Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Self Care For New Administrators (And Everyone Else, Too)

Am I writing about self care again? Yes, I am. It's important and bears regular repeating. I copresented last week at the NY Library Association about how a new library administrator can get up to speed, and in between talking about building partnerships and sharing the mistakes I'd made in hopes that the audience would learn from them, I talked about self care. I brought up self care (and promised I would bring it up repeatedly) when talking to a mentee recently. I tell the people who work for me that they need to go home if they're here after the normal end of the college's business day. Self care is important. I could probably write about self care every single week and it still wouldn't be enough.

The thing about self care that you need to remember, above all else, is that if you don't take care of yourself, you will burn yourself out. You will.


Besides, in the oh so important words of Audre Lorde: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." With everything that's happening in our world it's especially important to take care of yourself. So, here's some things that I know are important for me. Your mileage may, of course, vary. But if you have something else you think I should include in this list, please respond on Twitter or wherever you found this posted, or even in the comments below.
  1. Find a good therapist. If you live in the Rochester, NY area, I can recommend someone (and against a couple of others). Your health insurance should be able to help, but if you don't have insurance, please still try. The National Alliance on Mental Illness will help you find someone who is less expensive or even pro bono.
  2. Get out of the office and out of the building for lunch at least once a week. I know that the amount of work you have built up is probably enough to frighten even the most efficient efficiency expert. I know it because I can say the same thing. Administrators always have something they could be doing. I don't care. Get out and away from your library, your campus, etc.
  3. Work no more than 45-50 hours per week. My contract obligates me to 35 hours, and I usually put in between 40 and 45. I adjust accordingly for when I'm at conferences or have personal appointments during the work day. See my comment about your to do list above. I know, really really, that you could probably work 80 hours a week and still not get everything done. You'll probably never be completely okay with it, but you'll at least get more comfortable with leaving things undone.
  4. Make friends at work if possible. The shape this will take is going to be different depending on what kind of library. For me, I've reached out to and become friends with deans, associate deans, professors, people who work in HR, an instructional designer, tutoring coordinators, and so on. (Please note that there are no librarians on that list. I know some people are friends with their employees, but I don't think it works.) This will give you a place to go when you're about to lose your cool for whatever reason. This will also give you a place to get historical context if you were hired from the outside.
  5. Make friends with other people who do the same job. Twice a year I go to a multiple day meeting and hang out with other SUNY library administrators. About once each quarter I go to lunch with the director of the public library in the town where my college is located. I get ideas from these people, but also I get validation.
  6. Get sleep. This doesn't always work out for me, but I try to be in bed by 10p because I know my body will wake me by 6a. You may think you can run on minimal sleep, but you're fooling yourself. That's especially true if you are - like me - solidly middle aged. You cannot burn the candle at both ends indefinitely, because eventually you won't have any candle left.
  7. Have something in your life that isn't about libraries and that's just for you. Go hiking. Play video games. I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. Try crafting. Remember that you are more than your job.
You really are more than a library administrator, even with as much of your life as it might seem to take up. You're a gardener or a parent or a partner or a Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Okay, you probably aren't that last one, but you get my meaning. Don't let go of the non-library parts of yourself. We need your voice in administration, so I need you to embrace self care.

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