The Learning Curve – OCLC Bootcamp

[Jason Lee is the very first Minority Librarian Fellow at OCLC, and will be rotating through Member Services, OCLC Research, and Digital Services. During her tenure at OCLC, she’s agreed to blog with us here. Welcome, Jason!]

“I don’t respond well to ‘out of bandwidth’ requests”

This is probably my favorite paraphrased sound bite to date since arriving at OCLC at the beginning of January. OCLC’s numerous divisions often seem to be driven in large part by a wealth of human resources that can overwhelm at times. For instance, I remember panicking slightly at the onslaught of emails I received once my computer station was up and running, particularly with reference to returning every introduction. Indeed, for several days all I could think was, “Please let me remember this person’s name…” as someone approached me. Of course I also initially worried that I would be ideologically segregated from other employees, likely stigmatized by the ‘Minority” portion of my job title and immediately set to work on issues or topics surrounding diversity and Ethnic Studies. I remember laughing recently with a Librarian friend of color in a two-year residency program about this expectation of expertise because of race, as it is something we regard with humor, more than anything else. Whenever asked about anything diversity-related, we are probably thinking, “I don’t know why they are asking me to work on this…I studied English Lit…..”

Onto my first week at OCLC, which was largely orientation-based and included more Human Resources-related training modules than I have ever experienced with a new employer, as well as introductions to several key governing members of the Fellowship Committee. One of my first impressions of OCLC was that everyone was funny and helpful and I was greeted warmly by many folks in Research and in Member Services. Additionally in my second week, overviews of core functional processes related to governance, infrastructure, and project management began to immerse me more fully into the workings of my new environment. As the weeks have progressed, I’ve come to really value OCLC’s continued commitment to staff development, building a solid and evolving technological infrastructure, and to the collaborative aspect of information discovery.

One of the caveats of working in large organizations serving a variety of constituents and interest groups is that communication can sometimes be lost or unfocused, and the higher on the totem pole a staff member is (regardless of their relevance) the more input they have. So far I’ve found the opposite at OCLC. It seems that most everyone contributes in some way or bears part of the responsibility and pressure of keeping ahead of the changes in the marketplace and delivering on cutting-edge services. As I get further along in this experience, I hope to better understand how value gets defined by member institutions and in what ways and how effectively OCLC responds to their needs.

That said, I am also looking forward to more social time with the Friday Club (my first week’s experience at Dublin Village Tavern was plum) and to getting to the cafeteria early enough on Free Donut Fridays to get the premium glazed, and especially to meeting everyone at the San Mateo office in February. I admit, I am particularly looking forward to the warmer weather in California, as I was not aware before moving to Ohio that the inside of my nose could actually freeze. Since I’ve been out here I’ve adopted new criteria for cold, laughing as my friends back home lament a nightly drop in temperature to a ‘brisk’ 40 degrees. Many of them would perish in the minus-8 conditions that hit us last week, although I can’t say I would want to be in Los Angeles right now, as my mother tells me they are all sweltering from a mid-January heat wave with temperatures in the nineties. Actually, that’s a lie. I’d kill to be in a tank top right now, sitting in front of the fan with a Pinkberry frozen yogurt 🙂

2 Comments on “The Learning Curve – OCLC Bootcamp”

  1. Jason, we can’t wait to have you visit with us here in San Mateo. You’ll have to face a couple of more moments of “I hope I’ll remember that persons name,” but in exchange you get the balmier weather. Not a bad trade-off!

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