2011 Action Items

It’s nearly the middle of January, so these resolutions are a little late.  I made a conscious decision to Stay Off The Blog in December so I could take a proper vacation.  This past fall, I took on a number of projects at home and at the office that was pulling me in too many directions, so going off the grid for a while was good for the soul and mind. (For what it’s worth, I visited family in Palm Springs, California for 2 1/2 weeks.)

Here are a few New Year’s Action Items I’ve been mulling over these past few weeks.   I don’t want to call them resolutions because I don’t want to resolve to do these things so much as I want to do them:

  • Develop better work plans. My colleague in Saskatchewan, Brian Dewar, has some good advice on this one: making (and owning!) a plan can make all the difference on the job.  I’ve taken his thoughts and modified them to fit my own game plan.  I believe it’s vital to think about the long term, but it’s important to be nimble about these things, too.  Don’t let one part of your work overwhelm all of your goals.  And, always be prepared to congratulate yourself for the little victories – you’ll never make it through the week if you don’t find ways to pat yourself on the back for the little things you do.
  • Redefine my position’s role and duty within the organization. My work in instructional technologies this year is largely task-oriented.  I was asked to join a team because of my ability to create online learning objects and because I have a wealth of experience in reference and research services.  My place of work has been working with instructional technologies for many years now, but we’re at a stage where it’s time to redefine our online strategy. I may be on a short-term contract with Dal Libraries, but I wholly believe that what the organization needs right now is not a mechanic (as my colleague has nicely put it) but an engineer.  I’ve held roundtables within the library so we can openly discuss what our success are, what our failures have been, and how we can go forward.  A big part of the winter term will be to develop a plan the library can take forward.
  • Learn more about librarianship. I’ve worked in academic support services for five years and have studied LIS for two years, but there’s still much to learn.  I’m aware of so many issues that affect our profession, but I’m hardly an expert. I intend to spend more time studying pedagogy instead of just talking about it, and involving myself with collections and access instead of just watching colleagues discuss it at reference meetings.
  • Write more about librarianship. Even in our profession, which is made up largely of practitioners instead of academics, we hear the phrase, “publish or perish.”  However, I’m not worried too much about publishing right now. Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that new professionals have the expectation – and burden – of publishing put on them.  It is my professional opinion that new professionals should spend as much time on praxis as they can.  We need to learn what we’re great at doing before we can teach others about it. However, this won’t stop me from writing on this blog.  I’ve made plans to lay down my opinions on things twice a week, and I hope you might find the time to write back and tell me where you think I’m wrong or what you think I should more of.
  • Talk more about librarianship. I have two speaking engagements lined up this winter and spring, with another proposal to be vetted by an organizing committee.  I’m making a point to speak and be heard in venues that are informal and collaborative (which is similar to blogging, in my mind).  This January, I will present on screencasting in education at PodCamp Halifax 2011, and this spring I’ll take part on an IT panel at the Canadian Library Association 2011 conference, also in Halifax.
  • Build communities.  I’ve been floating around an idea for a long time to build either an online LIS blogging community that shares tags and categories or to build an online magazine/portal that can do for LIS what Open Letters Monthly can do for literature and literary criticism.  (In fact, I originally bought thezeds.com because I saw its potential as an LIS brand, even if it doesn’t reference librarianship in its SEO.)  We’ll see if anything happens – stay tuned for possible calls to action on this front.

Happy 2011, all.   I’ll see you on the interweb and in real life.


Social media, privacy, and self-censorship

I had a chance to attend the local Third Wednesday new media roundup here in Halifax this week. I unfortunately arrived late and also had to leave early (work called, and prior engagements beckoned), so I didn’t hear the entire debate about social media and the workplace, and I certainly couldn’t take part in it since the room was overflowing with guests. But I did catch a few quips and statements that I wished I could take part in:

1. Social Media as personal branding. I can only nod in agreement to this: even the newest, greenest twitterer will quickly realize that social media shines when the person comes out from behind the curtain. Promote yourself, and the organization you are a part of will soon be part of your conversations with other people.

2. The “Facebook Generation” and Privacy. Some people wondered aloud what the “Facebook Generation” is doing to themselves, or even worse, what “we’re” doing to them by allowing so much crude and otherwise private material to be discovered online. I was surprised to hear statements like this from a group of people who are deeply entwined in social media: it’s one thing to think about consequences, but it’s another to damn the reason why we’ve all congregated here. But I digress. What bothered me about this conversation was that there was little consideration of the fact that younger people – whether you want to call them “Generation Next” or not – have grown up in a world with a different sense of what should be private and what should not be. It won’t matter as much to this generation whether or not a tasteless photo of their youth is discovered when they’re running for political office. And just as hippies soon grew up and became the establishment, one day this generation will grew up and become the establishment, and their own social mores will affect the larger social fabric. In my mind, it is all akin to Bill Clinton‘s (second-)famous statement, “I didn’t inhale.”

3. Self-censorship. The conversation ended with a rousing debate about the ends to which people will “self-censor” online and whether this a good thing or not. This is a moot point, because we mediate our notions of our selves every day, whether or not we are online or not. Just as we will tell the same story differently to our grandmother and our best friend, and just as we’re a little more guarded with people we have just met than with our lifelong buddies, so do we mediate our person with our different online communities. The fact that I don’t say X online because I don’t know what Y particular “friend” may think of it is no different from the fact I hold back on saying Z at the office even though I may say it at the bar or at home. Of course I’m painting with broad strokes and generalizing to a certain degree on this one, but my point is that self-censorship and social media is not a new phenomena but an everyday part of our everyday lives. We are social animals, with or without our always-on connection to the internet.

(in spite of all those criticisms, I enjoyed my time and will definitely be back for next month’s talk – social media and political movements. This is something I can shake a few fists at and support..)