Tag Archives: people

Social media for the anti-social

24 Apr

If you’re like me, social media is a gigantic challenge.  If you’re not, come back later; this post isn’t for you.

I don’t think the technology is a challenge, or the concept is a challenge.  But the practice of social media?  That’s difficult for me.  Probably because at heart, I am what I think of as “selectively social”…others might say anti-social, but there are distinctions.  I, like most, have a core group of friends and family that I keep updated on most of my life.  Everyone else gets much-diluted information, if they get any at all.  It’s not because I like those people less, it’s because I have a mutual trust relationship with the core people and they’ve become the ones I’m excited to share things with.  I also don’t believe that everything I have to say are pearls of wisdom that should be shared with all and sundry – rather, the opposite: I don’t think very much of what anyone has to say is wonderful.  Seth Godin’s blog is a great example.  If you think those words come even close to a significant percentage of what he thinks/says in a day, you don’t do math well.

So, when I joined the social media team at work, it was a huge adjustment.  I wanted to create meaningful content, but now I have a schedule.  I must be routinely meaningful.  It’s frustrating when you go about your day, and you can’t think of anything you want to share your thoughts on.  I get burned out easily by having to check Facebook, and blog, and tweet, and then take care of my personal social media that I use to keep in touch with people I’ve got deeper and more connection.  Tools, that I’ll discuss later, help, but the problem is really me.  I don’t view my activities as share-worthy, and that’s what social media is all about.

How do you deal with social media?  Is it easy for you, or do you have to sit and construct outlines for topics that you can then pull from?  Do you get burned out by it, or does it invigorate you?  I want to know!

The trouble with social media

17 Apr

By now everyone should be familiar with Google+, and how amazingly not-popular it is, compared to the juggernauts its other products are (except for other attempts at social media).  Google+ illustrates the core problem inherent in social media: people don’t use it, so it becomes less popular, and people use it less.

If you move to a social media platform, you had best make certain that your target audience is already on that platform.  They won’t move for you.  People are only willing to adjust their social media in small ways, to accommodate a new interaction.  The only time you see people moving en masse is when a service becomes unusable, either because the audience’s friends aren’t there or because the service has upset its constituents to the point that they combine clout and move as part of a concerted, punitive effort.

The other problem, at least for some, is distilling the information overload.  That’s a personal problem, easily addressable, if not addressed.  Having so much data coming at you and trying to discern some meaningful information from it can be a challenge to many, but with practice it does get easier.

How can a library avoid this problem?  I think the best answer to many library questions is simple: know your patrons.  Know where they hang out and focus your efforts there.  If you love and adore Twitter, but all your patrons use Facebook, not even multiple status updates about your new Twitter will move those patrons to Twitter.  Find the confluence and work in the happy equilibrium.  What are your thoughts about the trouble with social media, and how do you address those??

Office pitfalls…except when they’re not

3 Apr

Gossip, fraternization, and politics.

We’ve all been warned about the dangers of these pitfalls, and given reasons we shouldn’t participate in them.  Conversely, we’ve all been given legitimate reasons we should engage in these behaviors.  So what the heck?

Every person you’ll ever meet will have an opinion about pretty much everything.  But here’s how I see these three big office “no-nos”:

Gossip

  • Idle gossip is pretty useless to the work place.  But gossip that’s come down from the grapevine about institutional changes, or staff turnover, or policy problems?  That I definitely want to hear, and I’ll share it with people who are impacted by it.
  • If there’s going to be staff turnover, and gossip tells me the likelihood of that is high, I want to have a head start polishing my resume if need be.
  • Big change, such as weeding a lot of the collection, or changing LMS systems?  I want to know so I don’t inadvertently create more work for myself in the near future.
  • A new policy being implemented, or an old one removed or revamped?  I’d like time to figure out how that changes my job, if at all, and to think about the impact on existing policy.  Just because I’m not an administrator doesn’t mean I don’t have a stake.
  • Serious personal problems for a staff member?  I don’t need to know what it is, but knowing something is going on will help me being forgiving if they make some errors.  This one is iffy, for so many reasons, and I would opt to share my personal woe with one or two trusted colleagues so they can go to bat for me if I find myself in the position of needing some leeway.  If you happen to have a great boss, that’s the person I’d tell.

Fraternization

  • Dating/relationships in the workplace need be conducted by two discreet adults.  If you wouldn’t describe yourself as such, don’t do it.  Be honest – are you capable of conducting yourself professionally, and leaving home at home, all the time?
  • I get a lot of librarians live for the job.  A lot don’t.  I understand it can be hard to find someone, and that you spend a lot of time with colleagues.  Your boss is not your colleague, your reporting staff are not colleagues.  Date, if you must, on an equal playing field.  Preferably with someone in a different department.
  • Aside from dating/relationships, realize not everyone you work with is your friend.  You don’t need them to be; you need them to be good coworkers.  It’s fine to try to make friends in all venues of your life, but realize there are lots of people out there who view “work” and “personal” lives and two completely separate entities, and never the twain shall meet.

Politics

  • Oh, that old library school saw.  “The ‘L’ in ‘librarian’ is for ‘liberal’!”  It’s mostly true, though not always.  Conservative librarians tend to keep their mouths shut.  Librarians, as evidenced by some of the more controversial blogs and their comments (hello, Annoyed Librarian over at LJ!), can censor dissenting opinions, or come down in force on disagreement.  Tread carefully.
  • If you do hold some dissenting opinions, realize this: no one really cares what you think.  Unless you’re explicitly being asked, by a thoughtful and respectful individual in a low-key manner, chances are good that the other person is already thinking of their next comment.  Is this a disagreement you want to get into right now?
  • No matter your stripes, repeat: if someone does disagree with my most excellent and correct opinion, it is not personal.

 

Now, go forth and pitfall!

Faculty Involvement

22 Mar

Faculty make the library go ’round.  Don’t think so?  They’re the best word-of-mouth advertisers you can get.  Here’s why:

  • They have a captive audience
  • They have a degree of control over that audience’s actions, in the form of assignments and grades
  • They usually come pre-convinced how awesome the library is

How can we not love that?  We do reach out to faculty where I work, and it’s more than trying to assist with their research.  If you haven’t heard of embedded librarianship, you should go find out about it.  We reach out to faculty by using embedded librarianship to function as a sort of teaching assistant, giving extra resources and help to students within the context of the course they’re taking.  It’s a way to work together that benefits both sides and has little to no chance of fostering any competition or ill-will.  Our instructors like it because it takes pressure off them regarding instantaneous answers, and helps weed out the students who just need a nudge, rather than serious help.

On the other side, the faculty gets more involved with the library because they function as special topic advisers on the resources provided by us.  They develop a stake in the collection, both print and digital, and are more likely to refer students to particular materials because they know what’s there.

Faculty involvement in this way is a clear win-win.  How do you get others involved in your library practices, or partner with unlikely people to strengthen your service?

Collection Development: art form, or form of science?

14 Nov

Depending on who you talk to (and right now it’s me), collection development can be one of the most important aspects of library’s work, one of the most overlooked, or one that gets way too much money from other avenues.  I, being involved in a love affair with collection dev and management, as well as all things paperwork, happen to think it’s highly important.  Think about it: without collection development, there is no assessment of what your users need/want to use, and users go away.  At its heart, collection development makes the library.

It’s not just about books, either.  It’s about websites, subscription services, A/V materials, and the occasional self-generated material.  Make no mistake, if you’re doing collection development, you need to like lists, and you need to  like catalogs.  Not OPACs, but reading through catalogs and reviews.

I think collection development includes making your collection more accessible for your users, so you need to be up-to-date on technologies that make it possible.  For instance, I use Blekko as a search engine for our school because it’s easy to point to and tell the students that within the sites, they will find 100% vetted, reliable information that they can be sure will be acceptable in a paper.  And it lets me shift some onus onto the program directors, getting them to share resources they’ve found with me.

Collection development takes a lot of patience, a lot of research, and a lot of evaluation of user needs in order to build a relevant collection, making it a lot of science-type work.  I argue that it also takes a certain intuition, thinking outside the norm for your patrons to stretch the reaches of what they like/need without alienating them with the too-different.  In that way, it’s an art form, requiring a delicate touch.

It also requires the ability to step back from what you like, and pick what others like (and you might hate).  It’s a selfless act, choosing materials without bias and representing viewpoints you don’t agree with.  I feel that if there aren’t at least a few materials in each order/batch of materials you accumulate that you don’t want to ever read or engage with, then you haven’t done your job.

If you want to do collection development, you should be detail-oriented, love trolling trade catalogs and Amazon and Barnes and Noble (their recommendations provide some unique suggestions), and be prepared to spend money on things you don’t like.  It’s rewarding, but time-consuming, at times fun and at time smash-your-face-into-your-desk frustrating.  So consider what you’ll be putting into it before you sign up.

Great Management 101

19 Sep

If you haven’t heard of Nero Wolfe, look him up.  I’ll wait.  Back?  Good.  You might or might not like Nero Wolfe, but he definitely commands respect.  The man, aside from being a genius, is an incredible manager, and we can all learn something from him when we find ourselves in a position supervising others.

What do we know about Wolfe?

  1. He is a genius, nonpareil in the field of detective work.
  2. He views detective work as a means of subsidizing his expensive lifestyle (requiring over $50,000 to live in 1943?  Obscene!)
  3. He has habits.  Oh does he have habits, and a schedule that is so rarely disturbed that when something does upset it, it merits comment.
  4. He employs Archie Goodwin, Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather as leg men, Fritz as a butler and chef, and Theodore Horstmann as orchid nurse.

Aside from noting how eccentric this makes him, think about why he’s such a good manager.

Obviously, being a genius means he knows what he’s doing.  What about his prices?  Well, he’s the best, and he charges accordingly.  We can all learn something about being unafraid to value ourselves appropriately, and if we’re good at what we do, we should ask for what we’re worth instead of what we think we can get.  Wolfe gets away with it because there is no one else who does what he can with the same degree of competence.

His habits prove that he has effectively made a schedule that everyone is aware of, and honors.  He’s set his hours, his staff and clients know his availability and they work around it because he will always be available when he says he is.  He also frees himself to focus on the task at hand, instead of doing 50 things at once, allowing for the production of quality work.  Something else we learn is that he doesn’t allow his work life to dominate his personal interests or time unless absolutely necessary (there’s a great storyline with Arnold Zeck where Wolfe must completely break with his established patterns in order to save his own life).  He enriches his work by having outside interests, and realizing that passions don’t have to be about our day-to-day jobs.  This gives him some perspective.

Last, and most important, he employs the best possible people to do for him what cannot or will not do himself.  Archie, Saul, Fred and Orrie handle the investigation part of the work; they diligently pursue lines of inquiry as assigned by Wolfe, and then report to him once completed or as instructed.  Wolfe keeps their assignments from overlapping, and he synthesizes the information, coming to the solution.  Fritz and Theodore make his life easier by performing tasks he cannot always do: with his appetite and sans Fritz, Wolfe would be cooking for himself all day and have no time to earn the money for his food; without Theodore, his hobby wouldn’t be possible because the orchids would die without the care he gives them.  From this, we learn that it’s ok to delegate as long as we put our trust in people who are competent, and that we don’t have to do everything ourselves, even in our personal lives.  If we can streamline processes and free ourselves to do what we do best, then we’re on our way to being great managers.

What do you learn from people who you think are great managers?  Are there similarities?  I’m curious to see what other people think.

Personality: Zahi Hawass

3 Feb

If you’re working in museum curation or are interested in really old Egyptian stuff, you’ve probably come across the name Zahi Hawass.  I think he’s an interesting cookie, so I thought I’d give him a little nod as an illustration of the type of people you can run across in your work with rare materials.  He’s not representative, but he has some traits I think are more commonly found than not.

Dr. Hawass is, first and foremost, an expert in Egyptology.  He’s got an interest in King Tutankhamen that’s well-documented, as well as solid footing in other eras.  He goes out to sites himself and is passionate about what he does.  The down side is that he’s passionate about what he does to the point of not being overly willing to cooperate with other nations regarding Egyptian artifacts.  His position, right or not, is that many prominent or important artifacts rightfully belong to Egypt and must be returned.  Notable in his quest are his attempts to get Britain to return many of the British Museum artifacts.  He has said that he will make life miserable for anyone who does not return these objects, insinuated that they are perpetrating the legacy of theft from Egypt, and other un-pleasantries.  He’s also known for being rather…forceful and has been said to forbid archaeologists from announcing their findings.

So why does he matter?  Well, aside from his professional contributions, I wrote about him because when you deal with archival materials, you’re not always dealing with papers.  Even if you are, there are people like him doing that.  Not knowing they’re out there is bound to come as a shock to someone who has never dealt with someone like Dr. Hawass.  It’s easy to be intimidated by their extensive knowledge, passion and forceful personalities.

The lesson here: always remember that as a professional you are representing your institution.  It might not be the biggest or best funded, but it’s just as worthy as the biggest and best funded.  Be as involved with what you do.  Don’t be bowled over by experts, but be respectful of the work they’ve done.