Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Joys of an Academic Calendar, or Another Reason I Love Being an Academic Librarian

Normally I try to make my posts general so they're accessible to librarians of every ilk. I don't always succeed, but I do make the attempt. However, I'm breaking my own rules with this entry because of a brief conversation I had last week. I was talking with someone who is new-ish to the life of an academic librarian about winter break, about taking advantage of the down time for projects. As we conversed, I realized that I've grown so accustomed to planning my work flow with these breaks in mind that I'd forgotten not everyone knows what it's like. So, this week is all about me waxing rhapsodic about the traditional academic calendar.

For one thing, being on an academic calendar gives me a different relationship with my community than I would get at any other kind of library. I'll never forget how it was described to me early on in my career: "As soon as you start to get sick of them, they go away, and as soon as you start to miss them, they come back." Of all the advice anyone has ever given me about my career, this piece holds the most truth. I really appreciate the rhythm of it. Sometimes, towards the end of summer, it gets too quiet in my library, but I know when I start feeling like that it means the semester will be starting soon. The flip side is also true. I can endure and sometimes even enjoy the frenzy of the last couple of weeks of the semester when due dates are looming and tempers are short. I can handle it because, if nothing else, I know it's always followed by some down time.

Speaking of down time, that's another reason I enjoy the flow of an academic calendar. There are chunks of the semester when I'm so busy that I can barely breathe, and those times can be exhilarating. Further, I know I'll have quiet times during the year when I can concentrate all of my efforts on projects that need sustained attention. In fact, I plan for it. I weeded our fiction collection over the course of two summers. I wrote an assessment plan for the library last summer. I'm weeding our small children's nonfiction collection during the winter break. Next summer I'm going to put into action the wayfinding plan I've been creating. (Also, although this isn't true for all of higher ed, both of the colleges at which I've worked had the week between Christmas and New Year's as a bonus vacation week.)

I assume there's a rhythm to the calendar of other kinds of libraries. I've heard rumblings about tax season and also about summer reading programs. After eight and a half years of living and dying by an academic calendar, though, I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about you? For other academic librarians: do you agree? For others: thoughts?


  1. I love working in a hospital library, but I truly miss the academic calendar. Definitely one of the perks of academic librarianship!

    Enjoy your break!

  2. I definitely miss the academic calendar. We do tend to have an ebb and flow, but I think it works out differently for every public librarian. For instance, you mentioned tax season. For a librarian who might be in charge of getting the forms and scheduling AARP, yes, this would make her busy at that time. But I don't do that, so it's more of a pain for me than anything (because people are crabby). My rush in January comes from play rehearsals starting, e-reader training (everyone got them for Christmas) and having to re-start ordering (we can't order between Nov. 23 and Jan. 15 so I have to hustle to get caught up in the last half of Jan.)

  3. I like working on an academic calendar, but one downside is that we can only really take vacations at certain times of the year.