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There’s a fork in the (career) road


I don’t write, I don’t write, and I don’t write (here, anyway) and then I hit a point where I feel absolutely compelled to write. I burst.
My desk in my study is cluttered. I can’t stand clutter. There’s so much going on right now, I have project files all over. My in-tray overflows. I guess this means I really need to get a wriggle on removing the curtains, having shutters installed and paint the walls (get rid of the hideous yellow) so I can put shelves up to store stuff. Oh, I can’t wait to put shelves on walls. The joys of being a homeowner. Anyway, this post isn’t about my renovation plans for my home.

Hip replacement recovery. The (losing) Mum stuff. New role at work. I’ve been thinking a lot about myself as a professional (within the broader scope that is my life) over the last few months. I haven’t shared my thoughts along the way because I wanted to gain a handle on what it is that’s shifting. I haven’t shared until now because I wanted to piece together a picture of what my thoughts mean for my career. A few things have triggered this serious thinking about future directions.

The ‘blogging’ conversation

During #blogjune this year, participating in the conversation about blogging (or lack thereof) nowadays prompted thought about the value I was gaining from blogging as a professional development activity and what benefit others have gained from reading Flight Path. Is the value of what I write still there?

I’ve recently started a blogging course to build and develop my other blog called ‘Notebook + Tea’. Initially, this blog was an outlet to write about everything else I wanted to share about travel, personal updates and tips on life topics in general. Posts are sporadic and seemingly random to anyone else but me. What this blogging course has taught me so far is the importance of having a narrative. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end to a narrative. A narrative is the central focus for a blog. Readers need something to follow. After looking through some library blogs in particular, I realised a narrative is what they tend to lack and where the momentum has come to a grinding halt.

At first, I couldn’t believe I never really thought of a blog in that way. To me, a blog was like an online diary. It is that, but there’s a story attached. And this had me wondering, what’s the story I’m trying to tell here at Flight Path? Where is my story going? What’s going to happen next? What’s my common thread? What do I want to write about? Where do I want to publish? Has Flight Path flown its course?

Reviewing the Professional Development Plan

Back in July, I started to review my personal professional development plan. I recorded what I had achieved and what I wanted to achieve but didn’t. I reviewed my ePortfolio and realised how far I have come in developing into the kind of information professional I want to be. Though I’ve been absent from conference programs. I haven’t presented or completed any independent research in the last 18 months or so. In the years I’ve been a new information professional, I’ve spoken about professional development planning and entering the profession. While I’m still interested and passionate about new information professional issues and making the most of professional development, I can’t always be a new information professional. And I don’t want to be the once energised and enthused newbie who eventually faded away to insignificance.

The review showed me an opportunity to ask ‘what’s next?’ What do I need to learn now? In what area/s do I want to become an expert? I’ve done the ‘new information professional’ thing, madly trying to learn and experience whatever I can. Now I realise, I need to be a bit strategic about which development opportunities I take on which will enable me to head in the direction I have come to know I want to pursue. After some ‘sampling’ as a new information professional, I can move forward and make more informed career decisions. What am I going to create? What am I going to research? What mark do I want to leave? What difference do I want to see?

The review also revealed to me a common thread in my professional life – design. Growing up, even though I wrote poetry and short stories, my sister was always dubbed ‘the creative one’ because she drew, sang, and played the guitar. So I developed a belief that I wasn’t a creative person. Now I realise I was and I am. Just not in a way that you could see or touch or listen.
Even before I started the LIS Masters course, I pulled apart processes and information management systems and put them back together again, adding value and making them more efficient. I have created filing structures and processes from scratch. I’ve re-created an information architecture and a framework diagram that can be used for conversation and education. I’m not a conformist when it comes to existing schemas. I like to make my own and design them in a way that achieves a desired outcome. I will challenge what’s ‘always been done’ if it doesn’t make sense or I think business information needs require re-assessment and so the process that happens around them needs to be re-engineered. I’m an outcome-driven, evidence-based designer.

A spontaneous planning session

One evening I got to thinking about my career and situating it within everything else I wish to achieve, such as an active lifestyle post-op and writing a book. These other priorities will take attention and time away from my career activities. This was an important realisation because if we just plan for the career, we can overload that plan, jam packing it with projects and activities that everything else either falls by the wayside, or we can feel crappy that we didn’t achieve everything we set out to in the career plan. In this one evening, what I wanted to achieve and how I was going to balance projects over time, suddenly became clear. Some things I can do now. Others will have to, and can wait until I’m ready.

I feel I’m at a turning point in my career. I’m entering the next phase. I think it’s taken a while to get here due to other things happening in my life – its truly been a nightmare, an emotional roller coaster. But through it all, there is hope. There are steps I need to take. I’ve recognised the fork in the road, identified the decisions which need to be made and I’ve come up with a plan to achieve what it is I really want. In career and in life.

League of Librarians: beginnings


Reaction to my blog post on Tuesday evening has prompted action ‘while the iron’s hot’ to progress with the idea of a new and revived collaborative blog. I hope we can maintain momentum on this idea with a view to blogging and igniting professional conversation beyond #blogjune.

Partly self-nominated, partly nudged, I’d like to jot down a few ideas about what we need to get this going. There are a few things I think we need right now and there a things we can develop once started.

What we need right now

  • a small team – these people will assist with initial set up of the site, write and invite others to write content that can be posted in early days.
  • decide what the website/blog is and what it isn’t – to me, this blog is a launch pad for conversation in other spaces such as Twitter. The blog is an anchor, a landing page. So I’m thinking it doesn’t need its own Twitter or Facebook accounts, etc. People can tweet what they find on the blog. Allow the community to spread the word. This blog is for the community, by the community. It’s a meeting place. It’s a ‘making connections’ place. It is also a space for info pros to find their voice in a welcoming environment.
    This blog is not for job listings. There are enough channels for this purpose. Would you agree?
  • a purpose and aims – fostering connections, knowledge building and sharing; it is inclusive of different perspectives, job titles, sectors, etc, and it is welcoming.
  • a blog name – League of Librarians has been suggested and there is some agreement on Twitter. I find this name quite powerful. Yes, there are other jobs out there without the ‘L’ word and there are increasing numbers of jobs where librarian skills are needed and being used in some of the most traditionally unlikely of places (which is awesome, by the way). If there are any other suggestions, please comment below.
  • platform – WordPress might be easiest? I currently run two blogs on Bluehost and haven’t had a hitch yet.

What we will need in the short term

  • some idea of the kind of content to blog about (a focus) – rough ideas include different perspectives on a trend or issue; innovative or cool stuff happening; challenges we might be facing, both on an information service and personal professional levels; questions and figuring stuff out.
  • an admin team, an editorial team and regular contributors – these could the same people or people might be interested in contributing in different ways. Admin team might look after emails, comms and website maintenance. Editorial team will keep track of submissions and the publishing calendar. Regular contributors might set their own frequency.
  • a leadership support crew – these people are senior members of our community who may not be directly involved, but who we can call upon for guidance along the way and guest content. I have a few ideas about who these might be :)
  • site features- what we need it to do will inform what is needed, but do we want an email subscription function or sponsorship to cover web hosting costs?

If you’re interested and haven’t checked out this conference paper about how LINT started, please do have a read.

I don’t have an official online form as yet, but if you’re interested in being a member of the team, start up or later on, please comment below with how you’d like to be involved.

Please also contribute your ideas and vision for this blog. I acknowledge that what I have envisioned here may not be what you had in mind. So please do share what you’re thinking.

So that’s all I have right now. I won’t have thought of everything, but at least this is a start.

Time to step up on blogging


It’s about time I joined in the conversation about blogging. A colleague has called me out. And yes, I have a contribution. This isn’t the first time I’ve put thoughts down on this topic over this month. I’ve been scribbling almost daily. Only now I think I can put them in some kind of order to be understood (hopefully). While I’m supposed to be doing other work, this topic is all I can think about right now. My thoughts have bubbled to the surface and have no where else to go but out. Now, do you have a cuppa? Good. Me too.

We have heard from a number of ‘nodes’ on the topic of blogging this #blogjune. Much of what I’ve read I agree with. And those who have given their thoughts and ideas to this conversation, I thank you. I can’t and won’t attempt to respond to each of your posts. Con has, however brought together a bit of a list. :) What I can do here is bring my perspective and thoughts.

I’ll start with my own experience and the journey so far. Ive been in this profession for five years. I know, it feels a lot longer. And when I started blogging, I guess you could say I joined the party a little late as it was 2010/2011 and the beginning of what has been described as the downturn of the blogging ‘golden age’. At this time, my experience was much like Kate described. I felt welcomed. I wrote posts and commented on others. I read a lot of blogs and looked up to a number in the library blogging arena. I felt safe. Keeping up to date with what was happening was overwhelming as a library student, but oh so exciting! Blogs and the conversation on Twitter that ensued fuelled my beginning passion for this profession. I turned to who I saw as leaders on their blogs and sometimes without getting in contact or conversing, I also saw them as mentors but they probably didn’t know it.

Fast forward a few years and I blogged less and less. I’ll be honest, I’ve only really been blogging about ‘safe’ topics and topics I felt I knew and had confidence writing about. This, I realise now, has defeated the purpose I had for this blog back in 2011. A learning and connecting tool. I put together a list of ‘must follow’ blogs for students this semester and I really struggled. Where did we all go? I started to panic that I was the loner kid who wasn’t told the party had moved on somewhere else. Truth be told, there are two reasons (not the only ones though) why I haven’t ventured into unchartered waters with blogging of late.

1. There has been limited content to respond to. Cue Lionel Richie “Hello? ….is it me you’re looking for?”
2. I have this perception that people are now just too busy and have no time anymore (which might be partially true).

These two reasons though, have had an impact on my confidence with blogging and putting my thoughts out there. Because really, where’s the incentive to contribute if people won’t even make virtual eye contact with you? And this is where not using the spaces available for conversation can and may well be detrimental to our future professional conversation and knowledge.

It’s not just me who isn’t blogging (as often). And it’s not just senior members of our professional community and leaders. I don’t see many of my peers blogging. People who I’ve ‘grown up’ with and have been in the profession for about the same time. This worries me.

There appears to be, at least to me, a disconnect in a ‘changing of the guard’. We don’t have a conversation issue in our community. We have a leadership or a succession issue. It’s not just the workplace where we risk losing knowledge when people wind down to retirement. It’s in the professional conversation too. I call to others at a similar career stage to step up. Share the cool and exciting stuff you’re doing. We can’t leave the conversation to a few. For knowledge to grow, we need diversity. Momentum must keep going. It’s time to step into ‘big girl/boy shoes’ and start owning what we think, contribute and do. It’s time to start growing into leadership roles in professional conversation and discourse. But we also need our leaders to stick around to nurture the transition.

This is no time for libraries and library and information professionals to be passive and accepting of what is given. We must have active participants.

How do we do this? How do we get over our imposter syndrome and just hit publish?
Think of blogging as an ‘out of session’ conversation at a conference. You walk up to people who you may have seen around previously, or you recognise their Twitter handle on their name badge. You introduce yourself and say ‘Hey, how was that last presentation? It got me thinking about…’ And so the conversation starts. You might suggest a solution to a problem. Or have an idea about how to implement something. This happens as naturally as heading back to the buffer for a second helping of lunch. What we don’t notice is that we’re sharing our thoughts and ideas as ‘half baked’. We haven’t thought it all through before approaching the person. We bounce off one another. An idea is built upon, developed and massaged until you walk away to the next session with a much better idea that what you started with. I believe this can happen with blogging. Blog posts need to be allowed to be ‘half baked’ if we’re to keep up momentum (and knowledge growth). We need to, in the words of John Farhnam ‘take the pressure down’ (do-do….do-do, “cause I can feel it, it’s rising like a storm”…oh please Lord, let them be the right words).

Where do we do this?
I agree, a lot of conversation happens on Twitter. As long as I’ve been around, always has been. But with the absence of blogs and blogging, I have a tendency to miss conversations. My work breaks don’t seem to line up or don’t have a Twitter conversation radar that beeps at me like a car reversing camera. So I and perhaps others, miss out on these conversations. We miss out on the opportunity to learn and share. Blog posts are better than Twitter at sticking around. We can dip into them when we can. So I think we owe it to our ideas to blog. I think blogs should be here to stay for a while longer at least.

This discussion had to happen. I’m glad it did. Because now we can move forward. I have loved #blogjune conversations this year. But it isn’t enough. Let’s keep the conversation going. If we make time for #blogjune, what’s stopping us from blogging throughout the year? I’m not advocating for daily blogging. Holy crap, no. But a thought or an idea fleshed out and reflected upon won’t hurt us.
The idea of a collaborate blog is a good one. Perhaps we can build on that idea. What about a website for a community of bloggers? May be much the same thing in practice, but I’m thinking about concept. A space for a cheer squad for professional conversation in this space.
We could also have moderated Twitter chats at various times each month. This way, those who wish to participate can put the dates and times in the diary.

What I want to focus on is the future. Where are our spaces? Where do students and new graduates see professional conversation when they ‘grow up’? All I can say now is, let’s do this. Let’s rock it. Let’s find a way and just do it.

Committing to the ‘other’ side of #blogjune


I write every day in my diary. I reflect often. And on days when I try to find something on the bottom of my handbag, I find a scrap a paper with a blog post idea scribbled on it. The purpose of #blogjune for me is now more about connecting and re-connecting, than the habit of writing. So this year, instead of attempting to publish a post every day this month, I will be committing to the ‘other’ side of #blogjune. The engagement side.

I contemplated participating in a ‘post every day’ capacity, but I’m learning to pause and consider the workload and commitments I have on my plate before adding something else. I have to be realistic about what I can achieve. Like many of us, I work full time. I also teach and have marking to do. I have another blog called Notebook + Tea. I’m unpacking and settling into a new home. I’m re-arranging my finances. I have ongoing executor duties for my late mother’s estate. I’m preparing to have surgery at the beginning of next month. I have research assistant work to progress. I couldn’t place the extra expectation of #blogjune on myself. I’m hard enough on myself as it is.

What I’ve found over the years I’ve participated in #blogjune is that my focus tends to be on publishing the next blog post, leaving me barely enough time (and energy) left over to really engage – read, comment and contribute to conversation on Twitter sparked by #blogjune posts, thoughts and ideas of the LIS community. This part of #blogjune is what I fell in love with in the beginning. Along the way, I fear I sort of forgot what #blogjune meant, both to the community and myself. I love being a part of this community. I love learning from you. I have enjoyed reading what you have all been up to this past year and what you’re thinking about these first couple of days of the challenge.

You’ll see a guest post or two from me on the NLS7 blog, but for the most part, my participation and commitment to #blogjune this year is to comment on at least one post every day this month. I want to let you know I’m around, I care and am interested in what you have to say. I appreciate your thoughts. And I’ll offer mine.

Be okay with not knowing the way


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?
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?

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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