Looking for Something?

Be okay with not knowing the way

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This semester, as part of a unit called Professional Practice, I’m aiming to guide a new bunch of new recruits into this profession by being a facilitator of conversation and source of encouragement (and hopefully wisdom). There is something I feel I need to share at this point. If I’ve learnt anything about my career in the last five or so years, it’s to be okay with not knowing exactly where I want to go, where I’ll end up or how I might contribute to this profession over my career and the organisation of which I am (or will be) a part.

The winding and somewhat rocky path

When I first started my LIS Masters back in 2010, all I wanted to be was an academic librarian. Liaison or discipline librarian. As it turned out, there was a line up a mile long or more just to get in the bottom of the food chain in the academic sector. Well, I wasn’t going to wait or rely on anyone to launch my career. So I sought other avenues to gain skills, knowledge and experience.

What's the next step? CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Sacha Fernandez via Flickr

What’s the next step?
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Sacha Fernandez via Flickr

My first library job was in a special library in the aviation industry. I then progressed to being inspired by the cultural heritage sector working in archives and government information management. I now finally have a job in the academic sector, giving it a crack to see if, really, this is where I want to be. You see, the experiences I never thought I’d have are the ones that are guiding the future of my career. Had I only focused on the academic sector from the start, I may or may not have developed the skills and knowledge I now possess and place me in a position to add value in my current roles.

Upon reflection, I had merely an idea of where I wanted to be. And when I had this idea, it was before I caught a glimpse of the endless possibilities in this profession. The point I’m making here is to those starting out or perhaps in those uncertain, early years, please know that it’s okay to have only an idea. Pathways in this profession are not set in stone from the minute you step into a LIS classroom.

Have a skills focus, rather than a specific job focus

An idea is good. It’s a place to begin. Know that it is a starting point, and not the destination. It’s something to work towards. Let the skills development guide professional development planning, especially in the beginning. Not a job or job title. Chances are the job you really want hasn’t been thought of yet.

When I seek out new opportunities, the skills and experience I can gain from the role as well as where I can add value, are what guide me in making decisions. To do this, I need a well-developed understanding of the skills I possess ….and the gaps. I also need to have an idea of the kind of information professional I want to be and where I can potentially fulfil my career mission.

Tip: Collect position descriptions. Forget the titles, focus on the duties and responsibilities of the role (Is this what you can see yourself doing? Will you enjoy the tasks this role involves?). Then take a look at the skills you need. When you build up a bit of a collection of position descriptions, you may find common themes of the kinds of roles you might enjoy, as well as the skills and experience you’ll need to land yourself something like it.

Skills and experience are gained in a job. Knowledge can be acquired either here…..or elsewhere.

Explore and participate

Explore your interests. Participate in relevant groups. Read. Blog. Present. Do a training course or a MOOC. There is no harm in exploring and trying out different things. Jump in, you never know what opportunities will arise or what you might learn about yourself.

Working in a special library, I was also a solo librarian. I had no immediate access to like-minded people and other information professionals. No one ‘got’ me. I felt lonely and isolated at my workplace. Enter Twitter and ALIA New Graduates Group. These were just the beginning of a string of activities I launched myself into. I wasn’t working exactly where I thought I fit, but I was gaining valuable experience in managing information and providing an information service. So I indulged my professional interests elsewhere and connected with others.

Tip: Find resources that will help build your knowledge in areas of interest. Subscribe to elists. Dive in.

The problem with goal setting

Goal setting can be incredibly difficult to do in these early years. At times, both the process in setting them and the working towards has felt like doing so with moving goal posts. This profession changes so much and frequently. And because you’re learning more and more about the profession and yourself in these early years, something shiny is always just around the corner where you haven’t explored or discovered yet. I’ve personally found it hard sometimes to have the confidence in making informed decisions. Either I’m super diligent, or I lack focus and patience.

My advice here is to prepare for the opportunities and allow your more broader career mission and values guide the way. This is where exploring and taking a skills-based approach to professional development comes in. By developing the building blocks for the skills and experience you want, you’ll either more easily spot the opportunities or create them yourself.

From my experience, landing the first few jobs in the information profession can feel a bit uncertain and since you’re only just learning the possibilities out there, the best you can do is to be informed about yourself – the information professional you strive to be; the skills and knowledge you have and the skills and knowledge you need.

Be okay with not knowing. Ask yourself, what’s the next step?

How to kickstart your professional conversation

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So you’ve started a LIS (library and information science) Masters degree….or

  • information, knowledge or data management, or
  • records management, or
  • archival studies, or
  • information systems…

(tick and apply relevant area)

Essentially, you’ve entered the information professions.

If memory serves me, you’ll be about halfway through your first semester. You may have already heard things along the lines of ‘Are you on Twitter?’, ‘What’s your Twitter handle?’, ‘Did you know Twitter is a great channel for meeting and building connections?’….or quite simply, are you online?!

CC BY 2.0 Daniel Iversen via Flickr

CC BY 2.0 Daniel Iversen via Flickr

These (unseemingly) words of wisdom are imparted by those who have experienced the benefits first hand of having, and committing to an online presence.

An online presence or identity enables participation in the conversation within a community that shares and is passionate about delivering the very best information services and/or experiences to whom they serve, in whatever shape or form or sector. The conversation and information to be found online provides endless opportunities for learning about what you might enjoy in the information professions and what you might need to do and learn to achieve success in your career.

Now, as my current LIS students will know, I could keep talking on and on about starting and building an online presence, but truth be told, how it contributes to your own learning and development will only be realised when you actually experience it. This will look different to everyone. But if you need some convincing to at least have a crack at it for yourself, here are some reasons why developing an online presence or identity is important:

  • like it or not, this is a networked profession;
  • demonstrate your willingness to learn and skills in using technologies to potential employers;
  • establish support groups with your peers (and overcome feelings of isolation);
  • keep up with trends and issues in the areas you’re interested in (trust me, this is an edge when you go for jobs). You’ll drive yourself mental if you try to keep up with everything yourself. Let your network be your other set of eyes and ears;
  • make your first conference experience easier (because you’ll already know people from online);
  • participate in the wider professional community (read: sharing is caring).

I’m sure there are other reasons but they’re enough to get started.

I didn’t jump into the Twittersphere until my second semester of the LIS Masters. If you’re hesitant right now, don’t stress. You’re probably getting your head around this super amazing profession you’ve just signed up for. You are allowed to ease into it. There’s a lot to take in. Find your own pace.

Getting started: sign up for Twitter

Tips for setting up your profile:

  • (Please, please, please!) include a photo. Even if it’s not one you’ve paid hundreds to a professional photographer for. We’re still human after all. I personally don’t like talking to an egg.
  • Complete your bio. Interests (information profession related or not), hobbies and the fact you’re studying the Masters is a good start. Your interests will evolve over time but please put something in there so people have an idea of what to expect from you.
  • Pick one or two people who you know and see who they follow. Follow those who interest you. Or alternatively, use the list below.
  • Lurk awhile. That’s okay. Just get used to being in the space and watch what comes through. Resources, updates, conversation.
  • Then dip your toes. Re-tweet. Offer encouragement. Say Congratulations (not to some random person but someone who has actually announced an achievement or update).

Here are 20 Twitter peeps to get going on Twitter:

Gurus and leaders – @TrishHepworth; @flexnib; @kimtairi; @ned_potter; @janecowell8; @katiedavis; @partridh

Organisations and groups – @ALIAnls7; @INALJNaomi (I Need A Library Job – great resources); @InterLibNet; @ALIANewGrads; @aliangac; @aliaqld; @qutisg

Peers and other peeps I enjoy chatting with – @MichelleCoxsen; @LeeBess1; @katecbyrne; @ccmcknz; @sallyheroes; @megingle

Getting started: set up a Linkedin profile

Complete as much as you can but keep it relevant. For example, I haven’t included my work experience prior to my starting in the information profession. I do not disregard the skills and experience I gained in my early years as an administrator, executive assistant or PR consultant, but I intend to keep my profile consistent. (I may or may not change my mind about this in the future) But, say for example you’ve worked on creative projects or have contributed as a volunteer to an organisation or event. Pick out and highlight the skills you think contribute to your unique self as a professional and what you wish potential employers to see.

Again, please include a photo.

Getting started: set up Feedly or other aggregator

Some may say aggregators or RSS is dead. It isn’t. Yet. I still find value in following blogs and news feeds I won’t necessarily find on Twitter.

Adding RSS feeds to your aggregator service is pretty easy. I’ll let you discover that for yourself. :)

Here are some resources to get going:

  • Two New Librarians
  • David Lee King
  • In the Library with the Leadpipe
  • Ned Potter
  • Attempting Elegance
  • SLQ
  • INALJ
  • Future Proof (IM/ records focused – State Records NSW)
  • Records Connect (Queensland State Archives)
  • Databrarians

 

You’ll find no shortage of help and encouragement in the online community. We’re not scary. We’re real people. And there are plenty of advice and resources available.

Exporting favourite tweets from ALIA Information Online

Author:

Following last week’s ALIA Information Online, a task on my post-conferencing ‘to do’ list is to review my notes and pull out some key takeaways.

I took notes on my iPad into Evernote in most sessions I attended. Some presentations however, I couldn’t quite articulate key points in 140 characters or less or I just couldn’t tear my attention away for a split second to do so. In these sessions, other tweeters did a much better job than I and so I ended up with many ‘favourited’ tweets.

This morning I wanted to export my favourite tweets from the conference to incorporate and review with those notes I took offline. Logged into Twitter this morning and couldn’t find a tool to do this. Then I searched for one. What I found were a number of stats and analytics services, most requiring a monthly subscription. How annoying is that? I just wanted a one-off export.

Then my ‘ah ha!’ moment and I found a workaround. I thought I export and curate content regularly using Storify. I’ll give that a go. And it worked!

Here are the steps I took to export and save my favourite tweets from ALIA Information Online.

Logged into Storify and began creating a ‘new story’. (If you don’t have a Storify account, then you’ll need to register but it’s a really cool tool anyway, you’ll likely use it again.)

To pull out the tweets, I clicked on the ‘Twitter’ icon, then selected ‘Favourites’.

Entered my username then clicked on the search icon.

Search results for favourited tweets appeared in the right hand side window.

Scrolled down to bottom, then clicked ‘show more results’ a few times to bring up all my favourite tweets.

Clicked ‘add them all’ (as you would for any Storify).

Arranged tweets, added title and description, and published.

Viewed the published story.

Clicked on the ‘…’ button at the top, selected ‘Export’.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.18.56 am

Selected the format I wanted to export.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.19.48 am

Then voila! My exported document appeared in a new browser tab for download.

Hope others find this useful! Happy Friday!

What’s in a name?

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Why is ‘Flight Path’ called, well, Flight Path? Some will already know the answer to this question. Those who are relatively new to following my blog, Flight Path may not. So where did the name come from?

I started Flight Path four years ago now. (Wow! *happy dance*) I had completed my first year of the LIS Masters program at QUT and having played around in the sandpit of social technologies in the second half of the previous year, I thought I’d have a crack and venture into the world of blogging. I started this blog because I wanted to learn how to do it – setting up a blog, committing to a writing schedule (ish), putting the word out there that I’ve shared my thoughts. It helped that I had newly developed an ability or okay, my fear lessened somewhat, to learn as I go and learn though experimenting and play….out there, in the open.

But I needed a reason to write. I thought I had nothing useful to say or share. I was a complete newbie to the online professional conversation and community. What value could I possibly add to discussion? Thankfully, I was given a confidence boost from the same lecturer who provided the sandpit the previous semester. It’s no secret who that lecturer was – Kate Davis. Kate encouraged me to submit to NLS5 at the beginning of 2011. Then so my blog became both a platform and data gathering tool for my project which looked into how newbies like me can develop their personal learning networks (PLNs).

Now that’s a bit of background into the beginnings of Flight Path and blogging, but what about the name?

Well, at the time of setting up Flight Path I was working in the aviation industry as a Technical Librarian. My role was to manage and maintain a collection of technical manuals and data that was used by engineers to schedule and undertake maintenance tasks on the aircraft fleet. Aviation is an exciting industry, by the way. I fell in love with the beauty that is an aircraft. Really, they’re magnificent pieces of machinery. An engineering marvel. And so, put this together with my starting out in the profession and you have a newbie information professional finding their way. Here’s my first blog post :)

All I knew at this stage was that there was (and still is!) so much cool stuff out there as an information professional to discover, explore, learn about and play with. Where to start?! Before I could embark on the runway, I needed a few things on board, like agility, an open mind, perseverance and a toolbox of apps, gadgets and a couple of social media accounts (Personal Learning Environment or PLE) that would help me in (career) flight.

Flight Path is about navigation. Navigating a career among all the possibilities of information professions. Flight Path is about being attuned to what is happening and the blog is my space for thoughts and sharing information and experiences. Reflection aids like a GPS, checking every now and then how I’m going and what is drawing my attention and interest, so I can navigate my career steps and develop myself as a professional in a more informed way.

The name ‘Flight Path’ is still relevant to me now as it was four years ago. Except now I’m not so new and hope my stories and tips help others take off from the runway in their careers. For me, ‘Flight Path’ is my navigational tool – should I go this way and why; should I go that way instead? Am I challenging the status quo? Am I on to something? What am I finding as my professional interests now? In two years time? What drives me?

To those new to the profession, I encourage you to start a blog. Grab a little space on the internet for your own and start documenting your path. You will benefit yourself as well as others and contribute to professional discussion. Start with something you’re interested in. Read about it. Share it. Share some ‘must reads’ on the topic. Share an experience. What is it like interviewing for a library or information service position these days? What are you learning in your course? To know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve come from. Blogging and reflection are ways to understand where you’re at and over time you can look back at any patterns to make informed career choices.

I may be ‘in flight’ but I’m still ascending, not cruising at optimum altitude just yet. I may still take a turn or two before that time too. My ‘flight path’ may be different to what I had originally envisioned, but with my toolbox, communications and GPS, I should make the most of it.

Letting go to embrace what comes next

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Today I had my farewell morning tea at my workplace. I officially finish up at Queensland State Archives (QSA) on Friday. As my hands shook, tears flowed (how embarrassing!), I’m sad to be leaving some amazing, knowledgeable and professional people whom I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from for the past three years…..but I don’t think it’ll be the last I see of them!

Is this a reaction to recent events?

No. My decision to not renew my contract isn’t a reaction to my Mum’s passing last November. Actually, I advised my manager of my decision one or two days before. Though I never got to tell Mum.

Why didn’t I renew? (…am I crazy?!)

My plan going forward is simple – love what I do. Some months ago I stopped loving what I did every day. In fact, I grew frustrated, down right miserable and I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I had gained all I could from both of my roles within the Government Recordkeeping unit, initially as a Research Officer, then a Policy Officer. Believe me, I looked in all the nooks and crannies to find the smallest scraps of learning and refill my inspiration tank. I sought professional assistance and the guidance of mentors to find a lesson here, a lesson there. While I’m passionate about what archives aim to achieve, and I hoped to be a part of it, it’s not to be at this time.

As an early career information professional, my learning and growing is very important to me. Though I possess nearly five years in the profession, I seek opportunities to learn everything I can. If my work is unable to feed my appetite for continued learning (outside professional involvement didn’t completely fill this void, unfortunately) or my manager is unwilling to help me drive and progress forward, value me, utilise what I have to offer, walk the talk….turning up day after day does, and did not, sustain me.

I’m also a passionate life-long learner and I aim to inspire others to step out and do the same, because you would otherwise never know the wonders of the possibilities and what might become of the learning.

I could no longer lie to myself my current role was for me. I’m not a policy person. I’m a librarian (or archivist in denial).

It’s time to let go of what isn’t working, to make room for what comes next, the positive and the new. I’m a little scared, but very excited.

So, what does come next?

At this stage, I’m not sure. I’m open to opportunities. I’m loving writing; hours fly by on weekends when I’m tinkering with my websites. I’m a born-organiser of information. I’m interested in online engagement, information use, cultural heritage and the arts, information and knowledge management. I also have a lot of responsibility on my plate at the moment with Mum stuff. The best thing I can do right now is channel my energies to what drives me. I have a few job applications floating about. I may even return to QSA in another role. I’m really looking forward to learning heaps and catching up with those in my PLN and info pros I’m yet to meet at ALIA Information Online in a couple of weeks (sooo excited!).

What have I achieved at QSA?

Plenty.

  • I worked with my manager to develop a database of public authorities under the jurisdiction of the Public Records Act 2002. Why is this useful? To understand who is undertaking government functions and is responsible for managing records. Machinery-of-government (MOG) changes happen all the time and we need to keep on top of where the records are, who’s creating them, so we can help ensure records are created and managed for as long as they are required and those with permanent value to the state are safe guarded as much as they can be. This project also helped to deliver top notch records management advice that is relevant and helpful to our clients.
  • I forged a path for the organisation to learn about, introduce and embrace innovation. I facilitated discussions about innovation with people from across the organisation to come up with a strategy for us. This paved the way and helped to prepare the organisation to take on a significant project (led by a colleague) that has produced results and gained recognition across the government department.
  • I practised my research skills gained in my Masters studies to gather the information needed to produce project outputs that met client needs – this project was the Recordkeeping Policy Framework review. I managed to have approved, an approach that was very different for the organisation. I went out to consultation without a polished draft (gasp!). I went out to gather client needs and views first. I initiated a conversation. I undertook a client-led approach to developing project outputs.
  • I delivered project outputs shaped by our clients, for our clients. Outputs that achieve objectives, move understanding of records management forward and helped to redefine the way QSA delivers recordkeeping advice in the future. The new Framework diagram in particular, has received positive feedback from other archival peers and organisations.
  • I have developed an appreciation for archives and built on my knowledge gained from my Masters studies to participate in robust conversation with my colleagues (and learned to not take opposing views personally).
  • I’ve gained experience in liaising with different stakeholders and speaking internally and externally.
  • I’ve grown into ‘big girl shoes’ – the confidence to own what I say, believe in what I know and to not feel intimidated by people with years of experience on me and just do what needs to be done, professionally.
  • I’ve rocked the boat from time to time, challenged the norm, the status quo and been a bit of a thinker and shaker. I make no apologies for this, by the way. And I still think ‘Lego’ (retention and disposal) schedules are a goer. Aka macro, high level appraisal of records and issuing disposal authorities for functions and activities to the government instead of individual agencies.

What am I looking forward to?

Possibilities. My next step. Loving what I do. Grow more.

I’m very fortunate to be in this position. I appreciate my first QSA manager who hired me in the first place, saw my potential and allowed me to grow into my ‘big girl shoes’.

I hope I’ve made a meaningful contribution to the organisation. And I hope I will liaise with, or even work with or for QSA in the future when the stars might align again.

Changes to my Twitter account and activity

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First of all, happy new year!

I thought I’d share with you a story of two Twitter accounts as I move into the new year and beyond…..

Over the last year or so following the completion of my Masters degree, I have focused more on my other interests such as travel, writing and photography in an attempt to bring back a little balance to my life and professional commitments. This means I have followed Twitter accounts and have tweeted about things unrelated to me as an information professional. I believe this sends mixed messages to other library and information professionals who may wish to follow me, but not sure which ‘Alisa’ they can expect in their feed. I believe people follow me ( @acrystelle ) do so with a reasonable expectation that I am an information professional tweeting and circulating information on topics related to the profession, and not about how to travel through Europe on a budget. While there are possibly more than a few tweeps in my PLN Twitter who are more than happy to see my travels in my tweets, I fear having my professional conversation and other interests in somewhat a ‘mixed bag’ of a Twitter account may stagnant future professional connections, interactions and indeed dilute my own focus on this (very important) part of life. This is not to say my Twitter account will be sterile or void of my personality, I’m just bringing back some focus.

I never thought I’d be a person with two Twitter accounts. But I am now. And it’s working fine so far.

In the last few months, I have (soft) launched a new website called ‘Notebook + Tea’, and so, a new Twitter account and Facebook page to match. :) This is my new channel for pursuing my other interests and a space to develop a photo portfolio (over time, of course) and write about my wonderings unrelated to the LIS profession. Some may recall I had a blog called ‘Leaps n Bounds’ where I shared my travel stories. After some consideration, I felt the name wasn’t quite me. I love making my pot of tea in the morning and I can always be found with a notebook. So then became Notebook + Tea.

Notebook + Tea is about my passion for continuous lifelong learning; gaining the most out of life experiences, improving yourself through them, and hopefully inspiring others to step out to learn something new or something they’ve wanted to learn. I share my stories and practical tips from travel to home organisation. I wish to promote positivity, balance and noticing the small things in life. I’m a late 20-something tea drinker who can always be found with a notebook. As a 20-something I also have ’20-something’ challenges such as career progression, buying my first home, wanting to keep traveling, relationships and finding balance in day-to-day life in between. Here are some of my latest posts.

Having two Twitter accounts will enable me to maintain focus on each and provide content for followers that is consistent with my account profiles. I’ve set up the second Twitter account for the same reasons as above. For my current and future followers, I’d like them to know what they’ll see in their feed. Who knows? Maybe these parts of my life will meet and merge at some point. But at least for now, I believe them to be separate pursuits. The fact that I’m a Brissy girl won’t change between these accounts. I am aware of the possibility I’m overly proud of this.

I share this with you, my PLN in case you’ve noticed my travel pics absent from my tweets, or perhaps you wish to follow me and my writing at Notebook + Tea too. And just to clarify, having the two Twitter accounts and a new website doesn’t mean the end of Flight Path. This blog will stay attached to my ‘info pro’ Twitter account @acrystelle and I will continue my commitment to post on topics related to the LIS profession.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately, in case you were wondering. :)

Plan your next year: here’s 5 helpful (and popular) posts

Author:

Looking back over the past year, my most popular posts here on Flight Path have centred on professional development planning and creating your own learning environments – all geared towards continuous learning and moving the career forward. Here are five posts that may help you get your next year off to a rolling start…

What is the LIS profession?

The LIS profession is constantly shifting, adapting and transforming in response to the role of information and technology in people’s lives and how the need for information, and in what medium or form, is changing. The profession moves rapidly and so we have to take a somewhat brief pause every now and then to ponder – what is the LIS profession and where do I fit? What is working or not working? What gaps or needs are not being met? Where does the LIS profession have a role in information needs, experiences and even outputs? Whatever your thoughts, take a quick stocktake of your skills and knowledge and adjust your professional development activities to work towards what you believe is needed and what you’re passionate about.

Developing your PD plan: a presentation

In this presentation, I break down the mystery around planning your professional development and outline some steps you may take to develop a plan of your own. A PD plan needn’t be complicated, nor jammed pack with high reaching goals or unreasonable demands on yourself and your time for doing PD activities. A couple of focus areas of where you need development can be all it takes to achieve goals and move your career and learning forward.

PD planning: thoughts for LIS newbies

This post reflects on a time when I had to discuss my career with the big, big boss at my workplace. What prepared me? My professional development plan I had developed as part of my Professional Portfolio for my Masters. This post demonstrates that even a few notes tucked away can give you focus on what to speak about when an opportunity or a similar situation arises.  Further to this, if you have performance reviews, performance planning and development, whatever the program is called at your workplace, a professional development plan can make the conversation with your manager a more productive one and takes your workplace on board with your development, making you and the workplace work together towards your goals.

Make your mark. Develop a career statement.

All the thinking around the LIS profession and your place within it comes together here with the development of a career statement. Much like a mission statement, a career statement is a clear and concise couple of sentences that can help guide your professional development focus. I wrote a career statement as part of my PD plan and when I review my plan soon after the new year, the statement will help ensure my short-term goals and PD activities are aligned and work towards that mission. This post steps through a thought process and give reasons why you should have a career statement. Start developing one for the new year.

And, finally, check up on your personal learning environment with an audit.

I really need to do this myself. Engaging in professional conversation and filtering professional reading, keeping up with what’s happening, etc require a presence on a few different platforms and the use of some tools. Many come and go, and while as LIS professionals we should be diving in to try these different things, some just don’t mesh with our individual way of gathering, reading and disseminating information. That’s okay. Plus, professional development may become cumbersome or tiring because you’ve worn your attention and task too thin across different tools and platforms. Hone your focus on which channels work with you (not against you) by doing a quick audit and tweak your own learning environment for the new year.

Happy new year and all the best.

A new kind of normal

Author:

Quick, write. Before I manage to distract myself with a job search or the Christmas newsletter I’m yet to finish and post.

This is a (very) personal post, not one I would normally write here but one I feel compelled to write to my professional friends who have shown their support on Twitter, and/or have had me in their thoughts and prayers over the last month or so.

For those who don’t already know, my life changed forever on the night of the 5th of November. An exact time, I don’t know. But I received news around 10.30pm. My Mum had suddenly passed away.

As I move the bag of packing supplies I purchased on Friday afternoon away from my desk to sit, it is another reminder of the task before me – packing up my mother’s life and home.

My Mum who I’d have a cuppa with, weekend paper strewn over the table. My Mum who cleaned the gym to reduce my training fees. My Mum who loved Christmas morning. My Mum who sat in a workshop I co-presented at NLS6. And took notes.

As ‘big sis’, I bear a lot of responsibility at this time. There is no manual or set ‘to do’ list, though as a friend pointed out today, I could probably manage to write one. I’m fumbling my way through. Mum, in ways made recently evident, always knew I’d take care of her no matter what happened.

I’m into my third week of returning to work and not quite at capacity yet. I returned to work on 27th November, the day after my birthday. I was looking forward to seeing the team who sent me flowers and just wanted to see I was okay. But my return was harder than I thought. As I walked up the pathway towards the door, my chest started to feel like it was caving in. I walked through the corridor and up the stairs to my desk cautiously, conscious of who might see me. I spotted a colleague of mine who had checked in on me every day since the 5th. She had a hug for me. The tears threatened and I started shaking. Another colleague-become-friend walked up to me for a hug…. I continued to shake. My chest hurt. Before anyone else could approach me, she had me downstairs in the tea room for a cuppa. No matter how I felt the previous day, the positive thoughts of returning to professional me, nothing prepared me for what I experienced as I stepped inside. I was little more than a zombie for the rest of the day but I made it through, thanks to members of my team.

One thing I really, absolutely suck at is leaning on others (no surprise to some). I have received incredible, generous support during this time. My best friend from primary school (whose life was also touched by my Mum) flew in from Mackay to stand beside me and turn the pages as I presented the eulogy to a full church. And yet I still feel I need to take all the burden on myself. My hands shook as I put flowers in a basket that I had decorated, minutes after the service but I did it. Mum’s day was going to go off without a hitch if I could help it.

One of my strengths however, is to do what’s required and get on with it. Find out if I don’t know how.

A few things have seen me through this last month:

  • Writing, journaling. As much as I can. It can feel like crap, but, better out than in.
  • Communication (and being honest) with others and what I needed. I’m fortunate to have an amazing partner, my travel companion and teammate of six years.
  • A small circle of people who looked out for me, checked in on me, while I was busy informing people, making phone calls and consoling others.
  • A workplace that is understanding of my mind wandering off, distracted from time to time.
  • Accepting help.

In the week before Mum’s passing, I had notified my manager I will not be signing a renewal to my contract in my current role beyond end of January. I still feel this is the right decision. Much like Amy Steinbauer has advised over at INALJ, job searching gets extra challenging during these times. Keeping the goals and what I want in sight is more important now than ever. I hope the new year will bring me meaningful work and a new stage to my career.

I will continue to write as I move into a new kind of normal. My posts here may be scattered for a while during this time, but writing this post marks a step in the right direction.

To disconnect is to reconnect

Author:

In the few weeks leading up to a holiday, and now a couple of weeks after, I’ve been a bit pre-occupied and noticeably absent here. I learnt a lot while away on holiday, much more than I had expected. I trekked to a remote, private island in the Solomons – Papatura Island. A world away and disconnected from everything. Not even Twitter could reach me. My mum replied to my mere three text messages sent via satellite phone. No TV, no radio. And all this just a three hour flight from Brisbane to Honiara, an hour’s flight in a small turbo prop landing on a spit of grass where boats floated awaiting to take us to the retreat.

Sound crazy? Could you do nearly two weeks without internet?

Who knew disconnection could be bliss?

Constantly connected and filled with ‘busyness’ I realised wasn’t good for me. In fact, the more I was connected, the more the connection hindered my self-esteem, confidence and eventually feeling ‘stuck’ (and I’ve felt this way for a long while now). Disconnected from everything was confronting at first, sobering second and then eventually liberating.

This (forced) disconnection taught me of its importance. Actually, disconnecting led to feeling more connected – mind, body, emotions and friends through conversation. I was reminded of how great doing nothing feels; to talk with no real purpose other than to laugh, joke and have a great time. Without an ‘audience’, feeling like I should be doing something this way or that and the any number of right ways, I was free to be me. I let go all judgment from media and criticism internally. Being disconnected and having ‘nothing’ mornings or afternoons were some of the most productive times for ideas and learning.

This has me thinking about the importance of having ‘nothing’ times and allowing the mind to wander a little. As a hyper connected community of passionate professionals, us info pros are at risk of losing the joy and comfort of just doing nothing. We’re very involved in our work. Interests, professional development activities, commitments are not limited to one ‘container’ or workIng hours. This is one of the strengths of this profession and it’s professionals, but it can be our downfall if we don’t fully process ideas and knowledge in order to make meaningful connections within our collective body of knowledge and evolve practices and service delivery. Taking in, making sense and learning about new things within the profession can take time to mull over or for new ideas to brew.

What I learnt being disconnected is that it’s okay to have these times and we need to give ourselves permission. Yes, things move quickly and there is always something to do, check, write, plan. But I’m talking about stepping off the hamster wheel for just a few hours, put aside the ‘to do’ list and allow yourself (and the mind) to wander and gravitate to what you really feel like doing at that particular time. If that’s to stare aimlessly at the ceiling while laying in bed, do it. If that’s to have another pot of tea and enjoy the view from your place, do it.

Here are a few things that made my ‘nothing’ sessions productive (yes, productive!):

  1. No access to the internet or a phone anywhere near you. I mean it!
  2. No laptop. Actually, no technology of any sort.
  3. Have a notebook and pen handy to record or explore any thoughts and ideas that come to you. This is so you can remember them later.
  4. If you write, only do it when you feel the need. No ‘should-ing’ all over yourself!
  5. Get comfy – a chair, bed, whatever.

My best ‘nothing’ session was when I set myself up with a magazine, a book and a pile of notebooks at the ready. I read my magazine, had an idea, wrote it down, returned to my magazine. Looked out over the bay, dozed, picked up my book. Later that day, I had a nap (guilt free), did a bit of yoga, picked up my camera and started taking pics of the sunset.

Sunset over the jetty on Papatura Island, Solomon Islands.

Sunset over the jetty on Papatura Island, Solomon Islands.

The key here is to plan nothing but have a few things on hand you could gravitate towards. This could be a book, some knitting, etc. In this ‘nothing’ session, the aim is to be more present by effectively ‘listening’ and reacting ‘as it happens’. This is particularly useful when you’ve been going in circles about something and need some clarity. Some answers and ideas can’t be rushed.

A ‘nothing’ morning or afternoon is about reducing the mind clutter getting in the way of those ‘ta-dah’ moments. So give yourself permission and enjoy!

Adopting a PLN: where are you at?

Author:

Further to my last blog post about the concept of a Personal Learning Network (PLN), I thought I’d look at the stages through which we tend to go through in adopting a PLN to be part of our ongoing learning and development. Stages of PLN adoption by Jeff Utecht on “The Thinking Stick” provides a resonating model particularly for library and information practitioners and basis for reflecting where we might be directing our professional development energies.

Where are you in adopting an PLN? CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Jutecht via Flickr

Where are you in adopting an PLN?
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Jutecht via Flickr

You can find a more detailed (and perhaps less comical) explanation of this model with an earlier post I wrote as part of my PLN research project. But here, I’ll walk you through each stage as I’ve experienced them:

Immersion

  • oooh! Twitter!….oh wow! There’s so much cool stuff here!
  • oh, hello! Tweet up! I guess we’re friends now, right?
  • oh no! Wait! I haven’t seen Twitter in over two hours! What have I missed?! *frantic Twitter feed loading proceeds while completely ignoring boyfriend at dinner*
  • Hey? What? I don’t know this. I NEED TO KNOW MORE!
  • oh dear, I’m a hopeless information professional. I don’t know much at all.

Evaluation

  • still ignoring boyfriend at dinner time….proceed to retreat to Twittersphere to soak up more information and hang with my PLN peeps, see what they’re up to – reading, tweeting, writing. Nothing else exists right now.
  • meet new people at events….must follow on Twitter
  • hey, that’s an interesting blog….I’ll follow that too.
  • okay, so who follows me? who do I converse with? who is awesome at passing on information?
  • madly try to keep up with self-imposed blogging schedule….must finish….one more….right now (even though it’s 8pm on a Sunday night)

Know it all

  • cool! I know stuff about this…and that, and little here and there. There’s too much to know!
  • how on Earth am I to put all this knowledge together in my head so it makes sense?!
  • still lots of cool stuff to know and do in the profession – spoilt for choice!
  • I LOVE IT ALL! And I won’t be an awesome information professional if I don’t know ALL THIS STUFF.
  • Wake up. Twitter. Get to work. Twitter. More Twitter. Looking through Google Reader. Comment here. Twitter with a side of lunch. Draft blog post. Twitter.

Perspective (or intervention)

  • geez! just leave it for a day! *self-imposed Twitter-free Saturday*
  • hey, this ain’t so bad. hi, boyfriend!
  • there’s so much to learn in my new job! oh wow! the experienced professionals around me, and just a chair glide away!
  • hey yo PLN peeps! what’s doing?
  • progressively coming to realise that the ‘need to know’ stuff will be circulated time and time again. not missing too much if I spend some time away from it all.

Balance

  • currently moving into this phase – Twitter? I’ll catch up tomorrow. Today’s Sunday
  • interested in this and that and only these few things to keep my development focused
  • realising I can’t know everything all at once. need to integrate what I know with experience and practicing it
  • re-connecting with PLN after Masters degree and contributing where I can – I hope that’s cool with everyone
  • know more about myself and my needs as a professional and where I can reasonably dedicate time to professional involvement (and not at the expense of other roles I play in my life)

It has become easy to feel overwhelmed with the information available and the generosity of others’ support within the library and information practice community. As a newbie to the profession, I wanted to know everyone and all the ‘cool kids’ from which I could learn the most (and still do).  The difference between then and now is a journey of discovering the kind of information professional I’d like to become, understanding my career development needs and striving to attain a balance between the info pro me and all the other ‘me’s. Knowing when and where to direct energies to professional development activities, including participating in a PLN, can be assisted with a personal professional development plan. Learning heaps while in a new role? Don’t stress if you’re not checking Twitter as frequently or blogging so often. A personal professional development plan will identify where you’re learning is happening right now.

The trick I’ve found with professional development and in particular, progressing through the stages of PLN adoption is to be okay with where the energies are directed. Set priorities and keep them as reminders near your workstation or study area. It took me a while to realise I can’t do all the things at the same time. Nor will I be an awesome info pro straight off the bat. Striking a balance with participating in a PLN and contributing to the profession is necessary to prevent feeling overwhelmed by what becoming info pro is all about. There is enormous respect for each other within the library and information practice community making the PLN a wonderful experience (and I thank you all for this).

Let go. Roll with it. Be okay with where you’re at. Don’t stress. ‘Tis all good. (*repeat to myself*)

About Alisa

I'm an early career information professional and library and information science (LIS) Masters graduate with experience from the special library environment (aviation industry) and archives sector, specialising in records and information management.

I'm interested in cultural heritage collections and online engagement, information and knowledge management and how information is accessed and used for creativity, knowledge generation and sharing and innovation.
I'm also passionate about new and early career information professional issues and trends.

An active participant in the library and information professional community, you can usually find me on a committee or two.

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