Magazine article Information Today

Tales from the Library Trenches, Part 1: Learning to Adapt

Magazine article Information Today

Tales from the Library Trenches, Part 1: Learning to Adapt

Article excerpt

We librarians have a passion for our work. Whether we are connecting young readers with a great book, helping an adult navigate technology, or providing excellent day-to-day customer service, we are librarians because we believe in supporting our community. With our passion comes a desire to always be the best librarian we can be, and over the course of a career, that takes many different shapes and forms. Over the next few months, we'll be diving into the nitty-gritty of what moving up the management ladder in libraries looks like with this four-part series, Tales From the Library Trenches.

I became a librarian in 2006 for one reason and one reason only: Somehow I was bestowed with what my first library director called a special gift, which was the ability to hang out with tweens and teens in libraries, make them feel welcome, and get them involved in the local community. She insisted that I hold onto this gift for the rest of my career and that before I knew it, I'd have 25-30 years under my belt as a teen librarian and wouldn't ever have to worry about changing the way I worked in libraries.

I'm not the kind of person who wants to have one role all of my life. I want to grow, expand, fail, and ultimately succeed at everything I can get my hands on. Perhaps those are the same qualities that helped me be successful as a teen librarian. So in 2015, I recognized that I needed to make a change in my professional life. That's why after almost 10 years of working in Youth Services, I made the jump to becoming a library director. But before we dive into how my tenure as a library director has unfolded over the past 2 years, let's backtrack to the slow, gradual process that happened in my mind years before I made this change.

When I say slow, gradual process, I mean slow. The adjustment from working with tweens and teens in libraries to writing budgets, doing strategic planning, and attending board meetings does not happen overnight. You may have already identified back when you began your career as a librarian that being a director is where you'd want to end up in the long run (I didn't!), but that doesn't mean you can become one just like that. Every library director should go through it all, including emptying the book drop after a long holiday weekend, dealing with an overly unruly customer, and handling the inevitable emergency bathroom clean-up duty. Experience, patience, and understanding are the three tools you will need to be an effective leader. Any librarian can learn these skills, but if you're a youth services librarian working with kids, tweens, and teens, your day-to-day work with youth will make you into a Zen master in no time. You'll be capable of handling any situation, be it in the moment or down the road, with great ease.

Identifying a Need for Change

The first step I recommend taking is to recognize that you are in the middle of a change in the way you think about things. How do you know that you're in the middle of a change? Consider your career arc up to this point. What have you been focusing on with your work in libraries, and what do the day-today activities of your job look like? When you have a firm grasp on where you've been and where you currently are, start to ask yourself some questions. Am I getting tired of going to work? Do I feel as if I have accomplished my professional goals in this career path? If you're answering "yes" to these questions, you are beginning to recognize that you're in the middle of a big professional change. At least that's how I began to feel after 8 years of working in Youth Services. Instead of looking forward to that after-school rush of teens in the video game arcade at the Chattanooga Public Library, I found myself really enjoying the time spent in the morning analyzing statistics, preparing work schedules, and projecting budget numbers. Something was changing in my life, and I had to look inside myself to not only recognize that change, but to also tell myself that this was healthy. …

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