The Librarian’s Juggling Act: Balancing multiple commitments

“So Katie,” a fellow grad student inquires during a class break. “You’re working three different jobs. You’re going to library school. Are you crazy? What’s your schedule like? How does that work?”

I stare into space for a moment. “Well,” I say, giggling to myself. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Ahh, yes, we all know it. The act of juggling a million things at once. Whenever I’m asked “how I do it,” I look around and see that practically everyone is doing the same thing. With the recession and budget cuts, many librarians are turning to working part-time in multiple places (often times without benefits) and having to balance time working, commuting, socializing, parenting, and the basics like eating, exercising and sleeping.

I’m not going to lie: it’s really hard. Talk to anyone I know and they’ll say that I’ve had my rough spots. Yet, I look over the past two years at Dominican and my upcoming graduation in July, and I’m so grateful for the rich experience doing multiple things at once has given me. I’ve learned storytime techniques, collection development, and reader’s advisory in one job. I’ve learned about professional development and the business side of libraries at another. I’ve blogged and window designed and helped run book sales and learned about early literacy, Makerspaces, and advocacy.

But so many people have asked: practically, how do you do this? How do you maintain sanity in a busy life, juggling multiple commitments? I don’t guarantee that these tips will work for everyone, but here’s what has worked for me:

1.) Plan.

Rather than take in my entire syllabus or calendar at the beginning of the semester, stare at it, and immediately have a panic attack and think, “HOW AM I GOING TO GET ALL THIS DONE?!”, I take it in pieces. One day, I write in due dates for one class. The next day, I write in my work schedule for one week. I look at long-term planning and short-term planning. I’ve found that I’m actually doing real, honest work on a project when I simply sit on the train and just think about the project. Then when I get to it, I have a direction. A fellow coworker schedules out his entire work day by the hour, and when I followed this format, I felt so accomplished having different tasks checked off a list and then moving on!

2.) Don’t procrastinate.

This is a big one, and it’s one that I hear the most about from fellow students. They want to be motivated to study, but when they sit down to it, they go grab lunch with a friend or watch Netflix instead. I get it—we all need downtime (see #5). But if you schedule time for work, then work—no excuses. Silence your cell phone so it doesn’t buzz with texts right next to you on the couch. Eat a good meal so you have energy to study. For me, the scariest thing in the world is a blank word document. AHH! I’m feeling a rush in stomach and my palms are getting shaky thinking about it! The deep abyss of a white screen is just a reminder that you haven’t started. So just start the project, even if it’s just your name in MLA format with a title, or a brainstorming list. Then you feel like you can go forward.

3.) Take breaks.

Google your favorite cupcake store. Order a theater ticket. Whatever it is you need to get a good break in (I like jumping jacks or running around my apartment singing), do it. But then go back to your work. Don’t watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother, because it will be too easy to watch another one. Wait until your scheduled breaks—eating or finishing work—to really calm down. I’m always surprised that when I don’t feel like getting in the “work mode” but I do it anyway, I usually get a ton done! Then, if I’ve started something early, I can revise while everyone else is panicking with a first draft.

4.) Communicate with professors and employers.

Asking for help is hard for me. But the thing is, if you are a good worker—if you show up to class, rarely miss deadlines, and do your daily and weekly work as well as your big projects—employers and professors will see that. They will associate you with being steady, reliable, and dedicated. Then, when you are sick or an unexpected event happens, your leaders will understand. If your norm is missing class and asking for extension after extension, you need to reevaluate your commitments and see how you can change things so you can give your best self to the world. I truly believe that your managers and professors want you to succeed, and they will be on your side. Talk to them.

5.) Schedule time for yourself.

I don’t have a family right now, which is how I can do what I do. But regardless of life situations, everyone needs to recharge their batteries. For me, that’s yoga, dance, writing, tea, piano, Pinterest, baking, reading an adult book (WHAT?! WE CAN DO THAT?!). Evaluate how much screen time you have, and try to spend time away from gadgets. Our bodies are meant to move throughout the day, truly.

6.) Know that it’s impossible to be perfect.

I get behind. I panic. I make mistakes. My tweens know more about current events and pop culture than me because I don’t always have time to catch up on news that’s not children’s lit related. Remember, your life doesn’t depend on being perfect. You just gotta be you, and I promise: doing the best you can is all you can do.

How do you balance your juggling act?

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hawaii photo

Guest blogger “reading” in front of the Hawaii State Library

Our guest blogger today is Katie Clausen. Katie is currently in her second year of library school at Dominican University in River Forest, IL, where her focus is Youth Services. At Dominican, she works in the Butler Children’s Literature Center. She also works as a children’s services assistant at Oak Park Public Library and started an internship at ALSC last September. You can read her blog at www.houseatkatiecorner.com.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

This entry was posted in Guest Blogger, Slice of Life. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Librarian’s Juggling Act: Balancing multiple commitments

  1. As soon as I started reading this I thought, “Is this Katie?!?!” Sure enough. It is challenging to juggle many commitments but you are right, take a bit at a time, face it head on, make sure you have those release times and plunge in!!

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