Archive for February 2009

Consider the difference between librarians and school teachers…

Why I love YouTube: “Finally, the library is filled with real books, not school books… When you take free will and solitude out of education it becomes schooling.

Inspiration from Mo Willems

I saw a post over at BookLust linking to a Just One More Book podcast with Mo Willems, which I’m listening to right now. (Who doesn’t love Mo Willems?) Her favorite part of this interview is also my favorite part:

JOMB: So – where do you usually start?

Mo: I look at my mortgage, and that inspires me.

And, scene.

Blogging and writing and professional presence

If a blog turned book = blook, does blogging as writing = blighting?

Over at Confessions of a Science Librarian, John Dupuis says that if you don’t have a  blog, you don’t have a resume. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3. Hyperbole? A little — in part 2, he includes a quote from another blogger changing “your blog is your CV” to “Google is your CV,” which probably sums things up a bit better. But I liked (from part 2):

And if you don’t have a professional development plan, I have to say that blogging will help you define and refine your goals and interests. Believe it or not, just writing a little about a lot of different things really will help you figure out what’s important to you.

Exactly! I’d add that thinking or talking about a lot of different things will also help you figure out your priorities, but blogging is a relatively easy way to begin going about it.

I also nodded all the way through Dorothea Salo’s “Writing and Blogging,” which says, among other things:

Blogging took away the rules, allowed (even forced) me to leave myself in my writing, made me conscious of audience, and made me learn to convince. Without those things, I’d still be mired in bad presenting and worse writing.

This reminds me very much of Julia Cameron’s admonition to do “morning pages” and the general standard advice to aspiring authors: Write every day. Although blogging, unlike morning pages, is very much for an audience, it can veer between the brain-dump of “morning pages” and writing that could easily transfer to “the professional literature.” Every bit of blogging serves as that same practice that morning pages provide: Seeing what works for you, what works for your readers, and what works when you come back to it later; finding the nuggets of usefulness among everything you have to say; finding your own voice.

And, coming back to the idea of blogs — or of Google — being “your CV.” The perennial complaint about employers Googling candidates has popped up again, this time on jESSE. (Access the archives, and read the “if wikipedia is problematic, then what do we think about library employers who google their candidates?” thread from February.) The main argument this time is that this enables employers to engage in discriminatory hiring practices by finding answers to questions they would otherwise be prohibited from asking (with the usual side arguments about “how do they know they have Googled the right John Doe,” etc.).

What I first found interesting here was this argument from the original post:

If a manager makes hiring decisions based on a medium that librarians, by and large, universally disparage as an unreliable source of information, then it calls into question the manager’s core competencies as an employer. Does the manager have the skills to conduct a successful job search without resorting to sources of information that are not verifiable (such as facebook or myspace)?

I’d actually argue that it’s incumbent upon managers — especially librarian managers — to gather as much info as possible on potential candidates, including information on how they interact online (although I’d move a bit beyond Facebook and MySpace). How we present ourselves online, especially in our professional interactions on blogs or on lists, has carryover to how we’ll interact in the workplace. I would very much hope that any hiring manager would Google me, because what I have to say online and how I choose to say it translates very closely into what my workplace priorities would be. The OP also asserts that:

Finally, it is also important to note that librarians are going to look hypocritical and ineffectual if they make a stand to protect the privacy of their patrons and ignore the privacy of their employees, even if they are only potential employees.

Here’s what we tell the highschoolers: If you post it online, you don’t have an expectation of privacy. This includes the listserv message excerpted above, which I had deleted out of my email, but found again in about 10 seconds by Googling “jESSE” and accessing the archives. Look, there it is, and if I found it, potential employers (or anyone else who happens to Google that topic, that person, her institution) might well find it as well. What you say online is not private. You can quote me on that, because I’ve said it online, and here it is for all to see.

Going to CIL?

If you’re going to be attending the CIL conference next month, and you want to take the opportunity to talk book ideas, drop me a line! (If you missed it, I’m a consulting editor for ITI books — meaning I find people to write for them.)

Sometimes it’s just easier to hash things out in person, or when you begin to bounce ideas off of someone. I’ll even buy you coffee or something :) .

Letter Monsters!

Is it just me being overtired, or are these Letter Monsters really, really cool? (You can also see them in PDF at his blog.)

On charging lots of money for things

Given this, how much do you think Sarah Johnson and I could charge for Beyond the Job? Sure, it’s not as comprehensive or fancy-pants EBSCO-ish, so what… maybe $500/year? Hmmmmm….

Shuffling back from Buffalo

Do you ever have that DOH! moment hours or days after a conversation, where you realize just what you could have said? That happens to me a lot after presentations and Q&A sessions.

I flew to Buffalo on Monday to give a talk on alternative careers for librarians at the University of Buffalo, and one of the questions in the Q&A portion was whether nontraditional careers were generally open to new grads, or whether they require you to build up more experience first. My answer at the time boiled down to “it depends,” some careers being very open to new grads, while others, like, say, striking out on your own as an info broker, require some pretty solid experience and contacts. What I should have added was: “But you can, and should, start working towards that goal now” – whatever that goal might happen to be. You can do a lot of things right out of school (or while in school), ranging from the simple (researching the industry/ies you’re interested in moving into) to the next steps along the road (volunteering, taking classes, going on informational interviews, spearheading projects, building up contacts, writing…). At ITI, I’ve worked with people who are writing books just a couple of years out of grad school. (It took me until 3 years out, way back when, but I’m a slow bloomer :) !) Any career goal, alternative or otherwise, will be easier to meet the earlier you get started.

On another note, while we’re talking about presenting, a couple of weeks ago Steven Bell posted Too Much Presentation Pressure over at the ACRLog. He posited that

Perhaps we’d be better off to lower our expectations for our conference presenters. We absolutely have a right to good presentations, to be engaged, and to participate. We should be the recipients of well thought out, well planned and well coordinated speeches (I still recall a presenter who had five minutes of time left, was on slide 42 of 67 slides – we had a slide handout – and cheerfully mentioned it was his first time using PowerPoint and it looked like he wouldn’t finish all his slides – in a way a big relief). On the other hand, most academic librarians might do one or two presentations a year at most; many do less. Like so many other things developing as a great presenter requires practice. One or two presentations a year just won’t get you there.

Anyone who’s sat through a bad — and I mean bad presentation might argue on the side of pressure. But there is a LOT of room between Steven’s example of Stephen Covey and being a decent library conference or workshop presenter, between awful and “great.” I pity the poor people who sat through my first talk oh-so-many years ago, but learned from that and moved on — I’m no Stephen Covey (or Stephen Abram, for that matter!), but I won’t bore you with droning PowerPoint bullet points, either. I think we should be able to agree on a bare minimum floor for conference presentations: 1) Don’t read your bullets, and, 2) Present on something you’re excited about, so you can share that excitement with others.

Bell talks about pecha kucha and other similar trends in toward more informal, interactive presentations, which can work well for some topics — he also suggests

…we can rethink what it means to deliver a library conference/program presentation. I’ve been thinking it should be more like blogging. Blog posts aren’t expected to be highly polished and edited forms of writing. They should be rough around the edges. It’s a way to get out ideas that are just forming, and to allow the community to react through commentary – which helps to better shape the ideas in the long run. Why can’t our presentations be somewhat the same. Let’s encourage librarians to focus on getting out the ideas, telling the story and getting audience reaction, rather than emphasizing the quality of the slides/visuals and presentation style.

This sounds more to me like what the unconference model has been doing, but I haven’t been lucky enough to attend one — anyone else? At Librarian by Day, Bobbi L. Newman references Bell in Presentation Pressure? Too much? Not enough? in noting

So do I think there should be more pressure for good presentation skills?  In a perfect world where we all had all the time we need to do all the things we want to – yes.  But in the world we have where, we’re all doing too much and struggle to keep up – my answer is no.  If I have to choose, I’ll choose that brilliant, innovative, and forward thinking people keep doing the brilliant, innovate, forward thinking things they are presenting about,  rather than spend their time polishing their presentation skills.

What I’ve found is that the brilliant, innovative, forward thinking presenters have a leg up anyway — it’s a lot easier to present on something you’re passionate about, and if you think of presenting as giving you the opportunity to share that with others, it becomes a lot less scary.

And, while we’re still talking about presenting, another thing that struck me at Buffalo is this: One of the students I was talking to mentioned that at least one librarian presenter type was unwilling to come to the university to talk to students, serve on panels, what have you. This is something I’ve run into before — places where I have presented have started off with an apology, or mentioned they’re glad I was willing to come, because so-and-so other person “won’t talk to students” or “won’t present to paraprofessionals.”

I can’t think of any response to that but: WTF? What is wrong with this profession when this sort of elitism is seen as either natural or acceptable? For the record, you all, I love talking to student groups. And paraprofessional groups. And LTA classes (Hi, CoD!). And, anyone who sees speaking to a given group as beneath them? Probably not worth listening to in the first place.

Facebook in reality

Maybe I’m just easily amused, but this one made me snort coffee.