I finally made it to Jasper after almost four years in Alberta. An extremely long drive from the forgotten corner of the southeast, but well worth the trip. I attended the Alberta Library Conference for the first time and filled in as a last minute session presenter (while very sick, no less).
Our session was on the partnerships and projects in place in southeastern Alberta: Medicine Hat College, Medicine Hat Public Library and the regional Shortgrass Library System, and three high schools. Once we started creating a list, it became clear that we have some amazing partnerships here. It’s small enough in Medicine Hat that all the librarians fit in one room – and since we have so many projects in place, it’s natural to involve each other as we develop new initiatives. We also are lucky to have enthusiastic staff that are willing to try new things.
Best conference takeaway: in one of the sessions, a managing librarian’s advice was to just refer to any change you want to make as “a pilot” so people would be on board and you don’t have to have an exact plan (or know much about how things are going to turn out). I’m pretty sure this has always been the college philosophy of project implementation. Another session from Edmonton Public Library made me cringe at the size of their system, number of employees and the earnest effort to put each of the 600+ employees through a rigorous training program. It’s nice to be nimble.
The summer and fall went by much too quickly and December provided a much need break.
I’ve been struggling with posting here. It is not for a lack of content and ideas. Rather, I’m not sure I can write meaningfully about certain topics or issues publicly. I watched the withering away of a good number of “new librarian” blogs and I’m wondering if everyone’s feeling the same way.
I’ve had a number of frustrating experiences that have pushed me to the point of reassessing my desire to work in libraries. Those low moments have served as reminders that evaluation and reflection is crucial in career and life. I’ve also realized it’s crucial not to over-identify with your profession. There is a lot of negativity and navel-gazing in librarianship right now that’s pretty off-putting. I’m trying to focus on being productive and positive in my little piece of library land.
Some of my professional accomplishments this past year include publishing an article in Feliciter, being elected to the executive of a provincial association, and leading a successful community event in October that included attendance by the mayor.
In 2013 I will be investigating further education opportunities and devoting time to a much neglected writing project.
Favourite book I read in 2012: No stand out winner, so I’ll list a few. I really enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, so much so that I ended up rereading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. I also enjoyed The Birth House by Ami McKay and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. These all seem quite domestic…
Most challenging (or unrewarding): I eagerly await new work from Ian McEwan, but I was disappointed with his previous Solar in 2010. This year’s Sweet Tooth felt lengthy and slow and painfully detailed and I couldn’t much care for the protagonist. I was also sorely disappointed to find the ending (or trick ending) to be extremely similar to Atonement. I was pleased that I recognized McEwan’s own old erotic short story as that of the writer in the novel!
Most anticipated: Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje and Dear Life by Alice Munro.
Most depressing: Everyone Has Everything by Katrina Onstad. I really enjoyed this, but it was a little too “close to home”.
Most disappointing: 419 by Will Ferguson. The front runner and eventual winner of the Giller Prize. The sections of the book set in Calgary felt amateurish. I didn’t believe the dialogue and I had little sympathy for the protagonist or anyone in her family. Though I can’t speak too much to the suspense/mystery/crime thriller genre, it was enjoyable in the way I might watch Law and Order reruns.
I’ll also add Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis as one of my least favourite books OF ALL TIME. It mostly suffered from high expectations with so much hype and everyone I know loving it. I know I’m the odd one out on this.
Quickest read: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony. I “read”– or viewed – this young adult picture book very quickly even though there is a lot to consider visually. I haven’t looked at the app for this, but this book perfectly suits interaction.
Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU) at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta
I haven’t written since my last conference report on the OLA Superconference…It’s now near July and I’m just starting to tackle my summer projects To-Do List.
The trouble with WILU for me is that instruction is really only one component of my job (though I do teach 60+ sessions/year), so it was quite overwhelming to be thinking of so many potential things I could/should/would be doing with more time/resources/staff. Instead, I wanted to take home one thing to work on at my library.
Two librarians from McGill presented a great session on ‘redirecting’ library instruction. This session really made me think about taking a big picture snapshot of our library instruction. We do so much instruction, and record our stats faithfully, but I’d love to develop a visual showing where our instruction is actually taking place within the college curriculum. Further, mapping ACRL standards to our instruction efforts is a tangible first-step in formalizing our instruction program and moving toward assessment.
I also really enjoyed the keynote by Dr. Michael Eisenberg and a session on Teaching Research Methods. I really want to get ‘out of the box’ in terms of my own instruction. I already avoid using library jargon as much as possible, but we really need to stop just demo-ing a database or other tools. At the end of the day I want my students to care about research and knowledge, and how even a small assignment fits into scholarly activity.
As Eisenberg stated, students know how to find stuff. And there is too much stuff. We need to focus on the research process.
Among my other summer plans: What to do with music scores, weeding the P’s (!), revising our APA documentation, weeding AV, finalizing plans for OBOC, revising policies, hiring student assistants, creating a research guide for addictions, planning a pilot assessment project for instruction in history, developing a library survey…
I had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto Feb.1-4, 2012 and I’ve been wondering how best to ‘bring the conference back to work’. Besides being back in love with Toronto (though there’s not much to love right now, the weather was fantastic, and it’s such a change of pace from here in Alberta), the conference gave me A LOT to think about.
Thanks to this helpful post from Rebecca Jones, I’ve planned a session with my colleagues about a great presentation on Information Literacy for Faculty by Seneca College Libraries. I’m excited to try a few of their techniques. This session was the best one I attended at the conference, and was both inspiring and overwhelming (how can I do all of that at my library?!).
The biggest big-picture, take-home, reiterated issues that cropped up for me were:
- We are screwed if we leave things to Apple and Google
- We are screwed if we continue to licence content like ebooks (libraries need to vote with our wallets on ebooks)
- Outcome over output (who cares if our circulation was up 3% this year?)
- Importance of media literacy/critical thinking about technology (stop being a fanboy/girl of Apple, make social media purposeful rather than feed our worst instincts).
- “Return” the library space to the users (stop the collections “arms race” to have the most volumes)
I need to remember these.
Oh, and George Stroumboulopoulos closed the conference at the Gala Luncheon. I used to listen to George on CFNY Toronto radio way back in the 90’s…so great, and look where he is now. Oh, and libraries can’t rely on nostalgia either.
Favourite book I read in 2011: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Amazingly readable science/biography of a little known woman who changed medicine. Inspiring, tragic, human and informative, everyone really needs to read this.
Most challenging: Light in August by William Faulkner. This has been on my list of “to-read” books since I was 17. I wrote a poem called “In August” and someone commented on Faulkner, though there is certainly no connection between the two.
Most anticipated: Habibi by Chris Thompson. I loved, loved, loved Blankets (wish I could have read it when I was 17!) and couldn’t wait to read this huge graphic novel. Not disappointed.
Most depressing: Light Lifting by Alexander Macleod. Beautiful and haunting finalist for the Giller. Stayed with me for weeks. Don’t read this if you’re feeling down already.
Most disappointing: Bossypants by Tina Fey. Though interesting, I really wished she’d gone farther with this.
Quickest read: The Hunger Games
Slooowest read: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. At more than 1000 pages, I’m only about a quarter of the way through at the end of 2011. Strange, strange, dreamy stuff and I have no idea where it’s headed but I’m loving every sentence.
Wow. What a busy semester. A piece of advice: be careful what you agree to in the calm quietness of May/June. Thanks to a few projects at the end of the summer, and some new commitments, it’s been a long few months and I am really looking forward to some time off!
Interviews and Hiring
I was on the selection committee for two fulltime positions at the college in August. One of these positions is an essential position in the library and the second is a position in Educational Technology department. These experiences really made me feel better about being on a job interview. In both searches, we had several very qualified candidates, which means we hired great people but felt sad that we had to turn down great people!
I also hired three new student assistants. Again, interviewing, getting paperwork in order, training, scheduling, etc., takes so much longer than I previously imagined.
College Events and Committees
I helped coordinate and participated as a panel member for a professional development event on Wikipedia, I helped coordinate and presented a session at a new faculty conference at the college, and I presented a session on eBooks for the college’s Geekapalooza Day, all before ‘back to school’.
This year I became chair of the One Book One Community committee and our event took place in mid-October. I’ve never been so frustrated/anxious/annoyed with certain roadblocks, but ultimately we produced a successful event. The timing in October meant that I was still really busy with my ‘regular’ job duties, so I worked some looong days putting everything together.
I chair one library committee and one college committee, so I’m always planning ahead, sending emails, fielding questions, chairing minutes and helping put together various events.
This semester I taught 33 information literacy sessions, from Nursing to Business to English. We also implemented a new ‘Book an Appointment’ service that has increased my one on one instruction time with students. I also did some staff training sessions for the library. It’s a challenge to stay motivated and enthusiastic when the material becomes so familiar. What makes it worth it? Those beaming students that come back to find me to let me know they received a good mark on their assignment.
Lots of meetings…good and bad.
Put together a proposal for a graphic novels collection in the library, some weeding, some ordering of new materials.
Updated some materials for DL students, participated in a new video orientation for DL students (and I did my segment in one flawless take!).
Reference shifts, literature searches for faculty, additional committee work, writing reports and policies…
What I shouldn’t have spent so much time on….
What I should have done more of…
Taking breaks. Spending more time on projects that are on the back burner.
What I didn’t get to
Putting in a proposal for a conference. I really don’t know how to get going on this. I’m really craving some research time or some work from home time. At work there are so many distractions, so many requests constantly from a range of staff and students it just seems impossible to take time to prepare or reflect on work and projects I have going on or would like to propose.
Which leads me to Steven Covey’s Time Management Matrix, a framework that makes so much sense but is difficult to stick to:
The key (obviously) is to focus primarily on the High Importance items and not to get bogged down by the time sucking Urgent but Unimportant. How do you balance helpfulness to others with prioritizing major projects? The non urgent but important tasks are the ones that can pile up in a frightening way, but really are the essential work.
A colleague at another institution explained that she devotes one day per week to each of her projects. Unfortunately, this would simply not work with the structure and nature of my job. I’ve also tried only checking email 2-3 times a day but that also didn’t work well with the communication patterns of my workplace.
In general, I have an ongoing to-do list that I update on Monday morning. I star the items that I need to finish that week . With additional items being added to the list, by Friday my to-do list is a mess and all the non-starred items continually get carried over to the next week. So while I feel ‘organized’, I feel weighted down by the lengthy list.
I need to ‘weed’ my to-do list. Get rid of unimportant tasks (delegate or ignore) and put stars next to more than just the urgent items. I think I can also give up on ever fitting in projects into the Sept-Nov period and just accept that.