It’s summer here on campus. The library is quiet and I feel a sense of calm as I look at the things I want to accomplish this summer. As each academic year comes to a close, I find myself naturally reflecting on the year, to identify common themes, big successes, and challenges.
One thing that stood out to me as I thought back on this academic year was the way in which connections with others played a big role in me feeling supported. Within this “connections” theme, I see three subcategories. In this post, I want to take a minute to expand on these subcategories.
Opportunities outside the library
During the past academic year, I had the chance to participate in two opportunities that existed outside of the library (and didn’t have any other library colleagues involved in them). I was part of an inaugural Leadership Institute and participated in a mentoring circle for 3rd and 4th year tenure-track faculty. I appreciated the opportunities to connect with other colleagues across campus and to sort of pave my own path as I was the only library faculty member in these groups.
The Leadership Institute was a newly developed program on campus to bring together leaders across campus to discuss issues, challenges, and opportunities within higher education. I have previously written a little about this program when we took the leadership orientations questionnaire. Overall, I found the group to be a nice touchstone each month. With changes happening on campus, having this group to check in, talk about what was happening, and hear from other leaders and administrators across campus was really useful. In many ways, being in this group confirmed my desire to continue in leadership and administrator roles. I feel that this group helped me connect with colleagues and also continued to give me the language and resources as I grow in this space.
The mentoring circle was also a monthly commitment. Each month our mentor would bring us together to discuss campus resources, bring in speakers from different units, share insight on the tenure and promotion process, and create space to talk about what was happening with the university. I looked forward to these meetings each month because I appreciated the opportunity to be with others on the tenure-track. I’m currently the only person in the library on the tenure-track, so having others across campus navigating this campus process felt so supportive. I also appreciated our mentor, who was kind, took time to get to know us, and provided so many words of encouragement. I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear from someone, outside of the library, that I was doing well and on the right track with my work towards tenure.
The departmental team
Within the library, the department I lead (Education & Outreach Services, EOS for short), was another important spot of connection. As I mentioned in my one-year job anniversary post, I love the team I lead and especially the ways we laugh and enjoy our time together. This year the laughter continued and so did our work. Countless times during the fall and spring semesters I would leave a department meeting and feel such excitement for how we were all working together. I appreciated the moments where someone on the team poised an idea or next step that was in line with where I was leading the team. It felt good to assign projects to the department and watch them come to life. I feel like my relationships with each member in the department continue to grow and having that sense of community has been so grounding.
The final subcategory that contributed to me being connected and supported was my personal network. From the group texts, the weekly Zoom lunches, the regular check-ins, Teams messages, and the in-person meets up at ACRL, I felt lucky to have a great group of colleagues and friends by my side. I was especially thankful for my regular check-ins with other teaching and learning department heads at other libraries (shout out to Charissa and Rosan). It was so nice to have colleagues leading similar teams to discuss our challenges, our opportunities, and support one another. As I think back on the year, I couldn’t have done what I did without this network of support and encouragement.
Overall, I feel like I’m headed into the summer with two feet firmly on the ground, ready to take on some big projects. I’m going to continue to create space to sustain these connections and seek out more opportunities to build and be in community.
I’d love to hear from you – who helped you feel connected and supported this past year? What other themes did you see from this past academic year? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments of this post.