Hm. There seems to be a lack of content here of late. Did I mention I started a new job this Fall? Dear reader, my apologies for leaving you out of the loop. I was hired as the Reference & Instruction Librarian for Whittier College back in August. With only two weeks before the semester started to prepare, I hit the ground running teaching instruction sessions for First Year writing courses, managing the reference desk and a team of student assistants, overseeing ILL, liaisoning to a handful of departments/programs, and promoting the library through its social media accounts. Between my daylight hours at Whittier and my late-night hours with our newborn daughter, I’ve had little time for writing or much of anything else (ask me when was the last time I went to the grocery store).
Instruction season slows down dramatically in two weeks and while I’ll need to turn my attention to other tasks like collection development and assessment, I hope to inhabit this space once again. I’ve been rethinking the way in which I use social media (as a professional). More on that later. Until then, I hope you are well and we’ll chat more soon.
It’s self-affirmation Friday here at Ink and Vellum. This is for all the MLIS students, the part-timers, the contract employees, the assistants, the staff-not-faculty, the not-yet-employed, and all the other library workers who go above and beyond their call to service.
I am a librarian.
I teach students how to discover value in information resources and in doing so help them to recognize the value of their own thoughts.
I stay at the reference desk until every question is fully answered and only then do I take my lunch break.
I keep a copy of Dublin Core next to a copy of the customer service manual because I believe metadata is a service.
I double the Rule of 3.
I advocate for policy changes that increase diversity, recognize and celebrate alterative perspectives, and make the workplace a safer and more equal environment.
I stay late on a Friday because that one colleague needed someone to cover her instruction class at the last minute. And I do it off the clock.
I make students laugh at access policy jokes.
I assess everything.
I develop research guides for students not because they are requested, but because they are helpful (and I really love creating bibliographies).
I spend my breaks reading through virtual chat logs to stay up to date on student assignments.
I test each new product the library purchases. And I always fill out the feedback form.
I share new ideas for outreach because our patrons are an ever-changing organism. And I know library services won’t simply sell themselves.
I always stop and talk to the student with the confused look on her face.
I assume everyone who comes to the circulation desk is faculty.
I don’t normally make New Year resolutions. I’m of the opinion that if you are deeply passionate about changing a habit, you would have already started. So instead, I like to make a list of potential projects. And 2013 almost certainly will be a year of big projects. Here are a few, in no particular order:
Spend more time reflecting on the future of libraries: write and do morebetter (which includes working more closely with ALA/ACRL)
Continue a habit of reading: I read more books last year than the past 5 years combined
Bring library professionals together often: and for the purpose of improving our world (nothing less)
Always be mindful that time is a restricted resource: you can’t get more of it, so don’t give it away to just anyone or anything
Streamline my online presence/tools: I like to do a complete makeover every 2-3 years
Become a father: in mind and in fact… it’s five months away
Shift professional focus to teaching: the benefits of this go far beyond just the experience gained
There are other projects patiently queued on my to-do list, but these are the ones that have been on my mind most of late. Here’s wishing you and yours a productive, innovative, and immersive new year.
I have a pile of ACRL and ALA publications on my desk at work that I’ve been neglecting for months. Today, I decided to pick up the latest College & Research Libraries News to browse through during an unusually quiet lunch break. After reading an article on leadership by Steven Bell and another on gaming by Bohyun Kim, I realized (read: rediscovered) how much I love reading good work. Concise, well-written, inspiring work. I also realized something more dire: I’ve been letting myself go. I’ve neglected my reading diet these last few months.
This past summer was the season of convergence. Everything came to head, a number of opportunities presented themselves, life took some unexpected turns, and I was forced to do something that I rarely do: say no.
You see, one of the pleasant aspects of my job as a library supervisor at USC is its flexibility. When I hire the right people, train them well, and give them the autonomy they require to do good work, I have the option of turning my time and attention to the aspects of library work that interest me the most: reference and instruction, scholarly communication, the role of technology in IHEs, collaborating with colleagues, developing workshops, strategic planning, and the information needs of individual patrons (to name a few). I still spend the majority of my work day cataloging, but there is always a bit of time left over for more.* And when I run out of time, I rarely hesitate to work off-the-clock.
Scattering myself every which way requires many things: motivation, ambition, the support of friends and colleagues, etc., but at a more basic level it requires, quite simply, energy. And I’ve been seriously lacking that of late. I started a light chemotherapy regimen in July for a non-cancer-related issue and the medication leaves me completely exhausted (and often sick) at the end of the day. Who goes to bed at 8pm and sleeps for 10 hours? This guy.
The details are boring (other than the fact that one side effect is an aversion to coffee… which doesn’t help!) but suffice it to say that I haven’t been my usual busybody self.
But that is changing.
The side effects (as I was told) are supposed to subside after two months and I’m finding it easier to push myself again. Which leads me back to what I began with: reading well. When it comes to deciding what to read, I usually oscillate between what bubbles to the top of my social media streams and what I consciously set out to read/review on a regular schedule. Lately, I’ve been relying entirely on the former and have been finding it… lack-luster. Much of the work published in the latter category simply isn’t rising to the top. Granted, I probably need to update my filters, but to me this illustrates a greater need to actively curate my professional development, rather than letting the professional conversation curate me.
Reading well… reading better… inspires me to work harder, to do better, to make it happen, to level up, etc. etc. At some point, you have to put the book down and walk out into the world, but it’s not a bad place to start.
*It also helps that I have the blessing of my supervisor to expand my professional experiences and participate in non-cataloging work.
On Tuesday, I deleted my Facebook account. I’ve been on the lam for 96 hours and already I’m struggling to resist the urge to reinstate my account (Facebook gives you a 14 day “reconsideration” window). I miss the connection Facebook offers. I miss the memes. I miss the pictures of my friends’ new twin daughters. I miss ALA Think Tank. Miss it terribly.
But I also realize that Facebook offers this connection at a price and I’m not sure I want to pay that price any longer. I agree with Mark Zuckerman when he says that people instinctively want to share. It is a human act. But so is forgetting and having the ability to control how you present yourself to the world.
Thus, three reasons for why I deleted my Facebook account:
Reason #1: I am not the sum of my data.
I love data. When I read about what Stephen Wolfram has done with what he calls the personal analytics of his life, my first reaction was: “Wow! How can I do that?” Data mining has the given us the opportunity to see the world in radically new ways, confirming many long-held assumptions and overturning even more. But when it comes to my personal data, shouldn’t I have a say it how it is used?
Case in point: Back in 2005/2006, I was really into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am still a fan, although I don’t watch episodes, I don’t read up on the fan fiction or critical literature (oh yes), and I don’t talk about it all that much. But back in 2005, I posted an inordinate amount of Buffy trivia, quotes, and photos to Facebook. Yet despite not having watched a single episode since 2007, Facebook still serves me Buffy-related ads that I can only assume come from the overwhelming amount of Whedonesque data that I fed its algorithm during those years.
I want the have the option to move on to discover new things and not be constantly reminded of the media obsessions of my past (however justified and enjoyable). Unfortunately, Facebook makes it incredibly difficult to fix this, which leads me to the next reason.
Reason #2: Control over how my data is presented.
Have you ever dug deep into your Facebook Timeline? If you’re about my age, you probably signed up for Facebook when it was only open to college students. While many of the experiences that I shared on Facebook in those early years have led to the person I am today, they no longer adequately portray how I think about myself.
So I decided to clean up some of my old photos and wall posts. In the past, Facebook made it reasonably easy to do this. You could quickly restrict access to older posts and even delete large chunks of data. But with the new Timeline feature, you have to delete wall posts one at a time (plus confirm the deletion). To make it even more difficult, the Timeline gets buggy when you try to expand more than a couple month’s worth of data. I tried to manually delete some of this data, but after spending half an hour and only removing 2 months worth, I gave up.
Reason #3: Tracking.
I should not have to install a third-party plugin in my browser in order to prevent Facebook from tracking my browsing habits. Enough said.
I understand that Facebook is a free service and that, accordingly, my data is the price I pay to use it. I also understand that Facebook uses my data to improve my experience of its product. I’m fine with that. But I want the option to determine how much of my data Facebook is allowed to use. Additionally, I want the option to forget and move forward. To refashion myself continually and not be pulled back into the positive feedback loop of ads and algorithms.
In all honesty, I will probably set up a new Facebook account in a month or two once I’m confident my current account is deleted. At least it will give me the opportunity to start fresh. And with so many events and discussions happening inside Facebook’s walls, it is difficult to stay in touch with friends and colleagues otherwise. We’ll see. If anything, it will be a fun experiment in disconnecting. Now, if only that “pull down to refresh” twitch would go away…
At 7 pm tonight, I will complete my final assignment as an MLIS student.*
I’ve enjoyed my time in the program at San Jose State University. I’ve made some invaluable connections, both professional and personal. I’ve learned much more about librarianship in the last two years than I could have on my own and while I do have one or two strong objections to the program, overall I am pleased with the experience.
Outside of school, it’s been a good year. I was selected as a 2012 ALA Emerging Leader last month and will be working with ACRL and five other fabulous librarians to assess professional development resources for librarians teaching online distance education information literacy courses. This follows on the heals of working as a Student-to-Staff rep for ALA an Annual last June.
This coming year, in addition to working with my Emerging Leaders project group, I’ll be serving on the ACRL Conference Innovations committee to plan for the 2013 conference. I’ll also be working with the always amiable, never-uninspired Young Lee to coordinate a multi-day Unconference for CARL in April.
What will I do with all my free time now that I’m no longer in class? Hard to say. Read. Blog. Learn more code. Work on the LACHS website. Garden (if house = true). Teach. Get back into my personalresearchinterests. I can’t say for sure. The plan for now is simply to be still. Then go from there.
*My presentation will be on “GIS and the Spatial Humanities.”
photo credit: from tomhe on flickr (used under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Normally, this blog focuses on issues related to information literacy and instruction at academic libraries, but since this week is Library Day in the Life week, I’m digressing for a few posts to discuss what I do as a cataloger and library supervisor. Today was a fairly normal day: cataloging, meetings, lunch with colleagues. So instead of boring you with details of what I did, I thought I would show you the tools I use to get things done:
(Click on image for larger photo)
Dell Optiplex 755 with Windows 7
mouse and keyboard (nothing special)
Microsoft Outlook (for email and tasks)
Oracle Calendar (for scheduling)
SirsiDynix Symphony (for working on local records)
some music or radio page (varies depending on my mood)
I don’t spend a lot of time organizing my email. What’s the point? Outlook’s search functionality is strong enough that I can always find what I’m looking for. I have four folders for all my email: Inbox, Sent, Processed, and Saved. Nothing stays in my Inbox for more that 24 hours. Everything is either dealt with and moved to the Saved folder, deleted, or put in the Processed folder if it has additional contingencies. I have a 1-touch policy when it comes to email: once I touch the file, I have to deal with it. Emails that come from listservs are automatically grouped into subfolders so I can quickly browse the threads and are auto-deleted after 1 month.
Most of my job requires responding to issues as they arise, but I do have some ongoing projects that need constant assessment and management. So I use Outlook for task management. All my tasks are grouped into two categories: Next Actions or Waiting. The idea is that I either do the task as soon as the context is right or I wait until a contingency is removed. I also have a list of Projects that I use to remind myself of all my areas of responsibility.
I wish I could also use Outlook for my Calendar, but the university uses Oracle. And since everyone else uses it, it makes sense for me to use it so that I can coordinate schedules with other staff.
Sirsi and OCLC are my two constant companions in this regard. I use Sirsi for local catalog work and OCLC for searching other catalogs, name authorities, and importing records. I also constantly refer to Cataloger’s Desktop and ClassWeb for reference.
The god of all notepad programs. I use it for everything from taking quick notes to writing memos and drafting project reports. I only throw my text into Microsoft Word if I need special formatting.
All the programs above are docked in my left-side monitor. Firefox occupies its own monitor on the right. I keep it open to the USC Libraries OPAC so that I can do quality control on my cataloging work, but I also keep open tabs for Meebo and Hootsuite to keep track of what the internets are buzzing about. I also like to have some music playing (since I don’t work near other people) so I usually have KCRW, KUSC, Twit, 5by5, or some other streaming radio service open. This keeps me sane. =)
And there you have it. Those are the tools that help me maintain a constant level of productivity. I don’t know that having dual monitors and a handful of programs all open at the same time is right for everyone, but it works for me. =)
A recent tweet from campbell_b got me thinking about how haphazard my cataloging education has been over the last four years. When I started working for USC in 2007 as the administrative assistant for Technical Services, I didn’t have a clue what cataloging and acquisitions work entailed (I’m still a little fuzzy on serials acquisitions). Since then, through adhoc training sessions, self-education, and dumb luck I’ve managed to get a fairly firm grasp on what it is I’m doing here.
Thankfully, I’ve had two generous and trusting supervisors, willing to give up their time and hand over increasingly more detailed tasks to me every time I ask for it. Back in 2007, I started editing records for electronic dissertations, introducing me to the world of metadata schema via Dublin Core.
Later that year, my supervisor asked me to help him clean up old location codes in the ILS by finding and transferring items to approved locations. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I had never worked with Sirsi before and didn’t know MARC from Adam. All I had were print-outs of records and a list of possible places those items could be. It was my job to either find the items or remove the records from the system. In retrospect, I’m sure I deleted a few things that I shouldn’t have. I’m far more careful these days.
In 2008, I asked to get involved with the inventory/cataloging project happening in our offsite library. By this point, I had a better idea of how to work in the ILS, but I still didn’t know anything about AACR2 or LCRI. Another supervisor was kind enough to lend me her copies of the OCLC trainer’s manuals for beginning and advanced cataloging. I spent weeks pouring over the material, trying to understand the intricacies of ISBD, added entries, and access points, eventually moving to the primary sources in Cataloger’s Desktop.
Somewhere in all of this I learned to work in OCLC Connexion and our local ILS, importing and updating records, creating holdings information, and making decisions about call numbers, subject headings, converting serials to monographic series, and doing whatever was necessary to provide access via the catalog. Last month, I had my first bit of formal training with name authorities through NACO and just yesterday I got a crash course in serials holdings records.
I shudder at the thought of the errors I must have made in those early days. How I’ve managed to train over 50 student assistants and not crash the system is a miracle. But I have learned a few very important lessons:
No one knows what you don’t know. This can be a good thing. It means that many people probably assume you are more knowledgeable than you actually are. On the flip side, it means you have to ask for training when you know you need it.
Confidence goes a long way. Even if you don’t completely understand a concept, being confident about what little information you do understand makes you a better teacher. And your learners will appreciate it.
Always assume you’ve missed a class. This keeps me cautious. Knowing now how much I didn’t know four years ago makes me pause before doing anything drastic.
Thank your benefactors. I couldn’t have made it to this point without the help of my two supervisors. Their trust in me is the only reason I managed to move from clerical staff to supervisor.
Access. Access. Access. When in doubt, do whatever provides the most access for your users. Most often it will be the right decision.
I don’t plan to do cataloging work forever, but I’ve managed to acquire a solid, though somewhat patchwork, foundation in cataloging practices that will always frame the way I look at information resources.
And I will always, always, always love my cataloging department =)
I’m sorry I haven’t called. I haven’t been ignoring you. I just needed to step away from our relationship for a while and get some perspective.
Please don’t take it personally that I whittled down the number of feeds in my RSS reader to double digits. Or that I clicked “Hide all” on all but a small handful of Facebook posts. Or that I unfollowed over half my contact list on Twitter. It’s not you. It’s me.
I’m sorry that I sent all my Evernotes to the trash bin, that I deleted Foursquare from my iPhone, that I unsubscribed from any podcast that updated daily, that I started using a paper notebook again.
I’ve been reading medieval literature again. Mea culpa.
I’m sorry that I’ve given up on my NYRs and have foresworn them eternally. I know how much you love annual goal-setting. Oh, and how you love productivity! I’m sorry, but I’ve unsubscribed from Lifehacker, too.
I know we’ve always been close, but I need some time to myself. I’ve been working on my studies and building researchguides for other students (you’ll like the Facebook one!).
I know you don’t want to hear this, but I get more work done* when we don’t hang out as often. It’s much easier to focus when I know you don’t have something new to tell me every two minutes.
I want you to know that I love you and think you’re the greatest. I’ll be here when you need me. Let’s continue to keep in touch, just not as often.