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Reflections on Reflections

During the closing hours of the 2016 ACRL Oregon & Washington Joint Fall Conference, participants were asked to reflect on their conference experience and write a “note to self”: someone to follow up with; a reminder to launch a project; a goal they were inspired to work toward; or anything else they wanted to remember about the conference. The notes were sealed and self-addressed that morning. The conference chair mailed the notes to participants eight weeks later in the first days of January 2017.

The conference planning committee (aka the ACRL Oregon Board) wondered what conference goers’ reactions would be when they opened those envelopes. One participant agreed to let us peer into her reflections on reflections. Thank you, Rachel!

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“Are you reflecting?  Professionally, privately.  Don’t let the days run into each other.”

Photo of ACRL OR Conference follow-up letters

Early in the new year, my own hasty scrawl arrived at my door from the past to admonish me (gently) to take some time to think. I’d attended the ACRL OR/WA Joint Conference (aka Menucha) and we were given the opportunity to write ourselves a note, which would be delivered in a few months. By the time my note arrived, I’d more or less forgotten I’d done it. It turns out, I’d also more or less forgotten to do most of what was on it, too. The days, as I’d suspected, had run into each other.

The problem of maintaining the excitement and inspiration we have when we are at a conference once we return to our busy libraries is familiar and, probably, somewhat inevitable.  However, I’ve always felt it most acutely with the Menucha conferences. Fall term is the busiest time of the year for most of us and retreating to this beautiful spot to talk about big ideas with colleagues is a welcome break from the rush of October. We spend 24 hours just feasting on each others’ beautiful ideas and then head right back into the press of fall term.

When the letter arrived at my house, that lovely misty October day in the Gorge felt really far away. Winter term was just beginning and it was the perfect time to get a reminder about everything that had excited me and all the insights I’d had at the end of the conference. As much as any of the specific thoughts I’d written, the little dose of that post-conference mindset delivered to me at a time when I could really use it felt like magic. While my note had some concrete “to do” items on it (most of which I still haven’t done, oops!), what struck me most was how much the overall message to myself was that I ought to be finding more time for that “Menucha State of Mind” in my day-to-day work life. I encouraged myself to reflect. I reminded myself of the inspiration and meaning I draw from my relationships with colleagues (and not just those at my own institution). I have the note tacked up on my bulletin board now, and while I may or may not ever tackle those big projects I was thinking about last fall, I can look at it and remember what it was like to take the time to reflect with colleagues and, maybe, not let the days run into each other quite so much.

Rachel Bridgewater

PCC Cascade Library

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