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!
So, barely a week after writing the last blog post, on taking charge of my career, I suddenly seem to actually have a career to take charge of! After several months of writing job applications and attending hundreds of job interviews (actually I think it was only 3, but it did seem like a lot) I have a new job.
I’ve taken a few days to reflect on my reaction to the job offer (which I accepted on the spot). Yes I’m happy and yes I’m a bit scared of the change but do you know what the first thing was that came into my mind? Whether to change the name of my blog. Really? Yes, really.
I’m moving from a one person library into a huge bureaucracy (a university) with thousands of staff and tens of thousands of students. My whole focus up until now has been surviving as an OPL, developing a virtual PLN because I don’t have one in the workplace, finding other professionals ‘out there’ who inspire me, advise me or just sympathise with me and share their experiences. Going to this new job is going to be like starting again. In my first post on this blog, I invited readers to share the journey with me. That hasn’t changed, it’s just that I’m suddenly heading in a totally different direction.
Still, I think I’ll leave the blog name for now.
Over the weekend I read a post from Fiona at A work in progress that has got me thinking about my career mojo.
The blogosphere has been full of posts about what it means to be a librarian, what LIS students need to know, (here and here) and whether our university courses prepare librarians adequately or appropriately. I’m sure this flurry of writing coincides with the new academic year in the US and the end of the academic year here in Australia. Add into the mix some doom and gloom about the future of the library as we know it (job cuts and library closures in the UK being the focus of Roy Tennant’s Digital Libraries post this week) and it’s no wonder that graduates like Fiona and myself feel a bit dazed and confused.
Now I’m in a horrible limbo land. I’ve finished my course. I am officially a graduand. But I’m yet to find work in a library and am feeling my tenuous grip on the pulse of librarianship slipping away by the day. It’s not that I’m not still reading blogs and articles and tweets from fabulous librarians and educators. It’s not that I’ve lost any of my passion for sharing information and helping to connect people to the information that they need. It’s just that without papers to write or a library job to go to it’s all feeling very abstract.
For a variety of reasons I didn’t work in the library industry while I was studying for my library qualifications, so I completely understand the disconnect Fiona is feeling. Now, a year after finishing my course and with almost a year of full time work in the profession under my belt I’m feeling a bit the same again.
MPOW is full of wonderful, caring and genuine folk but as an OPL in a very small educational institution I’m starting to feel the restlessness kick in. I will always be grateful to my current employer for the opportunity they gave me as a graduate to take this position and for the opportunities for professional development and advancement of my skills that they have allowed me to take while working here, but I’m eager to take my new found skills and apply them in the wider libraryland.
Like Fiona, I’m back in a bit of limbo-land. It’s completely the wrong time of year here to be looking for a new job, not only am I competing with the fresh, new crop of graduates but the long holiday shuts a lot of things down now until the end of January. In a way, I’ve also shut down. I love reading about the fabulous things that others in my PLN are achieving in their workplaces but it’s mixed with wishing that I had the opportunity to do/implement/experience some of those things too, which just induces more restlessness.
I have leave over Christmas and into the New Year. I can only hope that when I return from leave, some of my career mojo is back.
The drama involves me only as a side issue, there was an email about me (incorrect as it turns out) that has provided the catalyst for ‘final straw’ type action. It’s caused quite a sensation, I’m still not sure quite how I got involved but there you are.
This got me thinking about the issue of office politics in general. Technically I work by myself here at MPOW. I’m the only library staff member, I theoretically report direct to the College principal or the provost and I don’t supervise any staff. A small organisation being what it is however and as I’ve blogged about before, I am involved in much more than just library stuff. When I started here, one of my colleagues said to me “it’s a nice place and there really isn’t any office politics”. While that’s not quite true, it’s pretty close and on the whole this workplace is free from many of the petty concerns and trivialities of other places I’ve worked (and even many of the real concerns and non-trivialities).
My last job was working on my own as well – I was literally the only person in the office there, although there was constant phone and email contact with committee members, former committee members and even former staff (the CBCA is the kind of place that gets into your blood, once you’ve been involved you’re sort of always involved, nearly 12 months after leaving I still speak to my replacement there about once a month). It’s been so long since I’ve had to negotiate outcomes, or space, or project time or budget allowances with anyone other than my teenagers that sometimes I wonder if I can still do it.
We teach management, organisation theory, organisation behaviour, human resource management and negotiation/conflict resolution skills here in our various programs and I studied those subjects in various forms as part of my management major in my degree. However, there’s nothing quite like being in the workplace to really teach you how to get along with others. I’m grateful for the opportunity to gently work my way back into the world of office politics – maybe this current ruckus is a development opportunity?
image: scream and shout by mdanys via flickr
Here at MPOW it’s nothing to get involved in projects that are technically a little (or even a lot) outside one’s area of expertise and professional knowledge. I’ve blogged before about this so it’s nothing new.
The particular ‘things’ that are taking up my time at the moment include teaching academic skills as our usual tutor is off on maternity leave, helping to put together an application to run a Masters of Professional Accounting at MPOW, worrying about the specific language and cultural issues that our students face and how to best put together assistance for them, training teaching staff in the use of the student management database system and trying to find a way to fit some sort of infolit training into our students’ very packed timetables.
Top of my worry list is the academic skills stuff. One of my (many, I’ll admit) soapboxes is the absence of teaching pedagogy in our training as librarians. Infolit I’m reasonably comfortable with, I teach that to my own kids all the time but academic skills is a different thing, particularly here when it is often combined with some English language difficulties as well. In addition, our academic skills program seems to be largely contained in people’s heads so I’m trying to get it out onto paper and into some sort of formalised course structure (or at least some lesson plans!). This caused my first headache – I had absolutely no idea how to start going about doing this. I’ve since read and read and read and feel like I have done enough reading to award myself a GradDipEd but was still a bit lost. Until……
I tweeted the other day about my joy at finding the UTAS Teaching & Learning site:
Just found this wonderful UTAS site – has answered most of my questions, could be pedagogy love http://bit.ly/9KjfAL
I feel like I’m on a roll now (well I was until the MPA application stuff came up and took up most of my week)- this site tells me what I need to know, as opposed to what I need to be teaching others – and this is what I was having trouble finding. Tick that box.
The other major issue filling up my ‘thinking’ time is the lack of information and evidence based practice (or even questions and thoughts!) relating to organisations like MPOW. We are small and highly specialised so while I have learnt SO MUCH from my colleagues/tweetmates in the academic world little of it actually fits well with what goes on here. Similarly, although we share many characteristics with Specials, I don’t have a special library – I have students with academic needs.
I know there are other private higher education organisations out there but by the very nature of the private, for profit-ness of these organisations, we don’t collaborate or share ideas. A project I would love to get my teeth into is whether in fact the libraries and information centres from these organisations could do some collaborating or idea sharing without jeopardising any commercial-in-confidence stuff and bringing the wrath of investors down on our collective heads. Sort of like CAUL for minnows…
This turned out to be a bit deeper than I thought it would be for a Friday afternoon post – particularly after the brain-frying, depression-inducing, mind-numbing and painful processes of proofing, correcting and assembling I’ve been doing this week!
image: Be Prepared by Mykl Roventine via flickr
Over the weekend I listened to the May instalment (ok, so I’m a bit behind) from the crew at Adventures in Library Instruction. If you haven’t heard this podcast and you are in anyway involved in information literacy training and/or instruction it’s worth at least having a peep (or hearing a peep if you want to be really technical).
As a learning tool, podcasts appeal to me for several reasons. I like audio and can engage in it more easily than reading (witness my raving about audiobooks), I can listen to it in the car which is good use of time that is otherwise dead to me and I get a sense of the personalities and people behind the information. I’ve been listening to ALI pretty faithfully since they started (well, since I read about it in PD Postings anyway – but I have heard all podcasts up to and including May this year now) and feel I’ve not only learned a lot but have had good insight into how other people do their jobs and WHAT they do for their jobs. This is particularly important for me as an OPL.
So why zombies? The May edition of ALI featured 2 librarians from the University of Florida who had organised library involvement in a campus wide zombie themed alternate reality game (ARG) and developed a libguide to zombies as a way of tapping into what the students were interested in but also getting some library and information literacy instruction into them as well. Have a look at this video the library produced as part of their involvement in the week long ARG:
It was a great episode of the podcast and this post doesn’t go even close to doing justice to the level of detail and involvement that went into this. While I can’t do anything like that here at MPOW (University of Florida has about 50,000 students and we have about 300!), the take home point for me was tapping into student culture – whatever that may be in your neck of the woods.
image: How to survive a zombie attack by Hryck via flickr
Yesterday I took myself on an excursion! The very kind librarian at the Australian Institute of Management invited me to visit and look around their newly refurbished ‘Knowledge Centre’. The knowledge centre combines the library and the organisation’s bookshop (I can see the obvious synergies between the two but have my concerns about how this will work in the long run). However, it was an interesting and informative visit. The knowledge centre is set up complete with a Business Lounge – a concept freely borrowed from airline lounges. Here, AIM members, staff and anyone attending an AIM course in the building can read the papers, flick through business and management journals, check email on any of half a dozen computers, charge their mobile phone, watch the television news, browse the two collections, plug into free wi-fi with their own computer, make coffee or obtain ice cold water.
Make no mistake, they have done a big budget design and overhaul and it looks fantastic. In fact, it is a librarian’s dream (I even love the colour scheme). However, much like flicking through a house and garden type magazine oohing and aahing at pictures of makeovers I can’t afford to do, the trick is picking out the various elements in the set up and applying them to MPOW.
image from : http://hscripts.com/freeimages/icons/
Early this week I attended a short course (2 days) in Records Management wearing my RM hat – that the kind people at ALIA are allowing me to count as professional development. Excellent! 14 hours into the pot and a such a lot of follow up work to be done on our RM policy and procedures and business processes that I am going to be busy for months.
Today I received an email from ALIA stating that I have been elected to their New Generation Advisory Committee for the forthcoming two years. This is professional development of a totally different kind and I am more than a little nervous about this involvement. It’s one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time – ALIA put out a call for interested parties to nominate and I fit all the criteria so I put my hand up.
I’m excited about the opportunity to network, to get out of my own space a bit and to see what other people in Libraryland do all day – MPOW being such an ‘odd fit’ in the scheme of things. I’m keen to advocate for new grads who end up in OPL’s and have no guidance other than those people they are able to network with through e-lists, PD activities, social networking such as LFIP and their own reading and learning.
I’ve now got quite a few projects on the go and am beginning to experience the buzz of being back in the workforce with (hopefully) something valuable to contribute.
I read a blog recently (and I’m sorry, I can’t find it again to provide a link… I’ve now got Zotero installed to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore) about the importance of making time in your day to catch up on professional reading. I even commented on this blog post, as I am in the fortunate position of having time at work to keep up with professional development activities including reading – for the moment anyway.
My learning curve is very steep and as I’m an OPL I’ve got no-one handy to ask. I have turned to the various resources available to me, most notably professional literature and blogs of interest. Blogs in particular have sparked many happy hours of following an information trail as I attempt to track down information or resources that will assist me with my various projects at MPOW.
As each project starts to take shape, I am realising more and more that the sky is pretty much the limit with this job. Yes, we are a very small organisation – but there are plans to grow bigger and just because we are small doesn’t mean that what we offer can’t be great. The international student market in Australia is very competitive and our advantage is our small size – we are able to treat each student as an individual. I hope that if I can get services and systems in place that enhance that student experience, then the library can become part of the marketing package when we are out there selling ourselves to potential students.
There is of course a danger of becoming a jack of all trades and master of none – my day ranges across issues relating to ESL students, library instruction, records management, immigration and student visa policy, keeping up with subject specific material, collection development and maintenance, policy writing and money wrangling with the bean counters. I am the library manager and the untrained library assistant – a position I know is understood by all the other OPL’s out there!
I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot recently – a major university near my home has just announced a faculty librarian vacancy and I have always said I wanted to work there. Now, I have to decide if it’s really the right time for me. I think I’m better off staying here, building my resume, developing my projects and gaining valuable experience that will help me move on to a larger organisation when I am more confident in my skills and knowledge. As part of this decision making process, this weekend I’ll be spending time with ALIA’s Career Development kit (part of my PD obligations anyway) to see if that helps point the way.