Burnout is very real and something I’m sure we’ve all experienced. It’s something that can make going into work a drag, make coming up with programs feel like pulling teeth, and real creativity buster. So how to you avoid or stop it?
Here are some ideas from the TSU staff.
Andrea says: As someone who has experienced a lot of burnout in my 8 years as Teen Services Librarian, my number one advice is self-care. Take breaks & time off. Vacations have always been my number one way to destress and come back feeling better. If you can schedule them after a time you know will be stressful. For example, I always try to take time off in August after the craziness of Summer Reading. As for the day to day, make sure you’re scheduling time for the things you love to do in your personal time. Staying happy/balanced in your personal life will go a long way in your work life!
Molly says: I think this job can be really exhausting. One thing I would recommend is to try to take advantage of professional development workshops if you are able to. Not only can you learn something new and get new ideas (and get out of the library!) but talking with colleagues about things they are doing at their schools or libraries can be really eye-opening. Talking about those crazy teens or patrons and other problems we all deal with can also be amazing therapy! The other thing I’ve tried to do is to schedule down-time at work. Otherwise, I don’t have any. For instance, we are taking a week off from programs – both kids and teens – the week before April School Vacation. Usually I do weekly storytimes, as well as teen programs, right up to the week before vacation, but this time I knew I would need a break and I am so glad I scheduled it this way. I will be working a couple days to prep for school break, but the rest is vacation time for me. It’s pretty much the last chance I get for some time off before Summer Reading consumes me!
Pam says: Find something that has nothing to do with libraries and pursue that in your downtime–and make sure you have downtime! I know it’s tempting to feel like you have to be eating, breathing, drinking, and sleeping programming/teens/library life, but don’t do it. Although we often define ourselves by our jobs or with our jobs, that should not be the only thing that makes you you. I lift weights and it’s great for my head, because I have to focus on moving my body correctly and challenging myself. Also, talk to other people about what you’re feeling. Other librarians can be super helpful, because they know what you’re going through. Finally, stop comparing yourself to other librarians. You don’t have to do all the programs and win all the awards and get all the teens to come to your programs. You don’t. It’s okay. Do your best at what you do. Remember that your goals in life are not the same as anyone else’s, so you shouldn’t let other people’s goals define your path.
Elizabeth says: Make your space a happy place. Buy a lucky bamboo plant for your desk (those are impossible to kill), put up pictures of family, friends, pets, or favorite places, print out some funny memes, or scribble inspirational quotes on post-it notes and put them where you’ll see them every day. Find ways to commune with your tribe of other teen librarians. If you can, travel to a conference. (If it’s in another city or state, find a way to experience that place while you’re there!) If you can’t travel, join a listserv or social media group. The TSU Facebook group is a great place to start. Even if you just lurk there, you can borrow someone else’s enthusiasm when you don’t have your own. And always be reading a book that interests you but isn’t strictly for work. I was amazed how much my burnout factor went down when I started reading random nonfiction books along with my usual teen books. In fact, you could say that ten minutes a day of The Federalist Papers saved my sanity! If the thought of another book scares you, try the Serial Reader app for your phone or tablet–it sends you a bite-size chunk of a classic every day, and it’s free!