Priorities


Thanks to Stephanie Holmgren for posting on medlib-l a few days ago the link to the US News & World Report article on Best Careers for 2008. The author, Marty Nemko, is a veteran career coach, and is also the author of “Cool Careers for Dummies.” The article highlights 31 careers that offer outstanding opportunities based on job satisfaction, training difficulty, prestige, job market outlook, and pay.

Librarianship made the best careers list, and Nemko further calls it an “underrated career.” He also put together a list of “overrated careers,” those occupations with “a mystique that exceeds reality.” New to the list this year is medical scientist. He contrasts the appeal of helping humankind, doing fascinating experiments, and high prestige to the reality of the less-than-lottery-winning-chances of actually making a significant discovery, the superlative grades required, the poor quality of life for medical researchers, and the relatively low pay given the hours worked. This probably isn’t news to most of us. But what really surprised and pleased me is that Nemko offers medical librarianship as an alternative career. He says our chances of actually solving scientific puzzles is greater because we solve lots of people’s problems by finding the information resources they need. He adds that our training is shorter and easier, and requires only a master’s degree in librarianship. He ends up by declaring medical librarianship an “under-the-radar” career, with less competition for jobs. Wow.

One of my presidential priorities is to expand our recruitment efforts by concentrating on college students in the popular new health sciences major, and to work with schools of library and information science in reaching out to these programs. Nemko’s remarks are powerful ammunition in these recruiting efforts.

In a comment by Lynne Fox to my first blog posting, she said:
blogs are all the pressure of writing a really great Christmas newsletter 365 days a year.
While I wouldn’t even contemplate a daily post, I already understand the pressure. Once created, a blog must be fed regularly, or it dies. It is so easy to create a blog that millions have done so, only to abandon them quite soon thereafter. But what am I to feed this blog? (Which I have nicknamed Audrey II.) Rachel suggested discussing the “big issues” facing medical librarianship, and also using the blog to create more transparency for MLA activities and priorities. So let me talk a bit about my presidential priorities, and how they fit in with the big issues.

Every year, the MLA president-elect creates a set of priorities that he or she would like to accomplish during their presidential year. These priorities are submitted to the MLA Board of Directors, where they are discussed, modified, and eventually approved. The approved priorities are used to help set the annual budget for MLA. They don’t represent everything that MLA will work on during the year—they are usually a combination of an emphasis on some ongoing projects and the creation of a few new projects. My priorities emphasize creating more connections between our members. By using Web 2.0 technology, my hope is that our members can not only share and learn more easily than they do now, but various MLA activities can become more transparent to our members.

All of us are facing similar problems in our libraries (you don’t need me to name them). But instead of us uniting together against these problems, most of the time we end up in our individual library trenches, fighting the problems by ourselves—some effectively, others not so much. Once a year, a few of us are ambitious enough to write a paper or create a poster, sharing research or strategies that helped in one library trench. Web 2.0 technology lowers dramatically that effort bar of doing a paper or poster. Librarians either fearful of presenting a paper, or unable to attend the annual meeting, can share their techniques or their successes from the comfort of their computer—no HTML skills necessary. Bottom-up, grass root responses to our problems are far more likely to help in our battles than the slow, cautious approach by the hierarchy of an association.

What an association can do is provide the tools to enable the connecting of our members. The newly appointed Social Networking Task Force (SNTF) is already laying the groundwork for bringing Web 2.0 technology to the association. One of the first things they are doing is a survey, partially to discover what barriers many of our members face in even accessing these tools. Please complete the survey if you haven’t already. The deadline is August 10.

These technologies will be used not only to connect our individual members to each other, but also to conduct association business. The SNTF is creating a public blog so members can comment on their activities, and give immediate feedback. The SNTF is determined not to work in a back room, then present tools fait accompli. They want to work with the members to give them the tools they need, not what the Task Force thinks they need. Other units of the association will also start to use these tools. T. Scott has already blogged quite eloquently on both the importance of association transparency, and the difficulties involved in becoming more transparent. I will not attempt to elaborate on this, but will send you to his post instead.

I want to mention a bonus advantage of our association bringing Web 2.0 tools to our members. I attended the American Library Association’s annual meeting last month. One of the sessions I attended was called “Ignite Your Library’s Public Relations and Outreach Using Hot Technologies.” The speakers were Helen Blowers (LibraryBytes), Steven Bell (The Kept-Up Academic Librarian), and Michael Stephens (Tame the Web). After presentations by the facilitators, the audience, in small groups, discussed what their libraries were doing with Web 2.0 tools to reach out to their users. There was an amazing mix of podcasts, instant messaging, YouTube videos, Flickr photostreams, blogs, and wikis. Most of the attendees were public and academic librarians—they generally have their own IT departments, and a fairly large staff for support. In contrast, many of our members are in small libraries, with little to no support. My hope is that after gaining confidence in using Web 2.0 tools in association business, our members can start using these tools in their own libraries, and then share their experiences with us. Both Helen’s and Michael’s presentations are available. Take a look, get inspired, and stay tuned.