Happy summer, all!
I hope that this post finds each of you doing whatever it is that allows you reflect on and appreciate all that is going well in your libraries and in your lives, as well as helping you to identify things you’d like to work to strive to improve in your libraries and in your lives in the coming year.
There is an old joke in education that, “The 3 best things about teaching are … June, July, and August.” Now, to be perfectly clear, I truly do love my job, my school, and my work, but come on, you have to admit that getting to have a preview of retired life for a few weeks every year is pretty sweet, right?!?!
The thing is, being lazy isn’t the only thing that I love about summer.
Of Course, There is Fresh Corn!
Stepping Back and Reflecting – As much as I love my job, my school, and the work that I get to do, one of the best things about working in a school is that summer serves to give me a natural built-in cue that it is time to stop to reflect while giving me the TIME necessary to actually do it!
When it comes to my work, I have a tendency to behave like a squirrel. I want with all my heart to be a thoughtful, reasoned, rational being that is strategically prioritizing my tasks and bringing library awesomeness to the hallowed halls of my institution (It’s Hawaii so they’re actually open breezeways, but you get the point…). The day-to-day reality of my work life, however, is that squirrel-librarian me knows that in the fall I need to make sure students know how to login and use NoodleTools… How to access our databases… What copyright is… What plagiarism is… How to borrow books… That they need to use headphones on their devices in the library and enjoy their food outside…
Squirrels just seem to instinctively know that when the weather starts to cool down, that it’s time to stash nuts and seeds away in a lot of different places. Not being an ACTUAL squirrel, I can’t say with absolute surety that squirrels don’t, in fact, reflect deeply about the type of nuts and seeds they gather and that they don’t very strategically plan precisely where each type of nut and seed should be stored. It looks to me, however, that they just kind of manically run about gathering as much food as possible in the shortest amount of time so that they won’t starve and die when snow is on the ground.
Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that as soon as school starts in the fall, I’m so busy running around “librarian-ing” that I typically don’t stop and think about whether I’m doing things strategically and rationally. From August to November, I am just so busy that sometimes it just feels like I am trying to get from 7:15 to 4:30 without giving myself a stroke or making anyone cry.
The school-year summer, therefore, delivers the wonderful gift that is a clear demarkation of the end of a school year combined with some time to step back and put my prefrontal cortex into drive.
Travel – I got to do some pretty sweet travel this summer! I spent time in New York City from where I was able to hop the Atlantic and visit Athens, Santorini, and Budapest. Of course, the sites and the food were in and of themselves wonderful, but while I was on the road I realized that I had done school reports on Greece and the Parthenon when I was in the 5th grade and had dreamed of seeing them for myself one day. I had not remembered that back story until I was actually sitting in a restaurant on the roof of my hotel looking up at the Parthenon.
The experience made me realize that saying that a good library gives a child the world is so much more than a cliched saying. I was that ACTUAL KID growing up on an island in the middle of the Pacific without a whole lot of extra household money, but access to libraries allowed me to dream about seeing a world that, in that particular moment, was impossibly far away. It took over 40 years, but my dream to see the Greek Isles and the Parthenon did, indeed, come true!
Make Time for Self-Care – During my travels I ate like a pig and still came back better able to wear the skinny pants in my closet than before I had left. A huge part of that is that I did an enormous amount of walking while I was on the road. It made me realize how un-healthily sedentary I have become during the work year. In my previous job, the library’s physical layout along with the fact that it was a middle school library meant that I instinctively (okay, maybe less “instinctively” and more that our program head MADE US!) walked the floor for much of the day just to be sure that nothing in the far back reaches of the building was, literally, on fire. In my current position, I spend long stretches working at my desk or working at the circ desk. My goal for the coming year is to get up and out on the floor and around the campus more.
I also bit the bullet and returned to masters swimming workouts two nights a week. It’s not been pretty, but so far I haven’t barfed or had to be rescued by a lifeguard with the shepard’s hook so I’m claiming those as wins! It’s painful and sometimes a little embarrassing, but I have resolved to not allow my anxiety and fretting about our information literacy instruction get in the way of taking care of my health.
Summer Session Librarianship Can Be Your Friend! – Our school runs a 6-week summer session. Nicole, the librarian I’m fortunate enough to partner with here in our library, and I split the session so she serves as summer librarian for 3 weeks and I do the other half. While not something I was thrilled about to start, working half days for 3 weeks during my summer is something that I have come to value greatly! We do a have some classes, but we also have time to catch up and address things that might otherwise fall through the cracks–those unpleasant, but necessary tasks like cleaning up our Libguides, for example.
This year, we are transitioning our students’ iPads to new filtering software. Being on campus in the summer has allowed me to try out teaching with the filtering system (our filters, as we are running them, IMHO, don’t seem to hamper student work and learning) and iron out some of the kinks that inevitably pop up when bringing systems like this online while I have a limited number of classes and students on campus and have the time to get things figured out before we hit the ground running in the fall.
Library Innovations: Sometimes just changing your environment helps you to understand what the information world is like beyond the K-12 world or even the immediate world of your greater community. While in New York, I came across one of the most wonderfully intriguing library innovations I’ve seen in a long while. Public libraries in the N.Y. area have worked together to create a “Subway Library.” Subway riders can log onto the MTA wifi service in underground stations and download ebooks and excerpts from ebooks to read on their commutes. Curated content can be browsed in multiple ways including needs like finding works appropriate for either short rides or longer commutes!
This inspired me to commit to getting material from my collection into places where my students are rather than lurking about like a used car salesman waiting for customers to walk onto my lot. Numerous librarians have shared their pop-up library ideas in this space over the years, so it’s finally time for me to commit to making that happen here!
Best Read So Far This Summer: I have just finished and thoroughly enjoyed, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil. O’Neil examines and explains numerous ways that algorithms and big data affect our everyday lives. As a self-diagnosed math-phobe, I fully expected to dislike the book, but took it up anyway. An amazing read that I’ve recommended to colleagues who teach humanities, math, science, technology, and social justice courses.
That all for now. What have you all been up to? Please hit comment below and share something about your adventures, insights, or recommend some good reads!
Once again, happy summer, all!
Breezeways–Ah! A lovely image!
What a great summer you’ve had so far! And so true that this I s an important time to both recharge and look ahead at the big picture. I love the squirrel analogy; exactly how I feel once school is under way! :0
I have been on-campus a good bit as well this summer, too, though not with a set schedule. I’m now Head Librarian at my school (insert trumpet fanfare here), and am also moving from the preschool/elementary side of the library to the middle/upper school side. Lots of great things on the horizon, and summer is the time to get a long view, make physical-space changes, and generally rattle the box a bit.
Enjoy those half-day breezes, and your other half- (and whole) days of freedom!
Congratulations on becoming Head Librarian! I actually never aspired to head a program, but I blinked and it all of the sudden it was on the business cards the school printed up for me. Hahaha!
The program head at my previous school, Susan, made it all look so easy… 🙂
You are gonna be AMAZING!!!
Hi, David, I love your posts. They always lift me up and put me in a happy mood no matter how I’m feeling! This one inspired me to respond and tell you and whoever else might be interested that one of the things I’m doing is re-reading a book! and for me, that’s a Big Deal. It’s Blackwater Lightship, by Colm Toibin….and since I read it when it first came out, which was about a decade ago, maybe more, I’ve been recommending it . However, I picked it up at the end of the year and realized within the first pages, how I still love the writing and the story. And yet, my memory of the details was very incomplete, of course. So….now, when I suggest the book, I will bring my refreshed knowledge of what happens to my suggestion.
I, too, love what I do, but I also love the summer, for the same reasons you do…..stepping back to look at how to make things better for the next year…and doing the things we can’t do during the school year makes it wonderful and necessary.
Bye for now….Mary Bagley
Thank you for the kind words! And thank you for the book recommendation. Blackwater Lightship sounds great and is now on my every growing “to read” list. https://www.amazon.com/Blackwater-Lightship-Novel-Colm-Toibin/dp/0743203313