Monday, July 24, 2017

Upping Your Library Intelligence: Reading, Listening, and Watching

Thinking statues
Thinking
In the second post in this series, I noted that words matter in our profession and that you should expand your vocabulary.  A good way of doing that is by expanding what you are reading, listening to, and watching.

We are a profession of creators. We are constantly creating content by writing articles, books, and blog posts. We also record webinars and podcasts, as well as post our presentations online.  And because we adopt new publishing platforms quickly, you can also find our content on social media.  Yes, we tweet, snap, Facebook, and more. So there is an abundance of content to use for expanding your knowledge of the profession.

In May (2017), I blogged Summer Reading/Listening Recommendations.  Rather than creating another list, let me tell you what to look for, as you begin to expand what you're taking in, and allow you then hunt for what suits you.

First, look for content (audio, video, print, etc.) that has a following.  Yes, go for the popular content for starters, because we will assume that its popularity means that it carries some authority.  (Once you have an understanding of what topic area interests you, you can search for less popular authorative content.) You can often tell the number of people who are using/"reading"/linking to online content. With print content, you should be able to locate the number of subscribers for a journal or the number of libraries that carry a particular book. Yes, you are using numbers to figure out popularity and assuming that popularity means quality.  I know that is flawed logic, but you need to start somewhere as you build your knowledge.  As you build your knowledge, you will be able to better discern the quality of the content you are using.

You might think of this  as what you're consuming now, but not what you might consume long term.  In the near-term its role to help you know more, so you can then locate content that better meets your needs.

Second, look for content that is providing thoughtful analysis, rather than being opinionated (pro or con) without providing adequate reasons.  That analysis will help you learn how members of the profession view a particular topic.

Third, be willing to read/listen/watch dissenting points of view.  Not everyone will agree on a topic and it is important to hear from those that disagree.  Sometimes you learn more from those dissenting voices, because they get you to think about the topic differently.

Fourth, over time you will develop an idea of who the more knowledge voices are (or might be) on a topic which interests you.  Be willing to seek out more of what those people have produced.  Also look to understand who they are referring to or quoting, and seek out the works of those people. This is important, if you are interested in a specific area. You should know who the leading voices are, as well as what the hot issues are. 

In terms of reading, I want to recommend that you locate (perhaps even subscribe to) a print publication that is focused on libraries and read several issues of it.  (If you subscribe to it, then read it regularly.)  And by "read" I mean read it from cover to cover. Why?  First, you may be tempted to skim, but skimming isn't going to teach you the details or the language.  Second, when you read cover to cover, you will be seeing the advertisements. Those ads have been placed their by our vendors and you need to be aware of who they are and what they are selling.  Third, I'm recommending that you read a print version because I think we read differently - more deeply - on paper and it may be easy to ignore the ads (and other details) in a digital version.

I know...reading a publication cover to cover can be boring.  However, every article is informing you of something important.  You may need to read that article - and others on the topic - in order to develop a deeper understanding, so you then know the topic's importance.

I know...you don't want to look at ads. While there are other ways of developing an understanding of the LIS vendors and their services, advertisements are a quick and easy way of developing familiarity.  While you are unlikely to see ads for every library vendor that exists, you will see enough to build knowledge and vocabulary that will serve you well when you decide to dig deeper into a specific area.

When I was a corporate librarian, there were several publications that I did read cover to cover, including the SLA journal that existed then.  I found that reading these publications was especially important before I went to a conference, because I then had a better idea of what was currently happening in the field and that might influence what conference sessions I attended.  I found news items about our vendors to be important because I was the person making decisions about the services we used.

In more recent years, I consume more LIS content through social media, online news, and podcasts.  However, I know that those early years of reading professional journals gave me the grounding I needed so that what I am consuming today makes sense.

At the top of this post, I said that we are a profession of creators and that includes you.  If you your reading/watching/listening teaches you that your area of interest is not being talked about, you might create and publish content on the topic. You can do that by blogging, for example, or writing an article for one of our LIS trade journals.  You could also give a conference presentation or start a podcast (or be a guest on an existing podcast).  Not only would that be a great way of contributing to the profession, but you would also attract attention to yourself by doing it.


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