Category Archives: Professional Activities

“Spotlight on a Librarian” Royal Society Publishing (UK) — My interview

I recently had the pleasure to be ‘interviewed’ via e-mail by the Royal Society Publishing (UK) newsletter editor for their regular feature “Spotlight on a Librarian”. Here is the URL if the link doesn’t work for some reason:  http://newsletters.royalsociety.org/q/1N7XofzaQvq0eb/wv.

The interview appears in the issue about 2/3 of the way down. I thought the editor would tighten up what I sent but apparently left some of my long sentences in the published piece. If I’d have known I would have done another pass to edit it myself, but it still should be a decent read. It was fun to see I am in the same issue as a brief article regarding comments by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles on the challenges of environmental problems contributing to the collapse of civilization.

Topics I discuss in the article include open source content access and affordable pricing to research articles among other points. I find myself in continued conversations with publishers about licensing costs and affordable access to research, particularly for non-profit and educational purposes. The institutional subscription and licensing charges are particularly completely out of line for museum and specialized research libraries who don’t have the student or faculty information access traffic that an academic institution typically has, yet publishers and content providers price access to that academic model. <sigh> This is a work in progress for all involved so let’s see how it goes in the future.

Holding tablet while giving a presentation isn’t creative

Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy technology though I’m not as early an adapter as others who must have the latest thing the day it is available. However, lately I’ve seen more people speak in front of an audience without a podium or table holding onto their iPads or equivalent tablets. Last week I heard a talk by an author about creativity and the only thing ‘creative’ was he read notes and excerpts from his book off his tablet holding it awkwardly on his forearm. If the tablet is being used to its potential to access interesting apps to show or other uses, great. But if it is only a replacement for simple index cards or similar ‘old fashioned notes’ vehicle, what are you trying to convey? OK, I get it, you have the latest gadget, it cost a bunch of money, maybe you want to write it off as a business expense, and at the very least want to show it off. However, that in itself is not creative or practical. It also looks quite awkward and the audience is waiting for it to careen off your forearm and crash onto the floor.
Let’s think about the tools we use, how we use them, and what impression we want to give to those viewing our use. Sometimes we get it right, but more and more people get it wrong. Let’s not be those latter people!

What is the VALUE of Professional Associations to new and aspiring professionals?

The following was originally posted on 01 May 2011 on the SLA Future Ready 365 Blog site
(http://futureready365.sla.org/05/01/the-value-of-professional-associations/)

I am re-posting it here because I wrote it and I think it is imperative that this be more widely disseminated and discussed. What do you think?

I started out a blog submission talking about how success in explaining and showing value of information services in an organization can be achieved one conversation at a time. While formulating this submission, I had an experience that I thought should supercede that one, namely an understanding of the value of our professional affiliations and memberships by graduate students and new professionals. If they don’t feel an association is worth their time and money for enhancing their career, how can we expect them to see our association as a resource to help them on the job and in their future growth?

I recently had a lengthy, lively discussion about the value of membership in SLA and other professional information organizations with a graduate student. His comments included:

“I am told to join a professional library association because I won’t get a job unless I do – I think that is extortion.” He asked “would you hire me if I wasn’t a member of SLA or another organization?” First I said “no” which he of course said “See!!” Then I clarified by saying I would have a concern as to WHY he didn’t join any association as that would signal to me he may be a good worker but maybe not a longer term contributor to the profession, so I would need to understand more about that. Well, we had quite a lively and noisy interaction over that one!!
“Don’t the associations understand that I have a choice in investment between education and other things such as eventually buying a home?” That ”because I chose education, I will be paying back a huge debt for a long period of time and maybe never be able to buy a home? How can membership in an association help with that?”
“Why are there so many student groups for a relatively small cohort — can’t there be one student group that can be affiliated with multiple associations? It seems the same 20 people out of 100 belong to the various student groups and the rest of the students see no value in joining any of them.”
“Our student group does regular service in prison libraries and other socially conscious activities that were started BY students, not the library school faculty or professional associations. What are associations doing like this? Why should we join an association to conform to what they are already doing when we, the students, are doing more for society than those associations?” I indicated an example of how SLA had a full day of service in New Orleans and he said “big deal, one day — we do ongoing service!” Oooh, boy, we had more lively discussion on this one too!!
“Isn’t it time for ALA, SLA, ASIS&T and all to think about merging and working together for the good of the profession instead of being splintered like they have been for so long? Is there any reason why these groups should still be separate?”
There were some more, but I lost track!!

Anyway, after agreeing to start the conversation over and hear out each side, we ultimately centered around this point that we both agreed was valid:

* It is clear the professional associations, the professionals in those associations, and professors in library schools (and their equivalent) are not conveying the value gained from membership and active participation.

In speaking with a professor at a major library school, she agreed that more and more library schools have instructors who are not in the library profession and/or who don’t belong to a professional organization, so they have no context or experience to convey about the value of associations to their students. As a result, students don’t know much if anything about associations and do not join or actively participate in them.

So here is the challenge. What are the key values of a professional association that will ring true to the current graduate student and new information professional? This is not about who or what is right or wrong, but rather being able to articulate the value and help our new colleagues be “Future Ready.”

Again, what do YOU think?

2011 a year of many possibilities!

This past year has been one of many changes and transitions, all with the framework of a horrible economy and other world challenges. Even so, being an information professional enables us to be a part of moving things forward, whatever can be defined as ‘things’. I finally bought an iPhone 4 after several years of using an iPod Touch with its WiFi capabilities. Yes, I know many of you already have an iPad and I likely will too after the next generation becomes available sometime in 2011. It is important for us to know and use these tools so we can understand when, and when NOT, to use them for information services enhancement. More on that as the year progresses!

Meantime, I look forward to the ALA Midwinter conference in San Diego to explore the exhibit hall and meet many colleagues there to commiserate on where we are and where we are going. Then a few short weeks later will be the SLA Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. where I formally become chair-elect of the Museum, Arts and Humanities Division. Now working as chief librarian at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, I firmly believe there is so much information housed and being developed by researchers in such institutions and we need to creatively find ways to take advantage of that knowledge and get it more ‘active’ in the educational process and the community learning environment. Let’s see what we can do!!

Me in temporary digs at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Marketing our value: the SLA Alignment Initiative

Be sure to check out part one of my article in the March/April 2010 issue of  MLS Marketing Library Services on marketing the value of librarians and information professionals. In it I talk about the background of the SLA Alignment Initiative, the highly discussed and volatile proposal for a name change to SLA, and how the initiative has provided information and tools to help us market our value to our managers, leadership or whomever.

MLS Marketing Library Services Newsletter March-April 2010

In the second part of the article, to appear in the May/June issue, I will discuss the next phase of the Alignment Initiative and how you can apply all this information to your own working environment. Watch for it!!

Librarians and eco-conscious culture and practice

Librarians manage a lot of information, much of it still in paper or other ‘analog’ formats (microfilm, videotape, etc.). There are many ways we can help minimize the impact of information services on the environment. It can be just what we do personnally, in our departments, in conjunction with others in our organization and also how we help to promote a culture of eco-friendly practices. I recently was an invited speaker to address this subject at the Southern California Association of Law Librarians (SCALL) Institute in Ventura, CA.

Going ‘digital’ is a good way to reduce and minimize the use of paper and the environmental impact paper has through its production, distribution, storage and disposal. At the same time, we have to understand that digital content and its access also has an environmental impact. For instance, in the article “Revealed: the environmental impact of Google Searches” in the London Times Online January 11, 2009 ” “a one-hit Google search taking less than a second … produces about 0.2g of CO2″ according to Google. The article has an interesting overview of the environmental impact on searching and there are a number of others available. This is all a work in progress, but it is good that we examine the issue holistically and each do our part, however small or large, to counter-act the impact our presence and practices have on the environment.

Librarians and Info Pros need to focus on services

In an article in the NY Times about I.B.M.’s continued success due to more focus on services and less on hardware and software, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former senior technology strategist for I.B.M., is quoted saying “As the components of technology — especially hardware — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use technology.” The article is: “Huge Payoff for I.B.M. After a Shift” – http://nyti.ms/62TKeb

Substituting the words information and ‘print materials’ or other formats for content in this quote, I think you get an interesting thought: “As the components of [information] — especially [print materials?] — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use [information].”

It is very easy for information professionals to focus on managing objects, ensuring they are in their right place for retrieval, etc.. But the harder, and frankly more interesting work that is likely also much more valuable is collaborating with clients to help solve their questions — being an active services provider. Something we should all keep in mind as we see the increasing pace that information is being made available to all via e-books, Twitter and whatever else is on the horizon in our future. It is not about the format, it is about the information in whatever container it happens to reside. With this bit of a shift in focus, which a number of  information professionals across all kinds of libraries and services are already doing, our value can be made that much more evident.

KMWorld redux, Cloud Computing, Mobile info access, SLA alignment & name change vote

Lots of topics to blog about and I’ll do that soon. Just wanted to post this to show some things I’m thinking about. Heard a lot of interesting things at KMWorld in San Jose this past week and will blog shortly with more details.
Meantime, if you are a member of SLA, please be sure and vote regarding the name change from SLA to Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals. I am voting FOR the name change as it is more inclusive and sets a direction for the future. More on that topic soon too!

SLA-Fellows together June 18, 2009 Washington, DC Convention Center

01551-SLA-Fellows,-June-200, originally uploaded by jtchobanoff.

The annual group photo of SLA Fellows who were able to attend the Fellows business meeting on Sunday June 18, 2009 in the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC as part of the Special Libraries Association annual conference. 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of SLA. I’m in the middle near the top of the photo, which was taken by Jim Tchobanoff.

Conference preparations need to start now!

As we get into conference season, it is good to try to make the most out of the time you are there. Now, more than ever, the cost of time and money to go to conferences make it imperative to maximize value. If you AREN’T going to a professional conference because of expense and you are out of work — BAD MOVE! Get out and NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK to find that next position. Even if you are working and not job hunting, it is a good thing to do.
I came across a good article to help you plan. It was written by Chris Brogan posted in the ALA Direct newsletter, but it is good information for any conference goer.
For those going to SLA in DC, I look forward to seeing you all there for sure!