What I’m Thinking About in November

Long time no see! I want to pop in here and share some things I have been reading/watching along with my election thoughts.

Both the Parts and the Whole: Leadership and Systems Thinking
I read this in preparation for a meeting with my supervisor. I mentioned that I was interested in learning more about systems thinking so this was her suggestion. I thought this was a really helpful introduction into systems thinking and I found it easy to frame examples from my own life with a systems thinking approach.

  • Takeaway 1: Today’s solutions can become tomorrows problems if they are not well thought out (i.e. we look at the whole system and not just the problem in front of us). We must balance quick fixes with long term solutions so that we minimize the problems we run into later. Shooting the alligator vs draining the swamp.
  • Key Takeaway 2: Goal Displacement is what happens when we focus more on the “how” (i.e. bureaucratic processes) instead of the “why” (our organizational goals and values). I think many of us can find examples of this in our organizations.
  • Key Takeaway 3: We do not want systems with a lot of friction. Friction leads to exhaustion, cynicism and apathy.

Thinking in Systems (Chapter 1)
In this introductory chapter, I got a more in-depth overview of systems thinking.

  • When we are looking at systems (which are made up of elements, interconnections, and functions), pay less attention to the elements, and more attention to those interconnections or relationships.
  • If you want to know what the function/purpose of a system is, just look at what it does. Stated goals and aspirations are not the same as a systems function/purpose. This can be seen when we talk about anti-racism work. We can say we are doing the work, but if we aren’t ACTUALLY doing the work, it will be obvious.

Are white women going to fuck it up again in 2020
In this video, Kimberly Foster interviews Jenna Arnold, author of Raising Our Hands: How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations, Start Accepting Responsibility, and Find Our Place on the New Frontlines. 

  • This video really reinforced meeting people where they are. It makes no sense for me to give my Tr*mp-voting aunt a James Baldwin book and to expect her to read it AND to understand it. We must work hard to talk to the communities we are accepted into. I am trying to navigate how to have these conversations within my own family.
  • White progressive women need to practice more humility and stop performing wokeness for each other. This point comes from an observation Jenna made during her research. She talked about how progressive white women could never really get to the meat of conversations with each other. There was very little curiosity and a lot of one-upping each other on the fine details and nuances of social justice issues which obviously isn’t very conducive to action or progress.
  • Somewhat relatedly, this video reminded me of White Supremacy Cultures’ role in reinforcing this behavior from white women (and people in general). Off the top of my head, I think about defensiveness and perfectionism as characteristics of White Supremacy Culture and how this overlapped with what Jenna saw in her research.

From Being to Doing: AntiRacism as Action at Work
This was a an ALAO conference session by Ione Damasco that I watched asynchronously. I am always interested in how we can go beyond talking about issues to putting in some actual work.

  • Ione’s presentation went through some of the characteristics of White Supremacy Culture and offered liberating actions we could take against those characteristics.
  • My biggest takeaway from this  presentation was the mention of generous accountability coined by McKensie Mack.

Shifting the Center: Transforming Academic Libraries through Generous Accountability
I wanted to see the context in which the term generous accountability was used, so I watched this presentation by McKensie Mack (they/them/theirs).

  • McKensie also discusses how White Supremacy Culture and how libraries continue to perpetuate the characteristics. They also touched on how White Supremacy Culture makes accountability feel punitive, bad and scary due to the focus on defensiveness, perfectionism, etc.
  • McKensie reminds us that accountability should not be seen as punishment! This made me think about previous conversations I’ve had with people about cultural humility (or just humility) and being able to accept being wrong, learning from mistakes, and moving forward. Can you even imagine accountability that does not feel like punishment? This is something I will have to work hard to unlearn.

Challenging the Good Fit Narrative: Creating Inclusive Recruitment Practices in Academic Libraries
I read this article for a workplace discussion on EDI and this was pretty eye-opening. It talks about this notion of a candidate being a “good fit” and how this can be coded language to exclude people of color (or anyone outside the white supremacy culture norm) from the organization. I thought this was super interesting, especially how the research shows that most people can’t even articulate what a “good fit” is, but use it as a way to exclude people. Obviously there was a conversation about how this takes so many diverse candidates out out of the pool. This then leaves the impression that there aren’t enough people of color out there and is the reason why our organizations diversity percentages are pathetic. The authors talk about “extending fit” vs. “good fit” and how we should consider the former. We might actually want people who will come in and challenge the ways we see and do things. This is how our organizations can evolve.

So those are some of the things that have been percolating in my brain the last couple of weeks! Let me know if you read/watch any of them and have any thoughts.

As of writing this, Joe Biden won the Presidential Election and this has drudged up a lot of things to think about. I am relieved, but has shown me how the systems we are part of at a micro level are mirrored at a micro level. Let me explain.

We talk a lot about anti-racism work in libraries and how it should not be the responsibility of BIPOC to educate folks or to do the work on their own (and without compensation!) Everyone has a part to play, not just BIPOC. And most of the time, BIPOC are already doing the work with no credit or compensation OR with very tokenized acts of acknowledgement.

Now look at the voting demographics of this election, where we see Black people showing up for our democracy, leading many grass-roots organizations, and building communities despite the obstacle placed in front of them while the white vote continues to be split (weighed on the Tr*mp side). People on social media are thanking black voters and Georgia and I get that sentiment. But instead of thanking them, how about we actually listen to Black people? organize with Black organizers? pay Black organizers for their work? rebuild the systems that systematically oppresses Black people? listen to Black folks?

A familiar scene, just at a national level.

I’m not trying to be a bummer. I just wanted to share how jarring it was to make that connection between those two situations. Anyways. I hope wherever you are, that you are staying safe and that you can breathe a little bit easier tonight. I know I can.

Being a Diversity Resident Librarian: A One-Year Update

It’s been a little over a year since I began my diversity resident experience. More interesting is the fact that I have spent half of my time working from home because of the pandemic. Sometimes I wonder how different my experience as a resident would have been had the pandemic not happened.

  • Would I have nailed my lightning talk at SALALM?
  • Would I have learned some cool stuff at HILT about text encoding?
  • Would I have been closer to publishing something?

When I ask myself these questions, I guess what I am really asking is if I would have been further ahead by now. But what does further ahead mean and why does it matter?

Success in the tenure-track academic sphere is measured by how much you are willing to (over)exert yourself to produce things: papers, presentations, service, etc. There is the expectation that you work more than your 40 hours with the justification that its okay because your hours are flexible as faculty. When you combine these expectations with the fact that I am on borrowed time, I feel this immense pressure to succeed in order to ensure that my CV will need to be competitive for the (hopefully) post-COVID job market.

So what does this have to do with my one-year anniversary as a resident?

I’ve been reflecting on this definition of success and am at the point where I am questioning if that definition is what I want. Do I want my career to be so focused on measures of success that are outside of my control and dictated to me by my organization and the larger higher education culture (which happens to overlap with White Supremacy Culture)? Hell no. But if I want to be an academic librarian, am I resigned to conform to the system? I don’t know yet.

So in this first year, I’m still negotiating how much of myself I want to give to the profession. Do I want everything I do to be defined by my job? Or do I want to carve space for myself to explore things that bring me joy outside of my work. These are the questions that will guide me into my second year. What is the balance that works for me?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am so glad to be celebrating my first year as an academic librarian. The amount of growth I have seen in myself both personally and professionally has been remarkable. I even had the opportunity to be the Latin American Studies Librarian for five months! And at the same time, I have witnessed (first-hand and second-hand) how unwelcoming at the individual and institutional levels how our profession can be to those who identify as BIPOC. These experiences live side-by-side every single day and I am not sure I would have these perspectives if I wasn’t a resident. For that, I am weirdly thankful.

A COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter Reflection

I remember around three months ago I was crying into my partners shoulder over COVID-19. It was this scary unknown force closing down life as we knew it. I feared not only for my life, but for the lives of those closest to me, including my partner and his family, my parents, and my fellow librarians. There was also this continuous ache in my heart for those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 and the families they left behind. I cried not only out of fear and grief, but out of anger that our country mishandled the response to this pandemic at every step. The anxiety and despair drowned me for a couple weeks, making all of my work feel meaningless, but eventually, I was able to get my head above water again. We settled into the new COVID-19 “normal” which involved putting our grocery order in five days ahead of time, never leaving the house (except for grocery pick-up), and awkward zoom meetings. Working at home during a pandemic is hard. Working at home during a pandemic and taking on the role of Latin American Studies Librarian is harder. Nevertheless, I persisted, trying my best to keep my head above water.

Then the news about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery began to circulate, followed by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the country and police brutality continued to be an everyday occurrence on my social media feed. Then we heard about Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, Oluwatoyin Salau, and I felt like I was drowning again. The familiar feelings of despair, grief and anger consumed me. I spent a whole week or two bouncing between feeling stuck and taking action. I signed petitions, I shared resources, I donated, and I tried to spend some time thinking about how to enact meaningful change. But when we talk about changing systems, it can feel really hopeless. Can I really make a difference? I don’t know. But I will continue to try.

As a brief note, I want to acknowledge the privilege that I have as a non-black person of color. I have the choice to participate in these dialogues, to donate, to protest, etc. I even have the choice of stepping away when it all gets too much (which I admit, I have done in the past). But Black people don’t have that option. They can’t just pause because they are tired. This is their everyday reality. The least I can do is stick out the discomfort and use the privilege I do have to benefit others.

With that said, here are some of the internal conflicts that I’ve been working through

  • What are the privileges that I have as a non-black person of color
  • Am I even a person of color? (for those who don’t know, I am Puerto Rican)
  • How am I supposed to disrupt when I am so non-confrontational?
  • Where is my place in the broader antiracism conversations?
  • Is it possible to change the system from within, or does it need to be replaced with something new?

In talking about systems, our organization has made an effort to foster dialogues around equity, diversity, inclusion and antiracism, which I think is a start. I have a healthy dose of skepticism, especially as I learn more about how entrenched in whiteness our organizations are. For long-term change, I will continue to educate myself and reflect on my own experiences and biases. This is something that should be on-going and should happen regardless. The more difficult role will be to continue to voice my concerns and stand up when I see something problematic, try my best to be part of key conversations and decision making, and to ensure that we are still talking about these topics three, six, and nine months from now.

To end, I wanted to share a resource that helped me get through the overwhelming social change landscape:

The above graphic (and the corresponding framework found here) helped me understand that there were many different roles when working toward social justice. The work I do might look a little bit different than your work, and that isn’t inherently bad.

And in case you forgot, Black Lives Matter.

Transitioning to “Acting Latin American Studies Librarian”

Since May 6th, 2020, I have been the Acting Latin American Studies Librarian while our current Latin American studies Librarian (who is also my supervisor) is out on maternity leave. I will be in this role until she comes back around October. I knew the day would come where this transition would happen, but it didn’t quite hit me until she was gone. In this blog post, I will share some information about how we prepped for this transition and my initial reflections on this transition so far.


In terms of prepping me for this transition, my supervisor was very proactive. Probably more proactive than most. We had multiple meetings where she laid out the following:

  • the kinds of questions I will receive and how to respond
  • any of her reoccurring obligations (service voting/collection development/budget approvals)
  • timeline for specific actions
  • important contacts if I needed help

Because we are currently working from home, she also wanted to make sure that I had enough self-led projects for the next couple of months. We also discussed the institutional knowledge of her position, sharing how she communicates as a liaison, and the service expectations that our constituents might expect. To really solidify the transition, she also wanted to ensure that I stayed connected with colleagues and mentors, and has charged me with “flipping” my meetings with my temporary supervisor and mentors. I also want to make it very clear that this kind of preparation was always part of our working relationship. I wanted to see what it was like to be a Latin American Studies Librarian and my supervisor has always been transparent with her workflow. Now I get to really apply everything I have observed and been taught.


A shift in mentality

I’m only about a week into being the Acting Latin American Studies Librarian, and one of the first things I noticed was this shift in my mentality about my place in the organization and my willingness to contribute. As a resident, it’s easy to pay half-attention to certain meetings or to disregard portions of what’s being told to you because you are usually an exception to the rules for permanent staff/faculty. As May 6th came and went, I realized that I was was now inspired to pay closer attention to policies and taking more detailed notes in meetings especially since COVID-19 has caused everything to be very fluid.

Weirdly enough, I feel like the transition to Acting Latin American Studies Librarian came at a really great time. I was falling into a bit of a slump in terms of working from home and just my overall mental health. It was hard to find meaning in my work when it felt like everything was pointless. Now I feel like I have a stronger sense of purpose when it comes to my work and I am extremely motivated to continue to grow.

New responsibilities and connections

Almost immediately after the May 6th, it started to feel there were a lot more “little things” to take care of. Prior to this time, administrative tasks were exclusively done by my supervisor and requests from faculty would be filtered through my supervisor if she needed some help or wanted me to get a certain experience. Now, it’s just me doing the administrative stuff and fielding questions and requests. And this isn’t bad by any means, just something new to adjust to. One of the highlights of this adjustment is that it has forced me to become comfortable with asking other colleagues questions. For example, I had an e-book licensing question. Usually, I would ask my supervisor, then she would work her magic and come back to me with an answer. Now I realize that her “magic” was just her asking people who are most likely to know the answers to her questions. This transition has been eye opening in terms of surfacing the invisible labor of my supervisor and allowing me to practice my problem-solving skills.

As a result of being the direct contact and having to reach out to colleagues more, I have been in contact with people I normally would not be in contact with (at least, not directly). Again, this has led me to feel like I am taken seriously and that I am part of this institution.

Putting theory into practice

So far, it has been easy to remember the guidance that my supervisor has demonstrated in our time together. For example, whenever I am faced with a liaison email of some sort, I am always thinking about the following tips that my supervisor has told me (if applicable):

  • start with an appropriate greeting first then respond to whatever they said.
  • If initiating the email, the first line after greeting should succinctly state why it is you are reaching out to them
  • state my commitment to helping them to the best of my abilities
  • make it as easy as possible for them to access whatever it is that they are requesting (meaning links directly in the email)
  • never share speculative information as fact. Its better to admit that you are unsure rather than trying to glue together an answer
  • If you can’t get them what they need, always try to provide some other options or point them in the direction of someone who can
  • It takes 2 seconds to respond with a “thanks for sharing” or some other indication that you received an email that doesn’t specifically ask for a response

Tips and guidance on email etiquette might seem very niche, but working from home has increased my amount of email correspondences. Being able to communicate well in this virtual environment is of the utmost importance if I want to do my job well. Having this guidance has also helped my anxiety around these activities. Additionally, it is nice to send well wishes during this time as we are all in very different situations. It is important to be kind and compassionate during this time.

So there is my update and reflection on being the Acting Latin American Studies Librarian! I am curious to see what I have to say next month as I continue to adjust to this transition.

Library Instruction: My Trial by Fire

I originally started this post on March 1 

February and March are proving to be some of the most challenging of my residency thus far mostly because of all the instruction I am/will be doing:

  • 1 Workshop for K-12 Teachers (February 8)
  • 1 Zotero Workshop for Graduate Students (February 14th)
  • 1 (x4) High School Session about Academic Libraries and Research (March 2nd)
  • 1 Library Instruction for Undergraduates (March 18th)

As someone who has done pretty much no formal library instruction, all of these sessions spanning about a month and a half have me feeling really exhausted. I also happen to be writing this post right after completing that second instruction at one of the local high schools so it all feels even more exhausting. To make matters even worse, I have a lot of anxiety and stress surrounding this particular part of my job because I really don’t feel all that qualified to be teaching anyone about anything and I have a lot of self doubt and self-criticism going through my mind at any given time. Knowing that I tend to struggle in this area of my job, I have decided to force myself to do a bunch of instruction in a sort of “trial by fire”. This was strategic on my part because its one of the ways that I manage my anxiety. If I were left up to my own devices, I would never volunteer to teach a class about anything because I just don’t feel confidentcomfortable in front of a large group. I tend to work better in smaller groups or one on one. With all that said, instruction is becoming an increasingly important part of librarians’ job descriptions, so I need to stay competitive. Hence why I have opted for this trial by fire of just throwing myself into a bunch of instruction.

After talking to my therapist, I don’t think that this trial by fire is sustainable long term. When you do exposure therapy, you’re supposed to be exposed to a thing on a very frequent basis. I have weeks between all these different commitments which gives me time to wear off the high of successfully completing an instruction session. This lets that anxiety insidiously creep back in and then the trial seems like it was for nothing!

There is a balance between “it will get easier the more times you do it” and “lets do it 5 times in 2 months and then expect to be good to go in 6 months when other presentations pop up. I need to find a way to cope with this uncomfortable part of my job that doesn’t subject me to putting myself under so much stress.

April 16 update

The world has really changed since I started this post and I will discuss this more in a later post. Let me update you on the status of all my instruction sessions:

  • 1 Workshop for K-12 Teachers  (completed successfully)
  • 1 Zotero Workshop for Graduate Students (I was out sick so missed it)
  • 1 (x4) High School Session about Academic Libraries and Research (I survived!)
  • 1 Library Instruction for Undergraduates (Cancelled due to COVID-19)

The order in which these sessions were scheduled tell you the level of involvement in the session. So for the k-12 teachers, there were 4 of us, and I did a lot of behind the scenes involvement and research (including this awesome LibGuide) and only spent 2 minutes in front of the group at the actual presentation. The last presentation was going to be my first solo instruction planned and executed by me which was cancelled due to our campus closing because of COVID-19. Like I mentioned in the earlier part of this post, this was done on purpose to simulate a sort of trial by fire. Being on the other side of these sessions, I can say that I still agree with my past self that trial by fire is not most effective way to get comfortable with instruction and although I only did 2/4 of my planned instruction sessions, I have learned to not take myself so seriously and try to let go this perfectionism. I have also come to terms with the fact that I just don’t like doing instruction and that is okay. It doesn’t make me any less of a librarian, and it doesn’t make me deficient in any other way either. It is liberating to let go of the expectations that as a librarian, I must love doing instruction and that I have to be perfect at it. I vow to continue to learn and grow in this area but I won’t let the expectations I have for myself paralyze me. During this era of working from home, I am currently meeting with my instruction mentor monthly, and am enrolled in a self paced information literacy courses for faculty. I will probably end up doing the Zotero workshop again in the fall, which is something I’m looking forward to since I missed it the first time around. After having taught high school students all day, I feel like I can take on anything!

Being a Diversity Resident Librarian: A Seven Month Update

It has been six months seven months since I started my position as a Diversity Resident Librarian and there is much to reflect on. Rather than listing out my whole dossier for the past six months, I thought it might be more helpful to answer some reflection questions on my experiences so far:

Do you like your position? Was it what you expected?

I love my position so far and I feel incredibly lucky to be a Mary P. Key Diversity Resident Librarian. I have a wonderful supervisor and my overall experience has been fulfilling. Was this experience what I expected? Yes and No. My residency’s job description was left intentionally vague to allow us residents to explore what we wanted to do during our time here. This made it difficult to have any expectations, and at the beginning of my residency, I was unsure of what I was supposed to be doing. As time progressed (and with the help of my ambitious supervisor), my days began to fill up quickly.

What have been some highlights so far? What have been some challenges so far?

One highlight so far has been meeting and working with my supervisor. I say this a lot but I feel very lucky to be in her care. She is hardworking, successful, intelligent, and everything else good you could say about a person. I have learned so much just by being near her. She is an excellent model of a good boss and a good person. Another highlight of my residency so far has been the ability to get involved in some really awesome service, research, and librarianship opportunities. From doing a pop-up exhibit to helping show around a visiting artist from Chile, I have felt so lucky to get to meet people doing amazing work and to do things that are exciting and informative.

One challenge so far has been project management in the long term (i’m looking at you, research agenda). I struggle to be self-motivated when it comes to non-urgent long term projects and it has been easy to put things off. I want to publish something by the time I am out of my residency and to do that, I need to start doing something. Another challenge has been my insecurity with the department I help liaise to. Frankly, I am intimidated by the faculty and I often feel inferior to them because I (1) can’t speak Spanish and (2) am many years their junior. My inability to be fluent in what should be one of my first languages is something that I struggle with every day and makes me feel like I cant do my job as a Latin American Studies Librarian.

What courses or experiences in Library School would have better prepared you for your professional career?

One of the biggest gaps in my knowledge has been anything pertaining to information literacy and instruction. I went through grad school thinking that I would never have to do instruction, and if I did, it would be whatever I threw together and deemed fit. Now, being in an institution that has a dedicated Teaching and Learning Department, I realized that not only would I be expected to do instruction, but there is actual pedagogy behind this instruction. During grad school,  I don’t remember having courses offered to me that dealt with instruction, but this also could have been that I did not pay attention to them for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this answer.

In what area have you seen the most growth? In what area has growth been a bit slow?

I have seen a lot of growth in my ability to let myself make mistakes and note get stuck in my perfectionism. For example, when I first started out, I would read a draft of an email 100 times before I sent it to ensure there were no errors. Now I only read them over  around ten times. All jokes aside, I attribute this growth to my supervisor making it abundantly clear that it is okay to make mistakes, especially as a resident. I also think it has helped to see someone who I think very highly of admit that she struggles with certain things too. Just because she needs some help editing her writing doesn’t make her any less competent at her job or any less of a good person, so why would my struggles do that to me?

An area of growth that has been slow has been any interpersonal aspects of my job. For example, I really struggle with feeling confident doing instruction or reference intakes. I am the kind of person who is quiet until she feels confident enough that everyone in the room isn’t going to destroy her. I have tried to push myself outside of my comfort zone over the last 6 months, agreeing to do instruction sessions, talking to students, etc. and it gets about 0.001% easier every time I do it. I  have learned that I work well in small groups and one-on-one vs. in large classrooms. With this information, I can try to control these situations to make me feel a little bit more comfortable moving forward.

Is there anything that has surprised you about your experience as a resident? 

One of the biggest surprises has been the sheer amount of bureaucracy and politics in academic libraries. I am sure many of the people reading this are probably saying duh but it took being in this position to really understand all the passing comments made by faculty over the years. I could never fully understand it until I lived it and here we are, writing dossiers, participating in search committees, trying to leverage resources for student workers, exhibits, programs, etc.

Another big surprise has been the importance of networking and networks in general and as someone who struggles connecting with people, this is my worst nightmare. I have to work extra hard to ensure that I am cultivating fruitful relationships as I continue my career. Luckily, my supervisor has done an excellent job of assuring me that my people skills really aren’t bad and that a lot of the time I just need to let my good work speak for itself.

The last surprise was the expectations put upon librarians who are faculty members. Again, the dossier process, tenure conversations, service and research. All of these things were new to me. Obviously I am not eligible for tenure, but I am learning how to navigate this system to be prepared for a tenure-track position after my residency.

What does the word diversity mean to you in terms of being a diversity resident? 

This is a tough question and I plan to continue exploring this as I move through my residency. I am a member of a couple minority groups: I identify as a woman and I am non-white (Puerto Rican). My demographic makes up a tiny portion of academia, and an even tinier portion of librarianship. I guess the idea of a diversity residency is to provide people like me a place to continue to grow in the profession while adding some non-majority groups to the field of librarianship. That’s great, right? Yeah, I guess, but there are only so many diversity residencies, and expecting to diversify the field of librarianship through residencies doesn’t quite scale the way we need it to. Plus, not everyone has a good residency experience, and this could lead to them exiting the field all together, leaving the demographics of the field un-changed. Now coming back to me, having the word diversity in my title is… a lot of pressure. I don’t feel particularly tokenized by it, but I do feel like I am carrying the weight of that 4.7% Hispanic/Latinx ALA statistic on my back with everything I do. I feel like I am not doing enough for “diversity”. I have especially struggled with the feeling of not being “diverse” enough to be in this position. All of this is to say that I have a complicated relationship with the word diversity in my title.

Is academic librarianship still your calling? 

Absolutely! I came into my residency pretty confident that I wanted to work in an academic library. I love the atmosphere that academic libraries and campuses have. I also love the idea of working with students and researchers while also being able to complete my own research agenda. The real questions is what route in academic librarianship do I want to take? I am a Latin American Studies Librarian by training. Unfortunately,  those jobs are few and far in-between meaning I need to diversify my portfolio a bit. If I had to do something outside of Area Studies, I could see myself enjoying working with collections —Collection Strategist, Assessment Librarian— or on the access side of things. I could also see myself liking communications and marketing or taking on some sort of leadership role!

This Week 12/16/2019–12/20/2019

I apologize for the delay in this series of posts. Work (and life) have gotten very hectic and sometimes recounting it saps what very little energy I do have. I realize I don’t really enjoy recounting everything I have done and will work on figuring out an intermediary approach to these posts in the future. Here is what I did this week:

  • visited a regional campus
  • administrative tasks
  • attended my last Spanish class
  • found a revolutionary way to handle tasks in my planner
  • libraries holiday party
  • met with libraries marketing department about an area studies website
  • started collection development work in GOBI
  • figured out how to successfully scan items

Here are my general reflections:

  • I’m not sure if I prefer a larger campus to a smaller one. Do I want to be a generalist or a specialist?
  • I’m sad that my Spanish class is over, but happy that my Monday nights are mine again. Also, how do I plan on continuing my language learning?
  • Using a rolling task list in my Moleksine Weekly Notebook has been a game changer. I have always struggled with what to do with tasks that did not have defined due dates and this list on the right side of my planner gives me the flexibility to list those items without having to go back and erase them or run out of space. On the left sheet of paper, I have my weekly schedule. This is where I will put meetings or activities that are defined by time. On the right side, I have my task list. I brain dump everything I need to do at some point in the near future and then mark them off with an x when I’ve done them. If I wanted to soft schedule a task for a particular day, I would put an open circle under the day I plan to do it. If I succeed in completing it on that day, I just fill in the circle, draw the line to the bullet point next to the task, then put an x through the bullet. In my picture, I have “continue DACA LibGuide” soft scheduled for Friday. To denote that a task is cancelled, I cross it out. On my task list, “figure out class I want to take” is cancelled. At the end of the week, I see what tasks have not been done, and then I decide if they go on next weeks list or if they should be cancelled. I love this system!

  • The holiday party was really fun but made me realize that I’m really not great at socializing. Also, someone won a 100 dollar gift card!
  • GOBI work is pretty fun but the stress of making the “right” decision makes it difficult. I want to buy things that are going to be used, but I also cant say what will be used in the future, you know?
  • I had to defer my admission to take classes until Fall 2020 because all the classes I was interested in taking were either closed, not being offered, or at the worst times.
  •  The website for Area Studies is a project that may be beyond just me. I might have to kick it back up the chain of command. I’m just trying to figure out how to do that in a professional way.



Struggling with Hobbies

I recently read an article on Medium called “The Power of Exactly One Serious Hobby” where Elliot Hauser defines a hobby as “a specific activity, other than your primary pursuit, that allows you to develop mastery.” They keyword in this definition is developing mastery of some kind.  Elliot continues by saying that “[r]eading books is not a hobby. Becoming an expert in the history of German Existentialist thought is a hobby.”

Before Elliots article, I would have said that my hobbies include watching YouTube, Netflix, or reading books. These are all legitimate activities (especially for self-care), but they are not hobbies. The issue with the activities that I just listed is that they are all passive. For an activity to be a hobby, I agree with Elliot in that there needs to be some kind of mastery involved and frankly, I’m not mastering anything by watching eight vlogs in a row. Now, this is not to discredit the information and learning that can happen by consuming media. I often find watching drawing videos, bullet journal videos, and other kinds of educational videos to be informative and inspiring. But if I watch the video and do nothing with what I learned then its just passive consumption.

So under Elliot’s definition, what would I say my hobbies are? Cue my existential quarter life crisis.

I don’t really have any hobbies.

I don’t really have activities outside of librarianship that are done for both enjoyment achievement of some sort of mastery. Why? Hobbies require extra time and effort and don’t really count for anything. Isn’t it easier to come home and watch Netflix instead of drawing a comic strip or knitting a sweater for myself? The answer is yes, but i’m starting to understand that my seeing hobbies as waste of time and effort are illuminating my problematic thought processes.

Hobbies require extra time and effort and don’t really count for anything.

Most days, I struggle to see the value having a hobby can bring to my life. Instead of seeing my hobby as an opportunity to express myself, boost my self-confidence, and improve my overall mental health, I see it as a chore and as wasted effort because its by me and for me. If my professors told me to draw them something every week, I know for a fact those drawings would get done. If my boss expected me to produce a knitted scarf for her, I know it would get done with no hesitation. But when its coming from myself, I don’t take it seriously. I think this stems from being “such a good student” and “such a good kid” growing up. I always prided myself on getting good grades and, more importantly, on not getting in trouble. The product is more important than the process. My self-worth was/is wrapped up in these extrinsic motivations: praise from my teachers, praise from my boss, the avoidance of confrontation, and this idea that I  cannot fail. I became very risk averse and developed extreme anxiety surrounding these kinds of activities.

 So what are the consequences of this mentality when it comes to having a hobby? I struggle to be self -motivated in the pursuit of my hobbies because they are supposed to be intrinsically motivated. Praise for myself does not carry as much weight as praise from someone else and just does not seem worth the effort. Another consequence is debilitating perfectionism and fear of failure. You can’t really fail a hobby in the traditional sense, but I often have this fear that what I am doing is not good enough. With no expectations from external influences, I don’t know how to measure what I have produced. To compensate, I end up comparing my work and efforts to others and become disheartened and dejected. One last struggle I have with hobbies is that they are just as much about the process as they are about the outcome. As someone who has always focused on outcomes (assignments, tasks, good behavior, no confrontations), I struggle to understand how to focus on the process as much as the outcome. It is hard for me to slow down enough and focus on what I am doing because I am so used to sprinting towards the finish line with tunnel vision.

Now, remember when I said that I didn’t have any hobbies? That wasn’t completely true. There are definitely some activities that I have been trying to turn into hobbies:

  • Drawing
  • Knitting
  • Cross -Stitching
  • Blogging
  • Writing

Right now I am still trying to figure out how to take these activities more seriously while adjusting my mindset surrounding their value and importance. If you are an adult that struggles with a lack of hobbies or a creative outlet, you aren’t alone.

Anxiety, Depression, and Librarianship

Click on the comic to give Sarah Andersen that page view!

This comic by Sarah Andersen is the perfect representation of what the last month or so has been like for me. I’ve had my first okay night of sleep in a while, and my chest has started to loosen up a bit, but my anxiety and depression are still lurking in the background.

I objectively love my job. I am grateful to be in the position that I am in and grateful that I get to work with the people that I do, and I love the work that I do! But some days, its all just too hard. With the weather changing and my already existing anxiety and depression, I am continually struggling to just wake up and get out of bed most days.

Anxiety, depression, and a new job are the perfect storm for a bad time. There are so many new things to learn, people to meet, and things to do. My anxiety and depression also feed into my impostor syndrome, and they all work together to make me feel incompetent. When I am having a bad mental health period, my job feels like a burden. I am not excited to learn new things or meet new people or continue learning skills. Instead, I feel burdened by these responsibilities. And the more I feel burdened, the more I feel dread. The more dread I feel, the harder it is too wake up to go to work. Lately, its this self-fulfilling cycle that has been harder and harder to escape.

It feels like right now, I am just getting by. Only doing the things that are absolutely necessary for my job as a resident librarian. And that sucks because I want to do amazing things and be a great librarian. But instead, I feel incompetent that I am so easily overwhelmed. I feel incompetent when I spend too long on an assignment or when I feel like a reference meeting I had with students wasn’t very helpful. And despite peoples validation of my work, I still feel incompetent. Like I am not doing enough. Like I am not thinking hard enough. Not trying hard enough.

And in my worst times, my anxiety and depression make me question what I am even doing as a librarian:

How can you expect to be in a tenure track position when you can’t even handle a residency?

How do you expect to be a librarian when you suck at communicating?

How do you expect to be amazing at outreach when you are so bad at talking to people?

Anxiety and depression trick you into perceiving things in the worst way possible. They can really skew your assessment of your job and make you question whether or not you are supposed to be doing this job. Is this my anxiety and depression sending me these bad signals or is librarianship just not for me? And you can imagine the crisis that follows.

Anyway. I write this to mostly vent. But I also hope that someone else out there might read this and feel validated, or at the very least, seen. The more we talk about mental health and mental illness and the workplace, the better.

Living with mental illness is hard but one of the best things I can do for myself are to have some self-compassion and celebrate the little things (like sharing this blog post).

Recently Read: “Intersectionality at the Reference Desk: Lived Experiences of Women of Color Librarians” by Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho

My work as a Diversity Resident Librarian has begun to pick up which is really exciting. Part of the increase in workload is the fact that I have committed to some research areas.

The first area that I want to explore involves updating a study done by Jesus Alonso-Regalado. His work “Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean Studies in U.S. Academic and Research Libraries: A Content Analysis of Position Announcements, 1970-2007” provides an image of what your “typical” Latin American Librarian looked like up until 2007 and what kinds of shifts in the job duties, hiring requirements, and other important criteria have happened in the profession. It is now 2019 and I am curious to see if any more formative shifts have taken place since this study was done, especially since the profession has started to welcome some younger librarians and the field of Area Studies continues to shift around.

My second research area is a bit more broad. I want to continue to look at equity, diversity and inclusion as it pertains to librarianship. I want to further explore the role diversity residencies play in solving the professions lack of diversity, and I want to continue to explore my experiences so far as a Puerto Rican Woman in this profession. For idea generation, I have begun to seek out literature that speaks to the lack of diversity in librarianship and came across “Intersectionality at the Reference Desk: Lived Experiences of Women of Color Librarians” by Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho and I was shocked by the experiences these Women of Color (WOC) shared with the authors.

Before I go into my thoughts and feelings, I first wanted to comment on the choice to use a feminist interviewing methodology. As I continue to delve into topics of race, ethnicity, gender, ability, etc. really understanding the nuance of different experiences and situations is important to the discussion of these topics. I also appreciated the thoughtfulness in relying heavily on direct quotes from the women interviewed to stress the importance and validity of these women’s experiences. No need to always cite a scholarly publication to validate someones lived experience, right?

Now onto my thoughts:

The experiences these women shared were frightening. As a non-white woman, it is horrifying to think that these kinds of situations could be in my future. Its disheartening to think that I might have to work 2x harder than my white peers to be taken seriously , but that being overly ambitious could be detrimental to my career. The pressure and reality of being the token Black WOC or Latina (or other identity) in the institution must be paralyzing. For me, this would be incredibly paralyzing because I am not the “stereotypical latina”. If people in my institution are wanting me to be representative of this massively diverse group of humans (their first mistake), they are going to be disappointed to find out that I don’t know all that much about most latinx subjects (who really can though, there is so much to know) and I am probably closer to them culturally than their idea of what latinx means! This wasn’t something mentioned in the piece, but for me, this would make me feel invalid. Like I am not really latina because I don’t fit the image these people expect from me.

There are also cultural differences which might be viewed as incompetence. One woman mentioned how she feels judged by her colleagues whenever she helped Latina students. She noted the cultural importance of talking and chatting before getting to the meat of a topic, something my Mexican-American Supervisor has stressed the importance of as well. These kinds of cultural practices are important because they build trust with patrons and can make them feel more comfortable when they see a familiar cultural practice! So why is her competence being questioned for “taking too long”? That is ridiculous. In my personal institution, I don’t think this kind of cultural practice is a problem as things seem to be a bit less structured. But I do find the extra time need to be true.

With that said, this is something I find that my experience is reversed. I find myself feeling incompetent because I can’t do that whole social practice of small talk before getting to the main stuff with latinx students and faculty. Culturally, I have been exposed to this practice through my family, but it just never stuck. Maybe its my anxiety? Who knows. But in my position, I work with many latinx faculty and grad students and find this exchange uncomfortable. I struggle to do it. It is especially noticeable when my supervisor is comfortable with this cultural practice and I witness these interactions first-hand. I will say that watching my supervisor has helped a lot. There isn’t a formula to these types of interactions, but every time I can watch her do it, I feel comfortable knowing that I have an idea of what to do when it is my turn to engage.  On the hard days, it is easy to look at my supervisor and feel incompetent. But I try to remember that this is not a sign of incompetence. It is a skill that I am learning and I am not expected to master it on my first try! I thought this was an interesting divergence of experience.

Lastly, I just wanted to mention the fact the self-care was something mentioned as coping mechanisms to negative experiences. I thought this was such an important contribution to the literature. As someone with anxiety and depression, it is important to discuss mental health in the workplace. While the authors focused on self-care and the ways negative experiences can have a negative impact on the mental health of these women, I want to add how mental health can play a role in exacerbating some of the issues we face. It is a fine line between the microaggressions and negative experiences causing anxiety and depression, and how pre-existing anxiety and depression can make it even more difficult to face these negative experiences.

Ultimately, this article allowed me to do some self-reflection in regards to my place in the library as a non-white, cisgender woman who suffers from anxiety and depression. I read the experiences shared and wondered the likelihood that I would experience similar situations to those listed here. I also wondered how the nuances of my identity would change the likelihood of these experiences happening to me (i.e. very light skin, no accent, straight, culturally pretty “american, etc.”) The only thing I do know for sure is that every single WOC and POC in librarianship will have a different experience, or different feelings about similar experiences, and these are all valid.