Site visits

Jenica   April 15, 2016   No Comments on Site visits

My favorite part of visiting other campuses is wandering through their libraries to see what ideas inspire me. I’m at SUNY Cobleskill today, and here are my favorite bits from my brief visit to the library:


I think we too often just do things and expect our users to either comply or understand or both… But maybe we could actually explain ourselves. 

Slightly whimsical signs  

This is how the loud/quiet floors are distinguished. I love this. That’s all. I may steal the idea wholesale. 

Engaging students as people


Topical displays and popular reading collections aren’t the traditional “job” of academic libraries – but they inspire curiosity and engagement and isn’t that the job of libraries?

Productivity tactics

I’m in my office on a Saturday afternoon. Honestly, I don’t mind — I’m sort of sad that I’m not at home, where Gwyn apparently just put on her coat and hat and said goodbye to her father… just like mama did not half an hour before (aaaaawww.). But they’re having a good time with or without me — and I really have a lot to accomplish and I haven’t been able to get it done during the week. So I’d rather be here getting it done, than not getting it done — and be a happier partner and mother as a result of knowing I’ve handled my responsibilities. And working on a Saturday when no one is here (it’s a break weekend, so we’re closed) is one of the tactics I use to get shit done when shit needs doing.

Here are a few more.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 11.32.42 AMMusic. The benefit of working when we’re closed is that I can blast whatever I want out of the speakers I have attached to my macbook. Today’s playlist is pretty eclectic, and is making me very happy.

IMG_9447Multiple workspaces. I have an office designed for a Director, so I have the luxury of space. That means I have my traditional desk, but I also have a small conference table and a standing desk. And I use them interchangeably, depending on my mood or my task. Some days, some tasks, they just scream out for standing and thinking rather than sitting and writing. If I didn’t have these spaces, I know I’d be getting more creative — because I need the options if I’m going to be my most productive self. Before I had this office, I would go out and find an unused table in the public areas of the library when I needed to spread out and be isolated from my other concerns. I still sometimes go to a local coffee shop to write without interruptions. Sometimes I just go for a walk to think through a problem.

IMG_9446Folders. And sharpies and a label maker. In my digital working environment, I rely heavily on the OSX search functions — for mail and for documents. But in paper, which I still have a lot of, I can’t actually say out loud “find everything that says circulation in the document title” and have something happen. (I suspect my secretary would kill me if I tried. And she’d be un-convictable.) So every project has a folder, clearly labeled. It helps me put things in their place, to collect all useful documents and notes, and also lets me parcel out the work. Need to work on the grant? Grab the EIPF folders and put everything else away. I’m still a mess of disorganized paper, but it’s much better since I started doing this.

IMG_9443My whiteboard. I don’t know if I could do what I do without this capability — some days i just need to stand for 30 minutes with a rainbow of markers and figure out how things connect. There’s software to do similar things, but the ability to just put pens to surfaces and draw it out has incredible value for me.

IMG_9445Coffee. Don’t underestimate the value of creature comforts!

Manage Focus Avoid Limit

manage focus avoid limit


It’s good advice, that graphic. Our time should be spent on boxes 1 and 2. Unfortunately, it’s HARD to keep box 3 off your plate if you’re a helping person, or a reliable colleague, or your desk has a metaphysical The Buck Stops Here sign on it.

But it’s worth remembering. Box 1 happens, and is a huge time0suck sometimes. I have acknowledged and accepted that some days, my whole job is box 1. I’ve learned to delegate as often as possible, and I delegate those box 1 tasks whenever I can reasonably do so — sometimes, though, the only person who can or should do it is me. And so box 1 takes as much time as box 1 takes.

But box 2 is also my job, and it’s crucial. Thoughtful strategy and sound planning keep box 1 from eating every moment of every day, I’ve learned. So I’ll be working this weekend so I can wallow in box 2, which desperately needs my attention… and because no one else will be working, my only enemies of productivity will be in box 4.

How do you keep boxes 1 and 3 from taking over your life?

AADitL: Wednesday 

Heck, let’s do it again. Why not. Today’s a day with a much different rhythm to it.

7:00 — Alarm goes off. Wake up, talk to my husband for a while, read my email, respond to a few quick messages that can be handled by iPhone. The kiddo wakes up as I get into the shower. Justin gets Gwyneth ready for daycare and de-ices the car while I get ready for work. Gather up my laptop and work bag — including diapers and wipes for daycare, this morning — and head to campus.

9:00 — Drop the Pook at daycare. She settles in to eat her breakfast and happily waves bye-bye to me as I leave.

9:10 — Leave campus and drive downtown. Order a bagel and coffee at the Bagelry, and sit down to review grant budget options worked up yesterday.

9:40 — Back to campus, to the library. Check in with my secretary and Assistant Director about any outstanding morning issues, triage email, update the grant budget spreadsheets and send to my partner at Oneonta.

10:00 — Call with grant partner at Oneonta.

10:45 — Finish (very productive!) call, reserve a hotel room for a newly planned trip to visit Oneonta, and fill out travel paperwork and fleet vehicle reservation forms.

11:00 — Office… stuff. Email. Software updates on my laptop. Return a few quick voicemails received. 10 minute Facebook break to update family group about my adjusted travel plans for April.

11:40 — Opened the SUNY Learning Commons site for the Office of Library and Information Services, and reviewed the documents there on our exploration of modern ILSs for our pending SUNY-wide migration… begin looking at documents and decide that needs more attention than I have right now.

11:50 — Go talk to a Center staff member about the ongoing China paperwork saga, and another about yesterday’s email issue. Come back to my office to meet with an intern who’s working on an exhibit for Frederick Crumb’s birthday (we named a library after him, I think the campus should know who he was!). Cross paths with the student working on another independent digitization project, talk to her about her progress. Buy my lunch, and take a few photos of the (packed!) library spaces to share with the new provost.

12:30 — Lunch break. Eat and save a tiny civilization from zombies (Rebuild 3) and listen to an audiobook (The Aeronaut’s Windlass).

1:00 — After a break to make coffee, get water, and print a few editing copies of documents, I talk through a few issues with my secretary and respond to a few more email messages.

1:30 — Get started on second drafts of two projects. Reviewed edits and feedback. Read Deanna Marcum’s latest Ithaka S+R Issue Brief, Library Leadership for the Digital Age, as inspiration. Found a few great, challenging quotes to frame my thinking. For example:

While a great many librarians understand that libraries for all practical purposes are digital, there are still a number of librarians who believe that digital activities are in addition to the core. We are no longer waiting for the digital revolution to happen. It is here. Print collections continue to have great scholarly value, but students are seeking digital information—when they want it, on any device, from anywhere.

Scribbled a bunch of thoughts. Crossed them out. Scribbled new ones. Started thinking about core services in a digital library age. Hit my stride. Reformatted a section of the libraries’ staffing plan, and began writing the last portion of it.

3:00 — Took a break to stretch and think. Ordered the table banners for the Center. Wrote and printed an update for the benefactors of the Center.

3:40 — Received the MOU for our SUNY grant for Applied Learning, and began thinking about that.

4:00 — Professional reading. ACRL/IPEDS revisions. Scheduling an iSchool LIS Guiding Council meeting. Poking about in the SUNY Center for Professional Development offerings. Ended up on the Schol-comm-L problem. This is the best summation I’ve seen. “Cry me a (White Male) River”.

4:40 — Time to go get the Pook. Husband says we’re having stromboli for dinner. And I’m calling it a day, for today. Shorter than usual, but really, really productive in lots of non-tangible ways. And that’s the way of it, some days — not much to show for my time, but lots of brain work done or moved forward or in some way jumpstarted.

Academic Administrator Day in the Life

I’ll be honest: I started doing “day in the life” posts because I liked the idea of sharing the experience that is my piece of the puzzle of academic librarianship. But today, I’m writing this one because I need to give myself a pep talk about what I do all day. So here’s my day. I’m hoping I show myself that I am busier, and more productive, than I realize when it’s dinnertime and my to-do list stretches out ahead of me. And while I do that, maybe I’ll shine some light on what administrators do all day, over in our cushy ivory towers. (snerk.)

8:15 — Roll into campus. Buy coffee and a breakfast sandwich then walk across campus with the Provost, a VP, and a colleague from Advancement as we head to the Leadership Forum meeting. Congratulate colleagues on the super-successful Bicentennial party on Friday. Talk with another colleague about endowments and scholarships.

8:30 — Leadership Forum. Discussions of ongoing strategic planning efforts, small group discussions, next steps, information sharing. Some communal venting. Talk with the President about some paperwork issues that her staff and my staff are collaborating on regarding our International Education China visit, and confirm that the MOU on our applied learning grant has been received.

10:15 — Walk to my office. Email. Read 20 new messages, triage/forward/respond as appropriate. Check my calendar, cancel my meeting at 11 because I have nothing new for that librarian and we both have work to do. Email email email — ordering tech for the new Center, approving communications, delegating tasks to secretaries, forwarding messages to librarians, snarking with staff over beer cans found in our library trash overnight, more checkins on the paperwork for the China trip. Email around trying to figure out who has the log in info for IPEDS, as I realized that I was conflating the April 30 deadline for ACRL data with the April 6 deadline for IPEDS data, and April 6 is SOON.

11:00 — Work on an adjusted budget for the Applied Learning grant, considering a 3 year timeframe rather than 5, and a 25% reduction in overall funding. Come up with two workable options in prep for a conference call tomorrow morning.

11:30 — Lunch. Go get a quesadilla, bring it back to my office. Begin prepping for 12:30 Applied Learning Think Tank meeting. Review notes from last meeting, print starting point docs for the group, head over to the Center.

12:30 — Applied Learning Think Tank. Today’s topic was Learning Outcomes. Discuss discuss discuss. Take copious notes. Thank them effusively for engaging so sincerely.

1:30 — Pause before going back to my office to talk to a faculty member about possible internship and service learning synergies and collaborations. Good stuff, and useful. Talk with a Center staff member about an email we need to address jointly.

2:00 — Meet with a faculty member about start-up funding for an applied learning project involving Cuba. Agree to fund the start-up, discuss a bunch of useful and interesting things.

2:30 — Read the reports on the agenda for the SUNY Council of Library Directors conference call. Find the login information for the Zoom meeting. Pull it up, and throw it on the second monitor to wait. With help from Institutional Assessment, I successfully log in to both IPEDS and ACRL stats forms and assess what they want us to assess this year, and write an email to relevant library staff asking for data not in my keeping.

3:00 — Conference call starts. Discussion of strategic reorganization planning process with Ithaka S+R, of delivery options for ILL materials, and then…

3:20 — Log off conference call because my student appointment shows up. Answer a bunch of questions about library services for a sociology student doing a class project. When she leaves she lets me know she’ll be sending her roommate over for a library research consultation because “she’s taking two Art History classes and she’s kind of scared and she needs to know about this”.

3:45 — Spend 15 minutes tweaking and finishing artwork/layout for table banners for the Center for Applied Learning. Nice creative outlet in a short window of time.

4:00 — Walk to the President’s house for a reception thanking and honoring the faculty mentors who support our Presidential Scholars (students doing seriously cool academic and independent research projects). Talk to a whole lot of colleagues about stuff personal and professional. Talk to a few students about the hilarity that is Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Talk to a faculty member about the email problem from the early afternoon. Frustrate her with my response, leave frustrated.

5:20 — Get home, and take possession of my kiddo. Play-doh, make spaghetti and meatballs, and queue up Curious George.

6:30 — While she eats I sit down to work at my laptop and send a few more emails, one about the other email (because email is recursive), decide that I feel like I got nothing done, and decide to write this out while the kiddo covers herself in red sauce, and asks for seconds, and devours all of it.

And now it’s 7:15 and it’s bathtime for tiny humans, and I guess maybe I did get some things done today. I hope you did, too.