REVY Article on saying 'no'

I like REVY, a very stylishly put together magazine / journal for info pros. They asked me to rework my just say no blogpost (which had some really interesting comments) from a while back into an article, which I was very happy to do! You can see the issue embedded below - mine is the first article - or find it on issuu.com here.


Two great new sources of free-to-use stock photos

 

I got sent this guide to image sources, and it contained links to a couple of image sources I wasn't familiar with. They're both a little different to the sites I normally recommend, and I think they'll be very useful. I use stock images a lot, mostly in presentations but also in tweets, blogposts, other parts of this site, graphics and posters etc.

The downside with these particular sites, for me, is that it's hard to search them - they're both blogs rather than depository style sites like FreeImages.com. But actually this presents images, added on an on-going basis, in a new way (to me) which is potentially quite helpful.

The upsides are firstly you can do anything you like with them and you don't even have to attribute. The second updside is the standard of photography - and I've been looking for a free-to-use source vintage images for ages, and finally I've found one. Let's look at that one first.

New Old Stock

New Old Stock curates vintage photos 'free of known copyright restrictions' - this means you can use them for whatever purpose you like, however you want. Hey look, here's a library example!

METU Library, via New Old Stock

METU Library, via New Old Stock

Some of the pics go WAY back, like this Egyptian example:

There's a huge amount to explore on New Old Stock, mostly B&W or sepia but with some early colour too, and if you're on Tumblr you can subscribe to get notified whenever they post more.

Unsplash

Unsplash adds 10 new images a day (you can subscribe to keep updated) and again, it has a 'do anything' licence. Specifically the site says:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.
— unsplash.com/license

... which is good to know!

There are real advantages to not having to attribute. Although I'll always do so in a presentation, when you're tweeting in image or designing a poster or web materials, it's nice not to have to take up space with a URL and author name. It's also important to be able to modify the images in any way you please - on Flickr, for example, the majority of the Creative Commons images aren't set to allow this, meaning you can't use them in presentations or posters, or indeed do anything expect display them as they are.

The images on Unsplash are just a cut above most free image sites - for example I've used pictures of both coffee and bridges in presentations before, but never as nice as these examples...

The header image for this post is also from Unsplash.

So take a look and see if these images will be useful either for you or your library comms.

In Australian librarianship there's room to breathe

 

Last month I ran some library marketing workshops in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. I was invited over to do this by PiCS, who were wonderful to work with and really looked after me. I don't normally write 'this is what I did' type blog posts, but working in Australia was one of the most amazing things I've ever done! So it seems silly not to write a little about it.

Australian librarians are ace. Engaged, reflective, getting things done. The marketing workshop relies on people being happy and able to discuss what they're doing and thrash out ideas in small groups, and every one of the delegates did this brilliantly.

I've now run a lot of workshops in my freelance career, so I hopefully have a good feel for the level at which to pitch them. What struck doing these was what a high level Australian info pros are working at. I had to adjust the tone of the training as I went along because everyone already doing a lot of things I was suggesting. To take one example - there's a section on marketing with video, and using nice animation tools to move away from tired talking-head or screen-capture videos. In every single workshop in Australia, participants were already using these tools at their own institutions. In the UK I'm used to maybe one or two institutions in a group of delegates who have used these tools already.

I don't mean this is a slight on UK librarians - I think what it comes down to is that there is room to breathe in the Australian library system. Although they are facing financial cuts there is nothing like the crisis facing libraries in the UK. They aren't being attacked by their own Government the whole time. And when you don't spend all your time fighting for survival, that frees you up to experiment, to prioritise, to innovate. It seems to really make a huge difference. (I also spoke to Australians who put their libraries being ahead of the curve down to the fact that they're an island who traditionally had to find answers by doing, rather than waiting to hear about the rest of the world was up to...)

The other main difference to my eyes - and I was only there for six days so I'm sure there are plenty of nuances I missed - is how integrated the libraries are with the rest of a city's public buildings. For example in Brisbane, a Library is part of the City Council regional business centre. And the the State Library of Queensland, also in Brisbane, sits right in the middle of the cultural quarter on the south bank of the river, within the Queensland Cultural Centre, in between the Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art. It's a destination - not just somewhere a council can save money by slashing services. Have a look at the first few seconds of this video to see its glorious location:

I'm not saying libraries in Australia have it easy. But - surprise suprise - when a library system isn't forced to spend 90% of its time defending its services, those services have more opportunity to develop and become more vital still to the community.

Incidentally, via Twitter I found a new photography app just before I left (thanks Amanda!), which is a neat hybrid between video and still image, allowing you to pan across a larger view. Here's where I had lunch in Brisbane, in a cafe that was part of the Gallery of Modern Art. The library is on the right as you pan across by clicking and holding the image and moving your mouse (or finger if you're on a tablet or phone).

I loved Australia. I've never been anywhere so many of the people were so genuinely nice. I felt completely at ease there. The way the trip worked is I arrived in Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon, had just over a day there to explore and recover from jet-lag, then did a 9 - 5pm workshop on the Monday. As soon as it finished I was off to the airport, and flew to Sydney that night. Then I had a day in Sydney, followed by a full-day workshop and flight to Brisbane. Then a day in Brisbane, a full-day workshop, and a 2:30am flight home via Singapore and Dubai. It was intense. It felt almost surrealy short. But I didn't want to spend any more time away from my family, particularly leaving my wife to cope with both the girls on her own!

So to all intents and purposes, I had a day to explore each of the three cities. Everyone told my Sydney was magnificent, and it was - although it had its worst storm in a decade when I was there, and I've never been so wet. I couldn't NOT go out in it as it was my only day there. But it was bad enough that people were being advised across the State to leave work early and get home to safety! But I really fell in love with Melbourne. What a great city!

  Melbourne has a river running right through it, and when you're on the bank it feels like a great vantage point to be both IN the City and seeing the best of it at the same time.

 

Melbourne has a river running right through it, and when you're on the bank it feels like a great vantage point to be both IN the City and seeing the best of it at the same time.

Thanks to everyone who came to the workshops and participated so enthusiastically. You made me feel very welcome. I'll be back in a couple of years for another round.


Header pic is a Creative Commons image by Wotjeck Gurak.

Five questions to ask yourself before you say 'yes'

 

There's a big thing in librarianship about the importance of saying 'no'. On Twitter especially I see it discussed a lot (and I take part in those discussions sometimes): it's really, really hard to say no to exciting opportunities, or even, frankly, unexciting ones, for all sorts of reasons. But if you say yes to everything you can end up burnt out. So how do you strike the balance? Here are some useful questions to ask yourself when weighing up a decision. I'd be very interested if anyone wants to leave a comment offering more advice on this.

(ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM KLAXON: it's hard to write about saying no to CPD offers without it sounding like one big humblebrag. Oh man, all these people want me to do these cool things but I'm so busy doing cool things already! Nightmare!

That's not what this is intended to be so I hope it doesn't come across that way.)

Is this going to add to *MY* professional development specifically?

By which I mean, does it feed into your specific goals and interests, or does it fall into the category of 'generic CPD'? I think a lot of stuff we feel like we should do actually turns out not to be something we can USE in our professional development. Job applications in our profession are all about tailoring your experience and skills to the specific role being offered - there's little room, in most cases (not all) for general experiences which sound quite nice but won't be used in the job itself. So if you get asked to chair or take part in a conference panel on The Future of Libraries, for example, does that help you tick off an essential personal specification on a job application? If so, great; if not, even if the conference is prestigious, it might not actually turn out to mean much, in real terms, that you were on the panel.

So ask yourself, where do I want to go next? And does this thing I've been asked to do potentially help me get there, or not?

Do I have the emotional energy to throw myself into this?

I really put my all into each workshop I run or talk I give. It's not just the time spent preparing, it's the emotional energy of being 'on' all day, as an introvert. I can't do this 50 times a year, it would stop it being fun. So even if something is on the surface a really exciting opportunity, you have to ask yourself if you have enough in the tank to do it justice given the number of other things you may already be doing.

Where does this fit with my wider calendar?

This is so obvious, but easy to ignore. It's not just about whether there are things the day before or after the event you're being offered; it's more about your professional life-cycle. If you're coming to the end of a massive project on a Friday, chances are doing a talk the following Monday will cause you stress about both activities because you need the emotional space to focus on each one individually.

Are there big events in your personal life going on? Sometimes they can be all consuming and the last thing you need is to plan a talk. Other times planning a talk can be the escape you need.

Does this have the potential to lead to other exciting things?

Are you going to find a new or extended network, or audience, by taking this opportunity? Or is it a no-through-road in terms of what might happen next?

Sometimes it can be worth finding a way to say yes to something if you can see more opportunities opening up as a result - as long as those opportunities are specifically relevant to your interests and goals, of course. I wrote an entire book mostly for that exact reason - it was a nightmare to do, too... But worth it for the doors it opened. 

Is this something new, or more of the same?

One of the best ways to eliminate an opportunity which seems like it will be great but you know you simply don't have time to do, is to ask what it offers that nothing else does. And if, for all its excitingness, it's not going to introduce you to new people or force you to do research into an area you don't know as much about as you'd like or make you explore new ways of presenting, or whatever, that can be enough of a reason to say no.

I don't want to give the same talk over and over again. Laura Woods and I did that with the echo chamber thing back in 2010 / 2011 and we felt really spent after a while - even though we varied the content, we felt we'd said all we had to say. So we stopped saying it.

Bonus question: would it be fun?

I added this one after asking my friend Céline on Twitter what advice she'd give. As she says, "you're allowed to say yes to things just because they'd be fun" which is very, very true. Fun is important! Sometimes it can trump all of the considerations above, because a fun experience leaves you fizzing with energy and motivation.

Extra bonus question for white males

Something I've just started doing with conferences invites is finding out a little bit about the other speakers. I'm giving a Keynote at LIANZA in New Zealand this year, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to be the all-too-common library conference situation where all the keynotes are male and white. Thankfully that was definitely not the case for this event, they have it covered. 

I'm not trying to preach that if you're white and male like I am you should turn down your dream conference talk because the other two speakers are both white blokes too - but I do think it's important to ask the question and ensure the organisers have considered it.


Of course, it's not just you who features in this equation, it's the people or body who are asking you to do something in the first place. If you can, as well doing the obvious helpful things like replying promptly, recommend someone else. If I know enough about the event from the description I've been given, I'll always try and match it with a name who I know would be great. Often the organisers are really pleased to have a new lead to pursue. 

It feels GREAT to say no. Knowing you're not adding additional pressure to your work-life balance. In my experience, opportunities still come up. It's not like saying no once forever puts the CPD genie back in the bottle.

There's a lot of rhetoric around the idea of being the best you can be, making the best of all the opportunities you have, and how you only regret the things you don't do. I can see the merit in all of that but I treat it all with caution. I keep a list of things I've said no to (partly because I want to show my employer that when I do ask to attend a conference in work time, it's for a good, considered reason, and not just  something I do at every opportunity) and honestly there's some pretty cool stuff on there which it would have been fun to be a part of. But I don't for a minute sit around wishing I'd said 'yes'. Because if I had, who knows how much I'd've been able to enjoy the things I DID agree to - maybe I would have been too busy to prepare properly (I HATE being under-prepared for a talk, even by a tiny amount) or I would have been so exhausted by All The Things that I wouldn't have truly enjoyed any of them.

So to maintain a healthy relationship between work, life, day job, CPD, creativity, energy reserves and all of that, learning to say no is a genuinely important skill. Don't always say no! But at least ask yourself some questions before you say yes...

NLPN Interview on what matters and what doesn't

I'm a big fan of the New Library Professionals Network (which is distinct from LISNPN, incidentally!) so I was very happy to answer a few questions for them on their blog.

You can read the whole interview here.

I enjoyed the perceptive questions and it allowed me to talk about some things I feel quite strongly about. The screen-shot below shows one such question, about whether awards really matter for career progression. They don't (in my experience) and nor should they.

New Professionals are my favourite library group and I don't really get to work with them much these days, so thank you NLPN for inviting me to be an interview subject!