Realism, cutting back, and letting go.



Library Closed, originally uploaded by bigoteetoe.

Have I told you about the hard times at MPOW? It’s bad… really bad… The institute we’re a part of has lost a huge portion of its funding, which means the library is facing massive budget cuts. How massive? Well, 35% is the optimistic cut, though we’re still waiting to see how it shakes out. It’s not a huge surprise since our funding comes from Caltrans and UC, and California is on the precipice financially, but it’s still stressful and something we have to deal with.

How are we dealing with it? We have to cut services. Even thinking about it now is painful — getting that pit in my stomach of nervous tension. What else can we do? (Reduced pay means reduced working hours, obviously… thankfully… I guess?)

Today the consistently wise Jenica Rogers blogged about failure as reward:

“You’re doing great work, and I appreciate how hard it is” seems to be the best I can do for morale and motivation.

Today I realized that “if we have to make further cuts, we’ll have to start cutting services” also works. Not because any of us want to cut services — far from it, and we’re all horrified by how close to the bone we are and how that’s impacting education in New York state — but because it’s an acknowledgment that we’re only human. We can only do so much. We cannot be superpeople. We have tried, and if we’re pushed further, we’ll fail. There’s power in acknowledging the limits of success and effort.

MPOW is a lean operation as it is, but we really have to have that hard look at what we’re doing, the services we’re providing, and what we’ll have to do without. It hurts. I hate telling students, “We had to cancel that subscription,” but I appreciate that they know it wasn’t really by choice. There will be more of that. The hardest part for me will be cutting back on the depth and quality of reference service we offer. I love answering questions! It’s my nature to help people, but I have to acknowledge I can’t do it all. It’s about reassessing the library’s priorities, and making sure we’re aligned with our institute’s. One thing that really makes it easier in some ways, though harder in others, is that I recognize that it’s a shared pain and that we’re really in this together. It’s part of the new reality. So we’re switching to a 4-day week when the semester ends. Nobody’s really thrilled about it, but it’s the most realistic option.

So I have to let go. Let go of all my fun conference calls with the larger transportation community. Let go of my research into ontologies of transportation engineering. Let go of a lot of the fun. It’s depressing, but I know it’s necessary. Hopefully there will be light at the end of this tunnel, and hopefully I’ll be able to get back to that sort of stuff on the clock, but for now I need to get ready to scale back. At least I can commiserate with colleagues near and abroad.

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