Thank you for explaining research to me.

We’re going to go back to ALA Annual 2017 for this post, but in an entirely different way my last two (see Part 1 & Part 2). In this post, I’m dealing with an experience that happened before Annual officially began. Apparently, it helped set the tone for the rest of the conference.

A bit of backstory. Right now I’m collaborating with a colleague, Dr. Laura-Edythe Coleman, on a study about how librarians and museum professionals understand and perform empathy in their everyday work. My colleague (and close friend) was also in town for Annual and wanted me to meet some important museum people from the Chicago area. She mentioned a Twitter hashtag that helps bring together museum-minded individuals during different conferences for drinks, socializing, and shop talk. There had been an informal gathering set up via the hashtag for that Thursday and wanted me to attend. Okay. Makes sense. I like museums. It would be a good idea to meet more professionals in an unfamiliar world to me. Especially since I’ll be interacting with participants from museums as part of our research.

Already stressed, sleep-deprived, and overwhelmed, I was not in the best headspace for high pressure social interactions. I never imagined that this social would be so intense, but it definitely turned out to be exactly that. I arrived at the designated bar with some half-hearted excitement to meet non-librarians before an (almost) all librarian conference. A small group of the museum people and my friend were there, already into drinks and appetizers. After brief introductions, I began to feel anxious and slightly paranoid. Most of the time my anxiety and paranoia isn’t justified, but in the case I believe it was.

I immediately felt on the defense. I sensed a general disinterest in me and a patronizing attitude towards my librarian status. This mainly came from three men at the table. My attempts at common “getting to know you” conversation starters failed miserably. I tried asking about where people work, what they like to do in Chicago, etc. A conversation about local craft beer started. I mentioned some of my favorite breweries in town. And received the sneering feedback I almost always get (from men) when I express an opinion about beer. Then the man across from me asked, out of the blue, “Why do you do research?”. Seemed like an odd and bit aggressive question. I responded with, what I think, are the reasons I do research. Stuff like: Because I’m a naturally curious person. Because I enjoy it. Because I’m (occassionally) good at it. Because I think it actually does some (tiny) good in the world. And because, honestly, a big part of being an academic is doing research that you can then present and publish. Job search, tenure, and such. Also, I’m a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Research is right there in my job title.

Those reasons did not meet his approval. He sent me a very clear look that demonstrated his criticism of my thoughts. Whatever I said clearly was not the right (or his right) answer. Obviously all my doctoral work, dissertation, and postdoc efforts have taught me nothing about research. I had no idea where to go with this conversation. I asked why he did research and he responded with something esoteric and with the intent to put me in my place. I was so furious that my brain refused to comprehend his words fully. All I could think was, “I am going to lose it.” Which I almost NEVER experience. I don’t remember the last time I did. But I didn’t explode this time. I sort of wish I did, but also sort of glad I didn’t. People like that don’t deserve the amount of energy I would need to go off. I didn’t even have anywhere near that energy at the time. In these situations, it feels like they want my anger. They want an argument. A chance to show off what they know and what they think I don’t.

But here is what I would have said:

I have a fucking PhD. Did you know that is a research degree? I’ve spent about five years conducting research either in collaboration with colleagues or on my own. I’ve been (and continue to be) mentored by AMAZING researchers. I completed a dissertation a year ago. This means that I came up with original research, dealt with the IRB, collected and analyzed my data, wrote up, presented, and defended my research, and proved to my committee that I can produce quality research. I’m in the middle of a postdoctoral fellowship, a terrific position that allows me to participate in really interesting research, learn more about research, and discuss research. I’m definitely not the best researcher. Occasionally I’m good at it. But for the most part I’m constantly learning how to become a better researcher and a more critical thinker. Finally, research research research.

I’m often on the defense with men. Whether it’s what I’m doing, what I’m reading, where I’m going, what I believe, and even what I feel. I know other women have experienced this too. I do love to learn. I’m excited when someone teaches me a new thing, shows me a different way to look at something, or gives constructive feedback. But I know when people are being kind and helpful versus trying to break me by dismissing my intelligence, education, and interests. I have so little patience for this as I grow older. But I’m (finally) able to detect when men are explaining things to me. No longer shrinking inside myself quite as much. Instead, trying very hard to stand tall.

Obviously, I’m still working through some issues relating to conferencing (see Part 1 & Part 2). Thank you for continue to read. Writing helps me process uncomfortable, confusing, painful, and overwhelming experiences in ways that even therapy cannot. As I write, I learn more about myself and whatever I’m struggling with. I make connections and discoveries that I would never had if I kept it all in my head. I figure out what really happened and why I responded the way I did. Writing also helps tame my tendency to overanalyze everything. I never know exactly where writing will take me but maybe that one reason I love it. I write to go forward.

 

“I’m Not Sure Why I”m Here: A Panicked Story, Part 2″

I want to thank you all for your outpouring of love and support. I had no idea what to expect when I pressed “publish” on Part 1. Right now I feel both very exposed and empowered. A contradictory feeling but a good one. Thank you to those who shared stories of personal struggles via social media, blog comments, and e-mails. I know that couldn’t have been easy. I admire your strength and perseverance.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to dig a bit deeper and answer some questions from my draft-reading librarian friend (you’re the best!) and a few of my own questions in this last post. Hopefully, my writing flows along somewhat smoothly. Here we go.

The New Member’s Round Table (NMRT) panel at ALA Annual hasn’t been my only panic attack during a presentation, but it has been my worst. My other panic attack happened during the last semester of my Master’s in Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program at Florida State University (FSU). As part of my coursework, I had an assignment to develop and carry out a training session about some aspect of library work. I decided to create a basic research workshop about databases, online tools, and helpful websites for our library staff. There were (maybe?) seven people at the workshop, but I still felt the intensity of pressure and anxiety. The morning of the workshop, I went to the gym very early because I thought working out would help. As I got ready for work, I went through my index cards of notes obsessively. While backing up the driveway to get to the library, I reversed into my mom’s car. Freaked out. My dad calmed me down as well as he could. I got to work, set everything up in the meeting room, and began my workshop. After the first 15 minutes, I relaxed a bit. I knew these people, had worked with them for a while, and they appeared to be engaged. Before the panel, that was my only other panic attack during a presentation. My panic level was seriously uncomfortable but manageable-ish.

Continue reading

Not Sure Where to Go From Here…

On April 30, 2016, I graduated with my Ph.D. in Information Studies from the School of Information at Florida State University. What a confusing series of emotions I went through on that day – from anger, sadness, happiness, and dread. It … Continue reading

The Impact of Our Work on Ourselves

While interviewing rural librarians and young adults for my dissertation over last summer, I had the most surprising conversation with one high school librarian. We’ll call her Mary to maintain confidentiality. Our interview turned to the topic of how our work with patrons … Continue reading

Defending My Dissertation and Other Things I’ve Experienced Recently

On Monday, February 8, I successfully defended my dissertation. I stood up in front of a room of people and presented my dissertation research, opening myself up to questions and critiques (constructive). I’ve talked about my fear of public speaking … Continue reading

Guest Blogging for YALSA

So long ago (January 13), I wrote a guest post for the YALSA blog about my experience at ALISE 2016 Annual Conference and its theme of Radical Change, inspired by Dr. Eliza Dresang and her work with youth services. You … Continue reading

Top 5 YA and Libraries Research in 2015 (But Mostly from Pew Research Center)

Recently, I did a guest blog post for YALSAblog – the official blog of Young Adult Library Services Association. Here what I said in the post, and here’s a link to the original post. Happy New Year! In the world of … Continue reading

Writing Stuff. All the Time.

In case you missed it, I’ve been writing quite a bit since the beginning of summer. Some of which has actually been published! Here’s a round-up in case you missed them.

June

I contributed a bit to Julia Skinner’s post for Hack Library SchoolWhy We Decided on the PhD“. Just a couple of sentences from me about (obviously) why I decided to pursue an doctoral degree. There are many reasons NOT do go this route. Julia is a doctoral candidate in my program; and she’s very knowledgeable about so many things!

July

I wrote a guest post for the Letters to a Young Librarian blog called, “Politics Schmolitics! What Does Politics Have to do With Libraries?” My first librarian position was in a small rural library system. My MLIS program didn’t prepare me for the amount of politics (local and state) involved in public libraries. Only working in a library can teach you that.

September

I learned even more things this year

About a year ago I wrote a post reflecting on my experiences as a first-year doctoral student. I’m keeping the tradition alive by posting about my second-year in the doc program! I’ve grown significantly, both professionally and personally. Maybe even more in my personal life. But I’ll stick to the professional ups and downs in this post (since this is an academically minded blog and all).

This past fall semester marked my first appearance TAing in a face-to-face course, an undergraduate core class called Information Science. One major duty I had a TA involved leading a twice weekly break-out session. I’ve written about my struggles presenting and introversion tendencies in earlier blog posts, so these sessions weren’t easy. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally or calmly to me. But being pushed into teaching on a weekly basis has been incredibly helpful and terrifying. At the end of fall semester, I wrote a post about what I learned from my undergraduates. I’m always learning from my students. For example, last semester I found out that there is a popular song about selfies. Who knew?! Undergrads (and normal people who listen to the radio). This semester, through student blog posts, I read about boxing, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Ramen recipes. Stuff I’ve never had much of an interest in investigating. While teaching, I’ve discovered that each semester can be very different, especially with student engagement. This summer I’ve experienced a disconnect with my students that I haven’t in the past. Maybe it’s because of the shortened summer semester, my own work load, or just sheer exhaustion. I’m not sure how to overcome this feeling of disconnect.

Learning is Fun!

Odd Learning Related Image.

Over the past year, I’ve become a published author. In May, the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA) published my first article, More Than Just Books: Librarians as a Source of Support for Cyberbullied Young Adults. I have three more articles that will be published within the year. Two as the sole author and one that’s a collaboration with one of my advisors, Dr. Lorraine Mon.I’ve learned just how time-consuming, frustrating, confusing, and spirit crushing the publication process can be. To add even more confusion, there’s publishing agreements to consider. Since the legal language and I aren’t very friendly, I reached out to the FSU’s Office of Scholarly Communication for contract hand holding. A very, very good idea. As harsh as it is to get back peer reviews, I’m still proud of the work I’ve produced; and I don’t want to sign away everything just to get my article published. The contracts I’ve received so far, except for JRLYA, want to take everything. After recently dealing with my third contract, I’m slightly more comfortable asking questions about what I’m signing and what I can argue for. Slightly.

I’m still learning to deal with rejection. Over the past year, I’ve had several rejections for conference submissions. I always take it personally, which I know I shouldn’t do but can’t seem to resist. Like many academics, I struggle with the impostor syndrome, that feeling of never being good enough or smarter enough. These self-defeating thoughts aren’t rational, but they are very powerful. Kate Bahn wrote an excellent article for Vitae about women, academia, and the impostor syndrome. It’s not just rejection and criticism that’s hard to accept, it’s accepting and internalizing praise too. Something to work on over the next year.

For the next year, I’m expecting to make some serious progress in my doctoral program. I’m taking my preliminary exam in September and (please please) defending my prospectus in late fall/early spring. Also, throw in a couple of conferences, potential publications, and a research assistantship and there you have my oh-so-easy third year.

What have you all learned this year? Any suggestions/comments/tips for me? 

I’m a Newbie Published Author!

I’m officially a published author as of last Thursday. My first peer-reviewed journal article has been published in the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA). It’s a very exciting/intimidating experience to see your name in print, out there in the world for anyone to read. The peer-reviewed publication process is (unsurprisingly) long and challenging. After submitted a paper, there’s the sometimes lengthy wait to hear whether it has been accepted, accepted with major/minor edits, or rejected. Then there’s the peer-reviews, which are a delightfully agonizing read. After a back and forth of changes and corrections, your paper is okayed for publication. Copyright forms are figured out (I’m confused by legalese) and signed. Followed by another wait for your article to actually be published.

Luckily, I’ve had terrific experiences with JRLYA, Journal of Education for Library and Information Studies (JELIS), and Public Libraries Quarterly (PLQ). The editors are friendly, encouraging, and understanding. This is exactly what I (and probably many other writers need). Having your writing read, judged, and openly critiqued is uncomfortable. I blogged about my experience with the peer-reviews I received from this JRLYA article back in November. As a perfectionist by nature, I’m already prone to intense self-criticism and doubt. Peer-reviews rarely help ease these feelings. But I’m learning to make peace with peer-reviews. Well…as much as I can.

I’ve also deposited my article into the Diginole Commons, FSU’s virtual repository for electronic scholarship. I love the idea of providing open access to my work. For some reason do this makes me feel even more a part of a research community. I look forward to depositing more in the near future. My article in PLQ comes out in September, and another article will appear in JELIS in October. Hard work can pay off. I could gush more about writing and publishing, but I’ll contain my enthusiasm. I’m only jumping up and down a little bit right now. And nobody can see….

Read my article, More Than Just Books: Librarians as a Source of Support for Cyberbullied Young Adults, via the link below. You know you want to! Yes you do.

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2014/05/more-than-just-books-librarians-as-a-source-of-support-for-cyberbullied-young-adults/