Blogger Abby Johnson

Is This What They Meant by “Dream Big”?

There come several times a year when, I’ll admit it, I get stressed out. Right now – between spring storytime, chairing the district conference planning committee, and planning Summer Reading Club – is one of those times. As a department head and one who works with the public, I try hard not to let my stress show at work. I take deep breaths, calm myself before dealing with problems or snapping off heated emails, and try to stay positive. But there is one place where my stress shows through: in my dreams.

I have two recurring dreams that pop up when I’m especially stressed. (Kind of funny since I’m planning for the Dream Big summer reading theme…)

The first is about storytime. In this dream, I usually have a giant crowd of people. Sometimes I have no place to put all of them and they’re spread out in my department or we’re in another huge space. Sometimes I can’t get everyone’s attention. Sometimes I am singing songs but I can’t remember the words. Sometimes I have forgotten to plan for my storytime and I’m desperately searching for a book that will get everyone’s attention and I can’t find one. I can’t think of the title I wanted to use with them. Or I have a book, but it’s only barely keeping everyone’s attention and for some reason I don’t put it down and pick up something else.

My second recurring dream is that the library is closing (or has closed) and I can’t get people to leave. They’re lounging around, they keep coming in the door, and the clock keeps ticking way past the point where I should be leaving and going home. Only I can’t because I can’t get everyone to leave!

I know that this, too, shall pass. And I know I’ll get everything done that I need to get done. I know that this year, just as we’re wrapping up Summer Reading Club, the Olympics will be starting! It’ll all be okay.

Librarians, tell me you have stress dreams, too!

— Abby Johnson, Children’s Managers
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN 

* Gratuitous sleeping kitten photo from RBerteig, used with Creative Commons license.


  1. Jennifer Wharton

    Yep. I’ve had endless shelving dreams (really, really boring!) after inventory.

  2. Misti

    I had one about storytime the other night! I dreamt that only one child showed up, and he wasn’t interested in books or songs at all — the only thing he wanted to do was the craft. Finally, I decided to just let him do that. Then, as he was finishing up his craft, a whole crowd of people showed up for storytime — but since they saw the one kid woking on his craft, they all decided that they wanted to do crafts, too! I kept trying to think of ways to do the other components of the program — maye I could bring a book over and read it to them while they crafted?

    Then, when I walked out of the storytime room, I discovered that my colleagues had completely rearranged the children’s room (we’re talking moving shelves and everything) — chapter books where picture books had been, nonfiction where the chapter books were, etc. It was quite a dream!

    1. Abby Johnson

      Misti, I’ve had that rearranging dream, too! I used to have it regularly when I first started my job as department head. I guess I feared losing control. 😉

  3. Kristen

    Abby, I have the EXACT SAME recurring library dreams. I’m glad to know I’m not alone. 🙂

  4. Sarah

    My stress dreams always have to do with telling a patron I’ve charged them the price of a book. The dreams are almost always way, way more angry than real life people get but man oh man, they keep me on my toes.

    And while this has nothing to do with dreams, I do find that the time before sleeping, as I’m laying in bed, I often have the most clarity regarding a program or change to the department.

  5. Anne

    I had a storytime dream once where I played a guitar version of “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot to a stunned crowd. So that is now my go-to song should I forget the words to “Twinkle, Twinkle.” 😉

    1. Lisa

      ha! ha! too funny

  6. Sara

    I have endless dreams about no one coming to my very important, highly visible programs. It’s a really boring dream, because I just stand there endlessly waiting for people to come and looking at the clock.

  7. Karen

    I’m laughing because I have had all those dreams. Usually I’m searching for my plans or book while a huge crowd is waiting for me or I can’t find the room where I am supposed to be doing my storytime.
    I do the scheduling for our department so I have had dreams where I’ve forgotten to send out the schedule and no one is in the department or at the desk.

  8. Erica

    I used to have the not being able to get people to leave dream all the time when I worked at my university library and had to close up. I remember being very upset while patrons just ignored my many pleas for them to leave. Occasionally it would even morph into a nightmare where there was a killer loose in the stacks. (The way the light switches worked at the library in real life we had to turn the lights off then go back through part of the stacks with only a flashlight–very creepy) Now I work at a school library and after school programs stay in the space so I’m not in charge of locking up and I don’t have that dream any more.

    Recently I had another nightmare though where (horror of horrors) I was trying to look something up in an encyclopedia and then I realized it wasn’t in alphabetical order. Oh the humanity! I then tried looking it up online but someone was at the computer already and insisted on looking it up for me by typing in some crazily inefficient search string. It naturally didn’t yield any results. I could hear the sinister violin music playing in the background. I hope this nightmare doesn’t become recurring!

  9. Cheryl

    I don’t have the Story Time dream as that is not part of my regular duties but I frequently have the, “Nobody will leave and we are closing”, dream. We also moved into a new building 3.5 years ago and I still dream about showing up at the old location to work because the new building isn’t available.

  10. Jennie

    I’ve totally had the “no one will go home” dream, too!

    When I was pregnant, I dreamed that the doctors and nurses were all regular patrons and my baby was, too! AHHHHHHH!

  11. Jennifer Wharton

    Hey Misti – that has happened to me, in real life!! Er, the first part, not the rearranging things (usually I’m the person who rearranges things and forgets to tell anyone). It is every bit as uncomfortable and stressful in real life as in a dream. Sigh.

    I also find myself in libraries of my youth in my dreams, usually arguing with the librarians and adult patrons about why we should let teens into the library…

  12. Jen

    Our library doesn’t open until noon, but we usually have the doors open in the morning for deliveries or volunteers. Even with the closed sign up and the lights off, people wander in all the time and are surprised when we tell them we are closed.

    I have nightmares all the time where I am trying to work in the morning and mobs of people keep coming in and won’t leave even when I say we are closed. They say, “oh, but I just want to use a computer, it won’t bother you,” and “I just want to grab one book, it won’t take but a second.” It is a variation on the “get out, it’s closing time dream.”

  13. Lena

    Wow this is super interesting to read for a non-librarian! 🙂

    On a side note, “Dream Big” is a brilliant theme. And great for the season.

    Have a sweet day!

  14. Abby

    When I first started working at the library, I worked about 20 hours a week. I also worked at the local movie theater part time. In my waking life, I was always concerned that I would get the days mixed up and wear my movie theater uniform to the library, or my nice clothes to the theater. I had a dream that the movie theater and the library decided to switch places…we had to move all of the books into the theater (we used the theater seats for makeshift bookcases) and all of the projection equipment and concessions to the library (we played different movies to small audiences all over the building). Needless to say, when I wok up I was very confused about where I should drive to work!

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