What we want is not always what we get…

November and December were spent on cloud nine! The first because of a fabulous holiday and the other because our daughter and granddaughter came for Christmas, all the way from Brisbane.  January arrived and suddenly everyone was back at work except for me. The house was depressingly quiet and the dog and I were looking at each other equally as gloomy. My volunteering stint at the Museum of Islamic Art was over. With no job prospects at present, and my Australian visa application in a queue – a very looong queue – for the last year already, what was next?! I felt myself descending into the abyss of depression.

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Reflection by Fumigraphik_photographist on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Why can’t I get a job you ask?…the only job I honestly stand a chance of securing locally is as a school librarian. I feel uncomfortable with the level of censorship required in this country, so for this reason I do not apply for any. Having interned for +-320 hours in an American private school, I heard and saw much. I reached the final round of interviews for 2 teacher librarian jobs, was accepted for one, but declined at the end of internship, as I realised that the local school environment is not for me.

Other (academic) libraries, under the banner of a major local holding company, have a cut-off age of 55 years, unless you are already in a position of worth. I have received zero replies from the National Library’s HR. Without appearing to make excuses, 3 factors work against me – I’m Western, I don’t have a Master’s degree and am considered ‘old’. The majority of entry-level jobs are seemingly filled by Middle Eastern nationalities. I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree…a late career changer, chasing a long-held dream. At 59, with no experience bar +-500 volunteering hours, not many are willing to consider me employable. (If only they knew what a good librarian I’d make!)

My home country? No, not possible. An entrepreneurial venture? This would be another way forward, but I do not relish local red tape, and besides, this culture is very much a ‘man’s world’. My hands are tied – not cut off – just tied. For now.

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To be away from this particular expat situation and to be in a country where I feel I could belong is my dream. Someplace where I can become involved in community projects, volunteer freely, join librarian meet-ups, feel that life has a purpose, and to be able to possibly find a job. However, what we want is not always what we get.

longingDry Pots by Mirjana Veljovic on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Recently I began to think…perhaps what I want is not where I’m supposed to be? Have I another task to perform? Listening to the two people I live with (hubby and son) I began to see that my role had huge value.  I realised just how much they need me to keep things going so that they have a measure of support and sanity after crazy days in their respective working environments (you’ll only know to what I refer if you’ve been an expat in the Middle East). The mundane, unglamorous, task of running a home (which the world largely holds to scorn) acquired a new sheen. Added to that, a new granddaughter will arrive in April, in Brisbane.  Once again I’ll be required as home-carer-cum-babysitter for a good few weeks. (Not that I’m complaining, since I’ll be in Brissie! Yay!)

And so, resignation dawned – stop fighting the urge to escape, to build a new profession, stop the striving. Support those you care for most. This is a season in which they really need it. With that decision made, I felt at peace.alone

Pto. Madryn by Christian Ostrosky on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

So where does that leave my ‘librarian’ aspirations? Either I throw in the towel or I plod on.

Well, since retirement is not an option I am not about to cast myself aside as a ‘hopeful wannabe’. I choose to plod on! I will walk through PD opportunities that come my way, keeping my eyes fixed on that distant goal of ‘librarian’ position.  I will think positive, stay fit and healthy. I will not accept defeat and I will put my hope in the right place – in the One who can make all things happen.

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Beginning by Aftab Uzzaman on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One morning a few weeks ago, I read an article that inspired me to keep my dream alive. I sprang into action and signed up for a MOOC through Coursera, Deciphering Secrets: The Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Europe, and enrolled for ALIA’s Born Digital course. I felt my spirits lift because some great learning would be coming my way soon. Simultaneously, I learned of another volunteering opportunity – a very exciting one – that may be available once I return to this ‘land-of-sand’ in May. I do hope it materialises.

What we want is not always what we get. For me, serving my family while waiting for the right time to realise a dream, feels like the right thing to be doing just now.

Here’s to you librarians everywhere…you rock!  I really envy you, but in a good way. 😀 Keep up the great work!

“Good librarians are natural intelligence operatives. They possess all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organization and analytical aptitude, and discretion.”

Marilyn Johnson in This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians can save us all.

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Thing 17: Reflective Practice

For Thing 17 we are encouraged to apply the “Cobbs Cycle of Reflective Practice”.  The process is outlined in the diagram below (taken from the Rudai 23, Thing 17 article):

gibbs-diagram
Gibbs, G. (1998) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.

Today, my reflective thinking post will be on the course in general, thus far.

Description

I decided that I needed to tackle a course on  technology…something that would challenge me.  I remembered seeing Tweets about “23 Things” and so I explored the various options. Although Rudai23 was no longer active or monitored, the activities for each Thing and the length of the course felt right to me. I threw down the gauntlet to myself as it were, and picked up the challenge.

Feelings?

At the time I was excited to begin this course.  I felt as if I was losing touch regarding technology and the skills required.  Some forms of tech I had not, at that point, ever used. The niggling urge to try them out was always there, but never the time. This course would require action.  Besides that, I had let my blogging slide into neglect, and kept hearing people banging on about how important a blog was as a CPD record.  It annoyed me, since I did not enjoy blogging, but wanted to ensure that one day, one day, when hopefully we could escape from this ‘land of sand’, I would be an employable candidate. So, with the added requirement of writing a blog post, I realised there can be no excuses…I would have to write.

blogging

 

 

 

Evaluation

I have had to dig deep. I confronted insecurity in tackling technology that I had not used before; faced my fear of ‘being visible’ (blogging publicly) since I don’t have the gift of the gab; also of linking my social media accounts for branding purposes.  I realised that I suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’.  Something kept whispering ‘you’re not a real librarian’, ‘you’ve used distance study’, ‘you’re out of touch’.  I had to actively work at quashing those thoughts.  Feeling very vulnerable, I only experienced kindness online.  I’m thankful for the librarians who commented and encouraged. With each Thing‘s activity, I my confidence grew. Exploring the topics gave me more insight. Finally, tackling the activity and writing up the blog post afterward, was hugely satisfying. I am just over halfway through the course now, and feeling more equipped with knowledge and experience. 😀

Analysis

Before beginning I didn’t fully think the course through.  I merely jumped in.  While that is a good thing in some ways (because in too much thought I may have decided to shelve it), I have also found it tough to stay on schedule.  Working as a volunteer, running a household, trying to remain up to speed with professional development, strength training, reading and other commitments, alongside weekly blogging, is a serious challenge to one who isn’t a natural writer. Also, doing this kind of programme solo is not desirable – it would have been valuable to share with someone along the way, to discuss various elements and to compare notes.  (The administrators of Rudai23 encouraged me and invited contact if I needed to, but that would be a lot to ask of people who are probably as pressured as the rest of us and who have in fact moved on from this course.)

Some of the activities sounded as if they would be a walk in the park, but in reality were tough and a time challenge. For example, screencasting in Thing 9. That taught me a lesson in three Ps…preparation, perseverance and patience. 😀  I eagerly anticipated experiencing the Augmented Reality in Thing 14, when, obligingly, Pokémon Go was launched just a few weeks earlier and it was on everyone’s lips. My desire to explore new things, had me looking at different AR Apps and in so doing I discovered AR I hadn’t known about and found some ideas for library advocacy, which was to follow in Thing 15.

So, I see a pattern emerging…these tasks and skills are interwoven and can be combined to equip one for more effective service to users and stakeholders within all kinds of libraries.

Conclusion

What else could I have done? Read!…more blogs linked to the Rudai23 things course…more articles on technology…more research. I could have given each activity more thought in respect of application to libraries. I could also have actively tried to form a local group to do this course together with.

Action plan

  1. Short term: to not quit, but to finish strong.
  2. Medium term: to read more on professional writing.
  3. Long term: to begin another 23 Things course in 2017, hopefully as part of a group… 23 Research Data (RD) Things. 😀 (If anyone is interested in doing this course next year, please drop me a line below, so that we can connect.

The use of reflective practice in libraries should be encouraged by managers.  Each member of staff, each professional, given a chance to revisit their learning; their experiences; their interaction, with users and with each other; their attitude, aptitude and approach to new technologies.  How could this be instituted? How do you ensure library staff are exercising reflective thinking?  By providing forms to complete? By asking for feedback from each person? How often? Monthly, quarterly, annually?  Not everyone will be interested in maintaining a continuous professional development (CPD) blog. So how?

reflecting

Reflecting by Gisela Giardino on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In my previous life  😉  as ELT coordinator, the Head of Department was of the opinion that regular observation of teachers was vital to maintain standards of professionalism.  Random, drop-in observations, was the method used.  Not popular, I know, but to measure someone’s actual ability/performance on the job, it is effective. In an office the manager doesn’t always notify people that s/he’s planning to walk the floor.  They often just pitch up to take a look at what’s happening.  I’m unsure of how it works in a factory, but I’m almost certain  workers are not pre-warned that managers observe from a window/platform above, they just do.  In our ESL department the teachers were aware, from the start, that we used this method of observation.

These observations ensured that teachers remained on top of their lesson planning and that weekly lesson plans were drafted, helping the department to run smoothly when someone called in ill or went on leave. They served to keep the lessons varied and interesting.  There is nothing worse than sitting in a language class for 6 hours of a very hot desert day, having a teacher drone on about grammar, writing, spelling and comprehension.  Equally so, lessons that were planned were more interactive, making the task more enjoyable for both teachers and students. Lastly, professional feedback was the outcome, since teachers had the chance to respond in writing to remarks on the observation report. feedback-commentsReflective thinking! From it came growth. Our ESL department was so effective, that it became popular locally and we were bursting at the seams.

Feedback by Ewan McIntosh on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

So, in my experience, the outcome of reflective thinking, especially when it involves accountability to someone else, is professional growth. Yesterday’s #auslibchat on Twitter was about professional development, mentors and mentees. One outcome of the discussion was the need for mentors, and for all of us, in fact, to come alongside the other. So perhaps we can each find someone that we can do some mutual reflective thinking with…regularly…so we can challenge our growth and professionalism as librarians.

Here’s to Thing 18 – communicating through photographs. 😀

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Dog waiting by Samuel Yoo on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cheers! Thanks for stopping by.

Thing 11: Reflection…

After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It’s better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.     Sophia Loren

Thing 11 of 23 is on (my) schedule (1 post per week) with none left undone. It’s been rewarding, albeit tough.  I’ve always been up for a challenge, but 10 blogposts later, Rudaí23 is proving a lengthy one. 😀

Lessons learned? Oh yes!

leaf vectorAbout online tools:

  • Podcasting is fun; the software out there is becoming more user friendly for this medium, and it can be put to many uses within a library. An idea to record interviews with authors, and tips for writing, which can then be posted on the library website, is one of my favourites.
  • Curation tools are vital for organising stuff that comes to your notice as you happen along the information highway. Pinterest is so popular, but can be used for education and professional curation. I’ve gone on to use Storify more than once, now, as I endeavour to keep a record of my volunteering days at the museum library.
  • Screencasting is harder to execute than it looks, but a really effective teaching tool. It was an exercise in perseverance, but Screencast-o-matic made it less stressful.
  • Live streaming is not for the faint-hearted. The fact that one is broadcasting live to the world can cause a nervous sweat if you’re not the confident extrovert. But it was thrilling to receive comments and see the interaction with the video for 24 hours afterwards. Periscope, YouTube and Facebook are making it possible for us to share things in real time.  Not always attractive, but interesting nonetheless.  Last, but not least…an online (live) tool is best used when you have more-than-a-vague idea of how it works… and … REMAIN calm!  😀

leaf vectorAbout myself:

  • The urge to try out these tools has always been there for me, but being pressed to do so and to blog about it, according to a schedule, has been a challenge.
  • When given the option to take an easier route, like, say, watching a live broadcast and not necessarily recording one, I go for the more difficult option. 😮
  • I try!  Although not perfect, the satisfaction and experience gained, is immense.
  • Searching for information on each topic has led me to some interesting articles and websites, for which I am so much the richer.
  • Balancing the course with everyday demands and routines has not always been easy. Once or twice I’ve considered throwing in the towel.  Fortunately, online learning taught me to persevere…every day is a new opportunity to think ahead, plan, focus anew.
  • I’m especially grateful for the encouragement from loved ones.  🙂

The secret of concentration is the secret of self-discovery. You reach inside yourself to discover your personal resources, and what it takes to match them to the challenge.       Arnold Palmer

Overall, I am glad that I embarked on this course. I admit that I can’t wait to complete it for some extra time on my hands. That said, I also look forward to new learning opportunities in the next few ‘things’.

If you’re following this blog, thank you!  I hope that it challenges you to try out new things too.

When we lose our fear of making a mistake, looking foolish, or appearing ignorant, we can step out into the unknown to discover and gather experiences that can turn into golden-nugget-memories.                                                                                                                LibSandy

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Speaking of technology… I stumbled upon this, shared by Stephen’s Lighthouse: 17 ways technology will change our lives by 2050.

Hope you all have a great week.  I’m off to start thinking and researching about conferences for next week’s blog entry.

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Featured ImageThe lonely woman by Johan on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thing 5. Online networking: an expat’s view of Facebook & Twitter

The focus of Thing 5 is Facebook and Twitter.  Being an expat has shaped my interaction with these two platforms, both negatively and positively.

Facebook
Facebook, by Christopher on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
I don’t like Facebook.  A few years ago, logging onto Facebook BEFORE BREAKFAST became the most important part of my day, and also the most painful, as I watched friends and family living their lives in familiar places and hanging out with each other. It made me so depressed. Because I missed the familiarity of home, friends and family, and I wanted to be a part of their lives, I spent longer and longer on Facebook. One day I realised this was eating away at my time and emotions to the exclusion of what mattered.  I came to my senses, deactivated my account, and made the choice to get on with expat living!

CC Open domain.
CC Open domain.
Some days the expat-adventure is jam packed with discovery and excitement, with the exotic and the oddly bizarre…

Camel

Crazy Camel, by Jeremy Vandel on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

…on others you have to dig deep to rise above it all, or you become bogged down in a desire to give it all up prematurely, wishing you could head home. Home.  After a while you have to work hard at recalling the familiar and ‘home’ becomes a blurry concept. (Ok, after 15 years at least, for me.  😀  )

At its best, expat life influences and moulds you, defines who you become – your thinking, your outlook, attitudes, worldview, toleration levels… all these are enlarged, challenged, tested and you find the need to constantly have a conversation with yourself.  This introspection is good…if you keep a sense of humour, you can find your quirky side, your weaknesses, your oddities, and hopefully begin to view yourself as others see you, and to criticise others less.

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CC 0 image from Unsplash

The blinkers fall off.  For example, you gain insight as to why some don’t look you in the eye or give a firm handshake while greeting, because in some cultures a firm handshake is regarded as offensive; some consider the support of relations back home more important than spending on the latest fashion fad or fancy travel. You begin to have empathy for those who speak your language, albeit not perfectly.  You find that the way you use a word can be horribly misunderstood.  You find that some people have courtesies that must be respected and adhered to before you get on with the business at hand, and you are constantly exposed to many different possibilities on how to approach life’s complexities.

So what has all this to do with online networks and Facebook?  Fifteen years as an expat has changed me.  I’m not the person I was when we left our home country.  My online network habits will reflect that. Today I am ready to explore Facebook again. I still don’t like it, but I have subscribed again under a new email address, for professional purposes. It didn’t take them long to link me up (Facebook-style) with everyone (ever) in my life. (Creepy, how they do this.)  I hav just discovered an article that shows why Facebook can also contribute to insular approach with the latest tweak to their algorithm…to quote from it…

“…it means you’ll almost certainly see an even less diverse range of opinions and news than you already do.”

But if we are aware of this, we can help make the choice as to what we would like to see in our timeline. I took an hour to check privacy settings according to this article, and to explore the new user interface. If you want to follow me, you’re most welcome, but this is primarily an account for my librarianship interests. 😀

This time I have a career goal and I know where I’m headed. My view of the world is enlarged, so I’m going to let Facebook work for me, not against me. My interests now are libraries and their impact on society. And wonderful innovative librarians that I can learn from. And all things info!  Digital data! Techie stuff! Entrepreneurial ideas. Makerspaces. Social outreach. These will be the pages I follow. In Rudai23 Thing 5 , Bobbi Newman’s article  from a few years ago is listed, suggesting 6 Facebook pages for librarians to follow. These are still valid today, and I have chosen 4 of them to follow.  I will log onto Facebook when I have time on my hands and when the time is right, because I’m older, wiser and more at peace with myself and where I am. Admittedly, I still wish I was settled and not an expat, but until I am, I will use Facebook to reach out to connections that I can grow and learn from.

Moving on to the micro-blogging site Twitter…Twitter logo

…here is my fav!  I subscribed in 2011 and have thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

Image by Matt Hamm  CC BY-NC 2.0

My twitter

Kay Oddone’s blog entry on Twitter brings its value across, as she encourages newbies to get tweeting.  For me personally, it is the most important go-to source for professional development.  Kay mentioned ‘lurking’ on Twitter until one is confident to add your voice – that is precisely what I did.  Here is how I commented on Kay’s article:

And speaking of ‘lurking’…I lurked until I was confident enough to find my voice. Not being able to have ‘librorum’ conversations face to face, Twitter filled that gap.

It has often taken me out of my isolated expat situation and is probably why I’m hooked! However, I’m constantly challenged to do, and to know, more by fellow professionals via Twitter, and always amazed at how much I discover each time I’m on the app. 🙂

It has been nothing but a positive experience for me. Yes, I made the odd mishap initially, by getting involved in political debates, and venting, but you learn fast. Within Kay’s article there was a link to some great ideas to tweet about, by George Couros, as well as a list of what NOT to tweet about.  (Remember the debacle with the unfortunate tweet by a PR Exec in 2013?)

Twitter chats are fun and really get you thinking. Remember, tweets are public and you are held accountable for what you say. I often worry that what I say is unimportant, or silly, but someone, somewhere in the world, is always kind, appreciative and encouraging. I follow and learn from librarians globally. Here are 9 of many accounts I recommend:  Liz McGettican, LWB_Online, Michelle Luhtala, Jan Holmquist, Sally Pewhairangi, Lyndelle Gunton, Gwyneth Jones, Bobbi Newman and my personal favourite, International Librarians Network. Look at their accounts and who they follow, to get ideas to build your own PLN (personal learning network).

In my opinion, with both Facebook and Twitter, you need to be yourself (be authentic), but act professionally if you want to be viewed as a professional. I know librarians can really let their hair down…(buns loose)… :p  but if you post a pic of yourself with that interesting cocktail, try to avoid the Miley-Cyrus-style hang out.  🙂

Miley Cyrus tongue out

Miley Cyrus by Paul Vera-Broadbent  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Show your interests and interact with others as soon as you feel confident to do so. They will appreciate it. In fact, most people are very helpful and kind. Share your knowledge, show your skills; pass on interesting news and links you find; investigate the things you have not heard of before, and encourage and engage others. Your followers will grow and mutual learning takes place.

The world of Twitter is exciting and vibrant. I’ve just read an article that reveals Twitter will soon be rolling out an update to include emoticon stickers for photos, making it even more fun to connect to people and to collaborate.

emoticons

Emoticons by Becky McCray

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Thanks for visiting my blog.  Please feel free to leave a message.

 rose_06   Clipart from Clipartheaven.com

Time to face my fear and … blog!

Having been inspired by some wonderful bloggers (Kay Oddone, Ceridwyn Bloxham, Cherie Basile and Katie Davis), I have begun again, this ‘Blog June’, to pick up the pen, face my fear (of being out there) and write. Thank you my virtual friends. 🙂

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Girl writing in a diary, by Viktor Hanacek, from Picjumbo

I’d also like to give a shout-out to some blogs I have regularly visited over the last few years for their value to the librarian profession … Theunquietlibrarian, Stephen’s Lighthouse, The International Librarians Network .

This is a new blog in a new season (for me); a time to reflect on, and record, my thoughts, discoveries and experiences as I traverse the information-highway-cum-datasphere. I won’t blog daily, perhaps not even weekly, but will aspire to a few posts monthly. Admittedly, the portability of blogging sites today facilitates a catch-up at any time, but that’s just it…time, that all important commodity. In my opinion, minutes are getting shorter, and time is speeding up. Really, where have those long, leisurely Jane Austen afternoons gone?

Jane Austen med
Flickr image: Regency three 2008, by Owen Benson under creative commons (BY-NC) licence 2.0

Because I have not yet ‘landed’ (i.e. I’ve not yet set my feet upon terra firma for the final time)…

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Flickr image: Flying over Doha by DesertSandz on creative commons (BY-NC-ND) lic 2.0 

…some entries will no doubt cover daily experiences (or frustrations) as an expat here in the Middle East, dotted with the unique experience of trying to secure an Australian entry visa (migrant). I’m hoping to also write about my experiences if and when I land up in Brisbane (or elsewhere), and about the intricacies of trying to find work in the latter years.

I will be honoured if you would pay a virtual visit to my posts. When you do, feel free to leave a calling card by way of comments.

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Flickr image: Peony calling card by Sarah Parrot,on CC (BY-NC-ND) licence 2.0