I know I e-signed the pledge to blog every day for reverb10, but I don’t actually want to try the patience of my (I suspect fairly few, after multiple digital moves last year) readers by writing poorly thought out posts for no better reason than “I said I’d blog.” You have better things to do, and so do I. So if I don’t have the time to write something considered, I don’t write. Similarly, if the prompt isn’t compelling, I don’t bother—though that hasn’t been the case very often.
I liked the December 11th prompt, asking for a list of things to jettison in 2011. I think that’s worth thinking about. As a librarian and as a person, I have a much easier time gathering “things,” whether they’re to-do list items or actual physical objects, than I do getting rid of them. I know I’m not alone in this. So I’m going to brainstorm a list of things I might drop in 2011—and I’ll try to look at the practicality of it. There’s a mix of personal and professional, here, though I guess the bulk of it is personal. Feel free to skip to the next bold heading if you’re uninterested.
- E-Resources Maintenance. This one’s exciting! I mean, it’s going to take time—I won’t lose this responsibility on January 1. But we’re hiring an E-Resources Librarian, and that person will eventually be taking over a lot of the troubleshooting of databases, e-serials, etc. I admit, this one’s hard to let go of entirely—while fixing broken e-resources takes away a lot of time from projects I need to work on, the flip side is that I like the idea of getting to do assessment of usage (something we’re not really doing, yet, because nobody has the time) and adjustment of interfaces and the like, much of which will probably go to this person. Of course, there will be a bit of a balancing act between this person, me/the Web Development Team, and the Instruction & Reference librarians, in trying to figure out, in particular, interface issues. It’ll be very interesting.
- People off my Christmas list. This one’s close to my heart right now, since my husband and I spent all weekend making cookies and things for family, and then I took yesterday off work to finish. I’ve spent so much time on Christmas preparations that I haven’t cooked dinner or been to the gym in a week. And we’re not done yet. We’re sending something like 10 boxes of goodies—I don’t have my list in front of me, so I don’t know the exact number. And while it brings me (and him, I’m sure) joy to send all of that out to people we care about, it’s just not sustainable. The stress of getting it all together—which is not yet behind us—is too much. The time is too much. And, even ignoring the cost of gifts (pretty much every box will have some kind of “thing” in it, in addition to the cookies), the expense of that many flat-rate boxes is not inconsiderable. So, whether we apologize and ask to be left out of Christmas by both sets of aunts/uncles/cousins, or whether we ask that there be some kind of Secret Santa system implemented, we have to find some solution. This will be the second year I’ve run myself ragged, trying to make sure nobody got left out AND it all got shipped on time—though Christmas preparations have definitely stressed me out since sometime in college, and that stress doubled when Dale and I got together. … The flip side is that I don’t want to offend anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings.
- Refined sugar. It might be the cookie hangover talking, but I think I’d feel a lot better if I could cut out refined sugars from my diet. I cut out high fructose corn syrup this year (at least, until I got stuck eating at Subway every day last week–their food is laden with HFCS), and that went well. I have to do more research on this—are honey, agave syrup, cane juice, etc. actually different in any substantive way from table sugar? Glycemic index aside, am I drawing a largely meaningless line? Should I be trying to cut out all sweeteners? (Yes, probably, but “Am I really willing to?” is another valid question.) … Full disclosure: my upcoming “milestone birthday” in January will be an exception; I think it’s acceptable to have a slice of cheese- or carrot cake when it’s an important birthday.
- Caffeine? I have felt kind of shaky after my morning coffee, of late. Not sure what’s changed. But maybe I need to rethink the amount of caffeine I ingest. I do love coffee, though. For a number of reasons, I find the smell and the taste of good coffee really soothing. I have yet to find a satisfying decaffeinated coffee—some essential part of the taste seems to be taken away with the caffeine. So I’m pondering this.
- Tree nuts. No choice, really. It turns out, I’m allergic. Despite my never having experienced a reaction (at least, nothing worse than a bit of an itchy throat after some hazelnuts), my doctor warns me I’m very allergic to at least two varieties and should therefore avoid them all. How weird. (Peanuts are still fine.)
- TV? Seems a bit extreme, but hear me out. We don’t have cable, but we usually watch a streaming TV show while we’re eating dinner—it’s generally something wildly inappropriate for a meal, like Bones or Dexter, actually, which never ceases to amuse me. I know TV-while-eating is not a good thing to do, but it’s so nice to zone out. Which might not be so bad, but sometimes we’ll watch multiple episodes in an evening, just because we’re tired or unmotivated. I could do so much with that time! Back to the meal thing: if I’m putting all of this time into cooking, maybe I should sit down and really focus on the meal I’ve prepared, rather than eating it while focusing on something else. To be more reasonable, perhaps the rule should be “no TV during the week.”
- Some kind of social media. I’ve said this before, at least in person, but I am “social mediaed out.” I don’t know, moving forward, whether I should focus my energy on my personal or my professional Twitter account, or try to keep both going, in addition to my library’s—right now, my professional account is the one getting shafted, which makes me sad. I don’t know if I should back most of the way out of Facebook—I’d miss out on a lot of information about friends and family, I know, but maybe that’s OK? I think I’ve trimmed my professional mailing list subscriptions as far as I reasonably can (it’s not social media, but it takes the same kind of attention, hence my lumping it in). I have decreased the number of blogs I follow, somewhat, so there’s no obvious room for that to be further cut. I don’t spend that much time on any of the blogs I write, and I enjoy the time I spend on them, so no cuts there. I have ALA Connect set to email me when I need to know about anything happening there, so I spend almost no time on that. … It’s clear to me that something has to go, so that I can increase my time working-to-time gathering/generating information ratio but it’s not clear what.
- Some of my library’s engineering books. I just got the shelf list today. We apparently don’t track in-library usage(!), and we changed ILSs in 2005, so the data I have to go on, to decide what to keep and what not, is slim. (“Total checkouts” successfully made it through the ILS transition; “last checkout date” did not.) I’ll have to be really careful. But I believe in weeding one’s collection, especially in a field like engineering, so I’m going to give it a go. I’ll run my to-weed list by my faculty before I throw anything out.
- The car ride to work. This is a goal for later in 2011—once the snow has cleared up. So, you know, May. … It’s less than 2 miles from my house to my office, without any really awful hills or anything. There’s even a nice bike trail for a large part of it. Biking is an obvious choice. I just didn’t get really comfortable on my bike (or find the nice trail) until nearly autumn, this year, and I wasn’t prepared to learn to bike on ice until I was a lot more expert at normal biking. (This was wise.) Also, given the temperatures we face, I’ll probably need to invest in some gear, besides the obvious studded bike tires, and I wasn’t prepared to spend that much money, right away. I reserve the right to catch a ride with my husband on really rainy days, or days immediately after big snow storms. (They do some trail maintenance, but, of course, roads come first.) … Now, I’m on his way to work, so this wouldn’t be big gas savings, but he’s planning to bike to his work, too. So we’ll be a much more environmentally responsible household. And his commute home, in the evenings, will probably be speedier than it currently is, with traffic.
- Unreasonable attachment/engagement. This is an ongoing resolution. We’ll see if I do better in 2011. I am slowly learning to disengage, to care less about things I can’t change, to respect the edges of my control (which ends with myself), to willfully step back and put my energies into useful pursuits; but I’m very much a work in progress, in that respect.
- My inability to use Photoshop. OK, I’ve run out of things to jettison, so I’m sneakily throwing in something I’m adding—a Photoshop class. Might as well use that free tuition, right? I really do need some photo manipulation abilities to do my job. For some reason, I’ve never successfully taught myself to use Photoshop or GIMP. I understand what layers are, but I don’t really know how to manipulate them. And, honestly, I could always solve all of my problems in some combination of Visio, Word, Powerpoint (not kidding), and MS Paint—at least until I became a Mac user. Preview, even with the enhancements for Snow Leopard, is a poor substitute for Paint. Yeah, I went there.
Yesterday’s prompt was about the move from aspiration to action. I thought it tied in nicely with getting rid of things—and adding things, as well, honestly.
I have a number of goals for 2011. The biggest, by far: I want to build a primarily undergraduate-centered webpage for my library, to be ready by fall 2012. (We’ll have an intermediate front page, with a prominent search box but few other changes, for fall 2011.) This requires a lot of concrete action on my part: I need to write up the Web Development Team’s charter and get the Team’s agreement about our priorities (this might not be obvious, but it’s incredibly important if the goal of undergraduate-centeredness is going to be met—we may, in discussions, decide on some other user group as our main “customer,” but we will probably have to pick one group to focus on), come up with a project plan, complete my literature search on website usability and user testing, make sure we have Google Analytics in place and working correctly (for passive user input), seek active input from undergraduates and other stakeholders, work with the Management Team and [not-yet-formed] Marketing Team to bring in outside help for branding (logo, fonts, color scheme), work with Instruction & Reference Services to finish work on the area of the website that belongs primarily to them, work with the Web Design Team to design a front page and underlying architecture that is welcoming to students but also meets everyone else’s basic needs, and, finally, build that page. As you can see, I’ve put some thought into the steps, but that’s as far as it goes. I don’t have the plan laid out. I’m not finished with my Google Analytics book, let alone changing around the code on our site, setting up goals, etc. I have a pile of studies and books to read, but I haven’t finished them. There is quite a lot of concrete action left to be taken on this.
Shifting my train of thought a bit, to look at the 11 items I listed above, it looks like some of them will happen without much planning or intervention: we will have an Electronic Resources Librarian, I will stop eating tree nuts (or I won’t), we’ll cut out TV or we won’t, I’ll definitely learn Photoshop. And so on. Cutting down our Christmas list will take some honest discussions with family, which will be hard: I don’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt. And I don’t want anyone to feel bad about the fact that we sent stuff this year. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t want to. But we do have to cut back. So Dale and I will have to think very hard about how to present that. Cutting out caffeine will take either one very bad week or a fairly well-planned month. I’ve done it before, several times, so I’m sure it will work out, if that’s what I decide I want. The social media thing is hard. I’m really going to have to think about what I can cut. I don’t have a clear plan of action on that. Similarly, I have no plan, re: “unreasonable attachment/engagement.” Learning to disengage is a constant struggle for me, in many areas of my life, including professionally. I have to learn to be more present in the moment, to be able to back up and say “I need to be less emotionally invested in this idea” or “That comment reflects on them, not on me” or whatever the appropriate rational response is. I wonder if there are mindfulness/meditation classes available in Anchorage; that seems like a very concrete way to address this problem.
And, as far as biking to work? Well, Nike(TM) put it better than I could. :)