i dream of being possible

workplace politics

Now that I’m (sadly) involved in meetings at MPOW – after years of craftily avoiding them – this is the sort of thing that makes me want (if not for the poverty) stay a part-time librarian and not be a ~real~ librarian.

The problems aren’t necessarily the meetings themselves. Given how exhausting I find them, I definitely consider meetings real work. And they are. I know I groan about them and a lot of others too, especially when it appears to cut into what we consider our real jobs. But. This is work. Perhaps not the part of our jobs that we actually enjoy doing. But work nonetheless. They can also be super stressful when you have a bunch of other things that also need to do and it is easy to resent the time you appear to be doing ‘nothing’. Sadly, meetings remain one of the best mechanisms for workplace communication, particularly in a relatively siloed type of environment that universities tend to support.

What I don’t like, however, is seeing all the frankly ridiculous bullshit politics that appear to be inevitable when working within a large organization (and probably small ones too). Like. The amount of supervisory/management people who treat their respective areas like small fiefdoms and act like petty tyrants just boggles the mind. The amount of carefully eggshell walking and ego stroking needed to accomplish what often seems like relatively innocuous and simple tasks just makes me want to go and work at Starbucks again.

My patience for this sort of thing is pretty small. And it is probably for the best that I don’t really have to deal directly with any of this sort of thing. I’m also, in general, pretty terrible at this sort of thing. Not only do I tend to miss out on a lot of this sort of nuanced social interactions, even when I do notice (or someone is kind enough to tell me) I can rarely be bothered to actually incorporate this into my behaviour. And, tbh, I’ve really stopped even trying.

I literally do not care. I don’t want to care.

Yes. I’m well aware that me saying this likely means that I’m doomed as a librarian in the academy. And this is true. I know this. I’ve known this for quite some time. I made my peace with this years ago.1

I read things like “How to Scuttle a Scholarly Communication Initiative” and all I can think of is “why bother?”. Likewise with the “coordinator syndrome”. There is a reason why I tend to advocate plans of action that circumvent dealing with politics. Like, with open access and stuff? Yes. I want libraries to seize the means of production. I don’t want us consulting with ~faculty~ anymore. I don’t even want us consulting with the larger university admin. No more dealing with publishers. No more waiting for government policy. Direct, collective action now.

I say this as nicely as I can: fuck all of them.

Yes. I imagine a lot of people think “easy for nina to say, she doesn’t actually have to deal with these people directly”. And, yeah, it is easy to say. What of it? The thing is, all I ever really hear a excuses rather than reasons I can stomach for why stuff like this isn’t happening. Why don’t the ARL libraries throw their collective weight against academic publishers? Anyone?

I sort of mentioned this on twitter before. If the ARL collectively decided to pressure academic publishers by not buying anything for a quarter or two, we’d likely find that we had a lot more leverage when we deign to renegogiate. Yeah, this would disrupt the research capacities of the university for a significant period of time. But if we can recognize that our current situation is unsustainable and the university itself refuses to actually increase our budgets to keep up with the ridiculously rising costs, then what other option is there?

Anyway, I digress. But the point is there.

I see how much time my colleagues have to spend placating admin and other gatekeepers. How much effort is spend trying to work around the non-sensical barriers set up to prevent them from effectively working, how much simply isn’t done because it would offend some unrelated person’s delicate ego.

And a lot of the times, I wish that I saw more librarians using the power of ‘no’. No to faculty who literally act like we should feel honored that they’ve come to us to demand services in high-handed and disrespectful fashions. No to administrators who keep telling us to do more with less while blocking potentially useful suggestions/initiatives from their staff. No to patrons who think that because we provide a public service we have to cater to their individual demands. No to work place politics and hierarchies that serve to entrence fiefdoms and petty tyrants.



  1. Yeah, this also means that there are probably a bunch of professional types of careers that I just won’t succeed in unless I want to actually play politics at work. I’m okay with this too.