount of time to create as a physical library display would, and it was more likely to be seen and enjoyed – particularly during the current lockdown. It received a fair amount of engagement, including some likes from teachers and students, which made me very happy. Although I probably won’t be creating videos a lot, they are a good tool to have in my kit to make everyone aware of the stock we carry. And I’m pretty excited to see what else I can do with them!

A Man[chester]’s a Man[chester] for a’ that

Earlier this week it was Burns Night – the first one Calum and I didn’t celebrate in Scotland. Manchester is only a 4-hour drive from my parents’ house in Glasgow but, I think like a lot of distances during the current pandemic, it sometimes feels a lot further. Don’t get me wrong, I am super grateful and happy to have my current head librarian role at Chetham’s School of Music – the kids are great, the staff is lovely, the work is fun and I’m in the very enviable position of having a permanent position in my dream job before I hit thirty.

But I miss Edinburgh. I miss my family and friends. I miss the comfort provided by first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s open explanations and conscientious decision-making. I miss uncrowded streets and parks, and generally better Covid compliance. I miss prevalent recycling bins and a proper pelican crossing system and standard bus fares that you can just contactless tap without needing to tell the driver where you’re going. I miss the security of knowing that most people around me will be anti-Brexit and have left-wing politics. I miss proper cycle lanes and conscientious drivers and being half an hour walk from the beach.

Nonetheless, Manchester has its good points. People are generally more friendly and helpful. We deliberately chose to live in Prestwich, which has a whole network of parks. And I did find what might be a cycle path the other day. The trams are fantastic and punctual. It has all sorts of Communist history (Calum and I went to see a statue of Engels’ Beard over the Christmas break, and the public library next door to my school has ties to Karl Marx). I’ve met lots of people in Manchester who are pretty left wing and anti-Brexit (and Manchester does have a Labour mayor) so I’m probably being a bit over-cautious about Mancunian politics. And, most importantly, it’s where Chetham’s School of Music is situated, and I’m super loving working there!

Although there were no Ceilidhs or parties with friends or public events, Calum and I decided to celebrate Burns Night anyway. I was working that day, so I wore my tartan pinafore, and I’d made a library display celebrating Burns Night. I lined the bookshelves with tartan fabric, and I used some of the remaining fabric along with some pipe cleaners and coloured tissue paper to make a highland dancer and thistles. I was surprised that the school library didn’t have any Burns poetry, so my mum donated one of her copies to the school, and in the same package she sent me her haggis piggybank that I put on the display as well. The lockdown has meant there aren’t many kids in the school right now, but I have still received three compliments on the display so far – which made me very happy.

When I got home from work Calum was wearing a suit and his tartan bowtie. We had haggis, neeps & tatties ready meals for dinner, and listened to Celidh music on Spotify while we waited for the microwave. We also danced a little – although neither of us could remember many of the steps. For dessert we made cranachan by layering Muesli, double cream, raspberries, and honey – Calum’s was prettier than mine, but they both tasted good.

Calum’s was way fancier than mine…

After dinner we browsed the internet for video games set in Scotland. I was excited (if a little bemused) to discover that there were three different video games based on Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of the Worlds (one set in Glasgow). Like, not merely the H. G. Wells book, but the 1978, synth-heavy, prog-rock opera concept album of the book. There’s a ZX Spectrum survival game, a real-time strategy game for PCs, and a vehicular combat third-person shooter for Playstation! Isn’t that utterly delightful? Don’t you feel the world is a little bit awesomer just knowing that these three separate, entirely different games exist?!

For some ungodly reason, none of these games were available to buy on Steam, so we watched the Disney Pixar Movie Brave instead. We’d both seen it before a few times, but it holds up to repeat viewing – I particularly enjoyed the mischievous baby princes, the cute will-o’-wisps, the crazy bear carpenter lady, and Patrick Doyle’s atmospheric score (although I do have to wonder why none of the characters sing – isn’t this supposed to be a princess movie, Disney?).

Overall, I enjoyed our Mancunian, indoors Burn’s Night (and day). It was quiet and a bit haphazard, but it was fun and reminded me of home. I am looking forward to being able to attend Ceilidhs again, though.

…Wait. Does Manchester even have Ceilidhs?!

[*Quick Google Search*.]

Turns out: yep!

You can’t really see it very well, but we’re both wearing dark tartan.

Kirsty Morgan Music in sunny Manchester, outside Chetham's School of Music

Guess who’s the new librarian at Chetham’s School of Music?

Hey, guess who’s moving to England! Spoiler alert: it’s me! I’m going to be the new librarian (well, “Head of Learning Resources”) at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. And I’m super looking forward to it. Okay, sure, I’m a bit nervous, but I’m mostly excited. It will be a chance to combine my enjoyment of music librarianship with a person-facing role, which I think will be great.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve very much enjoyed working at the National Library on their Music Retroconversion Project. I’ve learned so much about music librarianship and cataloguing and libraries. And it’s been fun to work on a project that has a definite endpoint and final product. I was also given the opportunity to write three blog posts about the project for the National Library’s Blog – which was really cool. However, I did miss getting to interact with library patrons – they make every day different and I like helping people find what they’re looking for.

Moreover, working in a music school library has kinda been a background totally-never-gonna-happen-fantasy dream for me since university.

Tag Cloud Schema

When I was studying my ILS Masters at the University of Strathclyde, we were assigned to create “schema” (i.e. different models of organising knowledge) for a set of 10 items. I chose a collection of showtunes for solo voice with piano accompaniment, and arranged them in ways that would best suit a hypothetical Musical Theatre School Library. It was one of my favourite assignments because, aside from the obvious perk of working with showtunes for uni credits, I found it really interesting to think about what information would be needed by the school pupils if they were looking for audition pieces. I enjoyed the problem solving aspect of arranging my schemas to suit that. Things like key, range, time-signature, tempo, voice type, number of bars, etc. didn’t obviously fit into the standard bibliographic categories, so I chose models that gave me the freedom to customise.

This was the first spark that made me think it would be really cool to work in a music school library, but I didn’t seriously think that could happen, since there are very few such jobs in the country. Therefore, imagine my delight when JUST as my National Library contract was coming to an end, the position at Chetham’s School of Music was advertised!

Chetham’s Library

So, obviously I applied and was pleased when I progressed to the interview stage. I travelled to Manchester by train for the interview, and it was my first visit to Manchester ever. I was so excited. I went down the day before and stayed at a nearby Travelodge. That evening I had a sausage supper from the local chip shop, and the staff there were super friendly and wished me luck for my interview. I completed the interview while wearing a mask (which was definitely an experience). And the people at Chetham’s were all very lovely and the school was this really pretty castle-like building in the centre of Manchester. What’s more, the school shares a site with Chetham’s Library, the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world. I didn’t get the opportunity to visit it because it’s currently closed, but I will at some point because it looks just like something out of a fantasy story. I’m sure there’s all kinds of magical tomes and cursed writings and probably a ghost or ten hiding among the stacks!

Anyway, shortish story shorter, the people at Chetham’s School liked me and offered me the position and I start in November! How utterly, awesomely, amazingly super is that?!! Yay!