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.
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.
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.
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!
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.