I like many things about being an academic librarian: the freedom to explore interesting and creative topics with students and other faculty; the latitude to create programs and programming; the thrill and excitement of instruction; creating new digital objects; constantly having to learn new things and methods. I could go on.
I also dislike a few things about being an academic librarian. LibGuides, for instance (sorry not sorry), are near the top of that list. Above all, though, I struggle with an element of work in academia that is not really unique to librarians — experiencing and savouring the sweet, sweet feeling of completion. What do I mean? Well, timelines in academia are often soft. An article can take months. A chapter often takes years. A policy paper is always under review. Digital humanities projects are always under development (until they’re not). In this context, the satisfaction that I get from signing, sealing, and delivering a project is often delayed. Sometimes I struggle with constantly being somewhere in the middle of things.
After several years of this I’ve come to terms with the realities of academic work. Since moving to Florida, I’ve tried to embrace hobbies that allow me complete things on the regular. That’s where coffee roasting and, more recently, soap making come in.
The satisfaction of both processes — beyond product quality and specific control over materials — is that at the end of the day you’ve produced something tangible and immediately useful or delicious. And while I wouldn’t dare suggest that utility should be the only element driving our work, I can understand those who subscribe to that way of thinking.
In college I worked at a mold injection plant that manufactured plastic components, mainly for the automotive sector. As much as I disliked the monotony and the pressure to produce as efficiently as possible, I appreciated the feeling of completing a certain number of things in a certain amount of time. “Look at all these full pallets. I made those.” When I was asked recently to describe what I would likely be doing if I wasn’t an an academic librarian, as cliché as it sounds, I described my ideal work environment as a coffee roastery (if I’m being honest I was imagining Square Mile Coffee Roasters as I spoke). There’s just something very romantic about the idea of taking great care in creating something of quality and value, and then sharing that product with another human being.
And for the very same reasons, I’ve recently fallen for soapmaking. You can follow along with all of these shenanigans at our fake company’s instagram: over here.
2020-02-24 19:00 -0500