Many hats

Like many information professionals, I wear many hats. I’ll show you some of them, by way of introducing myself.

My everyday hat sits on the head of a Faculty Associate at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which also happens to be my alma mater. I’ve been happily teaching library school as an adjunct since 2007, but being an official part of the faculty brings a host of new responsibilities, from advising to peer-reviewing others’ teaching to reading applications for admission, that I’m still learning my way around.

So far I’ve taught the bread-and-butter library-technology course that I inaugurated for SLIS, as well as digital curation (where digital preservation meets research-data management), relational-database design, and SLIS’s core Organization of Information course, that last with the able assistance of skilled UW-Madison cataloger Karen Rattunde. I can teach antelope documents, TF/IDF, controlled vocabularies, and XML-based metadata with the best of them—I’m even tackling RDF and linked data in the classroom, which feels like throwing myself on a sword, as much as I dislike RDF—but when it comes to the imposing MARC/AACR2 edifice, I’d rather defer to the expert.

This summer I’m branching out a bit. In 2008 I taught a “topics in collection development” course for the University of Illinois that roamed restlessly over changes in the publishing environment and what those changes might mean for libraries. I’ll be teaching something vaguely like it again this summer, though in four short years the landscape has changed so much that it might as well be a brand-new course!

My other summer course requires me to explain one of my other hats. With my IT-professional scientist colleague Jan Cheetham, I co-lead the small, entrepreneurial cadre of volunteers who form Research Data Services, our campus’s first stab at a research-data–management consulting and training team. Like many such teams in research institutions worldwide, we’re busily poking our thumbs into any number of promising-looking pies. One particularly promising-looking pie is graduate-student training—catch them young, as they say.

So I’ll be teaching an intensive data-management bootcamp twice this summer, for graduate students across UW-Madison’s and UW-Milwaukee’s breathtaking breadth of graduate programs. I can’t reach as many as I’d like with a single course, to be sure, but I have to start somewhere. I’m grateful to UW-Madison SLIS for taking a chance on the course, and to UW-Milwaukee for their sight-unseen interest in having me take the bootcamp on the road.

My last hat is my idiosyncratic hat, my personal-projects hat. I asked that my appointment at SLIS be three-quarters time, so that I would have leisure to seek out other ways to practice my chosen profession. I believe in practice. It’s how I learned what I now teach, from regular expressions to project management. It follows that if I want to keep teaching—and I do; teaching is the greatest joy of my professional life—I need to keep practicing, too, lest my store of hands-on knowledge grow stale and outdated.

I haven’t many projects I can openly talk about yet, though I’ve a pair of possibilities awaiting the vagaries of grant agencies, and a book marinating in the back of my head. Writing monthly for Library Journal is my first public idiosyncrasy, then, and I have every reason to believe it will be a fun and useful one, especially with all these wonderful co-bloggers (several of whom are professional heroes of mine) to learn from and respond to.

I hope you’ll all stick around to watch me pull antelopes, data-management plans, SQL queries, XSLT templates, smart and accomplished new librarians, and much more out of my many hats.

Note: This post is copyright 2012 by Library Journal. Reposted under the terms of my author’s agreement, which permits me to “reuse the work in whole or in part in your own professional activities and subsequent writings.”