Choose Your Own Information Adventure Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Bumps in the road

Whilst studying the Bachelor of Information Studies at CSU I experienced some interesting and challenging obstacles which shaped my experience of the degree and also my expectations of the library and information profession.

Having zero experience of working in a library was the biggest challenge. Most of the subjects assumed knowledge of library management systems, jargon (argh the acronyms) and library processes. In the first couple of years the degree was solely focused on “library”, any discussion of information professional roles (aka not working in a library roles) didn’t occur until much later on.

Luckily I’m fairly handy at research and had also made uni friends who did work in libraries so many emails were sent asking “what’s this thing?” and “can you tell me how a library does XYZ?”.

Seriously, if you’re studying online, take a chance and strike up a friendship, it is worth it.

About halfway through the degree I’d run out of steam. The more time I spent online talking to library folk, the more despondent I became. I applied for library assistant roles with no success. The more I studied, the less I could see where I would fit. There were a few times when the words “why the fuck did I do this degree?” were thrown around at home and in my head. It really made me look at myself properly and figure out what makes me tick, what I really wanted for this new career and how to find the right fit for me. Not going to lie, some of this was painful and towards the end of four years of study, I had decided to not even attempt to apply for library roles. My direction seemed clear, I would stay in community services. The skills and knowledge gathered during my time at uni were transferable, and useful in lots of situations. Libraries were not for me.

At last!

One of my last subjects was Value-Added Information Services. I loved this subject. Finally, a non-traditional information professional subject!

In a nutshell, I spent a semester writing a report on the development of a website and online community for a continence advisory group working with Prostate Cancer patients (unusual topic, however a good friend works in this area and I enjoyed having someone to interview face to face for the purpose of the report). I loved the research, the report writing, developing an idea into something tangible, conveying it in a way that was meaningful to the client. It was great.

Suddenly, my enthusiasm was back and a path began to clear in my mind. If I really felt that I wasn’t the right fit for libraries, then information consultancy or working as an information professional in a non-traditional role was the direction for me to head in.

And then I got a library job

Yes. My university placement was at my local hospital’s library and whilst there, someone resigned. I accepted a short contract and then applied for a library technicians role and was suddenly employed in a library.

What followed was a very steep learning curve. The technician role was so different from what I had studied for and so precise. There were just so many new things to learn and bloody hell did I learn them, from patient colleagues who were generous with their knowledge and time.

During the (almost) two years I spent in the library technician role I learnt everything I could, thought and researched potential ‘next moves’ and really pushed myself to network and make more connections (mostly online). I presented at NLS7 with a university friend, formed the NLS8 committee and became co-convenor and took on a project role with the hospital’s research office organising their inaugural research symposium.

Working with the research office really helped me explore the non-traditional information professional world that I’d encountered in that one subject at uni. There are many people in these sort of roles and I’d love to hear more about them. Actually I would have loved to know about themLet’s be honest, many of us have very broad skillsets which have come from varied roles, multiple degrees and careers, so why not take all those skills and try them somewhere else. Plus you get the added bonus of telling people you’re a librarian and seeing them trying to figure out what the hell you are doing in *insert any non-library job*. I kinda like that.

(I really enjoyed Sally Cumming’s post about trying a different path, take a look).

Definitely not the end of the story

Late last year I made the move from library to medical research to develop an information management and communication role in a rapidly growing research governance department. The role lets me stay connected with the library, develop more networks with other parts of the district and universities and stretch myself a lot more than I could in the library technician role.

I have embraced being a library and information advocate outside of the world of GLAMR. Our profession needs people like me as much as it needs people on the inside. Sometimes I wish there was an I in GLAMR and I’d want more discussion and engagement with outsiders. (We probably need a better name than outsider or non-traditional – any suggestions?).

I’m still on my library adventure, and don’t know if a return to libraries is in future chapters. What I do know is that staying open to working outside has meant opportunities to grow, advocate, disrupt and be challenged. Maybe that’s what my true adventure is.

Twitter chats for new grads and students

Update: I’ve added another Twitter chat to the list and will keep adding them as I find them.

Have you ever joined a Twitter chat? Not sure what they are or what the point is? (And if you’re wondering why Twitter? Read this by Ruth).

To the uninitiated, Twitter chats use a dedicated hashtag, usually have a facilitator (some may describe this role as gauntlet runner), run at the same time every week/month and some have a set of questions that are available beforehand for those who like to do a bit of prep.

These chats are fast and furious and really really fun. If you’re new to Twitter or just starting to move from lurking to engaging, try a chat. You will be so busy writing tweets and replies that the nerves will just melt away.

Twitter Chat Top Tips

  • Always use the hashtag in your tweets.
  • Hootsuite or Tweetdeck make it easy to keep track of the discussion and your replies.
  • Ask questions, share your opinion, get involved!

Tweets for book lovers and library & information people

#picbookbc is for lovers of picture books and is on the first Thursday of the month at 8 pm (AEST). The June chat was about animals in picture books, which was a lot of fun. I got nostalgic about animal books my children loved and learnt what a pangolin is! (Thanks Evan!)

#auslibchat is run by ALIA’s New Generation Advisory Committee (NGAC) and is on the first Tuesday of every month at 9 pm (AEST). These chats are fast and furious so you will need a steady hand and a comfy chair. Questions are available beforehand so follow @aliangac to stay up to date. The committee uses Storify to capture each chat which is a great resource if you missed a night or want to go back and read the discussion.

#YARoomChat run by The YA Room is a Melbourne based Young Adult book chat. The next chat is on Monday 24 July at 7.30 pm AEST. If you love Young Adult literature, this is the chat for you. Their Twitter community is full of energy and enthusiasm which is very infectious.

#rwpchat (@readwatchplay) is a global twitter chat by NSW Readers’ Advisory group & partners. They have a great blog that discusses reading, watching and playing, with a monthly Twitter chat where everyone is encouraged to share what they are reading. There’s also a theme every month so you can read a book from that theme and then discuss.

And a great hashtag to dip in and out of for book recommendations is:

#LoveOzYA is all about Australian Young Adult literature. They have a strong focus on diversity and an excellent set of community built resources for promoting YA literature in the community (think reading guides, posters and podcasts).

Newsflash!

Christian Lauersen has started compiling a Library Twitter Chats Calendar so send Christian a tweet (@clauersen) if you have any chats to add and follow his Twitter and blog for updates.

Do you participate in any Twitter chats? Share them in the comments 🙂

Three tech tools for online meetings

If you’re not already aware (we do talk about it a lot!) the NLS8 team utilises many online tools to organise NLS8 (10 days to go!) and meetings are held in Google Hangout. Our first online meeting was a very long chat in Skype (no video, just typing!) which was fun but pretty cumbersome if you needed to go back to find out what someone said.

Once we were up and running and needed an easier way to communicate, we started using these three tools to make our meetings more effective and enjoyable.

Google Hangouts

Aaah Google Hangouts, all of our lovely faces on the screen at the same time. I’ve noticed that we’ve all learnt to not talk over the top of each other (we were very stop start in the first few meetings). And we all have a preference for using either the desktop version or app. We occasionally still have sound and video issues, however some people join the meeting from the bus or train and some of us are in our pyjamas!

Trello

We use Trello for our monthly reports and create a checklist each month for the agenda. This lets people add their own agenda items plus the chairperson can tick them off as we go. Who doesn’t love ticking things off a list? Personally I think the checklist agenda is great because I can see where we are up to and use it as a prompt for further discussion.

Slack

About 2 minutes before the meeting starts, Slack will light up with someone sharing the link to the hangout or someone asking for the link! During the meeting we use our Slack channels to share documents and links that are being discussed, as they are being discussed. Conversations then continue on after the meeting as well, it’s a good way to follow up on an action item – seize the day and all that.

There’s actually a fourth ‘tool’ – and that’s laughter. We wouldn’t have got this far without being able to laugh at ourselves and each other in a very gentle way. Our hangouts have been punctuated by many laughs and general silliness, it’s something I will miss once NLS8 is all over.

I’d like to see more laughter and kindness in other meetings I attend, actually that will be my next challenge!

One hashtag, many ideas

If you want an idea of how diverse the interests are of people in the library and information world is, look no further than #blogjune. Career planning, film festivals, imposter syndrome, morning coffee, technological obsolescence, books that you didn’t read – so many gems in one hashtag.

Take the time to read some of the posts, share them with friends and leave a comment on a post or too (trust me it’s quite exciting to receive a comment!).

Having never successfully joined #blogjune before (a couple of ‘meh posts and I was done), I’m happy to report that it’s a great community with plenty of support and good cheer. It’s not too late to join in, or at least put it on your list for next year.

In the meantime, get reading!