What Exactly Do I Do?

As the new semester has started up again, it’s been as busy and hectic as it always is. Every year, I think this is the year when I’m going to be on top of everything heading into September, and every year, I’m anything but. So while I was bemoaning my perpetual state of not-quite-on-top-of-everything, I thought it might be interesting to you all to know just what exactly I’m up to these days. Between work, writing, family, and church, there are a number of balls in the air. How many?

Let’s find out.

  • Library Director: My main job. I advocate for the library on campus. I manage the budget. I answer far too many emails. I visit classes to do reference instruction. I sit at the reference desk. I attend meetings. I supervise staff members. This is a full time job, but there are a number of hats I wear while I’m at work that make work more . . . worky. Generally, I try to cap work at 40 hours a week. In practice, I fail. (Which once you look at the other things I do as part of my library work, makes sense, I suppose.)
  • Staff Senate President: I’ve been on Staff Senate for the past two years, first as vice president, and now as president for the last year. (This is my second stint doing this three year term.) As part of this, I organize senate meetings, run those meetings, attend leadership council, sit on various committees, meet with the university president once a month, and do my best to stay on top of what the needs are of the staff of the university in general (instead of just the library). I should be moving to past president for the remainder of my term, so hopefully this gets a bit less time intensive.
  • URSUS Directors Committee Chair: UMF is part of a library system that includes all the academic libraries in the University of Maine system, plus the Bangor Public Library, Maine State Library, Portland Public Library, and the Maine Law & Legislative Reference Library. The directors meet once a month (alternating in person and via Zoom). I’m the chair of the group, and have been for the past . . . four years? Maybe more. The COVID era has still messed with my memory. As the chair, I organize the meetings, run the meetings, meet with administrators outside of the meetings, and iron out problems as they arise. We’ve been doing a years-long effort to switch our LMS (Library Management System), which basically means switching out the software we use to organize our collections. I will be in meetings guiding this process every other week until November, and then every week after that until . . . June?
  • UMSL Directors Committee Chair: A subset of URSUS, UMSL is the University of Maine System Libraries. We work together to share resources, advocate for library needs for the system, and cooperate to provide the best library services for the system that we can. There’s a lot of teamwork involved in this effort. As chair, I meet with administrators, organize the meetings, run the meetings, and make sure the different efforts stay on track. We did a years-long strategic planning process that took a bunch of time, but that’s thankfully complete now. (So we just have to implement it . . .) The UMSL directors meet the same days as the URSUS Directors (since there’s so much overlap.)
  • Maine Library Commission Vice Chair: I’ve been on the commission now for about a year and a half, give or take, and vice chair since . . . spring? The commission establishes the policies and operations of the State Library, gives advice and makes recommendations on the expenditure of state and federal funds, and establishes guidelines and policies for statewide library programs. We meet about once a quarter, though as vice chair, I have meetings that come up in between those meetings. I’m also sitting in on two statewide committees that are looking at retooling how libraries cooperate in Maine.
  • Maine Infonet Secretary: Maine Infonet is a statewide non-profit that provides the backbone for many of the statewide library services. (Borrowing between libraries, and the online catalogs most of libraries in Maine use.) This boils down to meeting about every other month in Augusta. I’m also on the finance committee for the group, which is another meeting off and on.
  • Makerspace: We added the Makerspace to the library several years ago. I spend a significant amount of time trying to help it succeed. We just got another $180,000 grant to aid this effort, so I’ve been having meetings around how to put that money to use. The good news is that I’ve edged away from the day-to-day supervision of the space, so that’s taking less time.
  • Building Council: The library also houses the student learning commons, the coffee bar, the digital humanities lab, and IT. I work to keep all of those different endeavors coordinated, and try to make sure information goes between the different groups smoothly and consistently.

That rounds out the things I do as part of my full-time job. What other things am I doing?

  • Writing Novels: 1,000 words a day when it’s new prose, 2,000 words a day when it’s revision. That’s a rough goal, but fairly accurate. That usually works out to about an hour a day for me. Sometimes more when it’s tough writing, sometimes less when I’m in the groove. There are times when I’m on deadline for a book, and when that happens, things get more intense. I’m on a deadline right now, and so I’ve been writing more like 2-3 hours a day. I take Sundays off. The good news is that my deadline is 9/12, so for better or worse, I should be able to drop back down to an hour a day soon. I love writing, and I’m not complaining about doing this, but it’s definitely a significant commitment.
  • Writing the Blog: Once a day for each weekday. Sometimes it takes about 15 minutes. Sometimes it takes a lot longer. It depends on the topic. Again, I do it because I enjoy it, but it takes consistent effort.
  • Stake Executive Secretary: This is a church responsibility. It boils down to a meeting each week that lasts 1.5-2.5 hours on Wednesday evenings. Once a month, there’s another meeting on a Thursday that lasts 2 hours. (It’s in Waterville one month, Bangor the next, and Zoom the third, and then it repeats.) In addition to those meetings, I keep track of the schedules for the stake presidency, I organize agendas, take minutes, send out action items, follow up with various assignments, keep track of statistics for the stake, and corral monthly reports that are supposed to come into the stake presidency. Overall, this takes 5-10 hours a week, I would guess. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
  • Magic the Gathering Club Advisor: This is a student club at UMF. I help run an event for them, usually once a week. It’s playing Magic, which I like to do anyway, but it takes a night each week, usually for about 3.5 hours.

I’m pretty sure that covers all of the non-family, non-social related things I’m committed to. I mean, I also spend time with the family and with friends, but I’m not going to break that all down in any way, only to say that I make a concerted effort to keep all of those relationships strong, prioritizing family over friends. I also like to take, you know, breaks each day. Usually to play some video games or watch a movie or TV show. I play chess online. I play Magic: The Gathering online, as well. I’ve got a board gaming group that tries to get together once a month. I host movie nights at my house, and organize a fair number of events. I run a fantasy football league. I follow BYU sports. I read a book a week. I keep a daily journal. I’m doing DuoLingo in Czech and Mondly in Slovak each day. I do the New York Times crossword every day. I read the scriptures daily. I plan out family vacations. I do family history. In past years, I’ve had house construction projects on top of everything else, but I really (really) want to never be in charge of any of that again. I’m okay paying someone to do it, but I just don’t have the time to play an active role in it. Maybe that will change if any of those other duties get smaller. The smart thing for me to do would be to not let it change.

I’ll also note that all of those things I listed come with a mental load beyond the time I’m specifically involved working on them. Thinking through problems. Talking over issues. I don’t do a good job calculating how much time that all takes me, but it’s not insignificant.

However, the bottom line is that when I list everything out like this, it’s much more understandable to me why I feel spread thin at times. How do I stay on top of it all? I keep a very rigorous schedule, and I use Google Calendar a ton. One thing I’m very good at is doing the same thing every single day. That sounds boring to many people, but it means I can compartmentalize all those different efforts and make sure I have time for each of them.

When things are going well, my life feels a lot like the inside of a clock. Gears jammed all over the place, but everything keeps ticking forward. Then again, it also means that when something gets out of whack, everything can get much more complicated.

Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often . . .

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