Our latest feature on #uklibchat links into our recent discussion on librarians and research. Barbara Sen, currently a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, tells us of her experiences in moving from LIS practice to academia. Thank you to Barbara for sharing her experiences and tips with us.
Moving to the Dark Side: Practitioner to Academic Practice
I came into the LIS profession quite late, though I had been a library assistant when I was in my teens. I did my Masters at MMU when I was in my early forties and immediately after I graduated I managed to get three part time jobs! I was worried that being an older graduate it would be harder for me to get a permanent post but I really recommend it. You get a broad range of experience on your CV, it helps you to decide what you would like to do, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.
One of those jobs was with the Health & Safety Executive, one was as a part time Research Assistant on a project investigating flexible working, and one was teaching at MMU on the Database Design module. They all gave me valuable experience and set me off on a future path to being an academic. The down side of having so many part time jobs was that it was very tiring. Each job required different skills, and whilst I was learning so much, doing each one was exhausting, so I was pleased when after a year when a full time permanent post came along in the Health & Safety Executive.
I prefer some autonomy and found the Civil Service too restrictive so after a year I moved into the NHS managing a library service. I loved this role as there was plenty of opportunity for development within the NHS at that time, and I could shape the service how I wanted it. The health sector is very dynamic. I found health librarians, like other sectors, to be highly skilled, innovative, and always willing to push the boundaries. They love learning, and engage in research. I loved so much about my job, developing the collection, researching quite complex medical problems, and delivering training sessions to all kinds of health professionals – I really enjoyed the training aspect.
Whilst in the health service I had to write my first strategic plan for my service. I loved bringing stakeholders together, getting people involved in the planning, and setting a vision for my service for the future.
Shortly after this I saw a job advertised in CILIP Update for a part time Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to work on the Strategic Management module and the Collection Development module. As I had been an Acquisitions Librarian at the Health & Safety Executive, I felt that I was really well suited to this role and I thought I could probably fit it around my health service job. We had extended opening hours, so I could do more of the late and weekend shifts to make up for the time I might be teaching.
Well I got the job, and the rest is history. I loved it so much that when a full-time post became available I moved into academia full-time. LJMU at that time did not have a strong research culture, and as I started to become more involved in the academic context I realised how much I enjoyed the research aspects of the position, so I knew that would have to move to develop this side of things.
A job came up at the University of Sheffield. I didn’t get it. I didn’t even get shortlisted. I spoke to a lecturer at another LIS Department and he suggested that I needed to publish much more, so I started to do small research projects related to my work, and my teaching areas. I managed to get a few things published and I also got invited to work on a number of small projects, one consultancy, and one a Knowledge Transfer Project working with a small business. I made sure that I published the outcomes from these so they would enhance my CV. I also embarked on a PhD part-time. Then a post for a Lecturer came up again at Sheffield, and this time the subject areas were more closely aligned to my areas of expertise. To my surprise, this time, I got the job.
I have been at Sheffield now for six years. Since then, so many opportunities have come up. I love the teaching, and the research – you can’t separate them, one feeds into another, and really I think that’s how it should be. In academia we have to remain relevant to LIS practice. Most of my research has practical applications.
It is much more difficult now to get a job in academia without a PhD -my advice to anyone who is thinking of making the move is to get the PhD. There are more opportunities now to do a PhD part-time, and also by publication. Instead of the usual 100,000 word full research project, you submit a 10,000- 15,000 word report based around previously published papers that you have written.
I must say, Sheffield is the most challenging job I have ever had. The up side is that you have autonomy, and flexibility. There is always something new, and something new to explore. The down side is that I have never worked so hard or such long hours. I find myself working every evening, and every weekend. It is very rewarding especially when you see students getting on and doing well, but the job is very demanding indeed.
If you thing you want to make the transition from practitioner to academic, then start to write and get published. Every article counts. Gain some experience at training, or teaching – make sure you can cope with that. A few people I know like the idea, but then cave in when they have to stand up in front of a group of people and deliver a talk or a lecture. Develop a specialism, something you are known for, and think how you can become an expert in that. A friend of mine started a blog, and soon became widely followed on that topic because of his blog. Go to conferences, and network, great to get known and great experience, of one aspect of academic life. Get researching! We work in an evidence based profession. Publish from your Masters. Supervisors are usually very happy to publish with you at this point. Research in the work place is valid. Don’t be shy of putting work based research out into academic journals. Find opportunities to work with others on joint projects to build confidence. Explore different research methods and approaches, it will build your confidence.
Join research groups such as the Library and Information Research Group LIRG or the Library & Information Science Research Coalition At this point, I will also give a shameless plug for a book that I am co-editing with Maria Grant and Hannah Spring: Research, Evaluation and Audit, published by Facet. This book is designed for people who might be new to research.
Your location matters. Despite all the hype about world cities and instant communication, our lives are still constrained and enriched by our immediate surroundings. This blog post is intended to spark some consideration of geographic information in libraries, following on the topic of open access and relating to the topic of visual resources.
Maps are one of the oldest means of writing (abstract representation of things and their relationships with graphic symbols). Archaeological evidence shows a local town plan from Anatolia dated to 6200BC, and many clay tablets from Mesopotamia dating back millennia show other maps of larger regions. Mapping changed as instruments developed and printing presses replaced manuscript copies. The mass market for maps in Europe coincides with the introduction of the printing press.
Originally focused on navigation (by road or ocean), maps expanded in the nineteenth century to present any kind of ‘thematic’ information (such as the economy, population, poverty or disease). The legend around the 1854 cholera maps for London is a common story of the application of spatial analysis (seeing a pattern from the mapped evidence). However John Snow actually proceeded in his analysis, the highly detailed poverty maps of London from the 1880s demonstrate how mapping moved into new realms. Charles Booth and John Snow are now made out to be pioneers of a geographic information technology, when they were much more focused on the content of their maps. In the nineteenth century, as much as the present, maps are a part of science and politics. They present a hypothesis, support an argument, or allow a researcher to examine patterns.
People have been lying with maps long before statistics were invented as a part of modern statecraft. Maps have to lie because they simplify, symbolize, and snapshot a huge complex reality. The hand-drawn map, and its printed successor, are graphic artefacts, and a prime part of the visual resources that libraries manage. Map libraries are distinctive however because they organize their holdings by location, not author, date of publication, or the regular cataloguing keywords. Also, geographic location is considered a ‘fact’ by the courts in most countries, making the extension of artistic expression a bit forced. Map makers assert copyright for their choice of symbols, selection of information, and other design components. Due to the rather tight control exerted by Ordnance Survey (OS) on the maps of Great Britain, the Open Street Map movement began in the UK before expanding rapidly worldwide. Issues of open access to geographic information is a huge policy issue with many countries announcing U-turns in recent years (OS now is paid by Government to provide open access).
The contrasting policy of freely disseminated geographic information applies to the US government. A comprehensive street map was developed in the 1980s for the 1990 US Census (called TIGER). Once released for use, the first web mapping applications (such as MapQuest) could emerge without the large cost of digitizing and data entry.
In an era of linked data, geographic location is one of the most common linkages. Recall that Steve Jobs demonstrated a geographic search (nearest Starbucks) when introducing the iPhone in 2007. Of course to pull up Google Maps invokes a huge infrastructure of geographic information that took centuries to put into place. Geographic references can be used to connect people to the environment, as well as economic flows to the infrastructure that supports them. The basic vision conceives of a series of map layers for each location, each layer derived from a different source, based on different science or administrative rules, but capable of being integrated with the rest.
The technology termed ‘Geographic Information Systems’ (GIS) emerged over the past few decades, originating in the 1960s with urban and natural resource applications in US and Canada. A GIS organizes various themes as ‘map layers’ in a geographically referenced database. Queries can extend beyond the object itself to nearby objects, either topologically (connection-based) or geometrically (distance-based). All the different themes in one place can be related (as in connecting the pollution in a well to the health of the local residents). Much more complex models can predict floods across a landscape, the course of wildfires, or the dispersion of air pollution. GIS is also used to analyse the pulse of traffic in cities, the delivery of parcels and other services. The breadth of potential applications is huge, spurred by the interdisciplinary content now amassed by GIS providers. Around the world, portals to geographic data resources have been established, following the lead established by the Clinton administration in USA. To a great extent, this represents the Web 1.0 view of dissemination of public data resources. Initially the data providers were national mapping agencies (such as Ordnance Survey in UK, US Geological Survey and Geosciences Australia). The content of these portals is now subject to ISO standards for structure and metadata. Recently the EU programme INSPIRE has required additional harmonization for EU members, a project that has cost millions of pounds.
Alongside the national portals, the larger bulk of data is held in more dispersed hands, mostly local governments but also private corporations. Local authorities work at the finest scale, with detailed information to support permits, taxes, and day-to-day operations. They maintain equipment and installations like lamp-posts, drains, and unglamourous necessities of modern life. Each of these objects gets described with a coordinate in a geographic database. In industry, some require geographic search to manage resources such as forestry, agriculture or mining. Other industries use GIS to reduce costs, often by modelling logistics.
GIS users also consume vast amounts of imagery and sensor data from air photographs and satellite images. These images are visible as a background in Google Maps and their competitors. Forty years ago, the first experimental remote sensing satellites were launched, providing images with pixels of 80 meters. Now the commercial satellites can provide 2 meter resolution or finer. The difference is immense, since there are 1600 times more pixels (in the switch from 80 m to 2 m). Computer storage has become cheaper and more plentiful, but we manage to fill it up. More and more nations have invested in earth observation (EO) satellites, once the preserve of just a handful of countries. Last month, Vietnam joined the list (with a satellite built by French industry with substantial subsidy from the French government). In the next few years the number of EO satellites will more than double. In addition to satellite data sources, air photography has remained important for its ability to fly under clouds and at higher resolution in urban areas. Recently, terrestrial camera systems have become popular with the uptake of services like Google StreetView. These systems can also carry laser distance measurement devices (called LiDAR) that can measure millimeter accuracy with gigabytes of data on urban streetscapes. As more and more sensors are available, the need for GIS increases just to manage the sources.
GIS software developed in the 1970s, largely designed for specialists. The market remains a niche one, with a few big players (notably Esri from California, Bentley, Intergraph, and some competition from the open source sector) licensing packages for substantial annual fees. Access to geographic analysis for the mass market has become a key element of the large web corporations, notably Google. The model is one of services, such as the shortest path provided by Google Maps between two addresses.
More recently, the flow of data has become two-directional. Web users contribute their geo-tagged information to build data resources that compete with the top-down traditional providers. Open Street Map is often quoted, but there are specialist groups around the world building resources for plants, animals, or whatever interests them. Despite fears that non-authoritative data sources might confuse more than they inform, the data quality of crowd-sourced information has proven to be at least as high as official mapping in certain (more urbanized) areas.
How did this happen? First of all, the computer, which used to be hard to access, is now more universally available. More specifically, of course, geographic positioning has become much cheaper and widespread as well. Surveying technology used to be time-consuming and meticulous, often taking days for a large crew just to extend the measurement network by a few kilometers. Now a hand-held device can measure quite accurately in seconds due to the Global Positioning System (GPS). Originally developed for military applications, GPS has become a term for not just the measurement of location, but the whole suite of databases and visualization tools that accompany the device. The consequence is that every mobile device has the capacity to receive geographic information about its surroundings, and to contribute additional details or corrections. Current users expect the map to be built around them, rather than the tedious process of locating yourself on the map.
It is hard to sum up a whole field in a few words, but here is my definition of GIS:
“Geographic Information System (GIS) – The organized activity by which people
• measure aspects of geographic phenomena and processes;
• represent these measurements, usually in the form of a computer database, to emphasize spatial themes, entities, and relationships;
• operate upon these representations to produce more measurements and to discover new relationships by integrating disparate sources; and
• transform these representations to conform to other frameworks of entities and relationships.
These activities reflect the larger context (institutions and cultures) in which these people carry out their work. In turn, the GIS may influence these structures.” (Chrisman 1997, Exploring GIS, New York: Wiley and Sons, p. 5)
The key trick is converting from one view to another; taking points and interpolating a surface or bringing environmental data into an urban analysis. The field is prospering, delivering results in many applications. One recent study estimates a huge impact on the world economy with value added of about $100 billion per year.
(illustration: http://www.oxera.com/Oxera/media/Oxera/images/Oxera-Geo-Services.jpg )
Where do librarians fit into this current era? In some research institutions, the map librarian has become a GIS specialist, curating a collection of digital data, and providing access to tools (software). Some work on digital libraries focused on using the locational element to index all library holdings. For example, connecting novels to the places they describe, and tracking artists across the landscapes they painted. Still, most GIS these days remains in specialist hands, used to manage cities or reduce cost in logistics for enterprises.
Nick Chrisman has been working in the field of geographic information for 41 years, developing innovative techniques to analyse and display information about the earth and the people who inhabit it. He is currently Head of Geospatial Sciences at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. As a programmer at Harvard’s Computer Graphics Lab in the 1970s, he was part of a team which developed early computerised mapping systems – what we now call GIS (Geographic Information Systems). He has worked as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Washington, and the Université Laval. (ca.linkedin.com/pub/nick-chrisman/5/977/a03/ )
Old Maps Online (shares digitized images from many countries) http://project.oldmapsonline.org/collections
British Library (scanned collection of great depth) http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/webres/scanned/
David Rumsey’s map collection (mostly North American, but some other regions, very well presented) http://www.davidrumsey.com/
Vision of Britain (1801-2001); download for UK Federation universities only. http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/maps/
What is GIS? (hosted by ESRI) http://www.esri.com/what-is-gis
Open Source Geo http://www.osgeo.org/
Economic value of Geo Services (Oxera commissioned by Google) http://www.oxera.com/Publications/Reports/2013/What-is-the-economic-impact-of-Geo-services-.aspx
The next #uklibchat will be on
The topic for our next chat will be one that is relevant to librarians and professionals who deal with visual resources, images, building plans, maps, videos and I’m sure there are more…
If you want to contribute to the conversation on this, #uklibchat will be running on
Tuesday 2nd April 2013 from 6.30pm – 8.30pm BST.
If you want to add questions to our agenda, you can do so here. A guide to taking part in #uklibchat is available here and you can always tweet us @uklibchat or email email@example.com with any questions.
We look forward to chatting with you!
1. Do you think your workload has increased in recent months or years?
- Definitely – fewer people in the team plus tasks get added at each appraisal but not often removed
- With new initiatives in literacy and the importance of reading for pleasure, school librarians have a greatly increased workload.
- So effectively – with increased interest comes increased workload?
- Yes. The increased interest is great but means we need to manage our workload really effectively to cope.
- Most definitely. Half the staff as last year and last remaining library assistant keeps getting moved by bosses to other roles
- Do budgets affect the workload in libraries? What do you think? Less money= less staff, more tasks each one?
- Definitely increased! Less staff, less money for labour-saving resources, more pressure to keep up results!
- Also find it frustrating that organisational culture is often anti productivity tools even free ones like http://t.co/wfOaJ0rn5f
- Nirvana has only limited free features I think – time management seems to be something people pay for
- Solo librarian – lack of budget for additional staff definitely increases workload, no-one to delegate to
- While volunteering at the national library association, I have noticed librarians don’t have time for extra activities and lately the lack of time grows into the lack of motivation.
- Yes! Now we’ve finally got more librarians after being denied the money for them for years I’m not allowed to coast! I don’t mind the extra work though as is all interesting stuff, apart from endless checking of reading lists. I think when I was doing ALL the cataloguing & a lot of desk work etc. it meant no time for other projects. Now I do
- I’ve always been able to cope with even a quite busy workload, problem though is stress, even with light workload. The key I think is a strong vision and set of goals (i.e. plan) for the future, based on good information
- I don’t mind the workload as far I know it is worth it.
- I would say my workload has changed rather than increased and become more variable. previously had far more control over my work, now I’m handed it down in projects from on high, if they run out, tough. Hate it
2. What is your biggest challenge in managing your workload?
- Managing the day to day with the strategic, reacting vs planning & still managing not to burn out a big challenge
- Setting priorities
- Having to spend so much time on the desk as no library assistants & being constantly in meetings & sorting out technology!
- Everything concerning customers. They must always notice that everything is working right despite huge workloads. Have you ever noticed the face of users when they see the circulation desk so busy? Some of them even say: Sorry!! Some users even apologised to me/staff for making me/us work too much!! I was surprised to see users who are so polite or “compassive”: “Sorry for all the work I made you do!!”
- Saying no to ‘extra-curricular’ things. I’m doing a lot of fun projects but lately feeling I’ve taken on too much
- Agree on that. It seems extra things are more fun and inspiring. But you really need to concentrate on your work.
- I think it is important to split time management skills for work and extra curricular – I use different skills at work to at home
- Biggest challenge is carefully mapping out my workload – then that all going out the window when an urgent request comes in!
- Being able to set daily goals and seeing the point of what you are doing
- Balancing interesting professional work with routine tasks essential to keep library functioning
- Biggest challenge to managing workload is making sure that there is time to fit everything in, and that nothing gets missed
- Estimating the time that project tasks will take. I have a tendency to underestimate and end up taking on too much at once
- Sounds familliar, especially projects with large team, depends on pace of others & politics, can be much slower than think
- Access to resources. Don’t get right tools for the job because rest of organisation doesn’t get what we need/do
- Prioritising, knowing when to say “no” and the never ending stream of emails (gah!)
- When to say no is difficult for solo librarian as no can mean poor judgement on whole service so its tough to say but need to learn
- It’s not easy, but better to do a smaller number of things well than do lots of things half-arsed
- Remaining enthusiastic for all aspects of the role not just new exciting things & allocating time accordingly!
- Got to stage where I have lots of beneficial projects to work on but routine desk stuff gets in way (and too few others to do it)
- Getting important but not urgent stuff done e.g. strategic planning, important administration
- Biggest challenge can be keeping track of multiple deadlines for multiple projects and sometimes all the work to do at once
3. Do you use any particular tools or techniques for managing your workload?
- I did use TeuxDeux for lists but they’re going to start charging for it, have gone back to pen & paper lists for the time being!
- A boring one, but: Outlook! Outlook 2010 in particular has some great productivity features: I use the task scheduling heavily
- Outlook calendar and task manager. Shared calendar makes planning much easier!
- Outlook Calendar is work default, also Evernote, but really like best good old fashioned notebook & lists!!
- I find a good old fashioned written to-do list at my desk works wonders! Especially when combined with post-its. And gmail calendar is invaluable – especially when synced across devices etc.
- I seem to have taken to writing on my hand rather than on Post It’s lately – can’t misplace my hand!
- Worth scheduling important work into your Outlook calendar as “busy”, so you don’t get meeting requests, etc
- Or…even better mark it “private appointment” – you are then pretty much guaranteed uninterrupted time
- No such luxury here and big open plan office so people interrupt if they see you sitting there
- How do you cope with colleagues’ conversations? Do you ever ask them to stop so you can work? (No worries if can’t say.)
- Headphones & music
- I’m very old school (not in the music sense) and need silence to work. Perhaps earplugs
- I hate noise. It gets me totally distracted. I can’t do anything if it’s noisy and loudly
- I wish I could find a good solution for this. Sometimes I find myself being talkative.
- The check-lists always help to have a feeling that your job is moving on.
- Also, worth keeping a list of what you’ve done, as it helps remind you that you are actually achieving stuff
- Like that idea – rather than getting bogged down in what’s not done – occasionally add done tasks to to do just to tick off
- As much as I embrace technology, paper and pen still beckon at times
- I use Omnifocus for task management
- 30 years of reading around the topic == good understanding of the Western approach recently looked at GTD, it works well
- At work I use Outlook and pen and paper lists, for study and personal life I use Remember the Milk http://t.co/lkcaRRGG3Q
- John Adair on time management; Manage Your Mind,- Butler & Hope (ch. on self-management); GTD works well under stress
- I use to do list software in my personal life but Outlook folders & paper at work
- You can even use a management/ business planning approach – psychology essentially the same as for self-management
- I find sitting down at the end of the day and working out what I want to achieve the next day really useful
- Really like Moleskine (or similar) weekly planner. Diary one side, ruled on the other for my to do list
- I also have a sort of GTD system with one of those expanding folders that can chuck everything in & review weekly
- Librarians would get an opportunity to put their their skills to good use with GTD managing the repository (a key component)
- Not forgetting the original classic (would be shot if did) – Ivy’s list http://t.co/47VxjxjT5f, https://t.co/RGwtj6tORu
- My favourite tool for managing my workload is the word “no”. As I age, I’m getting ever better at using this tool
- I never say ‘no’ to one of my students, though. Ever. I always prioritise their needs
- I’d say main tools used are my email calendar, reminders in said calendar and sometimes paper calendars. Also planning on paper
- So much better at prioritising workload after many years – not about who shouts loudest
4. How can you prioritise tasks?
- Strategic priorities with big impact, can it be done quickly?, is it fun? (important to enjoy your job!)
- Current approach is writing list of 5 (manageable) things I need to achieve that day and focusing on those – not too overwhelming
- Use GTD quite heavily to prioritise e.g. Importance, energy, time available divided by context
- I usually go with the importance/urgency/effort grid!
- Prioritise the customer first, then management tasks, then jobs outside job description I’ve been told to do, then extracurriculars
- Prioritise by importance – also get done first things that can be done v quickly
- But by postponing things you can’t do very quickly you get a large pile of them
- Agree, but if can get things done that only take 1 or 2 minutes then they are out of way and concentrate on bigger things!
- I always love to do things I can do in a short period of time. But it is not always the best option. Sometimes you just have to do at least one long-term thing first
- Definitely – ranking in order of importance/urgency all the way
- Depends on my schedule. Certain things are non-changeable scheduled tasks, like desk duty and meetings
- I’d like to find some time to look at Axiology (not done so far yet – could do with a good library
- Mainly I look at work in terms of urgency (nearest deadlines) and importance. Some is unconscious or practised choices
5. What do you do when you are asked/told to do tasks that are not part of your job either as a one off or permanently?
- Depends what it is! If it fits with my skill set & I can add value, I’d say yes. If not, then I’d try to push back if possible
- Keep a list of those jobs, as they could be used as ammunition later on for getting regraded
- Usually go ahead and treat it as good experience as long as doesn’t prevent job being done too
- My job description says: do your direct job duties + everything your boss says to do
- Because highly competitive teams exchange roles in order to get the goals of the organisation. – you must be flexible
- Difficult depending on who asks…I try to say no unless I have a good reason
- Depends on if it can add value to overall Lib & info service, if its a way to draw people in
- Depends: is it reasonable; do existing workload/targets/deadlines allow space/time; what’s in it for you?
- Usually say we’re understaffed so can you get someone else? Funny but that never works. Must learn to just say no.
- Generally try to be helpful, but depends on task (complexity, competing priorities, time involved etc.)
- With one-off things it depends on the capacity I have and how disruptive it will be to other work also who’s asking. generally if I can help with brief one off things I will, specially if it’s educating colleagues in how to do stuff.
- It can however be difficult if for example – I’m supposed to get a formal project sheet for every project.. If a manager gives me a project with no project sheet I’m not supposed to do it. But you can’t argue with a manager. However it means you don’t know what the remit of the project is or if you really can afford the time.
- With permanent duties fortunately I have the get out clause I can only do projects handed to me these are by definition my duties
- Good and bad sides to getting a reputation for being helpful: Draw the line at things that are unrelated/another department’s issue
- I find I learn to steer clear of people who offload work (not always easy though)
- It’s not people offloading so much as students/staff targeting for assistance with simple things
- I have always done tasks not part of my job and would actively encourage others to do same – if you want to move up that is. And I’m grateful to those who offloaded on me rightly or wrongly back in the day (or were just incompetent)
- If the task is challenging, then it’s OK. But if it’s only something the others don’t want to do.
- Agreed, but it’s important not to be taken advantage of, esp if other colleagues are capable of doing the work too
- Not sure I agree – it depends if the being taken advantage of leads somewhere good – sells your skill and competence
- I usually try to be flexible. I’d rather do it and learn from the experience.
6 Are libraries likely to create a multi tasking work environment where the staff are requested to do many tasks at the same time?
- In my case, a big YES as I was requested to multi task many times!!
- The front desk usually is anyway, it is wise to do one thing at once
- Nature of job is multitasking – dealing with enquiries/helping users while getting on with longer tasks
- On issue desk (often mistaken for reception) you can guarantee being interrupted doing one thing for another
- Already feel like I multi task quite a bit, lots of varied things going on especially on help desk
- If you´re a solo librarian -as I am- you already multi task. Multi tasking on balance good as long as you are not spread too thin!
- The time runs faster when multitasking
- I absolutely agree with those who are saying the enquiry desk demands multitasking. You can’t answer questions linearly
- The trick is to realise that the interruptions are as or more important than the task you’re doing between them!
- I think by default most librarians do many tasks at the same time and more so as there is a squeeze on budgets and staffing
7 Would you appreciate training on managing your workload, or do you think it is a skill you are born with?
- I’ve attended time management courses, but they’ve never addressed service-led roles. Someone please offer one!
- Decision making I think is a worthwhile underpinning skill to time management – a lot written on it
- I think it’s a skill you develop over time and with practice, though courses can hel
- Think it’s trainable…Can learn a lot from things like this sharing tips & ideas too
- Both. I also believe the values/education at home, school are quite important: clean your mess, put things back…
- Can know how to manage work load but lack of similarly skilled staff or poor organisation structure can still negative impact workload
- The keyword would be ‘self-discipline’
- I think it’s something you learn by doing, but training could give helpful ideas if new to it or having difficulties.
- Having managed heaps of people my observation is that some people are naturals, others have needed telling what to do and when
- I need a training in not-to-do-things-perfectly. It would save my time a lot.
- That’s an incredibly valid point! We’re trained in precision, yet to complete all tasks we must let that go. Is hard!
- I think training in planning can help but really it’s about devising the tools that work for you – be it calendars electric or paper or using excel, filing systems, project charts etc
Q 8 : What is the best advice someone has ever given you on managing your workload?
- ”If you’re juggling too many balls, it’s OK to drop some of them”
- I was once told to make both a to do and a ta da (ta da! thing done!) list. It works wonders!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes other people are our greatest tool!
- Prioritising the tasks is the key–Get rid of menial tasks very quickly
- That Dilbert cartoon with the speck representing your job comparable with planet earth. Helped with perspective
- SO true. When you have that perspective, deadlines suddenly feel less “dead” and more “line”. Then they’re moveable
- I think that the maxim is that it is the journey that counts (not so much the destination)
- I’d say the opposite: remember that it doesn’t matter how you get there, make sure you remember what you want to achieve
- Also: still make time to have breaks, important to look after yourself and not burn out! or then nothing gets done!
- Not sure anyone’s given me advice I remember, really it’s about practice, planning and keeping yourself organised.
- also remembering you can’t do everything and sometimes one has to say no. I rarely do though.
- I’d say not just getting rid of menial tasks but sometimes getting on with what can be done rather than what can’t
On 21 February, #uklibchat did a special session on Librarians and Personality, which was linked to a session at Library Camp London on the same topic. The chat was very well attended and got #uklibchat trending on UK Twitter!
Because of the volume of participation in the session, this summary includes a selection of tweets rather than all of them. Please see #uklibchat’s Twitter archive for all tweets from the discussion. You can search by Twitter name.
1) How would you describe your personality in reality?
@HelenMaryH: I did the test 10 yrs ago and was ESTJ but thought I was more INTJ. I did something like this with a room full of lawyers with colour types – you’d think lawyers were a type but the colours were more or less evenly distributed!
@LibraryEms: I failed at the personality test, kept giving me completely different answers. Seem to be 50/50 introvert/extravert. My problem with those tests is I ponder too much about what each question means . Maybe that means I’m a ‘ponderer’
@poetryghost: Hmmm not sure what to say: Loud Silly Creative Passionate Friendly. Was perfect for children’s lib, but I’m more general now. On the test on the agenda I got erm ESFJ “the hostess” sociable friendly etc. I would not argue with ESFJ to be honest. Seems reasonable. I can be introverted if I’m unnerved by a situation but rarely
@RosieHare: If we’re talking ‘types’, I’m an ENFP, which I think is fairly correct. Others have verified this for me also! Definitely extraverted and get my energy and excel in situations when I’m around others
@Annie_Bob: according to the test I took the other day I’m an ISFJ – can’t remember exactly what all that meant but introvert is right. I prefer to listen rather than talk, in most things I’m organised & methodical but others not (all my clothes are on the floor)
@AmyJoyHolvey: I’m sociable and find I’m happiest when in groups or working closely with others- Test was very accurate = ENFJ
@_joelfe: I’d describe myself as quiet but not shy. Self-contained. In Myers Briggs terms I’m an INFJ, which is exactly me and hasn’t changed in last 12 years.
@theatregrad: I’m loud, talkative, very competitive, stubborn, a little scatterbrained and rather over emotional. The personality test told me I was ESTP which has some truth. Definitely extroverted as I am a former drama student.
@LottieMSmith: I think pretty service-orientated, like to help people, perceptive and looking at the bigger picture and the future than details. I am an INTP, which I think is pretty accurate. Although I am quite introspective in my personal life, professionally I am more able to network etc. via experience
@pmshort Friendly and outgoing, I think!
@nckyrnsm I was ISFJ which is about right I think. Definitely introvert and judging, but other two very close to 50/50
@BishopWalshLib: I’m an administrator who wants to be a seller – which as a school librarian is quite good. I do a lot of “selling” books in talks.
@SimonXIX: I would self-define as a thinker. Though I’ve gotten a lot more outgoing over the past year especially. The test said I was an ENTJ. Which I’m not sure about. I’m also neat and organised. Which fits the librarian stereotype. But again I was lot more borderline-OCD a few years ago
A lot of participants talked about how they thought their personality has changed over time:
- @preater: Recently did an MBTI & came out ENFP but am about 50:50 on the extraversion scale, not super-extraverted. That said, I’ve worked on extraversion the the last 2 or 3 years, was more of an “I” when I was younger.
- @poetryghost: I think that’s often true. I was an introvert in school because I was bullied, have changed with experiences
- @SimonXIX: Same here. I was so much quieter and shyer a few years ago. Librarianship has been the making of me. (for me) It’s not something I’ve actively worked on. Just a consequence of my development and the people around me
- @preater: I worked on it because I knew I needed to be more E for work, networking etc
- @KrisWJ: I agree, found I’ve become more extroverted because work has required it
- @LibrarySherpa: @SimonXIX is right on point with this: “Librarianship has been the making of me.” Once you’ve made it here, you’re family. While I think ESTJ is spot on for me now, I think it’s important to realize that it can change. Would have been diff yrs ago
- @HelenMaryH: I am different to when I took the test 10 yrs ago – a lot less judging and a lot more feeling I think
- @spoontragedy: My test was ESTJ. I think I’ve got more extroverted as I got older, always been quite responsible & a planner. I think ESTJ is quite accurate for me right now but like @LibrarySherpa I think it can & will change.
@tomroper: Can anyone offer a scientific basis for these types? I have yet to be convinced; seems more like astrology to me
- @SimonXIX: I agree with you. I’m not 100% sold on Jung’s theory or 20th Century psychology in general
- @tomroper: Freud much more solid, IMHO
- @LibraryEms: introvert, strict, humourless, rule-oriented, detail-oriented
- @sarahlmasters: booklover = lots of reading = glasses (or hidden contacts)
- @KrisWJ: the shushing spinster librarian in her twinset & glasses is a favourite stereotype, v unimaginative!
- @preater: Scherdin (1994) says the classic libn type is ISTJ/INTJ, to me that seems more of a “cataloger” type whereas libn is broader. Scherdin bases this on MBTIs of library workers.
2) What is the stereotypical personality of a librarian, and is there truth to that stereotype?
Unsurprisingly, few people thought there was much in this stereotype. Some thought this was a product of changing times, as much as inaccurate stereotyping.
- @RosieHare: The more I’ve looked into types and seen people’s results, I’m less inclined to think stereotypes are prevalent.
- @SimonXIX: The stereotype is currently changing. From that of hair-bunned strict spinster to youngish techie kind of person. To some extent, there is no ‘current’ stereotype of librarians since IMHO librarians have been pushed back in the culture
- @pmshort: When I was young, librarians could be strict and forbidding!
- @LottieMSmith: Perhaps used to be easier to be quiet and a non-forward facing librarian as less need for advocacy/teaching/networking etc.
- @clareangela: introverts shouldn’t be drawn to corporate/legal librarianship. Unless they want to be in tears every day *controversial face*
- @HelenKielt: I visit a lot of public branches through my work and meet ALL types of personalities.
- @LibrarySherpa: I do not believe in a stereotypical librarian personality. Only common denominators which our profession brought us together
- @HelenKielt: it’s definitely the variety of people involved that make librarianship an attractive profession
- @ASLIBInfo: In Managing Info mag we compared the personality of libs. to those born in the year of the snake: influential, motivated, insightful
3) How do you think social media affects how introverts engage with the wider profession?
Some people were not comfortable with making a distinction between introverts and extroverts. However, most agreed that social media was very positive in helping people interact and engage.
- @SimonXIX: I don’t believe in the introversion/extroversion distinction. Certainly it’s too broad a distinction to be useful. That said, I do think social media has had a positive effect on my ability to engage with people. More confidence now
- @LibraryEms: As far as I understand, there’s a difference btw introversion & being shy? Introverts can be good at networking too
- @AgentK23: yes it does. imagine people who get terribly shy, or go red when in group, something like uklibchat lets ppl interact.
- @HelenMaryH: it’s fantastic, much easier to engage with people you don’t know from behind a screen – I’m not a natural networker
- @KrisWJ: I find it easier to start talking to complete strangers than I would if face to face
Many people found social media helped them make the most of real life networking opportunities:
@LottieMSmith: Social media helps me to network IRL as I can socialize with conference participants before events etc. Def an icebreaker
- @Annie_Bob: I’m the same, can be much more confident online than at a conference etc.
- @preater: that’s very interesting, the ‘So you are X on twitter’ opener.
- @LottieMSmith: yep I find it gives me a basis on which to hang an introduction (often the hardest bit of networking for me!)
Participants talked about how people’s personalities on social networking platforms differed from their personalities in real life.
- @Annie_Bob: I’m more extroverted online than I am offline. Perhaps because of the extra time to reflect before speaking?
- @preater: suspect it’s much easier to engage with the wider profession – I find a lot of people seem E online but in real life very I.
- @AgentK23: I wonder if my IRL personality matches my twitter personality, what do you guys think?
Many people felt social media had really helped them engage with the wider profession:
- @spoontragedy: Social media certainly opened up a whole world for me in terms of professional engagement & meeting ppl from different sectors
- @HelenKielt: social media enables you to connect with the library community at large, without it we would be a much more insular profession
Some people had qualifiers to add:
- @clareangela: Online is perfect for hiding behind. Not good for introverts. Need personal interaction to maintain social skills.
- @poetryghost: Should we not be defining which social media? I’m not sure facebook makes anyone more extroverted & interactive, twitter maybe
- @LibrarySherpa: From my point of view over here on the other side of the pond, wondering if any of these points are also cultural differences
4) Do you think certain personality types are suited to different fields of library work?
Opinion was quite divided on this question. Some people thought emphatically not. There was a discussion of whether personality was a valid consideration in the interview process.
@tomroper: I hope not. I’m interviewing tomorrow. I am emphatically not looking for a specific personality, but skills, experience, ideas. Which raises a question, do those of you who think that ‘personality’ is measurable agree with testing in selection for jobs?
- @RosieHare: As it should be. Very difficult to avoid subconscious bias when recruiting though I imagine
- @tomroper: But I know colleagues who make recruitment decisions on whether someone’s personality will fit
- @AgentK23: do you see that as a bad thing, or a reasonable thing to look at? (whether someone will fit in)
- @tomroper: Bad, I fear, @AgentK23. A justification for the exercise of prejudice
- @spoontragedy: I think that happens all the time, and people don’t always admit it even to themselves
- @SimonXIX: True that. Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow says a lot about these unthinking judgements
- @RosieHare: Subconscious bias. It’s very difficult to NOT pay attention to it. Perhaps impossible?
- @HelenMaryH: the trinity is can they do the job, will they do the job, will they fit in? Not an unusual approach at all
Some did think personality was part of what made people suitable for a job.
@SimonXIX: I used to believe that anyone could do any job if they put their minds to it. I don’t believe that anymore
- @AgentK23: what changed your mind?
- @SimonXIX: Natural talent and ingrained personality has more of an impact that I acknowledged when I was young
- @SimonXIX: You’re more likely to excel if you have natural talent
- @AgentK23: i think perhaps there may be a path of least resistance dependent on personality, background, inclination.
- @LibraryEms: natural talent plus hard work plus a bit of luck/the right opportunity maybe?
Certain roles seem to be seen as ‘for a certain type of person’ much more than others, for exaple children’s librarianship and cataloguing.
- @HelenMaryH: I’d guess you need to be more extraverted for outreach and work with kids; if you are a cataloguer you need an eye for detail? But ultimately you get all types and you learn the skills required, even if you’re not a natural.
- @SimonXIX: The stereotype is that cataloguers are a certain ‘kind of person’. And I think management takes a certain personality type
- @poetryghost: I think if you are going into cataloguing you need certain abilities rather than personality type. I’d say cataloguers need a certain way of thinking & eye for rigid detail. Those aren’t necessarily personality types
- @cjclib: not really following but bristling a bit at the “cataloguer type” comments…
- @RosieHare: Perhaps if people prefer more methodical, systematic work, certain roles would suit them over others.
- @preater: my feeling is E types will do better in certain roles, but it’s not cut and dried – eg. a 1 to 1 ref interview in detail could work well for an I type although it’s customer-facing. I certainly think my own type works for my role as I think much better about complete systems than I do about details.
- @spoontragedy: As a children’s librarian, I actually resent the perception that children’s work is ‘only for certain types of people’. I’m not actually sure why- maybe because I don’t think children should be seen as ‘other’ as they are. They’re just people
- @RosieHare: Similar to the ‘children’s TV presenter’ kind of stereotype?
- @spoontragedy: Yes, something like that. I think that children benefit from interacting with different types of people
- @poetryghost: I’m not sure I can agree with that. Although many people can work with kids, many just really can’t. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that is personality, I’d say it is about skills and abilities
- @nckyrnsm: but perhaps you are more likely to have those abilities if you are a certain type of person…
- @theatregrad: Personally I have no idea how to interact with or talk to children so not sure I could do library work involving kids. Whether that is having the wrong personality or not having the skills to I’m not sure? Mix of both?
- @poetryghost: that’s very much true that kids are people too but relating is not the same otherwise everyone would just do it.
- @spoontragedy: A lot of ppl feel that way, imo it’s a symptom of our society seeing children as separate & other, which I dislike. I don’t mean it as a judgment, though.
Many people were uncomfortable with what they saw as pigeonholing people:
- @pennyb: Many introverts are go-getters and good at outreach. I know avoidant extroverts who find management too solitary
- @RosieHare: I don’t think there can be such a thing as a ‘wrong’ personality. We’re all beautiful and diverse.
- @_joelfe: Not sure that there’s only set personality type for certain roles. People more complex than that.
- @pennyb: Exactly. I think people can write themselves off from things they might enjoy/excel at because of this, too. Fundamentally hate the idea that you are more/less suited to jobs based on type. Extra touchy about it due to autism stereotypes
- @SimonXIX: I agree it’s not clearcut but I think certain natural inclinations help with certain roles
- @davidclover: Late #uklibchat contribution want to emphasise difference between personality, or preferred style and behaviour, way we accommodate to needs
@LibrarySherpa summed up her viewpoint on what we have in common as librarians:
5) What do you want to see at #libcampldn to encourage greater introvert participation?
@pennyb: Some of the people who hardly say anything at camp are the most outgoing in the social mingly bit and the pub after. Proves it’s not lack of social confidence stopping them talking, it’s not understanding camp. I guess the main thing for camp is to get across that it is more like the pub than a meeting & participation is vital
@esuffield: I Love to network online as I have zero confidence approaching people deffo ice breaker for me
- @SHelmick: That’s an excellent point. Most of our staff introverts offer great advantage through connections and crowdsourcing.
- @SHelmick: Our #social network marketing is done through people (myself) who are absolutely lost in p2p exchanges.
@dangleroughly: Many people have unfortunate fear of speaking in public. Offer practical tips on how to manage this?
- @daveyp: I find it helps to treat public speaking as a performance. It’s a chance to be someone else
- @LibrarySherpa: Exactly! I find it helpful to channel the persona of Oprah for public speaking engagements.
Some participants were uncomfortable with targeting introverts as a group, and implying that something needed fixing:
- @AgentK23: why particularly target introvert types as a group?
- @LibraryEms: Yes, better to just encourage everyone’s participation rather than target introverts
- @nckyrnsm: May be my percep, but wonder if introverts are seen as needing to be ‘cured’ – when actually their way of operating has value too
- @uklibchat: That’s a good point- maybe people are happy not contributing. I think it goes both ways, some are and some aren’t.
There was a good deal of agreement that large groups in Library Camp sessions tended to end up being dominated by a few participants, and that splitting into smaller groups for part of the time could help to prevent this.
Because of the diversity of different sectors in the library world, some people had been to library camp sessions that they were interested in, but felt that they didn’t have much to say because it was so different to their work. Encouraging people to ask questions if they don’t know much about a topic is one way to address this.
6) Do you think your job has influenced your personality?
People talked about how their job had influenced them as people:
- @HelenMaryH: being a lawyer made me have to work on attention to detail, working in a public liby on “performing” in public.
- @SimonXIX: Absolutely. Though it’s mostly due to the people I’ve met and the things I’ve been asked to do. Having to suddenly work with boisterous soldiers helped me get more confidence. And managing people changes you. Although Hume would say that continuity of self is an illusion so it’s impossible to identify myself with my past self
- @preater: systems librarianship has made me more outgoing! No, really… because I have to network, speak, etc.
- @poetryghost: I think my former kids lib job has pushed me further along the road of being helpful and enjoying the company of children. Volunteering roles have made me more leadery sometimes, which is not my natural inclination.
- @esuffield: yes definitely I have matured so much and been told my attitude and professionalism has grown I took that as a good thing
- @AmyJoyHolvey: this stage of my career (1st year in) personality has influenced job and career opportunities not the other way round. Maybe not the job per se, but being around like-minded people has probably made me more confident and outgoing
- @spoontragedy: Not to sound dramatic, I think any service job where you work with the general public involves a certain loss of illusions
- @AmyJoyHolvey: this is v.valid- not in current role but whilst in previous position, difficult situations/people does affect the way you work
There was some discussion of whether our personalities were so susceptible to change.
- @_joelfe: Not sure your personality changes like that. Outward manifestations of it maybe.
- @SimonXIX: I disagree. I feel like I get a lot more energy from being around people than I used to. People change
- @LibraryEms: I agree, I’m not sure I can identify an intrinsic “personality,” even my present self changes with diff situations. May be why I struggled with the personality test.
- @tomroper: And we spend far more time at work than anywhere else, at least while we’re awake
This question again demonstrated the difficulty of distinguishing between skills and personality traits. For example, is confidence a skill or personality trait?
- @nckyrnsm: Confidence has increased but not sure it’s changed my personality type. Not sure they are the same thing?
- @pennyb: A skill, because it can be learned.
- @preater: Agree. Think personality defines where you naturally start from.
- @nancecc: I’m e.g. more confident *at work* but doesn’t mean now call myself confident – just learn new skills for diff situations
- @JamesAtkinson81: Confidence can seem like a skill when you make an effort and put it on a bit at work.
7) What personal traits must a librarian have?
Some traits that people found helpful to them in their work:
- @SimonXIX: Being organised and relatively logical helps me do my job. It helps me understand and interface with computers. Ideally of course I’d strip out all the human personality from my mind and just leave the logic. Then I’d be a robot
- @daveyp: Ah, good ol’ Librarian 2.0 http://t.co/DC01lRxwLv
- @spoontragedy: I think my tendency to plan and look ahead helps me in my work
- @nancecc: a desire to help – too cheesy?!
- @poetryghost: I don’t think that’s too cheesy at all
- @LibraryEms: In most of the jobs I’ve had so far, fitting in well with team, willing to help, not being easily distracted, enthusiasm. Probably if I get a more senior role will take other skills, so not really related to personality.
- @HelenMaryH: confidence, ability and willingness to help, tenacity and some attention to detail. Ability to deal with all sorts of people.
- @RosieHare: I think communication and teamwork are key for me. I start to get sad when these things break down.
- @AmyJoyHolvey: I agree with @poetryghost communication, organisation skills and often people/project management skills
- @LibWig: Need be confident that you are providing users with up to date, accurate information – but that doesn’t mean over confident. Perhaps assuring to your users is a better way to describe it rather than confident
- @preater: I think the feeling (Jungian) aspect really helps thinking things through in a management role. But would apply outside libs.
- @SHelmick: Approaching the #reference transaction as “us” or “we” learning the answer together is good too.
- @liz_jolly: self awareness as shown by knowing, for example, your MBTI is key part of being reflective practitioner…knowing about others’ MBTI can be key element of being effective in an organisation including managing your boss
Many people thought that empathy and the ability to think about things from different perspectives was of particular importance in most areas of librarianship, although not in all roles.
- @spoontragedy: I think ability to think of things from different perspectives is one that is particularly helpful in librarianship, as you need to be able to understand how people are approaching a question/problem to help them best
- @KrisWJ: Definitely this! RT @LOLintheLibrary Q7 Natural empathy with others, helps when thinking of user perspective
- @SimonXIX: For most librarians, empathy is very important. The ability to understand user needs and think as others do
- @LibraryEms: Are they skills that can be developed or personality traits? Hmm
Some thought that we were really talking about skills and not personality traits.
- @poetryghost: I keep going back to skills not personality traits. Communication, lateral thinking, willingness to help
Were any of these things specific to library and information work, or are they things that would help in any job?
- @poetryghost: I think willingness to help and understanding systems are possibly semi specific to libraries
- @BishopWalshLib: I think being friendly, helpful and organised would help in any job, but it’s essential in a librarian.
- @RosieHare: As Linsey mentioned…a lot of these skills could be applied to most service-based jobs.
8) How can you match your personality with a job advertisement & know whether it’s the right thing for you?
Many participants thought that job descriptions didn’t have enough information for people to tell whether the job would suit them. Some people thought that in an interview, you had a better chance to assess fit.
- @LibWig: don’t think you can match a personality to a job desc – that part comes at the interview and the feel you get from the org. Sometimes it is easier to tell if you won’t fit than if you will – I’ve had that a couple of times.. views that interviewer put forward about direction and projects that a service was taking indicated that I might not agree/fit in
- @theatregrad: Agreed. On a couple of ocassions I’ve been convinced I’d found the right job until interview changed my mind
- @AmyJoyHolvey: My experience is also that interview gives you the clarity of whether you will fit/ job will be right
Some people thought there was really no way to know until you were in the job:
- @HelenKielt: you won’t know till you’re in there!
Some people didn’t think personality was really a relevant consideration in whether a job was right for you:
- @HelenMaryH: it’s not about matching your personality, it’s if you have essential and desired skills. Back to skills over personality again
- @nancecc: Never considered my personality for a job – just can I do it and do I think I’ll like it…
- @spoontragedy: I think it’s about identifying that you share values & ways of approaching things with the panel- not personality so much?
There was some discussion of sector and personality:
- @RosieHare: e.g I feel like my ‘personality’ would not suit working in a law or corporate library. Now I’m not so sure if my previous answer is just me being picky. It kind of reflects my social and cultural views though.
- @preater: tend to agree with @RosieHare, feel I ‘need’ to be in HE as a place I can work in a service that has transformative effects
- @theatregrad: I think my current sector suits my personality as well as my interests. I imagine others might hate the environment
Some people had been interviewed by people they didn’t work with day to day, which they found made it harder to assess fit. Some tried to interview their interviewers:
- @poetryghost: To work at trying to interview your future employers as much as the reverse. Hard to do when nervous. I think this is so important but also as a role reversal. Will these people suit you, not “will they like me”.
- @LibraryEms: It’s never been an issue as I’ve always been desperate for any job, wld like to be in the position to assess this!
10) How can interviewers guess the personality of a candidate at a job interview? How can they tell what you are like?
@LibWig: It can be tricky when people are nervous! Hopefully interviewer will calm you down and help you to demonstrate what you are like
@rugabela: By tricky & unexpected questions. That way, they see reactions & can get useful info about your emotions
There was discussion of how much people are ‘themselves’ at interviews:
- @pennyb: Depends how open you are. I tend to state explicitly what I am like these days, works better. More intense, but they’d see that later in the job. I hate employers who look for “fit” over ability & potential
- @JamesAtkinson81: That’s tricky – only if you allow more than a formal version of yourself out – perhaps through q’s about you. Strength based interviews might be a key here.
- @LibraryEms: Also, I have to say I slightly change my personality in an interview, doesn’t everyone?
- @pennyb: No, but then I can’t suppress myself or fake anything – another autistic thing. Chameleons more employable?
- @BishopWalshLib: I think most people have an interview “act” when they project the person they would like to be rather than the person they are.
- @theatregrad: I always try to show some of my personality at interviews. Not sure if that is wise but doesn’t seem to stop me getting jobs
- @KrisWJ: obvs you present best version of you, but if you misrepresent too much you may find yourself in job that doesn’t suit you
There was a discussion about whether it was appropriate (or inevitable?) for interviewers to try to find about your personality:
- @SimonXIX: I wouldn’t want an interviewer to judge me on my personality. All that matters is my ability to do the job or not
- @daveyp: Your application mostly covers your ability to do the job
- @poetryghost: ah an ideal world…seriously though what should people do when candidates are equal?
- @SimonXIX: Flip a coin. If they’re equally skilled, then the outcome is immaterial
- @LibWig: think we need to differentiate from manner & way of dealing with ppl (imp in public/user facing roles) from personality
- @SimonXIX: Intuitive human judgement is fundamentally flawed. Sometimes algorithms and mechanistic frameworks are the solution. NB. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the flaws of human intuition. Good times
11) How can you discover your hidden talents or personal abilities?
Many participants thought that getting out of your comfort zone was key to this:
- @preater: I think by trying new things: moreover *asking* to do so, being a person that says yes, & getting out of yr comfort zone. Have a strong view on this – I find excuses and “I’m scared” so tiresome.
- @pennyb: RUN TOWARDS THE SPIKES. Deliberately doing things I think I can’t do is part of my raison d’être. Failure is part of learning.
- @spoontragedy: I think that’s a good raison d’etre
- @LibraryEms: If depressed it sometimes seems impossible to do this tho… whereas at other times, it seems more fun to try new things
- @KrisWJ: doing the unexpected, might think unsuited to task or role until try it & surprised to find enjoy/excel at it
@daveyp: “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” has become my mantra — just try new stuff & experiment lots
- @spoontragedy: Yes! That’s very true, I’ve done that more as I’ve become more confident in my job.
- @daveyp: One of my bugbears is when new staff with great ideas are knocked down a peg by management
- @preater: definitely agree, always want staff to act on initiative, do things and tell me / ask forgiveness afterwards.
- @poetryghost: my new bugbear, being told they want me to use my initiative then smacked down when I do it. Hate the contradiction.
@uklibchat also asked: Have you ever done something new at work and realised that you were unexpectedly good at it? Or unexpectedly bad?
- @theatregrad: I realised that the policy writing element of my last role didn’t come as easily as I had thought it would
- @JamesAtkinson81: Recently put together two trolleys – discovered I’m better at DIY than I thought
- @DonnaGundry: teaching, I never thought I could stand up in front of 20 students and keep them interested
- @BishopWalshLib: Helping to build a new library website on the school’s VLE – I loved doing that!
- @DonnaGundry: working on our website at the moment, using google. Tricky but interesting with some fun. I can see the appeal
12) Have technological changes in the profession encouraged different personality types to join?
Many people thought yes, but some thought technological changes just meant a need for different skills.
@RosieHare: I’d be inclined to say yes…more scope for ‘techy’ types rather than people who think it’s all about books.
@SimonXIX: Yes, I would argue that the growth of digital information decreases the import of intuition and increases import of logic
@HelenKielt: technological change has surely brought out skills in ppl who wouldn’t ordinarily have been exposed to this environment
@LibraryEms: I guess digital technology encouraged different skills but maybe not different personalities?
@LibWig: Yes – was article online recently about the rise of “Pink collar workers” – men being drawn into librarianship through technology
@SimonXIX: Digital information changes people. It’s changing society. It changes how people think. It definitely changes librarianship
@poetryghost: maybe mainstreaming of digi tech changes people’s attitudes to those who use it more than the personality type?
@spoontragedy: In some ways digital technology requires less precision than old technologies eg card catalogues
- @SimonXIX: I disagree. I think it requires more precision. But perhaps precision of a different kind
- @pennyb: Nah, metadata requires absolute precision to be worthwhile. It’s just the point in process those skills are needed.
- @spoontragedy: I think it partly depends on which type of LIS job you’re in- eg reader services vs. systems. I think I’m coming at it as a library worker using metadata to serve people, not the one creating the metadata
- @preater:I think we’re back to that (fairly old now, but coming back) idea of convergence of library and IT roles there. My view, get to 80% & call it good. Throw it all into a lucene/solr discovery layer and don’t fuss too much.
@daveyp: I’m frequently disappointed that libraries aren’t on the cutting edge of new technologies and aren’t setting the agenda
Last weekend we facilitated a session at Library Camp London called ‘Design Your Own LIS Qualification’. This was the second time we’ve combined a Twitter chat with a face-to-face group discussion (the first was at Library Camp in Birmingham earlier this year). I was live-tweeting the session, and this time we were able to get a laptop hooked up to a plasma screen, and had Tweet Chat running in the background so everyone at our session could see the tweets tagged #uklibchat. This seemed to work fairly well, though any comments or suggestions for improvement would be welcomed of course!
During the session we talked about our experiences of LIS qualifications, the extent to which what we learnt has been used in working life, and what we would like to change about the current system of qualifications.
Kristine Chapman and Jennifer Yellin have both written great summaries of the session on their respective blogs Taken for Binding and The Neon Librarian, and all of the tweets are archived on Storify. If you have blogged about our session please let me know, and we’ll add in more links here as we get them.
Personally I found it really interesting hearing from everyone in the session, in particular when each participant gave the one thing they would change about the qualification system if they could. There were loads of great ideas coming from the group and from Twitter, and I know a few academics were taking part so perhaps some of your ideas may become a reality!
Oh, and in a rare occurance, all of the members of the #uklibchat team were in the same place at the same time, which was nice! Here we all are:
This feature comes from Jo Alcock, Researcher at Evidence Base, Birmingham City University. Jo has been using different productivity tools and techniques over the years and writes a column for CILIP Update on time management and productivity. Jo blogs as Joeyanne Libraryanne and tweets as @joeyanne. The #uklibchat discussion on managing your workload will take place on March 5th 6.30-8.30pm.
I’ve been asked by the #uklibchat team to introduce the topic for the next discussion, on the theme of Managing your workload. I’m not an expert in this topic, nor is my workload always managed perfectly, however I have been testing a number of different systems over the years and have now adopted a system which seems to work for me (most of the time!). In this introductory blog post I’d like to discuss some of the methods you may wish to use to help you manage your workload.
Getting Things Done
The system I use is an adapted form of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity system. The main principles behind this are that in order to be able to focus on getting things done you need to have a clear mind and an organised system you trust for recording information and actions. There are five stages to the GTD system:
There are a number of blogs written about the Getting Things Done methodology, or you can read the book for a more detailed overview (and if you are so busy you don’t have time to read the full book, there’s even a summarised version).
The to-do list
The to-do list is often at the centre of our systems to help us manage workload. I’ve tried a number of different types of to-do list – pen and paper, whiteboard, to-do list notepads, to-do list post-it notes, and many software systems. To-do lists range from the simple list of tasks to the more complex which include additional information such as projects, due dates, start dates, priority, estimated time, and contexts (i.e. environment/equipment needed to complete task).
I currently use Omnifocus as my to-do list, which is available for Mac, iPad and iPhone. It suits my workflow as I can add things via mobile devices wherever I am, and can organise in more detail using contexts and due dates. I can also email tasks from my inbox which is great for helping me move tasks straight from my email inbox to my to-do list. If you’re interested in trying online to-do lists, I’ve created a bundle of tools to try with some brief notes about each: http://bitly.com/bundles/joeyanne/4
Each have similar basic functionality but vary in implementation and advanced features. Some of the things to consider when trying to-do lists include the ability to:
- add projects, due dates, start dates and contexts (e.g. Errands, Office, Home)
- add repeating tasks
- input tasks from emails
- add notes or file attachments
- access via mobile devices
You may find it useful to consider the features you’ll need whilst reviewing the to-do list options available to find one which suits your workflow best.
The to-don’t list
A concept which is gaining popularity as our to-do lists grow and become more out of control is the to-don’t list. This can help keep our to-do list in check by removing any tasks we shouldn’t be doing. This could be projects we need to remind ourselves not to take on (e.g. ones which sound really exciting but in fact just drain our energy or create unnecessary stress), or tasks we want to stop doing to reduce distractions and enable us to focus on the things we really need to get done. To-don’t lists can be long term reminders to help us select different tasks, or they can be short term reminders to help avoid distractions.
Calendars are useful not just for appointments and meetings, but also for identifying how much time is available for completing tasks. I like to check my calendar alongside my to-do list so I can see what I have to achieve for each day (see screenshot below).
Some people like to use their calendar to block out periods of time to work on specific tasks. These may be time dependent (i.e. tasks that can only be done at a certain time), or can just be a way to ensure there isn’t a situation whereby too many appointments mean a lack of time available to work on getting things done.
In order for calendars to be effective, you’ll need to have a way to view everything at a glance. I use Outlook for my work appointments (shared with my colleagues) and use Google calendar for my personal appointments (shared with my partner). I view my calendar through either my phone or tablet and these have both calendars so I can easily see everything, whether it’s a work or personal commitment. Some prefer to use a wallchart or a paper diary – choose whatever works best for you as long as you can view everything in one place.
Do you have information ready for a particular date in the future? Maybe notes for a meeting or tickets for an event? One idea you may want to try adopting to help you manage this sort of information is the 43 Folders approach (sometimes referred to as a tickler file). The 43 folders represent the upcoming 12 months, in the following way:
- 1-31 for the dates of the month
- Jan-Dec for each year
Anything for the upcoming month goes in the relevant date number, whilst anything further ahead goes in its relevant monthly folder, ready to be added to the particular date once it’s closer to the time and therefore the numbered folders are in place. Each day, the daily folder is reviewed for information for the day, and then it is moved to the following month ready for one month in the future. It’s difficult to describe in a textual way, so watch this video and you’ll see what I mean!
This can be a useful method of storing information out of the way until it is needed or acting as a way to remember to review something on a particular date in the future. As well as adopting this for a physical system, you can also use it in electronic format by setting up folders (e.g. in an email client) though it takes a little bit of managing. Gmail handles this sort of thing well as you can add multiple labels to emails (you could add one for the date, one for the month, and one for the year to help drill right down).
Another productivity tip you’ll probably have heard people mention is inbox zero, another recommendation of the GTD system. This includes physical inbox, but more often nowadays refers to email inbox. The reasoning behind this is that the inbox should always be left clear for incoming items only. I use reference folders within my email system to store emails I have read and may need to refer back to in future. Anything that needs an action that will take longer than a couple of minutes I forward to my to-do list with the relevant information to enable me to complete the task at a later date (anything that will take less than that I do straight away and then archive/delete the email).
Adopting inbox zero really does help me – it means I know all my tasks are in one place (my to-do list) and helps ensure my mind stays clear to focus on tasks. In order to stay on top of emails, I have rules set up to label emails, making it even easier to archive them once I have read them rather than having to move them each time. I check my email on a fairly regular basis, though there are others who prefer to only check at certain periods of the day. Some suggest not checking first thing in the morning, instead spending the first part of the working day on an important task you wanted to get done that day.
There have been many blog posts, articles and discussions recently on work-life balance. Technology is supporting a more flexible approach to work, however that does also mean it can be difficult to switch off and working long hours outside core working hours is becoming common.
Each of us has different priorities in our life and will therefore be comfortable with different levels of balance. It’s not so much about the actual hours worked; some people will feel out of balance working 10 hours a week, some will feel in balance working 60 hours a week. Only we know if we feel out of balance. How do we achieve balance?
There are some useful tips in this article, including setting your priorities, focusing on one thing at a time, setting boundaries (and making sure other people are aware of them), taking time off, and spending some time each day doing something you enjoy.
I went through a period where I didn’t feel I had an effective balance, so as a naturally reflective person, I spent time identifying which activities should be removed, reduced or streamlined and which activities should be introduced or increased. It took a while to change my habits, but I now spend a lot more time away from the computer screen and having things to really look forward to away from that (in my case it’s crafts, going for walks, and talking to friends and family) has been a great motivator for helping me achieve balance and still stay productive.
And on that note, I’m off to enjoy evening knitting in front of the TV for a while…
Next Tuesday, #uklibchat will be on Managing Your Workload. What issues do you have with managing your workload? Do you find it difficult to get things done? Do you have any tips?
If you want to contribute to the conversation on this, #uklibchat will be running on Tuesday 5th March 2013 from 6.30pm – 8.30pm GMT. If you want to add questions to our agenda, you can do so here. A guide to taking part in #uklibchat is available here and you can always tweet us @uklibchat or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
We look forward to chatting with you!