Archives for category: Non-library work

So, you and your library are not on Twitter. Big deal, right? Professional sporting events, political debates, award shows and cable news are pre-hashtagged, but what does it mean for you? If you’re feeling left out, and want to get into Twitter, I’m going to propose a two and half pronged attack:

The Institutional Account

The odds that you’re already producing the stuff you need to populate an institutional Twitter account are high: new LibGuides, new acquisitions, changes to your regular hours, programs, Ask A Lib services, etc. Twitter is just a free way to publicize what you already do. Before you sign up, consider:

  • Setting some policies about who will tweet, how often, and in what style to give your account consistency, and legitimacy
  • Setting a few more policies about how and when to respond to retweets, favorites, and mentions, favorable and unfavorable
  • How to incorporate your Twitter background page, icon and shortened links into the greater branding of your institution (if you’re not a stand alone kind of place, i.e. law schools that are part of larger universities)
  • Will this be fun for you? If no one on staff is going to enjoy tweeting, the product won’t show your best side. Twitter is a great way to humanize an institution, show that it’s made of individual voices that make one–but if you’re not feeling it, your Twitter voice will show it.

The Personal Professional Account

Networking, attending conferences, attending conferences that you’re not even in the same time zone as: let Twitter solve it for you! If you’ve ever felt like you’re missing out on what’s going on in the library world, or like your professional development budget is $5, Twitter can be a great way to get out there, without getting out there. In my own life, I call it “using the Internet to trick people into thinking I’m important.” And I have to say, reader, you’re here, aren’t you? For your personal professional account:

  • Consider making the icon an actual picture of you, or at least cartoon you. This is your brand!
  • Keep your tweets related to your professional life. This is your chance to promote your work, your institution, your ideas, but not your cat, or your dinner, or your shoes. Ok, a little bit of that from time to time is nice to show you’re not a library robot, but keep it pro.
  • Use your personal professional account to follow the hashtags of conferences you’re not at (because who can afford them all), but also conferences you are at. It makes the entire experience richer.
  • A little shameless self promotion won’t hurt you. Did you write a new Lib Guide for your library? Get it out there! It’s good for you, it’s good for your institution, and it’s good for someone who maybe wouldn’t have found the information without Twitter.
  • Above all, don’t make your Twitter feed a moment by moment account of your day, because it’s boring. Take this advice from Garance and ask yourself whether your tweet is relevant before you post it.

The Solely Personal Account

It can be a little fragmenting, I suppose, but so many things in life are more fun with Twitter. Find your friends at baseball games, follow food trucks, rave (or rant with caution) about new restaurants, share pictures of your animals. Don’t forget:

  • Be careful about turning locations on–I hear there are bad people on the interwebz.
  • If you’re taking a picture of, say, a playbook in your lap, be sure you’re wearing pants (I’m looking at you Chris Cooley, former Redskin).
  • Don’t forget your #natitude

#natitude by Meg & the rest of Natstown

If you’ve skimmed all this and still don’t think Twitter is for you, don’t forget that you can read people’s open pages without actually joining. Let’s do this again for Facebook a little later on!

Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, or even a sports fan, there’s something to be learned about managing from a profession driven by men called Managers. They might not always choose their staffs, but they work with who they have to get the best results–as many wins as– possible.

Ozzie, by Meg

I have had great managers, and terrible managers. Likewise, I’ve had the pleasure of watching successful baseball teams, and the agony of watching dreadful teams. Two ideas unite both: chaos breeds chaos, and consistency breeds calm. Ranting and raving, publicly decrying your staff, and general anger are divisive and destructive. Conversely, public praise, private problem resolution, and general calm are uniting and productive.

Without a checklist: if you’re in a management position right now, be mindful. Things may need to change at your workplace, but you will get more done by being a steady, predictably cool presence than by being an unstable, unpredictable hot head. Be calm, and be effective. Be erratic, and work in circles.

I have never taught a full semester course. I’m not even Dr. Meg, it’s just what my friends in my AP US Government class called me in high school. But, I have gone to school a few times. From my consumer perspective, here are some pro tips on professorship.

by Meg

Course Design and Syllabus

  • Order of operations: If you’re teaching skills that build on one another, be mindful of that fact when ordering your lessons. International Shoe doesn’t make much sense without understanding jurisdiction; the contents of the U.S. Code don’t make much sense without understanding the legislative process. Timing matters.
  • The virtue of snow days: Don’t forget to leave wiggle room in your course outline. One lesson might take longer than anticipated to sink in, the weather might not cooperate, you might want to include a review session for an exam. No amount of careful planning can change the randomness of life.
  • Get a copy editor: Few things are more disheartening than typos and grammatical errors in a syllabus. It shows your disregard for value, or worse, makes you look incompetent.

Conducting the Class

  • Know your stuff: Like typos, inaccuracies in lectures and course materials make you look like an idiot. They might be honest mistakes, but there’s nothing worse for a student than feeling like they wasted hard-earned money on an expensive course taught by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about.
  • Students are adult humans, not children, or animals: adjust your tone and inflection accordingly. Parents of infants and toddlers, take note: it’s an easy mistake to make.
  • The Army way: “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you, tell you, and then tell you what I told you.” One of my favorite professors in law school was a retired soldier, who had also taught at JAG school, and his method was very effective (especially for property, yeesh).

Student Evaluations

  • Grade and time: If your course will evaluate student performance with something more than a final exam, grade that work in a timely manner. If you can’t do so, ask yourself why you’re assigning it.
  • True results: The way a course is conducted should match the evaluation. Skills classes like trial advocacy, legislative history, might only need short answer questions, or hands-on take-home demonstrations. Big idea classes like gender theory in American law might be better suited to long form essay questions.
  • False positives for law school courses: Lest we forget, at the end of law school, one takes the bar. If you are teaching bar tested stuff, a bar style test will be disfavored in the moment, but probably really appreciated a few years later.

What was your favorite thing about your favorite professor?

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Hey, look, a selection of software books from the early-mid 2000s from a library that shall remain unnamed. Quaint, no? I’m pro print materials, but in the case of teaching yourself how to code, why not get hands on?

Learning How To Code On Your Own:

  • Codecademy: Interactive tutorials that you can complete on your own, or in tandem with friends, on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python and more
  • Code Year: a Codecadmey project that delivers a lesson every Monday, for those who like to be reminded that it’s coding time
  • Lifehacker’s Teach Yourself To Code: Helpful tips on languages and what each one can do, which compilers to use, app and add on development
  • Mozilla School of Webcraft: A range of courses and challenges using real life APIs like Twitter
  • Google Code University: Including classes for Android programming (who better to learn from?)

Learning How to Code With A Group:

  • Meetup: Searching “coding” and your location and be a-mazed. There are classes everywhere! How do I know? I tested it with my hometown, and if there are coding classes around Hampton, VA, they must be everywhere.
  • Check your local community college listings. Or, if you’re at an academic institution, it’s time to cash in those free tuition credits, no?

Coding + Girl Power

  • Girl Develop It: Based in NYC, Meetup-based classes for women who have been shy to ask about coding, and might feel more comfortable in an all/mostly female setting
  • Women Who Code: Based in San Fransisco, another woman-focused Meetup
  • Ladies Learning Code: Originally based in Toronto, with a west coast branch in Vancouver

Real Schools, Real Courses, Still Free

Are you ready? I’m most looking forward to Codecademy, but I might look for a lady coding Meetup around DC. How about you?

At De Soto National Monument, by Meg

Gator in Everglades National Park, Florida, by Meg

One of my favorite bloggers, Garance DorĂ©, posts Weekend Inspirations. They’re just pictures, no text, and they don’t always have anything to do with the last, or the next post. But, they’re the perfect weight for weekend viewing, and they’re pretty. I’m pro-pretty. In that spirit, may I present the first Library Lulu Weekend Inspiration:

At Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, by Meg

I thought I would finish Mental Health Break with a field report from the other side of librarianship: the side where one is not a librarian at all. I recently described myself as an “information professional at large,” and with 12.8 million Americans out of work last month, I can’t be the only one. However, filling out application after application that asks, “Name?,” eventually leads to “Who am I?,” and then to “I am alone” more often than I care to admit.

Aside from the monotony of applications, the guilt I assign myself for having lost my job (and increasingly, for not being a Stepford Wife while I’m at home all day), and the sheer boredom, the hardest part of unemployment that I am in total control to fix is this nagging feeling of wasted time because I am not in the career that I went to school so many times to realize. Did I really believe that I would prevent any sort of unpleasant employment situation, or that I would always be doing precisely what I set out to do? Did I think that there wouldn’t be down time?

Well, yes.

I’m willing to blame youthful ignorance, willful ignorance, sheer stupidity, gross misinterpretation of the brand of feminism with which I’ve surrounded myself, whatever. I need to get over it. There is more to me than being a law librarian. I am in total control to fix monotony, guilt, and boredom, too, but here are my new efforts to stop feeling like a wasted effort that you can try too:

  • Plan projects that you would never be able to/allowed to do at work. I’m typing away on my social media consulting materials, thinking of how to fund, then digitize stuff for fun and no profit, and thinking of dipping my toe into a for real academic article.
  • Go out and visit related institutions. I live in a big city full of libraries, and I’ve been to practically none. You can always learn from what someone else is doing, even without making a big formal tour of it. Just go in as a user, see what happens.
  • Go out and visit not at all related institutions. Libraries aren’t just libraries anymore. Go to museums, factories, start up offices, print media houses, coffee shops. There’s a lesson to be learned everywhere, which is terribly convenient as libraries now have to do everything.
  • Embrace your pre-graduate education. You learned to color inside the lines at one point, right? Have you colored recently? No?? Well, there you have it. If you’re really feeling ambitious, go and do that with people who are learning it for the first time, share your experience, and don’t forget to mention that coloring outside the lines is way more fun

Today, I am going to the beach. I’ve granted myself a one day break from applications and house work, and I’m going to read my September Vogue under a big, fabulous hat, and sketch sea birds. If I were at work, I couldn’t do any of these things on a Wednesday. But today, instead of lamenting my unemployment, I’m going to try and make the most of it.

Vogue and big, fabulous hat, by Meg

Everyone is not going to like you. You are not going to like everyone. The more difficult you find those facts to accept, the more likely you are to find yourself losing sleep, or dreading going to work over a difficult coworker.
Much like bad bosses, there are many brands of crap colleagues: oversharers, the hyper peppy, the hypo peppy, folks with intense mood swings, anger issues, liars, louts, the whole lot. Step one to dealing with any of these types is allowing yourself to not get along with them. It’s ok! So many people, especially women, feel the need to like and be liked for fear of being impolite. Being able to work with a variety of people is an important asset, but sometimes, it just isn’t going to happen. Your value at work is more than your likability.

After you have allowed yourself to not get on with your problem coworker, assess how you have been reacting to them. You’re upset, yes, but how is that manifesting in your work, your self-esteem? You cannot control someone else, but you can control yourself. If you can pinpoint what happens after a bad interaction with a bad coworker, you can change how you react. For example, let’s say you have a coworker who sends inflammatory emails about your work, ccing everyone, every day. If you usually sit in your office and fume, try going for a break, or at least doing something away from your computer for a while. Extract yourself from the situation, and change your own personal outcome.

Now that you have allowed yourself to not get on with your problem coworker, and you have identified and changed your reaction to what bothers you about said coworker, it’s time to be honest with the coworker. You’ve been honest with yourself thus far, and while that’s a positive step, if you don’t tell the coworker what’s going on, you’re going to come off as passive aggressive. You don’t need to list every single problem you have with the person, but a simple, “It really upsets me when you _____, I’m going to _____ when it happens, and I just wanted you to know.” What if the person has no idea they’re doing that? They might not care, of course, but we don’t get better at being humans without feedback. Be brief, be professional, and move on.

In review:

  • Allow yourself to not get along with everyone.
  • Identify how you react to a bad situation, extract yourself, and change your own personal outcome.
  • Explain the situation and your new reaction to the person who’s upsetting you briefly, and professionally.
  • Be happier. After all, whose life is it, anyway?

There are so many ways in which a supervisor can be ineffective:

  • The boss who gives employees little direction, few expectations and no timeline, then erupts into a rage when work doesn’t meet a very specific set of specifications (often totally different from what was first discussed), yesterday
  • The boss who micromanages projects, squashing creativity
  • The boss who plays favorites among staff (worse yet, by being fake nice), creating unnecessary tension and an unproductive work environment that feels more like high school, and less like a professional place of employ
  • The boss who micromanages non-work time, like lunch breaks, fostering more high schoolesque, hall pass style mistrust
  • The boss who can’t be bothered with staff input because they’re ever so busy–with what, no one knows
  • The boss who can’t be bothered with staff input because only their opinion is relevant

Any of these sound familiar? I could go on (worldwide, there’s a rich fiction culture of horrible bosses), but I think all of these bad behaviors can be explained with one issue: ineffective supervisors have a hard time dealing with power.

Whether you’re a first-time manager right now, in your current position, or if you’ve been doing it for years, there is a certain fear of failure that accompanies being in charge, and it can make folks act erratically. With great power comes great responsibility, and if you’re not used to owning your work, how are you supposed to own the work of a group? So many of these bad behaviors are bosses trying to avoid potential blame.

  • Evasive on the details up front but obsessively interested in the end? A bad product is the result of employee incompetence, because they should know what they’re doing.
  • Micromanagers? A bad product is the result of staff negligence, because the boss was there for them every step of the way.
  • The boss who plays favorites? A bad product is the result of internal employee bickering, because the boss was rewarding good work all along.
  • Can’t be bothered? Much like evasive on the details boss, a bad product is all on the staff, because they should be able to perform their jobs.

So, how can you as an employee (or you, as a boss) deal with this special kind of fear of failure? While I don’t recommend staging an intervention or an airing of grievances, I do think it’s worth saying, “I understand that overseeing this project can be difficult, but I want to do the best work possible for the organization.” Now, “let’s make a specific plan,” or “let’s step back from ourselves for a moment and focus on our mission,” or “we need to focus on our mission so we don’t lose funding,” or something to that effect. As much as a workplace runs on people power, it’s not about people. Like it or not, a great staff with great working relationships is a means to an end.

To deal with your bad boss, try to extract yourself from the emotional situation and focus on the task at hand. You may find that folks can get on better when they’re all about the work. If that doesn’t work, you may find that not taking a workplace situation personally is better for you, in your non-working hours. After all, whose life is it anyway?

You may not be able to make your bad boss own themselves, but you can certainly own you. Take the empowerment situation into your own hands, because your bad boss may be the boss of your work, but they’re certainly not the boss of you.

[Thanks to all those who contributed bad boss archetypes!]

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