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Though this semester is shaping up to be even more intense than the last one, I am pretty excited about the months ahead.  Once again the first order of business is prioritizing and organizing my agenda to make sure I accomplish everything I set out to do.  Along with my research and cataloging projects, in large part this means redoubling my efforts toward professional development and funding opportunities.  It won’t be long before I’m wandering the aisles of the job market with basket in hand, and in the meantime I need to continue to find inventive ways to finance my grad school experience.

There are several things I’m working on at the moment – applications for conference travel awards (I’m planning to attend the joint ARLIS/VRA conference in Minneapolis this year as well as daydreaming about the VRA Summer Educational Institute), the semi-annual resume rewrite, and an interesting project through ARTstor that would also pay for travel expenses.  I’m also eligible for UNM scholarships this year, so that’s another possibility.  While I would like to continue working at Bunting for the duration of my degree, last semester’s budget situation goes to show just how tenuous funding sources can be.  Time to channel my creative energy.

Over the past three years, I thought I was on top of my professional development.  I attended conferences, wrote articles and book reviews, and stayed actively involved in many associations and discussion lists.  However, now that I am again entering the world of independent contracting, I’m remembering just how much effort it takes to develop and maintain a professional brand.  A lot of that effort is brainstorming and prioritizing – there are so many options out there these days for online interaction, not just in the library/museum community, but integrating information professionals of all varieties.  I can’t join them all, so I have to be strategic.  My experience with the nepotistic nature of hiring in New Mexico has convinced me of the importance of networking and name recognition.

Along with new association memberships this year (AAM and the New Mexico Association of Museums), one of the new networks I’ve joined is LinkedIn.  I’ve shied away from it in the past because it seemed more like a redundant social network than a professional community, but I was convinced to join when my dad was recruited for his current job based on his profile.  Judging by the quality of discussions and member involvement in my groups, it is in fact a valuable networking tool.   I especially appreciate the discussions led by Kim Dority on LIS Career Options.  Here’s my profile in case anyone wants to join my network.

As I face various impediments to my desire to stay involved the field and improve my own skills and knowledge, I am again recognizing the benefit of actually working in a library and the professional support that entails. I was always encouraged in my library jobs to take web tutorials, attend webinars, and read articles pertaining to library science. While I’m still encouraged to “read on the job” , this now covers the topics of art and art history (can’t really complain). I hardly ever have time to catch up on my backlog of library publications (which do not make for enticing reading on the bus after a long day of work).

Ditto the online learning opportunities. It’s not something I can pursue at work, and one of my budgeting sacrifices was to give up broadband at my house. Thus my freetime computing comes via wi-fi at coffeeshops. This gives me exactly 2 possible days a week for online professional development, and all too often webinars are live events that I can’t attend. But I should still try to pursue new alternatives, so I’ve been looking back over some of the best and most flexible options out there for professional development on my own time.

For one thing, just because I can’t attend every conference doesn’t mean I can’t get involved with the conference. More and more often the session notes and even full presentations are available for viewing on the conference websites. Some of my most useful resources are conference session handouts, even after the fact.

I went back and revisited the helpful links to “Free Library-related eLearning sites” on the Library 2.0 site. Here are some that I haven’t really pursued yet:

The Bibliographic Center for Research has “Free Friday Forums” on issues such as the Library of Congress collections, OCLC, FRBR, and RDA. These are archived, so I should be able to check them out.

The Library of Congress workshops seem moderately useful – there’s one on web design that could come in handy.

The Library of Congress Webcasts look a little more promising. I will definitely look at the one on bibliographic control.

I’m intrigued by the LISRadio site created by the School of Information Science at the University of Missouri, Columbia, which advertises “interactive webcasts”. There is also an archive. I’m particularly interested in the “On the job” series.

Some other options that I’ve already mentioned: OPAL, SirsiDynix Institute, and WebJunction.

I also looked into taking some classes via the Dona Ana Community College’s Library Science Program (certification, not Master’s degree), such as Advanced Cataloging. They are available online, and at $60 a credit hour are an affordable possibility. I think my skills are current enough right now, but the field is always shifting imperceptibly.

Those are the possibilities, now it’s really just a matter of budgeting the time.

I just got back from a whirlwind conference day in lovely Las Cruces New Mexico. A day was all I could devote to conferencing, but I tried to make the most of it. It was also good to visit a new part of the state and see New Mexico State University and the impressive Zuhl Library.

Among programs on new technologies and the meaning of professionalism, I attended a very interesting session on the new Fine Arts Library at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I haven’t yet had a chance to visit this building, but they have obviously done amazing things with their new space.

The presentation itself was entitled “Creativity All Around: and Within! The Fine Arts and Design Library at UNM” and featured 4 speakers who approached creativity in the Fine Arts library from different perspectives. The building project itself was discussed, along with the call to “claim your creativity” and step out of the librarian stereotype of being stuck in the dark ages (this seems to be more tangible lately with many exciting new “library as place” inspired building projects such as this and this and this).

Another presenter focused on the need to think outside the box in terms of collection development. They recently purchased a large video collection from a store going out of business down the street from the university. While this may fall under the radar of most collection development plans, it turned out to be an excellent way to fill in the gaps and make a stronger collection. It also turned out that the teaching faculty were extremely enthusiastic about the purchase (having informally used the store for years for teaching material), pointing out the need to get input from other constituents in the CD process.

The last two presentations were about instruction and reference in the Fine Arts library. The last presenter passed out handy bookmarks listing reliable online resources to use for those of us who don’t have access to comprehensive physical collections of fine art resources.

All in all, a good day…I really wish I had more time at the conference to network, however. It was great to finally meet some of the UNM art librarians, particularly Nina Stephenson. Her career path is an inspiration to me, though she commented on the dearth of art librarian jobs and the need to be in the right place at the right time. Easier said than done!

I’m in a mode of considering next steps – not actively job searching, but recognizing the need to plan ahead for the next year and beyond.  Without a plan, I feel like I don’t make consistent progress, and my plan right now feels too random.  It seems that the time is coming for me to review my progress over the past year and determine where I want to go from here.  I need to figure out my long term goals and structure my short term goals.  I’m keeping myself involved in a variety of ways, but I need more focus.

My ultimate career goal is to become an art librarian.  All the choices I have made over the past few years have been working towards that point.  But there are a variety of paths I can take towards that eventual destination – that’s where the tough decision-making comes in.  I have made significant strides towards a greater knowledge of art and proficiency in all areas of librarianship.  Where is my effort best utilized at this point?

I’m a natural list-maker.  On days when my thoughts are muddled, lists take the place of the flow of my thoughts.  So of course the first thing I did was to outline this process with a list.

Question: What are the qualifications of art librarians, and how does my resume stack up?

1. An academic background in art in combination with an MLIS. 

*What I have: My BA in art history.  If at all possible, I would definitely like to get my MA.  I am also constantly adding to my knowledge of art as part of my job and the independent research and book reviews I have taken on.

*Next steps: Keep researching.  Take graduate level classes when possible.

2. Knowledge of databases and resources specific to art.

*What I have: Experience with a wide variety of databases from my job as E-Resources Associate at UNL.  Many of these were art-related.  I also researched these tools and other art resources in an extensive collection development research project for my MLIS.

 *Next steps: Look into new resources and make sure I’m conversant about the existing ones.  Look over my collection development paper and see if it’s still relevant.

3. Cataloging and metadata experience

*What I have: Various experiences through work, internships, and coursework.

*Next steps: Keep up to date with skills and trends.  Look into online training/workshop opportunities, as well as other continuing ed. opportunities.

4. Professional involvement

*What I have: Association memberships, conference attendance, blogging, publishing, internships and networking.

*Next steps: find a mentor, seek more publishing opportunities (possibly in a scholarly art/library publication).  Keep up with trends in art librarianship through blogs and discussion lists.  Blog about these topics more specifically.  Brainstorm new ways to be more professionally active.

5. Reference skills

*What I have: Experience as a virtual reference librarian.  My research experience should also come in handy.  Customer service experience is also useful.

*Next steps: I am considering the wisdom of volunteering to take some reference shifts, possibly at the public library.  I have heard very conflicting views on volunteering professional time, so I hesitate.  Perhaps I will find a part-time position.

6. Experience working with special and digital collections.

*What I have: Experience through my internships.

*Next steps: Keep up with current trends. 

7. A resume and cover letter to set me apart from the crowd.

This is, of course, always a work in progress.  I’m constantly tweaking my resume and writing individualized cover letters for different types of jobs.  I need to ask more people to look at my resume and give me advice – new sets of eyes always help.  I had a good response last year, but it’s probably time to do it again.

After I compiled this list, I started looking over some of the information I’ve collected over the years about art/visual resource librarianship.  One of the most useful tools I came across is the ARLIS/NA “Core Competencies for Art Information Professionals” (which fortunately has a lot of overlap with my current list. I probably had it in mind at the time).  In the next few months I’m going to review this list carefully and consider how I want to use it to help me prioritize and move forward.

Some other short term goals:
-Update online portfolio
-Compile a physical portfolio (for interviews, and just to have everything “in writing” and in one place)
-Organize my internship notes
-Create sample projects (subject guides, bookmarks, syllabi, etc.)

This is a longterm career outline. If I try to tackle it all at once, I will get overwhelmed. But it feels good to have a bit more focus.

I was excited to find a new writing opportunity this week.  I will be writing book reviews for the new online arts magazine Moonshine – another one of those unpaid gigs that seem to be so ubiquitous.  If only money and librarianship were more compatible.  While not necessarily library-related, it’s a good chance to spread my literary wings a bit, polish the old resume, and read more art books.  Win win.

This is a thought I’ve had quite often lately as I consider my next career moves.  If you haven’t heard, it’s expensive to live in Santa Fe.  Another news flash: librarians don’t make much money.  Neither do registrars.  I’ve been considering options such as relocating to Albuquerque to save money on rent, which would mean an hour commute.  But they have comfy park-and-ride buses (and a thusfar elusive “Railrunner” train) between the two cities, so it wouldn’t be all bad.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be in the running for the University of New Mexico Libraries’ Resident Program.  It’s a 1 to 2 year residency that gives new librarians a taste of just about every aspect of librarianship – from reference to cataloging to archives.  If nothing else, I would be extremely well-rounded.  I kind of want my next position to be more longterm (in the 5 year range) so I can finally feel settled and maybe do the whole house/dog commitment thing, but this would be a great opportunity. 

I have always considered myself pretty proactive in the things I do for professional development.  However, I have discovered that this momentum is much easier to maintain in the context of current enrollment in an LIS program and working in a library.  By necessity, over the past few years I was constantly immersed in dialogue with co-workers and fellow students about issues in the field.  Now that dialogue is limited to my solo efforts at keeping up with writing/reading/continuing education.  It’s a bit lonely.

Part of my frustration is my desire to stay involved via conferences and committees tempered by the lack of opportunity here in New Mexico.  In Nebraska, I was able to be involved in the New Member’s Round Table of the state library association and an employer extremely supportive of conference attendance and other professional development.  The mini conference of the New Mexico Library Association is coming up next week, but I probably won’t be going for several reasons.  For one thing, I don’t have the vacation time, and, unlike at an academic library, can’t take administrative leave.  Also, I’m finding that conference attendance is much more expensive as a graduate than as a student.  As are most other things, including association memberships (*note to all LIS students: join all the associations you can at the student rate!).  There aren’t more than a couple of sessions that sound interesting to me, and I can’t justify the attendance fee.

So that leaves me looking at other upcoming conferences.  I was excited to see that ARLIS (Art Libraries Society of North America) is having their annual conference in Denver this year – a mere 6 hour drive.  But…attendance is $200.  Maybe I’ll go to MPLA again.  It would be a good chance to see my old colleagues and friends from Nebraska, though I was less than blown away by the sessions offered last year.

I guess this is all to highlight the difficulty of being active in the profession while working in a non-traditional setting.  Though our skills are becoming more and more applicable to other areas, it will be all too easy for the profession to become increasingly fragmented as those of us who are not currently working in libraries face the onus of staying involved while also staying busy and committed to full-time jobs.  Professionals are usually supported by institutions within the profession – as our profession becomes geared more towards “information management” than “librarianship” and we take jobs in areas as varied as publishing, medical records, museums, and instructional design, garnering institutional support becomes more of a challenge.

This week I attended a workshop put on by the Special Library Association called “Building a Resilient Career – Agile, Opportunistic, and Sustainable.” The presentor was Kim Dority, who is both an LIS educator and an information consultant/freelancer. She is the author of Rethinking Information Work. It seemed like a good idea to check my expectations and experiences against this perspective. I took away a lot of important messages from the presentation and particularly an increased sense of energy and confidence towards my future in information work. Most importantly, it reinforced my knowledge of the MLIS degree as creative, flexible, and broadly applicable. My current job trajectory is a perfect example of that.

Here are some of the presentation highlights:

1. Self-leadership
We need to take charge of the events of our own lives. Libraries tend to be in reactive rather than proactive positions, and need to harness some of the power for ourselves. This means creating agendas, knowing what will be gained in decisions, and how to move forward. Importantly, though we share the missions of our employers and the LIS profession, we are also competing as individuals against some of their interests.

2. Willingness to let go of perfectionism
I can relate to this one. I know it’s what limits many of the challenges I take on, and I know that’s a trait I share with many other librarians. That’s probably why as a profession we’re so slow to make changes.

3. Willingness to embrace change
Don’t fight against the power of change, but harness it.

4. Willingness to take risks
Again, I and many others have a great discomfort with incompetence, even though that is the impetus for learning.

5. Willingness to make decisions
Sometimes our professional neutrality limits our ability to make decisions, a quality that attracts the most respect in our society. If we want respect, we need to be decisive.

6. Willingness to accept (and respond to) reality
We talk way too much about the way things should be, how libraries deserve greater respect and support in society.

7. Commitment to focus on solutions

8. Willingness to reinvent ourselves on an as-needed basis
OK, that’s a tough one. But again, the best part about LIS is flexibility, if you’re proactive.

One of the most interesting ideas in the presentation was the “Impostor Syndrome” – that sinking feeling that you’ve been handed responsibility way beyond your capabilities and that you are going to fail horribly and publicly, that every day is just an effort to hide that incompetence. This is particularly common in a “female” profession such as librarianship. We’re not known for our confidence, and it’s a major effort to stretch beyond our comfort zone.

Well, I missed out on ALA yet again…anyone who went feel free to contribute some commentary.  For the most part,  personally I find more localized or focused conferences such as MPLA, VRA, or ARLIS to be more useful.  Or maybe I’m just bitter about ALA’s virulent recruitment efforts.

After spending so much time last week setting up the ledgers and funds for the Georgia O’Keeffe serials collection, today I did indeed have to reinvent the wheel.  Because we were booted out of the system abruptly last week, all the changes were lost.  I had to recreate the whole thing, which was pretty frustrating.  The good news is that I have a really good grasp on how the system works now and how to work with the subscription maintenance.  After today, many of the titles are ready to be checked in.

Eumie also mentioned trying to get grant funding or some other source of money to add a position at the library…and that she would like to hire me, even if it was just for a temporary project.   That would be an incredible opportunity.  It feels good to know that I am making a real contribution there and that she admires my work.  A job would feel even better, but I’ll take the admiration for now.  And it’s good to have daydreams to sustain me while I’m waiting for the job offers to come.

Keeping up my zen outlook to this whole adventure, something will come along…

Part of the whirlwind excitement of a 3 week class is cramming in a semester’s worth of intellectual growth and edification into a mere 21 days.  It is an appropriate indicator of the importance of critical thinking, if nothing else just to organize my disjointed and random thoughts.  My mission in this 3-part blogging exercise is to try to develop a microcosm of a learning process.  I have taken in lots of information, so let’s see if I can reguritate it into the form of knowledge.  We’ll assume the wisdom will come at some point later in the future.

 On the issue of professional responsibility to community involvement, I have considered many different perspectives.  Our exercise this week to look at the ALA’s website and links to resources on ethical issues got me thinking about this as well.  I poked around quite a bit in the section on advocacy and noticed just how strenuously the ALA promotes this as a core value for the profession. 

I have never been very politically active in the past.  I tend to take a somewhat Jainist position of doing no harm and adhering to personal responsibility.  If I take a longer view on the issue, I do admit that pursuing a professional route requires greater responsibility for issues relating to the profession.  By saying I am a professional and a graduate of an ALA-accredited school, I am therefore guided by certain shared principles of behavior.  If our professional principles include advocacy and outreach, they must therefore be part of my ethical grounding.  Does this mean I must be involved in the issues, a representative library voice in the community? Alfino and Pierce think so in Information Ethics for Librarians.  Perhaps it differs depending on the institution.   Public librarians often seem to take much of the onus of responsibility for advocacy efforts.  Is this because they are more central to the community, while the rest of us are off in our ivory towers (or archives, or schools, or museums)? Should we all really share in the efforts equally? Should we all be marching outside the capitol when library funding issues come up? Should we all be writing to our senators and editors? Probably yes.  The Professional Librarian’s Guild suggests that we should be radical (non-neutral) proponents of intellectual freedom and “strongly oppose the commodification of information which turns the ‘information commons’ into privatized, commercialized zones.” That sounds a bit ambiguous to me, but I do absolutely wish to be voice for intellectual freedom and equity of access.

As we become professionals, we become guardians of the profession.  While that’s a frightening thought, it’s nonetheless part of the deal.  Kathleen Pena McCook also promotes our community involvement on the Librarian at Every Table discussion list:

“Librarians have an important role to play in building community in neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, states and the nation. People have great faith in libraries as fair and trusted institutions and in librarians as the honest and diligent keepers and disseminators of the human record.”

My professional involvement to this point has included association and committee memberships, reading and thinking about the issues, and activity on discussion lists.  Along with my blog feeds, I subscribe to nexgenlib, newlib, ARLIS-L, and VRA-L.  I find blogs and discussion lists to be useful tools for different reasons.  From blogs, I gain a great deal of information about trends and an in-depth view of how people are thinking about the issues.  I get inspired to pursue different paths of research.  From the discussion lists, I mostly get a sense of how different constituencies (new librarians, library students, art librarians, etc.) are thinking and conversing about the issues.  As a distance ed student, it’s one of the ways in which I can get more of a sense of community.  Lest I begin to drown in information, I have avoided joining more specific groups such as autocat, even though the discussion interests me.

All of these components of involvement indicate that I do consider involvement beyond the boundaries of the job to be an important aspect of professionalism.  I’ve started thinking about the various ways in which I will fulfill my professional responsibilities in the years to come.  Beyond the things I have already mentioned, I would like to find more opportunities for continuing education.  I’m excited by the fact that there are now so many (mostly) freely available podcasts on a variety of topics.  Some of these resources include the SirsiDynix institute, College of DuPage, AMIGOS, and other random useful stuff librarians have put online.  I also really enjoy conferences.  There is something about the immediately close-knit, like-minded community that is created for 2 or 3 days that I find really inspiring and invigorating.  I would like to become more active in my association memberships, such as the state library association’s New Member’s Round Table.

I assume that at some point in the not too distant future I will take a role in the management and administration of a library.  I have thought quite a bit about how I would like to develop my management style to integrate within an organization.  I would definitely like to avoid micromanagement, and, as Michael Gorman puts it, try to have an organization that is as flat as possible.  Coming from the perspective of a paraprofessional, I can definitely relate to the issues affecting staff.  I think I would be very receptive to input and concerns from all levels. 

Another important responsibility inherent in professionalism is mentoring.  I would like to continue to learn from people who are established in the field.  My present job involves working very closely with professionals in all areas of the library, and this has been immensely helpful to me.  In particular the chance to share ideas through committee work is invaluable.  I hope that when I start my first professional job I will have someone to show me the ropes and introduce me to the organization.  Likewise, I would like to be a mentor for others after I have a few years of experience.  However, most of the time mentoring opportunities are informal.  I think we all have something, some unique expertise or perspective, to teach each other, and mentoring is an ongoing process.  That’s one reason why social networking has the potential to be a powerful tool, not just for our patrons, but for us as professionals.  We can learn from each other through blogs, wikis, and websites.  We can find out what projects others are working on and what discoveries they have made.  We can collaborate and combine our efforts in new and innovative ways. 

August 2020