Transitions

Transitions is an occasional series where community members reflect on the things they have learned while moving from one institution to another or one role to another.

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June 16, 2021

Transitions: standing on the shoulders of librarians

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Transitions is an occasional series where community members reflect on the things they have learned while moving from one institution to another or one role to another. 


By Monica Westin, Google Scholar partnerships lead / technical program manager

In the spring of 2014, I left a PhD program in classical rhetoric to try out a career in scholarly communication. I was immediately hooked by what I saw as unsolved problems in the ecosystem and the potential impact of making academic research easier to access. Except for a brief stint at HighWire Press, I spent the following four years in the institutional repository and library publishing space, first at bepress and then at CDL’s eScholarship, the University of California’s system-wide repository and publishing platform. 

One Monday in November 2018, three days after leaving my job as publications manager for the library publishing program at the CDL, I started a new role as the program manager for partnerships at Google Scholar. The past two and a half years have been eye-opening.

I have three strong memories from my first week. The first is knowing I had made the right decision to take the job when my new boss, Google Scholar co-founder and director Anurag Acharya, described the mission of Scholar to me in our first meeting: that “no matter the accident of your birth,” he told me, you should be able to know about all the papers written in any research field you might want to enter. What you did with that knowledge was up to you. 

My second memory is the expression on Anurag’s face when I admitted I didn’t really understand what robots.txt instructions did. “Goal: be more technical!” I wrote in my notebook that afternoon after spending hours looking up basic web indexing protocol information on Wikipedia. I don’t think he looked quite as disappointed as I remember, but I knew that I could no longer get away with not knowing how things worked. 

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May 18, 2021

Transitions: First Year as Faculty

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Transitions is an occasional series where community members reflect on the things they have learned while moving from one institution to another or one role to another. 


By Laura Miller, Florida State University

As I am writing this post, I am about three weeks away from my one-year anniversary as a full-time library faculty member at Florida State University. I transitioned into my current role as Visiting Open Publishing Librarian from a Graduate Assistantship in May 2020. Like many other early-twenty-somethings, I found myself starting my first full-time job remotely due to the pandemic. I am fortunate that my new role was housed in the same department as my assistantship, and that I even report to the same supervisor. Being able to see familiar faces on Zoom and Teams has made the transition from part-time to full-time much easier. Despite having the comforts of familiar colleagues at an institution I’ve called home since 2014, the jump from part-time to full-time and student worker to faculty has not been without its challenges.

As a GA, I worked on a number of open access publishing and scholarly communications projects. Being able to see projects through which I had contributed to or laid the groundwork for in previous years was one of the most gratifying aspects of my transition to Open Publishing Librarian. I’m able to troubleshoot technical issues for journals that were just developing when I was a GA, and I have published revised editions of a textbook I assisted with two years ago. With the added hours in my work week, I am able to pay greater attention to accessibility and refine publishing workflows that were ad hoc before my publishing-dedicated position was created. This more strategic and directed approach to library publishing culminated in the formation of Florida State Open Publishing (FSOP) last Fall which brought my office’s publishing, hosting, and consulting services under one cohesive initiative.  (more…)


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April 6, 2021

Transitions: Transitioning from tenure-track disciplinary faculty to library staff

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Transitions is an occasional series where community members reflect on the things they have learned while moving from one institution to another or one role to another. 


By Cheryl E. Ball, Wayne State University

I’m still searching for the correct terminology to describe my previous life in the academy: For almost 20 years, I worked towards and then became a professor (little P), both tenure-track and tenured, in English departments at three different U.S. universities. (I used to just say I was “faculty” but since librarians can also be faculty, I’ve found that terminology confusing since I transitioned to library-land.) As a grad student and professor, I taught multimodal composition, print production, web design, and in the latter years a lot of digital editing and publishing classes that built on my industry and academic experience in publishing. I was also researching multimodal composition practices–essentially the classroom-based version of the editorial work I was doing with authors at the scholarly multimedia journal Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. While editor, I’ve been able to study how authors are mentored and revise their work, how webtexts are peer reviewed and design-edited, how editorial workflows for scholarly multimedia are different (or not) from print-based publishing workflows, how the infrastructure of independent digital publishing is made possible (but not necessarily sustainable) on no budget, how the foibled preservation tactics of most born-digital scholarship is disastrous for the scholarly record, and more.

My research kept pushing me towards building an editorial management and publishing platform for journals like Kairos, and after years of struggle, pondering whether that was the right course, I began working on the Vega publishing platform–thanks to a Mellon grant I received in 2015. Working on Vega meant that I was spending half my time teaching in the English department and half my time researching and building things in the library, focusing on scholarly communications work (a phrase unknown to most faculty members outside of library-land). It was work I loved and wanted to do more of, but didn’t have the time as a faculty member. The outreach efforts that working from within the library opened for me–to reach out to faculty and students across campus, instead of “just” in my home discipline–satisfied my mentoring orientation regarding knowledge-making in the academy. So when the opportunity arose in late 2017 to transition into full-time library work, focused on building publishing infrastructures through Vega at Wayne State University, well, I did not jump at the chance. I was in the middle of my “critical” year in applying for Full Professor–the golden ring of academia. 

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March 25, 2021

Transitions: No longer new, but still here

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Transitions is an occasional series where community members reflect on the things they have learned while moving from one institution to another or one role to another. 


By Emma Molls, University of Minnesota

Last summer, from behind a handbuilt desk in my makeshift home office, I started my eighth year as an academic librarian. Eight years of librarianship is really no different than seven years of librarianship, with one exception, this year, I noticed. I noticed that I was no longer an early-career librarian.(1) I noticed that I was no longer new. I also noticed how I struggled to imagine my professional future. I noticed I felt uneasy, and maybe a bit scared. What am I if I am no longer new?

My identity crisis is in part due to the only type of librarian I’ve ever been: a new one. I was hired out of graduate school in 2013 as part of an informal new-hire cohort at Iowa State, which sought to embed scholarly communication experts throughout the library. Outside of the cohort, no one had a position description like mine and I was first holder of my lengthy job title. After I left Iowa State and my first scholarly communication job, I became the publishing librarian at the University of Minnesota. For a variety of reasons, I felt a little less new at Minnesota.(2) But the reality was I was stepping into a library publishing program that was only a year and a half old (aka, new!).

Being a new librarian, or working in a new library program, felt like riding my bicycle down a gigantic hill. I viewed the fast pace as appropriate given my situation and applying the brakes seemed like a bigger risk than it did a sense of safety. Plus, I loved the feeling of the fresh air on my face.(3) In my experience, being a new librarian meant learning a million new things a day, taking every opportunity that came across my inbox, and working toward an ill-defined notion of “national reputation” that would, in a future assessment, make or break my career. It was an adrenaline rush that didn’t care about sustainability or health. I grew so accustomed to the chaos that I never stopped to think: what’s next?

In 2016, Erin White wrote a beautiful piece titled, “What it means to stay.”(4) Erin described the “Next Job Opportunity,” the widely held belief (and practice) that librarianship requires upward progression, and that progression requires us to leave, to move on. Erin, of course, didn’t leave, they stayed. When I read Erin’s piece in 2016, I didn’t (couldn’t) understand it, I myself was in the process of leaving for my own “Next Job Opportunity.” Rereading now, however, I find the reflection a guidepost of sorts in helping me think about what librarianship might look like for me when I am no longer new. Erin’s most striking comment: “I stopped deciding everything needed to happen at a breakneck speed. Yes, some things need to move quickly, but not everything. Pacing is important.” Five years after reading this, I can finally acknowledge my own lack of pacing and my near obsession with riding down the hill. Or maybe my face just needs a break from all the fresh air.

This summer, which is suddenly around the corner, I’ll start my ninth year of librarianship. What will I be, nine years into librarianship? I have no idea. I hope that I’ll adjust to a new pace, maybe even apply the breaks once in a while. I’m terrified that I won’t know how. I hope that I’ll have less identity crises. I’m terrified that I’ll never not be having an identity crisis. One thing is certain, I’ll be even further away from being new. But I’ll still be here.

For now, that’s enough.
====================
(1) I probably should have noticed after 6 years, using the ACRL definition.
(2) In part because I learned a ton at Iowa State, which prepared me for anything and everything.
(3) This might be an Evel Knievel quote.
(4) Erin White is the Head of Digital Engagement and Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries.


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March 10, 2021

Transitions: Transitioning from a small, liberal arts university to a large, research university

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Transitions is an occasional series where community members reflect on the things they have learned while moving from one institution to another or one role to another. 


By Johanna Meetz, The Ohio State University

I worked as the Scholarly Communication and Publishing Services Librarian as well as the Associate Director of Pacific University Press at Pacific University, a small, liberal arts institution near Portland, OR, from 2016-2020. My job was split between institutional repository administration, which I had previous experience with, and the tasks associated with publishing, which were unfamiliar to me when I started. Pacific offers a more full-service set of publishing services than many publishing programs, including copyediting and typesetting, which added to the complexity of the job. In addition, the year before I started in the position, Pacific Libraries had recently founded Pacific University Press, a hybrid open access publisher that offers OA digital editions as well as print copies of books for purchase. As a result, while there I published both books and journals. I learned by doing, and it was an adventure to solve stylistic and technical problems as well as to become familiar with typical publishing standards and practices. Since I was the only faculty or staff member in my area, I grew comfortable relying largely on myself, as well as with reaching out to the LPC community when I needed assistance.

I started my new position as the Publishing and Repository Services Librarian at Ohio State University in 2020. I currently administer Ohio State’s institutional repository and oversee the publishing program. Though the high-level responsibilities are the same, the biggest difference in the two positions is that I now work with others; I supervise three full-time staff members who also work on the IR and with our publications. As a result, I am now a little more removed from the day-to-day tasks associated with production work in general, which enables me to spend more time and energy concentrating on the bigger picture: improving workflows and considering sustainability and scalability, particularly for our publishing program as it grows.

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