Tag Archives: QUT

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.

 

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.

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.