Tag Archives: professional development

Creating international connections

globe in hands by noticelj via flickr CC

After a trip to IFLA last year, a colleague at MPOW dreamed up a project to facilitate online peer-mentoring relationships between librarians from around the world and as sometimes happens with this particular colleague, got a few others (including me) involved.

The International Librarians Network invites librarians to participate in a 6 month facilitated program where the co-ordinators will match you up with someone you don’t know, based on a few details you give about your professional interests. Relationships are then supported over the 6 month period with discussion topics and suggestions about ways to communicate and professionally connect.

For the first 6 months in 2013 the program will run as a pilot and there is still time to join up – go and sign up today! The program is keen to attract librarians from as many different parts of the world as possible to give it a true international flavour and ensure a widespread sharing of ideas.

Much more information about the program can be obtained from looking at the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the program website.

I’m pleased and proud to be associated with this project and just sorry I can’t be at NLS6 in person next week to help launch the pilot.

Presenting the Digital Humanities

Yesterday I finally presented back to MPOW on the Digital Humanities conference I went to in March.

Because it’s mostly pictures, to make any sense of this presentation you’ll have to go look at it on Slideshare – I didn’t realise the embed code doesn’t bring across the notes.  I’d like to thank my colleagues for listening so attentively – I find presenting to people I know the most difficult thing to do. I’d rather talk to 1000 incoming undergraduates than 20 of my workmates…..

Thinking time

Unshelved 31 January 2012

I love this. I’m lucky enough to be ‘allowed’ to have thinking time at MPOW – it’s part of our job and often leads to new and interesting things. It’s not necessarily sitting-still-thinking, it might be an informal discussion over coffee with a colleague gathering ideas, or reading a blog post, or talking about twitter, or bouncing an idea for a research project.

All of this ‘thinking’ time means I am better prepared when I talk with academics, I know more about library services and options and I’m a more informed library professional. This is good.

Coding. Or not.

All the pieces fit together

OK. So the ‘thing’ for 2012 seems to be coding. Everybody is either doing it, or urging others to do it, or writing, blogging or tweeting about doing it.

Roy Tennant over at Digital Shift says all library professionals need to at least understand coding & urges us to try out Codeacademy’s Code Year initiative. I happen to agree – I find even my very basic understanding of HTML to be practical and useful (although at this point largely just for maintaining my blog), so I signed up and have been receiving my lessons weekly by email. I should point out here that I know absolutely nothing about coding. I am a complete novice with no experience with or exposure to coding before now (except that tiny bit of HTML I mostly learned mucking about in WordPress).

This has been a really smart initiative by Codeacademy, for lots of reasons, many of which you can read about here. There’s been an amazing takeup of the course, with tens of thousands signing up in the first few days of 2012.

Matthew Murray at ExtremeTech questions whether anyone can learn serious coding in this way and that it promotes a shallow view of the programming industry. Head on over there to read more of his opinion.  A couple of sentences in Murray’s piece rang true for me because you see, I haven’t enjoyed the CodeYear experience at all so far. Murray says

Just for kicks, I sat down with the opening lesson of Codecademy, just to see what it was like. It asked me to type in my name, then append it with “.length,” then type in a simple math equation. All of it was basic JavaScript, with no indication of what was happening or why.

I have just finished week 1 of the Code Year course. I struggled through it, partly because it’s so foreign to me and way outside my comfort zone. However, at least part of the problem lies in the way the course has been written (at least week 1). There’s no context, no goal setting, no outcomes, no sense at all of what comes next or where the piece you are copying and pasting fits into a bigger picture.

It’s early days yet. Much of what is written on the web about this so far is praising the initiative but there seems to be very little of substance about the content or the delivery. Over at Palely Loitering, Laura comments that she has managed to finish lesson 1, but she’s not really sure how much she learned about applying it in the real world. I hear her!

I have found the user forums that come as part of CodeAcademy to be both useful and frustrating. Useful because there are folks in there trying to help others and frustrating because everyone asking questions seems to have the same problems – lack of guidance in the ‘lessons’ and very little understanding of what is being asked of the ‘student’.

Checking the #codeyear hashtag on twitter brings up a lot of results, but scrolling through I think many of them are auto created by the program itself (for example, when you sign up you get the opportunity to send a pre written tweet that says

I’m learning to code with @Codecademy in 2012. Join me!http://codeyear.com/ #codeyear

Not helpful. I’m looking for critical comment, not more marketing.

I’ll go on to lesson 2 – I’m working on the theory that it may just all suddenly make sense or appear to be in context. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

The value of social networking

Taking off - Canberra 2009

I have blogged about the value of my personal learning network before and my use of social media to build this network, but I rarely think about what I consider social networking to be.

Social networking is the process of using social media tools to build a network of friends, colleagues, professionals, or business contacts, depending on the context of the social network.

Social media tools allow us to engage in conversation with others in a timely and active manner. They allow the one-to-many engagement that delivers quick results for informal learning and discovery.  This one-to-many enables multiple answers to a question or idea and delivers a range of perspectives.

Professionally, I use twitter as my main social networking tool – I have a good network of LIS folk that I engage with on a daily basis. Often this engagement is not on professional topics, but incorporates ‘water cooler’  conversations that encourage deepening of ties and connections over time.

Where else can you find me in the social network? I have an online presence:

I’ve recently started studying again and my subject this semester is Social networking for information professionals.  What do I hope to get from that? A deeper understanding of the structure and theoretical ‘why’ of social networking. I know how to do it, I know what I get from it but hope to formalise that in some way.

Defining research?

Doing research by Viewoftheworld via flickr CC

Earlier this year, I attended a one day ‘Research for LIS practitioners‘ seminar put on by ALIA in Sydney.

Last year, I completed a FOLIOz course in Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP), also offered by ALIA.

This is a little story about the blurring of the lines between the two.

One of the criticisms I hear (and agree with) about our profession is the dearth of original research that furthers the profession as a whole.  I loved being at ALIA Access last year and I enjoyed watching the twitter stream from ALIA Information Online this year – but much of what is presented at these conferences is yet more examples of ‘what we did in our library’, which, while interesting and useful and worthwhile, don’t do much to further the profession overall and seem to be examples of EBLIP. Very good EBLIP, don’t get me wrong.

I’m sure it’s not unique to LIS professionals – but we seem to be very good at telling each other about the things we are good at (and the things that didn’t go so well) – the problem is, we are often preaching to the converted anyway so it is all just more of the same.  Following Online, there was much discussion among my twitter PLN on the future of the conference format – but that’s probably another post.

The ‘furthering our profession’ research seems to be most likely to come from the many PhD proposals that were discussed as participants took turns outlining their reasons for being at the seminar.

Meanwhile, I struggled a bit with the EBLIP course as I didn’t quite understand at the beginning the difference between research and using evidence based practice to make workplace decisions.  Much of what was outlined in the EBLIP literature was to do with evaluating previous research (or actually, previous ‘what we did in our library’) to build a business case or plan for proceeding with something in the workplace.  The whole point was to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

It didn’t help my confusion that the ‘burning question’ I formulated during the course proved to be something that there actually wasn’t very much literature on – further blurring the line between EBLIP and research (for me). I forget the details of the question, but it was to do with international students and information literacy instruction as that was something I was dealing with at work at the time.

I had hoped to get over to the UK this year to attend EBLIP6, partly to further my understanding of these 2 different, but overlapping areas of research (and partly to see my brother who lives over there!) but it was not to be.  I look forward to following the progress of the conference via the twitter stream and the papers that come out of it.

In the meantime, I continue to be a bit confused.

Me? You want to ask me?

LIfe question by venturist via flickr CC

Last month I had a strange experience. Strange for me anyhow. If you follow me on twitter you’ll know I am @newgradlib – that is, a newly graduated librarian.  I don’t really know anything. I’m new. I’m learning. I offer words of encouragement and lots of nods & smiles but no real advice (except on parenting, I’m pretty experienced in that department…).

This, however, has not stopped three individuals recently asking me for my professional opinion in three different areas of my professional life. Yikes!

The first is another new graduate. I sat on an interview panel for a job she applied for and was instantly drawn to her – like me, she had little or no library experience yet had written a job application that convinced the panel we needed to see her. Like me, she was offered the job. Like me, she is starting her professional career in a very small, one person library (in fact, the very library I have just left).

I’ve found myself communicating with this librarian partly in a handover type way but also in a “why don’t you try this or this or this to help yourself get started in the profession” type way. You know, suggesting she get going on twitter, establish a PLN, start a blog, all that stuff. Perhaps I should have invited her to blog every day of June.

Next, I found myself being asked about my involvement with NGAC by someone potentially interested in nominating for a position on an ALIA Advisory Committee – expressions of interest were called for several committees during May. What did I think? Had I found it a worthwhile experience? How much work is really involved? Was it interesting?

Last, I had an email from someone who has recently started following me on twitter and is also reading my blog. This person wanted to ask me about studying LIS by distance. How had I found that with a family? Would I recommend one LIS school over another? What had my experience been with juggling time, motivation, kid wrangling and lack of library experience?

It feels strange to be the person being asked – I’m used to the mentoring thing working the other way around for me. It’s a bit daunting to know that people are seeing me as someone with knowledge they can tap into – but also kinda nice.

I’ve taken a few thoughts about public profiles and participation in a personal learning network out of this experience that I’m saving up for another post – after all, I do have to come up with one every day this month!

Taking charge of my career

career fair by yngrich via flickr CC

Last night I attended an interesting PD event put on by the newly rejuvenated ALIA Sydney group.  Billed as ‘How to be library senior management in 12 easy steps‘, it quickly became obvious from the impressive panel of library senior managers assembled that there are in fact no easy steps.  While some of it appears to be sheer dumb luck and being in the right place at the right time, mostly it comes down to the commonsense approach of making the most of your opportunities and being proactive about career development and career progression.  This includes taking on roles you are a little nervous about (it’s good to challenge yourself) and taking on opportunities to improve your skills with further education, PD events, attendance at conferences, writing papers and all that other (obvious?) stuff.  It’s good to be reminded of these things, particularly as I’m in a spot of down time in my career mojo.

So, this morning I have finally enrolled in a Cert IV Training & Assessment.  In all the dithering I have been doing about whether to do any more study, I’ve overlooked the fact that I could probably just be getting on with this little qualification and getting it over with.  It will probably be useful and will certainly be a good addition to my CV.  I am pretty vocal about my issue with LIS education leaving important stuff like pedagogy out of the course when most librarians end up, in fact, teaching. I like the instruction side of my job but am aware that I am making stuff up as I go along when it comes to developing learning outcomes and effective programs.  I’m hoping this will help. There’s a lot of studying going on in my household at the moment, including a HSC student so I have been a bit reluctant to add yet another one to the mix! However, everyone who has done the Cert IV tells me it’s not terribly difficult or time consuming so I am trusting my PLN on this and getting on with it!

Feels good to have taken some control and made some decisions about my own career.

Transferable skills

Unshelved - 23 Feb 2011

As always, Unshelved made me laugh. However, it does raise the question for me of what exactly IS an information professional? Are we people who ‘look stuff up in books’? Do we actually have any real life, useful skill that is valued anywhere outside the library profession?

I suspect the answer is yes and no.  I think we do have real life skills, but whether they are valued outside the profession is another thing.  It’s the whole ‘librarian’ stereotype I think.  I have members of my own organisation introduce me to outsiders as the librarian ‘but she does other stuff too, like information literacy and search skills training’.  I know, and everybody else inside the profession knows that the ‘other stuff’ is actually librarianship, how come nobody else seems to know that?

This is an old, hoary chestnut – I know this. Everyone in library land has had similar experiences. However, in my quest for a new job I am coming up against this transferable skill thing more and more.  I have skills from outside library land that are, in fact, highly transferable into this environment. Similarly, my library and information skills should be transferable to another environment. The trick is having a prospective employer who can see that.  This has come up for me in a big way in the past week or so.  Out of the blue I was offered a job with a start up professional development company – but it was on the basis of my previous administration experience (clearly very transferable skills but I don’t want to work in admin – that’s why I studied for a career change). I turned the job down after much deliberation as I want to have a chance to show this profession my skills.

So I just keep putting in job applications and waiting for the opportunity.

2020 Academic Library Symposium

Hey, it's a library! from Fiona Bradley via flickr CC

As I mentioned last week, I was able to participate yesterday in the 2020 Academic Library Symposium put on by UTS, to look at some of the possible incarnations of the academic library of the not-too-distant-future.

The reason I attended (as I’m certainly not a bigwig librarian such as most of those invited to take part) was to co-present (with @pinkfairaedust and @alysondalby) the findings from the ALIA Sydney Horizon workshop on what we thought the academic librarian of the future will (should?) look like.  Originally I thought we were attending as observers only, but arrived to find we had been colour coded into small groups along with the other participants and so actively took part in the breakout discussion sessions.

I had a University Librarian in my discussion group and a Deputy Director from another University library as well as a collection of other senior staff from different institutions.  Because I work outside the rarified, bureaucratic atmosphere of a University Library structure I was able to ignore the combined weight of the authority in the room, both in discussion groups and when presenting (twice – I ended up presenting back our small group discussions in the afternoon).  Sometimes ignorance is just sheer bliss.

Presenting and public speaking have never really held many fears for me.  I get a twinge of nerves just before going ‘on stage’ but I am confident that my communication skills and speaking ability will get me through, so don’t have that debilitating fear of speaking in public that many others seem to get.  Maybe it’s because I did a lot of public speaking at school – I was in debating teams in primary school but my forte was the speech and drama sections of the Canberra Eisteddfod.  For years, I learned poems and recited them in front of adjudicators, read pieces of prose I’d only sighted moments before (from memory, I may have even won that section) and participated in school ‘speech choirs’, which were the same thing, just in a group.

In my current place of work, I don’t get very many opportunities to present, even my IL classes are usually only delivered to very small groups of students at a time, so it was good to be up in front of people again.  I love the interaction with an audience, trying to engage with them, settle into a rapport with them and hopefully, even impart some information to them.

Then of course, I got to network, meet new people, eat UTS’s delicious lunch again (the morning tea was a bit special) and have a relaxed drink with all the folk at the end of the day.  All in all, it was a good day.

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