22 July, 2009

After the teleconference...

So, last night there was an ALIA teleconference (with a new-grad flavour) to discuss the potential conference(s) to fill the void left by IFLA cutting and running, like a group of cheese eating surrender monkeys. Because without a librarian's United Nations what are we to do? We might just have act unilaterally.

As is always the case for me after a teleconference, I hung up feeling like not much had been achieved and that really no one had said anything that they couldn't have just emailed. But, hey that isn't what a teleconference is about. It is really about making people feel like they are involved and have been consulted (or so says the cynic in me).

Not that nothing has been achieved, the ALIA head office folk shared the beginnings of a plan. An umbrella conference venue, where special interest groups can all organise speakers while ALIA looks at the finances and sorts out the catering. I think this will work well, I hate pseudo empowerment and will happily accept a benevolent dictatorship if it means that those of us who feel inclined can get on with sorting out speakers and papers. Well, are you at the conference for the free satchel, the finger food, the housekeeping announcements and the drinking? OK, perhaps for the drinking, but also for the speakers. The good speakers, the ones who not only have something to say but who also have the ability to say it. Speakers who work in libraries, with technology, doing new programmes.

So, who are these special interest groups who are going to be recruiting interesting speakers? Well, firstly there is the new grads group and several of them put their hands up last night and will no doubt soon be flooding the message boards with calls for papers, calls for help and calls for ideas.

The second group is a bit of an unformed, non-existent group (which seems to be loosely connected to the Libraries Interact bloggers). That is the group which I have thrown my lot in with and we are looking at an unconference aspect to what Snail described as the Librarian's Big Day Out. So, have you un-conferenced before, do you feel like being involved?
Well, don't be shy jump on in and tell us what you can do.

Oh and the new-grads are looking at some form of active mentoring as part of the conference, so you may wish to consider being involved in that (I will be, isn't that new grad going to get a calm and well considered introduction to the profession).

21 July, 2009

When is a University Librarian not a university Librarian?

Well, when their university isn't a university. The private higher education sector is a strange creature, as I discovered when I took on a role at Tabor College 18 months ago.
There are all sorts of hurdles and pitfalls for the unwary, which given I have spent most of my library career in public libraries included me. Some of the hurdles are quite simple, other librarians assume that I am a school librarian. And that could be a problem when I am looking for my next job. But that is a simple issue compared to the lack of access to things other academic librarians take for granted. I can not join CAUL or reap any of the benefits of their consortium buying. Now that isn't because I am working in the private higher eduction sector, that is because, despite working for a college which has several PHD streams we are not a university.

And then there is the funding, now 18 months of experience does not an expert make but there does seem to be a certain level of difficulty in providing all the tools a modern academic institution needs when your only income is student fees.

More conference musings

Well, my comments on library conferences have created a spike in the number of visitors to the site (more so than the troubling spike in numbers associated with using the word kids in conjunction with the words anal and sex).
Well subsequently to my rant, ALIA has put together a wiki for those of us who feel like we have something to say. So now the only question that remains is "are those of us with a voice online going to be able to work with ALIA to make something new and interesting."
Not that we are looking to replace IFLA, but can we fill a gap in the librarian networking schedule with something that will make people think?
I would like to say we can and it starts tonight with a teleconference regarding the new grads aspect of '10 (which I am hopeful I will be able to attend, although not yet 100% certain). Sure I no longer think of myself as a newgrad, but I've been asked to sit in and see if I can help out.
After all, it is probably better to have an ADHD blogger inside the tent pissing out than...
umm, perhaps not the best metaphor.
Still, one teleconference does not an neo-IFLA make. So, is my money where my mouth is? Short answer, buggered if I know. I am (as I have mentioned) looking to move to Darwin, so I have no idea what job I will be doing in 2010, who I will be doing it for, what time I will have available (excuses, excuses...)
But whatever happens I will be looking to be involved be it with organisation in the lead up, organisation during the conference, writing a paper...

Oh, and as a powerful voice in the Australian Library Blogosphere (well, it's an aspirational goal), I would like to encourage you, gentle reader to help out too.

13 July, 2009

Musings on the self

Well, after a few weeks of ritalin I am feeling quite happy with the continued level of improvement. I am however feeling a little down on myself in terms of my attitude for the few months prior to this. It is strange, I know that there is a lot of support out there for the idea that Pills Don't Teach Skills (and even a book of with that as the title). But the things I have been able to achieve in a very short period of time leave me looking at the thinks I haven't achieved in the time leading up to this.

Plus I am re-examining my attitude to the way that I allow others to negatively affect my productivity. I know that ADHD is a mental illness (sure, not one as devastating as most) and I know that this being the case the idea that I can make a decision to overcome it is in fact a load of complete crap. Hey you with the depression, cheer up. You with the paranoid delusions, they're not real. And so on...

But there is a real clarity in my thinking now that I haven't had before (even with the Dexies or the strattera). this isn't just relevant to the workplace, it is so much more than that. For example, I had never realised how blind I was to people's faces. Sure, I knew that one of the characteristics of ADHD was a lack of eye contact. But it is only in the last week I had realised how all encompassing that was. I was daydreaming the other day and suddenly realised I was daydreaming faces. Then I realised that this was new. Prior to this, when replaying events in my head I knew who everyone was (well, it's my imagination. I would, wouldn't I) but they did not have faces. Or, certainly they didn't have defined faces with personal traits included. Now all of a sudden they do.

This is odd for me, very, very odd. Not just that this is new but that I had never noticed it missing before and I am now wondering what else is being added to my mental abilities.

But one door opens, does another door close?
Not yet. So far I haven't noticed any decline in my ability to think at tangents. Nor my ability to come up with interesting solutions to things. I have a lot more focus on the mundane which is just helping me to problem solve. I am a very happy man.

So, back to my attitudes. Well, I have often been annoyed at people in my life who restricted me in some ways (some of whom I have mentioned in this blog) and I am currently trying to look back at some of these interactions and get a bit more perspective on how I could have solved these problems more simply. Now, I don't want to leap up and say I was wrong, because that isn't my thinking at this time but I am thinking my way of dealing with people was certainly a contributing factor in some cases. Sure I already knew that, but now I am getting some more insight into exactly how.

So, while I have always been very good at what I do I am looking forward to being much much better for the foreseeable future. Oh and I am changing my mind about the idea of long term ritalin. When I was on the dexies it was only ever for a time, to do a task and move on. I didn't want a long term crutch, I didn't want to loose the edge which my unusual perspective gave me. I would give it up for a time in order to gain some focus but then I'd want to go back to being 'me'. Now, I still feel like I am me but I have gained something more and I am starting to worry that going back would be very Flowers For Algernon.

09 July, 2009

Anal sex in kids books?

It is more likely than you think.
Well, at least according to the daily mail who have published a marvellous bit of tabloid journalism about sexual issues in kid lit. Australian author Margo Lanagan gets a mention (well she would) but that then makes it obvious that the author is unaware of the distinction between children's fiction and Young Adult fiction (unaware, or perhaps conveniently choosing to ignore the difference to make the piece seem more sensational to her audience).

It does get me thinking though, is it time for the CBC to rebadge itself?
Sure this misleading article is British (and misleading), but when literature that is definitely targeted at a teenage audience gets a gong from the Children's book council, well I can see how those outside the library/literary world might get a tad confused. After all is 'older reader' a well defined sociological descriptor?

More on recruitment

So, what has me musing on recruitment processes again? Well as with most of what I blog about it is personal. You see for family reasons I am going to have to leave my current job and move 3000km north. So I have started looking for work up there (Darwin). Sure I don't have to go until the end of the year but if I find a job now it could be easier for me to head up there early (rather than arrive at the end of the year and then have to start looking for work.)

Well, I put my application in for a senior position. I was interviewed for it and I waited a while, I then got a call. I was told I was the top applicant from those they interviewed but they were looking for a larger pool of applicants. I was assured I was still in the running and did not need to reapply. I asked a few questions about what had let me down and the answers were all quite vague.
Time passed

Not being in a rush to move I didn't worry about following up but eventually I assumed I hadn't got the job and just wondered why I hadn't been notified. But being as I know the director the position reported to (having worked with him before) I figured I would give him a call and remind him I was still in the job market in case anything else came up.

So another nice chat, he apologised things had taken so long. Told me they had now found someone, mentioned another job they had vacant (not as senior, but potentially one I might be interested in).

Well, it took me mere moments to find out who had got the first position and was surprised to discover it was someone I knew. Surprised for a few reasons
  • The successful applicant is someone the director knew I had worked with before and he didn't mention it.
  • The successful applicant has less experience than I do in several areas.
  • Some of the areas I was told had let me down in my application are the same areas I feel I am more experienced than the successful applicant.
I'm angry (right?)

We, actually no. I think they have made a great choice. I think she is a better fit for the position than I would be and (without putting myself down too much) I know from having worked with her that she is more capable than I am at maintaining professionalism up and down the chain of command. Plus she has a much better level of attention to detail and I think she is probably more capable of dealing with conflict than I am. (to name just a few areas)

So, the right person got the job. Why is that worth a blog post?

Well a couple of reasons.

Technically, this being a government position and me meeting all the essential and desirable characteristics for the position I don’t believe they should have advertised it a second time. So, why did they? Well perhaps the director felt my personality wasn’t a fit for the organisation. Sure, that comes down to prior knowledge of me not gleaned from the interview process. Which officially you shouldn’t be using, but lets face it, regardless of what excuses you use it would be stupid not to use that knowledge. Perhaps there really was a limited pool of applicants.
Although in that case I would personally readvertise before doing the first round of interviews. Because, lets face it if I had got the job after such an extended process I would be taking the role with a feeling I wasn’t really what they wanted, which would be a very poor way to start a senior position. But then hey, perhaps I was never in the running and I was being let down gently.

Also, assuming I am accurate in my self assessment, while I am more experienced than the successful applicant in some of the areas I was told let me down. (what a convoluted sentence).
Well, that fact demonstrates the under acknowledged fact that it is impossible to quantify properly what you are looking for in an employee.
Skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience can be quantified and written down. So that is what we use when we are writing the advertisement, job description and interview questions and it is what the people in HR (or at least the untalented, unimaginative ones) focus on.

In private enterprise you can use additional things (like searching for blogs where the applicant admits they have ADHD) but I'm not sure how that fits in government recruiting these days.

But what do you do about your feelings of who will fit in with your current team or your knowledge of someone’s work ethic, personal history or anything else. As I said, theoretically if it isn’t discovered in the interview you shouldn’t be using that. Plus, using some of these unquantifiable aspects can be problematic because it is only a short step from there to using your personal biases and down that path lies discrimination and litigation. Yet in this case it has worked well for them, I don’t feel discriminated against (and lets face it as a white male in my 30s working in a female dominated profession I would have to be delusional to cry discrimination. Oh, and the profession is female dominated but the management positions are still very often filled by the boys).

So, once again I haven’t solved any problems but in a nice change from my regular self aggrandising style I have written a post in which I acknowledge someone else is better than me (well, better suited to a particular position anyway, I don’t want to go too far and leave people thinking I have gone soft).

And to leave you with a few questions:
  • How do you quantify employing for personality?
  • How do you ensure getting someone who fits your team doesn’t become discrimination?
  • Why do we insist on making job descriptions all about qualifications and skills when skills can be taught and qualifications gained?
  • When does talent trump experience?
  • How much does what you tell an unsuccessful applicant reflect the real reasons they weren't employed (and how much is just focusing on their faults in quantifiable areas, faults you would probably overlook if you felt they were the right person for the job)?

You will find some of my previous musings on similar topics: here, here and here oh and here too.

Please also note, when I talk about recruitment I am talking about the Australian context and primarily the government sector.

08 July, 2009

not your IFLA conference

An hour or so ago on facebook I found out (from Librarian Idol) that IFLA has pulled the pin on Brisbane in '10. This follows on from CBC having also cancelled their conference. Plus there is no ALIA biennial in '10 because we were expecting IFLA to be in town and I have no idea if ALIA has killed off the NLS (I know it was on the cards at one point).
But even if NLS is still on, I am probably not new enough these days (although I would love to go, in my opinion NLS '06 was better than either of the ALIA biennials I have been to - and yes that includes the one I was on the organising committee for).

Anyway, shortly after the facebook chatter started I got the official email (did twitter beat facebook?). And shortly after that Snail suggested we need to create something to fill the void. Well, I agree

but what?

Naomi Doessel commented "ALIA planning an innovative event for 2010" to which I replied with some scorn.

This got me wondering why was I scornful about the possibility of an innovative ALIA conference?

Well, I have already said NLS in Sydney is the benchmark for a library conference as far as I'm concerned. And I am yet to go to an un-conference, so I can't speak to how things work in that setting (but I like the concept).

What I can speak to however is my experience on the organising committee for an ALIA conference. I don't believe I have blogged to much about that experience, while it was happening I was too busy to reflect and then afterwards I wanted to step back.
But if I could sum it up simply it would be 'hidebound'. There is just so much that has to be done a certain way, some of which I can see the underlying reason, much of which makes no sense to me.

One big problem is that papers are judged without knowing whether the presenter can present. Some papers which seem to be full of life and interest are murdered by presenters who mumble, read powerpoint slides word for word, who are uninspiring beyond belief or any one of a million other possible problems.

The converse is that there 'can be' a certain amount of political interference in the blind review process when ALIA's favourite sons and daughters submit uninspiring abstracts there 'may be' questions asked if they are not accepted (or so I hear).

Then you get complaints about the lack of papers on specific topics (which is a problem if no one submits an abstract on that topic and more of a problem if abstracts are submitted but they are awful).

Then you have the problem created by layers of bureaucracy, you have the committee with its ideas but then you have ALIA head office and ALIA elected members with their ideas (and lets face it if the conference is crap the organising committee has a certain level of anonymity. Well, you don't ever have to put it on your resume). Then there are the exhibitors, whose money the current model needs, but whose demands I think we could do without. Still if you've got the money then you've got the power, yet I hate the fact that conference organisation can get turned into a massive event with the main focus being stuffing as many people as possible into the exhibitor's hall at every opportunity.
And then you have a PCO, a professional conference organiser is supposed to smooth the way for the committee but (again, in my opinion) a PCO can be very closely tied to the exhibitors. They can also remove a certain level of experimentation by constantly referring the committee back to what has worked before. Lastly (not to be too hard on PCOs) their bills are paid for not by the organising committee, but by the parent organisation (ALIA).
For example, those of you who were at dreaming08 will remember the disappearance of the tables and chairs after the first day. You see the exhibitors thought people were sitting in the warm centralian sun, when they could have been buying databases and shelving. So who removed the chairs? No one on the organising committee.

Now all this is just off the top of my head and me being the guy I am I am willing to accept I may have misrepresented some details in my remembrances but lets put that aside and move on to what I think should be done differently.

  • Don't sweat the cash, it shouldn't all be about the food and the venue
  • Give the committee autonomy
  • Scrap the PCO (it may take more people to make it work without one, but if we're not chasing the cash we can't afford them anyway)
  • Use a combination of sources for papers. Some can be the standard blind reviewed call for abstracts but for others seek out those who have spoken well at other conferences and ask them for something on a topic.
  • Avoid the big keynotes. Do you really base your decision on whether to attend on the couple of big names we can afford to fly in from overseas?
  • Tame the vendors, if the plan isn't extravagant we don't need to kowtow to their whims just to get their cash.
  • Cut the price. OK I'm riping out our revenue like a mad man but I don't believe a professional association should be making a profit on a conference. Plus, there is a cost tipping point where a significant reduction in cost will give a significant increase in numbers.

Actually, I'm going to make this a bigger point. When the price is so high that most people have to rely on their employer to be able to attend you are only attracting a specific segment of you claimed audience. A conference for a professional association should be priced so that individual members can afford to come at their own cost. And not just the top end of the profession, but generic librarians from behind service desks and OPACs across the country, librarians from poorly funded libraries, librarians who are so far down the pecking order of their organisation that they are never going to be sent to a conference.

Being as I am writing this 'stream of consciousness' I will just interrupt myself now to note that the money thing seems to be a big sticking point for me. Now back to my musing.

The idea of giving more people the chance to attend professional conferences is the main reason I believe ALIA needs to keep the New Librarians Symposium too. I don't know much about how that is going, but when I first heard people arguing that NLS was splitting the conference budget and making it harder to get exhibitors and sponsors I thought it was short sighted. After all, not every librarian from one library can get to a conference and (as I have noted) it seems like it is a monocosm of senior librarians at a biennial. So, if the boss has a choice between sending himself or sending a newgrad...

Am I off track a little?

ah well, it is late and the brain is fuzzy. I'm going to do something I don't usually do, I'm going to post this now and I might come back and edit it later.

How Productive Can I be in a Week?

My nay saying 2IC is away for the week, so I am buzzing around like a horse fly trying to get some things sorted (sad isn't it). The problem really lies in that our library management software providers are used to calling my 2IC (she's been here for ever, they know her, she does most of the work on the system) but when I am trying to do things I want them to call me not her. So, why can't I call them? Well, because I get their cll centre who then tells me a tech will call me back.

Now them calling her is not her fault, nor is the fact that she has seen several people attempt the things I want to do and fail. The software has been upgraded since last people tried and I may just find ways around the problems.
Sure, I may not but I like being able to try. So I have been on the phone to their tech support and exchanging emails about a dozen topics. In short I am feeling great and on top of the world about my chances of getting things to work.

Unfortunately our overworked IT staff are scared about what I may try to do on my own. Plus the IT manager has been through a lot of this stuff before with my predecessor and therefore knows it won't work. But damn it I know it should work so I am pressing on regardless.

So, what are this strange and radical things I want our system to do?

  • I want us to be able to import student records from our student services system rather than manually enter them from a printed list.
  • I want us to be able to email overdue notices.
  • I would like our students (especially distance ed ones) to be able to reserve books online as a way of requesting things, rather than emailing us.
    Therefore I would like the system to be able to print off a list of requested items which are on the shelves, so we can pull them off and post them out.
All things which most library management software does, but then most library management software costs a bit more than we pay for ours. So far it is half way through the week and I am feeling optimistic that come Friday I will have something I can work with.

07 July, 2009

The new 25

Following on from this post,
I have decided to once again look into what brings people here. After all, while I write mostly for myself, my giant sized ego is always pleased to know others are reading my work.

  1. adhd librarian
  2. books for boys with adhd
  3. adelaide librarian
  4. adhd +stream of consciousness
  5. adhd blogspot
  6. adhd careers
  7. adhd high-functioning
  8. adhd information for librarians
  9. boys with adhd books
  10. confabulation adhd
  11. dilbert cartoon adhd
  12. high functioning adhd
  13. how to get a job as a librarian
  14. indie librarian
  15. adhd genius
  16. librarian productivity
  17. librarians adelaide
  18. "librarians with adhd"
  19. adhd porn
  20. world record vomiting
  21. men are like children
  22. just a spoon full of sugar
  23. penny arcade librarian
  24. "after all, they can do it in a test tube these days"
  25. piss people off
Not in the top 25, but I have to wonder at these searches
husband illegal get rich quick schemes adhd

nude amishmen
well, perhaps not just wonder, but also feel sympathy and curiosity (in equal measures). I hope my blog was of some help, but I doubt it.

I am also happy to note that the top hits seem much more like they were aiming for my blog (or one like it), rather than ending up here while searching for something entirely unrelated.
Oh and a big shout out to Joanne Keleher (who was also a presenter at NLS06) and whose name still brings a few people to this blog. But while no longer in the top 25, stats show me that people searching for Joanne are much more likely to spend time on the blog and to read multiple blog posts.
So whatever you searched for (and however you found me) welcome to the blog I hope you find something to offend you.