For those of us in the public library, summer can be one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. In addition to managing the summer reading program and all its events, there are other things to contend with including staff shortages due to vacations, increases in visits and circulation, problems with unattended children, and staff negativity about all of the above.
How can you make it until August without burning out? Take care of yourself. It’s just like being on a plane when they tell you to secure your oxygen mask before helping others. You can’t do all you want to do for teens if you are running on empty.
Take Your Breaks
You deserve to take your breaks, you deserve to eat lunch. There might be a few days this summer where those things are difficult, but if it’s happening several times a week then you need to speak up. I know that it can feel like things will implode if you step away, or you’re worried about how other staff might treat teens, but you have to draw the line. You should not be required to sacrifice your physical or mental health so that the library runs smoothly.
Next, make sure those breaks are actually breaks. Read a favorite author, watch cat videos on your phone, listen to music, or just step outside for a little fresh air. If you start to sound like Ross, then you definitely need a break or twelve.
Look Out For Your Health
Hard work takes a toll and making sure your basic needs are met is the baseline of self-care. Don’t let all the things on your mind make you forget to take the medication you need. Choose food that will give you energy instead of a sugar crash is a good start, and have little snacks on hand to keep going throughout the day. Get the sleep you know you need, even if it means finding out what happens to the main character of that book tomorrow. Get moving and get some sunshine when you can, you’d be surprised how much a trip around the block helps.
Concentrate on the good. Every time a teen raves about a book you suggest, a teen that seems lonely participates in a program, or you surpass your registration goal write it down. Take time to review those wins and then show gratitude to other staff as well.
A good summer program usually means more work for all public serving staff, so take the time to let the clerks and pages know you appreciate the extra work they are doing to make the summer successful for teens.
Leave Work at Work
It’s hard, and there is this idea that if you love what you do then you’ll just give, give, give. Nope. Take a deep breath and only work the hours you are paid to work. If you are one of those salaried, non-hourly librarians you should be documenting your time at least. So, how can you worry less about work once you’ve come to the end of the day?
Take a few minutes at the end of the day to tidy up your desk, jot down what you accomplished today, and make a prioritized list of what you need to do the next workday. Don’t check your work email at all hours. If you are a manager, or in another position where you probably should take a look, then set one time to check for urgent messages only and then put it away.
Feed Your Soul
Whether it’s running, knitting, fandom, yoga, or something else figure out what helps you relax and recharge. Even if you only have a couple minutes a day then make the most of it and take those couple of minutes and make sure they are only about you.
This Too Shall Pass
Summer doesn’t last forever! Just take it one day at a time and concentrate on those smiling, or at least slightly less jaded looking, teen faces.
TLDR? It’s okay to be a little selfish and put yourself first once and a while.