something to do at a conference when you’re a newbie: get a conference mentor

Even though I have attended SLA once before I took advantage of an opportunity offered by the local San Francisco chapter of SLA: the opportunity to have the assistance of a conference mentor. In this case, a conference mentor is someone who helps you figure out how to make the conference work best for you.

I was lucky in that two different conference mentors were assigned to me. They are both well-known in the field (something I didn’t expect–people who were obviously busy but were still willing to make time for an unknown), and both got in touch with me before the conference. Unfortunately, my schedule the week before the conference (combined with my day job’s distance from civilization) meant that I wouldn’t meet up with either mentor until I was actually at the conference. One of my mentors offered the opportunity to meet up for lunch the week before the conference, so this was a missed opportunity for me.

Once we met, however, I found both to be attentive listeners (which turns out to be something I needed at the moment–I have some concerns about the job search that are unique to people in my position that I’ll write up in another blog post) with useful suggestions for directions and approaches to consider. In the week since the close of the conference I’ve already been in touch with both about next steps and have already had responses.

Both also reminded me why I belong to the SLA in the first place: it’s an association for information professionals working in a variety of settings. These information professionals aren’t limited to working in libraries, and that adds up to opportunity for all of us.

things to remember for ALA conference next week (this list will grow)

  • putting stuff on your calendar? make sure to choose the right time zone! 
  • pack business cards
  • try to find some nice clothes … just in case
  • air out luggage
  • laundry
  • comfy shoes
  • pack small bag good for toting around ipad, mifi
  • figure out what to do when not nerding around
  • finish identifying cool programs to attend
  • fill in personal sessions

feel free to add to the list.

Half-off sale at MIT Press–save on Atlas of New Librarianship and other cool stuff

I’ll say something more interesting later in the week, but I did want to get the word out that MIT Press is having a half-off sale. The MIT Press has lots of cool stuff (everything from coffee table books to seriously scholarly stuff), but this is of interest to librarians because The Atlas of New Librarianship is published here and included in the sale.

Go here for the coupon code and details. Sale ends 3rd June at 11:59PM (presumably EDT).

the end of semester … but not really.

This time of year usually brings some relaxation as classes are over and I usually take the summer off from school. This year is different: due to a variety of issues which came up during the past semester I still have a class to complete by the end of the summer … and my internship with the California Digital Library continues through August (and probably later since I’m nowhere near the hours required to complete my internship).

Of course, my work at the lab continues as usual and I have two conferences planned for the summer: SLA in San Diego in a few weeks’ time, and ALA Annual in Chicago later in June. I almost don’t want to go to Chicago–it’s a lot of time and last year the weather was miserably hot. At the end of the week I’ll be super-exhausted.

Either way, this is the beginning of the end. By the end of the year (absent further health drama) I will have earned my MSLIS and will be on the market for a professional library job. This is perhaps scariest: I’ve watched the job boards since I’ve started and lately jobs that look interesting seem out-of-reach with respect to qualifications. Also, everything I hear about library hiring suggests that nothing of value will be had from my 25+ years of professional work in business and academia.

No time like the present to get this all sorted out.

Came for the Transparency–stayed for the Reflective Practice

The subject pretty much tells it all. I didn’t come here to learn much about technology–the accident of my career up to my point leaves me well-positioned with respect to most new technologies. Instead, I came here to understand the practice which will help us as librarians to harness these technologies, leading to enabling our members and communities to improve their lives and situations. The pieces of this course which were most attractive to me are the transparency and reflective practice pieces. These pieces aren’t necessarily evident to our members, but they are (in my estimation) vitally important. Collectively they ensure that we (as librarians) provide the best possible value to our members.

Transparency, of course, isn’t necessarily visible to our members on first glance. They have, to a point, to already have information literacy skills to truly see the value here. Perhaps the most telling part of transparency (as discussed in our readings) is that the value of transparency is getting through to Big Business. Several of these readings touch on various ways that really big business (like Microsoft) is working to become more transparent. If Microsoft can work this way there should be no reason libraries can’t learn from their effort toward transparency.

Reflective practice makes us more powerful by providing us with the power and the space with which to better understand our members and their desires and needs. This turns out to be something very relevant to me this semester: outside my library school experience it’s been a very difficult semester for many personal reasons. Reflective practice (on the part of some professors) helped them be responsive to my current situation in a time of need, and I can only hope to be at least that helpful to someone else in the future.

Since all the kids are doing it, I’ve attached my director’s brief to this message. You can see the PDF here: Henry Mensch Directors Brief. I talked about Twitter–it’s easy to see people have great success with Twitter, but it can be difficult to discern why and how that happened. I attempt to get at some of the elements of successful Twitter interactions, as well as why Twitter might be better for engaging library members than some other social media that is available today.

I’ve already made one change to my own practice as a result of this class: I’ve revived my own personal blog. There is still, clearly, room to grow (as of right now, for instance, there’s no page that tells you who’s writing this stuff!) but that will be fixed before long.

It has been a pleasure reading all your work this semester, and I hope I run into you some of you this summer at ALA Annual or SLA (I plan to attend both). If you like you may follow me on Twitter as @henare.

on committee service …

Many months ago … sometime last year … I saw an announcement (I think it was through ACRL but can’t be sure) calling for volunteers for committee service. I had never served on any ALA committee and am new to librarianship so I figured that, while I’d try, I wouldn’t expect much.

I went to the online form–while I belong to ACRL, NMRT, and GLBTRT only ACRL and the Association itself was looking for volunteers for committees. There were a fair number of questions concerning one’s prior committee experience, etc., and these discouraged me since I didn’t yet have any. I did discuss briefly my professional experience (more than 25 years’ experience in progressively responsible positions in information technology serving both academia and industry), and then I pressed the button and pretty much forgot about it. Some weeks later I had heard that ACRL had something like 9000 volunteers for committee positions and so I assumed I wasn’t a good match and left it at that. I never did hear back from ACRL either way (sounds like applying for a job, right?).

While I had also wanted to be considered for other ALA committee opportunities I hadn’t heard anything and assumed there just wasn’t good match.

So it was a surprise to get an email in March reminding me of an email I had received in February but had overlooked … it was a committee appointment: “I hope you will accept a 2 year appointment as a Intern of the Information Technology Policy Committee.” In fact, I had missed an earlier email asking that I accept this appointment–this was a followup!

The committee to which I was appointed is the Office for Information Technology Advisory Committee … this committee supports the Office for Information Technology Policy at the ALA. I was appointed as an intern, which is something I didn’t realize existed for ALA committees. My term on the committee doesn’t start until after ALA Annual, so I’m looking forward to what this has in store for me.

Combined with my other volunteer effort with the IT division of the SLA, my remaining schoolwork, my internship, oh, and that day job, I think I’m fully subscribed for the moment.

The takeaway from this is “it takes all kinds” and “all you have to do is raise your hand.” Not so bad, is it?

Tell me about your committee work! I’m interested to hear more about what I’ve signed up for …

This is why I’m here …

Reflective practice is one of the reasons I’ve made my switch to librarianship. I have worked in technology for a very long time, but in capacities which haven’t really encouraged reflective practice. Technology moves so quickly that many feel there really isn’t time for reflective practice–“be nimble, be quick” is seen to conflict with this. There’s so much involved in bringing the bits to each user that time spent in other ways seems wasteful and unprofitable. Even in situations where technology is the tool but not the goal I’ve found this to be true.

Librarianship is, for me, the way to bring these tools and services to members.

It’s nice to know I’ve come to the right place.

I don’t have a clever wrap-up for this so I’ll link in this video to  Broccoli kitten … he appeared on Animal Planet tonight, so he’s a star and I can’t do better than that right now.