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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.

Books in Review 2011

Random House

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.

 

Starring the important and weeding the to-do list

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.

Library Instruction

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.

Meetings

Lots of meetings…good and bad.

Collections

Put together a proposal for a graphic novels collection in the library, some weeding, some ordering of new materials.

Distributed Learning

Updated some materials for DL students, participated in a new video orientation for DL students (and I did my segment in one flawless take!).

Other stuff

Reference shifts, literature searches for faculty, additional committee work, writing reports and policies…

What I shouldn’t have spent so much time on….

Worrying.

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.

Looking back

While perusing some old files, I came across my application to grad school in early 2007. Seems like ages ago…

“The library represents the preservation of the human record and the importance of literacy and learning in the community…

“As technological methods for storing and distributing information continue to change, it is essential to have professions, organizations and individuals dedicated to the organization, protection and preservation of information in a free society.  The role of the librarian is appealing to me because it is the key to organization and availability of materials to others.  In order for others to experience the satisfaction of learning diverse subjects, the materials must be made accessible to all, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, income or status.  I believe the values of librarianship are as timely as ever, especially those concerning equal access to information, privacy, censorship and intellectual freedom, as well as the promotion of literacy and learning.”

If anything, I had the crazy cat lady part down pat.

When are you no longer new?

getting ready to swim. photo (c) L. Cunningham

An unwritten rule at my college is that an employee is considered ‘new’ for six years. I’m at two years now and I do still feel ‘new’, mostly because I’m still learning so much, meeting people, and there’s an endless list of projects I’d like to investigate.

It’s easy to get bogged down in a daily routine and forget about making time for new challenges and opportunities. It’s easy to mix eagerness with dread thinking about the busyness of the upcoming school year. I’m looking forward to some vacation time but I’m already anticipating the grind come mid-August.

It’s amazing the amount of motivation you can derive from a quick conversation or guidance passed on to you. I received two ‘pick-me-ups’ last week:

My boss recently sent me a great list of ‘small things’ not to sweat, and one of them is “Quit anticipating tiredness”. How great is that?

I met a local businessperson this weekend who, after chatting for awhile about our backgrounds, exclaimed, “You have a Master’s degree from U of T? You can do anything you want!”

Sometimes we forget about our expertise, value and what we can bring to others and the community. Sometimes we forget to think outside of the box.

At our local professional group (not an association) we decided to become a CLA network for southern Alberta. Some of the concerns expressed by members were “what if people from Calgary want to join?” and “what if someone from Ottawa wants to join?” Why close doors instead of opening them?

One thing I’ve committed to over the last year is trying to leave the library ‘bubble’ occasionally by reading more broadly (lately in business, education, and a history of physics). I’ve also joined a college-wide committee that I’m excited about. Get out of your office, get out of your library, and see what you can do.

Resources for Introverts

Last time I completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I has 28 ‘points’ for introversion and 2 points for extroversion. This was hardly a revelation for me. However, the process of exploring our results has led me to feel more confident in my ‘type’, accept it as a preference not a burden, and learn to work with my preferences.

Here are some resources I’ve come across recently on ‘surviving’ as an introvert. I’m sure lots of librarians are introverts. It’s interesting to realise that there is a difference between preference and behaviour. Introverts are able to display extroversion, it just takes more energy.

  • Ancowitz, N. (2010). Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead.
  • Dembling, S. (2009-present). The Introvert’s Corner [Weblog]. Retrieved from PsychologyToday website http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner
  • Fine, D. (2005). The Fine Art of Small Talk. New York, NY: Hyperion.
  • Laney, M. O. (2002). The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in a Extrovert World. New York, NY: Workman.
  • Phelps, M. (2007-2008). Power Networking for Introverts [Weblog]. Retrieved from http://www.introvertscannetwork.com

Some of the above were posted in the discussion Best Resources (and Tips) on Networking for Introverts, a discussion forum from the LinkedIn Group LIS Career Options.

I also posted some resources on Strengths-Based leadership on the Re:Generations blog: http://clatoolbox.ca/regen/?p=683

Reflections on Library Day in the Life Project

This week I participated in Librarydayinthelife Project for the first time, recording my daily activities and posting them here on my blog.

The challenging part was remembering to record things as they happen and finding time at the end of the day to write everything up and post.

The week I recorded was both typical and atypical. I don’t have a set structure to my work, other than a few recurring meetings and my Information Desk schedule. Everything else changes as priorities change: classes get scheduled, other meetings, reference work for students (urgent).

After a year and a half in my position, I still need a lot of time to prepare for classes. This is good (I know I offer the best session I can) and bad (time consuming, especially during busy weeks). I also find I need downtime after a class to digest what just happened. I think it will help for me to actually schedule this time for myself to stop feeling like I’m ‘wasting’ time.

I let projects fall by the wayside and can end up spending a whole week taking care of issues as they arise instead of tackling long awaited tasks. I will schedule time to review my performance/annual goals on a monthly basis and commit the time to those projects. A librarian I met claimed to schedule a day per project in her week. This seemed luxiourious. Though I don’t have a whole day per week for each project, scheduling even half an hour to think about my long-term projects should make a difference.

I let things I cannot control affect my mood. My Tuesday’s class went so well I was ecstatic and inspired. My Thursday’s class (where no one showed up, in another city) left me drained and upset for the rest of the day. I tried to just move on to my other tasks. I should have taken the time to think about what happened.

Overall, it was enlightening to see the break down of my week. My New Year’s Resolutions included taking an hour long lunch break and leaving work on time to go to the gym. I’m doing pretty well with this so far. It’s made me more efficient at work, but sometimes  I feel like I should be doing more.