Monday, September 2, 2013

Maybelle is still miserable

You know what happens when you move states for a new, part-time job? You become ineligible for unemployment.

You know what happens when you accept only part-time work in a new state? You can't deduct the move on your taxes.

You know what happens when your COBRA coverage runs out? You resort to buying even more outrageously priced gap coverage.

You know what happens when you try to get jobs outside of academia? Every single interviewer wants to know why you aren't a professor.

My darling and gentle readers, be prepared to answer questions like the following when you interview outside of the academy:
  • "Tell me your thoughts and reasoning behind going from PhD to X company?"  
  • "Do you think you would mourn the loss of an academic career if you came and worked for us?"
  • "Do you feel like a failure for leaving the academy." (This one was rather blunt and I had to smile really big and say how I thought I had more room for advancement at Y company.)
  • "Wouldn't you like to teach K-12?" (This was not for a K-12 job. Don't get me started on how I would need to get another Master's to teach K-12, and how I will likely never get hired full time because this state pays based on education level. One PhD = two Bachelor-holding teachers. Simple economics ....)
  • "Why don't you go and teach over at Misleading University?" (Been there, done that, and now they aren't hiring in my field.)
  • "Why don't you work for Bigger University? Why work for us?" (Nothing available at Bigger U. I looked. I found your company online, didn't I? I looked at Bigger U's offerings as well.)
  • "So, you don't want to be a professor anymore?" (I was a contracted/adjunct professor. Never tenured. I don't really think that qualifies as "professor" but it's sweet that you have no clue how gutted and divided life in the university has become.)
  • "We don't really think someone with a PhD would fit in well here. Both of us (points at self and other hiring person) dropped out of college. Can you tell us how you'd fit in here?" (Imagine the questioner sneering and using a very contemptuous tone while asking this question.)
Here's the rub. I'm running out of money. It takes money to go and interview. It takes time to get reimbursed if they offer that. The bank account is dropping. Do I even bother going on the nation-wide job market? I don't know.

Here's how you survive as an academic when you have no library privileges:
  • I'm young enough looking, so I dress like a student and go in to the nearest university library. 
  • The nearest decent R1 library is a two hour trip away.
  • The parking is extremely expensive, so I try to go on days when the side streets are less likely to be jammed full of students trying to avoid paying the ridiculous parking fees.
  • There are exactly three computers that are open to the public that do not require a university identity card to use.
  • If all three computers are in use, or if they have been vandalized/broken, then I try to find a computer that has been left logged in. I need to see that card catalog. I can't see that card catalog when it is digital and on a "requires student ID card" or "university access only" computer. Just food for thoughts librarians. The PUBLIC can't use a PUBLIC library when you can't see the PUBLIC library's holdings.
  • If all else fails, I lie to a student and say my paper is due next week and I left my card at home, and could you just let me use your login really, really quickly so I don't fail my class. It works most of the time. Unless they direct me to the librarian to get a temporary card. Then I say my license is with my student ID and I can't get a temporary card without the license.
  • I then go to the online journal holdings of the library and do my searches. Then I download any article that might be half relevant and save it to my thumb drive to read at home.
  • If I find out the resource I want/need for my project is something that I need Interlibrary Loan for, I silently curse and write down where it is. I make plans to convince the Other Half to go on vacation in that city/state so I can sneak off to the library.
  • I can't check any books out, so I take as many books as I can read before the library closes.
  • I read and annotate until the library closes.
  • I run out to my car to see if the city has booted or ticketed me for staying longer than the two hours the public/street parking says you are supposed to stay. (Yes, the city tickets are cheaper than the parking at the university. That's how ridiculous even visitor parking is at this place.)
  • I drive home for two hours.
Welcome to exile. No one will take you in or let you out.


  1. Oh Maybelle. I have no words. Just know I am thinking of you, hard.

  2. Jeez, Maybelle. Could those of us with big fancy u's logins set up a rotating schedule for you? Could any librarians comment on how likely that is to end Orange is the New Black-style?
    Your commitment is so inspiring, but I wish it didn't have to be this hard.

  3. I, for one, am willing to offer help with running searches/downloading articles/scanning chapters, and anything else you might need. The mods have my email (and if they don't, I'll give it to them) and have my permission to give it to you.

  4. Maybelle I understand your pain to some extent and I also feel like I am in some sort of exile. I have no great library privileges or I would also share them with you. I miss my old R1 library....

  5. Don't know how much of this you know, or if it will help, but if you can find a Federal Deposit Library, they are required by law to let you in and will probably let you use their OPAC (databases and such will vary though depending on how their access is set up). And even public libraries in larger cities often participate in Inter-Library Loan, which might help for journal articles and monographs for that matter. You might also check, some state university libraries will lend to non-students, as long as you're a resident of the state. Finally, many libraries share their OPAC records with Worldcat/OCLC, which is free to browse.

    Links below:

    1. Also check and see if the public library offers access cards for the local university library. I have lived in two places that offer this service and you can even check books out of the university library using this card.

    2. It looks like Maybelle is getting help judging from the comment below, but for anyone else, Nadine's advice is really good. Public libraries, even small local ones, pretty often have access to considerable resources that might not be as clearly advertised as they could be. Ask someone at the desk, see what they can do for you.

      And a couple of things I forgot to mention: Google Scholar isn't a bad resource for research in many fields, and JSTOR has started allowing the public a certain number of article downloads for a certain time period with free registration.

  6. Oh, Maybelle. I'm so sorry. I, too, would be happy to retrieve articles (will try to remember to check Cassandra's gmail address). My own state institution's library is pretty open to any citizen/taxpayer, but I have the impression that database purveyors are writing increasingly tighter licenses, so that even on-campus database access may, indeed, be increasingly restricted to faculty, students, and other affiliates -- yet another example of how over-dedication to profit-seeking is widening the have/have not gap.

    Have you checked with your alma mater(s) about buying library privileges? I'm not sure how well that would work long-distance, but it's sometimes a possibility (I in fact did it at my grad institution for a while, since they had the bright idea that cutting off student library privileges would encourage ABDs to finish. Fortunately, the alum privileges were pretty generous and pretty cheap -- but, as I say, that was years ago, and I suspect that access to electronic databases would, indeed, be much trickier).

    I've also found that Catholic institutions are often as open as state ones (or nearly so) -- something about the sense of mission/larger purpose, I guess. But they may be running into the same problem with databases.

    What to say to the people who want to know why you don't want to be a professor anymore, and how well you'll fit into their particular corner of the "real world," I don't know. It seems horribly unfair that you have to explain the crumbling of the academy to non-academics before you can talk to them about a job. It sounds like you almost have to do the job to get the job. If you know for sure what you want to do, volunteering might be an option (but doesn't help the bank account). That's harder if you're trying to explore options. Temp/freelance/contract work might also involve a lower barrier, but you'd still probably be competing against experienced people (and at a time when no one wants to spend time/money training).

    Ugh. I'm sorry.

    1. I just checked my grad alma mater. Alumni borrowing privileges still exist, but specifically exclude database access from outside the library building.

      It's looking increasingly like I might just find myself adjuncting for library privileges should I lose my present job (since much of the freelance work I've done was made possible in part by the really good library/database access I have now).

      This is a serious problem. State institutions need to negotiate database contracts that allow at least some public access (but I guess that's what those three computers are for, and I bet even those three computers up the license fees considerably. Ugh again.)

  7. Very sorry to hear; wishing you the best.

    Here's a trick I'm not saying I ever used: unless the security systems in U. libraries has changed, there are usually thin metal security strips stuck under the spine cover of the books. It's very easy to open the book to expose the spine and gently lift out the security strip so that the book doesn't trip the alarm when you walk out the door. I know a certain university library that did not have overdue fines; if the book came back as much as a day late, the library would simply charge you a replacement cost (which was always hundreds of dollars per book). This created an absolute mess on students' monthly billing statements, so hypothetically, some grad students may have used this method to borrow (not steal) books while avoiding the Kafka-esque billing system.

    Also, if you think that teaching grades 9-12 is something that you legitimately want to do, don't give up because of certification requirements. Private schools generally do not want certification, they want advanced degrees in the field in which you'll be teaching. A PhD is not generally a disadvantage in hiring considerations, and in fact in most cases it would make you an attractive candidate. Check out Carney, Sandoe or one of the other regional recruiting agencies. It doesn't cost you anything to become a candidate: the schools pay the agency fee, and you can put your hat in the ring with as many agencies as you want. Again, you'd be an attractive candidate for many, many schools.

    I always get some pushback on here when I talk about high school teaching. Certainly, if research is your passion it's not for you. I wouldn't last five minutes in a public school, and I get that that's what people think when they hear "high school teacher." But a career at a good private school (and they're not all good) can be very rewarding and satisfying if teaching is a strong interest. Every place has it's Dilbert-esque qualities, but I enjoy small classes, bright students, and absolute autonomy in my classroom and over my choice of readings and other course material. My colleagues are smart, talented, and committed to high intellectual and academic standards. It's a small niche for sure, but one that I've found to be very satisfying.

    Best of luck.

  8. A few CM readers have offered Maybelle some help with the library access and I'm in the process of getting these folks together. Many thanks.

    1. This is a radical beautiful peculiar subversive act.
      Be careful.

    2. I'm happy to also offer help to Maybelle if you want to share my email with her. Our library databases are shitty (we don't pay for the good stuff), but they're workable and a step above googlescholar and the public library. I actually still login to my last place of employment at a state university (no one has turned off my access in 7 years) to use their databases for my own research.

  9. My library is worthless or I would also offer Maybelle any help she needed.

  10. I love all of you guys for offering to help. As a rule, I'd like to keep my anonymity as much as possible. If you guys knew what I was researching, it might tip who I am outside of CM. I'd hate to bias a search committee or risk being 'outed,' even if all of your offers are with the best of intentions. I'm tearing up over here. You're like my surrogate academic family.

    I'm unable to access electronic journals through any of my alma maters. I learned this when one of my other classmates asked me to photocopy and scan some chapters/journal articles from our holdings while I was still enrolled. I asked why my classmate didn't just sign up for alumni checkout privileges .... you only get access to the physical reserves and not Interlibrary or electronic journals. With as digital as my academic community is these days, finding resources outside of the huge e-journal conglomerates means that my work is not as rigorous without it.

    I will say, having to plan my research trips does motivate me to not waste time. I get more done in those 12 hours than when I had my own office and unlimited access to those resources.

    I'm okay folks. I am just miserable.

  11. This all sounds awful! I really wish the best outcome for you.

  12. Dear Maybelle,

    I'm sorry this is happening to you. Hang in there, I hope you get a break soon.

    "'We don't really think someone with a PhD would fit in well here. Both of us (points at self and other hiring person) dropped out of college. Can you tell us how you'd fit in here?' (Imagine the questioner sneering and using a very contemptuous tone while asking this question.)"

    It's one thing to struggle in a bad economy, but taking abuse is something entirely different. I recommend that you complain to the president of this company and to whomever else supervises these bozos. Their grossly unprofessional, childish behavior reflects badly on their company, who really ought to know about it. Why not? It's obvious they won't be hiring you, and that's without doubt just as well.

  13. Maybelle, I am so sad you are having a hard time, and I know others are, too. We are all pulling for you here! I wish there was something we could do!

    After I finished my MA, I left my PhD program. I did not teach right away for a couple of reasons, instead working for various business. I got the same bullshit with just an MA and it was extremely demoralizing.

    Are you temping? I assume so. If you are, take anything...ANYTHING (anything legal). Once you are temping, talk talk talk to people (all the while doing a kick ass job answering phones or copying or whatever), finding out where you might fit there. I got a pretty decent job at a bank (in the appraisal division) after temping in the copy room of that same bank. That led to another job writing RFPs for a health care company.

    I still hate copy machines, though, and have learned the hard way not to admit I know my way around them.