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What’s Your Theme? – Community and Tenacity

What’s Your Theme? – Community and Tenacity

By Kathy Kelly, DC/SLA Volunteer Coordinator

When I’ve mentored students and job seekers about careers in library contracting, I’ve advised them to be prepared for periods of unemployment.  I’d say this not to bring them down, but to draw them a bigger picture of how working with professional services firms could be used to strategically advance their careers in the long run, despite any bumps in that road in the short run.

And that long run, in my experience, has always required both personal perseverance and dependence on my various communities.  Not one or the other, but constant recourse to both.

When I once faced the elimination of a job I loved, a friend referred me to a job seekers group in Georgetown which helps a lot of professionals in my age group to work on landing their next jobs.  I loved attending the weekly meetings, reporting on my progress and learning new strategies, and benefiting from the experience of the career coach/facilitator and the witness of other job seekers.

I also shared the challenge of my situation with other diverse communities – family, friends, church groups, book club members, library professional groups, and fellow residents of my apartment building.  I could not have managed hundreds of solitary hours job seeking home alone in front of a laptop without the support, wisdom, and company of these people.

But these communities also taught me something about my own individual capacities.  People kept remarking on my focus and persistence in engaging a difficult situation, while I had never thought of this as anything unusual.  This made me recall that a male manager at the job which had been eliminated had once criticized me for “tenacity,” a charge which I had never heard levied against an assertive male colleague in the same office who received a lot of positive attention from the manager.  I later realized that a variety of other managers, colleagues, and mentors in my life had praised me for tenacity, sometimes using that very word in recommendations.  I found myself grateful for being out of a management environment which could not see one of my core professional traits as a business asset.

I was eventually able to move on to a work environment which welcomed and even expected assertiveness and tenacity in support of its document and records management operations.  How lovely it was to enter a new community that actively asked to be bothered about what it needed to do to ensure efficient information services.

And all this seems like a parallel to the relationships between active SLA members and their chapters.  We can’t help but advance as individual professionals as we actively engage our professional community.  Community and individual tenacity seem to lead symbiotically to a sum greater than their parts.

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What’s Your Theme? – Always Network!

What’s Your Theme? – Always Network!

By Ramona Howerton, DC/SLA Treasurer

Oh! The places you’ll go, the people you’ll meet, and the things you’ll learn!

Don’t wait until you need a job or to learn a new skill to network.  It’s the people and opportunities along the way that keep us moving onward and upward in our careers.  Although networking has never directly helped me get a position, each time I move I immediately join the local professional networking groups, especially SLA.  It is through organizations such as SLA that I learn of new trends in library and information science.

Do you know how much has changed since I received my MLS in 1996?  Web-based browsers, search engines, Knowledge Management, Competitive Intelligence. Web 2.0 (and up!), Open Source, Information Architecture, Big Data, Data Curation, and resources, resources, and more resources.  I am generally behind the curve but, thanks to my learned and recently graduated colleagues, I at least know a smattering about each of these topics.  And, just as importantly, I know who to reach out to for more information and insight.

Networking has provided me with opportunities for learning, and for sharing my knowledge and experience with others.  Listening to others viewpoints has allowed me to see things from a broader perspective and learning best practices has helped save time, energy, and resources.  The exchange of ideas keeps me personally and professionally vital and relevant.

As essential as networking is, I believe it is as valuable to actively participate.  Know what’s going on in your chapter, volunteer, and help drive the direction of the organization.  By  getting involved and meeting with colleagues, not only have I benefited by raising my profile and (hopefully) credibility, but I have made new connections which have lead to new opportunities for collaboration, information-sharing, and even friendships.

As we begin the new year, I plan to venture outside of my comfort zone and expand my horizons.  I hope you’ll join me.

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What’s Your Theme? – Why Not?

What’s Your Theme? – Why Not?

By Jessica Bland

I have considered my theme ever since Chris strong-armed, ahem, requested the board members each submit one last year.  After almost twelve months of debate, “why not?” remains the best I could identify, as my professional career has seemed to move to new positions after thinking why not?  Why not try to apply for my first position after grad school at a pharmaceutical company (never mind my undergraduate degree and first Master’s is in history)?  Why not take the leap to a vendor that I respect and try working from home for a while?  Why not step outside of the library industry now that I have broader skills like account management and understanding of coding?

Why not has worked well for me.  Why not ask IT when they troubleshoot or write code for me if it is something I could do myself?  Why not learn a little C# and SQL? Why not learn how to be a business analyst while I am working for a software company and take the specifications from the client and write it into “tech speak” so it can become code?  Why not enjoy the celebration of achieving a deadline and seeing those vague requests turn into reports needed by the state for our clients to get their incentive funds?  Why not push the boundaries, look at things new ways and always try that new adventure around the bend?


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What’s Your Theme – Make the connection

What’s Your Theme – Make the connection

By Rick Kowalski, Senior Research Librarian, Consumer Electronics Association

My theme as a librarian is inspired in part by my recent obsession with modular synthesizers. For those who are unfamiliar, these musical devices create sound from the connections and interactions of various electronic circuits. At first glance, the synthesizer may look like a mad scientist project or a phone operator’s switchboard, with cables running every which way. I sometimes have to connect dozens of modules to get the desired outcome. It may look like a mess, but I assure you, it takes experience and knowledge to place the connections exactly where they are needed. And this is not so different from what I do in my professional work.

I connect people to the information they need every day. Sometimes I do this reactively, responding to inquiries on the fly. At other times, I proactively take the nuggets of knowledge that I have picked up and give them to colleagues that might be interested. I enjoy these connections because they are part of the discovery and learning process. I love it when someone I help has an “Aha!” moment because of what I have found. And the great thing about the learning process is that it is ongoing; answers to questions beget more questions, which beget more answers and connections being made.

I also enjoy making connections while I assemble my research findings for others. I learn a lot in the process, but I also love the efficiency of the end result: One document that ties data from disparate sources together in a concise package.

But making the connection is not just about creating an informative deliverable. It is also about connecting people to one another. In many cases, my answer to someone’s inquiry is not a document, website or article; it is a person. People are great resources. Fostering relationships and making sure the right people are collaborating can be extremely valuable to your library and your organization.

On that note, working in an association and being active in the Special Libraries Association has made me recognize the importance of making connections with other people. I find networking to be overwhelming at times, but my past experience assures me that it is well worth the effort. Speaking with old connections and making new connections are great ways to learn more about trends in our profession and in our respective industries. I like the sense of solidarity that comes with sharing success stories, experiences and challenges with my colleagues.

There are many opportunities for making the connection in our profession. And just like with my synthesizer, once the connections are made, its music to my ears.

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What’s Your Theme? – Pause

What’s Your Theme? – Pause

By Elizabeth Lieutenant

As a student and new professional, I sometimes feel like my life never stops. Having to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities while tending to my work, education, service, writing, research, and professional (and personal) development can be overwhelming at times. Although it has certainly been helpful to prioritize my responsibilities, be selective in my pursuits, and always be mindful of goals, I’ve found the best way to achieve balance is by taking the time pause and engage in reflection.

I had the honor of attending the SLA 2014 Annual Conference thanks to the generous sponsorship of DC/SLA’s Annual Conference Stipend Award. My days in Vancouver were filled with conference sessions, networking events, business meetings, and long meals with new and familiar faces. I found it incredibly beneficial to be introduced to SLA’s overall organization and operations, learn about innovations in our field, and connect with other professionals representing the diverse spectrum of opportunities within our profession. It was an experience I will not soon forget.

I spent the day after the conference exploring Vancouver and discovered a long, winding set of stairs that led to the beach. I descended the stairs, planted myself on a large piece of driftwood, and stayed there for more than an hour. I considered the type of sessions that I attended, which ones most resonated with me, and how that knowledge will allow me to tailor my activities to advance my professional pursuits. I focused on one session in particular, Christina Neigel’sLeadership in a Time of Disruption: Reconnecting Intellect and Practice,’ considered how power, privilege, and position influence leadership development and collective action, and how I could adapt my approach to be more effective in fulfilling my multiple roles and responsibilities.

Normally, I would have been tempted to spend the day running around Vancouver trying to see as much of the city as I could, but this day was different. It was taking the time to pause, reflect on my experiences, and explore how I can apply what I learned to further my development that made my attendance so much richer. I traveled back to DC the next day informed, energized, and grateful, not only for the opportunity to attend SLA 2014, but for the opportunity to put my life on pause.


Elizabeth Lieutenant is an MS.LIS Candidate and Graduate Assistant at the Catholic University of America’s Department of Library and Information Science.

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