Once upon a time there was a librarian participating in #blogjune who had run out of ideas by the 21st day. A quick lunchtime mention of this on twitter resulted in no less than 6 responses, all different. The librarian is happy now because this will take her through to the 28th day without having to think too hard.
Thank you, PLN
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.
Last week, @acrystelle tweeted the following question:
PLN & PLE – Same thing? Or different? What do you believe to be definitions for these terms? Any opinions or thoughts?
I had to ask what exactly a PLE is, but now that I have an answer (it’s a personal learning environment, as opposed to a PLN which is a personal learning network) I thought I’d respond to the question here, as I have a bit more than 140 characters to say.
My initial reaction was that of course they are different – one’s a network and one’s an environment. Then I started worrying that I had oversimplified it, which led me on to giving the question considerably more thought. After tying myself up in knots about this several times over the weekend I can say I think I ended up overanalysing it and that my initial response was, in fact, what I wanted to say.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me explain.
The term PLN is fairly new to me, I didn’t come across it until I started to be active on twitter and joined in the conversation between many like-minded LIS professionals. On reflection though, I realise I have been developing and engaging in PLN’s my entire life. They just weren’t called that. They were called mothers groups, or running partners or fellow committee members, or book clubbers. Each of these networks has contributed to my knowledge and has enabled me to share my experiences and knowledge as well. Each of these networks is part of my PLE – a subset if you like.
So, how do I define them? My PLN’s are issue specific (although with considerable crossover between some) and comprised of individuals whereas my PLE is broader than that. My PLE encompasses both private and professional connections and importantly, it includes place. The classic example of course is that the local library is part of my PLE but not my PLN. When faced with a question, a difficulty or a need to share some news, I consider which part of my PLE is the most appropriate vehicle and select one or more PLN’s based on that assessment.
A long answer to a simple question.
Towards the end of 2010 I lost my librarian mojo – I could really sympathise with this post from A work in progress about being dazed & confused. I’m in a not-so-different situation to Fiona, OK, I have a job in libraryland but it’s a first job and I need to start thinking about the next step in my career sometime in 2011. That’s both exciting and daunting and the daunting part overtook me by the end of the year.
I am not a 24/7 librarian so my recent 3 weeks off work have really been 3 weeks away from the whole library thing – very little interaction on twitter from me and I haven’t read a single blog post that could be remotely called professional (OK, I’ve read some by librarians but they weren’t really library related). Partly this is because I went camping for a week – to a location with flaky 3G connection at best but mostly it’s because I really needed to take a break from all the PD and the information bombardment my day usually contains. I barely even picked up a newspaper during this 3 weeks.
As a result, I feel quite refreshed, in spite of wondering if I’ve missed out on anything really fantastic. I probably have, but I’ve learned that life goes on regardless! As I’ve blogged about before, I value my PLN and in particular my twitter network but it’s still pretty much a work thing for me, rather than a life thing. I have some strict boundaries around the work/life balance thing – having seen first hand what happens when you don’t – so it suits me to keep things as they are for the moment.
I’ve come back to work to the realisation that I have 2 PD events coming up for me in the next 3 weeks – as well as the prospect of a #tweetup around the ALIA Information Online conference that is being held in Sydney in early February. This has cheered me up no end (because let’s face it, who actually enjoys coming back to work after 3 weeks leave?).
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.
Telling and creating stories as part of #octshowntell has been the fun, creative and almost easy part. However, as @restructuregirl has pointed out, sharing our collective storytelling has turned out to be harder than we thought.
YouTube groups were considered and then found to be no longer supported or available. Setting up a group within vimeo caused headaches for the creator and difficulties for the rest of us in finding it. These technical difficulties aside, the other problem with groups in video based cloud services is that you can only post, well, videos. Those of us creating stories using other formats can’t post our stories to these groups anyway.
Enter the idea for a google sites project. Easy to set up, quick to add things, accepts flash so that we can embed storybirds that can’t be embedded in lots of other places (like here on my wordpress.com blog), even looks a bit fancy thanks to easy to use templates and drag ‘n drop formatting. However, once I had set up the google site I came across the problem I have also had at MPOW with my library website – other people can’t edit or add to the site unless they are first added as owners.
This is a straightforward problem on the surface, just email an invitation to the person you would like to add, they establish a google account and then they are away. Of course, as my PLN is largely a twitter based group, I don’t actually have email addresses for most of the people participating in #octshowntell and while I’m a big fan of google sites, they are not yet so advanced that you can send out invitations via twitter handle!
What I love about these group collaborative learning projects I have been involved with is the opportunity to learn by doing and to learn by playing. Michael Stephens from Dominican University in Illinois uses learning by playing as a recurring theme in both his teaching and presentations. Sophie McDonald from UTS Library in Sydney also presented on this at the recent ALIA conference in Brisbane, talking about Transforming information literacy through play. I love the idea that playing is learning and counts as professional development at the same time! Most of the 2.0 technologies that I use I have learned how to use by sitting down and playing with them – learning as I go, asking the twitterverse for advice when needed, using YouTube to find more information and a demonstration.
I have been passing on my knowledge to other staff at MPOW and was thrilled to have an older, self acknowledged luddite teacher tell me the other day that he’s excited by the tools and possibilities the college moodle is opening up to he and his students and that perhaps he is ‘never too old to learn’. Music to the ears of one so recently committed to a profession of lifelong learners.