Career Series: Paths to Employment, I

We’ve all been told that most jobs are found outside the classifieds. So true! What is your story? What has been your path? I have many stories from my career, and will be sharing them in this blog series.

For my first post I’m going to flash back to circa 1997, when I worked as an engineering librarian at Helix Technology Corporation, aka CTI Cryogenics. I was active with SLA’s Information Futurists Caucus, and decided to begin a discussion of Peter Schwartz’s Art of the Long View.

The book introduces scenario planning, and caucus members joined me to discuss looking forward, thinking win-win, and understanding current culture and events to inform future context. Nearly a year later, while at MIT, I was contacted about a position at Weiden + Kennedy, an advertising agency. A member who followed the book discussion on the Information Futurists’ Caucus list wanted to know if I would be interested in applying for a position in advertising. I would have the opportunity to create a corporate library in a new facility.

When I interviewed for the position, my prospective manager had a copy of Peter Schwartz’s book on his shelf. I noticed the title, and asked him about his connection with scenario planning. We spent the balance of the interview discussing the book, the author, and the Global Business Network. I became the Agency Librarian at Weiden + Kennedy, and my discussion of Schwartz’s title on the Information Futurists’ Discussion list had a direct impact on my career path.

The take-away? Step up. Volunteer. Start a discussion. You never know who is listening!

Putting Competencies to Work for Information Professionals

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In June 2003 SLA published Competencies for Information Professionals of the 21st Century, Revised Edition. I had the great honor of authoring that document along with my co-creators: Eileen Abels, Rebecca Jones, John Latham, and Joanne Gard Marshall. The document defines an information professional, an information organization, and provides two core competencies before turning to professional, then personal competencies. Information professionals and organizations can use this document to create development plans, position descriptions and service portfolios.

The 2003 edition was an update to the original document and now, in 2015, the competencies are once again under revision. Our profession continues to evolve, and the skills and characteristics necessary to succeed as an information professional must keep pace. Other library and information associations and groups have created competencies to serve their own members, and I have begun a Competencies Pinterest board to track these documents.

All of the competency documents break down skills into groups or clusters, and the FLICC document for U.S. Federal librarians provides levels and descriptions of competencies. The Medical Library Association document has an action document that includes recommendations for health information professionals, the Medical Library Association, employers and library & information science educators.

While each set of competencies provides important career material, none of the documents has, as of this writing, taken the step to turn skills into actionable development tools. For this purpose, I have assembled a team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Library. The purpose of the team is to create a custom set of competencies that map to the Lab’s and the Research Library’s mission and goals, together with tools to leverage those competencies. Skill levels are important so that staff members can gain depth in individual competencies. A grid is being created. To gain depth a person will work horizontally across the grid, and to learn a new competency a person will work vertically down the grid. Lab courses along with association and online learning opportunities will be mapped to competencies and levels. This particular tool will allow staff to create individual development plans. We will also create a competency database. When new teams are formed, the database can be utilized to find the skills needed to execute team goals.  Our project goals are ambitious, but promise to yield powerful personal and team development tools. Team members include myself, Helen Boorman, Michelle Mittrach and Adrian Romero.

Competencies provide important career coordinates. Tools and resources are needed to create the rich development mosaic each of us requires to move our careers in new directions.

Gates Foundation 2015 Letter: Major Goals, Optimism for Future

Health, farming, education, and mobile banking are addressed in the Gates Foundation 2015 Letter. Full of pop-out sections and imbedded videos, the letter is a media-rich report on upcoming advances and a call to action.

The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.

There is a fifteen-year timeframe, and in that time child deaths (< 5-years) will be cut by half. Polio, Guinea worm and potentially two other diseases will be eradicated. Only one other disease, smallpox, has been eradicated in human history.

Food yields in Africa and other parts of the world can increase by half through knowledge of crop rotation, fertilization, and knowing when and how to plant specific crops. Mobile phones in the hands of farmers will drive education. More varied and nutritious food will drive food security.

Mobile phones will also transform banking for the poor, allowing more control over assets through mobile banking and micro-lending. Finally, global education will be transformed through smart phones, tablets and online learning. This is where we, as library and information professionals, may have the biggest impact. Whether we help develop courses, make resources available through repositories and digital libraries, or participate in the one laptop per child program, we can impact the lives of thousands through global education.

In the Call for Global Citizens section, Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks about putting boot prints on the moon, and how that accomplishment made everything else seem possible. He asks:

Will there be an end to war? Possibly. Will there be an end to hunger? Possibly. But you have to envision it first. You have to bet on it. Then you’re invested in the outcome. That’s where change comes from.

The Gates Foundation 2015 Letter is inspiring, and calls for each of us to imagine a better future and to help create that future. Interested in becoming a Global Citizen? Sign up here: http://www.globalcitizen.org/