Monday, January 30, 2012

Library Day in the Life #libday8 Day 1

6:45 - Alarm goes off. Otto the basset slinks up from against my knees puts his warmback against my chest, and lays his heavy (very heavy) head on my arm at my elbow. I obey the dog. Hit snooze until

8:00am- Groan, knowing this means I will not get my desired early start on the day. Un-groan, as my joints seem willing to move today for the first time in awhile.

9:00-9:15 - Get into the office. Check in with my day circ manager to make sure everything is on the level, sign timesheets and drop them off in the Admin office. Talk shoes with Anna, laugh at the meanface my boss is giving her monitor when she thinks no one can see her, hit up the supply closet for tape.

9:15-10:00 - Email triage. Among the important ones is one from the faculty president; as secretary I need to get the discussion board up for the full faculty to do the second reading of the proposed Bachelor of Integrated Studies degree.

10:00-10:30 - After email, into Blackboard to post the degree proposal and executive summary, set up the discussion board, and set up the voting mechanism according to the timelines detailed in our Faculty Handbook. Another email comes in as I finish setting this up about the ODT degree that has, after much drama, passed Graduate Council and Senate Exec. That program will have to be similarly posted online eventually.

10:45-12:00 - Collection development work. As liaison to the Political Science department, I collect their purchase requests and also have responsibility to develop a purchase list to fill in gaps in our collection. Hooray for getting to go shopping with Library money! I make a mental note to add more colldev time to my calendar on Tuesday and Wednesday to make sure I get done by the deadline, which is Friday. (I'm out of town on Thursday and Friday, so the real deadline for me is Wednesday.)

12:00-1:00 - Realize I forgot to bring lunch to work. Check and organize email while feeling seven shades of grumpypants. Email Wilda at Library Journal back about book reviewing, email photographer/poet friend back about the shots he's taking for the cover of my newest book. Email my staff reminding them I'll be out later this week, giving them my contact information in case there's trouble.

1:00-2:00 - I have to transcribe the minutes from the last Faculty Senate meeting so members can approve them on Thursday. I should have had them up on Friday, but last week was hellishly busy. It was a long, contentious meeting - the minutes are seven pages, single-spaced. I also post the agenda for Thursday's meeting, curriculum proposals that the body has to approve, some other documents. Yay, webmastering.

2:00-4:00 - I'm on the circ desk so my day super can represent Access Services in the tech sub-group of our Internal Library Building Committee. Traffic is steady but not awful, and while I'm out there I celebrate two of my interlibrary loan requests coming in - especially since one s the first book of a series, and books 2 and 3 arrived last week. A few of the students from the freshman seminar

4:00 - 4:10 - Laird comes back from the committee meeting to let me know I need to attend the next one, since they'll be discussing the service models for our new building. I'll have to get folks together for a supers meeting so we can discuss it and brainstorm before that meeting. Things to think about include desk staffing, runners to the floors, tech help, more. It goes on my to-do list, but it's been percolating in all of our heads for awhile.

4:10-4:20 - A quick peek at the local paper websites show that the brouhaha over grading policy stemming from an article published on Saturday about UTC now requiring students to get a B to move onto higher accounting classes is raising the public's hackles; I pass it along to the Senate Executive team, this will probably be discussed at our meeting with the Provost and Chancellor on Wednesday morning. Here's to hoping the paper misunderstood the policy and that it isn't being applied retroactively instead of for new student catalog years. Sigh.

4:20-4:45 - Making the to-do list that I should have done this morning to get myself organized for the short week. List: talk to my ILL librarian about training and our new hire, send faculty President the attendance sheet for the Thursday meeting I will miss, make some notes of things I want to make sure I bring up during my lunch with the Head of Reference & Instruction tomorrow, clean up the list of items for discussion at the Senate Exec meeting with the Provost and Chancellor, find a time when all my supers are around for a meeting to discuss service models, get an invoice together for a faculty member who lost a very expensive set of DVDs, find a restaurant for dinner with my dean on Wednesday, review the ACRL stats before that meeting on Wednesday.

An easy day, in what looks like it might be an easy week for a change. I'll take it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Now Available: Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching

I am thrilled to announce that Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, a collection of essays by talented women poets that I helped co-edit with Carol Smallwood and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, is ready for ordering from McFarland! (Amazon currently reads as out of stock, we're working on fixing that.)

With a foreword by inimitable sonneteer and novelist Molly Peacock, and contributions from state poets laureate, Pushcart Prize nominees and winners, professors, workshop leaders, editors, and publishers, my hope is that this collection will have something for everyone. There are chapters for busy moms, chapters on using meter, chapters on publishing, blogging, promotion, journaling, contests, self-publishing, and more. You can see the entire table of contents here.

I learned an incredible amount while working with Carol and Cynthia on this collection. I learned about the difficulties of soliciting work by email only (and have slightly more sympathy for editors who only accept hard copy submissions). I learned more about soliciting permissions for lyrics and poetry from other publishers than I could have ever hoped to know-and what I did learn leads me to grave concerns about whether or not poets understand how hard it is for someone to quote and cite their work without prohibitive cost. I learned about copyediting, the ultimate pain in the ass that MS Word can be when you are pasting in multiple documents and need everything formatted just so, and that few people follow citation instructions *grin*

All in all, it was enlightening. And we have a fantastic book as a final product!

This experience has given me the courage to go ahead and take a stab at an edited collection I've been considering since I was working on my critical MFA thesis back in 2009. And so, I've written up a CFP for Mythology and Modern Women Poets: Analysis, Reflection and Teaching. Here's hoping there are others who share my obsession --ah, I mean research and teaching interests-- in the topic!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Harvard U. Libraries, Reorganization, and Transparency: A Note for Leadership

The libraryverse is a-twitter with talk of the town hall meeting about Harvard University Library's massive re-org project. Chris Bourg collected all of the commentary, sifting fact from fiction from hyperbole when #hlth was fresh (a #hlth search in Twitter will garner you lots of commentary). Tom Bruno's blog post on the facts of the meeting he attended is another must-read. Go see them now before continuing with this. It's necessary background info. I'll wait.

Reorganizations can be a scary business. I was involved in a minor organization at an ARL, my last place of work. It was teeny compared to the scale of the project Harvard is taking on. But know this: the reactions, from librarians and staff, were eerily similar. Everyone wanted to know, at the very least:

(1) Exactly what positions were being eliminated
(2) What would happen to the folks in the eliminated position
(3) How the reorg would affect everyone else in terms of reporting/employment/etc
(4) When we would know all the details so we could prepare for the change

To be honest, "Don't worry about it", "We're working on it", "Soon", and "As soon as we have something concrete" are not satisfying answers. I can only imagine how much less satisfying yesterday when Harvard made it clear that there will be voluntary and involuntary staff reductions to go along with the reorg.

I am not here to rail against change. A library system Harvard's size was going to have to change its organizational structure at some point, whether to better centralize operations, consolidate responsibilities, or simply to handle budget cuts (or lack of significant budget growth in the amount they were used to). Change is necessary for organizations (and organisms) to thrive, particularly when situated within a changing environment. Change happens, change is scary, we have to do it anyway.

But let's not pretend there are no best practices with regard to organizational change. What of involving as many as possible from the ranks in the planning process? What about transparency through the whole process? You might not get the sort of buy-in you hope, since Change is Scary, and Job Loss is terrifying, but if HU librarians and staff were blindsided at this meeting with the amount of change and the speed at which it would happen, someone on the transition team or library leadership hasn't been doing their job. A reorganization of that scale is painful, but the old adage about "ripping a Bandaid off quickly" does not apply. People need time to plan, to digest, to get over being shocked so they can then listen and then understand. And if the consultants on the transition team don't know this, and did not make this very clear to administration before going ahead with yesterday's snafu, they're not worth their weight in salt, since it's the foundation of every single org theory and change class.

In terms of the town hall meetings, (as an outsider who was not in attendance) I wonder how admin thought these meetings would be useful if there were few/no answers to the very obvious questions that were posed by librarians and staff. Perhaps "town hall meeting" itself was a poor misnomer - perhaps they should have called it what it was - an update on the reorg. A town hall meeting implies a sort of give-and-take that appears to have been missing from the meetings. A note to library leaders, admin, managers: what you call things is important. It creates a set of expectations. When those expectations are not met, you leave people confused, and sometimes angry.

And while focus has been on laying off librarians, Tom points out in his post that he feels for his staff, already working understaffed and now faced with the specter of this reorg, after a meeting with lots of scary, vague announcements and few answers to any of their questions. It is one thing to be slightly anxious about the future, but it is a terrible thing to be scared of that future in your own workplace. Scared of being laid off. Scared of being one of the folks *not* laid off and faced with providing the same level and volume of service with fewer resources.

There's got to be a better way than blindsiding people. I still cannot decide what about transparency frustrates leaders so much that they will not engage in its practice.

Is it the fear that your people will see how messy a huge undertaking like a massive reorg is? Let them see that it is messy and difficult. Handing over a major overhaul as a fait accompli, making it look like decisions were easy, is insulting to those affected by those changes. Let people see how things were agonized over, revised, and changed along the way before the decisions were made. In a situation where any answer is going to make someone upset, let them know how and why you reached the decision you did. No, it won't make people happy - but nothing will. This will at least let them relate to the process and your humanity. You lose the power of the facade of Big Library Admin Boss Who Knows All And Shall Dictate, yes - but is that really who you want to be? More importantly, is that who your people need you to be?

Is it the fear that your people will disagree, and disagree loudly? Well, they're going to do that anyway. Better they do it with as much information as possible than in the dark. People are going to disagree, and disagree loudly, at the water cooler, in their cubicles and offices, on the phone, in their blog posts, at ALA MidWinter (nice timing, by the way), and on Twitter. How much of the black hole of information they have to create through gossip and speculation is completely up to leadership. I do not understand why you would not want them to have as much information as possible, both along the way, and once decisions were made. The facts of the matter are often far less terrifying than what we can make up on our own. And we *will* make things up to fill in the blanks - it's human nature. Better to just share the information than have people make up - and spread! - erroneous speculation.

I do understand the desire to break change to people in easily digestible chunks whenever possible, but (again, as an outsider) it does not sound like that is what the town hall meeting accomplished. I do wonder what the meeting was *supposed* to accomplish, given that the questions admin should have expected were not able to be answered.

In any case, I wish the librarians and staff at Harvard luck and strength to make it through what, in the best of times, is a painful and jarring process. These are not the best of times. I also hope that the transition team/admin/leadership will come forward with more information that will help their people, in a timely manner, and in such as way as to make the HU librarians and staff feel they are valued voices - or at least adult enough to be trusted with the information that impacts their livelihoods.

In the meantime, I'm going to add "hug my dean" to my to-do list for when she returns from MidWinter.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Reading in Review: 2011

Of the 98 books I remembered to log as read in 2011, the breakdown is as follows:

  • 5 horror

  • 5 paranormal romance

  • 11 nonfiction

  • 5 short story

  • 6 scifi

  • 14 fantasy

  • 1 memoir

  • 3 mystery

  • 21 paranormal/urban fantasy

  • 6 thriller

  • 5 YA fantasy

  • 5 poetry

  • 1 parody

Definitely heavy on the braincandy reading; most of the nonfiction were education and LIS books related to my coursework and research, with a few essay collections and books on writing thrown in. favorites included Kevin Wilson's short story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, discovering Cathrynne M. Valente, Peter V. Brett and Scott Sigler as new-to-me fiction writers (fantasy, fantasy and sci-fi/thriller, respectively), and Karen Marie Moning's Fever series in the paranormal/urban fantasy genre. The lowest points were Meyer's Twilight series and Janine Cross's Dragon Temple Saga series, whcih I would heartily recommend steering clear of.

For 2012 I'd like to make sure I get a lot more poetry in (I have no excuse not to, given what's on my shelves waiting to be read). There are also a number of Kindle shorts and novels that didn't make it to this list, since I'm less good about tracking what I've read electronically. 2011 I kept on a Googledoc spreadsheet; for 2012 I'm trying to keep up with my Goodreads account.

Merry reading to everyone for 2012! Whatever your reading goal is - or even whether or not you have one, try to read at least one book this year. Interesting things live between book covers.