darkness and light

In which I ramble on about the weather.

It’s winter in North America. Living in Central Virginia, it’s not particularly harsh, and we get a lot of sunlight during the day on most days. But it’s still dark by 5pm, and while temperatures tend to stay above freezing during the day, there are plenty of days when it’s just above freezing.

I grew up in a place where winters were grey and dark and cold and miserable (for me). I hated it, even more after I moved to a warmer, sunnier place. I wonder how much my life would have improved if I had winter sun and a good therapist in my teenage years?

I have notice, though, that part of me treasures these dark and cold evenings for what they are. I make my home cozy with string lights and candles, and I go out in the evening even less than I do normally in these COVID times. I bundle up in warm, soft things and slow down with a cup of tea.

I’d like to continue to embrace the cold and dark times of the year as an opportunity to create my own light in the world. Long conversations with dear friends and a mug of (spiked) decaf coffee. Evenings spent listening to podcasts or audiobooks while assembling a puzzle or making a cross-stitch.

Spring will be here soon enough, and then my evenings will be filled with softball games and long walks in the park. Until then, I’ll be shining light in the darkness.

what if I’m (part of) the problem?

In which I ramble a bit about trying not to add to the toxicity of a toxic workplace.

The past six or seven years of my job have been challenging in ways my younger self could not have anticipated. During that time, I was in roles with personnel management that involved personnel that didn’t fit the textbook cases, and responsibilities that didn’t come with enough resources to effectively fulfill them. I often found myself in untenable situations with little more support than to “just deal with it.” Deal with it, I did. Sometimes more successfully than others.

A significant organizational reorganization a few years ago came with a change in my responsibilities, and later a significant turnover in staff resulted in a very different combination of personalities and approaches in my division. These days I find myself in a role that I am more than capable of executing, with the resources to do it well. And yet, I realize that I am still processing the trauma from all that occurred before, and that often clouds or colors my perception of current events/situations.

When I first arrived at my current library, the amount of old wounds and grudges held by my colleagues towards each other and university administrators was evident fairly early on. Most of those colleagues have either moved on or retired, and very few from that time remain, but I find I carry some those wounds/grudges now myself. I didn’t want to become a jaded, middle-aged librarian, and yet there are events that have led me down that path.

I don’t have to remain on that path, and I don’t have to take any of my new colleagues there with me. My feelings are not unjustified, but they also aren’t particularly productive at times. Knowing the lay of the land here, I can decide to be bitter and stagnant, or I can figure out how to work around the roadblocks.

time travel

Last week I made the 15 hour round trip drive to/from my parents home for stuff your mouth hole day. I had thought I might start a new audiobook for the drive, but for some reason I found myself hesitant to dive in. This was a new author, and while the premise seemed intriguing, I also knew there was a chance I might find aspects of the story to be too much to handle.

(This is the thing I find quite often when faced with some new book, or movie, or TV show — that fear that I will not like it or something about it will make me regret investing time/mental space in it. It’s one of the reasons why I’m quite happy to let you “spoil” whatever it is, because it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get around to it myself.)

So, I opted to catch up on podcasts and listen to some music instead during the drive there. It felt like the minutes were slowly creeping by. I kept forcing myself to not stop for snacks/beverages or any other distraction.

When it came time to drive home after the visit, I decided that I might as well start that audiobook. If it wasn’t to my liking, I could easily drop it for one of several others I had lined up (this one was from the library and was due back soon enough that I either listened then or not until it was available again).

The trip home flew by. I marked the landmarks as they passed by, and only stopped for food when my belly reminded me to eat. My ever restless mind was absolutely captivated by the story, and I regret not having started it for the drive out, because I still had half of it to go when I got home.

A lesson re-learned.


If you’re curious, the book is She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker Chan, and read by Natalie Naudus, who I first ran across on TikTok. I specifically sought out the books she had done the audio for because of her TikTok presence. There is a lot of violence in the book – mostly physical. It helps me that this is fictional, and there is so much to the main character(s) that I am intrigued by that I can disassociate from the violence enough to still enjoy the story.

fail whale and phoney stark

I joined Twittr in 2007 — some time before they put the ‘e’ in the name. Some colleagues at Blogcritics thought it would be a useful tool for sharing what we’re working on. That use fell away pretty quickly. As more library folks joined the service, it became a really useful tool for keeping up with the profession, following conference content, and shitposting.

Now it looks like the new owner either is intentionally destroying it or is just too incompetent to lead. Some folks are hanging on to the bitter end, some are jumping ship to Mastodon or Tumblr or only using Facebook/Instagram. As much as that place had become a bit of a hellscape, it was a tool that connected me to a lot of my colleagues and friends from all over. I’ll miss that aspect.

I joined Mastodon in 2018 at the general suggestion of Ruth Kitchin Tillman. She’s written a great introduction for new users. The glammr.us instance was pretty quiet until rumors of the Twitter sale surfaced, and then over the past few weeks it’s gotten quite busy. Up to that point, it was a small community I’d look in on occasionally, but did not engage with that much.

The Mastodon culture I’ve encountered so far has been much more community oriented and 1:1 engagement. Folks there make use of content warnings and use alt tags on images. It’s not without its issues (black folks say it’s inherently a white space; there is a bit of learning curve), but so far I’m fine with building a different community and engagement in that space.

hello world

It’s been a while since I had something to say here. I still don’t have much to say, but when has that ever stopped a blogger?

I’ve been having a mild existential crisis realizing that I’m middle aged and mid-career. I’ve done most of the things (professionally) that I want to do, and my non-work life community is fulfilling.

I’m trying to hold space for how cringe my younger self was, in part because I know I’m probably still cringe, if not as aware of it yet. I’m at a point where I know enough to know I don’t know everything, and yet I know a heck of a lot more than she did then.

Maybe I need to be sharing what I know. Maybe I have things that other people want/need to hear. Maybe there’s something more than what can fit in a pithy social media post. Maybe.

my music of 2020

Last year was a strange year for music in my life. January and February passed much as they had for years before, with most of my music listening being done in service of my show on WRIR. I had decided in late January that I wanted to step back from doing a weekly show, but it took another month for the program director to find hosts to replace me. As it happened, I stopped doing my show just one week before the realities of COVID hit and Virginia went into a state of emergency.

I began working from home, and found that the quiet, intermittently interrupted by noises from my neighbors on either side of my townhouse, was not easy to stay focused in. I needed something to listen to. But what?

For a while, I would tune into WRIR and have the news and public affairs programming that ran from 8am to 3pm most weekdays fill that space, but some of it was annoying to me, and I’d shut that off. I tried listening to some albums on Spotify, or playing some Spotify playlists, but after a while, that got annoying, too.

When it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a short-term arrangement, I reworked my home office to accommodate my work equipment (laptop, keyboard, mouse, and dual monitors). To do this, I turned my chest of drawers into a stand-up desk for my home computer, and moved my work setup from the dining table up to my desk, which is also in my bedroom. Aside from wanting a more functional workspace, this gave me back my table and put me within range of my 87GB digital music library, with nearly 13,000 songs.

For most of the 2000s and the early part of the 2010s, I spent a lot of time and money collecting CDs of anything I thought I might enjoy. More than I made time to listen to. But now I could work and listen to as much of it as I wanted, and so I did.

Back in 2010, when Lifehacker was actually useful, I read an article about how to make a few smart playlists that would ultimately create a playlist that would shuffle through your entire music collection, hitting up favorites more frequently, and ensuring that at some point, you’d hear every track. I had made such a playlist then, throwing a random 6 hours of it onto my iPod to take with me to work. But, it was kind of a hassle, and after a few years I stopped doing it at all. TBH, I’m not sure where I put my iPod after I finally bought an iPhone.

Months have passed since I moved up to my bedroom, and during that time, I listened to a lot of music from my personal digital library (and some still from Spotify, as well as a few favorite WRIR shows). I also paid for a Last.fm account, because I wanted the report function. And now that the year is over, I’m eager to reflect up on the data.


One thing that stands out is that Enya was the top artist, her album Watermark was the top album, and the top track was the song “Watermark”. I do love me some Enya, but those stats mainly came from a period of time prior to the move closer to my music library, and early in the pandemic when I was reaching for anything to calm and comfort me. Watermark is still a fantastic album, and I do not begrudge it the top spot.

The other thing that stands out is how much listening to only my small collection of Christmas albums in December really skewed the album chart. Half of the top 20 albums for the year were Christmas albums.

You can definitely see the change in my music listening habits prior to the pandemic (Jan-Feb), the early months of the pandemic (Mar-Apr), and when I moved to my current home office space in May.


I mostly listen during the work day, with some evening jamming.


Because I wasn’t listening to as much fresh-off-the-presses music as I had done in previous years, I dropped a few spots on the discovery leaderboard. On the flip side, my personal collection is apparently less mainstream than the music I was listening to in 2019 that had been sent to a non-commercial community radio station. Go figure.

I checked my iTunes library, and I still have another thousand or so songs to listen to for the first time (in iTunes – many I had heard elsewhere which prompted the acquisition of my own copy). I am hoping that by this time next year, that number will be much smaller.

Finally, I will leave you with what I consider to be the song of 2020. At least for anyone who listens to Reply All.

I’ve been published!

Sort of. In a semi-scholarly blog, though. It’s one I’ve been reading for many years now, and a favorite, so I was flattered to be asked to write a guest post about my new sportsball hobby, hurling. Here’s a snippet:

“Then in late summer, we were at a scrimmage, and they were trying to have a camogie (women’s only) match without pulling in substitutes from the men’s teams, but we were short one player. Our team captain turned to me and indicated I could fill in as goalie. I was not dressed to play nor prepared to play, but she continued to insist that I would play. Finally, she said in her lovely Irish lilt, ‘If you didn’t want to play, you should have stayed in the car.’ Shortly thereafter I found myself nervously guarding a goal that was much, much too large for me to keep a very small ball from repeatedly going in.”

Fit is a Feminist Issue (November 27, 2020)

#NASIG2020: Vision Speaker Janetta Waterhouse

Leadership is a subset of management. Focus on developing skills in communication, active listening, time management, productivity, team building, DEI, performance management, and process management/workflow analysis.

“Managers to things right. Leaders do the right things.”

Managers need to do all of their job, which includes performance management. It’s not about being nice or not. If your staff are struggling, it’s something you need to address. Understand the difference between performance problems and disciplinary issues. Don’t avoid facing issues with less competent staff by redistributing their work to competent staff.

A part of performance management is change management. It’s not just when technology or institutional change happens that you need to manage that change. Waterhouse has found Kotter’s eight step process for leading change helpful.

Understand what kind of change needs to happen, and at what level. Some things are common/comfortable to us because of the nature of our work in libraries. Some require more transformation.

Some people are more risk adverse and some are more tolerant. A common reason why people resist change is that the expertise they have built is being set aside. They will have to learn new skills and are likely to make mistakes they may have not made for a long time because of that previous expertise. If your organization has a culture of perfection or risk-avoidance, make sure folks know it’s okay to make mistakes.

When someone moves from a technical area to a management position, they don’t have to know all of the answers. They need to make sure the answer is in the room, and that’s getting the right people together with the right resources.

Leadership competencies include emotional intelligence – it’s the one thing that’s going to help you personally and professionally above all else.

If you have someone complaining about something frequently, re-focus. If it’s not in their or your circles of concern, talk it out once. Beyond that, it’s not something that we can actually do something about, so it’s not helpful to continue to complain.

Kenneth Shaw outlines nine components of emotional competence in his book The Intentional Leader. Waterhouse notes that the willingness to self-evaluate is one of the most important components.

Goleman notes that the more styles a leader has mastered, the better. This allows you to be able to switch between styles and recognize which style works best in each situation.

Social intelligence is linked to team performance. Teams work better are teams that gel socially. Try this social intelligence test.

<had to restart computer because keyboard suddenly stopped responding and I missed most of the project management component>

Conflict is a natural part of life and can be managed in a healthy way. The most emotional person should not always get their way.

The common perception of conflict is that you have either avoidance or confrontation. The ideal process of working with conflict is negotiation. Instead of one person being frustrated with coworkers and complaining to others, or bottling it up to blow up later, negotiation requires communication. Seek to understand where people are coming from. If you’re not going to listen to them, they’re not going to listen to you.

Getting buy-in is important, but sometimes you just need to take action. Understand the emotion / cognition / behavior connection, and consider working backwards from there.

How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be the reason why improvements didn’t happen until you left, or do you want to be the one who made work life better for everyone?

corona virus diaries: week 5

Five weeks ago yesterday, I shifted to primarily working from home. Spotting a coworker loading up monitors and other computer equipment from his office, I realized I could do the same. The prospect of working off of a laptop for weeks on end felt less onerous if it included the dock, dual monitors, full-size keyboard, and mouse. This was quickly set up on my dining table, and for the first time in 13 years, I have an office with a window.

I lasted one day sitting in one of the IKEA folding chairs that normally lives at my dining table. I lasted another two weeks using the office chair that normally lives at my home desk. Then on my brief weekly trip to campus, I snagged the chair from my office. Ahh… so much better. The ship date for the Steelcase office chair I splurged on (a much needed purchase long before now) is indefinite, so this will be my setup for the time being.

My work has settled down some since we got past the flurry of assisting faculty to transition their courses to remote instruction, and supplying access to ebooks and other resources for students who left their materials in their dorm rooms when they departed campus for Spring Break. For the first few weeks, it was all I could do to keep up with things, as email action items flew in as fast (or sometimes faster) than I could clear them out.

I was surprised-not-surprised to learn that my job really doesn’t require me to be in the building at all, for the most part. I think there will be things coming up throughout the year that would be easier to do if I were there, and some physical materials that will eventually need attention from me, but for now, I can quite easily work remotely. I kind of knew this before, but not having a good setup at home made the prospect less appealing in the past.

One of the things I worried about with working from home is not having a clear line between work and home. However, I have found that sticking to a schedule has kept that line fairly clear. I start work at 8, I finish at 4:30, and sometime around noon I take a lunch break. There are some exceptions, of course, if I’m trying to wrap something up and it’s nearing the end of the day. There’s always more that can be done, but there’s also always tomorrow and the next day.

Part of me wonders if I could continue this working from home thing even if we are able to open the building and return to our offices again? Part of me could get quite used to having a kitchen with snacks so close and a toilet all to myself. Part of me revels in not having to wear work clothes, and a commute that’s just a walk down the stairs.

Part of me worries that I will get too withdrawn and forget how to interact with coworkers in person. Part of me misses the casual interactions with colleagues that feels awkward over a digital connection. Part of me would really rather just go get lunch with friends at the dining hall today instead of thinking up yet another meal at home.

I’m not afraid of change (except when I am)

As a serials librarian, change is in the nature of my work. Titles change, publishers change, URLs change — change is the norm. I stay flexible and try to move light on my metaphorical feet. Some days I float like a butterfly. Some days I fall flat on my face.

I’ve been thinking about — and simultaneously feeling excited and dreading — the big change that is coming to my work in the next year. We’re on the path to migrate from Voyager/Summon to Alma/Primo. It’s going to mean a huge shift in how I do my work, though what I do, essentially, will remain the same.

I’m looking forward to the new (and sometimes improved) tools I’ll be using to do my work, but I’m not looking forward to the process of learning how to use them. And that’s just one of the unknowns that is making me afraid of this change, even as I’m ready to run towards it.

I don’t know what I don’t know. And it’s such a huge undertaking that I’m feeling overwhelmed by that unknown. What I really want right now is for someone to hand me a list of every thing I need to do to prepare Acquisitions and Electronic Resources data for the migration, but no one can do that for me. I have to take the resources the vendor has provided, as well as any information I can gather from other libraries who have migrated from similar products, and make that list for myself.

It’s daunting. It’s scary. What if I mess up?

photo by Mike McKay

css.php