Thursday, September 21, 2017

So you don't want to be a manager...

Conductor
Conductor, Manager, Leader
At the start of a new academic year, new MSLIS students begin to explore more about the profession, while also stating what attracts and repels them about librarianship.  One job which repels some students is being a manager.  This is not new. Every year there are students who state firmly that they do not want to manage other people or oversee budgets. I think this view of working in a library is shortsighted and self-limiting. Why?
  • Every librarian manages projects, processes, or events.  That includes digitization programs, summer reading programs, advocacy events, renovation projects, and more.  Some of those projects, processes and events may be small, and they still require someone to be in charge.  That person could be a seasoned librarian or someone who is a new professional.
  • Many library positions have management related responsibilities in their job descriptions, even lower level positions.
  • In smaller public libraries, a new librarian may be hired as the library director.  This tosses that person immediately into the position of being in charge and having to draw upon management-related training gained in graduate school or management-related experience gained in non-LIS positions.
  • If a librarian wants to have a positive impact on the community the person serves, that librarian will need to be involved in decision-making, planning, and implementation.  That person will need to take on responsibilities...and...yes...manage a project, a process or an event.
  • To earn more as a library and information professional, a person needs to take on more responsibility.  More responsibility means taking on managerial tasks.
Let's explore that last bullet point a bit more using the following scenario:
Three LIS graduates all begin similar library jobs at the same time. Two of the LIS graduates shun any work that seems related to "management."  The third person looks for opportunities to manage projects.

One year after their graduation, the graduate who has gained some management experience is promoted, receiving additional responsibilities and a pay increase to go with it.  The other two remain in their same original positions and only receive modest  cost of living pay increases.

Another year goes by.  One of the two LIS graduates, who had not wanted to do anything that seemed like "management," had decided to take on managing small projects.  That person receives more responsibilities and a pay increase to go with it.  This leaves one LIS graduate who is still shunning anything related to management.

A few more years go by. The one LIS graduate who received additional responsibilities after being in the profession for one year is now managing a branch library and being compensated appropriately.  That person has taken on very interesting projects at the branch, which has required being able to create project plans and project budgets. These projects have allowed the person to interact with a number of other librarians and has bolstered the person's reputation.

The LIS graduate who began taking on management responsibilities after a year in the profession has continued to take on more responsibilities.  This person has become known as an effective team leader, who leads without others feeling led.  This person is now looking to move to a different library, which would open up additional opportunities.

The third LIS graduate stayed true to the intent of not taking on any work that involving managing anything. This person did not manage any projects, programs, or events.  This person never handled a budget and was never in charge of any people.  This person never opened or closed the library, because that required managerial skills (and making decisions).  The person never served on any committees, because that could require being in charge at some point.  This person has received modest cost of living raises, but had not received any significant pay raises because the person had not taken on any responsibilities.  This person has watched the other two LIS graduates move into new positions, while this person stayed in the same position.

Do you want to be that last librarian? Why?  Why not?

{Thanks to Susan Mitchell, executive director for the Onondaga County Public Library. for prompting this scenario.}

If you are interested in being a manager or a leader, great! We need you!  If you are not interested in managing or leading, please take a moment and think about what that will mean for your career.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The 1.5 Factor

FractionsWhen we place content online, either through digitization or the creation of new digital works, we have no idea how people will use it.  Yes, we know how we want them to use it, but we don't always know how people really use it. 

Do they consume the content in the order we expect?

Do they listen, watch or read the entire piece?

Do they follow the links or resources which we provide?

This summer, I recorded all of the video lectures which will be used in my class this fall.  After the lectures were created, I had to then watch them all in order to check their quality.  And I did what I frequently do when I listen to podcasts, I changed the speed to 1.5 or 2x normal.  Yes, even I am understandable if you listen to me at twice my normal speaking speed!

Everyone who creates content makes an assumption about its use.  While my assumption in recording the lectures was that students would watch them at their normal speed, I proved to myself that my assumption didn't need to be true. 

I actually don't like hour long podcasts, but what it I realized that I'm going to listen to it in half the time?  I have yet to ingrain my 1.5 reality into how I select what to listen to.  If I did, I'd recognize that those long podcasts really aren't that long and I would begin to consume a broader range of content.

What are your assumptions as you create digital content?  As a consumer of content, what are you doing which might alter your assumptions? Could altering your assumptions expand your horizons?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Article: The ‘time machine’ reconstructing ancient Venice’s social networks

Through this article in Nature, about an extensive program in Venice (Italy), we can see a wonderful use of digitization and machine learning.
[Frédéric Kaplan] has an ambition to capture well over 1,000 years of records in dynamic digital form, encompassing the glorious era of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The project, which he calls the Venice Time Machine, will scan documents including maps, monographs, manuscripts and sheet music. It promises not only to open up reams of hidden history to scholars, but also to enable the researchers to search and cross-reference the information, thanks to advances in machine-learning technologies.
If you're not interested in reading the article, then watch this short video (2.5 minutes).


Thanks to both Chad Harper and David Vampola for sharing this article with me.  

Friday, September 01, 2017

Are you digtizing what is true?

1940 Census publicity photo
1940 Census publicity photo
We - the global we - are digitizing our history, including birth, death, marriage, census and other records for a vast number of people.  Ancestry.com looks at these records and uses OCR and algorithms to make sense of them.  However, there are problems.  Records from the late 1800s and early 1900s are handwritten, which can make them difficult to interpret.  Using the information about the age of the person at the census leads to a guess about the year that person was born, and the guess has a 50% chance of being correct.  Then there is the problem of names and if the name is correct. 100 years ago, people knew who each other were and didn't care if the name was misspelled, or if the name was just wrong.  However, now all of these potential errors are causing problems.

We cannot go through every line of data that is being digitized, compare it to other data, and then correct it.  While the data would be more accurate, the process would be too time-consuming and costly.  Ancestry.com (and I'm sure other sites) allow people to compile information and make corrections on their "copy."  This is a wonderful solution, if the person knows the data is wrong, but what if the person has no idea?

This topic came to mind because I'm researching my family tree and the data isn't always close to being accurate. Thankfully, I know enough about the family tree to be able to make intelligence decisions about the data I'm using (or so I hope).  But I cannot go in and correct what I know is blatantly wrong and that is frustrating.

If you are digitizing material today and making it available, or even archiving born digital materials:
  • How do you know that the information is accurate?  
  • What do you need to tell people about the data, which might help them understand its potential lack of accuracy?  
  • Can you build-in a feedback mechanism that would allow people to provide corrections?
Site of Steinway Hall, W. 57th (LOC)
Site of Steinway Hall, W. 57th
Yes, I know people are thinking about this.  I also know that people are creating systems that do allow for user-generated comments, descriptions, and tagging.  People are also doing this on the Internet in places like Flickr.  You see this, for example, with the historic photos that have been uploaded by the Library of Congress.  If you check the photo on the right, you'll see interesting and useful comments. Can we do more of this?



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Personal: "Long Days Held Close to the Heart" & What's next for Jill

Three MSLIS students and Jill Hurst-Wahl
After five years, I have stepped down from being director of the MSLIS program at Syracuse University.  If you work in academia, then you'll recognize this as being quite normal.  If you're not in academia, let me tell you this is quite normal!  No one stays the director of a program forever. At some point, that person returns to being "just faculty."  I am making that transition joyfully!  In celebration of the change, I wrote an article for the iSchool blog and print publication entitled "Long Days Held Close to the Heart."  If you want to know more about what I've been doing, that will give you a peek. You might also read this post, which I wrote after my first semester as director.

So what's next for me, besides fewer emails and fewer meetings? 
  • My teaching load is lighter this year, in order to give me time and space to dig into my areas of interest.  However, teaching-wise I've been developing a graduate class title "Collection Development and Access", which I will teach in October and then April.  (This class had been irregularly taught in the past and will now be taught twice per year online in 11-week quarters.)  I've developed this class from scratch and have put more work into it then you can imagine!  
  • I have scheduled webinars and workshops beginning in December on a variety of topics including copyright, advocacy, providing services outside of the physical library, and training failures.  I am especially looking forward to the events on copyright, because I'll be speaking to library staff, who really need that knowledge.
  • I'll spend time doing things in the community, which I've not been able to do.  Last week, it was working a Multicultural Fair for children. This Sunday, it will be working the NYS Library Booth at the New York State Fair.  After that, who knows!
If you have been wanting to talk with me about a project idea or a workshop idea, and haven't done it, now is the time! Visit my web site and use any of those methods to contact me.