By Elizabeth Wroten
On 30, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
The topic of branding has been something I’ve heard a lot about over the last couple years as my husband is very interested in marketing. He’s a huge proponent of branding a business, a lengthy and involved process. I’ve caught some of his enthusiasm and certainly see the benefits of developing a personal brand. Needless to say when an article from American Libraries on personal branding for librarians showed up on Twitter, I clicked over and read it.
Unfortunately, I felt the article was too harsh on branding and how it can best be employed by librarians. I don’t want to convince anyone that branding is something they must do, but I like branding and I see its applicability in looking for a new job and in demonstrating your value as a professional. I even believe that most people engage in some branding on a regular basis without even knowing it.
Part of branding is definitely maintaining an image. It’s foolish to think you have control over everything out there about you, online and off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on ensuring that the majority of available information about you is accurate and positive. By keeping track of what is out there, you’ll have some idea what a potential employer (or your current one) is seeing and we all know they will Google you. I think a lot of people already think twice about what they put online and there are options for essentially search engine optimizing yourself. But I would imagine that most people don’t need to do this. People are beginning to self reflect before they self reveal and that, right there, is part of branding.
I have yet to meet someone who isn’t completely self absorbed that likes to talk about how wonderful they are. But when you go out for a interview or even ask for more funding or support from your administration, you have to talk about how wonderful you are. Usually you can couch it in terms of how wonderful the programs or ideas you’ve had are, but even then most people I know (myself included) feel like a total narcissist afterward. And yet, your ideas and and your accomplishments are one of the best parts of your personal brand. Not only do they show off your abilities and talents they also herald what you are capable of in the future. It’s okay to be humble, but librarians do a lot of great things for their institutions, for their students, for their patrons, for their fellow librarians, and for themselves. Why not spend some time thinking about how great you are and find creative and positive ways to share that with people? The better we are at this as professionals, the easier it will be for us to demonstrate our relevancy and value to administrators and to the community.
I think the ultimate goal of personal branding is to make some one come across as polished, poised, focused, and thoughtful and also to encourage reflection on what you are looking for professionally. I did agree with the American Libraries article that personal branding needs to be authentic. Call a spade a spade. Being inauthentic is lying. Misrepresenting yourself is terrible for a brand, personal or otherwise. Your personal brand must be you and spending time developing it is only going to help you understand what you are looking for either in a job or from your job. It might even help you land a job. That would certainly be a perk.
Personal branding is difficult and must be done right to be effective. It’s also not for everyone. I was glad to hear that librarians are starting to pay attention to this trend, but I disagree with the conclusion that personal branding is half hucksterism. If done correctly and for the right reasons, it isn’t. It’s half crucial life skills and half self understanding.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 29, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just about a month ago Pew Research came out with a report on teens and research. The long and the short of it, in their words, is that:
“…the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up…”
Obviously this has a lot of implications for libraries, but it got me thinking about embedded librarianship again. This may be an old term for integrating library skills, time, instruction, and assistance into an existing department or program, but I think it still is an important idea. An idea that needs to be embraced by more libraries and schools.
The Pew Research study revealed that teachers believe students have better and more access to information, but are not necessarily better at navigating the information or finding credible information. The study then found that,
“47% of these teachers strongly agree and another 44% somewhat believe that courses and content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.”
I found this to be a little worrisome. Maybe it’s just me, but less than half of those teachers really want to see these skills taught to their students? Yes, if you add in the other 44% the vast majority kind of want them taught. But, really? Only “somewhat”? I think the desire should be a lot stronger. And if it was, I think libraries and librarians would have a powerful ally in convincing the administration that its necessary to offer these skills.
And that’s where embedded librarianship comes into play. Teachers, at least the ones I have worked with, are loathe to give up their precious classroom time. And for good reason: time is finite and the amount of material they need to get through is vast. Students, at least the ones I have worked with, hate lessons that don’t feel relevant to what they are learning. And for good reason: they want to get away with doing as little work as possible and they don’t want to waste precious time on stuff they don’t think they need to know. If you embed these library skills lessons into the classroom and into what the teachers are already teaching, though, its a win-win-win. Teachers don’t lose any of their classroom time and still get through the material they need to. Students don’t end up with extra work and can immediately see the applicability of the skills they are learning (at least you hope they do!). Librarians get to teach the digital literacy they are so passionate about and they demonstrate their relevancy to students and teachers alike.
I don’t really think that any of what the Pew study said was news to librarians, but I think the more the message is spread the easier it will be for librarians to demonstrate a need for our profession.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 26, Nov 2012 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
When it comes to finding out about new books and materials, I’m a pretty traditional girl. I subscribe to review journals; I follow blogs; I poke around online; I even occasionally hear about stuff by word of mouth. But the latest book I came across was not found through any of these channels. No joke, I found it at the grocery store. It was a nice grocery store, but a grocery store nonetheless. I think it was the illustrations that drew me to it on the book table by the cheeses. They resemble Maira Kalman’s artwork.
I really hate those ploys at the grocery store that try to snare you into buying something really expensive simply because it’s a non-food item that you are buying from the food store. I also hate the way they lay things out to entice you to buy more than you need, mostly because it’s so darn clever. But I am so glad I gave in this once.
The Perfect Thanksgiving is, at heart, a simple story that I think everyone can relate to. The narrator, a young girl, compares her family’s zany Thanksgiving feast and festivities with that of another young girl, Abigail Archer. Abigail’s family has the Martha Stewart equivalent of a Thanksgiving. The pies are perfect, there are chocolates on the pillows for all the guest, for whom there is ample room. The turkey is all white meat and is expertly carved.
The narrator, who’s name you never learn, has a family and Thanksgiving more like what ours looks like. Things are spilled, the pies come from the store, her mother dresses casually and makes Jell-o molds. There is too much family to fit in the house and the relatives create lots of havoc and noise. It is a boisterous holiday to say the least.
However, at the end, the little girl points out that her Thanksgiving and Abigail’s are the same in one very, and ultimately the only, important way. They both enjoy loving families. This message is a good one for all children, but I think it is even more resonant in this day and age where families look more like those on Modern Family than on Leave It To Beaver. No child should feel bad because their family doesn’t fit some “traditional” model and I think this book does a sweet job of presenting that message in a way that doesn’t feel forced or apologetic.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 21, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
It always irks me when someone in customer service cops the it’s-not-my-job attitude. I am a big believer in doing what is necessary to get things done or go the extra mile, even if it means taking on a task that isn’t technically my job. Rewriting the MLA citation handouts as an interactive pdf when all they really needed were a couple typos fixed? Sure! After all, it made the information much easier for the kids to understand and access and that’s what a library is all about.
I am also a big believer in great customer service in libraries. I know many people in Library Land don’t like to call it that, but librarianship is, in a lot of ways, a customer service profession. No I don’t help people find a dressing room, but I do help them find a book on the shelf or information online.
That being said, is there a time when it’s okay for us to let loose a little and actually take the it’s-not-my-job stance? Obviously, yes. We can’t do everything. But I think the answer is more subtle than that and it came to my attention the other day while watching the first AL Live video (which was very interesting, by the way).
Maybe it’s just me and the blogs and tweets I read, but I feel like librarians have become hyper focused on technology in an attempt to distance themselves a bit from the books-only image many people have. More specifically, I see a lot of predicting of technology trends. I understand and agree that libraries are becoming more tech oriented and I love technology. I’m even married to the technology director from the school I worked for. Sometimes it feels like I live and breath technology.
My aha! moment during AL Live was that I can say, “It’s not my job” to predicting where technology is going. It is my job to follow and use technology and decide what will work for my library and my program. I suppose that’s what most librarians do, but I still feel like there is a pressure to find new apps, find new gadgets, find new social media and it makes me feel very focused in one area. Libraries are not all about new technology just like they are not all about books. In my limited library experience I’ve seen this pressure backfire with the use of a bunch of web apps that petered out or that didn’t actually appeal to the patrons. The new major technologies adopted were found by some one whose job it truly was to follow the technology industry.
The ideal place for libraries to be is not as early adopters. If the popularity of a technology follows a bell curve we need to be on the leading edge just as it’s really beginning to gain momentum. By that point it should be becoming ubiquitous and it’s usefulness to the library should be obvious as well. We won’t look like we’re behind the times. We can help introduce people to it and help them see it’s value. In letting go of predicting The Next Big Thing we can redistribute our attention into all our ventures and areas of expertise.
I’m not suggesting libraries should hop on every band wagon and try every new technology fad. I’m not suggesting we need to ignore technology. I’m not even suggesting this is how every library and librarian is feeling and operating. I’m just suggesting we (I) can let go a little and occasionally let it be some one else’s job to find The Next Big Thing.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 20, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I just want to say that I am fed up with eBooks. I am sick of people asking me if I think they mean the death of libraries. I am sick of people asking I if think they mean the death of print books. I am sick of hearing about the publishers of eBooks and the fights libraries are having with them. I am sick of reading about the future of eBooks. I am sick of reading about DRM on eBooks. I am sick of eBooks.
I just want, for a little while, to curl up with one of those eBooks and read one. No strings attached. No cacophony of negativity. No guilty thoughts about the soullessness of them. No possibility of switching over to play angry birds for “just a minute”.
Okay, I like eBooks. There is a lot of stuff that I prefer not to have taking up precious real estate on my bookshelves. They can be a bit cheaper for the consumer (library purchasing issues aside for the moment, please!). I can skip packing a suitcase full of books to take on vacation. I can easily read in bed or while nursing my daughter, or while out and about (my Nook books are on my iPhone too!). They aren’t perfect and I still like my physical non fiction and children’s books, but I like eBooks.
I guess my angst over eBooks comes from the overload on discussion of them. I have this haunting feeling that we’re about to become hyper focused on eBooks (see my post of hyper focus on technology in general here). I think we need to give them a bit more time. Yes, we need to take action. Yes, book publishers are being jerks. Yes, libraries are about books. But they are not all about books.
So for an hour I want to let everything about eBooks drop away while I sit and enjoy one.