Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013: Reflections and the year ahead

'Tis the season to reflect on the year gone past and 2013 will be no exception. Previous years available are 2011 and 2012. I haven't been writing annual reflections for very long (just the last two years - as you can see!) but I find them very helpful in highlighting where all my time has gone...

This time last year I was hoping to remain active in the library and information profession beyond just doing my day job and to stay motivated and committed enough to take up opportunities when they arose. I was concerned about my working future, as I was on a maternity contract, and I had my fingers crossed that I would have a calm, peaceful and enjoyable year.


Well it wasn't particularly calm nor was it particularly peaceful, although some bits were enjoyable. I stayed involved with the ARLG London and south east committee and halfway through the year become the web editor. This meant setting up the committee's online pages; I'd never done this before so it was a good opportunity to learn something new. I was also involved in the organisation of a few events for this committee as well as the Big Data conference for the London Information and Knowledge Exchange. This taught me to have a massive amount of respect for people who do organise events and has helped me recognise that I really don't like doing it! I'd much rather be attending and writing them up.

Taking part in these activities has meant that I've not had lots of time for the SLA Europe's committee roles and though I've helped out where I can with membership and event admin I do feel a little guilty. My working future is still in a state of flux although my contract has been extended, which is great. I was also encouraged to go for promotion which, although was unsuccessful, certainly taught me a few things about myself. Resulting time and money pressures meant that I only dipped in and out of the Library Leadership Reading Group but through it I became involved in a Lean-In Circle which has introduced me to some amazing women and a great support network.

I started 2013 intending to spend more of my time on life instead of solely on work and while this started well  - I got a distinction in my beginner's Spanish class, discovered RunKeeper and started running more regularly, read the Man Booker long list, started driving lessons, and booked a rare holiday weekend, it quickly became clear that these things weren't becoming well-established. Fear and a lack of money got in the way of driving and work commitments meant I had to quit the Spanish lessons. For someone who hates leaving things unfinished, this wasn't a great feeling. I've also been writing fewer book reviews and blog posts which is something I hope to rectify in 2014.

Some highlights of 2013:

From l-r: weekend away; shortlisted for nominated student award; free tickets to om yoga & gratuitous cat picture, minus ears

So for next year;

I'd like to go to some of the big conferences I've not had chance to go to yet - LILAC, Umbrella and ARLG. While attending conferences wipes me out, especially as usually I get to go because I've helped organise them, I do find them motivating and usually get a lot out of them. I've already made a start on this resolution as I've been accepted to speak, with a colleague, at ARLG.

All being well, I will be moving house in the next few months and I will have a garden - with an apple tree! I am really looking forward to growing vegetables, like you would never believe. I love being outside, sticking my hands in the soil, and listening to the birds sing. This is going to be outside of London so may have some impact on my attendance at London based events. Only time will tell.

I'm going to continue with running and yoga as it keeps my emotional, mental, and physical health in check. Once I've polished off the remaining Christmas mince pies, that is. If I'm feeling brave I may even enter a race. One highlight of 2013 was winning tickets to the Om Yoga show . It renewed my enthusiasm for the practice and when I was there I attended a lecture on using yoga in education. This has started me thinking about ways in which I can combine all the things I like doing.

Once I've passed my driving test and refreshed my Spanish knowledge, I want to have a little exploration of the FutureLearn and Coursera MOOCs. I've heard good things about them and I'm a big fan of lifelong learning as well as professional development. I'm tempted to refresh my knowledge of mythology or children's literature but am also intrigued by the psychology courses.

I've learned not to get too hung up on the schemes which don't work out as there's usually a decent reason for it and life has a habit of getting in the way of strict plans anyway. So, with that in mind,  I hope that mine and everyone else's plans, hopes and dreams for 2014 work out even if it turns out to be something quite different than what is expected. Happy New Year.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

LIKE 50: Collaborate or die

It's been so busy at work and in life recently that I've had little time to do any writing. However, here's a little catch-up of LIKE's 50th event - The Business case for Collaboration. To celebrate reaching this number, the group decided to coordinate their event with the Online Information 2013 conference and invite their keynote speaker Jacob Morgan, author of The Collaborative Organisation, to speak about collaboration and the way workplaces have to be willing to change to thrive in the future.

The evening was very much an interactive affair with him asking questions, inviting examples and so on, which kept it very much in the spirit of LIKE.

The main points which came out of the discussions were:

  • Millenials are very picky about where they work - they like to have social media available, have a flexible work/ life balance, are not necessarily in it for the money and are increasingly working for themselves e.g. portfolio working.
  • As job security no longer exists and if millenials choose flexibility and other criteria  over money then big companies may not exist in the future, unless they choose to adapt
  • With social media now widespread, workers are no longer tied to their organisations as they create personal profiles and reputations instead and find it much easier to talk to people in other organisations
  • The  downside of this is that they rarely switch off and the work/life balance can become skewed
There was quite a lot of conversation about whether universities will exist in the future. Jacob's argument was that as graduates leave with increasing levels of debt they will be working to just to pay the debt off and will become 'unengaged zombies'. There will be less of an incentive to pay for an education. There will also be less of a need as they will find it easier and cheaper to build up skills themselves through Youtube and MOOCs. While I do think the current government may be trying to hasten the closure of many universities, I don't think there are any silver bullets to take over just yet.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Rees
There was also a lot of discussion about social media and the use of text analytics - a few people gave examples of colleagues who had been fired because their Facebook profile didn't 'fit' their employees company profile.While others, myself included, thought that it was very shortsighted if a company didn't learn how to use it well.

Jacob emphasised that collaboration helps employees as well as the company's bottom line. It helps them be more effective in their jobs, encourages teamwork, breaks down barriers, and reduces stress BUT only if it is seamlessly integrated into working life, not 'yet another thing to do', is not micromanaged, is measured appropriately, and is taken seriously by management.

As a so-called 'millenial' I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with much of what Jacob had to say. I use social media, save my work in the cloud, and consider librarians in other institutions my colleagues, however, I also think that while it's great to work for an organisation which is forward-thinking, offers flexible working and values individuals, much of the conversation was based on the top 10% (the Alphas in life) who are generally in a position to not worry so much about paying the bills. It will be interesting to see if companies change to benefit everyone else.