Thing #16: Advocacy

I believe advocacy is hugely important.  I also notice that it’s not something we, as library professionals, do often enough.  As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m always talking about the library.  We have so much cool stuff available for FREE and I don’t want anyone to miss out.  I’ve even recruited others to help me.  My roommate, who works in retail, now sells mp3 players by telling people the library has free downloadable audiobooks.  My former coworker’s daughter improved her reading skills by participating in the Read to a Dog program and she raved about it on Facebook.  I even had a man get a library card to impress me before our second date! 

I’ve never participated in any formal advocacy efforts, although I have seen opportunities to do so through NLA and online.  I plan to continue educating others on the value of library services through word-of-mouth advertising.  The more people we tell about the library, the more people we can get excited about it, the better off we’ll be.

Thing #15: Attending and presenting at conferences

I really enjoy going to conferences and workshops and look for opportunities to attend them.  It is a great way to meet other people in the profession and to learn new things.  Money is a factor; I would love to go to ALA annual or midwinter but both the membership to ALA and the conference registration are too expensive.  I have attended the Nebraska Library Association annual conference twice and will attend again this year. 

Speaking at a conference is something that is relatively new to me.  Last year I participated in the New Members Round Table poster session at NLA annual.  A coworker and I created a poster and presented our idea to a small group.  It was a good introduction to presenting; it was low-key and there weren’t a lot of people there.  This year I have signed up to present by myself at NLA.  I am not totally comfortable speaking in front of a group, so this will push me out of my comfort zone and give me valuable public speaking experience. 

As an aside, the New Members Round Table of NLA is sponsoring a resume/cover letter review session at NLA this year.  You can have your resume and cover letter reviewed by hiring managers in Nebraska for free and meet with them at the conference to hear feedback about your materials.  If you are interested, please contact me.  My contact information is on my blog.

Thing #14: Zotero/Mendeley/citeulike

I finished my Master’s degree in December of last year.  I’d heard about services such as these, but I didn’t take the time to explore them and did all my citations the old-fashioned way.  Now that I’ve looked at these sites, I feel like I could have saved myself a lot of work, especially since I primarily used articles from online databases for my research and writing. 

Having explored all three of these websites, I think Zotero seems the most functional for students.  In my mind, the biggest benefit is its ability to cite everything correctly and in different styles.  In almost every class for my MLS, we were told to use APA style.  One class required MLA style.  A tool such as Zotero would have made this much less painful; I wouldn’t have had to adjust to using a completely different style. 

As I think of my library’s patrons, I can see recommending these sites to college students.  To be honest, though, even having them stick around long enough to show them one online database is a feat.   I hope my academic library counterparts have a higher success rate.

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.