April has arrived, and with it the first week of Spring quarter here at the University of Washington. The blossoms are blooming on the lovely old cherry trees that line our quad. Throngs of people; UW students, locals, and tourists alike, have been mobbing our campus for a glimpse at this spring ritual. It’s a chance to have a picnic, spend time with family and friends, and yes, take a ‘selfie’, surrounded by the promise of new growth, renewal and ephemeral beauty. Spring promises to be a very busy time in the Research Commons as well. It’s also a pretty exciting time for me, because I’m starting to see a lot of projects that were in their infancy when I took my position back in September finally begin to take shape and come to fruition.
A renovation project to one of our study spaces is finally underway, after months of talks with the vendors and other stakeholders. A presentation proposal which my boss and I submitted many weeks ago was accepted to a conference. A partnership with a campus organization that was begun in Fall quarter is now blossoming into a more permanent programming opportunity. A planning group that I lead is finally making significant headway on creating a new program model that the Research Commons will debut next fall.
All of this is nice, but I’ve only been in my position for half a year. So most of these projects had already been dreamed up or set in motion before I took them on. It’s great to feel that you are getting somewhere with the projects that were laid out for you by others, but it’s an even greater feeling to see a project that you initiated through from start to finish.
One of the cool things about working in the Research Commons, is that we work with a team of up to four graduate student assistants, three of whom are in UW’s MLIS program. I want to give them a shoutout here, since my last column focused on our terrific undergrad assistants! We’ve been lucky enough to attract a great group of grad students, who bring a lot of valuable skills to their work here. We strive to give these students some freedom with the projects that they work on, and we want them to develop their own ideas too. So, part of my job is to help nurture some of these projects, which is exciting and inspiring.
But even with this great atmosphere of creativity around me, I’ve struggled to find inspiration for projects that will fit the scope of my position and the amount of time that I have to devote to them. This failure of creativity on my part is distressing to me, because I tend to think of myself as an ‘idea person.’ I’m hoping that some upcoming conference travel will provide some of that inspiration. Of course I want to spend time on passion projects and make my mark within my institution, but I’m driven to be a “team player” too, and at times I feel stymied by fears that I’ll end up spending way too much time working on something that will turn out not to be a good fit for the Research Commons.
So, over the next few weeks, I plan to try to shake up my routine; read outside of my usual blogs and publications, meet with folks that I don’t ordinarily see around campus; take some time to think and reflect. I want to incubate the projects that I’ll be bringing to life this time next year. I want to think big about what’s next, and enjoy this energetic and creative time while it lasts. Because let’s not forget the dual nature of those cherry blossoms; they are fleeting, and when they’re gone, they’re gone until next year!