We are really pleased to bring you a new guest post by Kate Sebby – @kate80 – about ways of making high visibility work for you. Kate is a cataloging librarian at the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not presented as those of the Congressional Research Service or the Library of Congress.
Though it is a branch of the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is not a traditional library. CRS is a think tank staffed mostly by analysts responding to the research requests of the U.S. Congress. Despite this, CRS does have some traditional library functions—such as acquisitions and cataloging—though those departments are very small.
While cataloging is already a fairly desk-bound job, being separated from other divisions by walls and cubicles and sprawling across several floors, makes reaching out to analysts and information professionals an even greater challenge to communication. So I spent my first year at CRS being a typical introverted cataloger; my work was always done competently and on time but I did very little to get away from my desk and interact with others.
With time came confidence and, in the past few months, I’ve been developing relationships with the reference librarians who support our research divisions. It started by responding to basic requests from a few of these librarians to update bibliographic records and holdings in the catalog. My rapid response to their concerns and repeated requests to send any mistakes or updates got their attention. After several months, one of the librarians approached me at a union coffee hour gathering. (I only attended because a more outgoing colleague asked me to attend with her. Still an introvert!) She stated that she had some ideas for working with me and wanted to gauge my interest. I immediately responded with a ‘YES!’ without even knowing what she had in mind.
We set up an arrangement that in return for my cataloging of some of their older, department-specific collections, they would train me in reference—answering requests, aiding analysts’ research, database familiarization, etc. Not only would I be solving a pertinent cataloging problem (getting my hands on all those uncataloged volumes), I would be gaining training and experience to enhance my skill set and resume. Though this is still early in the process, many people in the research division already know me personally and are excited that I can catalog and provide access to their personal office collections. After an email introduction sent to the division, several analysts immediately replied with cataloging requests. In addition, after my reference librarian colleagues provided me with information on a number of databases and introduced me to several training opportunities, I’m now working on my third Congressional request.
While the nature of my job specifically, and cataloging in general, can make it difficult to interact with colleagues frequently, there is still opportunity to do so. There are always ways to make your work more visible. It may start simply with exposure to a small group of people or with a minor project. Attending work events provides unique opportunities. Networking and introducing yourself (or having a more connected coworker introduce you) are great ways to get more exposure. Be quick and responsive when someone reaches out to you. Lastly, be prepared to create or suggest mutually beneficial relationships with others in your library or company.