I remember when I used to look forward to summer — warmer weather, longer days, no homework, family vacations and time with friends. Even when I started working during the summer breaks, there seemed to still remain ample time to read and relax after work was done in those long months between school terms. Even when I had summer school, it would last only a fraction of the whole holiday period, leaving weeks to relax and recharge.
Now, I look forward to summer for some of the same reasons — the warmer weather and longer days — and some new ones — travel takes a bit less time without the traffic of parents driving children to school and fewer colleagues in the office means a slightly lighter load of internal requests.
Although I miss the family vacations, the biggest loss in the transition from school to work was the chance to decompress and relax that those summer months offered. That time was fairly sacred and it was unlikely it would be scheduled over or co-opted by classes or meetings; one would dread catching a summer cold that seemed to suck up those valuable days of summer holidays, but never thought about a time in the future when unexpected work events or deadlines would force retraction of vacation days and a premature return to work.
As I cannot take off the several months I dream of to rest and relax during the summer, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the “Five Ways to Recharge During the Summer” recommended by Jamie Corcoran in her June post at Gradhacker. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in 2010, I attended a presentation given by Michael Stephens on libraries and social media entitled “The Hyperlinked Library — Trends, Tools and Transparency”. As I had followed his blog Tame the Web for few years and had also read a few of his papers and presentations, this was possibly the first time I was looking forward to an event co-sponsored by our library association. I was impressed by his straight-forward, animated and engaging way of speaking and the fact that the presentation left us feeling excited and encouraged to try and use these tools in our libraries. Although many of the newer staff had personal experience using LinkedIn and Facebook, our library was only just starting to create a Facebook presence and there was only a weak interest among staff and administration to take steps forward with social media, particularly Twitter.
I changed jobs and my new post overwhelmed me. I postponed thinking further about using Twitter or any social media for the library, hoping to get my feet beneath me before taking such steps. So it is with a bit of sheepishness that I admit that I only finally joined Twitter last week. I feel a bit like a Johnny-come-lately, to say the least.
In addition to Michael Stephens’ inspiring presentation, SES and my husband had both made convincing arguments in favour of my joining Twitter. Twitter could give me entrance and access to a wider community of similar interests, both academic and professional, with whom I could share information and experiences and from whom I could gather advice and ideas. I would be able to have interactions and connections with other librarians, invaluable for a solo librarian if only because it would help me step beyond my home library and my personal echo chamber. I could gain better familiarity with a technology whose usage is still increasing and whose applications could be both personally and professional useful.
But still I dragged my feet.
It has fewer explosions and fight scenes than Escape from New York. Sadly, it does not feature Steve McQueen, James Coburn, or James Garner. But the argument could be made that this escape is no less important than the adventures described in either film.
Sally Pewhairangi’s post “20 Everyday Ways to Escape the Library Echo Chamber” at Finding Heroes has some great ideas about how to escape the library echo chamber. As had been discussed in a previous post here are Research Salad, there are dangers to being stuck inside an echo chamber, sharing ideas only with individuals of similar opinions and experiences. Instead of talking only to other librarians and information specialists about issues facing us and how they might be addressed, Ms. Pewhairangi suggests that much can be gained by looking outside our domain. The first step to escaping the library echo chamber, she asserts, is to take an interest in what is happening outside libraries.
The list’s recommendations are diverse and intriguing: watching TED talks on subjects with which you have little to no familiarity and examining interactions in retail settings, checking out signage in supermarkets and conversing with “the weirdest person” you know about what he or she is working on. Using what is learned and the responses received, policies can be better devised or revised and practices for serving library patrons improved.
One supplement to this list which I would recommend is to travel. While leaving the region or country may not be a practical or everyday activity, adventuring outside the city in which you and your library are located is easy enough and can give you new and additional insights. As the list already includes going to a park and talking to fellow plane passengers about their library experiences, travel farther afield simply takes things one step further. To illustrate this point, I will present three travel destinations to which I escaped from the library and a few insights I gained while there.
The reopening of the Library in January meant digging my way through my inbox, checking in journal issues that had piled up in the intervening weeks. The colleague who delivers the mail had filled the box as full as possible and left the rest on my desk. Normally, as I prepare the tables of contents for distribution, I browse and find at least one or two articles of personal interest to me. At least three periodicals had December or January issues with “best articles of 2011″ or “most important x of 2011″, and as these articles traditionally provide good synopses of 2011 from different perspectives, I had expected these issues would provide rich and intriguing content.
Instead, I found myself trotting over to Google Reader (which I still use as I am still evaluating some of the options SES suggested in “Google Reader Fail”) and scrolling. It was a mixed bag, but there were some very good and helpful year-in-review style posts that might have been otherwise overlooked in the first month of the year, when suddenly one realizes that there are hundreds of new e-mails and thousands of new posts and one really needs to invest in a better strategy to manage information overload.
Now that February is giving me a chance to breathe, I wanted to share the few end-of-year review posts that I think are not to be missed.
“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block, you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.” — John Rogers, Kung Fu Monkey, 06-25-11
Everyone gets writer’s block — although the phrase’s Wikipedia entry suggests that it’s a condition primarily associated with writing as a profession, writer’s block can afflict anyone. Trying to write a message in that birthday or holiday card, but unable to find the right words? Spent so much time researching for your dissertation that you’re unable to figure out where to begin? College students, journalists, CEOs, and writers of jingles, letters, and blog posts, writer’s block is a dangerous and frustrating malady that can strike any person, at any time.
To help combat this condition for which modern medicine has not yet found a cure, we have compiled a list of selected resources to fight and demonstrate that, while writer’s block might last a little or a long time, it does not have to be a permanent condition.
As I wrote in my first post at Research Salad, we compile statistics at our library. We track number of visitors, number of queries, number of consultations and loans, and number of publications catalogued and uploaded. In previous libraries, we’ve had Access databases to help us track and process this information. Where I currently work, without time to develop a similar system, I have a series of spreadsheets to collect the same data. However, these numbers are not all I collect.
When I started work here, I received a very good piece of advice: remember to thank those who help you and keep track of the thanks you receive.
Have you ever had that realization that, when asked “How are you doing?”, the only responses you can think of are how much progress you made on a project this week or how far along you are in writing the latest draft of your dissertation or major paper? If yes, has this been followed by the revelation that your ability to talk about all other subjects has become rusty from disuse?
The other day, a friend was explaining to me how, while out on a date night with her husband, she came to the uncomfortable realization that she had very little to talk about that didn’t involve her children, what they were learning, what they’d done that day, or something funny the oldest child had said over lunch. I can appreciate the feeling — there have been moments when I realized that all I could think to talk about are the queries I received that day, how low morale has sunk at the office, and my plans to revamp the library system when I win the lottery. Botheration, I’d think, I’ve become boring and I no longer have anything interesting to say.
Apologies for the half-finished post that made its way up on the internet. Ah, the start of a new academic year!
Motivation is a fickle friend. I started this post about a month ago and have let it sit as new and more fun tools and trends passed through my mind. Such is the way of things. But as I sit here hunkered down as the winds of Irene keep beating at my window, I am motivated by the threat of losing power to finish this post. I am also motivated by looking at the week ahead and knowing what my schedule holds. I find motivation when I’m forced, oftentimes. While I am very intrinsically motivated as a human being, I find myself having difficulty closing if I do not have a deadline, or an impending natural disaster. Motivation is a tough issue to negotiate and wrestle, but in his TED talk, Daniel Pink gives a great summary of motivation, motivators, and expectations.