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.

About Nebraska Library Leadership Institute

In 2011, I attended the Nebraska Library Leadership Institute at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska.  Thirty people from public, academic, and school libraries across the state were selected to attend the five-day Institute led by Becky Schreiber and John Shannon of Schreiber Shannon Associates.  Participants were divided into four learning groups and each group had two mentors, experienced librarians that observed, guided, and advised the groups.

Each day, we completed interactive learning activities, listened to presentations by John and Becky, and participated in group discussions.  Every evening, we learned about our mentors during Mentor Moments.

Highlights of the Institute:

  • Learned about our personality/leadership types using the Enneagram model
  • Identified strengths, weaknesses, ability to take risks, reactions to change, and self-limiting behaviors
  • Developed personal action plan to overcome weaknesses and develop strengths
  • Created vision statements, strategic goals, and funding proposals
  • Participated in learning group to complete strategy game, case study, problem solving exercises, and creative skit
  • Developed connections with people from libraries across the state
  • Presented to a group of 40 people in a simulation of requesting for funding from city council and library board

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.