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February 16, 2012 / playforth

A learning curve

After a few weeks in my new post and with a head full to bursting, I thought it would be useful to write down what I’ve learned so far, about the work, about other people, and about myself.

The work

  • Managing a digitisation project and an associated repository is, as far as I can tell, quite different from managing a ‘traditional’ institutional repository. Fewer wrangles with publishers over copyright, less need for advocacy to encourage deposit, but more issues with handling physical documents, image/OCR quality, negotiation with contributing institutions, and sprawling amounts of correspondence.
  • Two other people have managed this project at different times, while at least six have been involved in discussions about the overall development of the repository. This shows. One of priorities is definitely to to organise all the documentation, correspondence, proposals, guidelines etc into something vaguely manageable.
  • As the repository work is part of a bigger stream of work on improving access to development research, itself within a large government-funded programme, there are a lot of meetings. I’m suddenly learning a huge amount about what other related projects are happening, and what the international picture looks like, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Other people

  • Some people just don’t reply to emails. Some people don’t even read them. This is immensely frustrating, as so much of this job involves communicating with people on the other side of the world and you can’t just march into their office and say, oi, I emailed you about that thing, what gives? This is one of the inherent risks in ‘co-produced’ services I guess, but I’m still learning how to manage that risk on a personal level.
  • Everybody has an agenda. This is another obvious characteristic of partnership working, but I do need to keep reminding myself. Even when we’re working towards the same overall goal, our drivers, constraints and short-term aims are often quite different.
  • Everyone else is still learning too. Nobody is trying to catch me out or wanting me to fail. (OK that should be in the next section really.)


  • Although I’m not that nervous about speaking in groups any more, I’m still better at communicating in writing than face to face and feel put on the spot when called upon to contribute in large meetings. I imagine that most people feel like this to some extent, and as I get more confident about the area I’m working in I’ll have more info at my fingertips.
  • I am quite good at grasping and expressing theoretical concepts, and very good at organising day to day ‘busy work’, but less good at the big stuff in the middle (strategy, forward planning, political implications etc).
  • I can’t do everything. I’ve always liked to have fingers in whatever pie looks interesting, but I can’t rely on the fact that I’m a fast cataloguer to give me time to do this any more. As well as acting up into this new role for 6 months (at least), I’m  still doing my old job until we can recruit someone new, so something will have  to give…
  • Related to that, I’m learning that it’s ok not to be an expert in everything! I’m surrounded by experienced professionals in all sorts of fields, so trying to be a Jack of all trades is a mug’s game really. Instead, I need to know who IS an expert, and ask them.




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