This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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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)_/¯

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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.

 


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#ALAO2015

Screenshot 2015-11-22 at 10.00.36 PM - EditedI attended my first library conference on Friday! I’d like to tell you all about it, but I’m not sure anyone who wasn’t there wants to read that. Let me just sum it up for you.

I have found my people. There were all sorts of different kinds of people at the conference, but there was something the same. Something I can’t quite articulate. People were friendly and welcoming, and that was lovely, but it wasn’t that. There was just some intangible thing that made me feel totally at home. Confidently at home. Empoweringly at home. (Did I just make up a word? Maybe. But I needed it.)

I helped with the registration table, calling like a carnival barker, “A through L over here, M through Z over there. Did you download the program in advance? Step right up and find your nametag. Would you like a free lanyard? Please see Megan for you packet.” Most validating part of the whole day? Watching all these librarians say the alphabet out loud as they searched for their own name tags. Sometimes they even got confused and started over or realized they were in the wrong line, skipping back over to the A through L side. It wasn’t just me! It happens to long time librarians, too!

I was a student volunteer, so I got to go for free. What a deal. I collected evaluation forms at the end of each session, and got to attend. I learned about managing student workers, creating hybrid lessons, teaching information literacy to students and employees, and creating programs for students to act autonomously at the reference desk. I met about a million other academic librarians and other support staff. I gathered a ton of vendor loot. I ate a couple rather tasty meals. Just a lovely experience.

Perhaps most importantly, I left with a feeling of elation. I think that maybe I didn’t pick a career in my first four decades because I couldn’t stand the thought of choosing wrong. The ultimate in commitment phobic, I guess. Once I applied for library school, I was pretty sure I’d chosen wisely, and I think I’ve gotten more confident with each term, each class. But on Friday, it was official. It was real. It was CERTAIN. I am so doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve found exactly the career for me.

Now I just have to find myself some gainful employment. Stay tuned.