Blog every day of June – Reading professional literature – Sat 13 June

My kids do sport on Saturday mornings and I spend nearly two hours in the car waiting for them, so this is my opportune time to catch up on reading. I used to do the same thing when they were younger and at swimming lessons, but this is better as I am alone in the car with few distractions.

I choose this time to particularly focus on reading for professional development, because I can concentrate more clearly, I can take notes and I can ponder on my reading, more than any other place that I read.  (and that includes the bathroom at home….. my kids don’t understand closed doors, lol).

Why is this important?

Because I learn:

  • what is happening in the world that will affect libraries eg. caught up with the details of the Amazon/Hachette issue today which could affect what we will see published in years to come
  • what is coming that may affect libraries in the future eg. a $199 3D Printer scheduled for release in 2015
  • what is happening in other libraries, which I may be able use in mine eg. being Mac friendly, Lego Clubs, Open Library e-books
  • things that will help me to do my job better – eg. an article of leadership versus management
  • things that will help me to help our staff to do their job better – eg. an idea for a training topic and a good overview of copyright and libraries
  • things that will help me to serve our users better eg. an update on features now available through one of our e-book vendors and information from Stay Smart Online
  • things that are happening in the world that inspire me to potentially translate into libraries eg: AusPosts Digital Mailbox, how can we take those ideas and apply them to our library?

These are the things that have just come up from my two hours of reading this morning.

I also read professional literature at other times, but I likely gain more from this mostly uninterrupted time.

My point in all this – training is fantastic, as is study, but the best thing you can do for your professional development, your job, your library and your users is to read professional literature – library related and more broadly.

There are plenty of blogs still being published and in fact I added two more to my feeds today, that I discovered through my reading. These are where I find a lot of the very up-to-date and topical content.  However, library journals are also important as are the key journals in your area of focus, whether its children’s services, technology, collections or something else.

Libraries are not just about books and neither are librarians. But just like our libraries focus on literacy, so should we, developing our ongoing professional literacy, so we serve everyone, including ourselves to the best of our ability.


Blog every day of June – When big is little – Fri 13 June

On a regular basis I write a list of largish works that need to be completed and tape it to the side of my computer.  These are jobs that I think are going to take a bit of time, need a block of time for focus, but which aren’t urgent.

This week, the list had not changed, bar one or two things, from last week.  Still had those jobs that needed some focus and some time. However, when I actually found the time and focus, found that I didn’t really need that length of time or that much focus.

So how did the big jobs become smaller?  A couple of reasons I think:

  • they weren’t as big as I thought they were – which I think for these roles was part of it
  • I had been thinking about aspects of the work and therefore had it ‘half’ done by the time I came to do it.

Even though I wasn’t deliberately working on any of these tasks, I was thinking about them at various times, so by the time I came to actually do them, they didn’t take anywhere near as long as I expected.

On the other-hand, I do tend to overestimate how long it is going to take me to do something – a habit I got into I suppose because I hate to be late.

Other tricks to make big things small are to:

  • Delegate
  • Reassess – does it really need to be that big
  • Simplify – does it really need to be that complicated
  • Forget it – does it really need to be done at all.

Which makes me think there are a few things on the next list that may not need to be there at all……..

Blog every day of June – Security is the next big concern – Thurday 12 June

Public Libraries Victoria Network has a number of special interest groups, including ICT of which I am a part.  We organise and run one or two seminars a year for public library staff in Victoria and have covered RFID, mobile devices, downloadables, digital content, an unconference and more.

We were talking about organising our next big seminar and decided that there was no ‘next big thing’ that hadn’t already been covered by us or someone else, which brought us around to security.

With everything moving to the cloud, we have decided to focus our next event on security.  This seminar will give a basic background to cloud computing, offer information on security concerns coming from things like near field communications, examine how the National Privacy Principles affect what we do and hopefully hear (briefly) from our vendors about how they are ensuring our data security and privacy.  This is all a work in progress, so likely the outline will change before it is finalised and we go ahead with it later in the year.

Library staff are not the only ones concerned about it, so are insurance companies, governments, big web companies, banks and more.

In order to provide an event keyed to library concerns, I would love to hear what your library security concerns are.  I have already heard of one story where a teens card has been closed to the guarantor who signed for it.???????

Any horror stories, or positive outcomes would be appreciated.  And then when the day is run, I will post my notes from it so that everyone can benefit.


Blog every day of June – Changing things up – Wed 11 June

We do an email Quick Quiz once a fortnight for staff.  We send an email to them, focused on one of our online resources, asking three questions that involve them just doing quick exploration of the resource to answer. They then submit the answers and it is included in their performance appraisal.

We started this process as a means of making staff aware of our subscription databases and the basics of how to use them, so in turn they could promote them and their use to library users.  However, it has become more than that.

Quite a few staff have taken to them enthusiastically and have completed the majority of them.  There is quite some pride in their achievement, both on their part and on mine.

But of course, on the other side, are the staff who never seem to find a few minutes to complete the quiz once a fortnight.  However, I haven’t given up on them.

One of the things we are trying is to change things up a bit.  Rather than just having the quick quiz on one of our online resources, today we sent our first quiz out on our ILMS item search.  We chucked in few curly questions as we would expect our staff to be well versed in it’s use, but I was pleased to see that from the responses I have received already, that most were well on top of things.

What it has also done is to generate a bit more interest and enthusiasm.  People are keen to test their skills and even challenge what they think they know and that is what we aim to do here.

Besides our ILMS, which we will run more quizzes on, we will also do some on our events bookings, PC management system, Google calendars, discovery layer and more.

It’s early days yet, but it looks like changing things up here will help generate more interest and help up-skill even more staff.  If that’s what can be achieved on this small scale, we will have to look at what we can achieve doing the same thing on larger scale projects.

I would love to hear any experience of changing things up which worked for you or your library.

Blog every day of June – Reference interview – Tue 10 June

One of my favourite things about being a librarian is the reference interview.  I think it is also one of the great skills of the profession and also one that is under-appreciated. I have taught the basics of reference interviews to some of our junior staff over the years and it never ceases to amaze them how much of a difference just asking a few clarifying questions can make.

It takes skill to get library users to the place where we can realistically help them, without making them feel like they are being interrogated whilst at the same time making them feel listened to.  It is also a skill that is used in many vocations, under many different names, but its goal is the same – to get to the core of what is really being asked for.

Which is why I was pleased to see Andy’s Agnostic Maybe blog post – Reference: Life on the desk.  This is his take on the informal rules of the reference interview and I was delighted to find that this is exactly how it works on the front line, day after day for me as well.

Take some time to read it – you will smile as you read about your own daily reference experiences from the mouth of a fellow practitioner.

Blog every day of June – Great website advice – Mon 9 June

Its always interesting to read the stories, experiences and advice of library web specialists, but never more so than when you are faced with a website redesign.

As this is where we are, at present, David Lee King’s recent series of blog posts entitled “Developing an Online First Mentality” is very timely. So rather than restating his points, I encourage you to go and check them out for yourself.

Thanks David, you’ve given us much to think about.

Blog every day of June – Delicacy of online communications – Sun 8 June

We have an online form for people to contact us and people use it for a lot of things – asking questions about collections, querying their membership, info about events and so much more. The query comes through to us as an email and we usually respond to the user with an email (if they provide an address).

And generally email is a straightforward method of communication, but sometimes it requires some thought before submitting a reply.  The problem with email and this is when you use it for any form of communication, is that you don’t have tone of voice and body language to help you receive the message in its right context.

Therefore, what could be a straight-to-the-point message to one person, could be taken as rude by someone else.  And as some of our email communications are on touchy topics like claims returned items, overdue fines and outstanding bills, it is very important to ensure that you do everything you can with the printed word to make sure you get your message across the best way possible.

This means spelling things out more than you may need to in other forms of communication, or being extra friendly and helpful.  Its hard to give a template on what to do, because each communication is as individual as the person sending it.  I have found that taking the extra time to get it right can make a big difference to the quality of the transaction.

And of course, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well you articulate the message, some people are going to take offence anyway, but that is no different to any other form of communication.

We can only do the best that we can do.


Blog every day of June – Giving back to the profession – Sat 7 June

I love my job and I love my profession. So how can I give back to something that has given so much to me?

Well this blog is one way.  I can share my experiences, learning, training and more with anyone who cares to seek it out. (and thanks to all of you that do).  It has a secondary benefit in that it makes for a very detailed training report as well.  🙂  Many of my colleagues also do a great job of sharing great resources through social media.

Getting involved in library associations, like VALA and ALIA is another good way.  Its one thing to attend the great conferences and events they host, its another to be involved in the hosting – giving back

Get involved in your sector’s library group. For me in Victorian public libraries its the Public Library Victoria Network, and in particular the ICT Special Interest Group. I not only have been able to give back through this group, but have also received so much from these wonderful sharing people.

Write! Write! Write! Tell the library world about the great things that are happening in your library.  Whether it be for Incite – or a more scholarly journal, or a conference proposal – give it a try. You may not think your project is worthy, but there would be plenty out there who would disagree.  And there are never enough stories……

It may be daunting, but from one who has been in all those arenas, it is so worth it.  Although it is a great way to give to the profession, you end up getting more than you receive.

Blog every day of June – Best thing about working in libraries – Fri 6 June

There are many wonderful things about working in libraries:

  • the great jobs we have to do
  • the wonderful people we do those jobs for – our library users
  • the toys we get to play with
  • the people we met
  • the great titles we come across to read, listen to, watch etc.
  • and so much more

The best thing of all is the people we work with.

Library staff are just awesome. They are friendly, so helpful, understanding, encouraging and supportive. And they are not just like that with users, but with their colleagues and others.  Its just who they are.

I have had some rough times this year and it has never been a problem to go to work, or to miss some work as the case may be, because they are understanding, will be an ear if I need it and will cover whatever I miss as a result.

My work colleagues are awesome and they are huge reason for why I happily go to work each day.

And as an added bonus, I work alongside library staff from different public libraries in Victoria and encounter library staff from different sectors and across both Australia and the World, who are all just as amazing.

Thanks guys – you are the best.

Blog every day of June – Sometimes days surprise you – Thu 5 June

Today was full of little surprises….

I had a meeting at a new library today. The surprise there was that it was even more awesome than I expected. An added bonus was catching up with colleagues from another library service I hadn’t seen in while and being able to bring back some great ideas to my own library.

I came back to the office, to discover that the hot water service in our staff kitchen had died and flooded half the staff area – leaving the carpet mucky. That was a surprise, but fortunately for me, not one I had to clean up.

Then I got an email that gave me the renewal price for one of our online resources, one that I have been waiting for to finalise my budget and it was CHEAPER than I expected, by a reasonable amount. That just NEVER happens.

Then I got some positive feedback and some great advice and encouragement from my managers – they are really good at providing this, but I was not expecting it today (being such a busy day), so that was good.

We have our fair share of surprises, good and bad in our work. Some of mine have included finding the library has been robbed, discovering a gift left for me by a grateful patron, bumping into a colleague from university who I hadn’t seen since graduation and too many more to mention.

What are some of your favourite surprises from your library?  The good would be better, but I will commiserate with the bad as well.  🙂