Sunday, March 12, 2017

Waiting for Little Gem

Photo of me at 36 weeks 5 days carrying my Little Gem
I have been carrying my Little Gem, our second child, for 39 weeks today.* This pregnancy has been equal parts beautiful, empowering, challenging, and (at times) debilitating.

My second trimester saw me more productive at work than I have been in quite a while. Little Gem brought out the fiercely intentional librarian in me.

My third trimester, however, involved my getting sick with different ailments just about every week. Between stomach flu, a stye in my eye, a very bad cold, and other physical stresses, it has been a hard past three months.

And now, it is the second week of March, just one week from Little Gem's estimated due date, and we are expecting up to two feet of snow two days from now. The end of pregnancy is a trip as it is, and the quirks of this particular year are making it even more surreal.

Ultrasound photo of Little Gem's face at 35 weeks 3 days:
Tilt your head to the right to see his eyes at the
two crosses, and those chubby cheeks *heart eyes* 
The other aspect of this pregnancy I want to reflect on before he is born is what it has been like to work as a librarian going through a lot of work-related transitions while carrying my boy. This past year I have felt more than ever like I have embodied what it means to be a working mother.

Little Gem was with me at the ACRL Framework Advisory Board (FAB) retreat I chaired last November in Chicago: my amazing colleagues from that experience even gave him his first gift, and dubbed him an honorary FAB member. That was during my super energized second trimester, and it represented the last work-related travel I'll be doing for a while.

Little Gem has also been with me as I have worked incredibly hard from January until now to transition all of my leadership and other responsibilities to those who have wonderfully agreed to step up in my absence to keep many important projects afloat. This has been an exhausting experience (the transitions, that is), but it's worth it when I see how hard everyone is working around me to see our shared goals are met. I am so honored and fortunate to work with the people I do. To each of you (you know who you are): Thank you, from the bottom of my very pregnant librarian heart.

And now, I am still in the midst of at least one very important work commitment: participating in the search for two new Research & Instruction Librarians, who I will be working with directly as I take on my new role of Information Literacy Coordinator when I return to work after maternity leave.

This is such an important process, and half of it coincides with my maternity leave. My supervisors and colleagues at work are incredibly supportive of me as I become a mother again--I do not have to fully participate in the search process beyond the baby being born if I don't want to. But, I plan to. It means that much. The details of how I will continue to participate are yet to be determined, but the search committee and my Dean are all supportive of my participating to the extent I can and wish to, so I can weigh in on the final recommendations of who our new hires will be.

And so, I am days away from Little Gem being born, and my maternity leave beginning: that special time I get to focus on my little boy, all fresh and new to the world, and aim to--with intention and care--integrate him into our life as a family.

Photo of big sister Bookie
loving on her little brother Gem
But my library work is also always there, in the background (and at times the foreground), beckoning to me even as I know I don't need to heed that call unless I wish to. And at times (though not perpetually and always), I do wish to.

I find this experience, and this moment in my life, very liminal--existing in a space that is between two distinct states. The obvious distinction between the two is before and after Little Gem's birth. But there is a lot more to it than that, having to do with my professional work, my family life, and my bodily experience as a woman and a mother.

Regarding the last, something else I wanted to share here before Little Gem is born is a poem I wrote on January 20, 2017. It's about him, but it's also about me, and it's about the historical moment that date represents both in my own private life and in the wider life of the world.

Here it is in a screenshot image from my phone's notes app, which is where I composed it that day. It is titled: "On being pregnant, today"

Screenshot of poem
"On being pregnant, today"
written on January 20, 2017
At the end of this post is the full text of the poem typed out.

Photo of my pregnant belly: Fullness at 38 weeks 3 days
Tomorrow is Monday, and it's my last day doing work-related things for a while, all of which have to do with the search for our two new librarians--unless I go into labor later tonight (possible, though not probable based on my knowledge of my body).

After tomorrow, I am letting my work move to the background, and focusing on getting ready for Little Gem. After tomorrow we are also expecting a big snow storm, and with each day the chance that I will go into labor increases. And today was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, only adding to the surreality that will be my 40th week pregnant with Little Gem.

With all of that, the primary desire that fills my body, my cells, and my self right now, is this:

Come soon, sweet baby boy. I can't wait to meet you.

Photo of a star and moon paisley mandala
partially colored in blue and yellow marker:
Coloring as I wait for Little Gem to be born
Photo of me pregnant making a funny face:
Some levity as we wait...

*Little Gem will be my nickname for my son on the blog, just as Bookie is my nickname for my daughter. When commenting please refer to them as such. And, technically, length of pregnancy is measured from the first day of one's last menstrual cycle, so I wasn't yet carrying him 39 weeks ago exactly. But half of the genetic "stuff" that would come to be him was preparing itself inside me 39 weeks ago, which is a pretty neat way to think about it. I probably started carrying him a week and a half later or so, roughly 37.5 weeks ago.


On being pregnant, today 
Written on January 20, 2017 
© Donna Witek

You are curled, inside,
on my right side.
Hard and persistent,
lithe and alive,
I see you from the outside:
like a ball I am carrying.
My body is working hard for you,
short of breath,
with blood and sweat at an all time high,
so that your nest (in me)
of water, skin, and cells
gives you life each moment that goes by.
I carry you with me: audacious life in a world of death.
As everything around us breaks into pieces
you are my resistance.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My Library is Hiring Two Research & Instruction Librarians

I'm excited to announce that my library is hiring two new librarians this spring. These are entry-level, faculty status, unionized positions, who will be working directly with me in my new role (as of June 1, 2017) as Information Literacy Coordinator. Full details below -- come work with me!


The University of Scranton invites applications for two full-time, 12-month, tenure-track Research and Instruction Librarians, commencing by August 21, 2017. The regularly scheduled hours for these positions will be primarily Monday-Friday1:00-9:00 pm, with occasional mornings and weekends. A generous benefits package is offered, including medical, dental, and vision coverage, a retirement plan, and paid vacation, holidays, and research leave.
As members of the Library faculty, the Research and Instruction Librarians contribute to the Library’s campus-wide focus on transformative teaching and learning in the Ignatian tradition. One successful candidate will serve as subject liaison to business and the other to health sciences. Both are entry-level positions, requiring a willingness to develop the knowledge needed to provide information literacy instruction to either business or health sciences courses and programs. Applicants are encouraged to apply for both positions if interested.
  • Teaches as part of the Library’s information literacy program, which includes information literacy instruction in core general education as well as upper-level disciplinary courses
  • Provides research services and scholarly assistance to members of the university community both in-person and online
  • Serves as subject liaison to either business or health sciences, a role that includes providing course-integrated instruction and collection development
  • Oversees and is responsible for Library services and building operations during evening hours
  • Other instructional, research, and library duties as assigned
Required Qualifications
  • Possession of an American Library Association accredited Master’s degree at time of hire
  • Experience working in a library or archives
  • Experience working collaboratively with others as well as the ability to independently pursue, manage, and complete projects
  • Ability to communicate well with others in diverse modes and formats
  • Professional commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Ability to deal well with members of the public
  • Willingness to develop the knowledge required to provide information literacy instruction in business courses or to health sciences courses
  • Conversant in current trends in academic librarianship related to research and instruction, such as knowledge of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education
  • Ability to engage in scholarship and service in order to meet qualifications for reappointment and tenure, as defined in the Faculty Handbook
  • Ability to attain a second Master’s degree in a subject field, or the completion of thirty graduate credits in a discipline that improves professional competence, as a requirement for tenure (if not already accomplished at time of hire)
  • Availability to work Monday-Friday1:00-9:00 pm, with occasional mornings and weekends
Desired Qualifications
  • Familiarity with business (e.g. finance, economics, marketing, etc.) or health sciences (e.g. nursing, counseling, allied health services, etc.)
  • Experience creating engaging learning opportunities for student, faculty, or community audiences
  • Supervisory experience
  • Strong desire to explore pedagogical approaches and learning theories that can enrich teaching practice
  • Familiarity with assessment methods and techniques
About the Library and University
The Weinberg Memorial Library provides superior resources, services, and programs in support of the dynamic scholarly, cultural, and social endeavors of the University and the community at large. The Library plays an integral role in teaching, learning, and research on campus, fostering a culture of collaboration, interdisciplinarity, innovation, creativity, and sustainability. Our work environment is forward-looking and participatory, with an emphasis on transparency and faculty/staff development.
The University of Scranton is a regional institution of more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students located in northeast Pennsylvania near the Pocono Mountains. Recognized nationally for the quality of its education, Scranton is one of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. It is committed to providing liberal arts education and strong professional and pre-professional programs in the context of Ignatian educational principles, especially the care and development of the whole person. Drawing on the strengths that have made it a recognized leader in the Northeast (ranked 8th among the master’s level universities in the North by U.S. News and World Report. Scranton is committed to a culture of scholarship and excellence in teaching and is moving into the front ranks of American’s comprehensive universities.
Official University of Scranton Diversity Statement
The University of Scranton is committed to providing a safe and nondiscriminatory employment and educational environment. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran status, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or other status protected by law. Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
To apply
Applicants must apply online at and include a cover letter summarizing qualifications and strengths, a curriculum vitae or résumé, and contact information for three references. Applicants are encouraged to apply for both positions if interested. The positions will remain open until filled but applications will be reviewed beginning February 20, 2017. Prof. George Aulisio, Reference Coordinator, serves as the Search Committee Chair.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Cusp Years: From Glory to Glory

When I reflect on my adult life so far, I can identify sets of years that I call "cusp years". These are spans of one to two years in length during which my life undergoes a series of intense, formative transitions. During these cusp years, who I am as a person undergoes further definition--I wouldn't call it redefinition because it's an ongoing defining of who I am meant to be in this life. I am always becoming. We all are. But during cusp years, I find this especially true for me.

I can pinpoint two past examples of this phenomenon I want to share briefly. Note that I am not going as far back as my years as an undergraduate college student, or my years in high school, or my childhood, since these years are by definition marked by transition and transformation.

My first set of cusp years as an adult was in 2007-2008 (age 23-24). The following things occurred in this two year span: I graduated with my Master of Library and Information Science degree (late spring 2007); I made and acted upon the decision to move from my home state of New York to Pennsylvania, the state I now call home (summer 2007); I got my first apartment, in which I lived on my own for the first time, not counting dorm life in college (summer 2007); my father died (winter 2007); and, I interviewed and was hired into my first professional job as a librarian, at the University of Scranton where I still work to this day (early spring 2008).

The years of 2007-2008 were a crucible from which I emerged on the other side a more fully formed person, tried by suffering and the tumult of several formative life transitions occurring in quick succession. It is worth noting that the 9th anniversary of my father's death was last week, on December 21, and today is the anniversary of his funeral (December 27). May his memory be eternal. +

"Comforting Clay Hand-Held Cross" from Calypso Studios,
a new item I am finding particularly comforting this week;
the inscription reads "In Memory of My Father"
My second set of cusp years was in late 2010-mid 2012 (age 26-28). During this ~two year time span: I met Paul (winter 2010); became engaged to Paul (spring 2011); bought my first home, which is still my home to this day (summer 2011); planned a wedding (spring-fall 2011); got married (fall 2011); became pregnant with my daughter (fall 2011) and then gave birth to my daughter (summer 2012).

The transformations I experienced in late 2010-mid 2012 were all joyful and long desired, but my goodness, the short span in which they happened in my life made the transitions intense, much like the labor of child bearing and birthing. If only through the reorientation of my self and identity as I underwent marriage to my husband (a sacramental Mystery!), followed by the earthy reality of becoming a mother through giving birth to my daughter, I understand these cusp years in particular as when, in many ways, who I am was fully borne into this world. Identity is a complex thing, and there's no question my identity had changed, in some miraculous ways (I still marvel at the ways) by summer 2012.

October 23, 2011 ❤ Paul and I sharing a
kiss on the elevator at our wedding
reception venue as the doors close
Which brings me to now. It is winter 2016 (age 32), just a few days away from the transition into the year 2017, and I am finding myself again in the midst of a set of cusp years in my life.*

From the middle of them, it's hard to know precisely when they will have begun and ended, but here are the milestones I have or will experience, and the changes I am undergoing, even as I type this reflection:

  • In January, June, July, and August 2016, I was on sabbatical from work, because I was in the middle of my first year as a tenured member of the Library faculty at the University of Scranton.
  • In June 2016, I became pregnant with my second child. In October 2016 we learned our second child is a boy. 
  • In fall 2016, I learned that two of my longtime colleagues in my department would be retiring, one in December 2016 and one in May 2017. As a result of these transitions, my Dean offered me a new position, as the Library's next Information Literacy Coordinator, which will be in effect as of June 1, 2017. I accepted. (!!!!!!!!!)
  • As part of this new position, I will be permanently moving into a daytime working shift at my library. For context: I have been a second shift evening worker since 2008 when I first was hired at my library. To say this change in my work schedule, and quality of life, has been hoped for by me (and my husband) for a long, long time, would be an understatement. 
  • God willing, I will give birth to my son sometime in March 2017, after which I will get to take a ten week maternity leave. I will return to work from this leave into my new role as Information Literacy Coordinator, and into a day shift at my library.
  • I've also been approved by my Dean to work a flex schedule in January, February, and half of March (until I give birth), to help cover some staff shortages we are experiencing due to planned leaves and retirements. My working hours during these months will be 10am-6pm, except for just five Friday evening shifts remaining in February and early March: on these Fridays I will work the 2-10pm shift I have been working for the past seven years. 
  • My daughter, Bookie, will start Kindergarten next September 2017. 
The above news, especially the parts about my professional life, mean that as of this writing, I am no longer a regular evening worker. It also means I am looking forward to beginning in the role at my institution that my research these past eight years has prepared me to be able to some day undertake. Oh, and I will become a mother for the second time, this time to a son. 

Given all of this, I expect to wake up on a random day in September 2017, look in the mirror, and see the next version of myself that these cusp years occurring in 2016-2017 have formed me into. 

I am so very excited to meet her, even as I know all that has happened to me so far in my life will still be an essential part of who she is, of who I am.

Cusp years are when I become even more who I am (meant to be). They are transformative, progressing the crude work of my life "from glory to glory", if I can only just breathe through them, having their defining hallmark in my experience of them be gratitude and love. 

As 2017 arrives, I am taking a deep breath, and thanking God. 

Ultrasound picture of my son!!
I need to think of a nickname for him for the blog...

Christmas Day 2016, first day of my third trimester;
picture is of me, smiling and pregnant, in my church

A screenshot of my Notes app, containing
my countdown of evening work shifts remaining...

*I can't post this without mention of the Presidential election that occurred right in the middle of the set of cusp years I presently find myself in. The morning of November 9, I posted the following to my social networks: "An honest post to start this day: I am heartbroken and scared. Lord have mercy on us." It is a surreal experience I find myself in, where the wider world context is so very...broken...and yet there is the possibility for transformation in the work and space of our individual and collective lives, as a community of human persons in this world who are in relationship with one another. My friend Kevin describes this surreality very well on his own blog, so I refer you to his reflection and the commentary it provides, about navigating and holding the tension of things simultaneously going well and, well, not (to put it mildly), as a bit of a supplement to my own.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sabbatical 2016 Report

This evening I submitted my 2-page sabbatical report, for the short-term sabbatical leave I took this past January, June, July, and August. In a moment I will share it below.

As I should have expected, I did not get to do everything I hoped I would.

Interestingly, my visible productivity was actually very high--I am really pleased with the "products" that came out of my leave time away from the office for four months. None of them are published yet, but the majority are "in press" to some degree, so they will be available soon I hope.

What got a bit neglected was my systematic reading plan. The bibliography I culled in preparation for this sabbatical was intense, filled with many glorious longform works in a variety of disciplines that I was putting in conversation with the goals of my sabbatical project. I got to some of these works, but not nearly as many as I'd hoped.

An event that waylaid (to some degree) the more ephemeral of my sabbatical goals was the reception of the rescission of the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. I address this briefly in my formal report below, but the week following June 25, 2016, when the ACRL Board formally rescinded the Standards, was an incredibly busy one for me as a member of the Framework Advisory Board. Three different pieces of public writing came out of that week, in an attempt to aid the transition (here, here, and the shorter compilation of those two here).

In the time between mid-June and mid-July, I also became pregnant. Those early weeks were quite a physical adjustment for me, and the clip at which I was moving through my sabbatical projects and goals understandably slowed a bit.

Just as I did with my sabbatical application, I wanted to share the formal report I submitted to my Provost. It will be six years until I can take another one. Note that although it says the publication manuscripts are attached, I won't be able to link to versions of those quite yet, as I need to wait for the publishers to make the formal versions available before I share them openly.

Technology, Identity and Personhood

A critical inquiry into the relationship between who we are
and the information tools we use to learn, process, and communicate

Report on Short-Term Sabbatical Leave
During Intersession 2016 and Summer 2016

September 22, 2016

Donna Witek, MA, MLIS
Associate Professor &
Public Services Librarian
Weinberg Memorial Library
The University of Scranton
Scranton, PA 18510
donna.witek [at] ~ 1.570.941.4000


During my short-term sabbatical leave, taken during Intersession 2016 and Summer 2016, I researched the intersections between the technologies we use to both interact with and create knowledge and information, and our conceptions of self and embodied personhood in the digital post-modern world. I then applied this research to various pedagogical contexts within my discipline and content area of information literacy.

My review of the literature included key texts from disciplines such as library and information science, critical pedagogy, Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality, and Christian anthropology. This deep-dive into complex theory and praxis informed my accomplishments and deliverables, whose focus centers on information literacy pedagogy and bringing the affective dimension into teaching, learning, assessment, and curricula, thus humanizing these processes for our students and ourselves.


My sabbatical activities included a combination of 1) in-depth research and reading of theoretical and theological texts; 2) attending presentations related to pedagogy and assessment; 3) strategic writing and presenting on pedagogical topics relevant to both my sabbatical aims and the concerns of the profession of academic librarianship that arose during the period of my sabbatical; and, 4) continued service as a member of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy Advisory Board.

Works studied:
  • An Encounter with Simone Weil [documentary film], directed by Julia Haslett. 2010.
  • Behr, John. Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image. SVS Press. 2013.
  • Behr, John. The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death. SVS Press. 2006.
  • Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Association of College and Research Libraries. 2015, 2016.
  • hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge. 1994.
  • Kahane, David. “Learning about Obligation, Compassion, and Global Justice: The Place of Contemplative Pedagogy” in Contemplative Learning and Inquiry Across Disciplines, eds. Olen Gunnlaugson, Edward W. Sarath, Charles Scott, and Heesoon Bai. SUNY Press. 2014.
  • Weil, Simone. Waiting for God, trans. Emma Cruafurd. Putnam. 1951.

Presentations attended:
  • Attention, Ignatian Pedagogy, and Practices of Evaluation [workshop]. Office of Educational Assessment Institute. University of Scranton. January 26, 2016.
  • Miller, Sara D. and Amanda Nichols Hess. Using the Framework to Foster Conversations about Information Literacy Instruction [webinar]. ACRL Instruction Section Management and Leadership Committee. May 31, 2016.


On June 25, 2016, the ACRL Board of Directors rescinded the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (Standards), a sixteen year-old document that has been replaced by the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Framework). As will be clear from my accomplishments, the Framework has been central to my sabbatical research, as it posits a more holistic and integrated approach to information literacy teaching and learning than the Standards; and with the Standards’ rescission, the Framework is now the primary teaching and learning document for information literacy put forth by ACRL.

Publications (manuscripts attached):
  • Grettano, Teresa, and Donna Witek. “The Frameworks, Comparative Analyses, and Sharing Responsibility for Learning and Assessment” in Rewired: Research-Writing Partnerships in a Frameworks State of Mind, ed. Randall McClure. Chicago: ACRL Press, 2016. [book chapter] (forthcoming)
  • Witek, Donna. “Developing a ‘Critical Pedagogy Disposition’” in Critical Library Pedagogy Handbook, Vol. 1: Essays and Workbook Activities, eds. Nicole Pagowsky and Kelly McElroy. Chicago: ACRL Press, 2016. [book chapter] (forthcoming)
  • Witek, Donna, Mary J. Snyder Broussard, and Joel M. Burkholder. “Rhetorical Reinventions: Rethinking Research Processes and Information Practices to Deepen our Pedagogy.” In LOEX Conference Proceedings 2016. [conference proceedings] (forthcoming)
  • Witek, Donna. “The Past, Present, and Promise of Information Literacy.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum 96.3 (2016). [invited article] (forthcoming)
  • Witek, Donna. “Seeding Local Curricula with the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy.” College & Research Libraries News 77.10 (2016). [invited article] (forthcoming)
  • Galas, Jennifer K. and Donna Witek. “The Information Literacy of Survey Mark Hunting: A Dialogue.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe. [journal article] (under review)


During my sabbatical, I also continued to serve on the ACRL Framework Advisory Board (FAB). FAB’s role in the months immediately following the Standards’ rescission was to lead on creating professional development opportunities and resources related to the Framework at a national scale. A summary of our work, which continued throughout my sabbatical leave, can be read at the following guest contribution:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


A vignette on working motherhood.

It's not quite a routine yet, but it is growing into one. 

On Mondays, while Mommy works late, Daddy picks her up from school and takes her to the library. We have a local branch just up the hill from our home, whose hours go just late enough to fit in a visit every two weeks when her books are due. 

She and Daddy go into the library, return the books we've been reading at bedtime, and select some new ones. The children's collection is set apart in an enchanted nook filled with a play table, a touch screen computer loaded with educational games, and books galore. Usually, she and Daddy select from the books the librarians have curated and put on display around the room--it is easier to see the covers of these themed books than it is for her little girl's fingers to flip through the narrow-spined collection shelved along the walls. Right now, her favorite author is Dr. Seuss. They load up on new selections from his prolific body of work, and ask to renew her current favorite, Green Eggs and Ham (or Sam-I-am as we like to call it). She visits the play table while Daddy uses her card to check out their new collection of books for bedtime reading these next two weeks. And since the library will soon close, Daddy is able to convince her to come along so the librarians can get ready to go home for the day.

There is still one more stop before returning home for (an albeit late) dinner. 

They walk two houses down to Mr. Bob and Miss June's house. They are friends of ours, and she likes to call on them with Daddy after she visits the library. When they are home, it means nibbling on some snacks to hold her over until they return home for dinner. And it means picking wildflowers for Mommy.

Miss June has wildflowers in her garden. The ladies--generations apart--gather select blooms while the gentlemen visit with each other. I imagine she looks for pink blooms whenever possible, as it is her favorite color right now, and so she wants to give the color to Mommy, who must work late tonight and most nights. 

The ladies return to the parlor, wildflowers in hand, signalling the end of the visit. Daddy must bring her home for dinner now, so the friends say their goodbyes in the growing dusk. 

When I return home from work after 10 pm, she is already asleep. But waiting for me on the counter is a makeshift vase filled with wildflowers. It is a material trace of my absence-yet-presence in the evenings, when I must be the librarian for other young people at the university a stone's throw away. 

It hurts, my absence. But having tangible proof of just how well cared for she is, by her Daddy and by our neighborhood community we've grown to love, helps. It helps because I know she is okay, and it helps because I can see in the wildflowers' blooms that she thinks of me when I am gone. 

Each morning after wildflower picking with Miss June, when we come down for breakfast, she excitedly shows off the wildflowers she has picked for me. I thank her with a big squeezy-hug, and proceed into another long day of mothering and working.