Monday, October 16, 2017

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings - But For Good


I know what you're going to say - all meetings are useless and most are a big pain in the butt. And, to be honest, I used to agree with you. Not anymore. It all changed when I moved into administration, but I couldn't put it into words until now. I spent a lot of time setting up one-on-one meetings with every single person who works in my library, which wasn't the norm before, and explaining why to each of them is going to help me explain to you why meetings can be for good.

I'll give you more detail below, but if you don't have a lot of time to read, the tl;dr is one of my biggest themes on this blog: relationship building. Now, in no particular order, here's what I mean:

  • Since I'm a little more removed from the front lines in this job than I have been in the past (even though I've been training on the circulation desk and have a regular reference desk shift, every other week), meeting with everyone gives us time to get to know each other. This is especially important when it comes to the ten people who work in the library part time, since I don't see them as often and really only work side by side with the one part time reference librarian who works the same reference desk shift as I do.
  • Having a regular meeting schedule makes it so that sitting down with the boss isn't necessarily a punitive thing. Only meeting with staff when things are going wrong makes those meetings feel like being called to the principal's office. For those times when I do have to give negative feedback, I want people to be relaxed and open to discussing what happened instead of being automatically on the defensive.
  • Speaking of giving negative feedback, having a regular meeting schedule makes it so it won't be a thing - us being in an office with the door closed - and it won't cause tongues to wag. One of the worst bosses I've ever had only closed the door for one-on-one meetings when you were in trouble. I'll never forget the time I showed up 5 minutes early for my meeting and found the door of their office closed. I knew, even without being able to hear what was being said, that my colleague who had the meeting slot before mine was being chastised. It is nobody's business except mine and that of the employee in question if I have to give negative feedback. 
  • Regular one-on-one meetings also gives people an opportunity to share ideas that they might not want to bring up in staff meetings. What if someone thinks we need to add a step to the check out process to protect people's privacy, but it will take extra time? Or what if the idea is that we should open up earlier in the morning because students are lined up outside the door? Being able to chat privately with me will give them a way to share that idea.
  • Most importantly, me taking time to meet with them on a regular basis makes them know they are heard. This is me investing my most important resource - time! - in each and every person who works in my library.
Yes, meetings can be a pain in the tuchus. Some days it feels like that's all I do, which doesn't even touch the annoyances that accompany finding coverage for when I need to meet with someone who exclusively staffs a service point. But wow, is it worth it.

So how about you? What do you like about meetings?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Just For Fun: Viktor Victorious


Mr. Viktor, my gray tabby boy, came into my life about a month after Martin the Gozerian died way too young. V was exactly what I needed in my life. He's boisterous and gregarious and goofy - definitely not to be ignored. More important than his good taste in music, as seen in the above (I like Paul's Boutique a lot, too), he's seriously the most happy-go-lucky cat I've ever known. (Except when it comes time for me to wash the bed linens. Then he gives me a face. See below.)


People with whom Viktor has made friends:
  • Every repair person ever. He especially liked the guy in charge of maintenance at my apartment complex in Delaware.
  • The guy who delivered and set up the futon I bought for my second bedroom here in New York. Viktor loved him so much that he sat in the guy's lap while my futon was being put together.
  • Every friend of mine who has come to my apartment. 
  • He may have never met you before, but trust me: Viktor loves you and is your friend, too.

If the rescue organization that brought him into my life is to be believed, Viktor has always been this way. Apparently when they found him, he was in the company of some much younger kittens. The rescue group assumed he was a she, and the mother of the kittens, because of how affectionate Viktor was with the littler kits.

Actually, the only creature I've ever seen him treat with anything less than full on, storybook, eternal love and devotion...? Is my other cat, Zephyr. But even with her, it's more like a kid brother pestering his big sister. (Before you ask, no - they aren't related. I know they look it a bit, but it seems tabby is just very common coloring among Delaware cats.)


And last, but not least, is the fact that he has very refined tastes in cinema. He is watching The Seventh Seal in that picture below - and he watched it very intently for almost the whole film. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about this striking film by the auteur, Ingmar Bergman, but there's no doubt that Viktor is a fan.


Here's to my odd little man - long may Viktor reign over my apartment and life.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On Social Media Breaks, Mental Health, and Productivity



Towards the end of the day last Tuesday, I got "Misery is the River of the World" stuck in my head. It wasn't because I love Tom Waits - I do, but that wasn't the reason. No, it was because I'd seen almost nothing but horrors and nightmares (almost exclusively perpetrated by our current administration) on social media that day. To be honest, it had been like that for days and days. Except on Tuesday, when I saw someone compare a thing the current administration is doing to the Stasi, I knew I'd had enough. I said to myself, and to a few friends as I explained the reason for my break from my formerly beloved Twitter, "Misery might be the river of the world, but that doesn't mean I need to swim in it constantly." A bit over dramatic? Yes. Still true.

And so, partially inspired by Derrick Jefferson, I quit. Obviously temporarily, since I posted this in all the normal places. I logged into neither Twitter nor Tumblr nor Facebook - other than to add things to the queue for Owl Zeppelin - for almost a week. It wasn't bliss, but it wasn't bad. The impulse to check came and went, but I got through it every time it came. I knew what I was getting into, though, since changing any habit is hard. The results weren't hard to predict, either... I am so much calmer and more in my skin than I've been ever in recent memory. Also, hella more productive - especially at home. I can't remember the last time I went more than a couple of days without checking at least one of my social media places, so it stands to reason I can't recall when I've been this calm and productive.

I did keep up with news during my time away. I've got a profile set up with IssueVoter.org, and they email me when there is legislation that is important to me so I can call my elected representatives. (Actually, I call Representative Louise Slaughter's Rochester office so often I think her staff are starting to recognize not just my name but also my voice.) I also scanned the front page of Twitter for big news items without logging in, and asked a couple of friends to let me know if anything major was happening.

It was great, but I need to be realistic. I hate the phone so much that social media is sometimes the only way I can keep in touch with some of my friends. That means I need to figure out a way to stay connected without losing my sanity to what's going on in the world. I need to be part of the social media communities I've built/been part of, but without ingesting all the horror and misery. That's going to be a problem, though. "Yes," I can handle. Likewise, "no." In between? Not so much. As a way to build my capacity for "a little," I'm going to try to spend no more than 30 minutes on social media each day - at least until it's a fully ingrained habit. I think much more than that and it won't be out of curiosity and genuinely wanting to catch up - more than that, for me, and it will be wallowing.

Finally, I'm posting about it here for a few of reasons:
  • Saying something publicly means I'm that much more likely to follow through with it;
  • I'm hoping I'll inspire some of you to take a break, like Derrick inspired me;
  • I need to remind myself to take care of myself to be strong for the long haul - because it's going to be a long one.


"Call no man happy til he dies," is a line in that Tom Waits song up there. That may be true, but that doesn't mean I can't try to find some peace along the way.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Interview Post: Ian Clark


Biographical

Name?

Ian Clark

Current job?

Academic Services Librarian for Psychology at the University of East London.


How long have you been in the field?

I finished my degree in 2012, but I’ve been working in libraries since 2005. Initially working in public libraries, I jumped to academic libraries in 2010.


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I work in an open plan office with my own desk space that I can at least personalise a little to make it feel more “me” (which inevitably means Rothko, Orwell and, er, Star Wars).

How do you organize your days?

My main focus at as I write this is getting prepared for the new academic year, so anything that impacts upon that is my priority. Student emails, particularly requests for 1-2-1s, tend to get prioritised, alongside emails from academics. In terms of keeping on top of tasks, I’m terrible at keeping lists or writing things down, or having any kind of organisational system. Basically, I rely on a combination of my memory and, as when feeling super organised, Wunderlist.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
In all honesty, probably dealing with emails! After that, it’s probably 1-2-1 support with students, which I find an effective way to engage with students (as well as enjoyable as I get to learn about different psychology research projects!). As I have large number of doctoral students, I spend a lot of time providing support for them, particularly in terms of systematic literature searches.

What is a typical day like for you?
Usually we start by having a “sweep” of the library, ensuring everything is ready for the day (all staff do this). Then onto emails and the rest of the day is a mixture of 1-2-1s with students and desk duties to support library users.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale – which followed on from reading Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough. I have a tendency to read political and historical non-fiction...in the current climate it has certainly helped to make sense of recent developments.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Listen to those without the privileges you enjoy and try not to provide instant, simple solutions, but to think more deeply about what is being communicated. I try to keep this in mind, particularly given the state of online discourse.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Appearing in videos is certainly one thing I wasn’t expecting...I’m not one for being in front of a camera where I can help it.



Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Whilst – I seem to use it a lot and I was interested to discover recently that it sounds weird to Americans. For reasons best known to myself, I currently have “WHILST” on a post-it note on my desk. (Alternatively, the naughty schoolboy favourite word is fuck.)

What is your least favorite word?
Customer. It reduces relationships and interactions between people to a purely commercial level.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I’d love to attempt to be a professional writer or photographer.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything medical (my partner is a medical professional and I don’t envy her at all – although it helps me keep things in perspective) and anything that might possibly involve heights (I suffer from height vertigo).

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
The ability to remain fit without having to do any exercise (like, when do you see any superhero in the movies actually workout??).

What are you most proud of in your career?
On a personal level, when I had my first article published in The Guardian. The desperate wannabe writer in me was punching the air over that. More generally, I’m proud of helping to establish both Voices for the Library and the Radical Librarians Collective in the UK. Whilst (sorry!) both haven’t exactly overturned government policy or revolutionised library work in the UK, they have both had an impact in their own ways. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the little changes that have been effected by the efforts of a collective, and be too concerned with failures to achieve The Big Things. Too much dwelling on the latter breeds stasis and inaction.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
There have been times where I’ve overlooked a reading list and not bought the books required for the course. And there was the one time I received an email from a tutor asking where I was. Turned out I should have been delivering an induction session in a lecture theatre, not sitting at my desk going through my emails. I’ve learnt to not let mistakes get to me. We all make them.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Outside of work I like to spend time with my partner and two children, where possible getting out and about exploring our little part of the world. After years of taking photos and playing around with cameras, I finally took a short online photography course earlier this year and I’m continuing to learn and develop my skills.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Any one of my very good friends and comrades (all of which I learn so much from): Lauren Smith (@walkyouhome), Binni Brynolf (@brynolf) and/or Andrew Preater (@preater).


Ian is on Twitter as @ijclark.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pep Talk



I feel like I've been giving a lot of pep talks lately, and been needing them a bit, too. So many things can bring out our deepest insecurities - new jobs, new responsibilities, mistakes - that I thought it was time for me to write an all purpose pep talk. Or as all purpose as I can make it. Also, feel free to mix and match and use this guide to give your own pep talks to others.
  1. You got this. It's totally normal to feel overwhelmed by something new or big or both. In fact, I'd go so far as to say if you feel completely confident, then you're probably missing something. But you got this.
  2. You were hired and/or given this new project for a reason. You know what you're doing, and if you don't already know then you know where to go for help. That may be a plea for assistance on Twitter or Tumblr. Heck, it may be an email to another librarian that says something like, "I know you don't know how to do this thing I need to learn, but do you know anybody?" (I even get emails like that from blog readers - I always try to do my best, but I'm not always prompt about responses.)
  3. You're going to make mistakes, and that's okay. I've written about this before in a post that was specifically about new jobs, but it extends to new projects as well. Actually, it's something that people long established in their jobs and careers, with nothing new in their lives, also have to deal with. Mistakes happne.
  4. You will recover from bad stuff. Even if it is/was your fault. I promise. It may take a while, or no time at all, but you will recover. I've been fired before and it didn't end me. It was a restaurant job that I hated anyway, but it was still a bit of a nightmare at the time. I found another restaurant job where I made less, but took some student loans to help pay for my last classes and actually ended up finishing my MLIS sooner. I'm not trying to say that bad stuff happens for good reasons - just that getting fired wasn't the end of me.
  5. When you talk to yourself about the thing that's happening in your life, imagine you're talking to a beloved friend instead. No matter how many good things people say to you, you still need to think about how you talk to yourself about whatever it is that's happening. Would you tell a good friend with a new job that their new employer made a mistake? NO! You'd say things like, "take a deep breath and make lists of things you need to learn." Would you berate your bestie for making a mistake? NO! You'd tell them, "yeah, that was a mistake, but how can I help you to recover from it?"
  6. You got this. Yes, I'm repeating myself, but this one is the most important part of the list. There's a cliched old saying - something like, "the only true failure is giving up." (It's not applicable to 100% of situations, because sometimes you need to make strategic retreats or give up on one thing to give another the attention it deserves.) It's a good rule of thumb. We make mistakes; we get overwhelmed; but we keep trying. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Interview Post: Amanda Leftwich


Biographical

Name?

Amanda M. Leftwich

Current job?

Circulation Supervisor


How long have you been in the field?

Four years, but I received my MSLS in August 2017!


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I have a backwards L shaped desk with piles of paper, reserve label stickers, books, and notepads (it looks a HOT MESS right now).  I don’t have any pictures of family or anything fun. I do however have some Frida Kahlo notecards, a candy dish for the students, and a picture that one of my student worker’s shot for a fashion show.

How do you organize your days?

I write down everything that has a deadline on my desk calendar. I’ll mark them off with a red marker when completed. For all other duties, I’ll use my Outlook calendar’s flagging system. It’ll send me reminders of things I need to do (for example, completing timesheets for the student workers). There’s a lot of moving parts for circulation to keep track of, and this system has worked the best for me.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
Making sure my student workers are getting the job done, statistics, billing, and collection shifting projects.

What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day is hectic, especially right now, as it’s the beginning of the semester. The bulk of my job is making sure that the circulation desk runs like a proverbial well-oiled machine. That means making sure the student workers are up-to date with policies and procedures; helping patrons find items in the library; and reminding professors to put items on the course reserves. A typical day is me walking in seeing what’s wrong --- fixing the issue, checking in with the workers, then working on statistics, and finally adding journals into the system.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the Wonder Woman comics (Rebirth) series by Greg Rucka, Confused Spice by Mathis Bailey, & Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue Deconnick. I love graphic novels and usually read about three or four volumes of those a week. I’ll usually grab a smaller fiction novel for my train ride. And, I have a TON of reading material on my Kindle. You can never have enough!
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Don’t worry if everyone likes you….just get the job done.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Cleaning skulls and bones! The Library rents model skulls, a skeleton named Billy/Ziggy (there’s a debate about the name), and bones for drawing classes.



Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Apothecary

What is your least favorite word?
Moist

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Aromatherapist. I love working with different scents and healing people from the inside out.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything involving driving for a living (I’ve never learned; nor do I want too). I’m thankful for all the Lyft drivers getting me home safely!

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
This is a hard one!!? Teleportation would be nice especially if I could avoid lines at security!

What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m still new, but helping students further their own interests and become a mentor to those that have asked. The ability to pay forward what I received as a mentee has been a great honor and pleasure. I’m also proud of another post a wrote for this blog.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Mostly thinking that everyone has the same level of urgency that I do. Most days, I have a lot of energy to put into work. I’ve come to realize most people like a slower/more thoughtful approach. It doesn’t make it wrong, just different from my style.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Planning trips, researching, studying aromatherapy practices, reading, watching a sci-fi show, etc.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Recent graduates/new librarians like myself, diverse librarians, and archivists.

Amanda is on Twitter as @thelibmaven. This is the second time she's written for Letters to a Young Librarian. The first was “Handling Microaggressions in the Library”.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Interview Post: Maria T. Accardi

3-year-old ponytailed Maria with her great-grandma, great-grandpa (Papa Charlie),
her older sister, her cousin, her dad, and her dad's perm. It was, after all, 1980.

Biographical

Name?

Maria T. Accardi. I insist on the middle initial, because this is how I carry my beloved late great-grandmother Mama Teresa with me.

Current job?

Coordinator of Instruction and Reference at Indiana University Southeast, a regional campus of Indiana University, located in New Albany, Indiana. New Albany is just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, where I live.


How long have you been in the field?

11 years


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

An embarrassing mess. Lots of clutter--books, papers, folders, scribbled notes. Most of my file cabinets are filled with leftovers from my predecessor--and I’ve been in this job for 10 years. Whoops. I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning up and so I make occasional small dents into the mess to take the edge off. I have windows with trees and grass in view, as well as a parking lot. I have photos of my wife, my niblings, my late mother-in-law, my grandmother. I have a desktop computer with dual monitors, and poems taped to various places on my desk--I read and re-read “Cake” by Noah Eli Gordon multiple times a day. A print of a map of Sicily that I bought at the Vatican Museum is framed on my wall, which depicts Sicily in completely the wrong way, flipped upside down.

How do you organize your days?

Outlook calendar. I block off everything. 30 hours of email admin. 60 minutes of teaching prep. 30 minutes for lunch. Yes, I put lunch on my calendar, even if it’s just eating a sandwich in my office while watching The Golden Girls on Hulu. I call my wife at around noon-ish so we can say midday prayer together (we do an abbreviated variation of the Daily Office in the Episcopal tradition) and this helps mark the division between morning and afternoon. Putting everything on Outlook calendar helps me protect, prioritize, and value my time.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
This time of year: teaching, preparing to teach, reference desk shifts, alone time, committee work, library instruction program admin.

What is a typical day like for you?
I like to get to work at around 8 or 8:30, because I seem to be more focused and able to get stuff done in the morning. I spend a lot of time with my office door closed because this also helps me focus and also because I’m strongly introverted. Instruction and reference are my thing, but I also find it very draining, so I need to spend a lot of time alone not talking to anyone. I take walks around campus if I have a window in my day big enough. I have 15-minute, 20-minute, and 30-minute routes, depending on how much time I have. I am usually at work until 3 pm or 4 pm.
What are you reading right now?
I just checked out The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue from the public library but I’ve not started it yet. Honestly, these days I’ve only had bandwidth and brainspace to read magazines about home decorating or cooking. Shorter pieces of writing with pretty pictures soothe and comfort me, and they provide ideas and inspiration for my cozy domesticity goals.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Have a rich and interesting life outside of work. This comes from my library director, who practices what he preaches. He is the former dining critic for the local newspaper, and now he’s the theater reviewer for the alternative weekly paper. He also has a band and can be found strumming the guitar in Saturday farmer’s markets. He is a role model for finding meaning and purpose in library work but not allowing it to consume you, instead using it as a vehicle for subsidizing the aforementioned rich and interesting life outside of work.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Listening to and soothing students in distress. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, I’m always kind of surprised, like why is this person crying and why is this happening? I am happy to do it, though. I’m not happy that they are in distress, but I am happy to support them. Students are stressed out and being the friendly helper person at the reference desk means that sometimes they need care beyond helping them learn how to find scholarly articles. Providing this care is important to me, especially because I was once--more than once--a crying college student seeking care from a friendly helper.


Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Ineffable

What is your least favorite word?
Impactful

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Something completely creative and that involves making pretty things. A florist, maybe? A painter, a sculptor. Or making delicious things, like baking. Also, my wife and I fantasize about running a gourmet popcorn shop. It would be called Popz! (including the exclamation mark).

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything involving funeral homes or cemeteries. I’ve had very very unpleasant encounters with this profession, unfortunately.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
I wish I could be omnipresent, something maybe along the lines of Hermione’s Time Turner.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I wrote a book that people seem to like a lot. And I won an award for the book! I’ve edited other books that also seem to have had an impact on people. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little kid, and it still kind of amazes me that I’m actually doing it.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
During a very bad time in my life (an episode of major depression), I let a lot of things slip through the cracks. I scheduled two library instruction sessions for the same time in the same room. I made it work somehow, and it involved lots of apologizing and doing less-than-ideal teaching. It was horrible. It was also a wakeup call for how I was in a really bad way and needed to address my depression.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Spending time in cozy domesticity with my wife: cooking, eating dark chocolate, watching General Hospital, sitting on the porch swing while drinking iced coffee, enjoying our garden (vegetable and flower). I also have a daily journal practice. As of today, I’ve journaled for 611 consecutive days. Also, these days, after two knee surgeries, I seem to spend half my life at physical therapy. But it’s working and I’m doing lots better! See the aforementioned campus walks.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Emily Drabinski, Donna Witek, Raina Bloom



Maria is on Twitter as @mariataccardi.