Friday, July 18, 2008

What you see me doing, isn't what I do

Michael Sauers at work I am a non-book-reading librarian, which makes me an oddity. Yes, I read a lot, but I'm not a person who curls up with a novel every night. So when a book captures my attention, it is big deal. While in Seattle at the Special Libraries Association Annual Conference, I had an opportunity to hear Chris Carlsson speak at Elliott Bay Book Co. about his latest book, Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today!. Chapter 3 is entitled "What you See Me Doing, Isn't What I Do." Carlsson is talking about what work a person does for pay (wage work) and the work that a person does to fulfill creative urges. At the moment, I'm thinking of the contrast of what we say we do in our work and what we really do (in our wage work).

Depending on your work history, it is likely that you have had jobs where your job title and what you really did were two different things. My favorites are all those people in financial institutions with the title "vice president." What do they really do?

Thinking about your situation, in your digitization programs (or digital libraries), are the job titles and job descriptions accurate? You may be in an institution where the job titles are all standardized, boring, irrelevant and unchangeable. It would be nice to have meaningful job titles, but I know that doesn't always happen. However, the job descriptions should be accurate and reflect the work people are really doing.

Because of the way job descriptions are written in some organizations, they may used standard language. That language can remove the details that are important and which the employee should want to have documented. Employees should want their job descriptions to be accurate, especially when it is time for their annual reviews, and you should want it to be accurate for accountability.

We might also rephrase this and say "What you see me doing, isn't what I should be doing." Another book I saw talked about the 80-20 rule (The 4-Hour Workweek). The Pareto principle, or 80–20 rule, is often quoted to fit a variety of different circumstances. It is that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If 20% of what we do is what is really important, why do we spend time on everything else? For example, we spend a lot of time these days on email, but email is not where we do our work. It is easy to focus a lot of attention on stuff that we think is helpful (like email), while forgetting that the payoff will come from those things that produce the real results. So you might ask, what am I doing now that gives me and my organization no benefits? Corporations have used that thought to eliminate unnecessary meetings, reports and other activities. What can you eliminate so you can focus on the activities that really matter?

Jill_SEFLINOf course, as I think about Carlsson's phrase, I also think about what I do in my work. Most you know me only as a blogger who writes frequently about digitization, but what do I really do?

My strength is in examining, evaluating, discussing and teaching things that will improve how we work. When I think about digitization (or even social networking), I'm interested in learning and teaching those ideas, tools, etc., that will make a difference. Yes, I'm interested in the theory, but it is the practice that will make a real difference. (I think my focus on practice confuses some graduate students who think that all they will learn is theory.)

When I work with organizations, I'm interested in knowing what they are doing know and then helping them discover what they could be doing differently. How could they work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. And...just as important...where should they be spending more time and energy in order to improve their outcomes.

I have made my mark with a few organizations for being the person who gets things done (and ensures that others do too). Thankfully, I have learned how to say "no" to some volunteer opportunities, since the rule is to give a busy person more things to do!

I am a person who understands how to network with others in order to find necessary resources. And I believe in connecting people and organizations that need to know about each other. I have always excelled at the "you should meet..." even when there was nothing in it for me.

Jill Hurst-Wahl warholized - 2I am a consultant, a speaker, an author, an adjunct faculty member, and a trainer. I used to describe myself as a corporate librarian. Many years ago, I describe myself with words that talked about my work in information technology. And many, many years ago, I worked in radio as well as with children in a local park. What you are likely not to see is that I'm also a wonderful gardener, a person who cares about the environment as well as friends and colleagues, and a good cook (all parts of the creative me).

By the way, this blog is approaching its fourth birthday on Aug. 30. Begun in 2004, I saw this blog as a way of letting you know what I do and think in regards to digitization. I have been thrilled to see its readership grow and to see the blog quoted by many people in many different languages. My thinking was that if you could understand what I knew about digitization, then you would understand how you might use my services. This blog, indeed, has brought opportunities my way and I am very grateful. This blog has also allowed me to meet many people and that has been wonderful! Digitization 101 crosses the boundaries between the work I do (my job) and what I do for fun. With more than 1,530 blog posts (and growing), it has become a rich repository of information about digitization, digital preservation, and copyright. You don't get to see the time and effort that goes into this blog, but I am happy that you continue to be pleased with its results.

This post has grown much longer than I thought it would! I guess Chris Carlsson's book has sparked some deep thinking. If anything in this post has given you reason to pause and think deeply for a moment, then it has done its job.


David Kemper said...

Great post, Jill. Just briefly scanned your post and will read it over again.

I've been fascinated (bordering on obsessed, perhaps, but I digress) with the divide between what we do (work) to pay the bills and what we do to complement or fulfill our lives (creative expression).


Michael Sauers said...

So, basically, you're saying you're not me? ;-)

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Michael, first of all, the photo of you working was perfect! You're surrounded by technology and hard at work. Like me, however, I know that you spend non-wage (creative) hours also hard at "work", and making a difference., I'm not you (and could the world take two of you?).

BTW I still smile when I think of you calling me "the voice of reason" at CIL! An unexpected compliment.