Invisible Work

What do i even do all day?

Over the past few months I've been struck by how:
1) I don't have a strong sense for what my colleagues do all day long
2) Some baseline assumptions I think many of us make (myself included at times) about what people do, or don't do, with their time.

This presents itself on a daily basis as either frustration that I don't know what is even happening in my organization or a sense that others may think that I'm not doing my work because my job is opaque to them. So, to help clear the air around this, below is what I did yesterday, including all the time i spent not working. For background, I am a digital repository librarian at a research university library. My job is comprised of managing an institutional repository, project managing and consulting on tech projects in our library, helping manage/set direction for research services in our library, and acting as product owner for Hyrax, a repository application based on the Samvera framework.

So, without further ado, the fascinating details:

8:15 am - arrive at work. Thursdays are the day we normally have a long meeting in the morning with our entire department. This is both a department meeting (for updating the department on business matters), a weekly standup meeting (to discuss what we've been up to and what we are planning for the next week), and a working meeting (after the other two topics, for issues the require longer discussion/work). Knowing this meeting is ahead, i spend the next hour or so prepping myself for the meeting and the rest of the day, catching up on email, and reviewing 3-4 Github project boards for project I'm involved with. I also check Slack for my organization, my department, and the Samvera Community to see if there is anything i particularly need to pay attention to in the coming hours (anyone panicking, any outstanding questions, anyone looking for help but not receiving it, etc.).

9:45 am - Head upstairs to my cube to drop my stuff off, say hey to everyone before the meeting starts.

10:00 am - Department Meeting. Starts with normal "standup" format (though on a weekly time frame) everyone goes around the room, says what they've been working on this week, what they're working on in the coming week, identifies any blockers that someone else (sometimes me) can help resolve, and offers up any issues or topics that need longer discussion. These last items are written up on the whiteboard and we'll work from this list for the remainder of the meeting.

We don't have any department meeting business today, so after standup we head straight into the longer form topics including such delights as:
- defining better process for closing Github issues and indicating whether new code has been deployed to our staging or production servers.
- discussion of our need to define our internal processes and expectations for project management, code review, github repository maintenance, and other procedural things. This is all put off to a meeting next week where we'll discuss this topic specifically, though we have a lot of good ideas flying around...
- determine our process for managing bulk metadata changes in our institutional repository. the software we use doesn't (yet) have a good UI for making these changes, so we have to coordinate between our Metadat Technician and our development team to get this work done. We decide on a process that we'll pilot over the next week.
- discussion and implementation of new labels in our Github repositories and what they mean. e.g. when something is labelled "critical" that means it's something that needs immediate attention (it's a blocker or something is really broken) versus when something is labelled "high priority", which is more of a "when you get time to work on the institutional repository, do these things first"
- a couple of other topics that are not particularly germain to my work, so i kinda space out and participate in some discussion on Slack about a multi-month development effort i am coordinating in the Samvera Community.

11:30 am - I head over to a meeting/lunch for our proposed faculty union and wind up talking with library colleagues about people management, project management, and other high-ish level administrative stuff in the library.

12:30 pm - Back at the library, I run to a meeting and the person I'm meeting with can no longer meet due to a conflict. I check in with a co-worker on a project he's been working on related another project I'm involved with. He's made amazing progress on a web-application for displaying oral histories and I make sure to tell him that he is a wizard and his work is great.

1:00 pm - Meeting with a colleague to clarify details of a large project to ingest the proceedings of an annual conference into our repository. These go back to the 1960s and the organizers of the conference were delighted to know that we would work with them to upload the content. There are lots of fiddly details and it is really a lot of content, so it's been a bit of a struggle to get our heads around the best approach, but we're getting there.

We also chat about the current state of digital scholarship services in the library. There is a contingent of faculty in the library seeking to coordinate efforts around these services and we're in the process of writing a proposal to that effect, but, again, fiddly details. This is exhausting, as we've been discussing this for over a year, but there is a lot to coordinate and not a lot of resources to go around, so we have to be patient.  

1:30 pm - a moment of down time. drink some water. drink some coffee. I check the news (why do i do that?) and try to read something not news related - this time an update on the archival preservation media (created by the Arch Mission) sent into space on Elon Musk's Giant Rocket. The Arch Mission is a bit of a mystery to me, but i'm curious about the technology and the data curated for the project - trying to keep an open mind, but, you know, im a bit skeptical given that the entire project has zero information workers involved...

2:00 pm - I attend a meeting with a colleagues here and at a university down the road to discuss an upcoming set of Library Carpentry workshops we're going to hold (one at each institution). We've got the registration form out, the classes are filling up, and we're working through the logistics. We have enough interest that maybe we need to hold an additional workshop, so we discuss what that would look like. Next week we'll meet again and review the curriculum and our syllabus.

2:30 pm - I meet with two of our software developers to come finalize what needs to be done with a library wayfinding application we're building before we launch. We review existing Github issues for the project, move many to the backlog (not MVP), and clarify any new work that we need to do based on current functionality. I then sit with these great coworkers and do what I can to clarify issues, discuss user interface and user experience concerns, and help resolve a few issues (what logos should we use? how should highlighting of areas on the map work? etc.). I have to say, I love working meetings, I really do.

4:15 pm - That meeting over, I stop back at my desk to pack up for the day. I spend a bit of time clearing the email inbox, flagging items to do the next day (including writing this post), and looking over Slack, again, for any issues that have emerged that I should be aware of. I note some discussion among the Samvera community members releated to an ongoing development effort and write down some notes to discuss with the team tomorrow morning.

4:45 pm - head home. spring is here in the Pacific Northwest!

5:15 pm - jump back on the computer while the kids get ready for evening activities. respond to a few flagged emails, make additional notes about taks to do tomorrow, and look over the Samvera Google Groups to see if there are any posts I should peek at.

5:45 pm - call it a day.