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

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.