Kudos conundrum

At our 2021 (virtual) Speech Day last week, our head prefects were very kind to mention me in their graduating address:

“Mrs Straughan can find any book on the library shelves and is the only person who can fix the library printer”.

Sigh. So kind but so concerning.

My initial reaction was a feeling of appreciation followed quickly by a melodramatic “I’m SO glad I went to grad school to have this kind of impact on the upcoming generation!” with eyeroll accompaniment. All to myself of course.

However, like you, much of my time is spend fostering effective search skills, guiding through citation, recommending great books, sourcing elusive information – why didn’t they mention any of that?

But what if I looked at it differently? What if I applied a Seth-Godin-like perspective?

“Mrs Straughan can find any book on the library shelves” may mean that DDC remains a mysterious code for my students.  So, do I do a better job at de-coding OR do I finally get over my lack of confidence about  “bookstoreifying” our collection? Keeping DDC for retrieval purposes while re-organizing in a way that makes sense to students, with MUCH better signage?

“…and is the only person who can fix the library printer” may mean that as much as I value my education and champion my professional expertise, sometimes what matters to a frantic student is that I am able to do a small technical task quickly at a time when it really matters to them. Hopefully with a reassuring smile on my face.

Let 21-22 find me immersed in a reorganization plan with more patience for that darn printer and less inclination for eye-rolling.

The All-Powerful Portfolio

Someone recently referred to me as being “mid-career”. I did a double take and gave them my best

arnold

 

 

 

 

 

With that said, I will admit that library schools have changed a bit since I graduated in ’03. In addition to a required thesis or a comprehensive exam, many schools insist that their students create a digital portfolio of their projects, not only to organize their work and to give them experience in web design and features, but also to help them market themselves to future employers. I first learned of this shift years ago when my friend Melinda Holmes, Library Director at Darlington School, emailed me excitedly to tell me of her fantastic new hire. Even though the young lady was fresh out of library school, Melinda was so thrilled with all that she would bring to the table. How could she predict the impact of this hire?

I give you Exhibit A: the one and only  Liz Overberg  (sharing with permission).

Are you thinking to yourself, “What a great idea! Why haven’t I thought of that?!”, then you aren’t alone. I did too.  I wasn’t looking to leave my job, but at the same time, I knew that if that time ever came [spoiler alert: it did.] or if I ever needed to show administration what I’d been up to, I didn’t want to be going back through my documents, my pictures, my calendars, to try to remember all that I had done.

This is my portfolio . I created it using Weebly, but you can use whichever platform you like best. Liz tells me that her first portfolio was on Yola, but that she too liked Weebly so she migrated. When I did apply for another job, I embedded some Google Analytics code within the header of each page as well so that I would get pinged when someone viewed my portfolio. The report tells me things like where the ping came from, the user’s behavior: how many pages they viewed, how much time they spent on each page, the network they used, etc. It’s interesting.

In the coming months, positions will open all over the country. Contracts will go out, people will plan moves, shifts will occur. You might consider taking some time over winter break to get something started, or if you’re like me, get those updates loaded that you never seem to have time to do. I dare say no cover letter will catch an employer’s attention the way a link out to real world examples of your work will and it’s really as simple as this (in closing your cover letter):

For examples of my work, please refer to my electronic porfolio (insert link here). I look forward to discussing my qualifications with you further.

Sincerely,

Your Name

In this one move, you not only demonstrate your comfort with technology, but you give examples of displays that you have created, newsletters that you have generated, web pages you have designed, classes you have taught, Libguides that you are proficient in creating. You can list publications, conference presentations, shoot, you can even have an RSS feed to blogs or other social media you’re speaking through to demonstrate your ‘voice’, your creativity, your marketing skills, your values, and your collegiality.

No wonder Melinda was so excited about her find in Liz! If her listserv contributions and conference conversations are any indication, I would say that the portfolio correctly identified Liz as a mover and shaker in the independent school library world. Thanks for the inspiration, Liz!

Do you already have a portfolio? Thinking of creating one now? If so, won’t you share your URL or tell us of your experience  in the comments below?