On Tenure

My position is on the tenure track. This is something I find a mixture of daunting, humbling, exciting, and embarrassing. Part of me is still looking for the adult in the room and then realizing it is me. The other part wonders why I have so much cartilage damage in my knees because balance is important.

I’m preparing the documentation for my first tenure review, which is at the end of November. The process is less of the hazing you hear about in many institutions and more focused on growing in your role. This was my goal anyway, and I feel grateful that the process supports my professional development. Having lacked many opportunities for professional development in my previous career, I’ve been taking to every chance possible like a fish to water. I love that I have a job where I am paid to learn so that I can help others do the same. The trouble is that there is so much to learn and so few hours in the day, but this has given me empathy for the information overload that so many of our students experience.

Still, the process of documenting everything I’ve done in four months’ time is daunting. I think that I’m coping with the pandemic by staying busy. Maybe if I pour myself into my work, then I can forget that as of this writing, Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center says that 251,029 Americans have died. That’s such a mindboggling number, and I have the magical thinking that if I stay home and work hard, then maybe this isn’t happening.

So, I have collected all of the committee work, webinars, a LibGuide, several videos, social media, a marketing plan, emails, newsletters, memberships, and webinars to show that I’m moving along. The good news is that I am doing just that. I’ve found the process of structuring instructional sessions with learning outcomes first and then working backwards rewarding. The process has been an empowering one, but I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t understand why I get to do meaningful work and be (relatively safe) in the face of so much suffering.

Librarianship in the Time of COVID

As I write this, I’m entering my third month as an Outreach and Engagement Librarian. I’m excited to be starting this new position in a new field, but must admit that this is a strange time to be starting anything well…new. Yet, 2020 has been nothing but new adjustments in our household as we also welcomed a baby in the spring during the height of the pandemic.

It has now been eight months since the pandemic began and the campus remains quiet as students learn remotely. Faculty are teleworking, and with little reason to be there, most students are scattered as well. This means that I’m doing outreach and engagement from my bedroom rather than on campus. I quickly realized that I was presented with a challenge: I need to “put myself out there” on campus without being there.

I realized that to do my job I needed to be proactive and reach out to others rather than simply walking over to their offices. This has involved reaching out individually to campus members who typically work with the library, like the writing and student success centers. I’ve looked into a social media plan and am dusting off our old library newsletter. What has been far more challenging is finding ways to replicate online the student experience in the library. This is something that I continue to mull over in my mind. How can I create an online experience that is even a shadow of the one in person?

It is an honor to work with these students and I can’t believe that I get paid to talk about the library. Still- I can’t help reflect about the bizarre and terrifying situation unfolding in parallel with my work. I’m trying to ensure that we highlight the ways that students can receive basic care: counseling services, food assistance, help with utilities, alongside information literacy and citation help. My brain almost can’t process this dichotomy, but I suppose there is no time like the present to start trying.