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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.

How to kickstart your professional conversation


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
  • 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.

Changes to my Twitter account and activity


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. :)

Reflecting on the PLN concept: what is it?


It’s been some time since I last put pen to paper (so to speak) about the concept of a personal learning network (PLN). I came across the term about three years ago when it was just starting to gain momentum and earn ‘buzzword’ status. I thought it might be time to revisit my thoughts to see if anything has changed.

Why was I writing about personal learning networks three years ago? I was in my second year of the LIS Masters course when I started to venture more into the Twittersphere. I was a newbie librarian, dipping the toes in for the first time. I was (and still am) motivated to learn everything I possibly could, and so Twitter fast became my ‘go to’ platform to access information relevant to the information profession and where I made my first online connections with others in the community. A research project, which I did with some guidance and encouragement, looking into how a personal learning network develops for a newbie was actually one of the reasons for starting this blog. During this research project I documented my experience in establishing and building a personal learning network and presented my learning at the 5th New Librarians’ Symposium in September 2011. If you’re super keen, you can read these blog posts under the ‘PLN Project’ category.

At the time of the research project I did a literature review and since then have presented on the topic of PLNs. Has the concept of a PLN changed? No, not really. How people understand what they are, appears to have moved forward, which I believe is a good thing as we can now better understand the value and benefits of a PLN. There is more distinction between understanding the PLN and what is a PLE, or personal learning environment. Your PLN resides in the learning environment you create for yourself. Your PLN is made up of the people you connect with. And you use the tools chosen to be a part of your PLE in order to connect, interact and converse with your PLN.

A definition for a PLN I presented at NLS5 is a mish-mash of a number of definitions that didn’t seem to fit in isolation.

“a group of people with whom you connect to interact and exchange information resources; share knowledge, experience and ideas, collectively creating an informed guide to professional development opportunities and continual learning

(Klingensmith 2009; Berge & McElvaney 2009; Tobin 1998)

While I continue to agree with this definition, there are a few things missing that I’ve come to understand about personal learning networks. I may have implied or meant this with the definition but two words immediately come to mind that belong here – ‘support’ and ‘conversation’. There is definitely a ‘support’ element within personal learning networks. I remember I may have used the term ‘cheerleading squad’ in my NLS5 presentation to demonstrate this. But the word ‘support’ should be included in the definition, I think. Support doesn’t need to be in the professional sense, particularly as experienced in the library and information online professional community. Support can also be more personal and be related to non-professional interests and life happenings. This is perhaps one of the library and information community’s greatest strengths. And building a strong network means faster connections between each other’s professional knowledge when its needed.

Now, conversation. ‘Interact’ might be a more formal word to convey that a personal learning network – building, maintaining, participating in one, comprises of ongoing conversation. Serendipitous connections to people, information and knowledge happen with conversation. Following someone on Twitter or finding a re-tweet pop up from someone you follow, can lead to others aligned with a professional interest or field. A diverse network will have conversations about different things. A network doesn’t expand or strengthen without diversity. Conversations then, are an integral part to a thriving personal learning network.

I guess one thing which strikes me from this reflection is how informal a personal learning network has become for me. This is possibly a sign of having become comfy with the concept and the spaces in which I participate. It could also be a sign that since finishing my Masters I’ve realised there are other parts of my life (needing attention) I wish to share and so I’m better able to let go of the professional stuff from time to time and participate in other conversations.

What I think a personal learning network is geared towards and perhaps the reason for being, is the continual learning. Participants in personal learning networks are motivated, lifelong learners. This is what binds us and enables us to be big sharers of information and knowledge, but also big givers of support. A personal learning network then needs three things – conversation, mutual support and information to go around, which spur us on our own journeys and pathways in the pursuit of continual learning.

Building a career path….with Lego

Courtesy of Phillie Casablanca (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic) - http://www.flickr.com/photos/philliecasablanca/3354734116/

Courtesy of Phillie Casablanca (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Okay, not quite. But using Lego as some kind of analogy will help me to explain one of the biggest challenges I’ve come across as I’ve progressed through my library and information science Masters course. I remember, back in the days of starting out, thinking I had a fairly good idea of my career path. I thought I knew the kinds of building blocks I needed to: –
1. develop my knowledge, and
2. ensure I made an informed decision and/or confirm aspirations for my career path.

Little did I know I was actually thinking of big building blocks, like Duplo. I thought I could put a few Duplo together (areas of professional knowledge) and construct the necessary knowledge and experience together to establish a career.

My career construction now seems a whole lot harder. It’s intricate. It’s like playing with Lego and working out how all the pieces will fit together to build the kind of career I see for myself. I have no doubt some, not all, LIS students and new information professionals will also feel this way at one point or another early on in their career. Here’s why.

Perhaps like me, you’ve entered the LIS course thinking you’ve got it figured out. Why else would you have chosen to do the course unless you had a fairly good idea where you’d like to end up? That’s not to say I wasn’t open to other possibilities but I’m a person who doesn’t make these kinds of decisions lightly, and so I like to have solid justification for investing my time. Maybe you thought, ‘I’m going to work in academic libraries. I want to be a Liaison Librarian’. Sure, okay.

Then this happens…..all this cool stuff comes along. The difficult thing is, there’s so much cool stuff in this profession, so many avenues, so much to learn about. More than once I have felt like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of wonders and the possibilities are endless! Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful for the exposure my lecturers and others in my network have provided me throughout the course. It hit me the first time, probably a couple of years ago. Oh jolly crap. Crappity-crap…..crap.

All that reading you do during the LIS course and beyond, following everything and anything that catches your eye? How on Earth can you process it all, put the pieces together, when you’re pulled in all directions and exposed to a treasure trove of knowledge?!

Suddenly Duplo isn’t what you’re playing with anymore. Bits and pieces of information have become little pieces of Lego. All those articles, blog posts, reports, etc are small increments of information, which make sense on their own, but putting it all together to develop a working knowledge of an area takes time. The LIS course can only fit in so much. To become proficient in an area of professional interest or area relevant to a career direction worthy of exploring, takes much longer than any one subject. It takes more than a simple prescription of readings and assignments. There’s no way a career, a Lego structure, can come together all at once. The structure, the career you (and I) want, will need to be broken down into smaller bits, and themselves needing constructing with smaller pieces of Lego.

I’ve come up with a few suggestions, more like ideas as I don’t know if they work, but nonetheless I’d like to share to those who may be experiencing something similar. I write these tonight as ideas for both myself and anyone else needing them. I also need to write these out to convince myself that all is, and will be, okay. I’ll try these suggestions as well. I’m not just preaching here.

1. Relax, be patient.

Patience is not my forte. I can be patient with many things, but not with acquiring knowledge. I can’t process and build my knowledge fast enough. Relax. Yes, I need to do that. Chill. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

2. Talk to people, get a mentor.

You’re not alone. I strongly suggest participating in professional development and networking events, and getting involved with your chosen professional association or event committees. Being a NewGrads coordinator has assisted with my developing a network of peers and getting in touch with experience professionals. Participating in conversation on Twitter has eased the ‘isolation factor’ and has enabled me to establish a professional voice. I signed up for a peer mentoring scheme in my first year of the course, and to this day, I still catch up with her now and then. My mentor has been fabulous for guidance and bouncing ideas around, I honestly cannot thank her enough.

3. Target your reading and exploration or define little research projects.

I have a long list of areas of interest. In my experience, it’s all become jumbled up and I’ve ended up maybe confusing myself. It’s a good thing to read widely, but I’d suggest focusing on one area of interest for about 3 – 6 months or so and see what you come up with. Create a notebook in Evernote to save items worth keeping. Review it regularly. Or perhaps you’d like to set yourself a mini research project? Determine a couple of research questions and seek out information relating to the area to help develop your knowledge. This doesn’t mean to disregard resources and articles, etc in other areas, but just focus on one or two for a bit. I’m trying to focus on research data management and innovation at the moment. Innovation is taking over as my interest gains momentum. It also happens to be an area I’d like to explore in a research project next semester, so it makes sense for me to invest some time here.

4. Reflect, take time out.

….but there’s so much to learn! I know. My goodness, don’t I know it. I’m at the base of a salad fork right now, three pathways I can see myself taking. But I cannot stress this enough – take time out to reflect. Create a career journal. Write often. My career journal has had frequent visits from me lately. I’ve gained value from exploring my interests, finding out where they might be coming from. I’ve tried to understand some motivations behind my interest in innovation, for example. Even if you don’t eventually pursue a path, exploring some underlying reasons why you were interested in an area may indicate a common thread of the type of work you’re really seeking in your career.

5. Feel the fear and do it anyway

My (awesome) manager kindly lent me a book of the same title. Basically, life is a series of learning experiences. If an opportunity comes up and you think there are some lessons to be learnt, go for it. It’s all experience. No matter what, you need to have faith that you will handle whatever that comes your way. We all have our own pathways. (I need to tell myself that quite regularly.)

Anyone else, new or experienced information professionals, wish to share their thoughts, experiences and ideas about how to build knowledge and experience towards a career we want?

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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