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Posts Tagged ‘Librarianship’

10 ways to make yourself indispensable at your workplace, Stephen Abram

Posted by Editor on January 31, 2012

From:  Information Outlook Column (Jan/Feb. issue), Due Dec. 28, 2011

By Stephen Abram

It doesn’t work 100% of the time but you’ve probably noticed that there are some people that seem to survive every organizational restructuring.  In this latest economic downturn we’re seeing layoffs and downsizing on a scale in all sectors that most of us have never seen.  As for me, I’ve been through too many to count – survived some and didn’t make it out the other side on others.  By some counts there have been over 14 downturns in my professional career since 1978.  These swings in the economy have burnished me and, ironically, made me less dependent on employers for my self-worth or finances.  The private sector reacts to protect the whole enterprise during the business cycle and, although we shouldn’t take downsizing personally, it’s hard not to!  The public sector is arguably experiencing a major downturn with extensive layoffs for the first time in memory for many.  I was inspired recently by an article that was shared with me (from Black Enterprise: “10 ways to make yourself indispensable at work”), so I’ve adapted its 10 points for library land, but the original can be read without translation too.

Is the grapevine working overtime in your business, industry, community library, school board or institution?  What do the water cooler conversations resemble in your sector – excitement about the future or doom and gloom?  Are you seeing terrible budget debates, revenue shortfalls, business disappointments, investment or trust fund losses, or shortfalls in taxation support?  What can you do to reduce your chances of layoff?  Barring situations of collective bargaining where the rules can be prescribed, there are things you can do and should do precisely when you don’t need it right away.

Make a plan.  Assess your strengths.  Define your value, and, most importantly tend to your personal and professional network.

What tactics can you accomplish that will reduce your personal chances of layoff or prepare you better to shorten your period of unemployment?  Remember that this isn’t about protecting the ‘library’ but of communicating your value as a “librarian.”   There is a big difference!  Here are ten:

1. Take ownership of all your responsibilities by seeing your role in the context of the entire enterprise and community.  What would you increase as an activity and what would you decrease?  Employees that think strategically are more valuable than one-trick ponies.

2. Take personal responsibility for your professional development and career preparedness.  In difficult economic times no one else will quickly step up to protect you or guide your career. In times of transition, individuals must be proactive and not look to an employer to prepare them for their next job.  Indeed training and development budgets are usually one of the first to be reduced or eliminated. You might have to invest your own dollars and time in yourself for e-learning courses, training, association memberships and conferences but, still, fight to get your promised education reimbursements.  The enterprise is not your mother and bears no responsibility to your progress.   What key specific competency would make your more valuable to your current and prospective employers?   Develop it.

3. Maintain a visibly positive attitude while protecting your job.  It’s far easier for decision-makers to cut a Negative Nellie.  You aren’t the only one who’s stressed by the economy.  If you see others handling it better, model their behaviours.  No one wants to be constantly reminded of the fact that everyone is now doing 2 or 3 jobs and extended effort. . When things seem to pile up and you’re feeling stressed, take a deep breath and think that this is better for your personal physical and mental health.  It’ll also allow you to keep wok relationships friendly and positive. Be the colleague people want to have lunch or a coffee with rather than avoid.

4. Become a Renaissance person.  Yes, this means taking on extra tasks or spending personal time on events that can be great for the office culture – parties, birthdays, charity events, etc.  Learn to do new things as other people leave.  You gain new skills and you clearly increase your long-term value.  You also gain a story about how you learn and adapt for interviews. Read the rest of this entry »


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The Public Library as an Incubator for the Arts

Posted by Editor on January 17, 2012

January 17, 2012 | 9:58 AM | By 

Arguably, those who believe a public library is simply a repository of print books haven’t been to a public library lately. Here at MindShift, we’ve been covering the ways in which the library is evolving to change the demands of digital technologies and of its patrons: libraries are becoming learning labsinnovation centers, and makerspaces.

Of course, the public library has always been a community center as much as a place to go to check out books to read, so the new extensions of the library’s service may not be so far afield from the institution’s mission to provide access to information. Even so, much of the emphasis has been on literacy — reading and writing, digital and analog — and not on other forms of creativity.

But three graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies have launched a project that points to another important way in which libraries play a key role in their communities. The Library as Incubator Project highlights some of the ways in which libraries and local artists can work together.

I spoke with Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Christina Endres about the project.

Q. What was the inspiration for the Library as Incubator Project? Read the rest of this entry »

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Be a solutions provider not just an ingredients supplier

Posted by Editor on January 6, 2012

Recommending that librarians should provide different levels of service to community members is right up there with advocating for the end of reference desks or a future dominated by bookless libraries. It can be volatile subject matter for discussion. The library is a commons that is owned by each community member, and each of those members is equally eligible to receive all the benefits and services and access all the resources to which he or she is entitled. In an age of heightened customer expectations, does the “everyone is equal” approach still work or should librarians be more customer centric.

What does it mean to be customer centric? That is the subject of a new book by Peter Fader, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In this new book titled Customer Centricity, Fader promotes the idea that successful organizations will wisely segment their customers, and create special services for the most valued customers – services that might be unavailable to other customers. Being customer centric means more than just giving community members everything they want. As he explains in an interview:

Too many people think that being customer centric means doing everything that your customers want, and that’s not the case. Being friendly and offering good service are a part of customer centricity, but they are not the whole thing. Customer centricity means that you’re going to be friendly, provide good service and develop new products and services for the special focal customers — the ones who provide a lot of value for you — but not necessarily for the other ones. You need to pick and choose. Some customers deserve the special treatment, and if others want to buy from you, that’s great, but they are not going to be treated the same.

While the goal of customer centricity may be unthinkable to some librarians, when we honestly assess how we treat community members, we already make distinctions between them and offer special treatment to some and not others. In academic libraries we certainly treat faculty members differently than students. We may offer faculty a book delivery service while everyone else has to come to the library. A faculty member’s research question is typically prioritized. Not fair perhaps, but it’s critical to build a good relationship with the faculty. It’s part of what we do to keep them satisfied; our funding might depend on it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Information Literacy For The Mythical Digital Natives

Posted by Editor on October 5, 2011

October 5, 2011 – 7:27am — Blake In LIS News

I wish I could’ve used this as the title for this post: “Designing information literacy instruction without understanding that feral place where many library users reside is about as effective as taming a wolf. We can do it, but what good does that do for the wolf?”

GREAT post from Joe Grobelny: Feral “Information Literacy”

“Digital native is a fantasy invented by the fans of silicon valley to pigeonhole a generation for the sake of selling technology, but the truth is far less convenient. Not only the digital natives, but many people take on a feral state in their interactions with the internet, as it constantly shifts its boundaries, its cities and deserts. Likewise, the library is a place where we ought to allow for the feral. The ACRL information literacy standards are only useful to the domesticated to promote their efficient and purposeful use of the library. The truth is that most people do not experience the library as a city, but rather as a wilderness on the edge of civilization.

See Also: Matthew Battles, The Call of the Feral.

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What People Don’t Get About Working in a Library

Posted by Editor on August 10, 2011

By Derek Thompson here
The Librarian #1
“We are not mere cart pushers. This job requires a Masters degree for a reason.”

People have made an extremely strong link between librarians, libraries and books. This is only natural, but it really sells short the full value of libraries and the full scope of librarian work. Libraries offer so much more than moldy old books. There’s also music, movies, tv shows, video games, and electronic databases that span a whole galaxy of scholarly and practical information unavailable to any level of googling. Additionally, libraries offer free internet access that is utterly vital in many poor and rural communities. As government services migrate online, good citizenship almost requires an internet connection. Libraries also provide a free space for local groups and communities and have been at the forefront of job search training and computer instruction. Coordinating all of this are the humble librarians. We are not mere cart pushers, let me assure you. This job requires a Masters degree for a reason.

The Librarian #2
“I am an aggregator, a citation machine, a curator, a specialist.”

I am a librarian.  People do not understand that I do more than check out books.  They do not understand that my job requires a master’s degree and optimally, some other post-graduate work. No one understands what I do all day. I do research, I teach classes, I catalog, I develop our collection, I work on our website, I fix computers.  I am an aggregator, a citation machine, a curator, a specialist in whatever it is you want to know about. Read the rest of this entry »

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Be the change you want to see

Posted by Editor on August 10, 2011

By Meredith Farkas | August 10, 2011

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. A librarian comes into a new job full of enthusiasm. He volunteers for lots of projects and is a generally good citizen at his library. Over time, he notices that a lot of colleagues are not so willing to volunteer to do things. Maybe they don’t seem as committed to continuous improvement as he is. Maybe they are offering the same boring lecture to students (without any subsequent assessment) that they’ve been offering for 20 years. Maybe they don’t seem to put their heart and soul into their work like he does. After a while, he begins to resent these people. He starts to think, why should I do all this when ___ and ___ don’t? Maybe he even starts volunteering for fewer projects and stops doing assessment of instruction since no one else is doing it. But doing less doesn’t make him feel better. In fact, it makes him more frustrated with himself and resentful of his colleagues for sapping his passion for his job.

I know a lot of librarians who have lived this story and I certainly understand their frustration. Probably the majority of libraries have certain staff members who rarely volunteer for anything and consistently try to get out of doing work. I’m sure it’s the case in every field. And perhaps in some libraries this is more of a problem than in others. But lowering the bar for yourself is not an answer. There is nothing more dispiriting than going against your nature in this way. Deciding to do less than your personal work ethic compels because no one else is working that hard is only going to make you feel worse. Read the rest of this entry »

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When Data Disappears

Posted by Editor on August 9, 2011


Kari Kraus is an assistant professor in the College of Information Studies and the English department at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.

LAST spring, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas acquired the papers of Bruce Sterling, a renowned science fiction writer and futurist. But not a single floppy disk or CD-ROM was included among his notes and manuscripts. When pressed to explain why, the prophet of high-tech said digital preservation was doomed to fail. “There are forms of media which are just inherently unstable,” he said, “and the attempt to stabilize them is like the attempt to go out and stabilize the corkboard at the laundromat.”

Mr. Sterling has a point: for all its many promises, digital storage is perishable, perhaps even more so than paper. Disks corrode, bits “rot” and hardware becomes obsolete.

But that doesn’t mean digital preservation is pointless: if we’re going to save even a fraction of the trillions of bits of data churned out every year, we can’t think of digital preservation in the same way we do paper preservation. We have to stop thinking about how to save data only after it’s no longer needed, as when an author donates her papers to an archive. Instead, we must look for ways to continuously maintain and improve it. In other words, we must stop preserving digital material and start curating it.

At first glance, digital preservation seems to promise everything: nearly unlimited storage, ease of access and virtually no cost to making copies. But the practical lessons of digital preservation contradict the notion that bits are eternal. Consider those 5 1/4-inch floppies stockpiled in your basement. When you saved that unpublished manuscript on them, you figured it would be accessible forever. But when was the last time you saw a floppy drive?

And even if you could find the right drive, there’s a good chance the disk’s magnetic properties will have decayed beyond readability. The same goes, generally speaking, for CD-ROMs, DVDs and portable drives. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why You Didn’t Get An Interview

Posted by Editor on August 8, 2011

From the Free Range  Librarian, by K.G. Schneider

This is a bummer of a job market for librarians, and if you’re fresh out of library school you are probably crying in your beer, wondering why you didn’t get a degree in something practical and career-oriented, like medieval cookery.  But a few months back a newish librarian asked me in frustration why she was having a hard time getting interviews — let alone job offers — and we chatted back and forth on Facebook. Let me attempt to sum up what I shared.

The job market sucks. Did I mention the job market sucks? This will sound crass, but TJMS creates a buyers’ market for employers, including organizations that normally wouldn’t have access to seasoned candidates.

Employers seek a known quantity. This may sound hard–”give me a chance, I can do the job!” — but bringing in an employee (by far the most expensive resource in most organizations) must be done as carefully as possible, and this is even more true in a small organization. Someone with proven experience in the core responsibilities of the position, as well as general career experience, is going to have an edge over the give-me-a-chance crowd. The bottom line is the need of the institution. Plus, see above, TJMS.

Your c.v. and cover letter need work. In a bad economy, employers are deluged with c.v.s,  which in some organizations may be first filtered through a human-resources department who is helping the job-search team by excluding applicants who appear to not meet basic requirements. That’s two hurdles to get over. So your c.v. and cover letter need to directly answer the question: why are you highly qualified for this job?

This question is important not only for what you say, but how you say it. I recently found a c.v. on my hard drive I hadn’t looked at twice during a job search, and was startled to connect it to someone I know who is both highly skilled and highly underemployed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Recognizing Innovation, by Stephen Abram

Posted by Editor on July 5, 2011

Published in Information Today here.

How do we recognize innovation in libraries? Is it like great art or pornography? That is to say, “I’ll know it when I see it.” I think that there may be some truth to this clich`E9, but it’s also a function of keeping an open mind—ideally, all the time. Innovations and innovative ideas crop up all the time and in many places. You can learn the ability to “see” innovation earlier in the cycle rather than in retrospect with the rest of the crowd.

It is dependent on the skill of being a good “noticer.” Jane Dysart uses this skill all the time when she plans library technology conferences up to a year in advance. How do you plan a technology conference that will be current in the fast-changing field of technology, information, and libraries? How do you notice early that something is new or changing, becoming a real or emerging trend, or that the innovation is maturing into standard practice? This is a key aspect of innovation awareness: noticing when change is nascent and determining when it’s just a fun fad or a major trend, useful or not ready for prime time, or an incremental improvement or game changer. All innovations can be important, but there’s a big difference between those that merely improve a current process and those that are transformational.

I can’t list all the ways one can recognize innovation. The skill can be as much attitude and aptitude as good process. Personally, I think that there are basically two methods that complement each other: trusting your gut reaction and decent, regular, environmental scanning. Innovation is change. Lack of innovation is fossilization, and that’s easy to spot!

Here are 10 tips to help your library remain innovative:

  1. Does the thing/innovation/change you’re reviewing make you uncomfortable? If it does, it’s affecting you on some gut level. It’s rare to have a neutral feeling about change, so if you’re feeling something, it is likely that it is a real change. Trust your gut about discomfort. Do you care? Do your users or clients care?
  2. Do you feel like arguing about the innovation? That can often mean that you’ve already engaged with the idea or innovation. If it engages you, it is probably more significant than those features or ideas inspiring yawns.
  3. Is the thing, idea, product, service, or process that you’re looking at disruptive? If you say yes, then it’s likely that it is innovative. (Sadly, this isn’t enough to mean that it’s good.)
  4. Ask yourself what the change represents. Is it a significant, new functionality for a current product or service offering? Is it a new or novel form for delivering a well-known functionality? Is it a significant, new functionality in a completely new product or service? For example, you can add online holds to an OPAC, add mobile access on all devices, or add virtual references or social recommendations. All are innovative on some scale, but some are more innovative and transformational. How big is it? What does it span? Read the rest of this entry »

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Embedding Libraries in Researcher Workflow

Posted by Editor on June 15, 2011

by Roy Tennant, June 14th, 2011

A little while back a tweet came through my stream — thanks, I believe, to @vphill — pointing out a digital collection of lunch trays. Yes, you read that right. Lunch trays. This clearly required investigation, and I couldn’t think of anyone more appropriate to sniff this one out than moi.

It turns out that the University of North Texas is helping a researcher to study the nutrition of school children by photographing lunch trays before and after. By seeing what the children ate, left alone, or destroyed (see torn apart coke can in the pic), they have evidence of what was consumed (or, presumably, thrown) and what was not.

Not long after discovering this I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to Cathy Hartman from UNT in person about this project at OCLC Research’s (my employer) FutureCast meeting last week. What I find so fascinating, and hopeful, is that the library is much more than simply the grave to which research data is consigned, they are embedded in the research process itself. That is, the researcher is using their repository infrastructure to retain, manage, and organize the data for their research. It is very much a living archive that can be used as long as the researcher (or any who follow) needs, and yet by default it is being preserved and managed by the library.

This is exactly the kind of repository activity that makes sense. By helping to solve a researcher’s problem (how to organize and manage their data) the researcher is inadvertently solving ours — getting our hands on the data in a useful (described) way so we can preserve it for years to come.

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