Chris Zammarelli

The Sounds of Library Science

Category: Career

Coming Up for Air

The past couple of months have been ridiculously intense. Part of the reason why is public knowledge, and you’ll know when the dust has settled from that when I update my LinkedIn profile.

I’ve also had to deal with some more personal issues, and I’m not so much waiting for dust to settle as slowly understanding that I am standing in fog and occasionally there will be a thunderstorm. But mostly things are just pleasantly misty.

I have to stay on top of a lot of things right now, and writing it all down makes it seem daunting. I started to adapt the project management techniques I use at work to manage it all, with little success yet. There are kinks to work out, because the tools and formats I use at work don’t necessarily mesh cleanly at home.

But I also accept that no matter how much honing I do, it’s a perpetual work in progress. There is no one perfect way to do anything, no one weird trick. Something works for awhile, but a small adjustment or even a major overhaul may be necessary. For now, if I can learn how to keep all the plates spinning, I will be doing okay.

It’s also nice to have a good little brewery walking distance from my house!

But Researchers Never Found All the Pieces Yet

I have spent the last couple of years at my job wrangling data: visitor numbers, electronic resource fulltext downloads, activity reports, things like that. All of the numbers and reports and the like are stashed in Google Sheets and Google Docs, in SharePoint and in OneNote, and they are shared constantly through email and Slack. And we can put them all together to tell compelling stories about the work we do.

But I know that this isn’t quite enough to really capture the whole story. There are better data points and better ways to collect and manage those data points and better ways to evaluate them.

(I am giving some of my spreadsheets the short shrift when I put it that way. They are beautiful spreadsheets and like Big Daddy Kane they get the job done.)

I’ve thought a lot about how we can improve our data collection and management over the past couple of years. I’m not thinking about little tweaks here: I’ve done those little tweaks already. I want to make significant changes, and I’ve put a lot of thought and done a lot of work to figure out how to do so.

My office is presently implementing a new two-to-three year strategic plan. As the plan has fallen into place, a lot of the work I had done has been incorporated into it. Even better, my colleagues have come up with new ideas that either complement or improve on mine. Fresh sets of eyes bring fresh perspectives, and people who haven’t lived with the day-to-day tasks of data management can help those who do see the forest through all of the trees.

We recently had a meeting with folks from outside our office to talk about our data plan. They will be helping us put it into motion. One of the social scientists we met made a point that summed up how I’ve felt the past couple of years: How do we move from data management to data evaluation? We all agree that we’ve come up with a framework to make that leap.

I love it when a plan comes together. Now if we can just continue our work without further interruptions, everything is going to be great.

Back In Another Shape

I’ve become fond of LinkedIn, mainly because of its newsfeed. A lot of news outlets and companies share updates from their sites, and LinkedIn has made an efforts to get “influencers” to post to their profiles. It’s not perfect (I follow Quartz, but never seem to see articles they post in my feed), but I find it an interesting, if eclectic information source.

Of course, a lot of business news outlets like Fast Company and The Muse often post articles about how to maximize your LinkedIn profile. It’s sort of like how Oscars voters like to give the Best Picture award to movies about Hollywood. Anyway, a lot of the tips are geared towards people who are looking to get hired or are trying to market themselves to their industry. Although I’m not looking for a job or trying to be an “influencer,” I like reading those suggestions to improve both the way I present myself and the way I share information on the site.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I am about to switch employers for the fourth time since I started my current job. I took the opportunity to change my LinkedIn profile to reflect both my steady job of seven years and nine months and my rotating cast of employers. I kept my job details in the main job description, then left the description fields blank for the contract staff companies. This way I don’t have to copy and paste my job description every time I switch companies. I am also able acknowledge my employers but connect my place of work to my profile, which makes it easier for my colleagues to find me.

To wit: I used the same format for my previous long-term contract position and within an hour, a former colleague of mine at NOAA reached out to connect. It makes a difference.

Be Who You Are

It’s been 10 years since I received my MLS from Maryland. Much of what I learned in library school has been supplanted by the progress of time, the faster progress of technology, and my ever-evolving duties at work. Like, does anyone still use AACR2?

It’s also been seven years since I took my current job. I was hired as a Cataloging and Metadata Specialist, but my title now is Program Evaluation, Applied Technology & Information Resource Contractor. It’s a bit of a mouthful and I am hoping we can make it more succinct on my next work order. But it does reflect how my job has evolved since 2010.

I probably have been a bit too over-eager to pick up new duties. My supervisors worry about burnout and, given my bouts of anxiety, I can understand where they are coming from. I can get overwhelmed and only manage the most humdrum tasks while I recover. Although proofreading spreadsheets is surprisingly relaxing.

But I am also happy to take on new projects because they keep me on my toes and keep me from being too complacent. (Not that it’s easy to be complacent these days.) They also give me new perspective on what I already do and inspire new ways to think about the tasks I already have.

It is easy for me to get bogged down in minutiae and worn down by day-to-day frustrations. I never want to lose sight of the fact that I am lucky to have the job that I have. Is it the same job I took in 2010? Nope, but I don’t mind one bit.

Fernweh

Just over 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a two-week study tour of Germany’s federal and state libraries. The tour was sponsored by the Initiative Fortbildung für wissenschaftliche Spezialbibliotheken und verwandte Einrichtungen e. V. and the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation. I was the webmaster for SLA’s Government Information Division at the time and was recommended for the tour by DGI’s then-chair Peggy Garvin.

I was still in graduate school at the time, but it was a pivotal moment in my professional career. Among the participants on the tour were Eileen Deegan from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Information Resources and Fran Perros from State’s Ralph Bunche Library. I stayed in touch with them after the tour (which was easy to do since I served as DGI’s chair-elect when Eileen was chair). Three years after the tour, they recommended me for a contract position at the Office of Information Resources. The office is now called the Office of American Spaces, but I have been there ever since.

While on the tour, I met with an Information Resource Officer named Sheila Weir. It was the first time I knew that there was such a thing as a foreign service librarian. (Or Regional Public Engagement Specialist, as they are now called. We like to change the names of things at State.) While I never did run off to join the foreign service like I thought I was going to, I am at least happy enough to live vicariously through the FSOs I work with now. Sheila eventually became my supervisor in the Office of American Spaces, because it’s a small world and Washington, DC is a small town.

Anyway, before the tour started, Dr. Curtis Rogers started up a blog to share information ahead of the trip. He was nice enough to make me an editor. I wrote recaps of the tour for my old website, but I eventually moved those recaps to the group blog. I had embedded photos from my old Flickr account into my posts. When I took the Flickr account down, I inadvertently broke all the photos on the site. So I spent some time this weekend uploading the photos to the blog. What can I say, I will look for any excuse to look through old photo albums. And old blog posts.

By the way, one of my favorite photos I took on the trip is the one to the left. It is a surfer in the Isar River. There was a bridge we walked over when we were heading to the Bavarian Parliament, and it just so happened that this spot acted like a little wave pool in the river. There were a group of surfers hanging out there and, fitting into certain German stereotypes, a couple of them had no problem changing out of their wetsuits in front of everyone.

I’ve wanted to go back to Germany ever since, particularly to Berlin. Outside of layovers in Frankfurt and Munich, I haven’t had the chance yet. At some point I need to, though, because the t-shirt I bought at the Ramones Museum isn’t getting any newer.

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