Monday, July 16, 2012

If We Started From Scratch

In June, we took a trip to BC, Seattle, and California (I had a conference in Nanaimo, and my sister-in-law lives in Cali, and since we were effectively in the same neighbourhood by being on the same side of the continent, we took a jog south to visit her. Seattle was coz I'm curious.) It was great. While we were in California, I drove into L.A. to visit a friend from high school for the evening. The drive went kind of like this:
  1. "California drivers aren't bad. They're kind of like Ottawa drivers."
  2. "L.A., I can totally handle driving in you."
  3. "OMG it actually took me an hour and fifteen minutes to drive two miles because that exit is closed."
  4. "Where the **** am I?"
  5. "SERIOUSLY? Phone, you won't connect to any US networks? Seriously??? You're supposed to be smart!"
  6. "Can't turn around. Liz will think I'm dead."
  7. [Visit]
  8. "Holy hell. I managed to get lost again."
  9. "This is sketchy. Must get back to the highway so as not to die in L.A."
  10. "Welp, this is definitely not where I thought I was going and it will seriously extend my drive home, but at least I know where I'm going to end up."
I got back to my SIL's at 3.30 in the morning. Suffice it to say that's not how I had envisioned my evening. I put it down to bad, bad, BAD highway signage, and poor street design. And it got me thinking - we keep building roads the way we do because we've got to work with that's there. The existing infrastructure constrains subsequent development. But what would highways look like if we were starting from scratch? The way we design things, or are complacent in accepting previous design, has a serious impact on the way we live. (Is an area pedestrian-friendly or pedestrian-unfriendly? Is that a bike friendly road?) As a visitor to L.A., I felt distinctly unwelcome because of how hard it was to navigate. Seems that the roads in L.A. are built for those who already know where they're going.

Highways. Everywhere. This was about how much traffic there was at 3 in the morning though!

That train of thought then brought me to work. What would it look like if we remade the library? (That gets talked about a lot.) And when can we do Information Management differently, please? Because what I see now isn't working.

The hard part is that the current reality not only limits our future actions (it's easier to build on it than to scrap everything and start again, even if we don't like the way things are), it limits our thinking. I don't know what a new approach to information management would look like. I can make suggestions, but to tell myself to start with a tabula rasa and build it from the ground... eeesh. I don't even know where to start.

But that trip got me thinking, and now I have a metaphor for things that are bad, and that should be rebuilt. I know that driving in L.A. is lame, and I'd love for it to be different.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

So, I disappeared...

... stress, trip, nasty summer cold that's turned into a lingering cough, but is getting better.

I disappeared.

And I'm about to do it again - but for a good reason this time (cottage trip. Yes please!), and it's only temporary!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Exercise in the Ridiculous

So, this happened last-last Friday (the Friday of the May 2-4 long weekend, aka Victoria Day weekend for my non-Canuk friends). Sorry for taking so long to share it with you... I hope you find it as amusing as I did. Coz I really did (thanks goodness, or else I would have been mad, mad, mad!)

That morning was just ridiculous. I took the day off to paint the guest room (in-laws visited, and then my Mom stayed with us). Realized Thursday night that I needed another gallon of paint. No worries, Rona is open at 7am, I can go before the hubbub has to go to work.

I get up Friday morning, head out about 7.20. Have a bit of a hard time starting the car (weird), but then it starts, I head out. Plan: get paint, get Starbucks, go home, see hubs off to work, paint. I get the paint, go back to the car, and it won't start. And won't start. And won't start.

Now, last summer we had an issue with the microchips in the keys, so I was wondering if it was the same problem. I call the hubs, he says he'll bike over (the Rona isn't far, thank goodness!) with his keys. I head to Starbucks (and they take their sweeeeet time). I get back, hubs has arrived, he can't start the car, thinks the battery is dead. I find a very nice guy with a giant pickup who agrees to give us a jump (thank goodness we have jumper cables.) Hurray! We can start the car back up, and hubs can go to work!

Except the car won't start. The engine isn't turning over, even. So it's not the battery. The nice man wishes us well and we release his vehicle. We now suspect the starter. We're right near a Canadian Tire, but hubs wants to take it to the dealership instead. Okay, fine, I guess that will, except for the car not starting thing.

Here's the fun part: We have a standard. The parking lot is on a slight incline, and we're parked at the top. So hubs tells me to put the car in 2nd, he's going to push it down the lane, and when he says, I should pop the clutch and it should start. So I get in, he starts pushing to get the car out of its spot, and the steering wheel locks all the way over to the left and I'm going to crash the damn car. I gesture frantically, he comes over, points out that I still need to put the key in the ignition (DUUUH!!!!), and pushes the car back up the incline. We try again, get going, and START THE CAR!!! I didn't think it would work... it was awesome.

So I drive in a loop (thinking "don't stall, don't stall, this would be the worst time to stall"), come back to where he is, and we try to fit the bike in the back of the car. It won't fit. So I ride the bike home, he drives home and drops off the paint, and heads out to the dealership and then to work.

So I paint the guest room, love the colour, and all is well. Get a call from the hubbub that the dealership needs to order a part, so we're in a rental (paid for by them, hurray for the warranty) all long weekend. It was a Chrysler 200, and it sucked.

Ours was silver. And huuuuge. And unweildy. Thanks, Chrysler, for the image.
Tuesday they don't have the part. Wednesday they get it in (yay!) and on the way home from the dealership, hubub realizes the spedometer isn't working... and the dealership was closed. So we take is back again and they finish fixing it. Hurray for having our own car back!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Painting The New House

My project today is to paint the guest room. This morning was full-on ridiculous, and I'll tell you about that later, but in the meantime... I've only got one coat up, but I love it already. Check it out!

At first I was like...

 But then I was like...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Safety First!

As we get into swimming season (it'll be here soon!), a brief reminder: Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning! Please take 5 minutes to read this article - it's an important issue that's near & dear to my heart.

Monday, May 7, 2012

New House = Super Busy

So, we got the keys to our new house on Tuesday. Hurray, right? Well, yes, but also a whole lot of this:
That's the hubbub, doing a great job taking down wallpaper
The good news is that all of the wallpaper has been removed, and the walls are washed - just a few spots need a second scrubbing. And, as far as wallpaper removal goes, it was probably actually a good experience (the paper came down easily enough - as easy as taking down wallpaper ever is...). I still agree with the hubbub's statement that "The guy who invented wallpaper needs to be punched in the balls" though.

Movers on Thursday. Which is awesome, but also scary, coz there's still lots of packing to do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Have I Told You About Penelope Trunk?

I really like her blog. She writes about important career-type things from a very interesting perspective. Her most recent post, Your Biggest Career Decision Is Who You Marry, struck me. I agree with her statement "I think it’s mostly that people are happier when they put the requirements of being in a committed relationship ahead of the other aspects of their life. And a career would be the first thing I’d tell you to give up. You can get a lot more from loving and being loved."

That isn't necessarily a popular thing to say. But I agree with it. I think that may be part of why it's so hard to sustain a marriage if you get married young (stats say you're less likely to divorce if you get married over the age of 25) - your expectations for your career path are likely to change in your early to mid twenties. And you made an agreement with someone about how you'd live your lives together, changing career expectations can be a deal breaker. Whereas if you've over 25, you're more likely to have settled into your path, and can make decisions that are more likely to stick.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about how her husband (a grad student) is getting a lot of pressure from his parents to finish his degree (or quit) and make a professional name for himself. But that's not a priority for him, for her, or for them as a couple. It's more important to them for both partners to pursue their interests & passions - and for her her husband, that doesn't include making a professional name for himself in his field (at this point). I'm glad that they're self-aware enough to realize this - that their happiness is a priority, and won't be achieved through his career. Because since we've been told since we were little that "YOU CAN BE OR DO ANYTHING YOU WANT TO!", the expectation is that we will want to - to be the best cupcake-baker-in-space or whatever. And that we'll derive happiness from our career, rather than our relationships. But I don't think that's how it works. The balance between what you need from your career and what you need from your relationship is going to be different for everyone, clearly - but we need to stop saying that careers = happiness. They don't.

And let me be clear: I don't think you need to be married to be loved. Relationships with friends and family count.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Heavy Days

Today, our CIO, Chief Librarian, and team managers are having meetings with library teams to discuss planned staff cuts. There are more meetings tomorrow - but I haven't been invited to one. (This may be because we've got a significant number of empty librarian positions, so I'm assuming that they're going to cut those - if they were occupied, I expect that it would be a different story.) Even though (it looks like) my job is safe, it has still been a rough day - I'm worried for my coworkers, and concerned about the library's new reality once the dust settles.

We've been asked to be sensitive to our coworkers who may be losing their jobs, but I've never been in this situation, and I'm not sure I know the right thing to say. (It's always a problem, isn't it, trying to find the right words in a difficult time.) Things seem a bit surreal at the moment - I'm pretty sure this is what people mean when they say "shit just got real."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Writing Elsewhere

I wrote up a bit about the CLA IM Learning Fair that I attended on behalf of ARMA-NCR, and you can check it out here if you're curious about information management, and where to get more info.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Blast From the Past

So, my friend K was roped into helping a Brownie troupe learn how to hand-tie a quilt last night. She, in turn, roped some of us into it. And honestly? I had a great time! The girls were really quick to learn, and fun to teach. At one point, I helped a girl do a tie, then watched as she did it, offering a bit of assistance, and then she turned to me and said "I'm going to do another one. I don't need your help." Totally matter-of-fact. It was awesome. It was like "Okay 6 year old, sounds good to me!"

AND THEN. At the end of the meeting, they invited all the special guests to join their circle, and they did the Grand Howl (scroll down) to thank us! Holy flashback, batman! It was awesome! I've never had anyone tu-whit, tu-whit, tu-woo me before :) (Also, didn't remember that it's called the Grand Howl, definitely learned that just now.)

Yay, brownies! Sad part: They don't wear the brown dresses anymore. Happy part: Warm fuzzies (did my Good Deed for the week!) and an opportunity to buy a box of Girl Guide cookies!

This is what we looked like when I was a Brownie!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sh*t Bureaucrats Say and Do

So, if you haven't seen it already, watching the Sh*t Bureaucrats Say video will be helpful for the reading of the remainder of this post. Go ahead, I'll wait.

First, I think the video is hilarious, and the actress is adorable. And yes, I know exactly what she's talking about. But there's some good commentary on this - while it's awesome (and sometimes very needed) to poke fun at ourselves and our jargon, there are indeed some sinister overtones. I've seen it happen to me - I'll be trundling along, minding my own business, and suddenly the most appalling bureaucratese will just pop out of my mouth.

If you know me, you may have been witness to it. More than once, I have stopped in my tracks, felt my jaw drop a little as my brain registered what I said, and have asked myself and/or those around me "Did I just say that?" The need to be polite, subtle, let others read between the lines... in my experience it's definitely an expectation of those working in the Government of Canada, but I do wish we could all just be frank in our work.

"We need to consult wider" often means "we've made our decision, but we have to LOOK like we're considering the opinions of others, so we'll send this out for comments and disregard them, okay?" And that's bullshit - a waste of your time and mine. We should be consulting our colleagues where their input may have value - but the ruse of it isn't helpful to anyone.

So yeah. We should take a good look at the sh*t we say and do, and really get back to our first principles in order to reduce/eliminate the ridiculous - especially in light of the upcoming (later today!) maybe-scorched-earth-but-who-knows budget announcement. If things go the way we fear, I won't have time for your sh*t (or mine!) - I'll be too busy doing three jobs or trying to find a new one for myself.

That being said, I also think we need to remember that this is damn funny.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Just Call Me Herlocke

So, one of the funnest* parts of fiscal year end is the craziness of trying to get all of our invoices tracked down and paid. The way it works (generally) for us is that I will receive an invoice, make sure it's correct, and then send it to our awesome finance person for payment. Then SHE sends it to the departmental finance people, and THEY actually issue the cheque.

Mostly, this works just fine. It's maybe a little slow, but hey - such is the reality of working for a large organization. That being said, there are things I could do to make the process smoother, and I'm working on it.

So when a vendor called me this week to say "HEY! Your invoice is way overdue, and we're turning off your access," I thought to myself "Self, you thought this was resolved back in December, but clearly something went wrong - okay. Tell them you're sorry and will get the invoice paid ASAP." So that's basically what I did, feeling kinda bad about dropping the ball (I did get them to extend our access for another week. Huzzah!).

And then my finance person said she thinks the invoice was paid back in December. I smelled vindication on the winds of change... and promptly fired off some emails to try to help figure out what in the heck is going on with this payment. Because I would love for this not to be my fault... I don't need to assign blame, but I would like to not be on the receiving end of it.

Anyways, I'm finding that with fiscal year end comes a lot of this kind of sleuthing. Forensic invoice paying? I dunno. But I feel like I need a special detective hat. Also perhaps a bubble pipe.

And a magnifying glass! How could I have forgotten?
*Sarcasm, people.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It Never Rains...

So, work has been all fiscal-year-end-y: Where is this invoice? Has that been paid for? Why haven't we gotten that contract in place yet? It's not much fun at all - and yes I know that it's a normal, and expected, part of the job. But I don't have to like it. I'm looking forward to April 1st: fiscal year end will be done, the budget will have been announced, and hopefully I'll be able to spend more time & energy on things I find more interesting! (Like usage analysis of our subscriptions to see what we should renew or not for next year's subscriptions).

So that' s been busy.

This may be me in a couple of weeks.

And then life got all super-busy too. We bought a house a couple of weekends ago, and spent last week working to get all the paperwork/inspection(s) done so we could waive the conditions. Which we did last Saturday - yay! But now we're in full-on "get the condo ready to sell" mode, which is quite the undertaking. It's nothing huge, but now all of a sudden all of those little projects that we've been putting off (like touching up the paint) have to get done pronto. On the plus side I don't think my fridge has ever been so clean!

Anyone want a great 1-br condo?

The house stuff was causing my stress levels to shoot through the roof for a while, but it's calmed down now, and the hubbub and I are working well as a team to get 'er done. And it really was nice of Mother Nature to throw this lovely "warm" spring weather our way right about now - somehow, it makes the whole endeavour easier.

But so help me, this may well be the house I die in, coz holy heck is buying and selling property a PITA!

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Running Primer

I just typed this up for a friend who is going to run her first 10k in September (I'm hoping to run it with her!), and figured I'd share it in case it is useful to others interested in taking up running. It's info I think I could have used when I started out!

Any questions? Suggestions for newbie (or otherwise!) runners?

Hi [friend]!
I'm going to be gearing up for 10k training for May Race Weekend, which made me think of the 10k in September! I thought I'd send you an email with a run down of information I would have found useful in your position - let me know if you have other questions! I'm really hoping I'll be able to run this with you, and train virtually together, too! The great thing about running a 10k is that it is long enough to be impressive to people, but you're not training for HUGE amounts of time.
Yay! I'm excited :)

1) Shoes: You need good running shoes; not sure if you have them. Go to a reputable running store (in Ottawa I would recommend Sports4 on Bank), get fitted. Regular gym shoes that you use for everything else aren't the same; they should have you walk around the store barefooted (called a "gait analysis") to figure out what kind of support you need, and then have you try on a bunch.

2) Other gear: Since you already workout, you probably have most other gear you'll need for running, either on a treadmill or outside. Congrats! You may want to get a new sports bra specifically for running, though. Other than that, I wear wicking pants, tops and socks - super nice, but not necessary. If you're getting blisters/rubbed spots, and your shoes fit well, try some running socks.

I also have a running belt to carry a bottle of water, snacks for longer runs (over 1 hour), keys, ID, some cash. You may want to look into this. Alternatively, if you're running outside, you can map out (for example) a 5k loop from your house, and leave a bottle of water in the mailbox, so you can pause to grab a drink before completing the remainder of a long run.

I listen to music when I run. This isn't for everyone. When I first started running alone outside, I couldn't listen to music because if I did, I tended to run too fast, and then I felt like crap/missed my training goals. But if you listen to music, finding headphones that STAY in your ears can be hard. If you solve that one, let me know!

3) Mapping your route: You'll want to be able to figure out the length of running routes. Websites like Map My Run and gmaps pedometer will help with this.

4) Your training program: I find it really useful to have a training program/schedule to follow. There are great ones geared at new runners, such as the Couch to 10k program (there's an app for that one), this one,  or this one. I really like Hal Higdon's programs. If those don't appeal to you, try Googling "novice 10k training plan". There's also a lot of good info on the Runner's World website. You should plan to follow a program for about 12-16 weeks, and try to start running before the official program start date to give your body time to get used to running. You could, for example, start with a couch to 5k program, which is a FANTASTIC way to learn to run.

5) Apps and tools for measuring distance/pace: I have a GPS watch (Garmin 305, if you're curious) that tells me my distance and pace, and that I can set up for intervals etc. I love it, but it was expensive, and is definitely not necessary for running. There are apps, such as RunKeeper, for Android/iPhone (not sure about Blackberry) that work just as well, and are free. If you want some metrics, I'd suggest going the app route. That being said, this is totally an optional thing. You can get a regular watch that will do intervals for under 100$, easily.

6) Race goals: Don't try to kill yourself on this one. It's a good idea go have a few of race goals - like an "awesome race" goal and a "good race" goal and a "minimum" goal - your minimum could be "finish!" and that in itself would be a fantastic accomplishment.

7) Running resources: there are lots of good ones on the web. I like the Runner's World website (I also have a subscription to the magazine; I can lend you my old issues if you're curious), and the Running subreddit.

8) Getting into running: I don't know if you've heard my little rant about this before, but running is HARD, especially at the beginning. You've got to give yourself enough time for it to stop being so hard before you decide if you really like it. Make sure to stretch a lot after running, and to cross-train, too, to strengthen the rest of your body. This helps avoid injury, and improves running form. You'd be surprised at how important your core is to running! Also, SLOW DOWN. Most new runners (myself included) go faster than they should, because they feel like their legs can handle it, and then they're SUPER wiped after a kilometre. It's because you're only as strong as your weakest link. So, your leg muscles may well be able to go faster, but your lungs aren't able to oxygenate your blood fast enough. The trick is to go slower than you need to, especially at the beginning until you figure out your pacing. This will allow you to go longer, and then eventually to get faster.

9) Interval running:
Speaking of pacing and being able to run for longer, run intervals. I run 10s and 1s, which means ten minutes running and one minute walking. I started out with 1:1s. You'd be surprised at how much of a difference the walking break makes, and how little it impacts your overall time, really. So if you're going to go for a quick run, you could try running 10 intervals of 2:1s or 3:1s. You'll feel great at the beginning, but will probably really appreciate them towards the end!

10) How to dress:
So, it's starting to warm up here, and this isn't as much of an issue anymore, but when running in cool/cold weather, don't bundle up! You generate a LOT of heat when running. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it were 10 degrees warmer out - so if it is 0, dress like it were 10 - long pants, a long sleeve shirt. You'll be cold when you start, but that's good - it's WAY easier to warm up than to be stripping stuff off and hauling it around with you (unless you planned it that way).

11) Running jargon: You'll probably see lots of jargon that makes no sense. Ask me if you don't understand something! For example, LSD is Long Slow Distance - the longest run of the week, at an extra slow pace. It's a run that allows your body and your mind  to get used to DISTANCE and TIME running, but isn't too taxing.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Librarians Need to Know How to Read Laws

So, laws can be a hot topic in Libraryland. Most especially when it comes to copyright. If you Google librarians and copyright, you'll get pages and pages on the topic - guides, info, pages from professional associations, etc etc. And I agree, librarians should understand copyright law, especially as it applies to their particular resources and clients.

But I also think that librarians need to be able to read, understand, and apply "the law," in general. This may not apply as much to certain librarians, but I'm a government librarian, and as such, there are specific laws that apply to me and my activities within my library. For example, what we can get rid of, and how. The question of this MIDA (multi-institutional disposition authority), how it applies at NRCan, and how we'll dispose of surplus (weeded) publications came up as part of our conversation around collection management and weeding. Some of my colleagues were concerned about our obligations, according to their reading of the MIDA.

Which meant that I needed to read the thing and provide advice on what we can and cannot do, and when we need to contact Library and Archives Canada to see if they want something (rare or old Canadian imprints; large runs of Canadian imprints).

I was okay with this (and would have asked our legal counsel for an opinion if I was unsure), but I can't be the only librarian who needs to read and understand laws other than copyright laws. And let's face it, specific wording is important in interpreting the law. So it surprises me that reading & applying laws has never, to my recollection, come up as a skill that librarians need to know. But I don't know - is this mostly limited to government librarianship? I'm curious about other librarians' experience with this.

Call me crazy, but I think this is awesome.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Productivity Tip: Change Something

I'm a procrastinator. Always have been. Deadlines work really well for me, because I usually have a keen sense of how long something will take (to deliver at an appropriate quality level). I also tend to do a lot of prep work for a piece of work early on, and then let things sit and stew in my brain - so when I'm ready to get started, I can pump it out... I just wait until the last minute to do it. So I need a deadline, otherwise I have a hard time actually getting things done.

Of course, procrastinating isn't always a great thing, so I've learned various way to ensure that I don't procrastinate inappropriately, and/or that I'm not wasting time. One of these tactics is to change it up when I notice that I'm not making headway on things.

Some of them are pretty straightforward: For example, not sure what you need to do? Make a list. (Don't forget to then do the things on said list.) Not sure how to get something done? Brainstorm. For bonus points, diagram things.

My best tip, though, is to change your environment. In undergrad, I would often kick off exam season with a major deep clean & reorg of my room/common spaces of the apartment. I do the same when I'm stressed at home. At work, if I can't get down to brass tacks, I'll step away from my computer and clean (yes, like actually wiping things down) and tidy my office. And then I'm usually able to think more clearly and get things done.

It's important not to forget about the relationship between our working environment and our productivity levels!

I also have this infographic pinned to my wall, where I can see it easily - it reminds me to change something if I'm not happy. Funny as it may sound, it's a reminder I need (and I suspect I'm not alone).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Your Sales Tactics: I See Right Through Them

Recently, I entered a draw for a trip. It seemed fiarly-legit-if-not-totally-so, but I wasn't giving any info I was uncomfortable divulging on the entry slip, so I figured that not much bad could come of it.

WELL. Today I received a phone call - I won the trip! The 3000$ trip for two to Florida and the Bahamas! Hurray! All I have to do is pay for our travel to Florida - yeah, we can handle that, right? And they're U.S. based, so to avoid taxes, we just have to pay a small processing fee - way less than the taxes would be. Only 199$ each! And at each location we go to, they'll give us a comprehensive tour of the place (this is the timeshare sales talk!). And they're sending me the travel documents right now! All I have to do is give them my credit card info for half of the fees, to secure our spot!

I think I'll pass, thanks. Especially since I'm sitting in front of a computer while on the phone with you, and can read all kinds of negative reviews (Oasis Travel Services in Daytona, Florida, if you're curious) online. I got off the phone, but the woman was like the call centre equivalent of an octopus - for every reason I had to decline her offer, she had another reason that I should go for it. Clearly she's done this before. My ability and willingness to say "No," and to repeat myself, certainly came in handy this afternoon.

What was really interesting was that I could spot the various persuasion tactics as she used them.
  • She started by getting me all excited about it. 
  • It was a limited time offer. 
  • It was worth up to 3000$, but would only coz me 400$. 
  • I was the one whose name was picked. This offer isn't open to the public. 
  • I'd never get another chance like this. 
  • It "kept getting better." Plus, we'll throw in two tickets to the Arabian Nights Show! PLUS we'll give you blah blah blah.
  • She gave me names and addresses, to assure me that the business is legit. 
  • She explained why the company "gives away" trips. 
  • She asked if we could be relied upon to talk up our amazing trip to friends and family - getting me involved, making me feel invested. 
Being able to spot these sales tactics makes me feel good - makes me feel like I'm less likely to fall for a trick. If I get involved with something, I don't want it to be because some lady with a fake call centre name fooled me into it.

Honestly, if I had to A) pay a processing fee or B) pay to travel to Florida to start the trip or C) sit through a timeshare sales talk, I'd do it. But A+B+C? No dice, friend. If I want to go to Florida that badly, I'll just pay for it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Time Flies

... when you're having fun. Also, when you spend half of last week home sick. Let me tell you, I am rarely so pleased to be at work on a Thursday as I was last week - just being out of the house was that great.

The past week has been great for learning opportunities for me. I attended the CLA Government Library & Info Pro IM Learning Fair yesterday, and got to talk to some really interested - and interesting - people about ARMA-NCR. I also got to find out more about what other associations have been up to. I'm so glad that ARMA-NCR is working more and more with other associations in the area - building these relationships has been a pet enthusiasm of mine since I joined the board. While we may be talking to the same audience, we're all bringing different ideas and perspectives to the table, so we can easily collaborate - and we're definitely not competitors. So yeah - working with other associations to contribute to and build the RIM community in the National Capital Region is awesome! Plus, I get to meet so many great people.

Speaking of great people, I attended a talk by Ron Surette (CIO at Library and Archives Canada) on digital preservation this morning, organized by AIIM. I thought it was really interesting - and was introduced to the concept of a wicked problem

Not that kind of wicked

 - "a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems" (definitely check out the Wikipedia article I linked to for more info. It's fascinating!).

So yeah. There's been lots of other learning, too, but those two events are top of mind for me right now. I really love attending these kinds of events - the networking and learning is awesome.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What I Learned From Library Day In The Life #8

So, I've thought a bit about participating in Library Day in the Life 8, and I think I got a lot out of it. For one, my productivity was higher than it otherwise could have been - I've been known to procrastinate, especially when faced with what feels like a lot of work. So feeling like the Internet is watching was good for me - I actually got lots done last week. One of my fave ways to get stuff done when I'm procrastinating is to set a timer (usually for an hour), and tell myself that I'm going to do focused work for that time. It makes things seem much more manageable (it's "work hard for an hour" not "finish this intimidating problem"), and it helps me get things done. I employed that tactic several times last week, and I think I might use it more.

It was also interesting to go back and look at what I did with my days. I seem to do a lot of administrivia - I'm going to have to take a look at what those things are, and how I can cut down on them.

Note to self: Avoid
I plan on reading a lot more Library Day in the Life posts from others when I've got a chance - but this was definitely a useful exercise from a self-analysis point of view, and I'm happy with it. I would definitely do it again.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Library Day In the Life: Day 5

Hi, I'm Emily, and I'm the Acting Manager, Licensing and Access Services, for Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Today, I...

Woke up with a really fuzzy head & stuffy-feeling ears. I've been battling this nagging sinus nonsense pretty much all week. Considered calling in sick, but I've got a ref desk shift this afternoon. Luckily it should be an easy day...

8:30 - 1:00: Come in, chat with staff, answer emails, financial stuff related to procurement, finish a "Weeding Cheat Sheet" type document and sent to colleagues for their input, set up a meeting to discuss procedures for catalogue changes due to weeding, start planning for next week, lunch, more emails. Send the draft Collection Management Policy to all library staff - hurray! Hoping for some good feedback/suggestions from my colleagues.

1:00 - 3:00: Ref desk! This afternoon I'm at 580. Help a few clients, page through some trade journals that look interesting, replenish some supplies - pretty standard.

580 ref desk from entrance to library
Reference/meeting area
Looking down the hall of high-density shelving. Stacks to left and right. Sunny reading and working areas along the back wall.
3:00: My sinuses still hurt. A lot. I give up - send a message to my boss and head home to try to sleep it off.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Library Day In the Life: Day 4

Hi, I'm Emily, and I'm the Acting Manager, Licensing and Access Services, for Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Today, I...

Today, I'm pretty sure things will be less busy than Tuesday and Wednesday. Thank goodness!

8:30 - 9:55: Settle in, check my emails, chat with a client, chat with a staff member, head to our Earth Sciences Library for a ref desk shift.

10:00 - 12:00: Ref desk! I've got on 2-hour shift per week at this library (I'm working ref desk hours even though I'm in a manager job right now, just because we're short on staff), and I like being over here. Fun fact: There are LOC and Cutter classified books here. One of our other locations has LOC, Cutter, and Dewey! This is what happens when your libraries are really old... (The Geological Survey of Canada, started it all, was founded in 1842).

Ref desk - from the library entrance

Ref desk to the right, work areas in front

Another angle on the ref desk

Looking down the hall of stacks - high-density shelving on left and right

12:05 - 1:00: Lunch, derp around on the personal side of the internet, administrivia until our All Staff meeting at 1.

1:00 - 3:00: All Staff meeting! It goes really well - one of the most controversial things was the weeding project I'm working on, but even that generated some good discussion. I think we're going to have to do more of these.

3:00 - 5:00: Procurement, contracts, invoicing, planning.

5:00 - 8:00: ARMA-NCR Board meeting. First board meeting for our two new board members - it was great to see them! Had some awesome conversations; am looking forward to seeing what's in store for our Chapter. We've got some great plans, and are building some awesome relationships!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Library Day In the Life: Day 3, Part 2

Continuing my Wednesday adventures, for the rest of the day I have...

12:35 - 1:00: Derp around with some administrivia. Find out that the donation assessment stuff is basically settled. Excellent.

1:00 - 1:45: Meet with staff who have flex days to work our a system whereby not everyone is out of the office on the same day. Come up with some great, varied solutions - one staff member moved her flex day off of Monday, one said we could call her in case of emergency, all agreed that if they reschedule a flex day, it won't be moved to a Friday or a Monday. We also came up with a strategy that minimizes library closures in the case that everyone is away on the same day. We're almost to the point where flex days are operationally impossible, but we're not there yet, and quite frankly, I'd like to keep flex days as an option for staff - they cut down on sick days, for one thing.

After the meeting, I had a quick chat with our Systems librarian about serials control and management, and we agreed that we're going to have to assess the level of serials control we apply, seeing as full holdings maintenance is a lot of work, and we're not sure whether the ROI is there. One option might be to only do summary holdings for subscriptions where we have both print and internet access... but that's just a thought at this point.

1:45 - 3:00: I'm on the ref desk this afternoon! Get a call from an external client, do some calling around to find the right person's contact information. I maintain that one of my most useful skills as a librarian is my willingness to pick a likely person from an org chart, call them, and say "Hi! You might not be the right person for me to talk to, but I'm hoping you can help!" (Note that this is different from "You're the first person whose name came up in GEDS. Do this thing for me which is totally outside of your job description because I can't be bothered to look any further, and no I do not want the name of the person whose job that is." I've been on the receiving end of calls like that from other librarians, and let me tell you - frustration city!)

3:00 - 5:45: Work on various administrivia. Update our Chief on the proposed solution regarding flex days. Chat with a staff member about an HR issue that has diffused very nicely. Contract procurement. Subscription management. Contract procurement. Fret about my headache and hope very hard that it's not a cold. Start thinking about what I need to do tomorrow. Start working on a spreadsheet for my awesome Finance admin person detailing subscriptions that we procured on behalf of specific client groups, for which we need to do cost recovery. Listen to The Decemberists (The King Is Dead) while I do it - I really love Calamity Song. Get a call from a regional colleague with more history/better knowledge of our Taylor and Francis file than I have; she's offering to sort it all out, and keep me in the loop. Yes please and thank you. So many of my colleagues really, really rock. I'm new in this position, so it's great to have someone offer to step in and lend a hand every once in a while! I usually ask for help when I need it, but it's nice to have it offered, too.

Husband arrives, and I'm out!

Library Day In the Life: Day 3, Part 1

Hi, I'm Emily, and I'm the Acting Manager, Licensing and Access Services, for Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Today, I...

 (As an aside, yesterday my husband asked me if I thought there was an issue with taking work time to blog about how busy my day had been. I don't think so, for a couple of reasons. A) I needed a bit of a break. I could have gone for a walk, but I blogged instead. B) My colleagues and I discuss our library and how we do things with other librarians/students/interested parties on a regular basis. Our Chief fully supports us giving tours, presentations, and demonstrations to librarians who are interested in how we do things - so Library Day In The Life is consistent with our efforts to share our approach with others.)

8:30 - 11:30: Good morning! I'm thinking that there can't possibly be more emergencies to deal with today - got them all out of the way yesterday. No voicemails this morning, no urgent emails - looks good!
  • Poke around the Internet to see what's happening while nursing my tea. 
  • Get the news that a contract employee working with our Information Management colleagues is here, and since we get her one day a week, and they're not set up for her, they want to know whether we can keep her busy. Heck yes! P has worked with us before, and she's great - I send her to our Map library to go shelve maps. The subject specialist sounds pretty excited. I need to touch base with our Manager of Technical Services to see if she can use P's help - they're super busy, could really use an extra set of hands. 
  • Prep for the RLM meeting later this morning. I feel good about it.
  • Get an email from our Chief saying that she likes the draft Collection Development Management Policy that I sent her. Hurray! Now I shall start circulating amongst colleagues for more revision/input.
  • Email our Systems Librarian about a meeting we need to have with our Techs who do Serials Management. The Evergreen Serials Module apparently isn't ready to go, but our previous system has been taken offline - what to do, what do to...
  • Remember that it is February 1st! Change my desktop wallpaper to this one (without the calendar). I really like Smashing Magazine's monthly wallpapers. I was tempted to go with a Valentine's Day-ish one, but thought the "Be Bold and Venture to Be Wise" message was a good one! 
  • Review a US Memo on Facilitating Scientific Research by Streamlining the Paperwork Reduction Act Process that was shared with me by our Regional Libraries Coordinator. She suggested it would be useful to my thinking about collection management at NRCan - she likes the tone, and suggests we need to be very specific about collections that are not mission critical. We maintain a lot of information that is no longer directly relevant to our core mandate (because the department's activities have changed over time), and we also manage a lot of collections on behalf of industry/associations, etc. In order for our collections to remain relevant and useful, we need to re-examine their content, and I agree that the approach embodied in said Memo could be useful. Hurray for sharing!
  • Contracting & procurement joy, and other varia.
11:30 - 12:00: Regional Library Managers meeting, which took place via teleconference. I spoke to them about actions required in order to go forward with the collection management work we need to undertake, and another colleague spoke about work on a national reference service model. The meeting went really well, and there were some great suggestions from my colleagues in the regions. I really like speaking to my regional counterparts, because it helps me understand what is going on outside of our little Ottawa-bubble. Their reality is quite different from mine (I think...), and it is very interesting to hear what they're up to, and their thoughts and observations.

12:00 - 12:05: Donation assessment stuff. I'm going to look into it after lunch.

12:05 - 12:35: Lunch!

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    Library Day In the Life: Day 2, Part 2

    So, for the rest of today, I have...
    11:10 - 12:30 Check Hootsuite to see what people have been talking about & read some articles that seem relevant (this one about the Elsevier boycott shared by @mrlibrarydude catches my eye, as we rely heavily on ScienceDirect and Scopus). Talk to my colleague about the flex day issue. More phone calls about licensing issues (and voice mails). Start to prep for the Regional Library Managers meeting tomorrow - I have 10 minutes to ask them to a couple of things for a new weeding project that the library will be undertaking. Start looking into how some recent donations have been evaluated. Start prepping for an upcoming All Staff meeting for staff in Ottawa.
    12:30-1:00: Lunchtime, and I need a break. Eat lunch, catch up on my Google Reader stuff.
    1:00 - 1:30: Realize I left my notebook with my prepwork for IM Battledecks either at home or in the car. Curse. Start trying to remember what I had come up with. Recreate my notes. Grab some taxi chits. Start to get nervous. Head out.
    1:30-4:00: Arrive, meet & mingle with other presenters. Chat with some people I know. Get started - I'm going second. IM Battledecks was a blast - talked about the theme of IM in Turbulent Times for 7 minutes, addressing a slide deck I've never seen before that advanced automatically. Glad I thought about some stuff beforehand, but there was NO WAY I could have stuck to a script. I would totally participate again, or attend another Battledecks event. We had just over 40 people there (including a couple of my friends, one of whom brought me a VERY welcome Earl Grey Tea Latte - it felt great to have some familiar, friendly faces in the crowd), which is great turnout because the weather is pretty yucky out. My debate training, improv skills, and knowledge all kick in, and I end up winning (kindof gratifying as the youngest one there - I was pretty intimidated when I was asked to participate)! Took home a nice bottle of wine. Thanks so much to CLA Government Library and IM Professionals Network for putting on the event!
    Setting the stage...

    The awesome crowd right before my speech

    All 5 presenters post-battle (note victory bottle in my hand)

    4:00 - 5:10: Back at the office. No voice mails, hurray! Huge list of emails, boo! Contact clients with waaay overdue ILLs and ask them to return them; get a call from the guy involved with ASM and clarify the issues (yay!), look into the issue about recent donations, and why they were discarded. Agree with my staff member. Send email to that effect.

    WOW. Today was quite the day. The jumping around putting out various fires coupled with the adrenaline rush of IM Battledecks has left me spent. Here's hoping tomorrow is less crazy!

    Library Day In the Life: Day 2, Part 1

    Hi, I'm Emily, and I'm the Acting Manager, Licensing and Access Services, for Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Today, I...

    8:35 - 10:45: Got in to work a bit late after a slow drive in. Chat with a member of the Access Team* about a bit of an issue that occurred yesterday - a perfect storm of people being off on their flex days and a sick librarian lead to some consternation, and the temporary closure of one of our library locations.** Apparently the Chief Librarian sent an email about it, and I and another manager have been asked to come up with a solution. The main problem is that too many people have their flex day on the same day. Finish settling in and check my voice mail while my computer boots.*** 2 voice mails: One referring to an email that I haven't seen yet, another inviting me to talk about weeding at the Regional Library Managers meeting on Wednesday. Okay - note to self, prep for that meeting.

    I check my email and suppress a scream. Apparently, yesterday was a bad day to be out of the office. Start triaging the issues in order of urgency. Check my calendar: Thank goodness, nothing on there until I need to head out to IM Battledecks. I've got some time to put out some fires.

    Most urgent are procurement requests, what with fiscal year end coming up. I work on files for subscriptions to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, GeoScienceWorld, RefWorks, ASM (ASM isn't mine - but someone did ask me a question about it, and now he thinks I'm in charge of it. Nope! The person who is in charge is the one who left the first voice mail, so I leave HER a voice mail to try to sort things out, so I know what to tell HIM. Ick, what a mess), Daily Oil Bulletin, Plant Disease, International Journal of Remote Sensing and Remote Sensing Letters. I email Public Works and Government Services Canada to get them involved where that's required.

    I also set up a meeting to talk about flex days, and call another member of the Access Services Team about an HR thing.

    10:45 - 11:10: Write this! Initially got way more into detail, but it was turning into a (boring) novel, so I edited, too. Now to look at my to-do list and figure out what needs my attention next...

    *I currently manage our Access Services Team. I've got 5 awesome library techs who do Inter-Library Loans, Circulation, Shelving, Document Delivery, Serials Control, and other info-access type work.
    ** Our library system has 13 branches across Canada, and 4 on the NRCan campus on Booth Street in Ottawa. This means staff at 4 libraries - and 4 reference desks to staff. Coupled with some serious staffing challenges, it's been pretty challenging to staff those desks lately.
    *** I hate voice mail. Usually, no one calls me unless there is a problem - so my stomach knots as soon as I see that blinking light. Ugh.

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Library Day In the Life: Day 1

    So, I've decided to sign up for Library Day in the Life, Round 8. This is a project where (surprise!) people who work in libraries document their day, so you can see what a librarian's day is like. There are lots of different librarians who are doing this, and I saw a lot of blog posts/tweets about it last time, so I thought I'd contribute this time around.

    (I may also be hoping that it will help me focus, because I expect that this week may be a bit frenetic.)

    And now, on to the good stuff!

    Hi, I'm Emily, and I'm the Acting Manager, Licensing and Access Services, for Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Today, I...

    8:00 - 11:00: Taught my Records, Information, and Archives Management class at Algonquin College. Today, after a bit of in-class stuff, we had a field trip to the city's ShredIt/Securit facility, and it was cool. We got to see their huge shredder, the bales of paper they make from shredded stuff (and the difference in standard and secret shredding), their records storage facility, and their media vault. I think this helped make some of those records management tasks much more concrete for the students - and they asked great questions. I was really proud of them!

    No phones allowed in the facility, so this is the only photo I have.

    11am - 3:20: Headed to Library and Archives Canada for the second half of a day long information session on the Recordkeeping Methodology. Had a great lunch (brought it from home) while reading Diamond Age on my Nook, got to see some colleagues and acquaintances, and chatted with the Past-President and Director of Technology of ARMA-NCR, of which I am the current president. Oh yeah, and learned some stuff too. I'm going to need to find time to check out the documents and tools they were presenting and discussing today - I'm pretty sure it is posted to GCPEDIA. Meeting got out 20 minutes early (yay!) so I headed home early, too.

    4:00 - 4:30: Get home, spend half an hour brainstorming about IM Battledecks. It's tomorrow, and I'm a little nervous about it. I've got three general ideas (with points for each! My training as a university debater is coming in quite handy as I prep my case...), so I think I should be able to have something different to say, even if I'm not going first.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    I'm doing "PowerPoint Karaoke" at the end of the month...

    I've been invited to participate in an event called IM Battledecks:“Imagining the Future: Information Management in Turbulent Times.”

    I'm excited, but also intimidated. I think it is a lot of fun, but am feeling some pressure to do well - eee!

    More info:

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Still Alive

    Ah, ah, ah, ah...

    And plan on staying that way! I hope you had a lovely holiday season, and that 2012 is treating you well thus far! It's been okay for me - a bit tough to get back into the swing of things, but I think I've got it now. Teaching at Algonquin College again this semester should be good (even if it is at 8am on Monday - ick), and work, while stressful (pretty much everyone is quietly freaking out about what might happen with cuts coming from the Deficit Reduction Action Plan and other reviews), is still okay - it helps that I've got good coworkers.