August 10, 2021Nancy Adams
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 Karen Stoll Farrell, Head, Scholarly Communication Department, Librarian for South and Southeast Asian Studies, Indiana University – Bloomington
In May 2020, as the pandemic was steamrolling forward, I was asked to step in as interim head of the Scholarly Communication Department at Indiana University-Bloomington. I have been at IU since 2014; hired on by virtue of my background and training in things like Sanskrit to be the Librarian for South and Southeast Asian Studies. Later, I added Head of Area Studies Department to my title. While Scholarly Communication is far outside my area of expertise, this wasn’t my first time pinch hitting at IU; I had previously served as interim Head of Scholars’ Commons (think reference, workshops, programming), and I knew I enjoyed the opportunity to learn new things about our organization and about librarianship in general.
In all honesty, I had no idea what I was stepping into. I was completely lost for many months after joining the Scholarly Communication folks. I could blame it on the pandemic, or the new virtual work environment, or perhaps my own abilities, but I suspect much of this readership will know that I could just as easily blame it on the unwieldy boundlessness that is scholarly communication work, as well as the depth of technical expertise needed to fully understand any single piece of that work.
Over the course of that long pandemic year, I dove into as much as I could. Colleagues sent me links to core readings and to more organizations than I thought possible for one sub-field of librarianship, and walked me through many, many issues that I had only the most vague conception of. Eventually, I got a bit better; I know that because my colleagues, whose expertise I relied on so heavily, started to say things like, ‘that’s a really good question,’ or ‘that’s something I also think about.’ I wasn’t caught up, but I was at least gaining a grasp of the true problems and issues of scholarly communication work. (more…)