Author: Molly Garlick

Pandemic Program Guilt

When I proposed this topic as a post, I really didn’t know what I was going to write about. I still don’t really, I’m just making it up as I go along. All I know is that I have felt incredible guilt over the past year because I feel like I’m not doing enough.

Enough programs, enough emails, enough outreach, enough Take & Makes, enough Summer Reading planning.

At work, I am in a constant state of mild panic. That dread that hangs over you when you know you’ve forgotten to do something really important, but you can’t quite figure out what it is. That is what this whole year has been like for me. Worrying that I’m not trying hard enough to reach the teens. Feeling like I’m missing a huge part of my job.

Work is stressful, not only because I am working with the public during a pandemic, but I work 2 days from home helping my daughter with remote kindergarten. It’s hard to get work done on these days, and it is almost impossible to separate work life and home life.

And I’ll be honest, I haven’t done that many programs. Mostly crafts and book boxes (Check out Andrea’s post!) My teens are MIA since last March. They can’t hang out at the library so they don’t come around. Unfortunately, that was the source of my program attendance. There is zero interest in virtual programs, which is partly because they don’t want them, and partly because I haven’t been overly excited about them either.

I feel guilty. But I also know deep down, that I am also just trying to survive this. We all have a lot going on in our work lives and in our personal lives. We talk a lot about self-care on this blog because it’s very easy to get burnt out in this job. But I think right now, I’m just trying to survive. And sometimes, that’s enough.

 

 

The Remote Manager Dilemma

As I write this, I am sitting at my kitchen table-turned school/work desk while my daughter is in her kindergarten zoom meeting and the teacher is telling someone to please keep his shirt on during zoom class. My husband is on a zoom call for work in his office down the hall that we can hear through the closed door. The cats have chosen this time to wrestle on the floor and make strange growling noises. My St. Bernard is pawing at me to go outside. There’s dog drool on my laptop. I’m taking a break from updating my library’s website to write this post. Needless to say, my concentration level is somewhere near “cranky toddler”.

In case you haven’t read my other manager-type posts: I am the Assistant Director and the Youth Services Director at my library. I usually leave off the first part when telling people what I do, because I feel like my main job is really Youth Services. Of course, this technically means I have 3 jobs if you consider the fact that “Youth Services” covers both Children’s and Teen Services. I have an assistant who helps me with Children’s Services. As the Youth Services Director, I directly manage 2 full-time staff members in the Children’s Room, and usually a part-time page. Most of the time I fake it to make it, and I suspect many of us do the same.

COVID-19 brought some interesting challenges for me personally, as it did for everyone. The hardest of these is how to coordinate remote kindergarten for my 6-year-old daughter while also working full-time. I work remotely 2 days a week so I can do school. Even though I still go to work 3 days a week (plus extra hours on Saturday to make up for some of my time at home) I have a hard time feeling like a “manager”. I feel split between my home life and my work life, even more so than usual. My daughter is home ALL THE TIME and is very good at calling me at work on her tablet while my husband is working and pretending not to notice. When I am at work, I feel guilty for not being home, and vice versa. I feel guilty because I “get to work from home” but it’s not exactly all it’s cracked up to be!

At the moment, my library is closed for browsing but our lobby is open for pickup. We are used to a busy children’s room with programs going on and lots of patrons running around. While we are doing a steady circ between patron book orders, kid’s curbside bags, and teen book boxes, my staff is still looking for projects to make the long quiet hours go by (the one light rock radio station that plays the same songs at the same time of day isn’t helping.) Of course, I have plenty of work to do between a current re-design of our website, managing an LSTA grant for a new play space (ironic, I know), and inventing new “programs” for kids and teens, and families to do at home. I have never been the best at delegating.

My staff is great at finding things to keep busy but in this strange time of “library limbo”, having meaningful tasks seem more important somehow. With this in mind, I am trying to be more inclusive with my staff. Not that I have ever purposely excluded them, but sometimes I have trouble getting out of my own head! I delegate more work to my circulation clerk, especially filling our new Reading Request google forms. I try to make my work a little more of a group effort, trying to include my staff more on ideas for the new website design and asking them what they think about grant purchases I’m considering. When I am working from home, we try to keep a running group text going throughout the day. Not continuously, but it’s just a way to connect us when I’m not there, even if it’s just to send a funny meme or mention that a crazy patron came in that we haven’t seen since pre-covid times. Which seems like FOREVER ago.

It’s not perfect and I’m really not perfect but I’m doing the best I can, as we all are.

Cheers, and stay safe!

-Molly

Staying Up To Date with Your ABCs (of LGBTQ+)

When your library is in the midst of a pandemic and safety is your first priority, it’s easy to let other things fall to the bottom of the pile. Pre-pandemic, I had a lot of teens in the library who identify outside of the generic gender check box. Now, we rarely see any teens in the library at all, and my GSA group is temporarily on hold. But as librarians, we need to keep in mind that any of our patrons at the library, whether obvious or not, might identify as something other than male or female.

If pronouns and LGBTQ terminology are not at the top of your staff meeting agenda, then maybe as the Youth Sevices or Teen Librarian, you can make it part of your job to keep up with the terminology. Have a paper handy to give to a coworker, or create a flyer/pamphlet to give to staff or post on a staff board with some of the important highlights. Staff sensitivity training is a great way to get staff thinking about how their words and actions can have a big impact.

Here are a few good websites/resources you can bookmark, or maybe even add to your library’s website/teen page so your staff can access the information when they have a chance. Keep in mind that terminology changes frequently, so it’s a good idea to check in and see if there are any updates from time to time!

Human Rights Campaign – Glossary of LGBTQ+ Terms

GLSEN: Pronouns

PFLAG: Allies 

This resource is a great slide presentation that could be adapted for staff training.

New York Times article: The ABCs of L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+

I do not profess to be an expert AT ALL, and I mess up a lot. As a straight woman, assigned female at birth, I don’t have much personal experience, but it is something that I feel strongly about. If anyone has any other great websites or resources, please share in the comments!

Going Back to Work When Everything Is Different

Remember the day you started your new job as a Youth Librarian? Well, now many of us can re-live that moment as libraries slowly open back up and we try to figure out how to work again in the midst of a pandemic.

The staff at my library came back to work onsite at the end of May (not open to the public) but I was able to work remotely until earlier this month due to my lack of daycare. This meant I was in my little COVID bubble for much longer than my staff. I felt relieved to be able to stay home, even though working remotely with a 5-year-old comes with its own challenges and I felt guilty about not being there with my staff to brave this new world. Although I am the Youth Services Director and Assistant Director, I was out of the loop for most of this time. It wasn’t intentional, it was just an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of thing. I was working on website updates, and learning a new Summer Reading software, while my staff was learning how to function in an entirely new environment of social distancing and sanitizing.

When I returned to work this month, I was a complete ball of stress for so many reasons. I had been working from the safety of my home and now I would be with OTHER PEOPLE, having to remember to social distance and put my mask on before I left my office. And could I work for hours while wearing a mask? I worried about re-learning opening and closing procedures and curbside pickup protocol, even though I actually helped to write them. I was apprehensive about how staff would react to me coming back after all this time. (There was a good deal of tension during the months we were working remotely and I knew that there had been issues with me managing staff onsite while working from home.) The stress of reopening so soon after I started back was also a huge worry. I was convinced we weren’t ready – that I wasn’t ready – to open to the public and lose what little control we had over who was coming in the building. I especially worried about how I would adjust to my new-old life of going into work every day instead of rolling out of bed and onto my laptop, and also how it would affect my daughter who had me all to herself for 4 months.

Then there was my actual job, which for 14 years I based on the concept of getting people to come to the library, and was now kind of the exact opposite. In fact, it was sadly comical that our summer reading programs, purposely not online and based on patrons actually coming to the library, was reduced to online only for teens and paper bags with bingo sheets left outside on the sidewalk for kids. We spent years training patrons to return items inside during open hours if they were coming inside and not in the outside drop box. Now it’s the complete opposite.

Thankfully, a lot of my stress about going back to work has gone away since I actually went back to work. Go figure. I don’t feel like I’m a new employee anymore. Learning new procedures hasn’t been as bad as I thought. And being with other staff, and now a limited amount of patrons, hasn’t been so bad. Our patrons have been very supportive and are very happy that we are actually open. And I can wear a mask for extended amounts of time without suffocating or having any horrible side effects! Amazing! We have been lucky that no one has refused to follow rules about wearing masks, but I feel more prepared if that happens because it’s important to me to keep my staff and my family safe. And while my daycare situation is anything but easy, we are making it work until school starts… (that’s a whole other can of worms that I can’t really bring myself to think about right now!)

If there is one thing we librarians – especially Youth Librarians – are good at, it’s adapting. It’s what we’ve been doing this whole time. We plan programs that utterly fail, and then learn from our mistakes and try it again. We connect with different teens in different ways, always looking for that common ground to stand on. Even as I am typing this, I realized that my job has not actually been to “get people to come to the library” – my job is to REACH people through library services, even if it means they can’t actually come to the library. Right now, we are living day-to-day, uncertain of what will happen to our libraries, our jobs, and everything else. I know I’m just repeating what everyone else is saying, but it’s OK to be fearful and stressed about what’s going on. It’s a scary and stressful time! And yes, going back to work will be different because the world is different. But the library is still the library, in whatever form people need it to be, and I’ll keep calm and library on. 😉

 

 

The Stay-At-Home Librarian

 

My daughter grudgingly playing a sight word game.

The past few months have been interesting, to say the least. The municipality I work for chose not to lay off or furlough any town employees during the quarantine, which is amazing considering I work in Massachusetts and we are just now starting to open the state. I was able to work from home, which was great… and also not so great. My husband already works from home, so for him, it was hardly a change at all, but for me, it was a pretty big deal. While I love my library job, I was secretly thrilled at first that I was going to get to work from home for “a few weeks.” It would give me extra time in the day to get things done and spend time with my 5-year-old daughter. My daughter was home from preschool and was so excited (and still is) to have me home with her 24-7.

Oh, the plans I had! Here is a list of things I intended to accomplish (some of these as the weeks turned into months:)

  1. Finish my LSTA grant. (A grant for A PLAY AREA IN THE CHILDREN’S ROOM.)
  2. Learn to play my ukulele that I bought 2 years ago and become one of those ukulele-playing librarians (I sort of learned one song.)
  3. Website updates (not everything I had on my list but a few things.)
  4. Plan Summer Reading (Wait, are we having Summer Reading?)
  5. Plan summer programs (So, we aren’t having those either?)
  6. Re-do my Teen Volunteer Program (um…)
  7. Start virtual storytimes (I did ONE.)
  8. Start virtual craft programs for all ages (Nope.)
  9. Start virtual meetings with my teen groups (hahaha.)
  10. Teach my daughter to read (it’s hysterical that I even thought I could do this.) 
  11. Clean and organize every room in my house (Ok, I did get some of this accomplished.)
  12. Learn to use (and not be afraid of) my Instant Pot (I made one recipe. And made rice. I’d call it a win.) 
  13. Excercise! Take a walk every day, do virtual yoga, stretch every morning before sitting down to work (does getting up out of my chair 8,000 times a day at my daughter’s request count as exercise?)

I was totally going to rock this remote-working-homeschooler-parent-housewife-ukulele-playing-librarian thing!

Here is a list of things I actually did:

  1. I finished my grant but, as I mentioned above, it’s for a new play area. Oh, the irony!
  2. I watched A TON of webinars that I mostly don’t remember.
  3. My planner filled with homeschool projects, activities, and lessons is now a blank planner again.
  4. I did some website updates.
  5. I did one virtual storytime which took me about a week to film and edit since I had never done anything like that before and my free editing program kept crashing.
  6. My teen program planning, including virtual, basically fell apart since unfortunately, the novelty of virtual programming wore off pretty quickly.
  7. My daughter has ZERO interest in actually learning to read. Oh, the irony!
  8. I considered adopting a dog and/or another child to play with my daughter.
  9. I bought my daughter an insane amount of things to keep her busy. They all lasted about 5 minutes.
  10. I did get some cleaning and organizing done. But somehow my house is still a disaster.
  11. I read a lot of articles and posts from other librarians doing amazing programs online and thought about possibly considering doing them someday, maybe.
  12. I ate an amazing amount of monster trail mix.
  13. I did walk more than I would have if I was at work. But not enough to burn off the trail mix.
  14. I built a fairy house. this is probably my biggest quarantine accomplishment.

My co-workers are back at work now, and just starting to offer curbside pickup to patrons. I am still allowed to work remotely because we have no daycare or preschool. I’m currently doing more website updates, creating graphics for our new services to add to various social media platforms. I am working on ways to improve how patrons can order books from us, including creating google forms for staff-curated book bags for families with young children. I have an upcoming tween/teen virtual author visit with Sarah Prager, a local LGBTQ+ author that I am hoping I will have a decent attendance for! And I am working on switching our Teen Summer Reading Program from scratch tickets at the library to all virtual. Luckily, I was able to get a two-year grant for Beanstack, so I am excited to figure out how to use it. I have been very lucky for the past few months, even though the months have been stressful and full of uncertainty. Some days are great. And some days involve Zoom staff meetings with my daughter angrily poking me with a stick while I’m talking to my director (true story.) I am home for another month and then I have to figure out how to get back to (the new) normal, whatever that might be!