Thursday, September 14, 2017

Interview Post: Maria T. Accardi

3-year-old ponytailed Maria with her great-grandma, great-grandpa (Papa Charlie),
her older sister, her cousin, her dad, and her dad's perm. It was, after all, 1980.



Maria T. Accardi. I insist on the middle initial, because this is how I carry my beloved late great-grandmother Mama Teresa with me.

Current job?

Coordinator of Instruction and Reference at Indiana University Southeast, a regional campus of Indiana University, located in New Albany, Indiana. New Albany is just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, where I live.

How long have you been in the field?

11 years

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

An embarrassing mess. Lots of clutter--books, papers, folders, scribbled notes. Most of my file cabinets are filled with leftovers from my predecessor--and I’ve been in this job for 10 years. Whoops. I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning up and so I make occasional small dents into the mess to take the edge off. I have windows with trees and grass in view, as well as a parking lot. I have photos of my wife, my niblings, my late mother-in-law, my grandmother. I have a desktop computer with dual monitors, and poems taped to various places on my desk--I read and re-read “Cake” by Noah Eli Gordon multiple times a day. A print of a map of Sicily that I bought at the Vatican Museum is framed on my wall, which depicts Sicily in completely the wrong way, flipped upside down.

How do you organize your days?

Outlook calendar. I block off everything. 30 hours of email admin. 60 minutes of teaching prep. 30 minutes for lunch. Yes, I put lunch on my calendar, even if it’s just eating a sandwich in my office while watching The Golden Girls on Hulu. I call my wife at around noon-ish so we can say midday prayer together (we do an abbreviated variation of the Daily Office in the Episcopal tradition) and this helps mark the division between morning and afternoon. Putting everything on Outlook calendar helps me protect, prioritize, and value my time.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
This time of year: teaching, preparing to teach, reference desk shifts, alone time, committee work, library instruction program admin.

What is a typical day like for you?
I like to get to work at around 8 or 8:30, because I seem to be more focused and able to get stuff done in the morning. I spend a lot of time with my office door closed because this also helps me focus and also because I’m strongly introverted. Instruction and reference are my thing, but I also find it very draining, so I need to spend a lot of time alone not talking to anyone. I take walks around campus if I have a window in my day big enough. I have 15-minute, 20-minute, and 30-minute routes, depending on how much time I have. I am usually at work until 3 pm or 4 pm.
What are you reading right now?
I just checked out The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue from the public library but I’ve not started it yet. Honestly, these days I’ve only had bandwidth and brainspace to read magazines about home decorating or cooking. Shorter pieces of writing with pretty pictures soothe and comfort me, and they provide ideas and inspiration for my cozy domesticity goals.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Have a rich and interesting life outside of work. This comes from my library director, who practices what he preaches. He is the former dining critic for the local newspaper, and now he’s the theater reviewer for the alternative weekly paper. He also has a band and can be found strumming the guitar in Saturday farmer’s markets. He is a role model for finding meaning and purpose in library work but not allowing it to consume you, instead using it as a vehicle for subsidizing the aforementioned rich and interesting life outside of work.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Listening to and soothing students in distress. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, I’m always kind of surprised, like why is this person crying and why is this happening? I am happy to do it, though. I’m not happy that they are in distress, but I am happy to support them. Students are stressed out and being the friendly helper person at the reference desk means that sometimes they need care beyond helping them learn how to find scholarly articles. Providing this care is important to me, especially because I was once--more than once--a crying college student seeking care from a friendly helper.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Something completely creative and that involves making pretty things. A florist, maybe? A painter, a sculptor. Or making delicious things, like baking. Also, my wife and I fantasize about running a gourmet popcorn shop. It would be called Popz! (including the exclamation mark).

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything involving funeral homes or cemeteries. I’ve had very very unpleasant encounters with this profession, unfortunately.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
I wish I could be omnipresent, something maybe along the lines of Hermione’s Time Turner.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I wrote a book that people seem to like a lot. And I won an award for the book! I’ve edited other books that also seem to have had an impact on people. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little kid, and it still kind of amazes me that I’m actually doing it.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
During a very bad time in my life (an episode of major depression), I let a lot of things slip through the cracks. I scheduled two library instruction sessions for the same time in the same room. I made it work somehow, and it involved lots of apologizing and doing less-than-ideal teaching. It was horrible. It was also a wakeup call for how I was in a really bad way and needed to address my depression.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Spending time in cozy domesticity with my wife: cooking, eating dark chocolate, watching General Hospital, sitting on the porch swing while drinking iced coffee, enjoying our garden (vegetable and flower). I also have a daily journal practice. As of today, I’ve journaled for 611 consecutive days. Also, these days, after two knee surgeries, I seem to spend half my life at physical therapy. But it’s working and I’m doing lots better! See the aforementioned campus walks.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Emily Drabinski, Donna Witek, Raina Bloom

Maria is on Twitter as @mariataccardi.

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