Today, I discovered that I no longer have digital access to my university’s libraries. The sense of loss wasn’t as great as I’d expected it to be.
When I was nearing the completion of my doctorate, the thought of no longer having full access to all that knowledge was so heartbreaking, I was pretty much in denial about the whole thing. Luckily for me, my first post-Ph.D. job was at the same university. Coupled with my occasional lectureships, I was thus able to enjoy full library access for close to ten years. I drew on the libraries’ resources in my teaching life, and in my non-academic professional life. I was so happy – and also kind of proud – to be the kind of academic who could access, use, and share scholarship across boundaries in that way.
As I wrote in Teaching While Me, Part Two, however, universities don’t seem to value the work of “post-“, or “alt-“, academics like me. This became crystal clear while teaching this past semester. Due in part to the many ways in which contract faculty are unsupported by their universities, I slowly came to the realization that I’m done with teaching (for now, at least). I also came to the realization that I’m done with my field (for now… maybe). It has been 3 1/2 years since I was laid off from my research position at the university. Over that time, the more I’ve been “forced” into new areas and experiences, the less interested I am in the research questions that once consumed me. Consequently, the less interested I am in keeping up with the relevant scholarship in order to teach my subject(s) effectively. As I’ve mentioned before, Education was a bit of a “detour” for me, in terms of my career plans. I don’t regret entering in the field at all, but in retrospect, I never pursued my graduate studies thinking that that would be “it” for me. In the words of Kelly J. Baker, the questions now occupying my brain are bigger than my discipline. (They may even be bigger than any discipline, but that’s for another blog post… or posts. 🙂 )
So, while I was surprised, and a bit sad, to learn that I no longer have access to the university’s vast archive of knowledge at my fingertips*, those emotions were fleeting. Even though, most of the time I have no idea where I’m going, I’m actually fine with the direction my career is taking. I don’t think of my teaching / academic life as being “over”; if anything, I think of it as now being more “open”. Which, I have to say, feels pretty amazing.
* Though, interestingly, I am still able to log into the online portal where I managed my courses and interfaced with students.