This past summer my work schedule changed. We went from being open Monday-Thursday during the week to Monday-Friday. At first, it wasn’t a huge deal because I was already working most Fridays. I had extra hours to work to make up my 40 total. So while I was technically at work, we weren’t open and I wasn’t dealing with the normal daily things, like working the circ desk or running programs or talking with patrons. I could actually get work DONE! It was kind of amazing! (sigh)
I added one or two programs on Fridays to kind of advertise that we were open. This meant extra planning. But Summer also means vacations, so often times we were a skeleton staff, which meant I was on the desk more. Then we had that silly thing known as SUMMER READING and since my office is in the Children’s Room, this meant we were SUPER BUSY ALL DAY.
I very quickly realized just how little work I was getting done. It was starting to pile up and my fall planning had barely been touched. A few years ago I would have done extra work at home to make up for it, but it isn’t much of an option these days since I have a 3-year-old at home. I had basically lost about 8 hours of actual work/planning time every week, plus I had the added stress of being “ON” for the public an extra 8 hours a week during our busiest time of the year with hardly any time to take a break.
The result? I was so stressed out that I managed to pull all the muscles in my neck, shoulders and upper back so badly that I could barely turn my head. I could barely sleep because of continuous muscle spasms. I’m still in physical therapy!
I had so many ideas for new fall programs for kids and teens, ideas to upgrade our website, school collaboration, etc. But I finally came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t do it all. And I really shouldn’t be. Everyone has a different idea of work ethic, but I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic/perfectionist. and none of this pressure was coming from my director – it was all me! There are so many Youth Librarians out there that do amazing things at their libraries. This blog is proof of that! But as much as I want to be that librarian who does these incredible programs or volunteers on prestigious committees or blogs every day (as I tried to do years ago and maybe someday will again!) The truth is, I can’t. And I have to be OK with that.
So a lot of programs I wanted to do have gone to the land of “maybe someday” and I’m trying to keep things simple. At the moment, I am just working on my Teen Advisory Board monthly meetings which had a pretty low attendance last spring, and my first one after the summer break had 9 teens! I still do some storytimes, but I keep those pretty simple as well. Luckily I have an assistant who concentrates on the younger kids. Instead of adding a storytime or other program on Friday mornings like we did in the summer, I haven’t had any yet this fall. Though I did ask our monthly music and movement performer if she could switch to Fridays so we would have a program, but not one that I had to do myself. We still end up with a slim staff on Fridays, but we aren’t as busy as we were in the summer, so I can get a little more work done and I try to think of it as my “relaxed” work day. And no one has complained or probably even cares that we don’t have anything going on. We are open, so that needs to be enough right now! The good thing about being open on Fridays is that it’s actually a good day for teen activities because they don’t tend to have as many practices, or clubs, or other commitments after school, so it’s a better time for programs. I have also tried to do a little more delegating at work, even though sometimes it’s a real internal struggle to let things go! Attempting to be more organized is also kind of helping, as well as things like making flyer templates that can be reused on Canva or setting up checklists in Trello that I can use over and over.
Being a Youth Services Librarian is a tricky job and I think many of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “prove” that we are necessary and vital to our library and community. And we are! But we also only work a certain number of hours a week and get paid a certain amount to do it. Plus there’s that whole “personal/family/home” thing that also exists. And we need to take care of ourselves too, which is something that we stress a lot on this blog too. I now have a standing monthly massage appointment that I make the time to go to. I can’t be an amazing librarian for my teens if I physically can’t move! So while I still feel like an underachiever most of the time, I think I’m really just doing the best I can right now. (If I just keep saying that over and over, it will be true!)
Please share any of your experiences (if only to make me feel better.) 😉