27 Apr 2015

On the anxiety of lying fallow

Author: krb3k | Filed under: Uncategorized
Yep, I'm still here.

Yep, I’m still here.













I am a person who craves professional busy-ness. By “busy-ness”, I mean being “fully engaged in activities/tasks that are meaningful and provide value”. This is not only because I hope to make positive  contributions to the world, but because a lot of my self-worth is bound up in my job. I am fully aware that some folks vehemently oppose that idea but, to me, it makes perfect sense: most of my waking hours are spent at work, and I should strive to do the very best that I can. Otherwise, what’s the point? Also, though I have always worked for educational institutions, I have a somewhat corporate mindset in that I have to constantly prove my value. One of the earliest professional mottoes I created for myself is, “Don’t ever give anyone a chance to wonder what it is that you do”. In other words, make sure that you are always producing, and always advertising those products. So, when things slow down, I get very antsy. And, boy howdy, have things slowed down. Picture an old-fashioned clipper ship, only able to move when the wind blows: when the wind don’t blow, the ship don’t go. Y’all, I am becalmed on a windless sea. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • After an excellent three-year run, my reputation management content appears to have run its course. Attendance at classes has slowed down dramatically over the last year (though this has been true for all library classes, as I mentioned in an earlier post), though I did see an increase in departments asking me to give that presentation at their meetings. This topic has been a huge part of my work and identity for a long time. If I’m not the “reputation lady”, who am I? (Note: as reported on here, it seems that at least some of our patrons would like their content delivered via video, so I’m going to take the current iteration of the presentation, do a voiceover, and make it available via the Library’s website. I’ll let you know how it goes!)
  • My big beast of a digital privacy class isn’t ready to for prime time. Whenever I think that I’m done with research, I discover that I’m not. Figuring out the shape of this thing (what to leave out, etc) is quite challenging.

The good news is that I’m on the verge of some very exciting things:

  • In the short-term, I’m presenting a poster on my optical head-mounted display capstone experience, and also acting as a panelist for Top Tech Trends at MLA. Oh, and my reign of terror as TAC chair begins then, as well (insert evil laugh).
  • I’m in the process of planning out the classes/assignments/activities for my MOOC, “Personal Branding: Establishing and Promoting Yourself for Business and Life”, which will go live this September
  • The UVa School of Medicine’s Office of Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development has re-upped its 25% claim on my time (for which they pay the Library actual money) for next year, and has expanded my duties from digitization of presentation and social media, to also creating a monthly podcast (I’m terrified about this one. Like, completely terrified. My plan is to record a bunch of them at once and create a stockpile).
  • I have been working with a group of nurses from UVa and other institutions who are applying for a federal grant. Early on in the process they decided that they want to write me into this grant, which means that, if they are awarded it,  a certain amount of my time will be devoted to supporting them next year.
  • A very cool on-going thing is my weekly consult with a Trauma Nurse Coordinator. She had attended a few of my classes before approaching me to ask if I had time to get her up to speed on various software. We’ve expanded from that initial topic to technology topics of a more general nature: our weekly meetings might cover presentation software, FINALLY getting her wireless issue taken care of, discussing the best way to present to different groups, or explaining various topics about the digital world.  This is one of my favorite things because a) she is a wonderful person, b) she is willing to admit that her understanding of certain topics is deficient and take steps to correct that, and c) she really wants to know and understand these things in order to better do her job.

The problem is that none of this (save that last one) is ready to start. I’m in a holding pattern, waiting for it all to begin. I AM NOT CHECKING ANYTHING OFF MY LIST, AND IT IS KILLING ME (<<< #INFJproblems ).


I can sense my solo hospital librarian and clinical librarian friends rolling their eyes at this self-pitying diatribe, as I know that they would probably kill for some downtime. I’M SORRY.


The bigger question to all of this (and the real culprit, I think) is what am I supposed to be doing long term? Although, I think that this is sort of the answer, as well: as a “technology person”, the particulars of my position will always change as the technology changes. And I like that- I DO. It’s just that I have problems with downtime. You must understand: like many working moms (and some working dads), by the time I arrive at work at 7:30AM, I already feel like I’ve done a full day’s work. So being in a change-y, transition-y, time-wimey thing feels weird. But it shouldn’t! Intellectually I realize that the change, the downtime, is good for my brain and that, ultimately, our patrons will only benefit.


I guess a lot of my unease with these periods goes back to the fact that I’ve never been able to shake the absurdity of the idea that I get paid to do intellectual work. It seems so crazy to me, most assuredly because of my background: my parents grew up doing agricultural work, and worked in cotton mills as adults. My dad eventually joined the Army and served for 22 years. And I literally cannot remember a time when my parents weren’t talking about my going to college. There was no question about it: I *was* going to college. And I did. And then I went to graduate school. And now I get paid to think about things and implement ideas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for this (when I was in my teens and early 20′s, I, at various times, worked in the kitchen of a restaurant, and cleaned houses, and I’d rather not do either of those things again) and I love my work, but still: bizarre.

A part of me is convinced that if I fail to produce something regularly, The Powers That Be will walk in, and said, “Sorry, but you’ll need to go dig ditches now”. If I disappear one day and a sarcastic Twitter account from username “@formerlib_ditchdigger” shows up on your radar, you’ll know why ;)


So anyway, my latent Calvinistic tendencies demanded that I write this, confessing all to you, my friends and colleagues. Do you ever have professional “downtime”? If so, what is your perception of it? I would love to hear from you!


Thank you, as usual, for reading :)