Greetings, Law Librarian Blog visitors

I had the good fortune to meet Joe Hodnicki last week at the blogger meetup at AALL in Denver.  I had the bad fortune to not get a chance to talk to him at all – rather I just summoned up some hubris, slid him my card and pointed at the door signifying that I had to race off to yet another event.  Such is the way of conferences.

So, what did this noob think of AALL?  Let me preface by noting that I am, as the British would say, a “mature student.”  I’ve not been to this rodeo before, but I’ve been to analogous events in my prior career as a corporate communications professional.  I am also not by nature a “joiner.”  All of this means that I look at conferences with a somewhat jaded eye, but I have to say I was favorably impressed on my first outing.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • CONELL: if you are planning on going to AALL for the first time, do this.  It makes the biggest difference in the world to have a cohort of people that you can get to know on that first day.  It is so worth it: for the rest of the conference (and probably the rest of your career), you will be running into familiar, friendly faces.  My “freshman class of 2010” is a group I am proud to have begun to know.
  • Two excellent presentations I attended – “Library Videos: Getting Blockbuster Quality on an Indie Budget” and “Starting Off on the Right Track: Avoiding Mistakes Common to New (and Not-so-New) Instructors” were both fantastic.  I generally feel if you get one decent presentation out of a conference you are ahead of the game (see above re: “jaded”).  These two surpassed my expectations by miles.
  • The keynote presentation by Dr. David Lankes of Syracuse was entertaining and thought provoking (note to AALL – couldn’t you have made this embeddable?  You can get it at the link above – he starts about 15 minutes in).  I especially liked his notion that our value is not in our collections but ourselves.  We are the resources that should be valued, and that valuation needs to start in our own behaviors and attitudes.
  • I demonstrated Zotero with Jennifer Duperon of Boston University.  (The online handout we created is here).  I don’t know how the entire “Cool Tools Cafe” event went: we were absolutely mobbed with people who were interested in learning about this fantastic citation manager and I barely had time to look around.

One thing that stood out for me that was categorically different from the other groups I have been a member of was borne out of a quality that I believe is inherent in most librarians.  I am not sure what to call that quality, but I can illustrate it:* with most groups, there seems to be a sense that if I have something then it is something that must necessarily be taken away from someone else – or perhaps a group of someones.  The competitive edge is strong in many professions, and seeing someone new creates a sense that there is now one less opportunity for the rest.  But librarians just don’t strike me that way.  It seems to be our nature.  Where a law student might say to him or herself, “Oooh – I found the resource.   I must hide it so I have the edge,” a librarian will excitedly say, “Hey – did you see this resource?  It’s really cool – let me share it with you!”  That collaborative, sharing spirit seems to extend to the entry of the profession as a whole.  Our CONELL class was welcomed with open arms by the existing membership.

So, again – to all who are visiting for the first time from Law Librarian Blog, greetings to you and thank you for being such a great group of people.  I am proud to be joining you.

*And I admit it is a variation on one of my pet themes.

Hiring a freelance writer

Everyone has individual parameters for hiring a freelance writer. Audiences are almost always specific, and a writer who excels at crafting speeches for senior executives may not have the requisite technical knowledge to create a software manual.

However, there is one thing that makes a freelance writer effective from your very first meeting with them: asking questions and really listening to the answers you give.

Sounds basic, doesn’t it? But writers often like to talk even more than they like to write. When presented with the opportunity to display their cleverness, they have a hard time passing it up. It isn’t all about ego – a freelancer often wants to reassure you. You’ve hired the right person for the job. You are in good hands. Never fear, this writer is so smart the stakeholders you are communicating with will be bowled over by the writer’s convincing way with words.

These well-meaning phrases that roll trippingly off the tongue can be a rabbit hole, however. Valuable time can be lost while the writer goes haring off in various creative, possibly entertaining, but ultimately wrong directions.

So, the writer needs to give you the room to speak first. They should ask questions and really listen. Their follow-up questions should indicate that listening and be designed to elicit the core of the business problem you are hiring them to solve. Only after you have talked for some time should the writer start making statements and offering up the beginnings of the scaffold of your new communications plan.