When is it time to step sideways? And other ponderings …

We are having our annual Executive Committee retreat on Tuesday. This is the 2nd year our interim dean has hosted this all day event at her beautiful home on the river. It is a fantastic location for a retreat.

We are asked to come with open minds and think not just “outside the box” but also to think boldly. Question everything. Last year we were just warming up to these tasks as the group dynamics were very fresh and we didn’t know each other all that well. Four members of the current leadership group were heads of service previously and in the last year or so have been promoted to Assistant Director. The IT Operations Head serves ad hoc on the group and this year the Staff Assembly President will also attend.

I am the senior member of the group. I was hired in as an AD although the span of my responsibilities has changed in the last year. I’ve come to wonder how much longer I will serve in this role. I’ve really enjoyed the challenges that leading technology has presented but I don’t think I am the best person to be doing this. However, until the leadership recruitment is completed I figure I should bide my time. (The director position at the main library is open and being recruited now, as is the director position at the health sciences library.) Posted here

Our interim dean is doing a great job but none of us really are sure how the recruitment will play out. There are always pros and cons to being the inside candidate. This makes it hard to plan, but I have to say I admire my boss for not allowing that to stop her from thinking ahead and working hard to keep the library moving forward.

Like most state institutions, we’ve suffered repeated budget cuts and more cuts are expected next year. It will take someone with a fresh approach and loads of energy to get excited about applying new programs and technologies in these circumstances. I hope we’ll be able to find the right person, be it our current interim dean or someone new.

We’re reviewing the Horizon Report in preparation for our retreat. Most of the trends noted in this report are not new to me, but in order for us to move forward in exciting new ways, we need to have a renewed commitment to the staffing and infrastructure that can support such initiatives. We have built fantastic core services with talented personnel but we can’t seem to recruit new people fast enough. Some of the programs we’ve been in the lead with in the past have languished and need reinvigorating. We’ve responded to challenges with solutions that work, but are these sustainable?

Stay tuned… I’m hoping that the calm coastal vistas of our retreat location will inspired us to find the right mix of new programs and new approaches to services we need to continue to support and will help us have the courage to end those we cannot afford any longer.

July 2013- Assistant Director for Discovery & Technology Services, Joyner Library, East Carolina University August 2008-June 2013 Assistant Director for Collections & Technical Services, Joyner Library, East Carolina University

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About “Gentle Disturbances”

The title of our new blog, “Gentle Disturbances”, is a tribute and a reference to the husband and wife artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art consists of vast, temporary outdoor installations, such as the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin, the 24-mile Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties in California, and The Gates in New York City's Central Park. Christo has asserted that their art creates “gentle disturbances," designed to challenge traditional perceptions of the spaces and landscapes they inhabit. By encouraging viewers to see familiar landscapes in new ways, their art disrupts assumptions about permanence, ownership, and categorization.

While we claim none of the artistic or political impact of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, we hope that this blog and its many contributors will challenge us all to look at the landscape of academic libraries and higher education in new ways. We aspire to “gentle disturbances” of the kind that will lead to productive conversations and creative approaches to our common challenges.