2021 Symposium: Collegiality, Morale, and Mutual Aid

drawing of two intertwined hands with the words "we need each other" underneath
Monica Trinidad, We Need Each Other https://www.forthepeoplecollective.org/graphics.html

Blogs About Symposium

By Miranda McDermott, 2021 Symposium co-chair

I first participated in an ACRL/NY symposium in 2012, and I was intrigued with the event. I have an admiration and interest in academic and research libraries, and I loved the symposium. I asked a member of the symposium committee if I could get involved, and she responded that most members were academic librarians. I was working at the New York Public Library at the time. I was unsure about whether I wanted to make the time commitment to become a committee member, but I finally took the plunge in 2015. When I joined the committee, I swore that I would never become chair because it was just too much work. However, ACRL/NY leadership really struggled to find a chair for this year’s symposium. I finally told the ACRL/NY president in January that I would be willing to co-chair the committee with another person, since I could not take on the entire task myself. Luckily, Maria Schlanger felt the same way. Once I heard that Maria would be my partner, I was thrilled. Maria and I have had a wonderful working partnership. She and Sharell Walker took on the lion’s share of the work of running the symposium this year, but I enjoyed helping in the process as much as I could. We ran a successful two-half day virtual symposium on Dec 2 & 3, 2021.

Helping plan and run this symposium was one of the most difficult yet rewarding things that I have accomplished in my career, but it was definitely worth it. I really enjoy working with Maria; we have a similar style, and we feel the same way about many issues. We bounced ideas off of each other, and we surmounted many obstacles in the creation of a wonderful online training program for NYC metro area library staff. We had last-minute registration zoom link issues. We had to deal with a controversial panelist/speaker. Maria is in the process of hopefully reconfiguring our wiki and making it user friendly. She has collated much of the institutional knowledge of past symposia in order to better inform future symposium chairs. We had many challenges, but we persevered. We regret to announce that the symposium will be on hiatus during 2022, during which time, the organization will rethink its purpose, how to engage membership, and how to move forward into the future as a viable organization. It has been challenging to attract and maintain leadership for the organization and the symposium committee, and we would like to address our recruitment challenges by finding solutions. Linda Miles graciously agreed to be president of ACRL/NY during 2022 and she was elected by the executive board.

Sharell Walker, ACRL/NY 2021 president, welcomed everyone to the program with the president’s report, and she conducted the organization’s required annual business meeting. I then thanked everyone, including the executive board, the symposium committee, the panelists and attendees for making this event great. Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz gave a keynote speech in which she discussed feminism and racial equity in librarianship. The Thursday afternoon panelists discussed how we worked through Covid and what we could learn from this experience. On Friday morning, the Hunter College staff discussed using committees to accomplish tasks. However, committee work is volunteer, and staff receive no additional compensation for it. In the closing discussion, we talked about the importance of communication and how we say things. People talked about the importance of creating positive relationships with one’s colleagues in the workplace.

Susan Frey talked about the four-frame model of leadership. I found this paradigm most interesting. She states that all of the frames have positive and negative aspects. She said that she loves the HR frame. I am more of a structural person. The structural frame involves efficiency in getting things done. It is a task-oriented model. Board of trustees have meetings with an agenda, and they are focused on accomplishing tasks. The political frame involves power structures and leveraging limited resources to accomplish tasks in particular areas. City council hearings are an example of this frame in action. The human resource frame focuses on relationships with people. This frame focuses on recognizing people’s accomplishments and giving them the power that they need in order to accomplish their jobs. Organizations utilizing committee work are implementing the human resources frame. The symbolic frame focuses on creating meaning and purpose in their work. Commemorations of particular days in history is a societal expression of this frame. Frey stressed that this is simply a way of understanding work, and there are many ways to conceptualize reality.

Mentoring

Sarah Rodgers gave an excellent talk about how she has benefited from different types of mentors. She appreciates how her supervisor, Jon, suggests new professional activities in a tactful manner. She loves becoming aware of new opportunities in the field and learning about librarianship. He also helps her get scholarships by writing excellent recommendation letters for her. He supports her and talks about her strengths. She also likes working with her peer mentor, Alice, who works with her. They work well together and share ideas with and support each other. Rodgers stated that becoming a mentor is not just about saying nice things about people. Deep collaborative relationships at work benefit all involved.

Virtual Networking

While they were all at the University of Toronto, three library staff engaged in speed networking to help reduce feelings of isolation and help people advance in their careers via the computer. Networking is so important to professionals to generate ideas and scholarship. Therefore, it makes sense to continue that activity even when in-person meetings are not possible. ACRL/NY discussion groups and symposium committee and executive board meetings have been held virtually since March of 2020.┬áSometimes, virtual meetings are much more convenient for people to attend. There is some talk about zoom being a “great equalizer.” If people experience zoom fatigue, are having a bad hair day, or do not wish others to see their home, they can turn the camera off or use an alternate background. The chat function enables people to express thoughts during the verbal conversation.

Veteran Students

The first poster presenters discussed serving veterans at college campuses. Keith Pardini is a librarian that is devoted to serving veterans. Students were surprised to find out that there was a librarian specializing in this. It can take a significant amount of college resources to process GI Bill paperwork, and Stony Brook University has one FTE staff devoted exclusively to processing such paperwork and another staff member who serves veteran needs in other ways. It is so important to help veterans succeed and receive the quality education that they have duly earned by serving our country. A few states offer free tuition for veterans.

Peer Support

Dana Reijerkerk and Caterina Reed met each other at Stony Brook University. They became friendly, and they started hanging together outside of work. They collaborate on articles together, and their friendship helped improve morale at work. Caterina talked extensively about the need to develop friendly relationships with colleagues. Not everyone is going to be friends at work, but being polite to each other and active listening can really help things go smoothly so that everyone has a good experience at work. Having a productive and pleasant work environment helps everyone excel.

Seeing short presentation of the posters was more effective than having people stand by posters at an in-person symposium. Oftentimes, attendees were getting lunch during that period.

The ACRL/NY symposium was an amazing learning experience. I hope to see you all in 2023, if we have a symposium that year. Thank you everyone for all of your support and hard work this year!