31 March 2017

March GLAM Blog Club: What I Wish They Taught Me in GLAM School (business process improvement)

The lovely New Cardigan community for gallery / library / archive / museum (GLAM) professionals has launched #glamblogclub, suggesting a monthly topic to encourage Australian GLAM folk to write something regularly. March's prompt is What I Wish They Taught Me in GLAM School. 

I need to preface my response to this topic by saying that I'm just not into complaining about what I didn't get taught in library school and I dislike it when others do too. I can't imagine how hard it is to design and deliver curricula that try to meet the diverse needs of graduates and employers across so many different sectors in an industry that is subject to such a fast pace of change. I have a lot of respect for academics working in increasingingly casualised and market-driven universities to provide librarians of the future with a solid base from which they can (and must) continue to build the skills and knowledge that they will need to succeed in any one particular job or sector. The Library Loon writes often and well about the pressures on LIS educators which include constant (and often ill-informed) criticism of things that "should" be part of library courses. As professional practitioners we need to move beyond our own limited experience of the study that we have done and to be more aware of how difficult it is to get programs of study designed, endorsed internally and externally accredited. Some empathy with the hard-working people that undertake this labour for the greater good of our profession would go a long way, particularly at a time when their own futures may be uncertain

In any case if there were one skill I think I could have applied in almost every job I've done, one thing that had I learned it early on would have made me a better librarian, it would not be specific to GLAMs but is something far more generic: business process improvement.

The analysis of business processes, including recognition of the potential for automation of the processes, assessment of the costs and potential benefits of the new approaches considered and, where appropriate, management of change, and assistance with implementation. 
I'll be talking about this at the New Librarians Symposium in June so I don't want to drill into too much detail here. I will just say that every librarian - regardless of position, level or sector - carries out work that could be documented and analysed systematically in order to improve the way it's done. Library processes are full of unnecessary manual handling, duplication, kludges and workarounds (often but not always due to crappy technical systems) that over time morph into "but we've always done it that way". We all intuit that things in our workplaces could be improved and many of us make our best efforts to change things, but we might be more effective in this if we looked outside GLAM school to the other disciplines that provide methods and tools for just this kind of work. 

29 January 2017

GLAM Blog Club #1: What I learned in 2016

The lovely New Cardigan community for gallery / library / archive / museum (GLAM) professionals has launched #glamblogclub, a monthly topic to encourage Australian GLAM folk to write something regularly. As a repeat #blogjune offender, I'm always grateful for an external impetus. This month's topic - 'What I learned in 2016' - provides a great chance to reflect on the year that was. The two overarching themes for my year, which seem almost at odds with each other but actually slotted together nicely, were technology and nature.

2016 was the year that I began to more fully embrace my role as an IT professional as well as a librarian. I've written previously about some of my confidence issues starting out a couple of years ago in a new job managing a library technology team. Last year I consciously decided to spend a lot of time during the year building my skills and networks on the IT side. I joined Women in Technology and became certified as an IT service manager. I still made time to read some library publications, but I found this content was often less relevant to me than reports from tech strategy groups like Gartner (on topics like cloud computing and learning analytics) and newsletter-style content from outlets like The Mandarin (good for a critical appraisal of public sector digital transformation strategies). 

On the job I arranged for colleagues in our IT security and architecture team to document the library's as-is technical architecture to help us with future planning: partipating in this activity and partnering with enteprise architects was such an interesting experience that I decided to propose a session for this year's THETA conference about it. I continued to represent the Information Management portfolio on the board that reviews and approves technical developments of all kinds, and in the process learned a lot more about how areas outside the library - such as HR, finance, facilities, student administration and academic parts of the university - make use of IT.

While I still identify professionally through-and-through as a librarian, it's been good for me to fully accept the hybrid nature of my role. I don't have to give up my librarian passport to go to live in the land of IT; being a dual citizen is not only possible but  desirable as technology now underpins almost every service that my library offers.

In life outside of work, I settled into a new suburb after buying a house in late 2015 with my partner. Our new suburb is far more diverse and friendly; one of our next door neighbours is a sprightly 95-year-old lady whose late husband built many of the houses in our street. I am slowly learning more about birdscaping as I try to improve a small garden previously tended by owners with a scorched-earth policy. We don't have many birds visiting our garden yet but there are certainly plenty around just waiting to be tempted by a garden with more fruit, seeds and insects and a water supply.


My quality of life has improved dramatically as I can now walk to and from work through a lovely native forest that surrounds the campus that I'm based at. One benefit of this has been losing weight and getting fitter. But that benefit pales next to the enjoyment of watching small changes that take place as the seasons come and go in a place that you have become familiar with. 

I've seen incredible things, like the morning that was so foggy all the thousands of spiderwebs that were usually invisible emerged like magic (above) or grass trees with their spikes in full bloom with thousands of tiny star-shaped flowers attached (below). 

I don't know if this is what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), mindfulness, or just a writerly attentiveness to the small details of plants and animals, but my daily walks in Toohey Forest leave me both calmer and more energised (and it's not just me - science says it's good for all us!) I'm looking forward to more of this in 2017.