in flux

I’m in a weird in-between state. My trip was cancelled at the last minute (just as I finished getting my things ready), so what was supposed to be a week away has turned into an ordinary week after all… except, I wasn’t planning on being here, so none of the things I usually do in preparation for the week got done. I didn’t do groceries. I didn’t prepare to edit. I didn’t even fill the gas tank. All day I’ve been out of sorts because I am completely ill-prepared to get things done. I spent the morning just trying to fill in the gaps in my work schedule, since the desk schedule was worked out based on my not being around to handle reference questions. Suddenly, meetings are back on my calendar, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s a strange feeling, like coming back from a vacation… except not.

I picked up a few essentials this morning, just enough to get by, and read over the chapter I was working on last week to get back in the groove. Really hoping that tomorrow finds me settling back into my usual rhythm.

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inner poise, or something like it

I had my first mid-year review on Monday and I’ve been thinking about one of the comments that my supervisor made. She said, “You’re so calm, sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re just as busy as the rest of us.” It’s not the first time someone tells me I’m calm, or that I have a soothing personality. One of my coworkers says I have a relaxing presence, that my aura gives off good vibes. I’ve heard all this before, and I guess it’s true. I appear calm, but inside my mind is going a mile a minute, thinking thinking thinking and trying to make sense of it all. I appear calm because I often remind myself that there’s no sense in getting worked up and making things unpleasant for those around me. I also do a lot of writing and walking. Both of these are exercises and self-reflection and allow me to take a moment to disconnect and expend all that restless energy that I keep inside. There’s probably a study out there on introverts and how we function, but all I know is what I feel. That sense of inner poise isn’t always reflected in my writing… I think this blog makes me sound more harried than otherwise, but that’s exactly why it helps… it’s an outlet for all the little things that make me tick, cringe, and groan.

I will now go channel my inner Bridget Jones.

my response to the rockstar librarian hubbub

There has been a lot of talk in the lib-webs regarding the general state of librarian “rockstarness” and what those of us on the frontlines really do (read the post by @himissjulie that set things off). I too have noticed an unfair, gender-bias when it comes to keynote speakers at events. In a field in which women make up an estimate 86% of the workforce (according to the DPE Fact Sheet 2012), why is it that most of the main speakers at major events are male? At a recent regional conference planning meeting that I attended, only one woman was added to the list of potential speakers. That’s ridiculous. Why are we hearing the same speakers at conference after conference? Admittedly, they present great ideas, but I often find that those ideas only reveal a limited view on librarianship and libraries in general.

I am still breaking out in my role as a librarian, and know I haven’t done enough to promote myself professionally, but I follow dozens of amazing female librarians working in public, academic, and special libraries in any number of roles. These are women who are funny, outspoken, advocates, activists, highly intelligent, and innovative. These are women who produce webinars and tutorials and are active members of their professional communities. Why aren’t they being selected? And don’t give me the “we don’t take a chance on an unknown” bit… just one look at their blogs, twitter feeds, and portfolios. Their presence is there. They have a voice that needs to be heard.

on job applications and interviews

I’m not an expert on hiring practices, but I’ve managed to gain some experience on the hiring process—-particularly the applicant weeding process.

Here are a few things I have learned:

  • Your resume and cover letter are the first impressions you will make. These had better be easy to understand and clearly organized. If you lack experience, make your education stand out (especially if it is relevant to the job). If your education is not what is required for the position, your experience has to shine. Find your strong point and make the connection to the position clear, whether this involves citing specific coursework that might help you perform job duties, or volunteer work that helped you learn skills that you can apply in the position if hired.

 

  • Yes, you need a cover letter. No exceptions. If you lack education, experience, or both, your cover letter can help you get a chance at an interview. This should clearly explain why you are a good candidate and what you can bring to the position and the  organization. Any skills or knowledge that you want to emphasize should be highlighted here, especially if they can make up for a lack in other areas.

 

  • If you get an interview, be prepared to talk about yourself. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, you really do need to make the most of it. Know what you wrote in your resume and cover letter. Know what the job entails and what the organization is trying to achieve (study the job post and the hiring company’s website). But most important of all, be ready to make it clear that you are the right person for the job, not just because you have the right credentials, but because you will be a good fit within the group. If you are being engaged in conversation, go with it, don’t clam up and give terse answers. An awkward interview can really destroy your chances.

I’m not an expert in human resource management or organizational behavior, but I’ve been exposed to administrative tasks, and the hiring process is one of them. I’ve seen some strange things in my time…

librarian pet peeves

E-books are books. They are not like books. They are not almost books. They are books. The digital format is their container, just as paperback and hardcover formats are containers. Some books are born digital, some are published in multiple formats and include digital options. They are still books, whether reference books, textbooks, fiction, or picture books. It’s just a publishing format. Authors do not like it if you say their e-books are not
“Real” books and librarians whose libraries have e-content licensing agreements to offer ebooks don’t like it either.

Format preference is a personal matter. I prefer to read certain materials digitally, but will buy a hard copy of others. Whether you prefer to read on a laptop, tablet, e-reader, or hold a hard copy is irrelevant. This is a matter of preference and content availability (and cost). Doesn’t mean that the book on your laptop is any less real than the one in your hand.

End library rant.

Harry Potter is always relevant

Today, my work study students had a lengthy discussion on Harry Potter and, of course, this became a “let’s label everyone we work with according to Harry Potter characters” fest. They determined that I am McGonagall, at which I was somewhat offended by the idea that they were calling me old. They made up for this by explaining that like McGonagall, I am caring but scary when angry. I was satisfied with this response :p

milestones

With all the excitement of the last few weeks (events, work stuff, and writing), I completely forgot that July 1st marked my 1st full year as a professional librarian :). Quite a milestone after so many years of school, part-time jobs, and paraprofessional positions. I remember applying for the position and thinking someone else would surely be more qualified than I for the job, regardless of my desire/drive/eagerness to get started as a real librarian. More awkward still, I had applied where I was working… If I wasn’t hired, it would be weird as anything working with the person who was hired. But I did get the job and I was overjoyed and ready to roll.

It’s been a year filled with learning experiences–many of them time-consuming, but all well worth the effort. I’ve gotten to meet some great people, take part in lots of fun events, and become a presence at the library (I even have my own groupies… some would say stalkers). I’ve also become aware of my weaknesses and things I have to work on. For instance, I really do want to get more involved with faculty and more active in my professional organizations, but these are two areas that will require me to get out of my introvert bubble and be social. It’ll be my goal for this year.

I look forward to more anniversaries and ways to grow.

And since I am in narcissistic me-mode, I may as well announce my new portfolio: gricel-d.net

playing hostess

Had to play hostess today during one of our library events and got to exercise some of my event planner type skills. The event centered on a visit from the Deputy Consul from Argentina, so I had to develop an Argentinean theme for the treats to be served. Some quick research and trips to various stores and Hispanic shops turned up the perfect mix of quick, affordable bites.

Went with a blue and white theme for the tableware to coordinate with Argentina’s flag.

Martin Fierros – Manchego cheese (I used sharp white cheddar to stay within our library event budget) and quince jelly. Similar to the Cuban timba (white cheese and guava paste). A tasty, sweet and savory mix.

Medialunas (croissants) and Dulce de Leche (similar to caramel but creamier)

Sausages! Argentina loves beef!

 

Overall, the treats were a huge success, as was the event 🙂

on teaching and learning

I have not taught in the proper, stand-in-front-of-the-classroom-and-spend-all-weekend-grading-papers sense in a while, but there are certain aspects of teaching that I engage in every day as a librarian. Among these is the always essential ability to know when a topic is likely to produce a “workable” research question, and when it needs to be redeveloped (or tossed). It’s always difficult to help a student who refuses to believe their research subject will not yield a good paper, whether due to lack of information available (more often than not because the student waited too long to find worthwhile information), or because the topic is too broad or narrow in scope to produce a thorough discussion or analysis. Even harder is the task of helping a student whose research topic has been assigned to them by a professor that over-estimates the scope of the library’s collection. When I was teaching, I generally tried to consider the subjects that I assigned from the researcher’s point of view, asking myself if a student was likely to find a good amount of information on the subject, or if there was anything I could do to aid them in their research.

Making sure students know how to make full use of their library is a great step in the right direction, but professors also need to be aware of the resources available when assigning research projects. Ours is a small academic library with a good, multidisciplinary collection. However; it is not an all-encompassing collection and our selection of databases is limited to those areas that best support the university’s schools. Obscure topics often require sources beyond our collection, which, in turn, require time on the part of the student. Assignments requiring that students only use print sources, or sources found through the library’s databases, further limit students’ ability to find relevant, credible information. Our collection currently features more ebooks than print books, but continued resistance from professors makes it difficult for students to become familiar with the valuable information contained in this collection. Instruction can go a long way, but the ability to understand and accept changes in information retrieval can help professors support students’ research skills and develop assignments that are challenging but doable. Learning should be an active part of teaching.

I am not an expert, but I always valued professors who learned with me and helped me find the information I needed to complete my assignment. Many students are uncomfortable asking for clarification, let alone discussing their concerns regarding a topic that is hard to research. This week I have helped several students completing an assignment that they were having a hard time completing based on the items available in our collection; only one student had the tenacity to bring her professor in to the library to show him why she was having no luck finding relevant information–the assignment required that they find a book, a print book, and bring it to class. Of the 7 books available on her subject, only 4 were in print, and these were all in Reference (so she couldn’t take them to class). The professor was surprised to find all the others were ebooks, but would not accept these as a substitute for print. Sometimes, you can only get so far.