Posted by: Emily | August 6, 2008

Cleaning out my desk

I am leaving this job for another, Friday is my last day. I’ve been in serious clean-out mode since I gave notice–after four years in a place, so much is left behind. Amid the endless stacks of instruction session handouts, meeting minutes and memos, and the truly bewildering number of staple removers I’ve managed to accumulate (sorry, Susan!), I’m left wondering what kind of impact a reference librarian has on a place, what kind of imprint any of us can expect to leave in the ways that really matter.

Sure, there are things that I can count. A perusal of the stacks shows evidence of my collection development interests–queer studies has filled out quite a bit, as has critical anthropology, and we’re pretty well stocked with most of the Duke catalog from the last four years. It’s annual report time, and a lot of the instruction sessions and research consultations were mine, as were a handful of our largely unattended workshops. But reference work seems to be largely about making relationships: relationships with faculty, with students, with other librarians. The countable, measurable part of our jobs seems directly tied to this ephemeral business of knowing one another. The hours I spent in student-led committee meetings, the course I took with undergraduates a couple years ago, the conversations with faculty in the campus gym, in the lunchroom, at the circ desk, all were essential to the decisions I made when logged in to our B&T account, and directly related to the ways I was utilized by faculty and students. When I look back at the last four years, this last was when I really started working at my highest capacity. That’s how long it took me to feel comfortable here, and for the people here to understand what I could do for them and to start calling on me for consultations, instructions sessions, and lunch dates. I take all of that with me when I go, just like my desktop collection of ceramic animals and the mug decorated with pictures of librarian-appropriate cats I received from a grateful student. And I’m about to have to start all over again.

I’m as sentimental as they come, but I wonder if there’s something more here. If we’re in the relationship business, how can we build those relationships faster and smarter, and what kinds of structures might we put in place so we can leave something of our ephemeral selves when we go?



  1. Me too, on the cleaning-up my office and preparing to move on.

    But I’ve done this dozens of times, and each time is a little different.

    This time, I can’t get out fast enough, as I’m headed to the great “whittling on the porch, and catching The Price is Right” land.

    Stock got paid-out and distributed to my bank account today, so I’m killing time until my going-away dinner next Wednesday. Last rights…happy trails

  2. I really like your analysis of how to measure your job. In addition to forming relationships, each time you met with a student or a co-worker you were also empowering them with information. You’re in the business of teaching people how to fish and your impact on those you help sticks around years later.

    Hope you enjoyed SLC, and good luck at your new job! (Hope you got the t-shirt.)

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