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 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!