This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings

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The Unexpected Cherry Doughnut


20180412_110122This morning after chapel, I joined our Trinity community for coffee and doughnuts and “community time.” I love when I can sneak out of the library for a little while and participate in these times on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. This week is especially sweet as the interns who are serving two full years away from campus are visiting for a week of intensive classwork. I grabbed the biggest mug I have and headed downstairs. I looked over the doughnut options and chose what I thought was just a glazed cake (or maybe sour cream) doughnut and set to chatting. When I got around to biting into the treat, I found that it was actually a cherry cake doughnut. That was TOTALLY not what I was expecting. I thought about throwing it away, looked to give it away, maybe break it in half to put half back? Then I noticed that it wasn’t half bad. I mean, it wasn’t something I’d have ever chosen, and it completely shocked me that I didn’t hate it. I took another bite and it began to grow on me. It took a few more bites for me to completely kick the shock of cherry with each mouthful.

On Monday the Columbus Dispatch ran an article about us. If you’d like to read it, fine, but the upshot is that Trinity is merging with Capital and we had to in order to survive. It goes on about how theological education enrollment is down because church attendance is down, and really seminaries just can’t survive on their own anywhere.

This is not the article we thought they were going to write. It’s not that there’s anything factually incorrect included. It’s just that, well, our lived experience of this merger is so much more. SO much more. Often painful, sometimes funny, occasionally tragic, but rarely hopeless, this merger is SO much more than a financial necessity. So, I just wanted to share some of that.

When Trinity’s “reunion” with Capital University was announced in October of 2016, it was a bit like biting into that cherry doughnut. It was NOT what I’d expected when I took the job just a few months before. Then there was the a much longer than expected adjustment period. There were some painful moments during that time, and for some of our community, that’s where the story ends. Whether they decided to throw out the doughnut, or someone just came and took it away, they are not employed by Capital University at this point and that is tragic.

But for those of us still here, this moment is hopeful. There are still many hiccups in this process. Yesterday, for example, I learned that all the computers in the library will be obsolete when the new network gets turned on next month. Didn’t know we were supposed to be working on getting new computers, but now I do, and we’re working on it. We’ll get the problem solved. Some student workers are still figuring out how to get paid because they work jobs that literally didn’t exist for Capital before they acquired a seminary. That too is getting solved. Today we’re trying to figure out the best way to order paper because the seminary no longer just orders a big bunch and we all take what we need. Instead it has to be ordered under the correct budget center. We’ll figure it out.

29570947_1677205795704082_538887565932537462_nThe big news, the big BIG news, though, has nothing to do with computers, or paychecks, or paper. The BIG news is that we are still here forming leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world. We have a new dean, Trinity’s first dean. She’s the first dean, but she comes as the next leader in a long procession of leaders who have worked to guide this institution. And she’s the first woman to do that here. That’s BIG! Want to know more about Dean Kleinhans and her thoughts on theological education? Watch her address after the installation last Tuesday night.

The installation was really lovely. It was more moving than I’d expected, and wonderful to have the family all together. We missed those lost members of the community who did not come back to celebrate this moment, though we understood their absence. But for today’s Trinity, we got one great shot of us together. This is Trinity at THIS moment, for good of for ill, HERE WE ARE!

Students who come to Trinity next year will have a certainty to their experience that the last several classes did not experience. With the constant effort of the faculty and staff working at it, we will level out the highs and lows, the unknowns, and the turbulence of transition. There will be more hiccups because that’s how it goes with institutions made up of humans. There will be more hurts, and more stumbles, and we will, none of us, do our job perfectly each step of the way. But we are hopeful! We know we can do this new thing God is pushing us to do, and we are actively and constantly looking for ways we’re being called to do it! We will form more leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world!

I keep saying that I’m on this train and it’s leaving the station. Really, I’m just settling in to eat a cherry doughnut. It’s the doughnut I picked up and it’s tasty, and let’s do this. I am all in with Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University. I don’t see any value for our students in a librarian who holds back. I will keep doing my very best to provide the resources they need from the library to be formed into leaders for Christ’s church. I will use all the tools at my disposal as a branch of the Capital University library system. I know that the staff who make up Trinity today will keep doing the same.

Then maybe next week I’ll blog about something else for a change. 😉


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This Liminal Moment

Before I go any further, let me just tell you that I spent nearly an hour writing this blog post on Friday, only to have it sucked into the ether because the page had never loaded properly and therefore wasn’t auto saving. My mistake, for sure, but the great frustration of it all made me put away the Chromebook and bag it for a few days.

I can’t just let it go, though. This is a moment that I really want to note. Thursday was a work day unlike any I’m ever likely to experience again. Today, these five days of holiday before the new thing, is a liminal moment if ever there was one, for me, for Trinity Lutheran Seminary, and for Hamma Library. “Liminal” is such a great word, isn’t it? The second definition in the OED says “occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.” It’s spacial, but also metaphorical. It’s the word for “almost, but not yet” or “what was is no more, but what will be is not yet.”

Thursday was the last working day for many at Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Every single person who worked their last day was a good and faithful servant to Trinity and it’s mission. Every one of them had stayed to the end, even with plenty of notice that their jobs were ending. A few had small bonuses coming to them, for years of service, but others didn’t. Still they had stayed. That says something about these people, I think. I am not leaving. In case you haven’t seen my other social media posts, my job is secure for another six months, and even full time. I am now Interim Assistant Director – Hamma Library. I’d been so busy convincing them to let me stay, I hadn’t expected what it would feel like to watch the others leave.

There was to be a gathering at someone’s home on Thursday evening, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Though I was scheduled to work just until 5:00 p.m. I figured I’d just hang around and then go to the gathering. What I hadn’t counted on was that that put me at the library, as each person finished cleaning out their office and left.

I spent most of the week accepting hand-offs. My office is littered with little piles of things handed to me with words like, “Hang on to this you’ll need it when…” or “Better file this somewhere. It’s important for…” Each hand-off carrying the weight of making this library run by myself, or at least “in collaboration with and under the direction of” Capital’s new library director. I CAN do this, of course, but it’s a pretty big bite for this new librarian to chew. I’m not ALL by myself, though. Late in the week we found out that one long time staff member, one who knows all sorts of important things about how things are done, one who can only be described as “the guts of the place,” will be staying part time. We’re both only contracted until December, but maybe by then we’ll be so efficient, and so smooth that the new director will see no reason to change anything but to keep us both as full time.

In early 2014 I showed up at Hamma as an enthusiastic library student. I’d completed just one year of my three years of course work. I was so welcomed, so nurtured by the wonderful people I found there. I cannot imagine that I’d be as prepared to take this on had I not had those very people around me, teaching me, encouraging me as I volunteered, then interred, and finally found employment there. I can’t ever thank them enough.

So, Thursday. Yeah, that was surreal. I watched as people left carrying boxes by the library doors and out into the parking lot, or stopped by to borrow a library cart to carry things to their car, cleaning out offices that had accumulated personal items for years. I helped the rest of the library staff finish clearing off computer drives, and sorting through file drawers. Then I walked each one out. When the last library staff person was leaving I met a regular patron at the door, though we’d been closed almost half an hour. He handed me a couple books he wanted to return and asked about the jobs. I told him I was staying, accepted his congratulations, and then turned back to the dark library. Thanks to our conscientious student who’d worked Thursday, the lights had all been turned out, the doors locked, things put to rights for closing. It was just quiet, still, and startlingly lonely.

20170629_174521.jpgThe late afternoon sun in June is plenty to see by, but it didn’t take away from the strange, eerie feel of the place. They were all gone. Only myself and one more would be back. My first inclination was to get to work. To set about cleaning out my office to prepare to move it, to get the files straight, to begin the work. No, it was time to go to that gathering, to feel the community that had been built around this place, and to share it again with these wonderful people. So, that’s what I did. I walked back to my office, which seemed garishly lit with the fluorescent bulbs, shut down my computer, turned out the lights and locked the door. I walked out of the library knowing there would be these five days of standing in the threshold before I can really get to work.

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Midsummer pause

There’s no real break in the action, and technically, it’s nowhere close to “mid” summer. Actually, we don’t even hit REAL summer for another week or so. But it feels like school has been out forever and this is the first moment there has been to sit down and reflect.

I still can’t give you much about my job. With 10 days to go, I’ve been invited to apply for the job I already hold (though on a part time basis now), with a description I practically wrote, and that literally NOBODY else given the posting will be interested in. I’m rather hopeful about my chances.

Besides the insanely long and drawn out process of figuring out what will happen with Hamma Library and my job, other things are going on in the world. So many other things. My little corner of chaos is so insignificant. I am so saddened by the continued deep divisions in our world. Our country continues to dig deeper into our polarized habits. We constantly discount the experiences and opinions of anyone we disagree with, often without even thinking about what the person is actually saying. You voted for Trump? You must be a racist, rich, conservative with no empathy for your fellow man. What? You’re upset by what Trump’s tweets? You have GOT to be some kind of bleeding heart liberal snowflake. End of conversation.

Like, really, END OF CONVERSATION. Anything said afterwards is just platitudes if we’re lucky, and more likely vitriol. We are so ruled by social media. I heard someone describe how we get information today as “through a fire hose.” So very true. It’s so much faster and with way more force than we could ever actually absorb. Then, because we cannot accept the input in that form, we pick and choose what to accept according to the dreaded “confirmation bias.” It’s a real thing. A real, really powerful thing. Anyone who tells you they have NO bias should terrify you.

I don’t know what the answer is. I keep researching more about how our brains work, how we are unable to avoid bias etc. I’m unable to find a way to gather news myself that doesn’t leave me even more terrified about our future. Yeah, there’s no doubt that I land on the liberal side of the spectrum, but I’m nowhere near the most liberal person you know. I know some folks who are about as far from center on the conservative side and they seem so very rational. So ready to get things done. Why is it then, that the only thing we hear from politicians is the extreme? Nothing is ever going to get done this way. EVER. If you listen to the Republicans, then the Democrats are just blocking progress. If you listen to the Democrats, than the Republicans are turning back the clock. In the meanwhile the “forgotten folks” is becoming a larger and larger class. I’m feeling pretty damn forgotten today. I hope we can rally the troops like those “forgotten folks” of 2016.

Nothing I’ve said can’t be found on the Internet in a million other places. There are hundreds of thousands of other Americans who feel this way. Why are we only whispering on the Internet? Probably because we’re the folks who don’t want to argue with our neighbors on Facebook. We aren’t willing to be labeled in anyway for our social media usage. (Okay, if you actually follow me, you probably would label me, and I can live with that.) We’re going to have to speak up, or the polarization is going to get worse, not better.

My children know. They know that there are these incredibly split sides. They obviously parrot a lot of what they hear their dad and I say, but they do think on their own. They ask questions that make me proud. I pray every single night that they never lose that! When did the rest of us lose that? When did we pick a side and just go with it? These aren’t sports teams, folks. Undying loyalty is extremely dangerous.

So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about. Not exactly earth shattering, as I’m sure there are thousands of us thinking the same things these days. We are all dealing with it in different ways. Some have become unexpected activists, making phone calls and rallying their friends. Some have completely tuned out, just ignoring the news and avoiding any Facebook post with a political bent. But there are some of us who are listening, but doing very little. I feel a bit like a watched pot. I’ll still boil, and the boil IS coming, but it’s just gonna seem like forever before the bubbles roll.

PhotoGrid_1497659563228Meanwhile, summer rolls on. I take a child to work most days, the other two stay home and do chores and watch many hours of TV. I sit outside until dusk, then hurry everyone to bed before it’s obscenely late. I worry about school supply lists and summer bridge homework. We grill. Man, I love to grill. I’m a privileged member of a privileged society. So, there’s that, too. It’s a good life full of blessings, but I want to find more, not less, ways to spread those blessings around.

And any free time I find, I read about Lutheran theologians. You know, because who isn’t fascinated by these old, dead, white guys?¯\_(ツ)_/¯


And lastly, I don’t want to close without acknowledging my friends in the LGBTQ+ community. I stand with you, friends. It’s Pride Week and I hope you feel celebrated! I’m still sad that such a celebration is even necessary and I look forward when being LGBTQ+ is just shrugged off like being a redhead, or a left hander. Different, but not so much. Just a different spot on the spectrum of human, of Child of God! My siblings in Christ, I love you, I see you, and I’m proud to be your ally.