comments 5

Hiding Out

Hiding Cat

Hidden Cat by Jaron on Flickr

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post on this blog, but I think I have good reasons (excuses?). Months ago, I wrote about the loss of our wonderful library director and the staffing challenges our library faced. We are still on the hunt for a new leader, but we’ve also lost another great librarian to a really advantageous career move (You know who you are, you are awesome, and we miss you). Where does this leave us? Three librarians down (really, because our director was superhuman and did the work of two people), and uncertain when we’ll be operating at full capacity again. Although we’ve periodically had conversations about what we can stop doing, it seems as though once we decide to drop something, a new task or responsibility emerges to take its place.

It’s a problem, folks; one that I’m sure you share.

So what have I been doing to compensate for this increased work load? I struggled for weeks about whether or not to write about this, but ultimately decided to be honest. I suspect I am not the only one in this situation who is compensating in this way, and I think it’s worth discussion.

I’ve been hiding out.

Ok, I exaggerate. Sort of. But really, I’ve taken my natural inclination towards outreach, marketing and promoting the library and put them on the back-burner because I JUST CAN’T KEEP UP. For the past 3 years I’ve actively solicited instruction in each of my liaison departments and programs. I’ve tried to be an active participant in each department’s education program, bringing the information literacy goodness whenever I spotted a potential inroad or academic opportunity. Now? I can barely keep up with the demand for instruction and research assistance and do any of my other job responsibilities (collection development, web design, Libguide and Libanswers migration, professional development like writing and conference presentations). Although my teaching load has increased thanks to additional liaison responsibilities, and yes, I am still introducing myself to faculty and discussing instruction options, I’m not pushing it. There is one department I haven’t seen all year, and to be honest, I am totally ok with that. I don’t think I could have maintained my quality of teaching if I had additional prep to do for even more classroom instruction. Am I hiding from this department? Kind of. Really I’m just sort of hiding in plain sight. They know I’m here. They know what I do. I’m just not going to push it on them.

I know, I know, WOE, y’all, WOE. I make these admissions not out of starting the world’s freshest pity party, but just out of honesty. There is so much pressure for academic librarians to be ON IT all the time. Selling the library, selling our role as educators, proactively seeking out opportunities to share our knowledge and library love with students, faculty and staff. That’s all well and good, but sometimes you just can’t deliver. Solutions abound, from rethinking job responsibilities to strategizing IL instruction to revamping services, but those efforts also take time…time we don’t often have until the summer months roll around (and sometimes even then extra projects are heaped onto our plates). I don’t think our library is suffering from poor planning so much as it is suffering from being awesome + understaffing. We’ve met and exceeded all kinds of expectations over the years, but we’re really at a point where we cannot do more with less.

I think sometimes it’s ok to just stop doing things. You’re not a bad librarian if you aren’t selling the library 24/7, and sometimes outreach is not the answer. Sometimes it’s ok to hide a little, if only to regroup, refocus, and take care of yourself and your colleagues. We all know that sometimes we need to say no, but I think sometimes it’s ok to not say anything at all and finally get around to that stack of book orders while you hide behind your closed office door. I know this is not a long-term solution to any of our problems, but if it gets us through the short-term crisis in one, mentally-stable piece, is it really so bad?

Commence disagreement in three, two, one…

 

5 Comments

  1. Disagreement? Not from me. We’re down 24% on our staffing in the library. Two of us are planning summer weddings. One of us lost a spouse. 50% of the required instruction that’s supposed to happen this semester hasn’t contacted me and… I’m not running after them. To be honest, I think this kind of hiding out is only a problem if it’s long term. In my library’s case, if hiding out is something that is caused from above as a result of budgetary things, it’s worth having a list of things that you can no longer accomplish as a result of lost positions to bring to the people who make the big decisions. I also think that in the case of required instruction failing to meet expectations, it’s a talking point that I can bring to the heads of these programs and say, “I need help communicating expectations.” So, hiding out, maybe yes. But I’m ok with that.

    Also, ACRL? Yes? I’ll be there if you’re able to get out of your hide out…

    • I think your point about documenting what CAN’T be done while understaffed is so important. We just submitted a justification to fill our vacant librarian line and I think it’s quite compelling. I’m hoping the outcome is positive. I’m sorry to hear that your library is also experiencing staffing shortages and the stuff of life that can make work seem secondary (although weddings are a wonderful thing!).

      Also, ACRL is a YES! I’ll send you an email about it!

  2. Debbie Morrow

    No argument from this liaison librarian. You do what you can while staying sane and keeping the deep underlying principles in mind. I’m not quite where you are now, but I have been and will likely be again. Remember to breathe…!

    • Thanks for the reassurance, Debbie. I think keeping the underlying principles in mind is really important. That’s a great point. I don’t want my teaching to suffer, so if I do less of it, but I put a lot of effort and time into it, I think that’s still ok.

  3. dear friend:
    you are loved and also missed. please keep awesome always. dig a hole under your desk if you must.

    p.s. excellent photo choice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s