That Summer, at Home I had become the Invisible Boy

I took the title for this post from one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands The Twilight Sad. There are some SWEARS so beware small children, etc. I’m sure while you listen to it you can draw some parallels of what’s going on right now in our country and how our summer has been.

Image of the cover for the Twilight Sad single "That summer, at home I had become the invisible boy" a boy and girl illustrated realistically sit opposite each other. The boy holds a book and the girl is pointing at the pages. Everything is coloured in a shade of blue. The boy and girl have handkerchiefs over their faces tied behind their heads. The handkerchiefs have eye and mouth holes cut out,.


I started writing the draft of this blog post mid August… and it’s now September 5th! Work has felt very full on. Let me tell you what’s been going on in my life as a Publishing Assistant [PA] at an Academic Publisher since the last time I wrote here back in May.

I became the Publisher (a title where I work) of two journals! It means extra responsibilities, learning more, more interaction with our journal editors many of whom are university lecturers, academics, but also other professionals in relevant areas. I work on the general strategy of the journal, help form special issue calls for papers, help with any issues, are we struggling to find peer reviewers, has a paper or something got stuck in our system, is there a reason why submissions have dropped or do we need to look at doing something different to hit our submission target, are we hitting our word counts. I conduct research for the journal in terms of identifying researchers and look at how certain areas or topics are doing e.g. how was the topic of mental health changed over the years – are we having more submissions or articles being published now than say 2015?

I’m really enjoying the extra communication with our editors as many of my library jobs in Schol Comms or Research support, for example, you work with academics A LOT and I have missed that a bit in my PA role.

The two journals I now manage are in the same portfolio I’ve been working on as PA, which is Health and Social Care [HSC]. I had absolutely no experience of this topic before I started. It was kind of comforting to draw a parallel between Librarians who, if you are a subject librarian or skills support, you can kind of do any subject (yes, yes, it helps to have experience and there are some exceptions, etc.) I’ve really enjoyed working on this portfolio; I’ve learnt and picked up loads. It made me think I should have pursued NHS Librarian roles more and also looked at the modules on offer when I was doing my Librarianship PGDip as there’s a whole Health Informatics course.

On that note I’ve been given fantastic resources by contacts on Twitter in terms of levelling up my information retrieval skills especially linked to health. Two examples would be the Literature Searching Modules from NHS Library Knowledge Services (North) and this intro to systematic reviews on the Cochrane Interactive Learning site.

In terms of content the two journals are very different. One is how technologies can be enabling for children, young people and adults in their lives. It’s not the creation, development, or workings of the tech, but how it is actually used in life and the results, which I think is such an important and generally less focused on topic. We’ve had articles on assistive technology for those with autism and intellectual disabilities, robotic showers use for the elderly, designing technologies for museums, tech for dementia, and so many more.

The other focuses on human rights in healthcare internationally, which again is so fascinating. Topics have included patient rights, hospital codes of ethics, there have been special issues focusing on sex trafficking and violence against women, specific populations and health inequalities, health insurance, health facilities, and again many more.

I can get table of contents updates so I signed up to those for my two journals so I can get a better handle on what is being published and read some articles. As a PA you kind of assist and don’t really see what is submitted or what gets published – unless you look obviously! But I’m not involved in manuscript submissions at all unless I’m helping find peer reviewers or something weird has happened with our manuscript submission system.

Calls for Papers for Special Issues is one of my favourite bits of the job. I’m writing this expecting you all know what it means, but since you might not let me tell you! I’ll use a recent example from one of the journals I now manage. In a meeting with the editor we discussed putting out a call for papers for a special issue concerning Covid. I give the editor a proposal form to fill in and this includes details about the editors or guest editors for the issue, topic, scope, submission types, will it be OA, etc. I then check the journal capacity with our Journal Editorial Office. Can we accommodate the amount of papers suggested (in terms of the issues we produce each year)?Will this fit? We establish a timeline and submission deadline; then since I am also still a PA I create a template, with the editor’s help and sometimes they fill this in, I input the special issue information into our various systems and create a webpage to help with promotional activities. Depending on the promotional needs from the editor or guest editor I can be asked to post to List Servs/JISC lists, I arrange tweets with our marketing team, I email the journal’s Editorial Board and ask them to disseminate the call for papers to their networks.

That’s a whistle stop brief look at calls for papers anyway!

Other reasons why I’ve been so busy, as well as taking on two journals, has been temporarily working on our Business (BME) Books portfolio. I’d taken on some extra work, which I’d recently just passed back to another BME team member. It was insightful to work on another portfolio and see how it works as there are slight differences. Again, I had no previous experience of this! So it took me a bit of time to get the hang of working on and assisting with writing blurbs for our books.

In the HSC books portfolio I’m not sure why but August felt AMPED-UP! Lots of books on short turn arounds, lots of covers to sort with our graphic designers, blurbs to write which always takes me forever, and actually in general just the odd things with short deadlines coming up.

Life stuff

Maybe the title of this blog post is a bit weird, but I think it has felt weird with many of us working from home, staring into and out of our glowing screens. Invisible except for the digital versions of ourselves. It’s been a different way of working for sure. I’ve tried to be stricter with myself logging off at 4pm when I should finish (I do 8am until 4pm), but my “I’ll just do this one last thing” had recently turned into a daily occurrence, which is probably why I’ve felt tired and had this blog post in draft for WEEKS.

I am finding it hard, and maybe harder recently, to actually do anything outside of work. Not that we need to beat ourselves up over this, but I look across my attic / spare room / office / storage, to my arts and crafts and just feel. so. damn. tired.

I’ve spoken to some people about this and I think we’re at a very weird point. The “holiday” vibe has sort of worn off and with some people back in work and others not, with furlough running out, with redundancies having taken place and upcoming, everything feels even more difficult than it did. Mine included, but many work places have sort of stopped the initial hype up of fun online stuff to make us all feel like a team still. I don’t blame them and our work did so many fun things I’d never have been able to think of… but it’s tapered off. It’s like the initial understanding and fun has worn off and I think many of us are feeling burnout from what feels like functioning on permanent high alert for months – there’s been no slow down in terms of work and in a lot of cases especially for our HE workers they’ve had to do so much more (not for you know extra pay or anything – yeah just create some online training with no help or support…cool).

I’ve had days off here and there, but myself and a friend were just discussing like 2 weeks off completely would be dreamy, but then we both laughed at the mountain of work we’d come back to.

It does look like I’ll be working from home [WFH] for the foreseeable and I actually don’t mind this for a number of reasons. I think the past few months have shown us how we can work remotely (some of us) and how this has been such a barrier previously when it shouldn’t have been. I’ve very happy working for a forward thinking company that operated this way normally for the most part. However, thinking of being back in university libraries, and in the roles I had, I bet most places would be desperate to have me back in just to have a person sat at a desk to keep an eye on.

What’s annoying me most is how many jobs that are being advertised that aren’t bothering to say remote working possible. If we do “go back to normal” so much we’ve seen…. the positives… won’t be taken on board.

But what do I love about WFH? Well, I rent a pretty decent house. I have a reasonable work conducive atmosphere. A space that can be my office. I like being surrounded by my own nice things vs. office spaces. I like having my art around, my nice desk and also my cat haha. Having a pet has definitely made things better and I find myself day dreaming more and more about owning a dog, maybe some chickens, what about a rescue donkey? A pony?

When things do maybe open up again… or should I say, when I feel safe to go, I can go to local independents for coffee and food, I can make myself really nice home cooked lunches, which I have been doing almost daily, I can nip to the post office (I’ve been posting way more to friends and family), I can go for walks in my local park. I get more work done and can sleep better with no commute (and not spending money on a commute). I would say I have less distractions at home than work. For me as an individual there’s loads of plus points and I’m happy that it looks like this will be my way of working.

How has your work life been? Have you managed to keep a work life balance?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s