In my previous library position, I worked with a sharp reference librarian named Alice who had a nine month appointment. After we wrapped up the last week of spring semester reference desk busyness (this was 11 years ago, when the reference desk could still be a busy place), Alice would go out west with her zoology professor husband to research how birds of prey can function under the huge G-forces of their attack dives. Then in late August we would look up and see Alice descending the spiral staircase into the “Reference bunker” (what we called the main reference office space) full of interesting stories about how peregrine falcons fly in logarithmic spirals in order maintain their aerodynamics while scanning for prey (or something like that) AND full of energy to meet the new students, evaluate new databases, etc. I envied her summertime adventures.
Unlike Alice, I’ve always had 12-month appointments, like most academic librarians. But it is striking how different summers usually are anyway. The fall and spring semesters get dominated by teaching (both embedded and one-shots) and many hundreds of research questions and consultations, but also collections work like reevaluating business database pricing for budget work and dealing with the deadlines to spend out firm order budgets, which after spring break come zooming in like Alice’s falcons.
But summers are different. None of the business school or CARS classes with intensive research projects meet. Except for some occasional NC LIVE requests (more on that here next week) there isn’t much collections or vendor work. (Well, there may be some new weeding goals.) And there are fewer meetings, committee work, and task forces. Summertime! Calendars mostly free! Few deadlines! Few chat, email, or walk-in interruptions for research help!
Yikes. What a bummer that freedom can be. I think I work harder with the structure, interruptions, and deadlines of the fall and spring. So summer becomes listomania season for me: what are all the things I should/need to do in the next four months? What to-do’s can I look forward to crossing off the list? That feels rewarding – and motivating.
Here are some examples from my current summer projects list:
- Set up a blog. (fun!)
- Write for the blog. (ugh)
- Examine what’s new at census.gov, bls.gov, export.gov, etc.
- Catch up on my Google Reader (including items I starred 6 months ago to read later), the journal literature, & my favorite library mags like Online.
- Learn how to use Camtasia and use it to make some new welcome videos and screencasts.
- Weeding my archived emails as well as my network files.
- Reconsider my learning goals and active learning exercises for MGT 309 sections research workshops, etc.
- Updating the Export Odyssey textbook.
- And more stuff like that
But I still think of Alice and her dive-bombing birds now and then.