30 June 2016

Connecting with new librarians

Well, there is five minutes of #blogjune left and this is my fifth post for the month - I knew there was no way I could commit to a post a day and was aiming for a post a week, so I feel like I achieved a goal of sorts! I have really enjoyed writing some posts, engaging on Twitter and checking out and commenting on other people's blogs too.

It's been a day for me of connecting with new librarians, which is always a treat. The 2016 QULOC Graduate Librarian, Eleanor Colla, finished today after spending three months at Griffith University; prior to this she spent January to March at the University of Queensland and is moving on to further stints at the University of Southern Queensland (July to September) and Queensland University of Technology (October to December). The QULOC Graduate Library Program offers a new graduate a year-long paid contract working across a number of uni libraries in Queensland (and sometimes NT and northern NSW). If you are a student or a new grad, it is worth checking out this scheme as it offers a lot of different experiences and great networking opportunities.

It's always a breath of fresh air having a new graduate to talk to, and so when a call came out for session proposals for the New Librarians Symposium 8 in 2017, I started thinking about attending. Although at forty-four with fifteen years in the profession I am far from a new librarian (is it just me, or is the term 'mid-career' really depressing, like one foot in the grave?), I still feel like a new librarian most days; perhaps because I have changed jobs regularly and am always learning new things.

I gave a talk on building a career in project-focused librarianship at NLS6 in Brisbane in 2013 and I found it to be a well organised and energising event, up there with the best library conferences I have ever attended. So I rang Amy Walduck today, who is one of the NLS co-convenors (and our local Queensland ALIA manager) and as a result of that conversation I think I will try to pull together both a panel session and another talk focused on technical skills and careers - stay tuned!

25 June 2016

Making connections at an alumni event

On Thursday night, I attended the first ever event held in Brisbane for alumni of Victoria University of Wellington.

I was invited to attend by someone from the VUW engagement team who contacted me on LinkedIn. I must admit my initial thought was that I definitely wouldn't attend. I knew I would be a bit tired having come back from holidays a couple of days before and the idea of standing around talking to a bunch of people that I didn't know and probably wouldn't have anything in common with really wasn't that appealing!

Anyway, I did eventually talk myself into attending. Since I moved back to Brisbane four years ago it's been hard to meet people and make new friends and on reflection I knew that I would have at least one thing in common with everyone - a connection to VUW and to NZ!

View from Victoria University of Wellington
Credit: View from Victoria University of Wellington by Allison Brown. https://flic.kr/p/oQDbRS. Licence: CC-BY-NC 2.0.

The evening involved a talk from Professor Frazer Allan, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Engagement), who updated us on how VUW was travelling in terms of strategic direction, capital works, university rankings and other things. He encouraged us to stay in touch with VUW and mentioned a number of ways that graduates could help, including by providing advice and mentorship to other VUW grads new to Brisbane, through philanthropy, and for those with university-age children considering sending them to NZ to study (where Australian students can still study at local fee rates - as I did back in 2001). There was also a guest speaker, Lance Weller, a VUW alumnus who had an interesting history in business and philanthropy on both sides of the Tasman, including being involved in establishing the Angel Flight NZ charity that provides air transport for rural people to attend distant medical appointments without the stress of horrible travel times and financial concerns.

The evening started and ended with drinks and networking. I met and talked to quite a few people, and guess what? I easily found something personal or professional in common with all of them other than the obvious VUW factor. They included:
  • Someone who who had studied history and philosophy at VUW in the 1950s before becoming a medical librarian at Otago and remaining a health sciences librarian for the rest of his career. Connection: fellow librarian! We talked about his experiences in the early days of library automation - so interesting for me given how technology-focused my role is now. 
  • Someone who worked in academic programs and student services at UQ. Connection: I did my first undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at UQ and worked there for a while too. 
  • Someone who had graduated in commerce and worked for Suncorp Bank. Connection: my brother works as a business analyst for Suncorp and she had come across him while working on some technology projects. Something I learned that I didn't know: she told me about the Suncorp innovation lab that she had been visiting that day, which sounded like a really interesting way of exposing clients to new technologies. This prompted me to do a bit of digging since we are talking at my workplace about methods for encouraging innovation. Check out this YouTube video about the Suncorp Group Innovation Days - how does this compare with your organisation's approach to doing new things? 
  • Someone who worked as a statistician on the Australian Longitudinal Women's Health Study. Connection: I had heard about this research project during my previous work in research data management. We talked about some of the challenges (storage, ethics) and he mentioned that the project was increasingly trying to open up its datasets to other researchers. We had another connection in that he had studied mathematics at VUW and I had done some work in that department when I was first getting involved in e-research support. 
  • Someone who only recently graduated in IT and was working as a web developer. Connection: we discovered that he works for the company that provides the web content management system for my place of work and that I had been considering approaching for a quote about some web usability and strategy consulting. 
Sadly I didn't meet my new best friend, but I had a great night and would definitely attend similar events in future. It was good to get out of my narrow library and higher education headspace and meet some people of all different ages from a range of industries and life backgrounds. 

13 June 2016

Why my professional development plan for 2016 is all about IT not libraries

Impostor syndrome featured in a few people's #blogjune posts in 2015. I wrote about some confidence issues I was experiencing as a librarian working in a university where IT services and the library are fully converged. Convergence is not a new thing in universities, but there is not that much written about whether this kind of environment could or should influence the skills and knowledge that people in library technology teams should seek to develop.

In my experience so far, success in a converged environment requires me and other members of my team to become (even more) hybrid professionals, able to wear library and IT hats at the same time or to switch between these as we need to. My professional education as a librarian, and probably more importantly the values of the library profession, do inform all the work that I do but I need to be credible and competent in forums where most if not all of the other participants will be IT professionals. Something that I have been pondering lately is what it would mean to fully embrace being an IT professional as well as a librarian. While most librarians I know are avid users of and advocates for technology in the context of our industry, that doesn't necessarily make us IT professionals. IT professionals have their own qualifications, career pathways, specialisations, professional organisations and values, and these are sometimes not well understood or respected by librarians.

This year professional development (PD) is emerging as the unofficial #blogjune theme. I don't have an approach to my professional development plan that is as comprehensive or as structured as Alisa Howlett's approach (seriously impressive!), but I do take a lot of time to prepare for my annual performance plan discussions with my director. This year, as part of that discussion, I flagged my intention to focus on the IT aspects of my role and came up with three activities:

1. Participation in Women in Technology (WIT)

One of my PD goals for the year was to find an IT community of practice that would enable me to do some networking with people other than librarians.

Screenshot of the Women in Technology website
I picked Women in Technology for a few reasons. Some librarians in my network are members. My university is involved in promoting WIT internally, since WIT's focus is not just on IT but also on life sciences. And as a feminist, WIT's vision to "advance, connect and empower women in technology and life sciences" is one that I can whole-heartedly get behind. So far I have signed up to receive email newsletters and joined the WIT LinkedIn group. I haven't yet gone to any events but I hope I will get to at least one later this year and will make a point of meeting and talking to at least one person that I don't know.

2. Enterprise Architecture

An IT colleague that worked with me on a project mentioned that he thought it could be useful for me to investigate getting some training in enterprise architecture, specifically in the TOGAF framework. In TOGAF the purpose of enterprise architecture is described as "to optimize across the enterprise the often fragmented legacy of processes (both manual and automated) into an integrated environment that is responsive to change and supportive of the delivery of the business strategy". There is a lot of crossover between what enterprise architects and what information managers are trying to achieve in an organisation like mine.

A training course and certification would be a huge investment both financially and in terms of time, but fortunately there are some good free PD options available. The first of these is a free online four-week course, Introduction to Enterprise Architecture. This is offered under the Open Universities Australia Open@Study branding, is presented by a well-known industry practitioner, and is really highly rated by students. One of the architects at my work had done this course and also recommended it to others.  He also pointed me in the direction of an overview video on YouTube provided by the same trainer.

My colleague noted that the Open2Study module is based around a formal course structure and doesn't go into the more practical aspects of application, while the YouTube video covers practical application as well. So I am planning to start with the video and then move on to the online module later in the year if I feel like I need that extra level of detail.

3. Service management

I'm currently undertaking some in-house training that will lead to a certification. On Thursday this week I will sit an exam (my first since about 1990 - eek!) for the ITIL Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management. ITIL was originally created by the UK government's Office of Government Commerce to help implement an efficient framework for IT Service Management (ITSM). ITIL has changed since its introduction in the 1980s and now offers a more generic lifecycle approach to service management covering strategy, design, transition (change management), operations, and continuous improvement.

I am finding some of the jargon in ITIL a little alienating but the core concepts are very applicable to my work as the manager of a library technologies team. Although both are a bit out of date, this 2007 blog post and 2008 journal article are good place to start if you want to understand more about how ITIL service management concepts can be applied in libraries.

06 June 2016

Remembering my MLIS class of 2001

In 2001 I moved to New Zealand from Scotland and started my Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) at Victoria University of Wellington. I'd decided after working in a university archive that I'd found my vocation and had been looking into moving back to my hometown Brisbane to do postgrad study at QUT. Wellington came up as an option later, after I'd met my then partner (who was into ice climbing and so needless to say did not really think Queensland would be ideal).

I quickly made friends with a small group of wonderful fellow students. Most of us were career changers in our late twenties / early thirties who were trying with some degree of success to complete the qualification as quickly as possible through full-time face-to-face study. We studied hard and socialised together a lot. A regular big night out involved an 80s music club night called Atomic (coincidentally run by another librarian that I would work with later at the National Library of New Zealand).

It was a pretty intense year but we all made it out the other end and embarked on our various career pathways as information professionals.

Sally was already working in corporate libraries while she was studying. She moved to London and has continued working at high-powered finance and management consulting companies in research and knowledge management roles. I saw her in London a few years ago. We don't really keep up with each other's day-to-day news but we are connected via Goodreads and have very similar taste in books. It's a slender thread stretched by time and distance, but it's still there.

Fiona livened up the library tours we did during the course by asking staff "So how's your job satisfaction?" I can't remember any of the exact answers but they were surprisingly candid! Fiona's moved several times to support her partner in her career as a journalist and they and their two boys recently moved from Auckland to Melbourne. Fiona started work in records management in a Melbourne hospital a couple of months ago, which she really loves. I saw them about six months ago and hope to see more of them now they are on this side of the Tasman.

John went on to work in the library at VUW for a few years and then went to the NZ Institute for Chartered Accountants, where he has moved through library management into a range of other managerial roles. I missed seeing John and his family last time I was in Wellington as they were away for a holiday, but I know I'll see them there sometime for a brunch at one of the cafes along Cuba St.

Tash, I have lost touch with. She got pregnant towards the end of the course and moved back to Auckland. I hope that she is doing OK.

Sadly, two of our classmates have died, both suddenly and both far too young.

Karina was the youngest in our class (straight out of her undergraduate degree, I think) but knew exactly what she wanted to do with her qualification. She wanted to be an archivist and in her short career and life achieved so much not just in NZ but in the entire Pacific region. She died in May 2013. Her friends and family still post to her Facebook page, particularly around her birthday and the anniversary of the day that she died.  I have no doubt that of the class of 2001, she would have been the shining star in the years to come.

Brendan collapsed and died at the gym in October 2010. By that time he was a well-respected member of NZ's government agency recordkeeping community. He was also a pedantic bastard so I can imagine how he would react to finding that the link to his obituary on the ARANZ website is now a 404. (Because why on earth would you expect a professional organisation for archivists to be able to appropriately archive their own content? And in a nice touch, ARANZ have also set up a robots.txt blocker on their own website to ensure that other agencies like the Internet Archive can't preserve their content either. Sigh.)

Long after others had left Wellington or were staying home with their kids, Brendan remained my stalwart dancing buddy for Atomic. I suggested a couple of songs for his funeral. Nena's 99 Luftballons, to which Brendan knew all the words in German, made an appearance as did The Smiths' There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.

I wanted to write this post because somehow it's been fifteen years since 2001 and because I'm grateful to have found the friends I did in that year. The MLIS was a springboard from which we have bounced in different directions, but I'll never forget them. 

01 June 2016

My first Twitter chat

I've been on Twitter for a few years (not so much of late), but Tuesday night was the first time I've participated in a live Twitter chat. It happened under the auspices of the International Librarians Network (though you didn't need to be involved in the ILN to participate) and some of the staff from the QUT Information Studies Group were facilitating and sparking conversations. The topic was professional development (PD) for librarians.

I really appreciated the chat guidelines provided on the ILN website. There was some useful advice there about tools that you could use. I ended up just adding a column to my usual desktop client (Tweetdeck) but I may try one of these next time. The organisers suggested letting your followers know that you would be participating in a chat so that they could choose to mute the hashtag if they didn't want to be bombarded. This was a great piece of Twitter etiquette (Twitterquette?) and not something I would have thought to do myself.

The organisers provided the questions beforehand, so it was possible to think a bit about the topic before the heat of the moment. Even so, on the night the tweets were flying so thick and fast it was hard to keep up! (Not even my 60wpm touch typing was enough. Though I still give thanks to my Mum for forcing me to learn typing in the 80s - on a typewriter! - it is a good life skill.) I was grateful to be able to go back over the Storify for the event the next day to see everything in context and to follow some of the participants.

Given that the conversation covered free ways to develop yourself and the importance of networking, the chat was actually a good example of the kinds of things that are readily available to us all as PD options, regardless of employment status and availability of funding. I saw some old friends, made some new ones, and thoroughly enjoyed spending an hour on a Tuesday evening with fellow librarians. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for further Twitter chats on topics that I'm interested in and would recommend joining in if you haven't tried it.