Tag Archives: work

Towards WE, Away from ME

1 Sep

I was speaking with my boss, the associate director of my library, today about an upcoming supervisors retreat we’re planning. Earlier she asked those of us attending for comments and suggestions to help plan the day – to make it a day we’d feel invested in. The deadline was yesterday and before the day ended, I sent her a note saying I wasn’t ignoring her request, but that I honestly had nothing. Nothing to offer. Nothing to add. No fun or engaging exercises I hoped we could do together. I’m usually very good at this kind of thing. I like retreats to spark and reinvigorate work. But I can think of nothing right now.

Perhaps I’m tired. Perhaps everyone is. The world seems tired to me. If you read or listen to the news, there’s so much anger and meanness, bickering and selfishness, war and strife, and a pandemic that simply won’t quit – or at least one that has left us with so many signals that things will never be what they once were. It makes me weary.

It also makes me sad. My boss said this morning, “It’s a kind of an ennui we’re experiencing.” She said, “ennui” but I heard, “un-we.” And I said, “That’s exactly what it is. UN-WE.” We’re a very productive library, ticking off boxes and accomplishing projects and providing services, but the further we get from March 13, 2020, the further we get from the collective sense of team – of “WE” – that I once took for granted. Our virtual and hybrid working worlds have not and do not take away from productivity, but they have taken something – something that’s not easy to log in the reference services database.

A few weeks ago I attended the annual Boston Library Consortium Forum. Once called “Networking Day,” this year’s Forum was the first held in person (with a virtual component) since 2019. Per the BLC’s announcement, it was a day “dedicated to uplifting and celebrating our community” and being together in person at the University of Connecticut did much to achieve this goal. The keynote speaker was Charles Vogl, the author of “The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging” among other works. He is a sought-after speaker on the practice of bringing people together; helping people to not feel disconnected and alone in life.

His talk was virtual (hmmm…) but engaging and insightful and funny. He also led us through some activities that helped people share honestly and openly about times we’ve felt alone, and during the Q&A time, he asked individuals to volunteer to share their stories and experiences with the larger audience. It was an excellent talk and the activities were helpful, personally. However, when I asked Vogl his thoughts on how we can rebuild community at work, I was sad to hear him jokingly say, “No one really wants to be friends with the people that they work with.” People laughed, but to me it was disappointing. It’s a serious question. Maybe we don’t look to find our best friends at work, but given the amount of time we spend working, it sure seems to me that we’d benefit from being a community. If community is about belonging, I believe we do better when we feel we belong at work.

I’ve heard from a number of people – from friends and colleagues in my profession, as well as friends who do very different work – that it seems there’s a trend where we’re all doing our own thing. Plenty of times we’re doing the things that we do well, but we’re doing them in our own silos, our own homes, our own pods. We’ve lost some of that collaborative spirit among colleagues.

I’m at a loss for what to offer for retreat planning, but I hope some of our work together helps us come up with some ideas and actions to address this. COVID affected and exposed so much in our societies. I imagine we’ll experience the fall-out for years to come.

Vermont farm with silos. Image by David from Pixabay

Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

15 Nov

Talking Dog

Hey, cat! Can you get me another cup of joe while you’re up there?

After back-to-back canine family members who rarely barked or made much of any noise, we now find ourselves with a talker. Eliza the hound dog is a bit of a barker, but more, she’s a talker. There’s no spellchecker for how to spell the sounds in her vocabulary, but  maybe “awhooowhooawwowwwohhawww” translates well. I imagine, though, that if you’ve ever cared for and/or known a hound, you know the sounds. She has a lot to say, that little dog – to me, to Lynn, and to our cat, Tater. Tater is, by far, her favorite family member to converse with. They have a lot to say to one another. 

I have been talking a lot lately. In the past month, I was on a panel with other NLM-funded informationists to talk about our projects; I guest lectured at a couple of library school classes (the third, last night, experienced some technical glitches, so we’ll try again soon); I taught a half-day CE class, facilitated a forum on the current state of health sciences libraries, and led a business meeting at the annual meeting of NAHSL; I attended the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association and spent a good deal of time talking with colleagues there; I presented a poster at the Community Engagement and Research Symposium of the UMass Center for Translational Science; I wrote up (kind of like talking) and submitted two proposals for next year’s annual meeting of the Medical Library Association; I worked with a researcher to submit a proposal for another informationist grant (again, you’ve got to talk a lot before you can write); I’ve worked with a team on an R21 grant proposal to NIH; and then I’ve had several road trips and meetings and other events with colleagues where you, you know, talk. A lot. Even for verbose, social me, it’s been one heck of a month.

All of these activities, though, were add-ons to the work that I do that gives me something to talk about and that, at times, is a conundrum. This month, I’ve been conundrum-ed. It’s easy to get sucked into giving so much time to talking with others that you lose the time to do the very things that got you invited to talk in the first place. My “walking the walk” has definitely suffered these past weeks. Don’t get me wrong. I’m really happy to get to talk about my role as an embedded librarian, to share some of our successes, to offer my opinions and insights into how this role fits in our evolving profession, to sell others on the roles that librarians can play in this area. I get inspired by colleagues, particularly those newer to the profession, who tell me how what I do is what they want to do one day. I get excited when I see the switch click on in researchers’ brains, the realization of the skills that librarians have outside of our hard-to-break stereotypes; when they recognize the real added value that we can bring to their teams and their work. I count each and all of these as measures of success for the work that I’ve been doing over the past year and a half or so.

“But keep on talking,” I tell myself, “and you’ll talk you’re way right out of work.” The month has been tremendously fun, but it’s really time to hole up and get back to the doing. I have deadlines for work promised, not deadlines for work that I hope to do.

As an aside, I couldn’t help but notice the past weeks just how much work is involved in preparing grant proposals – an awful lot of work to propose work that you hope will get funded so that you can do it. This is the life of my researcher colleagues. I realized that they balance the “talking and walking” all of the time. They constantly have to talk about the work that they’re doing so that they can be funded to do more work in the future – all the while, doing the work. No wonder they work so much!

For me, I’m looking forward to some weeks ahead that involve being right here on my campus, doing my humdrum day-to-day work. The work that gives me something to talk about. Then I’ll share it with you here. It is, after all, a big circle.


For those of you who enjoy my sketchnotes, I practically filled up a whole sketch book these past weeks. I’ve shared them on a separate spot, if you wish to give them a look see.