Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Self Care For New Administrators (And Everyone Else, Too)

Am I writing about self care again? Yes, I am. It's important and bears regular repeating. I copresented last week at the NY Library Association about how a new library administrator can get up to speed, and in between talking about building partnerships and sharing the mistakes I'd made in hopes that the audience would learn from them, I talked about self care. I brought up self care (and promised I would bring it up repeatedly) when talking to a mentee recently. I tell the people who work for me that they need to go home if they're here after the normal end of the college's business day. Self care is important. I could probably write about self care every single week and it still wouldn't be enough.

The thing about self care that you need to remember, above all else, is that if you don't take care of yourself, you will burn yourself out. You will.


Besides, in the oh so important words of Audre Lorde: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." With everything that's happening in our world it's especially important to take care of yourself. So, here's some things that I know are important for me. Your mileage may, of course, vary. But if you have something else you think I should include in this list, please respond on Twitter or wherever you found this posted, or even in the comments below.
  1. Find a good therapist. If you live in the Rochester, NY area, I can recommend someone (and against a couple of others). Your health insurance should be able to help, but if you don't have insurance, please still try. The National Alliance on Mental Illness will help you find someone who is less expensive or even pro bono.
  2. Get out of the office and out of the building for lunch at least once a week. I know that the amount of work you have built up is probably enough to frighten even the most efficient efficiency expert. I know it because I can say the same thing. Administrators always have something they could be doing. I don't care. Get out and away from your library, your campus, etc.
  3. Work no more than 45-50 hours per week. My contract obligates me to 35 hours, and I usually put in between 40 and 45. I adjust accordingly for when I'm at conferences or have personal appointments during the work day. See my comment about your to do list above. I know, really really, that you could probably work 80 hours a week and still not get everything done. You'll probably never be completely okay with it, but you'll at least get more comfortable with leaving things undone.
  4. Make friends at work if possible. The shape this will take is going to be different depending on what kind of library. For me, I've reached out to and become friends with deans, associate deans, professors, people who work in HR, an instructional designer, tutoring coordinators, and so on. (Please note that there are no librarians on that list. I know some people are friends with their employees, but I don't think it works.) This will give you a place to go when you're about to lose your cool for whatever reason. This will also give you a place to get historical context if you were hired from the outside.
  5. Make friends with other people who do the same job. Twice a year I go to a multiple day meeting and hang out with other SUNY library administrators. About once each quarter I go to lunch with the director of the public library in the town where my college is located. I get ideas from these people, but also I get validation.
  6. Get sleep. This doesn't always work out for me, but I try to be in bed by 10p because I know my body will wake me by 6a. You may think you can run on minimal sleep, but you're fooling yourself. That's especially true if you are - like me - solidly middle aged. You cannot burn the candle at both ends indefinitely, because eventually you won't have any candle left.
  7. Have something in your life that isn't about libraries and that's just for you. Go hiking. Play video games. I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. Try crafting. Remember that you are more than your job.
You really are more than a library administrator, even with as much of your life as it might seem to take up. You're a gardener or a parent or a partner or a Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Okay, you probably aren't that last one, but you get my meaning. Don't let go of the non-library parts of yourself. We need your voice in administration, so I need you to embrace self care.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

On Becoming a Leader as an Introvert, by Melissa Freiley


“Wouldn’t you think most librarians would be introverts?” asked one of my relatives when I mentioned that I was going to write a blog post about introversion and leadership in libraries. This is a prevailing stereotype. While research on the percentage of introverts and extroverts in libraries is slim, I did find a chapter by Mary Jane Scherdin in Discovering Librarians  that explains that 63% of the 1,600 sampled librarians in an Association of College and Research Libraries study tested as introverts. Sure, that number is from 1994, but in comparison, of the 44 library workers who answered my (completely unscientific) poll on Twitter in mid-March, 61% identified themselves as introverts.
While most online dictionaries describe an introvert as a “shy person,” I find this definition on Urban Dictionary more accurate—“A person who is energized by spending time alone.” I identify as an introvert. I love being alone, and that is when I feel the most productive. I also have social anxiety, which means I feel incredibly nervous in social situations.
So if we library workers are primarily a bunch of introverts, how do we get involved in leadership? Is it even worth it? I’m going to share a little of my experience on how and why I’m getting started as a leader within my university and my state library association.
First, I had to WANT to get involved. When I was first approached about being an officer in our university’s Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) in 2015, I wasn’t ready, so I ignored the plea. I was happy just attending a few events here and there.Besides, I was right in the middle of library school, with my graduation date just a glimmer in the far distance.
What changed? A couple of things. One, I participated in the Data Rescue Denton event, which refueled my passion for information science and made me realize how much of a connection I feel with people in this field. I wanted to do more. Two, with graduation swiftly approaching, I recognized that my resume lacked any leadership or service entries. So I began to think about ways I could get involved that would not be too uncomfortable.
Second, I had to take the initiative, and others had to respond. As I mentioned above, I have social anxiety, so this petrified me. But I’ve found that it’s not as difficult when performed behind a computer screen. For example, as Susan Cain states in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “social media has made new forms of leadership possible for scores of people who don’t fit the Harvard Business School mold” (p. 62).
Having a few years’ experience with social media, I decided to volunteer for LISSA’s Director of Marketing and Social Media position in spring of 2017. The outgoing officers helped me for the first few months as I began to run the social media accounts. Since then, I have also marketed and helped lead our meetings and helped arrange for guest speakers at our meetings. I have thrived in this chiefly behind-the-scenes management role.
In fall of 2017, I also emailed the officers of the Texas Library Association Cataloging and Metadata Round Table and asked about how to get more involved. I decided to start out with my state organization rather than ALA because it seemed less intimidating and less formal. Plus, I would be more likely to attend state conferences. Thankfully, the officers were extremely responsive and afforded me many opportunities to dip my toes into leadership, from appointing me Webmaster and the Nominating Person, to allowing me to create social media accounts and market programs.
The more I’ve emailed, marketed, and appeared at meetings, the easier it’s gotten. I still have much to learn, of course, especially when it comes to oral communication and leading meetings, but that will (hopefully) come with practice and watching others perform in their leadership roles.
Third, passion helps drive me. I’ll admit I am a passionate person to begin with. Focusing on my passion for libraries—and specifically cataloging and metadata—helps me to not feel as anxious. This passion has been bolstered the most by participation in library communities on Twitter and Facebook. The people I follow and the groups I participate in inspire me to stay involved and grow my experience.
Finally, being an introvert or having social anxiety doesn’t mean I can’t become a leader. I may be starting out small, and I may prefer to start out (and possibly continue) leading “behind the scenes,” but my initiative and my enthusiasm are proving valuable to the organizations I’m serving. As an introvert just getting started in leadership, I am here to say it may not be as scary as it looks. One may even have fun and meet some wonderful people in the process.

Melissa Freiley began her library career in 2007 as a library cataloging technician. She has been an MSIS student at the University of North Texas for a very long time but is set to graduate in December 2018. Find her on Twitter @variouspagings.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Midterm Elections

No libr* stuff here today. With respect to my readers who are outside the United States, this election is way too important to pay attention to anything else at the moment. So...

U.S. people, go vote! If you don't remember where your polling place is, Vote.gov can help. If you haven’t already looked to see what will be on it, BallotReady.com can show you what will be on your ballot – candidates and referenda. VoteSmart.org will help you research the candidates.

I went before work. See my pretty sticker?

Please go vote. I'm begging you!

Don't make me send that angry catto after you!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Just For Fun: Romance Is For Everyone

I'm talking about romance novels, to be specific. I've been hinting at this on Twitter, but I'm ready to come out completely. My name is Jessica Olin, and I like reading romance novels. I read them as a kid, but put them aside because that's what I thought I was supposed to do. This summer I realized how foolish that was, so I'm reading romance novels again.

Further, I refuse to be ashamed. Sure, there are some poorly written books in this genre. Sure, there are some problematic tropes. That's true of every genre - even literary fiction. But there is also so much to love about romance:
  • Guaranteed happy endings. This is so much a part of the genre that there's even a well-known abbreviation for this. HEA, or Happily Ever After. Lord knows with the current state of the government (and not just the one in my country - I see you, Brazil and UK), I need some happy in my life.
  • Emotional intelligence. The characters in these novels - whether they're contemporary or period, hetero or queer, normal or paranormal - all display emotional intelligence. Sometimes it takes them a while to get to that point of realizing they're in love with this other person (which is one of the tropes I kind of love). Sometimes it takes them a while to realize why they're experiencing other emotions as well. But they always get there.
  • Love. I think The Beatles were wrong. I think we need more than love. I also think love is part of good friendships. But I love that romance novels are love stories. I don't need more bored-middle-aged-male-sex-romps-with-underage-girls-self-insert novels. Not that I'm a prude. I feel cheated if there aren't a couple of steamy sex scenes, but I want to see more love in the world.

My main requirement, beyond the above, is that there be something other about the novel. Contemporary is fine, if it's paranormal or sci-fi-ish. "Normal" settings are great, but they have to be historical. One of my favorite romance novels I've read since I started reading them again was paranormal, historical, and queer (oh my!). I've read and enjoyed novels with cisgay men, cisgay women, and cisstraight people. I've not yet read any with transgender characters or nonbinary characters, but I have a few on my to read list. I've also not yet read much with non-caucasian characters, but have some of those on my to read list as well.

Here are a few I've read and loved:

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

A young  woman who thinks she's firmly "on the shelf" gets pissed off and decides to start breaking the rules. The first rule she decided to break is kiss a notorious rake. Hilarity, both sexy and non-sexy, ensues. The characters were fun and their reactions felt genuine. The manwhore/womanvirgin trope was fully in play here, which is not one I appreciate, but other than that it was a great read.

More info on this book at GoodReads.

The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

A woman escaping a bad marriage pretends to be a governess and gets hired by a Scottish laird to get his children in line. He's battle hardened and also had a bad first marriage. She's scarred from severe mistreatment by her husband, who put her into an asylum. Trigger Warnings for spousal abuse and attempted rape (not a fan of rape/attempted rape as a plot point - that's another trope I dislike). But I loved that she wasn't a virgin and that was okay. Another great read - so great I've gone on to read the rest of this series.

More info on this book at GoodReads. 

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

A philologist who got his PhD at Miskatonic University (!!) learns that a man for whom he had a long-held but secret affection is killed. Enter an ex-Pinkerton detective who is investigating that death. Sparks fly between the two as they try to defeat a plot to bring an unspeakable horror into our world. The tension and fear of recrimination and prosecution that were attendant upon any same sex relationships in this era are handled well. Loved everything about this book and immediately bought my own copy after finishing it.

More info on this book at GoodReads.

I've read more in the last 5 months or so, and if you're interested you can check out my short, almost always spoiler-free reviews over on my GoodReads profile. I know this genre is labeled as "for women", but I've never understood that. Some of the novels have so much sex they verge on pornographic. Besides, doesn't everyone secretly love a happy ending? At least on occasion?

How about you? Do you have any favorites? I'm figuring you like romance novels or are at least interested in them if you made it to the end of this post. Please leave recommendations in the comments or @ me on Twitter. I'm always looking for new authors.