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Wednesday 2 November 2011

Reality-based librarianship #lianza11 #keynote8

Session chair recounts the Chalk notes as a valid communication format story.

Jenica Rogers
Reality-based librarianship for passionate librarians

We live in a liminal time - internet, digital divide, shifting economies. Some cling to the past, some plunge forward, some standing still and waiting to see what'll happen next. Future will take care of all of us in the end, but we need to decide our position, based in our own realities. We can all be passionate, successful, plunge forward - but foolish to think we can all do it in the same way.

How do we get places? We go there, do it, be it. We are our own best weapon against the things we want to change. We are our own best resource.

First have to find our passion. Many great ideas at this conference. But fraught with uncertainty about our own job.

Step 1 - figure out why you like an idea. Why are you fixating on this technique, this equipment, this change? What resonates? If you can figure it out you can advocate for it in a compelling way. Complaints that some keynotes haven't explicitly linked their talks to the library situation - but that's our job. When we go home, a list of what we heard is less compelling than "I heard this, thought about it, and linked it to what we're doing at our library." We've had a lot of talk about telling stories - we need to take stories back home. So name your passion.

Step 2 - make your passion actionable. Quotes from Rands in Repose: You Are Underestimating the Future A passion combined with a belief it can be done.

"There's always a hill to climb - and some are worth dying on. Only some." Acting on your passion is a hill. Everyone has a hill to climb. People who don't know what their next project is haven't named their passion or don't believe in it. Uses her blog to do this - eg blogging about bad vendor service.

Sometimes legacy processes protect core of what we do. Can't know what this is unless we challenge it. So challenge things when we get back! We've got ideas from conference - will hit wall of "You're just one person". So pick a hill, look at your energy levels and work out which one's worth climbing. When you find barriers (economy, earthquakes, inertia...) decide, "Is this a hill you want to die on?" Some battles aren't worth fighting, sometimes the cost of winning is too high, sometimes the victory isn't strategic enough. Choosing a hill is intensely personal so only you can know which is which. But we have the power to choose which hills are worth it.

"Approach success as you would any project. Plan for it, organise it, manage it." Change doesn't just happen. Need person in right place, right time, right idea, who does it. You have to put yourself in the right place and time. So plan for it. Can't just tell manager "We should have ebooks" - need a plan. Any goal can and should be project-managed.

This applies to everything
  • identify your goals
  • map out the steps - how do you get started (depends on who you are, who's in charge, who are your allies, what will it cost in money, time, political capital). May need user needs survey, may need to meet people, may need to write a budge projection.
  • understand your personal need for accountability. How much do you need to know and report to people; how much do others need to know and report to you? Prepare to ask for info and give it in return. If you're prepared you look smart!
  • understand your need for support systems. Do you want to work as a loner or be part of a team? If you know, you can agitate for it.
  • include all of these issues in your plan and make a map
Make a map and follow it! Needn't be detailed, guiding you every minute of the day. But thinking about things gives you confidence - a script to follow if things go wrong. Can protect you from yourself.

Imagine you're an astronaut. Want to go to stars but you *can* go to the moon. So that's your goal. To do this you have to build an ugly rocket. You hate it - but it'll get you to the moon. So "Embrace process and love even your ugly rockets." Eg when planning to update survey you know that you'll have to do a user survey. You don't want to, think it won't tell anything new, but the powers that be require it. Doesn't matter if you're right or wrong - you have to do it to get to your goal.

At the same time, "Don't lose sight of your goals - and remember that sometimes the wise choice is to turn back." Sometimes rockclimbing you've put in so much effort and pain you can't imagine giving up. But sometimes you need to remember your goals - why are you doing this? Think about your passion. Have you passed the point of no return? Or can/should you say it's time to stop? Serving needs of others is part of our operating principles so turning back can feel unaccepting. Sometimes altruism can prevent success by preventing failure. If it isn't working and can't work then you'll keep pouring resources (altruistically!) off a cliff. Have to parse out what's probably and what's possible and what's "possible but only with nuclear weapons".

"Success requires some tolerance for failure. What's yours?" How high are you willing to climb? How strong/fragile is your egg? Strong things can be fragile if you know where to knock them; fragile things can be strong if you know how to hold them. Before you start chasing passion, ask "What's the worst that could happen?" Easy to think about "What's the best that could happen?" We pick projects because we can imagine success - but consider failure too. Once you know the worst, ask "Can I handle that?" Not asking these to operate from a place of fear - that just makes us small and weak. But we need to know how far we can push ourselves before we break.

Remember other people have points of fear too - different fears than ours. When they hit this, they can become a brick wall; or maybe just a closed door. "If fear of failure is what stops people, ask why. Then ask 'What can I do about it? How much do I care? Am I the right person to deal with this?'" If you know that they're immoveable you know to stop hitting your head against that brick wall and look at other options. May not be able to move them, but you can move yourself. Be creative.

Of course sometimes that brick wall is your boss. You can't go over or around your boss. But can you find an advocate who can say things you can't say? "Find a community that loves you. You can't do it alone." Sometimes her power in uni admin team doesn't come from herself (because she's newest and youngest) but from finding an ally. Even if you can't win, you still need the support, people who will get you and feed you passion when the world sucks you dry. Your support network might be in your organisation or out of it - national, international, online.

You're going to need to network someday. "This is not your last job." If you follow your dreams you'll sometimes find you've outgrown your job. At this point your network may give you leads, support.

"Know thyself and set your priorities accordingly." You need to know what you want and what you need. If you can identify your strengths and values you'll know what hills to climb and how to get there. Doesn't care what our passion is. "I don't give a shit how bad things are. [...] This is life." Long ago noticed that farmers never have a good year. But they keep farming! Libraries are the same. We've been here for a long time and never had a good year. We're all struggling - so what? Get over it, move on. Keep farming anyway. "Go do something. Change the world."

Q: Do you get fitter the more hills you climb?
A: Yes, every time you get more skills, and it hurts less.