Jillian Collier is the instruction and reference librarian at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. She is a member of the SC Library Association and has presented and published on information literacy instruction, specifically focused on student-centered pedagogy and first-year students.
Jillian’s Twitter: @Chillyy_Jay
Jillian’s Portfolio: jcolliermlis.wordpress.com
In early 2019, I saw a call for proposals that was right up my alley. So, I submitted the proposal and got accepted to write a book chapter. Though not my first publication, it was my first experience with the format of a book chapter and I was so excited. Scholarly publishing is known for being a protracted process, even in normal times. We research, write, edit, get feedback, and edit again. I tell my students that this is what makes scholarly publishing different; the time, effort, and expertise that goes into a publication, so we can feel confident in the final product. So, what happens to that process amid a global pandemic? I found out the hard way, or should I say, the long way. Many things were delayed as the world dealt with COVID-19, including the publication process for the book chapter that I was working on. For many months, all I knew was that the process had been delayed. I knew that it would continue eventually, but I had no idea when. When the process started up again, I was also navigating the return to campus with my colleagues at Presbyterian College. Needless to say, it was a busy and challenging time for everyone.
For many people, these circumstances are still happening. The world, and libraries, are still navigating the pandemic and dealing with delays. The worst part, in my opinion, was the “hurry up and wait” aspect of this process. After I was notified that our publication process was delayed, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. When I did hear from the publishers again, it was time to immediately jump back into writing and editing the chapter. And then I had to wait again. This happened a few times throughout the process with the submission of each draft and waiting to hear when the next step could occur. The “hurry up and wait” mindset can be really challenging, and my advice for dealing with this would be to remember what inspired you in the first place. Especially when the research process is so protracted, you might lose sight of why you started the project in the first place. Be intentional about your mindset, and keep in mind what inspires you to research and write. For me, it’s about first year college students, and helping them to develop their information literacy skills as they transition from high school to college. We all have different things that inspire us or give us purpose. When you need a surge of energy, put that purpose in the front of your mind, and use that inspiration to keep moving forward.
Finally, in the fall of 2021, the publication process was completed and the book came out. After working on this chapter in bits and pieces, through Zoom calls and shared Google Docs for over two years, I didn’t really feel excited to see the final product. I was satisfied to have it done, so I could mark something off my to-do list. I shared the news with a few coworkers and friends, who were all more excited for me than I was. After the long, protracted experience of writing and editing a book chapter during a global pandemic, I had to remind myself that getting it done was actually quite exciting. Seasoned academics might say that I’m naive and that everything can’t be exciting. But I think your work should give you fulfillment, and yes, a certain level of excitement.
Research and Gratification
When you put time and effort into something, you want and expect to get some kind of gratification for it, as you should. With research, it’s certainly not instant gratification. And, it’s not necessarily tangible gratification. Some folks, especially those on a tenure track, have a tangible reward for doing research, getting published, and building a body of scholarly work with the knowledge that it will pay off in the form of tenure and promotion. But many librarians, including myself, are not on a tenure track and it can be hard to find tangible benefits from all the work that goes into getting a paper published when it’s not technically a part of your job. Personally, I do research because I am driven by the subject matter and I enjoy contributing to scholarly conversations. And, of course, I want to build my CV towards some indeterminate goal. I don’t know exactly where my career will take me, but I know that having experience doing my own research will benefit me in the long run. This is where the line gets blurry between research being a professional endeavor or a personal one. Yes, my research is part of my career, but my research and my publications are my own accomplishments. They will stay with me. I can feel personally gratified that I accomplished it. When I think about research simply as another part of my job, one more thing on my to-do list, it becomes exhausting. I start to feel burnout. As stated in a 2020 article that I highly recommend, “personal achievement does not fulfill the key role of burnout, but is a crucial personal resource to cope with it.”¹ So, if I think about my research as a personal achievement, which it is, I can use that feeling of accomplishment to cope with other stressors related to my job. And, there’s been plenty of that over the last two years. Now, making this shift in mindset is easier said than done. No one wants to be a braggart about all their personal accomplishments. But there is a healthy balance to be found, as we keep plowing through the challenges of our everyday workload, to stay excited about the work that we are doing and the contributions that we are making. Pursue projects that spark your inspiration, or publications that fulfill your broader career goals to help separate this work from your everyday work. What is your perspective on balancing research and publication with your typical workload? Has the pandemic changed the way you view it? Have you had a similar experience to mine? Let us know in the comments!
- López-Núñez, M. I., Rubio-Valdehita, S., Diaz-Ramiro, E. M., & Aparicio-García, M. E. (2020). Psychological Capital, Workload, and Burnout: What’s New? The Impact of Personal Accomplishment to Promote Sustainable Working Conditions. Sustainability, 12(19), 8124. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su12198124
Featured image by Martin Pierce, via Flickr
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
The expressions of the writer do not reflect anyone’s views but their own
Thanks for sharing your experience! I submitted two articles during the pandemic; one process went splendidly, and I really enjoyed working with the editors on the piece. The second one was kind of a nightmare? That hurry up and wait phenomenon you talked about was definitely something I experienced, too. That article never did happen; between the delays, the feedback on my article, and the fact that, like you, I was not in a tenure-track position, I ended up withdrawing the article. I appreciate that you touched on how the process can be difficult and dispiriting sometimes. I also empathize with not feeling a sense of accomplishment when the chapter was finally published; it’s a good reminder to celebrate it rather than just feeling content crossing it off your to-do list.