Back to busyness

I have been back working in public libraries for a few weeks now and it’s great to feel useful and able to help people with their questions. In general the level of sophistication in regard to technology related questions is notable. Many in our population have become quite adept at using and navigating the Internet and all of the associated technologies. The days where it was assumed that the older generation did not ‘get’ this stuff are behind us. Many people are curious about things like ebooks and will ask about them, even if they decide not to give them a try – just yet.

The busy libraries where I work require an agile mind that can handle a day of mental gymnastics, able to negotiate the barrage of unique questions in quick succession.

portsea_pier_01042014This week I was lucky to work some shifts on the mobile library truck. I took this photo near one of our stops, during a short break.

I have been reacquainting myself with the different Library Management System, as well as the different procedures and work-flows associated with a large and multi-branch public library service. I feel very much welcomed back and I am appreciative of that.

Strength in curiosity

It is telling when you still pursue information about a field of interest even when you are not currently working in that field. Of course this is what a true career path is all about. It also applies to hobbies, and passions.

Over these past few months (when I haven’t been designing our new house) I have been spending my time reading, watching, and listening to information about libraries. It is an interesting time for libraries worldwide, with the vast amount of resources now available online. Add to this the prevalence of personal devices, wide connectivity, and the sophisticated ability of the user to find and access that resource, then it is no surprise that library professionals are scurrying to remain relevant and required.

The biennial VALA Conference was held in Melbourne in February and I was disappointed that I was not able to attend this year. However, I readied myself to read and review the presentations when they became available online. And now they are; but it is so satisfying to find the whole multi-media experience available online. The audio, video, slides, and twitter-feed all on the one screen. So thank you to the VALA team for providing this amazing resource. I have been able to bathe like a duck in rainwater enjoying the torrent of inspirational presentations.

The keynote speakers were: Johan Bollen; Christine Boroman; Joe Murphy; Mia Ridge; Gene Tan; and Matt Finch.

Johan Bollen spoke about big data and how to use twitter posts for data visualisation and to analyse for predicting social trends. He pointed out that not only can one see what is happening as it is happening, but it is possible to see how people are feeling about what is happening. And this information is valuable.

Christine Borgman also spoke about big data and open access to data repositories, explaining in detail what that means in reality, especially for academics and research.

Joe Murphy talked about the future of libraries; his main point being that libraries will have a robust future if we all encourage curiosity.

Mia Ridge talks about libraries as maker-spaces for cultural heritage; making the point that libraries have always provided this service opportunity. For example: people writing their family history using the library and resources is using the space for making something that has value for cultural heritage. 

Gene Tan talked about the Singapore Memory Project, and organising multiple perspectives of moments in life with a random approach. Of significance is the project that gave every Singaporian a personal account for their memories, from which the library would organise, and store for prosperity. “Giving your past a present”. Gene has a unique and endearing style that really gets to the heart of people. Don’t skip the Q&A session at the end.

Matt Finch took off his clothes and redressed in another outfit on stage, to make the point that libraries are not just for hipsters but for everyone – even those dressed in regulation fluoro stripes.

I was validated by the comments made by Joe Murphy; that the librarian who encourages curiosity in her self and others is strong and will persist and thrive into the unsure future of libraries. I am that person who always wants to discover new things, and I am as yet unsatisfied with the answers to my questions about life, the universe and everything in it.

Using SlideShare

I have been using SlideShare for many years now as it is a perfect tool for presentations, showing people how to do things, and explaining concepts – on the run. Of course this list is not a complete list of my presentations to date, as I have presented others for a purpose, but not for public access.

suesbent_on_slideshare_2014

Each presentation here served a specific purpose and was created at a particular moment in time. So you might notice that some of the online tools explained no longer exist or have developed into a slightly different version.

Here is a list of my presentations in order of date creation:

  1. How to create a wiki (2008). I created this ‘how-to’ guide to show school teachers how to create an online platform for collaborative class assignment work. To date: 112757 views; 928 downloads; 5 comments; and 34 likes.
  2. How to create a wiki using PBWiki2 (2008). I created this ‘how-to’ guide when changes were made by the PBWiki team. To date: 3337 views; 38 downloads.
  3. Blogs and RSS in 2009 (2009). Subscribing to RSS feeds is a perfect tool to assist people to refine their information needs from the Internet. It can be a little technical to describe and set up. I gave a talk on this topic back in 2005 to a group of librarians but the tool being used then was Bloglines. In 2009 it amazed me how few people still knew how to use this technique, so I created this presentation to explain why you would want to do it, and how to set it up. Unfortunately Google Reader ceased to exist in 2013, so other RSS readers are required. I now use Feedly and sync this with my mobile phone. To date: 978 views; 4 downloads.
  4. Photos by Susan Bentley (2009). I love taking photos and wanted to collate and share a few of my best shots. To date: 2255 views; 61 downloads.
  5. Social media considerations for local government (2013).  I was part of a team considering and creating a social media policy and procedure for the local government organisation where I was employed. This presentation I created to help explain the situation to other employees. To date: 442 views.
  6. Presentations in Second Life (2013). In 2013 as part of my Masters studies I studied the subject Social Media for Information Professionals. Part of this work requirement was that we visited the Charles Sturt University campus of Jokaydia in Second Life to meet others and watch some presentations of work by students from another subject. To date: 184 views.
  7. Social media for our organisation (2013). Again as part of the training roll-out of online social media use for the organisation where I worked, this presentation offered more information on the topic. To date: 139 views.
  8. Personal digitisation plan (2013). I studied the subject Creating and Preserving Digital Content for my Masters studies, and needed to formulate my own plan of attack for my own collection of photos. To date: 177 views.
  9. Daring greatly (2013). I enjoyed watching the inspirational talks by Brené Brown on TED, and used the words from her manifesto to inspire the team I led at Glenelg Libraries. I matched these words with some photos I had taken of the local area, then edited using Instagram. To date: 226 views; 2 downloads.
  10. Library Trek (2013). I was invited to give a talk about contemporary public libraries to the Red Cross Conference held in Casterton and these are the slides from that talk. I was well aware that the audience mainly consisted of elderly women who have very little experience or knowledge with technology, and yet I wanted to try to give them an idea about the possibilities for them in the online world – and how their local library could help them. Feedback from some of the people there said that it was the least boring talk of the day. Obviously without the speech notes these slides don’t tell you much. To date: 82 views.

Job hunting

Life is funny isn’t it? You think and plan and work diligently towards improving your own circumstances as well as those that employ you, but then life throws you a curve ball.

So I now find myself in the aftermath of quitting a perfectly good job where I was feeling satisfied and fully utilized, in order to care full-time for my ailing father. But that need has now vanished as he has moved beyond this earthly plane.

Now I find myself back in the job-hunting market with all the other over-qualified, experienced and competent folk.

I utilize as many information refining and gathering techniques for this task as I can:

  • I subscribe to many career news feeds via my Feedly account.
  • I subscribe to industry-specific enewsletters.
  • I bookmark employment webpages for organisations where I’d like to work and I check these regularly.
  • I keep an eye on career ads in print and online.
  • I use LinkedIn to connect with professionals I know and others in the industry.

I have been applying for relevant positions as they arise. It takes me about six hours to write a job application answering the requirements fully.

I worry that at my age my resume looks a little long, but it is what it is, and personally I know that means I am experienced in my field, stable in my work attitude, mature in my emotional intelligence, and at the peak of my ability to contribute in a meaningful and practical way.

I also worry about the mistaken view that the younger one is the better they are to adapt to technology. The ability to handle technology varies from person to person, regardless of age. Some people, like me, have a natural inclination and understanding about technology, and this translates readily across all types of devices, software, databases, utilities, and emerging media. I have the kind of brain that has always understood and enjoyed maths, physics, engineering, technology, manufacturing, database structure, etc. That ability does not deteriorate with age, in fact an ability to laterally link those ideas to new trends and emerging technologies increases with age and experience.

kitchen_garden

So I use this valuable time to read, listen to podcasts, learn new things, update my eportfolio, write, take on some new projects, exercise, grow vegetables, and prepare healthy meals.

My ‘to-do’ list is still a mile long and there are only so many hours in the day.

 

Walking in nature

One strategy I intentionally employed with the objective towards handling the grieving process and retaining a positive outlook on life is to walk in the natural environment.

I know that just being in amongst nature, absorbing the sights, sounds, textures, and smells lifts my spirits and reminds me of my place in the larger scheme of things.

I love the chaotic unpredictable asymmetrical and beautiful variety of nature’s garden: the choir of bird calls and insect buzzing; the extensive palette of green; the movement of leaves, grasses and dust particles; the unusual flowers; the occasional animal; and the absence of manmade ugliness.

Susan at Pillar Point

So I did and it has. I’ve walked the trails of the Mornington Peninsula and recently some of the rugged walks at Wilsons Promontory. The vistas at ‘The Prom’ are awesome (in the true sense of the word). The greens, aquas, and turquoises of the crystal clear waters sparkle like a precious gemstone. The wind roars like an oncoming freight train. The rocky monoliths stand in perpetuity – daunting shapes remembered from my childhood visits. The beauty fills my spirit and soul. Petty squabbles dissipate. My love of life abounds.

Back in December as I sat in the hospital room beside the waxen corpse of my deceased father on the morning he died, I received the words into my head “Just enjoy your life!” I’m sure this was a message for me from my Dad’s departing spirit, as he knows my serious nature more than most.

Tidal River Duck Race

And Tidal River is a place where adults can let their inner child run free. The group of people we went with really know how to enjoy life with childish abandon without the need for alcohol or drugs. They are a bunch of mostly retired fitness nuts. So we had running relay races on the beach. We rode the waves on body boards. We had a duck race and a boat with egg passenger race on the river. We laughed. We looked for wombats at dusk and rose at dawn with the birds. We snorkelled the rocky shoreline, walked and ran the trails, and relaxed in water holes in the river. We had a heap of fun.

So yes Dad I am getting on with enjoying my life.

Plans for 2014

If there is one thing I learned from 2013 it is that not all plans are successful. Life sometimes takes over and the best laid plans with the right intentions need to be put aside.

But inspired by the ladies from the Up for a Chat podcast, and because I do believe in the power of intention and visualisation, here are some of the things I want to accomplish and/or work towards this year:

Review of 2013

Once again inspired by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity I look back over my experience of 2013. It was a really difficult and challenging year for me.

Here is what didn’t go well:

  • On 23 January my mother passed away after a four year battle with cancer.
  • Dad was alone for the first time in his life and grieved and this sat heavily on my mind.
  • Dad was diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the end of July just prior to his 77 birthday.
  • With family members I shared care responsibilities for Dad which meant a lot of organisation and travel to and fro.
  • We sold our house and most of our possessions.
  • We resigned from great jobs.
  • We moved and left some great new-found friends.
  • I went from being a fully employed professional to being a full time carer with no wage.
  • Dad passed away on 16 December.
  • The funeral for Dad was held on 20 December.
  • Our annual family Christmas get-together was held on 22 December and was a horrible out-pouring of grief.

Here is what went well: