How much time do you spend keeping up-to-date? 10 mins a day? A few hours a week? Half a day a week? More?
About a year ago I passed the point in my current job at which I was no longer having to constantly fire-fight and struggle to win buy-in for significant change, indeed, the service I now run is finally initiating and innovating rather than just reacting. One of the many postitives to arise from this, apart from a more efficient and effective service and an upskilled team, was the luxury of a bit of time to keep up-to-date professionally. Not a lot of time you understand, but crucially ‘a bit’.
How would I use this time and what would the upshot be? After a bit of thought, but not a lot (as I’ve been hankering after more professional sustenance and development since I arrived in Cambridge) I decided to undertake the following:
- Begin a blog to share my experience and explore professional issues
- Identify core published professional literature to read regularly
- Use Twitter more actively for networking, current awareness and project leads
- Engage one of my staff to produce a regular professional literature bulletin for the Library team
- Identify key blogs to follow
- Institute regular ‘Journals Club’ meetings (as suggested by my deputy) at which we would get together as a team to discuss an article of professional interest (preferably relating to our service and its development).
It quickly became apparent to me that all of the above was going to take more time than I had anticipated and that engagement in such activity could easily grow exponentially, as there were soon ever more: leads to follow up; people to follow; debates to have; ideas to explore; topics to blog about; tools to implement. Due to the constraints of my busy and demanding job I realised I would have to exercise restraint or choose to dedicate more of my time out of work to this effort. In the end I did both. (It would have been lovely to update my blog every week but it just isn’t feasible).
So, all of the above took time – yes, but a more important upshot was that very quickly I found myself feeling more engaged and professionally active (and aware) than I had been in my previous 13 years as a librarian (although this is partly down to available technology and social media development). The time spent was far more rewarding than I had imagined it could be, and was having a direct impact on the development and direction of my Library service.
You may be reading this thinking that all of the above is obvious or asking yourself ‘why weren’t you doing this in the first place?’, well I believe there are some times in your career when you just have to get your head down and ‘think local’ (as long as you don’t get too Tubbs and Edward – below – about it) especially in times of significant change.
However, it would be dishonest of me to suggest that this is the only reason why I have not always been so engaged, another key reason is that blatantly untrue excuse that I’ve often told myself: ‘you haven’t got time’.
From my current perspective, and because of the opportunities now offered by social media , I’d say that I now cannot afford not to spend the time (even when I haven’t really got it), especially when one considers the huge threats that librarianship is currently under.
As the author of the importance of being social post on the excellent Totally Academic blog said recently: ‘you have to devote time and effort into being active’. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’d argue that the hours I spend on this sort of activity sometimes proves to be the very best use of my time.