Category Archives: Professional Development

Enlightened self-interest

Workshop 7: Moving out into the profession

Quite the capstone to a long, challenging, and illuminating semester!

Socialising and mingling with my peers in-class one final time this semester reminded me that we were strangers only a few months ago. Over the course of the semester we had already taken meaningful steps towards building our personal networking and professional relationships. Chatting with the guests over cheese and wine and listening to their presentations drove home for me just how vital communication and sociability is to the success and vitality of my career.

Being a responsible, capable, and proficient information professional is not something I can manage on my own. My learning and development isn’t taking place in a vacuum; it is being guided, shaped, and informed by the people around me. Finding my place in this profession was always going to be a by-product of connecting with people and building a meaningful understanding of how I fit into the larger context of this community.

Although it is unnerving to face the challenges of finding meaningful employment in a field that is so dynamic, I am confident that I have started to develop enough self-knowledge to understand how to thrive and prosper in the face of these challenges. I feel like I have moved beyond my initial embarrassment and reticence of not knowing or understanding some things, and I have embraced the fact that I am still a beginner in this expansive field. I feel I am finally comfortable with letting go of some perfect ideal of my future employment, and embracing change as it comes.

Documenting these first steps I’ve taken into a larger, professional world  has contributed to my own understanding of  who I am, and what I want to do. It has illuminated for me what sort of jobs, environments, and types of work will make me happiest and helped me to develop career goals that reflect what I value most.

On reflection, the entire program of INN634 instilled in me the guiding principle of loyalty to my own professional goals. My own personal integrity and commitment to moving forward is not about finding an employer willing to take me on, but rather about developing a practical set of skills and capabilities that guarantee I will be employable for life.

I’m going to cap-off this off with a quote that really evokes what I felt was the core theme of this program:

“It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change

Charles Darwin.

GLAM

Workshop 6: Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

(This reflection was originally written on May 12, 2013)

There are fascinating things happening in the GLAM space as these disparate institutions collaborate and converge in new and exciting ways as single entities. I’m intrigued by the intersection and integration of these cultural structures, and I can see how the proliferation of new, and better technology could be driving these physical spaces to converge in the way many digital collections already are.

New Zealand is forging ahead with these new-style memory institutions. Guided by the concept of Manawa which I believe translate approximately as ‘heart and soul’ they’re really driving the strengths of the cultural heart of their cities, and I loved the idea of bringing these entities together as a civic focal point.

There’s undoubtedly a lot of opportunities in these new shared spaces. But, I can’t help but think that in a ‘collective-identity’ something of the unique, individual cultures of these institutions are lost.

As someone who want’s to work in these institutions, I have a great deal of enthusiasm for new, innovative models of engaging the public. But, does convergence really create a better experience for everyone involved? Can the professional values of disparate organisations maintain integrity and focus when forced to operate in such a close proximity to each other.

I’d love to explore these spaces more, as I think there’s an opportunity for fresh skills in these new spaces that demand a new sort of meta-professional.

I think it ties back into a running theme throughout my studies, that there is an increasing importance of generic, transferable skills across the information professions. It isn’t worth developing a career in isolation from other professions in the same associated space, and I can only see benefits from aggressively pursuing multi-disciplinary proficiencies.

Seeing the Gorilla

Workshop 5: Evidence Based Practice – Being research led

(This reflection was originally written on April 28, 2013)

The challenge to being more open and receptive to the situation around us is that sometimes, we just don’t see the Gorilla. When it came to understanding evidence based practice I certainly missed what was right in front of me.

Ann Gillespie spoke to us at length about how we can fundamentally adopt a way of thinking about the profession that interrogates data to provide meaningful evidence.

Evidence based practice in librarianship is not something I had any experience with prior to this workshop. Wrangling concrete data from a more holistic, qualitative process was eye opening and gave me pause. I had never considered that there were ways of empirically measuring or evaluating success that didn’t just draw on dry statistics and analytic data.

Calling on intuition and reflection to approach and measure library practices is fascinating. I was really drawn in by the theoretical frameworks espoused by Andrew Booth and Johnathan Elredge in the literature, and was able to contextualise how a practice cribbed from medicine and science could be applicable to LIS decision making.

I was genuinely surprised by the dissent in the classroom about the ‘woolly’ lack of value that EBP has, as it seemed self-evident to me almost immediately how useful and valuable this sort of approach could be. Identifying and iterating on best-practices is always going to be the way forward, and qualitative data can provide a wealth of context for interpreting and applying these practices.

I tend towards more quantitative, theoretical, research-oriented projects, and adopt a healthy level of pragmatism and detachment about the process. But, a more holistic approach to evidence based practice seems to present a much more dynamic, practical way of addressing the day-to-day challenges of the LIS profession.

If anything, this workshop highlighted for me that intuition and reflection are too-valuable as professional tools to be ignored. Evidence based practice is certainly something I intend to adopt in my further studies.

How do you solve a problem like ALIA?

Workshop 4: A learning profession

(This reflection was originally written on April 14, 2013)

How can you keep up with the rapid changes of an industry always on the move? How do you keep your skills, knowledge, and awareness at the fore of the profession?

Apparently by adopting the mindset of being a reflective practitioner and a learning professional.

Sue Hutley, Kelly Johnson, Lyndelle Gunton, and Kathleen Smeaton spoke to  us about the importance of articulating what it means to be these things, and how to keep yourself updated and professionally relevant.

Much of what was said were things I already had intuited through general assessment of the profession. Things like, attending events, volunteering, engaging with conferences, and socialising within the profession.

*Addendum: Thanks to Kelly’s tireless encouragement a group of us did get together and attend the ALIA trivia night later in the semester. 

But they also raised challenging questions of what it means to rely on lifelong learning and be a valued, certified practitioner in the information field.

Should we have compulsory professional development in the LIS profession? I certainly believe so. Technology is shifting so rapidly, and we have entrenched professionals in some sectors who won’t necessarily take responsibility for their own development. ALIA as a professional body is an opt-in selection, and that means some choose to opt-out. There really needs to be a mandatory profession-wide commitment to staying relevant and skilled in these times of uncertainty.

Digital literacy is just as important as any form of literacy, and unlike ‘learned’ literacy it is fairly easy to acquire digital illiteracy simply through complacency. The old digital divide of having access to computers has faded away in the age of ubiquitous computing. Today, the digital gap is knowing how to search, access, and retrieve meaningful information. While these information seeking behaviours are generic to the Librarian’s skillset, the unique, idiosyncratic use of particular technologies and services is not. I strongly believe that without compulsory professional development there is a real risk of complacency and irrelevance among disinterested information professionals.

Thankfully, none of the panel of experts reflected this decay of standards. They were all engaging, vibrant, and enthusiastic about the future of the profession, and imparted a deep sense of pride for the LIS industry.

The Importance of Idealism

Workshop 3: What is the library and information science profession?

(This reflection was originally written on March 26, 2013)

The library and information sciene profession seems to be many different things to different people. Sometimes it’s information architecture, sometimes it’s records management, sometimes it’s a tradtional library, and sometimes it’s something else entirely.

This time around I had the pleasure of hearing from Katrina McAlpine, Julanne Neal, Alex Main, Laney Robinson, and Pat Loria about the different types of positions and contexts that exist in the field.

Importantly, this seminar challenged the idea of what the profession actually is: is it a disciplinary field or a voctaional calling? Is it a profession with codes and standards? Does labelling it in some narrow way diminish it?

There seems to be so much scope for fascinating and challenging possibilites in the field of LIS, and these speakers really helped explicitly articulate some of the avenues I could pursue. Some of the speakers touched on the tools and rules that govern their roles, while others examined their motivations, missions, and values as members of the information community. One speaker in particular, Alex, really resonated with me. Her attention to the balance between soft social skills and the fundamental abilities to work with technical systems, SQL queries, and administering relational databases really drove home for me the dual-responsibilities of the information profession as tech-savvy experts and customer service providers.

We’re a smart profession, full of smart and dynamic people. We have to advocate for people who often don’t have the same access or training we do. We have to find ways facilitate equitible access to all, whether someone is a basic or advanced information seeker. And providing that leve of service means we have to be at the fore of the information literacy curve.

I felt like there was a theme across these speakers of recognising the responsibility we each have to take our own professional development in hand, and ensure that we build the necessary experience, enthusiasm, and visibility in our chosen fields.

The future is certainly still going to be about engaging with whatever clientele my role demands effectively and with expertiese. But, meeting their ever evolving and shifting information needs is going to be something of a lifelong learning journey it seems. I love the idea of being a part of this profession, it’s interesting and challenging, but the future sure is intimidating.

 

Guilty as charged

Workshop 2: Understanding who I am: an MBTI workshop

(This reflection was originally written on March 20, 2013)

So much of understanding who I am as a professional is predicated on the idea of understanding myself, and where I fit in the larger scheme of things.

As part of trying to understand myself better, I had a go at the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator. A blind attempt at an online test wound up reporting I was:

ENFJ (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging).

Sometimes referred to as ‘The Giver’, ‘The Mentor’, or ‘The Pedagogue’. I tend to do some of my best work when I’m helping others, working on behalf of someone else, or helping edit or reword documents for others, so this role certainly resonated with me on some levels. Now, I don’t put a lot of stock personality tests, but I decided to conduct the same questionnaire public ally with a group of five of my friends and my partner. They answered the questions for me and came out with:

INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging).

So, despite my mistrust of personality tests, somewhere between my reported type and my true type there are some thematic constants that apparently reflect me.

I can’t quite articulate what about my choices reflects an inner preference towards extroversion, but identifies to others as preferring introversion. But, it makes me question if I was answering the questions truthfully, or with some preconceived notion of how I ‘should’ choose clouding my decisions. Certainly this test isn’t as rigorous as it could be, and these things exist on a spectrum where my choices and the choices my friends identified aren’t necessarily incompatible.

The point we ended up circling a lot in our discussion was the underlying idea of being the ‘center of attention’. They contested that I end up being the center of attention whether I like it or not, which caused me to examine that statement:

Whether I like it or not.

I guess I am guilty of liking the attention, which would err on the side of extroversion. Which is interesting, because apparently the Achilles-heel of my particular personality type is guilt–go figure.

I do indulge in attention grabbing behaviour sometimes, as I tend to get caught up in a conversation or an idea, and once I get momentum going it’s hard to rein it in. If this means taking a more active role than the people around me then so be it. I certainly aim to be enthusiastic about things I like, and strongly advocate for them. If attempting to drum up support in others means drawing attention to myself then I’m fine with that. Whether this stems from a basic preference towards extroversion and drawing energy from the attention, or is just symptomatic of how I interact with people I’m not sure. But this exercise certainly challenged me to consider the possibilities.

The Great Chain

My LinkedIn Proflie.

I’ve had the skeleton of a LinkedIn account haunting me for a few years now. I’ve always had it at the back of my mind to gussy it up and start raking in the job offers, but it never really seemed to pan out.

I’ve attempted to make it pretty comprehensive while keeping the content lean and relevant without the clutter of years gone by.  I suspect that there’s not a great deal of head hunting going on for information studies students with a background in academic writing–but you never know!

To be honest, I’m not really great at the whole self-aggrandising thing and I find it challenging to sell myself without feeling self-consciously boastful or egotistical. But, I am a huge sucker for social data, and I get a real kick out of using LinkedIn as tool for tracking Six Degrees of Separation style connections.

I don’t love the idea of LinkedIn, but I’m willing to give it a shot. At worst it let’s me get a better perspective on who is in my orbit of influence is, and where I need to start searching for networking opportunities.

Through a Twitter, Darkly

As part of my ongoing activities this semester I was required to participate in a number of guided activities on Twitter.

My twitter feed can found at @mjjfeeney.

While there was a mandatory expectation to engage with these public discussions, I cannot see how I would have survived the semester without Twitter. The communities that grew up around the hashtags for all my subjects were the beating heart of coursework developments and class discussions. Twitter was indispensable across my studies, and I strongly believe that problems are best solved when you get a variety of people looking at them from multiple perspectives: Questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting.

And Twitter does just that.

As to my own contributions, I found the mandatory exercises to be a really great way of teasing out and engaging my classmates into an open forum. The tasks were lively and varied, and it was really fascinating to canvas the opinions of my peers about what the profession means to them, how they deconstruct popular media, and how they connect with the wider information community.

I feel like there was something meaningful and evocative about framing the challenges and questions of the information profession in a context that actually has some practical meaning to us.

I have a voracious appetite for information, and Twitter is like a shunt directly into my brain. I love what it does for the propagation and proliferation of information, even if I am terrified of what it does to the rigorous order of data.

Discovery is a grand and wondrous thing, and the tweeting exercises of the last 13 weeks really affirmed for me how important online communities and social data are for the information and LIS communities.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

Workshop 1: The Reflective Practitioner

(This reflection was originally written on March 10, 2013)

“After this, therefore because of this.”

The logical fallacy of hindsight and looking-back is assigning causality where none existed. Reflecting, I believe, is about recognising learning experiences as they occur and transparently documenting the implications of what has taken place.

This workshop–the first of many–forced me to examine my ability to learn from my own practice, and clearly presented a critical model for doing so:

What happened? Why? So what? Now what?

If I took anything away from this exercise it was this simple idea of inquisitive examination. I’ve always been a proponent of silently questioning any statement or analysis with a measured ‘So what?’, and applying that same heuristic to my own experiences was an easy step to take.

I also had the pleasure of hearing Lynn McAllister and Alisa Howlett (@acrystelle)  speak on the importance of awareness in professional development. They both discussed mapping out, planning, and engaging with the learning process in online spaces.

Lynn championed the QUT provided ePortfolio system which, while powerful and intuitive, appeared too rigid and specific for my needs. I have no qualms about developing under public scrutiny, and I believe that reflecting on my learning inside the seclusion of QUT’s servers benefits nobody.

I’m obviously much more inclined to use a third-party CMS (like WordPress) as I am more aligned with the format agnostic approach and portability to other platforms. Should I feel the need to re-purpose or move my work in the future a CMS seems like a much safer bet than investing my content in a proprietary QUT system.

So what?

All in all, I consider full public transparency to be a critical component of my own reflective practice. Reflecting boils down to a conversation with oneself, and with no objective outsiders to weigh in on the discussion there is a meaningful lack of scrutiny.  Public intellectuals must be subject to rigorous scrutiny and criticism and be able to defend their positions and justify their arguments. Reflective practitioners must be held to the same standard or the entire exercise lacks direction and is simply self-congratulatory affirmation.

Professional Practice

Hey, I’ve kicked off this blog in an effort to transparently chart my understanding of just what ‘being a learning professional’ means. I’ve been nudged out the door on this issue by a mandatory coursework component, but I intend to take that as merely a starting point for reflection.

Much of what I’m studying in my Master’s at QUT are things I feel I already know or understand intuitively. But, part of developing my critical reasoning is to make that knowledge explicit, and examine how I can articulate it. I intend that the discussions published on this blog will provide a richer canvas for me to explore who I am as professional, and assist me in identifying the implications of how, where, and when learning occurs.