misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Leadership

Soil and Rocks. Breathing and Smiling.

By on April 5, 2011

We’ve all been there. The endless lists, multitude of projects, work/family/volunteer seemingly colliding together. Some days we feel like the rocks and soil are simply burying us alive with the anxiety and fear. It is in times like that when breathing and smiling can really save the day, at least in the moment. Even after gaining three hours over the weekend (flying west), I still came to work this week with the awareness of responsibility and tasks.

Being out front, wanting to lead, is something I’ve always done. I can manage many tasks at one time across a wide range of areas – committees, politics, spiritual, home. It seems to be a gift because it comes naturally for me . But the gift of abundance does also must have a balance. Most of the time my life feels in balance, but there comes a time when it feels like the house of cards will fall.

My goal is to present for those around me. This means that “my tasks” sometimes get put aside for the benefit of those who work for me and those who I mentor and support. Because this goal of presence is mine, I do it with joy and awareness. The others in my life, both at home and at work, hold no responsibility for my feeling of imbalance. As a Library Director, I let the day take me with it and there must be space in the calendar to allow for flexibility. As a husband and father, I let the evening take me with it even if the “work” tasks were left incomplete. Though I don’t do this 100%, it is an intentional goal and practice. As Catherine Hakala-Ausperk wrote in Be A Great Boss, “being prepared for permanent whitewater will give you the attitude you need for that day.”

The benefits of being available are immeasurable. There are costs, of course, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs. It is the human connection that will have a lasting impact, not completing the report or reading the background material or finalizing that budget. Those things are important too, and they will get done, but I’ve set my priority elsewhere. When imbalance arrives, which it did yesterday, then I can use the tools of my practice to keep me centered. It could mean that I close my office door and focus on checking off a few items on the task list (which I didn’t do yesterday). It could mean staying up a little later or getting up a little earlier. Finding joy in the anxiety and fear is possible. Being present, sharing with someone, writing a blog post, they all contribute to balance.

(Recently I committed to writing 250-words a day, but I missed a couple days. That’s part of the letting go too, so here’s my post now.)

Writing an Introduction for 3k People

By on March 30, 2011

How do you write a 5-minute introduction for an award winning author and scholar for ACRL 2011? To say I’m a little nervous is an understatement, though I’ve done my homework.

I’ve known for several months about this introduction, and tomorrow is the big day to introduce Raj Patel. I read his most recent book, watched some video interviews, read a few book reviews, communicated with him via email, had a conference call with him to discuss themes, and made a few notes here and there. Despite this effort over a period of months it comes down to the night before and I’m actually giving the introduction some form.

I must work better under pressure. In my experience, when it’s real and the times up, then the creativity is released.

I loved the book. I love the themes. I’m a radical with socialist leanings. I’m deeply committed to equality, the environment, reducing consumption, and generosity. As a Buddhist, it’s easier to understand and embrace his solutions. Radical democracy, with full engagement of the population, is what we need and what is being proposed by the author.

Here’s the challenge. He’s speaking (and I’m introducing) in front of 3,000 academic librarians. Certainly a more liberal bunch than the average American but not uniformly so. I’m aware of this potentially more “general” audience and yet perhaps this isn’t necessary? Maybe I let it be what it is without any sugarcoating? After all, a few years ago we had John Waters give the keynote. It’s a librarian audience but the author has something to offer us that can be applied to scholarship and the dissemination of information.

I’m very excited. The introduction is written. I’ve rehearsed and will rehearse again few more times. Now I’d like to find a good iPad teleprompter app to scroll the intro.

Interview on Libraries, Social Media, Mediation

By on November 24, 2010

Thank you to Kate, the marketing intern at Santa Barbara City College, for doing such a great job across campus interviewing people and demonstrating the value of our campus community. I was honored to sit down with her to talk about the Luria Library, social media, and mediation. If you have ten minutes, I hope you take the time to watch the interview.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSbFJ-Ok8Zo

Game Changers for Community Colleges

By on November 4, 2010

I just returned from 2-days at OCLC where thirty community college librarians gathered to discuss the community college library environment. If I walk away from an event, conference, workshop, etc. with a list of action items then I know the activity was worth while – the OCLC sponsored event this week was definitely worth my time because I have a short list to work with now that I’m back.

This invite-only event came together around a series of OCLC-identified game changers for community colleges. They did a pretty good job of identifying themes in order to frame our discussion. As we sat around discussing these themes, a great deal of experience was brought into the room and we stepped in directions beyond the five game changers that were initially presented. The five brought to the table were (1) exploding registrations and student populations, (2) budgets, (3) eBooks, (4) working with faculty, particularly adjunct, and (5) leadership and succession.

The list brought to the table does encompass many of the common themes we are experiencing at the community college level. I found the discussion to be rich, informed, and enlightening. No answers were provided but awareness of these themes is important as we proceed in our libraries. My hope is that others can engage in this type of discussion in the future – perhaps regionally – to help frame our status in the academy.  (more…)

When Ready, the Position Will Appear

By on October 19, 2010

I loved the brilliant blog post by Meredith Farkas over at Information Wants To Be Free. She explores the theme of management, upward mobility and sticking with honesty and candor. It’s important to see our strengths and where we might apply them in our work environment. I’m posting my thoughts here as well as on her blog.

My experience has been that one can customize the director position to be who we are as individuals; to be honest about our style and personality. I wouldn’t want to work for a disingenuous person, and I try to reflect that in my director role. Do I wear slacks and nice shirt? Most of time, but I like to look good. I also try to present myself professionally since I represent the library to many of our constituants. I don’t wear ties – don’t like them! My experience also tells me that when I was ready, the position appeared. For some this occurs quickly, others enjoy lingering in their profession by offering valuable service to their community in non-director positions.

This is good and needed.

I’m in my second Library Director position. In between the two, I worked as a classroom-based professor/reference librarian and as a systems librarian. Those two roles were just what I needed between the two director roles. I can honestly say that I’m a much better director this second time round; I needed more experience. Looking back, I’m not even sure I’d want to have worked for me the first time round but it did give some good lessons for this time.

Though Meredith was reflecting on moving from frontline librarian to director, I’m reading this with reflections of moving in other directions. As a Library Director, I periodically think about what it might be like to work as an non-library academic dean or vice-president. Could I ever leave librarianship?

I’m not ready now, but it’s fun to consider. When I’m ready, the position will appear.

Making Things Right

By on October 13, 2010

This year we launched a revised web site for the library and I decided to incorporate new elements that I thought would be beneficial to students. Other library staff were challenged by one of new elements and made their case for not moving ahead. I felt strongly about the element and decided to move forward anyway. How could I act counter to how I would like to lead?

I am responsible for the operation of a community college library. That responsibility includes vision, leadership, staffing, budget, and working directly with the students and faculty. Two important aspects of my job are (1) being able to communicate effectively and (2) being able to admit when I am wrong.

Two recent blog posts inspired me to reflect on the second aspect on making things right. I’ll save my reflection on communication for another time because I believe that “right speech” is probably the most difficult precept to practice. Roy Tennant covered Managing Personal Change with some great strategies that can be applied in many circumstances. In particular, I like learn as you breathe and be grateful. The second post by Seth Godin, Demonstrating Strength, reminds readers to apologize and to offer kindness.

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