Zooming through the Summer

Zoom call on a MacBook Pro laptop with a green ceramic mug on the left

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

I clearly had no know idea how the rest of the 2019-2020 would turn out. I can’t possibly update the last 6+ months, but let’s just say that it’s been quite a workload since March. I can’ t believe it’s nearly July!

If you recall, I took on my role precisely to improve instructional services, and COVID-19 highlighted many of the critiques I have been making since returning to Merced College. While I was able to get more support, we’re 10-month faculty, so I’ll have to start some of this advocacy work again in August.

I worked remotely from March 20 until the end of the spring semester. (The week we went remote was fraught with tension; it involved some disparity between the library faculty and the faculty in other discipline.) I was able to make a OneSearch tutorial. (I actually had to make it twice; once in a trial of SideCar, and then a second time in LibWizard when we finally got the add-on to our Springshare subscription in May.) I was also able to make three Canvas modules:

  • Understanding & Finding Databases
  • Selecting Databases by Subject
  • Using Basic Search Strategies

I wish I would have had time to help our librarians get up to speed on LibWizard and Canvas to be able to split up the other materials that we need to make, but we all just didn’t have time. I started an instruction guide in the fall, and I have been adding more documentation and materials in preparation for Fall 2020, as we’ll do some of this work when we come back in August, though it will more than likely be remote.

Prior to the spring semester ending, a colleague and I also started working to populate the library website. The website got a big update a couple of years ago, but there were places that hadn’t been developed yet. We’ll continue to work on it remotely this summer and in the early fall. Our College also created a hub for students within Canvas for student and academic services, and my colleague and I were also able to provide a lot of input for the library’s hub space.

Summer school is online, and the library remains closed to the campus community. We are offering curbside pick-up, but, to be quite honest, print is not the big draw for learners. (I have a lot to say about this, but tenure track…). I did elect to work a couple weeks of summer school to staff the library chat, where the majority of questions have dealt with textbooks on reserve. This is such a huge deal in community college libraries, and while folks do use OER here, it’s not as far-reaching. My last day of summer school is on Tuesday. As part of my advocacy efforts, I was also given 75 hours of additional time this summer to work on instructional projects. I have worked some of these hours already adapting an MLA Canvas module. When summer school is over, I’ll pick this up again. I’ll also be working on an APA and evaluation module.

I’m also taking a 9-week online course through Merced College to be “certified” to teach online as part of the California Virtual Campus Open Educational Initiative (CVC-OEI). The course helps faculty design the first six weeks of a fully online course. While I’m not scheduled to teach the library’s three-unit course LRNR 30 Information Concepts and Research Skills this fall, teaching a course for credit is a long-time dream of mine, and I would like to teach it in the next couple of years. Week 5 starts this week. It’s quite the workload, but it’s going well considering that I’m not exactly adapting a class I’ve taught before. My favorite unit so far is the accessibility unit because it reminded me of things I have learned before but forget to practice. It also helped me fix some LibGuides and other Canvas issues. I’m glad I decided to take the class.

I hope to have a few more updates this summer.

Grieving an Identity

Image of a stenciled girl in black letting go of a red heart balloonPhoto by Karim Manjra on Unsplash

After three years at the University of California Merced, I returned to Merced College in August, though to the main campus in Merced instead of Los Baños. It has not been an easy transition. My work / life balance is much better (I get winter, spring, and summer break again), but the problem is that I don’t what to do with myself. When folks ask me what I’m up to, I, frankly, don’t have much to say because, for so long, work has been my identity. In trying to make peace between the life I thought I wanted and this new trajectory, I haven’t been the easiest person to be around. Managing my anxiety and depression has been difficult. I am grieving.

I had imagined a life where I would be working on research and writing articles and book chapters, maybe even co-editing a book or two.  Even though research wasn’t necessarily required at UC, I knew I would be part of a network of librarians engaged in this kind of work. When I was a solo community college librarian, I got involved in ACRL committee work, and it exposed me to folks doing great things in the profession. I felt less isolated. Slow but sure, my confidence grew. I continued this work at UC Merced. I finally got the courage to submit lightning talk proposals, and I actually presented at a few conferences, even though I didn’t feel like what I was sharing was groundbreaking. I even wrote a couple of short trade pieces.

In early 2018, as I was preparing for a two year review (for 18-months of work), I felt, strangely, unaccomplished. I was doing things but not THE THINGS. I was constantly busying myself and worrying about my review. Honestly, coming across Abby Flanigan’s blog post, “Vocational Awe and Professional Identity,” which was about Fobazi Ettarh’s article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” made me realize that I had turned my job into a lifestyle. I had pushed myself, and I got the standard merit increase, which is the norm at UC, but when I learned that a colleague who wrote a book also got a standard review, I knew I couldn’t continue this pace. Ultimately, I had to ask myself whether this professional activity was actually that important.

But I am sad. I was able to grow as a teacher at UC Merced, and I learned a lot from my colleagues and from various professional development opportunities. I enjoyed our instructional brown bag sessions and various projects. I’m a better librarian because of my time there.

I know this change doesn’t mean that I can’t do some of those things I had previously imagined, but I also know that I want a life that isn’t consumed by the next best thing in academic librarianship. Though I will probably always be a bit of a workaholic, I want to lead a healthier life.

I’m currently on winter break, so I’ll be taking time to figure some things out.