These are the words I would describe the (not so) recent New Librarians’ Symposium held in Perth (16-18 September 2011). I felt so privileged to be a part of the event. I came away inspired by other new information professionals who, like me, are stepping up to the plate and taking charge of their own careers and professional development; exposed to various areas of “library world” I haven’t yet had experience working in; empowered to take responsibility for making a difference in the profession, whatever that may be, and energised by the ‘buzz’ (the ideas, enthusiasm and passion) generated by all who attended.
It’s taken me a while to actually start writing about my experiences because there were many, all jumbled up and mashed into one weekend. In some ways I’m kicking myself for not writing sooner following the event. Yet I’m sort of glad I’ve taken the time to place words against thoughts which made up the take aways and lessons I’ve learnt.
Lesson #1 – Be yourself!
I echo much what Kate Davis has written about how important and okay it is to be yourself when presenting. I believe being myself was a key success factor to my presentation. Following my introduction, I greeted the audience with “G’day! G’day!”. Although I received a few confused looks, those who have met me will know that I actually do greet people with a “G’day!”, even in emails. Some people find this odd. I’ll say that’s just me. So what if I clicked the wrong thing and started my presentation with the wrong slide. Slip ups happen. I talk with my hands, move around slightly and deliver a presentation in a professional, yet conversational style, but this gives the audience something genuine because I’m being true to my own personality.
Lesson #2 – Be present.
The first keynote of the program, from Samantha Hughes, really drove home for me. Life has been somewhat a rollercoaster the last few months, so her presentation certainly clarified for me what it is I need to do at this point in time. Be present. Feel the fear (the uncertainty of risk-taking). Be alert and aware of yourself. Find and feel the joy in the little wins. When I encounter dark times, I need to feel, think through and stay present through them to come out the other side. Every experience is a lesson.
Whenever I feel too ‘inside my own head’ or am worrying about something, I now think about doing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ (Yes, Samantha had us all doing ‘Twinkle Twinkle’). The whole concept of dropping everything and only concentrate on the task at hand is powerful and pulls me back to the present.
Lesson #3 – Having a PLN rocks!
I was very happy to meet some of my PLN at the event. I believe this has helped to strengthen the relationships built over the months on Twitter. Finally placing voices to names and Twitter handles was exciting (!) and made mingling and networking at my first national conference much easier. I hope to build upon existing relationships and make new connections between now and the next event, so I can continue to expand my network.
Lesson #4 – I need to take more notes!
When I sat down to go through and process the notes I had taken, I was mildly shocked at the lack of detail and volume. Eeek! While I did de-brief with a study colleague at the end of each day, I did little by the way of recording my initial reflections and ideas. My immediate thought was ‘I’m very bad at reflection!’. But really, it wasn’t that I was bad at it, I just didn’t document it enough. I will try to take more notes at the next conference I attend. I need to be more disciplined with myself and set aside some time each day, perhaps only 15 – 20 minutes, to record my raw thoughts and reactions.
Lesson #6 – I’m an aspiring “practitioner-researcher”.
Yes-sir-ee. I want the best of both worlds. I have no desire to enter academia, to be a full-time researcher, but I do enjoy exploring, discovering and researching areas of interest to me, as well as teaching and sharing with others. Partly inspired by Kate Davis’ keynote, partly driven by my own aspirations, I can see myself becoming a “practitioner-researcher”. What does this mean? Well, simply put, I’d like to be a practitioner, as well as research and publish. Someone commented on Twitter during my presentation, suggesting perhaps I was an example of a “practitioner-researcher”. I received the comment as a compliment, as this is what I set out to achieve. I believe for the profession’s evidence base (literature) to be relevant and useful, it only makes sense that the practitioners have a say on the research agenda. It is the profession’s, especially the practitioners’ responsibility to be the main driver of the evidence base.
Lesson #7 – I need a hobby (okay, this is not as bad as it sounds).
Over the last 12 months, I think I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to have hobbies. Not that I haven’t enjoyed what I’ve done in ‘library world’, nor regretted my commitment, time and effort I’ve invested in my projects and study, I was just reminded I used to be (a more of) an active person and I enjoyed playing sport. I also like to travel, go for drives……aaahh, hmmm. Right, what are my hobbies again? Surely there’s more! I watched some doing their crafts and participating in ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’ sessions at NLS5 and Library Camp, and so I realised I need something else. Something totally un-‘library world’ related hobby/interest to keep my life in balance.
I will be taking a brief break from ‘library world’ soon to volunteer at a motor racing event, the V8 Supercars at the Gold Coast 600. I was invited by a former work colleague, who is co ordinating the media for the event, to help out in the Media Centre. I’m looking forward to spending some time away and with an interest of mine from times past.
On a final note, I cannot stress enough to students and new information professionals that investing in your career, your professional development, to be proactive about it and driving it yourself, is very rewarding and motivating. If new information professionals are not prepared to put in the effort, do not take responsibility for their own careers, then I’ll burst the bubble right now and say ‘don’t expect opportunities to come knocking’. A piece of paper (a degree) doesn’t give right of passage to any professional appointment. It’s only the beginning.
Well, that’s it, they’re my lessons, or more to the point, some realisations from attending and participating in the New Librarians’ Symposium. Now there’s a scribbled list of post ideas somewhere on my desk….