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


I just finished watching the March of the Librarians at 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.