Friday, December 28, 2007

Self indulgence

Ah, the season of gluttony and laziness. What a great time for some self indulgence!

First up, my apologies for being somewhat silent of late, although I did warn you. The combined effect of buying and then moving into a house, trying to do repairs on and rent my apartment, still learning lots in the new job, and, oh, Christmas, made me somewhat...zombiefied. It wasn't that I counldn't find time to write, it was more that after all those things, I had little to say other than "still keeping on". Which is really boring.

The self indulgence I speak of is in the form of a review of the last year. I'm only just sneaking this in before the end of 2007 as it is. What a bloody year. I mean, 2006 was a big year, very dramatic and it had huge highs and huge lows, so 2007 doesn't quite stand up to it in that sense, but...it was still a dramatic and draining year. I can't say I'm sorry to see it end.

Of course I started this blog to act as a kind of reflection on changes in my career, but at the time I had no idea how many changes there would be. I didn't know that in this year I would work in four different jobs. I made the move to academic librarianship with every ounce of faith, fully expecting to embrace a new direction and passion, only to find that, well, it wasn't quite the match made in heaven I expected. Now I'm back in special libraries and wondering why I ever left. Yes, I had big plans, yes, I wanted to do big things and "make a difference", but I'm not so sure I had realistic ideas about how that was going to be achieved. Nor am I so sure about this whole "make a difference" thing. I think I'm not sure what I mean by that.

I got into some good library fights this year. ALIA made some changes to the structure of committees, which got myself and other members of the Next Generation Advisory Committee all riled up - there was a time there where all the committee terms were going to be increased from 2 years to 5 years, however it's now been brought down to a much more reasonable 3 years. Personally I still believe that 3 years is much too long for a voluntary committee appointment, and I still don't really understand the reasoning behind the change. In 2008 all the current committee members need to reapply - I don't imagine there will be a challenge to our appointment, but I'm not sure yet what I'm reapplying for. Am I reapplying for the position that I thought would end in December 2008, or a new position that will last for 3 years? Do I even want a 3 year position? I'm worried what will happen to the other committees if other people are asking the same question.

ALIA also made major changes to their draft conference manual. This created somewhat of an uproar, unintentionally I believe, but it was fantastic to see not only the effort put into the draft changes but the number of people that really cared about this and jumped into the fight. This to me is the sign of a healthy member-based association - if you change something and members complain, that's fantastic, because it means that they noticed and they care. I hope the staff at ALIA are pleased with the result, because it really was evidence of member involvement.

I did not nearly enough work on the paper that myself and some colleagues are presenting to the ALA Annual Conference in June. I helped arrange a big viewing of The Librarians at the ABC Library. I got frustrated at the fact that there were so few other library-related events for me to attend, but I also enjoyed hanging out with a few library friends and watching Party Girl one night. And yes, I do miss the full text access that UNSW Library had to American Cheerleader magazine. Quality reading, that.

Next year already seems full to me - please don't add anything new. In a couple of weeks I'll start studying an MBA, and I'm hoping to get rid of the excess furniture in my study before I receive the notes (if anyone wants a futon couch / bed, please let me know!). I'll be in Anaheim in June, probably suffering from stage fright, and will be in Melbourne in December for NLS4 - wild horses couldn't keep me from that one. I'll have my 30th birthday somewhere in there.

I've still got this new job - I'm not sure if I articulated this clearly before, but one of the things I love about this job is that it's hard - and I'm not yet good enough. I need to get better at being a librarian in order to succeed in this job, and that's what I'm looking forward to. I'm also looking forward to the specific workplace challenges: we're implementing a new library management system! Fun! It means that we have the opportunity to really ask some good hard questions about how we do things, and whether there's a good reason or a better way, and I just love doing stuff like that.

I feel no need for new years resolutions - "get through it all" is about the best I can hope for, but I'll be darn proud of myself if I manage that. Meanwhile I'm spending my Christmas break doing lots and lots of relaxing. In fact, I think I might just make myself some tea and have some leftover cake.

Happy new year.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Librarians and the ABC Library

On Wednesday night myself and many of my Australian library folk colleagues sat in front of a screen and watched the first episode of the new Australian comedy The Librarians. Like most, I thought it was okay - it wasn't as good as I was hoping, but it was better than I was expecting. Australian comedy can be really bad, and it wasn't that bad. It was better than Hey Dad, for example, although a friend did point out that sawing your own head off is better than Hey Dad, so I guess that's not much of a compliment. My favourite joke in the show was the first one, where the camera pans over the sign on the door that identifies the Middleton Interactive Learning Centre, to which someone felt the need to add a piece of paper with the word "Library" on it - a nice little jibe about the whacky names we call our libraries / resource centres / knowledge centres / know how centres.

But what was cooler than the show was the place that I got to watch the show. With the assistance of my ALIA Local Liaison Officer I managed to arrange for a group viewing at the the ABC Library - can you imagine a more fitting place? The staff at the ABC were the most wonderful hosts - they put on an amazing spread of food and drinks for us. They were originally expecting about 20 people. They cut off the RSVPs at 50, and ended up having to turn away another 150 people - that's 200 library folk that wanted to come!

Before the show the staff gave us a tour of the ABC Library, and by god it's a huge beast. I was astounded. I guess I'd never really thought about it, but it's massive! They do all the reference and research support behind the shows, as you'd expect, but there's also the sound and film archives which they manage. They have a huge archival responsibility, and have different rooms kept at different temperatures for different material - there was the 18 degree room and the 12 degree room. Kate Burnham (one of our hosts) talked about her role in the music library, and how she gets people singing to her at least once a day. They do a huge amount of conversion work, moving things bit by bit onto digital tape, and they do all original cataloguing. Yep, you read that right - ALL. They catalogue video and sound material to an incredibly detailed extent.

I told my dad about the tour - he used to work for Film Australia as a documentary director, and he has an appreciation for old film stock. Despite how much I've been telling him that I love my new job, he's been trying to convince me to get a job at the ABC instead! I think he wants a tour as well. If they do these tours again, I'll see if I can sneak him in!

So, a huge thank you to the hosts at the ABC Library. It was a fantastic night, and the TV show at the end was just the icing on the cake.

As an aside, remember that post I did a little while ago about how very few people turned up to the Sydney ALIA National Advisory Congress meeting? Think about it - 9 people came to that, but 200 people wanted to come and watch The Librarians. Damn right ALIA has an image problem.

The Google-isation of my world

I don't know whether to be excited or horrified by the extent to which my online activities are increasingly linked to Google.

I've got me an iGoogle page, which I love. I use it to link to my gmail account, and it also tells me how many unread items there are in my Google Reader. It also links directly to documents sitting on Google Docs, which I'm using for personal and professional collaboration - I'm working with two other people on a conference paper using Google Docs, and the ALIA committee that I'm on has given up waiting for ALIA to create an online storage space for us and we now use Google Docs for, well, everything.

I used to read my feeds in Bloglines, but at my last job they had a filter blocking most websites that used blog software, which included Bloglines but didn't include any Google websites, so I moved all my feeds to Google Reader. I've got links to my favourite websites on my iGoogle page, and I just adore the little fox creature and his turtle companion. And, of course, one day I suddenly started logging in to Blogger with my Google account.

Is anyone else getting a bit weirded out by this?

On one hand, it's really cool. Jumping around jobs this year has made the iGoogle thing so handy - not only do I not have to continuously update my email address with friends and family, but for some reason I've had a string of jobs that had crappy computers associated with them, and it's been easier to put work links for any given job on the iGoogle page than it is to bookmark them in Internet Explorer, only to loose them all when my computer died (seriously, I've been plagued by this in the last 6 months. My kingdom for a good work computer and network!). I feel as though my previous internet activities were scattered, like I needed to go to a million different places to do the things I wanted to do. Now I feel like some of it is starting to be grouped together, and I'm creating my own space on the internet. And no, I'm not talking about MySpace.

But on the other hand, it makes me nervous. I know all my data is being read. I know that "they" know all about me now. There's all kinds of information being gathered, and I know that I can be nicely profiled and targeted by advertisers. Or, you know, The Man. Plus, the more I use Google the more reliant I become on it - and things change quickly on the internet. A lot of people have bet a lot of money (sorry, invested through share holdings) that Google will be around for some time yet, but we don't have many business models for that - no one on the internet has been around very long, so what if one day Google is gone? I know, I know, it won't happen overnight, and there'll be others, and by the time it does happen everyone (including slow-on-the-uptake me) will have moved on. But still...

As an aside, I love seeing the ads on the side of my gmail - some of them are so wonderfully random that I enjoy trying to figure out what in the email prompted them.

Dear readers - is your life being taken over by Google? How do you feel about it?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Update on the new job

Yaaaaaaaaaaay!

I love my new job.

I'm working in a nice environment, with lovely people. The perks are great (fresh fruit and an espresso machine), the other people that work there seem happy to be there, and, most of all, there's heaps of things that need to be improved, and it's achievable.

See, it's the last one that's the kicker. The rest is nice, but the last point makes me feel like I will have challenges, I'll meet those challenges, I'll learn things in the process, and I'll develop my career in this job. It makes me feel like there's somewhere to go.

But I'm afraid that I've picked up a head cold, and my writing is somewhat uninspired at the moment. I'm having a quiet weekend at home, and next week I've got two big library things: I'm representing the Sydney Crew at the ALIA NAC teleconference on Tuesday night, and then Wednesday night I'm attending (dare I say co-hosting) a showing of the new ABC series "The Librarians" at, would you believe it, the ABC Library! I think that is so cool, and I'm so looking forward to it.

And moving in three weeks!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What chapter are we up to?

I feel like giggling, I'm so excited!

I got me a new job! A good one!

This has been an interesting year - and it's not over yet. At the beginning of the year I had a plan for how it was going to go. I was going to leave my wonderful but limiting stale job, and move into a larger library. I was going to take a step sideways to create more opportunities. By the end of the year I was going to be established in the new job.

As you loyal readers know, it didn't quite turn out that way. The last six months have been hard and confusing and depressing. I've tried very hard to keep up the "throw plans to the wind, see what life brings me" attitude but at heart I'm a compulsive planner, and it was bugging me that I wasn't in a position to contribute in significant ways to my workplace.

The new job I'm starting (on Monday - this all happened very quickly) will be hard. It's a small team, but what looks like a good one. It's a subject matter that I'm not well versed in - so yay, I get to learn heaps of new things! The library that has undergone, and is still undergoing, a lot of change, and I love those kinds of places. I'm going to have to do things that I don't know how to do, and that gets me all excited. Plus, there's the little things that can actually be big things - it's back in the CBD, in new offices, with natural light and (I hope) working air conditioning. If the computer network is reliable I'll believe I've hit the jackpot.

I'm hoping I can settle here. I really don't want to have a resume littered with stops and starts, and besides, I love building relationships and planning for the future and then being there to see it come true.

So, while starting a new job I'll also be trying to pack up my house - my partner and I having recently bought a house together. It's going to be a busy few weeks. On that note, try as I might, please forgive me if blog posting becomes a little less regular over the next month or two. Don't go away!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Warning: evangelism ahead

During the week I attended my local ALIA National Advisory Congress meeting, which I really enjoyed. So I'm going to get all evangelistic about involvement here.

There were very few people there. Considering the size of a city like Sydney, we had all of 9 people. I know all the reasons why people don't go (and I was very tempted myself just to go home and skip the whole thing), but given that many more people don't go than go, it seems to me that it's the reasons to go that are the rarer species.

So why bother? First up, ALIA is a member organisation. That's not lip service - as an ALIA member I have influence over what the association does. I've run events and attended other events run by those that were able and willing to get involved, and it's not because some paid member of the ALIA staff arranged these events - it's because of volunteers like myself.

The other thing - how much do you know about me? Do you know what I want from my association? Do you know how I would respond to questions posed by the ALIA Board? More importantly, do you agree with me? If you're not able to say yes to all those questions, then how comfortable are you with the idea that I'm there representing hundreds of other members? I'm not representing anyone other than myself in an official capacity, of course, but the fact is that in these kind of situations, the vocal become defacto representatives of the silent. I should only be one voice, one member, but there I was representing one ninth of Sydney members. That's ridiculous! For those that don't come to the NACs because they can't be bothered - stop it! Stop making me represent you! I have no idea what you want and I don't want to speak for you!

(Please note - I have many friends who were not able to attend for darn good reasons, and I'm not saying that everyone should bend heaven and earth to attend. But let's face it, there are plenty of people who don't go to these things because they don't see any reason why they should, and I'm trying to present a reason)

I have no patience for those that say ALIA doesn't do what they want or doesn't represent them. I'm not ALIA's biggest fan, and I'm well acquainted with it's faults - in fact I suspect there are staff at National Office that groan when they see my name, because I'm probably complaining about something AGAIN - but it occurs to me that if ALIA isn't relevant to me, I have the power to change that. So does everyone else.

If you didn't make it to the NAC, and you're an ALIA member, you can still comment on the discussions by viewing the relevant papers here Go on! Stop letting me speak for you!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Suckered in

I've managed thus far to resist most social networking things online, not because I'm a luddite (PLEASE don't tell anyone THAT nastly little secret) but because I just wasn't into it - I have mentioned earlier that I have enough problems keeping up with physical friends, let alone virtual ones. But on the advice of someone I respect (I have to stop following this girl's advice, I think) I signed up to Facebook.

Yeeha! It's fun! So many people...but this blog isn't meant to be just about fun things, so I'll take a professional view of this.

The first question that occurs to me is whether Facebook can legitimately be used in the workplace. I've heard tell of teams using it, but I'm not sure how. I guess it could be cool if you have a team of people spread across different locations, but...how do they use Facebook for work? Surely just knowing that someone is online doesn't do much. So how is it used? Any comments would be appreciated!

This leads me to the second issue - blocking access to websites from work. Being all about free flow of information, I'm generally against any kind of blocking, regardless of what it is. I also kind of feel that if you can't trust your staff not to waste all their time chatting online to their friends, then you have a staff management issue - either they don't have enough work to do or they don't want to do the work they do have. Facebook isn't the problem.

At my current POW, Facebook is blocked, as are any websites that are based predominately on blog software. So I can't, for instance, read my own blog from work. Okay, not such a big deal, right? Well, yes, it is. I also can't access the website for the Information Online conference, or the Library Association of Ireland, because they're using blog software in their websites. I'm just a temp, but if I envisaged my future there, these things would bug me.

It wasn't too long ago that most people had mobile phone numbers blocked in their workplace - some still do, which amazes me (I've got a friend who's in a pretty senior position at State Transit, and she can't call any of her client's mobile numbers - it's insane). Personally I was never in that situation because I was working in a call centre, and we needed to call all kinds of numbers. But I'm thinking blogs are the new mobile phone numbers - organisations are trying to block access to them because they're not seeing how they can be used professionally, but this will obviously have to change as more and more professional websites introduce blog software.

Have any of my readers ever had to justify the removal of blocks on websites in their workplace? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bitten by the study bug

I always knew this would happen. Once I'd finished my second round of tertiary studies (my library grad. dip.) I was pleased as punch, and very happy to get my life back - but I still knew I'd go back to more study at some point. Maybe it's a generational thing. I've read that "our generation" tends to see study as something that you dip in and out of, rather than get out of the way early in life.

For some time now I've been vaguely interested in doing an MBA - I like management, I like planning and strategy and marketing and people management and communication and yes, even budgeting. When I think about the jobs I've loved and what I've loved about them, it's often the management aspects. So it kind of makes sense that I would consider further study in that area.

On Tuesday I went to a Postgraduate and MBA Expo at Town Hall, where a bunch of different unis were on hand to tell me all about their MBA programmes. And it was fantastic. I'm so eager. I want to start right now! I got to talk to them about workloads, I got to look at some lecture notes and assignment questions and readings and it all seemed interesting and achievable.

I'm eager to study externally. I like the freedom and because I'm ultimately a nerd I love the way you can work ahead. And I want to study with an institution that only offers the course externally, because then we're all on an even footing. When I did my grad dip externally I felt as though the course was delivered to the internal students, and there were these other people off to the side. The other advantage I noticed is that the courses that are delivered only through external study are priced accordingly - i.e. they are much cheaper. So it's become quite affordable.

I came away with a shortlist, and I think I've picked my institution - University of New England. They have good ratings, the flexibility I want, external delivery, and a decent library. It took me a moment to notice that one of the providers I was considering - Chifley Business School - didn't have a library. The rep at the expo tried to use that as a selling point - "they provide you with all the reading material you need!" - but to me that says that they're not giving graduates information seeking skills. How often in business will you get every piece of information you need delivered into your mailbox? Seems kind of unrealistic to me. So I stood up for the library, and struck them off my list.

There don't seem to be many MBAs in library land, and I'm not sure if that will work for or against me. Either I'll have an edge over other applicants for management positions, or I'll be terribly over qualified. But I have to admit that despite my recent crisis of faith being dealt with, I do like the idea of having a qualification that can be recognised outside of library land. And, oh golly, the average graduate starting salary? Ahem. Somewhat higher than that of library graduates. From a purely financial point of view, that is one fine investment.

So hooray to being a student again!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A few of my favourite things

It occurs to me that I've not actually written much in this blog about temping - ostensibly what the blog's meant to be about. So, based on hardly any experience at all (when has that ever stopped me?) here are some of my favourite things about temping:

I'm not the most responsible person in the room. It is not my responsibility to find solutions to major problems facing my current place of work. It is my responsibility to do the job I'm being paid for, do it well, and if I have any suggestions, great. But those long term problems that every workplace has? Not my responsibility.

I don't have to play pretend. I don't have to pretend like I will be around in 5 years time. I don't have to hide the fact that I'm looking for other work. And I don't have to hide the fact that I don't want to work somewhere on a permanent basis. My contract has an end date and we're all happy with that.

I get to be more flexible. This is the comment that I'll probably regret when I'm not quite so green and naive, but so far despite the lack of paid leave it's been easier to get time off when I need it. Perhaps it's something about the fact that they're not having to pay me when I'm not there. Perhaps it's to do with the workload in this particular role. And perhaps it's the very simple infrastructure in place that allows me to be paid only for the hours I work, which means that if I want time off, I just don't get paid - we don't have to faff around with accrued leave and time in lieu.

I get to learn new things. Again, possibly one of those things I"ll get really sick of, but I feel like I'm learning more now than I have in a long time. And they're not earth-shattering skills - just new things, new resources, new procedures, new people that one has to find ways of working with. I'm finding it very refreshing, and I'm already looking forward to the next new place with all it's idiosyncrasies.

For some time I've been considering undertaking further study - specifically, and MBA. I'm going to a Postgraduate and MBA Expo on Tuesday where I get to speak to a whole room full of suppliers, which I'm hoping will help me make the decision of whether this would be a smart choice or a waste of substantial amounts of time and money.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

How to read a paper

Howdy folks,

In responding to a reference inquiry at work the other day I came across this very nifty website put together by the lovely people at the BMJ (British Medical Journal) on how to read a paper. It may seem a bit off topic but it was so chock full of useful information I just couldn't help myself.

The website talks about what kind of things to look out for when reading mostly medical journal papers, but also others, and would be relevant for anyone hoping to write or review a paper. For the medical librarians out there, at the bottom there is a great plain English guide to using Medline through Ovid.

In other news I've just realised that the annual conference of the Special Libraries Association is on just two weeks before that of the American Libraries Association at which yours truly is presenting. Dare I go for two huge library conferences at once?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A crisis of professional confidence

How many times have you found yourself questioning this whole library malarky? Do you have moments (minutes, days, weeks, months) where you ask yourself whether this profession is really where you're meant to be, whether it's really where you want to be? I do.

In my recent disrupted employment situation, one of the questions that kept coming up for me was whether it was actually possible for me to find what I want in library land. There are things about this profession that drive me absolutely insane - it's generally conservative (with regard to change and progress), there is still an obsession with rules and gatekeeping, and it's small - so small. Often it's way too inbred - I feel sometimes that the only way I'll get a particular job is if I can demonstrate that I've already done that exact same job in an organisation that is almost exactly the same. These practices do not lead to progress, and certainly not to excitement.

I recently applied for a job outside of library land. I'd be using many of my library skills - quite a bit of research, for example - but it wasn't a library job and I couldn't kid myself that it was. And I was offered an interview. I had a good long think about whether I was ready to make that kind of a leap. I was attracted to the job itself, as it looked like an interesting job, but I found myself getting quite sentimental - I felt that while that job might be interesting, that would be it - I would only be doing that job. There would be no community surrounding it, and I also felt as though I would be disconnecting with the community that I am a part of.

I love being part of a professional community - I love feeling as though my work doesn't stop at the front door of my library, and I love the feeling that there are hundreds, thousands of librarians out there that I can turn to for help, ideas and encouragement. From time to time I can meet large groups of them at conferences and other events, and, well, some of them are even reading these rather personal musings of mine. I love feeling as though there might be others out there interested in what I do - that I don't work in a vacuum. And I really, really want to present the paper I'm working on with some friends at ALA next year - how could I do that if I wasn't in library land anymore (yes, I know I could do it, but it would feel dishonest)? How can I champion libraries if I've given up on them?

And so I withdrew my application. I figured I'd have plenty of opportunities to leave library land, but fewer to stay. Friends, I'm here for a while yet. And thanks for giving me a reason to stay.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm not very good at being unemployed

Well, that was quick. I'm starting a new job on Monday!

It's a temp role, for 13 weeks, which is long enough to make a contribution and learn some things, but no so long that I feel like I'm over committing. I'm really, really looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to that feeling of not knowing what I'm doing, and having to figure it out and learn new things in the process. It's in a hospital, so it's still in that medical environment that I'm somewhat familiar with, but I've not worked in a hospital before. It's also quite close to one of my favourite Indian restaurants, so I'll have to convince my partner to meet me after work for dinner occassionally.

On another topic, I came across this great idea posted by the always impressive Mylee Joseph to the ALIA New Grads elist http://answerboards.wetpaint.com This is a wiki for librarians who participate in web-based answer boards, and they're having a "Slam the Boards" event to promote libraries and librarians in general - a fine idea! I'm planning to have a play around and see if I can contribute in some way.

Which leads me to my next challenge. Last year I worked a full time job, ran a national conference, and had a rather dramatic personal life. This year, I'm...working a full time job, usually. And yet I don't seem to have lots of free time on my hands. What's going on?

I've decided the problem is a combination of discipline and time management. So I want to try and get back into the practice of setting aside time for things like professional reading, keeping up my committee work with NGPAG, and writing more. I'm exploring the idea of going back to study next year, and if I can't maintain some time discipline this year, I've got no hope with study, so this is going to be a bit of a prepatory exercise.

I'll admit that I'm suffering a bit from the "I'll do it tomorrow" syndrome - I did have a hard year last year, and this year I've been more inclined to be easy on myself, but you know what? It's August and I've not achieved much, except for quiting two jobs. I think perhaps I've been a little too easy on myself.

So I'm setting aside two hours today to catch up on NGPAG work, and another two hours on Sunday. I'm going to make one night a week "library night" where I make the effort to contribute, rather than just read through some rss feeds.

Other than the simple "just do it", I'd love to hear how other people keep up with professional issues. How much time does it take each week? Do you set time aside, or do you just do it when you feel like it? How do you keep track of it all?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Chapter three? Four? Five?

This is kind of awkward – how do I tell a blog audience that I’ve quit the job that the blog is about?

Ahem. Like that.

So, I’ve resigned from “the new job”. Simply put, I just wasn’t connecting with the role – I do believe that they have a great model, and I do think that the academics were starting to respond really well to it, so it really was just a simple “this aint for me” situation. I look forward to hearing of their successes as they continue this grand experiment.

But now the scary bit – I don’t have a new job lined up! I’ve always been a super conservative person when it comes to money – I’m safety net girl, and have an ingrained belief that I’m only one bad decision away from living on the streets. It’s patently untrue, of course, but it’s still there. I’ve never quit one job without having the next one lined up, until now.

What I really want to do is some temping in library land. I hear it’s what all the cool kids do. What I’m hoping is that it will give me exposure to a range of different environments, and people. I’m also feeling a little commitment-shy at the moment – not sure I’m ready to jump into another permanent position that might go awry, and I don’t want my resume to be dotted with quick resignations.

Gentle readers, if you will permit me, I’d like to change the topic of this blog. It’s now about my adventures in the world of library temping – maybe. I mean, if the right permanent position comes up, I’ll jump at it, and I do have some applications in, but I’m really targeting the temporary roles at the moment. I’m hoping to use this blog to talk about the great ideas I come into contact with, the things I learn from not only different environments but also from just doing this kind of work, and whether it’s really as challenging and interesting as some people say. Many people that I respect highly have done temping, and recommend it, so perhaps I can follow in their footsteps.

So, where to now? My last day at “the new job” is the 8th August and I’m giving myself two days of unemployment. I’d like to think that I’ll spend some time catching up on my professional reading, and making use of some of the great library collections around Sydney (Customs House Library looks like it has a pretty good management collection). And I’ll spend time doing things like cooking and doing the little odd jobs around my house. This is all assuming that I do have some period of unemployment, which may or may not happen. There are a number of very interesting opportunities that have already been suggested to me, so it may be that I'm jumping into a new role fairly soon, which has it's own excitement.

In the meantime, I think my hardest challenge is to not follow my nervousness into the first secure employment I'm offered. This is meant to be about me exploring and taking risks while I can, and I'll have to work quite hard to ensure I don't take the easy, safe road.

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Now we're getting somewhere

Sorry about the gap between postings folks, it's been a busy few weeks.

I've had some cool moments in the job over the last couple of weeks that make me feel like we're really starting to make an impact. I had two, count them, two people contact me that I had not yet met - academics in research centres where I had visited the centre but not spoken to that particular academic. On both occassions these academics were contacting me for exactly the kind of thing they should contact me for - questions about our resources. But it's a very cool thing that they did contact me, because someone, somewhere, told them that they should. And then they did. They didn't find me all on their own - we're not listed on the Library website (don't even start me on that issue) and doing a staff search wouldn't find me unless they already know my name. So they either talked to a colleague or read the Library Updates that are sent arouond - either option is great.

Then, I had a really interesting meeting with an academic. I'll try and keep this as anonymous as possible, but what you need to know about this person is that he has a PhD (from my employer), has a computer science background, and does research in an area which one would generally need pretty high information literacy skills to survive in.

What's interesting about this guy is that, until I met with him in the course of my usual duties (even having to push through the "oh, I've got nothing to say, don't bother with me" barrier), he had no idea how to use a library catalogue. He's been surviving all this time with Google. Good on Google, I say - I mean, how wonderfully user friendly is that that this guy can essentially hide this lack of knowledge by using their services. It's amazing.

He gets heaps of information, and uses it, but there was one fundamental thing he didn't get - that library catalogues don't index journals. He had spent countless hours entering article titles and authors into our catalogue, and getting no results, and being consistently pissed off with the library because of it. See, because he has a computer science background, he doesn't understand WHY we don't index journals. The way his mind has worked, it's possible and desirable, so why shouldn't it be that way?

In the end I had to tell him that while I agreed with him wholeheartedly, my job was to show him how to work with the often stunted tools that we do have. I hope I helped.

But this flows nicely into a discussion I'll be attending at work on Tuesday on the future of OPACs, or traditional library catalogues. Those attending the discussion have been assigned reading (which I've done cos I'm a dork) and I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the brightest minds in the uni library tackle this issue. And I'm hoping to use my computer scientist as an example - we can't assume that "the kids of today" will accept the limitations of our catalouges - they have access to things that are so much better, they can do almost everything without having to learn "our" way of doing things. So when they do encounter our online tools, they'll assume they work the same way as everyone elses. If they don't find what they want, they'll assume we don't have it. They will probably not ask for help, because they'll assume that the people who keep styling themselves as "information professionals" have actually kept with the times somewhat.

In other news, last week I did a day of training for my replacement at my old job, which was a very surreal experience but I was so happy to be able to help her out a bit - they picked a good one to replace me though. She's absolutely full of drive and passion. This week I'm going to the next event in the lecture series that I started 3 years ago - I arranged this lecture at the beginning of 2007, but my replacement has had to take over from me and I'm really excited for her - she's getting bookings and has a bunch of support. Wanna come? Have a look here.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Following up, again, on that vision comment

I've just done a read over my blog, because one of my bosses asked to have a look at it and I figured I should check there was nothing incriminating in it before sending it to her. And I re-read the comments I was making about not having a grand vision to be working towards.

The good news is that situation is improving. I told my team leader about this, and he gave me a copy of the document that sat near the beginning of the whole restructure that started a few years ago. I had one of my "help students find stuff on the shelves" shifts on Thursday, and given that it's the last week of exams there was no one around, so I read the document.

At last - grand visions! It was fun. The document was a summary of all the staff consultations they held some time ago, where they presented three future models of the Library to staff and asked them for input. I liked the models - I think they were being overly optimistic about the rate of change that could be implemented, but I think one should be overly optimistic when creating vision.

What it gave me was a sense of what the potential of the Library is. The next thing I want to explore is how far along those models the senior managers feel we are.

Also, just so that I can add a second tag for Latvians, last weekend was Jani, the Latvian Midsummer celebrations. Oh golly - these people are so cool. It's as if there's some rule that if you get three or more Latvians together in a room they just break into song. Sometimes I felt I was in a musical, except that the songs didn't advance the plot at all - they were mostly about beer. I'm told that even the little kids were singing about beer.

After the official celebrations we ended up at the Hero of Waterloo pub in the Rocks, where there was, until our arrival, a lonely celtic band playing. Once we (a group of 12 Latvians and 3 pretend Latvians) arrived, there was almost constant folk dancing all night long. I LOVE dancing with these people - I did some preparation in the morning by watching YouTube video tutorials on how to polka.

I've agreed to go on a three day skiing trip with the Latvians. I'm not sure how my liver is going to hold up, I might have to exercise some self control.

Back to work. Our weekly meeting targets have been revised from 20 to 12, much more reasonable. It's still pretty full on - next week I have 7 meetings booked and it looks like a busy week to me, so it'll be interesting to see if I can increase those figures any without falling over. Perhaps if I can avoid getting sick, AGAIN, I'll have a better chance.

Oh, and in other good news - I'm finally able to do something a bit more in depth - I'm working with one of the research centres to develop a new collection in their area, which makes me feel like I'm developing a deeper relationship and offering them something new, and something of consequence. That should be cool!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Reporting on the events of last week

In my last post I believe I was anticipating two great events - a two day sales training course, and the introduction of a new member into our team. I can happily report that both happened. Woo!

A lovely woman by the name of S (need to protect identities here, you see) started with us last Monday. Of course, rather than the orientation that was given to us for our first two days when we started in April, S was dumped straight into the sales training, and probably found out a lot more about how the team works there than she would have in an orientation, because she had us for two days being rather candid about the challenges of our work. But it seems we didn't scare her off, which is good to know.

The training was pretty cool - much better than I expected. Now, I really don't have a problem with sales and marketing and using those words and concepts in relation to libraries. I think I've said it here before, but if we want to survive in a world where these things are king, "for the cultural good" is not enough of an argument any more. So I didn't go into the training thinking "this will be horrible, I'm an honourable librarian who will never sell out to these cheap tools", rather "yay! Give me more ways to convince people that we rock". Cos that's what it is about - I know that libraries rock (or at least they can - don't get me started on the current state of the profession), but other people don't, so we need to communicate that to them.

The training focused on some basic tools, which were then decorated with frills. The trainer was great, and I felt like I walked away with a good structure to use in my outreach calls with academics. I think the importance of that is underrated. When you're trying to sell a particular message, having a way to structure the meeting is vital so you don't end up babbling uselessly. So I've got a structure, I've got some tips on how to reword messages, and I've got some challenges ahead in terms of having the guts to implement some of these tricks. I'm looking forward to changing the way I do things - I'm looking forward to my meetings being quite different in, say, two months time.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fresh meat

Sorry for the break folks - after attending many parties this year in honour of other people, last weekend (long weekend, thank you queenie) was taken up with my own birthday celebrations. Which, apart from one big night, I'll admit did consist mostly of allowing myself to spend a weekend on the couch, under a quilt and two cats, reading. Good weather for it too!

Anyway, tomorrow at the new job should be interesting. See, in our team of 9, 4 were previous employees who had been at the library for some time, just new to these positions, and then there were the 5 of us that all started on that innocent day back in April. In that time we've done lots of bonding, and I'll admit that there still is a bit of a newbies divide, but it is dissipating (I think). Having said that, all 5 of us starting at the same time was fantastic - it meant we could share our struggles and we, for some reason, trusted each other. So we've been like a little newbies club.

Oh, but tomorrow. We get a new staff member tomorrow! Apparently there were always meant to be 10 of us, and I'm not sure why they didn't start 6 of us at the same time, but regardless - fresh meat tomorrow! I probably shouldn't be talking about our new teammate that way, but hopefully she'll have a sense of humour and allow me some slack. I'm really looking forward to meeting her.

I'm really curious how her experience will be different from ours. We've spent the last two months defining these jobs, often fighting our superiors on the matter. We came into something that was only half formed, and we're not there yet, but we've made a lot of progress. It has, in some ways, been rewarding being able to change the nature of your work. So I wonder how the new newbie will feel.

Will she be as confused as we were? Will she develop relationships with us that are as strong as our internal ones? Will she feel left out? Will she feel cheated that she's not had as much input into the nature of the jobs as we did? Will she be delighted by the same things we are, and, um, not so delighted by the same things we are?

So far I have loved working in this team. They're not all my new best friends, but I feel I have a decent relationship, at least, with all of them and like most of them on a personal level. At the risk of sounding really pathetic, I was so chuffed that they arranged a cake and an afternoon tea and a singalong birthday celebration for me, cos I can't remember the last time someone at work made that kind of effort for me! The point of all this is that so far I like this team, and I'm looking forward to a new personality coming in.

So, new newbie, if you're reading this - welcome!

In other news (and just quickly), the next two days at work will be taken up with what looks like a rather full-on sales training. I'm looking forward to it - Librarians generally suck at selling (it's a generalisation - don't email me) so I'm looking forward to getting good. I hope I can keep up! I'll try and find time next weekend to tell you all about it, loyal readers.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The modern world

I've just finished reading the classic book by Alvin Toffler, Future shock. I read it because it seems to be increasingly quoted, perhaps due to a refreshed belief that our culture and society are speeding up to a point where we've reached the peak and things are changing in a major way. I dunno if that's just hype, or ego (of course it would be for us that things are different), but it was an interesting read nonetheless.

The future predictions were fun - apparently we should all be living under the sea by now, and why did that idea go away anyway? - but there was one big, nasty weakness in the book. It seemed that Mr Toffler didn't ever consider the impact of women's liberation. Throughout the book he refers to women only as wives and mothers. The impact of women in the workplace never occurs to him. Nor does the concept of an increasingly large number of women in affluent societies choosing to remain single and / or childless. At one point he talks about how women are more proactive in making connections when entering a new neighbourhood, or when welcoming someone new to the neighbourhood, but that's the only thing they have to offer. And that kind of pissed me off.

But apart from that I enjoyed finding out how many of our current concepts stem from this book. The concept of information overload, which we are all WELL familiar with, came from here. And I often found myself wondering what Mr Toffler would think of web 2.0, with it's online social structures combining with intense individuality. I think he would have been impressed.

Ooo, I had a fun "this internet thing is cool" moment the other night. One of my favourite websites for some years has been Television Without Pity. A friend pointed me to it during the Buffy heydey, and I gleefully read the recaps for each episode, and heartily agreed when they came up with the name Shiny McWhiney for Dawn. There was a strange moment in the last series of Veronica Mars when in the background of an episode a poster advertised an event by a group who's initials were prominently displayed as TWOP, and I did wonder whether there was some referencing loop happening there (and eventually found out that yes, it was done on purpose), but when a character on My Name is Earl actually mentioned the website's forums the other night, ooo I was a happy camper! It was like my little thing got famous, even though it wasn't mine at all. But it did demonstrate the loop between television and internet that has developed of late, and I think it's fun.

So, on that note, I'm off to TWoP to read the latest Survivor recap and hope I don't accidentally find out who won, damn internet and it's spoilers!

p.s. I just discovered that Blogger's spellcheck doesn't allow "internet" (it wants to capitalise the I) but does offer as an alternative "Internets". Really? The Internets? I'm having a Ted Stevens moment (do read the second part of that post, it's a classic)

Working at UNSW

It's a strange time to be working at UNSW. Last week, after spending the morning being oriented to UNSW and being told all about how UNSW Asia is a symbol of the University's commitment to the development of the Asia Pacific area, we all received an email from Grand Poo Bah Hilmer telling us that the whole thing's been called off. The following morning I sat down to my muesli facing a story on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald that basically outlined the litany of woes faced by the University in the last 12 months - from the closure of its overseas campus to a building giving people cancer and a faculty unable to hire casual teaching staff. And I got kinda depressed - it wasn't the best day to be proudly striding into my new workplace home.

But then it hit me - does that mean I'm settling in? I got depressed because I identified with the University. There's always a time lag between when you start a new job and when you feel like you're a part of that company, and it seems I've gotten over that point. Cool.

And then there are the great bits of working there. The access to information - by golly, I can even get full text access to American Cheerleader! I got into a minor row with a friend who also works in the public service the other night about, well, working in the public service. I was recounting some guidance my boss had given me about how she wants us to be flexible and use discretion and take initiative. My friend has yet to believe that there is any such person in the public service, and perhaps her experienced cynicism will prove my naiveté wrong, but for the moment I'm chosing to be the wide-eyed, hope-filled sucker.

Oh, and I'm not sure if I mentioned, but a few weeks ago I bought me a new toy - my very own, very first laptop. My partner's work gave him one about 9 months ago and I kind of commandered it, and was converted. This desktop thing is for chumps! Why am I writing about this? Cos my grand new job lets me salary sacrifice my new toy and now I'm getting paid an extra $50 per week just from the reduction in tax! I have no idea how it works, I don't want to know, but I love it.

While I'm on the topic, when I got the new laptop I made the leap to Windows Vista, and the new Office suite. All my friends had nothing but bad things to say about Vista, which was interesting as none of them had actually used it or even knew anyone that had used it. And you know what? I like it. I like the little see-through windows. I like Mahjong Titans. I LOVE the automatic search window that comes up when you hit the Windows button. I like the contextual toolbar in Office programs. And most of all I love the feeling that for once I'm not the one left behind.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Following up on that vision comment

Today we had a Library Senior Management Group Open Forum. Apparently these happen semi-regularly, although I'm not entirely clear on how they are used. Today's was used to give a good overview to all the newbies, myself included, on a whole bunch of stuff - the University as a whole (and what the Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors and Pro Vice Chancellors do), board structures, where the Library fits into all of this, as well as an overview of what the different units of the Library do.

It was good, although much of it I had heard before, of course. The general uni stuff was good, because I think uni people forget how overwhelming universities can be to non uni people. They talk about faculties and pro vice chancellors and presiding members and associate professors like we know what that means, and we really truly don't. Tomorrow I have my UNSW orientation - a little delayed, but I'm looking forward to it.

But for me the best part of today's open forum was the bit at the end where we got to ask, well, any questions we wanted. Most of the questions asked were operational - when will this be done by, how are you dealing with that challenge, etc. - but I found myself thinking of my recent comments about lacking a vision for the Library. So I asked the big boss to tell me what his 10 year vision for the Library was. I was both concerned and relieved that he didn't have a simple, clear answer.

But his vision was interesting - it was about the virtual library. And part of what he was talking about was this understanding that about twice as many people use the virtual library as the physical one, and so how do we make it so that people still feel like they're using the library? Many of the academics I'm speaking to comment that they don't use the library, they get all their stuff online, and I have to explain to them that online is still the library - hell, there is a HUGE amount of money dedicated to these online resources, so it had better be the library!

So how do you make people feel like they're using the library when they don't visit the building? I think us Outreach Librarians are going to contribute to that quite a bit, but there must be other ways. Do you try and get all these people into some kind of online community? Can we use social networking tools to achieve this goal, and how can we do that given that academics will resist anything that smacks of taking extra time or effort? We can't ask them to do more, and we can't ask them to behave differently, so how do we create this without them changing?

No answers here folks. But if you have any ideas or can point me in the direction of someone else's ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why there was a gap in postings


I did warn you - last weekend was the Latvian wedding. If you ever get the opportunity to go to a Latvian wedding, do not let it pass you by. That was possibly the best party I have ever been to.


The picture shows a lovely lad by the name of Talis (my sincere apologies if I've misspelt that) and his contribution to the wedding feast - this 230 litre cask was full of his home brew ale which was the best beer I have ever tasted. I believe the cask was empty by 10:30. But don't worry - there were other provisions. We certainly didn't go without!


The rituals associated with the wedding were fantastic - my understanding is that the bride and groom, having done the paper signing at the registry the day before, were free to pick whichever bits they wanted out of a wide range of rituals. The traditional kidnapping and subsequent ransoming of the bride was amongst the most charming. She was worth a bottle of whiskey and a pack of cigarettes.


I get to put a tag on this for Latvians, cos I've been invited to the Summer Solstice festivities in June (obviously it's a northern hemisphere thing), which I promise to at least make mention of so that I can have two whole entries about Latvians!


Tonight is the night of nights, when the best Europe comes out to play. I'm talking, of course, about the Eurovision Song Contest! I would link to the website, but I'm avoiding it so I don't accidentally find out who won. I saw the Latvian entry in the preliminaries last night, and was pleased to see them get through - I don't think they'll win, but at least the boys can sing. Oh, it's a fun night ahead! The biggest question is whether any of the acts can match the lyrical poetry of last year's winners Lordi, who included such lines as "the day of rockoning" and "it's the arockalypse". Teehee!

A sensitive exploration of my "issues"

What's interesting about starting a new job is what you learn about yourself. For example, when I moved to my last job from the one before that, I realised that having people around me that I liked and was eager to see at least occassionally was really important. It never occurred to me before, because I was able to take it for granted. But all of a sudden I didn't have that company, and I dearly missed it. I have it back now - on Friday I went out for after work drinks with colleagues for the first time in 4 1/2 years.

So I've learnt some things about myself in moving to this job too, and at the risk of this post sounding overly negative, in most cases it's been a similar thing - something that I was able to do before, am now not able to do, and am realising how much I enjoyed it.

There are two things in particular that have come to my attention. The first is a small picture thing - the way I work - and the second is big picture - the role of imagination in my job satisfaction. Wow, that does sound deep.

So we should start small. I've come to realise over the last few weeks that I am, speaking generally, a project person. This is a similar concept to something I read in My Career a while back, about how people are either builders (love to create new things) or maintainers (love to make things continue to work well). I'm a builder, and also a project person. I want my job to progress, I want to feel like I'm achieving something that I can see. I had a crap day at work the other day, and in the old days the treatment for that was to do an hour or so of weeding. At the end of that hour I've taken out my bad mood on the shelves, there's less crap on the shelves, and there's a pile of books to be gotten rid of. It ALWAYS made me feel better.

They didn't have to be immediate projects either - my involvement in NLS2006 is a great example of that. It took ages to see the results of that, but I always knew I was getting somewhere, progressing towards some end point at which there would be something I could see and say "I did that".

But this job - there's no such element. Apart from the subtle changes in the way the job will be done, if we're doing it right, we'll just keep on keeping on. This means I have to find new ways to measure achievement. I'm open for suggestions, so long as they're not "Answering all the questions that an academic asked you" or some such. That's great, and it's important, but...y'know.

Second - imagination. This bit's going to sound like I've given up, but bear with me.

There seems to be a 'thing' going around at the moment where one imagines what your library will look like in 20 years time (was it 20? Could have been 10. It doesn't really matter). I tried it - and almost cried. It looked exactly the same. Nothing, of any consequence, had changed. Sure, the students were all wearing jet packs, but they still couldn't read a sign, the library was still underresourced, and we were still debating on how to meet their needs in a very reactionary fashion.

Fine - maybe I'm missing the point. But then I tried it for my old job - oh my. It was fabulous. I won't go into details, but it really was great. So why couldn't I do that for the new job?

I realised it was because at the moment I'm too far down the ladder to see where the changes are coming from, and to know what could change and what will always be the same. In the old job I drove change - no one else did, and any change that happened was because of me, in one way or another. Here, change will be driven by other people, not me. This is okay - I'm new, there's a huge amount I still need to understand, it's okay to feel this way. But it did make me realise that being able to use imagination to drive my vision of my work is important to me. So again, I have to find a new way to do this. I'm wondering if the people up the top have this inspiration, and whether they would mind sharing it with me sometime.

So on the list of things to do, we have:
1. Find a way to measure my achievements that means something to me, so I feel like I'm getting somewhere.
2. Find the creative inspiration that will keep me excited about working for this library.

To return to my original point - I would never had thought to ask in the job interview "what drives you in your position? What inspires you about working here?" to my future boss - just because I didn't realise how important it is. But it's a perfectly valid question, and I hope that, having written this here, when the next job interview happens, I'll look back on this and include it in my questions.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cos I'll be busy on the weekend

So I'd better post something now, or risk this blog being yet another one that I started but didn't keep up to date and then it all got too hard and so I deleted the whole thing.

EXCEPT the creepy thing is that now I'm on the Google Blogger thing (I don't know what the deal is, could find out but I don't care that much) my past deleted blogs have come back to life! It's like my lack of commitment has come back to haunt me! If only my ex boyfriends could appreciate the irony. Anywaaaay...

I had meetings this week! Actual meetings with actual academics. I've had four so far, which I'm pleased with. They were varied, but none of them unpleasant. In some cases they were aware of most of the library things, just needed some more details, in other cases, well, I spoke to someone today who said that when he wasn't able to access the full text of a journal article he would just get another article instead. I asked if he had considered using the ILL/DD service, which he had never heard of. It's obvious there's been some people slipping through the cracks.

But these people are charming, and it's always wonderful to think that you may be having an impact on research that is important.

Responding to a comment from one of my loyal readers (I think I have two now!), so far I've not had problems contacting people, but that's because I have such a long list that if they don't answer the phone I just move on to the next one. This is the same for most of the newbie team members, but one of the more experienced ones had a great tip. See, she deals with the Faculty of Arts, and they share the same coffee cart that we do in the library (it really is a good coffee cart - who knew that coffee from a cart could be so good. They even have great pastries). She said that when she reaches the point where she just can't get a hold of anyone and starts to suspect that they're all avoiding her, she just goes and hangs out at the coffee cart, where she accosts them at their most vulnerable - caffeine deprived. Works a treat, she claims!

I'm not sure how that's going to work with my research centres being all over campus though. Yesterday I had two meetings, which I belatedly plotted on a map. They were at diagonally opposite ends of the campus - you really could not get two buildings that were both on campus that were further apart. Stupid big campus!

Tomorrow is a break from meetings (and writing reports on the meetings and setting up new meetings) - it's back to training. OHS stuff in the morning, something vital in the afternoon that has temporarily escaped me, and in between - heh - Dewey refresher course. We were told the other day that we'll all be doing little shifts helping students find stuff on the currently chaotic sixth floor over the next couple of months, which is fine, 'cept I had to point out to my boss that, well, the last time I used Dewey was when I attended uni last - 8 years ago now. I did my course by correspondence, and I didn't use Dewey in the last job. So for us newbies that came from somewhere heathen, Dewey refresher tomorrow, so we know just that little bit more than the students we're meant to be helping.

Have a great week guys!

I'm in print!

I received by copy of A day in the life on Monday, fresh off the press from the USA. "What's that?" I hear you say. Well, I can't say it better than the editors, so over to them:

Shontz, Priscilla K. and Richard A. Murray, editors. A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science. Libraries Unlimited, 2007. 464 pages. ISBN 1591583640.

Table of contents, excerpts, contributor information, and more at
http://www.liscareer.com/dil.htm.

Many people, not just those new to the field of library and information science, are curious about their career options. The editors of LIScareer.com have assembled 95 authors, each of whom describes a "typical" workday or work routine, sharing joys, sorrows, and annoyances in refreshingly candid fashion. In the process, they offer those interested in finding a similar job exposure to useful skills and advice across a wide variety of traditional and nontraditional jobs. In addition to public, academic, school, and special libraries, consortia, associations, LIS programs, vendors, publishing, consulting, and other non-library fields are also covered. This is a perfect guide for library and information science students, prospective information professionals, new librarians-or anyone considering a career change.


Well golly, don't that just sound like the perfect thing for all library types pondering which of the many and varied types of organisations they could work in (or create for themselves). Little ol' me got the first chapter in the Special Libraries section, which is pretty exciting, even if it is about a job I no longer do.

I know this is blatant self promotion, but I figure it will be a while until I get this opportunity again. I love writing, and I loved writing that chapter, but I don't know enough about my new job to write anything other than this blog, and I can't really write about the old job anymore. So milk it I shall.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Has it been three weeks already?

This was meant to be the week where I got over the cold and started doing great. Unfortunately the first part didn't happen, and I had a day off work, followed by a public holiday, both of which were spent sniffling and coughing on the couch. How very, very boring.

But Friday - but Friday I had pulled my finger out, and managed to get to a point where I could have a short phone conversation without descending into a coughing fit (I still wasn't able to sit through a training session though). So call I did - and I have four appointments for the coming week, and a date to call someone for another appointment! So in the week ahead I reckon I'll end up doing 6 appointments, aiming for 10 the next week. Optimistic? Yep. Cos no matter how hard I call, I'm still relying on these people being available, and at relatively short notice. But a girl's gotta dream, no?

(In our induction our boss presented us with a sheet of paper indicating our targets - 20 appointments per week. It scared me a little until he pointed out that the experienced staff hadn't reached that level yet, and actually it was an arbitrary level - the just needed a target which could later be adjusted.)

So far I haven't hit any problems. In fact, the response I've gotten on the phone from these people has mostly been along the lines of "Oh, the library? Um, yeah, that'd be good. What a nice idea!"

Something else that came up - the training manager for the library has asked me to be involved in a presentation to staff about conference involvement, with the other people on the staff that were involved in NLS2006. First I need my team leader's permission (and that in itself is an adjustment for me - I used to be able to make my own decisions about how to spend my time) but hopefully there won't be any objections. I'm really looking forward to being able to give a little back to this group of people that have so far invested so much time and energy into training me. Hopefully I can inspire some of them to stick their hands up, because honestly, convening NLS2006 was one of the best and most enjoyable things I've ever done.

Following this segue, the ALIA Conferences and Professional Development Standing Committee have asked me to be involved in a teleconference on the future of sponsorship for ALIA conferences. I'm so glad this discussion is taking place. What I'm seeing is an increasing number of events vying for a shrinking sponsorship budget from the same pool of companies. It was hard, with NLS, to be trying to get money from the same companies as all the other ALIA events, and it made things awkward sometimes too - there were times when we were held back from a company because ALIA were trying to get them to sponsor something bigger, and we were only allowed a look in once that had been finalised.

We did try changing tack and targeting companies that might want to market to a conference of young, mostly female professionals, such as gyms, magazines, cosmetic companies, etc. but we had this idea too late to make it work, and we lacked a foot in the door - we could never get past receptionists. But I think it's how ALIA needs to be thinking in the future. We are more than a bunch of librarians. There are some interesting alternative ideas floating around at the moment, and I'm looking forward to the discussion (provided I'm allowed to attend!).

So the week ahead will be meeting week. I'm hoping to blog midweek, as next weekend will be taken up with the third wedding I'll be attending this year - a big Latvian bash up north. Latvians know how to party, so I'd better have shaken the last of this cold by then cos I'll need all the strength I can get! I'm a little scared that I'll be one of only two non-Latvians there, but I've been taught the Latvian words for beer and vodka and I've subsequently been assured that I'll have no problems communicating.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Week two of the new job

I'm two weeks into the new job now. The crappiest bit so far has been a cold I've been fighting against for the last week, but I'm looking forward to that grand moment when it clears and I'm able to be a normal person again!

On Tuesday each of us Outreach newbies had to deliver a short presentation to a team meeting on one of the services we'll be selling to our clients. It was meant to be all comfy and unthreatening, but then our three levels of bosses turned up, so we all got a little scared! But we managed to get through it. Personally I really appreciated the other presentations as a way to a) teach me about the service and b) teach me about how to sell the service - rather than learn each one all by ourselves.

As a team, I think we're doing really well. We're collaborating a lot. One of us had a brilliant idea of having a "newbies" meeting once a week, without our supervisor or anything. There's a risk inherent in the idea that we could be seen to be a mini team inside a larger team, and it may serve to hamper our integration prospects, but for the moment I think it's a great way for us to encourage and support each other.

We had the first newbies meeting on Friday. I discovered that everyone is feeling just as lost as me, including those team members that I was under the impression were feeling very capable. It was very, very cool. I was really feeling like I was the one behind, the lost one, and it made it very clear to me that we're all feeling like that - which goes some way to reducing the feeling.

The other cool thing in that meeting was the level of collaboration - one of our team members has been creating templates for some of her activities, and was eager to share. I'm so pleased that attitude is present. In other workplaces I can imagine that people would be posessive of their work, but I'm hoping this reflects a larger collaborative attitude. Hopefully we can keep it up!.

I still don't know much about my clients. They are the Research Centres and Hospitals, but I haven't spoken to many of them yet. I've made my first appointment to speak to an academic, but it's not until mid-May. By the looks of it most of the rest of the team are planning for Monday to be a heavy calling day, trying to make appointments. Sounds good to me. I'll revert back to my market research days to make all these cold calls.

What do I know about them so far? They don't teach undergraduates, so there are a few services that won't be as much a part of my marketing package as they are for other people. I'm expecting that their research needs are likely to be more specialised than other groups. They've not been targeted by the library before, which means that there's a lot of potential. They are likely to be very focused on their research circles, and probably feel more loyal to those than to the university.

This last point is relevant to me. It raises two challenges:
1. Getting them to use the library for research may be difficult because, if they are working in a very specialised area, it's likely that they already know all the other researchers in their field. Instead of relying on the library to provide them with information, they probably get these people to send them publications directly.
2. Getting them to use other library-related services, like ARROW, might be hard. Simply put, ARROW is the digital repository used by UNSW. These people need to be convinced that they will benefit from depositing their publications in ARROW, but this could be hard if there are already standard repositories for their research areas.

So far the only solution I have to both challenges is to emphasise the benefits of interdisciplinary research activities. ARROW doesn't look too hard to sell because it doesn't preclude any other kinds of publication - copyright stays with the author - and it also looks seriously simple to use. That's kind of what I have to do with the first challenge as well - introduce them to a way of using the library for research that won't take more time and can be easily integrated into what they already do.

My target for the week ahead is to make appointments, and lots of them. I'll also be working on personalising a script and some sales pitches for different services.

I want to be good at this job, because it has a lot of career-building potential. The Outreach team will be seen as responsible for an improved attitude to the library amongst the academics - so there's an outcome that I can point to. In addition, I love working with new models, so I want the whole team to get good at what we do so we can then have the space to build on it and play with new ideas.

Most of all, though, I'm impatient, and I've spent two weeks not having any real idea of how to do my job. I'm sick of it. Time to get good, already!

March of the Librarians

Hehehehe!

I just finished watching the March of the Librarians at http://youtube.com/watch?v=Td922l0NoDQ and got a little concerned about the narrator's insistance that Librarians are after some action...I've never known library conferences to be hotbeds of lust.

Perhaps all the mention of "mating" was what caused the related videos shown on the right to be mostly lesbian-themed.

In other news, I'm about to start collaborating with one of the NLS2006 Committee Members on a paper about NLS destined for ALA 2008. I'm hoping I might even be in a position to attend the huge event. Should be an eye-opener!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

One week down - hopefully many more to go

This job rocks!

After the first week in the new job, I'm really, really excited about it. I got home on Friday and spend about an hour ranting at my partner about how much fun I was having, and how much I was enjoying it.

Which is kind of weird, cos I haven't done much of my job yet.

My job is, in a nutshell, to sell the Library to academics at the University. First random point: it's fascinating how funny librarians are about the concept of selling. They're scared of it - there were various points over the last week when people said things along the lines of "sell - well, not like sell, but, you know what I mean". Librarians are really scared of being seen as ruthless and competative. Ambition seems to be another dirty word in library land - people have been shocked when I've been upfront about being ambitious. These things are normal in other industries (I believe there are even people that specialise in selling - fancy that!) but because we're an industry that has been dominated by public service and by collaboration, we're not quite comfortable with these concepts.

But I don't have a problem with it. You can sell, and market, without losing your soul - it just depends what you're selling and how you're selling it.

Which brings me to the Library I've just joined. I don't have a problem selling the new model they've developed. I think it's reasonable. I know, I know, I've heard mostly from those that created the model, but I'm not unaware of the arguments on the other side (I do have some friends in academia at UNSW) and I think the arguments against this model are unrealistic and at times border on the sentimental.

One of the attitudes I can't stand (because it is so potentially damaging) is the concept that a library or a library service should be kept just because it's nice, or traditional, or for the sake of some nebulous "good". The reason this argument frustrates me so much is because it's dangerous - it leaves the library in a week position, because one day someone is going to come along and demand that the library prove its worth, and if it can't do that - there'll be one less library. I've already averted this situation once. Libraries, despite not being profit centres, aren't charities.

This does relate to my job - give me a moment! See, what they've done is try and assess how effective things like a reference desk really were. And they found that they had a whole bunch of degree-qualified well paid librarians who were answering simple directional questions - "where's the bathroom?" and "where are the journals kept?" It's not hard to see what's wrong with that picture.

Personally, I would find that situation really depressing. There were many times in my old job when I was in the basement, getting really dusty and filthy, hauling boxes and books around, thinking "I did a degree for this?" I want to do difficult work, I want to feel like it was worth the effort.

And it looks like I've hit pay dirt. There are many aspects of this job that I can write about, and will over the next few weeks and months. The big moment will be when I make my first "call" - i.e. have my first meeting with an academic. There are a couple on my (very long) list that I know already, and might start with them, and I'll be sure to write about it when I do. For the moment, this post has gotten awfully long...

Oh, before I go - we've been given our first task, which is to give a presentation to the team on Tuesday as if we were talking to a group of academics - like a roleplaying thing. I'll be talking about ARROW, the University's research repository. I suspect I'll be spending much of tomorrow preparing.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's like they're reading my mind

Well finally!

I get how people love online social tools. I do. I get how people are really into it, and how people use them to not only keep up with their real life friends but to develop new social circles, based on a variety of commonalities. And that's great. But, seriously, how much of this stuff can we really handle? Well, it seems the answer to that is "only some" - hence Social Network Fatigue. One of the coolest people I know is even writing about it, so it must be real.

This is one of the reasons it's taken me so long to set up something as simple as a blog - because there's just TOO MUCH. There's too much to try and experiment with, and I feel like I'm meant to try them all - after all, how daggy do you look when someone says "hey, try out this hot new thing that's about to be all the rage" and you say "no thanks, I've got a telephone, an email account, and about five great local pubs, and that takes care of my social networking needs."

In real life we usually don't have 10 different groups of friends - or at least, the people I know don't. I've been told on many occassions that I have more separate groups of friends that the average person - and I reckon I have about 5 disparate groups. Why is it that I'm expected to sign up to another 10 social network sites? What would I gain from these? More friends? I don't spend enough time with my friends as it is, so why would I want more?

A theme seems to be that people are finding that if they sign up to a new social networking site, they often end up socialising online with the same groups anyway - so, apart from experimenting to find the one that best suits, why use multiple sites?

I have a friend, a good friend, who moved overseas a few years back. We email each other occassionally, and that's cool - but she keeps pointing me towards her blog as a way to keep in touch. I've read it a couple of times, but, well, it's kinda boring - I'd rather have an email conversation than read a generic blog that's aimed, supposedly, at ALL her friends. And I hate the idea that it's a substitute for actually keeping up with each other.

Imagine you meet you friend at the pub. When you arrive she talks at you, non stop, for an hour, about anything she wants with no regard to whether you're interested in that part of her life at all. At the end of her rant, she invites you to comment - she may or may not respond to the comments. THIS IS NOT A DISCUSSION! This person would soon be sitting alone talking to the ashtray. Much as I suspect I'm doing with this blog :)

So I'm glad someone's given a name to my condition. If I'm really lucky a big pharma will turn it into an anxiety disorder and tailor some medication to my specific needs. The future is bright!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Day one

I haven't figured out yet whether this is going to be a really short post, because I'm exhausted and have only barely begun to process what I took in today, or whether it's going to be really long, because I'm tired and likely to ramble.

First up, wow - I've never had a real induction before. I mean, we were there for 7.5 hours and I still know very little about my job - most of it was about the team, and that's so cool - that there is actually a team that is that big and that important and that interesting that they can spend a whole day just talking about it.

One of the overriding themes of the day was this idea that because the whole 200-plus staff team is new* they're hoping to take the opportunity to get us all working together in a different way - or rather, in the way that most good managers want their teams to work, but have difficulty achieving. I can relate to that - the CEO at my last employer had oodles of vision and energy, but there were limits to how much cultural change he could effect given there was so much history in the way that people related to each other. Here, they have the advantage of lack of history.

I'd been hearing a bunch of stuff about UNSW Library dropping their info literacy training, and I had been wondering about that - it turns out it's because all those resources are now being focused on research support rather than teaching support - thanks to the federal government and it's focus on the RQF as a funding model.

I don't think there's much more I can write just yet - I'm starting to head into babble land, so should probably give it up while I'm still relatively coherant. Tomorrow I'll find out my faculty assignment - something I've been waiting for with baited breath. Fingers crossed for me! (although I'd be perfectly happy with anything - I just want to know!)

*when I say "new", some of these people have been working in the library for a while in different roles, and some of these people have been working in this team for the last few months. We didn't start 200 staff today!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The day before

Today is the day before I start my new job. Apparently the first day and a half is all orientation, which I'm assuming will be somewhat generic - I don't expect to learn much about the job itself in those first couple of days.

So what do I know about the job? I know the point of the job is to get academics integrating the library into their research and teaching. The first point under "Duties" in my job description is to "Represent the library and act as its ambassador to its stakeholders", which is kind of cool inasmuch as it's what I was doing naturally at my last job. The whole "abassador" thing I really enjoyed.

At this stage I feel as though I have an idea of what the job entails in a big picture sense, but not in a day to day sense. What, for example, will be my first task? Do I pick an academic from my assigned faculty, call them, and say "Hi, I'm so-and-so, can we talk?" Maybe so - and again, I'm perfectly happy with that. All those years cold calling people in market research turned out to be great training after all!

Will my days be full of paperwork, planning, or meetings? How often will I be at my desk - most of the time, or rarely? I found that I was spending more and more time in my last job writing reports - will I be doing that here?

Looking again at the job description (and trying to wade through the management speak) I suspect there will be a lot of meetings - the "principal accounabilities" all seem to be about meeting with other people. Words like "informing" "contributing" "referring" all imply face to face and written communication.

I'm really curious to what extent I'll be working with the rest of my team. Will we have team meetings? Do we have team goals? Will I work directly with any of them? I know, for example, that one of the faculties will have two Outreach Librarians assigned to them, but I don't think I've been assigned to that faculty.

I already know two of the members of my team - people I've done other library land stuff with before. Do other people know each other too? I'm really curious if there are other team members that I know, but I don't know who they are yet. Ugh, that was a really clunky sentence, but you get the point.

One more sleep...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Three days before

I start a new job in three days. Which is what has prompted me to start this blog.

See, I've wanted to do the "blogging thing" for a while, but had no idea what to write about. And, to be honest, was pretty intimidated by all the people who had been doing it for so long and had, y'know, actual subscribers to their blog!

But this - ah, here I have something worth writing about. A new chapter in my career - Chapter Two, I'm calling it.

The story so far: I decided to become a Librarian. I enrolled in my grad. dip to do so, and half way through, I got a job at the History of Medicine Library, part of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. I worked there for 4.5 years, and had an amazing time - it really was an extraordinary job. But now I've left, and on the 10th April I'll be starting a new job as an Outreach Librarian at the University of New South Wales.

The job at the RACP was as the manager of a small, very special library. At UNSW, I'll be just one cog in a very large system. At the RACP I was the boss. At UNSW, I'm not the boss of anyone! At the RACP, if a system didn't work, I would change it, then and there. At the UNSW I won't be in a position to do that - I'm going to have to learn to live with things that I don't like.

However, at the RACP I worked primarily by myself. At UNSW, I'll not only be working with others, but I'll be part of a team of 10, with shared challenges and goals. At the RACP my boss was the CEO - great as he was, he didn't have time to supervise me and listen to all my little gripes - if you bring a problem to the CEO you'd better bring a solution too, cos he's got other stuff to worry about. At UNSW, I'll have a supervisor who might occassionally have time to actually supervise my work.

But some of the things I loved about my old job I'll still have - I think. This is a new position, and I get the impression that while they know what they want me to achieve, how I acheive that is something I have to figure out - that that's fun, I love doing that stuff.

For the last month I've been trawling a bunch of academic library blogs. The overall feeling I get is one of terror - there's so much to learn! And I'm very impatient with that - I want to know EVERYTHING, and NOW.

Related to that - last year my partner gave me one of those fantastic Penguin box sets of abridged texts, the Great Ideas one. I'm currently reading Mary Wollstonecraft's "A vindication of the rights of women", and she's arguing for women to be properly educated. It's making me appreciate what I have - that I can access so much education. But that, in turn, makes me want even more - I now feel it's an obligation to learn as much as I can.

I'm three days out from the new job. I've got heaps of blogs to read (haven't touched my rss feeder for a week). Better get cracking.