I’m back from my whirlwind vacation. I returned Monday night, but I’ve been so exhausted since then that I haven’t had the energy to post (and yesterday was my birthday, so I had to devote lots of time to eating pie). It was a physically and mentally exhausting trip. Lots of hiking, lots of driving and flying, lots of speaking. Scattering my grandfather’s ashes was really a lot harder than I thought it would be. I hadn’t been back to the Catskills in years and seeing their old house, the pond where I used to feed the ducks, the creek I used to fish in… it just brought back a flood of memories. I still miss him like crazy.
Most of the trip was very fun. Adam and I had a great time. New Mexico is an absolutely amazing place to visit and the AISTI Conference I attended was really unique. I was the only speaker that day from a library. The others were involved in motivational speaking, business consulting and workplace technology design and they offered some really neat insights into innovation from their perspectives. Not really practical talks, but I definitely had the sensation that my horizons were being expanded. I also had the pleasure of meeting Five Weeks to a Social Library participant, Dell Bayer and Carolyn Dunford, co-author of this month’s brilliant D-Lib article, “Using Wikipedia to Extend Digital Collections”. How smart to use the Wikipedia to provide links (and draw traffic) to library collections instead of worrying about it taking interest away from your collections! I would definitely like to visit New Mexico again and it’s now on my list of “places I could live in the future.”
At the ENY-ACRL Conference, I gave the keynote talk, Driving the Technology Bus with Social Software. I think I finally understand what the difference is between a keynote and a regular talk. 🙂 It’s amazing to me how much easier it gets to speak each time I do it. I even enjoy it! At this conference I got to meet another of our excellent participants, Josalyn Gervasio. I get warm fuzzy feelings every time I get to meet someone from Five Weeks to a Social Library; they’re all doing such cool techie things at their libraries now! Almost makes me forget how discouraged I felt reading some of the responses to this post at ACRLog. Sigh… maybe one day organizations will see where the demand/need is (I get e-mails constantly asking me to reprise Five Weeks) and will realize that member benefits that people actually want will attract new members.
I really do love all the work I do. I love speaking, I love writing, I love creating wikis and online courses. But I’m wiped out. I just feel so busy ALL THE TIME. And I’m not happy. Stress at work really hasn’t helped things, but most of the sense of business has come from my extra-curricular activities. Karen Coombs’ post about picking your battles really touched a chord with me:
It seems to me that it is often the same people who pick up the torch and fight these battles for change in librarianship. It is the same people who get asked to do more, and to take leadership roles over and over again… In my mind, this pattern has extremely dire consequences. Burn out of active and enthusiastic librarians for one. But burn out is the tip of the iceberg, because burn out can result in ineffectual leadership within our libraries and library associations to the point that we fail to be effective and as a result, alienate users and association members.
I’m not complaining, but sometimes you get to feeling like the more you do, the more you’re asked to do. And I hate saying no, but lately I’ve had to do it more and more. I love this work. I love helping other librarians. It’s one of the things that really makes me feel like I’m doing “right” with my life. And yet, it’s also the thing that’s making me insanely stressed. And it’s no one’s fault but my own. I make these choices.
My wonderful friend partner-in-crime, Michelle, is traveling the same road of reflection right now. And I think we’re both on our way to a better balance and a better way of living our lives. Today when I read her post and saw “I define my own success, it does not look like yours, and I am ok with that” I had a moment of clarity. I think I’ve taken on so much because I want to achieve some impossible measure of success; and I keep raising the bar higher and higher every day. Two years ago, I would have never thought I’d write a book, and now it doesn’t feel like enough. It’s like I’m looking for some sort of magical approval that never comes and I don’t exactly know why, but I have to get over it, because I’m beginning to suspect that there will never be an “enough.”
Thank you Michelle, for giving me some very excellent mantras (other than the slobbering dog part!) to keep telling myself next time I wonder if I can take on one more speaking engagement in an already packed month. We’re on the right track!
Do tell – what is the difference between a keynote and a regular talk? I tried to answer this one for myself when I spoke at LOEX last year, and I’m not certain that I quite got it right.
Hi Scott. Well, my take is that a keynote speaks to the larger theme of the conference and is designed to set the tone, inspire and energize. If people come out of it feeling excited for what is going to come next and they can see a logical link between what you talked about and the subsequent sessions, you’re golden. But I’ve been to a lot of keynotes that had nothing to do with anything else going on at the conference, so I certainly could be wrong about this. Maybe it just means that you’re like the king/queen of the conference and can say whatever you want. 😉
Much of what you’ve said here relates to why it is that I live in some ways as marginally as possible. I had a whole round of experiences during my first stint of graduate school that made me realize I needed to live more slowly. (Lest I sound as though I have it made, I should mention that I’m still working on figuring out how to do that.) Best of luck to you in figuring out how to make things work for you–and many of us will consider you a talented and worthwhile person all the same, regardless of what you do or don’t do.
No, Meredith, you hit the nail on the head in terms of describing the purpose of a keynote. I mean, why call it a keynote otherwise? I hear you on the weariness, but in my own selfish way I’m hoping you will get some rest and return to the fray re-energized — we need you! And I mean “we” to mean all of us.
Absolutely agree on the issue of burnout, expectations, and goals. We do not spend enough time reflecting on our achievements, celebrating them.
I was recently asked to be a mentor for our state-association. I was really thrilled (but slightly daunted by the thought of more commitments!). I’m taking it as an opportunity to stop for a moment and be proud of what I’ve done to be asked. Hopefully this will also help with the feeling of always doing more and more.
Maybe a good thing to add to Library Success or elsewhere is a page on how to recognise and reward your successes – personal and your library’s. Because so often it seems that we don’t know how!
I liked your comment about choices. You are right. We have chosen to be this busy. That is why saying no is important. For some of us, me included, saying no is hard far many, many reasons, but I am working on it.
Meredith, you too can have your very own slobbery dog. I know where the breeder lives from whom I bought my slobbery dog. Or you could just get a pony. With a monocle. Or some such nonsense.
Meredith – you and I seem to have largely the same idea about keynotes, which I appreciate given your experience in giving them!
Mind you, the “King of the Conference” model has its appeal, as well 🙂
And, I have a Newfoundland dog, and I challenge anyone to find a “wetter” breed!
I actually have very little experience in giving keynotes — only two.
OMG, Newfies are SO cute! I’d love to have one, but I vowed that I’d never get a dog I can’t lift. I think golden retrievers and labs are my size limit. 🙂
I hear you so much on the burn out. I was there 4 years ago and it was really hard to step back and say No to certain speaking engagements. I am not sure that I would have, except that the adoption process pretty much forced me to keep my calendar clear as I never knew when we would need to travel. My focus is always on my family first now, and whenever I feel work taking over my life I step back and remind myself what is essential. I hope you too can find the balance you seek while remaining active. Our profession is better for all your efforts.
I’m so Happy that I met you at the ENY-ACRL Conference. I was star struck!! You did an excellent job as the keynote! I do hope you achieve balance and remain postive – it’s tough. I just want you to know what a difference you made/make in so many librarians lives. Thank you so much!!
Oh Josalyn, believe me, I was starstruck myself! I was absolutely blown away by what you accomplished during 5 Weeks and I can’t wait to hear about what you end up doing in the future. Keep in touch!