Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday jams (12/18/2015)

Every year is a good year for new music, but 2015 was a great year for new music. And I feel like 2016 will probably also be a great year for new music, if the singles I've heard so far are any indication. Santigold has a new record out in 2016, and I heard the first single from it this morning. It's really fantastic.

I don't even know what is happening it is break and I am doing things and there is stuff happening on twitter and in the world. It's warm and then it's cold and then it is dark when it is daytime. I just. Um.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday jams (12/11/2015)

I've started looking at my commitments with a more critical eye, and I am starting to feel like I have a little bit more space to breathe and reflect as opposed to go-go-going until I break.

It's nice.

It's almost break and soon I will be painting houses and assembling jigsaw puzzles.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It takes an ocean not to break

I feel like academic libraries, in some measure, feed off the energy of their users. Specifically, I think that people who work in academic libraries feel pressure at the end of each semester because the people they work with feel that pressure. In every academic library where I've worked, the nervous energy that students exude at the end of the semester is palpable as soon as you walk into the building.

Because I do not work directly with users, my work life remains relatively steady during this time of year. I'm trying to get loose ends tied up before leaving for the end of the year break, sure, but my workload doesn't increase in the same way as my public services colleagues. But for some reason, I find myself feeling bogged down and stressed out this year.

My friend, Michelle, calls these feelings "crisis mode." And she wrote a really great blog post about the tools she has moved away from operating in crisis mode. One passage in particular resonated with me:
I generally am trying to purposely integrate reflection into my day. How is this project making me feel? Do I need help? Do I have the mental energy I need right now to do this? Am I the best person to do this? Can it be done this semester or do I need to push this deadline? 
This resonated with me because I am terrible at this kind of reflective practice and evaluating whether I have the mental and emotional energy to push any given project forward. Instead, I go-go-go until I break.

After I read Michelle's post, I had a conversation with someone (okay, my therapist) about my go-go-go tendencies and she said that she feels like there is a difference, energetically, between doing things that we feel passionately about and things that we don't. Even when they're challenging, she reasoned, we still feel good when we're engaged in things that excite us. And when we're engaged in things that don't excite us, we feel slower and sluggish.

We agree to be involved in things, in our personal and professional lives, for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes those reasons are related to a real and genuine passion and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes we want people to notice us, so we agree to get involved in an initiative. Sometimes we are afraid of missing out, so we join a committee. Sometimes we step up because we're afraid that nobody else will.

Michelle's post and my subsequent conversation with my therapist lead to a place: it is worthwhile to check in with yourself to identify the projects you're involved with that leave you feeling stressed out or sluggish and find a way to either stay involved and change how you feel or find someone who is better suited to take the project on. After all, your saying no about something that causes you discomfort means that someone can say yes to something that makes them feel energized.

I put up an index card next to my work computer that reads: Why are you doing this? Does it make you feel: interested? Energized? Excited?

There are, of course, times when you have to accept a project even when it isn't something your passionate about or excited by. And in those times, you have to do what you can to get the job done. But sometimes, you get to make a choice. And I"m hopeful that by checking in with myself, I can make space to devote more time and energy to the things that make me feel excited and energized--even when they're difficult.

Maybe you don't need an index card to be mindful. But I'd encourage you to try out the questions that Michelle poses in her blog post. And if you need an index card, that's okay too.

Stay positive,

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Jams (12/4/2015)

What a week at The Blog! Erin wrote a post that hit a nerve about being passionate about your work, and I followed it up talking about how rhetorical habits distract us from important discussions. But now, it is time for some jams as we wrap up our week.

Over the thanksgiving break I was lucky to be able to spend some time with very good friends who I've known for a very long time. We got talking about music that helps us deal with our emotions about our work and our lives. It might have been very late, and everyone else might have been asleep, but we sang along and it felt pretty good.

Grimes has this awesome new album, Art Angels, and it is 100% worth the time you will spend listening to it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

the hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder

Erin wrote a love letter to tattooed spunky hipster librarians, in response to some of the comments about whether librarianship is a dying profession in a recent Hiring Librarians post. In the next breath, the respondent goes on to state
We are all replaceable because we have no identity and once the ALA accepts the ridiculous Threshold Concepts- we won’t even be able to hold a conversation in academia without looking like the morons we allowed ourselves to become.
So in both the quote that Erin used about "tattooed spunky hipster librarians" and in this quote, there are ad hominem arguments being presented to support the claim that librarianship is a dying profession. I don't want to fall into a tu quoque by making additional ad hominem statements, indeed, the author of the Hiring Librarians post makes a number of very important points that merit discussion. I want to talk about why almost everyone I know reacted to the tone instead of the content.

The ad hominem arguments in this case serve three purposes, all of them dangerous.  A caveat to add that what I am discussing here is not only true of many folks who agree with the statement above, but many who disagree. As Nanci Griffith puts it, "I am guilty, I am war, I am the root of all evil." We all do it. We should all be watching ourselves if we care for what we do, who we serve, and the future (not of our profession, the future in general, of humanity).

First, these arguments derail conversations about important issues (for instance, about threshold concepts) by bringing moral character judgements into realms where they do not belong. Assessments of the character of others (or, here, ourselves as well?) beg answers from others because they threaten identity. Erin's post gets at how digs at identity weigh on us, make it difficult to engage in discussions, and gnaw at our self-worth. They do not offer grounds to continue discussion of the topic at hand. No arguments or premises offered. We should be talking about the merits of the proposition.

Second, ad hominems and other informal fallacies distract from the issues. Suddenly we find ourselves discussing the straw man of generational divide, not knowing how we got here. We end up treading and retreading discussions that were tired when they started. What do we look like, do people like us, why don't they care about us, all in circles and circles. Without substance because there are not grounds to continue discussion of the original topic. No arguments or premises offered. We should be talking about the merits of the proposition.

Third, ad hominems and other informal fallacies abdicate responsibility and blame. If we allow each other to engage in fallacious arguments, we let it all fall apart. It becomes acceptable to discuss tangential concerns as if they are primary. It becomes acceptable to overgeneralize our peers based on surface differences. It becomes acceptable to not offer grounds to continue discussion of the topic of concern. We need not offer arguments or premises. I start to wonder if we even care about the merits of the proposition. If we even care what we are doing at all.

There is significant damage from these arguments, but even more damage caused by the discussions that we're not having. It is essential that we address content in these discussions. Habits of rhetoric are the danger, but they are habits and we can all work on focusing on the issues. As a profession, we need to engage each other about what we are doing and why. We need to be disagreeing and challenging and working through issues and reaching a balance to move forward. Maybe we're scared and used to discussions moving in this same direction, and we let it slide. Maybe it is hard to be honest with ourselves and our colleagues about how we feel and what we think about some issues. I get it. I'm there.

Discussion that is real, honest, and deep is not easy, but it brings us forward. If we open ourselves, lay out arguments, share honest feelings and concerns, if we then listen, question, listen, disagree, listen, and hear, if we then find a path that works for us all, if we could do just that. We may not all be on board with every single move, but we will understand and know each other.  And we'll be moving.  Creating the future of librarianship, even.

Keep Rockin'

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

If you're too school for cool

Hiring Librarians posted an interview where the respondent stated that librarianship is, in fact, a dying profession. The respondent went on to justify their answer with about three paragraphs of text which included this line:

I have no belief that Librarianship as a profession will be able to hold on. regardless of what all the tattooed spunky hipster librarians think.
So, here's the thing about that.

Being young in a profession that is relatively grey is really hard. It's difficult to express yourself fully, if who you want to be is someone who experiments with fashion or gets tattoos. It's hard to like music, art, and literature that your colleagues don't understand. It's hard to feel like your colleagues take you seriously when they use words like "spunky" to describe you.

Being enthusiastic in a profession that is relatively cynical is really hard. It's difficult to learn to trust your voice when your colleagues don't appreciate your ideas. It's difficult to think of innovative services and tools for outreach when your colleagues tell you about that time ten years ago when they tried the same thing and it didn't work. It's hard to find the courage to engage in your field's professional association when the more established people in that association speak about how tiresome it is to deal with people like you.

It isn't wrong to be enthusiastic--whether than enthusiasm is for outreach or tattoos or tacos or indie rock. It isn't wrong to have tattoos or to experiment with fashion. It isn't wrong to like a certain kind of music or a certain kind of art.  It isn't wrong to want to create a version of librarianship that is user-center, forward-thinking, and hopeful. It isn't wrong to have ideas and to fail at executing them as much as you succeed. It isn't wrong to take chances and to dream big.

The people who make you feel like you're wrong are the people who are wrong.

It's easy for me to say this from my mid-career perch, but I really hope the next generation of library leaders learns to trust their voice and their vision. I hope they'll push back against the ideas that need to be pushed back against. I hope they will move forward the initiatives that will make their libraries better places for their users. I hope the next generation of library leaders will lead with their whole hearts.

And, yes, I hope the next generation of library leaders is spunky. I realize that the respondent used the word spunky as a pejorative term. But when I looked up what spunk means, I felt like it described the person I want to be: spirit, courage, and determination.

In the last two months, I've written two blog posts where I've said that I feel like we're driving out our next generation of library leaders out of librarianship because we don't support them in the ways that we should. I'm sorry to have to write a third blog post in a third month on the same topic. But I promise that I will keep writing about it until we start to do things differently.

Stay positive,