Archive | November, 2009

Job Loyalty- a thing of the past?

29 Nov

Photo of loyal dog In the past few weeks, I have heard two guest speakers at McGill’s School of Information Studies who have gotten me thinking about the idea of organizational loyalty. Some people of a certain generation (usually grandparents) boast of their life-time dedication to a particular employer/organization. We hear about “30 years of loyal service” and companies creating loyalty incentives to hold on to experienced workers. I actually work with a library assistant who has been at McGill Libraries for 40 years. In her case, the library is trying to offer her a package to get her to leave but she doesn’t want to, she enjoys her job too much! However, it is obvious to me that less and less people, especially professionals, are interested in the idea of being loyal to a single company for too long and certainly not for their whole careers.

One perspective that often keeps people at the same job over time is that it feels kind of cheap to pick up and leave an organization after an employer dedicates time and resources into an employee’s professional development. It’s almost like a slap in the face to that employer for the employee to then take elsewhere their valuable experience and skills learned.

One guest speaker told us how she left her job where she was becoming increasingly unhappy even after her employer had paid to send her to a conference and had big projects for her in the organization. She wanted to stay on good terms with her employer because they had developed a friendship but, understandably, he took it hard when she told him she was leaving. Tough situation! Although hopefully this seems like a no-brainer to most people, if you are unhappy at a job then it’s in your best interests to find another job where you will be happy.

However, a different perspective that our second guest speaker brought up is the idea of never staying too long at one organization even if you are happy with your job. This approach is a bit more difficult to appreciate and I’m sure it will leave people divided. Our guest speaker explained that although she loved and was very comfortable at one library where she worked for 19 years, she felt that she stayed there too long. Her argument was that as professionals we want to continually grow and learn new things which becomes difficult when we grow too comfortable with the status quo at one particular workplace.

We might attribute this to different personality-types. Some people love and need stability in their lives, whereas other people crave adventure and new experiences. I enjoy stability but I can appreciate the need for change in order to stimulate continual professional and personal growth. When I left my job as educational and institutional representative at La Maison Anglaise et Internationale, I had been working there for 4 years. I liked my job, my boss, and my colleagues but I knew that I did not want to stay there forever and coming back to school to do a MLIS seemed like the right choice. I do not regret for one second this change and I know that I am growing more as a person by gaining new knowledge and experiences.

What about you? Can you envision yourself staying loyal to one organization for 10, 20, 30 years? Also, from an employer’s perspective, what type of incentives could you offer to employees who you value and want to retain?

Salon des Bibliothécaires -Budgets

19 Nov

Last night I attended this fall’s 2nd “Salon des Bibliothécaires” hosted by the CLA Montreal Chapter. Like October’s salon, it was held at EM Café in Mile End and although less people attended than last month, it was still very fun and informative. Our two experts were Ann Moffat, the newly retired director of Westmount Public Library and Suzanne Payette, the director of la Bibliothèque de Brossard. Both these women have extensive experience creating and managing library budgets and they shared many examples of practical advice on how they have dealt with issues like budget cuts, staff demands, getting extra money for special projects, etc. At first I didn’t think that it would be relevant for me to attend this “salon” because I figured that once I graduate from library school in April, it will be awhile before I am in a position where I need to manage a library’s budget. However, I have heard recently of two graduates from last April who were hired as head cégep librarians. This means they must not only manage the budget but also the staff of library technicians and circulation employees, the collection, and all the other administrative duties. Whew! Talk about a baptism by immersion!

I guess the lesson that I retained from last night’s Salon is to be ready for anything. Both Ann Moffat and Suzanne Payette emphasized the fact that budgets are not as scary as they seem which reassured me that by paying attention and applying a bit of common sense, I should do fine if one day if I do need to manage a budget.

Escape into a good story…do I dare?

18 Nov

“All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality, the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.” – Arthur Christopher Benson (1862-1925)

A few nights ago, a colleague from the public library where I work recommended to me a book called Literacy and Longing in L.A. by Jennifer Kaufman, Karen Mack. She told me that I would enjoy it and so against my good judgment, I borrowed it. I want to read it, I really do…just like I really wanted to read the last 3 books that I borrowed and then returned to the library, unread. I have so many things going on in my life right now, every day seems like a race against time. I feel that I could not possibly allow myself to escape into a good story, it would simply be irresponsible. Also, I honestly do not necessarily feel the urge to escape; I have chosen all of my commitments and I want to fulfill them to the best of my ability. However, I am torn, as a self-proclaimed bookworm and an aspiring librarian, I should be prioritizing my reading. How can I proclaim the merits of reading and encourage others to pick up a book when I do not even make time to do so myself?

So in the past few days I’ve started my new book. I have to admit, it is very interesting (the opening quote is found at the beginning of the first chapter). I won’t have time to devour it in a few days like I normally do with a good book. This could actually turn out to be a positive thing because, by reading it a little bit at a time, I will actually get to savour each chapter since I will be considering each one to be a special treat.

Do you always make time to read a good book even when you’ve got lots of other commitments? When and where do you find time to read? On public transportation? While eating meals? Before you fall asleep at night? I’m looking for suggestions!

Volunteering at Investir le monde numérique/Investing the Digital World

14 Nov

Amanda and Anne volunteering at Investir le monde numérque This past week I have had the pleasure of volunteering at “Investir le monde numérique/Investing the Digital World”, a conference organized by ASTED and 7 other professional associations that reflected on the transformations in libraries due to the evolutions in information technology and also how information professionals can take a proactive approach in influencing information technology tools.

Volunteering at conferences is a wonderful experience for students. During the past few days I have met many interesting people who are interested in the same issues as me. Also, I have listened to thought-provoking speakers who approach their subjects from a different perspective than what is presented in university classes.

Although everyone knows that conferences are a fantastic opportunity to network, I was shocked to witness a certain volunteer take this opportunity too seriously. At the beginning of the conference, all the volunteers needed to find our name badges that were filed alphabetically with those of the conference attendees. When one volunteer couldn’t find her name, she became visibly stressed out; she was almost panicking. I told her not to worry because we all had to wear rather flashy hats that made us stand out as volunteers (see picture). The woman replied that she had just finished her program in library school and was looking for a job. Her objective in coming to the conference was to meet potential employers and if she didn’t have a name badge for people to learn her name then she would have been better off staying at home. I could barely contain my shock at how easily she announced this narrow-minded attitude to the volunteer co-coordinator and the other volunteers. Honestly, I had met her only moments before and I already knew that, given the opportunity, I would never hire her because she obviously
a) dealt very poorly with stress and
b) lacked the creativity to come up with any alternative solutions to her problem (i.e., she could have brought business cards to distribute, she could have been proactive in introducing herself so that she wouldn’t have to rely on people reading her name badge, etc.).

I am admittedly an extrovert and I needed no coaching to talk to people at the conference. However, I view these people as librarian colleagues who share my interest in how technologies are influencing libraries, not uniquely as potential employers or contacts for job opportunities. My favourite presentation was “Bibliothèque universitaire: nouvel esprit du lieu”. This talk was given by Silvie Delorme, the director of the libraries at l’Université Laval, my alma mater. She spoke of how the architectural elements and design of a building influences how people use that space, whether they enjoy being there and want to linger or rather if they come simply to accomplish a task and then leave right afterwards. Last year I did a project on contemporary architecture in academic libraries and this is a topic that I find extremely interesting. After the talk, I went to Mme Delorme and introduced myself. We spoke about her talk and the major renovation project that Université Laval has planned for its two libraries. I never mentioned the fact that I would like to work at Laval’s library one day, although I would, because I felt that it was not appropriate in the context of our conversation and it probably would have come across as being pushy. Perhaps I am naïve and I will think differently closer to my April graduation when I will be more actively searching for a job. However for the moment, I will appreciate my many experiences volunteering at “Investir le monde numérique/Investing the Digital World” for the interesting conversations that I had with the librarians and other volunteers present as well as the experience of contributing to such a successful event.

I encourage students in all disciplines to get involved in conferences in your field; it will be educational and a lot of fun!

Professional Partnering Program

6 Nov

The Professional Partnering Program organized by the McGill CLA student chapter is now well underway for its 2nd year. The PPP, as it is affectionately known, is a student initiative at the McGill School of Information Studies to match MLIS students with professionals in order to establish contacts in the library community as well as receive insight on how things work in the real world of libraries. Most students met with their professional partners at a kick-off 5 à 7 event held in October. My partner however was away that evening at an annual Cégep librarian conference, so I was pleased to meet her last week at the library where she works. I am thrilled to be partnered with the librarian at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal. She was extremely friendly and I learned a lot about the role of cégep librarians.

For those of you not familiar with the Quebec education system, cégeps are the educational institution between high school and university and I specifically requested that my professional partner work in this type of library. I am curious to learn more about this type of library as I feel that this level of educational library is not addressed in my classes at McGill. (Why is this? They seem to be catering to the American and Out of Province students when they ignore such an important type of library found only in Quebec). Cégeps offer an ideal time for students to mature and discover themselves before entering into university, they also offer many technical programs for those training for a specific career like Police Foundations, Graphic Design, Library Technicians, etc. I felt that this type of institution can present unique opportunities for librarians. There are many academic-focused programs which means that teaching information literacy and research skills is important. At the same time, cégeps are usually smaller and more student-focused than universities; the institution’s structure is less hierarchical and the overall environment is less pretentious/formal than most academic libraries. My professional partner confirmed that her library is a dynamic and student-friendly environment where students go to further their education by accessing a cornucopia of both print and electronic resources.

There are no set rules for the Professional Partnering Program, each student and their partner determine how often they will meet, the subjects they will discuss, and what activities they will do together. Last year, Graham, the inspired library school student was partnered with an academic librarian from Concordia who offered advice on interviews and resumes in addition to providing concrete insight into the role of an academic librarian. He found this relationship to be very enriching and I hope to develop a similar relationship with my partner so that I feel comfortable asking her my many career-related questions. I look forward to seeing her again at the ASTED Conference “Investir le monde numérique” (Investing the Digital World) next week on Wednesday.

To any MLIS programs that do not have a Professional Partnering Program, I highly recommend that you reflect on the benefits of this type of program( very high). The relationship with a professional really is invaluable to the students and, since we are such a friendly bunch, most of the librarians are more than happy to be matched with a student and pass on their experiences. I also encourage librarians to get involved in a program like this because your advice is so precious to students and we honestly appreciate all the time you offer us to help us grow into your future colleagues.