Archive for the ‘balance’ Category.

On meaning to blog

I’ve been meaning to blog about Greg Schwartz’s decision to table Uncontrolled Vocabulary. (Walt Crawford provides a list of some other former and current “unique, passion-driven experiments in non-institutional, freely available  “periodical media” serving the library field–making a distinction between things that appear on a fairly regular basis and the hundreds of blogs and other wholly irregular sources.”

However, I haven’t had the time to blog — or think — enough about Greg’s decision. Which probably tells you something.

Thinking about:, The Tech Static, Beyond the Job, Info Career Trends, the forums, and this blog… I’m more entangled with librarianship now than when I was working as a librarian, but not so much getting paid for these “experiments,” and it’s taking time away from both the kids and the work that I do get paid for. Something here might have to go, but how to choose?

I’m glad that Greg is getting so many positive comments about his decision — which I also wholly support (and understand!).

The Library Latte Factor

If you’ve read any articles or books on personal finance or America’s dismal savings rate over the past few years, you’ve probably seen reference to the “latte factor.” If not, here’s the nutshell summary: We don’t tend to think about how small things can add up and about the opportunity cost of spending money on one thing instead of another. So, you may pick up a Starbucks latte every morning on the way to work (yes, let’s pick on Starbucks again…), thinking “It’s only $4.00.” Over the course of a year, 5 lattes, or $20, a week adds up to $240. If you instead put that $240 each year into a higher-yield account, or contribute to your IRA, or up your 401k or 403b contributions, you can play with the math and be suitably amazed by how much more you would earn over time.

The idea here is that all these little things add up — yes, maybe you don’t feel the pinch when you buy lattes (or whatever your personal vice may happen to be), but add lattes, to lunches out, to having to have that iPhone the week it comes out, and eventually something has to give. If you buy lattes, or lunches, or iPhones, that’s money you now don’t have to spend on something else.

This comes to mind when reading David Lee King’s recent Answering the What Do I Have to Stop Doing Question, on how to answer library folks who ask what they have to stop doing in order to do new things with technology. David’s answer focuses on reframing the question in terms of library priorities. He explains:

Will your daily work change? Maybe. Will some things that you currently do not get done? Maybe – but that’s ok. Because you’ll be focused not on “doing stuff,” but on moving the organization forward.

So yes – the less important, non-prioritized stuff will either get done or get forgotten – and that’s ok. Because you have reframed your question.

That’s a good answer, which fits right into the latte factor idea of determining your priorities and where you want to spend, whether it be money or time — but I’m not sure it goes far enough in answering the question. (Read the comments and links as well for more perspectives.)

Some of the commenters point out ways in which Web 2.0 technologies help save time in the long run, which is another piece of the puzzle here. In smaller, less well-funded libraries than David’s, the time issue is a more major concern: every bit of the day can be filled up with serving organizational priorities, especially if you are the only one there. The “that’s OK” answer also carries the danger of how we define the “smaller, less important” stuff — it’s easy to get sucked into Web 2.0 things instead, defining these as more important because they’re, well… FUN. But, someone still has to sweat the small stuff and keep those library wheels turning.

I think that we need to acknowledge that answering “what did you have to stop doing in order to start doing these new things?” question involves true opportunity cost. At home, the answer may very well be “watching so much TV.” At work, though, it’s not always as simple, especially if your organizational (or administrative) priorities don’t as easily translate to “take time to try new things.” Sometimes taking time to try new things means not taking the time to do “old things” that are useful to or cherished by some segment of your population. If you can make the argument that both reflect organizational priorities, how do you choose? How do you make sure your choice reflects your library’s and your patron’s needs, rather than your own preferences? That’s a piece of the conversation I’d like to see extended further.

Multitasking, vindicated!

It’s in Newsweek, so it must be true, see:

Some scientists suspect that the brain can be trained to multitask, just as it can learn to hit a fastball or memorize the Aeneid. In an unpublished study, Clifford Nass of Stanford and his student Eyal Ophir find that multitaskers do let in a great deal more information, which is otherwise distracting and attention-depleting. But avid multitaskers “seem able to hold more information in short-term memory, and keep it neatly separated into what they need and what they don’t,” says Nass. “The high multitaskers don’t ignore [all the incoming signals], but are able to immediately throw out the irrelevant stuff.” They have some kind of compensatory mechanism to override the distractions and process the relevant information effectively.

You say compensatory mechanism, I say coping mechanism…

Don’t blog. Write. (ouch!)

Tomorrow, you will say to yourself. Tomorrow I will start afresh, and I will type all day to make up for the pages I have not written today. With the best of intentions, you will go to sleep...But on the morrow, when you wake and rise, you will not write. You will blog.

- Vampires of the Internet

Take this job…

So I’ve now visited this LJ article on “Take this Job and Love it” several times, mostly because they are tricksy and keep sucking me in through different blurbs in every different email newsletter. This time around, this comment struck me:

The survey also suggests that as careers span, satisfaction levels rise. Of librarians in the field ten years or less, 23% were “very satisfied” compared to 39% of those in the field over 20 years. “As you get older, and are married with children, you do tend to invest more in family as opposed to your job,” says Kidwell, in his current post over 20 years. “Some of it, too, is that you come to accept that you’re in a profession that just isn’t going to offer those high salaries.”

Or…. perhaps satisfaction levels don’t rise per se, but it’s that those who aren’t satisfied, eventually, well… LEAVE. But I’m cynical :) .


On obviousness

Sitting home today with 2 sick kids, ironically enough, I read a blurb in January’s Redbook magazine reporting on research showing that 78% of women in 2-income families report taking time off work when a child is sick, school is closed, or childcare arrangements fall through, as opposed to 28% of men.

(Someday, I would like to get a large grant to conduct research to which the answer is: Well, DUH. Any takers?)

Redbook’s cutesie take on this? “Proof that no matter how much the world changes, moms will always be the best medicine.”

Oh, for the love of…

I don’t think I need even to comment on that statement. But, I have been thinking lately about family and balance. Back in December, Meredith Farkas posted about the assumptions made by a commenter who suggested her career goals and priorities would change after having children. Whether or not Meredith chooses to have children is between her and her husband — but all of our career goals and priorities need to evolve, as the profession and the world around us change, and as our experiences change us.

My own career goals and priorities did change after having children, but I think that kids were just the catalyst of an inevitable shift. Pre-kids, I was following a fairly traditional public library career path, moving from entry-level to department head and beginning to investigate and interview for asst director (medium library) and director (smaller library) positions. I found myself turning down callbacks for second interviews because the jobs didn’t feel right (too long a commute, too bureaucratic…), and then found out I was pregnant. Since one of my priorities was to stay home with my kids while they were small, I stopped interviewing and went part-time at my former place of work, taking the opportunity to work on other (mostly writing-related) projects.

After a couple of years, I had the opportunity to move into a director position. I said no, because my son was small — but really, because I did not want it enough. After the flexibility of working from home — and some experience with the Board I would have been reporting to! — I realized I like what I am doing now a lot better. While it was hard to let the library director picture go, it doesn’t fit as well with who I am now.

But kids don’t have to be the catalyst. Pre-library school, I spent a couple of miserable years in a PhD program that was, let’s just say, not the best fit, pursuing a dream of being a tenured professor with a lovely book-lined office. (Which I can still picture!) I spent my last 6 months in the program with chronic tonsillitis, iller than I’ve ever been — and haven’t had a bout since dropping out 13 years ago.

Sometimes life tries to tell us something; sometimes, life gives us the time to reflect on our priorities. The challenge lies in knowing when to let go of that dream, when to pursue a new dream, when to modify our dreams. When I surveyed people for my upcoming alternative careers book, their catalysts for switching career paths ranged from the need to build better balance, to the realization that they couldn’t advance in traditional libraries without the MLS, to frustration with bureaucracy. Your catalyst may be kids — or may be something totally different — but most of us don’t follow step-by-step along the career path we envisioned in school.

Might I someday jump back onto the library management career path, or go back for the PhD? Sure I might, and I bet my goals and priorities will change yet again as my kids get older. So I keep my options open, and work towards a changing set of short-term goals.

Stay at home calculator

If you’re in a 2-income with kids family, this is a fun little game — play with the Stay at Home calculator at to see how you’ll do living on one salary. (Yes, quibble away about assumptions, but it’s interesting for entertainment and food-for-thought purposes, if nothing else.)

Back to Balance

Posted the May 1 issue of Info Career Trends today, on “building balance.” I especially appreciated Marcy Brown’s pointer to Making a Living Without a Job and the idea of creating “multiple profit centers” to deal with the inevitable ebbs and flows of self-employment.

I’m also reading Leslie Bennetts’ The Feminine Mistake, which talks, in part, about the long-term economic impact of women’s decisions to quit their jobs to stay home with their children. In libraries, this is pretty easy to rationalize: I make less money than my partner; I’m burned out working with the public; my salary would go to daycare; it makes sense for me to stay home. But, while our salaries may not be all that great, we shouldn’t dismiss the benefits of more years in Social Security and/or an employed-sponsored retirement plan, access to 403B/401K plans, more time to move up the career ladder and earn raises and promotions, better future employment prospects.

I don’t regret swapping full-time work in a library for self-employment, but think we need to go into any of these changes with our eyes wide open. I can’t contribute to a 403B, but I’m darn sure to dump the maximum into my IRA each year. I’m no longer participating in a pension plan, but I’m continuing to work for pay each year and trying to avoid those years of zeros being figured into my Social Security. I’m doing things related to librarianship that will put me in a better position if and when I do decide to go back to more traditional work. I didn’t quit right away, but took time to build up some freelance work. I’m incredibly lucky in that my husband’s workplace provides family health coverage.

Women (never men) come up to me fairly regularly at conferences or send e-mails asking, basically, how they can quit their day jobs too. I’m all for this, but think any one of us who takes that plunge needs to be aware of the long-term implications and to have a long-term plan and goals (however flexible or changeable these might be). This also points to the need for libraries to pay attention to work/life balance issues for everyone.

I was at dinner with a few mom friends the other night, all of us librarian or teacher types, and the conversation came around to goals. A couple of people said straight out that they don’t have any career or long-term goals, don’t think they need any, and that their focus is only on their kids and making sure they turn out well.

My kid (soon kids!) is my top priority, but I don’t think it’s healthy for either of us that he be my only priority, or to focus only on the immediate future of staying home with kids without also thinking about a long-term career path. We can’t truly build balance without an idea of what we want from our lives and our careers, and where our priorities lie in terms of both short-term needs and long-term goals.

Life Trumps Speaking

First off, let me say that I love speaking to library groups. I find it energizing and inspiring and a great way to remain connected with the profession, giving me the in-person interaction I often lack when working out of my home.

But… if you invite me to come speak to your group this fall or next winter/spring, chances are I’m going to say no.

The main reason for this is our ongoing adoption saga — since we have no clear idea of dates at this point, only could-bes, I’m erring on the side of caution. I don’t think it’s fair to commit to preparing presentations and traveling at a time when we might be bringing a new little person into our lives, and want to spend more one-on-one time with Jake before this happens.

Like Deborah Ng, though, it’s hard for me to say no, especially to work I find both interesting and challenging. I also wonder about perceptions and burning bridges, but need to set priorities, and what has to give at this point is the travel. So if I say/have said “no” to you, it’s a no for now — not forever!

Geek Grrls, Balance, and More

If I were a little more visually clever I’d enter this geek grrl photo contest. I think, though, that we need some librarian representation… if you enter, share here.

Picking up on previous discussions, I ran across “Why Are Women Exiting IT?” in InfoWorld recently, with more discussion and resources online. Apparently, not only are women still underrepresented in IT, but the numbers are actually declining — “For example, women accounted for 16.6 percent of all network and computer systems administrator positions in 2006, down from 23.4 percent in 2000.”

Beyond all the many, many other ways that we “lose our techie librarians,” I think one way to lose people is to pay insufficient attention to the issue of work/life balance. IT work, whether in- or outside of librarianship, can easily chip away at that whole balance thing, especially when we don’t fund it sufficiently and/or ask people to take on these responsibilities in addition to all their other librarian-ish duties.

On this note, it’s interesting to look at the Engendering Balance section of the InfoWorld report. Of course, this is nothing that hasn’t been said before, but is something that we should perhaps pay more attention to — both as a female-dominated profession and as one that’s so intimately intertwined with technology.

(edited a couple hours later to add… I forgot to link to this post about “all women’s day” — a call for postings by women on Web/Library 2.0 issues on March 8, which I meant to include here.)