Category Archives: By-Bria

When Efficiency is your Best Friend (then your enemy, then kind of your friend again)…

We are very happy to have another post by Bria Parker this week. Even better, after much begging on my part, she has joined the NewArchivist team as a Regular Contributor. Welcome Bria! ~ ed.

Fact: Slow-moving bureaucracies are slow. Like, “being able to feel the rotations of the earth” slow.

I started my first job six months ago. I was gung-ho and ready to change the world (or at least the world of audio preservation at my library). I worked with fervor, reviewing literature, brainstorming, developing documentation, completing tasks. Then I would proudly send out what I had accomplished in an email to those involved in that particular aspect. I would receive a reply of “great – let’s have a meeting to discuss this sometime in [insert name of faraway month here].” Now, I knew that it would take a while to get everyone on the same page and get the project moving forward, but I just was not prepared for things to drag on for months.

Yikes. What was I supposed to do in the meantime? Sure, there were other tasks and aspects that I needed to address. But what happens when several of these tasks hinge on the decisions waiting to be made? When you’re coming right out of graduate school, the land of ever-imminent deadlines, it can be hard to get out of the “I must get this done RIGHT NOW” kind of attitude and realize that sometimes you have more time than you think you do to finish something.

This is not a post on how to look busy so your boss doesn’t give you more to do. That’s not how I roll. This is about how to plan ahead, how to (try to) take the lead, and how to gently poke and prod people until you see some progress. Delay is inevitable. I am near, if not on, the bottom rung, so my responsibilities number few, so when I have to rely on others whose responsibilities exponentially outnumber mine it’s hard to press for progress without feeling like a petulant toddler. “Want juice, want juice!!” (or “want metadata, want metadata!!).

So what should a new archivist (or new librarian) do when faced with this reality? How can we continue be efficient with our work when faced with delay? Here are a couple tips to help ease the frustration:

First, before setting off on any task, outline it in detail. Don’t just outline the actual content you hope to collect, or the desired outcomes of the task, but map out who you will need to communicate with in order to get it through the next step, or who you will need to hand it off to when you’re done. Keep open communication with these people, and do let them know that you hope to finish “xyz” soon and want to know if they have time in the near future to look at it/give feedback/move forward with it. I know it can be hard to do this without seeming like a nag, but it is worth it. It lets both parties know where each other is at.

Second, use all of this information to create a clear and flexible timeline for when you need to have these things ready. I have also found it helpful to ask straightforward questions about the timelines of others. For example, I need some programming done for some creation and digital validation routines for the project I’m working on. I am not a programmer. Thus, I’ve asked when this programming will fit into the production schedule of that department. Not only does it give me a better idea, but it let’s others know “Hey, don’t forget about this. We need to get this worked in soon.” This is better than just handing something off and waiting. Don’t assume that anyone will tell you anything about any timeline.

Third, I suggest initiating meetings with people. Yes, I know, everyone dreads meetings. But my experience thus far is that it has been the best way to meet people, and conversely, let them know who I am and what I am doing. When you’re new, it helps for people to have a face and a personality to match to the countless emails you plan on sending them. If they recognize your name, they’re more likely to help you. Even if you just drop by someone’s office to chat for ten minutes, it is ten minutes well spent. That brief encounter can help remind someone to finish something up for you. Again, don’t be a nag. Be friendly and respectful.

Hopefully by doing the above, you will be able to prioritize your work based on a more realistic timeline and will spend less time waiting. The planning and outlining may also help you notice other work that has yet to be done or assigned. Be proactive and do it!

I realize this is wishful thinking, as it does not always work out this way. Sometimes you just have to wait. In the meantime, revisit other things waiting in the queue with fresh eyes. You may find that you have completely different ideas about how to approach something than you did a month ago when you first worked on it. If you find yourself with absolutely nothing to do, don’t sit on your hands, do research! It’s always a good idea to go through the literature looking for new ideas and trends.

So that’s my take on staying sane. What about you? What tips do you have for us?


Filed under By-Bria

Feeling Inadequate? You’re Not Alone!

We are excited to have Bria Parker as a guest contributor this week. Bria has a Master of Science in Information and works for a large academic library in the Midwest. She is also the first New Librarian to contribute to our site (we are so inclusive). I think this post is something that a lot of us new information professionals are grappling with and will spark some great comments, so please feel free to add yours. Thanks for the awesome post, Bria! ~ Ed.

DISCLAIMER: I have a great boss, and none of this is directed at him. ~ Bria

If you’re like me, you were required to take some sort of management course in Library School (Information School, Archives School, whatever). And if you’re like me, much of it seemed like a spectacular waste of time, because really, how many of us are managing a department or institution right out of grad school? Oh you are? How nice for you. You can stop reading now.

For the rest of us, management seems to be in the distant future. For now, we must content ourselves with being managed by others. Whether your an archivist, librarian, or like to live dangerously and walk a fine line between the two, being managed, being a cog in the wheel, is not something grad school really prepares us for. Sure, sure, we are prepared for working in groups and we all probably are adept at interpersonal relationships. But that is with our peers. So what can we do to prepare ourselves for developing effective relationships with our superiors

Sure, sure, we’ve all had jobs before now in which we were managed, but when it comes to the professional world of libraries and archives, how do us neophytes operate in the pre-existing hierarchy that is [insert institution here]. We are now professionals, too, so how do we assert our thoughts and ideas when we disagree? What happens when you disagree with how things are done? Or about the way things are about to be done? What happens when you disagree so strongly that maintaining the status quo compromises your belief in what’s right? What can you say? What is the appropriate action? How could anyone get so worked up about old stuff?

If you’re a New Archivist, it is likely that you are currently facing this dilemma, or will soon. How does a new archivist (or librarian) balance the feeling that you might know more about a particular aspect than your superior(s) (either the particular aspect in question is your specialty, or you’ve studied it more recently than others) with the feeling that perhaps you’re just too naive to really understand the bigger issue. I was recently faced with this exact issue, and it broke my confidence. For months others and I had planned and planned, and had developed reasonable specifications. I felt like the research I had done, and all of my previous study really prepared me, and that the right path was chosen for the project at hand. Then someone stuck a stick in our spokes. “No. We aren’t doing that.” Umm…what? Had I been completely wrong? Where was this coming from? Do others not trust me? Am I too stupid to see something?

Unfortunately, a management class and group projects with peers did nothing to prepare me for such a crisis of faith in myself, nearly buckling to the decrees of others whom I felt did not truly understand the issue (despite us having talked about it for months).

The situation that brought on this rant has been resolved (thankfully) in a manner that did not require me to give up much ground (the compromise was a true compromise, with both sides giving a little). My colleagues and I were able to successfully defend the decisions and choices that were being questioned by others. No feathers were ruffled and nothing was as confrontational as the email exchanges leading up the successful meeting had indicated. This is a good thing. Yet while I leave this situation feeling that yes, my knowledge and training did prove to be correct, I was not really able to address the feeling of naivete and inadequacy that plagued me during the two weeks this went on. I was never able to resolve to myself whether or not one of the issues was that I just didn’t get the big picture.

Ultimately, this has been a great learning process for me, and no class would have prepared me for this lesson. But I’d like to know some of your experiences and seek your wisdom. In the future, what should one do? How can one manage the dichotomy of knowledge versus naivete? What if this hadn’t come to a peaceful solution? Should I have stood my ground and possibly made a bad impression? Or should I have buckled to their collective will? Enlighten me, New Archivists!


Filed under By-Bria, By-Guest_Contributor