|Image by Allie Brosh.|
As most of us are, I was excited beyond measure when I got my first real job as an Honest-to-Goodness Librarian about three years ago. I’d spent six months searching after grad school and I found a job that I was (and still am) really excited about. My God, was I excited. When my first day finally came around I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. More than anything, I wanted to prove to everyone how capable and awesome I was. I wanted to DO ALL THE THINGS!! Aren’t you glad you hired me??!! I’m so good at everything.
As a noobrarian, I read a lot of blogs and kept track of rockstar librarians and was constantly on the lookout for cool things that cool librarians were doing. No doubt, it’s great to keep abreast of what’s going on in our field, and these days I prefer following a lot of librarians on Twitter and reading a few key publications to keep track of awesome ideas. But the more you read, the more insecure you might feel- especially as a noobrarian. You can start to think that if you’re just doing your job, you’re failing at being an awesome librarian. And I don’t want you to feel that way. If you’re reading this, I THINK YOU’RE AWESOME!
There are three main reasons I want to encourage noobrarians not to fall into the trap of trying to Do All the Things. First of all, you’re new! People are thrilled that you can sit at the reference desk unattended without drooling or falling asleep and that you know where to send people when they need to fax something. For the first few months, the very best thing you can be doing for your library is learn how to do your job really well. Don’t try to give yourself extra work. Once you’ve learned how to do what’s actually assigned to you, then you can branch out. You can be a tremendous librarian without putting so much stress on yourself. You don’t have to be a rockstar. A much better use of your energy is trying to be the kind of librarian you’d want to work with. Put your energy into that, my friends. And try to be the kind of librarian your patrons want. Maybe that means working on your business reference skills instead of getting on an ALA committee before your 30th birthday [Editor’s note: or even before your 40th]. So be it!
The second reason for taking things slow at first is that, if you don’t, you run the risk of steamrolling the librarians who’ve been working hard at your library for years and years. You don’t yet know what the culture is like. Sit back in your first few meetings and just observe what happens. Find out who is generating new ideas and who is resisting them. Try to get a sense of what’s been tried before. The coolest idea ever that you want to start doing today might have been a catastrophe at your library because the service didn’t fit your clientele. Wait to propose major changes or new services until you figure out who will be happy to help you implement them and who will dig their feet in and try to thwart your ideas. Things might get ugly if you try to bring “new and awesome” changes to your library before you have a good grasp on the scene.
Lastly, if you try to Do All the Things, people will start to think of you as a sucker. Yes, you’re being nice and awesome and getting shit done. But your colleagues might see the situation differently. Undesirable committee appointment? Ginger will do it! Teach an instruction session this afternoon with no notice? GINGER. Cover a weekend shift when another librarian is sick? GINGER. Tell someone to stop masturbating in the library? GINGER. You see how this is going? Try to be a team player and do awesome things without getting taken advantage of and without getting burnt out. It’s a fine line, and it starts with saying no every once in a while. It starts by telling your colleagues you can’t Do All the Things.
Ginger Williams is a Reference Librarian/Assessment Coordinator at Valdosta State University. She tweets about cats and beer at @GingerInGeorgia. She is not a rockstar librarian.
Hi - I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed this post particularly the advice to sit back a bit and observe before blasting your awesomeness everywhere! As newbies we can be oblivious of the internal politics and quite easily commit a faux pas without realising it :) the third point also really stuck out - a lot of articles recommend saying yes to everything as it opens up opportunities, but a well placed no is also important as it establishes your boundaries and you realise that you are *not* superwoman/superman and need to be selective about what you can realistically do. Thank you very much for sharing this Ginger :) this librarian from Down Under (NZ) appreciates it.ReplyDelete
Abigail Willemse :)
Thanks, Abigail! I'm glad you liked the post and support my "well placed no" philosophy. I still say yes a majority of the time, but it's because I've now established those boundaries. I've been so open and honest with my supervisors that they can anticipate what I'll be interested in doing and don't often ask me to do stuff that isn't a good fit.Delete
I love the term 'noobrarian'! Good article.ReplyDelete
I love it, too! It came out of brainstorming for a presentation some friends and I did at ACRL, but it was their genius, not mine.Delete
Love it! Shared on INALJ FB too (though I also love me some rockstar librarians, I love the non-rockstars too)- NaomiReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Naomi!Delete
Hi Ginger! I am in the MLIS program at VSU so we met at my orientation. I really enjoyed the article and it's a great reminder not to take on too much too soon! - Courtney BaronReplyDelete
Thanks, Courtney! I hope you're enjoying the program.Delete
I really needed to see a post like this. I've just started a new position a few weeks ago and I'm enjoying it immensely but very overwhelmed by all the things I *should* be doing (mostly optional). It's a relief to know I'm not alone in feeling this way and it's okay to take a step back and start smaller at first and gradually add more things.ReplyDelete
I was just in Valdosta a couple of weeks ago and I hope to return there for employment maybe. I really fell in love with it!ReplyDelete
thank you for this. truly excellent advice. for awhile there, we were a little too obsessed with the whole "rockstar" thing. let's all focus on doing our job well, first, and then, with whatever energy is left over, we can start to think about moving and shaking and whatever. i wrote an article about it last year, and this post resonates well with that.ReplyDelete