December 21, 2007

Week 3: Alive and Kicking

Although I hope never to average 20 pages in a week again, this week was wonderful! I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have answering the phone be part of your job -- hones your customer service skills and gives you the best on-the-spot training for random questions. Some of them end up being scavenger hunts all over the web or through the physical library -- a good reason to go in when the room has become a dumping ground for materials and supplies and you've told yourself you'll wait til the new year to confront the mess.

I published my first edition of the company newsletter highlighting this month's library acquisitions, and although it's quite formulaic, more than one person congratulated me. YAY! I guess they knew that was a big deal. I celebrated my success by personalizing my office (even more) because hitting that milestone really made me feel like I'm here, and here to stay. Evidently this place has had some trouble retaining librarians because it's a non-traditional setting...but I look at this as a blessing in disguise: my lack of experience in a traditional library is actually an asset. The most important skills I came in with (since I knew virtually nothing of the subject matter) are my phone skills, my attention to detail, and my attitude. Is attitude a skill? Well, no, but I am finding that maintaining my attitude does require skill. All those Easy Button hits don't come for free, and they wouldn't come at all if I were grumpy or cross. Tis the season for smiles and cheer, whether as a librarian or not, so I guess December is a good time to start a job like this.

Whether you're dealing with simple minds or complex issues -- listen, be patient, get to know people, and always smile.

December 14, 2007

Week 2: Reality Settles In

The fun and games of Week 1 have continued. Work has also arrived, and some of it is tough. One of my first real research requests was turning up Nothing...and although the customer may not have minded, a librarian never wants to respond with "no results." I redeemed myself by finding some materials after the customer's deadline had passed, but it was a lesson in "ASAP Librarianship," which is not always possible, especially in one's second week. I took all the right steps of asking the gentleman his deadline, and what sources he had already consulted, but he basically wanted something right away and it just so happened that I was virtually alone in the office with no one to ask and no electronic catalog.

I started with some "grassroots librarianship" -- sitting on the floor of the physical library and feverishly combing through dusty old legislation to try and put some ideas together. Between that and the Web there was a missing link. So I closed the loop by telling the man that we had nothing, but if this information gap actually exists, perhaps we would be the ones to fill it. To deliver on this promise, though, I'll have to diligently continue my pursuit of the white spaces.

Some staffers here are keen enough to invite me to their meetings, which is key to my doing my job, and helping them do theirs better. It became apparent to me yesterday that there is no formal mechanism here for members of different work teams to communicate what they are accomplishing. Granted, it's an incredibly friendly place, and quite small, so much of what people can collaborate on gets shared around the proverbial watercooler. But still, how, in an organization that prides itself on its very small and non-corporate atmosphere, can one impose a formal mechanism for such critical information sharing? Simple, embed a librarian.

I will not try to take on everything at once, but I already have an "in" with at least three working groups...and I was just filled in on some institutional history critical to next week's holiday gift there's another opportunity to forge connections that could pay off later on (you never know).

I know it doesn't suit everyone's personality to be a jokester, but joking is certainly part of the culture here, so I anticipate that my humor will be my greatest asset in developing unlikely relationships that the organization doesn't even know it needs to work on internally. Start small. I try to go to the other side of the building as often as I can just to avoid the possibility that I only ever see my half. I need to know everybody and everybody needs to know me. I'm working in the white spaces. And smiling...

December 7, 2007

Week 1: Getting Started

I have managed to insinuate myself into the "white spaces of the organizational chart" so quickly and thoroughly that I even played a practical joke on someone on Day 4 and it became the office joke this morning. I'm a hit! How did I do it?

Meet everyone. Use everyone's names. Find out what they do. Listen. Write down every acronym and if there's no list, start your own and post it on the intranet (and the website if appropriate). Go to people's offices to ask questions (if appropriate) instead of sending email. Tell them what you need and want for the library. Go to meetings inside and out. I told them I have to accompany them each time they go to the Hill so I can do my job better when I'm at my desk. Listen.

Spend time in the physical library even if it's chaos, especially if it's chaos. Meet the CEO. Commit to not being mousey. Ask which mailing lists you should be on. Read everything that comes across your desk as well as anything lying around the lunchroom. When you are CC'd on a message from the outside, look at the domain name and then go read that website. Introduce yourself. Ask pointed questions about your role. Be proactive. Search all electronic files you have access to for keywords that you know will be part of your content specialty. If there is a phone you can answer, answer it and find out who is asking what. Get the answers. Listen.

And most importantly, listen. And smile.