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...

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