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December 19, 2013 / playforth

The end is where we start from

I decided NOT to make it an annual tradition to use a Cliff Richard line for the title of my December roundup/reflection post, you’ll be pleased to hear. This one is T.S. Eliot.

frostIt’s been another year of significant achievements, happily, though also of frustrations and feeling completely out of my depth.

My digitisation/digital library project has continued to grow (2000+ full-text papers from African and Asian research institutes, thousands of downloads per month). I’ve presented about it at a conference, and had a follow-up article published in a journal. The next phase of the project has, I think, more challenging targets and involves more complicated and diverse partnerships, but so far, so good…

The institutional repository is being used a lot more (considering we have no mandate for self-deposit) after I spent the summer delivering training and raising awareness. We launched to the wider world in October and are seeing around 15,000 downloads per month. Challenges here are still around advocacy and workflow – with so many teams and departments involved in project/partnership work with their own established websites, it’s hard to convince people that archiving publications in the repository as well is anything more than duplication of effort.

I’m not sure I still feel like a cataloguer, which is a shame in a way, but I’ve found new skills and strengths (and weaknesses) to explore and worked with new people in new ways, which has been difficult and fun and eye-opening and never ever boring. (And although I love the detail and intellectual work of cataloguing, subject indexing, classification etc, I’d be lying if I said I was never bored by creating a record for a paper on econometrics that nobody will ever read…)

As my job responsibilities have increased this year I’ve struggled more with work-life balance. We’ve bought our first house and our daughter has changed schools, both of which events probably deserved more of my mental and emotional attention than they got. And I’ve been tired and ill more often that I should be. On the other hand I have got a bit better at saying no – and I’ve realised that half the time it’s not even a case of being asked outright and having to refuse, just being less quick to volunteer for things or to offer help. Obviously it would be a shame if I never again said yes, or got involved with new things, or helped my colleagues! But for now the balance needs redressing.

Some of my personal goals for next year:

1. Have a paper accepted for at least one more publication or conference (incredibly I’ve started to quite enjoy public speaking!)

2. Be more strategic (and cynical?) about my role at work and what I want/can afford to give to other people and teams. Stop being in denial about the politics involved.

3. Set aside some time every week for personal writing/publishing admin (ie getting a poetry collection together, entering competitions, submitting to magazines, keeping proper bloody records – I mean what kind of librarian am I??)

4. Be less self-critical and learn to understand that even if my work is target-driven and subject to competitive benchmarks, how I feel and what I can cope with is not.

To unpack that one a bit, I am a fairly logical and sceptical person and although I think this mindset is a healthy way to approach the external world, it can have a negative side if applied to individual emotional experience. Ie. I need to stop examining every feeling I have to check that it’s justified or ‘evidence-based’. If I’m tired or stressed there’s no benefit in conducting a mental cohort study to see what other people in the same situation are experiencing and then concluding that I shouldn’t be tired or stressed at all.

So yes, watch out 2014, I’m going to have some feelings in you and I won’t be giving myself a hard time about it. Happy Christmas!

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