One’s daily work can seem useless in moments of looming geopolitical crisis. I wrote in my journal the other day about some household organization that made me feel more calm that it did feel like shuffling deck chairs on the metaphorical sinking ship. Reading this article yesterday about a family trying to escape the Australian bush fires was a reminder that no matter what the circumstances in which one finds oneself, there are mundane facts of existence. Like the writer of the article, you may have a small child named Julian who likes Paw Patrol (I certainly do), and you will muddle through whatever crisis you are in, and either make it or not. (The author and his family do, of course!)
So when I found myself thinking back on 2019 and thinking to what I wanted to accomplish in 2020, it was hard to put what feels like a series of looming crises to one side and think about what was important in my daily work. In addition, 2019 was for me an extremely complicated year personally. Professionally it was full of exciting firsts. I taught a graduate seminar. I published a book, though the majority of the work related to that took place in 2018.
Yet, the same day I got my copy of the book I got a call with amazing news that nonetheless meant I had to upend my life for about six weeks. This is on-going, and means that 2020 will involve being gone from home for a month, though luckily with more notice this time so I am not doing anything in the spring semester that can’t be put aside for that month. While I wouldn’t call this a crisis by any stretch, it did make me feel much more inclined to focus on what I knew, and what was important. What is important? Well, for me as a librarian, it’s making sure people can do their own piece of all the work that must happen in privacy and security, and that they can get what they need to do that work.
Years ago I did research on our institutional repository and contacted Iranian researchers who cited work from the repository. They were doing research on English literature, and accessing resources from institutional repositories was really the only way they could get the resources they needed for work that wasn’t particularly well supported by their home institutions. Thinking about stories like that keeps me focused on the part of my job where I get to make work open access. That work is important when we need to increase connection between people internationally.
Now that I’ve been at this job for seven years, I have a bunch of calcified practices that need improvement. I have to do a lot, and I never seem to take the time to radically transform some of the infrastructure and methods for keeping all our stuff current and secure. Things are always changing, so it’s hard to ever declare that I’m not doing anything new for the next few months–but I am setting a lot of boundaries around the time I have to be gone, and choosing to spend that time on infrastructure and thinking about the practices associated with that. One major example is privacy. How can we streamline practices to ensure that we don’t have a lot of random old data sitting around? (It will be put in more scholarly terms in the writing that comes out of it.)
Writing is going to be a major focus of the next few months. I did very little writing in 2019, partly due to time, and partly due to needing a break after an intense writing year of 2018. I will slowly workshop some ideas here, and try to rediscover some joy in the practice.