Time is a blur

Since the pandemic began, I’ve turned back to the old comforts of pen and paper. Rather than posting here, I’ve carried a notebook where I write random thoughts, reading notes, travel dreams, and whatever else I want to remember beyond that moment. With time a blur over the past two years, my journaling has helped ground me, helped me remember, and served as a record of my life in a pandemic.

Putting pen to paper has also helped me reclaim an old love — reading. Like many, I’ve struggled to have the concentration necessary to read with any frequency. Taking notes on my reading helps my focus and make progress on my giant TBR (To Be Read) pile. In 2022, I’m trying to re-form the habit of daily reading, whether an article, a chapter, or just a few pages. Setting the bar low has helped me stick to it and gives a quick hit of feeling successful each day.

We all have our coping mechanisms and ways to bring small joys to each day. For me, a return to reading, writing, and travel (whether actual or via my travel magazines) are the best ways to brighten my days. What works for you?


Reflections on Mentoring

I shared these reflections on mentoring with a leadership program cohort on my campus and decided to share them here as well.

Being part of the IUPUI Mentoring Academy, from my role as an IUPUI University Library representative to the program to my time as Director of Faculty Mentoring, has given me the opportunity for both personal and professional reflection and growth. It has led me to unexpected realizations about my own attitudes toward mentoring and helped inform my leadership philosophy.

Before becoming involved with the Mentoring Academy, I never realized that I had had mentors in my life – from my high school choir teacher who helped me become a college student to my Butler history professor who awakened a love of history in me that I didn’t know existed to former supervisors at University Library who have been instrumental to bringing me where I am today.

This realization led to the decision that it was time for me to give back by consciously, if not always formally, mentoring others. In mentoring, I’ve found connections to the cores of my career – service and resource sharing. I’ve just become one of the many resources I share in the service of others.

My role as Director of Faculty Mentoring allowed me to meet many other people at IUPUI engaged in mentoring, which has been a wonderful opportunity to build new relationships. It also afforded me the chance to attend the University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute Conference where I had a bit of an epiphany. I attended a pre-conference titled “The Coaching & Mentoring Way in Mentoring and Leadership” led by Robert Garvey. My epiphany was the realization that I should be applying what I’ve learned about mentoring in my everyday leadership. The skills and tools I use as a mentor can also help me be a better leader and assist with the development of the people I supervise in a positive way. That happened just a month and a half ago, and I’m still working on being more conscious of integrating mentoring practices into my everyday interactions – working, in fact, to make mentoring a way of life.

These may seem obvious connections but without taking moments to pause and reflect, these connections can go unnoticed. The reason I shared this reflection with the leadership cohort was to illustrate the importance of reflection. I’m a firm believer that a key part of getting the most out of a mentoring relationship or more generally achieving what you set out to achieve is reflection, deliberate and thoughtful reflection.

2018: A Banner Year (aka make a plan, do the plan)

2018: A Banner Year (aka make a plan, do the plan)

2018 has been a banner year for me professionally.

A Plan Made

Four years ago, I created a 5-year plan to help me achieve two goals, promotion to Librarian and appointment as Associate Dean for Collections at IUPUI University Library. This plan and the unforeseen retirement of my predecessor resulted in me reaching both of those goals this July — a full year (or more) ahead of schedule. I’m now two months in and feel the need to share some reflections.

I can’t recommend developing your own plan enough. Not only does it help move you toward your goals, but it also helps you say no to the many requests that don’t align with those goals. And there is the added bonus of feeling a rewarding sense of purpose and forward movement as you methodically check things off the plan.

Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be a list of things, perhaps in each area against which you are evaluated. For me, that’s performance, professional development, and service, so my plan takes the form of a bulleted list divided into those categories under each year. I also include a “prep” section for each category to keep track of things that require advance application/submission.

On the other hand, some people have a hard time developing a plan from a blank piece of paper. If you are one of those people, you may find this guide to creating an individual development plan that I adapted for the IUPUI Mentoring Academy a useful place to start.

A Plan Fulfilled

Now that I’m a Librarian with a capital L (which means there are no more promotions in rank to strive for), there is comfort in the knowledge that I can focus in on what really interests me without feeling obligated to say yes to things that don’t. The only problem is I’m interested in too many things. As one thing comes off my plate, there are two more really exciting things vying for space and attention. Part of this comes with my new, larger role as Associate Dean for Collections and the broader responsibilities that come with it. And part of it comes with my increasing awareness of where my interests intersect. There is an interdependence between resource sharing, shared collections, open access, and scholarly communications writ large that is impossible for me to ignore. This makes it difficult to draw artificial boundaries around my interests that dictate where I should and should not be engaged. So rather than resting on my Librarian laurels, I find myself even more engaged in communities and projects that I think will make a difference to my library, to all libraries, to all people.

What are some of those projects, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

I continue trying to integrate my experiences as IUPUI’s Director of Faculty Mentoring into my library work. I’ve met and worked with some wonderful people who are truly committed to the development of everyone in our IUPUI community. These experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained about mentoring inform how I interact with my colleagues and how I approach disagreements and discussions among them. I want to help launch a library group to sustain and enhance the mentoring and professional development work that has been started.

I agreed to co-chair the Academic Libraries of Indiana’s brand new Shared Collections Committee. This is an outgrowth of all the work I did with the ALI-PALNI Shared Print Project and my continued interest in building a shared collection from which we all can benefit. Shared collections are a natural extension of my dedication to resource sharing that began 12 years ago. My role in shared collections within Indiana will require representing us, alongside Kirsten Leonard, regionally and nationally to ensure we have a seat at the table. In fact, one such opportunity arose as I was writing this post!

I convinced two of my Center for Digital Scholarship colleagues to help me put together an event about the interdependence of collections and scholarly communication in the hopes of breaking down some silos. That has since morphed into the creation of a study group to produce a report on this topic that will inform the eventual event. This falls solidly in the category of “I don’t have the time, but I’m really interested in / excited about this.”

I’m partnering with the Open Access Button to help them create the next generation of their tools for libraries and acting as an advisor to their work. I am ridiculously excited about this. It aligns so perfectly with my years of research (and some might say proselytizing) on open access and interlibrary loan. Plus, I get to work with amazing, enthusiastic, and visionary people.

This is all in addition to my “regular” work of developing long overdue collections policies and reenvisioning what collections mean at IUPUI University Library with the help of a dedicated group of professionals not so cleverly called the Collections Working Group. Overall, I’m sometimes overwhelmed but grateful to be in this new role. I’m thrilled to be part of projects with the potential to have a broader impact. I’m amazed at how well my 5-year plan worked. I’m eager to share all that I’ve learned and continue to learn with all of you. Thank you for listening and acting (at least in my head) as an accountability partner. Time to go create a new plan.

Learning Leadership

Learning Leadership

I’ve participated in a number of leadership programs, all of which have been useful in their own way. However, the actual leadership practices typically fall by the wayside as I return to the daily grind of work. All that has changed.

In August, I participated in the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians (LIAL) offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education in collaboration with ACRL. I’ve been ruminating on the experience ever since and am finally ready to share a few thoughts.

I think my leadership capacity has naturally developed over the years, but LIAL helped me to more clearly see my strengths and weaknesses, built my confidence, and convinced me that I need to focus on the next step in my career. Since returning, I’ve been much more focused on my own leadership journey. I’m planning and reflecting. I’m using the four frames to think through issues. I’m putting myself out there. I’m making a concerted effort to continue developing my leadership skills on my own.

In addition to the insights, learning, and amazing instructors, I also met some pretty incredible classmates. I hope they will become lifelong friends.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here, but my LIAL experience inspired me to share. If you have the opportunity to go to LIAL, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Service is Resource Sharing

For various reasons, I’ve been reflecting a lot on service* lately. Through this reflection, some things about myself have started to coalesce in my mind. As I mentioned in a previous post, my path to librarianship was not direct. However, every job I’ve ever had has been based in service in some way (though not necessarily service as defined by my *). I don’t know which came first, my service jobs or my service ethos. Whatever the order, I can’t remember a time when service wasn’t important to me. It is essential to me to be of service both in and to my work and to ensure that my service is high quality. As a librarian, I have spent ten years developing a program of service that benefits my library, my university, and my profession. Along the way, I’ve also accrued benefits in the form of personal satisfaction and a network of friends and colleagues that I can turn to when I need support.

I recently read Cal Newport‘s So Good They Can’t Ignore You in which he argues that passion for your work is something that grows with time rather than something innate. It’s only through building “career capital” and cashing it in for more creativity, impact and control that we become truly happy in our work. That has certainly been the case for me. I didn’t come to librarianship with a burning passion for it, but my happiness and passion have grown over time. Without realizing it, I have become, at my professional core, a resource sharing librarian with a commitment to providing access to information in all its forms. Resource sharing has become my life philosophy, extending far beyond the sharing of library materials. I see service as yet another form of resource sharing. Whether it be sharing my librarian perspective in faculty governance, sharing my experiences and expertise through mentoring, or sharing my knowledge in professional committees, it is all resource sharing. It is all service. It is only through sharing our personal resources and serving our communities that we can hope to achieve collective success.

* I’m defining service here as applying one’s “knowledge, skills, and expertise as an educator, a member of a discipline or profession, or a participant in an institution to benefit students, the institution, the discipline or profession, and the community in a manner consistent with the missions of the university and the campus.” ~ from Service at Indiana University: Defining, Documenting, and Evaluating (1999). Indianapolis, IN: Center for Public Service and Leadership.

A Ten Year Odyssey

Thursday marked ten years as a librarian at IUPUI University Library (UL). In fact, it marked ten years as a librarian period. This milestone seems like an appropriate time for reflection.

Like many librarians I talk to, I didn’t set out with the intention of becoming a librarian. While in graduate school, a friend told me about the dual degree program that would allow me to earn my MA in Public History and an MLS at the same time. The real attraction for me was that the dual degree meant two more years of structured classes rather than two years of unstructured thesis writing. I was working full-time, and this dual degree option seemed more feasible and achievable for me. I still didn’t think I would ever work as a librarian.

How quickly your life plan can change. I will be forever grateful to that grad school friend. During my second year of library science classes, I quit my full-time job and started an internship in the Indiana State Library‘s Manuscripts Section, which seemed a great combination of public history and library science. Maybe I could be an archivist or manuscripts librarian. I also got a graduate assistant position at UL in Reference and Interlibrary Services. And that was it.

In interlibrary loan, I found my place. I was providing a much needed service and satisfying my love of mystery at the same time. (Finding an item to fulfill an interlibrary loan request can be real detective work.) The work of interlibrary loan (and resource sharing more broadly) reflects my belief in the intrinsic value of service and learning. It is also a perfect platform for some of my skills and traits — attention to detail, organization and logistics, problem-solving, ability to learn new technologies. The evolving landscape of resource sharing gives me the opportunity to be innovative and take part in new and interesting projects, which is important for someone who can bore easily. My involvement in resource sharing has also led me to take a broader view of collection management and sparked an interest in shared collections (just another form of resource sharing in my opinion).

IUPUI University Library has also been a good fit for me. There is a culture here that embraces innovation and experimentation and allows for failure. My role at UL has evolved as well. I was initially hired as the Visiting Interlibrary Loan Librarian, supervising Interlibrary Services. Over time, Interlibrary Services grew and became an independent department named Resource Sharing & Delivery Services in recognition of the services we offer beyond interlibrary loan. Plus, many of you may not know that I’ve also been a long-time member of the Bibliographic & Metadata Services department. What began as an original cataloging assignment expanded to include metadata librarian and eventually department head. These diverse responsibilities have kept things interesting. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

I’ve grown a lot over the last decade. I found a field that I believe in and love. I’ve made a difference for my library and, I hope, the resource sharing community at large. I have more belief in my own abilities and expertise and am much more comfortable speaking in front of groups. Service and learning continue to be core to who I am, but the importance of making significant contributions and giving back has grown. I’ve received so much support and encouragement over the past ten years, and now is the time to start paying it forward. As I begin to look ahead at the next ten years, I won’t even hazard a guess at what they might hold, but I hope resource sharing, in all its forms, continues to be a prominent part of the picture.

Research Evolution

Research Evolution

In the spirit of my last post, I’d like to share an exercise I did in preparation for a recent mentoring meeting. The topic of the meeting was how to generate topics or identify areas of interest and whether I thought a librarian’s publications should have a thematic direction or consistency.

That is a conversation demanding preparation or at least a little self-reflection. I started by printing out the publications portion of my CV and categorizing them. There is a little variation, but two distinct categories did emerge: (1) open access and interlibrary loan and (2) international interlibrary loan. Then I tried to think back, back, back to the days when I was just starting as a professional librarian. How did the beginning shape where I am now?

When I became a librarian, the thought of doing research with a capital R wasn’t appealing and was, in fact, a little intimidating. With the help of my then boss, I started out doing presentations of practical advice for interlibrary loan (ILL) practitioners instead. That evolved into an interest in web-based ILL finding aids and teaching others the tools I found to locate difficult requests. Then I got involved in the ALA RUSA STARS International Interlibrary Loan Committee, which accounts for one of my publication categories, but also expanded my previous finding aid work to include international publications.

All of this interest in finding aids logically evolved into an interest in open access. What could be better than helping people locate where a thing is? Well, helping people locate the actual thing, of course. Eventually, I started integrating my library’s request data into my open access and interlibrary loan presentations, which in turn led to a body of writing on the topic that might even be consider Research.

Through this thought exercise, I learned about myself and was able to help a mentee. The prospect of generating topics that will interest both you and your potential audience can be intimidating, but the ideas will come. Take time to reflect on your daily work and find the things that matter to you. Start presenting. Have conversations. Let your interests evolve. Start writing. You never know when you may even see a thematic direction emerge that you never would have anticipated.

Mentoring is Resource Sharing

Two years ago, the Dean asked a colleague and me to represent to the library as members of the IUPUI Mentoring Academy. I agreed because, as Dean Lewis pointed out, I had recently gone through the tenure process, making it likely that a number of my fellow librarians would come to me for guidance. I thought the Mentoring Academy would give me skills to better mentor and guide those that sought my advice.

Little did my colleague and I know, we were about to be tasked with developing a mentoring program for the library faculty. To be completely honest, I was not thrilled at this prospect. I didn’t think mentoring was “my thing.” But, like the dutiful librarian I am, I worked with my colleague to develop a program proposal and then to revise that proposal when we didn’t secure campus funding in the first round.

When I found out our program proposal was funded in September 2015, another colleague and I were in need of a capstone project for a campus leadership program we were beginning. Implementing the mentoring program seemed like the perfect fit. It felt like something I was obligated to do anyway, and it could now fill this secondary obligation as well.

Thus began the planning of events to get the mentoring program off the ground and to provide development opportunities for our librarians. Slowly, my attitude began to change. As I moved through the leadership program and the mentoring program planning, I began to recognize all the mentoring relationships I already have. They are largely informal, but I’ve been helped along the way by numerous mentors. I also began to recognize that I am already a mentor to several friends and colleagues, again informally. Then I began mentoring librarians within my library, and the attitude adjustment was complete.

This journey brought on an epiphany. Mentoring is exactly “my thing.” Mentoring is resource sharing. It all seems so obvious now. My entire librarian life has been devoted to resource sharing, and now I’ve found another method. By offering to mentor and providing development opportunities for my fellow librarians, I’m sharing some of my most personal and precious resources — my time, my experience, and my empathy. Resource sharing doesn’t stop with the books we buy or the articles we deliver or even with our ILL expertise. To make a successful community, resource sharing must extend to our very selves.

Show Your Deep Work

I recently read two seemingly contradictory books, Cal Newport‘s Deep Work and Austin Kleon‘s Show Your Work! Deep Work includes a chapter titled “Quit Social Media,” while Kleon says to share every day. So what am I to do? Newport does give his readers permission to stay on social media if its positive impact outweighs its negatives. It’s just clear that he thinks that is a rare state of affairs. But that permission means not all sharing avenues are closed.

Truthfully, I’m not a huge social media sharer to begin with, so I’ve quickly carved out what I think is a middle ground. I’ll still post to Facebook when the mood strikes me. I’ll still check out the Twitter feed when I attend a conference. That’s it for social media. I think the best way for me to #showyourwork is to write the occasional blog post right here – occasional being the operative word.

I’ve done the blogging thing before and eventually got overwhelmed. The self-imposed pressure to keep up my posting frequency led to abandonment. This time I’m setting low expectations from the start while embracing Kleon’s notion that “you want hearts, not eyeballs” (p. 129). It isn’t about how many followers you have but having the right followers – the followers that care about the same things you do. So don’t expect daily, or probably even weekly, posts from me. Right now, I’m more interested in integrating #deepwork in my life, and this website is a tool in my learning process. Like Kleon says, “Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine” (p. 67).

Another element in all this is my keen awareness of the importance of sharing. I am a librarian devoted to resource sharing after all. So when I have thoughts to share that can’t be contained in a Facebook post, you’ll find them here. I hope we can share ideas and help one another.