Tag Archives: Memories

12 Months Later

It’s August 2015 and I find myself exactly one year into my role as Senior Information Assistant: Inter-Library Loans.

On the whole, it’s been a good year. Busy. Challenging. But good.

The main thing I was worried about was breaking it. My predecessor, having been in post for about 12 years and who retired having worked at the Library for more than 40, was ILLs; so much so that, even after 12 months, I sometimes still feel as if I’m filling-in while she’s on leave.

Thankfully, despite several near-misses (and a couple of damn good tries) I haven’t broken it. Substantially. Cough.

The thing I’ve found most challenging has been the decision-making. No, that’s not true actually.

Decision-making is easy; it’s not making bad decisions which is hard.

In fact the most difficult thing I’ve discovered about stepping-up and taking on more responsibility is that you have to set your own agenda much more. Yes, the work ebbs and flows; but suddenly I’ve found myself self-directing and planning and managing my time in a completely new way.

Also, supervising. Whilst I don’t ‘technically’ manage anyone, I do have to operate in a ‘supervisory’ capacity in both departmental and service desk scenarios and, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea how that’s going/gone. I find myself obsessing about the tone of my voice; body language, things I say, things I don’t say, even more than I ever did- and given the fact that I self-reflect to an obsessive nth degree anyway, well, let’s just say I spend far too much time thinking about these things.

I think it was about 8 months before I finally felt a little more comfortable in the role- before I reached a point where I was accepting of the fact that:

  • Not everything is going to go right, and that’s okay
  • Some things will go wrong, and that’s okay
  • You don’t have to stay until 7pm every evening, and that’s okay too

But even today, scouring the country for music scores, I’m still finding certain elements of the job leave me feeling like I’m standing on the edge of disaster. When I say disaster, obviously this is all contextual. Nobody is going to die if I can’t find 100 Carols for Choirs by September 30th (which I hopefully have btw. #win).

The fact that I’m writing this blog post now is also perhaps an indicator of where I am at the moment; for much of the past year I’ve hardly felt motivated to write, despite hankering after an opportunity to be more expressively creative. I’ve just really switched off a lot this year, sort of put my head down, tried to work hard and be organised. I’ve become detached from the things which interest me, and even people who interest me- I stopped loading Twitter each day on my browser, whereas before I’d leave it on in the background all day, dipping in and out, keeping up with the world, commenting pithily.

To a certain extent I think I’ve got the balance wrong though. I’ve found myself mentally fatigued at the end of a day, even more so than when I was studying part-time alongside full-time work. I think without realising it, subconsciously I really have been working quite hard to stay on top of things, to the point where much of my drive, energy and capacity to do activities outside of (or around) work has been diminished somewhat.

So my target for this coming year is, not exactly to take my eye off of the ball- but more to remember that whilst it’s good to have my foot pressed down on the accelerator, it’s also good to shift gears every now and then. Hopefully it’ll make for a smoother ride.

There’s a great mangling of clichéd idioms to end on. I’m sure the blogosphere is delighted I’m back.

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How To Hide Your Library

It’s a key point to consider, especially given that newbie after newbie seems to be under the impression that we’ve hidden it.

“Excuse me, sorry, but where is the Library?”

“I’m sorry, where are all the books?”

“Like, hello, where’s the frickin’ stuff?!”

Ok, no-one has actually phrased it like that.

I’ll admit that the orientation of our buildings could be improved ever so slightly; and, that there are a few potentially misleading signs here and there. But, honestly, I’ve never known a group of individuals, the movers and shakers of the future, so wholly incapable of navigating their way around.

The first stumbling block is our barriers. Yes, the stupid plastic clip on their I.D. cards doesn’t help- but come on people, it’s a barrier, not an open-mouthed alligator! Swipe and walk! Swipe. And walk.

Exit, amazingly, really does mean way of leaving.

But what trumps all of the orientation issues which pervade our daily customer service interactions, is the strange (and immensely comical) notion that we’ve somehow hidden everything. Even more comical is the manifestation of this confusion, which seems to be an inability to walk through double doors.

Seriously.

If I had a fiver for every person who battles to swipe in, only to be confounded by two unlocked, dual-directional, swinging brown doors, I’d be able to buy a second Strictly Come Dancing Sweepstake 2011 ticket. Even though they can see people passing in, out and through them- they stop, return to the safety of the desk and ask for help.

Even then, guiding them to proceed through the doors to the lifts and stairs isn’t a failsafe mechanism for connecting them with resources. They come back, having been unable to locate anything.

What have they been doing for all that time? Standing in the stairwell?

It makes you wonder what they think we’ve done with the Library. Have we disguised it as the Canteen?

And what do they think is lurking behind the un-openable (even though they’re being opened) doors? A monster? Purgatory? (Make your own jokes) Michael Winner?

It’s not like the building is a Tardis. It’s massive, with a billion floors. What happened to the great explorers? I doubt Sir Ranolph Fiennes would take one look at a door and think “Oooh, not for me” and turn around.

Anyway, it fills us with amusement, and that’s what matters.

In tribute to the dooraphobics, I’ve found this gem from my childhood. Don’t have nightmares!

 

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They Thing It’s All Over…

Alas, we’ve reached our final Things!

But this isn’t the end. Instead, let’s think of it as a beginning. A new chapter. Like Katie & Peter: The Next Chapter- only with more quality, depth and overall point.

Less ITV2, more BBC2. Or BBC4, which I always wish I watched more often.

Anyway, for my reflection/look back over this 23 Things Journey- which has been like an emotional rollercoaster, during which I’ve learned so much about myself… (yes folks, X Factor’s back!) I decided to sit down with a pad & pen, and note down the stuff which immediately came to mind. So, here, in no particular order, are my 23 Things about 23 Things:

  1. Such Fun! Yes, I wont try to style it out; I’ve had fun doing 23 Things. It added a new dimension to my working week, which over the quieter Summer proved important in maintaining daily motivation levels.
  2. Collaborating isn’t always bad: 23 Things has provided a refreshing opportunity to work and engage with colleagues across the sites.
  3. Back to Blog: I like blogging. I like writing. 23 Things met my needs.
  4. A Brave New World: 23 Things is a fantastic way of discovering the myriad of online packages and technologies available to us, in an atmosphere which encourages supportive, shared learning.
  5. Knowing Me, Knowing You- Aha! Perhaps my favourite Thing has been getting to know more about the people I work with. Not in a stalkery way, but in a way which has helped to build a sense of community amongst the team; and, on a personal level, has definitely improved my professional workplace confidence.
  6. Evernote: I knew about Evernote, but I’ve now seen it up close; and me likey. Thank you to Twinset & Purls (prolific blogger extraordinaire) for giving it a thorough test drive too. Not that I’m saying you’re the Jeremy Clarkson of the team… more like the Library Stig.
  7. LinkedIn: I believe my thoughts on LinkedIn are well known, but I found the debate around its usefullness (or not) a highlight. I enjoy hatin’…
  8. 23 Things is good for your health: Seriously. It’s cured (well, certainly alleviated the symptoms of) my extreme Socionephobia*.
  9. Twitter: This process has reinforced my love for Twitter, and transformed the workplace dynamic. #ilovetwitter
  10. The Lives of Others: Following on from [no.5], 23 Things has introduced many personal interests and topics into the day-to-day discourse: a love of knitting, Kindles, cult TV, technology, food, ovine economics, togas… etc. Turns out, we’re all a little eccentric in so many ways… #librariansarecooltoo
  11. Setting a Prezident: Bad pun: yes. New avenue for presentations: possibly. Strange travel-sick feeling whilst seated in a non-vehicular context: definitely.
  12. Picture Perfect: How hysterical was PhotoFunia?!
  13. Groove is in the Shark: Music isn’t really my Thing, but I liked using Grooveshark.
  14. Copyright: Let’s be honest, Copyright is very important and can be very dull. It was good to be able to explore this topic in a proactive manner.
  15. Google Reader: I’m still using it! And I’ve found it aided my enjoyment of catching up with everyone else’s blogs. I’ve crossed over to the dark side…
  16. Survey Monkey: I wont lie, this was my most anticipated new Thing. It was one of the reasons I signed up for the course. It’s not big, it’s not especially clever, but it was fantastically entertaining. Oh, and professionally viable in a modern Higher Educational context… (cough)…
  17. JamGate: Talk about water-cooler-moment! Never has a throwaway comment on toast toppings proven so explosive! Forget HackGate, LibyaGate and CherylGate- this was the talking point of the year. Amazing.
  18. Reflective Practice: I must admit, I’ve never been big on this concept. I hate reflecting on things as I have a tendency to procrastinate, ruminate and over think to the point of a nervous breakdown. However, I can see some of the benefits, and it’s something I will not shy away from in the future.
  19. Tagging: Tagging as a concept has largely passed me by. Not anymore. I intend to revisit this.
  20. Librarians Exposed: I was fairly naive to the nature of information professional careers outside of the traditional library context- the social networking, staying on top of online resources etc. Instructive to say the least.
  21. Time: Management, making use of, the possibilities of: a significant learning resource in itself.
  22. Tales of the unexpected: There were many hilarious and random moments over the last dozen weeks: a personal highlight was the Head of Information Literacy apologising for having voted for Robson & Jerome. The expression of anguish was remarkable…
  23. ? I’ve left his one blank, as who knows what’s in store..?

 

Goodbye 23 Things 2011. Good Times.

 

*Socionephobia: An intense fear and dislike of social networking.

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Things Aint What They Used To Be…

 

Ok, I’ve shamelessly opened with a tenuously pun-related music video, completely stealing from Library Apocalypse’s project ethos. It’s an homage Library Apocalypse, really…

Anyway, here comes the science bit:

Books are dead. Front-line staff are unnecessary. Everything’s prefixed by an ‘E’. The traditional Library, as we know it, is dying:

slowly, painfully, lingeringly.

Ok, I don’t believe this for a second. But despite my traditionalist approach to such matters, I freely acknowledge that the world of information provision has changed, and continues to do so:

quickly, substantially, dramatically.

Supporting one’s education, and learning independently, are now vastly different concepts to what they once were; it’s central to our role, as academic library staff, to reflect this through the services we make available.

In the higher education sector, information literacy is about understanding: what information is, and how to go about using it.

I appreciate this is a loosely undefined definition; I don’t think I’m qualified to provide a better one. Unfortunately, many students seem unaware of just how important information literacy (and general library-related) skills are in a wider context. The Library is not merely a means to an end. The thought processes, learning/research skills, and ability to learn independently are both highly transferable and key to achievement. I am not sure this message- that using the Library is part of a degree/study programme- is always adequately emphasised.

When championing the work of the Library, we tend to focus a great deal on e-resources, and how these can facilitate remote user interactions; rightly so, because this self-service mechanism has increased educational opportunities tremendously. But, advocating information literacy is much more than merely offering up technology and content filled platforms. Being able to successfully adapt to suit specific learning styles, skill requirements, and time/economic/access constraints, can only be achieved through the efforts of people.

Unless the day of the super android has arrived (and last time I checked, it hadn’t) it remains the case that people are the defining factor when it comes to teaching and learning support.

It is essential for Libraries to be able to engage with Web 2.0 technologies in order to meet the expectations of the modern learner. To do this, it is up to Library Staff to stay ahead of, or at least in touch with, the game hand.

I believe that Web 2.0 Things, like those we looked at this week, could have an important role to play in the context of forming an institutional identity.

The University sector is becoming increasingly competitive, with pressure being placed on recruitment numbers, budgets and statistical outcomes. In libraries, we constantly benchmark ourselves against rivals in terms of staffing hours, resources and study space allocations. However, all universities face the same problems. All universities want to invest in e-journals, e-books and e-support.

The thing to bear in mind is, for students looking to plan their academic pathway, the criteria for decision-making is often tightly focused: reputation, history, job prospects, facilities, social life. I know from my experience of working on Open Days, when it comes to the Library, most students (and parents) want to see a traditional Library, but expect to hear about a Modern Library.

One of the ways in which we, as an institution, can attempt to differentiate ourselves from the competition, is to work at marrying these concepts more effectively. Utilising Web 2.0 tools innovatively could really transform perceptions of the services we provide; particularly as using mechanisms such as YouTube and Audioboo, would intrinsically involve real people connecting with real people.

Students and academics know they can be self-reliant. But they can only be self-reliant because of staff making it possible. Perhaps one way in which we can create a service USP is to find a way of personalising the experience of independent learning? Many of these exciting Web 2.0 Things we are examining not only provide an opportunity to showcase our creativity and ingenuity; but also represent a fantastic way for visitors and service users to explore the personality of the institution they are planning on investing their time and money in.

……….

Ok, the fun stuff.

YouTube: Video overload. Firstly, I had a look at the videos on the 23 Things blog. I wasn’t overly wrapped in the University of Sydney one (sorry); though I understood the point it was making, it felt a little laboured to me- by the time they got to the overhead shot of the pamphlets and croissants (a neat device) my interest had waned and I’d switched off.

Latrobe? God, what an awful video. It irritated me soooooooooo much, I lasted for about 30 seconds, and then I was like “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”

Liverpool’s Reading List Fever was less feverish for me, though I liked the concept.

Despite being overly long, I sort of enjoyed the Dr Who themed video (the Doctor made me chuckle) but, to be honest, I’m a Star Trek man…

 

I’ve selected a few YouTube finds to share with everyone, for different reasons:

This made me smile, and shows how crucial Libraries are to community life:

Although this next one is interminably long and dull, I really like the clarity of message/purpose being conveyed:

I’ve included this one on the basis that it feature Sesame Street:

This made me chuckle, even though it shouldn’t:

Lastly, I commend the organisation here (I’m sure we could pull off something similar, maybe to GaGa..?!):

I also urge you to Google ‘Library Ghostbusters’…

This is the only podcast I’ve ever bothered to download (stupid working on Fridays).

I found the Conclusions from this article fairly revealing…

I’m desperate to use Audioboo, but my lack of smartphone (and not having connected microphone to laptop at home) precludes me (stupid organisation fail).

Finally, music aint really my thing, but I had a lot of fun with Grooveshark: I’ve put together a playlist which, if you’re really bored (or are desperate to explore the horrors of my iPod and then judge me) you can check out.

It’s fairly reflective of my mental state recently. Having said that, I’m suddenly reminded of conversations at the start of the 23 Things project about revealing yourself/oneself/the self online (see Twinset & Purls for extensive, spot on, coverage of the topic…) Don’t read anything into that last bit. There’s nothing to see here people. No conclusions to be drawn. They’re just songs I like. Oh God, stop digging Chris.

Crap.

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“Okay, Let’s Have A Threesome!”

Who knew impromptu Irish dancing could be so much fun?!

On Friday I went to a closure party which, on the face of it, sounds like some sort of dreadful post-break-up group therapy meeting. In fact, it was the closure party for the building where I used to work before joining City: the Whipps Cross Campus of London South Bank University. LSBU decided to axe the site prior to Christmas, leaving all of my former colleagues facing redundancy (so, I suppose you could call it a bad break-up of sorts…)

I first joined LSBU in 2001, when I decided to work for a year after leaving college. I rejoined again in 2004 after dropping out of university (don’t ask) and at the time, the plan was to go back to uni within a couple of years; instead, I worked there until May 2010.

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I loved my job at WX. Working at the site, which was little more than a glorified shed, was like being part of an intimate community. Everyone pulled together in the face of the unique challenges faced by an external campus. We were able to build relationships with the students and nursing staff, many of whom became ‘regulars’ over the years. And, I’m happy to say, I’ve made some lasting friendships with the people I worked with too.

It was because of these friendships that I went on Friday, to share in the experience of saying goodbye.

I was less than thrilled when I realised that I’d arrived just in time for the speeches… but, listening to staff members recounting tales from the 1970s (when the building was the local Nursing School), and recalling memories from the days when the PCs were BBC and not Dell, was fun; and hearing from students was especially touching, to know that they valued the support and experience they’d received/had. There were some special mentions, parting gifts (including for the site cleaner) and even a surprise vocal solo from one lecturer (just the right side of embarrassing), before the buffet was opened, the booze poured, and the music kicked into gear.

The whole event was sweet and parochial, which was about right. 

It was good to catch up with everybody, and hopefully there’s going to be a meal at some point in the near future, when we can properly reminisce about all of the fun, weird & crazy times we had. And oh yes, there were crazy times. It’s impossible for me to adequately cover everything in one mere blog post; however…

Here are my Top Ten WX moments:

  • TeaspoonGate
  • Cupboard of Doom
  • Mouse in the House
  • The Dead Body
  • Snowpocalypse
  • AppraisalGate
  • Making a Meal of it.
  • J’Accuse!
  • The Case of the Disappearing Librarian
  • To Catch a Thief (and let him go again)

Some people may have heard a few of these before. From my perspective, my experiences at WX, both good and bad, are framed and viewed with a huge dose of ironic satisfaction.

Even the bad times were good- particularly as they’ve kept me in a surplus of anecdotes for years!

Finally, I should explain- for some reason, the live entertainment was provided by an Irish folk band. At the end of the evening, I found myself roped in to taking part in the ‘last dance’, which turned out to be some sort of group Hoedown. First we formed a circle; then various characteristics were beckoned forwards to the middle (“All those wearing skirts” [clap] etc.); then we were ordered to “Swing with a partner”; then “Promenade with your partner”; and then, after several circuits to a jaunty Irish beat, for some inexplicable reason, the woman on the microphone shouted, “Okay, now let’s have a threesome!”.

Needless to say, it took some of us somewhat by surprise. I laughed so hard my sides hurt. Oh the havoc ignorance and Cava can wreak…

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Monkey Doodle Handy

What do you people want, blood?

Perhaps a slight overreaction, but, honestly, 23 Things Makers: what came over you?

I started reading Thing 13, then I scrolled a bit, read some more, scroll, read, scroll, read, scroll, read, scroll OMG! Will it never end! I mean, War and Peace anyone?!

This hysterical preamble is my way of building the case for the defense. My defense. For not doing all the tasks.

[Gasp]

I know. (Bows head in shame)

I’ve not been well. (Shakes head)

I tried, I really did! (Pleads with hands)

I just couldn’t handle the pressure. I beg of you, have mercy!

[Exit, pursued by angry Librarian]

I also became wrapped up in Prezis, and got slightly carried away with concocting silly questions, resulting in a substantial time-deficit; but that’s beside the point…

Anyway, here’s my Prezi.

Prezi is an excellent presentation tool. I’d never used it before [insert your own jokes about my Prezi here]; in fact, I didn’t know it existed until I came to City. It’s pitched as a user-friendly and more exciting alternative to PowerPoint, and in many ways this is a fair comparison. From what I’ve seen so far, Prezi feels like the dress-down Friday version of PowerPoint: more creative, accessible and fun to use, but no less credible in terms of its content provision. Additionally, the functionality and interactivity of Prezi make it ideally suited for collaborative work.

However, I wouldn’t write off PowerPoint just yet.

I’d be less keen as a presentationee (?), particularly in a classroom setting- where the emphasis is on absorbing complex topics- to be on the receiving end of a full-on Prezi, with it’s potentially disorientating effects and open-ended layout options. There’s something to be said for a simple, clear slideshow, backing up an engaging tutor. There are also a few technical drawbacks with Prezi, but from what I’ve been reading, these are being continually ironed out and the technology updated; so hopefully Prezi will become even more dynamic in the future.

As dedicated readers of this blog (and those of you kind/foolish enough to follow me on Twitter may be aware), I registered with Survey Monkey and went and did one. A big thank you to everyone who tackled the Questions That Need Asking, and for the positive feedback. Obviously, I’ve shown a complete disregard for the methodology of survey construction; but it’s my survey, and I’ll make it trashy if I want to.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Survey Monkey. After all the hoopla of Prezi, and the wowness of Web 2.0 in general, it was hysterically refreshing to be using a programme with Windows ’95 stylings. I suddenly became nostalgic for Microsoft Works, dial-up and Joanna Lumley; though not for my inkjet printer, which promised 3 pages per minute, but actually took 3 minutes per page.

Fist-gnawingly slow.

Survey Monkey might be a little clunky and lacking in finesse, but it does its job and sometimes that’s what’s important. The survey is open until Friday, and the official results will be revealed asap!

I’ve had some recent experience with Doodle, though in a slightly different context. This year, my university department decided to employ Doodle as the mechanism for selecting module options for the forthcoming academic year. From what I can gather, I don’t think this has proved a resounding success, possibly more as a result of poor planning and administration, rather than the merits of Doodle itself.

And I think this is a key point: It’s all very well having Web 2.0 tools at our disposal, but it’s the co-ordination and implementation which has as much to do with a project’s success or failure, as opposed to just the technology. Personally, I think a downloadable pdf or simple online form would have sufficed, but what do I know?

Doodle has a great name, an appealing concept, and is definitely worth further investigation from now on.

I have registered with Remember The Milk, and have invited a poor unsuspecting colleague to join me.

I don’t like the fact that I couldn’t just send my task to someone without forcing them to register- after all, I could have just emailed them anyway- what exactly is the USP here? Clearly I’m missing something. Maybe I should have used Doodle to schedule a chat about RTM? But how would I have remembered to use Doodle in the first place? I can’t even remember what I went upstairs for. If only there was a tool to help me organise my life, and overcome these increasing memory lapses?

What was the last Cool Thing? Oh, yeah, Google Docs.

Erm, right. Google Docs is a search engine designed to help you locate your nearest certified medical practitioner. It’s great. Amazing in fact. Everyone should use it.

Cool.

# Apologies for the lack of embedded content. I tried to embed my Prezi, but 2 hours of trying to grasp gigya codes (disappointingly, nothing to do with Quagmire) and such nonsense defeated me. It’s Sunday, I’ve already missed the Grand Prix (go Hamilton!) and don’t intend missing lunch.

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Would You Like To Feel Our New Carpet?

I’ve not worked a Saturday since April 2010. Weird.

Since my defection from the opposition, I’ve gotten used to the whole, “Working nine-to-five, what a way to make a living” thing; and I must say I rather enjoy it: the routine, the commute (I know, seriously- even falling asleep on the train home and suddenly waking with panic, only to realise we’re still in Clapton…) and the feeling that I’ve made full use of a day. When I worked part-time, I had too much free time on my hands, which I blatantly wasted.

Yet, I’d forgotten how much I valued working on a Saturday: the relationships I built with my colleagues and friends, and the satisfaction of functioning independently.

Helping out at the Undergraduate Open Day today reminded me of those positive feelings.

Weekends are different, they feel different- I became quite territorial about full-timers trespassing on my patch; by the same token, when I covered during the week, I always felt like I had been parachuted in, or brought off the bench like a substitute.

Sometimes, working separately from the rest of the team can be unavoidably problematic, for obvious reasons; but spending time outside of my routine acted like a happy memory trigger this afternoon.

Good times.

So what of the Open Day itself?

A big well done to everyone involved for their efforts, especially TeamLibrary! Despite a few technical hitches, some logistical challenges and several questions outside of the crib-sheet remit*, everything went well and (hopefully) we made a good impression! Let’s face it, our Libraries are happening places- just ask the students who try sneaking their X-Boxes, takeaways, alcoholic beverages and tobacco into the Group Study Rooms! Oh, and football in the Sandpit anyone?

Our message was simple- come to City, because the Library is great. Library win!

(Just a note to any senior colleagues reading this- don’t worry, we did elaborate further than a one sentence soundbite)

It was cool to engage with the potential newbies & their parents, and to try to convey the exciting ways in which the Library services work to support and enhance the student learning experience. We do a lot of good stuff, and we should be proud to tell that to anyone who’ll listen.

Less cool was the harsh realisation that it’s now ten years since I went on my first campus tours- and I am amazed at just how confident and single-minded everyone appears to be these days. Are the financial implications of going to university having an impact? Or am I just getting older? Oh God, next I’ll be typing “In my day…”

Sigh.

All in all, I think we put in a solid display, and fully deserved the chocolatey treats so generously provided in order to meet our end-of-day, celebratory, sugar-fix needs.

Speaking of needs, I needed to include this somewhere. Trust me, it’s amazing:

*My top 3 curve-ball questions:

  • So, what’s the music scene like around here?
  • How close are we to the ‘cool’ places?
  • How does City compare with Warwick University, in particular in terms of its business courses and institutional history?

(I wont tell you the answers I provided, on the grounds that it may embarrass all parties concerned, i.e. me…)

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