The week behind – August 12, 2022

So this was one of those weeks where I got a lot done and finished nothing. There should be a word for those, they happen often enough. Is there a word for those? I bet there is in German. Anyway, forward progress yes, dopamine hit from crossing things off the to-do list, not so much.

The Associate Dean PD is very, very close. I think it will be ready to send to a couple of readers on Monday. I wouldn’t send something like that out on a Friday afternoon anyway, so I am calling that a win. Strategic planning — I am close to a plan in my head. But I still need to translate that to something out of my head and that is not as far along as I would like. I am going to be visiting all of the library departments to talk about it, but that can’t happen until September because of vacations and already-finished agendas for August, so I have a little more processing time I can do. The good news is that I think there is going to be a solid dovetail between the strategic planning work and the external relations work and that makes me happy for a few reasons, most of them efficiency-related.

A few things came up during the week, but they weren’t as weighty as last week’s capital planning conversations and they didn’t weigh me down as much. The university pushed out information about a new flexible work arrangement policy to supervisors (to go to the whole campus next week) and I had to review that. We are largely out in front of the policy, so reviewing primarily meant making sure we hadn’t veered in a wildly different direction on any of our specifics. We haven’t. There are a number of places where we are at the upper end of flexible, but we’re not doing anything specifically precluded by the new policy.

And finally, I still haven’t settled on the next book to read.

The week ahead — August 8, 2022

What I’m reading

Misconceiving Merit (Blair-Loy & Cech) –> still 20% done. I left it at home and didn’t read it there.

The Promise of Access (Greene) –> 10% done

The End of Ownership (Perzanowski and Schultz) –> this is a reread, focused on refreshing the legal principles in the first few chapters. Highly recommend this book, btw.

I need to start something new to replace Beyond Accommodation, but I am not sure what yet. I usually move on to a similarly focused book, but I am feeling a desire to read some history. I know I could do both, but we’re edging up on not-really-reading-anything-well territory with five work-related books going at the same time.

What I’m thinking about

What I am preparing for

Strategic planning. Our strategic plan ends in 2023, so we really should be on developing a new one. Talking to the library about it, I am getting a lot of understandable exhaustion. From this I know that we are not interested in a full-on, consultant led process (the last one took 18 months). But at the same time, I get enough questions about the plan – current and future — that I know I have to figure something out. I think I have the outlines of a strategy in mind, but I am going to need to have some conversations. How to get that done is the problem I am working now.

Associate Dean hire. We have had an interim Associate Dean for over a year — and that’s too long. Getting this PD done and the search ready to launch is a priority.

Meetings of note

Records Manager search committee. Of note, this is the first new position my library has been funded for since like 2008, and only the second in my 18 years here. Needless to say, we are pretty excited. I worked hard on the proposal for this position and I did it collaboratively with colleagues from the general counsel’s office, the compliance office, the research office, and university relations and marketing. I’m super excited that some of those people also agreed to join the search committee. I’m not the hiring manager for this search, so I don’t technically have to be there, but I’m going to anyway.

LOTS of 1:1s. When I was trying to figure out how to reorganize the library administration department post-COVID and post-me-as-Dean I talked to lots of people and one thing I found out was that our culture here where supervisors and direct reports meet 1:1 weekly or (more commonly) biweekly is both 1) not as common as I thought and 2) very appreciated.

Admin briefing. This is a 1/2 hour to 1 hour meeting once a month that could definitely be an email. BUT, one thing I have learned in my time in big organizations is that you can’t ever find the perfect communication channel. You have to communicate things multiple ways using multiple platforms (and sometimes also multiple times). So this is a briefing on stuff different people in Admin are working on, hearing about, needing help with, etc.

College of Vet Med library prep. This is a really hard problem that all of us who are currently working on it — from university admin, the library and the college — inherited. TL;DR — this is a library that’s independently staffed, managed and funded and which is struggling. All of us from that list above are meeting next week to talk about the future, so this week I’m meeting with the librarian who has been the liaison for this situation to get our thoughts in order.

Donor/stewardship strategy. When we reorganized admin, part of the goal was for me, my executive assistant and the building and space manager to have more capacity with external and donor relations. This is one of several meetings figuring out what that looks like and how it fits with the other work already happening in admin.

The week behind — August 5, 2022

All of the meetings I listed on my week ahead post were productive and useful and that’s usually a recipe for a good attitude going into the weekend, but this time I still ended the week feeling stuck and disheartened. A meeting that wasn’t on my calendar when I wrote that post was our annual capital planning meeting to discuss space issues and needs — not the internal to the library stuff that we manage, but the big-picture and big-ticket pieces that we rely on the university to support. And the capital planners and facilities managers and project managers are dealing with major, huge issues out of their control — inflation and supply lines — and you can just see it in their faces. It’s a lot.

I am a root causes, fix it the right way kind of person and that is always going to be a challenge as a middle manager in a big organization — stuff’s out of our control, that’s just real. But when the world is this broken, I need to be able to think on a level that is not root causes — because if I can’t that’s a recipe for anxiety and burnout and the kind of deep existential dread that we’re experiencing enough in our non-work lives — but thinking at non-root causes can also feel kind of pointless. This is a tough thing to navigate.

a book cover with a brown scribble drawing on a white background. The title of the book is Beyond Accommodation Creating an Inclusive Workplace for Disabled Library Workers and the authors are Jessica Schomberg and Wendy Highby

Anyway, that’s why I want to shout out that I finished Beyond Accommodation: Creating an Inclusive Workplace for Disabled Library Workers by Jessica Schomberg and Wendy Highby. I mean, I am always pretty proud when I manage to finish a book, but what I really want to shout out is the book itself.

A lot of times when I read things that are about building an inclusive workplace, no matter what the focus of that inclusion is, I come away with one of two things — a really good understanding of the structural issues creating the marginalization, exclusion or oppression and why I should want my workplace to be inclusive, or a handful of concrete strategies that I can take or an individual library worker can take, with no real connection back to root causes. As a big-picture, root causes, type of person I gravitate towards reading the first type of book, which means that I often end up with an unfocused desire to do more and an ongoing feeling of not enough.

This book navigated that tension really beautifully. The authors discuss and theorize and analyze root causes and structural issues (and what needs to be done about them) while also using local, organizational and individual lenses to address the same issues. It was a breath of fresh air in a frustrating week and I highly, highly recommend it.