Thursday, 7 January 2016

This is Rachel signing off...

There’s a Thing I’ve dreamed of doing for many years now. Something I said I would do one day, but there was always something getting in the way – I didn’t have enough money, I didn’t have enough work experience, it wasn’t the right time. Last year I decided that if it was going to happen, it needed to happen now. 

So this week is my last one here at UoB. On January 19th, I fly to Tokyo to begin an 18 month journey through Asia, the Pacific and Australia, having given up my job, my home, and most of my possessions, and left behind many people dear to me. I’m going to dip my toes in turquoise seas, see volcanoes I’ve only ever read about, try meditating in silence for 12 days, write lots, and experience life as an expat in a country about as geographically far from home as you get. 

I’ve learnt much from my time here and from working with you, the students of UoB. Thank you.

I hope you enjoy your years here and take every opportunity which comes your way. I hope too that you succeed in whatever you want to do after graduation. Learn lots, question everything, and find out what makes you tick, even if it takes you years to work it out, and remember that very few decisions you can make are final. 

If you need help with anything, remember that the other librarians are still around to support you; just pop into Bedford Library or Luton LRC and ask.

Take care and be kind to yourselves and each other.

Signing off

Monday, 7 December 2015

The 1950s blog - an insight into life at Bedford College of Physical Education

Lots of you probably know that what is now the Bedford campus of UoB has a long history of offering higher education in the local area, beginning with the Bedford College of Physical Education. Opening in 1903, it provided training for female students in PE at Lansdowne Road, until it became the Bedford College of Higher Education in 1976.

Here at Bedford Library we have the fantastic Physical Education Archive, which contains lots of material from the college days. The archivist has now started a blog, sharing letters home written by a student called Alice who studied there in the 1950s, which offer a fascinating insight into life at the college. It's well worth a read for anyone interested in the history of PE teaching or just social history in general. Take a look here.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Five reasons why students should be blogging

I remember well from my student days the pressure to be on top of everything; to be collecting skills and knowledge which we could put on our CVs. It seemed like something new came up every six months, and it was a battle against the physics of time to fit everything in.  I know it can be difficult to know where to start and what to focus on. So today I want to suggest to you an activity which can help you to develop and demonstrate skills in various ways: blogging. Here are five reasons why I suggest you give it a go.

1. It can be quick and easy
You may well be thinking that you don’t have time to set up and maintain a blog, but it doesn’t have to be onerous on time or effort. There are several platforms which allow you to set up a blog for free using nice and easy templates – is my personal favourite, although many people like too. And your blog posts don’t have to be long and philosophical every time – just a few hundred words reflecting on something you’ve read in the news or looked at for your assignment is enough.

2. It’s a great way to showcase your engagement with your subject area
We’ve all been there – you get asked a question in a job interview and you know that you know the answer, but it doesn’t quite come out right! It’s likely you’ll be asked about your thoughts on challenges or developments in the area in which you’re seeking employment, and getting into the habit of blogging your reflections on new stories, developments, policies or issues will give you loads of specific examples to offer of your current awareness and engagement with your subject area. Plus you’ll be contributing to your area itself too in your blogging - sharing your thoughts with the wider profession – which is another brilliant thing to mention in job interviews. I am pretty sure my personal blog has helped me to get the jobs I’ve had in Libraryland so far.

3. Blogging helps to develop your writing skills
It’s a cliché that practice makes perfect, but when it comes to reading and writing, the more you do, the more you will improve. Blogging is often reflective – thinking about an issue and offering your thoughts on it – which will help you to develop those reflective writing skills your tutors so often want to see. It’s generally believed in the blogging world that readers lose interest after about 500-600 words in a post, so this is an opportunity to practise writing clearly and concisely. You’ll want to be checking your spelling and grammar too before publishing something for the world to see, so you’ll improve in that area as well. Better writing = better marks in assignments, of course!

4. You can practise being critical
At university you are expected to not just read and digest information, but to think about it critically. This can be daunting, and it can be hard to know where and when to start. Blogging is an easy way to start doing this; for example, when a story appears on the BBC News about a new study of physical activity levels amongst children, you might look at the evidence used and write about how robust you believe it to be, or compare it with a study that you know of which contradicts it. Critical thinking is a vital skill not just for your studies, but for life, and your blog can help you to develop it. 

5. Blogging can open doors or attract opportunities
Some people actually make a living from blogging. It’s not easy or common so you can’t rely on this as a career path (though if you find yourself becoming passionate about your blog, by all means do your research and give it a go!), but you may find that your blog attracts attention sometimes, which can lead to opportunities or networking. I have made some great contacts in the library world through blogging about library-related things. I also run another, non-work related blog, on a personal interest, which has blagged me some freebies and free event invites! You’re becoming a part of the discourse around your subject area, even if you only get a few post hits a week, and getting involved in this way could lead to all sorts of things.

Blogstock is the world's only bloggers' festival, and it takes place in North London!

A word of warning…
You know this already but I’m going to reiterate it; remember that anything you put out there on the internet stays out there. Be critical, be radical, be controversial even (as long as you can back it up and you’re not just saying something inflammatory for the attention), but don’t be an idiot. Used properly, your blog can be a great tool to get involved with your subject area and to improve your employability. So what are you waiting for…?

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Why are we not participating in sport?

There was a big piece on BBC Breakfast this morning about how adult participation in sport in the UK has decreased, despite the promised "Olympic Legacy". The Sports Minister is now looking at how funding can be improved in the hope that this will encourage people to take up a sporting activity.

If you scroll down the page I've linked to above you'll find a table which shows the particular types of sport or physical activity which have seen a decrease in participant numbers, and also those which have actually seen an increase. They highlighted some of these on the news this morning and I thought that these figures might actually give some indication of the reasons behind the overall decrease; for example, more people are cycling - could this be because more people are taking it up as a method of transport to work, college, town etc. to save money on their commute? Athletics has also increased - is this anything to do with the free ParkRuns which now happen on Saturday mornings in many towns and cities (including Bedford)? Economic factors surely play a massive part in how and when adults participate in sport; many people simply don't have the spare cash to pay for games or lessons, or court hires, or swimming pool entry, and budgetary pressures in many towns and cities may well have forced local leisure centres to reduce their opening hours or increase their fees.

So what's the solution? The government and Sport England are hoping that an overhaul in funding will help; in the BBC article it is suggested that organisations such as ParkRun will receive more financial support. I think it's free and informal events and activities like these which are likely to encourage adults to take some time out of their busy lives and to give things a go, without feeling pressured financially or personally.

What do you think?

Monday, 18 May 2015

Bedford Physical Education Archive - no access until August

Just a quick post to let you know that we're having work done in Bedford Library to create a Special Collections Room on the ground floor; this means that there'll be no access to any of our Special Collections, including the Bedford Physical Education Archive and the Levick Boyd archive, from 22nd May to 1st August 2015.

Sorry for any inconvenience this causes; however it will be great to have the Special Collections housed together in the Library once the work is done.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Why it's OK when academic reading is difficult

I often see students who say they are struggling to understand a book or a journal article, that they can't read it and make sense of it. Often they think it's their own fault, that they're just not "getting it". But that isn't the case at all, and this blog post from the LSE Impact Blog explains really nicely how academic reading is like exploring and making sense of a new landscape. It talks about PhD students, but the points made apply to all students, so it's definitely worth a look.

The PAD team  can offer tips and advice on how to read academic material; come and see them in Bedford Library at their drop-ins on Monday to Thursday afternoons (1-4pm) or Friday mornings (10am-1pm), or have a look at the helpsheets on the Study Hub Online BREO community (accessible from your BREO Gateway).

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Do you love reading? Tell us about it!

I've been hinting for a while about something coming up involving free books...well, we in Learning Resources are very excited to have been selected as an institutional giver for World Book Night on 23rd April, which means that we'll be handing out some free fiction books at Bedford and Luton that evening, as well as running a fiction book swap.

There'll be more information and promotion to follow, but in the meantime we are setting up a reading blog, where we want staff and students to share their thoughts on reading. Research has found that reading for pleasure can have massive benefits for health and wellbeing, such as improved mood and ability to cope with's getting to that time of year when deadlines are coming thick and fast, dissertations are due, and exams are looming, and we want to help you to look after yourselves and to stay healthy - reading can help!

So what I'm asking from you is whether you would be prepared to write a short review of a book you've read recently, or one you loved (a childhood favourite perhaps?), which you'd recommend to others. You can have your name attached to it or be anonymous, and we're only after short reviews - just a few hundred words. You can send them to me at .

Looking forward to reading your submissions...

Me, circa 199-something