I hope this post finds each of you doing as well as might be expected under the circumstances.
I live in Honolulu, Hawaii on the island of O’ahu. The City and County of Honolulu which is coterminous with the island of O’ahu has been under a stay-at-home, work-from-home order since March 22nd. The entire State of Hawaii went under a statewide stay-at-home, work-from-home order a few days later. When we began stay-at-home, my school was in the middle of our two-week spring break. Our faculty received two days of remote learning on remote learning, and we began remote learning with students on April 1st.
What follows is some random ruminating on this weird thing called work-from-home librarianship in no particular order which is probably very appropriate since there have been many days when listicles from Buzzfeed Animals like “15 Dog Posts From This Week That Quite Honestly Deserve Media Coverage” have been just about the only non-work reading I’m managing to do. So here goes, my personal listicle on work-from-home librarianship…
1 I Don’t Live in a Mansion So Here’s My Sofa – In articles about how to work from home, experienced work-from-home people tell us that working from home is work so I shouldn’t be working from my sofa. Well, I live in a condo with a significant other. I don’t have space for an office. I get that doing Google Meets with colleagues and students from my bed is probably not the best professional look around, but my sofa is as good as you’re gonna get so, “Ta-da. Here’s my sofa…” #GetOverIt #DoingTheBestICan
My spouse is retired and I don’t have children. How in the world are people with working spouses and remote educating their children even finding a corner in which to work?!?!?
In my search for a more office-like environ from which to do my librarian-ing, I tried working from the dining room table. We’ve had our dining room table and chairs for about eight years and I’ve always been perfectly happy with them. Only when I found myself attempting to type on a laptop sitting at what seemed to be shoulder height did I notice that our table is too high for our chairs. Now, every night when we sit down for dinner I think, “This chair is too low…” #StupidWorkFromHomeRevelations
2 A Lot More Dishes and Trash, A Lot Less Laundry – Yeah… #SelfExplanatoryThings
3 Bandwidth Is Limited – My home internet is excellent, but that’s not the bandwidth I’m talking about. I think the bandwidth in my brain is my current limiting factor. In a social chat that I had with some fellow librarians a number of folk who are very heavy readers indicated that they weren’t doing much reading. I have a stack of really exciting looking books sitting on a shelf that I haven’t touched in three weeks. The conversation and my realization about my reading harkened back to a Hidden Brain podcast where Shankar Vedantam explored “… when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing.” I’m worried about my 94-year old mom who is locked down in a nursing home. I’m worried about friends and loved ones who have been furloughed or laid off. I’m worried about friends that have had to close businesses. I’m worried about thousands of people in my community that have to line up at food banks to feed their families…
I am working from home, but my sleep patterns are weird so I get up at 2:00 am look at the ceiling, then oversleep and am late opening my library office hours Google Meet space at 7:30 am. I miss meetings (and I NEVER miss meetings IRL) even though I’m working on my laptop and everything is in my Google calendar that is literally open all day on the laptop I use for my virtual meetings. I want to do better, but for some reason, I can’t… #MyBrainIsAWOL #MaslowBeforeBlooms
4 Does Silence = Success or Failure? It’s A Mind Game Roller Coaster – As 2nd grade classroom teacher in the Hawaii Writing Project way back in the day, I remember being taught, “If you’re reading everything your kids are writing, your kids aren’t writing enough.” Over the last six years, our library has strategically and very purposefully moved to a “teach the teachers” service model. Our philosophy has been “If all of the information literacy instruction is being taught by librarians, our kids are not getting enough information literacy instruction.” Sometimes when you live by a philosophy, it can feel like you’re dying by one, too. As we’ve transitioned to remote learning, all of our teachers’ bandwidth has been taken up learning how to set up Google Meets, mute students’ mics, keep students engaged when they’re not in the same rooms, and just trying to make sure their kids are doing ok… Let’s face it, people haven’t exactly been lining up in droves to collaborate on new research projects with us of late. If I’m being really honest, part of me is very much feeling like the last six years of effort have been a waste.
The other day, I was doing “walk throughs” of virtual classes. When we walk through, we go into the class Google Meet with our cameras off and our mic muted. The classroom teacher was in the middle of outlining her project expectations and showing students how she expected OPVL annotated citations in NoodleTools for all of their cited works. If nobody asks me for help, am I a success or a failure? I dunno. Some teachers aren’t asking for help because they can do most of it really well themselves. #ImASuccess!!! Some teachers aren’t asking for help because they don’t know they need help and that good research strategies from when they did their graduate work in 1997 might be insufficient in the media ecosystem of today. #IveFlippingFailed!!! Some other teachers, still, actually want help but just don’t have the bandwidth in this particular moment to reach out to us with everything else that’s happening in their lives. #RememberEmpathy
This remote learning thing is one heck of a #MindGame #RollerCoaster
5 Email: The Digital Version of Getting Paper Cuts on Your Eyeballs – So much email. By my calculations it takes 27 emails to resolve an issue that in 3-D school world might be a 2 minute and 14 second interchange with a colleague in the breezeway between periods 3 and 4. And I know that people have the best intentions, but I kind of also feel like PLEASE, EVERYBODY STOP REPLYING ALL!” Sorry if I’m being too #JudgyMcJudgeface But so much email…
6 Philosophies That You Think Should Be Adopted by Others are Really Annoying When You Try to Live Them Yourself – I’m a big Twitter reader. Back, like, a million, bazillion, quazillion years ago in pandemic years, on March 31st, I came across this amazing Tweet thread from Angus Johnston who tweets as @studentactivism that made the point that:
… every direct-from-high-school student matriculating in 2020 and 2021 is going to have lost a semester because of this virus. EVERY SINGLE ONE.
… what’s happening right now is altering the life trajectory of every adolescent who is living through it, in ways that we’re only just beginning to grope toward understanding.
If you’re a teacher right now, your first responsibility is to your students. Not to your discipline, not your syllabus, and certainly not to some fantasy vision of a fall 2020 return to normalcy that you’re carrying around in your head.
From a reply from a locked account, lightly paraphrased: “People are freaking out about kids falling behind, Falling behind *who*?
Let me just say, that it is much easier for me to think that teachers should (of course) be understanding of students’ lives, needs, and life contexts during this crazy pandemic than it is for me to extend that same very same kind of understanding to my amazing, wonderful, but for now overwhelmed, faculty. #SelfSideEye
My information literacy instructional goals are important. They are! But I need to remind myself every frustrating remote learning minute of every frustrating remote learning day they aren’t as important as the human teachers that are giving everything they have to make it through today and making sure their kids are ok. It’s a library, not an ER so we’ll be okay if we pause our forward progress temporarily. #MaslowBeforeBlooms
7 I Miss My Library – I think I’ve come to realize that I don’t really miss my “library” so much as I miss the human beings who make my library space “my library”–even the ones who have irritated me and made me feel like crazy librarian man since they were in the 8th grade. Honestly, the ones that made my eyes roll back in my head the furthest are some of the ones that I miss most. 😃#RelationshipsMatter
8 I Wish I’d Said Goodbye When I Could’ve – As time passes, our reality is that it looks unlikely that campuses will reopen before the fall. This librarian-ing from home gig has made me regret not taking the time to offer more proper goodbyes to our seniors before we left for spring break. I know that I can reach out to them virtually and I will, but I’m mourning the fact that I won’t get to send them off from the actual physical space where we’ve spent so many days and hours together. I’ll miss the chance to say, “Hey, thank you for always taking the empty bags from the hot Cheetos you hid in your backpack and ate with chopsticks every afternoon when you thought I wasn’t looking and tossed them in the trash can outside rather than smashing them down between the seat cushions…” I want them to know that I saw them and that I enjoyed having them around even on days when it may not have seemed so. I hope they already knew that, but it’d have been nice to be able to do that more intentionally. #Sad
9 Have Faith and Keep Doing Good Work – I have a tendency to be a Davey-downer-glass-half-empty kind of guy by nature. In work-from-home librarianship, a Davey-downer-glass-half-empty attitude isn’t very helpful (and honestly, it’s kind of never very helpful). Anyway, when working from home, one needs to remember more than ever that through all the saddening isolation and frustration, if we keep doing good work, the effort makes a difference. The difference it makes might not be what we hope, but a difference for the better is a difference worth making. Sometimes that difference is bringing a little bit of familiarity and a little bit of joy to a 5-year old kindergartener at a kind of frightening time. As I was composing this rather grumpy list, I got an email from a co-worker who is also a parent of a kindergartener thanking my partner librarian, Nicole, for the wonderful read aloud time that Nicole has been doing with her daughter’s class.
In a world of work-from-home librarianship, that is work worth doing!
That’s all for now. Please continue to do the good work that I know you’re all doing. Please also consider dropping into one of the wonderful AISL Zoom meet-ups and share your successes, your wonderful ideas, and perhaps something with which you’re struggling, with a sympathetic audience. Based on my experience, there’s a pretty good chance that there will be a librarian there who may well have a solution to offer.
Take care, everyone!!! Sending each of you a **hug** From more than 6 feet away, of course! 😃❤️😃