Tag Archives: Success

How do I spell success? R-E-P-E-A-T

19 Mar

I was away on vacation last week, enjoying a wonderful few days in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal), thus my post is a bit on the short side this week. When we arrived at the hostel where we were staying, I promptly locked my work iPod in a locker off the main room and refused to look at it until Sunday evening, the night before returning to my cubicle. Vacation is about getting away and while I’ve been as guilty as anyone in terms of not leaving work behind during these respites, this time I decided that I would (and could) do just that. I’m hardly so important – nor my colleagues so incompetent – that I can’t leave work for a week or two without any serious catastrophes occurring. And as expected, nothing happened in my absence that required me being here. It was a nice break.

When I did peek at my email on Sunday night, I saw one note that was worth reading – a note from an investigator that I’ve been working with to put together a proposal for a new project. He was writing to let me know that it was a go. YES! It’s a really different project, compared with others that I’ve worked on to date, and I’m looking forward to learning some new skills and working with some new colleagues. Great news!

Then on Monday, I got a phone call from the project manager of the mammography study, letting me know that the principal investigators wished to continue supporting part of my time, i.e. keeping me on their team for a few more months as we write a paper together and work on hosting a panel at the Clinical Translational Science Center’s annual research retreat in May.

These two bits of news, for me, are real indicators of the progress I’m making in demonstrating the value of embedded librarian services here on campus. Repeat performances spell “success”!

My fantastic new laptop that I picked up while on vacation in Montreal! Cool, eh?

My fantastic new laptop that I picked up while on vacation in Montreal! Cool, eh?

Match Game

9 Jul
One of my all-time favorite shows of the 70s, The Match Game!

One of my all-time favorite shows of the 70s, The Match Game!

I found out yesterday that a friend and colleague has accepted a new job and heading off to a different city, different library, different adventures. For a long time, I looked at job announcements. Sometimes I still do, particularly when they pass across social media sites (Did you know that Queen Elizabeth is looking for a librarian to oversee her personal library?) or on professional listservs (It’s hard to ignore a job opening in France – the cafes, the coffee, the atmosphere. Tres bien.) But I don’t actively seek out the sites that post jobs and I don’t think about the possibility of doing something else. I do have a mobile coffee cart that I’m working on – a 3-wheeled bike that I’m outfitting to sell coffee at festivals and farmers markets – and on occasion I play in a band, but those things are fun. I have no dreams of quitting my day job to do either of them full-time. 

And that, folks, is a first. 

I have worked at a whole slew of different jobs ever since I was 15 years old, earlier if you count mowing lawns and babysitting. I earned a bunch of degrees at a bunch of schools, always trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my vocational life and thinking that if I only had the education, I’d be all set. For the past 8 1/2 years, I’ve been a librarian. Like putting together your fantasy team, it looked good on paper, me and the library. We were a good match. I love libraries (their physical forms) and research and looking stuff up. I love the feeling of finding an article or a citation or some quirky fact or figure that eludes most others. I love looking, looking, looking and going down all of the many paths of the many things that you come across while you search. I love having a whole brain-full of trivial facts; the result of browsing through so many different subjects. I love that I do well on “Jeopardy!” (at least in the comforts of my living room).

Still, even after a number of years being a librarian, I could find myself too regularly wondering what it might be like to work in another library, in another place, in a different discipline. I eventually came to accept the fact that this was just my nature. I’d always be a little unsettled in work.

I also always believed that promotion was the way of success in a library. Like lots of kinds of work, I just assumed that I’d start off at one level and then work my way up, accepting more responsibility along the way. Libraries are fairly flat organizations, at least the ones I’m most familiar with, and so you basically move from being a librarian to being some kind of administrator. If you’re really good, you become a library director.

A few years into my career, I figured that’s the path I ought to pursue. Things worked out in my library that I got a supervisory role, overseeing our Research and Scholarly Communication services. I was the head of a group, even if the group consisted only of two or three people. It was a step in the upward direction. 

But despite that “right path,” I found out that it wasn’t me. I’m not much of an administrator. Some of this I learned pretty easily. Some was more than a little difficult and took a good bit of a toll over time. Eventually, I began to think that it was time for me to look for something else. I just figured that I’d reached that time – like lots of other times before – where it was time to try something new. Time, time, time. Time’s up.

I began to look at job ads. I began to look around my own campus at other opportunities, places and positions where I could maybe use the knowledge that I had, but do something different. I thought about applying to be a project manager or project coordinator. I thought about how I could persuade a research department of the benefits of having a project manager who also knew how to be a librarian. Think of how they’d never again have the headaches associated with NIH Public Access compliance. They’d never have to worry about calling someone from the library to help them with difficult searches or bibliographic management. I could manage projects AND do that. That’s what I was thinking. That, along with job opportunities in really fun cities.

But then fate struck (better fate than lightning). The supplemental grant awards for informationist services were announced. My library director thought we needed to apply for one. As the story goes, we did, we got an award, and I got a new job. Bing-Bang-Boom. Kind of.

I’m not sure that my library director has always known what to do with me. I can admit that I was probably something of a frustration from time to time. What do you do with a librarian that doesn’t quite fit the mold of the work that needs to be done? What do you do with an employee who you know is always kind of feeling a little out of place? What do you do when skills and interests don’t match with the usual progressions and/or promotions? These are the kind of questions that directors and administrators have to struggle with, which might be why I’m not very good at it. I don’t have that much patience.

Fortunately, I do have a director who saw an opportunity and who said, “I think that you’d be really good at this.” Doing this job meant that I had to give up the supervisory role. It meant that I had to accept that my best skills don’t lie in the areas that will lead me up the promotional ladder. But it really is okay, because while I might not be going up any traditional ladder of success, I’m finding the kind of success that I really can’t imagine I could find in any regular route. I feel like I get many of the benefits of working as a solo librarian, without having to leave the nest altogether. I can be entrepreneurial without having to risk losing my health insurance and retirement. I can gain a whole lot of new colleagues without having to leave behind old ones.

In many ways, I’m working the same way that researchers and project managers and analysts and others on the research teams work. It’s the best of both worlds. Everyone is a team player, but with somewhat subtle differences from being on organized teams within a larger structure (like the library). Everyone is also a bit of a renegade. It reminds me of Russell Crowe’s character in that movie where he plays the cop who takes down Denzel Washington, the drug dealer. He’s a really good cop, but he doesn’t work so well with others, that is until he finds the right “others.” When that happens, he ends up leading a pretty formidable team. 

Now I’m no Russell Crowe (I don’t look nearly as good in a skirt, gladiator or no), but I do think that I work for a few people who are like him. Or at least like that character. The PIs I’ve come to know and work for over the past few months are people who need to do their own thing. They can work within a set of guidelines, but they’re all freelancers, a bunch of really smart and inquisitive people who want to figure out the answers to a lot of questions that interest them. And to do that, they build teams of people around them who, I think, might be kind of like them. They look for people who complement their skills, while also matching their personalities.

Library directors do this too, though they might not always have quite the latitude and flexibility of the PIs. Over time, a library can take on the personality of its director. It can certainly follow the directions and interests of him/her. Two of the library directors that I respect most are my own, Elaine Martin, and Jean Shipman, the director of the Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah. They couldn’t be much more different in terms of their outward personalities and they each have different passions in terms of the services and directions that they want their libraries to provide and go. But they are both extremely successful and effective in their roles. 

In the same way, I see all sorts of personalities and visions and work styles and leadership styles and more in the different researchers that I’ve come to know. Principal investigators who have successful labs and studies build good teams around them; teams made up of people who match what they need. (As an aside, both Elaine and Jean are PIs on major grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.) It really is a lot about finding and/or making the right matches.

And all of this is a really rambling way of saying that if and when we’re lucky enough, persistent enough, stubborn enough, and/or any combination of these, we can find the right position where who we are and the skills that we possess match up with someone else’s needs and skills and personality. I also think that this particular phenomenon (for lack of a better word) is really difficult to define and quantify, and as such makes it hard when it comes to telling anyone how he/she/they might find success in this informationist role. People ask, students ask, colleagues ask, other library directors ask, the grant funders ask… but as of yet, I’m not quite sure what the answer is. I do know, however, that I’m for once not even thinking about what another job could be like. This one is pretty great every day. 

 

What does success look like?

15 Mar

In her memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, author, columnist, and occasional panelist on NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” Amy Dickinson, writes, “I am surrounded by people who are unimpressed with me.” It’s perhaps my favorite line in a book that I really liked. The self-deprecating humor of famous folks. It’s funny. As I was walking from the parking lot to the library this morning, I couldn’t help but think that it’s been a bit of a surreal week for me as I’ve had encounters with some incredibly successful people. To paraphrase Ms. Dickinson, “I am surrounded by impressive people… and I remain impressed by them.”

It’s a testament to the world we live in, the social media aspect of it in particular, that I had the week that I had…

Friday, March 8 - Brattleboro, VT

Friday, March 8 – Brattleboro, VT

Rosanne Cash

Last Friday, my spouse and I traveled to Vermont to see Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal in concert. This was not the first time I got to meet Rosanne. We became acquainted via Twitter about a year and a half ago. I followed her. We tweeted back and forth to one another a few times. She started following me. In November of 2011, I got tickets to see her perform in Fall River, MA and asked if she’d be so kind as to let me say hi to her after the show. Ever gracious, she did. The same happened last Friday. Kind and funny and smart and one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time, she gave me a hug, joked about our mutual love of ironing (remembering this from our previous meeting), talked about librarians… it’s one of those moments I’ll cherish. And then, perhaps even more unreal, the next morning as Lynn and I were walking down Main Street, we heard from behind us, “Hello, ladies!” Turned around and there was Rosanne. We chatted for a minute on the sidewalk in Brattleboro, VT like some kind of old friends. Pinch me.

Sherry Pagoto

Bright research star here on our campus, #Plankaday Nation co-founder, author of the #1 health blog of 2011 (FUdiet), and one of my biggest advocates for the new work I’m doing on campus, Sherry Pagoto and I hung out in her office on Tuesday to work on the details of a proposal that will allow me to work on her President’s Award grant. She took me on a few years ago as an exercise physiologist for one of her studies and today is a fantastic champion of me as an informationist. We  have a Nobel Laureate on campus, a few Howard Hughes investigators, and some really outstanding leaders in biomedical and health sciences research. How I got lucky enough to have one of them in my corner… well, pretty lucky!

Facebook chatting with Amy, Wednesday, March 13.

Facebook chatting with Amy, Wednesday, March 13.

Amy Dickinson

As mentioned earlier, I’m also a fan of Amy Dickinson, the Amy of the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy.” We also “met” through Twitter and I take part in the discussions she tosses out on her Facebook page. She’s promised to take part in my “Jam 51″ birthday party, if she can. Maybe the folks in Freeville are unimpressed, but not me. I’m counting on the face-to-face meeting in the future. In the meantime, I’m working up some turmoil in my life so that I can call into her Thursday noontime webcast from the Chicago Tribune. And look! She’s hoping for the same. :)

Suzy Becker

I had lunch yesterday with my uber talented and brilliant friend, Suzy Becker. Suzy is an author and a cartoonist and a teacher and one of those people you’d hate if she weren’t so darned nice. We talk over chicken shawarma sandwiches about girl’s high school basketball, her next book, her latest class at the Worcester Art Museum, her innate aptitude for Twitter, Lynn’s and my trip to Brattleboro, the PBS documentary “Makers,” why no women have sports talk shows, and the fact that she’s been on the Diane Rehm Show three times (3 times?!). She gives me a lucky horse shoe as a belated birthday present. I’m going to hang it in my new studio. She leaves to get her kid to the dentist on time and I walk home, still thinking about talking to Diane Rehm and helping someone with a Ford Foundation grant and knowing someone who’s putting together a new radio show and… lunch with me?

So “Lean In” on This

As I think about my week and how it intersected in different ways with 4 unbelievably successful women, I notice how not a single one of them fits the mold of “success” that Sheryl Sandberg espouses in her book, “Lean In,” that coincidentally also had a big week. Sandberg has been all over the air waves, sharing her thoughts on why women have not achieved success equal to men, despite now years of “equality.” We need to lean in, be more aggressive, change our priorities. Maybe. If you want to be the CEO of a gazillion dollar enterprise. Me, I’m glad for the successful people that I know (or at least have had the chance to briefly meet) in my life. And incidentally, not a one of them fits Sandberg’s definition of success.

Tip #1 in Daniel Coyle’s, “The Little Book of Talent” is “Stare at Who You Want to Become.” These are some of the people that I stare at. Despite their respective success – and a few of them are darned successful! – I’m not star struck. (Well, maybe a little.) No, just grateful to see and know and have people in my life to stare at, so that I can model the things that they do that bring them success.

How about you? How was your week? Did you find inspiration from anyone? Do you look to certain people to be your models of success?

(As an aside, just as I was finishing this post, my friend and colleague, Lisa Palmer, showed me pictures of her trip to Italy – when Pope John Paul II blessed her in 1983. I think it may have been some divine message for me to stay humble. I am surrounded by people who are unimpressed with me.)

Top 10 Informationist Moments of 2012

27 Dec
Closing the Whiteboard on 2012

Closing the Whiteboard on 2012

I’ve only been at this informationist work for a few months, thus a true “Top 10″ list is a bit of a stretch for my New Year’s post, but a few really terrific things HAVE happened, thus I figured coming up with some list warranted at least a college try. Here goes:

#10. An Invitation to the Party

I was invited to attend a retirement party for the project administrator of the research study I’m working on. What makes this special is that the invitation came before I officially became a part of the research team and while I wasn’t able to make it, it let me know that I was included in the group, by the group, before I ever even became part of the group. Inclusion, both physically and cognitively, is an important part of success in this arena.

#9. A Weekly Schedule

It took a little while, but eventually I was able to carve out some semblance of a regular weekly schedule that included the hours I’m committed to working as an informationist on the study. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re headed in the right direction. I imagine that balancing time and tasks between being in and out of the Library will remain a key focus in 2013.

#8. Office Space

Going along with a weekly schedule, securing a physical place outside of the Library to work on the project was also a coup. I was lucky in that the research team has other consultant-type people as members, thus having a research staff office was both known to be important and already existent. I’ve found that if/when I go into the Library on the days that I’ve scheduled myself to work on things related to the project, I too easily get pulled into other things. Staying away is important!

#7. Impromptu Conversations on Sidewalks

Being able to bring up my role as an informationist to researchers that I already know on campus is both easy and productive. I’ve had several conversations with individuals in the process of writing grants and as they tell me about their ideas, because I know them personally, it’s easy to say, “Have you thought about including an informationist on your team and/or in the proposal?” What I’ve also discovered is a lot of overlap between the researchers that I know. Part of this is expected (you do a lot of work in one department or division, and you tend to know many people who naturally work together), but it’s the unexpected connections that have been the biggest thrill. They’re also the ones with the greatest potential to build further collaborations. Cross-discipline research is really important in translational science and an informationist is very well suited to help build the bridges between the people and research currently happening in different areas.

#6. The Bucket List

During about the third or fourth weekly team meeting that I attended, I confessed that I was completely confused by the word “eligible”. It seemed to me that women were eligible for the study several different times. In other words, there were different levels of eligibility. I said, “I’m lost. Who is eligible for what, when?” In voicing what might appear like a weakness (after all, I was brought on board as the “expert” in communication), I hit on something that everyone was struggling with! Too many times, people were using the same word to describe different things. It was confusing not just me, but others as well. The result was my first tangible item to the team – a very simple list of what we would all agree to call each “bucket” of subjects. Producing something (an actual THING, in this case a list of words) was the first step to make me feel like I was a contributing member of the team.

#5. Presentation Proposal with a PI

It was a 2012 highlight that one of the principal investigators on the study agreed to submit a presentation proposal with me to the New England Chapter of ACRL’s next annual meeting. I hope it will be a 2013 highlight that we are chosen to present on our work together as informationist and researcher. The more that we can get researchers themselves to talk about the importance of embedded librarians and/or informationists in their work, the further we will advance in this area of our profession. I’m convinced of this.

#4. Informationist Invasion 2012

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that in early November, informationists representing each of the NIH-funded awards gathered in Worcester, MA to share with science and medical librarians from New England about their new roles. “Embedded with the Scientists: Librarians’ Roles in the Research Process” was a big success! Personally, I was really happy to have the chance to meet my colleagues from around the country; to share ideas, talk about issues and roadblocks and how we might overcome them, to plan ways to support one another in our work, and to make new professional friends. Pursuing new directions is a lot easier with the support of colleagues.

#3. I Lost My Old Job

It’s nice to know that people care about you. When the announcement that my Library was (still is!) accepting applications for my current position as the Head of Research and Scholarly Communication Services, I got more than a few phone calls and emails from friends and colleagues. “Is everything okay?!” “Where are you going?” “What happened?” For once, I was happy to say that I’d lost my job. Even before we received the supplemental grant award, the management team of my Library saw that charging a librarian with the task(s) of becoming embedded in research teams was a direction we both wanted and needed to go. Receiving the grant only further solidified this commitment and my Director began to work the budget as she was able to move me into this new position, thus freeing me from the responsibilities of the former. To be successful in this area, we need such commitment. In today’s environment, creating new positions requires structuring budgets and workloads in ways we might not have thought before, but unless a Library is willing to do this, the work of the informationist, if it proves valuable, will ultimately be consumed by research departments or Information Technology, and the library profession will find itself missing out on a very relevant path.

#2. Supplemental Grant Award

It kind of goes without saying that there likely is no “Top 10 Informationist Moments of 2012″ without the awarding of the NIH Supplemental Grant for the R01 study that I’m now a part of. It was not the beginning of the embedded librarian/informationist idea and/or role by any means, but as noted above, it solidified our movement forward into this new direction. My Director and the PIs stated, while we prepared the grant application, that we would pursue the project regardless of whether or not we got funded. This showed the level of commitment to it. But the fact that we DID get funding, opened doors that otherwise might have taken a bit longer to unlock. By offering these awards, the National Library of Medicine, through NIH, demonstrated that the role of the informationist in biomedical research is one worth supporting and examining to determine its longterm value. Sometimes professions need this kind of support to make big changes.

#1. Guest Lecture Invitation

You might think that #2 would be #1, and I admit that I went back-and-forth on deciding what moment I’m giving top billing to. What I ultimately decided is that moment #1 happened only yesterday, squeaking in just under the wire! I got an email yesterday morning from a researcher I’ve worked with in the past in a different capacity. She told me that she’s teaching a class this coming semester on Team Science. To avoid misquoting, I’ll share the text of the email:

“I’m teaching a class called Team Science in the Spring, the focus of which is to help students (in the MSCI program) to understand the importance of teams in science, how to build their research teams, and how to effectively function in teams.  You have talked a lot about how many researchers and docs don’t understand the role of the informationist in their work, so I wondered if you might be interested in coming as a guest some time and talking about the role of the informationist on an academic team?”

Perhaps you can see why this invitation wins out in the “Big Moments of 2012″ contest. Here is a pretty prominent researcher on my campus who gets it – or at least is willing to give me a shot to convince her, as well as a classroom of future researchers, of the important role librarians and/or informationists can play on research teams. Here is an opportunity to make my case that we are, in fact, part of the team. We’re not just a supporting cast on the sidelines.

Of course, I took her up on the offer right away. Stay tuned for a post in early March telling how it all goes.

So, while it’s only been a short few months in Informationist-landia, I feel confident saying that it’s been filled with more than a few memorable moments. In short, I’ve learned a great deal about the importance of building relationships, of harnessing the possibilities of existing relationships, of finding and exuding confidence, of setting boundaries and limits, of setting priorities, of finding balance, of speaking up, and of accepting change. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of articulating what I can do, what I can’t (or won’t) do, and what I’m capable of learning to do. Above all else, I believe being able to state these things clearly to a researcher is the way to open the door to their world, but it takes some work to be able to do that. Do the work.

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Ironically, really good work often appears to be effortless. People will say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ They won’t see the years of toil and sweat that went into it.” To step into a new area professionally requires work. You need to take the time to read and explore and emulate and try and eventually find your own way; a way that is ultimately a blending of who you are and what you can do. This is the “you” that succeeds. This is what I learned, maybe more clearly than anything else, in 2012. I learned it in this new role as an informationist and I learned it in life. As I close the calendar on this year, I can’t complain much about that.

[Looking for a New Year's book for yourself? Pick up a copy of Kleon's book. You can read it over a cup of coffee on a Saturday (or a snowy) morning and you'll come away with 10 pretty good tips (or more) for being creative in your work and in your life.]

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