Faculty activity reports and what I did this past academic year

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Every year by June 30, faculty on my campus have to submit something called a Faculty Activity Report which recounts their various activities throughout the year, from classes taught to special projects worked on to committees served and articles published. The exact purpose of this report, which is a long form rather than a narrative as in my past library job, is a little…vague. But it’s a good chance to reflect on the year’s accomplishments and set goals for the coming academic year.

This year, as you might expect, has been a little different. With the shift to working from home, my teaching stopped. Many of my work-related projects stopped. My committees kept going but learning how to do committee work virtually was a learning process, to say the least. My focus shifted instead to my writing and research projects.

While it’s always good to have writing and research projects to list on a FAR, I was afraid that the sudden halt to other activities would make my report look emptier than usual. It wasn’t until I started looking through my weekly notes on things I’ve been working on that I remembered just how busy last summer and fall were for me. It was as if the craziness of the last few months had given me some kind of amnesia for everything that came before. I couldn’t believe how thoroughly I’d forgotten the bigger projects I was working on less than a year ago.

Here’s some of the stuff I accomplished this year:

  • I got tenure.
  • I got approved for my first sabbatical, starting this September.
  • A complete overhaul of my department’s tutorials and other online resources after a shift to a new discovery platform and a new website last summer. This process began in July 2019 and had to be finished by the start of the semester in August.
  • The migration of my department’s tutorials and online resources—over 100 resources–to a new version of Drupal, which required me to a) learn how to use various templates and other functions in the new version of Drupal (with a lot of help from our Web Developer) and b) recreate the materials from scratch in the new platform because simply copy and pasting wasn’t possible.
  • This blog, for which I published 84 posts related to my teaching, librarianship, writing, and research (…and sometimes pop culture) between July 1, 2019 and today.
  • Service on 12-16 committees (depending on whether or not you count subcommittees as separate things from their parent committees). Most of these were short term commitments that only met once or twice but still. My committee count has somehow managed to creep up on me again, apparently.
  • A new book project that I began working on in April
  • A newly published article (authored with a group of former colleagues) on employee turnover in academic libraries
  • Some non-peer reviewed publications, including a blog post on Librarian Parlor and an article in College & Research Libraries News
  • A webinar for the Georgia Library Association’s Carterette Webinar series, which drew over 400 live viewers.
  • Reorganizing my entire credit-bearing information literacy course after I decided to make a change to the annotated bibliography project. This also allowed me to incorporate some of my ideas about the contextual nature of research into the content of my course.

That’s not the whole list, but that’s the stuff I feel most proud of. Of course, there are also areas where I feel like I could have done more.

I feel like some of my publication efforts got a little stalled. I was hoping that by now the follow-up to “Research is an Activity and a Subject of Study” would have been accepted for publication (if not outright published) and that my two articles on the role of research in creative writing (one for the library field, one for the writing studies field) would have been submitted. While I completed drafts and/or revisions for all of those this year, the feedback I received indicated that more work was needed. That extra work will make them all stronger in the end but it’s disappointing to be so far behind where I thought I would be.

Before the pandemic shut everything down, I was in the process of organizing a community writing group in partnership with my local public library that focused on the research aspects of creative writing. The programming director for the library and I were still in early talks on this back in February but it seemed like there might be some interest in making it a part of their summer programming schedule. Now I’m exploring options to make this a virtual group instead, possibly on a site like Meetup. So the program’s not dead but, like a lot of things, it needs some reimagining.

A project to create a MOOC about how to teach information literacy aimed primarily at non-library faculty was delayed after other things needed to take priority. This is a project I started with a group of colleagues several years ago thinking it could be good training for faculty on our campus who teach classes with an information literacy element but…don’t necessarily know what information literacy is (to put it bluntly). There have been a lot of delays and challenges with this thing and while I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far, it’s starting to feel like the proverbial albatross around the neck. That said, there has been some movement on this recently such that we might be ready to pilot it with a small group of faculty in the near future but it’s been a long process and after however many years it’s been at this point I wish we were further along.

The good things about unmet goals is that they can always just become goals for next year. But this coming year is going to look a lot different than years past, which makes it much harder to plan for. For one thing, I had certain ideas about what my sabbatical would look like when I first proposed it that are not more or less obsolete because of the ways in which the world has changed. For another, there’s no knowing where this pandemic thing is going to take us between now and my next FAR.

But I do know I have a book project to work on and an investigation into the role of research in creative writing to conduct. These, at least, are some challenges I can look forward to.

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