Diary of an early career art librarian: Bullet journaling and the mediation of past, present, and future

Hi ArLiSNAPpers! I presented a poster at this year’s national ARLIS/NA conference titled “Diary of an early career art librarian: Bullet journaling and the mediation of past, present, and future”. Since the topic obviously has a lot to do with the conversations we’re having at ArLiSNAP, and because I know a lot of us can’t get to national conferences, I thought I’d adapt the poster for the blog! So to introduce the project I should mention that in the last year or so I’ve started bullet journaling (maybe obvious) and had a lot of colleagues ask me about it—how it works generally, how it works for me specifically, what kind of pens I like to use, etc.—and in the process of talking them through my bullet journal I ended up just talking about what my life has been like since making the leap from student to new professional. I proposed this poster with the intention of trying to understand (mostly for myself) why that kept happening, and to bridge my penchant for philosophizing with the desire to provide some practical pointers.

When I graduated from library school in 2017, I finished my last semester of part time student work and supplemented my income with on-call and part time “official” librarian work. And I felt lucky—I was lucky, in fact, to get great experience, to get any job in a competitive job market in one of the most expensive cities in North America, to work with librarians I admire, and to observe a variety of library settings.

But it was difficult, too—bussing across town sometimes five times a day posed difficulties for my health, it left little time to keep trying to find full time work, and maybe most importantly, even though it required the degree, it never really felt like Librarianship™. During those months, I carried my yellow legal pad with me because it held a cheat sheet to help me juggle the policy idiosyncrasies of my various workplaces, and because I could sit down for the day, create my to do list for the next 2-4 hours and feel satisfied when I could leave with each task, handed to me from a “Real Librarian”, off my list.

With the end of my temp positions looming, I was offered my current permanent, full time job. Six months later, I offered the following nugget of wisdom to twitter:

screenshot with a tweet from the author that reads “Would it be weird and unacademic to propose a poster with tips and suggested sections/chapters for a librarian’s bullet journal? Because, like, that has been my biggest breakthrough in the last six months #AskingForAFriend”

And unlike most things I write on twitter, I actually gave the second part of this some thought. Because it’s true, there had been a lot of milestones (and continue to be a lot), but in terms of my professional identity, my workload, my confidence level (while constantly in flux)—all of those changes were shaped a drastically altered relationship to and understanding of time.

What do I need to do in the next 30 minutes? That’s a nice idea, but it’ll take years of relationship building to realize it. How do I pace myself to teach a three hour Foundations class? What was that thing Acquisitions said about DDA six months ago? They’re replacing the furniture on that floor now, maybe in two years I can get new chairs… I should write that down, I don’t want to forget it in the next hour/month/year/5 years. 

This constant sense of juggling multiple timelines, of acting and reacting in the present, trying to plan while accepting an unpredictable future, considering the implications of the past organizationally and personally…that is the kernel of transitioning from “student” to “professional”.

So what does this have to do with bullet journaling?

Well, this evolution from precarious to permanent, from chronos to kairos, from student to new professional—it lies in the physical and intellectual distinction between a yellow legal pad to a bullet journal. Because bullet journaling requires you to take something abstract like time, and to then construct some of kind of organization system in a tangible space. Not the arbitrary way of organizing time that a pre-designed planner foists upon you, but a way that requires thought, reflection, and creativity. And that’s a good place to start.

Click here to download the zine I made to accompany the poster, or flip through it below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *