Thing #13: Google Docs, Wikis, and Dropbox

My library branch is a heavy user of Google Docs.  All of our weekly and daily schedules, among other things, are shared there.  This is helpful because I can check my schedule from anywhere that has Internet access and changes appear immediately.  This also means supervisors can make changes to the schedule from home.  Schedules are color coded to signify the supervisor on duty, closers, meetings, and schedule abnormalities.  The only downfall to this system is if the Internet is down, we can’t access our schedules.  I think using Google Docs for scheduling is a brilliant idea. 

I have seen wikis used in the library environment in a few different ways.  At my previous job, we were part of an organization for young adult librarians; the organization had a wiki of book lists and program ideas to which everyone could contribute.  The reference department at my previous job had a departmental wiki used to keep track of projects and changes.  I created a wiki for my current workplace with book lists.  I noticed that most of our reader’s advisory questions came from kids and teens.  The youth services librarian is well read in that section, but other staff members are not.  I made book lists on a variety of topics, such as mysteries, Diary of a Wimpy Kid read-alikes, and teen supernatural fiction.  Any staff member can add to the lists or create new ones.  Anyone can view the wiki located at http://eiseleylibrary.pbworks.com

As someone who uses 4 or 5 different computers per day, I think Dropbox would be highly useful.  Between work and home, I create documents and need somewhere to save them.  I carry my flash drive in my purse, but it isn’t always handy to retrieve it.  I have not used Dropbox, but I plan to download it to my home computer.

Online tools for saving and sharing documents are very handy and something I will continue to use in my personal and professional lives.

Thing #12: Social media

Social media has been a valuable part of my career development.  I joined Facebook and LinkedIn a several years ago and have since built up a network of family, friends, past and present coworkers, classmates, and professional acquaintances.  The best example of using social media for networking and creating a sense of community occurred when I was working on my MLS online.  My classmates and I were all on the same “track” and were in the same classes each term.  We created a Facebook group to ask questions about assignments, vent our concerns and frustrations, share information, and help one another.  Although we were spread across the country, we were able to get to know one another and provide a support structure similar to a traditional classroom. 

I see both advantages and disadvantages to using social media.  The advantages include connecting people who are far apart, creating a fast and easy method of communication, providing a low pressure way to communicate, especially for those who are shy, and providing a fun way to keep in touch and share with others.  The disadvantages include replacing the intimacy of face-to-face contact with hands-off online communication and the occasional misinterpretation in communications.  In my mind, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.   

I plan to continue using social media for career development and appreciate that these free, easy-to-use tools are available to us.

Thing #11: Mentoring

I have never had a mentor, other than for specific projects.  For one of my college classes, we had a weekly email exchange with an experienced teacher to ask questions about the profession.  I student taught with a very knowledgeable veteran teacher in Elkhorn.  At the Nebraska Library Leadership Institute I attended last month, we had two mentors assigned to our group.  They were very helpful and forthcoming with advice and information. 

Most of the skills I have come from observing people who do things well and emulating their techniques.  My customer service skills come from time spent hanging around a retail manager.  My child disciplining skills come from the countless teachers I observed during undergraduate field experiences and as a classroom paraprofessional. 

I would like to find a mentor at this point in my career, either formal or informal.  The CPD23 post about mentoring suggested some unique avenues for finding a mentor I had not considered.  The New Members Round Table of the Nebraska Library Association has talked about reviving its mentoring program this fall.  This is something I will volunteer to coordinate, because I think it would be helpful for many.  I am interested to hear how other people have found mentors and their thoughts on the value of being a mentor and/or mentee.

Thing #10: Librarianship

I started working in libraries by accident.  It was never a career that had crossed my mind.  I grew up in a small town that didn’t have a library, so I never spent much time at the library.  I wanted to be an elementary teacher.  After college, I moved to Aurora, Colorado.  I worked as a paraprofessional for Denver Public Schools for a year, then began applying for teaching  jobs.  I sent out dozens of applications with very little response.  Feeling defeated, I started looking for other jobs.  I saw an opening at the public library and applied there as a backup.  I finally landed an interview for a 3rd grade teaching position.  The same day, I was called to interview for the library assistant position.  I interviewed at the school one day, the library the next.  A day later, I was offered the library job.  (I was later informed that they chose someone with experience for the teaching job.)

As I learned the library assistant job, I realized that it had the fun parts of teaching (helping people, research, teaching classes) without the bad parts of teaching (politics, standardized tests, angry parents, disciplining a classroom of 35+ kids).  I worked there for almost two years before I moved to a new city and a new job.  As an assistant librarian in the young adult department of a suburban library, I discovered my passion for programming, outreach, and marketing, as well as working with teens. 

I moved back to my home state of Nebraska after almost three years working in YA.  I’m now a part-time library assistant for Lincoln City Libraries.  Working at a branch library means doing a little bit of everything.  However, working part-time means I miss out on doing special projects and programs. 

From 2009 to 2010, I worked on my MLS online through Clarion University.  I graduated last December.  Now I’m looking for that elusive full-time professional position.  I would love to work in youth services and do programming and outreach.  But with tight budgets all around, library positions are few and far between.  In a year and a half, changes will take place in my personal life that will allow me the flexibility to move.  In the meantime, I will continue to work as a library assistant and participate in professional development activities to keep my skills sharp and my options open.

Thing #9: Evernote

I’m presently undecided about Evernote.  I like the idea of being able to keep notes about webpages.  I’m always taking notes and this would be a good way to keep track of them.  I can see myself using Evernote as a glorified bookmarking system.  I wasn’t thrilled about having to install a program onto my computer and I was unclear about the difference between the Evernote program on my computer and Evernote Web.  But, overall, this seems like a helpful program and I will continue to work with it.

So far, CPD23 has been a great way to learn about interesting things available on the web that can make my personal and work life easier and more efficient.

 

Thing #8: Google Calendar

Google has so many great free tools!  I am kind of old-fashioned when it comes to calendars.  Every year, I buy a small planner that I carry with me to work.  Because I have two part-time jobs and an irregular schedule, it is helpful to keep track of where I’m supposed to be when.  I don’t always have the planner with me, though.  This is where Google Calendar could come in handy.  If I’m near a computer with Internet access, I could check my calendar that way.

I decided to do a trial run.  I already have (and love) a Google account.  I created a Google Calendar and, within minutes, copied what was written in my planner.  I added my Google Calendar to my iGoogle homepage and voila!  I now have my schedule in two convenient places.  I’m not going to give up my planner, but I’ll keep up with Google Calendar for a couple of months and see if it works for me. 

I could see how Google Calendar and its sharing feature could come in handy for libraries.  As a staff member, I wish our library would use it.  Our website is difficult to navigate, especially in a hurry.  If we had a Google Calendar on the homepage, both staff and patrons could see right away what was going on that day.  I see potential for an increase in program attendance and less phone calls.

Thing #7: Face-to-face networks and professional organizations

Participating in professional organizations is an opportunity to meet people, develop professionally, and contribute your talents.  Currently, I am a member of the Nebraska Library Association (NLA) and the Mountain Plains Library Association (MPLA).  Being a member of my state organization has been extremely beneficial to my career.  At the first NLA event I attended, I met a woman who told me about a job opening at her library system; because of this conversation, I have the job I do today.  Since then, I have been involved in the New Members Round Table and currently serve as their secretary/treasurer.  This involvement has helped me meet new people and given me the opportunity to present at events.  I am running for office for other sections as well.  I have not participated in any MPLA activities because it has not been convenient to do so.   

Recently, I have been debating about joining the American Library Association (ALA).  The membership dues are higher than NLA and I am concerned that, like MPLA, it is more challenging to become involved.  However, I am considering expanding my job search across the country and the conferences would be a great place to meet people from other libraries.  Has anyone participated in the ALA Emerging Leaders program or in ALA?  What are your thoughts on the value of being a member?

Just yesterday I had a conversation with two other young librarians about face-to-face networks.  Has anyone participated in an informal “after-hours” library network?  Thoughts?  This could be a fun way to meet others who have a passion for libraries, to share ideas, and to help one another reach new levels in our careers.

Thing #6: Online networks

Online networks have created an easy and efficient way for people to come together and to keep in touch.  My grandma had never even touched a computer, but she realized the best way to hear from her grandchildren on a regular basis was to embrace technology.  She now has a laptop and an active Facebook page.

I opened a Facebook account about four years ago.  I almost immediately reconnected with a good friend from high school that I’d lost touch with after a move.  Since then, I have friended (and unfriended) coworkers, friends, classmates, and family members.  I have seen Facebook’s value in a variety of uses.  When I was working on my Master’s degree online, my classmates (who lived all over the country) and I created a Facebook group to communicate with and support one another.   An artist I know uses Facebook to share his work.  The library has a page to keep patrons informed.  I use Facebook for sharing pictures and keeping in touch.  If you’re smart about what you post and use the custom privacy settings, Facebook is a great way to connect with people.

I opened a LinkedIn account in 2008 when I was preparing to move and looking for a new job.  It has been a great networking tool.  If I meet someone new in a professional capacity, I try to connect with them.  I consider a LinkedIn profile to be a glorified business card- a reminder of who you are and how they know you- that won’t be lost or thrown away.  Any time I consider applying for a job, I check LinkedIn to see if any of my connections work for that company or know anyone who does.  I often wonder if potential employers do the same to me.  If they do, I feel better knowing I have a professional, updated profile.  In addition to networking, I have joined several “groups” on LinkedIn.  Following discussions on different aspects of the library profession has been interesting and helpful.  I would like to continue building connections on LinkedIn; if you would like to connect, my profile is located at http://www.linkedin.com/in/bethanygrabow

I know some people are hesitant to have a presence on online networks, but I have enjoyed my experiences and would encourage everyone to give it a try.

Thing #5: Reflective Practice

Ah, reflection.  As an education major, we did a LOT of reflecting; every lesson plan had to have a reflection at the end.  At first I thought it was pain and would rush through it without much thought.  But, as with many things we are forced to do in school, I eventually began to see the value in the practice and began to do it in other parts of my life.

I’ll begin with the personal branding exercise.  It was good to take stock of what I’ve already done and to get suggestions for other things to try.  It pushed me to finish things that I’d started including buying my own domain name and creating my personal logo.

Second, I was surprised to find that Twitter was more valuable than I’d originally thought.  It’s nice that everything is so succinct; I can judge in seconds what I want to pursue further and what I can skip.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed my 23 Things experience for both the motivation to pursue new skills and the camaraderie with other participants.

Thing #4: Current awareness- Twitter, RSS and Pushnote

Twitter:  It’s official- I’ve entered the world of tweets and hashtags.  I’ve been hesitant about joining Twitter, fearing that it will turn into another excuse to waste time on the web.  I can see the merit of Twitter, though.  In my digital libraries class, I researched how people get news in the digital age.  The preferred way is with short, concise blurbs.  That way, busy people can quickly scan and choose to spend time reading only the things of interest to them.  According to the About Us page on the Twitter, this is exactly how it is intended to be used.  To begin, I am following LCLibraries (my employer), CPD23, NPRNews (my main news source), and AskAManager (my favorite blog).  I plan to keep up with Twitter for a couple of weeks and evaluate its value to me at that time.

RSS Feeds: I subscribed to Google Reader last year as a way to keep current with the happenings at the Nebraska Library Association.  I set up iGoogle as my homepage and put Google Reader right on top where I wouldn’t miss it.  It has served as a reminder to check the site, but I still prefer getting an email.  I also subscribe to 23 Things, Ask a Manager, and Bagel Soup (hilarious comics). 

Pushnote: I downloaded Pushnote last night.  In my mind, it fits under the same category as FourSquare- good for people who like to constantly be connected to others.  Personally, I take more of a passive role in social media; I don’t update my Facebook status regularly or Tweet constantly.  While I would be interested in seeing my friends’ opinions on certain websites, I don’t think Pushnote is something I would use regularly. 

It’s exciting to see different ways people can connect with each other online.  The Internet has made it easy to keep in contact with old friends, to discover other perspectives, and to converse and debate with people all over the world.  I was born in the early 80’s, so I remember a time without the Internet.  For the most part, I think this interconnectedness is a great way to expand our horizons, increase our awareness, and experience what the world has to offer.