July 21, 2010


I don't require much in the way of specialized or expensive office supplies but I'm a big fan of plastic sheet protectors. My "ready reference" library on my desk consists of about fifteen pieces of paper that I regularly refer to, each in its own plastic sheet protector, and lovingly housed in a magazine holder within my reach. There I have a list of webpage IDs for content I frequently update, a page of Microsoft Office Keyboard Shortcuts, timesheet and other internal billing codes, contact information for other members of the Eastern Transportation Knowledge Network (when in doubt, ask another librarian!), and a copy of my job description. I also have an article from last summer's Information Outlook entitled "What's in a Name?" by Mumtaz A. Anwar.

Although I opposed the proposed name change to Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals, I held onto this article about professional identity because it contains a passage that I like to read often enough to warrant this document's close proximity to those other plastic-protected items: "I am supposed to possess the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to identify, evaluate, select, acquire, organize, maintain and disseminate relevant information for the use of my clients."

I think about this a lot when I need to refocus on what I am supposed to be doing with my day, my career, or just a free hour. That passage helps guide me back into the white spaces, where I long to act as a strategic knowledge professional, and very often I succeed. (This week the main project I work on published a paper I wrote about search mythology in our content specialty.) But the fact of the matter is that I am still a librarian with a sense of some of the mundane tasks that will keep the library alive and well.

No one who has met me would say I am anything short of an idealist, but when I read that passage I also have to remember that I was hired to do a specific job that is not in the white spaces, which has among its listed duties such things as "Receiving, responding and maintaining records on telephone and email inquiries on diverse topics of public and community-based transportation issues." I sometimes neglect the more quotidienne and less glamorous aspects of my work as I venture out into the choose-your-own-adventure aspects of it. (I even suffer from regular angst every time I am asked to make a name tent.)

I think we need to learn to carefully balance the regular duties our employers expect us to do with the more exotic ventures, and I don't think this is easy by any means. If we spend all our time in the white spaces we overlook some of our most important duties (no, not the name tents, but perhaps some of that record-keeping). I recently read something that said you cannot achieve balance in the short-term but only over the long haul. I think it's coming, and blogging alternately about tools and tenets surely helps keep me grounded in both Dr. Anwar's vision and my job description as written. Maybe the next step is to get all of those little tasks automated to the point where my job description could be rewritten!

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