Monday, 29 October 2012

Bright Star Mobile Library: an example of a little vehicle

I have recently come across people who have a narrow concept of a Mobile Library, thinking that they are all large, expensive vehicles, but that is not the case. Here is an example of small, but perfectly formed, and very effective mobile libraries

Bright Star Mobile Library – Give2Asia

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Librarycamp12: Yet another conference (or unconference to be precise)

I really wasn't sure if I wanted to go to Librarycamp this year. I had enjoyed the first one last year, and indeed the regional one in Manchester. But I was apprehensive this time, because so much has happened to libraries this year, with public libraries closing, funding being withdrawn, everyone tightening their belts and I could see no positive outcomes that had happened as a result of the first Librarycamp. I was also a bit dismal about the lack of response to my job applications, or the responses of "We have had so many candidates of a high quality..." I know that there are a lot of librarians out there looking for a very few jobs. I thought that the atmosphere would be all doom and gloom. I was very wrong.

I returned home that night, very tired but also in a much cheerful mood. The sessions that I attended were positive and provided their own immediate outcome. The subjects discussed were all different from last year, with different facilitators (at least the ones that I went to were, there may have been duplications). Everyone there was in a good mood and contributed to the discussions in a positive way. My only complaint was that the day started at 9am, and for reasons that can't be revealed in this place, I found it very difficult to get there so early on a Saturday morning. I will just say that it had something to do with airports and collecting someone late night/early morning. I therefore missed the first set of sessions, and didn't pitch for one myself (I managed to hi-jack a few later though).

My first session was the one about the happiness index and libraries. I have an interest in the subject because one of my talks, or workshops, is about "How libraries can make you happy". Unfortunately I didn't glean very much from that session, the discussion did not flow, and we never managed to settle how libraries could monitor their effect and show benefit from measuring happiness. It is a very subjective and abstract idea, especially as  the happiness survey is a quantitative online survey based on few questions. Perhaps it was a hard topic to tackle.

The second session I attended was about the problems associated with opening research collections to the public. Over the past two decades or so, while I have been studying or studying and working, I have thought that it would be really useful if I could access academic libraries more freely. Also, while standing in the library for my University I have thought "This could be a wonderful resource for the Town, why don't they open it to the public?" It seems that Universities and research intuitions now realise that they are getting tax payers money, and maybe those tax payers would like to see what they are paying for, and they mean more that just digitising their collection and putting it on the web. Initiatives that are already happening include a travelling archival display that is touring Wales, various co-operative schemes between academic and public libraries, and the Ultimate in Co-operation, the Hive in Worcester, which is not only a building that contains many council facilities, but also has integrated the public library and the academic library, both collections being shelved together and one ticket for all users. What I also found inspiring is that the Hive contains a large display area that exhibits materials and expertise from the libraries, archive and archaeological sectors to a three monthly changing theme.

My next session was collaborative. It was about storytelling in Libraries and most of the people who came to that session are practitioners. The idea of the facilitator was to share experiences and we did. I talked about storysacks, we sang some songs, talked about most requested Rhymes, and then realised that one amongst us had come along because she thought we would be talking about storytelling from a knowledge management point of view, She stayed because she was enjoying herself. That session was fun, and practical, I have come away with more ideas to use in story sessions. There was just the glimps of a suggestion that perhaps there should be a storytelling camp. Perhaps it could be arranged.

The following session was about repairing books, which wasn't quite a practical demonstration, but almost. I would love to go an a book restoration course and there were many helpful suggestions of places that run courses, demonstrations on youtube and a shop that sells supplies. There was a little discussion about the worth of repairing a book as opposed to buying a new one, which of course would depend on the cost of the book in the first place, and how easy it is to get a replacement  We deviated slightly into the use of old and discarded books into art objects, and were informed about the "library of lost books" which is a project for artists to use the books that have been discarded from Birmingham Library because of its rehousing. I realised that I could practise on my own collection, I have a lot of old books and I collect things such as ladybird books and Victorian children's novels. Definitely a positive outcome from that session.

The final session was really inspiring, it was like a call to arms for all librarians, to go outward into the world with all their skills and be librarians in every situation. I found out about the American Librarians that call themselves Radical References, who started by supplying information to protesters at a Republican party conference in 2004. They have gone global, with Chapters in various parts of America, the Boston Chapter supplying information to Occupy Boston. Another enterprising Librarian takes leaflets and information on planes, being the "Inflight Librarian". The facilitator of the session is herself an "itinerant librarian", taking poetry into clubs in the early hours of the morning. She believes in "Going where people are". One of the group worked with scientists and he told us of plans to do "Science Busking": demonstration of experiments in a shopping centre. the whole idea is that a librarian doesn't have to be attached to a place with walls, the collection could be information on a USB stick, or a bag full of books or leaflets to come out at the right time. My conclusion to this is maybe I should go around with a selection of storybooks, or take gardening books down the allotment (actually, taking them to Gardening Club may be a better idea).

The best bit of the day was being with like minded people, and the chance to meet them in the between sessions time. I look forward to next year's National Librarycamp and the surprises that it will bring.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Thoughts on a Good Book

It is perhaps ironic that I am having thoughts about books on National Poetry Day, but then poems are published in books, so maybe it it a relevant sort of post to do. (This was started yesterday, but finished today). I was recently invited for a job interview, which makes a bit of a change, most of my job applications are resulting in nothing except a curt "Sorry, we have too many applicants and we are not shortlisting you" sort of reply. Sadly, I didn't get the job, but I suspect that I was not the sort of person that they were looking for. For instance, the first question I was asked was "Is there such a thing as a Bad Book", and I have been thinking over that concept ever since the interview. I suspect that although the question was open, allowing the interviewers find out more about each applicant, they were looking for someone who would tell them what was a bad book. 

As a trained librarian, a teacher of children with Special Educational Needs, and further more as a Doctor of Philosophy, I had to answer that "no, there is no such thing as a bad book". I went on the explain that even the Argos catalogue may inspire some children to make the first steps in reading, in order to decipher the strange symbols to which some people add sounds. Any book is good if it can prompt literate behaviour. When I came home I thought about what I really should have said (and the alternative reply certainly wouldn't have got me the job anyway).

A book is an inanimate object and can neither be good, nor bad, because it does not have a sense of morality. A book just is. You can say that a book is written badly, or contains concepts that are considered immoral (bad) by a certain society, but that is the fault of the author, not the book. A book may be interpreted in a certain way and cause a bad effect. One that springs to mind is Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. On the other hand, a book can have a positive influence on people, for example The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressel, which  described the injustices done to the working classes. It appears to have been a book that inspired many a socialist politician. Of course, if you are not socialist, then you many have a different point of view about the book.

Which leads nicely to the thought that books are simple objects that hold a quantity of words. The words were put there from the mind of a person (or if co-authored, the minds of persons!) who used the words to describe the ideas that their imagination produced. these ideas are someway linked to the author's experiences, either real or researched for the book. The reader, however, interprets the words in their own way, according to what ever experience they may have.  A close friend of mine, who we will call Edith, relates a tale about a book the she bought for her sister.  Edith bought it because she had read it and had enjoyed the story of the relationships of the main characters. The sister read the book and passed it to their mother who also read it. When the three of them got together, and talked about the characters they found out that they each had a different idea of the what the characters looked like and the nature of the relationships. Edith commented "IT was like we had read completely different books". The act of reading a book engenders feelings inside the reader which they interpret as "bad" or "good"; the book itself is neutral.

Other aspects can influence the readers opinion. The print is too small to read easily, not enough pictures, too many pictures. It may be too large to hold or too small and fiddly to turn pages. The smell may be objectionable, it may have come from the home of a smoker, and smell appallingly of cigarette smoke to a non-smoker. Some people do not like handling a well used second hand book, because they think that it is dirty. A crisp new volume may smell and feel delightful. A book, after all is tactile and sensory experience and all humans differ in the sensory experiences that they like or dislike. In other words, for any book as an object, there will be people who describe it as good, or bad.

So, I have just had a thought, maybe the interview question should have been interpreted as my personal opinion of a bad book, and I should have listed the points that I do not like in a book. this would have given the interview panel an idea of my personality. However, I am a trained librarian, and teacher and a Doctor of Philosophy, therefore I know that my petty prejudices about a certain book or author does not give me the right to dictate those feelings to other people and censor their reading. It is for those others to decide for themselves. Whatever are the feelings, a book is merely a book and words are just words, quality and morality is supplied by readers.   

Thursday, 6 September 2012

EduWiki conference 2012

Yesterday and today I have been at the EduWiki conference at Leicester University, where there has been considerable discussion about the use of Wikipedia as a tool for teaching and learning, mainly in the higher Education sector. The discussion has mainly positive been taken from the point of view that Wikipedia is a wonderful resource, despite what the press say, and despite what Universities consider. There was only one speaker who said that Wikipedia is great, but not for what our community wants, but he was part of a team that has developed a very specific Wiki, using MediaWiki software, WikiVet.  

There is certainly space for using Wikipedia as a tool for learning, for example one university teaching fellow uses the wikibooks function to gather articles together to use as part of the teaching materials for a course. He uses it because the information is free, copyright cleared and regularly updated. He uses the books as ebooks, but students can print them out if they want to. Other teachers use the fact that there are many different language Wikipedias so there are opportunities for language teaching and translation. The idea of editing articles, having to research the subject and consider sources before writing, was given as an example of giving students practise of academic skills. The problem with taking that approach, of course, is that each carefully crafted article by an enthusiastic student stands the chance of being deleted. This puts many people off ever trying again!

There should be a solution to this, perhaps WikiVet has it, that there should be a Wikipedia Playground, where editors in training can practise their skills, can write about things that interest them, and if the article reaches a "notable" standard, then it could be imported into "Big" Wikipedia. Maybe some spin off Wikis could arise, such a WikiFootballTeamPedia. There is another Wikipedia project called WikiVersity, which seems to be a bit of a mess at the moment, because there are not enough editors who are contributing and refining the site. It is meant to be a place where educators can contribute teaching resources for students to use online. The resource that I looked at was for a primary school child about crocodiles, which was an interesting encyclopedia (Wikipedia) style entry, but looked rather too much like a standard text book, and not as engaging as many other primary sources.

I enjoyed the general discussion about assessment and accreditation, which was sparked by a presentation from a Mozilla representative who are developing online badges where people can show their achievements. I was concerned that that style of accreditation satisfies the extrinsic motivation of "Collectors", but would alienate some individuals who learn in a different way. I suggested that achievement for it's own end (intrinsic motivation) is a more important competency to encourage, because that is what gives the world Independent Thinkers.

Overall, there were interesting people there, the food was good, the sun shone, and it was quite a success. Oh, I had one profound thought when I was writing this up. If all the Knowledge of the world is added to Wikipedia, when does it stop being an encyclopedia, and start becoming a Library?

Monday, 20 August 2012

The theory of Process

Of all the five "theories" that came out of the research, the theory of "Process" is the most complicated and intertwining. I labeled the theory "Process" because it was an analysis of all the things that went on inside a CML, and that not only covered what people did and how they did it, but the thoughts and educational processes that were happening all at once, in one place, that is, a children's mobile library. Of course, by looking at lots of CMLs, as I did, not all of the CMLs contained all of the events, so I used a certain amount of generalisation to understand what was going on. I think I am waffling on a bit here, so I shall just say that because this theory is complicated, I will blog it a bit at a time.

 The Theory:- A children's mobile library provides a learning environment where interaction between social actors promote reading skills.

This bit is going to be about the interactions between CML operators and children, I'll discuss the others another time. One outstanding feature of all the operators in all the CMLs that I visited was that they treated all the children seriously, with respect, as a valued and important customer adressing them directly, not going through their teachers or parents, or other carers. This sort of attitude ended up with the children feeling good about themselves and their reading capabilites and the operators convinced that they were helping to develop children's literature.

The things that the operators did were really very simple, and it all worked in a series of phases. First the operators very quickly developed a rapport with children. They spoke to children as soon as they came on to the vehicle, they learnt children's names and said "Hello Ermintrude" (or what ever their name was). They talked to children on a one to one basis, about the books they had read or borrowed, or the ones that childen were looking at. This meant that they got  know the sort of books the children liked. They made jokes with the children, making them laugh out loud. This was usually done with a group and when you all have a laugh together, it is really a bonding experience. Everything was light and informal, and apparently it seems that boys learn best under such circumstances. I personally wouldn't know because I am a girl. Humour, of course is relaxing, and I have already told you that a relaxed brain learns better that a stressed brain (see the post about Event). All these sort of interactions happened on every visit, whether the children were known customers, or even if the visit was a one off event. When children became regular customers, another thing happened.

Operators and children who saw each other regulary became to trust each other. Onora O'Neill explains that "trust" is relying that someone will act in accordance with their words, and other people accepting that you will do the same. I witnessed occasions when a child or an operator apologised to the other party because they had not fulfiled something that they said that they would do, they were so concerned about breaking each others trust. The operators keenly felt that they were seen in the role of "a trusted adult" and felt that it was their job to be another, objective adult person, different to a parent or a teacher. (We have that word different again, last used in the "event" post. I said it was complicated). This development of trust is important because it leads on to children feeling that they and their reading tastes and reading abilities are worthy of attention.

The operators showed that they valued children by treating them with respect. Children were not patronised, spoken down to, or ignored, even when they were interrupting a story. No operator told children that they had made the wrong choice of book, it was teachers or parents who said things like "you won't like that one" or "That book is too easy for you". The operators said things like "I have read that book" or "you have read that one? well done!", it was positive re-inforcement all the way. Operators act as mentors, cadjoling and encouraging, not being "book police". There was, of course, the odd occassion when a child or two wanted to borrow a book that was way beyond their reading ability, but even then the operators simply asked the children to have a good look through the book to work out for themselves if they still wanted one with all writing and no pictures. Feeling that their opinion, their reading ability and the act of reading itself, is valued by an adult gives children a sense that they are succeeding in something, and that will mean that they want to do it more and more.

So, we get to the last phase in this relationship, and here it gets rather cyclical. Children think that they have made a great achievement and know that they are "readers" because the operators treat them as such. Operators see the children progressing with their skills and tastes, and think that they have helped improve them, so the operators believe that they have contributed to the children's literacy. The operators therefore carry on acting as mentors, and so the cycle of mutal positive reinforcement make adults and children complicit in the act of achievement. I think we need a diagram here, a nice simple one, so here are the phases of what operators acutally do that helps children's literacy.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Going where other libraries cannot reach

This is the second post that reveals one of the "theories" that revealed itself during my research: another unique aspect of children's mobile libraries. Again it is so obvious that I am embarrassed writing it, a mobile library can get to places that a static library can't. Yes, I realise that a static library by the nature of it's name, cannot go anywhere, and therefore the service element of a static library needs mobile people, people who are prepared, eager and able to go out to visit the library. (You can tell I have just done a Phd, I am now all philosophical, pedantic and analytic). A library that can move can reach people who would not, or can not be sufficiently mobile or motivated to get on a bus, or get in a car, or even walk to their nearest library. 

Lack of mobility, difficulty of transport or geographic location are only a few reasons why some children do not visit their local library. Children told me that they didn't like the static library in their town, or their mum wouldn't take them, or it did not have such a wide variety of books ("books that I like"), as the children's mobile library. There is definitely a psychological aspect to the inaccessibility of a library building. Entering a box on wheels is not as foreboding. The static library opening times are also a factor, during the day, children are at school, nursery or play group. The beauty of a CML is that it can hunt down the groups of children where they are, when they are, they go to schools at school time, they go into the streets at home time, or holiday time. Children use CMLs without their parents, sometimes they have the supervision of teachers or other educational staff, but Adults are in the minority, and CMLs that stop in streets attract many unaccompanied children. This means that children can be independent of adults and learn to use a library although their parents do not.

There is a phrase that appears to be used by social scientists to describe a set of people who do not access the services of which they are entitled. These people are termed the "Hard to Reach" people who either choose not to access services or do not know that there 
are services that might help them. For some reason, library services are better dealing with "The hard to reach" than others. I looked at the way that CMLs tried to find those groups.
CMLs visit places of financial disadvantage, as well as some well to do area's, but I found
that  the socio-economic class of the child CML customer is irrelevant.

Family attitudes to reading, books and literacy, negative or positive, cut across socio-economic divides, therefore, the CMLs need to go to all area's to capture the children who's parents are not that bothered about books in the home. I attempted to find the dominant socio-economic or ability group of CML visitors, and I have to say that no specific group of any type dominated the visitors that I met. They were a complete mixture. In that mixture were children who's families certainly encouraged reading, and some children who were so far advanced in their reading skills, in ability and speed, that an ordinarily household would not have been able to hold all the books the child read. Those children certainly benefited from a free, never ending supply of reading matter. At the other end of the scale were children who were afraid of touching books, or did not know how to hold one and turn the pages. These children were gently encouraged to have a go, and  at least gained the experience that books contained words and pictures that were there to convey a message. Two things can be concluded, the CML is of use to children of every ability and, in order to reach the hard to reach, and children of low ability, you have to take the total mixture.

It is rather unfortunate that only a very small percentage of the child population of the UK actually have access to a CML. When I wrote the thesis, about 9 months ago, 16 local authorities of a total of 228 operated 26 children’s mobile libraries in a range of geographic locations. From my current investigations, this has gone down to 12 authorities and 21 vehicles, a sad reflection of the economic climate. However, the CMLs that I know about visit children located anywhere. Not all CMLs go to all the types of location on the following list, for various reasons, but at least one CML go to such places as Schools, Special Schools, Nurseries, Pre-school groups, parks, streets where children live, children's secure units, traveller sites, fair-ground permanent sites, farms, urban areas, rural areas, inner city and city estates. If one CML can visit such locations, then surely others can also. Although CMLs do not visit each child in the UK, they hold the potential to do so. CMLs can reach all children of all abilities. 

The above diagram shows my simple argument. It just needs funding and the will to achieve such a situation.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What two entires in one day?

Record Gazette > News

This is a link to a webpage about a children's mobile library that has been commissioned for a literacy improvement project. I am pleased that someone with money and authority can understand the contibution that such a resource can have to literacy 

Reading for boys.

 I have not yet read the detail of this report,( Boys_Commission_Report.pdf (application/pdf Object) but the executive summary suggests that there is absolutly no reason why boys should not be reading as avidly as girls. There is no strange quirk in the male brain that stops boys from enjoying reading. I also believe that boys DO read, because I have caught them at it, devouring books, magazines, web pages, newspapers in a school library, on children's mobile libraries or at home. The problem appears to be more the fault of adults. The exectutive summary of this report says that adults expectations of boys are at fault, teachers don't know about the right books, adults don't buy the right books.

The point is, adults don't look and take note of what the boys are reading, for example the sports pages of a newspaper, or a website about their favourite online game. The exective summary concludes that contact with a regular (weekly) male reading role model gets boys into the reading habit. During the time I spent working on and researching children's mobile libraries I observed many males being a reading role model. Not only male CML operators reading stories aloud, but also male operators quietly reading to themselves in full view of the children and male parents reading to their children (male and female). Male operators also praise boys' reading and discuss their choice of book with them, as an equal because the operator has read that book.

There are a number of other reasons why childrens mobile libraries are a conduit to boys reading enjoyment.
  • They can choose whatever book/reading matter they want from a wide variety, uncensored by parent or teacher (mostly)
  • They are in an enviroment where reading is accepted by their peers
  • They respond well to the individual attention they recieve on a CML and the informal situation
  • The nature of the learning environment found on a CML including humour, fun and adventure, matches the learing style of most boys. 
So, my solution is, get more children's mobile libraries, and send them out into the world seeking out boys, luring them out fom behind their computers and draging them from the playing fields! 

Friday, 11 May 2012

And now dear readers, it is time to reveal all!

I should have mentioned, on the 4th of April, that I did become a Doctor! The Thesis was duly defended and passed, subject to corrections which are not too many or too difficult. It is now time for me to tell the world about what I found. I will do this by breaking down the findings into small, post sized pieces and when I have done all those, I will do case studies of each vehicle that I observed, anonymised of course. This task should keep me occupied for a while!

Today's contribution is about the thing that is special about children's mobile libraries (CML). I defined a children's mobile library as a vehicle that provides all the services of a static children's library, but I felt that as I was specifically investigating mobile, not static children's libraries, I needed to find the element that made them special. Otherwise I could just have observed any children's library. I admit that what I discovered was blindingly obvious, children's mobile libraries work because they are mobile, they come and go away again.

This transience has a number of effects. It makes children and their parents or carers excited about visiting the vehicle. The excitement that children feel stimulates their brains into the right sort of state to absorb information therefore they learn better. The coming and going ensures that customers "Catch" the vehicle, they know when and where it is coming, so they make the effort to go, unlike a library that is always there, so you could choose to go whenever you want to but end up not going. I had not done very many observations when I noticed that one phrase was repeatedly told to me by many people. They liked the CML because it was "Different".

It was different because it was "Like a trip out", because the books were different, because the stories were different, told by a different person in a different way. The idea of this different thing that turned up out of the blue every fortnight, or three weeks, or month captures the imagination, and the anticipation of the event makes people, especially children, excited. Now, as an ex-teacher, I know that half your battle in controlling a class is stopping them from getting too excited, but it turns out that to learn well, you have to have certain amount of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline flushing around your brain. This wakes up the brain, relaxes it but also makes it alert, just what you want when trying to get the little dears to learn something. So, if you have all these children coming onto a vehicle stacked with everything to do with literacy (books, videos, stories, computers, pictures, words), their brains are picking up all the clues they need to piece together the jig-saw of reading ability.

But what happens if the brains are constantly stimulated? There is no time for feedback, for reflection, for setting down the experiences into memory, so you need a time of calm.This happens when the CMLs go away, and life returns to boring reality of the classroom, or nursery, or home and dinner. That sort of time lets children sort out and make sense of the things that they have just seen and heard. Remembering the story, for instance, or recalling a picture in a book, or thinking about the book they want to borrow next time or the enjoyment of the one that they have in their hand, just borrowed.  I have a diagram to explain all this, which I will put in here.
"Build up" is what happens when customers are expecting the vehicle, "Occurrence" is what happens inside the vehicle and "Release" is the moment of calm and thought after the vehicle has left.

There is also a theory by someone called Carmelli, that travelling shows, which seem to appear overnight and disappear just as quickly, attract people because people feel that they have a brief moment to experience a small part of something eternal, that keeps circling around forever. Mobile services certainly seem to attract the human mind, just think of ice-cream vans, and what a treat it is to have one in your street. It takes a mean parent to refuse a child an ice-cream when the van comes into your road, even if it is nearly lunch-time. Children's mobile libraries feed off this sort of attraction.

If you want to follow up Carmelli's work the reference is "Carmelli, Y.S. 1987 Why does Jimmy Brown's Circus Travel?: A semiotic approach to the analysis of circus ecology. Poetics Today, 8(2). 219-244". There are many books available on education and the brain.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Doom day

Well, I started this blog to be a story of my research about children's mobile libraries in the UK, and in recent months I have only been adding links about interesting children's mobiles I have found in other parts of the world. That is because all the research has been culminating to today. It is the day of my Viva Voce, my "Oral examination" when I will find out if the research and thesis will be accepted to be good enough for a doctorate. I have been looking forward to this and being scared by this. I have just done a check on websites of the various children's mobile libraries that I visited, and I am a bit sad because at least another two have disappeared, which leaves only half of the ones where I did observations. My moral dilemma is should I have published my work sooner? or have the CMLs just got too expensive to run because of the rising cost of fuel?

It really is time to have another search through local authority websites to check how many CMLs there are in total, but I won't manage to achieve that by 2pm today (that's the time of the viva). So, don't think that this blog is coming to an end, just because I have finished one journey doesn't mean that I won't start another, and more importantly, now after the work has been marked I can say more about what happened on the journey. I am planning to write case studies of each vehicle where I conducted observations, those will have to be anonymous, of course. I can tell you general stuff about all the CML's that I could find, even the ones that have gone, let this blog be an archive of their work. I will also put up my findings and diagrams I drew to understand the information that I found.

I am also writing a paper about storytelling on CMLs and I will report on that and subsequent papers. I really did gather enough information to keep me going for years. (But I do need a job now, so if anyone has a spare one out there, I would be grateful!) Anyway, to keep my list of CMLs up to date, it would be good if anyone out there could tell me if they know of a CML that is still operating in their area, or if any new ones are planned. If the reverse is happening, and if anyone knows of a CML closing down, then I will be more than happy to offer my services as an expert witness to the value of using a CML.

Oh, in case you are in doubt, I did prove that CMLs do spread literacy and a love of books.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Speaking at Loughborough Research Matters conference, 2012

The main thing that seems to happening in Loughborough this year is the Olympic Games. Loughborough is certainly the foremost sports university in this country, and we are hosting the Japanese national team as well as team GB. It seems very wierd, then that I am a Loughborough Student (for the second time round) and I am one of the least sporty people you can imagine. It is rather fortunate that Loughborough also specialises in other subjects, such as Library and Information studies. (It's a bit good at engineering and design as well). It is also rather proud of the research (unsport related) that happens in the Univeristy and I was one of only four PhD researchers who were invited to speak at the research staff conference last Tuesday.

It may have only been an "in house" conference, and not national, or international, or big and flashy, but I felt appreciated and really quite special to speak in the room where I had previously heard a lecture from Robert Winston, and part of a programme that featured senior academics from Oxford as well as Loughborough, and various levels of research staff. It was also the first time that I attracted a number of people to come up to me after the presentation to ask various questions about my work. It really cheered me up and made me feel a success.  Here is photo of me being presented with a certificate, by Professor John Feather, who is Dean of the Graduate School and a leading light of our department.