The other day, I tweeted a bit about dreaming of all the things I wish my job could be. There have been some problematic dynamics in my department for a while now (years), and I’ve gotten to a point where I’m just frustrated. I spend so much time dealing with drama from this situation (including both actually responding to it and managing the emotions that come with it). After another little flare-up recently, a colleague pointed out that all I ever talk about anymore is what I don’t want to do, instead of what I do want to do. And she was right. These problems have gone on for so long, with no improvement, that I’m just exhausted even thinking about it – and that shows.
My library is in a liminal space right now. The person who was dean for my first 5.5 years here retired this spring. The associate dean is currently acting as interim dean. Who knows how things will shake out, but that’s giving me room to hope for some changes… And start dreaming about how I would rewrite my job description if I could.
There are some parts of my job that I love. One of the things that makes my library special (to me) is that we offer a credit-bearing info lit course. We also get support for teaching in other areas – campus is re-vamping their freshman orientation course to be more academic than what it has been, and one of my colleagues is going to teach a section of that. I would definitely want to keep that, with the flexibility to teach the library course, explore other teaching options, or not teach, depending on what opportunities come up.
I’m also a liaison to some departments. When I was hired, I was assigned anthropology (because I have a MA in anth) and a slot as a co-liaison to the college of education (because they needed a body there). When we had some personnel changes, I pushed to get sociology, too. Ideally, I’d want to continue being liaison to anthropology and sociology… But hand off the college of ed responsibilities. We have a vacant position in my department that we discussed posting with a focus on them being liaison to the college of ed, but the powers that be have decided to wait until a new dean is hired before filling that line. So we’ll see.
Then there’s the service and professional development time that I wouldn’t want to give up. But everything else that I currently do, sweep that off my plate.
Well, there is one other thing I do that I’d like to keep, but transform. Right now, I coordinate the Instructional Services mentoring program. A few years ago, we set up a mentoring framework for new hires (tenure track faculty) in our department. It was limited to our department in part because we were responding to a need to support a couple of new faculty in our department, at a time when we were the ones getting new faculty lines. The other factor in limiting it was because the library is pretty siloed, so it was just easier to do this within our department than to try to coordinate with other departments.
I would really like to have the support and the space in my workload to make this a library-wide program. Since January 2016, we’ve have 4 new tenure-track faculty start – only 2 of whom are in Instructional Services. We also have several staff members who are working on or have completed a library science degree. As part of the University System of GA, we can get free tuition to any USG school, and many of our staff take advantage of that. They’re not in a position to need to think about what to save for their tenure binders, but a more broadly conceived mentoring program could help them, as well. And, of course, there’s a lot that a new staff member can get out of having a mentor help them learn the quirks of this library & this university. Facilitating these relationships could also help break down some of the silos we have. It would be so cool to get to do this!
Our interim Associate Dean recently got a group together to gauge interest and brainstorm ideas for grant-funded projects. Like, what, if anything, would people be interested in applying for grants for, and what sort of support would be helpful? As this university continues to grow, there is increasing interest at the campus level in seeking outside funding. So far, there hasn’t been pressure on the library to do this, but there are more support structures in place for those who are interested in pursuing this. Facilitating support for those seeking grant funding could go right along with coordinating a mentoring program. This could mean connecting people with support from other offices on campus, or it could mean connecting a person with a mentor who can help them actually put on a program that they sought funding for.
There are also a lot of different ideas I’ve had for events / programming that I’d like to do in the library. A few years ago, I did a film showing and panel discussion of that film. It was really cool. I’d love to do it again, but it was a LOT of work. Even just taking the time to seek out a movie I’d like to show and that’s a good length for that takes time. I’m scared to take that on right now. If more drama blows up, to the point of it affecting my ability to focus on work (seriously, this ish has been affecting my ability to focus, my ability to sleep, my appetite, everything), how will that affect my ability to do the work needed to make the event successful? I’m fine with failing if I made a good effort and things just didn’t work out. But I hate failing when it’s because I didn’t put enough effort in. So, for now, it’s better to play it safe and not take on big projects like this.
And I could keep going on, with ideas for at least 3 full time positions. Realistically, just programming could be a full time job, so if I could change my job description, I’d still have to be careful about what new ideas I actually would take on… Unfortunately, right now, I’m just getting by, and hoping a new dean will bring some big changes.