Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Results Oriented Work Environment: Or, why librarians can't have a balanced worklife

Ryan Healy had an interesting post last week on Brazen Careerist about work-life balance and independence. The general gist of it being that when we were in university we were taught (in theory) how to manage our own time - no one was making you go to class or study or party or sleep, or any of the things that needed to be done. It was up to the individual to produce the results at the end of the day. And if you didn't hand your assignment in, or missed a valuable tidbit of info cause you didn't go to class? Pretty much your own fault.

However, for some reason, within the corporate environment, it's like we're back in high school again. Have to be in at a certain time, couldn't possibly leave twenty minutes early, need to be doing certain tasks at given times - the independence to choose our own tasks and own best ways of working has been taken away from us. There is a move though, towards a better way of working - what he refers to as the Results Oriented Work Environment - where it is not the hours that we are in front of our computers that are important, but the results that we turn in at the end of the day.

This is a really popular issue, particularly in the States, where this kind of flexible working (particularly for information workers) has really taken off.

Now, whilst I don't agree with quite everything he's saying (I don't think it would be refreshing to not be able to distinguish at all between my working and non-working time - I like being able to turn off some of the time), I do think that work-life balance is something that is often overlooked within our sector. Unfortunately, though, we are fundamentally a customer service industry - someone needs to be here to man the reference desks and circulate journals and do all those other hands on jobs that need to be done.

In theory there's no reason why I couldn't work the reference desk from at home (even if it only was for a day or a morning a week). Most, if not all, of the resources I need are available online - I don't need to be in the physical library space to answer queries. Indeed, as an information worker, I could be anywhere to do the majority of the tasks for my job. It would be nice just to have that flexibility. I don't think a nine-to-five day is the best answer for me personally, and the way I best work - I'd love to have the option to time-shift and work an eleven-to-eight day, or work from home a few days a week. But most of my job works better with me being in the office - it's good to have face time with our users, sometimes you just need that hard copy text, and our work is not so autonomous and web-based that we can get away with not being in at all.

Sadly though, I just don't think that flexi-work in this kind of way is really practical for the library environment. As much as I'd like to work a time-shifted day, my lawyers are in the office from nine to five (well, give or take), so that's when I need to be there too. And someone needs to be here to do all those physical tasks that need to be done. It's great to see that other professional areas are taking up this idea, and that there is progressively being a move away from the traditional nine-to-five. It just isn't something that is really practical for the library sector just yet (well, at least not for the corporate library sector, anyway). Or is it? Anyone out there with flexible working arrangements, teleworking, anything like that? I'd love to know how it works for you (even if it is just to wish and dream that I could do it too!)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

New BIALL blog

Many thanks to Lo-Fi for pointing out that BIALL now has a blog - I'll be curious to see how that goes for them.

Though, James Mullan, I don't know how you manage to write so much - how many blogs are you writing for now?! I'm dead impressed with your writing power :)

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Keeping up to date

I started writing this as part of one of my assignments today at work.  And then when I got home and read through my blogs, I found this post from Librarian in Black, which lead me to Emily's post on Library Revolution.  And then a conversation started in my twitter about the same thing.   So it's all very timely at the moment. 

This then, is my personal reflection on keeping up to date with the profession.  Unpolished, but I thought I'd share it.


Keeping up with developments in the profession is an important part of the job. It is necessary to know what changes are being made in other libraries, what other librarians are doing, and also what new theories are currently coming out of the literature. It can be hard to find the time, especially when so many librarians are time poor and stretched to do what needs to be done. But it is something that we all should do, as part of our responsibilities to our patrons. I try as much as possible to keep up with what is happening. I’ve not yet had the privilege of going to a conference, but I have followed with interest the live blogging that goes on. I read a large number of blogs, both library related and general. I read a number of journals regularly, even if I only skim through some of the articles. I monitor both ALIA and CILIP. It is time consuming, but I personally feel it is worth my time. I do occasionally feel completely overwhelmed by it all, and then I will prioritise, and give things a miss that I don’t feel to be as important. I don’t get to read everything I would like to read all the time. There are lots of journals and books I’d love to spend my time reading. Instead I’ve had to choose what I think is going to be best for my career. Since I work in a legal environment, I tend to eschew the more academic and public library oriented articles and concentrate on special or legal oriented ones. It’s not a perfect method, but for now it’s keeping me up to date.

Twitter (again, I know - I promise we'll stop talking about it soon)

After some time of protesting on my behalf, it seems that the inevitable has occured - I've been struck by the Twitter bug. I blame Twitbin, personally, for making it so damn easy for me to post, and so compelling to watch it refresh itself over and over again. There's a certain balance point, it seems, once you've starting watching enough people to make it interesting, that you can't seem to tear yourself away - it's just this mini-conversation, playing away in the back of your mind.

I'm still not totally sold on it's usefulness as a tool in libraries or in organisations, but it is a fantastic social networking tool, occupying that void between IM (too personal, too intrusive) and blogging (too much like hard work).

I'm here, by the by, should anyone be struck by the misplaced desire to listen to me witter about the cup of tea I'm drinking or the email I'm writing or whatever it is that I'm patently not doing, because obviously, the only thing I could be 'doing right now' is writing for Twitter :)

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Joost - like tv, but better!

Oh! I nearly forgot to mention it! I've been playing about a bit with Joost this week, which I'm really quite enjoying. The content is relatively limited at the moment, but I expect that to grow with time. And what is there is quite interesting - lots of music channels, which I like a lot (I'm so out of touch with the Australian music scene!), and some fun things, like old cartoons and whatnot.

My biggest irritation with it is that there are some really interesting looking channels available on the American version, which we can't get here. It really is a shame that something like Joost, which you would like to think wouldn't be fettered by silly things like boundaries, still has location-limited content. Ah well. What there is is good though, and I'm quite enjoying what they have.

If anyone would like an invite to check it out, feel free to drop me a comment or email me at neohypatia at gmail, and I'd be more than happy to share them with you :)

Law Blog 2007 - and not a paper bag in sight!

Had a fabulous time at Geeklawyer's Legal Blogging Conference yesterday. It was certainly an interesting day, and good to be able to put faces to names and hear everyone speak. Pretty good turn-out for the first year out of the box, though it would have been nice to have a few more non-bloggers there to convert :) It was a pleasure to meet Family Law, Head of Legal and Binary Law, amongst others that I can't quite recall at the minute - my apologies.

Many interesting discussions of the ins and outs of blogging within the legal context, and a very interesting talk from Lee Bryant of Headshift, discussing social software, blogging, wikis, tagging, and whatnot, as being implemented within the corporate environment. Being the only librarian there (and I must say, I was expecting at least a few other legal blogging librarians to be there) it was great to get some insight into the way our lawyers are viewing blogging and all it's associated issues. Very heartening to know that all this crazy new-fangled social media type stuff is starting to catch on in Chambers too!

I did stay around for a quick pint (no Rioja for me, I'm afraid!), but had to make my leave early, as I was fighting a horrid headcold all day, which finally caught up with me. My apologies to all concerned - I hope you had a tremendous night. I'm looking forward to next year already :)

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Things and stuff...

It's been a bit quiet around here, but we've not been idle. To make up for no posts for a week, have four posts in one!

After doing a bit of research, and scouting through other blogs, we've decided to trial Google's Adsense. It should hopefully be unobtrusive, and mostly unnoticeable but it will be an interesting experiment. Personally, I've always wanted to know if the Google ads actually work, so this will be a good experiment to see if people do actually click on the ads.

In a similar vein, Google Analytics recently changed their report layout, and we've spent many hours playing with all the reports and statistics. It's quite useful to know what posts get the most hits, and so what people like the most about the blog. I've also signed up and am now using Analytics on my personal blog, as a way to see if a) it does get any visitors at all and b) if so where are they coming from and why do they come to the page.

Meebo has just released MeeboRooms, which are just like the chatrooms of old, just a little more advanced. Basically, the Rooms mean you can share media with the people in your room, and watch YouTube videos together. Obviously, chat rooms are back in fashion. :) They have the ability to be embedded into pages, but when I attempted to add a room to a wiki I'm working on, it didn't quite work. I'm going to need to spend a bit of time playing with it, but if I can get the room working on the wiki, I'll be very happy. Apart from the usual social uses of such a room, I can see it helping in distance education - especially being able to have a 'classroom' feel, where you can watch something with your classmates and then discuss it. Also, training sessions, and possibly, maybe, video conferencing. So someone could be giving a presentation, being filmed via webcam that can then be embedded into the Meebo room. The more I think about it the more uses I can think of!

I've started using Twitbin at home, which does make twitter dangerously easy to use. Instead of having to click through my firefox tabs to find my twitter tab, I simply look at my sidebar. It does make me glad I don't have firefox at work! I'm not following many feeds yet, but I can now see that changing now that it's easier to follow them. I've never been able to make the RSS feeds work in bloglines, so this will be a much easier way to keep up with things.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

the blog as tree

This is, apparently, a graphical representation of our blog:

There is a key, on the site, that explains what all the little dots mean (things to do with embedded links and whatnot), but I kind of don't really mind - I just rather thought that it was interesting and pretty and I wanted to share it :)

(found via swissmiss)

Friday, 4 May 2007

The ladder or the rope?

I recently read a really interesting post from Michelle at A Wandering Eyre, discussing the generational shift in attitudes from people below a certain age, to those above it. It was good to hear someone else articulate it - how frustrating it is to be young and skilled and motivated and wanting to make a difference in your workplace, only to be told that you haven't been there long enough, that you needed to 'pay your dues'.

We no longer live in an environment where you work at the same job for most of your working life. I enjoy my current workplace, and I still can't see myself staying here much beyond three years or so. I'll want to move on, expand my skill set, meet new people, and continue to grow, both as a person and professionally. But I see it time and again, both in places I have worked, and those of my friends, that the new ideas they put forward (if they are even given the voice to do so) are not seen as valuable - they are discussed and sidelined, or simply ignored. I admit that I am spoiled where I work now - I'm given the freedom to find projects that are meaningful to me, and am given the scope to present ideas that I think will change my workplace for the better. But most people of my age group are not.

It was one of the things that frustrated me most whilst I was studying my MLS. I was being given these skills, and all these wonderful, challenging, exciting ideas were filling my head. And then I was told that I couldn't use them. Maybe, maybe, in ten, fifteen, twenty years time, when I had the experience and was the manager of my own library, maybe then I could think about making changes. And one of the things I enjoy most about the biblioblogosphere (although I do hate that word!) is that it has given us a space to voice these changes we want to make, and see them happen. (The success of programs such as Five weeks to a social library is testament to that).

I think it's different, as well, working within the legal environment. I think that the culture here (well, within the libraries anyway) is a lot more dynamic - there's an awful lot of job churn as people move on to different firms with different interests or more pay or whatever. However, I also think that (comparatively to, say, an academic library) there is a lot less scope for creating large change within the legal library. Lawyers don't want to change - and when you have to present your ideas to partners who scarcely even know what you do half the time, it can be hard to make interesting changes. The library just isn't as well valued as we would like it to be. And I don't think that's necessarily a generational issue, just a cultural one.

But I do know that I won't wait around the ten or fifteen years to make a change. I'll be forging my own path, choosing where I want to go, taking the rope instead of waiting for the ladder.

What do you all think? Do you think there is still scope for a culture that asks us to 'pay our dues'? Or is it time to move onto a new way of thinking about our career paths and where our jobs will take us?

ETA: Reading all the comments on Michelle's original post, and some of the posts in response to it, I wanted to clarify that this certainly isn't just a generational issue, but much more of attitude issue. I know that there are younger people who don't want to make changes as much as there are older people who are just as progressive as we youths like to think we are. And I know this isn't a simple issue - not all ideas for change are good or valuable or viable, and they should be considered thoughtfully within the context of your organisation. But it is about making sure that change does happen, whether that change comes from the bottom or the top.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007


Continuing the theme tonight, Jessamyn over at librarian.net posted a link to a new Livejournal community - lolbrarians.   

Following in the tradition of lolcats and I can has cheezburger, it's cat macros but with librarians!  I'm looking forward to lots of silly fun!  

A Map of Online Communities

This is fantastic! XCKD, which is a fantastic webcomic anyway, has posted a fantastic map-representation of the interwebs and all the various communites here. I'm not sure what my most favourite bits are - the treacherous river Bittorrrent? The Ocean of Subculture with the dangerous Viral Straits? Of course, being part of the Blogipeligo, I'm somewhat biased in that direction. (And? seriously, such a better name than blogosphere - I vote we change to calling it that instead /nods)Go look! It's wonderful :)