A Conversation With Kim Dority

At SLA’s Annual Conference in Boston this past June, I had the opportunity to moderate a career panel. Kim Dority spoke, and also provided SLA’s closing keynote address. Both inspiring and practical, Kim provides the kind of advice that motivates each of us to find our most rewarding career path and be our true selves. I reached out to her recently to discuss her forthcoming book, Rethinking Information Work, 2nd edition.

Kim Dority
Kim Dority

Dee: The first edition of Rethinking Information Work is a highly holistic approach to career planning. What updates did you include in the new edition?

Kim: The updates I made reflected the substantial changes the profession has undergone in the past ten years, both contracting and expanding. For example, school librarianship has taken a terrible employment hit in recent years as more and more school administrators decide that having a knowledgeable, trained teacher-librarian working with students is no longer a budget priority for them. It’s a terrible decision for many reasons (all highly documented), but it’s the new reality. So when I wrote about school librarianship as a career path, I tried to be as honest and factual as possible about the career realities.

On the other hand, the emerging opportunities in disciplines like data management, digital asset management, embedded librarianship, user experience design, data visualization, instructional design, and digital content creation and marketing (to name just a few) are expanding like crazy.

The challenge for LIS professionals is to 1) figure out what these jobs are called, since the titles and job descriptions are still sorting themselves out, and 2) effectively “map” or translate their LIS skills into language that aligns with the hiring organization. So I’ve tried to include useful, actionable information about new types of LIS work, job titles, and skills translation.

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Imagining with Members: DC Chapter

US Department of Education
US Department of Education

My July visit to Washington, D.C., combined a great DC/SLA Chapter program, several library visits, and a quiet dinner with a friend and mentor.

I began my tours at the U.S. Department of Education, National Library of Education, where I met with Karen White and Pamela Tripp-Melby. The Library has a total staff of thirteen. Director Tripp-Melby works with White on outreach efforts, including presentations on services and resources for the evidence-based research that is conducted across the agency. The Library serves Department employees and the public. A major project is the cataloging of a textbook collection that dates from the 1830’s to the 1940’s and includes 28,000 volumes. This project highlights the extension of traditional library competencies into areas of special collections and digitization. Pamela leads Open Access for the Department of Education, and worked with other Department employees to draft their policy. A challenge in the Ed policy is the definition of research. Much Department funding goes to programming that may or may not produce a scholarly paper. Data  and data storage also present unique policy challenges. With no central education data repository, researchers will need  to store data in local repositories. Education data includes a significant amount of human subjects data, which must be handled with care.

Turning to SLA, we bridged the open access and data discussion with career opportunities for data librarians. Researchers need people who can manage this information. This is a career development opportunity for SLA and its units. Other emerging careers for information professionals include user experience  and information architecture professionals. Indexers and catalogers are re-imagining themselves as metadata specialists. Special librarians have skills and knowledge of organizations that can be leveraged for new career opportunities. Understanding emerging fields and practices is critical, and our conference programming must reflect this content. A shift in our conference planning cycle to a competitive programming model could assist in delivering fresh, broad content.

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Imagining with Members: New York Chapter

Dinner with NY Chapter members

Late in July I spoke to the Association of American Publishers, Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division (AAP/PSP) in New York City. While in town to discuss scholarly publishing, our work at Los Alamos and developing tools, I had the opportunity to visit with SLA New York Chapter members.

Visiting Metro
Visiting Metro

I began my visit at the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO), where my fellow SLA Board candidate Tom Nielsen and SLA member Davis Erin Anderson work. METRO is a library membership organization that provides services and training to regional information professionals. In addition to locally produced training and an annual conference, access to external training such as Library Juice Academy and Lynda.com are provided. METRO serves as a regional service hub to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). A METRO project, Culture in Transit, brings scanning equipment to smaller institutions to assist in getting collections online. These collections will eventually become part of the DPLA. Tom and I discussed the role of library organizations in advocacy and advocacy training, both of which are critical to the current and future success of information professionals and centers.

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Imagining with Members: Europe Chapter

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Niamh Tumelty, Clare Aitken and Dee Magnoni at the Schlumberger Info Center

I recently traveled to the United Kingdom to deliver a talk to and visit with Institute of Physics staff and leadership. While there, I attended an SLA Europe, BIALL*, and CLSIG CILIP^ event: Open day for new professionals, as well as made several site visits. My entire week was full of conversations with thoughtful and passionate members and professionals. I learned a great deal, and came home with fresh ideas, new and strengthened connections, and excitement for potential future engagement.

First up in my site visits was the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. Neil Infield and Seema Rampersad greeted a group of us from the chapter, and Seema provided an overview of the Centre and its services. Staff hold workshops and clinics for entrepreneurs, providing group and individual guidance. Amongst workshop topics are pitching your product and lean planning — great content for today’s information manager, as well! Industry guides and an e-newsletter are available online, and a wealth of databases and content is available for those visiting the library. In terms of outreach, the Centre has partnerships in South Africa and with the New York Public Library

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Imagining with members: Pacific Northwest and Oregon Chapters

This past week I traveled to Seattle, WA and Portland, OR to attend ACRL 2015. Flying into Seattle, I had the opportunity to make a few site visits and attend a Pacific Northwest Chapter (PNW) Board meeting.

Liz Doyle and Mary-Thadia D’Hondt met with me at the Region 10 EPA Library. Inside the space was a blend of new technology and traditional collections that serve both employees and the public. A highlight was a collaboration table that allowed groups to plug into a shared interface with individual computers and jointly work on projects. With government dollars being stretched ever further, Liz and Mary are seeing an increase in interlibrary loan. There is also a movement toward a more centralized look-and-feel amongst EPA sites, as well as shared development and information opportunities such as webinars.

Dee, Liz Doyle, Mary-Thadia D'Hondt at Region 10 EPA Library
Dee, Liz Doyle, Mary-Thadia D’Hondt at Region 10 EPA Library

I toured the University of Washington with the Executive Director of the National Science Communication Institute (nSCI), Glenn Hampson. We had a group lunch that included Mel DeSart, UW, to discuss possibilities for an All Scholarship Repository, part of the Open Scholarship Initiative. There is exciting work ahead on this project that is focused on accessible research. Stay tuned!

University of Washington Reading Room
University of Washington Reading Room

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Flash Back: A Call to Mentoring

Mentoring has been a passion of mine for nearly two decades. In the May 2002 issue of Business Information Alert, I published an article on mentoring: A Call to Mentoring. The books referenced are now from a previous decade, yet their messages stand.

In addition to the article, an SLA mentoring list was created in 2002. The list no longer exists, but as we begin to partner and work across units, perhaps the time has come to renew this effort?

New Diversity and Mentoring Discussion List

Looking for a great, current mentoring resource? Try one of these!

Career Series: Paths to Employment, II

In this post I’m going to discuss how our cumulative diverse experience is sometimes the exact background needed for a position.

Shortly after graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I married a submariner. Being a Navy family guaranteed a steady rate of moving. This mobility helped inform my decision to become a librarian. We could be stationed just about anywhere and there would be potential employment. I attended the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY-Albany) and earned my MLS shortly after our third child was born. My career began with two short-term jobs. I was first a reference librarian at Utica College and then a hypermedia development librarian at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. These experiences grounded me in instructional theory, user services and technology.

As we left the military to explore civilian life, the economy was challenging and I once again found myself working through short-term positions. I gained architecture experience at Roger Williams University. This is also where my classes began to integrate web resources. Rhode Island College included a broad range of instruction and expanded reference experience. At Helix Technology Corporation, a manufacturer of cryogenic vacuum pumps, I had my first permanent, full-time position with benefits. My undergraduate engineering experience was used daily as I served scientists and engineers. I was thrilled!

Wanting to build on this technical experience and continue to grow, I next went to MIT to work as a business librarian. My science and technical background served me well as I developed industry research guides and worked with a range of statistical products. By now I was grounded in the humanities, social sciences and hard sciences. I had several years of teaching experience and could leverage technology to create tools and services.

We faced a family move once again, and this is when we headed to Oregon and I had my Weiden + Kennedy experience. I could now add advertising and library start-up to my background. When the 2001 dot-com bubble burst, I was laid off. While temporarily devastated, I decided to use the opportunity to explore my own business, first with a partner and then on my own. This entrepreneurial period taught me a great deal — about business plans, strategy, marketing, finances and the like. Perhaps my most valuable lesson was that I was passionate about the work, but not about finding each new client.

I believe that opportunity frequently aligns with readiness. Parallel to these years of career growth across multiple sectors was my increased involvement with SLA. I had been most active with the Information Technology Division and the Information Futurists’ Caucus. A colleague and mentor from both units sent me a message asking if I was interested in applying to be the library director at a new engineering college. The school was back east, and the opportunity felt right on many levels. Remarkably, the school wanted a library leader with a sci-tech background who also had start-up experience. An entrepreneurial background was a plus. The position almost defined my path. I applied to Olin College of Engineering, and the next 11 years were full of creativity, new growth and relationships, and partnership-building within the school, to other colleges and universities, and to the vendor community.

I would not have been offered the position at Olin College if I had not traveled my diverse career path. Each experience was valuable. Each experience was an opportunity to grow. SLA was with me throughout my development, and my increased involvement helped lay the path to Olin College.

What to learn from this? Value your life experiences. Be alert for opportunities. Share your gifts with your colleagues. Your own career will blossom.

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Fear and Leadership

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We all have fears. How we acknowledge and work with them has an enormous impact on our leadership style and on our organizations.

Roger Jones, of Vantage Hill Partners, recently published a piece on “What CEOs Are Afraid Of.” Studying CEOs and executives across a range of demographics, Jones found that the number one fear of leaders is “being found to be incompetent.” The impact? Diminished confidence and quality of relationships. Other top fears include underachieving, appearing vulnerable, being politically attacked by colleagues and appearing foolish.

  • The five top fears resulted in these dysfunctional behaviors: a lack of honest conversations, too much political game playing, silo thinking, lack of ownership and follow-through, and tolerating bad behaviors.

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? No organization – or family – is exempt. When my own children were going through elementary school, I encouraged them to substitute “I’m learning” for “I’m sorry.” This encouraged an emotional growth mindset and sometimes made admitting mistakes easier. In the workplace silos are frequently built to protect turf and budgets. When people can reach out and build bridges across silos they create more connected and well-run projects.

Jones found several paths for a leader to reduce fear, including being aware of one’s own fears, valuing emotional intelligence, sharing personal stories, and encouraging open and honest communication.

Fears exist. Leaders within organizations need to work with teams to build trust, communication and shared values.

IMG_3461Resources:

  • Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: A groundbreaking work which posits that being emotionally aware, or having a high EQ, can be more critical than having a high IQ in the workplace and beyond.
  • The work of Robert Putnam. A Harvard Kennedy School professor, Putnam is best known for Bowling Alone and Making Democracy WorkBetter Together, which followed Bowling Alone, addresses our social currency and our need for community.

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!