Finding a voice

Finding a voice.
Specifically, my voice.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve published anything in this format (or any format for that matter). I looked over the very few and very general posts that I’ve made so far. I had the intent of creating a more well-rounded online personality, something that was more than facebook or random mentions or contact information listed on an employer website.

I could blame it on starting a new job – just trying to get my bearings in a new position, in a new place, in a new state, …I could blame it now on having a new addition to the family – of course I want to spend as much time with a new baby as I can, it takes more time getting things “in order” around the house, I had to change clothes before heading to work because I received an impromptu shower while changing a diaper, …

But, honestly, looking back at how I’ve worked so far, I’m not sure I know my professional voice yet. Sure, I’m comfortable in face-to-face meetings with my colleagues. I believe I could hold my own in a conversation at a conference with you. It’s that whole voice thing as it relates to finding a place at the larger professional table of the library world.

So, for those of you who have found a voice, or at least are further along in creating your own, what advice can you offer to someone looking to become more vocal in the online world? What are some of your habits to make sure you aren’t shrugging off writing? What sorts of mental exercises do you use to move beyond reading others’ blogs to interacting?

And for anyone interested, here’s a picture of the guy who has been taking up so much time lately.


I hope this isn’t the electronic equivalent of shoving baby pictures in your face when you don’t ask about it.

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It’s the same. But different.

There are obviously a lot of similarities in academic libraries – there is a common language and similar goals (however broad they may be) that academic libraries share, research, and discuss.

And that’s where I am now. There are conversations and attitudes that I’m very familiar with, but the smaller, more granular elements are mixing differently, creating a different alchemy of organizational culture.

How do we do more with less? How do we create a culture of collaboration? of innovation? How do we move forward with a shared vision when everyone is already so busy and tired from keeping all the plates spinning?

These are questions that need conversations. [And ultimately, decisions, but that's a little further beyond the point I'm trying to make right now.] In my very limited experience at two academic libraries, it’s these conversations that don’t happen. At least not on a larger organizational scale. They happen all the time among informal groups. But how long can these informal groups meet and discuss issues in an environment in a way that elicits change within the larger organization?

The movement to a more modern educational system that places more emphasis on collaboration and group work for our students, many libraries find themselves in limited spaces that discourage serendipitous conversations and critical thinking.

Many academic libraries I am familiar with have done well to create individual work spaces/stations for both their students and their employees. There’s been a major push and move towards creating collaborative spaces for students. But what are we doing for our librarians and employees?

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Back from…where am I?

A lot has happened since I last wrote (part of the reason there has been a gap).

First: I moved. I accepted an Instructional Services Librarian position at Illinois State University in Normal, IL (part of Bloomington-Normal – and yes, the “normal” jokes are already rolling in). My wife and I moved in early May, which was right around the second point.

Second: My wife graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Health. Helping to keep her sane was a part-time job. Of course, part of the insanity was trying to pack things up and get ready for a big move while she was trying to finish school.

Third: It’s difficult to figure out exactly what to write about when there is so much going on – a new city, a new job, new responsibilities, etc… there’s just so much new that it’s hard to pinpoint any one thing.

For now I’m still finding my feet in all this change but I’m looking forward to catching up and finding new things to write about.

I’ll keep you posted.

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The landscape of CMSsssss

I’ve been thinking about CMS(es?) [CMS - Course Management Systems (or Content Management Systems or Learning Management Systems)]

UK Libraries has been working with Blackboard (Bb) Outcomes to manage the assessment component of our library instruction sessions. It’s been a bumpy road, to say the least. Just when we get everyone used to the idea of assessment and how to use google docs/surveys, we introduce Bb Outcomes. I don’t know if people have similar issues, but for us it felt like the difference between the intuitive ease of a touch-screen tablet and working with MS-DOS.

We keep hearing that this system is going to be so much easier and better, especially with assessment activities. So far, I remain pretty skeptical. The time spent on working out all the bugs (which have been numerous and not all are solved) has created a workflow in which library instructors focus a disproportionate amount of time on assessment. To be more clear, this is time not spent on how to be a better teacher, how to improve instruction, or collaborate with classroom instructors. The assessment begins and ends with student learning. Not to downplay the fact that student learning has become a major part of library instruction evaluation but the assessment is not just about student learning. It’s about how we adapt and improve our instruction based on that assessment.

And then I read about this news. And this.
Is it too hopeful to believe that assessment may become part of a service and not a product?

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slowing down

After 15 seconds of watching this video I found myself wanting to to look elsewhere, read something, to just get on with it already. Even though the it I needed to get going with was just more information consumption. So I made it a challenge to slow down long enough to simply watch a video and listen to a song.

Sigur Ros – Ekki mukk

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Organization(al) Culture

I’ve been having lots of conversations with colleagues about organizational culture. I’m in a pretty interesting position; I have all the qualities of a professional-level librarian but I rank low on the organizational chart (as far as status goes = library technician). These conversations have been with others on a similar level as well as all the way up to the associate and head deans.

One of the biggest concerns seems to be that we need ideas. Sorry. We need IDEAS!

Yet, when everyone already talks of having to do sooooo much, where do we find the time to think about ideas, much less talk about ideas. Another term I hear quite often is the “silo effect”. Asking and encouraging individuals to present their ideas works within this silo effect – if we don’t have the opportunity to talk about, combine, or transform one person’s idea, then it’s only going to go as far as that one person can take it. (Though I acknowledge that even asking for ideas and being available to talk and listen to everyone may be a vast improvement for some organizations.)

My initial thoughts revolved around suggesting that we set up periodic days (or half-days) in which different departments could come together and actually talk about ideas – you know, brainstorm.
Herein lies question number 1: How does one best provide an example of the brainstorming process without being in a position of leadership (at least, according to title)? I’ve been around long enough to see what happens when ideas are suggested – “that won’t work”, “we tried that years ago and it failed”, “we don’t have any policy for that”, “we’d have to change too much” and so on…

This difficulty with change or implementing new ideas leads to my next question:
Is it inherent within larger organizations to install a clear line of hierarchy? Do organizations just have it in their DNA to create highly specialized levels of structure as a way to produce efficiency? How do we shift focus to effectiveness? And flexibility?

I know there’s a lot to unpack in that last bit but I’d like to hear from others about your organizational structure and culture.

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Changing Education Paradigms

I was reminded of this today.
Take 11 minutes to get inspired about what education should be.

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Chris Worland:

A balanced and thoughtful approach to all this SOPA business without flippantly dismissing it (or blindly agreeing with it).

Originally posted on Hack Library School:

Today, while the SOPA/PIPA debate is very much in the forefront of people’s thoughts, we’re happy to welcome this guest post on SOPA. By way of introduction, you might also check out the “Black Wednesday” post from this morning on the internal Hack Library School debate to weigh in on this issue with links to other resources.

We are pleased to offer Alex’s well-researched and thoughtful article on the merits and problems with SOPA and hope that the discussion and information sharing continues here on Hack Library School.

Take it away Alex!


SOPA and PIPA have been floating around the internet over the last few weeks. These two bills (SOPA for the House of Representatives [HoR] and PIPA for the Senate) are meant to combat online piracy and copyright infringement. These are laudable goals and should be applauded by any aspiring information professional. So what’s all the hubbub about?…

View original 954 more words

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Almost 1 year in

I’m not talking about being a year into blogging, or this blog. I’m almost a year into my newest position at UK Libraries. For a long time I was in Serials and I learned a decent amount, but that position was set up in such a way that it was sooo easy to simply lock into what was required of me and just get it done. The biggest mysteries of the job usually revolved around finding the right purchase order to use or figuring out the history of any one title and whether or not we were supposed to pay for it.

My current position is in Reference Services but much of my concentration is on Information Literacy. (The capitals are totally necessary – or maybe it should be quotation marks). The biggest difference seems to be that there is simply so many interrelated and moving parts – it’s hard to pin anything down without involving something or someone else.

The other position had this as well, but it felt more linear, whereas everything now feels cyclical, which makes it easier to get confused about where in the process I might be.

I think I’ve learned more about organizational culture in the past year than I’ve ever learned. (With a shout out to management class providing me with a framework to begin to understand it.)

I’ve also learned that I’m ready for the next step. Having the ability to talk with people (librarians, professors, administrators, etc.) has given me the confidence that yes, I can hold an intelligent conversation and I have a lot to offer in the world of higher education, libraries, and information literacy.

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Hello 2012

It’s 4 days in and already 2012 is a pretty mixed bag.

New Year’s Eve was great as I and Jessica had a chance to spend the whole day with lots of friends, some from out of town, some we simply hadn’t seen in a while.

I had a nice break from work and it’s amazing what a little rest can do.

And then there’s our car. Looks like the water pump went out, along with some issues with the alternator and who knows what else. It’s still at the mechanic’s shop. Early estimates are over $1,000.

I already knew we’d probably have to tighten the ol’ belts a little bit. Now it’s just a little tighter and sooner than I thought.

On a more positive note, I’m still optimistic about finding a professional level entry job as a librarian.

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