Library Journal "Digital Libraries" Columns 1997-2007, Roy Tennant
Please note: these columns are an archive of my Library Journal column from 1997-2007. They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date.
Three Hard Things
A few years ago, I wrote a column called "Five Easy Pieces" (LJ 11/15/04, p. 25) to help answer the question, "Are you focused on the right tasks, solving the right problems?" I suggested the following strategies: 1) be a first-time user; 2) search like you hate it; 3) do what has impact; and 4) fight for your users. Yes, it seems that there were only four, and now you know why I didn't become a rocket scientist. I won't try to count to five again, so here are three things that may not be easy but are nonetheless important to your professional development. Take time to learn I'm fond of saying that we should learn as we breathe--all the time without even thinking about it. It would be nice if learning was always that effortless, but we often need to set aside time in our day to read, take an online course or tutorial, or try out a new web site. Attending a workshop, class, or conference can also be a good way to learn something new. Of course, these strategies require a longer time commitment, from a few days to several months. Nevertheless, taking time constantly to renew your professional knowledge and experience is important. If your place of employment does not naturally support this, you may need to advocate for change. Only a shortsighted administrator would prevent you from becoming a more valuable employee by thwarting your attempts to develop professionally. To make your case, it's best to select professional development opportunities that relate to your current position and responsibilities. However, if you are unable to get work release time for professional development (and even if you are successful), you should certainly contribute your own time. There are few investments with a more guaranteed return than developing your own professional knowledge and expertise. Try something new The pace of change in librarianship right now is rather incredible. Despite the staid surface (that is, we still buy books and mark and park them), the Internet has completely changed the landscape in which we exist and is calling into question how and what we do. One of the most useful ways to keep up with what's new is to play. Yes, play. By this I mean messing around with a new technology to see what it can do. After you've used it for a time and understand its capabilities, you can decide if it's worth keeping. If not, at least you can speak intelligently to others who may advocate its use. For example, I recently tried out Tribe.net and Orkut.com, both social networking sites. After using them for several months, I decided they weren't that useful to me and stopped going to them. But now I know what they're all about and can see why others may find them worthwhile. I've also dabbled in Second Life, and although I haven't visited it in months, at least I can talk about it from some experience. At the moment, I'm trying out Twitter. Time will tell whether I keep using it. The point is not to be afraid of trying something out to see if it works for you. You can always drop it later if it doesn't, and then at least you'll know what your colleagues and library users are talking about. Stop doing something Of course, what I've been suggesting takes time. Unless you're one of those unusual people with extra time on your hands, you are probably wondering how to start. The first step is to stop doing things that are less productive. Second, critically consider how you spend your time and make adjustments. Finally, make sure your professional development is a high priority. If your priorities are on target, what doesn't get done is what you shouldn't be doing anyway. Your job is to do whatever it takes to remain professionally aware and active. No one is more responsible for your professional development than you. If your boss thwarts your attempts to keep up, you need to do it on your own time, even if it means reading a journal in bed or visiting a new web site while dinner is in the oven. After all, these three things aren't all that hard. For more on the wired library, see the netConnect supplement mailed with the January, April 15, July, and October 15 issues of LJ __________________________________________________________________ LINK LIST Five Easy Pieces www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA479195.html Orkut.com orkut.com Second Life secondlife.com Tribe.net tribe.net Twitter twitter.com __________________________________________________________________