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Thing 11: Mentoring

I am privileged to have many informal personal mentors. The many people (I can think of two couples and two individuals off the top of my head) I could describe as such have been crucial supporters throughout my life, helping me find the confidence to make big decisions and challenge myself instead of slipping into stasis. Most of the time, I don’t think of them as such, but they fit the description of a mentor given by the various resources on the CPD23 post: someone who advises, encourages and supports you on your way to accomplishing a goal.

With successful mentoring (albeit informal) in my personal life, it is no surprise that I am a great supporter of mentoring in a professional context as well. To a new professional like me, professional development is still a kind of scary idea. Non-librarians may think of librarianship as one vast entity, but in fact it has so many different pathways. Which one should I choose? How can I find the job that will best use my skills? What if I change my mind? I think it’s essential to have someone to talk to about these things. A peer network is very important, but it can be equally useful to speak to someone who has already been through these situations and may have a perspective that more closely matches that of a prospective employer. In an ideal world, a professional mentor will do just what my personal mentors did: encourage me to reach my potential & build my confidence.

The struggle I have with mentoring is this: I can be insecure at times, which means I sometimes need a lot of affirmation. I worry that I will end up taking advantage of my mentors when I get nervous, or that I will just pester them by asking them about every silly thing that comes up in my professional life. I could easily be a needy mentee who gives nothing back to the mentor. However, I hope to be over this fear by the time I am actually ready for a formal mentor. Over the years I have spent with informal mentors, I have been surprised by how much they seem to value my opinion (quite unjustifiably, I think!) and be interested in the new things I inadvertently introduce them to. If I have the right professional mentor, perhaps the same can happen in that relationship after a few years.

I look forward to starting the chartership process someday and meeting the mentor who will be helping me through it. In the meantime, I will be keeping my eyes open for a suitable mentor, bearing in mind the excellent advice that Teri Switzer and Priscilla Shontz give.


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Thing 10: Ways into librarianship

Now that the dissertation is out of my hands, I’m looking forward to catching up with CPD23 and hopefully doing some writing for fun.

Thing 10 is about how we got into librarianship. I must admit that when I started library school last September, this was one of my biggest insecurities. The graduate trainee scheme that operates in the UK is brilliant, and I assumed most of the people on my course would have completed one & therefore have lots more experience than me. (N.B. I also applied for lots of traineeships, landed one interview and failed to get the position. I probably brought some baggage with me to library school.) However, I was really surprised at the range of backgrounds represented. Even the traineeships varied a lot. Ultimately, though, I still ended up feeling like my route into librarianship was more representative of American than English librarians. Librarians on both sides of the pond tend to fall into the profession, but as always, there is a little more deliberateness on the English side.

So here’s my story:

As a teenager, I was interested in a few careers,  but when I graduated from high school I thought I had settled on becoming a magazine editor. It only took two years in journalism school to realize I didn’t want to work in that industry. (I wonder if being voted most shy in my class despite being editor-in-chief of the yearbook was a sign?) I was much happier after I switched to an English major, but the switch did make me completely aimless in terms of career. Librarianship did occur to me then; I worked part-time at my university library the whole time I was there, and two of my summer jobs were in a library. I was pretty resistant to the idea at first, though. I am still in many ways a stereotypical librarian, and I think I was even as a kid. I hated the idea of going to a reunion and hearing people say, “Oh, I knew you were going to be a librarian! You always had your nose in a book!” I wasn’t prepared to admit it was actually the ideal career for me until I graduated. By then I had met more librarians & was so impressed by their ability to find out absolutely anything, and the fact that they always seemed to be such interesting people. I also realized it fit with my interest in helping others and is essential for supporting education, which I have always believed is important.

I finally began pursuing librarianship in 2008, applying for traineeships and looking at library schools. I had an interview for a traineeship, but failed to get it. That was a pretty hard moment for me & I did end up taking a year off while I waited to hear from library schools. It was good to have a gap year to travel, and I chose to work as an au pair in England for that year.  I was accepted to 2 US schools before my contract ended , but ultimately decided that I wanted to stay in England. I went back to Missouri temporarily, where I took a couple of library science classes at the University of Missouri, before coming back to England in 2010 to do my MA at University College London. It’s been a convoluted and stressful process at times, but I have to say it was worth it in the end. I am so excited to finally be a professional librarian, and I think UCL provided a lot of opportunities I might not have had elsewhere.

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Thing 9: Evernote

Unfortunately, bookmarking is not one of my strengths. I don’t use Delicious (though maybe I should look into it) and of course bookmarking everything interesting/useful I read would mean it would get lost in a sea of websites.

That said, I quite like Evernote. I believe I will continue to use it for both professional and personal purposes when CPD23 finishes. The biggest advantage, and perhaps most unique feature, of Evernote is that it is accessible both on and offline. I don’t have consistent Internet access at home, so it’s nice to be able to see things I found noteworthy in one place when I get back home. Since I’m also in the middle of a job search, I’ve found another great use for Evernote: making sure I have consistent access to contact information for my references. In the past, I’ve started an application on my laptop, then gone to uni to print it only to discover I’ve left off a phone number or some other minor detail. I’ve now started a notebook specifically for job information, and put all that information there so I don’t need to waste time searching for it.

This leads to another feature of Evernote I like, which is the ability to create notebooks. Delicious doesn’t seem to offer this, though there is of course the option to create tags. However, tags may ultimately be too unique to categorize things; Evernote offers the ability to create large categories, e.g. cataloguing, while still using tags, e.g. name authority. I find this really helpful and can see myself creating several notebooks for hobbies and for the different aspects of my job.

Other CPD23 participants have called Evernote clunky, and I can understand this. It’s not great at representing websites. This is not a big issue, unless the website has graphics that are significant to the content.

A visualisation of the state of Missouri, as captured in Evernote

Unfortunately, I think that a lot of the sites that are most helpful from a professional perspective would fall into that category. Evernote clearly isn’t perfect, but for now I think the benefits certainly outweigh the disadvantages.

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Thing 8: Google calendar

Before I started my calendar, I looked at the article describing what libraries have done with Google calendar. It was pretty impressive, especially what those universities in Hong Kong have done! I will definitely try to find a way to use it in my workplace.

However, I don’t have much use for a Google Calendar on a personal level at the moment. The biggest advantage to a browser-based calendar seems to be that it is accessible from multiple computers/platforms. However, I only use my laptop, and I don’t have Internet access on my phone. I must admit I like the sound of getting a text when my library books are nearly due, but all three of the libraries I have books on loan from send me an email anyway. For now iCal, a paper diary, and TeuxDeux cover my scheduling needs and I don’t see any new advantages in Google Calendar. I’m quite lucky to have a great deal of control over my own time. I prefer to schedule by morning and afternoon–I might, for example, research how to criticize photographs in the morning and travel to London for a visit to a library in the afternoon. The specific time doesn’t really matter. (This is why I can use TeuxDeux as a scheduling resource.) It won’t be like this forever, and I probably will revisit Google Calendar when I have to use multiple computers or have less flexibility in my schedule.

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Thing 5: Reflecting on CPD23

Having kept a journal for years, I am used to private reflection. Reading the CPD23 post on reflective practice was therefore a huge “Duh!” moment for me. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to record reflections in a professional context before. Until I started this blog, I was unlikely to share these, but I think the process itself is helpful. I wish I had reflected properly after submitting some library school essays! I liked Borton’s “What? So what? Now what?” model best, though I generally found that theories on reflective practice boiled down to critical thinking + critical action.

In this post I will reflect on CPD23.

What? (Recall it)

For the past month I have been carrying out various tasks designed to help me learn more about the tools/methods I can use to develop my career. Each task, called a Thing, is meant to introduce me to programs or tools that might challenge me at first, but will ultimately help me do my job better. Things have included creating a blog, using Twitter, learning about in-person and online networks and considering how I represent myself.

So what? (Evaluate it)

I’ve learned a lot more than just how to use tools during this process. Because the program is online and there is such an emphasis on networking (Thing 2 was meeting your neighbors, which introduced the theme nicely), I think the biggest thing I am taking away is that librarians really want to engage with each other. There’s so much sharing of information & discussion of ideas. And I think this is wonderful! I don’t contribute much at the moment, but it’s very encouraging. The program has really built my confidence.

Of course, some things have been easier for me to do than others. I particularly struggled with Things 3 & 4. My inability to cope with Thing 4 certainly points to my personal weaknesses. I’m old-fashioned in a lot of ways and, while I’m good at using computers, I don’t like to spend very much time on them. Thing 3 was just a huge concept I hadn’t considered much previously, and I am still thinking about it.

Now what? (Apply it)

I am trying to be more consistent about my use of Twitter & am trying to get more involved-tweeting at people & participating in at least one week of #uklibchat. I’m also thinking more critically about my online persona. I’ve made a few changes to Twitter, but don’t have the time right now to do a complete overhaul to everything. Dreaming in the Stacks was actually a provisional blog title that I feel got stuck when I started CPD23. I haven’t decided whether I’ll keep it. I have a Google Reader feed now, which I check when I remember it’s there.

I mentioned earlier that CPD23 has boosted my confidence, and that’s definitely what I’ll be using the most.

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CPD23 Thing 4: Current awareness

After feeling rather pessimistic about Thing 3, I was really looking forward to jumping into Thing 4. Current awareness is something I am more comfortable with, even if I am a latecomer who didn’t start paying attention to the library world at large until I began library school. CPD23 still found a way to challenge me, though, by asking me to use three tools I am only slightly or nominally familiar with.


Twitter was a complete mystery to me until I was forced to join it in an information resources module at the beginning of this year. Being generally skeptical of social media, I was less than thrilled to be joining it. Annie mentions on the  CPD23 blog assignment that there is a perception that Twitter is full of trivial information about people’s personal lives. I was definitely one of the people with this assumption. When I get bored and click on trending hashtags, I can still see that it is true for a lot of people. However, I use Twitter primarily for professional purposes. In fact, it’s where I found out about the most recent developments in RDA implementation and about the LC’s review of MARC (#marcmustdie)! The option to be selective about who I follow  keeps Twitter manageable for me. By following users related to libraries, I can keep my Twitter feed largely full of information I might be able to use professionally. I would get really overwhelmed if I used it for both social and professional purposes. However, I do have some overlap; I might tweet with  library school colleagues about going for drinks, etc., and I do follow some non-library/book-related users. My decision about whether to follow users not related to libraries is usually based on how much they tweet; I much prefer only occasional tweets if they’re not librarians/literary nerds like me.

For other people’s thoughts on Twitter, do go have a look Woodsie Girl’s post. She has some excellent advice for coping with Twitter overload, and I especially like her suggestion of looking at Twitter as a conversation. One of my favorite things about Twitter so far has been participating in live chats like #uklibchat last week.

RSS Feeds

Using Google Reader was a pretty strange experience for me. RSS feeds do not appeal to me by nature, so it was good to be pushed out of my comfort zone. The week did confirm some of my expectations, but there were some surprises as well. I expected to feel overwhelmed by the sight of several hundred things in a window that looks remarkably like my inbox, and I was. As an alternative to RSS feeds in CPD23 so far, I have been following some blogs on WordPress and Blogger by subscribing using my account. Though a great side effect of the bundle RSS feed is that I have more of a chance to browse, I think I prefer the method I’ve been using so far. It feels less overwhelming, and it also lets me break my reading down a little. I can read WordPress blogs one day and Blogger the next. My current method also helps me control my natural inclination to browse/procrastinate. Unfortunately, I could easily spend a day looking at all the posts that come up Google Reader. It’d probably be a better evening task for me, but I am not sure that’s what I want to devote my evenings to.

Some of the pleasant surprises of Google Reader were seeing that other friends were already using it to share links. I had no idea, but have found some really interesting information through them already. I also really liked that I could easily see a preview of each blog post/website before visiting it.

I don’t see myself using it in the long term. It makes me feel like reading is an obligation rather than something I should enjoy. I also prefer looking at one website in depth rather than getting an overview of several; i.e. I’d rather spend one evening looking at everything on LibraryJournal.com and then the next looking at CILIP than go back and forth.


Pushnote reminded me a lot of a non-professional site called Pinterest that I basically use to share pretty things with friends. Pushnote has a similar premise — it is a way to share interesting links with people. The idea is a good one, but there are a few flaws. I can’t put my finger on why, but I don’t find the dialogue box as intuitive as it should be; I also think it’s strange that you (or at least I) can’t seem to access all content from it. I have to go to the website to look at friends’ profiles individually. I am also skeptical of the rating system. Why would you share something that wasn’t excellent?

I hope Pushnote keeps improving, but for now I have too many other things to follow to use it.



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Thing 3: Building a brand (or representing a personality)

I took this week’s thing with a heavy dose of salt. Unlike with Thing 2, I also wrote this without reading other people’s posts. That will be my reading over the weekend! The topic of branding and marketing myself is one I still have a lot to learn about, but I feel that CPD23 is meant to be about my own thoughts. I suppose this means what I say in this post may not reflect my thoughts forever. Unfortunately for my readers, it also means this is a contemplative post that includes rhetorical questions (or ones that could be discussed in a comment thread). However, I don’t see that as a problem-I think it’s important to form opinions, learn, and modify opinions according to experience.

The idea of building a brand for myself is one I don’t find particularly appealing. ‘Brand’ immediately makes me think of commodification and consumerism. I am happy enough to accept brands for products, but I struggle with the idea of branding individuals. Some celebrities (Lady Gaga springs to mind) have clearly worked hard to maintain a certain image or brand. I suspect they dislike being pigeonholed like the rest of us do, but in their case the larger purpose of the branding is to sell merchandise. Again, the emphasis of a brand is on selling.

So how does this relate to me and other librarians? If we create a brand, are we selling ourselves or our skill set? If we already have a job, is it still important to advertise our skill set? Why is it important to have an online brand at all?

This week, I have found it helpful to disregard the idea of building a brand. Instead, I have chosen to think of this as finding a way to represent my personality consistently. I hope this doesn’t mean I have strayed too far beyond the CPD23 brief. I am also aware that this is a tiny distinction that probably only exists in my mind. But, hey, it puts my conscience at ease. I am much happier with the idea of allowing colleagues and potential employers an insight into who I am than with the idea of marketing myself. I have already done several things to improve consistency in my (tiny) online presence. When I started to use Twitter, it was a classroom task. I chose a username I used on another website. I didn’t realize how difficult this name must have been for others until months later. When I started this blog, I took the opportunity to link my address with my new Twitter name @bibliojenni. It’s still a unique name, and by associating both Twitter and my blog with it I felt confident people would be able to find me. This is especially important as I have a very common name. Googling my name returns mainly results about a therapist and a former Washington Post book editor. Adding ‘library’ makes no difference, though adding my university does.

However, even personalities must be consistent. I have thought a lot about how much of my personality I should represent online, especially in professional settings. For me, this means Twitter and my blog. I use other media for keeping in touch with friends and am reasonably uninhibited in those settings. The visual side of my online identity provides readers with some information about me-my grandmother’s vintage photo album at the top of this page represents my whimsy and my love of old things. I think my Twitter photo represents these same things in a different way and will continue to do so even if I choose another image. These traits are further enhanced by my choice of blog title. I hope  my writing balances out the whimsy and reflects my professional thoughts. I have a lot of interests that I may occasionally tweet with friends about, but my feed is mostly filled with tweets that relate to my work in some ways. This blog is even more work-focused.  But, most importantly, I think all those who know me would say my online personality is just a distilled version of my real life personality. As far as I’m concerned, that is just what a brand or online presence should do.


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