Does My Reputation Precede Me?

At our Kansas Library Association conference presentation, an attendee asked a very good question: with all of this social networking on the internet, where the personal and the professional often blurs, what happens if a potential employer does an internet search on you and finds things that could be taken badly out of context or just outright makes them not want to hire you?

This has actually happened, hasn’t it? A potential employer finds your Facebook or MySpace page, or old blog posts, or Flickr photos, or what have you, and discovers that you’re a recovering alcoholic or a Fundamentalist Christian or a homosexual or an enthusiastic Doctor Who fan or a swinger or…well, pick something that’s perfectly legal but potentially off-putting or downright offensive to someone somewhere. And this hypothetical employer decides not to hire hypothetical you on the basis of this dug-up information. Should you do everything you can to make your online persona as professionally inoffensive as possible, to make sure this doesn’t happen? Should you lock anything potentially iffy away behind secure, friends-only barriers?

I really don’t have the right answer for you. I have what I think is the right answer for me.

So, I’ll come clean and out myself to the world. On something of a dare, I casually threw the phrase “hookers and blow” into our presentation at Computers in Libraries. And if you listen carefully during the video of the Computers in Libraries Pecha Kucha session, you can hear me yell it out from the audience. It also shows up in the caption of a picture taken of me at the conference. The phrase came from a joke I’d started in Twitter a few days before the conference, although it actually started as a joke between my wife and me. At any rate, by the end of the conference, I was joking that my professional career was over, thanks to my liberal use of the phrase at inappropriate times.

But here’s the thing: if a potential employer does an internet search and finds my professional name associated with the phrase “hookers and blow” and doesn’t bother to find out more of the context…I don’t want to work for them. If a potential employer does know the context and still doesn’t find it the least bit amusing…we won’t work well together, and it’s probably for the best if you don’t hire me.

In my life, I’ve done things I’m not proud of, things I’d do differently if I could. But I’m not going to hide who I am, I’m not going to censor my online expression, just to make sure I don’t put off any and all potential employers. There are people in this world I wouldn’t want to work with or associate with, and I’m not going to waste my time worrying about what they could find out about me that they wouldn’t like. I’ve got bigger yaks to fry.

Conferencing in Kansas and Beyond

I flew back to Kansas City from DC on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, I got up and drove 3 hours to Wichita to present at the Kansas Library Association’s annual conference. Erin Downey Howerton, Brenda Hough and I presented on using internet tools to network, to engage in conferences and community building beyond official conferences–blogs, wikis, IM chatting, Twitter and things like the Library Society of the World.

The presentation went well, although we probably could have done the presentation in one hour, rather than stretching it into a two-hour slot. Erin and Brenda are both extremely engaging speakers, Erin bursting with loads of energy, Brenda with a calmer enthusiasm. I talked about how important the LSW is to me and others, and used Laura Crossett as an example of getting professional help from the LSW when designing her library’s new website. (Laura has apparently become the poster woman for the LSW.) The presentation was much smaller, more intimate, more conversational than my Computers in Libraries presentation, which is just fine by me. I prefer smaller and conversational overall. Oh, and getting wifi at the conference was easy, because Wichita has a free citywide mesh network.

After our presentation, I hopped back into my car and drove another 3 hours back to KC. By that time, I was exceedingly glad to be home.

Computers in Libraries 2008: The Good, the Bad and the Loopy

I left Kansas City on a pleasant, sunny day and arrived to a haze of gloomy drizzle in Crystal City, VA. The weather matched my feelings about Computers in Libraries. I just wasn’t feeling excited about the conference–seeing my online librarian friends, yes, but not the actual conference.

I left DC on a warm, sunny, beautiful day and returned to a cold, rainy Kansas City. The weather again matched my heart: while I was happy to be going home to my family, I was sad to leave my conference friends and a great conference experience behind. Computers in Libraries 2008 was terrific from start to finish.

One big highlight: this was my first time presenting at a national conference. I honestly wasn’t nervous before the presentation, but afterwards I was completely drained. During the presentation? I was in a great place, like when you’re doing improv on stage and you feel yourself click with your fellow performers. In this case, my fellow presenters were Steve Lawson and Rikhei Harris, and I would happily, enthusiastically present with them again, any time, any where, on any topic. Our presentation was on the Library Society of the World and it was a glorious mess, complete with inside jokes, non sequiturs and Rickrolling. I had a great time in the presentation, and we seemed to make people laugh, so as far as I’m concerned, it was a success. I’m not objective enough to say more about it, so I’ll link to what other’s have said about it:

I should also give props to the our co-presenters, Hannah, Laurie and Kate of Infodoodads. Not only were they game enough to not denounce us after our ramshackle presentation, they gave a good presentation of their own. And I personally find Infodoodads to be an extremely useful blog.

I attended some other really good sessions which have sparked all kinds of thoughts in my head. But I’m not going to expand on that now, because I think these thoughts warrant a blog post all of their own. Outside of the sessions, I had an outstanding time reconnecting with old friends (including a very old friend, someone I haven’t seen since we were both in elementary school), connecting with new friends, sharing, exploring, bonding with people. Any words I type will not do justice to how crucial the social aspects of these conferences are, but I’ll say this: just before I left to return home, I was on the verge of tears. I was so moved by the generosity of these people, so happy and honored to know them and spend time with them, and so heartbroken to leave them behind. If it weren’t for the fact that I can stay in contact with them through the magic of the intertubes, I’d be crushed.

Was there badness at the conference? Well, the wifi situation wasn’t great. But it was immensely better than the last two years at Internet Librarian, and after talking with some people from Information Today, I know that they really tried to make the wifi situation better. So, as frustrating as it often was to try to get and keep a wifi signal, I have no complaints for ITI.

For more on the conference, I recommend listening to the latest Uncontrolled Vocabulary podcast (and you should be listening to UV anyway, right?).

The Wiki Project III: It’s Alive!

A year and a half ago, at my former place of work, a coworker and I came up with the idea of ripping off the St. Joseph County Public Library‘s subject guides wiki to replace the HTML pages we had that provided web links to users of our web site. I was appointed head of a “wiki task force,” presented a proposal to the Web Committee and library supervisors, got everything approved, recruited reference staff, and started the ball rolling.

Unfortunately, I completely underestimated how much work it would take, how much I would need to get everyone else on board, how much training and advice staff would need–basically, I underestimated everything, and the project stalled and slowed down before I left to come to my current job.

But I’m very happy to say the project didn’t die, and the Olathe Public Library Subject Guides wiki has officially gone live! It’s in the basic, starter stage right now, but I expect it will grow at a nice pace now that it’s up and running for the public. Check out the wiki and let them know what you think in the comments on their blog.

Gaming? A Capital Idea!

I’m looking forward to going to DC for Computers in Libraries. One of the great things about this trip is I’ll be having dinner with an old friend of mine that I haven’t seen in person since we were at GenCon in 2001 (when it was still being held in Wisconsin).

Another cool thing about CiL is Gaming Night. Aaron Schmidt has blogged about it, and it sounds like a blast and a half. (He also asked us to spread the word, which is partly why I’m writing this post.) My inside sources say there may even be some tabletop role-playing game action going on that night. Plus, some cool board games (like Ticket to Ride, which is one of my favorite games). I may miss most of Gaming Night to have dinner with my friend, but hopefully I’ll get some gaming in at the conference (even if I have to run In a Wicked Age in my hotel room one night).