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Seven Lucky Charms for Sabbatical Success

The vibrant and rich portfolio of an academic librarian with at least 3 years of service after obtaining permanent status illuminates a colourful and bright path, aka a rainbow, to one of the pots of gold in our career –  a year-long research leave.

The saturation of colours on this path is reflective of the depth and breadth of the years of professional practice, professional development, service to the University, and scholarship. While a well-defined research leave proposal is the four-leafed clover launching pad to amplify our value and the value of our institution through the resulting deliverables of partnerships, publications, conference presentations, and/or the application of best or new practices, it is the unforeseen turns, the unanticipated exploration, and the resulting lessons from engagement with the unexpected that can teach us about more than the topics we set out to explore.

Of course sabbatical projects and deliverables will vary; however, there are seven lucky charms for sabbatical success that seem, based upon our informal canvassing, universal.

yellowcharmDollar Bills

Save your pennies. You will still be taking home a paycheck, and you may have secured funds or grants that cover your conferences and travel prior to your sabbatical, but a 10-20% reduction in your salary has a big impact.

ACTION: As part of your planning process start saving and make a personal and project budget for the duration research leave.

redcharmLocation Station

9-5 weekday office visits are no longer required, but you will need a place to read, write, create, and connect. While our homes or hotels around the world seem like the perfect places to set up your office, consider your current work routine and the pieces of it that recharge you, or that deplete you.

ACTION: Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I like to work with or without anyone around?
  • Do I need silence or background noise?
  • Do I take regular tea/coffee or snack breaks?
  • Do I take breaks with others or alone?
  • What do I need in my daily space to be productive?

bluecharm copyRevolving Door

The distance from daily administrative duties and regular correspondence regarding your library’s services, resources, staff, and facilities lends new and valuable perspectives. While allowing yourself time to adjust to a research leave routine is imperative at beginning the sabbatical process, on the other side of the coin, maintaining connection with your colleagues at your library throughout your leave can prove vital in rendering you up-to-date with any forth coming changes that may impact the structure of you library or your work upon return.  

ACTIONBefore embarking on your leave, make certain you have wrapped up the loose ends on any projects you are involved with so that you can focus on your sabbatical deliverables. After you have acclimatized to your new routine, set up few lunches or coffees throughout the rest of your leave with colleagues to stay abreast of any developments within your library.


One year may seem like a long time to plan for, however, as we are discovering at the end of our sabbaticals, time flies. Establishing and maintaining a routine has been imperative to our achievement of goals.

ACTION: To ensure you are on top of your deliverables, break your project(s) down into manageable daily or weekly tasks.   Seeing that an item has been completed gives a sense of accomplishment. Racking up those checkmarks results in the timely completion of a project.


Populating a year-long calendar with self-imposed due dates prior to commencing your leave may give you the direction you need to get moving, but we’d bet one of the pieces from our pots of gold you find life, your research, or professional opportunities that you did not plan for come knocking at your door. Flowing these moments into the fold with grace and flexibility or stretching beyond your comfort zone affords you with fresh insights that will inform or be applicable to your current and future work.  Sabbatical is a time to discover and uncover.

ACTION: Ask yourself if your long-term schedule provides you with time to confront and embrace the unexpected.

orangecharmNew Connections

Connecting with colleagues outside of your library system, and those who work outside of the information fields all together is a wildly valuable way to find new approaches, initiatives, or partnerships that can enhance your work or the services at your library.

ACTION: Make a list of institutions/companies, professionals, or academics that you find interesting.  Contact someone you don’t know and ask them for coffee so that you can learn more about their process, system, and work.

greencharmRecharged Battery

Take time to rest and explore your interests outside your research topics to recharge your battery. We are both using the lessons learned from our engagement in activities outside of our described research projects to incorporate unique services into our libraries and/or refine our planning and procedures within our library.

ACTION: Explore and engage with activities that invigorate you.  If you don’t have one you want to continue pursing, try something new.

How we invest in ourselves as a professional and an academic over the course of our leave is the means that brings the worth to the pot of gold. Incorporating the seven lucky charms for success is an approach we believe will enhance your portfolio, deepen your knowledge, reinvigorate you, and strengthen your professional and academic relationships.

Distilled, our advice is much like the slogan for Skittles, “Taste the Rainbow”.

Kathleen Scheaffer is the Outreach and Instructional Services Librarian at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. . Her research examines how practices of connection to information, ideas, and each other in physical and digital environments can be shaped by concrete and emergent policies, terms, and guidelines. You may contact her via email, Kathleen.Scheaffer [at]

Paulina Rousseau is a Liaison Librarian  for the Arts, Culture, and Media Program  at the University of Toronto Scarborough Library. In addition to her role of liaison, where she supports research and instruction, she initiated and has been on the planning committee of the Digital Pedagogy Institute, an annual conference that examines the changing nature of instruction at the post-secondary level. Paulina can be reached at prousseau [at]

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