Personal Brand: Before

While there’s no way to actually develop a personal brand in one week, there’s no time like the present to start considering it.

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.  – Mark Twain

I came across this quotation recently, and I think it represents most of the best advice I’ve read on personal branding so far. My goal for stepping up my online involvement is to establish myself among the community of librarians and information professionals, and the only way to build authentic relationships is to is to represent myself honestly. My experience with Things 1 & 2 tells me this strategy is already working. By revealing my concerns about beginning this process, I was able to make connections with a supportive group of peers.

According to Google…

I didn’t find anything too shocking in the results of my ego search, although I am always surprised to find out how many other Nicole Brocks there are in the world. On the first page of results, only one of the results legitimately points to me – my Twitter profile. The Facebook and LinkedIn results were not my profiles, but a more detailed search on either of those sites would turn it up. Otherwise, I can definitively say that I do not play softball, I no longer possess a MySpace account, I did not get into a car accident in a parking lot, and I did not play “Bad Girl #6” in a film called Four Reasons. Also, only one of the six photos turned up on the first page of results is actually me.

Digging further into the results and adding “Indiana” to the search does pull up my staff bio on my employer’s website, as well as a link to my undergraduate alma mater and a comment I recently made on a Hack Library School post.

I am slightly creeped out by sites like Spokeo and PeekYou that can point people toward your home address and phone number. I noticed you can request to have your profile(s) removed, so I’m pondering it.

Basically, Google doesn’t think I have much of a personal brand. While my search didn’t pull up anything embarrassing, it also didn’t retrieve anything too impressive. I should probably attempt to change that.

Here’s a review of my current branding efforts, for what they’re worth:

I already…

  1. Use a consistent username across networks, whenever possible. I’m basically nmbrock everywhere. It’s a vestige of my college e-mail address, and a professional (albeit slightly boring) representation of my name. At this point, I feel like I would have to come up with a pretty fantastic alternative in order to change it. By the way, Googling this username does pretty much turn up results that link to my profiles across the web.
  2. Use my real name. I don’t think I have a profile that doesn’t use my full name – except, to be totally honest and a little off-topic, as it relates to online dating. Sorry dudes, you’ll find that out when I’m good and ready.
  3. Think of my profiles as “profersonal. I know people who have tried to separate their personal and professional Facebook and Twitter profiles, with mixed success. Personally, I don’t have the time or energy to live separate online lives. My Facebook profile tends to be more personal, while LinkedIn is designed for business. Although my Twitter habits are largely linked to professional interests, I’m starting to build personal connections.

I plan to…

  1. Find a decent, consistent avatar photo. The one I’m using on WordPress was taken to put with my bio on my organization’s website. While it’s certainly professional, it feels a little stuffy for true “profersonal” communication. My Twitter pic has been there since I opened the account in 2009. I’d like to step out from behind the sunglasses, but need a solid replacement photo. I’m not sold on my LinkedIn in photo, and am not too concerned about Facebook because I feel like it’s more acceptable to rotate profile pics in that setting.
  2. Consider my visual identity. I tested out several of the themes available in WordPress, but few of them really felt like “me.” I’m not so sure this one does, either, but at least it doesn’t hurt my eyes like some of the others. I am happy with its simplicity. Now, I just have to decide if I like it enough to carry it over into my other online profiles.  I have a feeling that if I continue blogging past the conclusion of cpd23 in October, I will start to investigate more advanced hosting and design options. I’m confident in my technical ability to pull it off, but can’t currently justify the investment of time or money.
  3. Develop ninja-like online awareness, a la Lifehacker.
  4. Figure out how to express my professional interests/skills/achievements, and be sure what I can offer is evident in my online profiles.

I wonder…

  1. What you think of “Odd Librarian Out.” Judging by the comments and referrals from other Thing 2 posts, it seems many people were drawn to the title. I had been hoping for something clever enough to draw people in from the listing, and I guess it worked!  For that, I’m grateful to have enjoyed getting to know several other participants.  But I have to admit I was, and still am, torn about the choice. While it does accurately depict how I feel these days, I fear it might be a bit off-putting. Could using words like “odd” and “out” set me further apart from my colleagues? What happens when I finally figure out where I fit? Is this a brand with staying power?
  2. What my personal brand will look like in October. I have a feeling the rest of the next twenty things will contribute greatly to the development of my brand. I hope to revisit this in an “After” post at the conclusion of cpd23.

I most definitely welcome feedback, particularly about your feelings toward the “Odd Librarian Out” persona.


What’s a commonplace book?

Although nobody has asked me this question about my blog subtitle yet, I feel somewhat compelled to mention it.

I first learned about commonplace books in my Honors Composition class during my freshman year in college.  Though I can’t remember the exact definition, the concept has stuck with me over the years.  The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has a definition that best matches my interpretation.  A commonplace book is

a manuscript or typed volume kept by an individual containing literary passages, quotations, recipes, poems, or passages from other sources that the individual thought worthy of recording.  These tend to be highly eclectic, may or may not include commentary by the individual, and may or may not be on a common theme.

The commonplace book I kept for my class contained a mix of quotations, comic strips, advertisements, poems, and other assorted clippings of interest. I’m not sure it would photograph well, so I’ll just share one quotation that’s particularly applicable to our cpd23 efforts.

“All,” be they dull or bright, more or less able, be their will powerful or weak, become blameworthy if they refuse to advance in learning. -Ivan Illich, In The Vineyard Of The Text

I really appreciate little tidbits of information like this, and it was fun to have a place to collect them. I continued to add to my commonplace book for at least a couple of years after the class. In many ways, I would say I haven’t really stopped keeping a commonplace book — it has just gone digital. Unfortunately, though, much of the content has been spread out among multiple tools. Sometimes I just use browser bookmarks, or I might share a fun quotation via Facebook or Twitter. The closest digital reproduction might be my Evernote “commonplace book” notebook, as it allows me to scroll through the entries (and search them = bonus!).

It seems to me that blogs can also serve as a type of commonplace book.  Actually, if I remember correctly, one of the purposes of keeping a commonplace book is to inspire future writing. I have never really done that with any of my clippings thus far, but it seems there’s no time like the present.

Do any of you keep commonplace books? What do you think of the idea?

Adventures in blog-stalking

I already attempt to keep up with dozens of library blogs in Google Reader, but it has been nice to see the fresh perspectives offered by my fellow cpd23 participants.

Here are a few of highlights from my Thing 2 investigation.

Growth of a Librarian – Erin and I have a new little bond over our hesitations…

Lauren’s Library Blog – Lauren made me smile with her great analogies to describe entering a new profession.

Angela Pashia – I (virtually) met @LibrarianAngie a little while ago via Twitter, maybe via #libchat? She’s got some good stuff on her blog already!

Organising Chaos – I caught some of @woodsiegirl‘s tweets during SLA 2011. She offers the perspective of someone who’s been blogging for awhile.

Perhaps the most important part of Thing 2 for me is getting more comfortable commenting on other people’s posts and truly making the experience about conversation. For as long as I’ve been reading blogs, it’s pretty pitiful how rarely I’ve commented. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to reduce my unread feed count so quickly I don’t really take time to absorb what I read, so perhaps stopping to comment will help me get more out of my reading. Plus, it has been pretty fun to receive comments so far. I can only assume other people enjoy feedback as well.

Although I’ve taken the initial steps from long-time reader to first-time commenter, I think I need a goal moving forward. One comment a day ought to be doable, don’t you think?

Professional development on the brain…

The concept of professional development is never too far from my mind.  After all, I have been managing a “professional development grant” program for the last five years, not to mention my ever-evolving role in facilitating the conferences, trainings, and library services offered by my organization. Basically, every day I go to work to help other people on their quest for professional development.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking more about intentionally about my own professional development.  I was fortunate to be able to attend the Special Libraries Association conference in Philadelphia last week, and I’ve returned home with an abundance of inspiration and ideas. I haven’t figured how to apply what I’ve learned just yet, but I’m hoping that harnessing some of the energy toward the 23 Things for Professional Development project will help me pull it all together.

Although my decision to start this blog wasn’t entirely a response to Thing 1, I’m excited to be participating in cpd23!  I was intrigued by previous 23 Things challenges I’ve heard about, but this one has begun at just the right time for me to make the commitment.

I am already familiar with many of the technical topics covered in the cpd23 program, but I plan to follow along in order to get myself in the habit of focusing on a different professional development activity each week. I think the routine will help me focus and establish some goals for further exploration.

Who am I and why am I blogging here?

A little over three years ago, I decided to make the jump from social work school to library school. I was confident in this decision for a number of reasons, not least of which were the dozens of librarian bloggers I had begun to follow. I continue to be impressed by the diverse, intelligent, talented, and fun group of people I can now call my colleagues.

Although I’ve been tempted to start my own blog before, I’ve always been bit hesitant for a handful of reasons.

  1. It seems that librarians’ passion for finding and organizing information extends to the prolific creation of information as well, particularly as it relates to our own profession. It’s already tough to keep up with all the great ideas and conversations. Does the world really need one more librarian blogger?
  2. I have yet to figure out my niche in the library world, hence the “odd librarian out” feeling. I don’t see myself fitting neatly into the typical public/academic/school librarian categories, yet the special library I work in doesn’t really resemble any other special libraries either. What would I write about?
  3. It’s difficult to fight an introverted temperament. I’ve always been a fairly private person, so putting my thoughts in a public venue doesn’t exactly feel natural. Can I really step out of my comfort zone?

Despite these lingering questions, I feel like now’s as good a time as any to join the conversation. Why now?

  1. The more blogger librarians, the merrier. The proliferation of library blogs isn’t exactly stopping anyone else from contributing their ideas. There’s really no escaping information overload, so I might as well participate!
  2. Perhaps my niche for now can be my nichlessness. My recent experience at the 2011 SLA Conference reminded me that while we were all trained in the same core skill sets, they can be applied in a multitude of interesting ways. I will likely write about my journey to find which applications work best for me.
  3. There’s no sense in fighting temperament, but I can channel my need for reflective time into something useful. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with writing, but will use this outlet to focus on the best part, which is how it helps me organize my thoughts.

I see this blog as an extension of my continuing professional development.  I will attempt to synthesize what I learn and experience, with hope that doing so will help me figure out where my librarian journey leads…