My name is Sarah Houghton and I am working as the Director for the San Rafael Public Library (California). A blog related to librarianship, technology, web services, and current trends to find those few posts that applied to my work.
On August 1st, I started my new job as the Discovery and Delivery Director for the California Digital Library, the digital arm for the 10 University of California campuses. After one week on the job, I wrote about what the differences between this job and my previous job as a public library director. One month in I have some further thoughts.
Since being at CDL I have noticed a few changes in myself that indicate an objective decrease in my stress level:
I am sleeping an average of 45 minutes a night longer. Sleep is good.
I have not woken up with what I call “my spinny spinny brain” in the middle of the night all month. This used to happen multiple times per night.
My heart rate while I’m at work is several BPM lower and has fewer spikes throughout the day.
I have also noticed some subjective changes:
I am told I’m joking around more–my dry and dark sense of humor poking its skull up from the ground again.
I swear less. No, really. I know, right? But it’s true. It’s not a conscious decision but both at work and away from work I’m swearing a *lot* less frequently.
I feel less anti-social, less irritable, and less easily startled. Following a surprising (to me) diagnosis of PTSD a few years ago, unfortunately from workplace stressors and incidents, I became easily startled by everyday things, anti-social, and irritable. To me, these subjective changes show that something in my PTSD brain is healing. I could write all day about grappling with/fighting against/accepting/researching this diagnosis. But if I’m getting better in this small way, hurrah for me.
Some things haven’t changed.
I’m still having to think hard all day, which is good. Some thinking-tasks are the same–organizational politics, strategic planning, risk assessment. I’m also using other parts of my brain. Long-dormant neural pathways are waking up…the parts that handle complex technology challenges, wading through large bureaucracies, and research (I get to research things as a librarian again–whoa).
There is a lot of overlap in the skills, knowledge, and experience required for both jobs. As a result, I’m feeling a lot less at sea than I thought I would.
I’m still physically exhausted when I get home. Maybe it’s the increased amounts of sitting time on the job and in the car, or maybe it’s just the way I will feel after any workday. I’m not 25 anymore, after all.
Over the last month I’ve been asked by three different organizations to present about some aspect of health in the workplace–self-care, mental health best practices, and creating healthy workplace atmospheres. I have never spoken or written about this topic so it initially struck me as odd that I was getting these requests, seemingly out of nowhere. But after further thought, it’s no coincidence that people are asking me this. Firstly, it’s an emerging hot topic in our field and others. Secondly, I think people who follow me on social media probably sensed how challenging I found aspects of my last job. I also put together a panel proposal on the topic for ALA Annual because it’s an important issue with real world consequences for all of us every day.
In short, life is pretty great. I’m really glad to have joined the team at CDL, and can’t wait to see what we’ll do next as a team. Expect to see some pretty radical stuff in the next few months.
I have now been at my job as the Director of Discovery and Delivery at the California Digital Library (an arm of the University of California) for one whole week. Although I had a couple of weeks off between starting this job and my last day as the Director of the San Rafael Public Library, I have still been startled by some of the differences. Here are a few, in no particular order.
1) It is quiet-ish at CDL. It was loud-ish at SRPL. At SRPL I wore headphones sometimes to drown out the background conversations, noise, and distractions so I could concentrate. At CDL I’m finding I’m wearing headphones just to have some kind of sound other than my tummy rumbling or the random loud truck on the street below.
2) I no longer work nights or weekends, nor am I on-call for anything. I cannot overstate the impact this is already having on my brain. When I walk out that door at the end of the day, I’m done. I think about work a bit during my commute, but the separation between work and home is already much firmer. This is a massively healthy change for me.
3) There is an actual door to my office. Does it seem silly that I’m wide-eyed over a door? Unless you’ve ever worked in an open office environment as a manager, you may not be able to appreciate the significance of a 4×8 piece of wood.
4) Speaking of my office, we’re talking a night and day difference. I moved from a basement office in a 100+ year old building with all the expected problems of a building that age vs. a new, modern office setting on the fourth floor with a view of Downtown Oakland.
5) I’m still very new and I am fully cognizant that I’m still in the slow roll-up to being “normal busy.” But “normal busy” at CDL appears so far to involve time-intensive and thoughtful decision-making and (so far) no crisis management. The most serious thing that’s happened so far would have ranked a 1 on my 1-10 scale of seriousness. After being used to dealing with in-the-moment-crises or perceived crises almost every day that ranked 5-10s (at least to me–everyone’s scale is different), this is hugely refreshing. I am enjoying moving through my work day with more intentionality and with less necessarily reactionary mechanics.
6) This job change has involved a huge shift in the type of responsibility I have. Instead of being responsible for two facilities, digital services, and 60-70 people, I’m responsible for digital services and products and a dozen people who are themselves in charge of various digital services. The scale is similar but the scope is less complicated.
7) My commute to SRPL was a whopping 2 minute drive or 10 minute walk. I now spend 1.5-2 hours a day commuting between San Rafael and Oakland, and yet–even if you count my commute time as “work” I am still “working” fewer hours than I was at SRPL.
8) Bureaucratic levels always increase as the size of the organization increases. With the UC system, of course I expected bureaucracy to increase. But it’s not unreasonable. I will, however, miss the ability to say “Yeah, sure–let’s buy that software. Here’s my credit card” or “Hell yes we can do a drag queen storytime–bring it on.”
So, what’s the same?
1) People are people. Better said, people who work for libraries are people who work for libraries. We’re not in it for the fame or fortune. By and large, we want our work to have a positive impact on the world. At both jobs I have been fortunate to be surrounded by many smart, well-spoken, and well-intentioned people.
2) My desk is still ridiculously neat and I have my favorite toys with me. Dana Scully and Fox Mulder stand next to Nancy Pearl, who’s looking at Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer.
3) I still, and hopefully always will, have a literal open door policy (except when I need to close that precious, precious door for a confidential meeting).
It’s a new journey, folks. As with all journeys I expect things to morph, change, and evolve as time goes on. I look forward to the path ahead and am immensely thankful to everyone at CDL helping me on the way.