Why you should check out Startup Weekend Toronto EDU: Library Edition

Originally posted at http://toronto.startupweekend.org/2014/03/07/why-you-should-check-out-startup-weekend-toronto-edu-library-edition/

Are you a librarian, a developer, or a designer? Can you spend the weekend of March 28 – 30 in Toronto? If so, you should absolutely check out Startup Weekend Toronto EDU: Library Edition. Read on to find out why.

First things first: what is SWTOLib all about? Developers may already be familiar with the Startup Weekend concept: people from diverse backgrounds come together and form teams to take innovative ideas from the concept stage to lay the groundwork for startup businesses. If this sounds intimidating, it shouldn’t; you’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are all working toward the goal of improving libraries through technology. If you’re a librarian, you don’t need any technical experience, and developers and designers don’t need to know much about libraries. You can find all the details on the SWTOLib event page and on Twitter: @SWTOLib, but I’m here to tell you why you should join in. There are a ton of good reasons; here are 5 of the best:

  1. You’ll meet some amazing people. (Aside to librarians: developers aren’t so bad, if you give them a chance; aside to developers: same goes for librarians). You might meet your future business partner, and even if you don’t, the bonds you form here are sure to have a lasting impact on your professional network.
  2. Everyone loves libraries (except, perhaps, the mayor and his brother). Even if you haven’t been to a library in years, you can surely imagine the possibilities when free access to information meets bleeding-edge technology. Help build the future for citizens of the world.
  3. You’ll have the chance to work on cool ideas you might not have the opportunity to try out at work. Even if you work somewhere as awesome as Google, you can’t spend *all* your time doing whatever tickles your fancy, so come try out some wild ideas.
  4. You’ll be part of something massive. Over 45,000 people have participated in Startup Weekend, in countries all around the world. Or, if you’re more into exclusivity, consider that you’ll be among the very first to harness the power of Startup Weekend and aim it at libraries.
  5. No matter how many good ideas you have coming in, you’ll have even more when you’re finished. Even if you don’t actually launch a new business venture, the ideas you’ve worked on will continue to percolate in your mind for the weeks and months following the event, so make sure you connect on LinkedIn (or trade business cards, if you’re old school like that) with all the amazing people you meet, because your project may very well take on a life of its own.

So go sign up now! I’ll be there as a mentor, which means I’ll be floating around and helping groups however I can. I hope to see you there!

How I landed an awesome job through networking

As you may already know, in September I started a new job as Information Literacy Librarian at the King Campus of Seneca College, just north of Toronto. My position involves a lot of teaching (i.e., in-class information literacy sessions), some reference work, and a variety of fascinating committee-based projects. I’m working with an innovative library team, supportive faculty, and engaged students who are researching interesting topics. Life is good! And did I mention that I recently married the most wonderful woman in the world? Life is very, very good!

On this blog, I generally avoid writing posts that are purely personal, and I’m not telling you my good news because I want you to be happy for me (though I hope you are). I want to tell the story of how I landed my job through networking.

It all started back in March, when I was on the job hunt in Toronto. I had signed up for a course through the iSchool Institute that wasn’t so much a course as it was a series of panels where librarians would come to talk about their jobs and about librarianship in general. It was led by the fantastic Kim Silk, and although it won’t be offered again in 2013, you can still read the course description, and I would highly recommend that you check out Kim’s session at the OLA Super Conference (Thursday January 31st at 3:45pm – session #611), where she will be discussing the course. One week the panel was made up of government and academic librarians, and one of the participants was Kathryn Klages, who was at that time doing exactly the job I’m doing now (she’s at a different Seneca campus now). She was clearly a superstar librarian, and working on some very interesting projects, so at the end of the session I arranged to meet her for coffee so we could chat a bit more about her work.

I didn’t know much about college libraries then, having spent my professional career in Quebec; the CEGEP system is similar to college but quite different in many ways. So I was interested to learn from Kathryn about the college system, and how it differs from universities. I had heard previously that Seneca is one of the best academic libraries in Ontario to work for, and our discussion gave me the impression that this was accurate. Kathryn seemed to think I would be a good fit, so she kindly offered to mention my name at work. She even said there was a position opening up that would be perfect for me, and that she would discuss it with her outstanding Chief Librarian and Director, Tanis Fink. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t eligible for the position Kathryn had in mind because it was the OCULA New Librarian Residency position, which is only available to recent grads (the good news is they found a great new librarian, Lydia Tsai – check out the video she made about her position). This was disappointing, but as you already know, everything worked out in the end. I kept plugging away at the job search, and a couple of months later I was at the OCULA Dinner at Ryerson, when I had the good fortune to end up sitting at a table with three Seneca people: Tanis Fink, Shanna Pearson, and 2012 OCULA President Jennifer Peters. I had a good chat with all of them, and Jenn generously offered to show me around Seneca, so we made plans for me to visit. She arranged for me to meet with four librarians, including Shanna and herself, so I could learn about different areas of the library. The visit went really well – everyone was happy to share their experiences with me and seemed to be working on very cool projects, and I could definitely picture myself working there.

A couple of months later, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Tanis Fink, telling me that a position had opened up and asking whether I would be interested to come in for an interview. After months of applying (unsuccessfully) to jobs by emailing a cover letter and resume to a hiring committee I’d never met, I knew I’d succeeded with my networking when I received a call before even applying. The interview process was just as rigorous as it is for most academic library positions (after an initial interview I was called back for a second one where I gave a presentation), but looking back, it comes as no surprise that of the many interviews I went through this spring and summer, it was Seneca that offered me the job.

So here I am. I owe a huge thanks to Kim, Kathryn, Tanis, Shanna, and Jenn for their roles in the process; they are all fantastic people. I’d like to share the lessons I’ve learned from this experience, but I’m going to put some thought into it before posting. Stay tuned!

P.S. This is unrelated to networking, but here’s a photo of me at work, participating in Movember and doing my best Hulk Hogan impression.

Dressed up as Hulk Hogan during Movember

Dressed up as Hulk Hogan during Movember

Book review: Graduate to LinkedIn: Jump-start your career network now

I realize it may seem anachronistic to be researching LinkedIn through books (and not even e-books, but the old fashioned paper-based kind). However, while it’s entirely possible that the same information may be available through blog posts and other modern sources, if it’s packaged nicely for me and waiting at the local public library, why not give it a try?

Today I’ll be discussing Graduate to LinkedIn: Jump-start your career network now by John Fowler and Melissa Giovagnoli Wilson.

As the title suggests, this book is aimed at university students. The main point is that it’s tough to find a job these days, so it’s important to build business relationships while still in school. In order to do so, you need to take what the authors call the “Networlding approach.” Networlding is a buzz word developed by the second author in a previous book, and what it boils down to is networking in such a way that you form strong, mutually supportive relationships with the people in your network. Personally, I think Networlding is the same as effective networking, but the authors insist that Networlding leads to both internal and external fulfillment, and I have never felt quite that way about my own experiences with networking.

The book was published in 2010, so I was concerned that it would seem a bit dated (if that sounds unfair, consider that LinkedIn has been around for less than 10 years, and it has already been two and a half years since the beginning of 2010). Fortunately, I found this was not the case, with the minor exception of a few features that have changed names. I did find an unusually high number of typos, though, and upon further investigation discovered that the book is not printed by a major publisher, but instead by a small press operated by the second author.

The authors’ style is quite readable, if you’re not distracted by the typos, and they do a good job of balancing explanations of LinkedIn’s specific features with higher level discussions of the philosophy behind the site. The bite sized real life success stories that are mixed in every now and then are effective as concrete examples of the potential of LinkedIn. I especially appreciated the time the authors took to explain some concepts and best practices that many would consider beyond the scope of this type of publication; for example, they go into a fair amount of detail when discussing informational interviews, from how to request one to what topics to bring up at the interview. Although there are many examples in the main text of how to phrase your communications, the appendix helpfully provides samples of the following:

  • Inviting someone to connect
  • Requesting an introduction (including messages for both the person to whom you’re being introduced, and the person giving the introduction)
  • Requesting a recommendation
  • Writing a recommendation
  • Requesting an informational interview

Less helpful is the second part of the appendix, “other Networlding tools for your career success,” where the second author shamelessly promotes three of her previous books (Amazon.com and Publishers Weekly reviews and all).

Final verdict? I would definitely recommend it for business students, who are the book’s target audience. Some of the examples don’t apply to people outside of the business world, but many of them are reasonably universal. At 161 pages for the main text, it’s a quick read, and I can think of many less productive uses of your time, so give it a shot if you’re interested. I can’t help but end by pointing out that while the authors state they are giving half of the proceeds from the book to “initiatives that help 12-29 year olds improve their chances of success in the world,” they don’t specify which initiatives will receive the money, and the first author (who is presumably quite concerned with his own chances of success) happens to have been under 30 at the time of publication. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and call it a coincidence.

Comments?

Book review: The power in a link: open doors, close deals, and change the way you do business using LinkedIn

I love LinkedIn. Some see it as just a social network for businesspeople (or, as the author of the book I’m about to discuss puts it, “Facebook in a suit”), but it is a powerful tool for anyone who takes their career seriously. When I was working as a librarian at McGill I was invited to give a workshop to business students on how to make the most out of this tool (and invited to repeat my presentation for a different group the following year), and I believe I gave these students tips that will make a significant contribution to their career development. Unfortunately, many librarians not only do not consider themselves businesspeople but actually avoid resources that appear to be business-oriented. Dismissing this tool is a serious missed opportunity, so I’m putting together a LinkedIn workshop for librarians and other information professionals. In my research for this workshop, I came across the following book:

The power in a link : open doors, close deals, and change the way you do business using LinkedIn by David Gowel

What caught my attention about this book is that, unlike most of the LinkedIn books that have been published, it does not take a primarily “how to” approach. Rather than starting with tips for building a strong profile and then moving through the features of the site, Gowel opens with a discussion of social capital and touches on the philosophy behind LinkedIn. And even when he covers the more technical aspects he takes a storytelling approach, drawing from his own experience, instead of relying on screenshots of the site (though there are a few of those as well).

The book is divided into 3 parts:

  • Part 1: Why Wake Up?
    • The first part focuses on what makes LinkedIn such a revolutionary tool (with a healthy serving of hyperbole). The title of the section makes reference to the author’s belief that people are seriously missing out by not joining the party and that these people need to wake up to a new way to do business before their competitors do.
  • Part 2: From Army Ranger to LinkedIn Jedi
    • The second part tells the story of how the author used LinkedIn to kickstart his new career after leaving the military (though he makes liberal use of personal stories throughout the book).
  • Part 3: Getting Technical
    • The third part covers specific tips for making the most of the site, with a chapter on each aspect of the author’s “4P” approach:
      • Privacy and security protection
      • Profile improvement
      • Proper network growth
      • Proactive business tool usage

From the start it’s clear that Gowel thinks quite highly of himself, and while I certainly appreciate the value of confidence (read my post on calling yourself an expert if you haven’t already), his cocky attitude left a sour taste in my mouth early on. Throughout the book he quotes the glowing things others have said about him, and he makes reference no fewer than ten times (I counted) to the fact that a journalist once called him a “LinkedIn Jedi.”

Once I came to terms with the author’s self congratulatory style, I found that he is actually a good storyteller, and the stories make for an engaging read. I can imagine that someone who had been on the fence about LinkedIn might be brought over to Gowel’s point of view by reading Part 1.

Unfortunately, Part 2 covers little new territory, instead allowing the author five chapters of text to tell stories that exemplify the ideas he outlined in Part 1 (which were already sufficiently illustrated with stories, thanks very much). To be fair, there are some suggestions for readers here, such as tips for job seekers, but these are mainly common sense bullet points.

Part 3 contains tips that people may find useful. I found one (but only one) nugget that I had not considered before and immediately put into use in my own profile: when listing the URL of your blog or other website, always choose “Other” from the dropdown menu because this will allow you to customize the text that appears. The chapter about building your network is worth reading (for those who are not already LinkedIn Jedis), and the section on performing company research is interesting but brief.

So, would I recommend this book? That’s a difficult question. Gowel clearly knows a lot about LinkedIn (his career revolves around teaching others to use it), and I like his storytelling style (up to a certain point) and his approach of considering why and not just how to use the tool. On the other hand, he spends a significant amount of the book patting himself on the back and complimenting the people who have said nice things about him. I think the book would be most valuable to someone who isn’t quite convinced that LinkedIn is for them – but of course, this type of person probably wouldn’t be motivated to pick up the book in the first place. For anyone already on board, the third part would be useful, but be aware this section is only 60 pages long. So here’s my advice. Pick up a copy at the library and do the following:

  1. Read the preface and introduction
  2. Start reading Part 1, and stop when you’re convinced that putting some time and effort into LinkedIn is a good idea
  3. Skip Part 2 altogether (or, if you must, read the summary at the end of each chapter)
  4. Read Part 3

Have you read this book? Is there another source of LinkedIn tips you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Good advice from someone who has given me more than my fair share of advice

Seriously, at some point I am going to have to pay Amy back for all the help she’s given me over the past few years, but for now I’m doing my best to pay it forward by offering advice to current, future, and recent students. Read her whole post here:

when i grow up i wanna be like…

since then, i have found myself a group of mentors. some i work with, most i don’t. what’s most important is that i went out and built a network for myself – a network of people that i admire, and want to be like “when i grow up”. these are librarylanders with drive, ambition, perseverance, awesome ideas, and the guts to go for it when the haters are in full-on hate mode. these people? these are the ones i turn to for advice, comfort, comiseration, or a good kick in the ass. i also will eternally have their backs, as they have mine. some of them might not even realize they are mentors to me, but they are. (and for you mentors who don’t like it… sukkit. <3 jambina.)

Conference season is upon us

I recently attended the SLA conference in New Orleans, and it was an incredible experience. I want to remind everyone, students and professionals alike, that going to conferences is an invaluable opportunity for networking and learning more about the community. If you’re interested in hearing my thoughts on SLA 2010, check out my post on the Re:Generations blog (Re:Gen has other great conference posts as well).

Of course, you may not be able to travel as far as New Orleans (unless you already live near there), so keep your eyes peeled for local conferences. For those of us in Quebec, the ABQLA puts on an excellent conference each year in Montreal. Whether you take advantage of discounted student registration rates or work as a volunteer (which usually means avoiding registration fees altogether), you should absolutely make a point of fitting at least one upcoming conference into your schedule.

You’ll find the biblioblogosphere is already filled with conference tips, so I’ll refrain from adding more of my own, but I will suggest that you check out Stephen Abram’s tips. And as always, if you have questions for me, just ask.

Professional Partnering followup

This post is going up a bit late because I spent most of reading week in New York City (visiting, among other attractions, the gorgeous New York Public Library) and then had to scramble to catch up on assignments. At any rate, I’m pleased to announce that the Professional Partnering kick-off was a great success! Everyone I spoke to was having a terrific time and the food was delicious.

My partner is Jared Wiercinski, Digital Services / Outreach Librarian and Music & Contemporary Dance Librarian at Concordia University. Although I have no academic interest in music or dance (I do, of course, enjoy both in my spare time), his work with library technology is right up my alley. He’s offered to show me around the Concordia campuses and let me see what exactly he does, so stay tuned when that happens, a couple of weeks from now. Did I mention that he’s also a really nice guy? For more about Jared, check out his research guides for music and dance.