Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Quick Sketch Biography of Connie Crosby

Yesterday Chris Brogan wrote An Autobiography of Sorts which impressed me. I met Chris as a charismatic, outgoing podcaster at PodCamp Toronto earlier this year. He is a "super networker" in my books, meeting and connecting with lots of people, putting them in touch with one another. His autobiographical post filled in the blanks as to where he had come from, how he got to be what he is today. I was surprised as to all the self-development he has worked on, and the interesting path he has taken.

Today Chris has challenged his readers to write our own autobiographies. I have started reading those of others, and thought it only fair that I play along. I guess when I started this blog most people reading would have known me personally. It has gone beyond that, with many of you reading never having met me. So really I am doing this for you, dear readers. Here goes!

Jim Milles and Connie Crosby Speaking at PodCamp Toronto

The thing most people know me for is…

Energy and enthusiasm for my vocation, law librarianship, and its related areas such as legal research, social networking (Web 2.0), knowledge management, and my blogging on these subject areas.

The people I associate the most with are…

Older than me. LOL! Even growing up I tended to "hang out" with the kids in the grade above me and that has translated into most of my friends being older than me. Part of that is just the nature of my profession. I was the youngest law firm manager in town at the time when I started in that role. Many in my age group in library school just did not find traditional library work during the recession times of the early 1990s. There really is a gap with not enough people in my generation now to take the place of those retiring.

That being said, outside of the profession I associate with all types of people. The one thing everyone I know has in common is that they are positive, up-beat people. Most tend to be over-achievers, either in their work life or in their personal lives. My personal inclination would probably be to sleep in and watch TV all day, but I really feed on all that energy and "can-do" attitude from others to drive me.

People who have influenced my life are…

Innumerable! I take my influences from everywhere, and from almost everyone I meet. I have had so may colleagues nudge me along in my career, or give me a big hand up, that it would be difficult to name them all. Some I have been able to thank, and for some I have probably neglected to show enough appreciation.

In my personal life, my parents had a huge influence. My mother always took the feminist stance that a woman needs a serious career and should support herself; my father taught me all about tolerance, patience, balance in life and that the ability to be proficient with computers has nothing to do with age. From other family members I have learned to make things a little better, to laugh, and what is really important in life. Friends have given me personal support and also inspired me. Others have challenged me to do more or develop myself at times when I would not have otherwise done so.

I have been truly blessed to have had many supportive, positive people in my life.

One challenge I took on and overcame was…

My intense shyness. People find it funny to learn that I could possibly be shy, since I am so forthcoming in my writing and also now do a proficient job at speaking to audiences. Throughout school, including my two university degrees in English Literature and my Masters in Library Science, I found it difficult to talk in class, talk in front of groups, and especially to talk to instructors. Earlier on it extended to being unable to talk to kids I did not already know. To this day I still turn red when I do any talking in front of people or even in meetings.

I specifically set out to challenge myself and overcome my shyness, which I felt would hinder my career. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was key. I started by volunteering as overnight DJ on campus radio, where it was difficult to believe I even had an audience listening. Later in the working world I joined association committees and participated in meetings. Gradually I worked my way up, making myself ask one question at every presentation I attended. Getting up to a microphone in those big conference sessions was the most nerve-wracking. From there I started introducing speakers at conferences, then got involved with short little (5 minute) talks. I am now up to speaking an hour and a half in front of a small audience, or speaking for a shorter period in front of a large audience. I have also helped conduct half-day workshops.

I knew I really had overcome much of the shyness when my family asked me to give my grandfather's eulogy several years back. A roomful mostly of strangers who were upset at his passing, and I managed to crack a joke and get them laughing at his memory. He had a fantastic sense of humour and wouldn't have wanted it a completely staid affair. Today when I speak I still think back to that as the most difficult gig I'll ever have to do.

Working a room is still a challenge, but I believe it is for almost everyone. When I am in a room with no one I know, I focus on enjoying the atmosphere, watching people, and forget about worrying that I am not talking to someone. Lately I have been watching for events posted to and attending those that interest me. I have met a lot of interesting, smart people in my city this way. The trick is to step right in and introduce myself, and find something in common with the people sitting around me. In particular I have written about my experience with Toronto Wiki Tuesdays.

My early years, before you probably got to know me were…

Equally serious! I was always the good, smart student. I worked as a page at the Burlington Central Public Library in Burlington, Ontario part-time after school starting when I was 15. My intentions were always to be a teacher, and I used to volunteer with special needs children during summers and on weekends. I was also the neighbourhood babysitter, and knew all the little kids on my block. When I was about 18, I realized that being a librarian included the teaching aspect that I was interested in, and that I probably wouldn't have the resilience to teach a classroom full of kids every day. The librarians at the Central library said I would "make a good librarian someday". I resisted that idea for a while, but at some point I realized maybe they were right.

I also took a lot more credits in high school than most kids. I lived in Pierrefonds, Quebec until Grade 9 and was in French immersion. Arriving in Ontario I was placed either in classes the grade above me, or in the advanced versions of classes. Everything I know about English grammar I learned in Grade 8 in Quebec, and I have been a fairly proficient proofreader since that time. I was good both in the arts and in science. In Grade 13 I also worked half my time in a chemistry co-op at the Shell Research Centre in Oakville, Ontario, (since closed) in a lab testing polypropalene (a type of plastic).

I attended the University of Guelph (also in Ontario) for many years. I started in Computer Science and even took the engineering Calculus course. I learned a lot (including programming in Pascal) but I really didn't enjoy that first year. Knowing that ultimately I wanted to go into library school and that as long as I did respectably in my undergrad degree, I switched into English Literature. There I fell in love with post modern Canadian literature including the books by authors Robert Kroetsch, Rudy Wiebe and Michael Ondaatje. I also rediscovered what I liked about computers, and by my last year in undergrad I was participating in an on-campus computer conferencing (networking) system called T-CoSy (the "teaching" version of CoSy, which stands for "Conference System", a networking system developed at the University of Guelph in 1984). This was a decade before the World Wide Web. Throughout my undergrad I worked at the McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph, at the circulation desk and the reserves desk.

After completing my undergrad, I was invited by an English Literature professor to do a Master of Arts under him, in the area of computer applications for the humanities. I worked as a teaching assistant helping a class use T-CoSy, and later teaching a public speaking class to agriculture students. That might sound funny to some, but taking part in advocacy and public life is very important to those who work in agriculture. I was an unlikely candidate to teach that last one, but it is what English TAs did. My thesis was actually a handbook about computing for the humanities. It talked about things like using the SNOBOL programming text to analyze the language, using computers to generate music (imagine that!) and using computers to record/annotate dance choreography since choreography notation has serious limitations. Needless to say, the thesis was not a viable commercial publication since it was pretty much out of date as soon as I completed it. I learned a lot writing it, but the final product was underwhelming.

Library school was still calling, but I was anxious to work as well. I found a full-time position as library clerk in the Toronto office of a large law firm. They treated me very well and supported my attendance in library school, then the Faculty of Library and Information Science (FLIS, now FIS or Faculty of Information Studies) at the University of Toronto. I worked my way up to the technician position, and in my last year of part-time library school, I was asked to take on the role of reference librarian. This had been a dream of mine for the previous 10 years.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing reference, but I needed to re-set my goals. After soul searching, I discovered that I really wanted to be a leader in my profession, and that for me success would not necessarily be tied to the work position that I hold, but to what I could bring to my profession and my colleagues. Thus I started seriously working in the Toronto Association of Law Libraries (TALL) on committees and serving my colleagues. I also realized I wanted to be a manager. I have been very interested in management theory and am still dreaming of doing an MBA. But theory and real life are two different things, and so I moved to another law firm when the opportunity arose. I have been in my current firm for almost 10 years now, which seems incredible to me. I work with a fantastic staff. We are challenged every day, and rise up to meet those challenges.

I have also served as editor of the newsletter from TALL, on the Publisher Liaison Committee, and then on the Executive Committee as Vice President/President/Past President. It was so rewarding to follow in some big footsteps and make my mark on the association! I also gradually became involved with the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in several smaller roles. Most recently I served on the Executive Board as Member at Large. That was a fantastic experience, especially since my portfolio included the Awards and Scholarships Committee and organizing the First Timers breakfast. That was a two-year position. I would like to go back on the board some day in a larger role.

For now, though, I am kept very busy co-chairing the Northeast Regional Law Libraries Meeting ("NE2007") to be held this coming October. It is an occasional meeting (or conference) of northeast chapters of the American Association of Law Libraries and interested local Canadian Associations. TALL is hosting the meeting in Toronto. The last time it was held was in 1996, also in Toronto. We have big shoes to fill! We are expecting anywhere from 500 to 650 delegates plus numerous vendors. I have been working with Stephen Weiter in Rochester, NY (representing ALLUNY) on this for about 3 years now. We have an amazing group working on this, with whom I am very honoured to be associated.

Some of you may remember me before I started blogging in 2004. Before that time, I was a posted prolifically to listservs. Once I discovered blogs, that largely replaced that passion. I blog here on my self-named blog, Connie Crosby. I also have a "linkblog" called Connie Crosby Links for quick links to things I discover on the web and want to refer to later. I also participate in the Canadian co-operative law research and technology Slaw. I have helped start and participate in a number of other co-operative blogs for specific groups.

The blogging led to other writing engagements. Sabrina Pacifici, who I met in person at the 2005 Special Libraries Association conference in Toronto, invited me to write a column for Thus "The Tao of Law Librarianship" was born (not all are posted yet on the redesigned LLRX site). It has been a lot of work to put that column out, and it hasn't been quite every month, but I am very proud of each of those columns.

The writing led to speaking which I have talked about. I have spoken at CALL conferences, Ark conferences, and have helped Sabrina put on workshops at Computers in Libraries. Recently I spoke to the Ontario Association of Library Technicians, and I have other engagements in the wings.

I met Jim Milles as well (through blogging) and he invited me to be a "Canadian correspondent" on his podcast Check This Out! That has helped build an interest in podcasting, and I have been exploring potential in that area.

At work I explore areas such as intranets, information management and knowledge management. I have been a member of the informal group Toronto KM Group (largely made up of law firm KM directors) and their related group the Toronto Intranet Coordinators Group. I love meeting with both of these groups. They are very different groups, both made up of some of the smartest people I know.

You might not know this, but …

I am currently developing a course for Rebecca Jones and Eva Kupidura at the Professional Learning Centre at the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, in their continuing education program. I have long been a fan and a student of the PLC, so I am thrilled to be associated with them. The course, originally envisioned by Rebecca, will be on social networking (Web 2.0) applications. It is scheduled for August and we will be exploring fun applications such as blogs, wikis, Flickr, Ning, LinkedIn and Twitter (among many others), as well as talking about their implications for libraries and society. It should be posted soon. It is something that I hope, if it runs successfully, we will update and run periodically.

I’m passionate about…

Social networking, libraries, law librarianship, management theory (including knowledge management, change management, and information management), fiction, film, food, the environment (and our planet as a whole), personal fitness, cycling/spinning, and Pilates.

In the next year or two, I hope to…

Hold a successful NE2007 conference that others will find invaluable to their own professional development, learning, and networking. If the Social Media course at PLC goes well in August, that it will develop into a regular course. I hope to work more with Sabrina Pacifici on future workshops and presentations. Add in a podcast or two. Jim Milles and Wayne MacPhail have been encouraging me in this area, and I have two ideas currently in the works. I will also be helping Jim put on the pre-conference workshop "How (and What) to Podcast" at the American Association of Law Libraries conference this July in New Orleans. I am exploring some other possibilities, too. At work I hope to help give birth to a bouncing, beautiful baby intranet. In the meantime, we are exploring wikis as a partial interim solution.

Believe it or not, this may not be quite enough. I still dream of taking an MBA program. I actually have my eye on another similar program which is at the PhD level. It is very competitive to get into, so forgive me if I don't specifically mention it here. The less competition the better. I am a professional student at heart.

As you can see, my interests are varied and each seems to be taking on a life of its own. At times I feel like I should choose between them and focus, but really this is the short list since my interests could easily grow beyond these. I'm really a generalist and like to know a lot about a lot of different things.

People ask me how I have time to do all these things. Often it feels like I don't have enough time, to be honest. And I really do say no to things, honest. But when I see an opportunity, I do like to see where it will lead. It has been truly amazing where the blogging, for example, has led.

In terms of world view, I consider myself one of the most lucky, blessed people on this planet. Living in Canada with a roof over my head, enough food to eat, family and friends who love me, and the ability to choose how I live my life: not a lot of people on this planet can say they have all of these things. Despite talking about myself throughout this post, I really try to be as outward-facing as I can, to not be selfish and to serve others.

So much for this being "a quick sketch!". Thanks for reading this far. Now, what about *you*? Are you willing to take up Chris' autobiography challenge?



Bargainista said...

Connie, I think this post is anything but quick. Kudos to you for taking the time to share so much about yourself and letter your readers/friends learn about your journey to where you are today. I'm so used to writing in quick “sound bites” and shudder when I've written a long post and don't want to edit any further. Surprisingly, those are the posts my fellow bloggers often remember when we meet face-to-face. If I can figure out how to make a long bio work for a shopping blog, I just may do the same.

Petra said...

Hi Connie. I can't remembr how I ended up in your blog, but the thoroughness of the analysis of yourself just captured me and knocked me out! In a good way. Don't ever stop. With the kindest regards from Central Finland.

Connie Crosby said...

Thanks so much, Eden and Petra. I suspect this will make a good "about" page in the future. Or maybe "more about". Heh. I'm glad you have found this interesting!


M Taher said...

Hi Connie:
You are very creative. But, I thot you will follow me, and create a visual autobiog...
See my visual resume and timeline in pictures...
Best, MT

Anonymous said...

heya connie,

fabulously-written bio - another notch in your 'how do you find the time ...' belt. me, i still prefer to have a smidgen of online anonymity, or at least make someone work to get at the details.

however, i just read an interesting article this week about what impacts 'lifelogging' might have on our society.

(i did think it a sharp coincidence that there was a similar post this week).

anyway, here's the bit that seemed the most apropos to your post:

"Our concept of privacy relies on the fact that it's hard to discover information about other people. Today, you've all got private lives that are not open to me. Even those of you with blogs, or even lifelogs. But we're already seeing some interesting tendencies in the area of attitudes to privacy on the internet among young people, under about 25; if they've grown up with the internet they have no expectation of being able to conceal information about themselves. They seem to work on the assumption that anything that is known about them will turn up on the net sooner or later, at which point it is trivially searchable."

the writer also throws in other good stuff about effects on historical interpretation and the inability to enforce 'stupid' laws.

Anonymous said...

oops, here's the rest of the link to the 'shaping the future' post by charlie stross:

Connie Crosby said...

You know, once you get onto facebook, it's all downhill from there. Everyone knows everything about you and you may as well give in to the SOCIAL NETWORK. You can run to territories, Senator, but you can't hide forever!!