book and red wine on a marble table

I Don’t Read

I don’t read.

That’s not really true, of course. I read, some. I suspect that I read more than the average person, and especially the average man, but compared to other librarians, I don’t read.

If you look at my Goodreads page you’ll see that it lists five books that I’m “Currently Reading.”

  1. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie, begun September 30, 2018, 397 pgs.
  2. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach, begun September 15, 2018, 285 pgs.

  3. Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (eds.), begun April 18, 2017, 632 pgs.

  4. Be a Great Boss: One Year to Successby Catherine Hakala-Ausperk, begun July 27, 2018, 215 pgs.

  5. Build a Great Team: One Year to Successby Catherine Hakala-Ausperk, begun August 1, 2018, 224 pgs.

Three of the five of these books can be considered professional reading, and one of those is actually an old textbook. The other two are my fun reading.

I’ve read more in the past. If you look at my years on Goodreads since January 2010 I’ve marked 161 books as “Read,” nearly all of which were marked so upon completion (and by “completion,” I mean “stopped reading”). Yes, that’s less than 10 a year (1.53333… per month through September 2018, actually), but the first year I only marked one book “Read.”

Going over my reading challenges, I read 12 books in 2012; 8 books in 2013; 34 books in 2014; 43 books in 2015; 26 in 2016; 17 in 2017; and thus far 8 in 2018. Thirty-four, forty-three, and twenty-six books in a year are pretty good, though. What happened? What happened is that I stopped listening to audiobooks. Prior to my move to Vegas I frequently had 1-2 hours a day commuting to work in which I could listen to books as much as I wanted. I also had a job that was so pointless that I could listen to books at my desk with no repercussions. Since summer 2017 I’ve had no such luxuries. I live two miles from work and am so busy that that I don’t have time for anything but work. I would have to walk to work everyday alone to be able to the through half of the books that I got through in 2015. But I have a car and a wife who also works on campus, so that’s not going to happen. I like my car and talking to my wife.

Why does this matter? Why should you care? Who even are you?

Honestly, you probably don’t care. But, every time I try to read librarian blogs or search for new ones I’m inevitably met with “Sally’s Best Reads for Autumn,” “Bill’s best Sci-Fi Books of 2018, So Far…,” etc. I have to ask. Who are you people? Where are you making time to read this much and still get your job done? How do you read this much and still be able to watch television or movies, or listen to music, or watch sports, or spend time with your family, or go grocery shopping, or eat? I don’t believe you people are so removed from the culture that you just sit in a quiet room with a stack of books in all your waking hours, nor, do I believe the stereotype of the socially awkward librarian too inept to make eye contact with other humans.

I know you, librarians, you are frequently the most outgoing and dynamic people I’ve ever met. I don’t know any of you that are book hermits afraid to speak to other humans. You can’t be, or you couldn’t function in your jobs.

I grew up in a reading household. My mother was fond of romance and historical fiction. John Jakes was a particular favorite of hers. We saw her reading and also read. My sister read. I seem to remember several Babysitter’s Club and maybe a few Sweet Valley High around the house (It was the 80’s!). I was fond of Bunnicula. My first “adult book” was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, still a favorite. Later I read Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury. I had a Steven King phase in high school. Those were the first books I read with swear words in them. When I found Carl Sagan as a late teenager I really began the transition into my adult life. I had a C. S. Lewis phase, too. I read about both eastern and western religions. I read about science. I saw the first Harry Potter movie so that I wouldn’t have to read the books and it just made me plow through all the extant books at that time and continue the series through its fruition. I read through my teens and early adulthood. I started college at 23 years-old and spent all my time working on my bachelor’s degree over the next five years. I read more on religion and fell in love with theatre in which I read a great many plays. By the end, though, I was so burned out that I just couldn’t bring myself to read anything anymore.

It took six month after graduation before I could read again, and it was Harry Potter that got me back to it. It was 2007 and the sixth book was out. Everyone else was reading it, and the fifth movie was about to come out. I had managed to read book five, but couldn’t muster the energy to continue. Then, I think, we saw HP:5 and that was what peaked my interest again, and I finally picked up book 6. After that I was more or less back on the reading train.

Throughout my life, my pleasure reading had almost exclusively been done in bed at night before going to sleep. Typically, I’d read for twenty or thirty minutes until I got sleepy and then go to sleep. It was rare that I was so enthralled with a book that I would stay up late to read. That was my connection to reading. It was an activity for the end of the day immediately before going to sleep. So, through out my entire school experience studying by reading a book was an extremely difficult thing for me to do. I’d read for twenty or thirty minutes and start to nod off, because that was what my brain associated with reading; sleeping. Then, later, in my thirties I went to the eye doctor who told me that while it may well have been conditioning it was also that I have an astigmatism that creates eye-strain and that also makes me sleepy. That’s when I started wearing glasses regularly.

Since getting glasses I can, indeed, read for longer periods of time. I find that I get bored only getting one kind of entertainment for too long. I prefer to have at least two different books going at one time. Usually, there is one fiction and one non-fiction. Usually, also, there is one ebook and in paper. They both have their charms and their conveniences. I tend to read a chapter of one, then put it down and read the chapter of another. (BTW, I don’t like to binge watch, either, after one or two episodes of something I’m bored and want new flavors in my entertainment)

Reading, this way, only increases the amount of time it takes to get through a book, though, and I’ve always been a slow reader. Primarily, this has been because of the limited amount of time I can give a book once I’ve found or made the time to read it.

Why Am I Telling You All This?

I think this blog post began as an expression of self-consciousness about my reading habits in a profession so closely associated with book-nerds and voracious reading. They’re out there, certainly. I have a good friend with whom I work that will go through six YA novels in a weekend, and she’s not a YA librarian of any sort. But so many of our jobs really have nothing to do with books or reading. I’m a public services librarian. My job is to keep the library running smoothly on a practical on-the-ground sense. My job has more in common with retail management than any lofty ideas of Librarianship. I have a colleague with librarian job whose main purpose is to manage space and building projects. What does that have to do with books? We’ll soon be hiring a librarian whose whole job will be “reputation management” for our tenure-track faculty, and by extension, the library and university. I think ultimately, this blog post is about librarian stereotypes.

I wrote a post last year that got into some notions of masculine-specific librarian stereotypes. That post dealt with it lightly and I came down more-or-less ambivalent on the matter. Interestingly, it garnered the most passionate responses of any post I’ve ever written. Mostly, it was people who were not familiar with the term “guybrarian” and had viscerally negative reaction to it. But maybe we should take a more serious look at librarian stereotypes and how they affect us individually, or as a profession.

I go to conferences. I associate with librarians inside my workplace and outside. I see librarians of all sorts. A great many librarians readily adopt the stereotypes in terms of their dress. There are lots of horn-rimmed or cat glasses, lots of cardigans, lots of hand-knit sweaters and skirts made from natural fabrics, lots of sensible shoes, lots of self-proclaimed “nerds” who wear their passions on their sleeve. There are lots of librarians that can be identified at fifty-yards as they walk down the street.

Those are the fun stereotypes. Those are the stereotypes that we love associating with and reinforcing. But there are other stereotypes, too. The purse-lipped, bitter, shushing old maid. The mousey simpering man not masculine enough for a “real” job. The person who wants nothing more from life than a quiet room, a comfortable chair, and all the books one would be able to read in a lifetime. The person who is so socially inept that they can’t work in an environment that they have to speak with or look at another human.

Stereotypes never come from nowhere. Some version of all of these stereotypes have always existed. I’m starting to think that my self-consciousness about my reading habits comes from the book-nerd stereotype that is really starting to feel negative an anachronistic. One of my employees (who holds an MLIS) feels no shame in saying openly that he doesn’t read books. It’s just not how he chooses to spend his time. He researches on the internet a lot and builds his knowledge and interests that way, but he has absolutely no interest in sitting down with any kind of book and reading for extended period.

I know that some of you out there have library jobs that require you to stay current on selected areas of publishing, especially in public libraries. It also seems to me that a great deal of these lists are for YA or Juvenile titles that are much shorter than the average adult oriented book. I also know that it is bootless to use others as a measuring stick. So, comparing my reading habits to those of other librarians is never going to be a productive use of my psyche. It’s like the year I tried to do NaNoWriMo and ultimately just felt worse about my lack of literary productivity. I don’t read as much as I’d like to. That is something I can work on. I don’t read as much as many that I share this profession with. There’s really nothing I can do about that and it in no way reflects on who I am as a person, or a librarian. I just have to learn to keep that in mind until I just don’t care how much others are reading compared to me.

Waiting Professional Man

My Worst Job Interview Experience, Part 1

Do not apply for a job at the University of Cincinnati.

It took me two-and-a-half years to get a job after I started looking for professional positions. In November of 2015 I was invited to interview with the University of Cincinnati’s (UC’s) main library, Langsam. I, of course, was very excited. I was almost a year into my job search and hadn’t landed anything yet so to be considered for this position was heartening.

Earlier in the year I’d been asked to interview at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. This was my first time being flown out to interview for a job, and the experience was nothing but pleasant. They paid for my flights, put me up in a hotel for two nights, took me out for a meal, arranged my ground travel, and everyone I met or dealt with was kindly and professional. Even though the position was not a “professional” librarian position they still treated me like I was a “professional” with all the respect and dignity that that word implies in the academic librarian context.

You can imagine that when UC called to offer me an in-person interview I had a certain set of expectations. It was a little odd, then, when UC said that I’d have to pay for my travel to be reimbursed later after the interview. “Well, okay, that’s fair. I guess.” I thought. The sense of oddness grew to disappointment when they refused to pay for a second night in the hotel. I’d have to pay for that myself. At the time I was making less than $25k a year. It would have been fiscally prohibitive for me to have an extra night in a hotel room. So now, I knew that no matter what I did, I’d have to travel and interview on the same day.

These reservations aside, I was still excited for the chance to interview, and I dutifully began making my arrangements. Because I was having the foot the bill for my air travel myself I took the cheapest flights I could manage for my time schedule. This meant that I’d leave the day before the interview and fly from St. Louis, to Chicago, and then down to Cincinnati. Then, the next day I would have a half-day interview before getting a flight from Cincinnati, back to Chicago, back to St. Louis. Overland that’s 594 miles, one way, for cities that are only about 355 miles apart. I will never understand airline economics. How is it cheaper for the airline for me to do that than to fly directly? I’ll never know.

STL-CHI-CIN
An overland map of my flight path because Google Maps won’t allow you to daisy-chain flight directions.

That was November and my interview was in early December. As we got closer to the interview date I began to learn more about what was to come, or not come, as it were. It became clear that there would be no shared meal, and I was told that “a shuttle would be provided” for my ground transportation from the airport. So, no one from the library was going to be meeting me. If you’ve never been there, the primary Cincinnati airport (CVG) is not in Ohio, but Kentucky. It’s at least a thirty minute drive from the airport to the University on whose property my hotel was.

Flash forward to the two days of the interview trip. I, of course, have had to take vacation days for this — another cost to me on top of the flights, albeit a normal and expected one. At 8:30 in the morning (Central) I got on the Metrolink with my luggage and proceeded to the airport for my flights. I don’t know now the sequence of events, but there was some relatively short delay in either St. Louis or Chicago and by the time I got on the plane in Chicago and we got in the air I was well stressed out. The flight between Chicago and Cincinnati is only about an hour, give or take, but the attendants still proceeded with the drink orders. I was ready for a drink and asked for a whiskey on the rocks. The attendant huffed a little and excused herself, because she didn’t have the machine to process my debit card. Prior to her leaving, though, she poured my drink. Then, just as she got to the front of the plan, “Bong!” goes the intercom before the pilot asks the attendants to secure the cabin for landing.

whiskey-clipart-whisky-glass-clip-art_418920That’s right. Free booze.

I still had plenty of time to finish my drink before landing and did so dutifully. We were approximately forty-five minutes late getting into CVG. Not terrible; and besides, a shuttle had been provided for me. I made my way through the airport. On the way to baggage claim I saw several drivers with signs expecting passengers. None of them had my name on them, nor did any indicate UC. So, I kept walking and looking for my shuttle driver. I had one bag checked and since it was after 6:00 PM (Eastern) in northern Kentucky there wasn’t much air traffic so it didn’t take long for my bag to arrive. Picking up my bag I next went out to the ground transportation area to continue the search for my shuttle.

Remember the oddness and disappointment I felt earlier in the process? I was now starting to approach genuine concern. Still, there was no UC shuttle. I knew I was staying at a Marriott and I saw a Marriott shuttle. I walked up to the driver and told him where I was needing to go and he shook his head saying in his thick accent “No. Not that Marriott. Airport Marriott only.” I thanked him and walked back toward the building. There were two other shuttle companies represented out there, that night. I approached both of them while they were chatting and smoking, but neither of them acted like they were expecting anyone, or in anyway acted like I was a potential customer, so, I gave up on them and went inside. Concern was turning to panic.

This whole time I was calling and emailing my one-and-only UC contact and checking my emails searching increasingly desperately for more clues or information about the shuttle that was to be provided. There was nothing. Only “a shuttle will be provided” was the information given to me. Inside the terminal I found an information desk with a kindly white-haired man posted to it. “I’m sorry. That’s not the kind of information I have.” He said, sympathetically.

At that time, one of us noticed a young man in a UC jacket standing by himself. I went to him and explained my situation. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m waiting for someone else.” I paused for a moment awaiting an offer of help in my plight. None came.

You can imagine how I felt at this point. It had been over eight hours of travel by train and plane for a trip that would have taken me five-and-a-half hours if I had just driven my own car. I was in a foreign airport outside of a foreign city with no one but myself to get me out of this situation. I was tired. I was hungry. I was angry. I was confused. I was scared. The University of Cincinnati had abandoned me at the airport. I did the only thing I could do in this situation. I got a cab that took me to the hotel which I paid for with my own money. “A shuttle will be provided,” rang in my ears.

The University of Cincinnati had abandoned me at the airport.

I get to the hotel, check in to my room, call my wife and regale her with my thus far harrowing story after which I head downstairs to the hotel restaurant. By this time it’s after 8:00 in the evening and I essentially had the restaurant to myself. I decide to treat myself after a long day and order something expensive-ish and a Manhattan, straight-up. Since I was the only customer the waitress and I were talking and I told her about my day. She was very sympathetic and earned a good tip. After a little while my drink came out and I started to sip it. On the second sip I realized that it was, in fact, a very pleasant Old Fashioned I was drinking and not a Manhattan. Right about the same time the waitress and the bartender came rushing over to my table to apologize for the mix up. This was hardly the worst thing that had happened to me that day and I took it in good humor. “Do you still want the Manhattan?” They asked. “We won’t charge you for it.”

13_1789356531_l“Yes.” I said. “I’d like that, very much.”

Free booze, twice in one day.

After dinner, I went back up to my room. I took some time to rehearse my presentation before heading to bed. But already I’m remembering that job interviews are your opportunity to interview your would-be employer as much as they are interviewing you. Thus far, UC had done nothing, nothing, to ingratiate themselves to me. In fact, they hadn’t treated me with any respect at all. Did they really want me, or not? Did they treat all their candidates this way? Did they consider this to be a “professional” position, or something less? If this is how they treat their candidates, how do they treat their employees? Did I really even want this job anymore? These are the thoughts I was having as the booze, food, and exhaustion took me off to sleep.

Continued in Part 2: Getting Out of Ohio

Emotionalism, the Trials of Public Service, & Vulcans

walmart-black-friday-deals-doorbustersWe’ve all been there. You’ve got a line backed up to the exits, the phone is ringing off the hook, and a patron is standing there wanting to argue policy with you. You could be working in retail, a public library, an academic library, or anywhere there is a front-line public service desk. It is difficult. It is stressful. It is rarely fun. About the only positive thing you can say about it is that it makes the time pass quickly. Thirty minutes or an hour can pass in a few seconds.

Those of us who are the best at this can view these times as exhilarating periods of service and problem solving. The rest of us dread these times and feel panic and stress. Either way we’re exhausted at the end of our shifts.

sleepy bunny
Actual footage of me on a Tuesday at 3:00 PM during the first week of the semester.

I tend to agree that the busy times are exhilarating, and exhausting, and that they definitely make the day go faster. But I’ve never looked forward to them, and now that I’m the boss I have the added burden of being the top problem solver.

I’ve had primarily public service jobs since I was seventeen years old. At thirty-nine, now, that’s a lot of time on a sales floor or behind a counter. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had a lot of successes and I’ve had a lot of failures. I have been praised and railed at; solved problems and caused them; kept my cool and lost my temper. I’ve been taken advantage of by a quick change artist, and called an ambulance for a patron in a medical emergency. It’s been an eventful twenty-two years.

If you do any job for long enough you’re naturally going to build some proficiency. I’ve never believed the “10,000 hours of an activity makes you an expert” meme. It’s too exacting and doesn’t account for raw talent, interest, ambition, or the ability to learn. I don’t know how many hours I’ve worked public services, but I’m certainly not an expert, even after twenty-two years. I don’t know that I ever will be, and I don’t know that anyone ever is. We all have our success and we all have our failures.

spider-man falling down stairs
No matter how amazing you are, sometimes you fall on your face.

I’ve recently had a few too many incidents in which I fell on my face and it got noticed by the wrong people. There are no immediate problems this has caused, but I am having to mind my P’s and Q’s a bit better. The thing is, though, all of the coaching I’ve received lately is all stuff that I’ve known for some time. I keep having the gnawing feeling that I used to be better at this.

Too Many Feelings

I am an emotional person. I always have been. As a child I got fingered as a cry-baby at school and the social ramifications of this created a cycle of repressed feelings, anger, and depression that have had a life-long affect on me. To this day, I describe myself as an angry person. I’m constantly having to suppress feelings of anger and frustration, but now, it’s less that I don’t feel “allowed” to have these feelings as much as expressing these feelings are counter-productive to my life.

I’m not angry all the time. I don’t have a secret violent side. I make friends and function as well in modern life as anyone can be expected. But constantly having to dial back my “negative” emotions takes a lot of willpower, and willpower is not something that we hold in infinite supply. Willpower is like a muscle. It can be conditioned to be strong, but after too much use it looses energy and needs to be recharged. The incidents that caught the wrong kind of attention of my superiors were ones in which my willpower was critically low.

giphy1This does not mean that I have no culpability for my actions. My behavior was as flawed as my techniques. I didn’t cross any professional lines, but I certainly did not behave in a way to solve the problems. I was not working to get to “yes.” I was defensive, pedantic, and arrogant. I let my frustration with my patrons’ senses of entitlement get the better of me. And something I had not truly begun to grok until recently, I displayed a terrible example for my employees, especially the student workers. Furthermore, in the social media age I could have provided fodder for negative publicity for the library if someone had videoed the incidents and posted them without the context of my actions. This not only could have been bad for my library, but bad for my career, as these things forever float around the internet. I’ve been a very bad boy.

Like I said, I used to be better at this. My emotionalism has gone through many stages in my life. It’s gone from the unbridled emotionalism of my childhood to the repressed emotionalism of my adolescence. After that came the bumpy emotional integration of my early adulthood. It was this time that I developed a reputation for “brutal honesty.” Engaging with my feelings were paramount to compassion or empathy. I was hard to like.

By my late twenties I had begun to grow that empathy, even in spite of myself, and began questioning what kind of person I wanted to be. I didn’t become less judgmental, as much as more aware of others feelings. I still may think your taste in music is terrible, but I’m not going to tease you about it anymore. Then, something unexpected happened. I started crying again.

yhuyo9pOn a scale of one-to-ten, if I’m between three and seven, everything is fine. If I get pushed above or below that range, however, it’s cryface time. I cried more at my wedding than my wife did. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry with any kind of excitement. Anytime my emotions are red-lining, or heck, orange-lining, I’m crying.

…New Life and New Civilizations…

So how do I handle it? How do I handle dealing with my habitual anger and the constant threat of tears in the face of the crush of a busy library. What was it I thought I was so good at? The only solution — as with so many things in life — is the wisdom of Spok, or more generally, the emotional discipline of the Vulcans. As Star Trek developed the ideas of Vulcan philosophy it went from a biological inability to have feelings to a spiritual discipline. It’s not that Vulcans don’t have emotions, it’s that their emotions were so powerful it nearly drove the species to extinction. It was their development of this emotional sequestration that allowed them to function and become the force in the Alpha Quadrant that they became — or will become by the twenty-fourth century.

spock-and-sarek-in-star-trek-vi

Obviously, this is an extreme model, but a useful analogy. The ability to build an emotional wall to separate yourself from your emotions is vital for someone like me. The point is to not make the emotions inaccessible, but to sequester them until they can be expressed in a healthy manner. It takes discipline. It takes willpower. It takes a psychic awareness of your own emotional extremes and current state. I did used to be very good at this. In fact, I had gotten so good at it that I started to worry about my ability to connect emotionally with anyone. I had become too Vulcan. At one point I thought I might even have turned myself into a sociopath, but then I actually looked up what a sociopath was saw that that was not remotely the case.

My challenge now is to reconnect with my Vulcanness; to regain that emotional discipline that used to be so easy for me. “Under-react” my boss tells me. When I’m feeling worked up, I need to mentally take a step back and evaluate what I’m feeling. Which emotion is it? Is it reasonable in the situation? Am I hungry? What is the real problem? How do I solve it in the best way? I knew how to do this once. I believe that I still do. Now I just have to practice.

 

 

 

Breaking Up with Facebook…For Real, This Time

If you’ve been watching my Twitter, lately, you may have seen that I have permanently deleted my personal Facebook account and the associated page for TOAL. I’d threatened to do this several times over the last five years, or so, but I finally went through with it yesterday (03/20). Technically, it still exists and my personal Twitter is still feeding into Facebook, causing some confusion as to my status. This is still happening because Facebook, naturally, doesn’t want you to leave so they kindly keep your site active for fourteen days hoping that you’ll change your mind; hoping that after a cooling off period you’ll run back to their open arms.

Not this time.

I thought I’d use the analogy of an unhealthy — even abusive — relationship to describe my relationship to Facebook, but after looking up some sites on the subject I realize that that is completely inappropriate. I do think there is a romantic breakup analogy to be made, though. Maybe I should try it in a letter.

Dear Facebook,

We have been through so much over the last ten years. You were there when I got my first job out of college, when I got married. You supported me through the years when I was acting, and you were there when we first started camping. Because of you, I was able to share all of these special moments with friends, family, and acquaintances across the world. Literally, across the world. My friend Marisol lives in Australia now and you were my principal means of contact with her.

But it wasn’t all happy memories and hiking photos, either. Because you felt like a safe space I allowed my own freak flag to fly as high and as proud as I could. Understandably, this made others uncomfortable. Even if I wasn’t frequently rude, I could be sometimes. And even being polite about my thoughts and beliefs I still managed to alienate myself from any number of people. Most, if not all, of those relationships never recovered. The fact is that through you I probably damaged more relationships than I strengthened. That may not be exactly your fault, but you did facilitate it. You were my enabler.

We’ve both changed a lot over the last decade. When we started you were a source of connections to far flung individuals with whom one would share photos and a running account of your day. Now, you’re a major media empire. Since I joined with you I’ve gotten married, changed my philosophical lifestance, added hobbies, changed jobs twice, moved a whole bunch, and even relocated across the country.

While I’ve always known you had been associated with some shady characters I was able to salve my conscious by thinking that wasn’t personally contributing to the worst parts of your business. But now, now I can’t do that any more. As I told my former pastor all those years ago, “I can no longer believe beyond reason,” as I once did. I no longer believe that even the most careful and studious practitioner of information literacy and privacy policies can successfully use your service in good faith. You have broken that faith. It is an infidelity that I can no longer turn a blind eye to. That is why I must end our decade-long relationship. 

I would wish you good luck in your future endeavors, but honestly, I don’t believe your future is bright, and the best thing I can possibly do is walk away, not look back, and leave you to the consequences of your own actions. Goodbye, Facebook.

Sincerely,

Me.

Doing the Deed

If you want to breakup with Facebook like I did there are some steps you need to take. Obviously, they don’t want you to do this so they don’t make these features all that easy to find. Luckily, I’m here to help you.

The first thing you need to do is to get a copy of all of your Facebook data. You can do this at anytime, but it’s probably good to do this just before you delete your account so that you don’t completely lose all of that valuable stuff that you’ve posted over the years. You can find those directions here.

I wasn’t timing it yesterday when I did this but I’d say I got the zip file of my data in less than ten minutes from making the request. That file I then dutifully placed in my Dropbox folder for safe keeping.

Once you’ve done that, you can then get on with the deleting. Again, these directions are not easy to find. I originally got there by going the account deactivation tutorial that had an embedded link to the deletion process. Since I’ve already gone through the deletion process and any new logins to Facebook over the next thirteen days will cancel my deletion I can’t link directly to it now, BUT there is a helpful set of directions here from TheVerge.com.

Deleting a Facebook account is not a decision that should be entered into lightly. I had three people with whom I was the most concerned about losing contact with through the medium, including Marisol in Australia. However, I was able to get reliable contact information from all three of them and I trust that those relationships will continue. Some people from my past that I will always think fondly of will likely be lost to me forever. That is sad, but truthfully, my valuation of those relationships are most likely one-way anyway, considering the amount of contact we actually had via Facebook. I will always hold a place of love for them, and should we reconnect via another medium later they will be welcomed with open arms.

I’ll also point out that when I announced on Facebook that I was seriously considering this I listed in that post approximately twenty other media by which I could be contacted, including telephone, snail mail, and in person. No one asked for any specific contact information or handles. Chances are, the people who want a relationship with me already have the contact information they need and those who don’t really don’t need it to begin with.

So, twenty-four hours after deleting my Facebook account my life has not ended. I doubt yours would, either. Make good choices.

Make it a good day.

Humanist Leadership

I’m new to being a boss. I’ve supervised student assistants for years, but this is the first job in which I’ve supervised “grown-ups.” Currently, I have five full-timers and two part-timers underneath me, not counting the small army of student workers they supervise. There are whole ranges in libraries that contain everything I don’t know about management and leadership. Everything I do know I learned from my own bosses through the years.* Mostly, what I learned was not to do. I have had a lot of bad managers; some of whom probably never should have been in a position of power. I learned good things from the few good ones I’ve had, too.

One of the best things I have learned is communication. I don’t mean communication theory, or the importance of sharing information (very important, of course). I mean how one communicates. In a toxic work environment no one feels valued. If one does not feel that one has input, then one’s interest in performing at a high level is probably the first thing to go and the organization begins to suffer.

In my previous job there was essentially no library outreach, and social media was viewed suspiciously or derisively. There was no effort to post to social media unless there was a change in service hours or (rarely) if some special event was going to take place. Thinking myself a savvy Xennial and enthusiastic library employee I took it upon myself to begin an Instagram account for my library one Thursday. I made a few posts that day and a few more on Friday. I talked to a colleague who had access to the library’s Facebook page and he gave me the login so that I could cross-post. It is true that I asked no one’s permission prior to this, but neither was I violating any posted university or library policies. By Monday, mine and my colleague’s access to Facebook had been surreptitiously rescinded, and by Tuesday I received a phone call from my boss who had been away at jury duty (!) saying that I was to cease and desist my posts and that he got told that someone else was “embarrassed” by my actions.

Who was embarrassed? I don’t know. What did they think was so terrible? I don’t know. Why was this of such importance to contact my boss while he was off doing his civic duty? I don’t know that, either. I don’t know any of that because no one ever communicated with me until my boss called me from the courthouse. I took on the risk at the beginning because I was thinking I’d try “ask forgiveness rather than permission.” But I was never able to ask forgiveness since my accuser never approached me. No one was courageous enough to get my attention and have the difficult conversation with me. They ranted about me in some other room and then told my boss to reign me in, but no one ever tried to work with me.

No one was courageous enough to get my attention and have the difficult conversation with me.

In another instance a different colleague had an excellent idea for streamlining the department, improving services, and even saving the library money in salary. He went to our boss with the idea. I got involved because the change would affect how I do things. I saw the idea and, too, thought it was great. Our boss agreed and moved it up the ladder. Within a day the big boss came back with a response that said exactly, “None of this is possible.”

That was the whole response. There was no, “Wow! That’s a great idea for the future but unfortunately at present time it is not a feasible change.” Or, “I’m sorry we can’t do that right now, but please, keep thinking of ways to improve the department.”

We got nothing. Nothing supportive or encouraging. Nothing to show that our work or input was valued. Nothing to show that any good idea could could come from the bottom, even if it was not practical at the time. In both examples, low level employees were treated like they had no value, regardless of their work history, attitude, or intentions, and all our bosses had to do was to take a moment and use a softer touch.

In both examples, low level employees were treated like they had no value, regardless of their work history, attitude, or intentions, and all one had to do was to take a moment and use a softer touch.

I’m not arguing that employees need to be coddled, or that every suggestion from above, below, or beside needs to be seriously entertained. Some ideas are just silly. But is it it so difficult to look someone in the face or write an email to explain your thinking? We’re not exactly doing national security work, here. There is no need for secrets and there is no need for flippant dismissals.

The Instagram incident, frankly, does not paint me in the best light. It shows that I have a stubborn provocateur streak in me that comes out sometimes. The truth is, though, that I never would have tried it had I thought I had something to lose. My reputation in that workplace was already as a loud and up-jumped trouble maker who dared attempt to join the ranks of the “real” librarians. The attempt wasn’t something I could get fired over, because I violated no laws and no policies, so I thought there was no harm in the trying.

But instead of being talked to about it, even sternly, actions were taken in secret and back-channel back-biting found its way to my boss away on jury duty. I was an embarrassment who was not worthy of regard. In the other story, my colleague, already frustrated with being locked in to a role he didn’t appreciate, was made to feel that he, too, had little value regardless of the amount or quality of work he did.

There was nothing that was going to salvage my reputation in my last workplace, before or after the Instagram incident. And I don’t know if anything would have helped my colleague other than simply getting a different job someplace else. However, both incidents could have been handled much better with better quality of communication. For starters, our humanity could have been acknowledged on some level. Next, our clear intent to improve or promote library services could have been commended. After that a clear explanation about why the attempt could not work or should not have been tried would have been in order. Instead, we got cowardly tattling and a glib “no.”

No one is obligated to like their boss, and no boss is obligated to like their employees. That being said, there is no good reason to treat anyone like they don’t matter. No matter how busy you are you can always find a moment to soften the “no” and explain yourself. It doesn’t have to be a long and detailed answer and you shouldn’t be hugging it out, but there is always a way to react to your employees with sensitivity and humanity. When I see people in a place of power who don’t seem to understand that, or seem to see their employees and a nuisance, I am always sad and wonder A) how they got to that position in the first place, and B) why they can’t empathize with people. What is wrong with that person?

I was fortunate enough to get out of my terrible work environment. My colleague is still languishing in his. I hope things get better for him, soon. What I’m attempting to do in my first leadership position is to incorporate my experiences in a toxic work environment, observed failures and successes of past managers, and my own humanist values into a cohesive whole that creates an effective and respectful environment for my employees and my superiors. I’m sure to make plenty of mistakes, but creating that environment is why I’m here.


*I learned nothing in my library management class in grad school because my “instructor” didn’t know a darn thing about it, either.