Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Law Librarian As Academic Writer

The tenure-track law library faculty requirements at my school include my everyday library duties as a faculty services librarian, as well as teaching, service, and scholarship. As I grapple with these requirements and try to find a way to make it all fit, I find myself pondering the scholarship aspect a lot. Yesterday, I came across a new post on InsideHigherEd discussing academic writing.

Ulf Kirchdorfer makes some valuable observations. He notes that many of his academic colleagues are unable to write. "When I say unable, I mean those who seem to never manage to sit down and write anything that they can share with colleagues, friends, family or even the least-read publication. One of the reasons can be lack of time, or at least that is one often given. Another could be that one is working at a college that emphasizes teaching and so writing is not a priority, or, if one is very cynical, that one has tenure and so does not have to write, which often seems to go hand in hand with being unable to write or find the time to write. After all, Netflix and Amazon Prime on the Roku await just inside the door after a day of teaching and grading essays and attending a meeting or two. Everyone needs a break and to relax, right, and who would associate writing with relaxation?"

And all of these things legitimately come into play. It's so easy to put writing way down on the totem pole for many reasons. Although Kirchdorfer sort of chastises the pull of the glowing screen, he is right when he says that everyone needs a break to relax. After a long day of supporting the law faculty, it's hard pull together the brainpower to spend time writing anything worthwhile.

One of the solutions that Kirchdorfer offers is the creation of a dedicated writing committee. "I do not pretend to have the answers to get colleagues to start writing, but if I were an administrator, which I do not want to be, I would create a committee where faculty would meet to discuss writings they worked on outside of the meeting...."

This is a valid suggestion and one that one of my own colleagues just brought to the table. I love the idea of setting aside time to flesh out ideas and support and encourage each other's scholarship.

Kirchdorf also offers some tough love advice for making sure you can truly carve out time to write. For one, he warns that you should only enter relationships that are supportive of writing.

More than anything, this post is a great reminder that I need to really jumpstart my own academic writing career, and Kirchdorf's words of advice are truly something to consider.

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