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How We Work: Dani Wellemeyer & Jess Williams

How We Work: Dani Wellemeyer & Jess Williams

June 21, 2018

With the 2018 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference and Exhibition getting underway today in New Orleans, Librarianship.ca is profiling members of the librarianship community from the United States.

Dani Wellemeyer & Jess Williams; Co-workers, Creative Pair, Best Friends

Location: The heartland, the middle of the map, Paris of the Plains, City of Fountains…we <3 KC. Miller Nichols Library, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO

Current Gig: Academic librarians for outreach and engagement. We work with our library’s communication and engagement channels for students and faculty, figuring out how to make library fans, learn what our user groups need, and constantly remind them that we’re here to help. We also teach in our library’s instruction programs and supervise the Information Literacy Fellowship program. It’s SO FUN teaching undergrads and working alongside LIS grad students. Student-centeredness is our guiding philosophy for librarianship.

One word that best describes how you work: Collaboratively. We’re a creative pair, so we work together on everything in ways that complement each other’s strengths and skills. For example, when we write, we do so in real time in the same Google Doc; we finish one another’s sentences and edit each other as we go, which makes writing more fun and much faster. Jess’s extreme scheduling tendencies nicely support Dani’s obsession with documenting our work, while Jess’s eye for design dovetails with Dani’s knack for the written word. Luckily, we both tend to be starters and finishers, so neither one is left picking up the pieces of projects when the enthusiasm of the other has fizzled out; we collaborate on idea-having, planning, development, execution, and post-accomplishment celebration. (That last one is REAL important.) We like to explain that 1 + 1 = 3 when it comes to the creative power and productivity that result from our collaboration.

Current mobile device: Dani (still!) has an iPhone 5S. Jess loves her Pixel 2 + Project Fi (we’re big Google fans).

Current computer:  Work-supplied Dell laptops that we drag everywhere and that unfortunately are not doing an admirable job keeping up—21st century librarianship requires some serious computing power! At home we’re both Mac users, but working on Windows machines so much of the time at work forces us to stick mainly to apps that can work in both environments. It’s also a boon as public services librarians to be well-practiced in various operating systems and hardware so that we’re prepared to help patrons with their technology questions.

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

Tools for collaborating:

  • Atlassian Confluence – fantastic for internal documentation
  • Google Docs (and Sheets and Slides) – always the front-runner in real-time collaborative editing
  • Google Hangouts – desktop AND mobile messaging in one, plus it’s the best free online meeting platform
  • Trello – keeps the entire team in sync
  • An 8-foot whiteboard + all the colored markers!

Tools for keeping organized:

  • Atlassian JIRA – best issue tracker and robust project management system we’ve ever used
  • Outlook + phone calendars
  • A modified Bullet Journal-style system in a raggedy notebook (Dani)
  • A beautifully customized planner using a hybrid bullet journal/discbound system (Jess)

Tools for keeping track of stuff:

  • Evernote – for grabbing snapshots of things we don’t want to lose
  • Feedly – for curating ALLLLLL the stuff we want to read
  • Google Chrome – synced browsing history across devices, invaluable for switching between our computers and the reference desk
  • Google Drive – for automatic item sharing via shared folders
  • Toby – tab organization!
  • Zotero – the citation manager we love to teach students about

Tools for creating:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud – fancy, but necessary sometimes
  • Canva – lifechanging for anyone needing to do DIY graphic design
  • eCoach – our eLearning authoring software of choice
  • Piktochart – best low-cost (or free) infographic generator

Fave apps:

  • Down Dog – for yoga
  • eMeals or PlateJoy – for saving precious time meal planning and grocery shopping
  • GSuite apps – for working on the go
  • Libby – for checking out ebooks from the public library
  • Pocket – for stuff to read later
  • PocketCast – for syncing podcast listening from phone to desktop
  • Simple Habit – for meditation
  • Slack – for our library committees that are hip enough to be slacking
  • TinyBeans – private photo sharing (you know, for privacy-savvy librarians with kids)
  • Trello – the mobile app for this powerful project management/to-do listing app is a standout
  • Twitter – duh

What’s your workspace setup like?

We share an office on the main floor of our library, but we work all over the place. Our shared office houses us, our two Information Literacy Fellows, a retired card catalog, seven plants, an endlessly brewing coffeepot, an enormous wall calendar (sometimes replaced with an enormous sprint chart), and a rotating collection of inspirational art and posters.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut?

If you think it might help you later, write it down. This is the power of shared memory, and it becomes more evident the longer we work with our team. Even if it’s just you, recording stuff helps you share your memory with yourself at a later time. We document processes the first time we do them, making repeats quick and easy. We write up important decisions as they occur so we never have to waste time rehashing them when somebody asks why. We also avoid duplicating work in the form of developing ideas. We’ve worked together for so long and on so many things that we often have the same ideas more than once. So before we create a new Google Doc to capture an idea, begin developing a new system, or draft a solution we’ve just thought up, we check in with our past selves (via the power of keyword searching and also by Googling our hive) to see if we’ve been there before. If we have, we say “thanks, past self!” and work from the starting point provided by our past work.

This seems like NOT a shortcut, but we can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve found notes or documentation for work that we would have done all over again had our past selves not had our backs and written it down. Bonus: writing stuff down contributes to a culture of transparency and accountability.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?

For work: Trello! We run our entire team using a set of Trello boards and it has become absolutely vital. We’ve been using Trello for 6 years now, and we onboard each new team member directly in our Trello ecosystem so they’re immersed in using the tool from day one. Documenting tasks and projects so diligently in one tool has allowed us to create a rich, complete, and searchable archive of information.

For life: Still Trello! So, literally, for everything (plus a paper planner for Jess.) We’ve got our spouses on board the Trello train, too. Dani her fella Nick use it to plan and track creative/DIY/gardening/home improvement projects. Jess and Danny-husband (yep, that’s right, Jess has TWO important Danny/ies in her life) use it to run daily/weekly/monthly upkeep tasks for their family.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

Uhhh, we don’t even own watches… so… Jess has a vintage Vitamix? We’re millennials! We rely on our phones and computers for everything.

Do you find yourself always working on something? Or when you finish a project, do you take time to let your mind wander without concern for what’s next?

We’re always, always thinking and working ahead. As with most librarians (in an age of under-resourcing combined with growing scopes of work), our jobs don’t really allow for the luxury of taking a breath between projects. We’re absolutely fanatical about planning continuously for the future so that we’re always positioned for the next evolution in our jobs and projects. Dani loves writing project plans and timelines, and Jess loathes to duplicate work. These tendencies result in constant planning and idea-recording.

We’ve also learned that we are simultaneous mutipotenalites, so we tend to have many things going on at once: our full time library gigs, program committee roles for our favorite library conference, and side hustles number one and number two. It sounds insane, and it is. But it has also taught us the value of rest (which we’re working on practicing more intentionally!) as well as the gift of doing things for fun. With our side hustles, for example, we do things on our own terms, as time allows, and in the context of the rest of our lives.

What do you listen to while you work?

Everything. We got this budget Bluetooth speaker for our office and it can regularly be heard playing any of the following: Beyonce, Sylvan Esso, Kendrick Lamar, Helado Negro, Childish Gambino, the Hamilton cast recording, and for Friday motivation: “Eye of the Tiger” followed by an 80s power playlist. Jess also listens to Brain.fm (thanks to an AppSumo discount) for particularly intense focus times.

What are you currently reading?

Dani reads many books at once and currently has A Wizard of Earthsea, Kushiel’s Dart, and Sourcery going, the last as part of her project to work her way through the entire Terry Pratchett catalog. Jess just had a baby, so her late-night Kindle reading is made up of unremarkable mystery novels, the Outlander series, and usually an edition of The Best American Short Stories. Also on her list of recently started-but-not-finished books: The Happy Sleeper, Reading People, Tears We Cannot Stop, and Every Moment Holy.

How do you recharge?

By pausing! Even though we’re still trying to figure out how to do this better/more frequently, we’re firm believers in the power of restorative pauses. We generally work at a rapid, energetic pace (we even talk fast), so we are learning how to treat our work more like a marathon and less like a sprint. This year, we’ve been more intentional about working out (which we also do together). If we are feeling particularly bogged down or unmotivated by a task, we’ll break to do something creative and fun, like creating a new sign for our reference desk. Jess also needs a fair amount of alone time to recharge fully. (Dani does not.)

What’s your sleep routine like?

Inadequate. We’re energetic but also a little over-committed in both work and life, so sleep tends to get sacrificed. We’re both night-owls and do our best writing late, so the night before a deadline we can be found on our respective couches, co-writing in our pajamas. We keep hoping that eventually we’ll adopt grownup sleep routines where we keep a consistent bedtime, turn off our electronics two hours in advance, and get nine hours, but…YOLO. (Okay, okay, to be fair, Jess read The Miracle Morning earlier this year–and though she found it to be quite cheesy–she used it to create a morning routine. She managed to wake up early and enjoy alone time for all of three months before a newborn entered her life and the elusiveness of normal sleep stomped out any early-rising ambitions. C’est la vie!)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Be your own advocate. (Okay, we actually put it in those words, but several of our mentors have modeled it beautifully for us.) Being your own advocate is good practice for advocating for others. Or flip that—if you find it easy to advocate for others, practice on them and then advocate for yourself. What we’re saying is this: librarianship is a service profession, and not usually a very well-funded one. You’re going to need to monitor your own well-being, which includes but isn’t limited to: getting sleep and exercise, evaluating your stress levels and mental health, seeking mentorship where you need it in your career, asking for the tools and time you need to do your job, prioritizing the various demands of your work, and seeking appropriate compensation. Just because we’re not in librarianship for the money doesn’t mean we need to let employers take advantage of our service-mindedness. The longer we work in service of others, the more starkly we recognize the importance of self-care and of not losing ourselves to a work-life imbalance. Luckily, being two halves of a creative pair means that we have a built-in support system, making it easier to have the capacity to invest in our patrons, our employees, and our colleagues.

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