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It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to post, because I’ve been surprisingly busy lately.  In my quest for viable options to plug the holes in my little money-making vessel (more a tugboat than a schooner in the best of seas), I came across the idea of search engine evaluation.  I think it was actually on a library list-serv that I heard about Leapforce, and after doing quite a bit of research on what initially sounded vaguely scammy, I finally decided it sounded legit enough to at least give it a shot.  The idea is that after submitting a resume, reading through a 100ish page “general guidelines” on how to analyze web page utility and taking a tedious 2-part exam (you’re eliminated immediately if you don’t pass either part of the exam), one is qualified as a Leapforce Search Engine Evaluator.  After about a week of reading and URL simulation, I passed the exams and was hired on as an independent contractor.  That means I can work as much or as little as I want, from home.  It’s not something I would want to do longterm or 40 hours a week, but is so far a pretty flexible part time solution. 

What compells me about this work is its similarity to many aspects of librarianship.  It reminds me of the types of queries I would get when I worked as a virtual librarian for OCLC’s QuestionPoint service (basically analyzing user intent and determining the best web resources for an information request).  From what I can tell from the comments of other evaluators, they are discerning information professionals.  Presumably the tests weed out the riff raff.  Anyway, my little proactive experiment means I’m working a little more than usual…

I spent the week tweaking my cover letter to apply for the Sophie Aberle fellowship at the Center for Southwest Research at UNM.  This fellowship represents the best of my ambitions – a chance to get paid to do research and work on a library project at the same time.  Specifically it is a project to choose historical state documents and digitize them into the library collection: “The fellow will select documents for scanning, create descriptions, and load them into the CSWR image management system, CONTENTdm.  The fellow will also write contextual information to help users, especially students, understand the events leading to statehood as well as New Mexico society and culture in the statehood era.”  My cover letter stresses my digitization experience and the fact that I have worked with CONTENTdm on several other projects.

Anyway, it sounds like a unique opportunity, and fits perfectly (20 hours a week, spring and fall semesters) into my schedule for next year.  Perhaps more importantly, it was the push I needed to make the decision to accept the GA position and go to school full time.  I was riding the fence when the fellowship was advertised, and it definitely seemed like a sign.  Whether or not I get it, it was posted three days before I needed to decide whether or not to sign the GA contract.  While I would have gone with my instinct regardless and may have made the same decision, who knows?

I am not really a new-agey believer in portents, but I do think signs are useful indicators of what we truly want to happen in our lives.  I felt a rush of excitement when I read about this fellowship, telling me what I needed to know about seeking new challenges and opportunities.

I’ve started polling friends and family for creative income sources for my self-imposed period of poverty known as grad school.  Why, after all my philosophical swooning about the benefits of uncertainty and diving head-first into major life changes, do I still have such an aversion to being poor and unemployed?

Here are the facts:

1. I am good at being cheap, but even I probably can’t live off a grad assistant stipend alone.

2. I refuse to take out student loans, and I really hate the idea of tapping my hard-earned savings.

3. There are definitely other revenue possibilities, but nothing certain.  More on my fellowship applications later.

4. The recession is kind of freaking me out.  Even the lawyers are unemployed.  That’s like cockroaches starving in the garbage dump.

5. I am too old and spoiled in the notion of having a rewarding and intellectually stimulating job to a) work at the Olive Garden, or b) deliver newspapers, or probably even c) data entry temping.

So I am open to ideas…anybody?

I wanted a name that would better represent my adventures, which have definitely branched out beyond library walls.  That’s not to say that I am shifting my career focus – I am still active in ARLIS and the New Mexico Library Association and plan to keep working on library projects.  However, in considering myself an “art information professional,” I’m also keeping my options open for other types of cultural resource management.  Over the past year, as I’ve become more focused on publication, research, and presentations, curatorship is starting to really appeal to me.  Working in the gallery, I have also come to realize how much I like dealing with objects as well as databases. 

In a field such as art history, keeping open options is kind of the name of the game.  I feel like I am better positioned than others with my experience and library background, but it’s still a niche market.

Waiting for my new adventures about to come stampeding over the horizon, I’ve decided to revive my blog to keep track of this constantly evolving journey.  Or maybe it’s to talk myself through the fear that still lurks every time I anticipate jumping out into the wide abyss of uncertainty inherent in making big decisions.   I made the decision this week to return to grad school full time.  I was offered a graduate assistantship at UNM and will be moving to Albuquerque in August. 

My friend Sara and I experimented for awhile with a blog called Santa Fe Art Walk to discuss the quirky art scene here in the City Different, but I kind of want to have an outlet that’s more suited to my multi-faceted musings on cultural resource management, as well as continuing to chart my course through the sea (desert?) of uncertainty.

May 2010
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