…breakdown silos

This post is adapted from the one originally posted on the NNLM NER Blog here on May 17th, 2017.

If you listen to the worries and anxieties of other professions, one, you start to realize that they often have the same concerns as librarians; and two, you start to repeatedly hear about breaking down silos. We talk about silos in librarianship as well – which may be a topic for another day – but it seems to be a major and constant refrain in medicine, research, patient care, and the sciences in general – often because of the dramatic innovations that are possible and the depressing results when it doesn’t happen. In research, one lab won’t know want the lab next door is doing, even when they are working on very similar topics. In the clinic, the public health worker doesn’t realize that a problem they are facing is also being addressed by an internal medicine doctor. An intrepid student makes headway on a problem that has plagued a seasoned faculty. Those who work by the bedside don’t always know what is happening at the bench – let alone the public knowing what is going on. We all live in, and are concerned with, the bubbles immediately around us. Innovation and growth occur when we can get these bubbles to intersect.

I propose that librarians serving any field or population – from health science to public librarians – are in the perfect position to help breakdown these silos – to serve as the intersection points for different bubbles. Librarians’ jobs necessitate that they interact with a wide variety of people and information within their institutions and beyond. Librarians are also masters at creating connections; from one resource to another, from a resource to a person, and hopefully, from person to person. We pride ourselves on ensuring access to information. Well, that guy you just helped could be the source of information someone else is looking for. Through our ability to organize and make connections, we could provide the access needed to bridge silos. Librarians are generally curious, inquisitive, and well informed. We also love to share what we know. You know the department you work with better than most. A public librarian knows her community and its needs intimately. A manager may see the business trends or funding implications well before others. A systems librarian knows the tech and works closely with the IT department. How can we work together to employ these connections and intersections, while using them to increase the access and innovation of our communities?

Many librarians already do this, and do it well. What I suggest is that the profession more consciously, explicitly, and deliberately leverage this skill and our positions at the intersections. Librarians are in a very unique position. We must promote ourselves as the facilitators, the connectors, the means to move others beyond their silos. Move beyond the question of, “How does this apply to me?” or “How does this apply to librarianship?” Rather ask, “How does this apply to those I serve?”, “Where is the connection and how can I position myself to provide information and service at that intersection?” Focusing on the informational connections between communities and people, rather than just the connection between the resource and the person, will be the strength librarianship needs.

 

(P.S. I apparently wrote about something similar almost 2 1/2 years ago, so I guess you could say my attention hasn’t strayed too far from this topic.)

…also be an archivist

MARAC-NEA 3-15 Logo

PDF of NEA Spring 15 Program

I attended the New England Archivist (NEA) conference this past weekend. I really enjoy remaining active in this organization, regardless of my job title. I also think it is important to continually expose myself to what people are doing in other, varied fields. I strongly believe that information professionals across the spectrum are much more similar than different. We can learn a lot from each other, often novel insights and ideas on issues we all face, if we just step outside the narrow definitions or the silos of specific titles/roles. I can almost always find something that is applicable to my work. Even if only some parts, or with innovation of my own, I can find unique ways of applying the pioneering projects of others.

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…make a good impression

Alternatively titled: A Librarian Can…give a little advice to library school students.

My piece of advice for today concerns the importance of making connections and impressions. Library school is tough, and not because of the course work. Yes, you have to learn skills, but more importantly, it is the time to learn what it means to be a librarian and navigate this new professional field. I may be fairly new to this field myself, but one of the things that I learned very quickly while in school and on the job was the importance of making connections (some say networking but that concept often makes people cringe). Basically, you have to hustle, put yourself out there, build relationships, and make good impressions. This is very difficult. I am not a very outgoing, socially engaging person. I find networking and small talk incredibly anxiety producing and exhausting, but I think it is essential to my success and longevity in this field. I may not know how or when, but every interaction could have a long-term impact. I strive to make every interaction as positive and productive as possible, because who knows what will be next. It can be difficult, but the more I practice, the stronger the skill becomes. We will all have missteps, especially working on something that does not come easy.  In general, people who love what they do, love to talk about it and dole out advice to others (usually the next generation). Recently, I have had two experiences with library school students that have made me want to share.

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…have some life changes

It is women’s history month. In celebration the University recently held a lunch event entitled, Parenthood and Paycheck Inequality: How Social Policies and Cultural Values Matter. The speaker, Michelle Budig, PhD, showed how having a child negatively impacted the career and earnings of women, while often giving a boost to men (although not always). The motherhood “penalty” became even more pronounced when things like income, education level, marital status, etc. were taken into consideration. Different countries have wildly different policies and social norms surrounding maternal/paternal benefits. These differences were explored and shown to have dramatic effects on the amount of penalties or bonuses experienced by new parents.

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…help all types

The other day I was at my local public library and I made a comment to the person I was with that I could never work in a public library. It was not meant to slight the work of public librarians, just an observation that the work they do is generally very different from the work I do.  It can seem that public and academic librarians almost work in two different professions. I have the utmost respect for those in public libraries simply because I don’t think I could handle it. Well, regardless of intent, the karma gods must have heard my comment.

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