Archive for the ‘profdev’ Category.

Student rates and not commenting

I usually blithely repost announcements on Beyond the Job without comment, whether or not I find something personally interesting or agree with its focus. But, this one made me snort coffee. I just gave a talk at UM-Milwaukee last week for their “Get That Job!” day about career building in a down economy, one part of which stressed free/low-cost professional development opportunities (including student rates and volunteer opportunities at conferences). So the topic’s been on my mind — then this crossed my inbox last night:


The Northeast Document Conservation Center Welcomes Students of Library and Information Science to join us at:

DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Fundamentals of Creating and Managing Digital Collections

MAY 27-29, 2009
Westin San Diego
San Diego, California

CONFERENCE FEE: $700 (includes a Networking luncheon on Day 1 and the Conference Reception)

DISCOUNTED STUDENT RATE: $595 with a copy of a valid student ID (emphasis mine)

(See: for Student Rate instructions)

Coffeesnort! I haven’t been a student for a while, but in what world is $595 a good student rate? And here I was thinking the $140 ALA wants to charge was a bit high… No disrepect intended to NEDCC in particular (hey, it is $105 off the regular rate!) but especially in the current economy, I think some of these conference structures bear rethinking.

Authority and control

Meredith Farkas has a thoughtful post up about what makes an expert. She says, in part:

I have a lot of friends who are knowledgeable about various topics who I would certainly trust if I needed advice in that area. Some are considered experts and some are not. The only difference I can really see between those who are and aren’t experts is how they have positioned themselves. The ones who are considered experts often speak at conferences or write articles or teach classes on their chosen subject. Because of this, their name becomes associated with that subject, making them an “expert”. It’s like me and wikis or Greg Schwartz and podcasting or Rachel Singer Gordon and career stuff. We created some stuff, wrote some stuff, talked about some stuff, and suddenly, we were authorities on the subject. And, for some of us who are now considered experts, it’s a title we’re rather uncomfortable with.

I find the “how they have positioned themselves” observation particularly interesting. Part of writing articles or speaking or teaching classes or what have you about a given subject really involves collecting insights, experiences, and stories from others: gathering and analyzing information. (How librarian-like!) When I talk or write about “career stuff,” I’m in large part talking about other people’s stories: What’s worked for them, how have people experienced the job hunt, what epiphanies prompted them to take a dramatic step that changed their career path. Note also: if you’re willing to get up in front of a group of people and talk on a given subject — and especially if you’re willing to accept money for doing so — you’re inherently claiming some sort of expertise; that’s why you’re there.

Meredith talks about teaching people to be critical of information, but we also as librarians are able to find answers because we know who to turn to, we know who might be more credible on a given topic. If I were building a wiki, I’d probably ask Meredith for advice — not because she is the foremost worldwide expert on wikis that ever lived, but because she knows more about wikis than I do, because she speaks and writes about wikis, and because I have a previous connection with her. She’s not the only person I’d ask, but she’d likely be the first, and then I’d investigate her advice, talk to other people working with the software, and so on. “Expert” can also mean “starting point;” help me get started on my path; help me figure out where to begin and how to move forward from here. Whenever someone emails me for career advice, I’ll give advice if I have any, but will also suggest that they post their question to a list or the forums or that they email the Library Career People columnists to garner further opinions.

People turn to Meredith for advice on wikis (or me for career stuff, or Greg Schwartz for podcasting) because they’re now able to broaden their pool of “experts;” people “know” Meredith from her blog or me from At Internet Librarian, I attended a talk by Laura Crossett on “How I built a website for $16 worth of chocolate,” in which she talked about being able to ask technical questions of people she’d met in a librarian-related chat room or elsewhere online, and get answers enabling her to create her small library’s website without previous programming or web design knowledge. Expertise here involves knowing enough about something (PHP, Wordpress) to help someone else, which is all most of us really need, and either having a connection with the person asking (Facebook, LinkedIn, and twitter do count!) or seeming approachable enough to be asked.

All in all, I wouldn’t get hung up on the “expert” title. As librarians, we’re good at collaborating and sharing what we know, as well as knowing who to ask; we share our expertise with each other as a matter of course.

Of shoes and ships and conferences

(Totally unrelated to this post, but I’m also testing out ScribeFire here. What a handy interface!)

Anyway. Again picking up the theme of barriers to physical conference attendance, I’m wondering what impact our craptacular economy will have on this over the next few years, given the rising price of plane tickets, airline consolidations, food, gas, hotels, what have you. In July, I made my annual visit back to Washington State to see my folks. The price of our flight was up $150 over last year’s trip ($250 over the year before). At over $600/person, only two of the four of us traveled — for about the same as it would have cost all of us to go in 2006. When budgets are strapped anyway, it seems unlikely that libraries will be pleased to pick up ever-higher travel tabs for their staff.

Next year’s ALA Annual is in Chicago — now the city with the dubious distinction of having the highest sales tax in the U.S. (Enjoy this fun travel taxes chart from USA Today to see how your conference city stacks up.) You might want to purchase souvenirs for your kids before you go, just be sure to hide them in your luggage. Or, load them up with booth swag! They’ll never know the difference.

Anyone? Anyone?

I was watching What not to Wear last night, and the person they were making over turned out to be the personal assistant to one Dr. Lois Frankel, “a noted author and speaker.” So, I looked up Dr. Frankel online and found her current speaking fee schedule, which makes something of an interesting counterpoint to the most recent discussion on speaker compensation (or lack thereof) in libraryland and how we encourage people to participate.

Now, if only I could just get a couple of you to pony up Frankel-ish fees to bring me to your event. Anyone? Anyone?


Today’s Info Career Trends

I just posted and emailed the May 2008 issue of Info Career Trends, and thought I’d point you all over there because this month’s theme (“show me the money!”) targets ways to find personal funding to do all the neat professional development type things we’d like to do — and you can’t beat free money!

Call for Contributors: Getting Unstuck

After thinking more about perkiness and being stuck, I decided to make “getting unstuck” the theme of an upcoming issue of Info Career Trends. If you’d like to share your story or advice, please see the call for contributors and drop me a line.

I’m Perky!

One commenter over at The Annoyed Librarian is apparently “disgusted” because I write “perkily about a dying profession.” (I’ll know I’ve made it in the biblioblogosphere when the AL targets me her own self, but will take it! I don’t think anyone’s ever described me as “perky” before, though; it makes me feel all rah-rah-rah.) Meanwhile, on newlib, a perennially disgruntled poster suggests that I write a book on “The Librarian’s Guide to Marrying Rich.”

I’ve gotten somewhat used to people slamming my writing and points of view — the NextGen book pretty much brought that to a head, and one of the points of writing professionally is to stir up discussion. I find it fascinating, though, when people object to the very idea of someone writing positively about professional issues — this seems to say more about their personal problems than about the work itself.

Over at Get Rich Slowly, a personal finance blog, J.D. occasionally posts on topics like “You Are Your Own Worst Enemy” — or, basically, on people’s inability to get “unstuck,” to take the steps they need to take to get out of debt, budget for the future, solve their personal finance problems. We face similar issues in librarianship: Yes, maybe the librarian shortage was overstated when you went to school, maybe the job market sucks in your geographical area, maybe you’re woefully underpaid in your current job, maybe your current workplace is tradition-bound and bureaucratic and enervating.

So, how do you get unstuck?

Spending precious time and energy blaming your library school, the ALA, or even me might feel good, but it’s fairly unproductive. At a certain point you need to take responsibility for getting yourself unstuck, for moving your career forward, for taking the steps you need to take. Maybe that means moving. Maybe that means changing careers or looking for alternative ways you can use your library degree. Maybe it means taking a crap-paying job for a couple of years to gain the experience you need to move up. Maybe it means getting someone to look at your resume and cover letters and give you advice on why you may not be getting interviews. Maybe it means taking online courses or learning how to design web pages or making professional connections or otherwise gaining the skills you need to become more marketable. Whatever it may be in your particular situation: make it your new year’s resolution to take one step toward getting unstuck.

I can’t apologize for writing “perkily” about this profession — I chose it for a reason, and most of my writing and online activity has one goal: to help people get unstuck and move forward professionally. It’s all here when anyone’s ready to listen.

More on what Meredith said

I just got an e-mail from Library Journal, addressed to all their “Movers & Shakers” over the past few years. They’re planning a brown-bag lunchtime unconference at Midwinter “… to brainstorm some of the issues (as you identify them) facing libraries–and the solutions… At the ALA summer luncheon we talked about using ideas from the Movers “Brain Trust” in a future issue of LJ.”

OK, that’s cool, although I didn’t actually know I was part of a “Movers Brain Trust.” I’d attend if I were going to be at Midwinter. But I’m wondering how many of the other 300+ “Movers & Shakers” are going to make it, and how many more perspectives the conversation might incorporate if it were opened up or continued post-conference — on a private list, on a forum, in small chatroom groups, what have you.

Sure, this is partially sour grapes: I can’t realistically go, and I’d like to. But, it’s not just my perspective LJ is missing out on — or LITA, or NMRT, or any other group/division/roundtable. I do see the value of face time, conferences, in-person communication, but this can be a both/and situation, rather than the current “if you don’t go, your voice doesn’t count.”

On a positive note, if you’re also one of the can’t-attends, apply for one of the conference grants floating around. I went to Annual on EBSCO’s dime a few years ago, which was fantastic — and they mentioned that they generally get fewer applications than they’d like. So, go for it! I post these on Beyond the Job when I see them, also look on ALA’s grants and fellowships page.

What Meredith Said

At Information Wants to be Free, Meredith Farkas posts on “Alternative ways to participate (or why I probably won’t be at Midwinter.”

What she said.

As ALA conferences approach, my e-mail box fills up with messages asking if I’ll be there, if I’ll participate on a panel, if I’ll serve on a committee, if I’ll shell out more dues to join a division or roundtable so I can then have the privilege of serving on yet another committee. I still can’t fathom why anyone is startled when I say I only get to ALA every few years when it swings through Chicago (and then… shh… sometimes I only swing through the exhibits and meet people for meals).

I’m self employed (and, even when I wasn’t, mpow was less than likely to fund out-of-state conference attendance). Attending either Annual or Midwinter would run me at least $1000, a significant amount for someone who’s self-employed. What’s my ROI here, esp. when I do get to conferences such as IL and CIL that are more directly relevant to my personal and professional interests? My presence on any given ALA panel or committee would be minor at best; my online and other professional activities seem to have a more direct and immediate impact.

I think it’s a darn shame that ALA drags its heels on virtual participation, and that the tendency of larger/wealthier libraries to be overrepresented on committees, on panels, at in-person events skews the association’s direction and representation. It’s a vicious cycle: the people advocating for change tend to be those less likely to be represented in-person, thus those less likely to have a voice and impact.