Reduction(s), resilience, reinvention, RIF (reductions in force), retirement, restructuring, reorganizing, retention, revenue, and the list could go on.  The story of what has been happening at my college for the past three years is not unlike many others, although our situation may be a bit more dramatic.

The first version of this post contained several paragraphs explaining how my institution and my library as part of that institution, got here.  Where is “here”? It will sound familiar to many of you. “Here” is four years of budget cuts, elimination of open staff and faculty lines, over 10% of the college’s staff taking advantage of a separation incentive package, and low morale. But “here” is also a new food pantry for students opening up and exciting open pedagogy initiatives (yup – this is a domain of MY own!).

I tell you this not to ask for your sympathy, or empathy, or pity. I decided to write about it because the realities of work every day have become, for me, a test of my own integrity as a librarian, as a senior administrator, and as a colleague to my coworkers in the library.

I have been reading and rereading the BeerBrarian post from last July, Academic Libraries and the False Promises of Resiliency.  In that post, Angela Galvan writes, “Resilience offers opportunities for survival, but only if it comes from institutions and not to exploit workers, which is how resilience is currently modeled in higher education in particular. Resilience in libraries is point blank exploitative.”

I don’t talk about resilience with my coworkers. And I have never been able to embrace the value of academic libraries work that is immersed in ROI, analytics, and other forms of reporting. I’ll write about that value stuff some other time. What keeps me up at night is my commitment to helping staff continue to feel valued in an environment where insecurity has been the norm for a while.

What am I doing? Promising everyone I won’t lie to them, but may also sometimes have to tell them that I cannot share everything I know (and I’m OK with that). Listening to concerns, fears, and rumors. Being attentive to requests from the pay grade above mine for us to take on more work resulting from the recent staff departures so we become part of those conversations.

But I am not sure all that is enough.




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3 thoughts on “The “R” Words”

  1. I am so glad to have read this, and I appreciate the complexity of what can and can’t be said.

    What resonates strongly for me (and I now realise this is another R word) is that there’s an organisational perch from which the practice of work becomes a constant test of integrity.

    I started my own blog to think about this dilemma for myself. 7 years on, it’s still there, I’m still thinking. Someone yesterday asked me how I came to write, and I said “I just couldn’t bear it, so I had to figure out how to hold space to think independently of the institution for which I work.”

    Writing outside of where I was has gifted me a strong sense of network and allyship. I wish you all the same blessing.

    Lovely blog.

    1. Thank you so much for this Kate! It means a lot. My blog is pretty new as you can see but it came from that same sense of needing a place to for me to think and to invite others to help me do that. And I am very happy to add resonate to that list of R words.

  2. Brave, candid and interesting post – it’s sincerely appreciated and great food for thought. You’re not alone in your experience of the pressures, and it’s great to hear someone put such a voice to it. Students and education are the purpose, not the byproduct. Best wishes with the food pantry and pedagogical initiatives.

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