Thursday, September 28, 2017

Interview Post: Ian Clark


Biographical

Name?

Ian Clark

Current job?

Academic Services Librarian for Psychology at the University of East London.


How long have you been in the field?

I finished my degree in 2012, but I’ve been working in libraries since 2005. Initially working in public libraries, I jumped to academic libraries in 2010.


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I work in an open plan office with my own desk space that I can at least personalise a little to make it feel more “me” (which inevitably means Rothko, Orwell and, er, Star Wars).

How do you organize your days?

My main focus at as I write this is getting prepared for the new academic year, so anything that impacts upon that is my priority. Student emails, particularly requests for 1-2-1s, tend to get prioritised, alongside emails from academics. In terms of keeping on top of tasks, I’m terrible at keeping lists or writing things down, or having any kind of organisational system. Basically, I rely on a combination of my memory and, as when feeling super organised, Wunderlist.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
In all honesty, probably dealing with emails! After that, it’s probably 1-2-1 support with students, which I find an effective way to engage with students (as well as enjoyable as I get to learn about different psychology research projects!). As I have large number of doctoral students, I spend a lot of time providing support for them, particularly in terms of systematic literature searches.

What is a typical day like for you?
Usually we start by having a “sweep” of the library, ensuring everything is ready for the day (all staff do this). Then onto emails and the rest of the day is a mixture of 1-2-1s with students and desk duties to support library users.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale – which followed on from reading Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough. I have a tendency to read political and historical non-fiction...in the current climate it has certainly helped to make sense of recent developments.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Listen to those without the privileges you enjoy and try not to provide instant, simple solutions, but to think more deeply about what is being communicated. I try to keep this in mind, particularly given the state of online discourse.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Appearing in videos is certainly one thing I wasn’t expecting...I’m not one for being in front of a camera where I can help it.



Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Whilst – I seem to use it a lot and I was interested to discover recently that it sounds weird to Americans. For reasons best known to myself, I currently have “WHILST” on a post-it note on my desk. (Alternatively, the naughty schoolboy favourite word is fuck.)

What is your least favorite word?
Customer. It reduces relationships and interactions between people to a purely commercial level.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I’d love to attempt to be a professional writer or photographer.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything medical (my partner is a medical professional and I don’t envy her at all – although it helps me keep things in perspective) and anything that might possibly involve heights (I suffer from height vertigo).

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
The ability to remain fit without having to do any exercise (like, when do you see any superhero in the movies actually workout??).

What are you most proud of in your career?
On a personal level, when I had my first article published in The Guardian. The desperate wannabe writer in me was punching the air over that. More generally, I’m proud of helping to establish both Voices for the Library and the Radical Librarians Collective in the UK. Whilst (sorry!) both haven’t exactly overturned government policy or revolutionised library work in the UK, they have both had an impact in their own ways. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the little changes that have been effected by the efforts of a collective, and be too concerned with failures to achieve The Big Things. Too much dwelling on the latter breeds stasis and inaction.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
There have been times where I’ve overlooked a reading list and not bought the books required for the course. And there was the one time I received an email from a tutor asking where I was. Turned out I should have been delivering an induction session in a lecture theatre, not sitting at my desk going through my emails. I’ve learnt to not let mistakes get to me. We all make them.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Outside of work I like to spend time with my partner and two children, where possible getting out and about exploring our little part of the world. After years of taking photos and playing around with cameras, I finally took a short online photography course earlier this year and I’m continuing to learn and develop my skills.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Any one of my very good friends and comrades (all of which I learn so much from): Lauren Smith (@walkyouhome), Binni Brynolf (@brynolf) and/or Andrew Preater (@preater).


Ian is on Twitter as @ijclark.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pep Talk



I feel like I've been giving a lot of pep talks lately, and been needing them a bit, too. So many things can bring out our deepest insecurities - new jobs, new responsibilities, mistakes - that I thought it was time for me to write an all purpose pep talk. Or as all purpose as I can make it. Also, feel free to mix and match and use this guide to give your own pep talks to others.
  1. You got this. It's totally normal to feel overwhelmed by something new or big or both. In fact, I'd go so far as to say if you feel completely confident, then you're probably missing something. But you got this.
  2. You were hired and/or given this new project for a reason. You know what you're doing, and if you don't already know then you know where to go for help. That may be a plea for assistance on Twitter or Tumblr. Heck, it may be an email to another librarian that says something like, "I know you don't know how to do this thing I need to learn, but do you know anybody?" (I even get emails like that from blog readers - I always try to do my best, but I'm not always prompt about responses.)
  3. You're going to make mistakes, and that's okay. I've written about this before in a post that was specifically about new jobs, but it extends to new projects as well. Actually, it's something that people long established in their jobs and careers, with nothing new in their lives, also have to deal with. Mistakes happne.
  4. You will recover from bad stuff. Even if it is/was your fault. I promise. It may take a while, or no time at all, but you will recover. I've been fired before and it didn't end me. It was a restaurant job that I hated anyway, but it was still a bit of a nightmare at the time. I found another restaurant job where I made less, but took some student loans to help pay for my last classes and actually ended up finishing my MLIS sooner. I'm not trying to say that bad stuff happens for good reasons - just that getting fired wasn't the end of me.
  5. When you talk to yourself about the thing that's happening in your life, imagine you're talking to a beloved friend instead. No matter how many good things people say to you, you still need to think about how you talk to yourself about whatever it is that's happening. Would you tell a good friend with a new job that their new employer made a mistake? NO! You'd say things like, "take a deep breath and make lists of things you need to learn." Would you berate your bestie for making a mistake? NO! You'd tell them, "yeah, that was a mistake, but how can I help you to recover from it?"
  6. You got this. Yes, I'm repeating myself, but this one is the most important part of the list. There's a cliched old saying - something like, "the only true failure is giving up." (It's not applicable to 100% of situations, because sometimes you need to make strategic retreats or give up on one thing to give another the attention it deserves.) It's a good rule of thumb. We make mistakes; we get overwhelmed; but we keep trying. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Interview Post: Amanda Leftwich


Biographical

Name?

Amanda M. Leftwich

Current job?

Circulation Supervisor


How long have you been in the field?

Four years, but I received my MSLS in August 2017!


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I have a backwards L shaped desk with piles of paper, reserve label stickers, books, and notepads (it looks a HOT MESS right now).  I don’t have any pictures of family or anything fun. I do however have some Frida Kahlo notecards, a candy dish for the students, and a picture that one of my student worker’s shot for a fashion show.

How do you organize your days?

I write down everything that has a deadline on my desk calendar. I’ll mark them off with a red marker when completed. For all other duties, I’ll use my Outlook calendar’s flagging system. It’ll send me reminders of things I need to do (for example, completing timesheets for the student workers). There’s a lot of moving parts for circulation to keep track of, and this system has worked the best for me.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
Making sure my student workers are getting the job done, statistics, billing, and collection shifting projects.

What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day is hectic, especially right now, as it’s the beginning of the semester. The bulk of my job is making sure that the circulation desk runs like a proverbial well-oiled machine. That means making sure the student workers are up-to date with policies and procedures; helping patrons find items in the library; and reminding professors to put items on the course reserves. A typical day is me walking in seeing what’s wrong --- fixing the issue, checking in with the workers, then working on statistics, and finally adding journals into the system.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the Wonder Woman comics (Rebirth) series by Greg Rucka, Confused Spice by Mathis Bailey, & Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue Deconnick. I love graphic novels and usually read about three or four volumes of those a week. I’ll usually grab a smaller fiction novel for my train ride. And, I have a TON of reading material on my Kindle. You can never have enough!
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Don’t worry if everyone likes you….just get the job done.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Cleaning skulls and bones! The Library rents model skulls, a skeleton named Billy/Ziggy (there’s a debate about the name), and bones for drawing classes.



Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Apothecary

What is your least favorite word?
Moist

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Aromatherapist. I love working with different scents and healing people from the inside out.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything involving driving for a living (I’ve never learned; nor do I want too). I’m thankful for all the Lyft drivers getting me home safely!

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
This is a hard one!!? Teleportation would be nice especially if I could avoid lines at security!

What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m still new, but helping students further their own interests and become a mentor to those that have asked. The ability to pay forward what I received as a mentee has been a great honor and pleasure. I’m also proud of another post a wrote for this blog.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Mostly thinking that everyone has the same level of urgency that I do. Most days, I have a lot of energy to put into work. I’ve come to realize most people like a slower/more thoughtful approach. It doesn’t make it wrong, just different from my style.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Planning trips, researching, studying aromatherapy practices, reading, watching a sci-fi show, etc.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Recent graduates/new librarians like myself, diverse librarians, and archivists.

Amanda is on Twitter as @thelibmaven. This is the second time she's written for Letters to a Young Librarian. The first was “Handling Microaggressions in the Library”.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Interview Post: Maria T. Accardi

3-year-old ponytailed Maria with her great-grandma, great-grandpa (Papa Charlie),
her older sister, her cousin, her dad, and her dad's perm. It was, after all, 1980.

Biographical

Name?

Maria T. Accardi. I insist on the middle initial, because this is how I carry my beloved late great-grandmother Mama Teresa with me.

Current job?

Coordinator of Instruction and Reference at Indiana University Southeast, a regional campus of Indiana University, located in New Albany, Indiana. New Albany is just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, where I live.


How long have you been in the field?

11 years


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

An embarrassing mess. Lots of clutter--books, papers, folders, scribbled notes. Most of my file cabinets are filled with leftovers from my predecessor--and I’ve been in this job for 10 years. Whoops. I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning up and so I make occasional small dents into the mess to take the edge off. I have windows with trees and grass in view, as well as a parking lot. I have photos of my wife, my niblings, my late mother-in-law, my grandmother. I have a desktop computer with dual monitors, and poems taped to various places on my desk--I read and re-read “Cake” by Noah Eli Gordon multiple times a day. A print of a map of Sicily that I bought at the Vatican Museum is framed on my wall, which depicts Sicily in completely the wrong way, flipped upside down.

How do you organize your days?

Outlook calendar. I block off everything. 30 hours of email admin. 60 minutes of teaching prep. 30 minutes for lunch. Yes, I put lunch on my calendar, even if it’s just eating a sandwich in my office while watching The Golden Girls on Hulu. I call my wife at around noon-ish so we can say midday prayer together (we do an abbreviated variation of the Daily Office in the Episcopal tradition) and this helps mark the division between morning and afternoon. Putting everything on Outlook calendar helps me protect, prioritize, and value my time.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
This time of year: teaching, preparing to teach, reference desk shifts, alone time, committee work, library instruction program admin.

What is a typical day like for you?
I like to get to work at around 8 or 8:30, because I seem to be more focused and able to get stuff done in the morning. I spend a lot of time with my office door closed because this also helps me focus and also because I’m strongly introverted. Instruction and reference are my thing, but I also find it very draining, so I need to spend a lot of time alone not talking to anyone. I take walks around campus if I have a window in my day big enough. I have 15-minute, 20-minute, and 30-minute routes, depending on how much time I have. I am usually at work until 3 pm or 4 pm.
What are you reading right now?
I just checked out The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue from the public library but I’ve not started it yet. Honestly, these days I’ve only had bandwidth and brainspace to read magazines about home decorating or cooking. Shorter pieces of writing with pretty pictures soothe and comfort me, and they provide ideas and inspiration for my cozy domesticity goals.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Have a rich and interesting life outside of work. This comes from my library director, who practices what he preaches. He is the former dining critic for the local newspaper, and now he’s the theater reviewer for the alternative weekly paper. He also has a band and can be found strumming the guitar in Saturday farmer’s markets. He is a role model for finding meaning and purpose in library work but not allowing it to consume you, instead using it as a vehicle for subsidizing the aforementioned rich and interesting life outside of work.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Listening to and soothing students in distress. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, I’m always kind of surprised, like why is this person crying and why is this happening? I am happy to do it, though. I’m not happy that they are in distress, but I am happy to support them. Students are stressed out and being the friendly helper person at the reference desk means that sometimes they need care beyond helping them learn how to find scholarly articles. Providing this care is important to me, especially because I was once--more than once--a crying college student seeking care from a friendly helper.


Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Ineffable

What is your least favorite word?
Impactful

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Something completely creative and that involves making pretty things. A florist, maybe? A painter, a sculptor. Or making delicious things, like baking. Also, my wife and I fantasize about running a gourmet popcorn shop. It would be called Popz! (including the exclamation mark).

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything involving funeral homes or cemeteries. I’ve had very very unpleasant encounters with this profession, unfortunately.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
I wish I could be omnipresent, something maybe along the lines of Hermione’s Time Turner.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I wrote a book that people seem to like a lot. And I won an award for the book! I’ve edited other books that also seem to have had an impact on people. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little kid, and it still kind of amazes me that I’m actually doing it.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
During a very bad time in my life (an episode of major depression), I let a lot of things slip through the cracks. I scheduled two library instruction sessions for the same time in the same room. I made it work somehow, and it involved lots of apologizing and doing less-than-ideal teaching. It was horrible. It was also a wakeup call for how I was in a really bad way and needed to address my depression.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Spending time in cozy domesticity with my wife: cooking, eating dark chocolate, watching General Hospital, sitting on the porch swing while drinking iced coffee, enjoying our garden (vegetable and flower). I also have a daily journal practice. As of today, I’ve journaled for 611 consecutive days. Also, these days, after two knee surgeries, I seem to spend half my life at physical therapy. But it’s working and I’m doing lots better! See the aforementioned campus walks.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Emily Drabinski, Donna Witek, Raina Bloom



Maria is on Twitter as @mariataccardi.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tell Me About Yourself: How to Handle the Dreaded Elevator Speech



It's something I've heard so many times and kind of thought was bunk - that you need to have an elevator speech ready to go whenever you meet someone who could help your career and/or has power over your job. But as I've been introduced to different parts of my new community, I realized that the "bunk" of elevator speeches isn't that you need to have one - it's thinking that you need just one.

This all came to a head last night as I was introducing myself to our board of trustees, who are essentially my boss' boss' bosses. They have hella power over my building, my department, and my job. When I spoke to that group, I talked a little about my previous job and how I came to be here, but focused more on why I'm happy to be at my new job. "I've been nothing but impressed with this school since the moment I came for my interview all the way to today." On the other hand, when I've had get-to-know-each-other meetings with peers like deans and associate deans and similar, I've spoken more about my passion for student success and spent more time talking about my education. Another group I've spent time with recently is peers at nearby libraries. With them, I spend a lot more time talking about my path to my current job and have even been talking about leadership training I've done.

What I'm doing in each instance is establishing my credibility.

Here is how I decide what to say to whom - I...
  • Ask myself, "who is this person to me?" If they are a possible partner it's a very different speech from how I'd speak to someone who might be working for me, and both of those are very different from how I introduce myself to people who have power over my budget. 
  • Highlight appropriate accomplishments. The fact that I've been a librarian for 14+ years or my second master's degree might be important, but other times it will be the path I took to an administration job. If you're newer to the field, it might be a project you accomplished in your graduate program or the particular focus you took with your classes.
  • Keep it as short as possible while still getting across needed information. With the BoT, there had been time to mingle before the actual meeting started, so I was able to abbreviate my introduction to about a minute. When I attended a meeting of all the math, science, and career education faculty...? It was five minutes.
  • Make it stick. A good turn of phrase will take you so far with these things. One I've used over and over again, because it's so true of me, is, "I'm persistently cheerful, but also cheerfully persistent." It captures, in seven words, a main tenet of my approach to librarianship. It's not to say that I never get mad or anxious, but that over all I can turn on the happy face. Also, I am stubborn when I have an idea I want to see in action.
  • Make it resonate. When I can do a little recon about someone ahead of time, I try to figure out what works best with that person or group. Sometimes numbers works best, other times stories. Smiling and positivity work with almost everyone.

I can come up with these things mostly off the top of my head at this point in my career, but thinking on my feet and being able to communicate clearly are two of my biggest strengths. Don't be afraid to practice these things with peers or even with close friends (who will be willing to give you honest feedback). One of the first questions you get asked in every single interview process is, "Tell me about yourself," and you want to be ready.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Just for Fun: Death

No, this isn't a plea for help or even a "Suicide is Painless" kind of thing. Nope, I want to talk to you about fictional portrayals of death - namely, sharing my favorites. And which is my most favoritest of all of them? I don't even know. Ask me again tomorrow and I might have a different answer.

Anyway...

Death of the Endless (Mostly from the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman)


In this universe, the personifications of ideas have pretty much always been there. They are perceived differently by different species, but each of them - Destiny, Dream, Delirium (originally called Delight), Desire, Despair, Destruction, and Death - are essentially the same being throughout. Though  I love each of the Endless, I think Death is my favorite. She is never cruel, but is instead always kind. However, she is not to be denied. When she takes an extremely long lived person in the course of the story arc, and he starts to complain, Death responds, "You get what anybody gets - you get a lifetime."

Incarnations of Immortality



This series has a similar idea - that these abstract ideas are actually a person - but with a very different twist. The book about Death is the first in a series that also encompasses Time, Fate, War, Nature, The Devil, and God. (For those of you who've read the series - I refuse to acknowledge, except in passing, the book about Night.) In this series, these roles are jobs that each pass on in particular ways. Death has to kill the previous incarnation to get the job.

Discworld


I'm in the midst of a reread of the early books in this series. I had been putting it off for a while, not wanting to run out of Terry Pratchett books, but I did it for so long that I forgot enough details that later books weren't 100% for me. Regardless, I'll never forget how much I love Pratchett's Death. He is fascinated by humans, and cats, and is kind when needed but also ruthless when it is called for. One of my favorite things about him is that after a particularly nasty problem that caused a bunch of different little deaths to start roaming around, he reabsorbed all of them except Death of Rats.


So how about you? Do you have a favorite fictional portrayal of Death? What should I read or watch next?