Tenure! A Failure In Our Field? by Sara

6 Aug

Everyone and their mother is talking about Librarians and tenure.  Ok, I am exaggerating.  Three really big blog posts have come out in the past 2 weeks regarding academic librarians and tenure.  It started with Meredith Farkas, followed by Barbara Fister, and most recently I found Wayne Bivens-Tatum‘s take on the topic.

Here is the very, very fundamentals of the issue: some academic librarians have tenure track positions and others do not.  Requirements for tenure vary from institution to institution.  Is it really important for academic librarians to have tenure?  Those who say yes focus on mutual respect from faculty, better position to push info lit into curriculum, and a chance to participate in scholarship (publish scholarly articles).  Those who say no focus on the publish or perish mentality, that we are more student support department than an academic department, and that we can become stagnant in our positions (a common complaint against tenure).  No, no citations.  Read the three above posts.

I write this as someone who has spent the past 10 years of her career at 2 different libraries that both had/have me on tenure track. In fact, I got tenure at my previous position and gave it up for a new experience.  My experience and point of view mirror more what Fister wrote about than Farkas and Bivens-Tatum.  That being said, all have important and valid points.

My first tenure experience was different from what my faculty colleagues went through.  I was not expected to publish and my packed was based around the impact I had on campus, with faculty, and with students.  It relied heavily on community involvement (on and off campus).  In my current position, it is very different.  I am expected to publish and not just book reviews.  I need to get grants, complete a second masters degree, get the support of my colleagues (both librarian and teaching faculty), and get support from outside the institution from people who don’t know me.

I never thought I would publish anything when I started at my current position 4 years ago.  I was working on the second masters already and knew small, easy grants I could get.  It was the publishing element that took me 2 years to even get an idea about.  That being said, once I got one idea, three more came very quickly.  This institution does give me time to work on my tenure commitments.  While working on the degree I got a small workload reduction and it was critical to have this as I worked on the thesis to finish the degree.  I have also been granted a pre-tenure sabbatical/work-load reduction to give me time to work on the research and papers I need to finish.  Is there a number of how many articles?  No.  Is there a certain type: qualitative, quantitative, success sharing?  Nope.  The advice from my tenured colleagues is that it should be published in a peer-review journal and the higher the impact rating, the better.  No, my previous institution did not require all of this so I didn’t need the time to complete it.

All three authors touch on the publish or perish aspect of tenure track.  Bivens-Tatum talks about the very important issue of librarians having no idea what they are doing with research and publishing.  10 years ago I had the option of a management class or a research class.  I picked the management class thinking this was the bigger priority.  I should have been require to start publishing while getting my MLS.  We all should have been.  Even though I run surveys, try to quantify my efforts, and do real qualitative research, I know I am not doing it exactly right.  This is because I have only been trying to actually do this for 2 years.  I agree with Farkas when she says we have more in common with student affairs.  I see myself as support for the faculty.  I have a very good relationship with the faculty in the departments I support.  I think most respect me primarily because of the work I put into our relationships and not because I am working toward tenure.  I don’t think tenure really makes a difference in the faculty impression of me.

I think the heart of all three blog posts is this: giving librarians tenure isn’t right for every institution, but the process may be wrong for those who are participating in the process.  If we are going to be faculty with tenure and expected to publish then we need to consider workload differently.  Faculty get a day a week for research and all summer off.  They get full sabbaticals and work-load reductions (depending on what they need to do).  They have a certain number of hours they work a week and flexibility in their scheduling.  Either librarians get the same considerations or the tenure process is different for us.  It can be a combination of methods to madness.  Do all the librarians need to be tenure track at an institution?  No, there can be a choice to participate or not.  Should we, as a field, put more emphasis on research and publishing?  Yes, especially for those of us who do know we are going into academia.  Academic advisors should be helping us do this and mentoring us through the process when we are working on our MLS.  This is what happens in other fields.  Undergraduates at my institution are already learning this.  Faculty advisors are already mentoring them through publishing and research.  Many have told me about how they are going to be co-authors with their advisor.  If we want to be publishing academics, then we need to learn how to do this better.

This is a great moment to have this discussion as many libraries and librarians try to redefine their role on their campus and as Info Lit is redesigned.  If we ignored what academic libraries and librarians are now and had to rebuild, what would the new librarian look like?  Would he/she need tenure to fulfill that role?  What does she/he need to learn to be that librarian?  What can we learn from the failures and successes of the tenure process?

How To Combat Impostor Syndrome

2 Aug

I have been thinking about this entry a lot over the past few weeks.  It has taken me a while to write because of this (and also, I am on vacation!).  After the two previous entries I wrote on impostor syndrome, most of the feedback that came back was along the lines of this: what can I do about it?  People are easily recognizing that they suffer from impostor syndrome (even a few men are acknowledging they have it too).  The issue is really how to deal with it.  My hesitation in responding is that I don’t feel like I am in a position to really tell you how to deal with it.  

It is not that I feel like I am an impostor, but that this is new to me too.  I just started learning about this over a month ago.  While I feel comfortable talking about what it is, I don’t know if my way of dealing with impostor syndrome would actually work for anyone else.  So, I am going to tell you all the good things I do, all the silly things I do, and what other things I know about.  I can’t promise these will work for you or even that you will want to do them.  I just know they help me.

So, what works for me?  I am an obsessive list maker, day tracker, and keeper of important things.  I, after all, am preparing to apply for tenure.  I need to be able to account for my activities and the impact I have on the students and faculty.  It’s actually acceptable and encouraged for me to ask my colleagues for letters complimenting me.  People rarely make things up, but I also know who to go to for the compliments.  I pay attention to the positive relationships I have on campus, the people who see my value, and with whom I work well.  My key to combating any impostor syndrome I have is to accept, value and internalize compliments.  Remember, I am in a field where people are quick to show their appreciation for help.  Since most of my job is face-to-face, I learned the body language of a people who need my help and when my help is appreciated.   The key to all of this is to not question the compliment, but to accept it.  Just accept it.  No really.  Don’t say “thank you, but…”- just say thank you both out loud and in your head.  

I even go as far as to write them down.  I have a little box full of little papers with compliments written on them.  I started it after AdaCamp after they did a compliment wall exercise with us.  We all wrote down all the compliments we could think of.  I wrote the ones I wished to hear, the ones I had heard, and the ones I thought others should see.  We did it on post-it notes and put them all up on a wall.  We were instructed to take a compliment when we needed it.  I got home and realized that there are days when I really need a compliment and days when they are in abundance.  I got the idea from Pinterest (I can’t lie).  I write down the compliment, put it in my box, and on bad days I pull on out. Not only does it remind me I am awesome, but on difficult days it helps me deal with the stress to remember a core value of my job: helping people.

Another trick I have is to track my progress.  My impostor syndrome issues really focus on my identity as an expert.  I really like to be able to check off all the boxes on the list of what makes me an expert.  I see the value in the degree over the experience.  I love things that identify that I have successfully done something (stickers, badges, certificates, diplomas).  I often overlook expertise that doesn’t have such milestones or doesn’t have perfect completion.  I have two ways to help with this and both I have been doing for a while.  For about a year and a half I have been tracking daily activities on a daily calendar.  I also got this idea from Pinterest.  I use a fruit crate and index cards.  The cards are cut in half and I have one for each day.  I have one line to write what happened during the day.  Each card can hold about 12 years work of days.  Somedays are blah, but other days require the smallest I can write.  I can see how things have changed over the years.  I also have a journal of goal.  I have a list of big, lifetime goals and yearly goals for 5 years.  I don’t always know what I want to be doing in 5 years, but as I know I start filling it in.  Each month I do an update on how I am reaching my goals.  I often sit with old years and read through to see how far I have come.  

So, that is what I do.  For me the key is accepting compliments and see progress on skills that aren’t formally acknowledged.  It took the amazing ladies at the Ada Initiative to really help me see what I was doing and to give me new tools.  They have developed an amazing training and have begun offering workshop, handouts and videos.  For those who feel they are drowning and have no idea where to start, I suggest the values worksheet.  This will help you identify the most important things in your life and where you should focus your efforts.  

Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.  What have you tried?  Has it helped you or not helped?  Share ideas!

Impostor Syndrome: Librarians, Accomplishments & Compliments

16 Jul

At AdaCamp we were given a number of tools to help us work through Impostor Syndrome.  Some of these tools focused on accomplishment and compliments.  For people dealing with Impostor Syndrome (IS for the rest of this entry), identifying accomplishments can be really difficult.  Even for people without IS, it can be an effort.  The same can be said for accepting compliments.  Those dealing with IS could simply decide compliments are not sincere or (and even worse) that the person giving said compliment will someday realize someone is a fraud.

I thought about my own experiences with accomplishment and compliments as we ran through an exercise about how to begin switching how we understand both.  Personally, I do think I suffer from a minor case of IS.  I know I have been trained to deal with it.  This is me though.  I am a of Generation X technically, but born on the cusp of the Generation Y.  I happy to see the world more like the later generation.  There is a lot written about Generation Y, the millennial generation.  One article (Allen, P. (2004). Welcoming Y. Benefits Canada28(9), 51-53.) talks about how this generation looks for three things in job: meaningful work, shared values with colleagues, and reaching personal goals.  For me, all three of these things are true.  Then again, here are some Gen X values from the same article: “self-reliant, individualistic and determined to maintain a work-life balance” (para 13).  These also can be applied to me.  

I mention all of this because I don’t want to speak for all librarians and their experience.  I also want you to understand why I see what I see.  I am only speaking as one set of eyes in academic libraries in Massachusetts.  You should contradict me and tell me your experience.

Librarians and libraries are good at sharing accomplishments.  We are great at recognizing the accomplishments of others.  Every year one of our major trade publications puts out a list of “Movers and Shakers” to recognize accomplishments.  It’s not a small list either and to be on that list is pretty prestigious.  To know someone on the list is pretty exciting.  As I mentioned in the last post, many of our scholarly publications are the stories of successful programs and projects.  Conferences are filled with panels and workshops with advice from those who are successful at what they do.  

Most of us do not get recognized for our accomplishments outside of our library.  At both my current and previous institution must earn tenure.  I had to learn to sing my praises to get approval from people who had limited understanding of what my job was beyond sitting at the reference desk.  To go through the yearly review process required me to look at the things I did all year and learn to make them sound more interesting than I thought they were.  For example, I doubled the number of instruction sessions run by the library in 3 years.  It wasn’t that high to begin with, but that’s still pretty freaking awesome.  I learned how to write project plans documenting the steps involved in projects so that I could see exactly what we did and why we did it.  I had to get other people to submit letters for my portfolio talking about how great I was and how important my work was to the library.  To see those specific accomplishments complimented on paper helped me really see that my awesomeness was not really the delusion of a narcissist.  I might not yet be a mover or shaker, but I have the potential to be one.

Here is the thing about the compliments I got, and the advice the leaders of the IS workshop providing, the best compliment is specific.  It’s not that I am awesome.  It is that I am awesome at doing something specific.  I have been told I am great at setting a vision for a project and communicating it to build excitement.  I have been told I am great at tailoring instruction to classes to not overwhelm students.  This is the key to compliments: be specific.  What is the compliment for and why?  Gen Y may have grown up being recognized for mere participation, but they value specific compliments.  Personally, I am more inclined to accept a specific compliment over a general one.  I can apply it to what I value as important.  

This is similar with my accomplishments.  When my accomplishments relate to personal goals and values, they are easier for me to recognize.  I loved badges as a Girl Scout and I still do because they are an opportunity to recognize some type of accomplishment.  To be able to have the visual to relive the achievement is wonderful for me.  In libraries, the idea of publishing an article is similar to getting a badge.  The published article is technically two achievements.  First, a recognition of the work you did and, second, the recognition that you contributed to the literature of our profession.  Even contributing to a blog can serve as recognition.

Here is what is really unique about libraries, compliments and achievement.  In the end it is all about the people we serve.  When a student compliments me, it means more to me than anything.  A professor I love to work with runs 2 sessions with me in her class.  One is a traditional session where I talk about research and they forget it all.  The other is a lab session where they come and work on their project and I just address their issues.  She has them do some self-assessment at the end of the semester and she always comes to me and tells me how many of them wrote that their work with me was some of the most helpful of the program.  These are not feedback forms, but free writing reflection.  She does not prompt them other than by asking them to write what helped them most.  That students would take that away from a class means more than publishing an article.  

In the end it is the simplest achievements that mean the most to us.  Why?  Librarians help you in a very personal level.  When we answer a reference question and impress a user, the thank you and compliment is specific to that interaction and that support.  Our value in libraries is to support our users.  The programs, projects, and field wide accolades all are in support of that core value.  We organize books so they can be found by users. We create archives to preserve information for our users.  We advocate for bigger budgets so we can support our users.  We build communities and run programs to support our users.  When the user is happy, we know we are awesome.

What I wonder is how we can use this to help people in other fields.

P.S. The Atlantic has a great article: Kay, K & Shipman, C. The Confidence Gap. (2014). Atlantic313(6), 14-16, http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/. It is about women’s confidence compared to men.  The article authors have a book out as well: http://www.amazon.com/The-Confidence-Code-Science-Self-Assurance—What/dp/006223062X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405541620&sr=8-1&keywords=confidence+code

The Basics of Impostor Syndrome by Sara

10 Jul

I would love to tell you there is a wealth of scholarly literature and reference sources to explain to people what exactly impostor syndrome is.  While Wikipedia has the beginnings of a quality article on the topic, more traditional reference sources don’t have anything.  When I ran a search for the topic in PsychInfo (probably the most important collection of scholarly psychology articles), only 10 results came back.  In a collection of business related articles (Business Source Premier), I only got 18 results back and most of those were news or magazine sources.  My point is, this is still somewhat new and talked about more in blogs and news sources than in scholarly literature.  This should not negate the importance of the topic, especially for women.

What is impostor syndrome?  Have you ever questioned your ability to do your job?  Have you ever been asked to lead a project, run a meeting, or speak to a group and wondered why they would ask you?  Have you done your job, done it well, but still wondered when everyone else will realize that you have no idea what you are doing?  Do you have a difficult time accepting that praise is authentic and meant for you?  These are all aspects of impostor syndrome.  

The concept goes back to 1978 in an article by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes.  It focused on high achieving women.  Their research found that it is experienced primarily by women.  This is not a difficult concept to understand and not a difficult one to treat, but it is critical that we do talk about it, do understand it, and do try to help people (especially women) .  

I first heard about impostor syndrome while I was at AdaCamp this summer.  What surprised me was the uniqueness of libraries compared to other fields.  Libraries are a field dominated by women.  We have been encouraged to celebrate our successes by publishing.  How many of our journals are filled with articles talking about successful programs over qualitative or quantitative studies?  I don’t think other fields publish like libraries do.

While getting my MLS I had a male professor actually complain that we do too much “pat yourself on the back” publishing.  Even I find myself frustrated with the number of articles talking about success.  For me the frustration is focused more on the lack of discussion about all the failure around the success or even the failure in the success.  Articles that talk about one great moment a librarian has embedded with a class clearly can not be scaled to happen with all the classes that could use such a relationship.

One of the suggestions at AdaCamp, as a way to help collectively fight impostor syndrome, was that we talk more about our failures.  This allows us the chance to see that the people around us didn’t just jump right into success.  It allows us to see the chance to understand that failure is critical to the path of success and adds nuance to our authority on a topic.  Personally, I think sharing failure allows us the chance to learn from it and to teach others from it.  

This idea, of sharing failure, is why I thought to discuss impostor syndrome on this blog.  For the rest of the month I am going to focus on ways we can fight impostor syndrome and, if people share them with me, stories of how librarians experience impostor syndrome.  You can share them anonymously or with a pseudonym.  Share your failures, share how you have been dealing with impostor syndrome (librarian and non-librarian alike).  Email me, leave it in the comments, tweet me (@librarygurl), or write about it in your blog (and send me the link).  The key is to start talking about it.

Want other things to read? Here are some citations:

  1. Bell, L. (1990). The gifted woman as impostor. Advanced Development255-64.
  2. Kets de Vries, M. F. (1990). The impostor syndrome: Developmental and societal issues. Human Relations43(7), 667-686. doi:10.1177/001872679004300704
  3. Kolligian, J., & Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Perceived fraudulence in young adults: Is there an ‘impostor syndrome’?. Journal Of Personality Assessment56(2), 308-326. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa5602_1  (this one looks at college students)

And We’re Back- Well, Sara is!

30 Jun

Hi!

It’s Sara- after almost a year away.

I know, it almost seemed like I failed at this blog.  No worries!  I am back!  Leslie is still in the UK becoming super smart about history and asylums.  I have been very busy with the normal hubbub of the academic years.  Everything that was not a priority last summer suddenly became the most important thing in the world in September.  I also want to acknowledgment that we were running out of things to talk about.  We felt a bit like we were going in circles.

It may have taken a while, but I think we are ready for the next phase in this blog.  Watch for some new themes:

  • Impostor Syndrome and libraries
  • Admitting failure simply as failure
  • Failure: talking about it on resumes and cover letters
  • Wallowing in failure
  • Burnout after failure
  • Failure as a conference session
  • When to admit defeat
  • And much,much more!

Want to contribute?  The July theme is going to be Impostor Syndrome.  All the entries are going to be about said theme. Anyone is free to share their stories about dealing with Impostor Syndrome, overcoming Impostor Syndrome, ranting about Impostor Syndrome, or even just wallowing in Impostor Syndrome.

My goal is 1 post per week unless there are submissions about failures or the monthly theme.

Project Planning: First Open Session Review

10 Oct

I can be honest about things and I know when I didn’t technically fail at something, but still kind-of did fail.  Case in point: the first open research lab session.

When we last left this project, I had been promoting, setting dates, getting excited and trying to avoid patting myself on the back for things that hadn’t happened.  The next thing I knew I was in bed for a week with the flu (or flu-like sickness).  It hit on a week when students were working on their first big assignments and when I had a few classes I had expected to meet with.  One class was specifically a research lab.

As I checked my email I was able to re-think how I promoted the planned open research lab.  One professor told her students to come to the open session if they wanted an extension on their assignment (8 of 20 showed) and graduate level students who needed appointments selected to meet at the open session rather than a later appointment.  In the end I had 10 people show up, which was a good number.

I know why they showed up though.  Had I not gotten the flu, I may have been alone that evening.  As much as I had promoted to specific classes, I need a way to remind people of the upcoming session.  Flyers around the library will work, but other libraries seem to find email to still be the best way to communicate with students.  I think this is the key to make sure this success isn’t a fluke.  If I can communicate better with the identified classes, then I can maintain a good turn out to sessions.

Want to read an a great article about this?  Here is one I found!

Torrence, M., Powers, A., & Owczarek, L. (2012). Research Rescue: The USF Tampa Library Enhances Library Instruction. Florida Libraries55(2), 31-37.

Project Planning Step 2: Just Do What You Want

26 Sep

There are many difficult steps in planning something including step 2: moving beyond setting goals.  It is easy to decide what we want to do and why we want to do it.  It is more difficult beginning to get it done.  This is even more true when academic librarians move from the quiet, project driven summer and move into the hectic, chaos driven fall.  I often have the best of intentions in the summer because I have no idea how things will play out in the fall.  I always feel that proper planning in the summer allows me to relax in the fall.  In the summer I have no real idea what will happen in the fall.  Every fall is different.  This is my 4th fall at this specific library.  This year I actually feel a little less chaotic about what is going on, which is weird and probably won’t last much longer.

I did a much better job of doing what I really should have been doing in step 2: promoting this and getting stakeholders.  I am just beginning to feel the panic that will result in just doing whatever I want.  My project, for those who just started, is running open sessions for the College of Health Science students.  Before I moved into actually talking to people, I had to decide who to speak to.  My stakeholders are:

  • College of Health Science faculty: these are the people who invite me into the classroom (when they can), encourage the students to work with me, and who want to collaborate with me.  These are the people who can’t always embed me in their classes in any way, but know how important research skills are for their students.  Focusing on this group brings me to the School of Nursing faculty who have been my biggest supporters over the past 3 and a half years.  I should include the Exercise Physiology and Community Health faculty who have recently discovered what I can do for them and want it all.
  • Undergraduate CHS students: these are typically the ones learning new skills when it comes to critical thinking and have to learn to navigate the library webpage and resources on top of that.  I rarely get to see these students as these students have so much content to learn, that time with me is almost impossible for the professor to give up.  The School of Nursing designed a freshman semester class where I see them 1 time.  The other two departments that utilize my services are still trying to find the right place for me in the program so I know I am missing many of their undergraduate students.  Few of these students are critical thinkers, but most understand the concept of research when you explain the aspects they need to keep in mind.
  • Graduate CHS students: these are my best customers, especially those in the School of Nursing graduate programs.  They usually just need help using the tools rather than understanding the big information literacy issues.  Most of these students have been working as professional nurses and don’t write the way we do in academia nor have they been doing research.  They are critical thinkers, but they need help with the rest of it.
  • Library & Campus Administration: my supervisors are stakeholders because we need to show our role in the modern university.  A successful program can be tweeked and used with other departments.  It can also be used in our annual report.  The College of Health Sciences can even use it to promote a unique aspect to their program.

I opted to focus on efforts on the CHS faculty and the School of Nursing graduate students as outreach efforts.   I identified the classes I wanted to promote to and got syllabi for them.  The goal was to select the date when students in these classes were working on assignments.  The selected classes would also see me early in the semester so I could promote this as follow up to sessions.  I openly acknowledge and don’t try to cram everything into my sessions. I can easily talk to them about these types of sessions and what we will accomplish in them.  I also decided to designate the third of the sessions (happening in early November) to RefWorks since so many of them have problems using RefWorks, but do universally use it on campus.

With the dates and classes selected, I have begun promoting the sessions.  Bless LibGuides and their calendar tool.  I just slap it on the LibGuides for each class and for the programs.  I even put it on guides for other classes.  Even though my plan includes three specific classes and dates were selected based on those classes, I want to see who else will come to the open labs.    The faculty’s immediate feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but nothing counts until the students actually come to the labs.  The faculty are stakeholders, but the students are the primary ones.  They need to show up for this project to be successful.

This leads me to Step 3: running the labs and measuring my success.

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