Recap: CLA-CASLIS Ottawa event, “Ten Things I Wish They Had Told Me” with Wendy Newman

Your trusty LANCR president attended an excellent CLA-CASLIS Ottawa event tonight with the incomparable Wendy Newman.

Her talk was geared towards new professionals (and many fresh young faces graced Main’s auditorium, and its new chairs, with their presence!), and she called her almost two hour talk a “fireside chat.” In fact, despite the podium and microphone, it was indeed more informal, and interactive, than many presentations. Audience participation was encouraged.

Wendy opened by talking briefly about her own career path, joking that she began teaching at U of T the very same week that John Berry’s “Memo to Baby Boomers” appeared in Library Journal. Blatant Berry wrote that “the model of [Boomers’] leadership will not be in the articles they write, the lectures they deliver to the young, or in the syllabi to the courses they teach. The real leaders among the boomers will be […] remembered for how gracefully they let go.” Well, then. I think it’s far more complicated than that, but then I’m a misfit among my generation, and was mentored by early Boomers, so perhaps I disagree for merely personal reasons. In any case, Wendy’s story was compelling, and illustrated many of the below points quite well.

Two preliminary notes:

  • If you haven’t read the Canadian Library Human Resource Study, go away, read it, and come back.
  • I will likely blog more extensively about some personal points of interest in Wendy’s talk on my own blog, so the below is summarised for brevity.

Here are my favourites from the salient points, the “ten things” of the title above. A reminder from Wendy: these ten things are all in our direct control.

  • Choose whether you are going to be an employee or a professional: the difference lies in the extent to which you internalise and/or feel responsibility for the outcomes of situations. See: the Ethics of Choice website.
  • In the first three to five years of your professional career, become a “ranking practitioner expert” in one thing: Develop your brand! As Wendy so eloquently phrased it, “no one can prevent you from becoming an expert.”
  • We are all responsible for our own morale: [Alex says: don’t be a victim].
  • Presentation is far more important than we think. There are four (and likely more) subcategories here: dress seriously [Alex says: perhaps in Ottawa we have a strange problem: two groups, those who dress too seriously – read: boring, and those who dress like they are still in university. Sigh.], master public speaking [Alex says: do one Storytime. You will check your shame at the door and everything after that will be easier!], write concisely (ha ha, perhaps I should take my own advice?), and assume there is no such thing as “confidential” communication (Facebook, I’m looking at you!).
  • Strengthen your career by volunteering in a professional association: Your trusty president suggests you check out this thing called LANCR. I’ve heard they’re cool. On a serious note, I strongly support Wendy’s observations about the importance of cultivating relationships in associations, building networks that act as a personal touchstone when you are going through tough times in your day job, and developing skills (advocacy, public speaking, team management, and more!) through professional associations.

I can’t possibly capture here Wendy’s immense wisdom and valuable insights into our profession, her advice to young professionals, or her wonderful discussion with the audience about our own “stories” relating to the above points. I can only encourage those of you who were there, and who might be reading, to post further thoughts below. It was a stimulating presentation!


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