:: Digital Libraries Columns


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 They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date. :: Digital Libraries Columns

Three Hard Things


   A few years ago, I wrote a column called "[141]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

   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 and, 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

   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
   [143] Second Life
   [145] Twitter