I’m not dead, just floating

Y’know, it’s hard to engage with the theoretical issues of your profession when you’re up to your ass in alligators.   Sometimes, you just have to keep draining the swamp and stop writing about it.  But since it’s a Monday morning and I’m not yet fully engaged in alligator-wrangling, I thought I’d steal a minute to reflect on what those alligators are, right now.

  • I’m the Faculty Senate Secretary.  This isn’t a lot of work, but it’s a consistent workload.  I’ve also recently identified the need to archive the FS document trail more effectively, prompted both by the impending campus website redesign and a failed attempt to retrieve information from the ’90s for a colleague.  I’m currently working with the Libraries’ repository team, the College Archivist, and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, in consultation with the campus’s Director of Marketing to make the whole thing fly.  We’ll see.
  • Searches.  We have three positions either open or opening — our Director is retiring in May, a librarian left in September, and a building manager is leaving in December.  I’m chairing the search for the librarian.  This isn’t a big workload yet, as the first search deadline hasn’t yet hit… but I’m thinking about it a lot.  Mental energy is precious, too.
  • Subject Allocations.  The Director and I are trying to get a handle on what we spend per subject area across material types.  This campus has a history of tracking library materials expenditures by subject by material type; how many dollars go to Philosophy materials for monographs?  I can tell you that in an instant, for the past 10 years.  Ditto periodicals.  What I can’t currently do is identify how much was spent on Biology resources across all material types, inclusive of monographs, periodicals, online resources, and document delivery.  So I’m trying to draft both a plan and a pilot implementation for reorganizing our administrative processes to account for this.  Lots of little threads of data tied in big messy knots to be unraveled.  I know I can do this, and I’m enthusiastic about it, but it requires a certain amount of focused attention that I’ve been lacking recently.
  • Deadlines!  There are always deadlines!  We’re right in the midst of our fall spending deadlines for our monographic budgets, so I’m up to my ears in catalogs, Choice cards, faculty requests, and book lists.  I’m whittling away at it, but it’s complex and detail-oriented work. Again, focused attention.
  • We also have an adjunct.  This is fantastic, as it takes the burden of being one librarian down and shifts the pain a bit.  Mostly, she works at the Reference desk for us, but she’s also working on a variety of projects from a variety of librarians.  I have several projects I want her help with, but each one requires that I 1) set it up, 2) explain it to her, and 3) be available for follow-up questions.  I’m finding it difficult to get through 1, let alone push on to 2 and 3!
  • I also have 411 emails in my inbox; I’m sure it was just a few weeks ago that I had it down to 7.  I’m learning to hate email!
  • I really want to explore buying more small, inexpensive technology to circulate to students.  The Flip Video cameras are first on my list of ideas.  But to make it work, I need to not only submit a New Initiative Proposal to the Director for funding approval, but discuss it with the public services stakeholders, and draft a marketing plan to get students interested.  The idea is small and easy, but there’s more to it than idea generation.
  • Our Director has convened a Resource Sharing AdHoc Working Group, the members of which went to a series of workshops and conferences to talk and learn and think about the emerging issues around document delivery and ILL and information discovery.  My big “a-ha” moment was the realization that ILL is the same as Acquisitions, just with different software systems and terminology.  Our ILL clerk doe the same things as our Acq clerk — they take requests, process them to find a provider, track the item, receive it, and pass it on to the next step in delivering it to the user.  So why do we have two offices that don’t talk to each other?  Are there synergies there we should explore?  The group will keep meeting over the next six months, and our charge will be firmed up very soon.
  • We’re getting digital signs on campus, prompted first by a need for a campus-wide emergency notification system, and secondly by a desire to do more innovative advertising of services and events on campus.  The working group for the Libraries’ install has begun meeting, and I’m on it.  Very interesting, but, again, very mentally engaging at a time when I don’t have a lot of mental energy to pass out.  I want to dive deeply into the project, but…

I want to dive deeply into all of them.  And I just have so many things to do…  Which one do I choose?


  1. “Mental energy is precious, too.” This is so true. I am dazzled by your brilliant ability to stay “afloat” amongst all alligators. I really don’t have any idea what I would choose either. Although ordering Flip Video cameras would be really cool. On a more serious note, maybe delegating tasks to the adjunct…despite the time it would need for set up and instruction, perhaps it would help free up some more time to reacquire that focused attention. Good luck! Monday’s almost half way over. 😉


  2. Work tends to accumulate on the shoulders of the most competent until they collapse. Someone told me that. I guess a reason exists why I was told instead of knowing it. There is some perversion in this universe that sometimes causes us to want to do what we shouldn’t do. The frosting tastes better than the cake, but ruins the diet more. So dump the project that starts “I really want to explore buying..” Don’t waffle and “delegate” that project. Even if someone else is doing it independently without you setting it up, your curiosity might compel you to see how they are doing. You are incredibly talented, but if spread just a little too thin, you will become just good enough to get by in too many projects. Most people don’t realize (if ever) they have scrimped on the project until after it is done, and they may see it would have turned out much better with a little more effort. It’s not as much a fine line, more like a camouflaged tripwire. You see the alligator in front of you, but can’t tell if there is another alligator behind the one you see. The truth is, if it’s a fun project, plenty of people will want to do it, so you really don’t have to do it. Getting techy toys for kids is no alligator.


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