Thursday, October 18, 2018

Interview Post: Shanna Hollich


Shanna Hollich

Current job?
Collections Management Librarian at Wilson College in south central PA. We’re a small private liberal arts college with equine stables and a working farm on campus. I just started here in January.

How long have you been in the field?
I graduated with my MLIS in 2012, so close to six years now (I didn’t work in libraries before that). I spent the first two years as a K-12 school library media specialist, the next three as a public librarian and cataloger, a brief stint as a gov docs librarian for a federal agency, and now I’m back in academia.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
Our library building is brand new (just built in 2015), and my office is actually in a room labeled “Workroom” that was intended to be, well, a workroom. I have a very messy desk (I’m a big believer in organized chaos), a wall of bookshelves that hold old periodicals we don’t have room for out in the main stacks, and another wall with some bookshelves that sort of serve no purpose. Part of my office also doubles as paper and supplies storage. We’re not allowed to hang anything on the walls  in our offices or anywhere else in the library, so I have fun and informative things taped to my bookshelves, my desk, the back of my computer monitor….

How do you organize your days?
I don’t! Ha. Perhaps I should. I make a lot of lists - both in my head and on paper. Things that are more urgent than a list usually end up on a post-it note and stuck somewhere directly in my line of sight. You can tell how busy I am by how many post-it notes are on my monitors - there are currently only 2 or 3, so I’m pretty on top of things at the moment. Generally I just fit in work around meetings, but I don’t have a set schedule where I typically do X in the mornings or Y in the afternoons. I always have multiple projects going on at once, so I work on them a little bit here and there as I feel like it. I have a natural tendency to rebel against standards and structure, and while I can certainly do more routinized work, I’ve been embracing the freedom of my current position and setting my own priorities on a day-to-day basis.
What do you spend most of your time doing?
Fixing things. Despite my job title, I am one of only three librarians running things around here, so my job actually includes: systems work, electronic resources, collection development, acquisitions, some cataloging, dealing with all of our vendors, light IT work, reference and instruction, digital humanities / scholarly communication, being the resident copyright “expert,” and any other special projects I dream up. I spend the vast majority of my time fixing our systems, working with our discovery layer, and troubleshooting access issues for our electronic resources, mostly because my position has been unfilled for the last year and a half and that’s the work that fell by the wayside. Once things are running more smoothly, I plan to spend a lot more time on collection development.

What is a typical day like for you?
My alarm goes off at 6 but I don’t usually wake up until 7. I show up at work between 8 and 8:30 and immediately check my work email and my calendar for the day. If I have a lot of meetings, I figure out what most needs to be done today and try to fit it in around meeting times; on days where I don’t have a lot of meetings I can be a little looser with how I structure my time. As I already mentioned, I have lists upon lists of things that need to be done and I just pick and choose tasks off of each of those until the day is over. I try to tackle easy/immediate tasks first and then move on to my “someday/longer-term projects” list. I’m out the door between 4:30 and 5 every day - work/life balance is very important to me, and even though this is my first salaried job and the culture of academia encourages overwork, I don’t believe in unpaid overtime or working more than 40 hours a week. If I’m working hard and can’t get it done in 40 hours a week, then it either doesn’t need to be done right now or I need to delegate more or we need to hire someone else. [Editor's Note: YASSS!]

What are you reading right now?
I just started The Making of Black Lives Matter by Christopher J. Lebron. It’s thoroughly researched with lots of references but very readable for an academic work. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
To read My first professional job, fresh out of college, was in an extremely dysfunctional workplace. It skewed my sense of professional norms and really messed with my concept of appropriate vs. inappropriate workplace behavior. Reading the Ask a Manager blog every day for the last few years has really helped me figure out what is normal and expected and appropriate and what isn’t. I’m sure my coworkers are thankful.
What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
A previous boss and I had a running list of “things they didn’t teach us in library school.” I have found myself: plunging toilets, dealing with vomit in the elevator, fixing copiers/printers/fax machines, putting together furniture, dealing with a wasp’s nest in the bookdrop, and figuring out how to affix a shelf label to a book whose cover is entirely covered in astroturf (for the curious, it was this book:

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Clearance. (I like shopping. It’s a problem.)

What is your least favorite word?
To quote Naughty by Nature, “It's sort of like, well, another way to call a cat a kitten; it's five little letters that are missing here.” I can’t say it. I don’t know why. I use words far more offensive than this one, but there’s just something about it.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I’d love to do something creative. I’m a part-time professional classical musician (French horn and voice), but I’ve always been hesitant to really take the plunge and commit to doing it for a living. I think I’d love to be a knitwear or cross-stitch designer, if I could only come up with some good ideas!

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything overtly physical. Professional sports, construction, stunt double - I’m such a wuss when it comes to pain and I can’t imagine how achy and sore my body would be all the time.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Teleportation. I love travel but I hate the act of actually getting somewhere - I would love to be able to just “poof!” appear wherever I want, instead of sitting on a flight for umpteen hours breathing stale air and wishing for more back support.

What are you most proud of in your career?
My first week in my new job as a middle school librarian, fresh out of graduate school, I find out, “Oh, you have a book fair coming up. In 3 weeks. Your predecessor set it up. No one told you?” My previous experience was in a high school (with no book fairs), and I had no idea what I was doing. My predecessor had done no prep work for the book fair and I was starting from scratch. I pulled it off (coming in on a snow day to set it all up!) and we made more money that year than they had ever made before. I’m so damn proud of that.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I’m sure there have been many. I have a general problem of jumping in too quickly to fix a problem - like if a student comes to one of my colleagues with a question, and I’m in earshot, I will sometimes jump in to answer it because I’m overeager. It’s a super annoying habit I am actively working to stop. I also tend to agitate for change too quickly - change is a thing that doesn’t bother me (apparently this is unusual) so I forget that it’s okay for good ideas to marinate and to take my time when trying something new.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Music, knitting, cross stitch, reading, binge-watching Netflix. My husband and I brew our own beer, so I spend some weekends at beer festivals or with my whiskey club.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Any of my Twitter pals - especially @marccold, @violetbfox, or @Luna_Dee.

Shanna tweets at @srhlib.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

168 Hours

Just a small update today. I'm trying to respect my limits, after all. Keep reading to understand why I'm so interested in this...

You see, I've been thinking a lot lately, for many many reasons, about how I spend my time. There are 168 hours in a week and I know I spend too much of it focused on work as well as too much of it frittered away on nonsense.

I've especially been thinking about work/life balance, which is something I know most of us find a challenge. Someone suggested to me that I work out what I think a balanced week would look like for me - how much work, how much time with friends, how much time pursuing spirituality, and so on.

Here's what I've come up with so far (with help from a couple of friends) for my ideal week. Also, please note that this is in no particular order and that this is a work in progress.
  • Sleep - 56 hours
  • Work/Professional (including this blog!) - 55 hours
  • Friends/Social - 5 hours
  • Volunteering - 1 hour
  • Entertainment - 14 hours
  • Creating/Creative Pursuits - 7 hours
  • Chores - 7 hours
  • Health/Exercise - 7 hours
  • Spirituality/Buddhist Study - 7 hours
  • Cat Time - 3.5 hours
  • Learning - 4.5 hours
  • Uncommitted - 1 hour

And here's what I put in my bullet journal to help me keep track of how I'm doing:

There is already a lot of, and can be even more, overlap between categories. Going to a conference would be professional time but also learning as well as spending time with friends. Lately, I've been knitting while watching television, so that's creating and entertainment. And I've made a lot of friends at the place where I volunteer. I guess for me, this isn't as much about discrete categories and delineating my time as it is about being intentional and mindful with where I put my energy and attention.

I know this is a blog about libraries and librarianship, but I also know that most of us in helping professions tend to put too much of ourselves into the job and not enough into the rest of our lives.

Well, it may not be "most of us", but it is a huge percentage of the people I know in this field, so I thought I'd share. In part, I'm sharing as a way to keep me honest about this new goal of mine. However, I've also got an accountability buddy with whom I already shared this idea and we've decided to check in with each other about it on a regular-ish basis. So I guess mostly I'm sharing this as a way to help y'all, too.

Let me know what you think? Is this something you might try? Are you already doing something like this?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Be Back Soon

This hiatus has gone on much longer than I expected. Initially, I was working on a book - which is, admittedly, still in process - and told myself I'd be better able to concentrate if I put the blog on hold. The idea was that I'd have even more writing time, that I'd use that extra writing time to write the book. And that step may have helped if not for other things that came up (two separate medical things about which I plan to write blog posts in the future), and now I just want to get back into the groove of writing this blog again. I still need to work with my co-author for the book and figure out a new schedule to send to our oh-so-patient editor, but I miss LtaYL.

So, in the interests of getting things back up and running, here's a few things I'm hoping you'll help with:
  1. If you sent me a draft at some point, let me know if you're still interested in having me publish it? If I don't hear from you, I'll reach out.
  2. Same goes for anyone who reached out to me about possibly writing for LtaYL, or if I reached out to you in the past, can you let me know if you're still up for it?
  3. I'm also open to suggestions and/or requests for topics you'd like to see me cover.
  4. And suggestions of people you'd like to see write guest posts? That would be greatly appreciated as well.

Anyway, here's to getting back to the rhythm. Shoot me an email (librarianjessica at gmail dot com) or comment here or even @ me on Twitter (olinj). I'll be waiting!