Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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Writing the next phase of thinking

Sorry to have been so neglectful of late, but for a change I’ve had some chunks of solid thinking/writing time at work and have been focusing there. Of course, these chunks of time are being spent writing up my reappointment file, which is a significant piece of writing in and of itself.

Two of the issues I am struggling with for the dossier have been aired in this space, but expect to see more of them! Both pieces will find their homes here when they reach a happier form.

The first is the issue of ‘focus’, and specifically the friction between pressure from my higher ups to get more of it and the realities of my daily interests and actual job. I’m trying to articulate that my attention to multiple aspects of library user experience constitutes a form of focus, but I’m not sure I’ve convinced myself of that yet — especially because I think the external desire for my developing focus relates to some future potential desirability for me to define myself as a particular sort of professional. And I won’t be happy with any rationalization of who I am until I finish thinking that one through. And if the convolutions pretending to be the above sentence made any sense to you, you have my deepest respect!

The second bit I’m working on has to do with scholarship, and specifically this blog as a form of soft scholarship. I launched this blog from twitter, where I hung out with a number of librarians I had no other relationship with, and have been very pleasantly surprised at developing a readership. Developing the readership came to define this space for me, and once the blog was no longer strictly a “practice writing” space, I also linked it from my name-affiliated places (facebook, and from my university profile), claiming it in a more official way as part of my professional identity.

Part of what makes this blog as a sort of scholarship into a viable statement has to do with my reappointment expectations; we are not a Research 1, and poster sessions and local conference sessions count heavily towards our scholarship criteria. And I think it’s a very small jump from that to this blog. But that also begs a more substantive question about the nature of scholarship, and if it’s really as flexible as that would imply.

Since it looks like I will be pondering the matter for a while, and possibly into more accepted scholarly formats, I’ve started to collect materials related to the question in de.licio.us. (If you see anything I’ve missed or think would be of interest for the project for:rudyleon me the links if that works for you)

Expect more posts for the near now about:

  • librarianship as constantly partial attention
  • blogs as scholarship
  • the sense of having a wide-lens library view
  • Is a focus on undergraduates enough of a focus?
  • given where I am in my career and th potential for branching paths very soon ahead, do I really want a focus?
  • What all of this has to do with the future of Rudy, of librarianship, and of scholarship


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Blogging and workplace ethics 2.0

So here’s today’s question to the blogoverse:

What would you do if you discovered a colleague’s blog is sprinkled with unprofessional rants about people at your workplace? In this particular scenario, the people talked about are nameless but the the blogger is not so anonymous that others can’t identify who’s who.

This blogger never approaches people in the real world with complaints or concerns, but sees fit to attack them with spleeny, self-involved rants – which of course cannot be substantiated or defended against. Defaming unknowing people in such a (semi)public manner is beyond unprofessional. In addition, the unquestioned construct runs the risk of becoming the blogger’s reality, because the blogger never opens the construct up to the light of day and external questioning.

I’ve been noticing that passive aggressive behavior breeds passive aggressive behavior, and am not sure that following the lead set by such a tone is a good idea. Avoidance may seem like keeping the peace, but a situation like this lead one to ask: at what cost? and is it really a peace at all?

Librarianship is markedly more “office-like” than other academic professions, and we encounter an odd hybrid of approaches and philosophies in the workplace. And personality issues take a high level of importance, especially given team-based organization, the vast number of committees we each work on, and the fraught addition of the tenuring process.

So I add this dilemma to Management 2.0, a new shade to library politics: what do you do about the self-involved office blogger and the impact of said blogger in the library workplace environment? Do you ignore? practice visualizing horrific scifi-esque accidents in your head? Explore new breathing techniques? Anonymously comment in the bloggers’ blog? Confront in the real world?

I turn to you: what course of action would you — actual you, not your higher angels you — pursue in this case study? And, is there an emerging set of rules about bloggers who keep personal blogs that mingle with their professional lives? I think there are clear standards for professional blogs, but blurred lines between personal blogs discussing work are decidedly fuzzy.


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My Philosophy of (academic) Librarianship

I was tasked with writing my personal philosophy statement. I started with some very bold assertions, and then buried them in a fair amount of explanation, and I’m no longer certain that my philosophy reads as radical…. Libraries work best with open communication and collaboration, within the library and across campus. Librarians are educators. Information literacy is the way to make self-sufficient users. I’m not sure if that remains visible in the statement. What do you think?

I believe the library is the beating heart of campus, by which I mean that at its most perfect, the library is the nexus of student learning and research, of faculty research for scholarship and teaching. The library is also at its most perfect when professors and other units on campus work with the library – and allow the library to work with them – to support student learning and research through communication and collaboration. First-year programs, senior seminars, learning communities, and the first research-level class in the major are all improved when librarians can work with other members of the campus community to create library resources that meet community needs and create community resources that help meet library goals. Outreach, programming, collection development, reference services, information literacy instruction and technological innovations work best when librarians are part of the campus intellectual and service community.

As a librarian I am an educator, and I have areas of subject expertise to share with the campus community. While librarianship is a service profession, the service being supported by an academic librarian is education, and I fulfill my service role through assisting the entire campus community to fulfill our communal educational goals. My subject expertise lies in the organization of information and when I work to make library tools more sensical, teach information literacy sessions, explore new technologies and their potential applications in relation to my unique community of users, and when I work with professors to create research guides and select appropriate items for purchase I am acting as a Librarian and as an Educator both.

Information Literacy education is the external culmination of the internal work of the library. The online catalog, classifications schemes, thesauri, reference tools, circulation and collection development policies (to name a few elements) are all important pieces of the functioning of the library, but in information literacy instruction, librarians take our internal processes and jargon and expertise and convert them into expressions and explorations of the concerns of our users. We have sophisticated systems that allow the library to function and to thrive, but these processes are highly internal and translucent. Information literacy education allows information seekers to make their own way through the complex environment in which librarians are inordinately comfortable.

I believe that my ability to act on philosophies of librarianship is dependent upon the context in which I am placed. I can only achieve my philosophical goals when the campus and library goals support similar or complementary philosophies. The elements of the philosophy espoused above may read as abstract but I feel them personally. My colleagues, my community, and my campus play intrinsic roles in manifesting my philosophy of librarianship.

I should mention that this is a very specifically located philosophy, and I think it would be very difficult to translate this approach from smaller teaching-centered colleges to Research 1 or other institutional types.

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