This is the first post from co-founder and editor Katlyn Griffin. She is an Information Literacy Librarian at Southeast Missouri State University.
I am currently over halfway through my second fall semester as a tenure-track instruction librarian. After graduating library school in May 2016, I accepted a faculty position as an information literacy librarian at Southeast Missouri State University. Like most tenure-track positions, research and scholarship is part of job in addition to teaching, committees, reference shifts, and other projects. Research was something I was excited about when I accepted this position, but at times in the last year, I have felt mostly stress and anxiety about that portion of my responsibilities. I am in a constant state of exhaustion that makes it impossible for me to look more than a day ahead in my schedule.
Time & Teaching Load
As one of only two main instruction librarians at my library, I teach a lot of one-shot sessions. As of the end of October, I have taught 50 sessions, and I have more coming up. I wish this was abnormal, but I taught 40 sessions my first fall here as well. I don’t say this to brag about how hard I work or how much I teach (as Zoe mentioned in her LibParlor post, there is no award for the Instruction Librarian Who Taught the Most One-Shots), but sometimes the amount of teaching we are expected to do is in direct competition with our other job expectations, including publishing.
So, despite being overcommitted, I am still expected to make progress towards tenure with research and scholarship. During a recent one-on-one check in with my dean, we discussed my (lack of) progress towards tenure and current research plans. It was a busy point in the semester, and I was simply trying to get through the next two weeks. I didn’t have the mental capacity to talk about research I would need to do in the future to get tenure.
At one point in the conversation, my dean said something that I assume is common across academic disciplines: “You just need to publish something.” I know she is technically right, but I, as Lauren mentioned in her post last week, hate the idea of investing the time and energy into an article that I do not believe will contribute to the field.
It’s hard to gather the time and energy to research or publish anything when I struggle to gather the energy to teach everyday. I love teaching. I love working with students. I love making lesson plans that I think will challenge assumptions and get students to think more complexly about the world around them. But, with how much I have been teaching this semester, I haven’t had time to change up lessons and experiment, so I am not excited about the teaching I am doing. Without time for reading about trends and new ideas or space for reflection, I haven’t had time to hone my own teaching practice through research.
Librarian instruction burnout isn’t new. Maria Accardi’s Librarian Burnout blog is some great reading on the topic, and there is some research on burnout in a library instruction setting, including a 2001 article from the Journal of Academic Librarianship. But, burnout is new to me as a library professional. I am generally a positive person, but I find myself being extremely negative and grumpy at work and dreading the parts of my job that I love.
Over the past two months, I have found that this burnout and indifference dissipates a little when I read scholarship and research that I can really get into and that I can see myself doing (most recently this Communications in Information Literacy article from Katelyn Angell and Eamon Tewell), even if they idea of actually doing research myself is still really intimidating.
Since last March, I have been so grateful I stumbled into (via twitter at ACRL) the ladies that would become the LibParlor editorial team. While I haven’t had a lot of time to pursue my own research, it has been great to have a support system to brainstorm ways to contribute to LIS scholarship and to share anxieties and challenges.
This is the type of support that is mostly absent from my institutional environment and is part of why I am so excited LibParlor exists even separate from my involvement as an editor. I was immediately comforted by Kevin Seeber’s post where he mentioned that it took him three years into a tenure-track job and eight in libraries to feel like he had something to contribute as a professional. I think we need more authentic conversations about the challenges of research, and I’m so happy that LibParlor can be one of the places this happens.
Like Hailley and Chelsea from past editor posts, I plan to use LibParlor as an intentional reflection space where we can be authentic about challenges and insecurities. Steps for future Katlyn include:
- Realize that “just publish anything” isn’t going to work for me. For me to have the energy and focus to commit to something, it has to be something that I really have an interest in. (Funny how I am just now realizing this despite the fact it is something I often tell first year students).
- Regularly read research and scholarship that interests me. I am going to make a standing weekly appointment with myself in which I read something related to research I may want to do.
- Acknowledge that I am burnt out and try to deal with it somehow. This looks different for everyone, of course, and I need to figure out what works for me. I’m hoping Maria Accardi’s blog post, Making Choices to Keep Burnout at Bay, will give me some inspiration.
Keep the conversation going:
- What are your strategies for dealing with feelings of burnout?
- How can we protect ourselves and our colleagues from burnout?
- What are some ways we can maintain a healthy work-life balance with high demands and expectations?
Featured image tookapic [CC0], via Pexels.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.