As it turns out, a lot of us are simply scared of this whole ‘networking’ thing. It just sounds un-fun. But what if it’s just in the name? Because I’m certain we all do a lot of ‘networking’ in our daily lives without thinking about it, without attaching anxiety to it, and it all works out well.

For example: LinkedIn is networking. It can be very active – as in, you’re constantly finding new connections, sending InMails, making recommendations, sharing and commenting on posts. Or it can be passive, which is how I tend to approach it: I keep up to date with what my contacts are doing, congratulate them on new jobs or anniversaries, and often, when prompted, recommend them for professional attributes that might help them win favor in their own job hunts. (It’s also great to see what that person you’ve been talking to for years over phone/email actually looks like in person.)

In my day job, I do recruiting, which is its own form of networking. I get to know a lot of people this way – and not just for the particular job I’m working on. I think of people to refer to other groups or jobs, keep in touch to see how their job search is going. And it all pays off. Our two most recent hires at work came from referrals (Hey! I used to work with this guy who’d be great for your job. Let me send you his contact info!) It’s not an easy way out, it’s a way to get a well qualified person who already comes highly recommended from a trusted source.

And on my LWB internship, we’re networking with other librarians, libraries and nonprofits to come to a consensus on the best social media strategies for these types of groups. The Oakville Public Library in Canada recently instituted a whole Social Media University training for their staff, with best practices, how-tos, and content writing suggestions for the group to post to Facebook, Twitter, and the library blog. Their librarians were kind enough to tell us all about it, sharing the information they’d learned through social channels for the betterment of another like-minded group. It was very friendly of them, and if I’m ever in Canada, I know what library to visit!

So networking is just – making friends and sharing information across channels. There’s that other site taking over the entire world, with a name that might make people reconsider what it is to network. And there’s a whole show about it – just turned 20 this year. So can we just call this thing – Friendworking?

The Lines of Communication

September 22, 2014

One of the fun parts of a virtual internship is getting to experience all the different kinds of communication available for us to meet and work together. At our fingertips we’ve got Skype, which we use for our weekly check in calls – video optional, depending on what each participating is doing at 5:30 pst that day – WebEx through our site coordinator’s workplace account, when Skype fails; email, Google docs, and, as with a quick check in call with Maryanne, my co-intern, just plain old phone calls.

This week Maryanne and I called to get on the same page for our presentations to LWB. Our work runs parallel but often crosses over and we like to send each other tips and coordinate our efforts to present one thoughtful presentation to LWB about social media best practices.

My workplace would love my findings, and I plan to regale them with the funny story soon. At work, we’ve been using Google business email for about a year now, but had plans to move to MS Office again. That got scraped at the last minute,  and now we are 100% Google for work purposes: mail, calendar, docs, sheets, forms, everything. So after researching a bunch of different choices for LWB’s editorial calendar, content sharing and tracking – I’ve realized that Gmail might just be the best option for them too! One, because it’s free and LWB is a nonprofit. Two, because most people are already on Gmail so the transition would be fairly smooth, learning-curve wise. And three, because of all the notification and reminder settings available, you can create an excellent editorial calendar using Gmail, and then notify only those people who need to be in on the event – set up reminders, emails when someone updates a document, attach article drafts and instructions – whatever you need.

So this week we wrap up the recommendations portion and move on to content suggestion and writing for LWB. I can’t wait!

World Enough, and Time.

September 9, 2014

This week is all about Time Management – for the SLIS internship course and in real life. I’m finding myself in the rabbit hole of searches, wherein I Google one thing, and an hour later end up far, far away from my original goals, but with equally fascinating results.

For example: I’m researching some LWB suggested nonprofits, libraries and other groups to see how they run things, from a social media standpoint. Some of these groups are new to me, like the Canadian Engineers Without Borders, and Room to Read, whose website sparked an almost meltdown with me last night. See, as I’m trying to organize my time to have at least two dedicated hours every evening for the LWB internship fun, and write these posts and participate in class discussions, while keeping abreast of my reading (current and stuff from my very long to-be-read list), and writing – all after 5pm, when my work day ends – I watched this video from Room to Read. Please check it out. I’ll be here.

Room to Read supports literacy and gender equality in education. To spread the word in the form of those currently popular challenges, Room to Read has put together what I’m going to call a mock-challenge, inviting you to not read for 24 hours. Yep. Not read. And, watching the video, that’s just about when the panic set in. Props to the group for really putting together a great think piece, because imagine: no reading your emails first thing in the morning, or street signs on the way to work. No instructions, notes, letters, books (!!), texts, Facebook updates. Sure, for a minute maybe it sounds idyllic. Until I realized how much I rely on words, and take them for granted, and would be lost without my ability to read and write, easy as breathing.

So as I move on to outlining different forms of sharing communication between virtual partners, and delve into free and almost-free editorial calendar aps for LWB in preparation for our weekly Skype meetings – I am going to give thanks that I’m able to type some characters into the screen, Google, write up research results to share with my team, post this note to my blog, and read all the helpful articles about time management. And then I’m going to start reading a new book.

Oh, the places I’ll go!

September 4, 2014

And by “places”, I mean “websites”. Naturally. We are living in a virtual world, and I’m participating in a virtual internship through a 100% online degree program. But rest assured – i’m not lounging in my pajamas while I work. 

The mission I accepted as the Librarians Without Borders (LWB) Communications Assistant internship: to help determine social media best practices for the nonprofit group. I’m working with the behind the scenes stuff right now, and it’s turning into that classic information-seeking rabbit-hole process that is one of my favorite parts about Library & Information Science studies! 

For example: I need to come up with some ideas about how to best incorporate an editorial calendar, what programs or sites (free!) are best, what a posting schedule looks like to a group without a dedicated social media person, the best number of posts per day on alllll the different sites. A quick Google search led me to way more information than I could ever use, but it’s so interesting! Charts sternly warning that you must Tweet once a day, or five times a day, and how to work the re-Tweet, only newbies don’t use pictures on Facebook, and for the love of Likes put some videos up on Instagram/Vine/YouTube!. Specifics on what keywords to use to attract attention, how to structure your headlines, a complete list of no-no words, and what to do about unwanted comments or feedback. And all that out there, available for anyone to learn from and put to good use. My favorite so far, for its to-the-point simplicity, comes from h2p:// You can check it out here

One of the reasons I wanted to take on this specific internship is to challenge myself to think outside the Facebook-for-friends box, to explore more social medias, to become as close to ‘expert’ as I possibly can, and help LWB along the way. Caving to the inevitable, but educating myself about it first – one day soon, I will have a Twitter handle. And you’ll be the first to know. 

Becoming Borderless

August 26, 2014

It is August, 2014 and I am now a member of and intern with Librarians Without Borders! I have so far attended an annual meeting and an internship orientation with my co-internee, Mary-Anne, and absolutely love this group. Together, we’ll be working as Communications Assistants, helping provide the group with research on best practices for social media use, creating editorial calendars and guidelines, helping plan a February 2015 anniversary party. It’s going to be an excellent learning experience, and I hope to improve upon my own social media acumen while I’m at it. I’ll keep you posted…

I love that, as a culture, we need to put things in the simplest terms possible. Acronyms, shorthand, word association, ing: forming, storming, norming and performing. The keys to teamwork success.

And I find myself envious of companies like Enid Irwin’s HP, where so much emphasis is put on being part of a good, functioning team. No wonder they are where (and who) they are! Teamwork is honestly a concept I hadn’t studied or attempted to explore in a very long time, but I’m glad that I now have the opportunity.

One of the best pieces of advice I got along with my MFA came from a professor teaching a creative nonfiction course, who told me bluntly, after I’d admitted my ignorance of his work, “Alison, you never pay to take a class from someone whose work you haven’t read.” If I’d taken that just a few steps further I would have spent a few minutes Goggling ‘online learning assessments’ prior to applying for the MLIS, and I would have felt immensely better prepared for my current experience.

I love a challenge, and lately that equals a nice techy challenge (not too hi, not too low) or issue to resolve. This pre-req to the pre-reqs is re-acquainting me with good, old-fashioned instruction manuals, which is a really excellent thing. Don’t know how to group video call on Skype? There’s a tutorial for that! And suddenly I value the work of my bff , the Documentation Specialist, above all others. She brings the words, slays the typos, understands how we understand, so that we can understand. Does that make sense?

Dr. Haycock & Ms. Irwin’s presentations were like mini-reality-shows in the teamwork process. My thought process went something like:
Fifty minutes!??! On teamwork? Who does Dr. Kemp think he…
Oh, hey, vertical vs. horizontal teams. That’s kind of cool.
I wonder what else I can learn?

Coming from a clan of educators, I’ve always had a strong, healthy fear of educating – unless you call it something different. I can show you how to do something, explain a process to a group, mentor a young mind…but I do not teach. Luckily I do love presenting information I’ve learned – I’m happily sharing all the funky In Plain English tutorial videos with my partner, and am determined to turn my friends on to Google Docs & Reader. Apparently the teaching, it’s in my blood.

(Reaching beyond the classroom, my goal is to become a ‘courageous conversationalist’, following the lead of Dr. Haycock. If we can build the skills here, we can use them anywhere.)

So although I can identify with each and every Breakfast Club-esque character presented in the teamwork lectures (the Silent Partner, the Control Freak, the Team Hijacker, the Stubborn Student) I will try to acknowledge when I’m slipping into character, laugh, refocus & move on.

Otherwise it’ll be anarchy.

welcome to my world

January 12, 2011

I don’t know if I’ve been in a library I didn’t instantly love.

Maybe I’ve just been fortunate; my love of books and lucky star allow me to sniff out only the very best, the coziest, the libraries where I find my long-lost friends and bring them back home.

As a student abroad, there was literally* no one like me. I vividly remember fifty or so young faces, fresh off the plane, crowded into a living room of sorts in a London flat, all turned to look at me as the Program Director oh so helpfully pointed out that one of these kids was not like the others: the only black person in our midst.

It wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last, but it did impress something on me: I needed to learn to take home with me, or create it as I go.

I tried the African Student Union, a cacophony of accents and a study in brown, and they looked at me and decided I was Other. One of your parents must be white, they told me. Not quite a dis, but if it were true, wouldn’t I know?

I bounced.

My family became my friends, a Benneton ad-makers dream of British ginger & cream, Korean-American tan, Spanish olive, and me, yellow girl with brown highlights.

My home became the library.

All I remember of that glorious place was that it was large, and rotund, and in one archy-nook I was able to catch up with all my old friends: Alice, Toni, Jimmy, Sandra, Zora, Gloria, Malcolm, August, Langston, W.E.B. and Maya.

And then I met June.

She was a guest of Alice Walker, a thought laid bare between the poems of Her Blue Body Everything We Know:

…Or maybe the purpose of being here, wherever we are, is to increase the durability and the occasions of love among and between peoples. Love, as the concentration of tender caring and tender excitement, or love as the reasons for joy. I believe that love is the single, true prosperity of any moment and that whatever and whoever impedes, diminishes, ridicules, opposes the development of loving spirit is “wrong”/hateful.

I had to know her.

As luck would have it, June Jordan taught at my home school, stateside, and when I returned, hers was the first class I signed up for. Poetry for the People, where I discovered so much about myself it would fill a library of my own. Most importantly though, I wrote, and read, and loved poetry.

Poetry is a state of mind. And nowadays, my mind wanders. But I still love a good book, and a poem can still break my heart.

Midyear 2010 I went to a reading in a small, cold, mixed use multipurpose room off a dark alley, and listened to poetry read (proclaimed, exclaimed, told) by a high school friend, Doug, now known as Douglas Kearney: poet/performer/librettist. These aren’t your mama’s poems; they are visual and word art, diagrammed and structured to perfection. Words explode. Doug tagged my book.

In honor of the new year, my first post, of poetry and home and friends, I’d like to name The Black Automaton my personal book of the (2010) year. And I’d like to share it with you.

Go to your local library and look around. It might change your life.

*I use this word in the popular, conventional, rather than accurate way.


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