Tuesday 18 October 2011

How are YOU contributing to the library and information profession?

Excuse me, library professional, but how are you contributing to the profession?

Are you writing a paper for publication or preparing a conference presentation?
If not, you should be.

If you missed ALIA Sydney’s workshop on preparing to present and write a paper—From Little Things Big Things Grow—you missed a great learning and professional development opportunity!
While I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from this workshop, I have been planning to write a paper for publication or a conference presentation for a while (perhaps I’ve been waiting too long!). Not necessarily because I think I am doing amazing things in the library world, but because I do think that what I’m doing in my large metro public library are things I want to share. I know that there are other first-year/new grad librarians out there—or even veteran librarians—who might be interested in the computer courses I’ve developed for seniors or in the comprehensive social media policy I’ve prepared for my library system (and the ups and downs of dealing with emerging technologies with my library and Council).

This workshop really inspired me to write! Which is one of the reasons I dusted off my Macbook and started with this blog entry.

So what did you miss at the workshop?

First off, you missed Janet Fletcher from UNSW Library explain why we should be writing and presenting at all. While she gave some great advice and was a great opening speaker, I’ll boil her presentation down to the things that I, personally, took away with me:

·         What’s in it for you?
This varies greatly from the personal (you have something to say that is bubbling in you, or maybe you just completed a great project) to the professional (it will look great on your CV when you are going for a promotion or new job, or maybe it makes you look good within your organisation). Remember, writing and presenting requires a time commitment, but it will probably be worthwhile. Either way, you are probably doing something that will benefit our profession if you share your experience.

·         What’s in it for your organisation?
Does your organisation “require” you to present (which may be the case for more and more academic librarians)? Does the paper or presentation you want to do relate to your work, organisation or field within librarianship? If you have to pitch the paper to your supervisor or library, you should spend some time on how your paper or presentation will benefit your organisation.

·         What’s in it for the library and information profession?
Sure, you may have great ideas or your library wants its name stamped in a journal, but will other library professionals want to read your paper or listen to your presentation? Is your work in a public library transferrable to an academic, corporate or even prison library?

Developing and pitching an idea

If you missed the workshop, you missed a great activity exploring abstracts of previous paper proposals and looking at the requirements and topics of upcoming conferences (don’t forget that the ALIA Biennial Conference is 10-13 July—and abstracts are due 30 November!).

In small groups, we looked at ALIA Biennial paper proposals from previous years and developed some quick ideas of what we would have presented. We also developed a quick “3 Minute Elevator Pitch” to promote our idea with our supervisor and our organisation. If you would like to present at a conference (or prepare a paper for publication), there are a few things to consider before you even get started.

·         Will it work for the conference or publication?
No matter if you are thinking about presenting at a conference or writing for publication, will your paper topic meet the theme and requirements of the conference? If you are a public librarian writing about innovative story times, it probably doesn’t make sense to submit a paper proposal to a conference on Mobile applications in academic libraries.

·         Will your supervisor or organisation approve your participation?
Before you go through the trouble of writing a paper or developing a research project at work, you should get approved through the proper channels. If all you need is your boss’s informal approval, a quick chat might work. But if you need approval from your council or other administrative body, you probably will have to pitch your idea to your supervisor, your library director and/or an administrative personal champion.

·         Create a 3 minute elevator pitch
If you need to get formal approval to participate in a conference or write a paper regarding a work project, think about creating an “elevator pitch” to get first-line approval from your supervisor. Then you should start thinking about a more formal pitch for your supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor (etc, etc, etc).

Planning your research

One of the most useful presentations during this workshop was a Kate’s step-by-step guide of how to plan your research or project. While you might want to present or write about a project already underway, you might think about creating a project or doing research on a completely new project.

While Kate had a set of great slides along with a great presentation, I’m providing my quick notes (you really should have attended!) that I thought were essential for developing your research or project:

Phase 1: Define your objectives
·         Ideas: Find ideas from projects you’re working on, journal articles you’ve read, wherever!
·         Audience: Describe why someone should care about your project

Phase 2: Create your brief
·         Objectives: Create the outline of a strategic plan; what do you want your project to prove?
·         Scope: Create boundaries—what your project is & what your project isn’t
·         Background: What is the story/context of this project?

Phase 3: Develop your framework
·         Create a Brief: An outline like an elevator pitch, structure or plan
·         Research: Define your search strategy;  Get data: look at primary/secondary resources
·         Source Analysis:  Material for inclusion

Phase 4: Create your product
·         Framework: Flesh out your brief; should include a detailed plan, structure, base
·         Writing: Tailor your writing to your objectives; explain and detail collected data
·         Source verification: Find out other resources that verify what you are proving
·         Editorial review: Get feedback from trusted advisors and colleagues outside your comfort zone

Lastly, I really want to thank Kate, the ALIA Sydney Committee Convenor, because I thought she did a masterful job of separating out the steps required to develop a project. I have to hand it to her—she created a step-by-step guide of a complex activity!

Preparing to write

So you’ve decided on a conference, you’ve decided on a publication and you’ve decided on a project, but before you write, think about your product.

Each conference and publication will have different submission guides in terms of writing style, word count and tone. Remember to look closely at the submission guidelines—and follow them!

Okay, so maybe you don’t have a conference and publication yet. And maybe you’re not sure you want to present. What about just submitting a paper or an article? Here are a few places to think of as a place to publish as a library professional:

·         Blogs!
A blog—like this one!—is a good place to get your feet wet. Many libraries and institutions rely on guest bloggers (like this one) for extra content. Have a look at the NSW State Library glob, Mosman Library, Sydney TAFE and, of course, ALIA Sydney blog!
·         INCITE
·         Public Library News
·         Good Reading
·         IFLA
·         Australian Library Journal

From Paper to Presentation

Another useful presentation that made this workshop worthwhile, Alyson gave an incredible rundown of how to move your conference paper from page to presentation. I was unaware that Alyson was such a great presenter—or how much time and effort she has put into becoming one! While I can’t speak for her, here are the tips that I took away from her wonderful presentation.

1.       Show your character

2.       Edit your paper for your presentation
·         Pair down your paper to just the bare bones
·         Have a “maybe pile” of things you are unsure you want to keep
·         Add stuff NOT in your paper
·         Add anecdotes and stories
·         Keep only what’s necessary

3.       Things to include
·         Who you are
·         Context of the project and why it’s relevant to your audience
·         The interesting bits of your lit review
·         What you did and how
·         What you found and what happened

4.       Things to leave out
·         Most of your lit review (except for the interesting bits)
·         Most of your data (except for the interesting bits)
·         Most detail of the project (except for the interesting bits)
·         Basically, take out anything that won’t be interesting to your audience

5.       Work on your presentation skills
·         Keep a polished and measured pace (speak slowly and have a conversation)
·         Use silence instead of filler words (remove ums, ahs, sos, thens; replace with silence)
·         Practice your presentation
·         Get presentation skills (PD training, Toastmasters)

6.       Visual Aids
·         Use PowerPoint only if you need it
·         If using PowerPoint, add black/blank slides between slides and pauses
·         Create a mood with photos
·         Include graphs, lists and videos wisely
·         Don’t read your slides!
·         Use good templates (not too boring, but not too fancy)
·         Trust technology (don’t turn your back to see your slides)

7.       3 Tell’ems
·         Tell’em what you’re gonna tell’em
·         Tell’em
·         Tell’em what you just told’em

Finally, big thanks to everyone who participated and organised the event, especially Crystal, Amy, Kate and Alyson—and an especially big thank you to our video presenters!

Like I said, you should have been there. The practice exercises were spot on and the presenters were engaging (so engaging, I almost missed the delicious afternoon tea!). If you did miss it, however, you should still think about how you are contributing to the profession either by writing or presenting. As library professionals, we have so much to share regarding the innovative programs and projects going on in our libraries. While LIS education and research is great, we have to remember that as practitioners within the field, we’re the ones that are informing our colleagues both locally and abroad. We’re in the trenches—so we should be writing our war stories and our victories!

Jeff Cruz
User Education Librarian
Member of the ALIA Sydney Committee
All opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer or ALIA Sydney.

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