Do you know the way to San Jose?

I’m beginning to get excited. Not a lot, but a little. I registered for ALA Annual in Anaheim today, and have submitted an abstract for a poster session. I’m also submitting an abstract to the NMRT President’s Program on networking, so hopefully I’ll be accepted to one or the other. I’ll be happy to just be at ALA Annual as a delegate though – it’s notoriously huge and overwhelming! It won’t be all work though, as I’ve also booked tickets to Disneyland – squee!

I booked my flights to L.A. before Christmas – Qantas had a sale on and I snapped them up, I just hope they’re flying rather than fighting with their staff by June. I’m yet to book my internal travel within North America and settle on dates and travel mechanisms and such, but my current plan is:

9th June – arrive in Los Angeles, hang out with my awesome American friends Todd & Sarah for a few days. I didn’t really like LA last time I went there, but I plan to hit the beaches more this time, and perhaps get a hire car.

around 14th? June – drive (preferably a red convertible, of course) to San Jose to stay with my dear friend for many years Sacha, and her hubby Winston. She works at Stanford (whoa! Library porn alert!) and he’s at Microsoft. Go to San Fran, hopefully hang out with my friend Chris (who, of course, works for Google. Geez, these IT guys…), see the Bay area, never want to leave, etc….

20th June – head to Anaheim and check in for the conference. Six days of librarian madness ensues! I’m going to be a “mentee” in the conference mentoring program that I based my model on. It may have been smarter to go there and check it out FIRST before I implemented the project, but never mind… 🙂

27th June – catch a jetplane to Vancouver where I will spend two weeks with my bestest Canadian friend in the whole world. I’d love to head back to Kenora where I did my high school exchange, but that will depend on my dear friend’s work schedule & finances. I’m sure I’ll find enough to keep me busy, I’ll go to Victoria and do other stuff I didn’t get to do last time.

12th July – fly out of L.A. and get back to Brisbane in time for Semester 2 and O Week.

Wow. I think I’m a little more excited now.

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Focussing on the “life” in work-life balance.

I don’t think it’s any secret I love conferences. I’m an aural learner, I thrive on networking and am extremely extroverted. I live to share and learn and am super excited by the energy of professional events. I’ve spent the better part of the last five years volunteering a lot of my time into formal and informal professional development activities. And I have loved it.

Which is why it’s so hard for me to let it go. After NLS5 and LibraryCamp, which were awesome but exhausting (as were Information Online and RAILS), I realised I really need to draw back from professional involvement for a while. This thought has been percolating at various levels of intensity for a number of months, but I’m getting clearer and clearer on what I need to focus on in my life. I love my work, and I am passionate about it, but I have not been balanced. I need to confine my professional involvement to my work time, where I am paid to be a professional. If I can include some professional development into that time, and I am very lucky that my workplace really supports that and has amazing opportunities, then I will. I’ve realised I currently have the work aspect sorted: now I need to focus on the life part of work/life balance. Samantha Hughes’ plenary session at NLS5 had a big impression on me, as has my practice in yoga and related reading into mindfulness and balance as related to chronic pain.

The reason I am sharing this is two-fold. Firstly, because there has been a lot of talk about wellness and work/life balance in our PLN lately, and many of us on Twitter committed to #lunchtober or #naptober, where time was taken out of the work day to take a proper break. However I know I still got caught up in working through lunch and into the night, and I know others did too. Chronic overworkers find it hard to let go – we have an addiction to some part of the work. Secondly, I want to share how I have come to realise that focussing on the life aspect is not nearly as easy as saying you will do it. You will commit to it. And then you will be tested. Here is what happened to me.

One of my wonderful PLN friends is heavily involved with VALA, and we’d spoken about potentially running a conference mentoring pilot there next year, as I did at Information Online in February 2011. We hadn’t spoken for a while so I messaged her to ask if there was any progress. I figured there wasn’t, and I was actually feeling ok about that, as I have been really struggling with my chronic pain and migraines lately, and had become clearer and clearer that my goals need to be personal rather than professional for the next stage of my life.

However VALA is running a competition for a free place to the conference. It closes today, and is for a person to do the social media aspect of the conference. It seems totally perfect for me. It’s a new project, I love conferences, I love trying out new social media and organising events and blogging and tweeting and… I could go on. So I got totally caught up in this excitement. I forgot about my goal of work/life balance, because this isn’t work, is it? It’s play! I investigated options and brainstormed what I would love to do and wrote a script hitting on the main points of why I was the perfect person to win this competition, and played with xtranormal to create the video. I paid for xtranormal credit, I sent my membership form off to VALA, and thought that $100 to enter a competition I had no guarantee of winning was pretty silly. But hey, if I win, that’s a conference for $100! It’d be insane NOT to enter. So here it is, my entry to the competition:

Click through to view my xtranormal video

I’m pretty happy with it. And I was about to send it off last night, right before I attended an ALIA event (which I will blog on later, as it was excellent).


I have now decided not to enter the competition. Not because I don’t desperately want to go. Not because I’m not interested in the position of being the social media person at what I have heard is consistently the best conference we have in this country, particularly for tech savvy librarians (I’ve never been). I’m not entering because if I did win it (and again, no guarantee) I would throw myself into it. And it would be work. It may be fun, but it’s time consuming, likely to be very stressful, and it could cost me a lot more than the registration fee. I am not yet good enough at the life part of work/life balance to make it work for me, or for my employer and career.

The VALA competition is my own personal test. It is a shiny pretty object that tempts me to stray from my recently set goals. And I am sure that there will be many worthy entries – I can think of half a dozen people in my PLN off the top of my head who would be awesome at the role, and have the capacity within their lives to take it on without it becoming a problem for them, partly because they are already much better at work-life balance than I am.

And I have learned something important. I have been reminded that it’s not always easy to stick to your goals, especially when you’re trying to change something fundamental about the way you have always operated. I have also learned to use xtranormal, which I have been meaning to play with for over a year. I’m very task-focussed, so I usually only play when I have a specific task in mind, and so this was a very useful exercise for the way I work.

Finally, I have had another reminder of the truth of balance in life: I can do everything you want: I just can’t do it all at once.

Posted in attitudes, Conferences, PLN, professional development, work | 2 Comments

Video for ALIA Sydney research workshop

A couple of months ago a new grad I met at Information Online emailed me and asked me to provide a short video to be played at the ALIA Sydney workshop “From little things big things grow” on doing research.

It was fun! I’d never videod myself before, or uploaded to YouTube, so it was a good experience. I made the video private only on YouTube, but Amy emailed again today and asked if they could share it with a wider audience. I don’t know that it will be a widely useful video, but perhaps if you’re thinking about being a practitioner-researcher it will give you some idea of the kinds of things you may come across.

So here it is. Enjoy!


I must also thank my colleague Gary for helping with the technical aspects of the process 🙂

Posted in new graduates, Research | Leave a comment

A challenge to my PLN

Earlier this year, in one of my “I must do everything at once” phases, I attended the ALIA Boardroom Bound workshop at Information Online. Let’s just say I was pretty overcommitted professionally at the time, and decided that the way I could best serve the association was by NOT running for the Board. My attitude hasn’t changed. It isn’t right for me, not now. The best thing I can do for the association is be an involved member, and encourage others to be members too. And so: this challenge.

The call for nominations for the ALIA Board of Directors and President-elect are now out. The deadline is Wednesday 21st December. Off the top of my head I can think of at least half a dozen members of my PLN who would be awesome board members and/or Presidential candidates, and I would vote for.

What I am would really like this year, is that I actually get to vote. The ALIA by-laws state that if there are enough nominees to fill the vacant positions (but no more, and therefore no vote) then there has still been an election. Without voting it sure doesn’t feel like an election to me. It feels like I have no choice. No voice unless I nominate. And as already stated, I’m not in a position to nominate.

There hasn’t been a “voting election” for the ALIA Board for the last two years. And there hasn’t been a “voting election” for the ALIA President-elect for even longer. Why is this? Why, when I can think of half a dozen passionate, committed, incredibly capable professionals (including para-professionals, as they are eligible) who could fulfil this important function? And that’s just off the top of my head. Give me a full list of my tweeps and people I have met at conferences and industry events and I will find more.

I know some of the answers. I know that a lot of people are already overcommitted. I know that a lot of people don’t think they’re old enough, senior enough or serious enough to nominate. (One of the responses to my tweets about this post was: ALIA Board – never even crossed my mind before??? Don’t other ppl (=older, more serious ppl) do that? 🙂 )

I know that within my PLN are arguably some of the most hard working, enthusiastic, professionally involved people in the profession in this country (and some of our neighbours too). I know not all of them have been in the profession for decades or are in a senior position, so they may not even consider themselves eligible for the job (you could be!). I know that many already struggle with work-life balance. I know that many don’t have jobs that would easily accommodate being on a corporate board for two years. Or families that would easily accommodate it. Or lives that would easily accommodate it.

I also know that ALIA isn’t perfect. I recently received a silver pin for five terms of involvement with the association. To qualify for a silver pin, you must volunteer for five years, but they don’t have to be consecutive. Mine were. So believe me, after five straight years of being an active volunteer, I know it’s not a perfect organisation (but find me a perfect organisation and I’ll find you a unicorn). I think there’s a danger that the more active you are, the more you get to know, and the more you find fault. However one of the great benefits of an association like ALIA, is that its members can shape it. And the biggest danger is that if we don’t have enough nominees to constitute a voting election, we don’t get a voice in who shapes it.

So here is my challenge. You may not be 100% ready for the Board. You may not be in 100% agreement with the broad church that is ALIA. But you can make a 100% informed decision. Read the documents. Talk to your colleagues, boss, and family. And, when you’re ready, nominate for the ALIA Board of Directors.

You can count on my vote.

Posted in attitudes, librarians, PLN, professional development | 6 Comments

How to keep your conference mojo

One of the very cool things at #NLS5 (and there were many) was the “socialbook” which was a big whiteboard where attendees could write what the conference was meaning to them. In many ways it was like the back of a toilet stall door, where anonymous grafitti sprawled across the expanse. But instead of declarations of love, arguments about politics and crude drawings, the topic of discussion seemed to focus on keeping your conference mojo, the use of twitter for professional development and the resulting awesomeness of PLNs (personal learning networks).

To me, these three are interlinked. I manage to stay professionally engaged (most) of the time, and it has really been through the use of twitter in the last 18months plus that has really helped that. However, before I was on twitter, I was professionally involved in other ways. I was really active on an ALIA committee which involved a monthly teleconference with my peers,  I regularly went to ALIA events to meet new people and network with those I already knew, I volunteered for ALIA coordinating a column where I got to know new graduates through their writing, I read and wrote to elists constantly, I read inCite every month, almost from cover to cover. I am still contributing to ALIA through the research I have been doing, but currently there are no regular meetings to attend, minutes to keep, or proposals to write.

Before twitter, I was professionally engaged. But I was also incredibly busy with the administrivia that all of the above entailed. I had deadlines, competing priorities, and networking meant going out on cold windy Melbourne nights when I would have preferred to snuggle under the covers in front of Doctor Who with my cat. I was on my laptop all the time, spending so much of my “free” time actually doing “work-type” stuff. And that didn’t change just because of twitter. But it has certainly had a huge impact on how I engage professionally.

Twitter can be a double edged sword. You can be obsessed with the stream. I would click refresh and wait desperately for responses. But at other times I felt completely bombarded by the stream, this anxious feeling that I had to keep up, and was missing vitally important conversations if I wasn’t plugged in 24/7.  This says a lot more about me than it does about twitter, but it has been through my PLN, both on twitter and when I have met them IRL (in real life, if anyone reading this isn’t a web geek), that the real change in my attitude to my professional involvement has evolved, and this has led to benefits in my personal development.

Meeting the people I have interacted with on twitter through events like conferences has been invaluable – it has helped me to cement established relationships and flesh out skeletons of friendships. Discussions at NLS5 have also helped me to draw a line in the sand between my personal and professional twitter handles, and start to more actively manage these accounts. Twitter has helped me to keep my conference mojo going. Because even though it’s taken me almost three weeks to write my reflections on my latest conference experience, I can dive into the twitter pool and find inspiration that’s as fresh as it was during those frantic days. I can reflect on the reflections of members of my PLN, and add my own spin to them.

I have now come to a kind of acceptance that my interaction with twitter is mercurial – just like I am told I can be. I may be obsessed with reading every link possible on a Tuesday morning, ignore it completely for weeks on end, start a 4sq war with a friend while travelling, read commentaries on a conversation I had hours ago that someone who was in the same room was tweeting (that still feels weird! Intraverts, they’re a mystery to me…), tweet every word I hear at a conference to the point where twitter thinks I’m a spammer, rant via my private account about something that is driving me mental, or professionally network while under the covers watching Doctor Who and cuddling my cat.

Posted in attitudes, Conferences, librarians, new graduates, PLN, professional development | Leave a comment

#NLS5 presentations

Back in 2010, I decided I wanted to do some research. One of the outputs of this crazy idea was presented at the New Librarians Symposium 5 in Perth, on 17th September at around 11am. The topic was how to survive conference attendance, and I tried to take the advice within it during my time at the conference, which was why I didn’t tweet in every session, or force myself to blog right away. I also had a holiday after the conference. It was lovely 🙂

I have to user PowerPoint at work, and I hate it, so each time I do a presentation I play with Prezi. This one was frustrating (they always are) but fun (they always are). I used my (bad) drawing skills, which had a kind of pre-school feel to it for me.

I also ran a workshop on the same day, at about 4pm, with help from Fi, Emerald and Rachel. It was on writing for publication, and it was based on a workshop presented at ALIA Access 2010 with Vanessa, Kate and Jennifer. We created a wiki for both the content and for researchers to potentially collaborate and share ideas. I had the opportunity to speak with the Chair of ALIA’s Research Committee at the conference, so maybe there will be some collaboration in future.

Posted in Conferences, new graduates, professional development, Research | Leave a comment

NLS5 & Library Camp Australia round-up

One of the things I’ve noticed about myself in terms of reflecting on professional development is that I have an intense burst during the event, where I am supercharged and keen and have a million ideas firing, and then afterwards I fall over (literally or figuratively, often both) and/or my attention gets grabbed by other things, and I then struggle to get back to the inspired place of the event. I know reflection is a practice that I engage in, and it’s often very deep, but I seem to do it at a different rate to others. It’s almost 3 weeks since NLS5, and I only now feel that I can look back and put into words the things that came out of the week in Perth. And I feel like I don’t quite know where to start.

There have already been some great posts on the event, from others whose reflective process is faster than mine. Kate Davis’ post sums up a lot of what I feel as well, especially in relation to authenticity, work/life balance, not being superhuman, and no longer identifying as a new graduate. Awesome LIS student and winner of NGAC’s free registration to NLS5 Julia Garnett has described the whirlwind that was the four days of tours, workshops, papers and camping, library style.

Committee member Con has ruminated on keynotes and key learnings, Jo’s reflection covers a lot in a comparably short (impressively so!) post, super conference attendee Kim attended ALIA Lib Tech as well, Kathryn has more posts than I can count (or link to), and Hoi has kindly blogged about how to make owls and yoyos, which were Library Camp specials. I have just been humbled reading this post by a new twitter friend who seems to think I’m an ALIA ambassador (I’m not, I’m an active volunteer) and another where Freya shows she has found her professional mojo, which pleases me no end.

In the twittersphere I know there has been a lot of chatter, both at the conference and since. I have seen posts that have come from ideas sparked at the conference, Lyndelle made an awesome wordle that shows the tweet cloud that was #NLS5. There are photos galore on flickr, Kate has cover-it-lives for each day, and I’m sure there will be more blog posts to come. Keynotes and plenary slideshares and blogs are available from Samantha Hughes, Kathryn Greenhill, David Lee King, Kate Davis, and Mal Booth. Full papers from the conference will be available soon.

Garry Conroy-Cooper and I with my bespoke bookmark

My highlights were actually very personal at this conference, as were some of the things I’d like to share, and I will blog more on those in separate posts. So you can hold me to it, the topics are:

  • the importance of the New Librarian’s Symposium
  • my research & presentations
  • how to keep your conference mojo
  • to brand or not to brand, navigating the professional landscape
  • how an ENFP can relax like an ISTJ
  • library rockstars

On the latter topic, Garry Conroy Cooper was undoubtedly the #NLS5 crush of choice. And he crushed on my cross-stitch, which was awesome.

I’m going to work for him one day.

Posted in Conferences, librarians, new graduates, PLN, professional development | 1 Comment