9 Kinds of Things to Do

16 May

Have you ever wondered what sorts of things you should do in your job?

Folks in my work team did, and we came up with a draft list of nine kinds of things, which I share here because I like them, with no attempt at prioritization. We used them when we worked on our individual plans for the year, and I think they helped us think of planning an activity or two we might otherwise not have thought of or might otherwise just not have planned. We’re librarians and technologists in a merged library-I.T. department in a university, but I think these nine probably work in other contexts. My comments are interwoven.

  1. Learning About Your Community. How we interact with, engage in, learn about the people among whom we do our work. Examples: read faculty scholarship, sit in on classes, interview students, help out in a lab. Dave’s thought: clearly if you don’t know the people you’re serving something is amiss, but too often we don’t actually plan to know them. Learning takes work, though, so we shouldn’t leave it to chance.
  2. Intervening in Your Community. Concrete projects we undertake, or problems we tackle, to improve the world. Examples: help teach a class, engage in primary research, organize a learning group, find new information resources for people, create a how-to video, organize a conference. Dave’s thought: “intervention” has some kooky connotations, but I like the empowering feeling of thinking of your work as being there to help the world around you, to improve, to fix, to heal, not just to be work, dreary, drudgery, clock-in and clock-out stuff.
  3. Engaging in Inter-institutional Activities. How we collaborate and partner with and learn from peer institutions facing similar challenges. Examples: collaborative collection development, volunteering in professional organizations, visiting local schools & asking questions. Dave’s thought: collaborating with other places facing the same challenges you face takes time and is a lot of work, but pays huge dividends.
  4. Knowing Your Resources & Services. How we keep abreast of and contribute to the provision of our own departmental resources and services. Examples: select journals, evaluate e-resources, contribute in a major service roll-out, identify & vet problems in service provision, find an answer to user’s problem no matter what it is. Dave’s thought: here’s one of the ones you would expect to be on the list; I like that it’s described as “keeping abreast” (of a thing that evolves) as opposed to, say, mastering a static thing (which is not as much fun).
  5. Growing & Learning. How we think about who we want to become and how we organize ourselves to move towards it. Examples: master GIS, become a teacher, get better at meeting facilitation, learn to video-edit & produce a film. Dave’s thought: if you don’t get to ask yourself thoughts like “how can I grow, what do I want to become, how do I get there,” and then get the chance to do a thing or two in that line, why would you want to be involved in an organization?  Yikes.
  6. Building “Identity” Skills. How we define and maintain and grow our special, unique, highly-needed skill area(s). Examples: GIS skills, data curation, business resources, statistics, data visualization, ethnographies, visual design, pedagogy, assessment. Dave’s thought: everybody needs to have their special thing that’s valued and important and hard to acquire, or it just doesn’t seem like a team can function.
  7. Reporting. How we tell people what we’re up to, how we feed our knowledge back into the community, how we help people learn from what we’re doing. Examples: blog, written reports, verbal presentations at staff or departmental meetings, etc. Dave’s thought: I love this one: feedback is key to learning and improvement, right? Then we’re essentially obliged to share information on what we’re doing, knowing, thinking, learning with our community. So it can grow. Secret knowledge isn’t going to help the world much.
  8. Administering & Raising Morale. What we do that keeps the work team running and/or helps establish a culture of trust, fun, respect, joy. Examples: facilitate team meetings, share knowledge, organize parties, resolve work-flow issues, propose new policies. Dave’s thought: basically everyone should expect to contribute something in this area, if for no other reason than at least they’ll be more supportive when it’s someone else running the meeting.
  9. Being Strategic. How we contribute to decisions about what activities to prioritize. Examples: brainstorming and strategic planning meetings, scans of the landscape. Dave’s thought: it’s the old Frye Institute’s “Chin Up” message: no matter your role, you need to stick your head up out of the cubicle and see what’s going on now and then.
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