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Archive for February, 2012

This week’s (well last week’s) post is a few days late because I am very excited about the book I was reading and I wanted to tell you about it.  The only problem was I needed a few more days to finish so my schedule is a little off.

I picked up Cain’s book after reading a review about the book in another blog (I apologize for not giving out my original source but many people have discovered and loved this book and I cannot remember the first review I read earlier this month).  The passage that made me completely fall in love with this book was this:

“Introverts… may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas.  They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleges, and family.  They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation…. Nor are introverts necessarily shy.  Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not over stimulating” (Cain 25)

I remember trying to explain the apparent paradox Cain describes once in an early job interview. I was interviewing for a staff position that my then supervisor had just left.  I remember speaking with the head of my department about what my skills and weaknesses were as an employee and I tried to explain that while I did have good social skills in some scenarios but I could be shy in others.  She highlighted this discrepancy and pointed out that I was contradicting myself – saying that I could be sociable and outgoing but still shy and it did not make sense.  After reading Cain’s description of how introverts prefer to function I think I could better address this question and describe how this is not a contradiction.  Well, that and now I’ve interviewed for a few more jobs so I have experience on my side!

Cain examines the lives of several well known introverts who have done great things, from Rosa Parks to Albert Einstein.  But her real strength lies in the recreations of stories from successful people living out their day to day lives being closeted introverts.  From the Harvard Business School graduate to the  animated and engaging professor and the high powered attorney, each of these individuals is rendered in full detail with their own voice speaking with Cain’s in the narrative.  I was not too concerned that I would not do well in my career but I have approached some of my natural tendencies as obstacles to climb over rather than seeing them as a set of tools with their own selling points and weaknesses.  Cain’s description of the rise of the extroverted salesman ideal is easily recognized in our culture and while we may still have to play with the extrovert’s rules we can find a different path that will allow for our strengths to shine through.

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I have a confession to make. I am not a particularly good speller. My mother has been astounded and horrified by this fact for years (my father is not good at spelling either so he takes it in stride). I don’t know why I cannot spell well, I have always loved to read and have an excellent vocabulary (except perhaps in blogs where I try to write as I speak to maintain a casual cadence and tone) but I cannot spell. When I type papers for class or other assignments I tend to run the spell checker several times and try to walk away from a finished draft for a while before coming back to edit it for spelling/grammatical errors. Sometimes they slip through, and the results are always embarrassing.

Combine that weakness with the fact that I am very busy of late with class, extra-curricular organizations, a full-time job, and an attempt at maintaining a healthy social life – and you can probably imagine where this is going. I am currently the webmaster for the Rutgers Association of School Librarians (RASL) and I try to stay up to date with the group’s minutes and other important information on the website. Our current website was designed by a past webmaster who coded it herself – which is lovely but it does mean that I need to go into the code to update any portion of the text when I update. When you go into Notepad, unlike Word, WordPress, Blogger or even Gmail, no squiggly red line appears under the misspelled words. Apparently, when I last updated I misspelled career (typed too quickly and added an extra r so it was “carreer”) and typed “and, “ twice.

Then the error got really bad. My partners in crime didn’t catch the mistake when I alerted them to the site update (we need to work on promoting the site, but that’s another matter) and I updated in a hurry and so did not check so I did not see it either. I only found out about the error when my husband asked for help on redesigning his company website. He asked for some samples from my work to show his partner – so I gave him three websites I’d designed for Information Technology my first semester and the link to the RASL page so he could see that I now know how to incorporate social media buttons. So my husband sends the links to his business partner then calls him on the phone to discuss the plans. Of course M (the partner) sees the error right away and reams my husband for wanting to use someone who cannot even spell career correctly. I was mortified at my error and at the fact that he was right. Who would want to use someone who cannot properly check their work?

While a simple spelling mistake on the surface is not a huge oversight in and of itself; I began to obsess think about how open I now have to be in an effort to create a personal brand and to be active in my career network interactions. I post in class discussions several times a week, often in response to a classmate’s post and, since it is a class discussion, am less careful about using formal language and about typos than I might otherwise be for a paper or presentation. I am on Twitter for portions of the day sharing links and making comments about news stories related to library events. I am trying to be better about posting comments on blogs I read; I am on LinkedIn and have a virtual resume out for the world to see. Not to mention emails between officers in the two clubs I hold an officer position for, countless business emails, updating information in a work setting and pinning on Pinterest for myself, but still with my name attached. Anyone who wants to track me down now only has to do a Google search and I come up in several different places. In any of these environments one misspelling, badly worded phrase can affect someone’s opinion of me – of how insightful, intelligent or worthwhile I am.

Before this year I only posted on Facebook to friends, never to work colleagues who may be in a position to hire or fire me. Now I’m hyper-aware of the impression I give off with every sentence I type. I know that I am more than just a written comment or a misspelling but with everything I’m posting that is not password protected there are more chances now for a comment out of context or a typing error to come to light. Who on a hiring committee will want to read the whole of my online life if they have a few select highlights in front of them? So in a virtual world that’s always “on,” am I now the sum of my mistakes?

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Part of my evolution trajectory from graduate student to librarian is to start working on my social media branding.  It is important to start early so when I have my degree in hand I will also have a little more than a year of blogging expertise and have mastered the art of tweeting.  [Has everyone seen my Twitter feed?  Follow me if you are interesting in library and book news as I discover them throughout the day!]  As soon as you start delving into the world of social branding you find lots of advice on everything from what to put on your Facebook/ LinkedIn/Twitter profile to advice on what your profile picture should look like.

Most of the articles offer very good advice for some examples click here, here and here.  All of the articles are fairly similar and it does make one start to obsess think about about your profile pictures in ways you never had before.  Your profile picture is not just a snapshot of who you are, it is selling your brand.  Your profile picture should show you but not be too busy or have other people in the shot (unless it is an important aspect of your job to have someone in the shot with you and even then think twice), and it cannot be the wonderful picture of you on vacation from three years ago when you looked amazing. Suddenly, you realize that a seemingly simple thing is complicated beyond belief.  So I did what any strapped for cash graduate student would do – have my friend with come down to my apartment with his professional camera equipment to do a photo shoot.  It worked out well for all involved, I paid for his gas, he got to use his new camera, backdrop, and lights, and I have a contact sheet full of profile pictures to choose from.   I’ve included my before profile picture, a slideshow of the deconstructed living room and my new profile picture below.   Enjoy!

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I recently began working on the Circulation Check-Out Desk for one shift a week and I am enjoying the opportunity to interact with patrons again.  I really do miss some of the chances for interaction that only occur at the desk.  Helping students get course reserve copies, trying to find something in the lost and found and having a shift where I’m not trapped in front of my computer staring at OCLC is a welcome change of pace.  I love ILL but there are some weeks where all I hear from patrons are: accusations that we lost/hid/stole the book that they’re sure they turned in; that our policy is completely ridiculous and why can’t they we change it, that the point of ILL is to get text books (or the latest season of their favorite TV show) for free, and various sundry general complaints.  One thing that does not change between the ILL work and the circulation shift is the general air of puzzlement over due dates.

I wish I knew who trains our incoming grad students and new faculty on services available to them through the library.  I would love the opportunity to help at a training session and be on hand to answer ILL questions in addition to the information they are getting about reference and department specific services (and frankly helping at a training session would help my CV as well).  I’m always a little surprised that their confusion over the due dates that come with their ILL items.  In some cases, it seems justified if the due date is particularly short and the school specifies no renewals.  In most cases the due dates the library gives to grads and faculty/staff are very generous.  In some ways perhaps the length of time given on a loan is too generous.

Library item due dates and deadlines have a great deal in common and there are several different approaches to circumventing responsibly getting the book back on time.  One is to use the material as soon as it is in your hands.  This approach seems to happen with a much anticipated novel or a book with a very short due date.  If you start having books for a longer period of time, say 3-6 months it is easy to start referring to portions of the book without copying out the needed material, or placing in a to do pile and either meaning but never quite getting to it or looking at the book right before it is due.  Books out for a very long time run the risk of disappearing into bookshelves of non-library populated books where you could easily forget you do not own them or become permanent decorating fixtures.

I know for myself, I have several books that I heard reviews on NPR for, found them at the library and because I have a very long staff due date set them in a to-read pile that now graces my cubicle shelf.  I do intend to read them at some point but I’ve schoolwork to finish, thank you cards to write, an internship to chip away at, social networks to dazzle, and a life to live.  When books come with a long due date the temptation to let them sit without being read is very easy to follow.  I know there are systems in place for other patrons who want my books to place a recall or an ILL request but what about the patrons who don’t know how to use these systems (or what if I decide to be selfish and keep my book past the due date)?   Is it worthwhile to have a library book and pay for the upkeep of this book if it is checked out for long periods of time by the same patron and does not get regular use?

In an age of online renewals from any computer I propose moving toward a middle ground with due dates moving towards a period that is short enough to keep books in rotation and to encourage use while still being long enough that researchers would not feel unduly put-upon to request renewals.  The shorter due dates would allow for less of a disparity between the system owned books and out of system books, so checking due dates would become natural and less onerous.  Hopefully this would also lessen the opportunities for books to go missing or misshelved if they are constantly being referred to throughout a project.

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