January 12, 2011

My Embedded Librarianship Project

Have you ever been too tired to take your contact lenses out at night, and so you stay up even later to avoid doing it? I have. Allow me to explain what this has to do with embedded librarianship.

At some point last year I became passively aware of a person named Gretchen Rubin who had written a book called The Happiness Project. Without knowing too much about it, I decided it was way too sappy for my tastes and I duly avoided learning more about it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being happy. Much of this blog is devoted to my own reflections on how to be happy at work. But I thought (without thinking too hard) that I would probably hate a book called The Happiness Project and that I would gain little by learning about its author.

Around the same time, I was “getting religion” about my debt by reading Get Rich Slowly, a personal finance blog about how people behave with money (as opposed to how money behaves in the stock market, for example). Something about JD Roth’s insistence that money management is a daily personal exercise—not a philosophy, as I used to ignorantly believe—led back to Gretchen Rubin, both literally and figuratively. I discovered a whole online network of bloggers devoted to Goals, Accountability, Money, Stuff and Time that includes Rubin, Roth, Chris Guillebeau, Leo Babauta, Courtney Carver and many others. (And they sometimes use capital letters to indicate how much mental energy we spend on things like "Stuff".) While I was still hesitant to check out Rubin’s book, I started following her blog. And that has made all the difference.

Rubin writes about happiness. And just as JD Roth’s exemplary daily writings on personal finance don’t launch readers into shame, blame, and angst at the very thought, Rubin’s daily tips and practical suggestions are indisputably helpful. Most importantly, she is not sappy. Just watch one video of hers and you will know what I’m talking about. She popularized the notion that making one’s bed every day results in greater happiness. (I dare you to try it for a week.)

I admire Rubin for consistently pointing out that everyone’s happiness project will look different. I am now reading the book, and I realized that I started something of a happiness project three years ago when I started this blog. It was initially a way for me to document my adventures “working in the white spaces of the organizational chart.” But what sustained this project was my realization that I am collecting work habits, productivity resolutions, and other heretofore well-kept secrets about flying solo as a new librarian.

Embedded Librarianship projects based on The Happiness Project will have as much diversity and variability as the librarians undertaking them. Every Wednesday is “Tip Day” on The Happiness Project blog, so I naturally think about each week’s tip on Wednesday nights while I am blogging. That’s what works for me. One week the tip was to try a “boot camp” approach to an activity you’ve been dragging your feet on. I used this to jump start the cataloging I had been avoiding for so long. (Yes! Catalog for an entire day to get yourself rolling.)

Today’s tip is to hold yourself accountable. While Rubin uses a Resolutions Chart to do it, I’m a big fan of to-do lists. (And as for my personal finance journey, I have a small, unavoidable copy of my financial goals in my wallet.)

Gretchen Rubin, like me, sings every morning.

Recently I considered Rubin's suggestion to try a Week of Extreme Nice, and I was already thinking of how to adapt this to the workplace. I decided that I would try a Week of Extreme Slow. Once when I was rehearsing for a play, the director had me practice my monologue at an ultra-slow pace for an entire week to focus on the emotion in each syllable, pause and facial expression. I think of this as an analogy to trying a Week of Extreme Slow at work, which will enable me to document the procedures I use, give more concentration to library tasks that I tend to lazily breeze through, and ask in-depth questions about the complexities of our work that I have never understood. A word of caution, though: You definitely need to pick the right week to do a Week of Extreme Slow without falling behind.

What would your library happiness project look like? There are little picky things in mine that are geared toward ending some bad habits (kind of like Rubin’s resolution to take her contacts out before she gets too tired.) I am also trying to incorporate more pro-active, positive measures, such as having a tech tip on my white board that people will see when they walk into my office. Another concrete step I’ve mentioned here is to start telling your colleagues about SLA annual conference as soon as you register. This way (ideally) they will be more interested in what you’ve learned there once you return. Let me know in the comments what your project would be like. And keep smiling.

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