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…