Tag Archives: ePortfolio

Queensland University of (Frustrating) Technology

Cross-posted from my INN540 Blackboard-based Journalling blog

My experiences with technology at QUT have been both profoundly transformative and profoundly disappointing. Participating in mixed-delivery classes that provide external students a presence in the classroom via Collaborate is meaningful and cool in a way I would not have anticipated before experiencing it myself. However, as part of Blackboard, Collaborate suffers from the most egregious of issues with the QUT technology base.

Everyday I find a new way to be frustrated by the disparate, disconnected nature of the elements of QUT virtual, Blackboard, and the Library. Nothing works the way you expect between the platforms, and the level of interoperability is non-existent. Links from one area to another will time out, die, or get stuck in endless redirects. Trying to access readings via Blackboard will often leave you at the landing page for a journal service without first authenticating via the library. Direct links will frequently be incomprehensibly obscured by the Blackboard wrapper and need to be manually extracted. Enrolling in units of study or training modules on Blackboard essentially doesn’t work, and requires multiple approaches through non-obvious pathways to navigate. Everything is just that little bit more frustrating and convoluted than it needs to be, and it can be wearying.

I don’t want to come off as a malcontent, QUT’s online services are incredibly diverse and feature rich. They just lack a meaningful coherence that creates a ‘whole’ integrated experience.

(Addendum: The ‘walled-garden’ approach to internal QUT blogs has no way of cross-talking with other blogging platforms, which leads me to manually re-purpose and re-post these journal entries.)

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.

Failure requires no preparation

To venture causes anxiety. Not to venture is to lose oneself.

 Soren Kierkegaard.

If I’m going to take responsibility for my career development, I should really be setting some specific, measurable goals.

To that end, I want to demonstrate that I have the ability to contribute effectively to the profession by expanding and updating my skills over the next 2-5 years, and create a systemic plan for organising my progress.

Recent technology trends are creating new opportunities for specialising with my particular skill-set, but there’s a fair amount of terror with jobs that have never been done before. But doing what hasn’t bee done before is intellectually seductive, and I want to be able to transition into new disciplines as they grow in demand.

Change is disruptive, confusing, and brings uncertainty. I mean to combat that in part by:

  • Setting up a media monitoring process: I want to stay hooked in the the world of information around me, and identify possible opportunities as they arise. Emerging patterns in blogs, conferences, and publications will help me track these changes.
    • In addition to major LIS journals, I will be scanning:General media in Newsweek; Management trends in the Harvard Business Review; Tech-trends in Wired; Business and economics in Forbes; and critical discussion in The New Yorker.
  • Cultivating a professional network: I intend to build a relationship with my peers and professional colleagues of mutual respect and trust. I see the benefits of collaboration, and want to be a positive and enthusiastic part of that environment. I also will use my advanatges of student rates to join as many professional bodies as I can for my studies, and establish a foothold in organisations that have meaning for me (e.g ALIA, QWC)
  • Developing resilience: If I’m going to make this work, I need to get comfortable with the fact that setbacks may detour or distract me, but not wilt in the face of the challenges awaiting me. I intend to commit my energy to owning my mistakes, being willing to fail, and celebrating my accomplishments when and if they happen.
  • Committing to continuous learning: With my time remaining in the graduate program I intend to use my assignments and lectures to explore my options and prioritise what is critical, innovative, and reinventing the profession. Once I am done, I intend to remain flexible and positive about change and update my skills through short-courses, programs, and professional accredations where necessary.
  • Gaining visibility: I want to build my expertise openly. This blog serves to further that goal, but I also strive to: ·
    • o   Publish a scholarly article on folksonomies, social data, and tagging in an accredited journal.
    • o   Attend conferences and professional events and make myself known through questions, conversation, and projects.
    • o   Publish in the YA fiction space to support and advocate young-male literacy.
    • o   Investigate the prospect of furthering my academic career with research or higher-learning.

Who knows where I’ll be in 2 years, let alone 5. There are so many traditional and nontraditional paths my career could take that I’ll undoubtedly need to re frame these goals along the way. But, what an adventure that will be!

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.

Boldly Going Somewhere

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”

Jorge Luis Borges

Is it even possible to love reading and not love Borges? I don’t know! Frankly, I don’t want to know. But, in all seriousness, I think that quote neatly sums up where I’m starting from when I talk about the library profession.

Career goals are such a ponderous, weighty thing to carry around with you. I have aspirations certainly, but goals seem like too-narrow a way of defining these things.

Ideally, I want to design the sort of career that is resilient enough to navigate the wonderfully disruptive changes going on in just about every industry I’m affiliated with. I want to be flexible and diverse within my roles to be able to grab opportunities that become available to me today and tomorrow. Ideally, I’m seeking something that would offer me the level of challenges and engagement that I thrive on.

I have done plenty of work that was perfectly manageable and sufficiently complex, but had no scope for actually applying my enthusiasm or rewarding me with any sort of fulfillment. Self knowledge is a powerful tool, and realising that I’m determined to pursue fulfilling  experiences over other professional considerations is helpful to understand.

I know I said I didn’t want to get all specific with goals, but let’s try some broader principles instead:

  • I want to respond to new opportunities
  • I want to keep my skills at the forefront of new technologies
  • I want to find roles that allow me to take initiative, increase my responsibility, and innovate where possible
  • I want my career to reflect who I am and what I value

I feel like I have come to a deep enough understanding of myself, who I am, and who I could be that I actually am starting to understand who I want to be.

And who I want to be is changing all the time. I don’t want to shackle myself to one set of goals for a single, subset of employment. Rather, I want to broaden my horizons and aim for employability.

So, why libraries? Well, I don’t necessarily want to limit myself to just libraries. I think there’s a tremendous amount of value in pursuing a formal education in Library and Information Sciences for the kind of professional skills and competencies I’m interested in.

Yes, I gain a vocational skill set that I can apply professionally, but the generic skills I’m learning are so useful, not just in the information profession: the analytical skills, the strategic thinking, the management capabilities, and the commitment to continuous learning all position me to do just about anything.

Do I want to work in libraries? Sure thing! Libraries are amazing spaces where truly amazing things are happening in the foreseeable future.

But, let’s not stop there. There are incredible things happening in the academic world that I want to research, there are fiction books burning there way through the back of my brain and into my soul that need to be written, and there’s my powerful desire to advocate for improving literacy in young men.

There’s a great benefit in creating career goals. But, I increasingly recognise that my goals are always going to be shifting, and the most important thing is to remain flexible, positive, and creative in these times of continuing change.