As much as she has learned, Nicole still wants to learn more…

About six years ago in a previous job, we took a little test to discover our workplace motivators. For whatever reason, one of the takeaways I still remember is that I’m highly theoretical and like to attend trainings. Of course, I didn’t really need a quiz to tell me that, but sometimes it’s nice when such results match my self-assessment.

Last night, I went through my files to find the report (see an example), and I had to laugh at some of the observations listed under my theoretical value:

  • “The chief aim in life is to order and systematize knowledge…”
  • “Likes to go to trade shows and conventions in her area of interest and expertise to find new ideas and tools for the team and organization at large.”
  • “Classes, courses, and conferences: Send Nicole and let her learn.”
  • “Realize that as much as she has learned, Nicole still wants to learn more.”

Seems like Thing 15 was tailor-made for me, doesn’t it?

Learning AND free stuff? Sign me up!

True to form, I have attended as many conferences as I could afford in the three years since I began library school.

  1. ALA 2009 (Chicago) – made possible by student registration fee, approx. 3 hour drive from Indianapolis, aunt and uncle’s guest bedroom in the ‘burbs
  2. SLA 2010 (New Orleans) – made possible by student registration fee, partial funding from our library student association, not having to use vacation days to attend
  3. SLA 2011 (Philadelphia) – made possible by student registration fee, sheer luck of winning four-night hotel stay in survey drawing, not having to use vacation days to attend
  4. Indiana Library Federation (3 of the last 5 statewide conferences, I think) – made possible because our organization always has a booth in the exhibit hall. The years I did not attend were because it’s the busy time for one of my other programs, and it’s tricky to get out of the office. Even when I do attend, I’m often manning the booth rather than attending sessions, but it’s still a nice way to be in touch with local colleagues.

Aside from ILF, I didn’t get a free ride (or funds from my employer) to attend any of the conferences, but I found enough discounts and funding assistance that the remaining personal investment seemed reasonable. Admittedly, I also justified the trips to New Orleans and Philadelphia by making time to be a tourist in these two cities I’d never visited before. This summer, I essentially doubled the value of my airfare by tacking on a couple days to visit a friend in DC before catching a train to Philly for the conference.

Too much conferencing meant this is as close as I got to the Liberty Bell.

I’ve already written a little about how I’ve made the most of conference attendance for Thing 7 about face-to-face networking and Thing 8 about Google Calendar, so I won’t go into detail here. Aside from using Twitter to turn online connections into personal connections, I would say that it’s important to spend some time reading the conference program to locate sessions that will be most valuable either to your current work or future goals. I realize that’s not mind-boggling conference advice, but sometimes the simplest things bring the best results, right?

I have yet to speak at a professional conference, and I’m not actively pursuing such opportunities at this point.Public speaking has never really been one of my favorite things, though I’m not nearly as uncomfortable with it now as I was growing up. I suppose right now, I’m just not sure what I would have to present about at a conference. The library I work in is pretty unusual, yet I’m not sure we do anything that other libraries would want to replicate. And personally, I know a little about a lot of things, so I don’t see myself as an expert on any particular topic. I still feel like there’s more for me to learn than there is for me to teach. Am I being too humble? Probably. My workplace motivators report also scored me high in the social/altruistic value, meaning that I like “helping, teaching, and coaching others.” While it’s certainly true that I like to be helpful, I’ve never really felt like I had the patience for teaching in a formal sense. This really is something I’d like to work on, but I’m not totally sure where to start.

For now, I can probably be most helpful when it comes to organizing conferences. I’ve been involved in this type of work for the last five years, to varying degrees. While there are two other staff at my agency with primary responsibility for organizing our annual conference and regional trainings, I have somehow become the registration guru. This includes setting up our registration system(s), maintaining the databases, troubleshooting with customers, running reports, etc. I’ve received more e-mails and attended more event planning meetings than I care to recall, so I’d like to think I have a good understanding of what it takes to pull off conferences of varying sizes and scopes. I’m not currently planning any library-oriented conferences (unless you count our tweetup!), but I suspect that this may be a good way for me to put my diverse skills to use in the future.

Working hard at on-site registration...

So far in my library career, I would say that I’m doing the best I can to nurture my theoretical side and attend conferences and trainings that will help me become a better information professional. It seems that my next challenge is to attend to my social/altruistic values and look for more opportunities to teach and help others.

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See you later, citation software!

Since #libchat has moved to Thursday this week, I thought I’d try to squeeze in another CPD23 post this week.

This will be a quick one, as I can’t currently think of a use for the free reference management software (Zotero, Mendeley, and Citeulike) introduced in Thing 14. Much like Lauren, I’m not usually one for randomly signing up for accounts and testing tools that don’t apply to a current need. I love technology that will help me solve a problem, and right now, keeping track of references isn’t much of a problem. I’ve been done with graduate school for about nine months now, and there isn’t any serious research or publication coming up in my near future (even if maybe there should be).

I have previously tried to use citation managers like EndNote and Zotero, and couldn’t quite figure out how to integrate either of them into my workflow. I understood how they worked, but there always seemed to be enough glitches to make me go back to my old-fashioned process. My basic strategy for writing papers and organizing references is a trusty remnant from my elementary school days. As silly as that may sound, this foundation in basic writing and research has served me quite well through college and grad school.

My process isn't *quite* this old-school.

Image credit: Reeding Lessons

While these tools haven’t worked for me so far, I can see the benefits for academics and others interested in publishing, as they could keep an ongoing record of references that may be used in multiple papers or articles. It’s kind of like maintaining your own personal database of resources on a topic of interest, and I like the sound of that. Right now, though, it’s just not something I need. I’m OK with leaving these tools on the shelf for now, but if I ever go back to school or get the urge to publish, I’m sure I’ll give them a second chance. In the meantime, I’ll spread the word if I think they can help someone else.


My love-hate relationship with online collaboration tools

While I’ve been trying to think of something insightful to say about online collaboration and file sharing, three more CPD23 Things have come and gone. That’s what I get for going out of town for a weekend and subsequently becoming addicted to US Open live streaming. Thanks to the rain in New York City, I can stop watching tennis long enough to finally confront Thing 13.

Image credit: KatieTT

I haven’t exactly been avoiding Google Docs, Dropbox and wikis. I’ve just been avoiding the part where I have to figure out something useful to say about them. I have experimented with all three tools, but am regularly frustrated by not being able to use them to their full collaborative potential.

Google Docs

I first tried to use Google Docs back in mid-2007 when I was co-chairing a black-tie fundraiser. I had hoped we could move our spreadsheet of auction prospects to Google Docs, so that we could all be working from the same document rather than reconciling multiple versions and e-mail updates. Unfortunately, our committee wasn’t quite tech-savvy enough to handle this new-fangled tool. I was disappointed, but we did come up with a reasonable alternative in that I was allowed VPN access so I could update the same document my staff contacts were using.

In the years since, I haven’t been a particularly active Google Docs user. I have experimented with it to keep some notes from meetings, class sessions, and readings I wanted to cite in papers. It works fine for these purposes, but none of this is particularly collaborative.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to talk people into more collaborative uses, my efforts just never seem to pan out. For one group project in library school, I suggested trying the Google Docs presentation tool in place of Power Point, so we didn’t have to send slides around or burden any one person with organizing the whole thing. Unfortunately, none of my group mates seemed too interested. Once again, I was disappointed. Aren’t library school students supposed to be chomping at the bit to experiment with new technology?

I also set up a tracking spreadsheet for a different event I was involved with, but as I found myself overstretched and needing to step back from that commitment, I am not certain if anyone ever used it.

So, for all intents and purposes, I’m 0 for 3 in collaborating with Google Docs.

Dropbox

I love Dropbox, but I mostly just use it as a way to keep certain documents handy. I have not used its collaborative features yet at all, probably because I have yet to be in a situation where it makes sense to suggest them. Or perhaps I’m just a little gun-shy after my repeated failures to spread the Google Docs love.

My favorite thing about Dropbox is that it freed me from carrying a USB drive between home and work and class. While it would be better if I could download Dropbox on my work computer, I can settle for having access to a document in the cloud when I need it. I rarely bring work home, or work on personal documents at the office, but there are some occasions where putting a file in Dropbox comes in handy.

Writing this “Thing” did remind me of one Dropbox feature I had forgotten about, which is the ability to create a public link to a document. I am not sure what I’ll use this for yet, but was glad to be reminded of the option.

I think I may recommend Dropbox to my mom, as she was recently telling me about her frantic search for a missing USB drive that finally turned up in the laundry hamper. She’s a teacher who works at two different schools and often needs to edit documents from home, so Dropbox seems to be an ideal tool for organizing files she needs to access in all three places.

Wikis

Of the three tools in Thing 13, I’m probably most fascinated by wikis. Of course, I’m probably most disappointed by them as well, considering it’s been my dream for awhile to integrate a wiki into the workflow at my office. The tool seems ideally suited to housing documentation for policies and processes affecting multiple staff. Wikis can be updated by multiple people in one location while maintaining a history. It’s easier to search for information in a Wiki than on a massive and cluttered shared network drive. It seems like the ultimate solution to the multiple conflicting versions of documentation currently littered around our e-mails and network.

Unfortunately, launching a wiki is not a particularly easy task. The concept is simple and the technology is relatively user friendly, but people remain reluctant to change. My wiki dream has gone unfulfilled mostly because I don’t have the time in the work week to move it off the back burner. I’ve tried finding other champions within the organization to put a little momentum behind the idea, but it’s still slow going.

In the meantime, I enjoy the opportunities I have to interact with successful wikis like the Library Day in the Life and Library Routes projects. A committee I serve on is also using a wiki to share ideas and communicate between meetings, so that’s a nice way for me to get my hands on the tools. I’ve also been attending conference sessions and reading about wikis and knowledge sharing, so that hopefully I’ll be able to implement appropriate solutions in my work.

Image credit: jayfreshuk

If I’ve learned one thing from this reflection, it’s that the tools are the easy part. No matter how beautiful, logical, or user-friendly the solution, it’s not enough to put it on people’s desks and tell them to collaborate. I personally love applying technology to solve problems, but it’s increasingly clear to me that getting other people on board involves more convincing and perhaps more of an emotional tug. That’s not necessarily my strong suit, so moving forward, it will be important for me to focus less on the technology and more on learning techniques for persuasion, motivation, and successful change management. I’m starting to read a little more on these topics, and look forward to sharing insights with you. In the meantime, feel free to leave tips and recommended resources in the comments!