Friday Thoughts: Incorporating Creativity

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have a wonderful weekend planned and, if you are in the academic world, that your semester/quarter/term is over (or nearly over). It’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, but I’m hoping and planning to write more over the summer. This last term has been a bit of a time (I still can’t believe it’s the beginning of June already) and while I’ve done some graphic design work and thought often about what I want to share in this space, reports, meetings (upon meetings upon meetings), and other fires came up that pushed this small space to the edge. So today, I wanted to reflect a bit about something that’s been on my mind for awhile as we wrap up this school year–incorporating creativity into my work.

It’s probably not a surprise (far from it, in fact) that I believe creativity is so important to work and life and librarianship. What got me down this particular musing about how I’ve incorporated and define more and more of my work as creative was a meeting a few weeks ago. Also, probably not a surprise for readers, I’m not a fan of meetings especially those without agendas or action items. In this meeting, one person tried to divide the group into the creatives and non-creatives. And this, dear readers, rankled me greatly and (again, no surprise), I said so.

I believe truly, completely, and without reservation that everyone is creative and a creative. To label some people as not creative is not just untrue but detrimental not only to the person but to the community as a whole. How many of us can remember a time when someone said we weren’t creative enough? A good enough artist? Musician? Thinker? Writer? Probably most of us and those comments, often said in such an offhand manner that the speaker doesn’t even remember, can stifle our creativity for years if not lifetimes.

And that’s just wrong.

And it’s not just me who says it’s wrong. And if you need some words from those more eloquent than I (and with research to back it up), I suggest you read the work of Brene Brown and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Their works are inspiring and help when you’re feeling down or when someone implies (or outright says) you’re not creative.

We need creativity in our work and in our libraries, desperately and always. So what does this have to do with my work? For that, I have to tell you a story.

My first written piece as a professional librarian (in a now-defunct online space) was about the importance of play in academic librarianship, about not taking ourselves too seriously and seeing where we could be creative in what we do. And I got a comment on it that said such frivolity was not welcome in academia in the library and basically that I should get serious.

I’m serious about a lot of things, dear readers, and my work is one of them. But there is no need to sacrifice creativity or playfulness or (heaven help us) fun, in order to be serious about our work. On the contrary, being creative and having fun allows us to do better work and be as creative as we need to be.

Which brings us back to why I’m thinking about how much more I’ve incorporated creativity intentionally into my work in the last decade (yes, in July I’ll have been doing this librarian thing for a decade) and why I won’t let others label people as not creative.

I surround myself with visual inspiration in my office–postcards from trips, quotes from books and people I admire, photographs and buttons, origami from friends, and a dozen other little mementos that make me smile. And lots of these things show up in my work, in color schemes, and typography, and emotions for my designs, but also in what I want to bring to my teaching, to my writing, to my outreach, and to the dozens of other projects we do in the library that we may not think of as creative works, but truly are.

Incorporating creativity and being willing to try new things, ideas, ways of conceptualizing, are what have kept me engaged and serious about my work as a librarian. What have kept me from the cynicism and keep me coming back, even when some days it feels like I’m not making a difference, not having my expertise heard, not doing anything.

Creativity is what you make of it. It’s what you define it to be. Whether it’s creating a new flyer, engaging someone with a report they’ll actually read, or finding a way to reach a student where and when they need it. And it’s important, it’s vital, no matter what anyone else says.

You are creative. I am creative. We are creative.

And the library, the world, our community needs what we have to make and to offer.

Here’s to many more days and ways of incorporating that which inspires us, guides us, and moves us into our work and our lives.

I wish you, always, a wonderful, joyful, and relaxing weekend, dear readers. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon (with luck and determination) with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

End of the Quarter Thoughts and Some Design Fun

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have something wonderful planned for this weekend. Hard to believe we are already through more than a week of June. The time really does fly, though I know I’m hoping for it to slow down a bit as we head into summer. It is almost the end of the quarter here, grades are due next week, and commencements are happening this weekend. So I wanted to share a few thoughts on the end of the quarter and, of course, some design fun.

The end of this term marks nine years of teaching at my university, which also means I’ve taught first-year freshmen for nine years. The years have flown by, yet at the same time it seems like I’ve been teaching forever. Many of you can empathize with the conflicting feeling about how time feels, especially with regards to work. I’m in no way an expert, yet, in teaching and I find myself questioning more every year as I research, practice, and reflect to become better. But even as I continue to learn and grow, which we all should do as teachers (and I’d argue all librarians and archivists are teachers), I have a few thoughts to share that have helped me through the wonderful highs and inevitable lows of teaching, especially with this past quarter.

This past quarter was a rough one for most of the instructors I talked with, both inside and outside my department, for a multitude of reasons. But even when it seems like the world is tilting the wrong way and there are a dozen other things competing for my time and attention, when I’m in the classroom I’m there 100%. It doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge what else is happening–it is crucial, especially in a class on information literacy–but it can’t overwhelm so that I’m not there, present (really present) for my students. Creating a place of calm, of discussion, of learning, of sanity was vital this quarter.

By spring quarter, many of my first-year students were already overwhelmed and ready to check-out for summer. But creating an orderly space, creating trust, and setting expectations gave my students who made use of the class a place where they could take ownership over their learning and create some control over what is often an uncontrollable total experience in life (and in the academy). Getting students to engage is always the hardest hurdle to jump, but once they do, once they feel like it is important, then the rest is so much easier.

One constant from all my classes is that reflection is one of the most effective and powerful tools for teaching that I’ve found. When I first had students start writing weekly reflections years ago, I had a number of colleagues who told me it was a waste of time. Students would just parrot whatever I said in class and wouldn’t take it seriously. They would write whatever they thought I wanted to read, I was told. None of that turned out to be true. While some students don’t complete their reflections (you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, even if points are attached), most diligently complete them each week and are honest (sometimes brutally) about what they learned, how they’ve found it useful (or not), and what concerns they have moving forward. It has been one of the best ways I’ve found to get my students to review what they’ve learned and to find sticky points to improve in future classes.

Finally, I’ve had to accept that there is no perfect lesson, no perfect assignment, no perfect thing I can say that will reach all my students to get them to engage and succeed in my class. I can try a dozen different ways to explain, to connect, to help, but if a student doesn’t want to come to class or do the work, in the end I have little to no control over that. We can’t make anyone do anything; we can only guide and support. So I’ve had to let go of taking it personally when students don’t hand in assignments or answer my emails. I’ve had to learn not to take it as a personal failing when a student doesn’t pass my class. If I’ve done everything I can to support a student and they haven’t accepted my support, there is nothing else I can do. This continues to be the most frustrating and disappointing aspect of teaching, but I’m learning to live with it and focus on the vast majority of students that do see the value in the course and want to learn.

Those are just a few of my jumbled thoughts through the haze of grading. Perhaps there will be more later, perhaps not. But now, let’s get into some design fun before we head out for the weekend.

A new month means new desktop wallpapers and Smashing Magazine doesn’t disappoint with June Desktop Wallpapers.

Also, there’s another lovely, free icon set available for your summer designing needs: Geometric UI Icons

Plus, a longer read from Smashing Magazine, Make ‘Em Shine: How to Use Illustrations to Elicit Emotions

I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend filled with good reads, good friends, and some good food. I hope you have something fantastic to design or to make that makes your heart lighter. And I hope that you have some lovely summer plans. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes.

Not Teaching Cynicism

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week. It is hard to believe we are almost halfway through May. While I am looking forward to the summer, I’m not sure that I’m ready for so much of the year to be over. My list of things I want to do this year is long and it would be nice to have a pause button so I could make some more progress (and have time to nap!). Be that as it may, today I want to share something that is a bit different than my usual design inspiration (though there is some of that as well at the end), but something important and at the fore of my mind this term–not teaching cynicism.

So as many know, while I love graphic design and apply what I know to helping my library visually communicate whenever I have the chance, I wasn’t hired by my library as a graphic design librarian. I was hired, like my colleagues, as a liaison librarian who has responsibilities for teaching our required, freshmen, information literacy class (among many other duties). Because of this, I spend a lot of time thinking, creating, facilitating, helping, and reflecting on the teaching and learning of information literacy. This year, more than most, has been a struggle to model and teach skepticism versus cynicism. But it is more important than ever for my students and myself.

As I’ve been teaching now for almost nine years, I’ve of course changed a lot of how I teach as is natural. And two things that I focus on much more now than when I was so very new to teaching are: reflection and evaluation. Reflection comes easily for my students and, in contradiction to some colleagues who thought it would be otherwise, students are very–sometimes surprisingly–honest in their reflections. Their reflections on their learning, which I have them complete weekly, help them to review what they’ve learned and how they can apply it and help me figure out what needs review, refinement, and revision in our time together.

Reflection is too often overlooked, in our hurry-hurry world, but it helps in teaching & learning and graphic design. And it keeps me from falling into being cynical about the world. And cynicism helps neither teaching nor learning.

Another counter to cynicism is remaining skeptical and knowing how to evaluate claims, sources, and well, really anything. Evaluation of sources has been one of the most difficult concepts for my students over the years. It is a new way of thinking and interacting with information for them, but it is an empowering way of interacting with information. I challenge them to question and critique, but also to stay away from the pit of cynicism. This is hard because every day the news brings something that hits home for us: rising tuition, questions of employment, concerns about housing, whether their voice matters, and everything else that keeps a lot of us up at night or in the early hours of the morning wondering what happened to kindness and empathy and caring.

So we talk about how hard it is to stay positive and willing to engage with school and life. We read research on what we can do that has a positive impact on our lives as students and as engaged humans. And we support each other when it is difficult because I have to model skepticism for them if I expect them to live it, too. And that balance of skepticism and do something in the face of cynicism is a hard thing for any of us to do, but it’s important.

What does any of this have to do with graphic design? I don’t know about you, but trying to communicate from a place of cynicism doesn’t work for me. There is no joy there, no creativity, no ability to connect and communicate visually. So I walk back from that edge and continue creating and teaching because for me that is the only way through. By caring, I can create. And by creating, I can connect. And by connecting, I can overcome cynicism and remain skeptical, but engaged. I and my students can’t ignore the problems and challenges in the world, but we can come together and ensure we don’t add to the cynicism that does nothing to change it.

Whether at the reference desk, in the classroom, or in your designs, I ask you choose skepticism over cynicism. And I hope you find inspiration to connect and create because we all need you to.

Now, as promised, the design inspiration. New-ish month means new May Inspiration and May Desktop Wallpapers from Smashing Magazine. Hope they inspire some new work for you, too.

I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Allons-y!

Why Being On-Campus Matters: Or, the Benefits of Drop-ins

Happy Friday, dear readers! So here we are, into December already. Can you believe we are in the last month of the calendar year? Neither can I. The days and weeks and months have seemed to fly since the school year started. But here we are. Today, I wanted share a bit about why being on-campus matters to me as a librarian and my one unscheduled day of the week when being on-campus just might matter (almost) most.

This quarter, my only day when I don’t have a meeting, class, or reference desk hours scheduled is on Tuesday. I feel rather grateful for having a day when I’m not automatically scheduled to be somewhere other than my office. If that makes me sound old-fashioned or out-of-touch, I don’t really care. It is nice to have some unscheduled time, especially when I am expected to research and publish in addition to my teaching and service duties. I often use Tuesdays for research: writing and revising article manuscripts, analyzing transcripts for a study, or finishing up grant paperwork. Tuesdays are my unofficial research day, but they’ve also become my unofficial “drop-in to see me” day for students, colleagues, and unexpected visitors.

In one Tuesday, I had an unexpected transfer of materials to the archives from an office that was moving, food drive donations, a history professor stop by to chat, an impromptu check-in about next term’s outstanding scheduling issues (even though I’m technically not scheduling all of our courses this year), and a request from a colleague for help with a misbehaving tutorial software program. To me, this day served as a reminder and an example for why being present on-campus and available, even when I’m not technically in office hours, is so important. As an academic librarian, a library faculty member, I have a lot of flexibility with my time and days, but it is still so important to be around, in the library, to have these serendipitous encounters. Not to mention, being able to have a chat with another professor and help a colleague rescue their tutorial work, totally made my day.

Would I have gotten even more research done had I been holed up in another place no one could find me? Definitely. Would I get annoyed if I got interrupted throughout the whole of my day? Completely. But is it worth a little less productivity to help out? Of course. Plus, it reminds me why I love librarianship. I love being able to help people; I love the conversations and the problem-solving; I love having the library be part of the larger community, on campus and off.

So, my unscheduled day has reminded me why being on-campus and available is so important. It is a reminder to not overschedule myself so I’m available for those drop-in moments and those serendipitous chats (and so I have the headspace to be present and open to these conversations).

So I hope, dear readers, that you have some unscheduled time in your day for these kind of encounters and if you don’t, that you do soon. We are all continually stretched to our limits, I think, but it is good to remember that sometimes it really is being around and present that counts in getting our work done. Allons-y!

 

 

Teaching at the End of Summer

Happy Friday, dear readers! I know the blog has been quiet this last month. This is mainly due to my co-teaching in our Summer Bridge Program. Next week is the last week of the program, which is bittersweet. It has been a blast teaching, but also exhausting. After the program is over, there is less than 3 weeks before we begin our fall quarter. So today, I just want to reflect a bit about this busier than I expected summer and some ideas that may be of use to you in your teaching.

So What is Summer Bridge?
For those who are not familiar with the program, Summer Bridge is part of EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) designed to help first-generation, low income, and/or historically disadvantaged students successfully make the transition to the university. At my university, Summer Bridge is an intensive five-week program with classes in math, information literacy, foundations, and ethnic studies or biological sciences (depending on student interest). The students are in class from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm five days a week. Although we all know that five weeks can’t completely prepare students for fall quarter, it can help them feel more comfortable at the university, make friends, learn how to interact with faculty and staff members, and get a leg up when it comes to navigating classwork in the fall.

So What’s the Library’s Role?
My colleague, Gr Keer, and I designed and currently teach the library’s class in Summer Bridge. We have 40 students twice a week for two hours at a time. The course is designed as a pre-LIBY 1210 course, which is the information literacy course required of all first-year, undergraduate students. We’ve covered searching the library catalog, finding textbooks, introduction to databases, identifying information sources, reading citations, evaluating information, information privacy, copyright, and more. I see our role as getting the students more comfortable with accessing and using library resources, understanding that the librarians are here to help them with their research, and reversing any negative reactions they have to libraries and librarians.

So Why Am I a Part of Summer Bridge? (Or, Why Be Exhausted for 5 weeks When I Could Be Catching Up on Research and Writing?)
I’m a part of Summer Bridge because I believe it is the most important thing I could be doing with my time in the summer. I believe that these students, my students, deserve support in transitioning to college and that librarians are some of the best people to help them with this transition. We’re all about helping and supporting students. That’s what libraries and librarians do! Plus, it is a fantastic way to connect more deeply with our fantastic EOP leaders and promote the library as the go-to help point for students when they are researching during the upcoming hear. Plus, I love teaching and teaching in Summer Bridge is one of the places that I feel I can make the most positive impact on our students. Working with upper-division and graduate students can be loads of fun, but I don’t feel like I can make as great an impact on them as with the students in Summer Bridge or in the freshmen classes I teach during the academic year.

Having an impact makes the exhaustion worth it. Makes the hours I could have used to write up my research papers and finish analyzing more data worth it. Seeing and hearing students become passionate about information privacy, understand how to find a book for their class, or find the courage to answer a question in a class discussion for the first time makes it worth it.

So my summer will be over soon and the craziness of the academic year will start up. Could I have gotten more research done on graphic design in libraries if I didn’t devote hours to prepping and teaching Summer Bridge? Sure, but I still managed to get research done anyway this summer. Could I have finished processing another collection in the archives if I hadn’t been expending energy getting students excited about using Boolean Operators? Sure, but the collections aren’t going anywhere.

Everything we do in our work and our lives is a trade-off and goodness knows I’ve made choices that definitely weren’t worth the trade-off. But I can 100% say that teaching in Summer Bridge was and is totally worth any opportunity costs this summer. And I hope to see some of my students in my information literacy classes in the coming year.

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have a lovely weekend planned, dear readers. I’m hoping to be back soon with more news, thoughts, and notes. Allons-y!

Thoughts on Getting Class Ready for Fall

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are already at the start of August? I can’t. This means that I have a month and some change until Fall Quarter starts, which means I really need to get my class ready. I always revamp my class quite a lot during the summer based on feedback and observations from the previous year’s teaching. This coming year, I’m teaching in a new first-year experience cluster, Taking Charge of Your Life: Balance, which I’m very excited about and today I wanted to share a few thoughts about getting my class ready for fall.

First, I love revamping my classes. It is what allows me to integrate new, relevant content and examples for my students and, equally importantly, it keeps me from being bored teaching introduction to information literacy classes every year. I also love teaching, so that helps, too. While I tweak my classes between quarters, there isn’t enough time to do huge overhauls so those have to wait until summer. Then I have the headspace and the time to map out my ten-week class and figure out what to keep and what to change.

I’ve been teaching in the flipped classroom model for the past two years and it has been really a good change. Having lecture material as homework, mainly in the form of video tutorials, has freed up classroom time for activities and discussion. Students, overall, really like being able to review the videos to help them with their work. But not everything has gone perfectly. This year, I’m adding back in a few more traditional homework assignments as I’ve found students need more practice with certain concepts and this practice needs to be graded so the majority of my students will complete the work.

I’m also excited that I get to teach the information literacy class within the larger cluster focused on balance and making conscious decisions about your life. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from my students and being able to share some of the things that allow me to have a fulfilling and balanced (to the best of my ability) life. I’m also super-excited because it means I get to share a lot of TED Talks. So excited. I’m hoping to use the TED Talks as introductory discussion topics with my students for each class. I’ll let you know.

So what gets you excited about teaching or presenting or sharing what you know with others? If you teach, how do you go about revamping your classes or orientation sessions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Finally I want to leave you with a TED Talk that I’m planning on sharing with my class in fall quarter. Hopefully it will inspire some of them.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Teaching Digital History: Or, Out of My Comfort Zone

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week went well and you have a lovely weekend planned. Today I want to share some of my experiences from the last quarter, especially about being outside of my comfort zone in my teaching duties. This spring quarter I taught a digital history class that I had created for the history department for the first time and it was both completely fun and completely terrifying at the same time. Let me explain.

I was asked last year by the chair of our history department if I would like to create a digital history methods course. Of course, I said yes! After checking out as many digital history course syllabi as I could find online and digging through lots of literature I began to draw up a syllabus with input from the history chair. We wanted the course to combine theory and practice so the students would get an opportunity for hands-on work as well as getting a grounding in the theory of digital history and current discussions surrounding digital history. After a few iterations of the syllabus, we had a course that we thought would be good so we were able to put it forward to be approved for the next academic year. Happily, the approval process was fairly straightforward and we were on our way for having it taught this spring quarter.

I’ve taught for six years on campus, but I was totally terrified (and excited) to be teaching for the history department a brand new course with non-first year students. But after a bit of shuffling of students in the first few weeks of the course, we settled into the groove of the course and got into the discussions and work of the digital history project. After reviewing the students’ course evaluations, which were overwhelmingly positive, I can’t wait to see where the history department takes their digital history courses next. I just wanted to share a few thoughts about my experience and how it helps in all my work.

First Thought: Just because you are talking with someone in an allied field doesn’t mean they know or understand your field.

This was one idea that has really stuck with me after teaching a digital history course. I really wanted the course to be cross-disciplinary, so I challenged my students to read outside of their comfort zone of history articles and texts. We read articles in Science on using big data for research, library science articles, articles written by archivists studying historians, and more. Some of the students talked in class and wrote about how it really pushed them and was hard at first to understand these other fields. Many of the history majors talked about how they weren’t aware of what archivists did or that anyone was studying how historians used archives. It was really interesting for me to figure out how to translate research from different fields and get students excited to learn about things outside of the history field and see the interconnections that they could use as they go out and become teachers, public historians, etc.

Second Thought: Digital History is always changing so it’s okay to experiment, too

As anyone who works with me knows, I like to have plans and to be prepared for class before the quarter starts. I’m happy improvising up to a point, but winging an entire class doesn’t work for me. Happily, I found a middle ground with this class. While the main bones of the course were all settled before the term started so the students knew overall what to expect, we were able to experiment and improvise with parts of the course so that we could focus on issues that were of interest to the students. It was great to be able to pull in new online videos and articles into the class discussions and readings that would make our learning richer. Some sites didn’t work when we tried to use them in class, other sites seemingly disappeared. Sometimes things that looked easy from the help tutorials turned out to be crazy hard and other times things that looked hard turned out to be easy. Being open to experimentation is key, which leads me to my next thought.

Third Thought: Being uncomfortable is a part of learning and having a supportive environment allows us to work through it

Many of my students talked to me about their difficulties working through some of the new theory presented, some of the technical specifications we talked about, and trying to create online projects instead of writing a research paper. There were definitely moments of discomfort and stretching in class, but that is what learning is about. We have to challenge ourselves to keep learning, to find new ways to communicate history, and to find new ways of engaging with others. While learning may be uncomfortable at times, it was my job as the instructor to maintain a supportive environment for learning, for making mistakes, and for ultimately creating some awesome digital history projects.

My time teaching this course was an amazing experience. I learned a lot that I want to incorporate into my other courses and I hope that I have a chance to collaborate with our awesome history department and students some more in the future. So, I guess what I’m saying is that while the students may have been challenged, I was challenged, too, and learned so much. It was a tiring, fun, terrifying, and invigorating class and term. I can’t wait to see what the next academic year brings.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Online Tutorials for IL Instruction: Thanks NCCPL!

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well. Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking at a workshop hosted by NCCPL (Northern and Central California Psychology Libraries) on using online tutorials for information literacy instruction. It was a lot of fun and I just wanted to share a bit from that talk today.

The NCCPL Workshop was held at the lovely Palo ALto University. I’d never been there before, but it was great to be up in the hills for the day.

Palo Alto University sign

Palo Alto University sign

It was a great, friendly group of librarians and we heard about new information literacy modules from vendors as well as the information literacy module process undertaken by Menlo College Bowman Library. (Very interesting process and cool module with open source code that you can download and modify for your organization.)

I talked about best practices in creating online tutorials, contexts for using online tutorials, and showed how we use online tutorials at my library. Happily, my laptop even held up through a brief walk through of the tutorial software we use. (*happy dance*) And no one fell asleep during my talk, even though it was after lunch. I just wanted to share my link to the resources and tools I talked about yesterday: http://goo.gl/1qI6jQ. Hopefully you find something of use.

I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Life, Quiet, and Exams Week

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well and that you have a relaxing weekend planned. I’m looking forward to the weekend after this last week of exams on campus. The end of a school term always seems like a good time to look back and take stock of what I’ve learned and what I want to implement in the coming terms, both in terms of teaching and life, so I have a few articles to share with you today in that vein. Let’s get to it.

One of the things that teaching always reminds me about is that, in order to be a good teacher, you have to a balance of empathy and not caring if your students like you. You need empathy to relate to your students and learn from them and help them grow. But you also really need to have a thick skin and standards that you expect them to achieve in order to be a professional and fair instructor. I have never been a “cool” person and never will be a cool person. I’m a librarian who teaches at a state college and is serious about typography and letterpress and research. I’m so not even near the cool meter and that is totally okay with me. So I don’t need to be the cool professor that everyone likes or the professor who everyone likes because my class is an “easy A.” I can be the empathetic, earnest, awkward, occasionally funny professor who really wants her students to learn and will spend extra time helping outside of class, but also has explicit, clear guidelines on what it takes to pass my class and no, the fact that the computer ate your paper that you had 8 weeks to write is not a valid excuse professor, too. So in that spirit, I share Lifehacker’s article on how to stop giving a f*ck about what people think. Be bold, live your life, be kind, and be who you are, even if it is not in anyway “cool.”

Also, while you’re reading about ways to be okay with living your life on your terms, you might want to click over and read 10 painfully obvious truths everyone forgets too soon. I love break week because work slows down and I have more space to think and plan for the next quarter, both at work and in life and the projects that I want to get done and also the spaces I want for creating outside of work. It’s never too late or too early to start being and living how you want to and remembering that while we are not our jobs, we can become our work so create the work you want to be.

Finally, if all this talk about work is stressing you out, check out the busy person’s guide to reducing stress. Stress is totally a killer to calm, quiet, and peace in all aspects to life, so stress reduction is really important. I’m all for petting a purring cat, having a cup of tea, doing some yoga, and reading a good book. Oh, and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is good, too.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

A Day in the Life of an Academic Librarian

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well. It has been another busy week here on campus, but I’m excited because we are finally getting some rain and I also get to read my students’ rough drafts today so hopefully that will be fun. Today I just thought I’d write a bit about life as an academic librarian as it may be useful for LIS graduates considering academic librarianship. So here we go!

In July of this year I will have been working as an academic librarian for six years. I can hardly believe that it has been that long already and am excited for the next six years. Along the way I have learned a thing or two about being an academic librarian and as I love sharing information I thought I’d share a bit in the form of “a day in the life” that seems popular in library land. While there is no typical day in the life of an academic librarian, I’m going to share a few different types of days that I have working as an academic librarian.

But first, a bit of context. I work on a campus where librarians are faculty members and we have instructional, research/professional development, university service, and community service requirements for retention, tenure, and promotion. Many academic librarian environments are like this and many are not. So all of talk about what I do during the day is within the context of spending most of my time, thus far, as an untenured library faculty member, and spending the last year as a tenured library faculty member. Just fair warning.

So I think, if I were to divide up the main categories or types of days I have as a librarian, there would be three main types of days. First: days when I have a lot of teaching and reference duties. Second: days when I have a lot of meetings. Third: days when I have time for research and writing, along with other project work.

The first two categories, teaching/reference and meetings, take up most of my days as a library faculty member or rather meetings take up a lot of time if I’m not careful about it. I love teaching and public service, so I don’t mind days when I have a lot of classes and reference or research appointments. These days usually fly by and I might teach a course-integrated instruction session, have some hours on the reference desk or be teaching a credit-level course for information literacy. Of course, prep time for instruction takes up some more of my time as a librarian, but happily in the summer there is always time to completely revamp my classes to make them more effective for the coming year.

Days where I have six to eight hours of meetings can be killer. Meetings are important for dissemination of information and for checking in, but back-to-back meetings are something I do not like and always try to avoid. Also, for those contemplating academic librarianship, meetings mean that work gets piled up, especially emails, especially at the end of the term, which still have to be dealt with after meetings are over. My suggestion: become an email guru and figure out a system to get through your inbox quickly and efficiently so you aren’t drowning in emails. I personally like logging out of my email and only checking it a few times a day so I can get through a bunch of email at once.

Also, with meetings, don’t be afraid to delegate work, you are a team or committee after all. Also, if at all possible, never go to a meeting without an agenda and never end a meeting without some action items. Make your meetings efficient, too.

One of my favorite types of days are days when I’m not scheduled in any meetings and can take the morning to work on my research and writing. I love research and I love sharing my research. Having a large block of time makes it much easier to write, for me, and make good progress on manuscripts. That being said, I’ve gotten much better (as I should after six years) of fitting in quick bursts of writing and research whenever I can, but having a block of time is the best. Also, days without meetings allow time for other projects, whether that be in the archives, figuring out analytics, completing collection development projects, or writing assessment reports.

Also, remember, although days as an academic librarian can be really, really busy (especially during the main academic terms), it is really important to take time to relax, breath, and step away in order to come back to things with clear eyes. Plus, being a calm colleague will make you a valuable colleague. Also, some of the most important activities you can do, especially as a new academic librarian, is to talk with your colleagues, hear what they are working on, and figure out how you can collaborate. One of the great joys is being able to collaborate with colleagues on projects and research.

I hope that gives you a helpful overview of a few days in the life of an academic librarian. It really is a great job.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with more news, notes, and thoughts. Allons-y!