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Bravery based librarianship is the (only) future

25 Jul
Fearless man

This. But librarianship. (Flickr CC image by BombDog.)

 

In recent months I’ve been fortunate to meet a few people  I admire. Stephen Abram, Terry Kendrick, Andy Woodworth, and Jim Neal* are all people whose ideas about librarianship I’ve been inspired by.

I’m really interested in a common theme, one which the SLA2011 conference really hammered home for me. All of them have talked about the need for for a little chaos. They’ve all talked about the need to build in the potential for chaos into the fabric of librarianship and the libraries we work in – to deal with what Stephen calls the “asynchronous, asymmetrical threats” libraries are facing. He believes the only way to deal with this is through pattern disruption (and incidentally, points out that pattern disruption is a lot easier to achieve with people than it is with buildings or books).  In other words, mixing things up. Not just plodding along the same old route.

I think that chaos – deliberate, sanctioned chaos – is very, very hard to engineer. The whole thought of engineered chaos is almost oxymoronic anyway. You can only build in the potential for chaos but you can’t be completely sure you’ll be able to decide what that chaos will be. So you have to be really brave.

I think that bravery based librarianship is the only future we have. At some point, we have to disrupt the patterns and set a new path. Many libraries are doing this already – our profession is, of course, much more responsive to change than most people realise. But fear-based librarianship, or at least caution-based, still seems prevalent. Many a decision is made in order not to upset the minority, rather than to potentially please a whole new majority. In many cases, this approach is taken with good reason. But we’re talking about the survival of our profession, here.

But what strikes me is how often I hear about bravery-based librarianship that goes well. There were loads of these at SLA2011. So many times when libraries take the plunge on some decision or other, the outcomes are positive. I know failure is less likely to make it into the public eye, but even so enough people are trying interesting things and discovering that – hey, guess what – the world DIDN’T end and the earth DIDN’T swallow them up, and in fact everything carried on, but slightly better. So we should learn from them.

So many great ideas get bottlenecked by trying not to upset people. We are at a time when we need to inspire people, not protect their delicate sensibilities. Merely not failing is no longer enough. We have to succeed in such a way that the odd failure happens too – otherwise we’re not speculating enough to accumulate sufficiently. And I’m not talking about whole libraries, I’m talking about the ideas which drive them. Can we get ourselves into a collective mindset where we don’t fear chaos?

If you have an example of bravery-based librarianship, either succeeded or failing, I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Andy Priestner, another librarian for whom I have much admiration, is a good example of someone who has reached a senior position and still innovates, forward-thinks, and generally terrorises the establishment. (He’s even employed a Special Projects Officer who has the freedom to make chaos happen, in a good way, because they’re not tied in to the daily grind of the library. This is, thus far, the only clear example I’ve seen of what Jim Neal advocates – to build in to your organisation at least one position with real freedom to innovate, react with agility, focus on new ideas and so on.) What Andy does at Cambridge works!  Bravery-based librarianship really can be done.

- thewikiman

* I didn’t actually meet Jim Neal in the end. He did a talk at my previous institution, and it was amazing – I queued to meet him but ahead of me in the queue were all the really senior people in the organisation, including my boss and the librarian etc. So I thought they’d think I was out of place, and he probably wouldn’t want to be bothered, so wussed out and left. Later, I found out he knew who I was because of the Movers and Shakers thing, and wanted to meet me. Moral of the story – if you get the chance to meet someone inspirational, just take that chance and filter out all the things which might cause you to leave instead! Don’t let caution get the better of you; bravery FTW. :)

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My SLA2011 Experience, in video form…

24 Jul

A while back I made a video about SLA 2011, the annual conference of the Special Libraries Association. I was lucky enough to win a place to attend this – I’ve been holding off putting the video on my blog until the Leadership and Management Division, who sponsored my award, had put it on theirs, as I made the video primarily for that.

Anyway, here it is:

I made the video using good old fashioned Windows Movie Maker, and I’ve used the same techniques as in my Library Day in the Life vid to try and keep the viewer diverted! So it’s not just me talking at the camera.

The whole SLA experience was so amazing, really I haven’t even fully processed it. I keep going over my notes and spotting new things to go away and think about. If you’re interested in some more reflections on the conference, I wrote a post on the SLA-Europe blog; I’d also recommend reading the reflections of my fellow ECCA winners, Sam Wiggins, Natalia Madjarevic, and Chris Cooper. And I would SO recommend applying for the ECCA next year!

I do have one over-arching conclusion from the conference, though. Which is… in my next post. :)

- thewikiman

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The Great Library Stereotypometer!

19 Jul

Okay here it is… After EXTENSIVE RESEARCH (I asked people on twitter what they reckoned) I proudly present (and then immediately duck behind the nearest sofa) the Great Library Stereotypometer – a new, up-to-date, piercingly accurate and entirely NON-SERIOUS look at library stereotypes!

library stereotyes

Click to view the original full-size on flickr

As the caption says, click it to view full-size. Feel free to use it anywhere. Don’t take it seriously. (Seriously.)

More to add? Why not create your own! :)

- thewikiman

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3 essential things to do AS SOON AS YOU JOIN twitter…

05 Jul
twitter 't'

Via IconFinder

When most people join Twitter, they don’t know whether they’ll stick with it or not. For this reason, they often start following a few people before they’ve really set up their profile, and this can actually end up being detrimental to their twitter experience.

The reason is, when you start following someone, in most cases they get an email saying ‘X is now following you’ – this email includes your bio, your pic, and a link to your profile. If you don’t have a bio, your only tweet is something along the lines of ‘Don’t really understand this twitter lark!’, and your picture is the default twitter egg, chances are they won’t follow you back. And seeing as you’ve gone out of your way to identify key people to follow first of all, this is potentially a huge missed opportunity to engage with people who you’d get a lot out of chatting to.

So to avoid this, and generally get off on the RIGHT foot on Twitter, here are 3 very simple things to do right away, as soon as you join, and before you do anything else:

  1. Put in a picture, preferably a head-shot. If you’re really camera shy then put in a picture of a robot or whatever, but put in SOMETHING – lots of people refuse to follow anyone with the twitter egg, right off the bat. Twitter is a personal medium – even if you’re only using it for professional networking, you really need a picture of yourself up there.
  2. Put in a proper, engaging bio. Remember, people get emailed when you follow them. Oh, who is this new follower and shall I follow them back? I don’t know who they are because they’ve not put in a bio – so I won’t bother. Twitter is about connecting with people – use the bio to say something about yourself, which will make the kinds of people who you want to connect with, want to connect with you. Try and avoid ‘reluctant twitterer’ or similar as the last sentence.
  3. Write a couple of tweets. I know it seems silly to broadcast tweets to no one, but you need to give people something to go on when they’re deciding whether to follow you back. Everyone’s first tweet is roughly ‘Am trying twitter out – hello world!’ or something along those lines, and that’s fine, no one expects your first tweet to be a work of 140 character genius. But follow that up with something more meaningful, perhaps about what you want to get out of Twitter, the types of professionals you want to tweet with, or maybe a link to a really useful article or piece of information.
    .

Just do those 3 simple steps and you’ll hit the ground running, and have more chance of developing relationships with people who matter to you.

- thewikiman

More on stuff on Twitter from this blog:

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