30 April, 2008

Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions

So, last rant I waxed lyrical about the stupidity of the process of selecting the best person for your vacancy from a pool of people who are all lying to you about how great they are (except the internal applicants who can’t get away with it), using a process which relies on three people (one who is a stooge from HR) to decide on things which tell you very little about who will fit into your organisation.

And me being me, I was critical without offering any alternatives. Well, what alternatives could I offer?
Firstly, despite the fashion of late (especially in public libraries) to think that everything is all about customer service, I would still be putting library experience higher up the scale than any other experience. I don’t care if you have glowing reference from dusk, lush or some other John Stanley friendly workplace. Library experience matters.

Next, I’d be saying that the resume and the referees are the best thing we have for assessing job experience. If there resume says they can catalogue and they have their library manager as a referee asking cataloguing questions in the interview is pointless. Case in point, in one of my recent interview I was given a sheet of paper with mark numbers on in and a book and told to get busy.
What does that prove? Well it showed that can’t remember the numbers that well. But if I got the job I wouldn’t be cataloguing on paper, I’d be using a computer system (probably with a help function) and I have plenty of experience cataloguing so I know that I can do the job. My referees could tell them I catalogue well. That said they had even told me previously that there is almost no original cataloguing involved, it’s all copy cataloguing and I did that when I was a 20 year old ALT (using microfiche records and transcribing them into the computer system).

What else makes an employee? If I don’t want you to ask me questions what do I think you should do? Well, ask questions I didn’t already answer in the resume. If you’re interviewing me it is because you already know I meet the essentials and desirable of the job (35 essentials and desirables in one I applied for recently. I had to write War and Peace before they’d interview me – but more on that in a future post). Well, what is your culture. Who will fit in with your staff, what personalities are you missing what non-core skills would it be nice to have.
I’ll say it again, everyone you are interviewing should be able to do the job. If they haven’t proven that in the resume then don’t interview them (they’ll learn).

I’m still telling you what not to do though, well lets see if I can give you an alternative. Anything else. That’s my basic advice, at the moment most of us are aware that the process is fundamentally flawed but we are hanging on to it because no one has a decent alternative written out in easy to follow dot points for you to pop into the procedures manual. It is time for us to admit that we don’t know and time to be experimental in how we do things.
  • Interview very few people. Be harsh in how you cull, then take the top five out for a coffee.
  • Make sure the ALT they will supervise is on the panel.
  • Do the interview while high on LSD (caution I have been reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas so this may not be a good idea – but who will know until we try it?) Or perhaps do the interview while they are high on LSD, see how they cope with being interviewed by a giant mutant llama, if they can cope with that then they may be OK on the service desk.
Back to reality (briefly, I don’t like to be sane too often)
  • Don’t interview, take each candidate on a tour of the library. Introduce them to the staff and see how they communicate. Try and make it a natural conversation, let them ask the questions and you’ll find out from that what they think is important.
  • Ask them to show you their blog. What library employee worth their salt isn’t a blogger these days. That is a psych evaluation in itself. I’m stunned no one has asked me about that. I would happily point any prospective employer to the blog, don’t know that it would help my case but if someone employs me after reading it they’d have a better idea of who they are getting and what my passions are.

You get my drift? Be creative don’t make people answer the same old OH&S questions. Who cares if they know OH&S, if they don’t (what have they been living on Rygon 7?) then send them on a course. Know what they need to know, what bits of that can be taught when they get the job and what nice extras each one brings to the organisation.

All that said, management is a different animal, my advice has been about employing library staff be they Technicians, Assistants or Librarians. I might talk more on how to employ a manager at some later point.

/"Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions" is the sort of managementspeak crap that should resultin whoever says it being beaten with a sock full of $2 coins.
//while I (slightly) bagged John Stanley above I still think the guy is worth listening to, unlike some however I don't believe he is the messiah.

How to employ a librarian

Well, inspired again by the writing of Hunter S Thompson it is time for some Gonzo Librarianing. Not that I need much inspiration to write stream of consciousness rants about whatever pops into my oversized brain.

So today’s rant is the introduction to a few posts about the interesting life of a librarian between jobs.
It is a strange thing to be on the opposite side of the job process after having spent five years as the one with the power.
I’ve been writing job ads, rewriting job descriptions, sitting on and chairing panels, calling referees and mostly arguing with the morons who populate HR about who is best for the job and why people in HR should sometimes shut up and stay out of the way.

I’m now in a position where I have given more rejections than I am ever likely to get. I know from experience that the best person for the job probably didn’t apply and if they did then the chances of the interview process showing us which person it is, is slim to none. Furthermore I know what it is like to sit back and say “well any one of the people we spoke to could do the job, what are we going to tell ourselves is the reason we chose this applicant to get a yes?”
Sometimes it is something obvious, like one applicant annoyed me in someway I can’t define. Or one panel member has a strong opinion while the others couldn’t be bothered arguing. Other times there is so much arguing you would not believe it, those are the times when you need to be either one of two things.

The first (and best) option is to be the chair and roll on over the top of everyone else while saying “It’s good to be the King”.

The second option is to be detached, to be the person on the panel whose job isn’t going to be made complete crap by the stupid decision that the chair is trying to steam roller you into making.

If you are stuck as the poor bunny who is going to have to teach the moron that someone else is demanding you employ their job. You may well be stuck in a position where you are as helpless as all those poor applicants, just a victim of the process. You when you have to work with a moron and the moron who is probably a nice person but who is about to get dropped into a world where they know nothing and are going to have to rely on an angry co-worker to teach them what they lied and said they knew.

So that is the process which I have recently entered into from the other side, more adventures in job applications to come…

I am Dr Gonzo

It is amazing how quickly things go out of date,
after writing my last post I have read about 3/4 of Fear and Lothing in Las Vegas. So it should now be in orange and who knows it may be updated to red by the end of the day.

27 April, 2008

50 best cult books

The Telegraph (British not Sydney) has but togeter a list of the 50 best cult books.

But what makes a cult read? I'd say it is the books you buy because you should, but then never read (or start but don't finish)
So I'm giving you the list, plus a few annotations as to what I have read, owned but not read or started but not finished.
Red is read
Blue is bought, borrowed or stolen (but unread)
Orange is started but unfinished (or read bits of it)

I'm not calling this a meme, but if you want to do it on your own blog let me know.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (1957-60)
A Rebours by JK Huysmans (1884)
Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1991)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (1993)
The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (1971)
Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut? by Erich Von Däniken (1968)
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782)
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)
Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L Ron Hubbard (1950)
The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (1954)
Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968)
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973)
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (1982)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)
Iron John: a Book About Men by Robert Bly (1990)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and Russell Munson (1970)
The Magus by John Fowles (1966)
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
No Logo by Naomi Klein (2000)
On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson (1971)
The Outsider by Colin Wilson (1956)
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (1923)
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (1914)
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám tr by Edward FitzGerald (1859)
The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774)
Story of O by Pauline Réage (1954)
The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda (1968)
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1883-85)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values by Robert M Pirsig (1974)

Sure, it's not exactly 'classic' ADHD librarian writing, but it's easing me back into the blog.

22 April, 2008

Where have you been my blue eyed son?

The ADHD librarian has been away, and spent some time as the ADHD house husband. However he is back now, with a new take on the world. Yes I am now (or will be in a couple of weeks)
1 – management
2 – in an academic ‘situation’
3 – in a ‘theological’ setting
4 – back in a library

Meanwhile, I’ve moved from Central Oz to Adelaide, changed rugby teams, had my wife start studying medicine at uni and had my life get more complicated in many ways.
So, if complicated = funny the blog should be back at its best. But one way or another it is back.