June 27, 2017

Dispositions for Librarianship (or, why I can’t weed students for you)

Posted in Job Success, School Success at 12:33 pm by melissaautumn

Been thinking about professional things, post ALA Annual . . .

During a panel on the skills library school graduates need, an audience member suggested library schools should weed out applicants who don’t have the necessary dispositions for librarianship. I understand the sentiment that there are characteristics that make for a good librarian – commitment to service, valuing intellectual freedom, curiosity, creativity, and more. But, here are reasons why we should not try to screen for those dispositions in library schools.

On a practical level, not all our students are going to be librarians. As a library administrator (and I’ve been one), it can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming the purpose of library schools is to train librarians, but we educate people for all kinds of information related jobs. Even if we asked applicants about their intended career path, those plans can and will change as applicants become students and learn more about the wide variety of jobs available to information professionals.

In addition, not all librarian positions are the same. The needed dispositions for a children’s librarian and an archivist are very different. Likewise, not all libraries are the same. More than once I’ve worked with a librarian who wasn’t well suited to our library, left for a library that was a better fit, and thrived. There’s a place for everyone in librarianship.

More importantly, as panelist Aisha Conner-Gaten pointed out, valued dispositions and how those are displayed are culturally determined. Excluding people based on certain behaviors (or assumptions about the meaning behind those behaviors) has long been used to exclude the “other.” What do we lose in our profession when we exclude people who hold different values and ways of being than we do?

Finally, we need to be open to the possibility of growth and change. I’m a better librarian today than I was at 23, when I started my first professional job. I’m also a better teacher, a better parent, and a better friend, among other things. And hopefully in ten years, I’ll be better yet. Yes, some students will come without the necessary dispositions for the career they want. They also come without the necessary skills and knowledge to be librarians. In fact, that’s why they come to library school – to gain the necessary skills and knowledge. The same is true of dispositions. We can make it clear what dispositions are needed and offer opportunities to develop those dispositions, both in school and in the workplace, but we shouldn’t use them as a basis for turning away people who want to join our profession.


March 17, 2014

Pomodoro Technique

Posted in Job Success at 5:03 pm by melissaautumn

This week I’m intrigued by the Pomodoro Technique.

One of the things I struggle with while working at home is staying focused on a task. It is easy to jump between paid work, volunteer work, and writing since they all inhabit the same desk space or to be distracted by tasks around the house (case in point, I just got up to stop the dog from ripping another hole in her bed). I’m also easily distracted by incoming email, Facebook, and online news sites.

In the true Pomodoro Technique, you are supposed to work on one thing for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break, then move on to another project. The idea is that working for a limited amount of time helps you focus, if for no other reason than the satisfaction of crossing an item off your list before being forced to stop, and frequent breaks keep your brain rested and fresh.

I’m taking liberties with the Pomodoro format. First, I’m working in 30 minute chunks. It matches my 30 minutes a day of writing and appeals to me as nice, round number. I’m also open to shorter periods of time for smaller tasks or when time is limited. Today I had only a bit of time between teaching class and a school pick up, so I challenged myself to spend 15 minutes doing “annoying” tasks – things I’d procrastinated doing, but that I wanted to get off my to-do list. And it worked! Instead of frittering away time like I usually do after class, I knocked out three little things that were nagging at me.

Second, I’m not so good at the 5 minute break. I’ve been using the break to do other tasks around the house, sometimes for 5 minutes, sometimes for 10. What I am trying to do is get up from the computer after a 30 minute task or consciously switch to another task so that I don’t get distracted and fritter away time.

Third, I may have been convinced to turn the Pomodoro Technique into a competitive sport. My writing partner is a fan of Pomodoro and so this week, we are supposed to email a report anytime we’ve successfully completed a Pomodoro. I call it developing self-awareness and being accountable, she calls it a friendly competition.

And I admit, I don’t have a little tomato shaped timer. The computer clock works perfectly well for me.

December 8, 2010

Beg, Borrow or Steal This Issue

Posted in Inspiration, Job Success, Reference, Resources at 3:10 pm by melissaautumn

Okay, don’t steal it, because stealing is wrong (and you can read the issue online). But, you definitely want to read the fall 2010 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly (RUSQ).

RUSQ is already one of my favorite journals – it is full of well written articles on a range of reference topics. But, this fall’s issue is spectacularly jam packed with awesomeness:

  • An annotated bibliography of books, articles and resources for reader’s advisory. This is now the go-to source if you want to learn more about reader’s advisory or beef up your collection of resources.
  • A biography of notable librarian Helen Haines.
  • The previously mentioned “Best Free Reference Websites: 12th Annual List.”
  • The annual “Best Historical Materials” list.
  • Four substantial, practical articles:
    • Using wikis to create a ready reference tool for information sharing at the reference desk.
    • Factors that influence people to pursue librarianship. Fellow professionals take note – there’s a lot we can do to encourage promising young (and not so young) people to enter librarianship!
    • Reaching college students through residence halls. This one not only discusses reasons to do outreach in the halls, it gives tons of practical ideas for doing so.
    • Developing guidelines for the use of social software.
  • Updated RUSA “Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.”

All that and the usual book reviews, too!

December 1, 2010

Professional Development, Professional Identity and Looking to the Future

Posted in Job Success, Professional Success at 1:43 pm by melissaautumn

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague the other day. We were talking about how we could position ourselves for the jobs we’d like to have in the future, even if we don’t know exactly what those jobs will be. How can we stay competitive on the job market? How can we demonstrate the versatility of our skills, particularly if like me, you’ve taken a very niche job?

For example, as much as I love my part-time teaching, I do miss being a library director and might want to return to a full-time job in a library one day. In addition, my husband’s job provides our health insurance and a significant portion of our income; should something happen to him, I would most likely have to return to full-time employment. So, while I do not have immediate plans to make a career change, I know I need to keep myself in a position where I am competitive on the job market.

As I see it, remaining competitive on the job market involves multiple things – engaging in professional development to keep my knowledge and skills up to date; creating a professional identity for myself; and maintaining connections with my colleagues.

A lot of thoughts keep cycling through my mind:

  • Professional development requires a combination of personal commitment, money and time. The most important of these is personal commitment, even though we tend to blame our lack of professional development activities on money and time.
  • There are multiple ways to engage in professional development, including professional reading, conferences and workshops. The first step is the find the combination that is right for us.
  • There are many ways to establish a professional identity – blogging, professional writing, committee service. While all of these take some effort, they are also easier to get into than I suspected.
  • As introverted as I am, creating and maintaining connections with my colleagues gives me great pleasure. In addition, it is the conversations with and support from those colleagues that motivates me to engage in professional development and building my professional identity. Everything is easier with a friend.
  • These activities are all self-reinforcing. The more that I blog, read or write, the more I enjoy it. The longer I go without blogging, reading or writing, the harder it is to get back into the swing of things.

As I bring some structure to my thoughts, a lot of these ideas will become blog posts in the coming year. I thought this was going to be a new series of three to four posts on professional development, but it seems I have a lot more to say, so perhaps this is just a continuation of my blog’s original purpose – practical advice on being a good professional. In any case, stay tuned!

September 13, 2010

NMRT Mentoring Program

Posted in Job Success, Professional Success at 8:53 pm by melissaautumn

ALA’s New Members Round Table is currently accepting applications for librarians with less than five years experience who would like to be paired with a mentor (and if you are an experienced librarian, you can volunteer to serve as a mentor).

I haven’t participated in this program myself (although I’m thinking about volunteering as a mentor for this year). However, a know a lot of new librarians are seeking mentors for career advice – this might be the place to find your mentor!

August 10, 2009

Rethink Your Use of PowerPoint

Posted in Job Success, Professional Success, School Success at 8:30 pm by melissaautumn

The most recent issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly has an excellent article that is ostensibly about the use of PowerPoint, but is really about good presenting, and by extension, good teaching.

Brier, David J. and Vickery Kaye Lebbin. “Perception and Use of PowerPoint at Library Instruction Conferences.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 48.4 (Summer 2009): 352-61.

The first half of the article documents how librarians use PowerPoint at instruction-related conferences (the conclusion: probably not well). The second half of the article gives recommendations on how to use PowerPoint to create “colleague-centered presentations” – presentations that engage the audience and create a learning environment, rather than just a lecture. The authors’ ideas are applicable not only to professional conferences, but also to in-house and student presentations, as well as instructional settings. This article is really about much more than just PowerPoint and I hope it gets the attention it deserves, given the misleading title. Highly recommended!

May 8, 2009

Google Docs

Posted in Job Success, Resources, School Success at 10:05 am by melissaautumn

LIS classes often involve an element of group work (as does the work world, but there we give it fancy names like “task force” and “committee”). One of the challenges of group work can be coordinating access to and editing of a master document, particularly if not everyone in the group uses the same operating system or software. Enter Google Docs – a resource for creating, editing and sharing group work.

Google Docs is free, although you’ll need to create an account. Once you have an account, you can create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The software isn’t as sophisticated as Office, but it is easy to use and offers basic editing and formatting functionality.

The real power of Google Docs is in the sharing – once you have a file, you can share it with other people by giving them access as a “viewer” (read only) or a “collaborator” (editing ability). If you have multiple collaborators on a document, Google Docs shows you when the file was last updated and by whom. In addition, you can revert to older versions of the document – handy if someone edits a section and the group wants to restore the original version. When you are done editing, you can download the file as a pdf or Office document, which is useful if you need to turn your final product into a more conventional format to print, email, submit in Moodle or Angel, add to a portfolio, etc.

May 1, 2009

On Planners and Planning

Posted in Job Success at 1:07 am by melissaautumn

This post was inspired by a student who asked for tips on getting organized and meeting goals (thanks, Megan!).

Getting organized (and staying organized) is definitely critical for job success. In fact, that point is so obvious, I’m not going to elaborate on it. Now that we’ve grown up and our mothers no longer remind of us of homework and doctor’s appointments, we all know we need to organize ourselves, right?

To get organized, you need two things: a to-do list and a planner. To say organized, you need to use them. Honestly, it’s that simple.

Using Your To-Do List

  • Have one to-do list and put everything on it. Random scraps of paper on your desk is not an organizational system. It’s just a mess.
  • Carry your to-do list with you so you can add items as needed. If you are caught without your to-do list and find yourself making notes on scraps of paper, transfer those notes to your official to-do list as soon as possible.
  • I recommend a print to-do list because you get the satisfaction of crossing items off – this gives you a visual sense of accomplishment which can be very motivating. But, an electronic system works, too; the important thing is to pick a system and use it.

Using Your Planner

  • As with to-do lists, pick a system that works for you and use it. I’ve used both print and electronic calendars and in either format, I prefer a system where I can see a week at a time. This helps me see upcoming events I should be preparing for (meetings, classes, etc.) so that I’m not caught by surprise.
  • Once you have a planner, print or electronic, put everything on it. Instead of saving fliers about community events, party invitations, and the like, write those events and addresses on your planner and trash the papers – not only do you have all your events in one place, you have less paper cluttering your desk (if you use a paper planner, it can be helpful to get the kind that has a nice cover with a pocket to store important papers like meeting agendas).
  • Read your planner! I check my planner every evening to see what I have the next day and again in the morning. Every few days I  look ahead a full week so I can start to plan busy days, make notes about errands I need to run, etc.

For me, being organized is about meeting my short and long-term goals and not losing my mind in the process. It is actually not that hard to meet your short-term goals and commitments; just like you can crank out a research paper in two or three nights, you can crank out a library program or a report for your boss in an afternoon. But, when you live your life moving from crisis to crisis or program to program, you probably aren’t doing your best work. In addition, it is easy to lose sight of your long-term goals.

Additional Tips and Ideas:

  • I keep my to-do list on the top sheet of a pad of paper. The extra sheets of paper are handy for taking notes in meetings. If I’m stuck in a boring meeting, I can use that paper to draft documents, presentations or syllabi.
  • On days when I feel overwhelmed I’ll create a post-it note of high priority items and stick it on top of my to-do list or I’ll highlight the most important things on my to-do list. Both techniques help me stay focused on what I need to accomplish.  
  • Some people like to color code their to-do lists and calendars. If that works for you, go for it. Just be sure that your urge to color code your calendar isn’t a procrastination technique. Part of staying organized and in control is actually doing the work that needs to be done.
  • Create organizational systems that live where you live – I keep a running list of songs I wanted to put on my iPod in my email. Why? Because I’m often working on my laptop when I think of a song I like (or hear it on Pandora), so instead of looking for a paper list to make a note, I record the title in my email. A colleague and I use Google Docs to keep a list of potential changes to a course we co-teach because it is a space we can both access whenever we have an idea.
  • Although I prefer calendars that show a week at a time, it can be very helpful to also see further into the future. When I was a library director I had a large monthly style calendar that I used to record important events – the start of the semester, finals week, major library events, my own vacations, etc. Looking ahead two or three months helped me plan my time to accomplish long-term goals (you can also break big projects into weekly pieces and record those on your monthly calendar). My current print calendar gives me both weekly and monthly views; I use the weekly view for day-to-day appointments and the monthly view for the big stuff.
  • Know how you work. Are you at your best early in the morning? If so, try to reserve mornings to work on complex projects. Can you only write when the office is quiet and there are no interruptions? If so, plan to get in early or stay late once a week. Does clutter distract you? If so, spend ten minutes filing papers and straightening your desk so that you’ll be better able to concentrate.
  • Establish annual goals and track them. You may be required to do this as part of your annual performance appraisal; if not, pick a date each year to set them for yourself (you do not have to use the first of the year; in an academic or school library, the start of a new school year or new semester can be a natural time for goal-setting). These goals should reflect your long-term priorities – developing a new program, learning a new skill, writing an article, etc. Write your goals down and look at them periodically to track your progress. Again, pick a few times in the year when things usually slow down, such as the end of the semester, and get in the habit of using those times to focus on long-term goals, instead of day-to-day work.

As always, I look forward to your tips and tricks for organization and time management!