Language

I’m a member of the California chapter of ACRL, CARL, but I’m not very active, mostly because I got involved with National first. I’ve really been impressed with Talitha Matlin‘s leadership. The Fall CARL Newsletter was just released, and her presidential message really hit home with me.

In the message, she asks:

What are some words or phrases you’ve been trying to change in your vocabulary?

As a large state with almost 400 institutes of higher education, we play a large role in shaping the discourse surrounding libraries and library work. I realize that some people may roll their eyes at the idea of spending so much time agonizing over language choice. However, using words that demonstrate confidence and do not diminish the important roles we play in our institutions is one step we can all take. We may not all arrive at the same words, but I hope we are all able to speak about our work in ways that feel authentic and affirming.

Her message left me with my mouth hanging open.

I have been doing this lately when it comes to my work as an instruction librarian. It really started with the day a well-meaning writing instructor commented, in reference to my handwriting, that I should have been a teacher as I was writing the URL to the class research guide and the learning outcomes! Ever since then, when someone says presentation, I offer lesson. I don’t correct people outright, but, rather, I use the adjusted language somewhere in my response. When accepting research instruction requests, I’ll write or say, “Let’s meet to discuss learning outcomes…” or “What learning outcomes would you like for me to design my lesson around? In looking at the assignment…[offer my two cents].”

Sometimes instructors also realize the inherent problem of calling research instruction “presentations” or “lectures” on their own. Recently, I was discussing a class with an instructor over the phone, and she hesitated using the word presentation.

Anytime I find myself wanting to write or say library instruction session, I revise it to research instruction or research lesson.

Now that I’m also more organized–and I admit that I mostly got my act together to prove a point–I have been sending a Google Doc with the lesson plan, titled as such, in advance. (It’s not that I didn’t have plans before; I just rarely shared them after getting in touch with instructors about their upcoming classes.) I don’t actually think folks take a look at my plans, but, if they do, it shows evidence that I plan for checks for understanding and learning activities. Even if things change up in the classroom, it shows that I have been thinking about how to teach both concepts and procedures in a way that maximizes the tiny amount of time I have with students.

Making these changes with language and involving the instructor into my process (it’s not always as collaborative as one might like) has helped my confidence. I am more honest about what can and can’t be done in a single lesson, and I’m a bit more bold in offering suggestions. It’s as though I believe that I’m a real educator now!

I haven’t implemented this yet, but, in September, there was a post on JoVE’s librarian blog called “How Librarians Can Really Explain What Their Jobs Are Like” that advises that when you are asked what you do for a living, resist the urge to use the word librarian at the beginning of your response. Brandy King writes:

These days, instead of starting with “I’m a librarian,” I first talk about the difference my work makes and then end by saying “I’m a librarian.”

How smart is this? This has forever changed how I will be addressing this question.

UC Librarian Review Process

On June 1st, I celebrated my two-year anniversary at UC Merced. Almost a week later, I also received the final packet for my first review.

While librarians in the California State University and California Community College systems are faculty, librarians in the University of California system are not faculty but are academic personnel. Our review process and criteria for advancement do highlight the academic nature of our positions. You can read more about UC librarians’ performance criteria and the review and appraisal process in the Academic Personnel Manual (APM), sections 360-10 and 210-4e.

We are evaluated in a peer review process every two years for those who are in the assistant and associate range or every three years for those who are full librarians. I was hired as an associate librarian with potential for career status. Because I started on June 1, 2016, it meant that I could have a review at 1.5 or 2.5 years as the process is based on calendar years (January-December). I was really worried about my output with the shortened time frame, but I was able to add a note that my review reflected 18 months of work. My supervisor also encouraged me to go through with the earlier review, so that’s, ultimately, why I decided to go ahead. But I was really nervous when I received my review notice at the end of November.

I was asked to provide the contact information of three people who could write letters of evaluation based on some aspect of my work in the last 18 months. For the letters, I asked the chair of a committee I served on from the Librarians Association of the University of California (LAUC); a colleague from an Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) committee I serve on; and a writing faculty member at UC Merced whose classes I have taught for a few times. While I didn’t see these letters until the very end of the review process, it helped to know I picked folks I trust.

In early February, I also submitted my current curriculum vitae, current and former job descriptions (an adjustment was made from Instruction Librarian to Instruction and Outreach Librarian in March 2017), goal statements, organizational chart, and my self-review. The self-review:

…consist[s] of a concise, vita-style enumeration of accomplishments keyed to the criteria […] specified by APM 360-10, followed by a narrative discussion of three of the most significant items within APM 360-10 b. (1) and three of the most significant items within APM 360-10 b. (2), (3), and (4).

I listed key accomplishments related to my professional competence and service within the library (A), professional growth and continuing professional education (B), university and library-related public service (C), and research/creative works (D). In the narrative, I also had to discuss three major items related to A, which signals my main job duties. I also had to discuss three other major items related to any combination of B, C, or D.

I was really pleased and a bit taken aback by my supervisor’s response to the documentation I turned in. It wasn’t so much her recommendation that I receive a merit increase and career status but what she wrote about my work. I and so many others in the library and on campus deeply respect her, and a colleague and I half-joke that we feel like we constantly fail her. She wrote five single-sided pages and included this:

It is already evident, from her liaison and outreach work, that Lindsay has made the library, its people, services, and resources more visible to some of our campus constituents. She has successfully started some collaborations and set the groundwork for future partnerships. Overall, I have been impressed with Lindsay’s initiative in reaching out to a variety of campus individuals and believe her endeavors directly support the library’s strategic focus (2017-2020) to engage the community.

[She and I both discovered that I’m not actually eligible for career status because my review came before I was employed for 24 months. Our Associate University Librarian (AUL) pulled me into a quick meeting to explain the error, but all it means is that I will receive career status during my review in 2020. (I still got the merit increase, though. Huzzah!)]

After signing off the initial recommendation, my supervisor submitted all of my documentation, including her narrative and my letters of evaluation, to the Committee on Appointment, Promotion, and Advancement (CAPA). The CAPA consists of my librarian colleagues at UC Merced, minus my supervisor, AUL, Deputy University Librarian (DUL), and University Librarian (UL). The CAPA then looks over all of the documentation and decides whether to agree or disagree with the recommendation, and the chair writes a letter to the UL with the committee’s decision. The UL then writes a letter with his recommendation to the Provost. The Provost then writes a letter back to me with the final decision. I received my letter in the final packet, which the UL went over with me.

This was also the first time I read the letters of evaluation, CAPA letter, and the UL’s letter. I have so much self-doubt, especially since I started my career in an isolated branch campus of a community college, but reading their feedback has made me feel really good and inspired me to continue to do good work for our students, campus, and profession.

I also learned something new about myself from the review: I’m quite relational. The CAPA letter specifically notes, “…[These activities] all speak to her collegiality, collaboration, and support for the success of others that characterize her professional endeavors.” I don’t think I had ever realized this, at least to this degree. Just like I do with thank you cards, I’ll be keeping this review packet near when I need a boost.

I also learned that I am pretty old-school when it comes to keeping track of my work. I have tried a variety of apps and online programs, and, ultimately, what works for me is to look at my color-coded Outlook calendar at the end of every month for classes and workshops I’ve given and webinars I have attended and note them down in Word / Google Docs. I also keep track of major projects in a planner, so I can see what I worked on every week, though I am not always good about filling it out. Last month, I realized that I could just simply start the document that I will be turning in for my review in 2020. I set it up with the headings I will eventually need, and it’s been going well so far, especially for the sections related to professional development and research/creative works. If you’re a UC librarian, here’s the basic template I am using, which can be downloaded and adjusted to fit your needs: bit.ly/uclib_review_template

If you are new to the UC librarian review process, don’t panic. Your colleagues who have been through the process will be happy to share tips. And when you get back your successful review, please celebrate and take joy in what your colleagues within and outside the library and your campus had to say about your work.