Summer projects and that “fresh start” feeling

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Things have been pretty stressful lately. There’s been a lot of upheaval at my institution and the road ahead looks pretty rocky, at least for those of us here in the library. I’ve drafted some posts about how some of this has been affecting me, especially given my new leadership role as the head of my department. But honestly that stuff gets pretty depressing. I still might share some of it but I wanted to focus instead this week on something I’m looking forward to: summer projects.

There’s nothing better than the “fresh start” feeling that comes with the end of the school year and the start of summer. The campus is starting to get quiet again. Soon, us twelve-month employees will have the place more or less to ourselves. Things with slow down, at least theoretically. Best of all, there’s vacation time within sight on the schedule.

Of course, some of this is a mirage. Everyone knows that summer is “slower” so that’s often when you suddenly get piled with committee projects and trainings and other odds and ends that you’re supposed to suddenly have time to do. Plus there are the projects that can only really happen during the summer, like updating tutorials and websites while the potential for disruption is relatively low, so sometimes it’s a mad dash to get all of that done too.

So it’s easy to start out with some goals in mind and easy to let those goals fall by the wayside. By stating some of my goals and projects here, in a public if not particularly high traffic area, I’m hoping that will give me some accountability.

Here are what I’m hoping my priorities for the summer might be:

Tweaking my information literacy course

In the spring, I taught an IL course using the contextual nature of research as a lens for the first time. Mostly, it went surprisingly well. But the design of the course was a bit rushed because of the limited amount of time I had to create it. So I’m hoping to spend some time this summer taking what I learned from teaching the course the first time and tweaking it for my second go-around this fall. Now that I have a little more time to prepare and have seen that students can generally handle the idea that there are different contexts of research, I’m hoping to find ways to make the course more engaging and challenging while still keeping the work load manageable and reasonable, both for me and the students. I know my favorite part of teaching is supposed to be working with students and helping them become more effective and knowledgeable users and creators of information, but honestly it’s this planning, implementing, and revising part that I love the most. Don’t tell my students I said that, though.

Article on creative writing pedagogy

So, like, two years ago I went on a six month sabbatical, ostensibly to work on research related to creative writing pedagogy, specifically to find out whether and how creative research is taught in creative writing programs. I got a lot done on the sabbatical (and wrote a book on a different topic besides) but didn’t quite get to the finish line. After I came back from sabbatical in March 2021, I set a goal to complete and submit my manuscript by fall of that year. But more urgent stuff kept getting in the way and even though I was working on it steadily, the project kept getting pushed back and pushed back. In some ways, that’s been a good thing because it’s allowed me time to refine my approach to my research so that I have more confidence in its thoroughness. But yeah. This summer I’m ready to prioritize this project again. Even if other stuff comes up (and it inevitably will), I have a clear enough sense of the path forward that, with a little discipline and some boundaries, I think I could make good progress. Will the manuscript be ready to submit at the end of this summer, a full year after I originally intended to submit it? Probably not quite yet. But I’m hoping to get it to a point where all that’s left is some tinkering before I can send it off somewhere.

Author interviews

Earlier this year, I finally got IRB approval to conduct some research interviews with authors in my local area about the role research plays in their creative work, as a follow-up to my study of writing books, which will be published in portal later this year. I’ve talked with a handful of authors so far and have scheduled interviews with a few more. This summer, I’m hoping to start reaching out to more of the names on my list to see who might be interested in participating. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m learning a lot not only about my research topic but also about, like, doing interviews. So my goal with this project this summer is to keep going and keep learning so that hopefully I have enough data to start writing by the end of this year.

Department priorities

As I mentioned before, I was recently promoted to my first leadership role, as head of my department within the library. The transition has come with some challenges, both expected and not (see: my earlier statement on it having been a stressful couple of months) but this summer I’m excited to be working with everyone to identify and start working on some projects and priorities. From conversations with my director, I have a sense of what some of these projects and priorities will need to be, including some conversations about assessment (…yay) but I’m also excited to see what we come up with ourselves. If nothing else, having some projects to be excited about and find meaning in seems especially important in a time of upheaval like the one we’re currently going through. I’m also looking forward to some conversations I’m hoping to have with our subject liaison librarians about all of the instruction they do.(1) My goal with this is to get a better sense of all of the instruction activities that happen in the library and to help build something that feels more like a community of instructors to learn from and be inspired by.

Like I said, there’s little doubt that other things will come up, both expected and not. And of course the stress that’s happening right now is only going to continue. Maybe it will eventually get to a point where I can write about it without turning into a rage monster. Or maybe I’ll just have to keep writing posts about things that are making me happy to distract me from the BS. An overly long meta post on Our Flag Means Death, anyone?

*

(1) The organizational structure of our library is such that Information Literacy is a separate department from Collections. Subject specialist librarians do a lot of teaching for their subject areas but are part of Collections rather than Information Literacy. So basically even though IL is considered kind of the “instruction department,” there’s a lot of instruction that goes on in the library that we’re not connected to at all. It’s kind of weird but that’s the way it’s been as long as I’ve been here.

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